Thursday, December 31, 2009

Find me where you are

There's a theory that exists in yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy and various therapeutic forms that you can hold emotion or emotion-based memories in parts of your body--actual anatomical, physically locatable spots. In acupuncture theory, the locations will vary based on the types of emotional memories--memories associated with grief may be located along the Lung meridian, for example, whereas fear-based memories may be located along the Kidney meridian. In yoga practice, I've been told we hold our emotions in our hip joints.

This morning I took a completely fantastic end of the year power-yoga class immediately followed by a "Renew" class--one a fierce, faster-paced practice where I watched sweat rain off my head onto my yoga mat, and the next a calm, joint-opening, reflective practice. In the Renew class, we did a lot of hip-focused poses.

I was in a crossed-legged seated forward fold, trying to relax into the pose, and realized my jaw was tight. I opened my mouth to stretch it, making funny faces at my mat in the dark little cave of my own curled body. I remembered then that I'd been woken by Jam Guy in the middle of last night because I'd been grinding my teeth. He woke me up by stroking my cheek softly; I knew I was safe before I opened my eyes. I woke up in the complete certainty that I would open my eyes and see him blinking at me in the dark, his quiet face a study in gentle, sleepy concern. I woke up in the complete certainty that the hand on my cheek and the eyes watching me meant I am loved.

This waking-up-feeling-safe is a new thing for me. I am not, historically, a good sleeper; I am an even worse waker-upper. Often, I wake up with a panicky start, scaring the daylights out of whomever had to wake me. (My sister, on the other hand, could fall asleep on a guided tour of a noise factory, and trying to wake her up is like trying to get a cat out of a patch of sun by offering it a bath.)

So anyways, I was stretching my jaw in my sweaty yoga cave and remembering how sweet it had been to open my eyes with Jam Guy's loving hand on my cheek and his sweet, so-beloved face facing mine. And then I was hit with another memory with such suddenness it brought tears to my eyes.

It was a day when I was about seven. I was awake and my sister was asleep, maybe napping. My mother went to wake my sister up. I was watching closely as she moved near to my sister and stroked her cheek gently, murmuring her name as chimes of love, telling her tenderly it was time to wake up. This is what I remember. I remember that at that time in our lives, when my mother needed to wake me up, she would call to me from the doorway. It was a time in our lives when, for many reasons neither bad nor good, I felt that disparity in tenderness was evidenced in other ways. This is only what I remember, and these are old memories from the perspective of a child I am not anymore. I remember I asked my mother later if she would wake me up that way, too--by stroking my cheek and saying nice things. I remember her voice and eyes softening, and I remember she did wake me up a couple of times that way, but I don't remember it sticking. I don't know if she made a habit of waking my sister up that way either.

More than anything I remember feeling an ache watching that open demonstration of love. I was glad for my sister to be receiving it. I was. But I wanted it for me too.

As an adult I know now my parents were struggling with a lot of their own demons, and I know they loved us even if they didn't always show it in ways we could recognize. I know, too, that all I have wanted really in this whole life is to love and be loved back without parameters.

But maybe I am still that child. Because I know that my heart bloomed all over the place when I realized the full circle my life has drawn from that lonely pigtailed little girl to this woman who is soaked in love like a bit of cake in a rum trifle. Then, as now, I had dark and delirious dreams and craved a loving hand on my cheek to coax me out of them. The difference is now it is given to me, and I don't have to ask for it.

This year is closing, and I am having a little bit of a hard time letting it go. It has been so sweet to me; so many dreams have come true for me in the last twelve months. Remember when I wrote that this was going to be the year of abundance? It was for me. I am grateful to it, I bowed daily with that gratitude to that abundance. And I feel certain that we were building foundations for abundance, too, this year. I feel like 2010 will be a time to build towering structures on those foundations. We are good and married. The clinic is open. My sister's beautiful work is on the L.A. theater community's radar, my father has glasses that help him see far away. Dear friends have gotten married, have gotten engaged, are moving back to California, are moving into a sense of self. With an open heart, I look forward to what we all will build, out of our love, out of our ambition, out of our desires and destinies, as the new year rolls open.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day after Christmas thoughts

I think the reason I loved Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs so much was: you know how the people in the protagonists' hometown had been trying so hard and for so long to think of sardines as good, desireable food, and then all of a sudden they tasted really delicious food, food that literally fell from heaven, and their disbelief and then joy when they realized that food could be that good, that nourishing, and then how they immediately wanted more and realized how hungry they were and how greedy they could be? That is how I am, but with love, now that I know Jam Guy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Facebook status post, Christmas 2009

Wine and antipasto with good friends+long scramble on the beach with Jam Guy and Toby+dim sum for dinner+wonderful news from a good friend+Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs+hitting the sack early=perfect, perfect, perfect Christmas Day.

