To read an excerpt from the book, please click on the following link:

ashaveilbook.blogspot.com


Thursday, November 09, 2017

Thou Doth Protest

I apologize to my many faithful readers for my absence. I've simply been dealing with life and all its ways. I am working to create space in my life for this blog, which I realize more and more is a connection with readers in the world outside the bedroom where I write this (in fact, I'm actually typing this while in bed, as rain falls outside).

So here are some updates:

I am doing well with my shoulder injury, though recovery is slow. It's still steady. I am happy with my physical therapy, though I absolutely hate how cold the place is. I have far more mobility.

Writing is going okay. I'm working steadily.

I must report that Halloween was wonderful and one of the best I've had this year.

And with that, please know I am doing great and am going to be much more in the habit of writing my letter to the world.

The world has become such a strange place, especially politically, and I'd love to be doing some commentary on that as long as it feels safe to do so.




Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Yes, Handmaid's Tale

To my Far-Away Friend, yes, the picture in the previous post is from the fine-edition printing of The Handmaid's Tale, published by the Folio Society. The illustrations are quite evocative and so I will be featuring them over the next few days.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Waltz

I feel badly about the post I recently deleted, not because the subject is not important to me, but because it feels unfair to the person I wrote about, for whom I care very much, and who has gone more than the extra mile to be kind to me. And still, my psychic wounds are very deep and raw right now.

So let's get to the heart of it, for me.

There was a situation between my friend and me which was painful beyond measure and which struck me to the very core of my feelings as a woman, a rape survivor, and simply someone who has had to live in a sexist culture my entire life. Yes, I know men suffer, too: but there was definitely no suffering on the part of the men, including my friend, involved in a particular scene that night. Their conversation indicated that it was perfectly fine, in their view, to buy and sell women for their own use, without any regard for the humanity and circumstances of these women. How this differs in their minds from trafficking, I don't know. Hearing it cut to the very heart of myself as a person; I felt demeaned. My friend apologized later, but I question now: what is his view, really, of women? Does he really respect women? Is it just lip service to sound good to women? Why must we all make such excuses for unacceptable behavior, as I have tried to do over and over? I feel like a raw wound when I contemplate these things, and have been sick at heart about it all. As much as I miss my dear friend right now, I am also afraid, and I do not like to feel that way.

He said he was sorry, over and over. I have to give him the benefit of the doubt, that it was real. But it's still a wound, for me.

But something happened just after he went on his trip, a simple thing that healed my heart and made me feel as if I was respected, and even beautiful again. Thistle's school holds a barn dance every Fall, and hires a terrific square dancing caller and a professional band of fiddlers, etc. The caller is a great guy, extremely kind, and incredibly patient at directing a bunch of kids and parents who don't know how to square dance. I was a bit sad that night because I was supervising kids and didn't have much time to dance. Square dancing is actually quite fun, I've discovered, over the years.

At then end of the square dancing, it seems that a waltz is customary, at least with this set of musicians, etc . The caller (who I have to say is tall and handsome, and gracious) came up to me, bowed like a goddamned gentleman, and said, "May I have this dance?" And I said yes. He wasn't the strongest lead, and I told him I hadn't waltzed in years, but he led me around the floor, and we talked and laughed, and even flirted a bit, very innocently. I had no trouble looking him in his (incredibly beautiful, crystal-blue) eyes, laughing, and feeling safe, all a rarity with me. He said not to be scared, that I waltzed very well. At the end, he bowed again, thanked me for the dance, and went off to pack up and get going.

Having been in the presence of a real gentleman who treated me respectfully, I ended up feeling so much better about myself. Certainly I should feel great about myself all the time, but when in the presence of crass, ugly talk that is offensive, it's easy to feel like you're covered with someone else's psychic slime.

The few moments I had, waltzing with a man who knew to treat me as a person of worth, a person to be respected, never overstepping boundaries, healed my very sad heart to a great degree.






Saturday, September 23, 2017

Revisiting

I've put my last post in drafts; it was harsher against a friend of mine than I really wanted, given that he was kind, tender, and so gentle and reassuring after the incident I described. And the making-up for something we do wrong often outweighs a bad (or boneheaded) mistake.

In my next post, I am going to describe a time with a true gentleman, recently, after the bad incident--just a waltz, but one which helped me feel like a cherished and beautiful woman again, a few days after a very bad incident where I felt demeaned and ugly.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Dragonfly at the Heart of It All

Much sadness: a day without email is like a day without sunshine, lol. Then I get edgy: what the hell did I do now...when something else was the case: no wireless, phone misplaced, in transit, then here I am again. Sometimes they come in late at night: a large time difference separates us. I conjure phantoms I tell no one, nag no one about, knowing that worries are just that: ghosts. I don't want to haunt anyone: the gentleness shown me is the gentleness I will return. I don't know what is going to happen, what's the path: what is, is good beyond anything I hoped for.

Then a dragonfly sticker in the window of where they are staying: it says these days are different, don't fear. They know this is the most potent symbol I have: the one my sister and I made a pact around. If I die first, I will send you the sign of a dragonfly, to know there is a life beyond this one, to say we are here. Lonely and sad despite email after email, my heart rises when they send me a sticker of a dragonfly in the apartment they are in: complete serendipity. I don't feel so lonely. Above any person except myself, they know what it means to me

Not even telling them I miss them because I don't want to ruin things, even though the night before they left I held them close--they are so light now, so fragile-feeling; it really scares me--and said I would really, really miss them, and they said the time will pass quickly, they will be back soon. So they know, and even though I don't say it, and I don't write it, at least not yet, I do: I miss you.




Friday, September 15, 2017

Used to It

In less pain from missing someone--really, it's easier to write this to the whole world than tell them, because I don't want to ruin their time away.

In other news, I have decided to really limit my news intake to a very short time in the day. I'm not getting any writing, dance practice, etc., done. It's like I'm addicted to a soap opera that runs 24 hours a day. Yes, I want to be socially aware. I want to keep up with the news. I want to remain socially conscious. But I don't want to just throw my life under a steamroller of stress over things that are going to unfold, or not, in Washington.

So perhaps I'll have some other things to talk about in the coming days other than missing my friend and freaking out over the news.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Too-Great Missing

In such sadness and distress over missing someone, feel like I can barely get through the day... how stupid, right? This person cannot possibly miss me like this, can they? 

And what a surprise, this depth of sadness...and why? It does not help that a few days before we parted, there opened up a huge gulf of fear and sadness, especially on my part: as if a mask slipped off and I saw my friend as if in a distorted mirror. We spoke and I feel they understand, but I could have stood up for myself more. and been more clear. And took what I think was a sincere apology to heart.

Ah, the complications of the human heart: do we ever unravel the complex feelings we have for others? No, I think it's like a skein of handmade, painted yarn: one color here, another here, light and shadow, maybe a thorn that wasn't carded out, a ravelled edge. I think so.
 


Friday, September 08, 2017

Something Pretty

Having some sadness over someone who has left town for a little while, and missing them. It is not a big change as compared to what others are enduring. But let's all remember that the people in our lives are the most precious things we have.

This is "You Can Close Your Eyes" by James Taylor.






Friday, August 25, 2017

Shoulder

Some updates on the new injury:

I had a physical therapy session last week (after literally weeks of chasing down my insurance). This was my assessment plus some work on the shoulder. The physical therapist showed me what was probably wrong, did some manipulations, including a curious one which involved placing her forearm in the interstice between my shoulder and the chest wall and gently but forcefully pushed down. I heard and felt my shoulder "crack" (like knuckles cracking) at least three times, and the pain subsided!  She said to continue to do my exercises which a doctor had showed me with the past injury at the end of May or so, use ice and heat, use my brace, and generally be careful. I was able to dance that night with arm motions.

I felt well enough to go to the total eclipse, even though I did have shoulder issues throughout, but minor ones compared to pre-physical therapy.

I have caught flak from at least one related person because I was unable to attend my dad's funeral on the 11th, just after the second fall and shoulder injury.

You know, to any family member who comes to read this: I felt better and I went to the eclipse. And that's the bottom line. If I had physical therapy the week I got hurt, and had the improvement I experienced last week, I would have gone to Dad's funeral.

Do I regret and feel badly about having to miss Dad's funeral? Yes, and most especially because people put so much work into it.. But nobody knew what was wrong with my shoulder after the second fall. I had no idea that physical therapy could decrease my pain like that.

