Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Writing Away Your Sorrows with an Updated List of Ways You Can Help Those Affected by Hurricane Harvey Who Have Disabilities

That's the tip of Mt. St. Helens, I think, (someone correct me who might know) breaking through a sea of clouds, hit with the setting sun. I couldn't possibly describe how beautiful and strange the world is, even through a thick pane of airplane glass.

I feel like a crazy person today. When I went to the grocery store, I realized that I didn't need to buy milk because Henry (who drank 3 gallons of milk a week) is no longer in the house. I started to cry and then felt ridiculous. I also saw that picture of Marie Antoinette in her stilettos, striding so glamorously alongside Dear Leader on the way to visit the suffering people of Houston and wanted to shame her -- and him. I wanted to openly mock her. I did openly mock her and called her Hurricane Barbie. I felt unsettled about doing so because, as one of my more tempered friends wrote, "What she's wearing is relevant to exactly nothing." I don't like to mock people's appearances and am perfectly aware that my tongue is sharper than a scythe. I always hated people mocking and criticizing Michelle Obama's or Hilary Clinton's -- and that's a feminist kind of thing. It makes me uncomfortable. So I felt uncomfortable about jumping in and joining the fray and said so, openly. What happened was the most interesting discussion from both women and men -- from those who agreed and those who disagreed. I wish all of ya'll were my Facehooker friends so you could read them.

It's all so utterly insane given what's happened in Texas.

If you haven't already, here's a way to help. I'm researching what's happening with disabled persons, particularly those with epilepsy. I remember that after Katrina many displaced persons with epilepsy and other disabilities couldn't get medications or utilize resources. I'm thinking about contacting the Epilepsy Foundation affiliate in Houston to see whether they need some extra help. I can even do that wearing my own stilettos while sitting in my bedroom, typing from the computer.*

Here's How You Can Help People Affected by Harvey

Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies has a hotline at 800-626-4959 to help get people with disabilities and elderly people to safety, provide for immediate needs for durable medical equipment and other assistive technology and problem-solve other disability accessibility issues. 

The Texas Diaper Bank supports the needs of babies, children with disabilities and vulnerable senior citizens (diapers are often not available at emergency shelters).

*Sorry not sorry. I do not own stilettos.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Open Heart Flame

Things were all mixed up yesterday. I was showered with birthday love yet had to say good-bye to my beloved son Henry who is beginning his freshman year in college. The busy weekend came to a close at a beautiful morning mass for several thousand freshmen students and parents in the school's gym, called The Kennel because the school's mascot is the bulldog. It's also Jesuit, not the bulldog, but the school.  I watched the line of priests file in behind the huge gold cross and felt a familiar annoyance that it's only men -- ok, more than annoyance --  yet I wondered why it's so difficult to shed Catholicism, its liturgy moving like syrup through my head, the words spilling out of my mouth from some dark recess. I've often wished there were a sacrament of Egress -- some formal marking of leaving the Church behind. I nearly fainted at one point during the mass. I was thinking too hard, I think (!), like I did as a girl in church on Sunday. I think it's from boredom -- the lassitude, the combination of priest drone, empty gesture and saint-fantasy. Or maybe it was my throbbing elbow, smashed accidentally by the seat when I stood up. The pain was obliterating. I saw spots in front of my eyes, felt a wave of nausea, told Henry I needed to sit while everyone else stood. I put my head in my hands, bent over my legs, closed my eyes. By the time the priest asked the students to stand in the aisles and us to lift our hands over them in a blessing, I was openly crying. 

I am overwhelmed.

It was always easy with Henry. All of it. It wasn't hard, ever, and I mean that, really. How lucky I was to raise him from shining baby and boy to young manhood. It's so hard to let him go.

My friend Doug said that missing someone is a good kind of pain, that it means the flame of love is burning, like a pilot light. We want that love on, a love that our sons and daughters will spread to new friends, new places and new experiences. 

To be open-hearted, to be free with tears and joy, is everything. 

