mercredi, novembre 21, 2018


Knowledge sets us free, art sets us free. A great library is freedom.


Plunging into the ocean of words, roaming in the broad fields of the mind, climbing the mountains of the imagination. Just like the kid in the Carnegie or the student in Widener, that was my freedom, that was my joy. And it still is.

That joy must not be sold. It must not be “privatised,” made into another privilege for the privileged. A public library is a public trust.

And that freedom must not be compromised. It must be available to all who need it, and that’s everyone, when they need it, and that’s always. - Ursula LeGuin

mardi, octobre 30, 2018

#TeamSanta no more

Re: Santa. (Yes, I know it isn't even Halloween yet, but this is popping up in a few places right now.)

We told Seba (8) and Lucia (6) the truth about 2 weeks ago. The conversation included a bit of a conspiratorial air -- with Leo and I leaning in and telling them that we knew they were finally old enough to learn the truth and both of us nodding in agreement that we thought they were ready and mature enough to handle this information. (They totally leaned in and were riveted at that point.)

Lucia, who has always been skeptical and has asked hard, pointed questions about Santa --even at age 3 -- confessed she knew "there had to be something you guys did to help Santa" and "it wasn't physically possible for him to do all of that all over the world." We shared that Santa was based on a real person who lived long ago ( who made people feel special by secretly giving them gifts.

We stressed that the magic of Santa is that he makes others feel special and that they can still be a Santa to someone else who needs the magic and who believes. We also reminded them that giving to others has its own magic and makes the giver feel great, too. Both got excited at the prospect of this -- and even talked about wanting to do this for their kids someday. The conversation began and ended with a very clear message from us about not ruining the magic for others, especially their peers and cousins, and to TELL NO ONE AT SCHOOL. (So far, so good.)

Truthfully, I am relieved to be free of the Santa myth. I do not like lying or having to be very evasive to my kids. We went along with it mostly because Leo's family has a tradition of "Santa" coming down the stairs on Christmas eve at the Noche Buena family gathering and giving each child a gift that his/ her parent has discreetly placed in Santa's bag at the beginning of the party. I will say that it is usually an adult cousin who reluctantly gets roped into wearing the costume by Tía Olga. The funniest year was when the smartass 9 year old told Santa (Martin Stezano that year) that his New Balance kicks might be too slippery for the icy North Pole.

But that was also the year that our children received a Thomas the Train game (Seba - 4 at the time) and Dora the Explorer doll (Lucia - 2 at the time) and they were firmly #TeamSanta no matter their personal doubts, because being on Team Santa meant gifts and all sorts of cool things. They are bright kids and weren't interested in upsetting the (un)natural order of things if it meant they might get less gifts.

I was ready to tell them because I think our way of explaining the magic is more meaningful and can help them get really excited about what they do for others. I also wanted them to hear it from us and not be (potentially) crushed by the betrayal the lie means. Lastly, Seba is always the last person to get the memo about what's cool and what's not socially and for once, I wanted him to feel the power and confidence of what it means to be an insider.

Epilogue: They made their Christmas wishlist this weekend. It was so nice to remind them that Santa and his elves aren't the ones who make or buy their presents. I reminded them that now that they know it is mami and papi (and their grandparents/ aunts/ uncles) who are bankrolling all the loot and buying their presents, that the expensive items (I'm looking at you, Bugatti Chiron and Hogwarts Castle LEGO sets) might not be the best choice because there's a very low probability of them being under the tree on Christmas morning.

lundi, octobre 01, 2018

lundi, janvier 22, 2018


- We have the capacity to find joy in all things. A negative attitude is worse than a tumor. The best of life can come from the worst of life. - Everyone has a difficult trial. Everyone. Be compassionate. - When your looks get taken away, you better have a solid character or you're screwed. - Priorities are revealed when abilities are stripped. Put them in order before life forces it upon you. - No one learns in the middle of a crisis. Survive. Breathe. Reflect. - Life is too short to take offense. Assume the best and move on. One day our children will struggle. We must endure our own trials so that, when needed, we can look in their eyes with perfect credibility and say, "I've been through the same struggle. I know your pain. You can do this." By Mark A. Smith, 23 years ago today my parents and doctor walked into my ICU room, held my hands, and told me I had only a few months to live. I had a rare disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis and had 18 tumors throughout my lungs, kidneys, and airway. 16 years of chemotherapy, 200,000+ pills, 34 surgeries, and a million prayers later and I'm still around

mercredi, août 02, 2017


"You can’t transform mountebanks into menschen. Character is like concrete: You can make an impression when it’s freshly poured, in its youth, one could say, but when it sets, it’s impervious to alteration. 
Trump has always been vile, dishonorable and dishonest. That hasn’t changed even when draped by the history, majesty and pageantry of the presidency." - Charles M Blow,  Satan in a Sunday Hat, July 31, 2017

lundi, juillet 24, 2017

everything doesn't happen for a reason

"Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. If your life has exploded into a million little bits, you don't need platitudes. You don't need cheerleading. You don't need to be told this all happened for a reason. You certainly don't need to be told that you needed your pain in order to learn something about life." - Megan Divine

As seen in Tim Lawrence's beautiful essay:

