Monday, December 29, 2008

The SDS Show

Growing up, "warm fuzzies" meant two things: "Warm fuzzies" were what you got or what you gave or what you felt (or all three) when someone did something nice, like gave you a hug, or helped pick you up when you fell, or rubbed your back when you were sad. "Warm fuzzies" were also what we called one-piece footed pajamas, which all of us kids in the neighborhood had even though we only wore them in the winter and in July when it was cold enough.

My mom's friend Grush has a granddaughter almost exactly my age with whom I share a name. She lived in Utah but would often be in San Francisco for what I remember as weeks at a time in the summer. One morning after a sleepover, she, DeeKay, and I, while sitting in our pajamas, decided to put on a show. We'd noticed that we were each wearing one of the primary colors - I know I was in yellow, but I don't remember which of them was in blue and which in red. We picked a song that was very popular among us kids that year and choreographed our steps. We had color-coordinated hula hoops instead of canes to dance with, though I don't remember why we had three hula hoops at the house; not only were there only two of us living there, but none of the dozen-plus kids in the beighborhood, except maybe Tam, could hula hoop for longer than half a minute.

I'm a little nut of brown
Lying on the cold cold ground
Everybody steps on me
That is why I'm a cracked you see

I'm a nut (cluck, cluck)
I'm a nut (cluck, cluck)
I'm a nut, I'm a nut, I'm a nut (cluck, cluck)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

So, Long Time No See!

I haven't been away. I haven't been sick. I have been busy at work, but not so busy I had to stay away from the blog for two weeks. I've just lost interest.

It's not you, honey, it's me.

I've also been wanting to write somewhere else than here. It's time to change our relationship - I think it would be best for me to use other media. In fact, old media: Paper. I have an old journal waiting for me to come back. I've already touched base there, in fact.

I've been slacking in the story-telling, and that's what I originally wanted to do here. I haven't told a story since mid-November. I didn't really want this blog to turn into "what I did today" posts.

I'm not going to take the blog down, I'm just going to use it differently. Instead of setting myself writing goals that are attached to quantity, I'm going to work on quality. Of course I reserve the right to remark on what's going on around me. With a blog, I can be a columnist.

Anyway, anyone dropping by might see longer periods between posts. but I mean for it to be that way.

May all your wishes for 2009 come true!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


A Poem For The YaYas
(with a nod to Jenny Joseph)

When I am an old woman, I shall wear lavender pajamas
with a red robe that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my 401(k) on vodka and hair color
and ingredients for blackbottom cupcakes, and say we've no money for gasoline.
I shall sit down on the BART train floor when I am tired
and drink lots of coffee in tiny cups at Trader Joe's and press kids' bellybuttons
and skip along the sidewalks
and make up for the sobriety (!) of my youth.
I shall go out in the rain without gel in my hair
and pick the french fries off other people's plates
and teach children to curse.

You can wear terrible wigs and grow more obnoxious
and drink three bottles of champagne at a go or only banana bread for a week
and hoard Christmas ornaments and things in boxes.

But now we must have jobs or partners that keep us solvent
and insist on equal pay for equal work and celebrate Obama
and set a good example for the children.
We must meet friends on retreats and read our favorite blogs.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to drink champagne.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas In San Francisco

Today was Cookiethon! over at Park Place. This is a day in December on which HR and some others have a cookie-baking frenzy and bake a boatload of a bunch of different cookies.

I do not make cookies, but I have mad skillz when it comes to eating cookies. Hardly anything is too rich for me and the only thing that keeps me from eating butter and sugar on bread every day is being a grown-up. I had to leave the house for a little bit when the peanut butter cookies came out of the oven, only because the scent was so overpowering I couldn't breathe.

When I mentioned I had never heard the song "Christmas in San Francisco", Nutmeg and I went on an online search for it. We could only find the lyrics and Nutmeg said the song is so bad she couldn't sing it for me. Then she got the idea to ask KOIT, the local easy-listening radio station, and ask them to play it. KOIT is famous (or infamous) for playing Christmas music from sometime in November through Christmas. She wrote an email asking that they play this song for her friend who'd been raised in the city and had never heard it. Just as Zirpu and I were getting ready to leave, the song actually came on. In these multi-cultural times, I think it's okay to use a Yiddish word to describe a Christmas song, and that word is schmaltzy.

All of my favorite Park Place people showed up, including Gaia and Byronium who had just arrived the night before from two weeks in India, and Pumpkin, whom, I believe, I conjured by wearing socks that don't match (as he often does). A couple of very young girls had a grand time decorating the spritz cookies (sugar cookies from the cookie press). Nutmeg insisted we watch Steven Colbert's Christmas Special and we listened to carols on the iPod/CD player. JR brought home a 7' tree on his bicycle. HR, Cutie G, Byronium and others made cookies. The rest of us ate them and drank coffee and eggnog. It was raining and cold (well, not New Hampshire cold) all day.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Yesterday's Future

I have a nicely bound "anything book" that I filled with high school crap like book covers, report cards, school IDs, and prom memorabilia. In the notebook is an assignment I did in tenth grade for my Honors English class. The teacher wrote the questions and I interviewed a family friend.

For extra credit I pretended to interview myself in 2024 (at which point I would be 56). Reading the extra credit part of the assignment was so painful that it took me four tries to get through it. When I was 15, I was planning that by the time I was 56 I would:

Have attended UC Santa Cruz and Boston University;
Be fluent in Spanish, German, and Japanese;
Have published at least four novels and at least three books of nonfiction;
Own my own restaurant, through three closures and one almost-bankruptcy;
Adopted three boys;
Still be friends with the friends I had in tenth grade;
Occasionally write columns for the San Francisco Chronicle;
Have been on Time's bestseller list at least twice; and
Be taking one course at a time in things like film making.

I wonder when I thought I would sleep. Sometimes I look back and think I must have been a really annoying person when I was teenager.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shacking Up

While I've been resting up from the strain of posting every day, I have been reading a lot. I thought Daughter of the Saints would be more concerned with the life of growing up in a polygamous family, but it turned out to be a lot more about schisms within the offshoots from the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

The thing that I wonder is why in the world the US government even cares about polygamy. I think the problem with it isn't polygamy itself, it's the marrying of young teenage girls to men several times their ages; the exclusion of teenage boys who are thrown out of the community for the smallest infractions so that they can't attach themselves to, or be attached to by, girls their own age. Certainly polygamy as it's practiced by groups like the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints is wrong. To me, polygamy is a feminist issue. The girls and women in these LDS offshoots are treated unequally in so many ways, not the least of which is that the men hold the power and the whole point of having many wives is to have many children.

Thinking about polygamy ties right back into conversations I've been having with friends about Proposition 8. One pointed out that the problem is a semantic one around association of the word marriage with a church-based ritual and religious beliefs, and sent me a column by conservative Douglas Kmiec about breaking "marriage" from the state-issued license. This makes sense to me, though people love traditions and I don't think we'll wind up with everyone getting civil unions recognized everywhere and some people getting "married" in their places of worship and/or by clergy.

The law should protect the rights of 13 year old girls who don't want to marry (and should protect teens who do want to marry from making hasty choices). The law should protect gays and lesbians from having their relationships ignored no matter what state they are living in or visiting. Beyond that, why does the state/federal government even care about what consenting adults call their relationship?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I've been very relieved to not have to post every day.

