Saturday, September 30, 2006


I already know that the cafeteria at the Naval Medical Center is really cheap, but Justin keeps telling me. "Fifteen cents for a bowl of oatmeal. A whole meal for ninety cents the other day. Fajitas and rice and beans and lots of salsa for $1 something." I know this. "Baked fish. I don't like to eat cafeteria fish, so I got Dominic's instead." (The best philly cheesesteak in San Diego--the one thing I didn't know before.)

I know that Subway and McDonald's are the only places open on the weekend.

I know Jamba Juice closes early on the weekdays.

I know that the cafeteria food is the patient food.

I know that one day when I went to the cafeteria the cashier said, "It can't be that bad," when he saw my crestfallen face, but I don't know what I said.

I had just gotten married in July and now here in September my husband was in isolation with almost no white blood cells and closer to death than any newlywed should be--we call that base the place where we had our second honeymoon (which started a week after our real honeymoon--in Cabo San Lucas, courtesy of my brother and parents).

I can't even stand the smell of Subway anymore. It always reminds me. I don't know how many meatball or turkey sandwiches I ate alone in the courtyard.

I see the doctors in line at Mc Donald's on weekends and wonder about this healthcare system.

I already know that Justin won't be able to get cell phone reception from most of the places in the hospital, from days and days and days of walking toward the parking lot and watching the bars, hoping to be able to call one of the parents or someone from work or God. "Hey God, could you come down here and make sure my husband doesn't die?"

One of my former students got a note from one of the children when she finished volunteering in Africa. "When you get home could you ask God to come to Afrika?" Or something like that. She wrote it better than I can.

Justin keeps telling me these things I already know and he doesn't remember because of the medications he was taking. "The cancer patients rooms are decorated really nicely, like it's a hotel."

"I know. Don't you remember? Your room was full of sunflower stuff. There's this group of Navy doctors' wives who were going around redecorating the rooms of patients who will be there for a long time. Your isolation room was one of the first rooms done."

He doesn't remember, so he tells me. I don't want to remember, but I listen. What else is there to do?

It's Over

Naps are good.

I woke up and the sun was setting--pretty.

I woke up later and it was dark and someone was BBQ-ing--lighter fliud. Hungry. So I got up and closed all the front windows and thought about eating more noodles. (Mac and cheese for lunch--last box, leftover pad thai noodles for dinner, since I can't go anywhere in the dark. Today when I asked the guy who works at the store next door to the coffee shop if he'd heard about the muggings since he'd been out of town and he said, "Yeah, I just read about that. They're attacking mostly people who are walking alone though." I just gaped at he who works and lives with his girlfriend. "Yeah.")

Justin somehow got out of being on call early, so he's home now. Caught two babies. For the first one he got misty (inside). I asked if he said a little prayer for the new life, and he said he would next time. Then he "only had his hands in there for one of them, and the head was out, and [he] was pushing down on the shoulders to help it out, but then the hand popped out and it kind of freaked [him] out. It's not like he [shouted out--he made a sound effect I can't figure out how to type] or anything, but the third year resident got his hands in there then, so [he] kind of got out of the way. It was kind of freaky, that's not what it's supposed to look like. I was afraid the arm would come out separately or broken or something."

"Babies bones are soft because they have to fit through such a small space," I said. It's a nugget of knowledge I gained from a friend who told me about her sister's baby being rather flexible.

"I know, but it's weird when you see it."

I bet. I guess.

Here he is:
"I can't believe I did that. It's like a rite of passage. I feel like a doctor now. If someone is having a baby somewhere, like on a plane, and they're asking does anyone know what they're doing? [He rose his hand.] Placentas are big."

"Is that the afterbirth?"

He nodded. "If it were a cow or a horse or something it would eat it. I don't know, some animals do."

Babies are coming! Babies are coming...

I've been in this odd funk since Justin left for school this morning. Maybe it's because there's people getting mugged in my neighborhood, and as much as I want a gyro or a burrito I'm afraid to go out now that I'm home from The Espresso Garden. Maybe it's because it's actually cloudy and cool outside and I miss the summer sun. Maybe it's because Justin is done with the abnormal/cancer gynecology part of his Ob/Gyn rotation and has moved on to baby catching.

That's right. Today, for the first time in his life, Justin will see a woman give birth to a child.

The "best" part is that his rotation (by his choice--so he could check out the doctors) is at the San Diego Naval Medical Center. Yeah. Five minutes from our apartment and where my gynecologist's office is located. They've just finished remodeling the rooms for the labor and delivery patients. A couple of years ago I was pretty excited about that and looked at the renderings every chance I got.

I thought Justin's choice was great because my doctor has been promoted out of seeing patients and into doing more paperwork, so now Justin can figure out who I should chose to be my new Primary Care Physician. But he said, "I can check the doctors out, just in case."

"Just in case what?" I asked, looking at him quizzically and honestly perplexed. Of course I'd need a gynecologist. All women do.

"In case we have a baby."

"Seriously?" I asked, looking at him while we walked toward the pharmacy and passed the obstetrics office.

"I'm just not ruling out any possibilities," he said.

"Seriously?" This time I looked at him and then ahead and I do not know if he could read the confusion and trepidation on my face. But he can always read my face.

"I'm just saying...." he said.

"That's my line."


So that's what's happening today. Babies are coming, and Justin will be there for their journey and arrival.

I don't know why it's bothering me so much, but it is.

I'm not jealous of the mothers, like I used to be. I do not want to take their children (do you think they'll notice? That one has a gaggle, I'll just take the littlest one!), like I used to dream (especially if I saw one treated badly). In fact, Justin and I have almost come to the conclusion that maybe we shouldn't have children of our own. Our gene pool sucks. I mean, I'm sure the kids would be cute (ethnically mixed kids usually are), but they'd be so messed up in the head right from the get go. And then they'd have to live with us. Sure, we're funny and we make sound effects so at least they'd be entertained until they were nine or ten or so, but if it were any time soon that we made a family bigger than the two of us the kid would practically be an orphan. Maybe we could grant him/her 67% of a parent. Justin would be (still) gone all the time, so I'd essentially be a single mom. And I can barely take care of myself these days--I mean, I congratulate myself for getting out of bed and even doing my hair before I leave the apartment (ASAP, so as not to accidentally just stay in bed) for the day. A baby deserves a mom a little more put together than that. Than me. And I deserve not to have to fake having it together like I have for the past 20 some odd years.