Friday, October 16, 2009


So I am now an official acupuncturist, with my official clinic and official patients and official file folders and all that. I am having a blast. I dispense official advice, much of which has to do with nutrition, since I do very sincerely believe that what you eat is the foundation of whether or not you are healthy. I suggest things--basic common-sense healthy things--like steamed greens, whole grains, lots of water, antioxidant-rich teas. I also suggest nutritious diets that are tailored specifically to a person's constitution or current symptomology. I read and research about Chinese dietary therapy, new trends in food and health, and studies on long- and short-term effects of different foods on different symptoms, all the time.

I have a little refrigerator in the office kitchenette, kindly loaned to me by Emily and Matt. Its entire contents are: about a half a case of beer and a wedge of Brie.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Notes to self

Today, for the first time, I rode my bike while wearing a short skirt and cowboy boots. And I kept thinking, Why have I never done this before? I am so in my element. This is so me, so true to my real self. There is sun on my thighs; I rock this bike like a cowgirl on a racehorse. The breezes that normally feel so nice on my face feel ever nicer on my legs, even if they mean I ride a bit one-handed while clutching at my hem. I feel beautiful, I feel strong, I feel womanly, I feel quaint and modern, somehow, at the same time. Life, love, California all riot in exaggerated bliss under my sternum.

Today is also the anniversary of the day my mother died, 12 years ago. Every year as this day approaches, I am cranky and miserable, filled with dread, and I never remember why. Yesterday evening in yoga class is when I remembered, and wept all through savasana.

I almost didn't make it to yoga yesterday, but I had been emptily furious all day, with, per usual, no reason I could finger--if anything my life is filled with reasons to be full of joy--and though I was running late to yoga and hate entering a class late, I knew I just needed to be there. Downward dog has become my spiritual landing pad--I know that sounds like so much California cheese, but it's undeniable--and people around me have always been what I depend upon for a recharge. So yoga, in a circle of other people practicing, always smooths the worst knots my brain gets itself in.

So I remembered, wept, came home and wept a little more, but peacefully, in that way it is a relief to grieve when you know what you are grieving and you can't change it. Being able to grieve that way also helped me find my way back to being joyful about the things I can be joyful about: a practice about to open; a fig tree about to fruit; a husband who truly wants my dreams to come true and acts to make that happen, which is the purest and most solid definition of love I think I could ever hope to witness.

And I am joyful for sunlight and the crisp shadow of my bike on quiet tree-lined roads; joyful for knowing a woman who raised me to see the beauty in trees and to take pleasure in great breaths of good air and fabulous shoes and forward movement. I am learning to resign myself to never being resigned to not having her in my day-to-day life; I want one more talk with her so much, and that hurts me, but I never want to stop wanting it. My life is full in many ways, and she is an every-moment part of how I came to be here. I yearn for the past in ways that pull holes in my heart, but I still race forward on miles of sun, and maybe instead of pulling me in half, moving in two directions at once balances me perfectly and exactly in my present.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Don't you draw the queen of diamonds, boy

The other day, I was running errands in the truck, listening to the country music station.

Whoa, rewind. Let's read that again: The other day, I was running errands in the truck, listening to the country music station. Yes, this is me, Sidewalk Monkey, a young, Asian-American woman, previously of New York, NY, currently missing only a cowboy hat and a bit of straw clenched between my teeth.

Anyway. The station started playing "Desperado," by the Eagles. The only other time I'd heard this song was on a scratchy mixed tape that Brian McVey gave me in 1992 with the admonitory-sounding command to "listen carefully," to it. This was accompanied by a meaningful and baleful stare, which was probably met by my own disingenuously bewildered stare.

Sadly, the track had been rerecorded so many times that the lyrics were completely indecipherable, even to a fourteen-year-old accustomed to gluing herself to the radio every Sunday and filtering Rick Dees and the Weekly Top 40 through a crackly haze of the kind of static you pick up when your house backs up to an enormous volcanic ridge. I could make out "Desperado, why don't you come to your senses," and then "...fences.." and then not much more till "before it's too late." I sensed that it was a sad song, that the boy was trying to convey feelings for me, that I should be touched, and so I was. I wondered what a desperado was, but it didn't occur to me to look it up in the dictionary. It sounded romantic, at any rate, and adventurous. Later that month Brian McVey gave me a locket, a large and brassy one attached to a chunky chain that threaded through a piece of glossy cardboard. I slept with it tucked in my hand, under my pillow, for days, amazed at such extravagance.

I don't know what happened to Brian McVey; I don't even remember how he stopped being someone I knew. I do know that he was almost my first lesson in not being able to save someone not ready to be saved--I was 14 and naive for even a 14-year-old, and he was a 19-year-old who had dropped out of high school, was riddled with mysterious ailments, and as such was an irresistibly tragic figure to many girls in the neighborhood--but luck or maybe some tiny wick of self-preservation or maybe just being 14 kept me from falling in too deeply. Maybe I was saved by the fact that I was so completely unaware of what hanging around with boys meant at that age that it never occurred to me to kiss him or let him get close enough to kiss me, or even to hold his hand. I think we just drifted out of touch, easily and mercifully.