Everything Doesn't Happen For A Reason

I emerge from this conversation dumbfounded. I've seen this a million times before, but it still gets me every time. 
I’m listening to a man tell a story. A woman he knows was in a devastating car accident; her life shattered in an instant. She now lives in a state of near-permanent pain; a paraplegic; many of her hopes stolen.
He tells of how she had been a mess before the accident, but that the tragedy had engendered positive changes in her life. That she was, as a result of this devastation, living a wonderful life.
And then he utters the words. The words that are responsible for nothing less than emotional, spiritual and psychological violence:
Everything happens for a reason. That this was something that had to happen in order for her to grow.
That's the kind of bullshit that destroys lives. And it is categorically untrue. 
It is amazing to me that so many of these myths persist—and that is why I share actionable tools and strategies to work with your pain in my free newsletter. These myths are nothing more than platitudes cloaked as sophistication, and they preclude us from doing the one and only thing we must do when our lives are turned upside down: grieve.
You know exactly what I'm talking about. You've heard these countless times. You've probably even uttered them a few times yourself. And every single one of them needs to be annihilated.
Let me be crystal clear: if you've faced a tragedy and someone tells you in any way, shape or form that your tragedy was meant to be, that it happened for a reason, that it will make you a better person, or that taking responsibility for it will fix it, you have every right to remove them from your life.
Grief is brutally painful. Grief does not only occur when someone dies. When relationships fall apart, you grieve. When opportunities are shattered, you grieve. When dreams die, you grieve. When illnesses wreck you, you grieve.
So I’m going to repeat a few words I’ve uttered countless times; words so powerful and honest they tear at the hubris of every jackass who participates in the debasing of the grieving:
Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried. 
These words come from my dear friend Megan Devine, one of the only writers in the field of loss and trauma I endorse. These words are so poignant because they aim right at the pathetic platitudes our culture has come to embody on an increasingly hopeless level. Losing a child cannot be fixed. Being diagnosed with a debilitating illness cannot be fixed. Facing the betrayal of your closest confidante cannot be fixed. 
They can only be carried.
I hate to break it to you, but although devastation can lead to growth, it often doesn't. The reality is that it often destroys lives. And the real calamity is that this happens precisely because we've replaced grieving with advice. With platitudes. With our absence.  
I now live an extraordinary life. I've been deeply blessed by the opportunities I've had and the radically unconventional life I've built for myself. Yet even with that said, I'm hardly being facetious when I say that loss has not in and of itself made me a better person. In fact, in some ways it's hardened me.
While so much loss has made me acutely aware and empathetic of the pains of others, it has made me more insular and predisposed to hide. I have a more cynical view of human nature, and a greater impatience with those who are unfamiliar with what loss does to people.
Above all, I've been left with a pervasive survivor’s guilt that has haunted me all my life. This guilt is really the genesis of my hiding, self-sabotage and brokenness.
In short, my pain has never been eradicated, I've just learned to channel it into my work with others. I consider it a great privilege to work with others in pain, but to say that my losses somehow had to happen in order for my gifts to grow would be to trample on the memories of all those I lost too young; all those who suffered needlessly, and all those who faced the same trials I did early in life, but who did not make it. 
I'm simply not going to do that. I'm not going to construct some delusional narrative fallacy for myself so that I can feel better about being alive. I'm not going to assume that God ordained me for life instead of all the others so that I could do what I do now. And I'm certainly not going to pretend that I've made it through simply because I was strong enough; that I became "successful" because I "took responsibility."
There’s a lot of “take responsibility” platitudes in the personal development space, and they are largely nonsense. People tell others to take responsibility when they don’t want to understand.
Because understanding is harder than posturing. Telling someone to “take responsibility” for their loss is a form of benevolent masturbation. It’s the inverse of inspirational porn: it’s sanctimonious porn.
Personal responsibility implies that there’s something to take responsibility for. You don’t take responsibility for being raped or losing your child. You take responsibility for how you choose to live in the wake of the horrors that confront you, but you don't choose whether you grieve. We're not that smart or powerful. When hell visits us, we don't get to escape grieving.
This is why all the platitudes and fixes and posturing are so dangerous: in unleashing them upon those we claim to love, we deny them the right to grieve.
In so doing, we deny them the right to be human. We steal a bit of their freedom precisely when they're standing at the intersection of their greatest fragility and despair.
No one—and I mean no one—has that authority. Though we claim it all the time.
The irony is that the only thing that even can be "responsible" amid loss is grieving. 
So if anyone tells you some form of get over it, move on, or rise above, you can let them go.
If anyone avoids you amidst loss, or pretends like it didn’t happen, or disappears from your life, you can let them go.
If anyone tells you that all is not lost, that it happened for a reason, that you’ll become better as a result of your grief, you can let them go.
Let me reiterate: all of those platitudes are bullshit
You are not responsible to those who try to shove them down your throat. You can let them go. 
I’m not saying you should. That is up to you, and only up to you. It isn't an easy decision to make and should be made carefully. But I want you to understand that you can.
I've grieved many times in my life. I've been overwhelmed with shame and self-hatred so strong it’s nearly killed me.
The ones who helped—the only ones who helped—were those who were there. And said nothing
In that nothingness, they did everything.
I am here—I have lived—because they chose to love me. They loved me in their silence, in their willingness to suffer with me, alongside me, and through me. They loved me in their desire to be as uncomfortable, as destroyed, as I was, if only for a week, an hour, even just a few minutes.
Most people have no idea how utterly powerful this is.
Are there ways to find "healing" amid devastation? Yes. Can one be "transformed" by the hell life thrusts upon them? Absolutely. But it does not happen if one is not permitted to grieve. Because grief itself is not an obstacle.
The obstacles come later. The choices as to how to live; how to carry what we have lost; how to weave a new mosaic for ourselves? Those come in the wake of grief. It cannot be any other way. 
Grief is woven into the fabric of the human experience. If it is not permitted to occur, its absence pillages everything that remains: the fragile, vulnerable shell you might become in the face of catastrophe.
Yet our culture has treated grief as a problem to be solved, an illness to be healed, or both. In the process, we've done everything we can to avoid, ignore, or transform grief. As a result, when you're faced with tragedy you usually find that you're no longer surrounded by people, you're surrounded by platitudes. 
What to Offer Instead
When a person is devastated by grief, the last thing they need is advice. Their world has been shattered. This means that the act of inviting someone—anyone—into their world is an act of great risk. To try and fix or rationalize or wash away their pain only deepens their terror.
Instead, the most powerful thing you can do is acknowledge. Literally say the words: 
I acknowledge your pain. I am here with you.
Note that I said with you, not for you. For implies that you're going to do something. That is not for you to enact. But to stand with your loved one, to suffer with them, to listen to them, to do everything but something is incredibly powerful.
There is no greater act than acknowledgment. And acknowledgment requires no training, no special skills, no expertise. It only requires the willingness to be present with a wounded soul, and to stay present, as long as is necessary.
Be there. Only be there. Do not leave when you feel uncomfortable or when you feel like you're not doing anything. In fact, it is when you feel uncomfortable and like you're not doing anything that you must stay.
Because it is in those places—in the shadows of horror we rarely allow ourselves to enter—where the beginnings of healing are found. This healing is found when we have others who are willing to enter that space alongside us. Every grieving person on earth needs these people.
Thus I beg you, I plead with you, to be one of these people.
You are more needed than you will ever know. 
And when you find yourself in need of those people, find them. I guarantee they are there. 
Everyone else can go. 