So there it is.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Infamous Walkway

Here is the infamous walkway where I fell. It's obviously for wheelchair access, but everyone uses it as a walkway. I fell the first time just at the first opening; the second time near the end of the walkway, where the red truck is parked today. You might not be able to see it, but the concrete parking things in the spaces are offset. I fortunately did not hit them. I think these curbs need to be painted a bright color to be more visible.

My MRI has been put off until I have a week or two of physical therapy, because my doctor said it would "justify" the MRI. My pain is less (a little) and my mobility is (slightly) better. Still, a tear has not been ruled out. 

In the meantime, I looked up exercises (for seniors) to improve balance and will be doing these daily.

And not taking this walkway out to the parking lot again!


Sunday, August 13, 2017

All Fall Down

I was not able to sleep well last night due to shoulder pain, even in the brace (I have a very soft shoulder brace, essential at night now). I slept in a little. Absolutely had to get up today. I have a household and have to be present. Right now am using Relafen re: my doctor liking this for pain relief. It is one of my regular lupus meds, an anti-inflammatory I am to take as needed, usually. I thought it did not do any good until I began using it for the shoulder. I'm sitting at the kitchen table, where I usually write.

I have to confess to my readers that this is not the first time I have fallen like this (or seriously tripped) over the last two years, aside from the hiking accident where I fractured my spine (fell into a creek from a high bank. I walked around with the injury for a very long time until I started having horrific sciatica, pain in my right hip, etc. An MRI showed the spinal fracture, down near the bottom of my spine, and a slightly bulging disc). This took extended physical therapy to help. I should have gone to the doctor right away, and I didn't. I have a long, long history of neglecting myself.

Over the last couple of years, I have fallen only once in dance class (I was dancing in socks, on carpet). Not too bad, didn't hurt the hip, but was embarrassing. As an "older" dancer, I feel the need somehow to prove myself, which is stupid. I nearly lost my footing twice in another class. Curiously, in the most demanding style of all, Haitian dance, with very quick turns, etc., I have never once lost my footing. Most of the time, I am fine, with some attention to warming up my hip joints, lower back, etc.

But in the last few months, I have begun to have some spills...not just the serious ones at the Tannery in May and last week.  BTW, I realize my readers don't likely know what the Tannery is: it's an old leather tanning factory which has been turned into a successful arts center and is quite the jewel here in Santa Cruz. Many of my dance classes are held here. It's a cool place.

I tripped on the stairs weekend before last. My foot (always the right one) caught on the rough edge of the top stairs (whatever you call the metal thing that is supposed to be there, was not there), and fell, mostly onto my front.

I fell on the sloping driveway of the house, trying to get my purse out of the passenger side and losing my footing on gravel. Fell on my side, twinging the shoulder (this was pre-new-Tannery injury).

I have not tripped on toys in the house, though, but I sure have broken a few crayons and some of the cheaper plastic things underfoot. I am careful with the small person I watch a couple of days a week. She is mobile now and I have a good stroller also, so there is some natural adaptation there.

I realize now that these falls and near-spills are increasing. Is it because I am rushed, harried often, and just not being careful in this year when there has been a new addition to the family at large, and I am responsible for more childcare, thus increasing stress and distraction? That is some of it.

I also fear that some of this is due to the fact that I am getting older.

It's hard to write those words. One thinks that every healthy thing: dance, good food, exercise, etc., is going to push back the tide, but the tide comes in, still. 

I don't want to be the person who has to lose independence because all she does is fall. I don't want to go back to using walking support as I did years ago. I want those days behind me, not ahead of me.

But the truth is, I have seriously injured my shoulder in a repeated way, and I am going to end up with a more serious injury, there or somewhere else, if I keep falling. My Zen teacher, Katherine Thanas, died a few years ago as a result of a similar fall I took this last time. I took care of her along with other members of the Zen community. The wound high on her forehead looked like a large purple star. She never came out of her coma and died in her home, in hospice care (but surrounded by a community who loved her). She always treated me with some bemused humor, as if I were an errant schoolgirl: part of the way she encouraged me. I'll never forget the cute teddy bear on her bed, with a sandalwood mala around its neck.

I have decided to begin yoga again (as suggested by my doctor) pretty much as soon as my doctor says. There is a good adaptive yoga class locally which I have been to before. I can try that. I can try to begin gentle balancing exercises at home (holding on to tables and chairs!). I can get better walking shoes. I can find a more sensible way to leave the Tannery (my plan is to go out through the courtyard past the cafe and offices, and avoid the curbing altogether). I have really good boots for winter, which is the larger concern if we have a bad winter as before.

So I suppose I will be narrating, in this blog, this new process of finding balance again. Will my efforts be fruitful? I can't see how they wouldn't be, on some level.


No News Is Not Good News

Some people have asked me to update my blog. I realize I haven't updated in a couple of weeks.

Sorry, readers: I have little good news. I was doing better, but not anymore.

My original shoulder injury, acquired around the end of May, got much better by the end of July. I did not get physical therapy due to an insurance run around and did not have an MRI, just did the one exercise my doctor showed me, lots of heat via one of those heat pillow things that you heat in the microwave, Advil, and sleeping somewhat uprightish. I was still supposed to be careful. There was still some pain, but it usually went away once I got more mobile during the day. My doctor said it was okay to just watch it and make sure I was making steady progress. Dancewise, I was still modifying my arm movements in Haitian dance, but those are demanding and I felt I would get back to them, in time. I was still scared, as I have written before.

I gave a fairly good performance with Dancers of the Crescent Moon...actually, an excellent one. I was careful not to carry luggage and I used a rolling bag. There was some pain when I put on the costume top, which is hard to get on at best. A fellow dancer helped tug down the most problematic part (the back).

And now, here it is...drum roll, everyone...I AGAIN was at the Tannery again a couple of days ago, chatting with a friend. AND...

I tripped over the walkway curb, not in the very same place, but close. Sailed over in what I can only describe as a perfect arc.

And fell again, into a parking space, only harder than before, onto my right arm, hip, and shoulder, and getting skinned hands to boot. If I had fallen just right, I would have hit my head (just like last time). I rolled over on my back and started crying. A friend took me to Urgent Care about an hour after.

Because I'm nothing but clumsy, or just not watching because I am always gabbing with people on the way out. Or because my adrenaline is so high after dance that I am not watching anything. Or because the curb is so low it is hard for me to see it.

My shoulder, by the way, started making these creepy, sort of popping noises, though it is not broken. My hip is okay. They don't think my spine re-fractured either of those times, though that is always the risk (I injured my spine in a hiking accident). Somehow I have never hurt that again.

I have an MRI scheduled for Tuesday (pain level is pretty bad, so justified, sooner rather than later). Physical therapy starts next week also. I have pretty much stayed in bed, though I when I get up to use the bathroom, etc. I do the arm exercises (they involve bending over at the waist and swinging the arm like a pendulum).

It is going to be a long time before I am at all back to any form of normalcy, no matter what. This is not back to square one. This is back to square negative one, or ten, or whatever.

Rather ludicrously, my regular doctor cautioned me the next day about being older and the increased chance of falling. No kidding. He suggested yoga. Er...not right now.

 The results this time? I can't:

1) Lift my arm to shoulder height without pain that says, "No further." Hard to describe, but like one of those doors that slams down over a castle gate: thou shalt go no further. Similar to last time, but worse pain.

2) Rotate my arm all the way around (rotator cuff, right?)

3) Make one false move or I get pain radiating from my shoulder blade to my bicep...that relentless tendon pain. This is worse pain than before, but in a different spot, near the scar where I had surgery years ago. Was it always weak there, after?

4) Reach up to brush my hair, put on a shirt, etc.

5) The only real painless place for my arm is in this position (I am in bed, typing away),  and in the position for the rotator cuff exercise (bending over and making a circle with the arm held straight, like a pendulum). Expect more blog posts, because sitting on my rear and typing away is about all I can do right now.

It's like everything before, plus more.

I could not go to my father's memorial service in L.A. because of the not-traveling thing my doctor said to do until I get an MRI.  I feel horrible about not going...tonight, around ten, I was doing the ice-and-heat routine, when I felt a well of sadness open up, like a black hole. It's as if the grief was saying hello and marking the place in my body where the grief about him will live forever. I miss my dad and feel that now there will be a harder time with closure than I bargained for.

There are probably other things I am going to miss, but that is the one which hurts and angers me the most. I don't care about dance or anything else. That can come back in time. I had one chance to see his service. Granted, I did go to Oklahoma, but I wanted to go to both.

