Friday, June 29, 2007


This is my altar. I use this photo as wallpaper on my phone. Actually this is just to test posting direct from phone to blog.


The text came through, but not the photo. Damn. Oh well. Here's the photo:

FW: Altar

Fava Bean Soup Experiment

I had some fresh fava beans from the farmer's market. If I didn't use them today, chances are I wouldn't at all...too busy this coming week.

Sooo, I was thinking about the yummy fava bean soup that I order at Hoda's sometimes. This fava bean soup, made from dried favas I assume, is tangy with lemon juice, barely cooked onions, garlic, a clear vegetable broth, shimmery with olive oil. I hoped to re-create this in some fashion with my fresh favas. I knew it wouldn't be the same, as the fresh beans taste more green than the dried ones, but I figured if I aimed for the same elements, I couldn't go wrong. A quick google search affirmed that garlic, onion, maybe tomato, maybe lemon, broth, I could make a decent soup.

My pantry can be haphazard. No vegetable broth, but a 32 oz box of organic soy ginger broth from Trader Joe's. I had Walla Walla onions from the market, and a big very fresh almost green bulb of garlic. A beefsteak tomato. Hmmm. Would I like it with the soy ginger broth? This would be a taste-as-you-go project. That's how I cook best. Isn't it obvious?

fava beans 2 lbs, 3 lbs? I'm not sure what I had. shelled, boiled, shelled again, I had maybe 2 cups
1 medium, 1 small walla walla onion
1 head of garlic
32 oz box soy ginger broth
1 beefsteak tomato
canola oil, butter to saute

While the beans cooled I sauteed the larger onion, then most of the garlic. I added those to the broth, got that simmering, started pinching the amniotic sack off the beans (that's what it makes me think of...there's a story behind that that doesn't belong in an essay about food). I decided what the hell, I'll use all the garlic. So I sauteed the rest in a little butter, thus the oil and butter. I kept going with the bean shelling, adding a handful at a time to the broth. Soon it started getting muddled, and I could begin to taste the beans in the broth. It takes a while to prep these beans.

Beans done, I realized I didn't just want some sauteed onions, I wanted some barely cooked onions, so that's why I added the small onion. Tasting alright, but it will need more tang, and I think the tomato will add some zip as well as color. Cut into big chunks, tomato added, heat off. A couple big squirts of lemon juice, salt to taste at the table, and I'm done. Not bad if I may say so myself. Some crusty buttered bread to dunk is required. I'm happy.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Buddhist Books Read

I Once Was a Monkey: Stories the Buddha Told by Jeanne M. Lee Jataka stories are told by a Buddha statue to a motley crew of animals taking shelter in a cave. I liked the gimmick of stringing them together and the Buddha relating the stories to his animal audience, it makes it more of a story for children. Sometimes the Jataka tales don't really translate well as stories for kids. They come from another time and culture, and they need to be manipulated so they will work for modern kids.

Buddha Stories by Demi
This had some of the same stories as I Once Was a Monkey and I thought this version a little more formal. It stuck to the traditional form. Even the gold on blue pages is a traditional presentation of the stories. I thought these versions would be a little harder to relate to kids, and I could barely read the gold lettering on blue paper. Usually you can't go wrong with Demi, she is popular for her Buddhist books...but in this case other authors may be better for these stories.

Living Kindness: The Buddha's Ten Guiding Principles for a Blessed Life by Donald Altman
I used this book some for my Dharma School classes this last year. I also used Practice of Perfection by Robert Aitken. The Zen flavor of Aitken Roshi resonated with me more, and I was delighted to receive that hard-to-get book from Steve for a Christmas present. When I was looking, I couldn't find it under a hundred dollars. While Aitken helped me deepen my understanding of the Paramitas, it wasn't very good for gleaning lessons for kids.

Living Kindness didn't go as deep into the Buddhist thought, but skated the surface more, and brought in current cultural references, as well as a not-so-Zen referent. It sort of reads like it could be an introduction to Buddhism...and perhaps it could be...but if so it would be only a small slice of what Buddhism is.

Books Read

Akiane: Her Life Her Poetry Her Art
I saw Akiane on The View in a segment "I can't believe a kid did it." There is indeed something a bit unbelievable about child prodigies. It seems this child genius converted her agnostic parents. I'm not sure I buy that. Her mom writes, "Physically, artistically, and logically, the process of her painting was incomprehensible, as though the Almighty power was vibrating through her every vein." This girl was homeschooled and isolated. Her story is whatever they tell us.

Akiane does have an incredible gift. One of the conundrums of child geniuses is living up to that accomplishment as an adult. So I sent for the book, paged through the art. The child seems to believe she talks to I wonder why her Jesus looks like the guy in my childhood bible. Her family lived through some hard times. Her gift certainly helps them. I wonder how much more so since they had such an inspiring conversion experience. Here's the clincher, her mom writes, "scientists from Russia who noted Akiane's "Prince of Peace" had a remarkable resemblance to the mysterious image taken from the very Shroud of Turin!" Ummm wasn't the Shroud of Turin debunked? I wonder if any of her paintings hang at the Creation Museum.

Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly
This is why I don't pay much attention to unknown library patrons when they say, "You must read this author/book." They would have no idea what I like to read. They have the untested arrogant assumption that if they like it, it must be good. I don't much read mysteries, but on the surface this did look like it could be interesting...historical mystery by a historian, with juicy explorations of freedom and race. I didn't read the book. This was one case where I just couldn't get past the first sentence: "Had Cardinal Richelieu not assaulted the Mohican Princess, thrusting her up against the brick wall of the carriageway and forcing her mouth with his kisses, Benjamin January probably wouldn't have noticed anything amiss later on."
That reads more like a romance. I'll be just a little wary if I come across this author's scifi stuff.