mardi, mai 30, 2017


"Some of us are surrounded by destructive people who tell us we’re worthless when we’re endlessly valuable, that we’re stupid when we’re smart, that we’re failing even when we succeed. But the opposite of people who drag you down isn’t people who build you up and butter you up. It’s equals who are generous but keep you accountable, true mirrors who reflect back who you are and what you are doing.

We keep each other honest, we keep each other good with our feedback, our intolerance of meanness and falsehood, our demands that the people we are with listen, respect, respond—if we are allowed to, if we are free and valued ourselves. There is a democracy of social discourse, in which we are reminded that as we are beset with desires and fears and feelings, so are others"- Rebecca Solnit, THE LONELINESS OF DONALD TRUMP: ON THE CORROSIVE PRIVILEGE OF THE MOST MOCKED MAN IN THE WORLD

lundi, janvier 23, 2017

we the people

The past few days have been a perfect storm of emotions. I've also been thinking a lot about my dad, as he died on Jan 22, 2012.

Friday was inauguration day and I'm sick at heart that this is what our republic has chosen. I'm still confident that my father, a lifelong Republican and deeply decent man, would have found it abhorrent that this is the best candidate that his party could produce -- and that the American people fell for this man's "alternate facts." I had this on my mind as I drove my kids home from school. Lucia, my four-year-old daughter, was singing "This Land is Your Land," and my heart smiled at how her 60-something-year-old ex-hippie TK teacher, Ms. Baker, had incorporated the subversive messages of one of my favorite rabble rousers, Woody Guthrie, in the classroom. Lucia then piped up about the civics lesson Ms. Baker had taught that day. She excitedly told me about the Supreme Court and "the two Houses, I forget what they are called." Then, she floored me. She told me "President Trump is the boss, we are the big boss. We the people are his boss and decide if he keeps his job." The simple truth brought a smile to my face.

Saturday was a blend of exhilaration and relief, as the kids, Leo, and I all participated in the Women's March. We opted to participate with the kids, in spite of warnings about provocateurs, but stuck to the edge of the crowd, made sure each child knew to find a mommy if s/he got lost, and had our phone numbers inside their clothing. In the end, it was a beautiful day, despite the rain. The parade ended with the kids playing in the park with hundreds of other children, including the two other families that joined us at the parade. It felt really wonderful to spend the day with our friends and 40,000 other San Diegans, and to come away with a renewed sense of hope after an electoral season that left me jaded and disheartened. Although I know my dad wouldn't have marched with us, family was in the mix as I saw photos of my sister, her in-laws, and extended family all marching in their respective cities.

Sunday was spent helping Sebastian get his visual aids together for his first oral presentation. He's a shy kid and was dreading this in a big way. After a few tantrums this weekend, he finally collapsed in a sobbing heap after confessing "I'm too shy to do this!" I felt like sobbing, too. But once I asked if he wanted my help to do well on it, he got excited to work on it, to go the library and get pictures to copy, and to make his presentation board. It was incredibly gratifying to see him get very comfortable after practicing his 60-second speech on trains about 5 or 6 times that day. By the end, he had great eye contact, incorporated the visual aids nicely, and used vocal variety. More importantly, by Monday morning, he was confident and excited to give his speech to his classmates.