By the way, why do the Tannery people have that curb at all?? It's not like they have rare flowers growing in that part of the property. One of my friends suggested that I call the director of the Tannery and tell them what happened, and perhaps they can paint the curb. I've seen a couple of people trip, but not like I did, though my friend E. said she fell in the parking lot a few months ago, though not tripped up by a curb.

And the other questions: am I just subconsciously sabotaging everything I want to do with my life right now, from going to something important like a memorial service, to being fully engaged with dance, to simply brushing my own hair? Am I trying to punish myself? Heck, is the Tannery haunted and a poltergeist just keeps pushing me down? Is there a vortex to the underworld there? Is the hot air spewing out of Donald Trump's mouth traveling across the country, knocking everyone down in its wake?

Okay, now I am being deliberately silly. The truth is likely the most simple: I was gabbing, I was full of adrenaline, I was not paying any sort of attention, maybe even something to do with the fact that I was wearing the same shoes as before, which is not so great.

And I fell, again. Occam's razor, after all: the simplest answer is the best.

More updates as the days go on.

And yes, I have some political things to write about which makes my doubly-injured shoulder seem like nothing. As I said, because I can do not much more than sit here and type, I'll regale you perhaps tomorrow. Right now, rest.

















Thursday, July 27, 2017

Clarify

So, after a long and painful interval after the publisher's rejection of Asha's book (albeit what I know was a difficult one for them), I am going back to her story. Two very important questions have come into my mind about the murder--none of which will change the case, of course, except for a set of details which have raised a terrible and important question: did someone other than Michael McClish know about her murder before she was found and failed to report it, for whatever reason? 

That question has arisen from three years of information-gathering about the case. Does it matter? Yes, absolutely, in my opinion. Could I be wrong? Yes, which is why I have only presented this as a theory, based on some ideas coming out of my research. 

Believe me, I didn't stumble on that one and get excited because I had found some "juicy" thing to write about. It made me sick, that anyone could be so heartless in that way. It is something I completely hope I am wrong about, that I am conjuring phantoms.

And as always, I have been struggling with the moral questions of writing about Asha. Even though I knew her, a little, and McClish a bit better, even though I live locally, even though my blog at the time was one of the only sources of news about the crime: does that somehow make it okay for me to write an entire book about her? Have I approached anyone who knew her in a wrong way? Have I done anything to cause further hurt, or pain?

I am hoping that the latter question means that I am NOT trying to exploit her death, and that I am constantly checking myself as I look deeper into the reasons I am writing this story. 

The truth is that when she was taken from our community, the world changed permanently and irrevocably here. No one from that time has forgotten her, or her child. Somehow she compels people to remember her: why is that? And why in the name of God was such a good and precious person taken away? 

And did someone else, someone other that Michael McClish, know what had happened to Asha after she disappeared and before she was found? Believe me, I hope that it's not true: but as I have learned over and over, one seriously never knows.



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Back

I've no desire to return to the many years when I blogged once a year or so to tell everyone I had survived teaching another couple of semesters at San Jose State. Given my large readership--for which I am eternally grateful--I really should blog much more.

So, what's been going on with me? Here's the digest:

1) I am currently conflicted about my right to tell Asha's story in my book. I know I do not want to exploit her death and that of her child in any way, especially for the advancement of my own writing or "fame." I feel afraid at this point to approach family who loved her so and are scarred permanently by her death, even though my intention is to create the most powerful memorial to Asha that I can. I feel her story has a larger significance and resonance with many, many women, including myself. I could so easily have shared her fate, albeit by another man, that I actually have survivor's guilt over it.

But still, do I have the right, the moral right, to tell her story, going above the wishes of one person whose life entwined with hers? How can I get over my fear of approaching family and friends without hurting them further, and explain the intent of my book so that I am not viewed as some horrible ghoul? What exactly are the rights of any writer to tell any story?

So that's one thing keeping me up at night even as I try to forge ahead,

2) I had an excellent publisher approach me out of the blue regarding Asha's story.  They reluctantly decided not to take it, telling me that the story seemed "too regional" to publish successfully (I totally disagree, but whatever). Still, their excitement over it and the encouragement has meant everything to me, and their support and professionalism was amazing. I am considering looking for an agent even as I struggle with whether I should write this story at all.

3) I have a serious shoulder injury which will impact my ability to possibly perform with at least one of my troupes for some time. I am still dancing with modification and will perform with Dancers of the Crescent Moon this weekend. The choreographies are not usually that hard on the shoulder. I'm in a shoulder brace, especially at night. I will be in physical therapy soon, I hope. Beyond that is an unknown.

So there are some challenges in my life right now. But there is also modified dance, gardening to the best of my ability, enjoying the peace of the forest where I live, reading, writing in my journal--much to be grateful for!

Gratitude, I think, is everything.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Leaves Slide Down

The above is titled as such because I've always thought that leaves really seem to slide down the air, not fall.

This has been a tough year. My father died, as well as three of my dearest friends. I had a couple of professional losses which were real disappointments. I seriously injured my right rotator cuff and am looking at physical therapy first, an MRI if that doesn't help the problem, and then beyond that, other interventions

 I have a performance at the end of the month with Dancers of the Crescent Moon. My other troupe...not sure I will be back up to speed for some time. It's frustrating...have heard that surgery means you can be regaining strength and ability in the shoulder for at least a year. To have something impact me like this with the dancing I love: wow. Never saw that one coming.

This has definitely been a time of falling for me, literally and figuratively!


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Witness

I am witnessing a friend engaging in what I am sure is a manic phase, given the behavior, and the thought processes which are tipping dangerously into grandiosity. I can't diagnose anyone with bipolar disorder--I am bipolar type 2 under very good control with Lamictal--and I don't know if there are other disorders of the brain which involve manic phases. But this is the only description I can muster of what I am seeing.  I fear the other side of this, when the crash comes...because I know EXACTLY what that is like. Lamictal has smoothed out my mood disorder a great deal. I am still highly creative (I mean, I'm not boasting, but the images and language of writing still flow...I don't have the wild sense that my brain is on fire, which was the height of the manic phase for me. But I have a creativity that is like embers and a very steady flame, and am glad for it.

I am not always a good friend to this person, and should be. I tend to simper and say, "Oh, that's great!" to behavior that worries me. I timidly said something small this time and there was no response. I'm afraid to say more because I know well that irritability which goes along with the manic phase. I'm scared there is going to be more. It is hard to know what to do.

Speaking for myself, I think that the hardest part of being engaged in manic behavior is that I either had no idea what I was doing, or found myself unable to put the brakes on. Even now, I appreciate someone pointing out when I am having breakthrough symptoms, which generally are small and controllable.

So what to do? Break out the popcorn and wait for this person to crash, and keep being there for them? Simper around and say everything will be all right when often, everything is not all right?

The truth is that I can't change anyone. None of us can. I can't put the brakes on for this person. My world had to crash down around me in order for me to start looking at how I was wrecking my life.

There is a saying or two in Al-Anon about not standing in someone's way as they face consequences in their lives: one is "Get Off His Back, Get Out Of His Way, Get On With Your Life."

I think that is good advice for me right now, much as it hurts.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fathers

I went to Stillwater, Oklahoma this weekend, to my father's memorial service. At some point, I will bring some of his ashes back to Mississippi and place them with his mother and father, and his brother who lived only one day.

My dad is woven forever into my heart. I am so lucky to have had him for 57 years of my life. Many people lose their parents much earlier.

I will never forget his voice and his laugh, his amazing stories.

Last night I found his final letter to me, a sweet note telling me how much he loved me. The handwriting was so shaky--how long did it take him to write?

Yesterday, I cut back blackberry vines on a hot, bright day--so clear and bright, and suddenly felt I was with him in Mississippi, chopping back vines to clear a garden space. The scene set itself so clearly in my mind that I felt transported there.

I think we never get over losing our parents. My relationship with my father was complicated, with a tangle of history made of shadow and light threads. I am even grateful for the complexity.

Hard to believe he is gone.

So it goes.

Here's a photo of him in Hawaii, my very favorite one.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

More Than Ever

I have not really felt like blogging. The world feels like it is caving in on me. My father's death, a slew of personal things involving one of my kids, dreading my father's funeral in Oklahoma, the turmoil in our country, etc. Now I also have a serious injury.