I have everything.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


I know, I know, I know! So much has happened since I last posted! I got a surprise birthday gift from the Bird Photographer, I was blocked on Facebook by another high school classmate whom I dared to challenge (surprise, surprise!), there was a total eclipse of the sun, the POSOTUS held a rally in Arizona, part of which I watched, open-mouthed, on the teevee before grabbing my rosary beads and whimpering pray that I die, pray that I die, over and over like my Italian grandmother did in her senior years, and I'm currently helping MY SON to pack for college. We're leaving tomorrow, so I just kept the black dress and rosary beads and am praying to the Virgin Mary to sustain me through the transition.

But, Hamilton! Let's just dwell a bit on Hamilton! Anyone who knows me is aware of my curmudgeonly dislike of musicals (admitting that is akin to admitting that one hates animals or something, so I rarely voice it except here, for the world). But, Hamilton! Given all the hoopla, I admit to being curious about it and maybe even wishing, a teensy tinesy bit, that I could go.  Carl is to musicals as I am to musicals, but he surprised me with an early birthday present (I will be flying back from dropping off my son and will be wearing my black dress and rosary beads on my actual birthday this Sunday). I opened the card on Saturday night and gasped.

If you didn't already know it by now, The Bird Photographer is -- well -- the man, my person, my love, my friend, and now he's given me another gift that moved me to tears. Because this musical quite literally moved me to tears. The music, set, choreography -- all of that -- is fantastic, but to tell you the truth, that wasn't what really moved me. I kept sitting there thinking that someone had conceived of this, that someone had put this cast of beautifully diverse human beings into roles that would ordinarily have gone to white men, and that in doing so had quite literally brought America -- its very conception -- to life. I know that I'm not going to be able to do it justice, and I know that many people already have done so, but I was moved in a way that I have never been before as an American citizen. It was beyond radical and even sublime. To watch it now, given the shitshow that is Dear Leader et al,  is to be moved to tears. That's all I can say, and I hope so much that you get a chance to go, that young people get a chance to go, that young people of color get a chance to go, that the spineless of Amerikkka will wake the fuck up, that Dear Leader will disappear and that we can begin to heal from the national nightmare and make this place a truly equal country with liberty and justice for all.

That's my update. I need to continue with the mad packing, rosary bead chanting and existential dread.

P.S. I watched the partial eclipse at my friend Rain's house with her and Carl, and it was fantastic, but not as fantastic as seeing Hamilton. It was certainly as existential as having to drop my son off at college and the rest of his life, though.

Friday, August 18, 2017

There's Everyone and Then There's Us*

Me, reading circa 1974

The last time I posted the photo above was many years ago, and it was basically yet another post where I rhapsodized about my general bookworminess. However, such was the confusion around the photo and the object in the upper left corner that I had to then post this one:

The title of the second post that accompanied the second picture was "Let's Talk About the Gun," and as of this moment, it's been read 31,907 times and is the fifth most "hit" post on my blog. Counting this one, I have 4,103 published posts and more than 4,000,000 "hits" in total. It's all about "the gun," you know, which is actually not a gun but a telescope, a big ugly brass and veneered wood one that sat in my family's den in a Tudor house on a large wooded lot in a subdivision in suburban Atlanta in the early seventies. I'm not sure what there was to see out the back sliding glass door that slid open onto a wooden deck that hung over a grassy yard and woods, but I'm not sure either why my hair looked like that, why I wore a red-checked maxi jumper or why I was so thin then yet so ample today,  and god, why can't I read like that now, so immersed and lost? I'm even more unsure why so many people search for "let's talk about the gun," or "talk, gun" or just plain "gun." Then again, the most hit post of mine is about paper cranes with more than 75,000 hits so I guess you could also say that more people look up paper cranes than they do guns.