And I don't want to take care of anyone else. I've got my hands full with myself (& Justin) right now. It's like I'm learning how to live all over again, and it's not like I'm a stupid teenager who thinks having a baby will solve all my problems because he/she will love me. I've got enough friends with kids to know a baby would just need me to take care of it 24/7 and he/she would never say even thank you for the boob-food-machine, or the clean diaper or the third outfit of the day.

Babies are coming.... and going to someone else. (And when I think of all those military women I see in the pharmacy and the commissary I know these women aren't exactly all that well equipped for the mothering job either, but at least Justin and I have the sense to recognize the deficiencies in ourselves. )

I think maybe what I'm jealous of is that Justin gets to be there when a brand new life comes into the world. And he probably gets to do it lots of times today--he called me at lunch (after the surgery rotation he knows to eat when he can; one of the other guys was going to wait an hour until he was hungry, but Justin said there was a lot of moaning and screaming coming from the women, so that other guy will probably end up hungry for quite some time).

I've never seen a live birth other than on TV. I don't have sisters, so I probably never will see birth happen. I think I'm sad and jealous that not only do I not get to be a part of the miracle of creating and growing and raising a whole entire person, I don't even get to witness it.

I think maybe I'll take a nap or clean the house or go to the commissary now. Maybe not the commissary. All the women are bursting with children there. The military procreate like rabbits.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Check

It actually came in the mail. :) So now, I just have to hope it keeps happening. Sorry I didn't mention it earlier, for those of you who were participating in my vision of living on the streets of San Diego.

Did you know there are 4500 homeless people in San Diego and 2000 beds for them? And that they get tickets when they're found out there, being homeless, which of course they cannot pay, so then of course they get into more trouble because they can't work "with" the police and the mayor thinks these fines are a good idea.

I know developing countries need help and I'm glad the United States gives it through the government and NGOs and the goodness of private citizens, but it's right here. Two of them came to my door--one asking for a cover another asking for change for coffee. A man and a woman. A white and a black, respectively.

What is it we're doing for our world?

What is our world?


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pretty __________ Pills

In the morning there are five.
I can swallow them in one gulp now,
followed by a glass of water.
Big dark purple.
Little light purple.
Little light yellow.
And the two capsules that do not match the color scheme,
visually bothering me every time--
huge as capsules come and ugly orange-brown.

I'd like to eliminate them based on color scheme disruption.
I like purple and yellow.
Flowers come that way.
The irises in my wedding bouquet would match them.

At noon it's another big purple.

At four it's the little yellow.

Important not to get confused about which to take when, then.

But I get confused.

The purple one is on my tongue,
I realize it should be yellow and take it out,
wonder what to do with it,
and then remind myself to take the right one.

The yellow one at four.

Maybe I can eliminate the one that is eliminating my memory.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Cell Phones and Drugs

OK. I know you kids are going to laugh about this one, but when cell phones first came out they were banned from schools in large part because teachers didn't want drug dealers working (this is a vague old memory).

But I just got a new cell phone and it can even take pictures and do lots of stuff I don't understand yet, but hope to figure out (of course, then I'll probably forget, so why bother?). I'm really excited about the camera part.

But I'm really really excited about the alarm because of the drugs (medications) which I forget to take on time during the day. Now, I can set my alarm for noon and even make it repeat every day so I'll do the noon med and then I can reset it for 4 p.m. and do the evening med, and then reset it for noon and never forget again!


I'm sure cell phones have been doing this kind of neat stuff for a long time, but not the ones you can get for $30 after rebate on your annual trade. :)

Maybe I can even train it to be set for two times and I won't have to do all that resetting. See! Cell phones are good for (perscribed) drugs for teachers!

And since I have almost no short term memory, that would be good.

Yesterday, Justin and I apparently had a conversation and about 5 minutes later I had completely, I mean COMPLETELY, forgotten about it. It wasn't about anything big--apparently he'd been wearing pants all day and switched to shorts because we were doing some more unpacking of our office and it was getting hot in our apartment, but I don't remember talking about it AT ALL. This of course made me so scared about my life that I started to cry, but he hugged me and I pulled it together--I'm getting used to forgetting and just keep on doing stuff once I remember but even that is scary.
I'm pretty sure I wasn't "wife-ing" him--"Uhhuh, OK. Yeah," but not really paying attention. I would have remembered that. I just have short term amnesia. It's like "50 First Dates" only not as bad or as fun. And I don't get to have blonde hair I can brush.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

oh I wonder wonder wonder wonder

what the paper looks like?!? (sing it baby!)

Will I ever know? Will they put me on their mailing list? Will I got to school and drop some stuff off and pick one up?

It's not the first time they've done it without me (all second semester I was out), but it's the first time this year, with this leadership team, with...

I just wonder. Maybe I'm a little less sick and I notice it's Thursday, or I can bear to think of it without being overly sad that I'm not there. Now I've come to accept my situation and so I can wonder without the self-pity over my absence.

I just wonder.

I just miss them. Today would have been the thank you lunch, where everyone thanks someone for something special they did to help to paper become what it is.

I just wonder.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


"There's another one!" Justin said.
There was a catepillar at the foot of our bed.
"How are they getting there?"
"I don't know."
"Well, do something."
So he got a Kleenex and picked it up. It's small and thin and right away it curled up in catepillar-fetal-position.
"What are you going to do with it?" I asked. I can't imagine a person can squish a catepillar. "They turn into butterflies." I've read The Very Hungry Catepillar during story hour for the last three weeks every Thursday.
"Do you want to take it outside?"
I looked at him with the pleading eyes that make him do things for me, so he took it to the front door and tried to throw it over the edge (one story up). It wouldn't go, so apparently it's on our sidewalk/hallway now.