I don't remember its being that hard last year - but then again, last year I was used to daily posting.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sky Smile

Driving 580 coming home from Novato this evening, the sunset was in three wide bands of blue, orange, and foggy purple. There was a slim crescent moon and soon two bright stars, one off each end of the crescent. It looked like a benevolent face smiling down on the Bay.

I did not try to take a photo. I know the limits of my skills as a photographer - especially while riding in a car - and the limits of the photo abilities of a cell phone. Imagine this.

UPDATE 12/3/08:
Here is a photo of the moon and planets over Hong Kong that almost matches what I saw.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Traditions

We don't have any. Other than a couple dozen, or more, people at my mom's house, and particular dishes, that is. A friend of the family's brought her yams with pecans and mandarin oranges for years, and the last two years she has brought them to the house and left for another Thanksgiving dinner. She even brings the yams in the same dish every year. Another friend, when she's not in LA with her daughter and he son-in-law's family, always brings Brussels sprouts in some form.

A volunteer at the food bank told me that in her family, everyone writes what they are thankful for on slips of paper which are then baked into crescent rolls. When the rolls come to the table, each person takes one and reads the slip, and then everyone guesses who wrote which one.

I really like this idea but I don't think I could institute it at Mom's. Our Thanksgivings now require two or three tables, and hardly anyone eats rolls. With three kinds of stuffing, we don't exactly need them.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Post for Nov. 28

KT's mom arrived for Thanksgiving with some kind of stomach bug which happily took up residence in KT and No. It's our favorite holiday and No had to miss it - when you have a stomach bug, you don't really want to be around food, but more importantly, and considerately, they didn't want to bring the bug to the unsuspecting crowds at Chez Mom.

I was exposed to the bug also since Kt, No, KT's folks and I had dinner together Tuesday evening, but I thought I'd dodged it. I don't get stomach trouble often and when I do it's just usually lots of burping. It hit me late last night - as the last folks were leaving, actually - and kept me up all night. I thought I'd have lots of time to leisurely write a post today but since I haven't eaten since yesterday and have been either sleepy or sleeping, the brain's not firing up.

But I am committed to posting every day. Now that you've come to the end I guess I can mention that my committing to write every day doesn't mean you have to read every day...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Food Bank Bailout

To see this editorial cartoon by Signe Wilkinson, go here. This is what it looks like at my food bank.

If you want to find a food bank in your community, do an internet search for "food bank" and the name of your city, county, state, or region. If you're in the US, you can go to the website for Feeding America, formerly America's Second Harvest.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's the weekend

It's a nice long one too and that's great because I'm really tired.

Yesterday was a great day, but very long: I arrived at work at 9am and left at 730pm. In the meantime I was involved with our big turkey giveaway, at which we gave turkeys to 378 families. The line was a block long, but we got everyone a turkey, stuffing, and gravy in just over two hours with help from the Alameda Fire Department and staff at Wind River Software.

Did I take a break then? No, I went back to the trailer and signed up or recertified a bunch of families. I walked over to the coffeehouse and got the most spectacular drink I've gotten in years: I ordered a regular hot chocolate but because I'm well-known in the neighborhood as a food bank do-gooder, the folks in the store gave me an enormous HC with caramel sauce and a big fluff of whipped cream with chocolate shavings and more caramel sauce on it. It was so rich it carried me through for the rest of the day.

... Which included serving 50 people at the regular pantry program in the evening. We normally serve 25, but all of the volunteers, without saying anything to me, were determined to stay until everyone who walked in by 630pm got served. No, KT, and KT's folks showed up, doubling my staff, and we couldn't have done it without them. They packed bags, helped clients make selections, accepted and logged donations, and generally freed me up to do new client intakes and general taking-care-of-people. We were serving an hour after we closed.

This time of year is stressful and busy and all of that. I've been getting paid in hugs and smiles, which is a great bonus.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lying with the big dogs...

A couple years ago Zirpu and I dogsat our neighbors' Rhodesian ridgeback mutt Thanksgiving week. We brought him to Mom's because we couldn't leave him home for that many hours, and Mom and Zirpu introduced her dog, Pi, to Rocky outside.

Pi had a bed that Rocky loved. He laid on it most of the afternoon, despite Pi's protests.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Get Ready!

This evening driving home from an economy-stimulating adventure, Zirpu and I passed the church about half a mile from here. There's a small marquee next to the church on which they announce Halloween parties, special services, short Biblical verses, and the like. Tonight's sign says:

Judgment Day Meeting
November 23
845 and 10am

Friday, November 21, 2008

Temper, Temper

We served 62 people at the food bank today. Being the week before Thanksgiving, and the last Friday of the month (we're closed next Friday) I wasn't surprised. I resisted closing the sign-in list until well after 3pm, but when I realized that the list went to 70, 45 of them had been checked in and 30 of them had been served by 3:30, I decided I had to go with the commitment made to the volunteers. They didn't even start leaving until 4:30. It was a long day; I didn't even take a lunch.

There seems to be a direct correlation between how much English a new client speaks and how many people come into the food bank to drop off donations, get something signed, interview to be a volunteer, and how many times the phone rings. If that person doesn't speak English or Spanish, add 5% (it occurs to me that none of the non-English speakers today spoke Spanish, either). On top of that, two little girls got in a fight - the littler one threw a plastic stool, which broke apart - and a baby was crying most of a solid hour and a half.

All the volunteers, including a brand-new one (who fortunately has worked at another food bank), were very pleasant to all of these clients today. It was hot and loud inside the trailer, and all of us kept our tempers. I'm especially interested to note that I kept my temper today, since circumstances pointed to other times when I've lost it: The food bank director was at the food bank less than an hour today; I didn't get a break; I didn't eat very well; the phone was off the hook for an hour so there were 12 messages to take and return; there were a lot of things going on all day that I had to manage.

This evening I was talking with Miz Jinkins about none of us losing our tempers today, and she said that she thought that "losing your temper" should mean that it went away, and "keeping your temper" means staying mad. I think the words "control of" are implied in the phrase to the extent that we leave them out altogether: "I'm keeping [control of] my temper" or "I'm losing [control of] my temper." Still, I like the visuals of "loosing" rather than "losing" - "I'm loosing my frustration." That is what it feels like to me - I loose my temper, it's out and bounces away.

Fortunately today I didn't lose or loose my temper. I think I may be mellowing out, because I know that a lot of the same conditions that have really tested me in the past don't get to me the same way that they used to. I do not consider myself a mellow person by any means. But I may be mellowing. How does that happen?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's The Se-e-eason for Loooviiiiiing,,,

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat
Please to put a penny in the old man's hat
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do
If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you

A man came into the food bank earlier this week with his red-cheeked toddler, who, big-eyed with sleepiness, looked more like a Precious Moments figurine than a real girl. He was running errands and had come in to drop off a donation check, which was pretty significant. He said that he was having a good year, and he knew other people were having a bad year, so this year he is upping the amount he's donated in the past.