Two weeks ago, after a wonderful African dance class that felt so healing, I caught my foot on a curb in the parking lot and took a hard and very painful fall onto asphalt. I have badly strained, perhaps torn slightly, my right rotator cuff. I cannot raise my arm in certain positions without pain. Performing is out of the question right now. I wonder if I will really be able to dance again, though I am certain I will. At 58, it takes more time for injuries to heal. I'm doing all the exercises and treatments the doctor has said to do. I will likely get physical therapy.

I have survived serious injuries to dance again: removal of a tumor on the same shoulder which now has the rotator cuff injury. I injured my knee early in dance with a teacher who understood nothing about body mechanics. I badly injured my right hamstring a few years ago by slipping on a friend's too-slippery floor. I fractured my lower spine in 2013, and daily do exercises to help this. I have no doubt that, in time, my shoulder will be okay. Physical therapy and not pushing beyond my capabilities right now are wonderful things, especially.

In the meantime, I am attending dance classes, keeping my arms down at hip level, and am focusing on body mechanics, with really interesting results--really learning how the muscles work in certain aspects of dance and choreographies, focusing on steps and cleaning up my footwork, really listening to music...amazing what can be done when you don't really have to focus on what your arms are doing.

Talk about making lemonade out of lemons!  That part has been so interesting and something I might not have focused on had I not acquired this injury.

It's an interesting time...the weather is beautiful, but the sensibility of each day seems foggy and clouded. I know things will change--they always do--and I wait for the wheel of fortune to turn in my favor again.













Sunday, May 21, 2017

No End

I have a delusion which I hear is common after the death of a loved one. I feel as if my father is still alive and all I have to do is pick up my phone and call him, and he will answer.

My father had his shadows, most definitely, like all of us...and yet his goodness, his devotion to family, and most especially the stable, happy life he gave his children when we were small, means everything to me.

I remember one summer he built a little A-frame house in our huge backyard, for a playhouse for us. I remember walking with my sister and a friend over to the next-door neighbor's house and back--it seemed such a safe world then, though my mother always made me walk with a buddy. I saw my dad on the roof of the A-frame, his toolbelt around his waist, and loved him so much for building a playhouse. My first memory is of him unwrapping a toy pink-and-blue terrycloth elephant for me. I was chin-high with the coffee table.

I remember the terrible day my father came home to tell my mother and grandmother (who lived with us) that he had been let go from his job. I was so small that I was in my mother's arms, and when my dad started crying, I did, too. He was probably only in his early thirties, already with three children. I remember his khaki uniform with his name stitched in red above the shirt pocket, because I could see it when he held me, and I remember him wearing that uniform the day he came home. What happened? Was there a layoff, or did he do something wrong? I won't ever know--one of the many things I won't be able to ask him.

 I can imagine why he was so upset and afraid. He had a house, a mortgage, small children to care for. And what my dad did was establish the same type of business he had been fired from. And he grew that business into a strong and steady, and highly lucrative one. He never had to be fired again.

So many stories about a man who taught me what integrity and hard work means. I never expected the world to hand me everything on a platter, that I would have to work hard to get things in life and that was okay...and I would appreciate things more if I worked hard for them.

I'll leave you with a picture of my cool dad, being cool.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My Dad, David Gordon McMillan, July 25, 1928--May 16, 2017

My father died at 3:30 a.m. yesterday. He died in his sleep of old age, bless him. I am glad he is past his pain and in a better place.

In many ways, I held on and tried to survive all my health challenges because I did not want to die and have him grieve another child. He lost his daughter, my sister Maryanne, in 2008. I could not bear to have that happen to him again.

I will probably be writing more on this loss in the days to come.

I think nothing unanchors a person more than the death of parents. Both my parents are gone now, and my elder sister. This year I have had three close friends die also.

What it says to me is the old story of how precious this life is...a cliche, I suppose, but we are all so lucky to have this time on earth.

Here is a photo of him, probably on one of the road trips we all loved to take.



Saturday, May 06, 2017

Wild Rose

I love these flowers. This is growing on a spectacular wild rosebush in the woods.


Monday, May 01, 2017

Waterfall

I am trying to re-commit to posting here every day. I am in an exhausting work situation right now, but do not want to return to the days of posting once a year or so because of that. People are kind enough to read this blog, and I want to honor their readership by posting more to read, or photos and such to look at.

So here is a photo of a local waterfall which I took this weekend. I always wonder what it will look like in a hundred years.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Dance in October, part two

My last post involved a story on the news show "60 Minutes," many years ago. It covered a story about women who went to some elite place--a country club, perhaps--to ballroom dance with young men hired as dance partners. I don't know how this arrangement came about--I know there are men trained to be ballroom dance partners for women on certain cruise ships--so perhaps that was what it involved. In the "60 Minutes" special, the young men were apparently taking advantage of the women's loneliness, bilking the women for large sums of money. I spoke of a scene where a young man leads an older woman out on the dance floor. When she started to dance, she gave a kick out that was, to me at the time, inadvertently funny. I am pretty sure the director of the show meant it to be so: here is this silly rich old woman in the arms of a young guy she thinks might like her more than a dance partner. And look at her trying to kick out and then dance.

So there are deeper questions in regards to this show, with which I unfortunately feel a resonance as an older dancer who lacks confidence and self-esteem at times (something I believe is shared by ALL dancers in a discipline where YOU are the "art"). Now I consider first one thing: the woman was, in reality, quite a graceful dancer. She could have been dancing with Godzilla and looked good. So why was she touted as an object of derision and not the gigolo leading her onto the dance floor?

I think a lot of it has to do with the article holding up these women as old fools blinded by vanity and trying to cling to youth in any way they could. Certainly the young men didn't escape scrutiny: the point of the article was that these young men were part of a group that deliberately took money in this way. But the women were made to look ignorant of the fact that they were apparently old and washed-up.

It brings up, to me, the matter of aging in society, in general, and in the dance world, including the one I inhabit, bellydance. There are troupes around which I KNOW would never have an older dancer, or one that didn't fit a certain body style. Certainly whatever the director wants is what they want, but they miss a whole segment of wonderful performers in the process.

Case in point: sick of years and years of getting my hair dyed, I finally went through the long process of letting it go gray, and noticed a very curious change: I was not invited to perform with at least one set of dancers anymore, even though I had done so in the past (it was a small group and I did end up leaving). And then...wow...all these dancers in the community stopped dyeing their hair! Maybe feeling left out won't soon be a problem anymore.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Dance in October

(I published a version of this earlier tonight, but now have edited it, as I felt it was unfair to some of the people involved).

In October, 2016, I participated in a choreography for Halloween that I instinctively knew, before joining up, that I did not want to be in, but felt I could not back out of. It was to be something in which no one could smile, which is damn near impossible for me onstage. I can do this during slow songs--keep a soft, serene look on my face--but I was supposed to look fierce, could not muster it, and it shows. I felt also very uncomfortable in a costume that I designed to try and look nice on me, but which really did not look good on my body. I think it was one of the worst performances I ever gave. I clearly felt very uncomfortable in my skin, and I looked sad, not mysterious.

I have an image that routinely pops into my head during dance classes, and once in a while, during performances.It is a scene from "60 Minutes" many years ago (I have searched for the episode but cannot find the name). It involved older, wealthy women participating in ballroom dance events with young men as dance partners; there was some controversy about the young men taking financial advantage of the rich women, who paid them for dance and other "services". The image that pops into my mind is one of the women strolling out on the dance floor with her dance partner. She was dressed in a flowing white gown and had an arrogant expression. The music they were using for the dance sounded like Musak, and, just as the woman took her partner/gigolo's arm, she gave a kick that at the time, I laughed at. I am sure she was in reality quite a good dancer...not everyone can kick like that in dance--but she looked ridiculous to me.

And that very image recurs many, many times for me when I dance; I think I am as embarrassing and bogus of a dancer as the woman in that news segment. The Musak runs through my head, the image of the white-gowned woman kicking out as her male escort looks on with an expression that says he knows she's a fool and out of place on the dance floor. And then I have to push away the inner voice that says I am like this woman who cannot dance and is making a fool of herself. I have similar negative "tapes" for any creative endeavor that I do...except for fiber arts, incredibly.

Sadly, watching myself lumber around the dance floor in a choreography I clearly did not like, that old image came up for me. I wish I could banish it.

Not participating in anything I instinctively know will make me feel bad about myself is the first step, I think.