Tonight we went to see Ella. Great band, great voice, wish there was more story. But if they had acted out everything she did in monologues the play would have been 5 hours long or they would have had to cut songs, so it was good the way it was. The best thing was that Justin came with me and even got dressed up and sat next to me and we held hands. The worst thing was the lady sitting next to him kept singing along. Finally, in the second act, I had to lean over and look at her and she stopped. We were definitely in the minority age bracket in the audience. Justin said, "I looked at the rows in front of us and it was all white and blue hair."

Why do old ladies end up with blue hair?

These are my questions.

Also I want to know how all my newly college freshmen are doing and how the paper looks that's coming out tomorrow at TPHS. Lordy, my nest is empty!

The Call

He called. I had the conversation on speakerphone with Justin so that I wouldn't get so confused. Justin coached me on when to stop talking (I do so love that), but it was a smart move. According to The Man my disability insurance should still be in place. My brain doesn't work so well right now, so it's good that Justin was thinking and stopped me from asking any more questions to muddy the waters. Then I ran back downstairs to finish putting the clothes in the washer and dryer.

I got to the dryer, put the clothes and the dryer sheet in, closed the door and then stood there staring at it for a second or so. "What do I do next?" I put my hands in my pockets where on one side I have my cell phone and on the other keys and quarters (I often forget to bring those down and am happy I am wearing pocketed-clothes today). "Oh yeah, quarters." And so I put them in and pressed start.

It is so strange to be in my head right now. I remember when I had a brain that functioned on all cylinders at a much higher speed, and now it feels like I'm hobbling along with a cane and my drivers license has been revoked because I'm 99 and can't react fast enough to be safe in traffic.

My therapist said something about me being adultified too early, and so I basically burned out the cylinders. I don't want it all back, but it would be nice to at least be able to do the laundry without hitting so many moments of confusion and forgetfulness.

I have had enough of this preview of the senility that sometimes comes with old age. I can't help but think often of my Aunty Mercy (she filled the grandmother role for me & my brother) when Alzheimer's was starting to take over her life. She'd buy more yogurt even though they already had a bunch in the fridge, enter a room and forget why, do things several times or ask questions repeatedly without knowing she had already done or asked that thing. That's the worst part now--when other people can see how lost I am it's embarrassing, and when I forget parts of conversations during the conversations I hate it because I feel like they must think I didn't care enough to pay attention. I am listening! It's just I have this little problem with my memory right now... I'm sorry.

I want to be 31 and smart again.

Being 31 and old-in-my-head is too much work.

Thank God for Justin, my faithful companion and best friend who keeps me from getting too lost.

How am I supposed to know?

Is it depression or is it anxiety?

I called the disability insurance company again to try to find out what is going on with my disability insurance coverage.

We haven't seen a check since June.

Of course, I've called before, I've been calling since I got the letter with the three forms that were dutifully completed by myself, my employer, and my doctors. I know that I am just a number, just a paper in a pile of papers in someone's To Do box, I know that in order to get through the system faster (or in any kind of timely manner) I have to push the system.

But I am depressed and anxious. So once, when I was talking to The Guy in Charge of My Financial Future there was yelling and crying. Irritability is one of the myriad of symptoms of my disease. Also taking things too personally and getting hurt too easily.

Today, when I called and asked for The Man, I was nervous, my heart rate was up, and afterward when I didn't get him and was also told that there was no record of a conversation I know he had with my district official (she called me right afterward) I was sad-feeling. But I didn't yell at the nice customer service assistant (I think they like to be called CSAs now), I just said thank you and hung up and pledged to call The Man again in an hour even though a message was supposedly left for him.

Then Justin got the mail and there was a bill from the psychiatrist I had to see once a week while I was in the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Intensive Outpatient Program. It seems that while the program costs $17 per day with our military insurance (a "perk" for Justin's being an amputee because of a combat-related training accident involving boat propeller; I'd rather he walked without pain and we had better insurance), the 5-10 minutes with the doctor costs another $12 per day. Justin just learned this when he called the company that sent us the mysterious bill; thankfully he has always been the CFO of our household, but he also knows I get easily confused when it comes to numbers (normally--even more so now) and he would handle it better. They say I was told about it, they say I signed a paper about it. I don't remember any of that, and when we get through the apartment cleaning and find the papers I signed I will look for that document. I was so freaked out about $17 days, I know that I would have added worrying about another $12 every time I saw my assigned doctor. Does passing him in the halls count? Does a quick question count?

Justin said one of the people he had to talk to was very rude and he's a bit angry now too. "She was depressed!" is his reply... why they allow the sick people to read and sign complicated forms I do not know.

So now (I'm doing laundry still--it took me about two hours to get started on that because I kept forgetting I was supposed to do it and kept getting involved in cleaning other things that in The Plan were supposed to be cleaned while the washing machine washed and the dryer dried our clothes.) I have this sick feeling--is it depression or anxiety or both?

Justin keeps telling me money won't be a problem, we won't end up on the streets like the guy we frequently lying on concrete in positions that make him look possibly dead (the first time I saw him and told Justin, Justin was still in his scrubs had to go back downstairs to the alley behind our apartment because he had to make sure--the guy said he was just getting some rest (with his neck bent over a parking lot block and his bicycle wheels wrapped around his legs)).

I know that thinking that might happen is what the COG people call catastrophizing. I know we have savings and credit and family and friends that would never let that happen. So I let that fear go but am still plagued by the notion that I am creating a whole lot more work for him than I ever meant to and than he ever expected.

But we've discussed this too--I had to do a lot for him when he almost died of osteomylitis right after we got married and I take care of him every time he has surgery--which for an amputee is more often than for the average Joe. When we go a year without a surgery of any sort we celebrate. This taking care of each other is what marriage is. It's tough right now because it is, but he said we'll be stronger for it later. I know. I just want later to come faster.

Justin is a true prince. I am blessed to have him as my husband.

Everyone said the first year of marriage is the hardest, but once we were sure he wouldn't die (though he also couldn't get good life insurance) we sailed through the year, not bothered by the little things that might have bothered others, because just being alive together was so neat.

I want to get better so badly. I want to get better faster. I am not good at working on a project for so long with such meager results. The old me would be done by now--or self-flagellating like nobody's business.

