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Excerpts from Personal Journal

July 2, 2004:

The summer before 7th grade I lost 8 pounds. I got my braces off, and bought a really cool bra. I was

hip and happenin', ready for the jump to junior high.

First day of 7th grade, first class: life science. Mrs. Brown is talking about what we'll be studying. I'm

sneaking glances right and left--there's no one here from my grade school. A really cute guy sitting

behind me--tall, with freckles.

In a fit of desire to impress him, I raise my hand.

"Will we be studying extra sensory perception?"

"Uh, no," says Mrs. Brown.

"Will we be studying any paranormal phenomenon?"

"Hmmm...like what?" she says.

"You know, like, uh...magic, witchcraft, how people affect how plants grow..." I could go on, but

everyone's giggling too hard for me to continue.

"She thinks she's a witch!" The tall cute guy (who turns out to be the mean tormenting guy) hisses.

The class breaks into out and out laughter.

"Uh no." Mrs. Brown says, with admirable restraint. "We'll be doing lab experiments..." The

presentation continues. Of course, in those few minutes, my junior high social life is shot to hell.

Flash forward two and a half months. It's my second-to-last day at this miserable junior high. I've

gained 15 pounds, my skin is a mess. I'm making D's and F's in every subject. Just-Call-Me-Janet, my

reading teacher, is trying to make a deal with me. "So if you do just one book report tonight, I'll bring

you up to a C," she smiles.

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"No thanks," I say. I don’t know if it’s this that sets her off, or if it’s the shrug. But she leans into me,

face to face, and whispers, "Don't. you. EVER. look a gift horse in the mouth!" with great fury and

intensity. At the time I have no idea what that means. I'm just glad to be gone.

So that's when I learned about how other people may view something as a gift to you whether you

actually want it or not. I didn't want the C--the whole point of making D's and F's was to get my

parents' attention, and to make them worry.

Same thing happened a few days ago: someone came to do something for me that I didn't need or

want done. The difference is that this time I kept my mouth shut. And you know what? I'm glad I did.

Sometimes people just need to think they're giving you something. What does it cost to let them?

July 5, 2004

I'd like to write about my aunt, who would be sixty today if she had lived. She was my father's little

sister. She had a master's in education but quit her job as a school counselor to become a waitress at

the Red Coach Inn in Salina, Kansas. I knew her as a waitress. She served truckers from the time I

was 5th grade until I was in 11th, and she seemed to like it. She made being a waitress look

glamorous. She always had stories about what people ordered, and she was the one who told me what

"side work" was, and how this one dieter always ordered cottage cheese and a baked potato, which

became my order of choice when I was on a diet.

Aunt Jackie was the first Trekkie I knew. I didn't even know there were Star Trek conventions until

she presented me with an autographed picture of DeForest Kelley for Christmas. I was eight years old

and hadn't seen the show at the time. Her other gifts were odd, always homemade, or bought in

drugstores--useful things, sometimes: soap-on-a-rope, a lint remover. Decoupage projects. One time I

remember she gave me, my mom and my grandmother coordinating turbans.

Aunt Jackie had black hair, except for a wide streak of white at the front. She always wore red and

black: when we cleaned out her house, her closet had almost no other colors in it. She loved animals,

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and had adopted several cats and two dogs, and when she died we had to find homes for all of them.

Because of Aunt Jackie, my grandmother has put out cat food and water for the strays in her

hometown every single day for the last twenty years.

At the time, my favorite aunt was my other aunt, Aunt Sandy, who bought me cute things and laughed

at nothing and fed me Oreos when my mother wasn't looking. Aunt Jackie had a throaty, full laugh

but she laughed at adult things. She had little patience for the selfishness of children.

She died on July 12th, 1984, exactly a week after her fortieth birthday. Her car was hit head on by a

drunk driver in a truck who had wandered over the center lane on a two-lane highway. There isn't

much else for me to say about her, who she was, her life. I was an immature 18 when she died and

probably hadn't thought about her as more than a source of odd gifts for more than five minutes in my

entire life. I learned more about her at her funeral than I'd ever known as her niece.

And yet. I think she loved me. The year she died she was very into Robert Schuller and she kept a

prayer journal. It started on January 1st, and the first thing she prayed for was "peace of mind and

self-love for Ginger".