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

On Walking and Writing

As someone with children in my life for whom I provide care (I am an adoptive grandparent and also babysit my other granddaughter), it has been hard to pick back up some of my writing routines. I am blessed to live in a beautiful rural area, with a nearby creek, redwood forests, birds, animals (including bobcats and mountain lions, seen quite rarely), deer, and wild turkeys. It is a wonderful thing to take a walk down my road.

Walking has always been an essential part of my writing life. It's as if there has been a great fall-apart in the last few years, beginning with my granddaughter's arrival in my life, of the writing routines which really worked for me. This included really slacking off on my walking; even five minutes a day helped me to collect my thoughts and return to the page.

So, this month, I am going to re-commit to walking before writing (in the day: I don't walk in the middle of the forest at night!). It really does help to clear my mind of cobwebs, even though nothing seems to quash my lack of confidence, which died in November 2013 after a horrible incident and subsequent years of grieving. What a massive rupture that tore into my life! The confidence returns, little by little, but it is different now: I will not be the same person again. Still, the passage of time remakes everyone in ways large and small.

So, I will try to make some progress by walking, even if it's five minutes a day, and see if it improves my ability to sit down at the eternal page and work.






Monday, April 03, 2017

Attrition, Part Two

I'm discovering that I am ultra-sensitive to the topic of people leaving, moving away, etc., right now. I had three people very close to me die in the last few months; no matter what my faith tells me, it is so painful. Two of my friends died of breast and pancreatic cancer; another friend died of old age.It will take me a long time to get over these losses. I am glad my friends all lived such full lives.

 It is true that, given what is happening in this country, nearly everyone I know is edgy and wants to go somewhere else, to have options. Probably that is what plays into my separation anxiety: a sense of rootlessness and uncertainty.

At any rate, I feel gratitude tonight for this blog and the ability to send my words out into the world and for the readers who keep coming back here to my little corner of the Internet.

I also feel gratitude for something a little bit off-track. Margaret Atwood's book, The Handmaid's Tale, has been adapted for a television mini-series, and it looks to be excellent. I was reading an article tonight in which Margaret Atwood described some of her journals at the time: she, too, struggles with wondering if her work is good, if she's a decent writer, how the critics will receive her work, etc. Good to know we writers all share those threads: and how, despite that, we find the mysterious, exquisite thread of words which leads us through the labyrinth. I'm glad she found the thread to write such a prescient book.





Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Attrition

Before I start dithering on, I want to apologize to my faithful readers for being out of the frame for the month of March. I've really had no reason except that I had to get a nonfiction book proposal and the manuscript of Asha's book (as much as I have, that is) together and sent off. No idea what will come of it, but it was good to get it done...and interesting to note how much work it took.

I've been reflecting tonight on the big changes I've been dealing with regarding people in my life, specifically losing people to death, moving away, retiring, etc. I'm a very bad Zen practitioner in that I do not do well with change...even though change is the essence of life, I often feel that I want to stop time, to have a moment to catch my breath.

Perhaps my entire life as a writer has been simply trying to catch and preserve a moment, an image, or what-have-you.

At any rate, the time is very late and I have to be up tomorrow to go to the DMV. I have a moment to share from the times I've been to the DMV: one worker had about a billion Beanie Babies on her desk; her computer terminal looked like a decorator crab!

I promise I will try to get back to my daily posts. I appreciate all my readers who come to my little corner of the Internet.



Friday, March 03, 2017

Returning to Asha's Story

I may or may not have something to share regarding Asha's book, hopefully soon. No guarantees, but it is a glimmer of hope about the viability of this book.

I have had to do a lot of thinking and writing about the book in the last couple of months: pretty much the entire journey I want to take with this book, to submit for professional consideration. It has been very, very emotional for me. I am haunted by the last time I saw Asha, a week or so before she and Anina were killed. Who on earth would have thought their lives were about to end? She was full to the brim of her spirit with life.

I have also had to gather up a collection of photos to go with the writing about the book, to show Asha and (in a completely separate file), McClish, and some photos from the media, from the time she disappeared.

It's impossible for me to gather pictures of Asha without sobbing tonight. I have many and chose the ones that really show how radiant she was. There is one of Asha and Richard clowning around, but Asha's gaze into the camera is extraordinary. The latter is a copy of a photo the judge in Asha's case kept on the first page of the case file. He must have seen it every day of the murder trial.

This is probably silly, but to keep myself grounded tonight, I have been listening to a song I wish little Anina could have heard. Perhaps in a world of light, in her mother's arms, she does. This isn't the most professional choir, lol: but the children's voices are so sweet and unjaded.



Thursday, February 02, 2017

Woody Guthrie and Old Man Trump

Too good not to share:

Woody Guthrie and Landlord Trump

Life Emerges

I've been going through a curious time, to say the least, since I left off writing daily in this blog. It's a habit that has been good for my writing, if only as an exercise. I find myself scrawling handwritten work, unable to focus.

I wake every day and obsessively check the news. I feel on edge every day. Tonight I thought of children: the ones related to me, the ones in Thistle's school, in the wider world. What is to become of them, of the world we live in? Everything has changed in less than two weeks.

As a writer, I feel it incumbent to write here every day, to witness the world. When I wake, I feel that there is only one day, the day I have awakened to, and I feel centered in that day. However terrible life feels, I am still here.

The supporters of 45, as he's been nicknamed, have probably not yet felt the full impact of what this man and his frightening administration will do. I pray that he will be removed office. Pence is a misguided pseudo-Christian, but I seriously believe he would toe the line fairly assiduously should 45 leave office in disgrace. Pence will be tarnished with the same brush no matter what he does. I would assume he will not want the same fate as 45--if indeed he doesn't end up sharing it. It will be incumbent on him to be a good boy.

In the meantime, the fool wields his pen. And we, the voices of sanity, begin to fill the streets. I have no doubt of this: many voices, many hands, many hearts, can change the rising tide of evil.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

An Open Letter To Our Dear Leader, Donald J. Trump.



Dear Mr. Trump:

"Make America Great Again" is getting a little stale as a slogan. May I suggest one from a fine work of literature? Neither you nor most of your cult will have read this particular book, but rest assured that it aligns quite well with the way your regime is shaping up. It's recommended, but certainly not mandatory, that you distribute sample bottles of Victory Gin on the day you announce this:

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

I will go back to writing in my journal now, well out of sight of the telescreen.

Mini Inauguration

Eyewitness to Trump's inauguration.

https://www.thenation.com/article/i-was-at-trumps-inauguration-it-was-tiny/

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dan Rather, Another Warning

Timely words by Dan Rather on the current developments in the Trump administration:

"These are not normal times. These are extraordinary times. And extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

When you have a spokesperson for the president of the United States wrap up a lie in the Orwellian phrase "alternative facts”…

When you have a press secretary in his first appearance before the White House reporters threaten, bully, lie, and then walk out of the briefing room without the cajones to answer a single question.

When you have a President stand before the stars of the fallen CIA agents and boast about the size of his crowds (lies) and how great his authoritarian inaugural speech was….

These are not normal times.

The press has never seen anything like this before. The public has never seen anything like this before. And the political leaders of both parties have never seen anything like this before.

What can we do? We can all step up and say simply and without equivocation. "A lie, is a lie, is a lie!" And if someone won't say it, those of us who know that there is such a thing as the truth must do whatever is in our power to diminish the liar's malignant reach into our society.

There is one group of people who can do a lot - very quickly. And that is Republicans in Congress. Without their support, Donald Trump's presidency will falter. So here is what I think everyone in the press must do. If you are interviewing a Paul Ryan, a Mitch McConnell, or any other GOP elected official, the first question must be "what will you do to combat the lying from the White House?" If they dodge and weave, keep with the follow ups. And if they refuse to give a satisfactory answer, end the interview.

Facts and the truth are not partisan. They are the bedrock of our democracy. And you are either with them, with us, with our Constitution, our history, and the future of our nation, or you are against it. Everyone must answer that question."




Friday, January 20, 2017

First Day of the New Reich

Now that a supremely unqualified clown has taken the Oaf of Office, I have a few remarks.

First off, a welcoming "fuck you" to our new Commander in Chief, who couldn't properly command a breakfast crew at McDonald's if he tried. Your cult will soon find that you are not the Messiah who promised to bring back jobs, improve health insurance, bring coal back, etc. I know of no other administration which is a train wreck from Day One. I've never heard of an administration where there was talk of impeachment before the president was even sworn in. I have zero respect for you because YOU are the criminal in this political equation: a treasonous crook who got a big boost into the White House from the Russian government. You will go down in history as a traitor to this country, and I hope your Trump clown train derailment takes the whole lot of your miscreants with it.