But this creating-a-new-me project is really really hard. It's kind of like I'm a snake and I have to shed my old skin before I can get my new skin. The problem is, unlike snakes, that new skin isn't just right there under the old stuff, ready to protect me and carry me through the next part of my life. As each bit of the old skin peels away, I am left raw, an open sore. And that makes it kind of hard to get through the day sometimes because everything hurts so much. It also makes it hard for people to be around me. Which makes it even harder for me to get through the day because who wants to go around wounded AND alone. (Catastrophizing again--I know I haven't been completely abandoned by my friends, I've just been put on hold because sometimes it is too hard to look at open sores, some people just don't have the strength for it, plus I've somehow managed to put on a happy face for long enough to manage to make some new friends and enjoy some activities and contact with old friends--that song we sang in Girl Scouts comes back to me: make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.)

Right now, I'll take what I can get and what I can handle.

I'll try to learn to be my own best friend, which I suspect is important in this whole process--to learn to take care of myself before and more than anyone else. The analogy they used at cog was this: "You know how when you get on a plane they tell you if something goes wrong and the oxygen masks come down anyone with a child or someone they are taking care of should put their own mask on first and then tend to the others."

I guess since sometimes I actually have to remind myself to breathe evenly or deeply or at all, I should take heed the advice of the airline attendant. I'll put my oxygen mask on first.

I just have to find it.

*this entry ended up longer than I expected, but I feel better now. Breathing evenly, returning to the laundry*

So there's a coup in Thailand...

and my first thoughts on reading the lame CNN brief that is on my homepage (a journalists need for "news" never dies but maybe I need a better source) are, "I hope Oakley's family is OK." (Oakley is the webgodess who is creating my website I think she's also some kind of princess or something, or lives on the same block as the princess "back home" or something like that....) So of course I know the only way to find out immediately (she's at work--that's what people who aren't on disability (and boy do I keep proving to myself that there's no way I could work now--more on that later) do during the week, so I can't call her) is look at her blog. You can too, at

I strongly suggest anyone who needs constant updates or explanations of what's really going on go to Oakmonster's Den--she's much more informative and entertaining than the pundits who make the world look like the handbasket is getting closer to hell every 15 minutes.

I love Oakley! (and her webgoddess abilities!) And her sense of humor and news. :)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

When I grow up

I want to be free

or a butterfly

or a grain of sand

or water

The School Shooting Dream

It's one I've had frequently since Columbine. During Columbine I was still doing my credential work and working as an aide in an RSP class in a continuation school (special ed class--kids who had learning disabilities so they read between a grade 2 to, oh, 10ish level but also had their own babies and were pregnant again, or were bouncing between juvenile hall and their "regular" school because they could still wield knives and guns and spray paint cans like nobody's business. They weren't supposed to spend any time with their gangs as part of their probabtion, but where would they have slept? Their dads, their uncles, their brothers, their sisters all jumped in. They had to go home. How could they get out. The only ones I know who ever got out either became famous or dead. Mostly dead.).

The day after Columbine we had a fire drill.

You would think they'd have rescheduled.

At that continuation school we even had a kid, one of my favorites, whom when I discovered he liked Edgar Allan Poe because there was a story in a textbook he had to read, I went and found a collection of Poe's stories at a used bookstore and he read every single one of them, wouldn't do anything else, and who were we to stop a kid like that from reading? A kid who wore a trench coat (especially after Columbine--just to throw us off) and cut into his arm in patterns, right there at his desk with his pencil while I asked him please not to do that. A kid who gave the book back to me on my last day there, because I leant it to him. I can't remember if I tried to get him to keep it, or if I took it back because I hoped I'd find another kid like him. I never liked Poe much. And then of course we had kids from rival gangs in the class, and there was that one day in the quad, where they stood facing each other and staring each other down and I noticed because it got silent and all the heads turned to see the action.

But all I saw was two little boys staring at each other with fear and anger and loneliness and pain in their eyes.

So I walked up to them because I loved them like little brothers and didn't think of anything else but wanting to save them from themselves and getting into more trouble--me, 5"almost5', probably 105 then, and said, "Hey guys, what's up?"

They looked at me and a light went on in their eyes and they walked away from each other while the volume in the quad went back up to lunchtime level.

Back in class everyone just did their work.

But ever since that Columbine Day, there's been the school shooting dream. I know I'm not the only teacher who has it. But I had it again last night. And for the first time, I was a high school student instead of the teacher.

In the old dream I had to protect all the kids. In the real life--awake--I always had a route out of our classroom and school planned. The school plan, the one we practiced, was incredibly inefficient and if there were really something happening, something serious, we'd probably all die in the funnel of the ramp to the parking lot. In my plan, we do a little jumping up a fence, a little climbing down the bushes--the way the kids always went when they were ditching and didn't know I could see them from my desk through the shaded windows that didn't really cool our classroom from the greenhouse effect at all. Sometimes: 90 degrees, 40 kids, after lunch, Anna Karenina and next door laughter, funny jokes being shouted and a publication being created.

Is it clearer now, why I'm taking a year off?

After Columbine, I always took my cell phone to the library with the kids. I should have brought my purse and my car keys because we wouldn't have access to those for maybe weeks or months if the school became a crime scene, but it was more likely I'd "lose" them while I helped some other kids find books or truly useful information online.

After Columbine, there was a plan for everything the adminstration could think of--we had packets and gloves and cards of different colors to indicate the level of help needed in our rooms--all OK, injured, dead. We had directions to use our trashcans for the toilet, to get under our desks, to get into a safe place in a room with 1/4 walls that were glass windows ceiling to floor, to lock doors that only locked from the outside in some rooms.

It was all very organized.

But in this Columbine dream (I know I had it because of Canada's shooting yesterday--they do this in college now, these poor sick kids are getting older, but now I remember it started in offices--we're all infected) I was a high school student. I didn't have to protect my flock. But I also didn't have anyone really doing a very good job protecting me.