I'm currently reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven. If there were a literal Heaven, I'd like to

meet Aunt Jackie there. I think we'd like each other a lot.

July 7, 2004:

I know I'm not the worst mother in the world. There are plenty of guilt-ridden Demeters vying for that

title on Oprah. But I'm not proud of yesterday.

July 8, 2004:

That half edge of something almost sexual-- a yearning--to feel more focused in fantasy than in

reality, to live another life in the moments before sleep, to tell yourself stories so vivid you stumble

around in your day life with no energy for it. To feel homesick for a place you've never been to. To

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feel known only by people you don't know. To be flayed open by a single glance and consumed by

that which you would consume. Sometimes you don't want sense made of your senses.

July 11, 2004:

Some of my best friends are misanthropists.

July 14, 2004:

Don't have much to write about today because I'm on episode 15 of a series I started two days ago. As

you can imagine, getting access to this much TV in such a short period of time involves much

subterfuge and all of my diplomatic skills.

I'd make a great spy, except that I'm such a blurter. Kevin says I "over-share" all the time. He likens it

to a kind of Tourette syndrome. If I were who Kevin thought I was, I wouldn't be good material for

Section One because everyone I ever met in a cafe or on an airplane would have to be "cancelled".

Actually, though, being a blurter is a great cover. If I were a spy I think I'd just make up a bunch of

emotional crap and share it with people all the time so they'd think I was a complete mess. That way,

when I disappeared for a couple of days on end, it would be in character.

"I got drunk and ended up in this apartment in Tukwila with a truck driver for two days. His name is

Dan. Oh gosh, I hope he calls!” And on and on... You can keep people away with talking much better

than you can with silence. People are attracted to silence. On the other hand, never-ending talk is so

annoying you'd probably get shot by one of your own people. Okay, so. I guess I'm not cut out to be a

spy. That sucks. Now I have to figure out what else I'm going to do with the rest of my life.

July 15, 2004:

Not all dramas are large. Any NYU film student will tell you that. There is a theater to hands, for

example. Watch people's hands and you can tell their stories.

Your hands tell me your story. You thumb the mouse alongside your keyboard and you are longing

for connection. You massage your right wrist because you have been at the computer too long. You

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type slowly and make mistakes because you are tired. Your hands are generous, impatient and self-

conscious. You are the person who will drop the quarter when you try to roll it across your fingers in

the parking lot. You will say "whoops!" in case anyone is watching, but you will let the quarter go.

This is how you regularly lose quarters.

My hands are stubby and square, made for practical things like changing diapers, but my secret hands

are graceful. They play concertos on my keyboard and write symphonies for other people to hear.

They smooth like silk across a stretch of skin and make a moment into a prayer of gratitude. They

speak in their own sign language, asking you questions. Can you hear what they're whispering?

July 17, 2004:

Schismism: a school of art started in the United States in the mid '90's. Its key proponents articulated

the idea that in a postmodern age, true art lay in the schism between what the artist envisions and

his/her lack of skill to reproduce the intended effect. In schismism, the truest art is not primitive as

much as sloppy and truly ridiculously unskilled. See also: clumseindekeit.

July 30, 2004:

I've been having a fantasy this morning about moving to a neighborhood in South Central LA and

baking lots of cookies and taking them around to the neighbors every day. In this fantasy, I am uber-

cheerful and have Teflon skin and no feelings. No fear. No hurt. Just lots of cookies and time to talk

with the folks.

I was in South Central LA just after the riots in 1992. I was part of a Christian group from Kansas

City -- 20 black people, 20 white people--all with matching t-shirts--coming to LA to help with clean-

up in that neighborhood. We camped on the floor of a church for three nights. And for me the

highlight of the trip--other than living as a Christian blah-di-blah-di-blah and healing the yaddah

yaddah yaddah--was that on the plane out from Denver to LA, we saw Spinal Tap--the actual guys,

not the movie. They were in first class of course. And Christopher Guest said "um...hi" to me after

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I'd been staring at him for a full minute or two. You've seen the Foo Fighters video "Learning to

Fly"? The OhMyGod! girl is me in 1992.