Mom asked me what I want for Christmas this year, and there really isn't anything. I'm thinking about talking to the family (Mom, No, KT, and Zirpu) about considering giving my pet charities money instead of things to me for Christmas. I know what I think is important, and I don't want or need music, books, or clothes (other than the Holy Grail of garments, jeans that fit perfectly). I've been fortunate this year: I'm not only employed, I'm doing what I want to do; I'm educated; I'm healthy; I'm safe; I have food in the pantry. Rather than receive a gift, I'll give my gift proxy to someone else. Laughter with my family is gift enough for me anytime.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Next Blog

Sometimes when I'm just not ready to go do something else, I click "next blog" at the top of the page of whatever blog (including mine) I'm currently looking at.

Most of the time I get a blog that isn't in English. I understand that people are blogging all over the world and all of the time. However, since Google/Blogger is in Mountain View, and the Blogs Of Note all seem to be written in English, it seems strange that I usually get sent to blogs written in Portuguese, which to me looks like Spanish spelled incorrectly. Perhaps it's just an English skewing since the Blogger staff probably speak English most of the time so that's what they "note."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Straighter Hair and Greener Grass

When I was in grade school, it seemed like a lot of the Asian girls wore their hair in a straight pigtail on the tops of their heads (see picture in yesterday's post). Maybe it wasn't a lot, but it was definitely more than one. Maybe they didn't always wear their hair that way, but things stick in my mind and as the event fades into the past, I remember less of it... like the details.

Part of why I remember this is because I was envious of those girls' hair. I wore mine in a long braid down my back. I had cloth-wrapped bands twisted at both ends of the braid, and often an orange or red yarn ribbon tied at the end. Sometimes I wore the kind of hairties that had white plastic marbles attached to them. My hair was always in a braid - I remember that it seemed to naturally part into three sections every morning (probably because I slept with the braid).

I really wanted straight black hair. I could have worn pigtails sticking straight out to the sides or even on top. I could have worn one long ponytail in the back, or medium length, or short, and/or I could have had bangs. I had none of those things. I had blondy-brown thick curly hair that could only be worn in that long braid. When I was ten I got a radical change to my hairstyle - cut to neck-length and with bangs, and wore it that way for about three years, but if I'd had any sense of what it looked like I would have hated that too. When my hair was at its longest since I've become an adult, I didn't braid it but I always wore it in a ponytail. I had to wash it every morning to keep it from becoming too tangled to brush, and the thick part under the hairtie was always still damp when I went to bed.

I still want straight black hair. Sometimes people ask me if this is my natural curl (and I find myself thinking, "isn't it obviously natural?") so I respond in the affirmative, and they tell me how lucky I am to have curly hair. But I always think of how much easier it is to curl hair than it is to straighten it, so it has always felt to me as if the straighthaired have more style flexibility. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence and all that.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Haircut Needed

I don't know what to do with my hair. I don't want to shave it off again (it's going to be cold in January at the warehouse). I don't want to wear it in the style I wore most of the time between 13 and 38. I don't want to crop it close in back with curls on top, though I know that would be a perfectly decent look. I'm having trouble committing to hair gel.

I only wear it in a pigtail on top of my head to give Zirpu a chuckle. I never wear it out of the house this way. I don't consider myself that vain, but....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dark Fantasies

November 10, 2008

Kaiser started harassing me to get a mammogram at the beginning of the summer. For some reason my birthday had defaulted to 1/1/68 so as soon as I joined I was late to get it done. When the birthday thing was finally straightened out, they left me alone for about six weeks, and then they started again. I made the appointment for the second Thursday of October, and I tried to approach the day with a "rite of passage" attitude.

I was given the most elaborate hospital gown I've ever seen, a cloth one that wrapped all the way around like a monk's cassock, held closed by the second sleeve. Despite the elaborate garb, I wound up not feeling like I'd experienced a rite of passage, but feeling just that virtuous "preventative care" feeling I get after leaving the dentist. They sent me on my way with the promise of a postcard with the results.

[Note for those of you who wonder what it's like: It didn't hurt. I've had men squeeze my breasts harder. For the record, though, the radiology tech said that it's different for everyone, depending on breast size and time in your cycle, as well as - though she didn't say this - pain tolerance levels].

The postcard came, dated October 15:
I did not wait seven days to be contacted. I called after four days to make the return visit, which was scheduled for Nov. 6. I barely spoke to anyone about the return visit, because I was trying not to think about it. That was easier than it would have been otherwise, because of the Presidential campaigns and the Prop. 8 campaigns winding up to fever pitch (and the no on 8 campaign winding up at all). Everyone I knew was absorbed in politics talk, as was I.

When I thought about the return visit to Mammography, I found myself thinking, against my will and against my superstitions, about what I was going to say about what was happening. Telling Zirpu, who's already got a lot going on. Imagining telling my brother and my mother, who already lost someone to cancer. How much and when I would tell the volunteers at work. Whether the Bi Women's Group was even going to apply to my life during this. Telling myself I would "beat this thing," imagining the faces and names of women I know who have. Then I would quickly veer away, and force myself to think about something else.

I was really annoyed with myself for indulging in these dark fantasies. I knew that these were the first mammograms I've had and that Kaiser, having nothing to compare these pictures to, was being as cautious as they've been with Zirpu's heart. So I would repeat all this to myself when I was imagining the bad stuff.

I went back to Kaiser, and this time bypassed the fancy gown. I told the woman who offered it to me that I would decline it to save resources, though the real reason why I did was because Shmeen told me I could. "You don't have to look like a patient just because it makes them feel better, " she said, "Besides, it's stupid. You wear it for five minutes and then they put it in the wash. Stupid!"

The first thing I asked the radiology tech was if I would know anything before I left that day because I did not want to get bad results off a postcard. She said a doctor would look at the x-rays right away and meet with me within about ten minutes. She took the pictures and I went to wait for results. In those eight minutes I coached myself to not freak out if the doc told me they wanted to take a biopsy. I reminded myself to go into crisis management mode to take care of business, get the appointment made for as soon as possible, and freak out later.

The rad tech came out and told me the pictures showed nothing, and everything is fine. She noted that I have dense breast tissue, which once she mentioned it I realized I'd heard that before during breast exams at an annual physical or two. She said I should tell the rad techs at future mammograms so they could compensate for that when posing my breasts for the mammogram machine.

"Everything is fine." Great words to hear. That's why I start this story with those words.

A Late Post

Since I haven't been to bed yet, for me it's still Saturday and the 15th, though the clock indicates it is 12:40 am on Sunday the 16th. So a short post and I will write more thoughtfully tomorrow.

1. Four places that I go to over and over:

The food bank, the Hayward Public Library, Mom's, home

2. Four people that e-mail me regularly:

Shobi-wan, Mom, the Tea Lady, Zoyie

3. Four of my favorite places to eat:

Pakwan, Alice's (La Patisserie & Le Paradis in Hayward), Buon Apetito, Mom's

4. Four places that I would rather be now:

The Cabin (Rocky Mountains), Playa Fiesta (Puerto Vallarta), Lake Pinecrest, somewhere quiet

Four TV shows that I watch (but none regularly - I go in spates):

Battlestar Galactica (grrr!), Dinner Impossible, Chef Jeff Project (which ends this Sunday), The Daily Show

Friday, November 14, 2008

In Review

The FBD asked me to write a self-evaluation for a performance review, which I did on the BART train last night while going into SF for dinner with Motochick. When I was a student I never waited until the last minute to do my homework... but I haven't been a student for a long time. This afternoon I learned that my self-evaluation is going up the chain; I thought it was just going to the FBD. Fortunately I wrote rather formally anyway.