It was a really weird combination of things, the way dreams are; my elementary and junior high school for the setting combined with some of the back of the last high school I taught in, and the last principal I worked for talking through a megaphone and what looked like the lunch lines saying something about team work and everything being OK if we get into the right line, and there were these two gangs with their spray graffitti that was brown. Why brown? And they even tagged in sky writing. I could see the planes, and all the kids looking up. The sky was their territory too. Brown (I now realize) like the tags behind my apartment building. Brown? Interesting choice. Maybe it was on sale? But there was an event that day, something like prom--we were all very dressed up--but I was with all my high school friends, in the band like we were, and we were shepherded into the music rooms and made to warm up but at the risk still of being shot and I turned my head and saw Mr. Hallback, my real band director and truest mentor in high school and for a while afterward who I can't find now that I'm married--he was invited but declined, though I used to have lunch with occassionally.

And then I woke up and had to shake the Columbine Dream feeling. But at least I don't have to go to school today and be vigilant. Today I get to read to little kids at story hour and their own moms and nannies will be there to take care of them. I won't have to keep counting heads, like I did when I took 70ish teenagers for four or five days to cities like Chicago, Seattle, Kansas City, Washington DC (where we were evacuated from the White House because a plane invaded its sky-territory (maybe they should tag it so it's more clear to beginning pilots--oops!)) but we met Dick Cheney because he fishes with one of the yearbook kid's dad... I have his signature on the Cedar Fire edition of our newspaper, but it's still in the manilla envelope the White House staffer sent it in.

Does anyone ever need to ask ever again why I need a year off from teaching?

My God, it's a miracle anyone survives high school the first four years they have to do it. To go back is an act of love and mercy and devotion to the dream that one person (in tandem with a bunch of others with the same dream), the dream that one person can make a difference in peoples' lives, can make the world a better place.

And no, the hours aren't great and we don't have summers off. I worked 60 to 80 hours per week--an hour before they arrived preparing the room, the props, the papers, and countless hours afterward reading and grading (a sin) their writing, not to mention all the journalism stuff which is a full time job itself, but one of the best jobs I'll ever have had. And in summers there are workshops and planning and meetings. So we get to sleep in and have coffee in coffee shops. For 180 days a year we can't even pee until the bell rings (two hour classes) and even then it's only if we're quick and lucky enough to talk to the kid who needs talking to, wait in the line for the two bathrooms for two buildings, and maybe eat at least part of the snack we brought, since breakfast was at 6 a.m.

If I get to keep in touch with some of those kids for the rest of my life it will be a life well lived.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I have the best husband in the whole world!

OK. So maybe I rarely see him because he's in medical school. But when he was on the Barnes & Noble website he saw that Anna Quindlen's new book is out and he bought it for me! It's called Rise and Shine and there's a butterfly on the cover--which settles it; I've been staring at an incomplete canvas debating whether to add a butterfly, and apparently the answer is yes.

Now the only question is, do I read my former student's copy first (Sara--at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism sent me a draft, and I am TRULY honored) or do I start in with Anna... oh my! Excitement in my day!

This also leaves open the possibility that tomorrow (which I told the Espresso Garden guys) I would dedicate to PR for them, I will not bring paint to the garden, just my laptop and one book. By Anna Quindlen. Lea, are you getting this? :) I'll let you know how it is, I know that in Yale you've probably got other books to read. :) But mines not by a dead white male. Ha! ;)

Even more art fun at the Espresso Garden!

They're part of the University Heights Arts Open! There will be two other artists there, and little ol' Olaina. Come see come see! Sept. 16 & 17 noon to 6 p.m.--and on Saturday, after the Arts Open, come back to the Garden to relax and enjoy a warm drink and some live music.

More info on the University Heights Arts Open:

You're Invited to The Artists' Reception!

This exhibit is part of the Photo Arts Group, which means my photos will be hanging with a bunch of other really talented and brilliant photographers, so you should come to see it all!

Here's the info if you haven't gotten a paper postcard:



I look forward to seeing you there!

And if you can't make Sunday night, we'll also be there on Thursday night for After Hours: "Art in the Park," Sept. 28, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Grades Do Not Define People

For the first time in my seven years this electronic message about grades is not an explanation to a parent or student copied to a counselor and an administrator about why a student earned an A- or a B or a C or a D instead of an A, which they tend to like to see on their report cards, and the three latter of which they tend to say I "gave" them (because I "hate them", you know--yeah right).

Grades are earned, baby. Grades are earned. I never gave a grade in my whole teaching career. When they'd earn a grade they were pleased to see and said, "Thank you," I always looked at them and said, "Don't thank me, you earned it. Thank you for giving me something good to read."

When Amanda and I signed up for our two summer Extension classes at UCSD--Building a Photography Portfolio and Abstract Figure Drawing and Painting--we were given the option of taking the classes for a letter grade, pass/no pass, or non-credit.

This decision gave me something to really think about. I have Major Depressive Disorder, and therefore a very fragile skin right now (v. the thicker regular skin necessary to take criticism in general), plus I've always been a grade-monger (mom was Valedictorian of her nursing class, shouldn't I get all A's? and if I "get" lower than an A, WHY? WHY?WHY? Plus, I've got this little tiny problem with perfectionism that has caused me to lose countless hours of sleep working on a project or just worrying about something someone has said), plus with my illness I might simply not be able to accomplish all of the assignments to the best of my ability in the time allotted, plus I'd never taken a class in any kind of art but dance and music and I was completely ignoring the prerequisites and jumping into the deep end by taking these classes.

So I signed up for the pass/no pass option. Who needs the stress of a grade? What for? It's not like I am trying to earn a certificate or anything. And then in the art class I earned A's for about four consecutive weeks and my ego kicked in. Plus I realized I was actually good at this painting stuff--and more importantly I LOVE it. And then in the photo class ("the teacher hates me," I hear the whiny voice in my head saying) there was major criticism and I was definitely the one in the deep end with little floaty arm things keeping me from drowning while everyone else was doing fancy synchronized dancing.

After class Amanda would have to talk me into my senses--as I tried to perfect my photos for a showing I had in July and August she reminded me that the guy who was allowing me to show in his shop liked the photos well enough to want them hanging there, which really does say something. And we had to remind me that I bought the digital Canon Rebel XT for this class and was just learning how to use it, and that I do have a good sense of composition and art, it's just the technical part of photography that's tripping me up--getting the lighting right is difficult for me because I don't know how the camera works yet, and then correcting it in photoshop is difficult for me because I don't know all the tricks of the program. Clearly you can see that this class is the one that drives me crazy. (Literally--I come home at 10 p.m. and stay up for hours trying to work on whatever has been criticized until I get it "right.")

