Friday, October 31, 2008

I'm very honored to be mentioned in Katie Granju's article celebrating Hip Mama's Ariel Gore. It's fun to think of myself as a "momoir" writer, even though I rarely write about my kids any more--it feels different, more like a violation, to crack open our lives now that they're teenagers. This time period is certainly full of material, though--maybe one day in the future, they'll be comfortable with me looking back to this time on the page (assuming we survive it!) I am so grateful for Ariel Gore and Katie Granju and all the other writer mamas who supported one another as we worked to give our parenting experience a voice.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I hope to write about my trip to Toronto soon; in the meanwhile, here's a little essay I wrote about Sarah Palin and my own brief experience as Annie Oakley: Sarah, Put Down Your Gun.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Just in case you haven't seen this yet:
My daughter isn't a fan of Amy Poehler (she doesn't like the fact that she's married to Will Arnett, who Hannah wants all to herself) but even she was impressed by Ms. Pohler's fierce pregnant rapping!
It's been so gratifying to see Republicans speak out against the McCain/Palin campaign and the hate-mongering turn the GOP has taken. I especially love these quotes:

From former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan:
In the past two weeks [Palin] has spent her time throwing out tinny lines to crowds she doesn't, really, understand. This is not a leader, this is a follower, and she follows what she imagines is the base, which is in fact a vast and broken-hearted thing whose pain she cannot, actually, imagine. She could reinspire and reinspirit; she chooses merely to excite. She doesn't seem to understand the implications of her own thoughts.

No news conferences? Interviews now only with friendly journalists? You can't be president or vice president and govern in that style, as a sequestered figure. This has been Mr. Bush's style the past few years, and see where it got us. You must address America in its entirety, not as a sliver or a series of slivers but as a full and whole entity, a great nation trying to hold together. When you don't, when you play only to your little piece, you contribute to its fracturing.

In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It's no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.
From Colin Powell (I'd love to quote his entire Meet the Press interview, but this is the quote that has stayed with me the most. It is clear that he feels the need to atone for his part in the ramp up to war):
I'm also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said such things as: "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is: he is not a Muslim. He's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is: What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is: No, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she can be president?
And from someone I'm more than a little fond of, my wonderful just-turned-89-year-old father, Buzz Brandeis (while he has never been a Republican and comes from a long line of proud Democrats--his dad was a Democratic precinct captain who once ran for Congress--he is a former admirer of John McCain). He wrote this letter to the editor at the North County Times:
We will soon have a new president. The promises, rhetoric and slogans of the campaign will quickly be forgotten. But the character and temperament of our new president will remain constant as he assumes office.

As I recall, "compassionate conservative" was not heard after George W. Bush became president. We listened to his campaign rhetoric, but we failed to understand his character. Eight years later, we suffer from the mistake we made in electing him.

We must not make a mistake this time. We, the voters have the profound responsibility of making sure the right man and his vice-president have those intrinsic qualities that define their strength of character and temperament.

Once again, during the last debate, McCain's anger and temper were so close to the surface ready to explode, a serious character flaw which would dominate the decisions he would make, including going to war. And that flaw is not counter-balanced by Sarah Palin.

That is why I will vote for Obama and Biden who have the inner qualities of strength of character, emotional intelligence and wisdom to lead our country during the very difficult challenges which lie ahead.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

As I write this, the screen is swimming in front of my eyes and my head is pounding, but I'm so glad to be in my house, in my purple velvet desk chair, able to put my fingers on these clacking keys. I was in the hospital Tuesday-Friday--not how I intended to spend my week, but life always has a way of surprising us.