Wizard's Holiday by Diane Duane
I'm inclined to like it, after all I've sought it out as the 7th book in the Young Wizards series. The original two young wizards, Kit and Nita, experience a wizard exchange program, just like high schoolers visiting homes in foreign countries for a few weeks. It's supposed to be a holiday, but the joke is a wizard is always on call, even on a holiday. One of the exchange wizards that stays at Nita's home with her dad and sister Dairine was a mobile tree. That was neat.

The Book of Night With Moon by Diane Duane
This is the first of a secondary series, same universe as above, but this one focusing on the cat wizards. Familiar characters make cameo appearances, and hints at other wizardly conduct makes me wonder if the author is referring to stories from another book, but I'm not into it so much that I'm going to track that down.

This book seemed denser than the previous young wizard series, and carries a different tone. The author spent a lot of time establishing the language and interactions of cats, so it seemed a bit like lessons at times. It had the effect of making it a little distant, like cats can be. The whole Choice at the beginning of a species' sentience is getting to seem more like proselytizing, unfortunately, with some character actually laying out the whole Garden of Eden scenario as something that happens throughout the universe. It was OK, but I don't feel compelled to read any more about the feline wizards.

Aunt Maria by Diana Wynne Jones
I could see kids enjoying this as a way to bring sense to the confusing social interactions of old ladies, and through the whole book that thought didn't quite make it as ominous as it could have been. The British version is called "Black Maria" ...already more ominous than "Aunt Maria." While it was clear this was possibly about a coven of witches with surrounding mystery that the kids needed to solve, in the end it turned out to be one of those sleeper fairy tales, with hints of the 'fairy mound' and magical beings that hold children prisoner.

Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan
(I know, a lot of fantasy books lately...they read fast.) Just as a teenage boy finds out his parents are likely to separate because his mother is having a lesbian affair, he also finds out fairies really exist. Henry and his elderly employer are put in the position of figuring out the science to send their young royal fairy back to his own dimension, and once that's achieved, there's still more thrilling royal intrigue. Scary demons, dark fairies, kittens saved from the glue factory, the quintessential Dr. Evil type climax, and royal girl-spy, it's all there. Even girl-on-girl action, if you count the kiss between mom and girlfriend, but it's only described in a reserved British sort of way.

Forever in Blue: 4th Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
It seems as though this may be the last book of the Traveling Pants series, and that's OK. In some ways, like aging TV series, some of the insecurities of the protagonists seemed a bit contrived. If you'd read the earlier books, you knew that girl had more confidence and self-awareness than she was displaying.

I was just about to give up on the book when a quote kept me going. "Pain is inevitable: suffering is optional." Greta Randolph. Sprinkled throughout the book are quotes from clever or deep thinkers. Of course girls just out of high school are experiencing love and lost love, and learning to deal. By the end of the book, I admired how the author captured the tumultuous time of love and love, and how girls might learn to negotiate those feelings. I felt it might be a little bit idealistic, shades of one soul mate per life, and I wished just one of these girls might shed her virginity without some psychic regret. I could see perhaps the author thinks no matter what, even in the perfect case, there is a loss of innocence that affects a girl deeply.

As teen books go, I like this series for the deeper thought and questioning that the characters experience. You can see them developing their philosophy and emotional wisdom that should serve them through life. So, it seemed they lost some lessons from previous books, only to find new emotional growth spurts in this one. The author dares to have these 'good girls' do some 'bad things' and emerges with us without the usual judgment. I liked that.

It was pure happenstance that I saw the movie based on the first book just around the time I was reading this the 4th book. It was nice to be reminded of the beginning of their coming of age.

Other quotes I liked from the book:

  • It's innocence when it charms us, ignorance when it doesn't. Mignon McLaughlin
  • Right now I'm having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time. I think I've forgotten this before. Steven Wright
  • Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Epicurus
  • One must have a good memory to keep the promises one has made. Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Illusions are art, for the feeling person, and it is by art that you live, if you do. Elizabeth Bowen
Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
I might not have read this book if it hadn't been a book group selection. It is a classic mystery, but does not take the typical form of the mystery genre. A recurring character from Tey's books is bedridden and going out of his mind with boredom. A friend brings him some portraits to look at, and he is taken up with the intriguing question of why Richard the Third does not look like a murderer. The more he researches the more he wonders if all the childhood history books were dead wrong. We had an intriguing discussion in our book group on the nature of the truth, and can we know truth in history. You're left still wondering, this book written as it the truth? (The title came from the saying, "Truth is the daughter of time.") One of our book group members was so intrigued about the true course of events, she did a little google sleuthing herself and found the Richard III Society, a group determined to change the impression left of him in history.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Movies Seen

And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself
True story. Pancho Villa had himself filmed to sell his revolution to the public. They picked the actor well for Pancho Villa. Antonio Banderas could portray the visceral magnetism of the man, and yet make him the slightly repulsive warmonger he was as well.

Family Fundamentals
Can't say much, I only half paid attention while I did other stuff. The Christian Fundamentalists rejected their homosexual children and mentees. We knew that. It's horrible. It was brave of these people to tell their stories. The fundies think homosexuality is an addiction. That's how they reconcile their love with their hateful actions.

Monster's Ball
One of those movies I can admire for its artistry, but not really like it.

The Toilers and the Wayfarers
This movie is gay gay gay. By that I mean it is an indie film in black and white whose audience is intended to be gay men. It's a coming of age movie, but in some cases the scenes play more like a fantasy of a coming of age than the real thing. Young men cracking open a beer while they pack for moving. Young man getting spanked by Daddy. Arresting officer sends flirty vibes even as he tells the naughty kid that he's going to hate it in juvie. Blond German with muscles framed in soft light. It was a winner at the Milan Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

Weeds Season 1
Eh, I'll watch more as I can get them from the library...but I'm not hooked on it like I am HBO shows, like Big Love. Suburban mom deals pot to get by. I couldn't get into the suburban angst thing, not like with Desparate Housewives.