At one point the teacher said, "I'm hard on you because I know you're serious about photography and you want to be really good at it."

And I learned what it meant to be on the receiving end of a line I've used with my students; it's a compliment, but there's still the grind and the desire to please the teacher and myself with perfection. Through this class I have learned why my journalism students kept me at school til 1 a.m. sometimes, trying to get the paper as perfect as possible before they sent it to the printer despite my pleading with them to hurry up and finish and let us go home to get some sleep.

Sometime during the class we got to go to the Museum of Photographic Arts library. After we'd all had time to look at books we thought would be helpful to our projects we were given the opportunity to share our new information with the class. Of course I wanted to read aloud, I've always loved doing that and I have teacher voice, and the writer/photographer had written something about mistakes sometimes being beautiful--which couldn't help but make me think of the "Hot and Fast" photo of India that was chosen from three options to be displayed in the Photo Arts Group show at the Poway Performing Arts Center. The spices are crisp, but the people moving have a blur and the photo perfectly tells the story of India, but a lot of people see the blur and think the photo is bad instead of thinking it's artful.

So I read the passage and the instructor said, "We won't be hearing the end of that, will we?" and I said, "You can grade me down if you want," and sat down. I think it was at that point that he said something about being an easy grader (he hasn't exactly been a stickler for collecting our work, and he is very involved in a book he's creating and constantly sharing with us). So I decided to fill out the forms to get the grade. This way at least I'd know where I stood with these art forms, at least in the eyes of these two professors.

And then, for a variety of reasons especially school starting without me, my MDD kicked into high gear. I became paralyzed by the work I needed to do, and when I was called on in my art class to say something about my work I can see now that I went from saying what I intended in the painting the first few weeks to saying negative things about my abilities during the last few weeks--like, "Well, I've never made skin tone before, and I've never..... and I hate that part that you just said you like..." Plus I wasn't making it as beautifully as before. It's rather shocking to look at the obvious decline--it's so clear in art. And I was showing up late because getting out of bed and getting everything ready to go was taking so long for me. I had sad-heart mornings, and I had to get everything perfectly packed and then sometimes even stop at the Garden to get coffee and a smile from the guys and some puppy love... heck once I was that late, why not?

Then I got a B+ on one of my pieces. And then, for our final, which counted for 25% of our grade, I couldn't understand the instructions and thought we'd have more time to work on the piece we chosen to display after the model finished posing. So I just kept painting her poses and never really finished one piece of work completely before we had to post them for critique. Plus my paint wasn't cooperating by drying fast enough to do what I wanted to do.

I got a B on the final and an A- in the class. And I was disappointed.

But when I really think about it, he chose that piece for me (I'm having trouble with decision making, another symptom of MDD) to be the final because he said the composition was good. And I finished it that night (at 2 a.m.) and displayed it in my little art show the following day and people said they liked it. But what's most important is that I got what I needed to get out of that class that day. We had a female model, and I love drawing female models and it was the last time I was going to have that opportunity for a while. So I HAD to draw each of her poses. And now I can use those basic sketches to make something better of them, something beautiful can come out of them, and I used every moment I had to capture what I NEEDED. I didn't NEED an A in the class. I NEEDED to LEARN in the class. And the way to learn is by doing. I'm going to keep taking classes from Reed Cardwell because I like his work and I like his teaching style (which is a high compliment from a teacher) and I'm going to take them at a less expensive school that is closer to my house and doesn't have grades, just critiques. It'll be like the College of Creative Studies, which was a serious place to learn and didn't have grades either. I'll learn from making art, watching how others make art and listening to what they all say about art.

I think it's ironic that my ego was damaged by the A-, which is really quite good for a first time art student who's never drawn the human figure in her life (other than stick figures, and even those are sometimes questionable). But I am being weaned slowly from that former life I had where the toxic environment of competition managed to suck me into a mentality I've always been conflicted about participating in. I've always believed in learning for learning's sake, but I've also always needed the A to validate me. I guess part of what I'm learning is to validate myself--not to look to others to compliment me to feel OK.

Mark Twain said something like "a person can live on a compliment for days." But the compliment should be able to come from within that person. I need to compliment me, instead of constantly asking even strangers for their opinion.

When I was teaching, and kids were reading aloud in the "Scarlet Ibis" short story they had to say the word "invalid" and some of them pronounced it "in-valid." It really made me think about how our society views invalids as in-valid (sic) sometimes--as if an invalid were not a valid human being. It's a cruel double meaning, don't ya think?

I earned an A- in Abstract Figure Drawing and Painting and I've never painted a person before. I am valid. And pretty good at painting. I haven't finished the Portfolio final because it's been a hard MDD week and I haven't wanted to do things that make my heart sad--I've wanted to be painting at the Garden every moment possible. But I'll get it done, and if the photos aren't perfect that's OK. I'm just learning how to take them with this fancy camera of mine. What I think is important is the concept: Hate Free Zone. So if the light isn't perfect, I won't make excuses for the photos, but I will tell the story of the places of love in our world, and that love should be more valid than anything else.

Like Eleanor Roosevelt said, "no one can make you feel inferior but yourself." I had that quotation up in two or three places in my classroom. I have to be stronger than I have been--and I will have to keep reminding myself that I am learning that lesson too. I have spent 31 years letting other people's opinions define me. It's time for me to define myself.

And to think I woke up with sad-heart today. Maybe it's the meds, but I think it's the writing that pulled me into a feeling of empowerment--and knowing that other people will have a chance to read this makes me feel like maybe I'm giving someone a gift, and that always makes me happy.

We define ourselves, ourselves.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Did my husband just get hit on by a teenager?

Tonight we went to Kettner Night (way cool art shows in shops all down the street) and then were a little peckish, so we went to our local pub, where the bartender is really nice and his fiance is a graphic designer and stayed home tonight to take care of their dog whose tooth got pulled today ($1100--another good reason to stick with borrow puppies) because it broke when the dog mistook a rock for a tennis ball (at 9 p.m., when we get there, we can talk to the bartender, by 10 he's too busy, by 11 the place is packed--Justin says that's how you can tell it's a good place. I think it's a good place because I don't have to get all dressed up for it and we can walk there.)