I expect that at some point it will become dangerous for writers, including journalists, to speak out safely. Writers, artists, journalists, etc. are some of the first ones to be targeted and curtailed in a fascist regime.  As the New Reich takes shape, I predict an undermining of anything that might provoke independent and rational thought processes in people. It is already happening as The Donald begins to try and curtail press access. He has promised to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities. More is to come. It will be perhaps a relatively slow undermining, or a relatively quick one. There is no way to tell. But it will happen.

I have been told to smile, act like a lady, and give the Fascist-in-Chief a chance. Sorry, not happening: not with someone whose Cabinet staff is so malignant that even Kafka couldn't have imagined it. I will never give him a chance. Hell, I'm not even calling him my President. I respect the highest office in the land, just not the orange bookmark currently holding it.

So, these are my thoughts on this national day of mourning, when the New Reich took root in America.






Sunday, January 08, 2017

Welcome Back

I apologize again to my faithful readers here, and to the patient folks outside this blog to whom I owe work that has just not been done. It has been a rough month for many writers I know. Perhaps more on this subject in the next few days.

For now, some humor. Mark Hamill has been doing voice-over work as The Joker.  Inspired by the suggestion that Donald Trump's infamous New Years Eve tweet ("Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies...") sounded like The Joker when he's about to release a swarm of killer bees into Gotham, Hamill decided a little creativity was in order.




Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Thank You, Mr. Suprun

As I have often said in this blog, I am 57 years old and have lived through many presidential administrations in this country.  When I was able to vote and became politically aware, I greeted each new administration with a certain set of emotions.  Some presidents I opposed, actively. But I anticipated none of these presidents with the horror, fear, disgust, and downright sickness as I do with Donald J. Trump, our incoming real estate developer who might or might not sleep in the White House, preferring his gold-flake mansion.  Never have I seen a president-elect met with massive protests,  and denunciation from so many sides, including members of his own party and heads of foreign countries. I have never heard of a candidate who was warned by a foreign power--in this case, Germany--that they will cooperate with an incoming president as long as he upholds the principles of democracy and human rights.

As a woman, I find it unconscionable that any woman--or any man who claims to respect women--voted for this witless despot.  Personally, I would never vote for any candidate who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists, or who said that he liked sexually assaulting women (groping women's genitals), or encourages violence at his rallies--and these are just a few things he's done, and doesn't include his actions post-election!  He twitters along about the cast of Hamilton delivering a respectful speech, impressions of him on Saturday Night Live, threatens, pouts, and poses. Dan Rather suggested that he put down his cell phone and start attending security and intelligence briefings, something in which Trump has shown disinterest, saying he already knows what he needs to know. He casts a blind eye to the hate crimes committed in his name. Daily, it becomes clearer that this man is unfit for office in any way. 

Happily, at least there are voices of dissent in the Electoral College, soon to cast their votes. One elector has quit, citing that he cannot, in good conscience, cast a vote for Trump.  Six other electors will also dissent and cast votes for a candidate other than Trump.  Today another elector, Christopher Suprum, who served as a firefighter during 9/11, said that he, too, will cast a dissenting vote. I will leave you with his full statement here, but not before I remind my faithful readers that the Electoral College was created so that a person unsuited for the presidency, up to a despotic character such as Mr. Trump, would not take office.  We may only have his words to hold as a candle in the encroaching darkness, but it's worth it to say that we tried.

Charles Suprun, Dissenting Elector Statement




Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ruination

Faithful Readers, Ms. Strega has lived through many, many Presidential administrations. I was born into the
Eisenhower years, though I was but a wee morsel. I remember Kennedy's assassination, though I was a small child, yet clearly knew that the President had died and that was a very serious thing. I watched, on television, Nixon resign the Presidency. I endured the Reagan years, the reign of the Bush family, and the years I really liked: Clinton and Obama.

And now, we have elected a complete madman, so puffed up by his ego that he doesn't seem to have time for security briefings or other crucial aspects of taking on the highest office in the land.  I don't even think Trump wants the job at this point.  As for a First Family, nobody's going to be residing in the White House most of the time; Trump's wife is prudently going to reside with their son in Trump Tower. I don't blame her: somehow there feels a sigh of relief in that choice. Trump will, of course, occasionally visit the Tower (I am not sure why they think their home is so wonderful: it looks as if a truck full of tacky gold mirror squares collided with the Roman Empire and Trump Tower arose from the ashes). Instead of getting down to the business of preparing for office, Trump tweets all night long about what meanies we liberals are and excoriates the press for criticizing him. Meanwhile, people spray-paint swastikas on buildings.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented well over 400 hate crimes since November 8.

So here we are, Faithful Readers, in what may go down as the most insane time in the history of the United States. We have a pitifully inadequately prepared president-elect who has no idea what he is doing.  He has begun to appoint a Cabinet riddled with white supremacists and incompetents.  Hate crimes have escalated,because hate-filled and sick people now feel they have permission to do so now that the Trump Reich seems to be on the horizon. It will only get worse.

I support the recount taking place. In the slim chance that Hillary might go over the top in the recounts and win the Electoral Votes, the brakes might be put on a disaster looming large over our country.

However, yes, that chance is slim, as I said.  What I foresee is, first off, citizens becoming unable to criticize the Trump Reich in any way, because at some point, free speech is going to be radically curtailed....at least that is my great fear, along with more and more hate crimes, and more, much more, up to worst-case scenarios I dare not even imagine.

We will be a very different country in a year, and the things we take for granted now--the ability to speak freely, to write as we will and wherever our imaginations take us, to assemble peacefully and protest, to live free of hate crimes and fear: I predict all this will be gone, or in the process of curtailment.

People fought and died so that we may enjoy the freedoms we have in the United States. What a slap in the face to their bravery, to turn this country into a dictatorship.

Pray for the best and prepare for the worst.  That is about all I have to say tonight. Every day, the writing on the wall grows clearer, and the poisonous message is for all of us.


Friday, November 18, 2016

On the Election of a Demagogue

I have been away from this blog for some time, disgusted and full of fear regarding the election of Donald Trump as our President.  It is a travesty of everything I personally believe.  I am not alone in this.  Unless the Electoral College does the right thing and overturns his position by casting their votes for    Hillary Clinton, the rightful winner of this election, he will become President in January: a man who was roundly endorsed by the KKK, who has elected a white supremacist, Steven Bannon, the former editor of alt-right Breitbart News, to his cabinet.

Protests in all countries (not just the US) are called "riots" when they have been mostly peaceful (except for the small number of people who are not peaceful, which unfortunately happens in every protest movement, and which is denounced by peaceful protesters).  The right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Southern Poverty Law center has reported more than 300 hate crimes since Trump's election , and I wager there are many more which have not been reported.  It is mind-boggling and sickening.  There have even been hate crimes in my progressive county and the university at which I taught for many years.

As a writer, I came to this blog in fear of my right to exercise freedom of speech. Trump's goons are not going to likely sue a blogger who writes in a fairly obscure corner of the world...but at some point, there is a possibility (strong, in my opinion) that Trump will endeavor to undermine this right, which belongs to every American citizen. He has threatened to sue newspapers that dare criticize him.  When will he target writers?  At some point, German people had to swear an oath of allegiance to the Fuhrer.  You could not say a negative word out loud about Hitler, or you would risk jail. Is something similar coming to the United States, under perhaps a different form, but no less oppressive?

A normalization of Trump has begun in some of the mainstream news, as if reporters and politicians are almost afraid to criticize him.  His rhetoric can never be normalized.  People tell me to just accept, to move on, to get over it.  My own family calls those who voted for Hillary Clinton "crybabies": which includes me.  Let me tell you, NOBODY calls me a crybaby and a sore loser.  If any crying is to be done by me, it is for the hate crimes in Trump's name, and all the oppressions we may have as American citizens.  And mark my words, they are on the horizon. I pray they do not happen, but my skepticism is great.

So, I won't be silenced out of fear.  That is contrary to every belief I have as a writer. I have been told that it will be dangerous for me to make political statements now, publicly.  I will not stop: the danger to this country outweighs my personal fears.

I leave you, for now. with a letter that the Kennedy family wrote as an op-ed piece in the Washington Post.  I strongly urge you all to read it.