Now and Then
Eh. I think I saw it a long time ago and wasn't much impressed. This time either...I thought I'd see it again cuz Rosie fans seem to like it. Maybe I'm just not in the mood for the suburban mom thing lately, or the girlfriends unite thing.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
OK this girlfriends unite thing I liked, a girls coming of age movie. I'm one of those people that doesn't have friends that go back to childhood. An occasional holiday card, no wish to see them on visits home. It's kind of foreign to me. I like this series of books, and they did well with the movie.

Half Nelson <--that link is to the official site...beware the automatic music.
This was one of those I wanted to see from IFC's Spirit Awards show. In the spirit of indie films, this one resists the usual Hollywood urge to paint the crack-head teacher as evil, the local drug dealer as evil, and the girl who has these people in her life for role models as doomed. The ending is neither feel-good or tragic. Through the slats of the grinding pain of their inner-city lives, you can see the beauty and fragile balance a genuine friendship can bring to their lives.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
I was happy to watch this with Steve. He's been working soooo much and we've had little time together for such mundane things as movies. He liked the talking beavers. Me too. I also liked the talking fox. We lamented the beavers not getting any knightships or such at the end. If anything, it is a beautiful movie to watch: Narnia has incredible vistas. For some reason I found the wardrobe scenes compelling, that transition from fur coats to evergreen branches really set the scene for the movement from English country home to the wilds of Narnia.

It was interesting also because both of us read the books when we were kids, but don't really remember much of anything now. That distant familiarity made it satisfying for me, somehow making the movie more intimate. Otherwise I'm not sure the actors would have made me feel that way. When I was a kid the whole idea of Aslan as a Christ figure went right over my head...but I'd heard about that as an adult and worried that would turn me off. It didn't, particularly because Aslan said "deeper magic" and that kept me happily in the fantasy genre. After seeing this, I just may go back and read the books. Two more Chronicles movies are coming soon, I suppose they want to keep the same four children so must produce quickly before they grow up.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Fun with Reference Books

From January through May, I got a temporary gig as a Library Assistant. That is one rung up the promotional ladder, and this was a valuable chance to hone my skills for the next time the job recruitment is posted. This job entails providing reference information, I call it "junior Librarian." We may not have the Masters degree, but the Librarians teach us all they know about helping match people with the materials they need. It slides into that nebulous career category called paraprofessional. As a Library Clerk, I don't think I even fall into that category.

While gaining this valuable experience, I had plenty of time to study, yes study, reference books. That smaller branch library is waaaaay slower than my usual location. Thus my earlier adventure with faery...that was my sample word that I plucked out of my brain to test Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Thus also my new obsession with blogs...I went to a library training on blogs, and consequently signed up for bloglines and subscribed to waaaaay too many blogs on books. Paraprofessional development, ya know. Working on whittling those down now....I blame the blogs for my now having over 100 items checked out on my library card.

OK, OK, so one book I attempted to familiarize myself with is Black's Law Dictionary. I have a complete lack of imagination when it comes to playing around with words of law. What could I look up? I found the section on Legal Maxims. What good are legal maxims? The dictionary tells me, "Of course many scholars have long been intolerant of those who use maxims.... But there is an element of fun in legal maxims: they sometimes express surprising insights--and these from ancient writers. Though they will not clinch arguments, they will delight many readers who have a historical bent."

I said to myself, fun eh, well maybe it could tell my fortune?

I said as much to my co-worker seated next to me, and I opened the section to a random page, pointed blindly, and found "Scripta litera manet." The written word endures. (Take heed, Heidi. Get cracking on that written word.) Hers didn't go so well. I didn't think to write it down, but I seem to recall it had an ominous tone to it.

Around that time, I was watching the TV show, The Riches. I think I've met some travellers here and there...especially in my past life as a convenience store clerk, and especially as a convenience store clerk in Nevada. I thought to myself, now Doug Rich could use this book. Need an argument? Open at random. A grifter pretending to be a lawyer could make a lotta hay with those maxims.

As exciting as it was getting to know some of those books better, often gripping them with a covetous need for tangibility, I found the experience didn't much loosen my use of Google to do that job. Sometimes I would go to the shelf, pull this book or that book out and peruse tables of contents and indices, find something close but not quite what the patron needed...then I would go to Google and find an answer in 5 seconds. The more experienced workers next to me admitted to same.

Uh uh uh...before you start repeating the admonition that Google is replacing libraries...just how quickly can you discern the legitimacy of the websites you find? Librarians work at discernment. In fact, while Kids These Days may wear techno gadgets like newly grown appendages, have seductive photos on MySpace, and be super-quick to find websurfed answers, they may be pretty bad at judging those answers.

The 35th State

I've been saving the state quarters. I finally got this year's earlier releases, Montana and Washington. Montana was so elusive, I loudly bemoaned the fact that I couldn't even find it in the cash register at work. A mystery co-worker taped one to my locker. I'm pretty sure I know who it was. That same day, I found the Idaho quarter, so new the US Mint website doesn't even say yet, "Now in circulation."

I've been talking about this so long, back in April I was having the same conversations. Here's one I recorded back then:

A co-worker said, "So Oregon became a state before Washington." I replied, "Oh yeah, Oregon became a state before West Virginia." She: "I wonder why?" Me: "I don't know, I suppose it has something to do with the civil war. Well, I guess I could look it up." We looked it up.