Today, Lucia brought home some school drawings she made last week and today. I was so moved by the "This land is made for We the People!" drawing below that I teared up, having a private, maudlin moment of wonder and gratitude. Gratitude for her honest heart, for her old hippie teacher who cultivates her mind and sense of justice, and for her belief that her land is as beautifully multicultural as her classroom is. I'm certain my dad would also share my sense of pride in this fact. I'm confident because his highest compliment to me at my wedding reception was a speech where he shared how proud he was of the woman I'd become and the diverse friends I'd surrounded myself with -- a sea of rainbow faces, my lesbian friends jitterbugging on the dance floor, and my own choice of a partner with a background so different than my own.  Yes, I'm sure that Popi would also have found himself with misty eyes if he were to have seen Lucia's drawing.

jeudi, novembre 24, 2016

garden meditation

Garden Meditation - via Heather Hatch McMurphy Kramer
Let us give thanks for a bounty of people.
For children who are our second planting, and though they grow like weeds,
And the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.
Let us give thanks
For generous friends with hearts and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them.
For crotchety friends, sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and
As elegant as a row of corn,and the others, as plain as potatoes
And so good for us;
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and
As humorous as Jerusalem artichokes;
Let us give thanks for serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash,
As persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini,
And for those who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see us through the winter.
Let us give thanks for old friends nodding like sunflowers in the Evening-time, And young friends, coming on as fast as radishes,
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite
Our blights, our wilts, and our witherings.
And finally, let us give thanks for friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their time that we might have life thereafter.
For all of these we give thanks

mardi, novembre 22, 2016

the good that's in us and the good we do will outlive us

This story is heartbreakingly beautiful. Christine Ennis, mom of 3 young daughters, including an infant, is nearing the end of her life due to Stage 4 breast cancer.

"The good that’s in us and the good that we do will outlive us." - Fred Dickey
Mother of three making peace with cancer and death
By Fred Dickey
November 18, 2016, 9:55 AM

I don’t want to write this. I really don’t.

But sometimes you have to swallow hard and do your job, because stories of courage and great decency are so infrequent that to ignore one would betray the journalist’s duty.

Such a story is Christie Ennis.

Christie has Stage 4 breast cancer. I first met and wrote about her last December. At that time, she was battling her disease while eight months pregnant. She impressed me, and a great many others, with her gentleness, strength and affection for everyone. That has not changed. But neither has the cancer, except to get worse.

Christie, 36, her husband, John, and their three daughters live in a small rental home in Clairemont. John works long hours in the restaurant business. He also watches over the kids and does homemaking chores after sleeping for a few hours.

Christie is a pretty woman. A bald head, a body bloated with water and eyes misted with pain and sorrow don’t obscure that.

She is also a lovely woman, but that emanates from who she is, not how she looks.

She is also a brave woman, and you will see why.


I walk into the living room where Christie is curled into a chair with a blanket around her legs. She looks up and smiles broadly and greets me with an outstretched hand.

It’s also present and evident, that damned disease, but she makes it unimportant, just for a moment.

I ask, lamely, how she’s doing.

She knows exactly what I mean, but does not falter. “My cancer has been growing,” she says. The smile weakens but doesn’t leave her lips, because she’s reluctant to spread her grief to someone else.

“We found out last week that it spread to my skull, and through my arms and ribs and pelvis and sternum and legs. It's everywhere. It's in my liver. It's done quite a number on the liver — consumed the right lobe, then affected the spleen, which causes more pain.

“That's all happening right now. It's very difficult because (the doctors’) hope is to keep me alive. Once you're terminally ill, it's very hard.”

John, standing nearby, says: “The conversation with the doctors is more about easing pain and making her comfortable. There's not a whole lot of talk about remission anymore.”

She says, “My tumor markers recently exceeded the maximum measurement, and after that, they stopped counting. I started to feel abdominal pain and have some swelling. I got a fever and I got bad delirium.”

Consequently, she has been put back on chemotherapy, her third session. The chemical is Taxol, and it is very potent. It is injected through a port in her chest. She says it seems to be stopping tumor growth, but no one knows for how long.

“Taxol is supposed to be great. They just have to find the balance for your body. At first, it was really strong. Too strong, like it-almost-killed-me strong.

“It left me writhing on the floor like death. I went to the hospital in an ambulance. People thought I was dying. The dosage had been way too high and it caused terrible side effects.”

John says, “When that happened, I thought we’d lost her.”

What are the side effects?

She looks into the distance, searching for the proper awful words. “It’s crippling. The edema. The sores all through your (gastrointestinal) tract. They start in your mouth, really gross, scabby things that go all the way down. It affects everything … the exhaustion … the neuropathy ...”

Normal cells are orderly and know their place and purpose. Cancer cells, for reasons mainly known only to them, are ones that go crazy and repeatedly replicate and spread. They take over and disrupt the body’s ability to function, and when allowed to run wild, will kill. Microscopic Frankensteins.

Taxol is a chemo drug whose purpose is to destroy those outlaw cancer cells by making them forget how to reproduce. Sometimes it works, often it doesn’t. It also plays hell with normal cells.

However, people who have Taxol injected into them to the extent of Christie are transported to a medieval dungeon where the side effects mimic the rack and iron maiden. If one were to make a list of side effects, the column would carry forward to a second page.

As we talk, daughter Vivian flits around the room, busying herself with 2-year-old things. Grace, 10 months old, sits on the floor nearby, probably strategizing about those first steps she’ll soon embark on. Alana, 6, is at school.

Christie’s lips quiver and her eyes mist. “I don't want to cry, but (chemotherapy is) really much harder this time. I’m having a really hard time.

“It’s dark, very dark, really dark. It's a very awful place to be because you're all alone.

“The weakness. I can't even hold my baby. I can't physically pick her up. That makes me really sad. Somebody else has to do the things that I should be doing for her, like putting her in her high chair or giving her a bath.”