The telescope is meaningful for me today both because we're all getting ready for The Great Eclipse, and because I learned that there are hundreds of armed militias everywhere in these Disunited States of Amerikkka who are prepared or plotting to take back their country from brown folk and those who enable them. Are you catching my drift? Drift. Yes, I can drift. Even though southern California isn't on the path to see the moon completely eclipse the sun, it's going to happen, and there's something going on in the atmosphere in general that's causing a ruckus in the brains of the sensitive. Sophie's had an unusual number of large tonic seizures over the past week or so, but she recovers from them quite quickly and has none of the co-morbidities that we generally see during other seizure clusterfuck times. I realize that Science has found no correlation between seizures and moon cycles, nor is there established causation, but we in the epilepsy community -- the refractory epilepsy community -- those of us with the tiny little mother minds™ know very well that something goes on with the moon and the brain. I've heard of four children in my community who've died over the last week. That I can type that sentence out amidst all this seemingly idle chatter is the reason why I'm writing this post. Sophie is particularly alert in between these seizures with a penetrating eye gaze and smiles, seemingly sharpened, perhaps tensed, maybe even waiting. Aren't we all though, these days? Waiting? Not just for the eclipse but for what else and what more as we watch our country diminished by louts,  our heads whiplashed, events waxing and waning (like the moon) willy nilly with just about everybody at everybody's throats. I, personally, feel muzzled by Identity Politics (the Tina Fey backlash, for one), and am both earnest and defiant. I feel like I'm dancing on the ridge with the carnies and Death in a Bergman movie,  could perhaps be walking toward Guido in 8 1/2, one of his women, perhaps in a dream or the woman in Beckett's Happy Days, buried up to her waist in sand yet cheerful and getting on with it. Children are dying and Sophie is seizing, the moon will blot out the sun for some but not all, we are to be serious with intent, but (thank you, Chris), isn't life a cabaret and all that? Love is the answer but what if you live the questions?

Is that a gun or a telescope?

There's everyone and then there's us.

*The working title of my book in progress

Sunday, August 13, 2017


I sat at my turquoise tile table this morning and fed Sophie oatmeal, peaches and almond milk. She has several scabs on the bridge of her nose, and a bit of swelling from a fall. She fell into a pile of toys the other day, in a corner of her room, a tiny spot not covered in padding, her head face-down, catching the edge of something hard. Language can and should be brutal. I saw that or have seen that spot, have looked away. It would seem that chance conspired with my moment of looking away to cause injury. Is it in my power to control, literally, everything? The injuries she's acquired as a result of disability and epilepsy make my heart ache more, I think, than anything else. I don't need to explain why, and you don't need to tell me.

While I fed her, I looked at the photo above. I stared at the photo above, at every inch of it. I saw it yesterday in the frantic period after what happened, and I looked away. Some insist that we should not allow "in" images like the one above, while others insist on the importance of being a witness to what is illustrated. There is a risk of voyeurism and a risk of dissociation. I believe in confronting what is difficult and sitting with what is uncomfortable, even traumatic, particularly if I am able to do so, and I am very much able to do so. Tears stream down my face, but I am able to do so, to look, to confront.

An old friend asked this morning on Facebook whether we were capable of extending compassion to those who wrought that. All persons are worthy of compassion and need to be heard. To be seen. To be heard. If you could ask them one question, she wrote, what would it be? I quickly responded and then quickly deleted my comments. I tried to imagine what I'd say to the people who wrought that and realized that it was too early for that. Too early, too raw. Obscene. The asking, the telling, the looking, the looking away.

Right now, though, I know the question. I'd ask them what they saw when they looked at that, when they looked at that photo. What do you see? I'd ask.

What do you see?

I see that person there, in the right lower corner, with one foot on the ground, the other vulnerable and resting on the bumper of the car. I see the man in the center, caught in flight, the man to his right, upside-down, his shirt riding up, exposing his tattooed back. I see the colors of their skin. Next to him, I see the sign LOVE it says. LOVE, it says. I see the person to the left, his hand at his face. I see the woman to his left, her mouth open in a scream. I see stop signs STOP and the rush of movement even as it is suspended. I see a Black Lives Matter sign, a peace symbol, both upside-down, next to a man's legs, toes pointing to the sky, upside-down. The world upside-down. A sign that says Solidarity, right side up, a fist raised to the sky, below it a foot, a leg, a crumpled body the glint of metal. Death in light.

I can pore over this photo and see everything, everything there is to see. Language can and should be brutal. We can live questions without answers. I will not look away and you should not either.