Sure enough, the World Book Encyclopedia tells me that the Western Counties of Virginia disagreed with Virginia's secession from the Union in 1861. Already for several decades Western Virginians had differed with the rest of Virginia on the question of slavery. Within two years they formed a new state. At first they were going to call it Kanawha. Once a Union state, there were still divided loyalties.

Further investigation shows West Virginia had a history of being different. It roughly shares the border of Vandalia. The plans for this 14th colony collapsed with the Revolutionary War.


Ruminating about gay pride and being queer, I wondered how I could express and encompass that part of me. I don't often think of myself as queer, but I am. The bit of graffiti that sparked that thought direct from the heart those years ago, "Bisexual - equal opportunity lover."

When I opened my heart to that possibility, I opened my heart to permission to love. I didn't know it yet, but that is what it became.

Sometimes people will get hung up on labels. They don't want to pin themselves down with a label. Maybe they've found themselves trapped by a label in the past. Some work so hard to define polyamory as opposed to swinging. I've not had a problem with recognizing it as a means of pinning down a temporary me, but more importantly, being able to Name a piece of me has allowed me to blossom into that concept. So often these things started as a simple barely-developed notion for me. A joke: equal opportunity lover. A possibility: an open relationship. My meditation practice began with the notion it could help me get closer to the Eastern mind while I studied ancient Chinese is now a lifelong path.

Buddhist philosopher wonders over at American Buddhist Perspective, "What exactly does Buddhism teach about "who we are?" Is it to abandon such labels and live purely in the moment? Perhaps is is more to recognize the contingency of all labels, to use them but not be trapped by them?"

I would say Buddhist practice taught me that I have labels whether I like it or not, and the practice uncovers them. Chances are that uncovering will loosen the binding knots of those unconscious labels, but it will also allow those identities to blossom to their fuller potential. It gave me permission to become me.

That permission can be tricky. I looked to my Zen teacher for permission. At some point, that may be needed, but I think that is not what he wanted for me. I have looked to my teacher for guidance in understanding the Right Way. I have trusted that our understanding of authenticity would be alike. I have learned perhaps it is not so, and that is ok.

Many people scoff when I mention my respect for Rosie O'Donnell. (For the real scoop about her, go to her website...the news shows get it all wrong.) I don't think she's all that great an actress, she can't sing, she's a decent comedian...all of these things she would admit herself. What I respect and admire is her effort to remain authentic in the warping lights of celebrity. Virginia Heffernan of the NY Times says, "the Rosie-unplugged thing works. In what might be a first for a television star, she’s really not faking anything anymore. She’s just the music-loving, Bush-hating, depression-suffering, overweight Ro that people love and hate." Rosie responds to a fan who thinks the article mean, "i loved the article/ she gets it". Rosie's just trying to be authentic, with us and with herself.

Sometimes she comes up with simple gems of wisdom. A fan writes, "hi rosie! i have been married for 5 yrs and have 3 kids. i find myself atracted to 1 of the women who works for me. does tht make me gay? u’ve said u find men atractive it doesnt make u straight right?" Rosie's response, "IT MAKES US ALL HUMAN"

And that brings me back around to labels. It's ok to identify as gay or straight, and at the same time recognize that the love, or the connection, or the pull towards another, that is all part of being human and we won't always fit in that box. In fact, why try to fit in that box? Why not delight in it? Why not appreciate that attraction, enjoy it, like Rosie enjoys "her Tommy?" Recognizing an identity is useful when it expands self-understanding. When it feeds a fear, I don't find it so useful. I see that fear sometimes in the endless shaping of the words "polyamorous," "swinging," "polyfidelity," "open relationship." What may begin as an opening could develop into a confining. The avoidance of labels could be a freedom, or it could be a wall against pieces of the self. I share with Rosie a willingness to show my imperfect self. It is that same willingness that lets perfect love in.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Women In Art

posting this video just so I can find it again.

I really like the morphing thing but I wish it was just a tiny bit slower. I'd like to be able to linger....

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Gay Pride Parade


This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

--The Essential Rumi, Barks, 1995

That poem is so packed, I couldn't just quote a few lines and leave the rest out. I was thinking about what it means to be out, and when I looked over my collected quotes from the past few years, this one spoke to me.

So many people live with secrets. Even without secrets, we have "unexpected visitors," things that we keep from our own consciousness, things that we fear will upset the balance of our lives. When we let our secrets loose, we must be willing to welcome the dark shame, the malices. Some of us never get to that point. Understandably so, as for some it can be a matter of life or death.

Years ago, more than a decade, I experienced my first small slice of a gay pride parade. I had only recently said to myself and my first husband, "I think I could be bisexual." I'd always accepted the idea intellectually, but this was a voice from the heart. My gay co-worker friend invited me to see a bit of the parade on our lunch passed by only a few blocks away. His partner at the time met us. He said, "Happy gay pride day, Heidi." Our eyes met and I felt a welcome unfolding of recognition. I was happy, and I was queer, and happy to be recognized as queer.

In the years since I haven't been able to attend a parade for various reasons. Work. Too busy. Lazy. One time I remember missing the parade, but catching the fair afterward, visiting booths and seeing women walking about bare-breasted. This year I had a friend in the parade, and I decided to make an effort to join his family in the watching. I found myself extra busy snapping pictures, trying to capture every group. I didn't realize there were so many politicians who wanted in (Portland is a very progressive city), and I didn't realize how many churches were in there showing their support. I felt embarrassed that I haven't got the Buddhist Peace Fellowship in the parade. Next year, a must. My friend asked me at the end, "Did you get a lot of boobie pictures for me?" I don't think I saw one bare breast. The weather was just too nippy for bared nipples I guess. (Oh he's queer, don't doubt it.) It was rather a family friendly event.