The self evaluation sheet is the least complex review form I have ever seen. At Saint Mary's College we had the kind of performance review sheets on which you circled a number (1-5, 5 is low) and then we went to essay questions. This one was hard because there were no hints in the questions, which were two: "Strengths" and "Weaknesses." The "Weakensses" piece was difficult not so much because I'm perfect (which of course I am, ha ha!) but because really, the tasks that make up my job aren't that difficult. The difficult stuff is all about personality.


Welcoming attitude toward clients, volunteers, and donors

Evaluating potential volunteers for long-term positions at the AFB – improvement over the last year

Communicating needs to volunteers – improvement over the last year. Also communicating gratitude to volunteers for their time and work

Counseling clients on range of issues beyond “just needing the AFB.” I try hard to destigmatize needing the AFB.

Similar understanding of the AFB mission as the FBD and how that mission is expressed during day-to-day operations. Willingness to do many things (for example, go to ACCFB [to pick up wholesale produce] on way to work) to forward that mission at all times.


Managing frustration – improvement over the last year, but could always be better
(for example: Last spring when a lot of volunteers didn't show up one week, I was really angry and I believe everyone knew it. When a similar thing happened in September, I was frustrated but I didn't lose my temper).

Understanding how the metrics [inventory and client data for each month] are put together and how to read them, which I am working hard to improve.

(b) 1 I am becoming more comfortable with making “executive decisions” about food inventory
and volunteers as time goes on. I wait much less often for the FBD's availability/opinion than I used to.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Last Tuesday night, I was listening to Robert Siegel and Nichelle Norris try to keep us all up to date, or rather up to minute, with all the news coming in from everywhere back east. Because there's always some blank time between polls closing, whoever hosts all those news shows has to keep talking - especially on public radio, where they can't break to commercials or dazzle us with special visual effects like holograms to fill in the time.

The discussion was, of course, about the ethnic background of who was at that time still only "likely" to be our next President. Robert Siegel remarked that Obama would be the first president whose name ended with a vowel, unless you counted Kennedy. Nichelle Norris darted in with "And if you count 'Y' as a vowel."

I'm reading Middlesex, which was published in 2002, and while discussing Dukakis' run for the White House in 1998, Eugenides writes in the voice of the narrator, the grandchild of Greek immigrants:

..."Dukakis." A name with more than two vowels in it running for President! The last time that had happened was Eisenhower (who looked good on a tank). Generally speaking, Americans like their presidents to have no more than two vowels. Truman. Johnson. Nixon. Clinton. If they have more than two vowels (Reagan), they can have no more than two syllables. Even better is one syllable and one vowel: Bush. Had to do that one twice.

(I thought of some three syllable presidents. We've had four since 1901, two of whom were named Roosevelt).

Just above the part I've quoted, Eugenides writes, "Maybe the time had come when anyone - or at least not the same old someones - could be President."

Seems like the time has come now. Obama's not even an incumbent vice president after a successful eight years, which is what I was expecting it would have to be for a person of color to be elected president.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One of those moments

Sometimes you make a new friend, through some social activity like a party or a club, or through a mutual friend. You know this friend for awhile, and you think you know them "well enough" and then one night you're listening to them talk and you realize they weren't what you thought they were.

Sometimes the realization is about something great, like you see their passion for something, or they get educated about something and can hold discussions of depth on that subject. I've had this experience recently. A not-very-new friend suddenly seems much more complex than I had assumed - and I know this is because I'm seeing something in her that may have been there all along, but I didn't have the opportunity to see it until now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Advice From Zirpu

Zirpu is very annoyed about something right now. Since that's not an unusual state for him to be in, I won't bother telling you what he's annoyed about.

He just said that he was told once, "When someone is really annoying you, pretend they are really enlightened and they are trying to teach you a lesson."

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Missy Mommies

When I was growing up, all the kids in the neighborhood spent almost as much time in each other's homes as we did in our own. I've listed before the different attractions different houses offered. We had a lot of sleepovers at each other's houses too, sometimes on school nights. I remember late-summer nights of sleeping out in the W's yard, and one in particular when Eri and I swung on the swings for hours as the sun went down and the sky turned to purple and black.

Sometimes one or another of us would be overcome with wanting to be at home. I only remember this happening at J Jump Joyful's or DeeKay's house, probably because I don't remember my mom loving anyone as much as she loved me, except - maybe - No. We'd go to bed, and whoever's mom would come in to say good night and turn off the lights. Somehow, one of us would tell the mom she was sad, or wanted to be at home. The mom would sit on the bed and rub the kid's back, speaking in a quiet voice about having "the missy mommies" and how that was okay, you would see your mom in the morning but now it was time for sleep and in the morning we would have breakfast and you would go home and Mom would be there for you just like always...

The lulling voice and the back rub would relax you so much that you could snuggle into your pillow and hear the other kids' breathing and when the mom got up and left the door a little ajar so the hall light would make a slice on the floor and you knew that this was an okay place to sleep.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Something Not On Politics

I have come late to biscuits and gravy. This is mostly because I did not grow up in a biscuits kind of household, but I didn't grow up in a gravy kind of household either. I usually saw gravy at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I didn't know "sausage gravy" was something people still ate (though it had many appearances in the books I read).

Shobi-wan is probably one of a rare breed, the native Wyoming vegetarian (she told me that for the first ten years after she stopped eating meat, her relatives would always offer her chicken instead). While we were living together, Gardenburger opened up in southeast Portland and Morningstar Farms products became available at the grocery store. You know the saying, "My girlfriend/boyfriend is a vegetarian, so I am too."

Shobi-wan introduced me to biscuits and gravy with vegetarian sausage-tasting patties and homemade biscuits. However, recently Zirpu and I were at Costco and he enthusiastically purchased three boxes of Morningstar "sausage" patties and I was reminded of those biscuits and gravy Shobi-wan used to make.

I asked her and her response, had it been verbal rather than by email, probably would have been accompanied by a not-very-but-slightly exasperated sigh. She said any white gravy will work. I didn't know what white gravy was, but checked out my trusty Joy of Cooking, to me the place I go to learn/review American basics. I can make an Indian feast but I've had to look up how long to roast pork, make any kind of gravy, and how to part out a chicken.

Fortunately we have a jar of bacon grease in the fridge so I used 1:1 bacon grease and flour, plus a little extra flour (either it wasn't ever going to thicken or I lost patience), and a cup of milk. The veggie sausages got heated in the microwave and broken up, and I served it over canned biscuits. I think there's a part of me that believes you either have to be in the South, from the South, or grown up rural - that part of America that is "real"** - to make good biscuits.

I like these better than the B&G I've been getting at our breakfast place. The gravy was thinner and less greasy so I didn't feel like I'd eaten a jar of paste after. And almost vegetarian!

** Oops. Sorry. Well, not really.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Exhausted and Angry

Anger is exhausting. I've been trying to figure out how to talk about a conversation I had with an acquaintance on Tuesday, and I've been stuck about what to even say about it. Oddly enough, I know this guy much better now than I used to, or would otherwise, if we hadn't gotten to a point where we said that "we can respect each other even though we have differing opinions"... which is really another way to say "I don't want to talk about this anymore."