From your tone, I sense you feel guilty.

“Oh, I feel terribly guilty, and I feel helpless. I feel very sad. That's my world. That's my purpose. Raising my children is what I do, but now I can't do that. It resonates from such a deep chord that you can't take care of your own little cubs. It's very sad.”

She looks at Grace playing at her feet. “I can't pick her up when she's crying. It's really very tough. That's the part I mean about being alone. It's also tough on John.”

Her voice is sad but matter-of-fact as she talks about something that’s normal in her situation, but rarely spoken of.

“Oh, it's got to be really tough on him. It's really hard on us at this time. I feel like we're so divided.”

How do you mean?

“Now, he needs to be wrapped up in his job. He works so hard and tries to take care of the kids because I can't. I feel like he's angry, mainly at the disease, maybe even at me a little, which I know is normal. He’s very loving and supportive, but there's not any talking or friendship or the kind of stuff that happened before, that united-ness.”

She accepts my offered handkerchief.

“Thank you.” A short laugh that she doesn’t feel. “It’s better than my sleeve.” **

John talks about the difficulties of making do and getting by in their time of trial. He has a manager’s job at a new pricey steakhouse, and he works as a server at banquets part-time to pay their hefty bills. They have just met their $12,000 out-of-pocket insurance quota, but have found it necessary to employ a full-time nanny.

“Every month, it’s skating on thin ice,” he says of the financial burden.

Even so, the family has started a college fund for the girls, although thus far it’s filled only with good intentions. Both Christie and John are college graduates and want the same opportunity for their daughters.

Christie enjoyed a career working worldwide in the hospitality industry.

Through it all, she retained her Catholic roots and recently adopted a parish in La Jolla called Mary, Star of the Sea.

When you say, "Why me, God?" what comes back to you?

“I don't say ‘Why me, God?’ I just pray for peace, for courage, for strength, and to just keep going.”

I’m amazed at the number of people who care about you, who follow you on Facebook.

“Oh my goodness, it's so overwhelming in the most beautiful way. The prayers and the thoughts and the love that people are sharing … my goodness, all that kindness,” she says in wonder.


John and Christie had settled into what she calls a “solemn partnership” in lieu of marriage, but last summer on a Hawaii vacation, John proposed.

“He said he understood what the road ahead looked like, but that he wanted to be there through everything. He was on one knee by a waterfall. He was fumbling in his backpack and pulled out a beautiful ruby ring. He was so cute. I cried.”

Six weeks ago, John and Christie had a formal wedding in New Jersey. The whole family was there to celebrate with them.

But when she returned, the cancer was waiting — angrily.


Describe the pain, Christie.

“The pain is the worst because it's just such a physical reminder of what you're going through. It's excruciating: sharp and stabbing and dull and achy and sore.

Can you eat OK?

“Yes, give me a big pizza. But I can't eat what I want because there's no space because of the edema. Everything is so swollen, my stomach is so tiny, but I want to eat that whole pizza pie. My appetite is there. Just the ability to eat is hindered.”

Christie does not shy away from straight talk, but this is the question I don’t want to ask: At what point do you say, “No more”?

“It’s really tough. I sometimes think with my life reduced to this, like laying under a blanket ...That’s not a way to live. I know it’s very controversial ...”

What’s controversial?

Her gaze does not leave my face. “California is a right-to-die state. It's something I consider, because I don't …” Christie’s eyes fill at the unfinished thought. “The idea of death is sad for me because I don't want to leave my children, my husband, my family, but I'm at peace with it. It’s OK.

“But being consumed, turned into mush by this spreading thing. It's not something I want anyone to witness. I don't want to have to go through it.”

Speaking those bleak words is tiring, and her voice softens. “It's exhausting, but you just …The option is to lay down, literally lay down and die, but I’m not there yet.”

How would you like people to think of you?

The change of subject momentarily lightens her spirit, perhaps by thinking of friends.

“Wow. I would like them to think of me as positive and loving and kind. However, with the pain, sometimes it's impossible to be a nice human, and I’m not at my best.”

What do you want for the girls?

“I want them to just feel such love and have a solid support system. I want for them to be well-rounded, well-mannered, and good humans. They have to be good humans. They better not go out there and reflect poorly on me.”

Discussing the girls in a future that does not include her is a stab in her heart.

“I really want to get so much better because I ...” She pauses to dab her eyes. “You normally don’t see me cry very much, but I'm a crier these days. I just want to get up and walk around. The things that you take for granted, oh my goodness, the things you take for granted.

“I don’t sleep with John in the same bed. Our bed is physically too high, and so I’ve been sleeping in this front room where the bed is very low … Just things that you miss. Sharing that space with someone.”

John comes in and reminds us that the time nears for Christie to get ready to go to the hospital for her next chemo session. I suggest we stop and start packing up.

Her smile widens and she says, “Yes, please. Let's stop on a note where I'm not crying.”


Cancer is serendipitous. Willful. It can confound oncologists and let its victim survive for years. Or it might shock them by a sudden plunge to the death. But if the affliction is severe enough, it will eventually get to where it’s going.

If cancer doesn’t allow Christie to see her girls grow, loved ones won’t forget how she reached out through the pain and touched them when she could no longer hold them. How she cried at the buds she would not see bloom. And how her soul ached not to leave them.

It’s wisely said that the good that’s in us and the good that we do will outlive us. In years to come, Christie’s daughters will look at the picture on the mantle and ask, “Tell me again what my mother was like?” And the words will glow, and Christie will live.