A couple of days ago, when I heard "Desperado" on the radio, I remembered Brian McVey right away. I remembered wondering about the rest of lyrics to that song, and turned up the volume to listen more closely.

The thing is, it's a beautiful song. It is a sad song, and romantic; the 14-year-old me was right about that part. I still don't know exactly what a desperado is, and I still don't really want to look it up, preferring the image that the song creates--a lonesome, brittle woman, chasing the ideal of freedom regardless of cost, unaware that her pursuit is really bringing her in a steady loop towards home. That dual and contrary pull--towards freedom, towards home--has been such a constant in my life, something I could not have imagined when I fell asleep in my small, sure bed with the locket clutched in my hand and this scratched, unintelligible crooning pouring from my tape deck. Would it have been something I would have avoided if I had been able to hear the song those 17 years ago--if I'd been able to heed Brian's advice and listen carefully? Or, and this is maybe more likely, would I have thrown myself harder into the desperado role, hoping for someone to see the real, lost, lonely girl I really was and sing me out of my sadness?

And on the other hand, maybe I would have just laughed. I laughed in the truck when the song was over, laughed and laughed as I pulled back into the driveway with the groceries Jam Guy had requested I pick up for him to make dinner with. The song includes lyrics like "You ain't gettin' no younger...Your prison is walking through this world all alone." Beautiful lyrics. But--I was 14!

No, I wasn't getting any younger, thank heavens, since I had finally, like, mastered pre-algebra, or whatever. Brian McVey, wherever you are, I hope you are happy and whole. But, dude. Seriously. Who dedicates a song with lyrics like "You better let somebody love you before it's too late," to a 14-year old? Do you think she might suddenly worry that she is becoming haglike and had better ride off into the sunset with you while somebody, anybody will still have her? That once she hit 15, all her dreams of love and gentle romance, dreams dreamed over department-store trinkets and hand-me-down tape decks, might come crashing down like so much rained-out Aqua Net?

I guess it's always funny thinking back to how serious everything was at that age. I remember girlfriend after girlfriend gravely approaching me to say things like, "Gavin and I are having problems." Or Gavin would approach me with the same vague concern; it would usually come from one or both of them after a couple of days of silent hand-holding while gazing off into opposite directions. For no apparent reason, I was the group-appointed relationship counselor. Certainly I had no relationship experience of my own. I suppose if it had occurred to me that what Brian and I were doing might constitute a relationship, I might consider it to be problematic. But since all we did was talk on the phone and mope around the mall with our respective friends trailing along, I was mystified--pleased, but still mystified--by the locket and mixed tape.

I think now maybe Brian thought I was playing hard-to-get, which explains the lyrics a little more. I was just playing--playing at my last year of really being a little girl while all around me peers were playing at being women. (For crying out loud, I would get Cinnabon frosting all over myself at the mall.) Of course Brian wouldn't have seen this--he was, like most 19-year-old-boys, not overburdened with subtlety or perceptiveness. He had a completely different set of experiences than I had. I wonder if he saw, in my scooting to give him too much room on the food-court bench or my leaving parties too early, avoidance or fear or pride instead of utter ignorance of his intentions.

It is probably all for the best that I didn't hear those lyrics, because along with being more naive and trusting than probably any 14-year-old you've ever met, I was also as insecure as any 14-year-old you've ever met. Geez. I may have been saved from the Brian McVeys of the world, and safely delivered to my Jam Guy, finally, at the ripe and spinsterlike age of 28-going-on-29, by the imperfect technology of home tape recording and its own application of the surprisingly benevolent law of diminishing returns.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On how Sidewalk Monkey, one year after moving to Santa Rosa, continues to realize she no longer lives in New York

Late last week, I was late for work because I thought there was a skunk hanging out in my driveway. As it turned out--after I skulked fearfully in a wide radius around it for fifteen minutes, called my temp job to report that I would be late because the skunk was blocking my way to my truck which I had to drive to work because my bike had a busted tire, and called Jam Guy to warn him to be careful about the skunk when he came home for lunch--it wasn't actually a skunk, or even in the same Linnaen taxonomic class as a skunk. It was a chicken.

Granted, it was a not any kind of chicken I had ever seen before (and when later that day a friend stopped over and the chicken was still hanging out, our friend exclaimed, "Check out this crazy bird!" as though he'd discovered some exotic avian species). It was, I found by Google-image-searching "black chicken with white mop head," a Polish Bantam hen. It looked like this:

I took some pictures of it--mostly to prove to poor Jam Guy and my vastly amused coworkers that I am not such a crazy city girl that I can't tell a bird from a mammal. But this image, pulled off of the fascinating site, is much clearer. I mean, you can kind of see how it looks like a skunk, right? Like a skunk with its little white booty in the air, all ready to spray you with skunkiness?