I can't remember whether I've mentioned this on my blog before, but every few months (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter), I have intense vomiting episodes. They start off as a subtle pain on the left side of my belly, and quickly grow into doubled-over pain that comes and goes intermittently, like labor. After a couple of hours of this (along with full body sweats and tremors and the deep desire--every time--to take a hot bath, even though it doesn't help), I'll start to throw up, and it doesn't stop until I go to a doctor's office/urgent care for a shot of Phenergan (it used to be a shot of Compazine until I had a crazy distonic reaction to it that made my lower jaw shoot to the side and get stuck there). No one quite knows what causes this vomiting--it may be my Acute Intermittent Porphyria. It may be abdominal migraines. It may be Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome. It's been happening for 12 or 13 years, but no one's been able to pin down the cause. Whatever it is, though, this time felt different. The pain was more violent--it seriously felt like someone was trying to saw me in half--and the vomiting didn't stop, even after two shots of Phenergan. The urgent care doctor wanted to send me by ambulance to the ER, but my sweet boyfriend Michael drove me instead (you know a guy is built of good stuff when he is willing to clean out your barf bowl.) In the ER, they gave me a dose of morphine for the pain (man, I can see why people get hooked on that stuff) and did an abdominal CAT scan that showed a possible obstruction, so they admitted me to the hospital, where I had a few days of tests and IVs before they let me go, still not knowing what causes this; the obstruction and "bowel thickening" they saw somehow disappeared after the attack was over, and the only thing that showed up on other tests was the fact that I'm anemic. I'm feeling completely wiped out now, but much better than I was, and very grateful to be home and able to eat again. I have to take a few more tests as an outpatient (including swallowing a pill-like camera that will take pictures of every inch of my digestive tract--I'm a bit nervous about swallowing the thing, but think it's a super cool technology. My sister said it's like the Magic School Bus!)

My time in the hospital was boring and uncomfortable--for much of it, I was too zonked to read--but there were moments of grace. Visits from friends and my parents (and of course my lovely boyfriend) helped so much. So did the sweetness of my roommate, who was recovering from a mastectomy. On the day that I was allowed to eat again, my breakfast tray never arrived. "Would you like some fruit?" she asked from behind her curtain. Of course she couldn't have known how important fruit is to me, but it felt like a profound blessing. For her, recovering from something so much more severe than myself, to be so generous and thoughtful, moved me tremendously. I got an email from her today and learned that she has put me on several prayer lists. In return, I ask that you please send good energy to Lee for a swift and full recovery (and to my student Gloria, who is just beginning her journey with breast cancer, as well.)

One thing that blew my mind was the fact that my gastroenterologist studied with the gastroenterologists in Chicago who treated me when I was ill as a teenager with what at the time was diagnosed as Crohn's disease. I haven't quite processed what this means to me fully yet, but it did help highlight an important contrast for me: when I was sick as a teenager, the illness became the center of my life. It was my source of identity, my source of purpose. I let it define me. Being "the sick girl" made me special, kept me safe. I no longer have that relationship with illness. I see myself as a healthy person. Illness, when it comes now, is just a blip, an inconvenience--it's no longer who I am. I am very grateful to have made that shift.

Of course I also want to look at what illness can mean. I think stomach issues come up sometimes when I literally can't stomach something, and of course there is much in the world I can't stomach right now. I just have to remind my body it doesn't have to take on the weight of the world. In the hospital, my friends gave me a card that says "Things to do today: inhale, exhale, inhale, ahhh." "These are your instructions," said Nancy, and I'm trying to follow them. I have so much work to catch up on, but my students and administrators are all being patient and understanding. There will be time to get up to speed on work, on my mountain of email--for now, I keep reminding myself to rest and be gentle with myself, to breathe in, breathe out, to try to let go of all the lingering tension in my body. Even writing this blog post is taking up more energy than I probably should be expending at the moment.

I hope I will be up to traveling to Toronto this Thursday. I'm supposed to represent CODEPINK at the Mothering Movement Embedded Conference next weekend and want to be able to give my presentation the oomph it deserves (plus I want to be able to take full advantage of the time with my sister, who lives in Toronto.) I'll keep you posted, and hope that everyone reading this is staying healthy and happy during these trying times. Toward that end, I am going to lie down and close my eyes. Inhale, exhale, inhale, ahhh...

Friday, October 10, 2008

I saw this comic strip in the paper yesterday, and could relate in a couple of ways--like Mr. Drabble, I always used to kiss my manuscripts before I sent them out into the world as a little good luck bon voyage send off (not so easy to do nowadays when most of my submissions are electronic!) Also, like Mr. Drabble, I am thinking of a bunch of changes I'd like to make in my novel now that I've sent it off to my editor, but I know that we can discuss and work on those things after she's read this draft. I am feeling very nervous as I wait for her feedback!