When I look at these faces, people happy, celebrating, I can't help but think that each and every one has dealt with his or her shame and malice, and reconciled that they must "meet them at the door laughing."

The parade started with dykes on bikes:


and ended with the boys. (I'm still waiting on that photo...shared a memory card with my friend.)

Here's some looking at me, looking at them:

IMG_0266 IMG_0278

Gotta love the drag queens:


and the Bears:


and the cult movie enthusiasts. ...quick what movie, before you look at the rest of the photos?


Too fast for me to catch:


Especially eye-catching were the dancing fairies:


and the flaming homos:


Ooh, I like the bad girls (and that's the closest to boobie shots that I got):


You can see all my photos of the parade here. (A few more to come soon.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Vote on Famecast

I have no idea how many hits I get daily. I don't know how many people read my blog regularly. Those people I would most care to read it readily admit they don't read blogs, and don't even read mine regularly. Ah well. But, assuming I do have a regular contingent of readers that can spread the word, I'm asking you, please vote for my friend Lisa Mann. Yes, Lisa "Rent-a-Gent" Mann.

You'll find her on Famecast here. Make the scroll stop by hovering. Click on Lisa Mann, she has a great new live video I hadn't seen before. You'll need to register to vote. When you do, you probably want to opt out of receiving future promotional emails.

Hear more of her music on MySpace. And hey, if you really like her music, don't be afraid to buy her CD. She is talented in a variety of styles. With my activist bent, I especially like her song My Oil. "Oh Yeah. How did my oil get under your sand."

Oh, and if you like her well enough, please spread the word!

HNT #23: River Tour

On Memorial Day I went on a 2 hour river tour with my Little Sister mentee. She's of an age that she doesn't like her picture taken, so it's appropriate that the HNT photo hidden somewhere in this slideshow shows me facing the camera but her faced away.

Portland has twelve (or more?) bridges that span the Willamette River. Two bridges span the Columbia to Washington state. Our tour headed south, passing under the Hawthorne, the Marquam, the Ross Island, and the Sellwood bridges. The Portland Fire Bureau held its Memorial Day salute just as we were about to dock.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Books: Bookseller of Kabul

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

An incredible look into the life of an Afghani family, and what it's been like in Afghanistan after the US invasion. The plight of women is and has been heartbreaking: they could not be seen by men; they cannot be alone in public; they must sit on the back of the bus; they cannot feel or love for themselves. Such extreme outdated religious mores are thinly veiled shackles of slavery. If there is something positive that can come out of this war (not to be confused with the Iraq invasion) it is that women have a tiny bit more freedom there.

OK, that's what I thought before I looked around to see if I could find out what happened after the book. Would the young sister be able to teach school? Instead I found some post-book fallout. The bookseller was not happy with the depiction of his family, and that they were thinly disguised. Another newspaper article. Author's rebuttal in this interview. One of his wives applied for asylum. Something that did make me uncomfortable about the book was its narrative style. The author wrote it as if she wasn't there. You couldn't tell which parts she witnessed, and which parts were hearsay. I didn't trust that.

I read this for my book group last month. As I found this out before the group, I shared the links with other group members on email. I wondered how our group discussion might have been different if we hadn't had that information. That was almost a month ago now...this has been languishing in my drafts folder for that long. I've read a lot of books as I've ridden the bus here and there, but haven't had the time to write them down.

quotes that intrigued me:

In Afghanistan a woman's longing for love is taboo. It is forbidden by the tribes' notion of honor and by the mullahs. Young people have no right to meet, to love, or to choose. Love has little to do with romance; on the contrary, love can be interpreted as committing a serious crime, punishable by death.

Sultan is of the opinion that he own's the world's largest book collection on Afghanistan, a collection of about 8 or 9,000 volumes. [Powell's in Portland has 700,000 about 1/10 of that on Afghanistan]

As the use of the burka had started among the upper classes, so they were the first to throw it off. The garment was now a status symbol among the poor, and many maids and servant girls took over the silk burkas of their employers.

Afghan soldiers said, "We know everything about our weapons, but we know nothing about how to use a telephone."

"They protest with suicide and song," writes the poet Sayd Bohodine Majrouh in a book of poems by Pashtoon women.


Oh, my God, yet again you have bestowed on me a dark night
And yet again I tremble from head to foot.
I have to step into the bed I hate.

Give me your hand, my loved one, and we will hide in the meadow
To love or fall down beneath the knife stabs.

Tomorrow morning I will be killed because of you.
Do not say that you did not love me.

Lay thy mouth over mine,
But let my tongue be free so it can talk of love.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

55 Gallons of Water per Minute

I am happy to report that my dad did not commit suicide. I suppose I should be more concerned that he has been charged with felony criminal damage, but he is alive, and he is under 24 hour supervision.

I finally got through to my brother Eric while on my lunch hour today. He'd checked on my dad: no one there; the cat spooked; wet floor; the place in chaos. He didn't need to wait long to learn, my dad made the headlines.

Sheboygan man accused of setting off fire sprinkler
Appleton Post Crescent, June 9, 2007

Man arrested for allegedly dismantling fire sprinkler
Sheboygan Press, June 8, 2007

Charges Filed in Apartment Flooding
Sheboygan Press, June 9, 2007

A 65-year-old Sheboygan man was charged Friday for allegedly dismantling a fire sprinkler head in his apartment Thursday night, releasing more than 1,000 gallons of water and causing thousands of dollars in damage to an apartment complex at 916 Huron Ave.

W**** H******, 9** H**** Ave., was charged in Sheboygan County Circuit Court with felony criminal damage to property and a misdemeanor charge of interference with firefighting equipment.

According to the criminal complaint:

Shortly after 10:30 p.m., Sheboygan police received a 911 call from J*** R******, another apartment resident, who said the fire pump next to her apartment was going off.