I had a long talk with KT last night and another one with YaYa Words of Thunder this afternoon. I'm feeling less wound up - at least for now - and now that I'm feeling less wound up, I've been thinking that I need to put the anger behind me. It's only hurting me. I will be behaving differently, but I need to let go of the anger so that I can do my job, enjoy hanging out with friends, and sleep at night. I have to figure out how to talk to people about this election without losing my temper.

Unlike some of my friends, I thought 8 was going to pass. And I figured if it didn't, the supporters of man/woman "traditional" marriage would be back in two or four years anyway, just as the Oregon Citizens Alliance came back in 1994 after being smacked (lightly) in the 1992 election. All I can do is talk about what I think the Constitution stands for, which is freedom to speak, freedom to assemble, and freedom to worship or not. But until I can get rid of the anger, I can't talk about the Constitution in a rational manner.

Tomorrow I'll be with friends, one of whom has promised me a soak in the hot tub and many drinks. Hopefully those three - the friends, the hot tub, and the liquor - will help me expel the anger so I can start over next week feeling happy my guy is going to be the President in January.

Friday, November 7, 2008

To Me, They're Still Married

These are the beautiful happy faces of two people who deserve more than separate-but-equal. Their love is real, and so is their marriage. So are the marriages of the 18,000 other same-sex couples who've gotten married in the last five months.

I'm too angry about Prop. 8 passing to write much about it yet.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down the frost, green thrives, the crops don't fail,
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes, our best efforts do not go
amiss. sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen to you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Adventures At Hillside Church

My polling place was busier than I've ever seen it (which is to say, there were about a dozen people voting). As I got out of the car I observed an African American woman being videotaped by her sons, maybe 10 and 12 years old, dancing her way to the door with her ballot. I congratulated all of them for being there that day, for her bringing the boys and for the boys coming along. The woman asked, "Do you have something to say?" and her son swung the camera toward me. I approached while repeating my speech about how it's our number one duty as citizens to vote, that Election Day is much more important than July 4th. I said I was glad that she was showing them how to vote and told the boys I was glad that they were with her. She said she was taking them to school late because this was so important.

Inside, I stood in line in front of a Latino man who was voting for the first time; he'd become a citizen three years ago. I congratulated him and shook his hand, welcoming him to our most important job as citizens. Broken record? It's what I believe. We chatted a bit about the arguing - he said there's been a lot of arguing in his household as everyone has strong opinions. He mentioned his wife was angry at him for his position on 4 (which he didn't tell me, and rightly so). We agreed that we are disappointed with the lack of dialogue we've had this election season.

When I came out of the church, there was another African American woman out front, maybe waiting for someone. We both remarked on the high turnout. I crossed my fingers and said, "I hope my sides win." She said, "Is it this one? My friend just sent me this" and played a piece on her cell phone of "The next President of the United States - Obama! Obama! Obama!" I thought to myself that she had made a pretty big assumption about me (but thank goodness it was correct), and responded, "I hope so!" Then, getting into the car, I called, "Yes we can!" She said the same to me, dancing with her phone.

It was a good way to start Election Day!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Two, Four, Six, Eight...

It's election day! If you are, or are like, one of the few people I know who hasn't already voted absentee, GET OUT THERE.

I am feeling fatalistic about 8 ("Eliminates right of same-sex couples to marry"), and about 4 ("Waiting period and parental notification before termination of minor's pregnancy"), which has gotten next to no attention because this season been all about 8. I got home last night and the No on 8 sign I put up yesterday is gone. I looked around to see if it had blown off in the wind, but nothing. I'm really, really disappointed in what I assume are my neighbors, because hardly anyone lives here and it's a cul de sac so the only other people around are the trashmen and paper deliverers. Disagreeing with me is one thing, but taking my voice is another.

I drove through a four-corner Yes on 8 rally on my way home. I'm feeling depressed about all this. I think Obama will win, but 4 and 8 will pass. It's so annoying and saddening to me that this is what it comes down to: The culture wars, where no one can be convinced of the opposite position, there's little or no dialogue, and people behave rudely (at best) to each other. There's something wrong about that.

I think the civil status of gay and lesbian people will change all the way in my lifetime. That's what I think about an Obama presidency: Brown v. Topeka Board of Ed was 57 years ago, Loving vs. Virginia was 41 years ago. Look at how much things have changed already for gays and lesbians since Stonewall. I'm not being complacent, I'm being hopeful and optimistic.

Which is what we have to be on Election Day.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Almost There

Back in the days when I would drive straight through from college to home, I always felt like the trip was coming to an end when I would drive past "the bump," a wooded hill next to 80 in, I think, El Cerrito. It was across the highway, more or less, from the piece of Emeryville that sticks into the Bay where the guerrilla art used to be. I knew I was an hour from home, and it was great and awful at the same time: Almost there, but not there yet.

That is how I'm feeling about this election. We're almost there, but not there yet. I've been really wound up, about a number of things, for the last two weeks. I feel like when this is over, most of the things I'm wound up about will have been settled. I hope they are settled the way I want them to be, but right now I really want it to be Wednesday morning - hopefully the decisions will have been made by Wednesday morning.

I know three times as many people who voted absentee than I know people who are actually going to the polls. I like going to the little church on the hill and saying hello to the poll workers, and I don't mind standing in line to vote. I haven't had to do it at my current precinct, but in the past standing in line to vote made me feel like people are participating. This year, though, I wish I had already voted. I'm still undecided about one of the measures, and I just want the decisions made.

If you're voting, and you haven't yet, go out tomorrow, or drop off your absentee ballot. Be heard. I hope you vote the same way I will, but my voice is no louder than yours unless you keep silent. This election will be over soon - I hope.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Candidate

I thought he was taller.

The Tea Lady and I stopped by Democratic HQ for Hayward to get some yard signs and thought that since this probably as close to him as we'll get, we should get a record of it.

I am looking forward to this election's being over.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Thursday morning I needed to stall for time at the beginning of service. We were running a little behind inside and weren't totally prepared to have the clients come in yet. I went outside, saying I would make some announcements... slowly... and faced the eighty or so people waiting to come in to get some fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy products, and bread. I made the usual announcement about our next Saturday program and then launched into a political speech.

I reminded everyone that this Tuesday is Election Day and if they're registered to vote they need to go and vote. There was a smattering of cheers - and now I know what "a smattering of cheers" sounds like. I told people how and where they could find out where to vote, and how to sign up to work at polling places. I cried, "Tuesday is the day to make your voice heard! This is when the nation listens to you!"

Sure, I ramped up the hysteria, and I was hoarse afterward. But I didn't say anything I don't believe: There are responsibilities that come with being a citizen, and I believe that voting is one of them. I never mentioned any of the ballot measures or candidates for any office. I want everyone to turn out and participate in our imperfect democracy... the more participants, I like to think, the more perfect democracy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Is it an October Surprise if no one pays any attention?

I've heard only two short stories about the US attack on the Syria/Iraq border to kill an Al Qaeda operative. One of the volunteers mentioned it on Monday and the next day I heard a short piece about Syria wanting restitution for the people who were killed.