Letter from the Kennedy Family Regarding Donald Trump






Monday, November 07, 2016

Luxury

I look at my last post about a supposedly "lousy" dance performance and have to say that I now agree with something a colleague, long in the world of the arts, told me: don't look at a video or pictures of a performance immediately after.  He is right.  I look now at the photos and even saw a video: I was fine, and looked fine, including my hair.  I don't know why I dip into this self-hatred: well, I DO know why, but those challenges are not something I want to discuss.

I want to talk about the upcoming election, and align it with a worship service I went to yesterday.  When I can, I try to attend a nondenominational congregation with an absolutely wonderful minister, a woman whose sermons invariably soothe my spirit.  I still love the Zen center I have attended for years, but this other group nourishes my soul also.

Our minister's sermon yesterday included that, no matter what happens in the election tomorrow, our work for social justice and for the good of each other and the planet, is never done.  The Republican nominee has given permission for many to express what is already there: hatred of other races and religions, violence, cruelty, ignorance: but honestly, there are people on the "other side" who express other views, and the same, just as much.  She said to get off the idea that we are superior to others, that they are "bad people" and we are not.  We are still one planet, one nation.  If we hate others, no work can really be done to heal division.

And there is much, much work to be done, always.

I have to say

Monday, October 31, 2016

Really, really lousy performance.

A day ago, I believe I had the worst dance performance in a group dance of my entire career...and am doubly embarrassed because a friend came from far away to see me. Knowing I danced badly, seeing my pictures (which I refuse to put on Facebook),  really saddens me. I see the weight I have gained, the crappy hairstyle I wore to try and fit into the group, and above all, a choreography that was hard for me partially because I did not practice. It is not the teacher's fault. I am the one who gained weight, who hasn't trimmed my hair in almost nine months, and who has just been living on the perimeter of my life.

So, some small changes to begin, a little at a time.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Clean Out

I have the luxury of a small place to write in my house, and have let that space go, moving away from writing to storage, and a place to put on makeup for dance performances.

There are times I get overwhelmed by de-cluttering, even if it's just a small amount of stuff. In this case, it was two boxes of old giftwrap, staples, tape dispensers, etc.  Out they went, in short order, and my stage makeup off the desk. I have some dusting and cleanup to do, and then I have my writing room back. Not everyone has the privilege of such a thing, and so I feel I ought to show my gratitude by using the space.

My real altar for Asha is in this room; I face it as I write.  I feel I have pulled away a little from the book partially because it is not exactly the kind of book one can write at the dining table, which is what I have been doing these days.  Thistle, for one thing, is very curious about what I am writing, and can read quite well now. Not quite reading material for her, for certain.

So, here we go again: a place to write, and hopefully to make more entries here as well.




Sunday, October 16, 2016

I Am Not By Nature

I am not by nature a person who likes to deal with confrontation.  I guess that is true of everyone. In a way, continuing to keep this blog going in the wake of negative and destructive comments is difficult.  Some people almost like negative comments on their work online, whatever that is. I don't.

It takes a lot of something--I want to say courage, but that sounds egotistical--to keep writing in the face of someone trying to settle personal issues publicly. God knows, in the middle of the worst grief I have ever known--or, more accurately, one of them--I made public comments on both Facebook and this blog which, when I settled down, took away. This blog is not for settling scores; it is for talking about my writing, my ordinary days, my dreams.  I have noticed that my writing outside of this blog is slowing down.  It is because I have not come here to share my thoughts.

There is a larger world outside of any conflict one might be going through in the rarefied world of a family.  I am old enough to know that these conflicts have a way of sorting themselves out and arguments end.  Sometimes it takes about 90 percent time and 10 percent willingness to sort things out.  I have no doubt things in my family will be set right again.

So, on to what I have been doing in the last few days or so.  Mostly, I've been sorting papers and setting up a better writing space. I feel like that behavior is a bit like a rabbit making its nest. I know I am gettting ready to plunge into the hard work again of Asha's book.  It really is her book, I think: I'm just the scribe who toils away and follows the path she unfolds. I also battened down the hatches for a rainstorm which is happening right now.

I dreamed about her last night in the place where I meet souls: a place in my dreams which is an ocean shore on the East Coast, though exactly where, I do not know. The sea is sometimes calm, sometimes less so. There is a stretch of sand and then an old-fashioned wooden sidewalk which looks out over the sea and sand.  There are arched gaslights on dark steel poles sparsely dispersed on each side of the bridge.

When I first entered this dream-landscape, I saw a boat out in the ocean, riding the crest of a slightly larger wave than I have seen in this place.  The boat was red and full of passengers, rowing with long oars.  Suddenly, a whale came to the surface and dived back down, its tail moving in that hypnotic arch, slowly.  I could see its outline in the water.  I remembered seeing them that way at Point Reyes, long ago, outlined in sheer blue water, like archangels made out of shadow and salt.

Then I saw Asha standing casually at the sidewalk's railing, looking out towards the whale.  She wore the white dress I have seen her wearing a few times in the dream-world, almost like a caftan, but with a somewhat tailored shape to it.  Sometimes there is a gossamer cape or veil trailing in the back of the dress, but not this time. The dress always seems to have some sort of radiance to it.  Her hair was dark brown-red and very shiny.  All she did was turn and look at me, but her expression was so kind and warm, her smile welcoming.  She simply acknowledged me and nodded, and did not turn her gaze away.  I felt as if she might be saying, "You are doing a good job.  You cannot stop.  You cannot leave me and Anina behind."

I must admit that every week, I feel like giving this book up, and every week, I find the strength again. Her appearance in my dream this week simply seems to say, "Keep going!"



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Trump the Minotaur

Faithful readers, I have yet taken another long break.  My writing has pretty much gone nowhere in the last couple of weeks. I find it very hard to sit down and work. There is no magic remedy for this: it is called sitting down at the desk and working. I plan to be much more productive this week.

So, here we are, edging closer to Election Day. Trump nauseates me.  After the second debate, in which he prowled behind Hillary Clinton like the Minotaur, I realize now that it is imperative that this man is not elected to the Presidency. He is a sexual predator, and a dangerous, impetuous man.  Can you imagine someone like him with access to approve a nuclear strike? 

Here are all the lovely things Trump said after the debate. This is not a politican; this is a reality show clown, and not a nice one, either: maybe more like the one in Stephen King's "It."  



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Great Debate: Go Hillary!

I apologize again for having been away from this blog.  I have been dealing with difficult family issues, again.  And again.  And yet again. Meanwhile Thistle is happy, healthy, taking afterschool classes in art, French, and drawing.  I am proud of her.

At any rate, Secretary Clinton knocked Donald out of the park last night.  I have absolutely no doubt now that she will be cool, calm, rational, and collected in the face of whatever our troubled society, and world, can and will throw at her.

Donald was a blustering fool. No other way to say it. There is not one thing any last remaining Trump supporters have to offer in terms of how she performed except to post ridiculous memes on Facebook.  She had a lapel mic, as did Trump, which is controlled by a wireless setup that a person wears under their clothing.  There was a picture of this setup under the back of her suit. The explanation by Trump supporters is that this was a setup to feed answers into her ear via a mic in her earring.  Another interesting meme was that Lester Holt (a registered Republican) is a "Hillary shill" becauuse he didn't ask "hard questions." I'm he was able to ask any questions AT ALL with that windbag talking over him and blowing hot air over his alloted minutes.

She's our next President, and whatever her flaws, she will serve us well. I am at least no longer afraid of a re-enactment of The Road under Trump (who wouldn't escape either, but I certainly wouldn't give HIM my last can of fruit cocktail if I saw him walking down a road covered with ash after the nuclear war he started).



Monday, September 19, 2016

Why Go Back?

Going back now to the time when our community really fell apart, when it was discovered that Asha had been killed and no one knew who the murderer was. 

Sometime just before she was found, I seem to remember that a call came into the household--it must have been all households in the Valley, perhaps--that credit and other cards had been found somewhere.  I was surprised at this call, as I had never heard of our law enforcement department doing such a thing.  It turns out that Asha's backpack was found sometime during her search. I seem to recall--wow, I am saying that a lot, aren't I?--a photo of a backpack similar to the one I once had, with a brightly striped strap. People use these sorts of things as purses.  I am sure this call was in regards to Asha's credit cards.

At the time of her discovery, women began to be afraid that there was a serial killer in our area.  In my records, I see that police gave out a message that they believed there was only one killer. Personally, I did not want to go out after dark, alone. I believed, along with many others, that a killer lurked in the shadows.