Fred Dickey’s home page is He believes every life is an adventure and welcomes ideas at

lundi, novembre 14, 2016


“We can’t expect the world to get better by itself. We have to create something we can leave the next generation.” Gwen Ifill, American journalist, television newscaster, and author (September 29, 1955 – November 14, 2016)

jeudi, novembre 10, 2016

all this i did without you

Tom Hiddleston, deliciously reading Gerald Durrell's love letter to his future wife, Lee McGeorge. I'm a puddle after hearing this.

Letter No. 028
July 31st, 1978
My darling McGeorge,
You said that things seemed clearer when they were written down. Well, herewith is a very boring letter in which I will try and put everything down so that you may read and re-read it in horror at your folly in getting involved with me. Deep breath.
To begin with I love you with a depth and passion that I have felt for no one else in this life and if it astonishes you it astonishes me as well. Not I hasten to say, because you are not worth loving. Far from it. It’s just that, first of all, I swore I would not get involved with another woman. Secondly, I have never had such a feeling before and it is almost frightening. Thirdly, I would never have thought it possible that another human being could occupy my waking (and sleeping) thoughts to the exclusion of almost everything else.
Fourthly, I never thought that — even if one was in love — one could get so completely besotted with another person, so that a minute away from them felt like a thousand years.
Fifthly, I never hoped, aspired, dreamed that one could find everything one wanted in a person. I was not such an idiot as to believe this was possible. Yet in you I have found everything I want: you are beautiful, gay, giving, gentle, idiotically and deliciously feminine, sexy, wonderfully intelligent and wonderfully silly as well. I want nothing else in this life than to be with you, to listen and watch you (your beautiful voice, your beauty), to argue with you, to laugh with you, to show you things and share things with you, to explore your magnificent mind, to explore your magnificent mind, to explore your wonderful body, to help you, protect you , serve you, and bash you on the head when I think you are wrong… not to put too fine a point on it I consider that I am the only man outside mythology to have found the crock of gold at the rainbow’s end.
But — having said all that — let us consider things in detail. Don’t let this become public but… well, I have one or two faults. Minor ones, I hasten to say. For example, I am inclined to be overbearing. I do it for the best possible motives (all tyrants say that) but I do tend (without thinking) to tread people underfoot. You must tell me when I am doing it to you, my sweet, because it can be a very bad thing in a marriage.
Right. Second blemish. This, actually, is not so much a blemish  of character  as a blemish of circumstance. Darling I want you to be you in your own right, and I will do everything I can to help you in this. But you must take into consideration that I am also me in my own right and that I have a headstart on you… what I am trying to say is that you must not feel offended if you are sometimes treated simply as my wife. Always remember that what you lose on the swings, you gain on the roundabouts. But I am an established ‘creature’ in the world, and so — on occasions — you will have to live in my shadow. Nothing gives me less pleasure than this but it is a fact of life to be faced.
Third (and very important and nasty) blemish: jealousy. I don’t think you know what jealousy is (thank God) in the real sense of the word. I know you have felt jealousy over Lincoln’s wife and child but this is what I call normal jealousy, and this — to my regret — is not what I’ve got. What I have got is a black moster that can pervert my good sense, my good humour and any goodness that I have in my make-up. It is really a Jekyll and Hyde situation… my Hyde is stronger than my good sense and defeats me, hard though I try. As I told you, I have always known that this lurks within me, but I couldn’t control it, and my monster slumbered and nothing happened to awake it. Then I met you and I felt my monster stir and become half awake when you told me of Lincoln and others you have known, and with your letter my monster came out of its lair, black, irrational, bigoted, stupid, evil, malevolent. You will never know how terribly corrosive jealousy is; it is a physical pain as though you had swallowed acid or red hot coals. It is the most terrible of feelings. But you can’t help it — at least I can’t, and God knows I’ve tried. I don’t want any ex-boyfriends sitting in church when I marry you. On our wedding day, I want nothing but happiness, for both you and me, and I know I won’t be happy if there is a church full of your ex-conquests. When I marry you I will have no past, only a future: I don’t want to drag my past into our future and I don’t want you to do it , either. Remember I am jealous of you because I love you. You are never jealous of something you don’t care about. OK, enough about jealousy.
Now, let me tell you something… I have seen a thousand sunsets and sunrises, on land where it floods forest and mountains with honey-coloured light, at sea where it rises and sets like a blood orange in a multi-coloured nest of cloud, slipping in and out of the vast ocean. I have seen a thousand moons: harvest moons like gold coins, winter moons as white as ice chips, new moons like baby swans’ feathers.
I have seen seas as smooth as if painted, coloured like shot silk or blue as a kingfisher or transparent as glass or black and crumpled with foam, moving ponderously and murderously.
I have felt winds straight from the South Pole, bleak and wailing like a lost child; winds as tender and warm as a lover’s breath; winds that carried the astringent smell of salt and the death of seaweeds; winds that carried the moist rich smell of a forest floor, the smell of a million flowers. Fierce winds that churned and moved the sea like yeast, or winds that made the waters lap at the shore like a kitten.
I have known silence: the cold, earthy silence at the bottom of a newly dug well; the implacable stony silence of a deep cave; the hot, drugged midday silence when everything is hypnotized and stilled into silence by the eye of the sun; the silence when great music ends.
I have heard summer cicadas cry so that the sound seems stitched into your bones. I have heard tree frogs in an orchestration as complicated as Bach singing in a forest lit by a million emerald fireflies. I have heard the Keas calling over grey glaciers that groaned to themselves like old people as they inched their way to the sea. I have heard the hoarse street vendor cries of the mating Fur seals as they sang to their sleek golden wives, the crisp staccato admonishment of the Rattlesnake, the cobweb squeak of the Bat and the belling roar of the Red deer knee-deep in purple heather. I have heard Wolves baying at a winter’s moon, Red Howlers making the forest vibrate with their roaring cries. I have heard the squeak, purr and grunt of a hundred multi-coloured reef fishes.
I have seen hummingbirds flashing like opals round a tree of scarlet blooms, humming like a top. I have seen flying fish, skittering like quicksilver across the blue waves, drawing silver lines on the surface with their tails. I have seen Spoonbills flying home to roost like a scarlet banner across the sky. I have seen Whales, black as tar, cushioned on a cornflower blue sea, creating a Versailles of fountain with their breath. I have watched butterflies emerge and sit, trembling, while the sun irons their wings smooth. I have watched Tigers, like flames, mating in the long grass. I have been dive-bombed by an angry Raven, black and glossy as the Devil’s hoof. I have lain in water warm as milk, soft as silk, while around me played a host of Dolphins. I have met a thousand animals and seen a thousand wonderful things… but –
All this I did without you. This was my loss.
All this I want to do with you. This will be my gain.
All this I would gladly have forgone for the sake of one minute of your company, for your laugh, your voice, your eyes, hair, lips, body, and above all for your sweet, ever surprising mind which is an enchanting quarry in which it is my privilege to delve.