The relatives are still here. We're having an at-home day--blackberry picking, ordering pizza,

watching Amelie. When Kevin gets home from work he'll take them to the beach and I'll stay home

with the little kids. Our car only has room for four or five people.

When I was a teenager we lived with another family, so there were five of us kids and four adults in

the household. We had a station wagon that could actually hold all nine of us. Three in front, three in

the back seat, three in the jump seat. This is before there were high safety standards for traveling by

moving carriage. I wonder what large families do now? Oh yeah, SUVs. I keep forgetting.

August 1, 2004:

I was about to write "today is flat, anticlimactic, a souffle baked by a 6th grader in a too cold oven"

but then Elessar came up to me wearing my red skirt over his head. It's hard to maintain a respectable

level of ennui when I live with such a creative 2 year old. He's been saying "Mommy" for several

days now and has started babbling a lot more. His language is taking off. The other day Penny was

sitting in my lap and Elessar came up and pushed her and said "MY Mommy!" That's going in his

baby book as his first two word phrase. (It wasn't. He's been saying "Hi Da" for a couple of months

now, but I'm the one who writes in the baby book, so my version rules.)

August 15, 2004:

I'm sitting on my cedar deck overlooking a creek on my two acres of mountain forest in Colorado. It

smells great here--earth and pine and cedar, and all I can hear is the rushing of the creek and the buzz

of hummingbird wings. It's early morning and it's just rained here, and I'm enjoying a peaceful post-

coital cup of hot cocoa and I'm supremely happy because my novels (although never on the best seller

lists) are doing well, and my children are out in the world, safe and content somewhere not-too-far-

away, and I can afford this peace of mind because my lover, as intimate and necessary to me as she is,

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does not live with me full-time, and the world IS a better place than it was when I was in my thirties.

This is in the future of course.

Today I standardized the size of all my buttons, standardized the case on all extensions in both the

documents and the names of the files, surfed for excellent and interesting links, and spent time trying

to figure out how to use an image as a background source for a cell in a table. I never did figure it

out--tried several things and realize I have a lot more to learn about style sheets. I don't know why

I'm so obsessed with this, but I'm taken with the idea of having a website that offers links to the best

of the noncommercial web. Like FARK, but without the post-adolescent male sensibility. Not so

news-oriented (although some of that). And noncommercial (although I'm not there yet--about half of

my links are from commercial sites).

I'm finding, as I surf, that the websites and stories I've always been attracted to form a mosaic of the

artistic, the pseudo-spiritual, the sensual, the entertaining, the hopeful, the cultural, and yes, just a

touch of the odd. Today's offerings, for example, include my favorite icon site from an LJ user, an

article about extroverted dolphins, a 3 card tarot reading, and a page of haikus about toast. There's a

site that describes kissing games, an article about robbers hitting the jellybelly factor in SF, and the

culture watch of the day is "What Lesbians Really Do in Bed." I'm hoping people visit. I'm also

hoping to get link suggestions from folks-- your favorite bookmarks, your friends' sites, individuals

who write or do art or animation. I have a vision of the web under the web--the web that you look for

when you're surfing late at night--and I'd like to be a gateway to *that* internet.

August 20, 2004:

Woke up today lonely, with wet eyes. Had been dreaming that I was at a wedding and whatever table

I sat at, people made excuses to leave. Even in the dream it wasn't that I was unlikable -- it was

circumstances -- people pursuing other people; the friends I'd gone there with mad at me; my family

busy - but it felt personal. As it went on, I felt more rejected.

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It was a very realistic dream. The wedding was in St. Louis, I couldn't find the right clothes to wear,

the bride wasn't that happy. The only element of obvious unrealism was that Jayne (from Firefly) was

there and we were sparring with each other verbally. Towards the end of the dream I got drunk

enough to try to flirt with him and even he rejected me. That was a low point.

I woke up next to Elessar, who was still asleep, and had a few minutes to revel in the luxury of

sadness and self-pity before he rolled over and started nursing and we started cuddling. Then Penny

came in for *her* morning cuddle, and the day got better still, and I realize how seldom I actually do

feel lonely now. Or more accurately, how quickly it passes. It used to be an all-the-time thing. But I'm

fine now. Ready to delve into the next obsession: getting people to submit original material for my

website.