Six apartments, two storage rooms, a boiler room and a fire pump room on the first three floors were damaged by the
sprinkler system, which releases 55 gallons of water per minute. It took police and fire personnel about 20 minutes to determine where the water was coming from and to turn it off.

Officer Trisha Miller said H****** told her, "I set the sprinkler off. I wanted to have some fun."

H****** used a screwdriver to tamper with the fire sprinkler.

If convicted, he faces up to 27 months in prison.

My brother thinks Dad will be put in the psych ward at the hospital. The police won't let Eric see my dad probably at least a week, "due to his mental state." Actually when I spoke to him my dad did let slip something about breaking the head of the sprinkler, but I didn't know what he was talking about. He was saying something about things they did when they were in the service, that they did things like that.

Thinking back, I think perhaps this episode was triggered by bureaucracy. A while back Dad's brother gave him some money, $5,000 I think he said. He was worried about what he should do with it. He thought about getting his teeth fixed. The money was more of a burden than not having it, he told me. You see, someone on social security disability is not allowed to have more than $2,000. What the hell is $2,000? People on disability are not allowed to have an emergency fund. I told a friend that I thought this could have triggered the psychotic downturn, and she related a similar problem for someone in her life. A grandparent gave the person a CD, the family wasn't aware of the money, and the person on disability lost the funds for 5 months. This friend told me they are advised to spend gift money. Buy a car, buy anything, do anything to get rid of the money. Poor man's version of Brewster's Millions.

Eric told me he'd gotten harsh with Dad about the money, and he feels bad about that now. He'd asked, "What about your daughter, your son?" Eric pays $1,000 every 3 months to cover medical insurance for his family. He said Dad said something about not being able to give it away. Hey, let's make sure sick people can't get money that helps them survive! Let's make the rules byzantine and scary, and don't allow them to save money! What a recipe for chaos. Money worries make normal people sick. How many mentally ill people like my dad are tipped over into a bad state of mind thanks to well-meant gifts?

So here he was, meds changed back in December, money that felt like a monkey on his back, money that triggered a loss of welfare, facing bills and the tasks of getting back on disability, what could he do? I begin to realize somewhere in his schizophrenic-addled brain he found the thing that could solve his problems. He was afraid to go outside. Arrest would take the choice out of his hands. The pressure of reinstating his disability payments would also be taken out of his hands, once in custody. He would also have a place to stay. The burden of stuff would be swept away in a flood and a release. The burden of keeping himself alive would be in someone else's hands. I hope opening the release valve helped in some way. Perhaps his biggest worry was his cat Henry. My brother will be checking on the cat every other day.

At one point in my conversation with him on Thursday, my dad said, "I'm thinking about having some fun."
I shot back, "Why not?"
He let loose a wicked little chortle.
Er. "As long as you don't harm others."
He said, "Well that's the thing. There's a possibility it could."
I think that's when I reminded him to take care of his cat. Take care of himself. We love him. I like the cards he sends me. (Sometimes so bad they're good.)

I wish I could talk to him now. Of course that probably would be harder to make happen than my brother getting in to see him before next Saturday. I'm thinking about poor ginger cat Henry in that wet apartment. No lap to sleep on, plenty of places to hide but no reason to purr. I'm willing to bet Dad is worried about his Henry right now.

henry the cat

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I don't know right now whether my dad is alive or dead. I'm terribly afraid it is the latter. Yesterday I called him to thank him for sending me a smoking stand with humidor, and a rag rug. For several months he'd been telling me he wanted to get rid of a lot of his things. Like me, he tends to be a pack rat, collecting quirky things, layer upon layer of decor the home designers would call clutter. Here is a photo of him framed by the rag rug he sent me:

dad with rag rug

It was kind of lurking in the back of my brain that it could be a bad sign that he was divesting of his things. When I called him, he sounded so subdued, quiet and flat, I knew immediately he was depressed. My dad has suffered from schizophrenia most of his adult life. He has survived several suicide attempts over the years, but I've heard about all way after the fact.

Like pulling threads from one garment to knit another, I pulled from within myself skills I've accumulated over the years. How could I help him? First surprise, he told me I was the only one he could talk to. He couldn't talk to the people there (in Wisconsin). He couldn't talk to my brother. He left his church. He said he no longer believed that. He was more interested in my thing. He confirmed that later in the conversation, repeating he hadn't been to the church for a while, couldn't talk to them.

In normal circumstances it might be gratifying to have your parent who feared your damnation suddenly be interested in your religion of choice. For me, this did not bode well. This fundamentalist vision provided him a structure through which to compose his life over the years. Without that, what would hold him together? If the church family weren't looking out for him, who would he see on a regular basis? Who could he talk to? Me, he said. Ulp. I'm 2,000 miles away.

Years ago I volunteered for a crisis line. I learned how to field suicide calls. He did not say he was considering suicide, but he hinted that he might not be around. The hint included the possibility that he might just take off. But he also said he couldn't travel, so couldn't come to see me. He talked a little of the dance with meds over the years: feeling like he didn't need them, taking them again after a crash. He'd mentioned in a letter he'd been hospitalized in December. Now he mentioned they'd changed his meds then. Now he was on something usually used for seizures. He had a doctor's appointment at noon today. He wasn't sure he could make it. He was afraid to go outside, even though it was only a few blocks away.

I learned he'd been sleeping a lot, not eating. He said he did just eat something before the call. I did what I could to draw his attention to those who need him, those who love him. His cat Henry. Me. My brother and his family. How I'd always liked his cards that he made for me. "Yes, people say that," he said.