Anyways. So this is my life now. I used to wake up in New York City, feeling all grouchy because police activity or someone barfing in the gutter had interrupted my sleep, jockey for a spot at the bodega coffee counter, shoulder through rush hour pedestrian traffic, clutch my coffee against the press of bodies in a subway car. Those were my morning battles then. Now I wake up here, grouchy because sunrise-awakened songbirds interrupted my sleep, attempt to get into my pickup truck, and am forestalled by a freaky-deaky chicken with a head that looks like a skunk butt.

Life is good here, and I will take songbirds and chickens and Jam Guy over everything the city offered me. But the curve of my learning about living in a place with such present agricultural roots just stretches longer and longer, and I think I am a long way from the peak of it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How you know that your dog has eaten too many figs, which are falling off the tree left and right

Because figs have a lot--A LOT--of fiber, your dog wakes you up a couple of times in the middle of the night to be let outside, and the rest of the night, while he sweetly insists on sleeping right next to your bed, his tummy rumbles so loudly it keeps you awake.

Also, he gets chubby.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I know I've been neglecting to blog here.

It's not an excuse, just an explanation: every day there are blog posts running through my head, and then every evening I get too busy/tired/drunk to write them down.

More will come soon.

In the meantime, it's been a while since we had some shoe lust.

Remember those Cole Haan Sierra boots that inspired Major Serious Shoe Lust? They still make me drool (and they're on sale now, though not exactly a deal). These London Air T-Straps are kind of their sister sandal--they are also made by Cole Haan, also have the Nike Air Technology that theoretically makes a narrowly stacked three-and-three-quarter-inch heel feel like a running shoe, and they have the black-and-brown thing going on that means they match with pretty much everything and are more interesting than just black or just brown. Plus, the big buckle on the contrasting brown strap--which on the Sierra boots looks classy and equestrian--makes these sandals tough, but in a fancy way. DROOL.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Another garage sale Saturday

Garage sales visited: 11

Miles driven: About 27

Items purchased: An old chinoise-style ricer/strainer that will come in handy when we're canning our tomatoes and making jam from our figs and raspberries; a vintage brass clinical-looking floor lamp to put in my treatment room; a steel table on wheels to hold my acupuncture supplies when I'm doing a community-style clinic; a cash box for the office; and a clipboard for doing intakes.

Total cost: $16.25

Sunday, June 21, 2009

On a perfect day, so far

This morning Jam Guy and I woke up and had a lazy morning before heading out in our new old truck to find a few garage sales and hit up our favorite secondhand store. We came home with a pair of nice, dark-wood framed mirrors to replace the fugly bathroom mirror in my office space, a large buffet that, once repainted, will work perfectly in the treatment room as a surface and storage space for acupuncture supplies, a cushy old chair upholstered in a pretty sage-and-peach faded stripe pattern that works perfectly on our sun porch, and a couple of fancy vintage speakers that Jam Guy is now happily tinkering with. On the way home, we stopped at a farm stand and bought a half-flat of freshly picked strawberries, which we set between us on the wide bench seat of the truck and ate an unbelievable quantity of on the way home, staining our mouths and hands red. The way home itself, scented with strawberries, was a lazy country road weaving between corrals of indifferent horses, rows of wine grapes, more yard sales and strawberry plants and fruit orchards.

Now that we're home, I'm getting ready to pick a bucketful of mint and brew some sweet mint tea, which might turn into mint juleps later if this warm summery air hangs around into the evening. While that simmers, I'm going to start mixing up some Early Bird Granola, for which I am indebted to Miss May in the Bay, who not only introduced me to this delicious treat from her current hometown of Brooklyn (shout-out to Brooklyn!) but also linked the recipe on her blog.

So much to be grateful for is not like too much candy; it's not something that tires your spirit or hurts your head as more and more waves of gratitude break over you. What it does is open your eyes wider and wider to all the pieces of your life that merit your thanksgiving, all the little and big pieces that you didn't see the day before or the day before that. Your eyes widen, become kaleidoscopic, turn multi-faceted like the eyes of bees, taking in all the contrast and the beauty that form the building blocks of your life. It is a small and an inside evolution, a survival mechanism, a breath-by-breath way to keep your heart from exploding with joy.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Random thoughts from this past week, wherein we got married, went on a honeymoon, and then spent a full weekend at home doing nothing together.

I am pretty sure that these, right now, are The Good Old Days.

Our wedding was one of those giant labors of love that every so often makes you question your own desires and devotion to an amorphous aesthetic ideal. We had decided on a simple, laid-back garden party, but no matter how determined we were to take things easy, throwing a party for 100 dear friends and family while tying the knot is not a simple feat, particularly if, when it comes down to it, you are two people who both get a little crazy about realizing a vision. Apparently, even if your vision is "chill, fun, backyard barbeque with lots of pretty colors" but you are not remotely interested in even slightly compromising that vision, it is still a lot of work to pull off.