jeudi, octobre 13, 2016

the guest house

The Guest House  
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.

vendredi, juin 24, 2016


History is a vast early warning system. -Norman Cousins, editor and author (24 Jun 1915-1990)


Thoughts on the UK vote to leave the EU:
  1. This is a wake-up call for the coming US presidential election. 
  2. Bigotry and isolationism have a huge cost financially and socially.
  3. Scotland is likely to push for a new vote for independence.
  4. Young people wanted to stay in the EU. That provides some hope. 

lundi, juin 13, 2016

late fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
-Raymond Carter

mardi, juin 07, 2016

family tradition

When I was a little girl, I remember being very excited to go to the polls with my dad after work. Our polling place was in a neighbor's garage. A large American flag was posted on the door and we would quietly wait until it was his turn to step into the booth with his ballot book and vote.

I'm missing my father today. It's election day in California and I'm planning to take my kids to the polls, just like my Popi used to. It's the first time that they'll be old enough to (maybe) remember what it's like.

I'll tell my kids that I'm taking them to the polls like my dad used to take me. I'll tell them how their papi grew up in the shadow of Uruguay's dictatorship, where it wasn't safe to talk about politics or to vote for many years. I'll tell them how I used to work the polls in San Diego County before they were born. I'll tell them about the first time I was old enough to vote. And I'll tell them why this photo in the LA Times gave me goosebumps and brought me to tears as a college sophomore in 1994:
People queued up to vote in the first free elections in South Africa, 1994. Most got in line well before sunrise.

I'm hoping that today's visit to the polls creates a habit and a sense of responsibility. For now, it is an opportunity to talk about raising one's voice in discussions, and participating in making decisions that affect them.

I owe my sense of civic duty to my parents, who spoke of current events and geopolitics every night at dinner. They worked the polls for years in my hometown after retiring. They were also die-hard conservatives who encouraged me to find my own political voice, even though it was diametrically opposed to theirs.

I want the same legacy for my kids and hope that voting and a passion for debate and politics carry on in the next generation the way they have for me. I'm pretty confident that my family stories, along with those of their father, will impress upon them the privilege and responsibility of being informed voters.

So when I step into the booth, clutching my voter guide and asking my kids to be respectful of people around us, this maudlin politico will probably have dewy eyes and her heart in her throat. I'll be thinking of my father, who would've found the lack of civility in this year's elections particularly disturbing. I'm certain that my Popi would've been proud of me for carrying on the family tradition and teaching my kids that democracy means showing up and exercising one of our most precious liberties -- the right to vote.

mardi, mars 22, 2016


Horrified by the news; buoyed by the #PortOuverte offers by strangers to provide shelter to those in need.

jeudi, mars 17, 2016


Friends of ours recently lost their beloved dog. Here is a quote shared by another friend.
We who choose to surround ourselves
with lives even more temporary than our
own, live within a fragile circle;
easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps,
we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only
certain immortality, never fully
understanding the necessary plan...

Irving Townsend

lundi, février 15, 2016

dimanche, février 14, 2016

samedi, février 13, 2016

mercredi, février 03, 2016


"Needing approval is a cultural female disease, and often a sign of doing the wrong thing." Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road