I know it's cynical to focus on the effect of deaths of people on the other side of the world on the US Presidential election, but the October Surprise is practically conventional wisdom. We haven't had one this year - I thought it was going to be the results of the investigation into Gov. Palin's possible abuse of power, but it wasn't. However, the very overwhelming fact of the economy's tanking is shadowing every other issue Americans might care about. So much for any surprises.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Amoebas of Doom

Saturday night, Dibu, Rouzi, and I went to hear the Amoebas of Doom play at a bar in San Francisco. The Amoebas include the Trained Killer (in bleach-blond wig) and sing a bunch of late 70s and 80s songs, with a few more recent mixed in. Kind of like listening to KFOG about ten years ago, actually.

I used to say that the Amoebas sang "classic rock" but I started paying attention to what they were playing, and the songs were ones on the radio when I was in high school. That's not classic rock - that's the soundtrack of my adolescence. So besides the Amoebas being my friends, I always have fun at their gigs - I like all the songs they play, and they play them well.

When they played "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" by The Clash, of course I started to pogo. That's what we did at my high school - jump up and down bouncing our heads on the slow parts, and on the fast parts, spin and stomp in place. The place was mostly filled with people who were very young when that song came out, and Rouzi and Dibu don't pogo, I guess. So I was on my own, but when the music moves ya. . .

I snapped something in my neck because I was hurting by the time I got home. I figured that heat would help - it didn't. Yesterday my left shoulder and neck were hurting, and dipping my head forward (like to read small print on a monitor screen, for example) sent shooting pain down my back.

This afternoon I went to the chiropractor and told him I'd hurt myself pogo-ing. He looked at me blankly, so I said, "C'mon, you're not that much older than I am, you must know how to pogo!" He shook his head, so I described it to him.

It turns out that the chiro is a big Prince fan, and has been listening to Prince's records since the first one came out in 1978. He said he'd just purchased the DVD of Purple Rain to watch with his kids. Then he told me the story of when his niece got married a few years ago, she had him called up on to the dance floor. She explained that she remembered dancing The Bird with her uncle, and had him lead the guests in the dance. The chiro used to play basketball in college and is over six feet tall; with his long arms, it must have been quite the spectacle.

My pogo-ing days may be over, but not hearing the Amoebas!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

First of the Season

The first Christmas stocking of the season! Here it is performing the function of being the legislated "red" on a pole longer than the vehicle it's being carried by.

I think it would have been fun to toss a couple candy bars in, but it was too far away. And I didn't have any candy bars.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Photos of Our House

Dancing in the living room with a philosophy professor

Jujubi, Denver D, and friends in the kitchen making pizzas

Each of us thought we were Santa - the trick was getting candy into the stockings before anyone else came into the living room

Mrs. P taking a break on the couch in the big window

Bink poses in the dining room

Graduation - Phil, Jujubi, and I about to move out of Our House!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Our House Is A Very, Very Fine House

The parenting blog on has a feature titled "Off Topic Tuesday," which allows the bloggers and commenters to talk about non-parenting topics. I think this is mostly because Peter Hartlaub, the lead blogger, likes to talk about growing up in the Bay Area in the 70s and 80s. I can get behind that. Like him, I also grew up in the Bay Area in the 70s and 80s. In fact I mostly read the blog because of "Top of the Hill, Daly City!" and the old Nut Tree.

This past Tuesday the discussion was "The Best Place You've Ever Lived." I noticed that the definition of the "the best place" had a lot to do with how close the house/apartment was or is to whatever the resident thought were good things to be near - the beach or ocean, restaurants, schools, etc. I was thinking about this, and the place I've lived the closest to all those kinds of things was the house in which I grew up: My elementary and high schools were within walking distance, as were the Junior Museum; the California Academy of Science; the Japanese Tea Garden; UCSF with its community pool and fun summer classes like Circus Skills; the Children's Playground, the Panhandle, and not too far from Sharon Meadow, Marx Meadow, and Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park; Rocky Road Mountain; and Haight Street with its roller skate rental shops and cafes (this last when I was in junior and high school, as I wasn't allowed on Haight until I was a teenager). We spent a lot of time at Baker Beach and at the Exploratorium. The corner grocery allowed us kids to sign for candy on our parents' accounts.

As I write all this down, I realize how lucky I was to live in such a place. I haven't lived in a place so close to everything as I did then. While I was thinking about the post on the other blog, though, I was thinking about my favorite place I'd lived as being the house I shared with Jujubi, Phil, and 17 other people across the three years I was a sophomore, junior, and senior in college. One block from campus, it was university owned, and had one bedroom for a triple, one for a single, and one double. There was a fireplace, a kitchen with yellow tile counters and a breakfast nook, one and a half bathrooms (including a tub), a livingroom with a plate glass window, a separet dining room, a huge basement, a backyard. On clear days we had a view of Mount Rainier from the window on the stairs. This house was known as Our House, after the song, and the Dance In The Living Room House, or DILR House. More formally (well, hardly "formally"), it was called Eleven Twenty Three, after the address.

The university thought it was a six-person house. Most of the time, only five of us were officially living there: soph year, Jujubi, Phil, Mrs. P (before she was Mrs. P), Bink, and I lived there. Junior year, Mrs. P and Bink had moved out and a friend moved in, along with two freshmen, one of whom left college after a couple weeks and the other of whom moved into a dorm at the semester break. Senior year Jujubi, Phil, and I were joined by two others of our friends. In the meantime, though, we had one friend or another sleeping on the couch for a semester or boyfriends sharing sleeping space. Since all the keys had "Do Not Duplicate" printed on them we left the door unlocked.

At that time, Tacoma wasn't much of a place to hang out in. The only place to hang out close to the university was a bar, so if you were under 21, which I was most of my college days, and you wanted to go out you went to Denny's or Dunkin' Donuts on 6th Avenue or up to Seattle to the Last Exit. There was a grocery store and a 7-11 within walking distance, and a public library and park a long walk away. Bus service was marginal so without a car it was hard to go to the mall, a movie, or Point Defiance Park.

But I didn't want to go those places most of the time. I was really happy to be at home. Because we were on the main approach to the campus, everyone came to the house all the time. On snow days, I would get up in the morning to one or several friends drinking coffee on the couch - people whose classes started earlier than mine and learned classes had been cancelled once they got to campus. When we had cast parties, from down the street you could hear people singing with Steve Miller, "I've been to Phoenix, Arizona, all the way to TACOMA!" If it was a warm fall or spring day, Phil would grill chicken or hamburgers, sometimes on the front lawn, and people would stop by on their way home. On the colder evenings, they would come by for some of Jujubi's great bean soup and beer bread.

At the time I credited Jujubi with the power of making that house feel like home. Maybe it was because she had such a nurturing vibe and I felt like a kid most of the time (I was, but I didn't think so then). She and Phil were the love in that house, and I just kept the door open. Our friends brought in a lot of love of their own, and that's what made our house so very, very fine.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Well, Wells.

Wells Fargo is purchasing Wachovia.

Last week, I sent the following email to Wells via the customer service email link:

I'm one of your customers and not a stockholder. In fact, I'm a mortgagee - Wells owns our house, and that's about all the business we do with Wells (we "bank" at a credit union). We took a regular mortgage without an ARM and received the interest rate we deserved for our income and our credit rating. We are also paying our mortgage every month.