However, we are blessed to have wonderful friends and family--my sister, the organizational genius; May and Surfrunner, who reassured me countless times via email about my wedding attitudes and accoutrements, and who danced a hula with me that our lovely sister-in-spirit Mahina choreographed; Emily, who found my dress and my shoes, who hovered around us the week of the wedding and readily helped us with anything we needed, who acted as my hands and my sister's hands the day before the wedding when our own hands were covered in sticky black henna. A wonderful couple that knows Adam from Pennsylvania and now lives here in Santa Rosa came over on a sweltering Saturday a couple weeks before the wedding and repaired our gate, and then returned a week later with a beautiful, handmade redwood well cover to replace the ill-fitting steel plate we'd been using. Jam Guy's parents and many of our friends set up chairs, charmed my not-easy-to-charm father, kept our pets for the day for us, built a bridge for our guests to more safely cross from the creek trail to our back gate when they arrived by rickshaw. Another friend lent his beautiful artwork to decorate the garden. Yet another played her accordion for arriving guests and another gifted us with a spectacular bellydance. We had friends who made us a keg of beer; we've made friends with the lovely folks who catered the wedding and made our rings and took our pictures. We had friends pulling weeds and staining picture frames and setting up tables and folding origami favors. My father, who I had feared would hate the lack of tradition in our wedding and make a point of telling me so, only reiterated over and over that he wanted me to be happy and enjoy the day. It was exactly the wedding we both wanted, and it became this beautiful celebration of love--not just romantic love between new husband and new wife, but the deep, sustaining love of a funny, diverse, wonderful community that grants context and meaning to our marriage.

And this is not to say Jam Guy and I didn't work hard ourselves putting the wedding together. We did; in fact, I kept joking that it was boot camp for marriage. I hadn't doubted before that we make a good team, but I am more sure than ever that we make one of the best teams I've ever been part of. I was not one of those brides that plan the entire wedding myself and just get the groom to okay everything--I was matched and even exceeded in my efforts by my amazing guy. We had the vision in common: a fun, poppy-filled, lovey-but-not-barfy day, and we pulled each other toward it with a weirdly unwavering sureness of it being exactly the right wedding for us. And, thanks to each other, to our just incredible community, to our families and friends and the amazing Santa Rosa weather and the dirt in our backyard that gets things to grow like magic beanstalks, it really was just exactly right.

Now we are married and totally stoked about it.

We went on a honeymoon that was just a big pile of bliss, the bliss of not having to do anything at all but exercise options like living on mimosas or petting wandering neighbor dogs or lying on the couch and watching Quantum Leap or cooking ourselves in the hot tub underneath tall redwoods and rain clouds.

The first night of our honeymoon, we slept soundly for the first time in weeks, probably because we didn't have to-do lists running through our heads for the first time in weeks. But I dreamed a dream that frequently recurs: in the dream, I am back with my crazy, controlling ex-boyfriend, somehow talked into or passively fallen back into that poisonous relationship. Whenever I am in this dream I am agonizingly aware of how much happiness I am giving up to be with the scary ex, but the thought of mustering up all the strength it took to leave him the first time exhausts me. I keep trying to muster it, and I can't, and I am furious that I have trapped myself yet again even though I ought to know better.

In this dream that night, though, my sister and my mother were both living near me, and I kept lying and lying to them about how great my relationship with the scary ex was, because I was too ashamed to admit how enormously mistaken I'd been in returning to him. But in the way that the important women in your life know when you're with someone who's not good enough for you, I knew they knew, and they were just pretending to believe my lame deception. In the dream I was having lunch with my mom after a particularly difficult morning with the scary ex--one of those mornings we had so often, where he said and did a million brutally hurtful things but they were all so little, like papercuts, that I couldn't pick one out to use as a reason to leave--and, exhausted, I blurted out to my mom, "I have to leave him."

"Thank God," she responded, putting down her fork. "Yes, you do."

"But, Mom," I said, finally laying all my cards on the table, bursting into tears, putting my broken heart in her hands the way I wished I could do when I was leaving the scary ex in real life, "What do I do? I just don't know what to do, I don't know where to start, I don't know how to begin to leave."

And she said, with her eyes fixed very seriously and confidently on mine: "You just do."

It was like a huge, heavy cowl had been lifted off my shoulders and away from my eyes, like I hadn't been able to feel or see sunlight before she uttered those three words. There was so much relief in being told I could just walk away, that maybe my past could really just, simply, be left in my past.

When I woke up I felt happy and light. I stretched, I read comics in bed till Jam Guy woke, and then I took the delicious coffee he made me and sat out on the deck of our borrowed cabin.

It had rained a little the night before, and as I tried to count the different birds I was hearing in the riot of morning bird song, a monarch butterfly drifted across the driveway in front of me and then settled inches away from me, dead center in my field of vision, onto the sun-warmed asphalt drive. It settled there and slowly moved its wings, up and down, drying them from the rain.