mardi, novembre 10, 2015


"None of us get out of life alive, so be gallant, be great, be gracious, and be grateful for the opportunities you have. We don't know where we might end up, or when we might end up."
- Jake Bailey, 18-year-old student from Christchurch, New Zealand to his graduating class, after being diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma and given 3 weeks to live.
Cancer-fighting student defies doctors to deliver emotional end of year speech 
An 18-year-old student from Christchurch, New Zealand, has defied all odds to send off his school year, delivering a speech to roaring applause at his high school after being diagnosed with cancer. 
Jake Bailey, who had been given three weeks to live by doctors if he did not get treatment, took the stage at Christchurch Boys High School's Prize Giving ceremony in a wheelchair to celebrate the end of his high school career, after being released from hospital to take part in the event. 
In late October, the teen was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, according to New Zealand Herald, an aggressive cancer which can kill if left untreated. "They said, if you don't get any treatment within the next three weeks you're going to die. Then they told me I wouldn't be here tonight to deliver this speech," Bailey said. 
Reminiscing on the final year of high school — one of the most important times in any teenager's life — Bailey focused on commemorating his year's history, achievements and thanked his friends for all their support. He remained resolute throughout the speech, telling the hall the speech "isn't about what's to come, [but] it's about what an amazing year it's been." 
"None of us get out of life alive, so be gallant, be great, be gracious, and be grateful for the opportunities you have," Bailey said. "We don't know where we might end up, or when we might end up." 
After the emotional speech finished, Bailey's cohort banded together to perform the haka for him. "I wish you the very best in your journey, and thank you for being a part of mine," Bailey said, as he finished off his address.

dimanche, novembre 08, 2015


The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible. - Salman Rushdie

lundi, novembre 02, 2015

'home' by warsan shire

I first time the Syrian refugee crisis became real for me was listening to the BBC on my commute to work. I had just dropped off my own children at preschool, when I heard a dispatch from Lampedusa. The story left me with chills, as the journalist described the overturned boat swamped by the waves, and the ongoing search for toddlers drowned at sea.

I began to follow the crisis and months later, I sobbed when I saw a photo of what looked like my son's best friend Mateo. The precious boy had washed ashore, dead, on a beach in Turkey. His name was Aylan Kurdi.

Today, I heard this poem spoken in an impassioned plea by Benedict Cumberbatch. The poem is by the Kenyan-born Somali poet Warsan Shire. I have not been able to get her words out of my head. As a mother, as a woman, as a daughter, as a human being, you have to understand/ that no one puts their children in a boat /unless the water is safer than the land.   Here is the complete poem.
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well 
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back. 
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough 
go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off 
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces. 
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important 
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

dimanche, octobre 11, 2015

my renewed pledge on national coming out day

On National Coming Out Day, I renew my pledge to teach my son (and daughter) what I didn’t learn at home:
  • That the greatest family value is valuing all families.
  • That home is a safe place to be yourself.
  • To embrace your identity and the identities of others.
  • That there is no normal ... there’s who you are and that is wonderfully unique.
  • To speak up for those who are afraid to use their voices.
  • To stand up for those who feel powerless.
  • To be a friend to those who feel alone and are most at-risk for checking out of this world.
  • To fight for a world where there is no need for closets because there is no longer any reason to hide.
  • That love is love, and that loving families come in many shapes and sizes.
  • That they are loved by me and by their father, no matter what.

lundi, octobre 05, 2015


"So much of the media is shouting matches and ideological food fights. It's very hard to have the kind of reasoned discussion of these big ethical questions without creating opportunities to do that." -- Michael Sandel, Harvard professor and rock-star moralist

dimanche, mai 31, 2015

joe biden's address to Yale grads -- poignant, powerful, and true

As Vice President Joe Biden's son was dying of brain cancer this spring, he delivered a speech at Yale that addressed to his own losses and talked about how important his bond with his children was to him.

Biden's first wife and his daughter were killed in a car accident right after his first election to the Senate, when he was 30. In the speech, he downplayed his reputation for resiliency.
"There are countless thousands of people, maybe some in the audience, who’ve suffered through personal losses similar to mine or much worse with much less support to help them get through it and much less reason to want to get through it," Biden said at Yale: Six weeks after my election, my whole world was altered forever. While I was in Washington hiring staff, I got a phone call. My wife and three children were Christmas shopping, a tractor trailer broadsided them and killed my wife and killed my daughter. And they weren’t sure that my sons would live. Many people have gone through things like that. But because I had the incredible good fortune of an extended family, grounded in love and loyalty, imbued with a sense of obligation imparted to each of us, I not only got help. But by focusing on my sons, I found my redemption. I can remember my mother — a sweet lady — looking at me, after we left the hospital, and saying, Joey, out of everything terrible that happens to you, something good will come if you look hard enough for it. She was right. The incredible bond I have with my children is the gift I’m not sure I would have had, had I not been through what I went through. Who knows whether I would have been able to appreciate at that moment in my life, the heady moment in my life, what my first obligation was… And I began to commute thinking I was only going to stay a little while — four hours a day, every day — from Washington to Wilmington, which I’ve done for over 37 years. I did it because I wanted to be able to kiss them goodnight and kiss them in the morning the next day. No, "Ozzie and Harriet" breakfast or great familial thing, just climb in bed with them. Because I came to realize that a child can hold an important thought, something they want to say to their mom and dad, maybe for 12 or 24 hours, and then it’s gone. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. And it all adds up. But looking back on it, the truth be told, the real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me. Some at the time wrote and suggested that Biden can’t be a serious national figure. If he was, he’d stay in Washington more, attend to more important events. It’s obvious he’s not serious. He goes home after the last vote. But I realized I didn’t miss a thing. Ambition is really important. You need it. And I certainly have never lacked in having ambition. But ambition without perspective can be a killer. I know a lot of you already understand this. Some of you really had to struggle to get here. And some of you have had to struggle to stay here. And some of your families made enormous sacrifices for this great privilege. And many of you faced your own crises, some unimaginable. But the truth is all of you will go through something like this. You’ll wrestle with these kinds of choices every day. But I’m here to tell you, you can find the balance between ambition and happiness, what will make you really feel fulfilled.