I am really unhappy that Wells is making a move toward purchasing Wachovia. I imagine that WF is doing this for financial reasons, perhaps only part of which is to receive a portion of the bailout (which, incidentally, is a bad deal for the taxpayers, like myself). I don't like it. I want WF to stay as far away from this mortgage mess as possible, and not take on one of the lenders that got caught in the subprime mortgage or credit default mess.

As a customer, I feel I have the right to make my unhappiness about this known. I do not expect you to do this but I'm asking anyway: Please back out of the deal.

I got an email back, but it said nothing:

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and suggestions with us. Please be assured that we take customer feedback very seriously. Your views are important and are always welcome. We forwarded your suggestion(s) to the appropriate personnel who are always interested in improving customer service and satisfaction.

At Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, we are dedicated to providing the highest quality service to our valued customers. We appreciate your business and look forward to the opportunity to exceed your servicing expectations in the future.

Thank you again for contacting Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. If you have further questions, please reply to this message or contact a loan-servicing representative by calling (866) 234-8271 Monday through Friday between 6 AM and 10 PM CT and on Saturdays between 8 AM and 2 PM CT.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Check This Out

Do you wish you could get a bailout? Or wish you could decide where that money would go? How about for teachers? The Food Stamp and School Lunch Programs? Police Officers? New homes? To pay off student loans? To pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Look at what $700 billion dollars would buy.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ten Kitchen Essentials

The San Francisco Chronicle's Food Section has a story this week titled Ten Kitchen Essentials. This list "goes beyond [the] basics like kosher salt and panko breadcrumbs" listed here and includes the following:

Mirin (Japanese rice wine);
Dark chocolate (at least 62% cocoa);
Fish sauce (the Southeast Asian clear sauce);
Salted capers;
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce;
Garbanzo beans (I prefer to call them chickpeas);
High quality honey;
Whole grain mustard;
Fancy tuna in olive oil

It happens that quinoa and chickpeas are a standard item in my pantry, piled on shelves in the garage, as well. I personally prefer rice to quinoa, but Zirpu likes quinoa's higher protein and lower glycemic index better, so we have both. It's also important to be able to whip up a batch of hummus anytime, and I have been known to use them as part of a whole non-chickpea-focused recipe as well. We like mustards here, and the kinds of mustards we buy - garlic mustard, jalapeno mustard, Jim Beam mustard - tend to be made with whole grain mustard. But we also keep the usual yellow on hand. I use fish sauce so slowly that it becomes part of the pantry after I buy a bottle for the few tablespoons I need for a Chinese recipe from my wok book.

The rest of this intrigues me. These are pantry items? I think of pantry items as the things you could make a meal of, not with. It strikes me that perhaps this list was mistitled as "essentials' and should have been called something like "Ten Versatile Pantry Items" and even then not including cream of mushroom soup is pretty questionable). Kitchen Essentials in my kitchen, in no particular order:

Olive oil
Mustard of some type
Tuna (not packed in oil)
Pasta (low carb, soy or whole wheat)
Barbecue sauce (because I have several slow cookers)

The top ten things we pack the boxes with at the food bank are:
Canned fruit;
Canned vegetables;
Canned corn;
Canned soup;
Canned tomatoes;
Canned chili, stew, or ravioli;

These are what I consider the "essential" essentials, the best guess for feeding folks from nonperishable goods for the best price (several commenters in the original article mentioned the cost of the Chron's list).

Now, please excuse me while I make biscuits out of flour and bacon grease to go with the slow-cooked ribs with barbecue sauce.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Maybe it's the economy...

There's an ad playing on the radio these days and I have heard it twice. It turns out to be about something other than what I expect it to be about.

A man's voice says:

Just three carats (that "ding" noise that goes with an image of a shine)...
Just a ski weekend (sound of wind and snow)...
Just a little retail therapy (ca-ching!)...
Just a toy (motorcycle revving)...
Just a hobby (horses' hooves pounding)...

And so on. While he's reading the list I'm expecting the end of the ad to be woman's voice talking about "using your credit card wisely" or advertising credit counseling services, or even a bank advising potential customers that they'll be helped with financial advising. I'm all prepared to hear a supportive but lecturing voice about spending money wisely.

At the end of the ad, the man's voice says, "Just a millionaire." Another man's voice continues with a line about the California Lottery.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Dahlias, Darlin'!

From a visit to the San Francisco Dahlia Garden, just east of the SF Conservatory of Flowers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together!

I don't send money directly to candidate's campaigns. There's something so odoriferous to me about how money = votes, and the press is always reporting on the fundraising done by this or that candidate or campaign as if the one with the most money wins (which is sometimes the case). Also, my vote can't be bought - I may vote with a sense of resignation, but not because I saw this many "convincing" TV ads; I read my ballot booklet and I try not to vote with my gut (for example, the hardest votes for me are for/against bond measures). I think about how people I know may be affected by whether the measure succeeds or fails.

About a week ago I received a forwarded email from a friend about Sarah Palin. I've received a few of these, like a letter from a Wasilla resident and from Planned Parenthood. The letter I got from my friend was a suggestion to send a donation to Planned Parenthood in the anti-choice Sarah Palin's honor, and because I trust this friend I know she's internet savvy, I made a decision. I Googled the name of the person who signed the email I got, and found her at a local college.

The email suggested sending a donation of at least $5 to Planned Parenthood in honor of Sarah Palin. As the honoree, Palin would receive a card acknowledging the donation in her name. I'm someone who believes that each person should be able to decide for herself whether she will have a baby; I'm someone who has used PP for health services (full disclosure: birth control pills and the last shot of three for the hepititus B vaccine); and I'm someone who understands that not all teens can go through their family doctors for certain kinds of health care, so I support Planned Parenthood's mission. By supporting Planned Parenthood, and by letting Gov. Palin know I support Planned Parenthood, I would a) not contribute to any presidential campaign and b) let McCain/Palin I do not support their campaign. Also, I like irony.

Then I did something I have only done once before, which was forward the email to a bunch of (selected) friends (I never send anything to my entire email address book). One of my friends wrote back that she was looking for her credit card and hoped that PP would get $1000 from this effort.

Yet another friend sent me (and others) an email following up on the Planned Parenthood Donate in Palin's Name email. The estimate of $1000 was an underestimate. As of September 30, Planned Parenthood had received over $763,000 dollars from 30,000 donors, 3/4 of whom are first-time donors.

To quote Hannibal Smith, I love it when a plan comes together.

** If you wish to participate, please go here. Gov. Palin's address is John McCain 2008, P.O. Box 16118, Arlington , VA 22215

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We have pets!

350 of them.

Their sheer numbers should tell you what they are,
but if not, here's a hint:

Alameda County runs a program called Stop Waste, to encourage residential and commercial trash customers (that is, all of us) to reduce and recycle. We got a letter asking us to consider buying a yard composter or a Wriggly Wranch, or ideally, both. I read it and gave it to Zirpu, remarking that the county is greatly subsidizing the price of these items. I didn't expect him to do anything with the brochure but recycle it, but Zirpu got online and ordered the set. The day after Zirpu's birthday, two big boxes arrived via UPS. I stuck a leftover gift ribbon on one of them and when he came in I said, "I got your birthday present!"