I called Jam Guy to see. The butterfly stayed there for minutes, carefully warming its damp wings, before taking off and fluttering around us for a while and then disappearing into the redwoods.

Jam Guy and I have been gifted with animal totems in the significant moments of our lives intertwining: moments before he asked me to marry him, we saw a stag with a full rack of antlers pause just yards from us before leaping away in glorious, sunlit arcs; when we took a quiet, reflective walk along the creek path immediately after our wedding ceremony, we spotted a gleaming mallard duck paddling complacently down the creek with his brown-speckled mate right beside him, in what could have been a water-dwelling, feathered reflection of us. Now this butterfly perched before us shedding the rain that made its wings too heavy for easy flight, coming to us so quickly after a dream in which I was shown my own power to shed old, weighty grief. It was, is, a symbol of new life in all sorts of ways. Grateful and humbled, I am newly determined to see myself stepping into a new and beautiful phase of my life, one where I have both the power and the support to really and truly walk away from old, limiting patterns.

Last night I sat reading The Peaceable Kingdom by Jan de Hartog, a hefty historical novel about the roots of Quakerism. Jam Guy was in the kitchen making up a huge pot of Mahogany Beef Stew in order to not waste the opened jugs of red wine left over from the wedding; Toby was sleeping at my feet; Meimei was sleeping under the china cabinet--in short, we were all doing our favorite things, and our little house felt happy (and smelled amazing).

Today I went for a jog around the creek--my first jog since getting married, since our honeymoon was largely spent being gloriously and uncompromisingly lazy. I am thinking of my jogs now as blackberry-monitoring runs, because the wild blackberries growing by the creek are in that stage where half the bushes are still flowering but the other half are covered with little hard green bumpy berries that any day now will start ripening and tempting the hundreds of people that use the creek trail every day, and while I know I have all those other joggers and walkers and bikers, and birds and bugs and the occasional bramble-braving berry-loving dog, to share them with, it would be so lovely to eat a bursting pieful of them in our first full summer living along this creek in this home where I hope we grow old. When I was almost at the end of my run, I spotted one of our neighbors and stopped to chat with her. I stopped maybe a little too suddenly, though, felt woozy, and sat down, and somehow managed to drop my phone, which went all to pieces.

When I got home I handed the pieces of phone to Jam Guy, who promptly fixed it. I handed it to him not because I didn't know how to fix it--I do, and have (I drop my phone a lot) although Jam Guy did it about five times faster than I would have. I give him my broken gadgets to fix, and ask him questions that I know will be answered with "yes," like: will you clasp this necklace for me? will you help me drain the pasta? because hearing "yes" and being taken care of the way he takes care of me makes me feel drunk with luxury. Because I worked really hard, for reasons the grown-up me is not clear about, from an inappropriately early age to make myself look like someone who didn't need to be taken care of, to the point that everyone believed me at least to an extent and I managed to hurt myself by letting them. By the time I met Jam Guy, the part of me that is in everyone, the part that needs taking care of, was that kind of hungry where you're so hungry that you don't even know you're hungry, until someone like Jam Guy feeds you a little kindness and shows you he has just a whole huge kitchen full that he wants to share with you, and you realize you're starving. And so when I ask him to change a lightbulb when I used to make a point of changing them myself, or to talk me out of another bad dream, or to help me find the fennel seeds in the spice drawer, I am doing it with the decadent sense of incredulous privilege that a pauper might do when she suddenly finds herself mistaken for a princess.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

I miss blogging here.

I have been busy with trying to get married, and I keep starting posts--posts about the complex things my brain is doing while I am trying to get married, all sorts of things like reviewing my ideas about marriage and happiness and balance; and posts about gratitude for my amazing friends and family who are making this wedding turn into a community-supported event, an event binding and defining community in new and beautiful ways for me; and posts about little anxieties like getting all the RSVPs straight and will it rain and should I be skinnier and big anxieties like why do I deserve to be this happy and how do people live knowing that the most precious things in their worlds are temporary at best and what if I am doing something crazy. I keep starting these posts and then being distracted by the lists upon lists of little details in my head: rickshaws! parasols! poppies! mason jars! and then I leave the posts for another time.

Two weeks and a day to go, and then I can finally stop saying "my fiancé," like a goober.

I have every intention of coming back here, with more frequency, more clarity and fewer run-on sentences, after the wedding. Actually, no promises about the clarity and run-on sentences.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

So. I have not been feeling very blogolicious

and I don't know why. It's not that anything bad is going on; in fact, everything is going swimmingly. It's not that I haven't felt strong emotions, because I have; it's not that my gratitude about how loved I am and how tailored-to-me my life is starting to feel has diminished even a little. If anything, it keeps growing at the kind of alarming rate a puppy grows, and in leaps.

So I am just going to blog away, post this, and be happy I wrote something.