As we were leaving, I momentarily lost Justin. It wasn't that crowded and I wasn't running out the door or anything, but when I got near it and was ready to let him open it (he likes being chivalrous, and I like being treated like a princess just as much as I like being a feminist) he wasn't there.

And then he was.

Outside, he said, "Some girl just said to me, 'I met you on myspace, huh?' and I said, 'What?' and she repeated the exact same phrase I thought she said, 'I met you on myspace, huh?' and I said, 'That must have been somebody else.'"

I sort of guffawed, I mean really. "Did you just get hit on by a 13 year old?"

"I don't know, she had her hair in her eyes and all, and then when she asked again she pushed it out of the way and said, 'I met you on myspace, huh?' I kind of didn't know what to do with myself. It's one thing to get smiled at--it's the red shirt (it's really salmon colored--Justin just interjected, "Pink by your measure!") I've been getting smiles all night--but to get directly hit on like that..."

"And I'm going to go home and blog about it. So I'm, like, 12."

(He's still arguing with me about the color of the shirt--while I've been typing he's held up a peach candle and a picture of love birds with hearts on it (from a post-it note pad of ready made love notes I have), quizzing me about colors. I should take the shirt to Reed Cardwell's art class and ask what color it really should be called.)

And that's the story of our night. I met some cool people, but no one actually hit on me. I think it's because I'm having a bad hair day. Stupid curls. Stupid humidity. Stupid myspace girl. ("And it was the girl that was standing right behind us the whole time," he said. "I didn't know what to do, not that I would have done anything, but with my wife right there... I just got all flustered.")

He's a keeper. :)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Happy Home


Once, when I was talking to Jason, Jeremy's brother, Jason said, "You sound like you're related."

But that's how it is there: the co-owners of The Espresso Garden make people feel at home.

And someone stepped in today and said it was an oasis from the street, "Even the fence, and the fountain and the slope all leading away" from that chaos out there--it's our little paradise.

Today someone took one of the flower paintings home. It was hard to say goodbye, but I gave it a hug and knew it had found a good home. Sometimes it's hard to let go.


*whew* I found it. For me, losing a poem (and my whole school website! ack! why couldn't they have cleaned out my classroom like that--I had to do that during the summer, me!, alone, save the angelic former students who came to help me--they got something out of it; I taught them how to fold the tops of boxes so they stay shut, and now they can move away to college...) gave me the same feeling people get when they can't find their keys. A terrible way to start the day. But, thanks to the world wide web, I was able to find it without even getting out of this chair and then correct the misspelling of Emerson's name and make it ready to post on my blog as well as the 10000 or so other places it lives online. He should have included that: "To be quoted repeatedly online." But of course there weren't even computers back then.

Success attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch,
or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.

Matter in the life of a child

Wow. So I'm up and cheery and good and check my e-mail because I've been having these great correspondences with (now) college students about their writing assignments and since some of them are three hours ahead I figure I'll have messages. And I do! I respond, then decide to blog the philosophical part. And I want to start it with the poem that inspired me through my teaching career, and I know it's on the front page of my school website. So I go there. And I'm not even on the list anymore. Which makes perfect sense, except that they never did update the websites so well before... but I guess to save people the journalism confusion... but wow. I wish I could cut them out of my life so easily. Just highlight and push delete, but no.... I still have books and posters and paperwork. I should definitely get rid of more school stuff. And I should definitely not let this observation keep my heart plunged into the depths of despair (or at least teetering on the high dive and dangerously close to belly flopping into the deep end). I should go back to thinking about my wonderful wonderful former students and how I have mattered in the life of a child--and it doesn't matter what website I'm on to prove that--their ongoing communication with me is enough.

You see, I got to help TWO of them last night with their writing assignments . And they're in COLLEGE now. And I had them as SOPHOMORES in high school, when they were fifteen and gangly and confused about so much stuff they didn't even realize it. I tortured them in honors English and journalism, pushed them and pushed them and pushed them because I knew there was more in these two especially, and I so wanted them to find it.

And now here they are. Writing past the level of their peers (at least the one who is going to a Journalism School--we already know because of Facebook (ah technology!)) I haven't seen the other's peers' writing--and writing with style and flair and an obvious love for the written word and the subject. And they're asking me about it. ME!

I had to blog it so that later, when I again start to wonder about whether my life is worth anything, I can remember that to some people I do matter. Some people do need me. Sure, they could get advice elsewhere, and I'm sure they do, but they ask me too. And the honor is all mine.

There's a line in the poem about one of the ways to have success by leaving the world a healthy child. I may never give birth to a child. But I have to believe that in the decade I have spent working officially as an educator I have helped some of those kids make healthy choices, and I have to believe that counts for something. Something important.

I smile now--every last day I saw them before the weekend, I'd leave them with this sentiment: "Have a good weekend! Be safe! Make good decisions!" Sometimes they'd laugh and tell me I sounded like their mom. I'd say, "Thank you," and smile at them.

And now I have to find that poem somewhere else online since I've been deleted.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Haven for Artists

Today I got to wake up when the sun shone (actually I think there was honking or sirens), got ready as I felt like it, finding little notes from Jusitn throughout the house (I left him one last night--it's one of the things we do to make up for the fact that we spend so few hours together), and then go to the garden and hung out with Jeremy (The Espresso Garden co-owner) and Grace Ann (painting a beautiful mural of a Tusan scene on the Garden wall) while I painted flowers.

Today was an easy day to be happy.

Jeremy says I have a lot of energy. I thought that was wierd because I'm "depressed" and depressed people do not typically have a lot of energy. But I have Garden energy. I can be happy there, with no one judging me well or poor, a sweet girl painting and showing me how to achieve more depth in my own paintings, and nothing to do but say hello to people.

Plus tomorrow I get to read to little kids there for story hour.

The Espresso Garden is a haven for artists. Someone wo isn't one said we were inspirational today.