This just occurs to me. I think it is the craziness that has him so depressed. There is no end. This is what he has to live with. He was thinking of how his mother dying when he was 4 years has affected his whole life. He was looking for his mother in all the women he's met over the years. He'd been afraid for me because something reminded him of his mother. Later when I talked to my mom to get another phone number for my brother Eric, she told me when my brother David died my dad got freaked over me, something about his mother, and it freaked me out. I didn't remember that? Not a bit.

I learned his mother did die of breast cancer. She was 44 or 46 thereabouts. He remembered something about someone hitting his mother, he thought his dad, and his sister Viva pulled him outside. His sister Viva also died of breast cancer. He learned from his mother's diaries that she was sick for several years. That his dad...what was the word...catted around. Soon after his mother died, his dad married Esther. There was a woman in his building he'd been interested, and he realized now because she reminded him of Esther.

You didn't know I had a brother who died? I was 19, we just passed the anniversary of his death. May 25th. Yes, my birthday. How can I avoid saying that dramatically? My brother also suffered schizophrenia, and he committed suicide on my 19th birthday, the day after his 22nd birthday.

I guess the thought that my dad could be succeeding at this act right now shocked me because I've been thinking he's made it this far, he will survive. He will die naturally. He wouldn't say outright he was thinking suicide, I think because he didn't want somebody to stop him. That scares me to the bone. He didn't seem to think he would make it to the doctor today. When I asked him about calling again, he said to call around the same time today, early evening. When I called, the phone was off the hook.

Last night I left a message for my brother, who has power of attorney. I left a message today. No response. I wish I'd thought of looking up the apartment manager earlier today, when there was still someone in the office taking calls. I haven't been my usual clever self with this; I can't be neutral so I can't think, apparently. If I can't get through to someone tomorrow, I'm going to look up my dad's neighbors and start making calls. I don't know any of them, but there are ways.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

HNT #22: Belated Birthday Post

I've been so busy with the Buddhist Festival that I never got around to sharing a birthday photo, and here I turned 40 almost two weeks ago now. I couldn't have asked for a better send-in of a new decade. I shared some time with friends younger and older, they gave me a few presents, I blew out the candles and missed one...but I had a chance to redeem myself a little while later with the second cake. Yes, I had two cakes. No, we didn't put 40 candles on each...not even 20. One was vegan so my vegan friends wouldn't be left out. That one was chocolate. (That reminds me, I still have a whole bunch left that I put in the freezer over in Steve's pad.)

Maybe this will be the year I can finally get cracking on my novel. It sorta got sidelined several times by this community activist stuff. Maybe (will I dare?) I will serialize it here. I work well with deadlines. Maybe an audience clamoring (will they clamor?) for the next installment will keep me at it this time.'s a hobby. As long as I think of it as a hobby, I'm happy.

For more Half Nekkid Thursday, go here.

Oh yes, the tiara was a hit. I have some much more adorable photos of some of the kids trying it on.

my birthday cake

Happy HNT, all.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Finding Space for This Love

The lovely Mon-Mon left a comment on my series This Space of Love that I felt deserved a response. She said, "I find myself coming time and again to your post... especially when I am lost. I want to believe I love unconditionally, without expectations. And yet, I have a love who causes me pain, who has expectations and I don't know what to do. I want to love her without expecting anything back but I can't handle the pain loving her brings. These are my thoughts this fine day..."

My first thought was that Mon-Mon needs to trust that the pain will ease. It always does, because we always change. When I fall in love, a new me is created. The me that loves this person is open and raw, loving this connection, confused by this connection. As the moments stack up, this me becomes larger, and there is more space for the pain, or the pain becomes less, or less important. Keep in mind, my friend, that you know this is a moment in time when you feel this seemingly unbearable pain: you give me a clue you know when you say "These are my thoughts this fine day..." There will be more highs, more lows, and more blissful moments of perfect joy.

If I fight the pain, the pain gains its own strength. I would feed it by trying to fight it or trying to avoid it. If I allow the pain to be part of me and part of the love, it becomes no more than what it is. It's still not easy. I do my share of obsession, of wishing, of experiencing dashed expectations. Finding the space to love means noticing those moments and letting them go. It means noticing those moments where everything is just OK, just perfect, and encouraging those moments to extend. Give those moments more attention than the negative ones. If you think you can't handle it, you can't handle it. If you think you can get through this, you'll be more likely to get through this. I think a good bit of the pain is not knowing where this will lead. Maybe part of being able to love without expectations is being able to love without knowing where it will go. It helps to know there will be pain. Regardless of what I do, or the other does, the forging of a new self and a new relationship generates heat, friction, and yes, pain.

Come to think of it, the more I can be happy with this love as it is offered, however it is offered, the less pain I feel. It's more a matter of accepting than expecting. Maybe you need to accept that you can't meet all her expectations, and that doesn't make your love any less valid. It sounds as though you are working on no expectations, but at the same time, demands are being made of you that you can't meet. Is it possible to reframe the conflict? What are the needs that are not being met, really? If you can't meet expectations in the form she asks for, is it possible to meet the need behind the expectations in a form you can give?

Sometimes pain comes from not being able to articulate needs for the other. It could be you express yourselves that speak past each other rather than to each other...styles of communication that come from your cultural differences that shaped each of you.

It could be needs arise out of fears that are expressed as expectations. Can the fears be brought to light, so needs can be addressed directly rather than through conflict?