October 14, 2004:

From the time I was six until I was thirteen I spent summers at YMCA Camp Red Cedar Forest, a

camp on 80 acres off of Antioch Road in Stilwell, Kansas. Red Cedar was a day camp with overnights

on Thursdays for older campers. The overnights would start as a regular camp day, then the day

campers would leave at 3:00 and the overnight campers would trek up to whatever camp site that

group had selected and set up camp. We'd eat whatever we'd decided to bring for dinner, and lay

down in our sleeping bags and have a really hard time falling asleep. It seems like I was always the

last one awake, and spent hours at those times talking to Mary and looking at stars.

I've written about Red Cedar a lot. It's the place where I learned everything I know about BBs and line

fishing, day hiking, swimming, creek wading, snake-catching, card games, lanyards, Irish ghost tales,

Robin Hood, King Arthur, quarter staffing, cooking outdoors. Mary was a 7th grade science teacher

during the year and an SCA geek. She knew everything about everything. She could play guitar and

do calligraphy. She was my counselor for five years in a row, and I learned something new from her

almost every week. She knew that dogs like to be petted on their hind ends, not just around their

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heads. She knew how to soak your bandanna to keep the heat from getting to you. She knew how to

hold an archery bow so that you wouldn't scrape your newly-developing breasts. She knew where the

natural springs were and that it was worth a morning's hike up the creek to get a few canteens' full.

She taught me how to make a solar oven. When I was twelve and got caught smoking, it was Mary's

disappointment that meant more to me than anything. I was used to disappointing my parents, but

disappointing Mary was a new thing.

I learned some stuff I wasn't supposed to learn at the camp. I learned what a "circle jerk" was and by

breaking into the school bus and looking at the bus driver's stuff, I learned that some people write

books about bestiality, and other people--perfectly normal-looking bus driver people--carry them

around and read them when they're not driving. I learned that a black snake will seek warmth in the

bottom of a sleeping bag. I saw what a snapping turtle does to a kid. And I learned some stuff I had

to unlearn: "Indian lore" for example, which Mary did her best to correct even as Doc (the director)

kept insisting that we celebrate "Indian Week" three times every summer accompanied by the

inevitable face paint. (We had theme weeks: "Pirate Week" "Polar Bear Week" "Robin Hood" among

others).

The end of camp was a long series of disillusionments. I turned 12 and Doc retired. He was replaced

by a 24 year old who hired a bunch of younger counselors. I turned 13 and Mary said it was her last

year. I was a Leader-in-Training with her that summer, and the kids seemed brattier than ever, and I

was hot. I turned 14 and decided I wanted to spend the summer reading. Mary came over for dinner

one night that summer. I saw her with an adolescent's eyes and realized that she had trouble talking to

the other grown-ups, that in fact, she was having more trouble talking to me. She seemed shyer than

I'd ever noticed, more awkward. The summer I was 15, my parents made me get a volunteer job. I

was a candy striper at Lakeside Hospital, and had a miserable time of it (even though I loved the

uniform). I shoplifted candy almost every day from the gift shop.

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When I was 16, my parents made me get a real job, and I decided to be a Counselor-in-Training at

Red Cedar. It paid $10 a day, but being a bus captain paid minimum wage--then $3.15 per hour. And

that summer, the disillusionment became complete. The Director (Julie) was 20. The counselors

(paid $20 a day) came and went. The grounds were unkempt and the bridge was falling down. We

had a lice outbreak that summer. Overnights had been abolished. Accidents were common at the bb

range and archery range, because staff had never been trained. I was put in the position of leading an

entire group of 6-8 year old boys, and one of them was almost washed away in the creek current when

I tried to replicate on of Mary's famous creek walks. I took an older group on a 3 mile round trip day

hike off of camp grounds, and one of my kids got dehydrated. There was sno-cone syrup on the floor

of the shelter, and it never got cleaned up.

About two weeks before camp ended, we got word that the Health Department was shutting it down.