But when I get home and I know the afternoon stretches before me with laundry and loneliness alone, my heart gets heavier and I think it would be hard to tell that I have a lot of energy.

I try to fill the Justin-is-on-call time with something good for me.

Jason, Jeremy's brother, said it was good that I was looking forward to tomorrow when I said how happy I was that I got to come back the next day and do it all over again. It is nice to look forward to tomorrow, though I know the time I have to spend with the therapist will be grueling. And the garden will be closed by the time I'm done and then Justin still won't be home until evening and when he gets home we'll have a post-call conversation. Which means he won't remember it even while it's happening, and he'll have this odd sense of trying to make up for his absence with attentiveness to the best of his ability. Then he'll fall into a stupor of sleep... until 4 a.m. wen he has to start all over again.

OK. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. "We move in the direction of our dominant thinking," someone says, and I would really like to have the chance to move in a cheerier direction than anything else.

Tomorrow I get to paint at the Garden and talk to Grace Ann and Jeremy. And maybe in the evening we'll go to a movie (some combination of us).

What if This IS as good as it gets!

Today I got to wake up when the sun shone (actually I think there was honking or sirens), got ready as I felt like it, finding little notes from Justin throughout the house (I left him one last night--it's one of the things we do to make up for the fact that we spend so few hours together), and then go to the garden and hung out with Jeremy (The Espresso Garden co-owner) and Grace Ann (painting a beautiful mural of a Tuscan scene on the Garden wall) while I painted flowers.

Today was an easy day to be happy.

Jeremy says I have a lot of energy. I thought that was weird because I'm "depressed" and depressed people do not typically have a lot of energy. But I have Garden energy. I can be happy there, with no one judging me well or poor, a sweet girl painting and showing me how to achieve more depth in my own paintings, and nothing to do but say hello to people.

Plus tomorrow I get to read to little kids there for story hour.

The Espresso Garden is a haven for artists. Someone who isn't one said we were inspirational today.

But when I get home and I know the afternoon stretches before me with laundry and loneliness alone, my heart gets heavier and I think it would be hard to tell that I have a lot of energy.

I try to fill the Justin-is-on-call time with something good for me.

Jason, Jeremy's brother, said it was good that I was looking forward to tomorrow when I said how happy I was that I got to come back the next day and do it all over again. It is nice to look forward to tomorrow, though I know the time I have to spend with the therapist will be grueling. And the garden will be closed by the time I'm done and then Justin still won't be home until evening and when he gets home we'll have a post-call conversation. Which means he won't remember it even while it's happening, and he'll have this odd sense of trying to make up for his absence with attentiveness to the best of his ability. Then he'll fall into a stupor of sleep... until 4 a.m. when he has to start all over again.

OK. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. "We move in the direction of our dominant thinking," someone says, and I would really like to have the chance to move in a cheerier direction than anything else.

Tomorrow I get to paint at the Garden and talk to Grace Ann and Jeremy. And maybe in the evening we'll go to a movie (some combination of us).

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What if this is as good as it gets?

Jack Nicholson's gravelly voice speaking those lines has played in my head the last two times I've left my therapist's office. If it weren't so cliche, I'd actually say it out loud. If I thought it were true, I'd.... I don't know. It had better not be true.

So today she and I had this wierd little conversation where I grouped my psychiatrist (not to be confused with her, my therapist/LCSW) in with gay men as a social group. And she said, "Did he share that with you?"

I looked at her like she was stupid and said, "I haven't been "best friends" whether he wants to call it that or not with [various gay men, actually, though we were only talking about one person at the time] for the past 10 years for nothing."

"Pretty well developed gaydar, huh?"


So now that that's out of the way we can move right along...

God. It's so stupid that it's such a big deal, and that sexual orientation affects our world so damn strongly. Get over it. I don't care who anyone's sleeping with as long as everyone is nice to me and other people.

And if a few more people could be functionally nice to me, that would be just fine.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

a word about borrow teenagers

They have given me blogging, IM, and, like, hours and hours of work, I mean, fun, love and laughter.

As a person formerly known as "that hard honors English teacher" or "the journalism adviser" or "I don't know anything about the yearbook or the lit mag, go next door," I've gotten to share the best/worst/hardest/easiest/funniest/most difficult and transforming years of more than 1000 people's lives, and I am so blessed to have had that experience.

And I am so lucky and grateful that as I have "left the building" some of those people who knew-me-when are making the effort to stay in my life and let me stay in their lives.

Friday, September 01, 2006

a word about the cane

Despite foot pain and some new wierd things growing on his foot (which he swears will be OK to just get looked at when he sees his podiatrist at the VA in three weeks), he still walked about a mile with me tonight after I drove him to dinner after his 36 hour shift. Turns out it's only residents who have to have 80 hour weeks and get sent home at noon if they spend the night at the hospital. Justin, a third year, got to spend two fitful hours "sleeping" and the rest of the time making sure general surgery patients stayed alive. (Apparently a touch and go situation for some.)

And the cane: at first it was a cool (in his opinion) carved wooden duck's head cane that was given to him by his stepfather's father. That broke in the Museum of the National Library of Congress (because there's a quieter place for dropping potentially sharp objects (now known as weapons) in 2003 Washington DC--sometimes I feel so much safer because I married a white man instead of someone with the complexion of everyone else in my family; not that I think anyone ever racially profiles us (ha! it's soooo fun! grrr...). Then he got a hiking one from REI, which is actually cool. I try to remember or talk him into taking it with him on long walks, but his pride gets in his way. (Plus the hand holding and the walking on anyside of him is a bit awkward.)

I figure in ER or family medicine he can have borrow babies too--so that works pretty well for me. His next rotation is OB/Gyn... I'm not sure I'm thrilled with him having borrow vaginas. On the other hand, he is really clinical about stuff he's been seeing so far--clinical and relatively amusing. Hopefully it won't make him think "it's time" because we've (at least for now) decided that WE need A LOT of time before it's remotely a good idea to have a kid. We're very busy raising ourselves at the moment and figure we have, like, at least, like, ten years worth of work to do before we're, like, emotionally caught up to our real ages and old enough, ya' know? Yay borrow babies! :) Yay borrow puppies! Yay borrow teenagers!