It's fun to see the little rituals and superstitions that different writers I know have around the submission process--mailing them on a certain, significant day, using a special pen or carefully chosen stamps, saying a little prayer before pushing "send", etc. We do whatever we can to give ourselves the bravery we need to share our work with the world--otherwise, it can be so easy to feel too vulnerable and naked to move forward.

In times of crisis, it is understandable that people tend to reach toward ritual and superstition and prayer, as well. I have mentioned before that the number 47 has become meaningful to me, that it keeps popping up everywhere in my life for years; at first I was worried it was some sort of sign that I would die at 47, but I later took it to be a sign instead that I was on the right path. In this period of personal and national stress, 47 has become a strange little security blanket. I am always so glad when it appears (just about every time I drive, I seem to end up behind a license plate with 47 somewhere on its metal face, and it reassures me, somehow, that I'm where I'm supposed to be.) It's so silly, but I guess we need to turn toward the things that give us comfort, however random they may be.

I finally decided to do some research about the number 47 and learned that there is actually a 47 society that posits that 47 is the "quintessential random number of the universe." The society started as an inside joke at Pomona College, but has attracted many 47-sighters along the way. I joined their listserve and have been amazed to see how many people have a deep relationship with the number and see it everywhere, too (and not just because a Pomona College alum was able to inject a 47 into almost every Star Trek episode when he worked there as a writer and producer!) Part of me is excited to know that I have somehow tapped into this weird collective experience, but I admit another part of me is a bit sad to know that 47 is not just my special number alone.

I hope that everyone who is experiencing unrest right now has their own little source of comfort, even if it's just a number that pops up now and again like a small beam of light. I hope that in a time of such collective unease, we as a culture will figure out how to support each other, how to work collectively toward a more sustainable future, rather than retreat into our own compact balls of misery. It scares me to see the mob (almost lynch mob) anger that is rising up at the McCain and Palin rallies--the shouts of "Kill Him!" and "Off with his head!" and "Terrorist!" that are being directed at Obama. It scares me that people right now want to lash out instead of finding constructive ways to work together. I worry that a McCain presidency would perpetuate and deepen the Us vs. Them mentality that has become so prevalent in our country in the last 8 years. I can only hope an Obama presidency will heal some of these rifts (even though I can see the fury being hurled in his direction). As silly as it is, it gives me hope to know that Obama is 47 years old. That has to mean something, doesn't it? ;)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

We just launched our Give Peace a Vote Campaign at CODEPINK. Here is the text of the alert I wrote earlier this week:
The election is exactly four weeks away. Where is the national conversation about peace? With the economic crisis and the media’s attention on bulls and pitbulls and pigs and lipstick, Iraq has been pushed off into the shadows. It’s up to us to pull it back into the spotlight!

We saw how Congress bowed to the demands of Wall Street, turning a deaf ear to the needs of the people. And while the nation was focused on the bailout, Congress quietly passed a $615 billion defense spending bill! We can’t let this happen again, not when so much is at stake. Let’s use these last four weeks of the election cycle to bring the issues of Iraq and peace back to the forefront. Let’s get out into our communities and build the people power we will need to bring the troops home and prevent future military disaster in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

Click here to pledge to be a Voter for Peace and for the next four weeks, engage with your community to spread the message of peace. Talk to your friends and neighbors and attend political events, community events and debate parties with our petition and ask people to commit to peace. Not just with their vote, but beyond November 4th.

We’ve made pledging for peace fun! You can win great prizes, including a trip to DC in January to be with us in action during the Inauguration, and watch your influence spread across the map as you inspire more people to pledge to vote for peace.