I have learned it is possible to give more than I would have expected I could, and that does not take away from me. If I find somehow it does take away from me, or from my relationships, then it's time for me to reconsider how much I have to give. This pain will not kill me (unless I nurture it to the point of suicidal depression...and that's not going to happen), so it's possible to endure and find the fulfilling empathy that comes after. It helps to remember the pain of love sparks a biochemical process, and those biochemical processes can be turned around with beneficial actions. Do exciting things, learn something new, play, exercise, experience new things. Not only do these help take your mind off things, they help turn around the biochemicals causing those lows.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Finally Relaxing

Yesterday I had a busy and full day. I was riding on the energy of nearly 1,000 people happily connecting and learning about Buddhism. It was hard work, and we had few volunteers doing the major planning. I was the major planner. For several weeks I've been very busy making sure this could happen without a hitch, small interlude of very busy birthday prep, birthday party, then back to the busy organizing. I was nearly floored by allergies, possible cold, but this could not go on without me. It was an incredible success, more people came than the three previous years.

Here I am captured being busy. And here with Maia from BPF's home office. She happened to be visiting Oregon on vacation. I was happy the whole day, especially happy to see Maia. A very few people were cranky over things not being quite right: we didn't have water available for them (there was a water fountain right there in the park); one woman was adamant that I was not clear about the "no donations may be accepted" rule (I don't know how many times I repeated that in email). Legitimately, we did not have enough restrooms. Only one of the two park restrooms was unlocked for us. We were counting on that...not enough groups gave us enough money to have the money to rent porta-potties. At the end of the day, we have enough money for seed money for next year: our one food vendor donated all her proceeds to the festival. Portland folks, be sure to visit Sawasdee Thai.

Most people were delighted and happy with our offerings. Some people came especially for the blessings of people and pets, others for the Burmese dancers. At least one even brought her cat. Visit that photo, I just love it. Actually I love all the photos that Jan took. I overheard some people talking about bringing their dogs, but they didn't think a cat could handle it. Mine certainly couldn't.

Eugene Wong also took some nice photos, found here. I didn't have the time to take photos myself.

Thanks to my raw allergy-ravaged throat, I was not hungry all day. I was also riding high on the positive energy all around. I ate very little. I knew that wasn't the best idea, but I couldn't bring myself to eat something when the food was there. Finally I ate an almond snack bar that was in my backpack. Later I shared some chocolate from that same backpack with my BPF compadre Aaron. 2006 photo:

He hadn't eaten either. Even later I snagged and we shared a croissant from an earlier activity in the children's pavilion.

At the end of the day, I realized I never really stepped back and partook of the festival for myself. I enjoyed stepping away from duties as coordinator when I went to the children's pavilion, but I was still giving, not receiving. The kids just loved our little lesson on altars, and my clay art project of making their own tiny statue. (Just as I'd done in Dharma School, found here. That reminds me, I have another Dharma School lesson still to write up...I've just been too busy with this.) I croaked my way through a storytime, a couple of kids listening attentively while I used the microphone connected to my Sponge Bob Squarepants karaoke boom box.

When I did wander the booths, it was still with my duties as coordinator in mind. Were people taking donations or selling things when they shouldn't? Did I get a brochure from that group? Mostly Aaron and I busily sold items as one of the three vendors allowed under the terms of our permit. We sold some few things for other groups under consignment. We had to be careful to mark the invoices when we sold things.

That's ok, though. I did this willingly. I did this happily.

At the end of the day though I was left holding the bag. The garbage bag that is. Somehow almost all those Buddhist communities that were so happy that we few volunteers arranged this were gone, cleared out, already packed up. And there were mounds of garbage that still needed to be packed out. Steve had dropped me off in the morning, helped unpack the car, and gone to work. He came back at the end, and packed most of the car. We added the large sign that now needed to be stored at my house.

We didn't have the room for giant bags of garbage. I began to melt down. Nobody to help with the packing up. Fortunately one indefatigable volunteer loaded her truck with chairs going back to a neighboring temple. One group that was still there took a couple bags of garbage. I was beginning to feel the sting of sun on my face.

Steve and I went home, unpacked, and he returned to the park for the remaining garbage while I foraged at home for food. I looked over feedback forms, feeling the sting of the negative comments, giving them more weight than they deserved due to my drop in energy, a drop that continued today. Today I was dog-tired, depressed tired, loss-of-momentum tired. Poor Steve got the brunt of my resentful feelings, and he began to feel I should quit if I was going to be so unappreciated. Later I told him, "it helped to be witnessed, and get out the negative thoughts so they weren't rattling around lonely in my head anymore." Because really the positive outcomes and the positive comments far outweigh the few complaints.

I avoided my urges to send more emails, planning emails for post-event debrief planning. Post-event thoughts on how we could improve things. Post-event thoughts on how to respond to the "needs improvement" comments. I forced myself to relax. I finally took a shower. I watched bad TV. I ate boiled beets and their greens from this week's farmer's market. I think I needed that iron. I finally felt some energy coming back, and happier about the festival.

Later perhaps I will write a post about the organizer types apparently everyone encounters when they try to organize democratically like this. It may be a snarky post. Hopefully I can be light-hearted about it. Today I was not so, and I had to explain to the one who sees my naked heart that he gets a skewed view. He's the one I am able to melt down with. He's the one I'm safe to do that with. That it wasn't as negative an experience as he was getting from me.

I got caught up on some blogs I read. And while I read I found Talk Sex with Sue Johanson on the TV. (That's not the bad TV...that was, dare I say it...C.S.I) I love her, but some of the questions can be pretty ignorant. This is what abstinence sex ed gets us. At least I had one thing better than kids these days. I may not have had cell phones and computers, but I did have good sex ed in school. I tuned in just as a caller was asking about having sex as a larger person. Sue adamantly recommended a book called Big Big Love. I promptly ordered one, easy enough since Steve got Amazon Prime. Watch for a review sometime soon.

I got a couple sweet comments on older posts from Adrienne in California. I spent some of that time reading backwards through her blog. I admire her criticism of sex-phobic therapy trends, and she herself is a sex-positive, alternative relationship-friendly therapist. And I am smitten with her sweet face and beautiful hair.