And yet I knew her killer all along.  

Many people do not know that McClish's original arrest was for first-degree rape.  And when did that rape occur?

The night before Asha and McClish met in the Felton cemetery, the place of the lone intimate contact they had.  This puts one more piece of the puzzle in place for me: that Asha's contact with this man was not consensual.  Someone said to me, insensitively: does it matter, would it "clear her name" somehow? She did no wrong, she did not have to be cleared...but it might help women to see that all her behavior, leaving her husband, her fear of McClish, etc., were the result of trauma. Women have been made to feel ashamed of such trauma when there is zero reason to feel this shame.








Saturday, September 17, 2016

Back, More Thoughts on Asha's Book

I have been away for some time again due to various reasons--including research on Asha's book--and hope to resume posting regularly, if not daily.

I would like to first say that, for anyone who knew Asha and is now a regular reader of this blog and of the website with her book: I have a great deal of awkwardness in approaching the family simply because I am so concerned about being sensitive to an unimaginable grief.  There are times I don't really even know how to ask.  How do you ask someone to speak to you of the worst thing that could possibly happen to a friend, a child, a relative?

I want to express that the intention of my story is to honor Asha and her child, and to help people understand what families and friends, and even communities, must bear after this sort of violent crime.  In the United States, at least, the media always focuses on the criminal.  McClish, who committed the crime, is now the one news stories focus on, and Asha is simply mentioned as the nice cashier from Poland. I want her to be known as the brave person she was.  I wish to treat her, and her story, with the utmost respect.

To all of Asha's friends and family from America and Poland who have visited this blog, I thank you for reading my words about her. I resonate with her because I was once a young pregnant woman far from home, carrying a child that many people did not want me to have. I had not the love and resources Asha seemed to have, nor a loving family back home. I know she was much stronger than I was then, but I still feel a bond to her because of my own life.

Please know that any information you can give me about her helps me to bring her more fully to the world. I do not want the name "McClish" to be the one most remembered in the course of time.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Back Again

I am back after a short absence again. Hopefully when my time frees up again in a week or two, I will be able to write again.

Yesterday was the birthday of a few close friends in my life, and also of my son, Jamie, who was stillborn 30 years ago.

I can hardly believe it has been 30 years.

I love this poem by Dana Gioia, which I think says it all for any parent who has been through this experience.

Planting a Sequoia

All afternoon my brothers and I have worked in the orchard,
Digging this hole, laying you into it, carefully packing the soil.
Rain blackened the horizon, but cold winds kept it over the Pacific,
And the sky above us stayed the dull gray
Of an old year coming to an end.

In Sicily a father plants a tree to celebrate his first son's birth—
An olive or a fig tree-a sign that the earth has one more life to bear.
I would have done the same, proudly laying new stock into my father's
orchard,
A green sapling rising among the twisted apple boughs,
A promise of new fruit in other autumns.

But today we kneel in the cold planting you, our native giant,
Defying the practical custom of our fathers,
Wrapping in your roots a lock of hair, a piece of an infant's birth cord,
All that remains above earth of a first-born son,
A few stray atoms brought back to the elements.

We will give you what we can — our labor and our soil,
Water drawn from the earth when the skies fail,
Nights scented with the ocean fog, days softened by the circuit of
bees.
We plant you in the corner of the grove, bathed in western light,
A slender shoot against the sunset.

And when our family is no more, all of his unborn brothers dead,
Every niece and nephew scattered, the house torn down,
His mother's beauty ashes in the air,
I want you to stand among strangers, all young and ephemeral to you,
Silently keeping the secret of your birth

Friday, August 26, 2016

Comments

I am sorry to say that I am removing the comments feature on this blog, at least for the time being. If you have a comment, please use my contact form (in the left sidebar, next to the current post). I will consider publishing as a blog post if you wish, as long as it is appropriate. If you are using the mobile version of Blogger, you will have to access the web version in order to use the contact form. A link to the web version is at the end of every post on the mobile version of blogger.

 I have had an inappropriate comment via Google Plus and Blogger's comment managing system seems not to work, so disabling comments seems to be the last resort.  I have also removed the ability to subscribe to comments, though you can still subscribe to my posts. I haven't had to consider any changes whatsoever in my commenting system for many years.

Thank you to all the readers of this blog for your forbearance. Hopefully I can turn on the comments feature sometime in the near future.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

These Are The Days

I have been away yet again due to working on the eternal tangle.  Thistle's hair has survived and all the hair coming out of the tangle is healthy and beautiful.  I am very grateful. She had a fun dance recital today and I maneuvered her hair into a bun to cover the tangle, and put a pretty crocheted bun cover over it.  I love her so much and will make sure to never, ever have this happen again.  I brushed out her hair to put it in a bun and am blown away by how beautiful it is...probably because it has been washed and conditioned within an inch of its life all summer.

How I wish I could just catch this time and hold it, like fireflies collected in a jar: but even they must be let go. It goes so fast, these times.  And so to remind myself of staying in present time, I have included a favorite song to share.




Sunday, August 14, 2016

To Know A Story: Joette Smith

First off, thank you to my readers for your patience during these small breaks. As I have written before, Thistle, my granddaughter, has an enormous tangle on the top of her head--a mat, really--which felted up.  We were told we would have to cut her beautiful strawberry-blonde hair--pure Tudor gold, I like to say.  As a person who has spun wool for years, I told myself that there is no fiber which can't be unraveled, with much effort.  After nearly two months, I have made enough progress that I can put her hair into a bun above the tangle and it looks fine.  I expect everything to be greatly diminished, if not gone, by the time she is back in school.  She has even gone back to her swim lessons.  We are having a fun summer, albeit an abbreviated one.

I went to a writing group last night, comprised of women I have known (at least some of them) for over thirty years. These women had not seen Finding Asha Veil (new working title of the book) and loved it. I had excised a crucial chapter from it--describing my own experiences of losing a friend to a serial killer, of being assaulted by a professor as a young woman and my entire life falling apart.  My other group felt it  didn't belong, that it was disrespectful to Asha to have my story in there also (even though my story exists in service to hers in this book).  The women said, "NO!  Keep your story in there.  It doesn't detract. It bears her up."

Personally, I think Asha woud have wanted every woman's story told, if that were possible. I never knew her as well as I might have liked, but through the voices of friends and a bare handful of family, I feel a sense of her.  I can't put every woman's story in this book, but there are salient ones I feel I need to touch upon: the murder of Juanita Nelson, for one thing.

My friend brought up another murder I had totally forgotten about, though I was horrified beyond measure when it happened. I had researched the murders of women in Santa Cruz County thoroughly, I'd thought.  Why was this murder never mentioned in all the articles and research I did?

In 1983, a woman named Joette Smith vanished while walking home from Henfling's, a bar in Ben Lomond near the Ben Lomond Super. Her body was found in the San Lorenzo River the next morning, underneath the bridge near the market.  She had been beaten, raped, and strangled. Her clothing, along with the clothes of another woman, were found a short distance down the river. The case went cold and was closed a long time ago.  Here are a couple of links to old, weathered pictures of articles from our local paper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Talk about a woman who just disappeared in the media!  At least they told something about her life beyond her disappearance, unlike Asha (something I found horribly unjust). You can click on these articles to expand them; the text comes up very small, but is readable:

The Murder of Joette Smith

The Community's Response To The Murder

Joette's Friend Creates A Reward Fund


Michael McClish came instantly to mind: but he was a kid then, fourteen, close to fifteen. Joette's injuries reminded me of Asha's so strongly that I felt weak and had to sit down when I read the articles. What did McClish look like then? In adulthood, he was a strong, strapping man; you could easily imagine him overpowering a strong woman like Asha.

Still, a teenager that young can rape and kill, especially if the victim--albeit a grown woman--had been drinking, as Joette had been. He had to start somewhere; he boasted about his previous killings and was very specific about how he killed.  He had a very long history of this kind of boasting.  Even if he did not commit this particular murder, I am certain he knew about Joette, as he lived in the same town.

Whatever happened to Joette, she seems to be vanishing into the progress of time, the way a comet slowly retreats from the night sky until its light disappears.  I, too, forgot about her. The horror of how she was murdered--including that clothes from another woman were found with her--so chills me to the bone, so instils in me a feeling of shadows and this killer's derangement, that I intend to ask around about her. I wonder if any of the detectives on her case are still working for the department.

Like an origami box, Asha's story, and all its attendancies, keeps unfolding. What more is going to come my way?