I don't know if it ever re-opened or not. My last day at camp it was raining really hard. My group

was whiny, and we had combined with another group to go up to one of the cabins and play card

games. As we came back down, we went across the bridge--I was bringing up the rear--and I slipped

and fell. The fall was an accident. I could have gotten up, but I just lay there, waiting for the group to

come back for me. They didn't. So I claimed that I'd sprained my ankle, and Julie drove me to the

emergency room, where it was x-rayed. Of course, I didn't have a sprained ankle, but it got me off

from the job through the end of the week, and that was what mattered then....and that was my first

lesson that places aren't as important as the memories you make there. Red Cedar wasn't magical --

Mary and Doc had been, and my childhood in those times had been.

May 26, 2005

I had one of those naps today, the kind where you lay down, pass out from the heat, and wake up

groggy two hours later, dreaming of being eaten by an anaconda after having shot a murderer in a

stadium full of clueless people. You know the kind.

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June 18, 2005

Sometimes it’s best not to scratch the surface. (I am inept as a human being. I accept too much from

myself. I accommodate too much to what is dark. To be kind is not enough. To be occasionally

compassionate is not enough. It's never going to be enough.)

June 22, 2005

Insert clever subject line here. I'm so tired of being witty, sarcastic, amusing, amused, entertaining,

savvy, cynical. I love my kids--they're full of wonder. Sar gets excited about every single bus he hears

-- and that's many, several times a day, since we live near a bus-stop. Me, I'm full of recycled

observations and spunky phrases that pass for conversation ("And yet..." "I'm so NOT going to X..."

"Still in the room..."). Every single junky thing that catches my attention on TV ends up in my speech

("Word.") I'm surprised I'm not still saying "Isn't that special?" and "Where's the beef?"

July 18, 2005

Moderated a brewing conflict between Person A and Person B today -- well, just soothed and made

space for each of them and encouraged them to talk to each other. Which, being adults, they did. And

which, being adults, they managed to work out everything in about 10 minutes. They would have

worked it out anyway, but I felt really useful today, in that Living Out Your True Purpose sense.

It was nice to be peaceable instead of coming from both guns. I have had a couple of pimsy days

(that's "PMS-y" if you don't catch that neat twist in language I just did there). I made a barista cry on

Saturday. She made me cry too, but that was probably left over from the adrenaline from a fight I’d

had with Kevin that morning. I would much rather be the person that makes people's lives easier than

harder. I needed something like today to affirm that my being on this planet is a good thing. Not that

I'd be anywhere else, just good to get the validation from time to time.

August 30, 2005

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At some point I suppose I'll get used to this working full time thing enough that I'll stop reporting on

it as if I were on a junket to Eastern Europe. But for now: my priorities have suddenly shifted. Things

in my life--things I've cared a lot about in the last few years, and have given a lot of energy too--don't

matter much right now. The only things that matter are work and sleep. And family. But community,

writing, creativity, spirit, church--I resent the time taken by things I've already committed to. I

recognize this as obsession, a glamour of sorts cast by capitalist marketeers and their apprentices.

The job is too slow this week -- I haven't done anything stellar. I'm not complaining, but I know that

it's not going to stay this pace forever, and that's a good thing. I hope it stays manageable and un-

frantic, but I also want to get a lot done and be productive and earn my place, not to mention a good

reputation as solid, reliable, and good-natured. That's the rep I'm starting to get. People think of me as

mature and discreet and calm at work, because that's who I am there. Is it any wonder I prefer it to

here, where I'm always feeling besieged and blowing my top?

September 22, 2005

Dreams. I'm one of those people with a very active nightlife.

Peace. I like comfort. I like ice-cream, TV, and knowing my family will still be there when I get

home at night. I like having enough to eat and feeling safe in my home just because the door is

locked. I like not living in terror, fear, or desperation...I wish everyone could.

Syntropy. What if it's true: that all things are coming together and meshing for the greater

enhancement of all? That without intervention, everything still gets better? That it's not all about

falling apart?

October 30, 2005:

Kevin just jumped out of the corner of the couch and scared the crap out of me. He was inspired by

the song on the CD player, the one that goes "I always feel like/somebody's watching me". Causing

heart attacks is apparently his idea of a good time.

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Penny is going to be a princess for Halloween. Sar is going to be a cat. I'm going to be frazzled.

November 28, 2005:

This morning, old man at a bus stop glared at me and threw his wine out on the sidewalk at my feet.

He ambled off holding a jug.