I finally got my real acupuncture license in the mail over the weekend, so today I went to see a possible space in which to start my practice, and I am really excited about it. It is the first space I've seen, but in the way that I went back to get the first set of bridal jewelry that I saw when shopping in L.A. with my sister, I am pretty sure this is it. There are pros and cons; the biggest con is that this is a second-floor space and there's no elevator, so if I have patients who can't manage stairs, which is possible, they won't be able to visit me. However, the pros are overwhelming: it comes with a built-in community in the form of a healing arts collective that appears to be really invested in the success of its members; I like the woman who runs the collective; it's on a fantastic downtown block, with lots of foot traffic that is just fun to be on. There is a skylight.

My sister wrote this amazing play and won this huge competition and the play was read in L.A. this past weekend. Jam Guy and I went, and I am so grateful that my sister is so talented; this play, besides just being a really fantastic work, makes me feel closer to our mother, and makes me feel like Jam Guy got to experience our mother just a little bit. That makes me feel closer to Jam Guy, like we know each other a little better now. It makes me in awe of my sister. In some ways we are so alike, and in some ways she is always/still this awe-inspiring big sister from a superior planet, or something.

The wedding is coming together--we have this kick-ass Polaroid photographer coming to take snapshots of everybody; we have friends providing produce from their farms and gardens and other friends ethically and sustainably raising a pig to roast at the celebration; we have our friends with a marriage that we deeply admire officiating.

So a lot of good things are happening. I called 2009 the Year of Abundance in January, a little bit because I really felt it, and a lot because I felt if I said it enough it would just be true. And I do feel like things are constantly evolving towards good, like while there are good days and days that are just OK the general trend is better and better. And I am learning that happiness is not a summit you achieve and then rest at and admire the view; it is a constant effort. It takes every-moment work on my insides. Not always hard work, but not always easy; certainly it is worth it. I imagine it is part of growing up.

And the big things, the important things, like the sincerity with which Jam Guy loves me, like how much I like coming home every day and how blessed I feel falling asleep and waking up in my life, those don't change, but I am newly amazed every day by their not changing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thinking about my new temp job, and why it's good that I'm going to be opening my own practice

Sidewalk Monkey: Sometimes I feel like I just don't like working with other people on a project. I mean I like people, I just don't like working with a group of them towards, like, a goal. Does that mean I'm a snob? Or does it mean I'm elitist? Or does it mean I'm antisocial? I don't think I'm antisocial.

Jam Guy: No. It means most people are idiots.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I'm a Katharine!

Thanks to May in the Bay for posting this...I took it as a time-waster, and somehow in just a couple of questions it came out pretty spot-on--how is that possible?--except for maybe a couple of things, which I bet you folks who know me well will be able to pick out.

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are a Katharine!

You are a Katharine -- "I am happy and open to new things"

Katharines are energetic, lively, and optimistic. They want to contribute to the world.

How to Get Along with Me

  • * Give me companionship, affection, and freedom.

  • * Engage with me in stimulating conversation and laughter.

  • * Appreciate my grand visions and listen to my stories.

  • * Don't try to change my style. Accept me the way I am.

  • * Be responsible for youself. I dislike clingy or needy people.

  • * Don't tell me what to do.

What I Like About Being a Katharine

  • * being optimistic and not letting life's troubles get me down

  • * being spontaneous and free-spirited

  • * being outspoken and outrageous. It's part of the fun.

  • * being generous and trying to make the world a better place

  • * having the guts to take risks and to try exciting adventures

  • * having such varied interests and abilities

What's Hard About Being a Katharine

  • * not having enough time to do all the things I want

  • * not completing things I start

  • * not being able to profit from the benefits that come from specializing; not making a commitment to a career

  • * having a tendency to be ungrounded; getting lost in plans or fantasies

  • * feeling confined when I'm in a one-to-one relationship

Katharines as Children Often

  • * are action oriented and adventuresome

  • * drum up excitement

  • * prefer being with other children to being alone

  • * finesse their way around adults

  • * dream of the freedom they'll have when they grow up

Katharines as Parents

  • * are often enthusiastic and generous

  • * want their children to be exposed to many adventures in life

  • * may be too busy with their own activities to be attentive

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz
at HelloQuizzy

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Last night I dreamed about my mother.

In the dream, she was visiting Santa Rosa and planning all these fun touristy things with some girlfriends of hers that she hadn't seen in a long time. She was really excited, girlish about it, happy. It was nice to see.

She had let me know she was coming--I think she and I were attending a wedding that we'd both come to independently, and I had had to find her among the wedding guests. When I found her, she seemed pleased but not ecstatic to see me, and she was distracted, talking to this friend and the other about their sightseeing plans. I realized she hadn't planned any time to spend with me on her trip.

I asked where she was staying, and when I found out it was just blocks away from our house, I suggested she come and see the place. I really, really wanted her to see it, and to see how happy my life is now with Jam Guy in our sweet little home.