Together, we can build the team we will need to keep the pressure on through the next administration, no matter who ends up at the helm. As we saw last week, Congress caves all too easily to the call of Wall Street and the White House, pouring money into bailouts and defense that could have been put toward education and health care and renewable energy. Let’s remind them that Peace needs to be at the top of their agenda.
I hope you'll join me in pledging to vote for peace!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

My beautiful friend Laraine Herring gave me permission to share part of her recent email, which made me feel I could take a deep breath for the first time in a long while:
There is a lot going on now. This has all been coming for a very long time. It’s the election, sure, but it’s the economic collapse — which has been on a collision course for years. It’s the environment. It’s too many people. Too much consumption. It’s the helplessness of realizing our economy has been built only on consumption, and if we try to live responsibly & simply, our economic system as we know it cannot survive. These are necessary collapses. America is coming undone and that’s going to put everyone on edge. I have had so many students (young ones too) extremely ill — strokes, cancers, etc) this semester — very odd — a visceral, body response perhaps to what is happening in the world? The suffering that has been hidden is coming into the light — the inequities of the way we’ve been living is pushing up from inside the earth and forcing us to look at what we’ve done to each other & to our planet. This has been coming a very long time. I don’t know if that makes me more confident that Barack will be elected because we so desperately need a leader to take us to the next level of collective consciousness, or if it makes me more confident that McCain will be elected because we are still not yet ready to release the things that are keeping us in this cycle. All I can tell you is that whatever happens, the key for working through it is taking care of yourself — not in a selfish way, but in a very profound spiritual way. It is a time for shedding and releasing. A time for going deep within ourselves & see how we have contributed to this unsustainability & to see what we can do — and it begins within. Getting simpler, living simpler, noticing small beauties, and above all else, doing the work we were put here to do without regard for outcome.

I really believe that alignment through these upcoming trials is going to come through walking an authentic path moment to moment. If you let yourself go too far in the future, it will be too easy to spin out of control. It’s a very edgy time. It’s very scary when belief systems fall away. That’s what’s happening. People’s beliefs on marriage, love, race, etc — they’re imploding pretty much all at once. Charles Johnson has an interesting piece in this month’s Shambhala Sun on an Obama presidency & the illusion of race in America. Even the belief in the American economy. Dead. And it’s OK — things fall apart so they can be put back together. Nationally, we’re seeing that we had no control over things to begin with — another illusion shattered. It’s scary. Keep letting go. Stand naked & shimmering in your beautiful self. That’s where you’ll find freedom (& all of us will). Keep yourself healthy. Maintain a practice of some kind. And, to paraphrase the Tao, when a house falls on your head, be yourself.
Wise words, indeed.

I have been trying to look through a lens of love instead of a lens of fear, to open, not contract, my heart, but it's not always easy when so many things in my life feel uncertain. I love this picture of my son looking through a heart-shaped tube. Arin turned 18 on Sunday; I have an adult kid--how crazy is that?! I am so proud of him--he really is someone who lives life fully, who makes the most out of every single moment; he's smart and funny and strong and kind and just an all around wonderful person. And he gets to vote next month, which makes me so excited--another yes for Obama! In the meanwhile, I keep reminding myself to both let go and cherish, let go and cherish, and try to be myself even when a house lands squarely on my head.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

As we wait to verify the authenticity of the previous post about John McCain, I thought I'd offer a link to a no-authentication-needed round-up of renowned women speaking out on Palin and the election. Enjoy!

UPDATE: I decided to delete the post in question--I don't want to perpetuate untruths (even though the story still does ring of truth for me.) As a poster so wisely said, we have enough ammunition against McCain without spreading undocumented stories.

The last few weeks have gotten me seriously off-balance. I haven't felt so ungrounded in a long time. A lot of it is election-related, I'm sure (just looking at Palin and/or McCain makes my blood boil); I know now is the time to be more grounded and vigilant than ever, but I find myself feeling afraid and angry and out of sorts more often than I'd like (although the recent polls have me much more hopeful than I had been.) I'm also dealing with some confusing parenting issues right now with my 14 year old, and that plus financial stress, publishing uncertainties, and allergies that are kicking my butt have all put me in a bit of a funk. I suppose it's a good thing to be down every once in a while--I tend to skew toward Pollyanna-ish, and it's good for me to drop into my own shadow from time to time. I am seeing a lot of things I am not happy with in myself right now, and hopefully this will be a real opportunity to grow (and grow stronger.) If I want to change the world, I have to be willing to change myself, as well.

Don't worry--I know I'll be fine, and there's a lot of really great stuff going on in my life, too, but I thought I should acknowledge the lows as well as the highs.