A guy on a bicycle glided across two lanes, grinning to himself. It was early morning. I ordered a tall,

with room, at Starbuck's. And I ran into one of my neighbors downtown and walked a short way with

her before going back to the bus stop. The 7:10 never came. I caught the 7:30 and got to work just as

everyone else arrived at 8:00. It was dry in the office. I had chapped lips and hang nails, but was too

busy catching up on three days of neglected work to feel uncomfortable. I had lunch with Gail & we

talked about pain, acute versus chronic, and the management of same. The day went fast. I left at

4:30, and it was already dark.

I sat in the back of the bus on the way home. I was listening to my iPod. There were more people on

the bus with headphones than with cell phones. Two guys talked about Cheney and his construction of

reality and the first Matrix movie. A woman covered her face with a scarf, and I was envious. If we

were under some kind of mild biochemical attack, people with scarves would have an extra layer of

protection. In the back of the bus, we were under mild biochemical attack. A tall guy with a baseball

cap sat back there with us. He covered his face with his cap to light a cigarette. I moved up to the

middle of the bus. Nobody ever said anything about him smoking.

It was night all the way home. The storefronts on Pike are black in the daylight; at night, they are a

warm black, lit from within, jewel-like. I saw a skinny young man trying on a blazer; people drinking

coffee; antique furniture lit by dim lamps. I got off the bus downtown, at Nordstrom's, where the

latest window is of a woman dressed up for some kind of formal holiday function, sitting with her

legs wide apart and shoulders hunched forward, wearing a black petticoat and gold accessories. She

looked disgruntled. The holiday music piped to the outside of the store vied with Beck on my iPod. I

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turned up the iPod. From the corner where I stood I could see the carousel a block away -- all bright

lights and painted horses. The bus I got on drove past it. It had large panels all the way around it, and

on each panel a single word: Qwest, with a company logo.

The bus was crowded and brightly lit. I knew no one. I held a green pen and wrote about them on the

index card I had pulled out of my bag. I saw into more windows in old brick buildings along the

viaduct -- it was darker outside than it had been last week. The windows were more brightly lit. I saw

a man at a drafting table in a room with a brick wall. I saw a blurred row of offices, tried to see the

individual people in them, but we were picking up speed as we got onto the viaduct. I saw the Pioneer

Square Hotel sign; the multi-globed light-posts -- the stadium. And then headlights and harbor lights

and port lights and then, in my neighborhood, very few lights at all.

I walked in darkness down the ramp, now listening to Jason Mraz. Sandra's house was brightly lit, and

I could see her making dinner for Mikaja at her kitchen counter. I knocked on the door and went in to

give her a brief hug. I walked into my house announcing "Family, I'm home!" but they weren't back

yet. I went out on the path to meet them, walked along the wetlands path in the dark singing a bluesy

version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer until I got close to the other street and could hear Penny's

voice. I came out under a streetlamp and she ran to me and jumped up into my arms for a hug. She

was heavy. Elessar came for a hug, and he, too, was too heavy to carry.

Flash forward an hour. I am curled up in a wing chair at Michelle's house with the Admin Committee.

Pecan cookies with green tea. Low lighting. Theo visiting to play with Mao-Mao and toddling over to

hand me pieces of a mandarin orange. His smile is extra wattage -- a high light in a dark day. Solstice

is coming.

June 3, 2006:

Rule of Thumb. When you can't think of anything you could do to make your life better, but you can

think of lots of things to do that would make your life worse, don't do anything.

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March 2, 2007:

I think it was in a late night AA meeting in Kansas in the 1980’s. It was one of those round robin

meetings, where we’d have a topic, like “acceptance” or “humility” and then go around the room and

either speak, or pass. The late night meetings were dimly lit, a side table lamp and a couple of

candles, but no overheads. The average age in the room was maybe 25, and that’s if Mike or Ryan

came – one of those guys in their 40’s who get off on imparting wisdom to people barely out of their

teens.

The topic that night must have been honesty, or some permutation thereof. And I didn’t know this

girl, but what she said rang with me. She sat across from me, leaning against a couch, picking at the

ragged knees of her jeans, and she said: When I don’t know where to start, I start with what the truest

thing is for me, today. “(Every sentence in AA seemed to end up with “for me, today.”)