And she dithered about it, looking uncomfortable, explained she just couldn't make the time, and when I didn't buy that, she made it more or less clear that she didn't think it would be that much fun, that in fact it sounded boring, and she was not on this trip to endure boredom. She didn't want to see the place or spend time with me; she wanted to have fun with her friends and enjoy wine country. She didn't want to spend her vacation being a mother. She wanted to take a break and just be, uncomplicatedly, a woman.

In the dream my feelings were deeply hurt. When I woke up, though, I thought, doesn't everyone deserve a break from their responsibilities once in a while? A breather? I am not really sure what the answer to this is. Maybe we don't. Maybe some responsibilities are ours to carry 24/7 and lifelong, whether we chose them or not.

Maybe we only escape them when we leave our lives for good. Maybe that's what my dream was about--my mother is no longer someone that I can ask for a stamp of approval on things like my house, my fiance, my life. Now the responsibility for that, for deciding I'm allowed this luxury of joy, lies on me. And that even if it took me a lifetime and hard loss to learn this, maybe it is time to see that the responsibility for claiming my happiness was always mine and mine alone, never truly hers, never anyone else's.

Or maybe the dream was just about wishing so hard my mother could come and see how happy I am, finally, and share it with me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Year of abundance

Since about December 30th, I've been relentlessly insisting that 2009 will be "the year of abundance." So far, so very, very good: my genius sister placed first in a national playwriting competition, Jam Guy has with abundant energy replaced the roof on our greenhouse and built us a bed, Surfrunner welcomed a new baby nephew, I passed my boards and can start planning to start my practice. We are making new friends and enriching old friendships. Oh! And this afternoon, after like six months of applying to practically every single job I qualify for within a half-hour's drive because sitting at home not working is messing with my head, I started a part-time temp job at a county land preservation agency that's a ten-minute bike ride away--not a dream job, but exactly what I need in these months while I'm building a practice, and anyways in this economy a proffered job is a bird in the hand that I would be foolish to let go.

Meanwhile all the other manifestations of abundance that came into being in 2008 and in prior years are still novel to me: being engaged to someone so remarkable and kind and fun to hang out with, living in a home that is everything I want in a home, living in an area that is a phenomenal balance of rural and citified, landing in a career that makes me look forward to working.

In traditional Chinese medicine, all emotions taken to an extreme are pathological. It's easy to see how things like anger, grief, and anxiety can harm a person. But even joy is pathological when there is too much of it, when there is constant joy and no moments apart from it for quiet contemplation; joy as opposed to contentment, say, without a break from it, is not much to complain about but does overstimulate, exhaust. It is said to slow down the qi--a good example is the person who's constantly partying or seeking the next party, who however tends not to provide the most focused or logical conversation.

Again, it is not much to complain about, and I am not complaining. But in the last couple of years I've gone from a lot of despair to a lot of bliss , and there is a definite and necessary adjustment period. Adjusting to happiness is a very, very good situation to be in, even if it means I haven't slept well since getting my pass notice and have been all scatterbrained and underfocused. I am almost certain that this state of insomniac spaced-out-ness is a symptom of the deep, hard-to-reconcile contrast between my past and my present--the way that when you manage to stop a vehicle hurtling towards certain destruction, you get whiplash, but your gratitude at being alive at all makes the temporary ache so entirely bearable.

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Year's Day Dinner!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Okay--I took one of these photos, Jam Guy took the rest. Guess which one I took.

The spread

Fried trout with black bean sauce and garden greens

Wontons, from our inexact family recipe

Changde Rice Noodles with Red-Braised Beef, from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fuschia Dunlop

and the somewhat incongruous but super-festive and delicious Chocolate-Cherry Upside Down Cake, from Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine: Recipes and Reminiscences of a Family, by Norma Jean and Carol Darden.

I know. We used the same camera and everything.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

RIP Stacey II.

Today we laid to rest a treasured member of our household, Stacey II, our betta fish.

Stacey II lived on the table in my San Diego apartment that served as a dining area, study zone, and entertainment center. I chatted with him every day that we lived there together. He was beautiful, with red and blue fins, and awfully assertive. He jumped for his food sometimes. He traveled to Santa Rosa with us in a Mason jar with holes in the lid, snuggled into the passenger-side cupholder, under a little awning of a Google Maps printout to protect him from the sun.

Yesterday Jam Guy and I noticed Stacey II--who was named after Stacey the First, a betta fish I loved and lost and deeply mourned when I was in second grade--was not acting himself. An internet search revealed that he most likely had "swim bladder disorder" and needed to fast for three days and then be fed a mashed up, peeled, thawed pea. We changed his water and made sure not to feed him, and by last night we were hopeful he was getting better. Today, though, he was clearly in bad shape, and he passed away this afternoon.

Jam Guy dug a hole in the garden, and we each said a few words for Stacey II. His little body will nourish our vegetables in this new year, and wherever he is, he is at peace and in a better place.

We will miss you, Stacey II. You were a good fish and a good friend.