Friday, August 11, 2017

"A good practical sort of immortality"

Just a couple of hours outside of Los Angeles, you pass through the most incredible landscape of farms and hills and endless road. It's where most of your produce is grown, folks, and last I heard, a lot of California farmland is filled with rotting produce because of that goon in office and his henchmen, busy Making America Great. They've cracked down on brown immigrants who work the fields, and the Real Americans are not stepping up to do the work. You can read about that here.

That isn't fake news either. But this isn't a post about the Pussy Grabber in Chief or his racist Attorney General Keebler Elf, so let's move on.

We stopped in the town of Earlimart to get gas and victuals.

The gas station had the best moniker I've ever seen yet was in direct sight of the Earlimart Market for World Peace.

Doesn't she make you want to pile the Bud into the trunk of your car and drive backward to when America was truly great?

Bless her heart.

Cast my memory back there Lord, sometimes I'm overcome --

Despite the Goon in Chief and his Band of Billionaires, you can pass through a lot of California now and see only a few "white" faces. This evidently terrifies a lot of people.

I find it thrilling that boundaries are blurry.

You can drive approximately five hours from Los Angeles, the sprawling home to over 8 million humans of every color, creed and culture and reach the south entrance of Yosemite National Park. My friend Cara, her two girls and my two boys have been numerous times together, and this year we stayed in a little cabin in the woods inside the park in an area called Wawona. We largely avoid the crowds in the valley and stay up and around the secret places near the park entrance.

We don't do much of anything, really, but wander around and look up and down, float on the river and lay on our backs on sun-warmed rocks. We laugh a lot, mostly at Oliver who can imitate anything and anyone. We all have riotous senses of humor. The girls balance the boys, while Cara and I eschew exercise and adopt the life patterns of marmots for the most part. Oliver did not let us forget our general "cringiness." If you need a translation, let me know.

We do this kind of thing:

and a little of this kind of thing:

and some of this kind of thing:

We even had a roadside "adventure" this year. Cara's car had an electrical short, we think, so we were mysteriously locked out of her car in the middle of Nowhere just after finishing up a roadside picnic. Our purses and phones were locked inside the car, and the teenagers, despite their phone appendages, were not connected to the world wide webs or the vast cell satellites arcing overhead, so we basically did one of those survival kind of things and put our privileged heads together to try to figure out WHAT TO DO.

I can tell you that everyone has an idea or opinion on how to break into a car.

You know what? We city slickers now marvel at just how hard it is to break into a car. Given how many of ours have been broken into in the big shitty, who knew that the windows are virtually indestructible, the locks un-pickable, the whole American metal machine invulnerable?

A few tourists did try to help, offering hangers and various tools. I have actually quite successfully broken into several of my cars, during days of yore, but my tried and true techniques just didn't hack it. I'm a woman of twentieth century crime, I guess. Other tourists just stared at us and took videos. Stupide americaines.  Our favorite samaritans were two women with blue hair and heavy Eastern Europeanish/Russian accents (think female versions, just barely, of what you might imagine our goon-in-chief's best Russian buddy sounds like)who walked over with crow bars from their rental and said, in what became a sort of anthem that Oliver repeated, over and over for the rest of the trip: Let me help you break open car.

Henry, who had otherwise made the women, men and children of Yosemite swoon everywhere we went, had no luck with a rock and muscle, and neither did the rest of us. I thought, in my optimistic way, that a solution would come to us, eventually, that we wouldn't perish with so much cheese and crackers and cans of limonata in the cooler and surely two marmots and a passel of teenagers wouldn't be attacked by any animal or human should it get dark.

Eventually, though, a couple of rangers pulled up on the scene, hammered a few wedges in the doors and saved us. To be fair, it did take them at least twenty minutes, and they were armed. We secretly hoped they'd shoot the car open, but that didn't happen.

We also did some more of this:

Oh yeah, and this:

I know. I know. It's almost ridiculous, except it's not. It is respite and wildness, air and water and earth and fire. I honestly think Yosemite is one, if not the holiest places on the planet, and my gratitude both for its proximity and my privilege to visit it, over and over, is boundless.

Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality. 
John Muir,  My First Summer in the Sierra, 1911


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