That night wasn’t life-changing, and the girl wasn’t particularly memorable. I don’t think I ever saw

her again. But that sentence came back to me over and over as I tried to write my story. This is

attempt number infinity-plus-x. And I’m calling it “Temp”. And the reason is this: I’m not here for

good.

You can take that any way you’d like to. I’m in that space where I barely care. Everything that is

truest for me is also falsest. My whole life is a zen puzzle without the enlightenment prize in the koan

cracker jack box. So I could start with what is truest, but know that tomorrow it will be something

else, for truth is nothing if not ephemeral, contextual, relative, reflective. I don’t know where my

story begins or ends. There are so many parts—do you want my story as an alcoholic? As a mental

patient? As an activist? Do you want the humor or the angst, or both because it is impossible to have

one without the other. Do you want my lurid and quasi-adventurous sexual history? My struggle for

an authentic life? The colorful journey through many religions? The contemporary urban story of

work in the late capitalist era, which is a story of 70 jobs and hundreds of people?

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If you look at me now, you see settled. You see 40. You see mother of two and wife of one and

permanent state employee. You see someone who has lived in the same house for six years; someone

who knows the first names of all her neighbors. Even when I’m in angst, I’m still upright, moving

forward.

That wasn’t always true. There were years when angst would pin me like a dead butterfly.

April 1, 2007:

My heart isn't breaking; it broke a long time ago. So did Kevin's. We did some patching together and

went on, but tonight we both acknowledged out loud that our romantic relationship is over, and has

been for a long time. I don't know what this looks like in the long run in terms of staying married and

living in the same household and co-parenting. We're not making any logistical changes in the short

term future. But this is a shift. In consciousness, in intention. And just having that conversation

made me feel so damn sad.

April 16, 2007:

When the barista asked me this morning how I was, what if I said "Painfully self-conscious and rife

with free-floating anxiety; how about you?" instead of shrugging and saying "Enh. Monday. You?"

Would the barista then answer my question with "Guilt-ridden with a touch of angst" instead of

saying "Fine"?

What if I opened a destination herb store in West Seattle called Teas & Tinctures and operated it as a

pea-patch style retail co-op? Would someone have a fatal allergic reaction to my nettle/ wort/

peppermint tea and would I then have their death on my hands?

What if I cancelled all social obligations, called in sick to work, and spent an entire week focusing on

my kids? Would they blossom or shrink? Would they become whinier? Would they cling all week?

Would they suddenly leap ahead and learn to read and do calculus and cast animal blessing spells?

Would they ignore me except then they wanted something to eat?

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April 23, 2007:

The biggest difference I find between dating in my late 20's and my early 40's is that I'm not self-

conscious about having "baggage" anymore. Seems like when I was last dating actively, the people I

was attracted to were still looking for someone pristine, someone who wasn't loaded down

emotionally or who didn't have a lot of emotional reactions to things. Since my growth curve from

about 11 to 25 was fairly steep, that wasn't me. I had the experience many times of falling for

someone and finding out I wasn't "light" enough for him/her.

Now, though, it's very different. The people I'm attracted to are mature, have their own deeply-felt

life experiences behind them, aren't frightened by emotion, and have the perspective to be

compassionate about their own stuff as well as mine. I no longer feel like the deepest, most suffering

person in the room. And most of the time, I'm not. Even though I do have what used to be labeled

"baggage"--lots of it--it's not heavy. Maybe that's the biggest difference.

May 4, 2007:

We have so much violence in our culture now that we’re developing a taxonomy and vocabulary for

different kinds of violence, much as the Inuit have developed so many different words for “snow”.

These are all acts of violence that have happened on this campus in the last six weeks: a student was

kidnapped, raped, and dumped on Aurora; a student was jumped and beaten up by 15 fraternity

brothers and football players; a former student made threats to come in and blow us all away; a staff

member was shot by a stalker. These are all acts of violence that I witness every day: a passenger

yells at a bus driver; a parent berates a child; an angry coworker makes a mean joke at someone else’s

expense. People hit, yell, cry, threaten, avoid.

We make distinctions between “domestic violence,” “workplace violence,” “military violence,” and

“parental violence.” There is “legislative violence,” “school violence,” “torture,” “terrorism,” “gang

violence,” “bullying”. Violence can be intentional or impulsive. It can be individual, institutional,

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cultural, global. Physical, mental, spiritual. We make distinctions between different kinds of

violence, and certainly each act of violence differs in visible degree and immediate effect.

But do they really differ in ultimate effect?

Do they differ at the root?

Have you ever seen an anaconda mating ball? All the males cluster on and around the female until it

is one writhing mass of snakes intertwined, moving, slithering around and between each other. To

untangle that knot is an act of courage. Each strand of the thing is something different: a focus on

self, fear, an objectification of other people. This is something of what I believe is at the root of

violence—at least, my acts of violence. Which leads me to my real question—to what extent does my

indulgence in those things contribute to violence in the world? Or does it?

May 7, 2007:

So tonight, after dinner, the kids were out playing and all of a sudden I started hearing some rhythm

from the courtyard outside our door. I went out on the porch and there were my kids & some of their

friends (and some neighborhood adults) having their own little drum fest. I'm going to put some of

the other photos into a scrapbook (although most are pretty blurry--things were moving fast). But just

wanted to share this little burst of spontaneous joy with you:

May 9, 2007:

This morning I was: crisp, fragile, half-asleep, holding coffee, standing on a decayed urban street

corner in front of a construction site waiting for a bus, when a duck waddled up to me, then around

me, then past me, looking for food. We were at least a quarter mile from any pool of water that I'm

aware of (Drummond Fountain). But there he was, this duck, and he went right up to this tall guy

holding a plastic grocery bag and quacked and craned his neck and looked up, not at the bag, but at

the man. And this man, short-haired, all dressed in business casual and holding a copy of The Nation

and looking very serious, looked right back at the duck and started talking baby talk to it. And I

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watched this duck waddle around and interact with people, cracking them into smiles as he

approached them.

May 21, 2007:

Please let me express thanks to the men in my life who are as appalled by "honor killings" as I am,

who know the strength of women and are unafraid of it, who believe in the one-ness of all beings. Let

me express my thanks to those who are not men or women, but who challenge the gender

constructions which are culturally imposed. And thanks to all friends who struggle to live a life of

authenticity. The truer we are to our innermost highest selves, the more radically the world will

change in our lifetimes.

June 7, 2007:

"Divorce" is one of my least favorite words right now. Because, although it describes the legal aspect

of what I plan to do, a lot of what it connotes doesn't really apply to Kevin and me. And yet, because

it's such a large word, such a hard one, and so prevalent, I find that my disentanglement from Kevin--

our disentanglement with each other--is being as culturally produced as it is personally produced.

June 8, 2007:

When thrown in a rage, a scone flies 62 miles per hour faster than a seagull. A muffin can be

compressed by a fist with the same force under which they test astronauts. This is known in some

circles as "a waste of pastry".

Downtown last night, I saw a man approach a tree and rip a branch about two feet long from it. He

stuffed it into his bag and went on. The same corner, the night before, I saw some Scandinavian-

looking teenagers clustered around a police car, trying on his hat and taking pictures of each other. He

was chuckling, but I noticed his hand was on his nightstick, even as he posed with a pretty blond girl.

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When you cry hard after seven months of only occasional tearing up, it is not always a relief.

Sometimes it is a precursor to further self-flagellation. No one deserves to be on this planet. No one

deserves good things, or bad things. Since when is it about deserving?

Professional victimhood: if I'm so good at it, why doesn't it pay more?

June 13, 2007:

If anyone survives this thing and finds this some years hence, there is something you should know

about us as a people:

We weren’t that bad. You’ll have seen our temples to the money gods and our landfills, but what you

won’t have seen is the way we hold each other on a Sunday morning, what many of us sacrificed daily

for others of us, how we loved our young. You’ll have read our news reports and you’ll have found

many horrors there, but the day to day way that life is woven between us and our neighbors never got

to the newspapers. You won’t have seen how many acts of violence were averted because someone

stepped in to diffuse it. You won’t have a record of what made us laugh, and how much we laughed

every day. We weren’t good at recording our joy, just our misery. But know this: some of us were

joyful. And we were precious to each other.

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