Yesterday Zirpu and I went to the liquor store/bait shop down the road. As we walked in we passed under a stuffed deer's head that seemed to define "moth eaten" and by the kind of freezer that usually holds ice cream sandwiches filled with sardines in bags with "for bait ONLY" printed on them. Zirpu marched up to the counter and tried to determine whether jumbo or regular sized worms would be better for the worm bin. The instructions that came with the bin said to add about a pound of worms, but the lady was only selling them by number. In the end, he selected 50 jumbos and 300 regular size (which are much smaller than the jumbos, actually). The instructions that came with the worm bin say that if you feed them and keep them healthy, eventually the bin should be able to support 1500 worms.

I am not sure what we will do with the compost and castings the worms produce. Perhaps Zirpu's garden experiment will expand, though most of our backyard is covered by the deck.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Main Street and $700 Billion

I was listening to Fresh Air on my way home yesterday and heard this interview with Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times.

I haven't really understood what happened and how, and I had no idea why the bailout is a good thing for taxpayers. I heard a line (in a story regarding AIG), which was "Profits are privatized, but losses are socialized" and other than that I didn't have a sense of how we got here. Morgenson explained it in language and analogies I understood. If you want to understand it too, check out the interview.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Personal IS Political, and Love! Love! Love!

I'd like to think everyone I know is in favor of love and opposed to Measure 8 and other "Defense of Marriage" Act-type laws. I understood why the doctrine of "separate but equal" is wrong, but not what was so "right" about being married. Then I knew I wanted to marry Zirpu and I understood why being married is so important.

I recently received this wedding announcement from two dear friends of mine, announcing their act of "civil obedience." They have given permission for me to post this beautiful letter. Hooray for love!

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It seems suddenly the personal has become very political, in my life. This is an unusual wedding announcement, because I'm sending it to everyone I can think of, not just family and close friends, and not even just those who recall how they know me (although I hope all of you do!) I'm delighted to announce that Michelle Greenberg, my partner of four years, and I will be getting legally married here in San Francisco (I know, we live in Oakland, but SF City Hall is MUCH prettier) this coming month. This announcement is also unusual because it's not to invite you all to the ceremony -- they only allow six attendees -- or to try to get you to send gifts. Please don't send gifts, really!!

The purpose of this announcement is to tell you how much it means to us to be able to get married, legally, as we contemplate trying to create a family together, and spending our lives together, as the life of a married couple.

Most of you are aware there's a ballot measure here in California that is trying to make unconstitutional the marriage of couples who are of the same gender. Yes, Michelle and I are the same gender. Please think of us at the polls, because for every same-sex couple out there waiting to arrive at the moment when they know their love is forever, there are two sets of wonderful, loving family, friends and acquaintances just like all of you, who can offer them their support in assuring that this right be preserved for us all to find the love of our lives and make solemn and legal the commitment we make to each other, to our communities, and to our families. Please share our story with your friends, family and acquaintances, if you feel so inspired!

For those to whom this reaches a deep, deep place in your hearts, perhaps because you are also affected by this issue, or perhaps because this issue simply speaks deeply to your personal principles, I have included a link to a website of a coalition of organizations, No on Prop 8, where donations can be made to support efforts to defeat this ballot measure. You can go to If you're one of those people that absolutely can't resist sending wedding gifts, consider this the best possible option, in our case!

My home state of Wisconsin passed a similar measure some years back, referred to as a DOMA, or Defense of Marriage Act, as an amendment to its constitution. As a result, I cannot move my family back to the state where my mother lives, and where I grew up, and preserve for my future spouse and our children the rights and protections conceded to us by the current laws of the State of California. I am very grateful to be able to continue my life here in California and enjoy all the rights, and carry all of the responsibilities, of other married people in loving, nurturing families here in this State. I hope someday that Wisconsin's DOMA may be repealed, and I'm sure there will be plenty of people like Michelle and me, living out their lives in Wisconsin, who will continue to fight for that greater justice. Sadly, it is so much harder to undo what has already been done, especially in the sphere of laws. I wish them courage and perseverance. And I pray (yes, pray) we do not to have to go through that ourselves, here in California.

Lastly, I write to simply tell you what great joy it gives me to announce my upcoming marriage to Michelle Hannah Greenberg, daughter of Cheryl and Dave Greenberg of Detroit, MI As far as making a family together, we'll keep you posted.....

with much love in my heart,
Margaret Stevenson

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Real People Really Affected

Yesterday a woman came into the food bank practically hyperventilating because she was so upset. She had just worked out a budget for herself and was saying to her teenage daughter that she just didn't know how she was going to be able to do this.

It became clear after a few minutes that she hadn't been paid in 76 days because she provides care for five children and the state hasn't been sending out checks since July. I was happy to tell her that a budget had been passed by the state legislature and that the Governator had said he would sign it. She was incredibly relieved to know that finally some money would be coming in.

I did not mention that there are no winners in this budget, only losers, and that we'll be right back here again next year, unless the economy miraculously improves by then. When I talked to her I didn't know that he was scheduled to sign it next week. I wonder when she is going to get a check, and if it will be everything owed her since the end of July, or in chunks?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Around The Budget In Eighty Days

So, some work finally got done in Sacramento!

The Legislature put together a budget of cuts and magic and the Governator signed it. Schools can hire teachers and create smaller classes; hospitals, clinics, and residential care programs can pay the loans they took to keep themselves operating, childcare and adult care centers can keep kids and adults safe and supervised; and college students can get their state grants to pay for books and living expenses. In the meantime, no one got their wages reduced to $6.55 an hour because the lawsuit didn't get far enough along in the process.

I can't help thinking that a situation exactly like this - only ending two weeks earlier than this time around - is what got Gov. Grey Davis recalled and Arnold Schwarzenegger elected.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Birthday Weekend

A success! I had a great time this past weekend, but I was wrong about having a birthday party every month helping me relate to being 40: I'm used to saying I'm 40, but I'm not used to the idea yet... Just celebrating the thirteenth anniversary of my 27th birthday...

I'm still much younger than most of the people I work with, and I doubt there are many 40 year olds who can say that. Go food bank volunteers!

The birthday party was big fun! I managed, somehow, to invite just enough people from all the circles of my life for everyone to see someone they knew. The chatter was loud! The food was good - if I say so myself, since I made most of it and Shobi-wan made the rest.

We had yummy beverages made from Stirrings brand martini and margarita mixes (with which I wound up due to circumstances beyond my control). I told everyone that since the mixers don't include high fructose corn syrup, and lemons and limes are high in Vit C, the drinks were healthy!

Plus, Rouzi has agreed to be my personal bartender. Every forty-year old should have one.

As requested, my friends also brought 107 pounds of canned goods and a generous cash donation to the party for the food bank, which rocked. I got the idea from a young Alamedan who did it for her birthday party two months ago.

The next afternoon Shobi-wan and I went kayaking at Half Moon Bay. I had never been before and just as I was thinking, "Hm, kayaks!" Shobi-wan asked, "Wanna go kayaking?" We got outfitted and paddled around the outer walls of the harbor, looking at pelicans, jellies, and sea stars.

Monday Mom, Shobi-wan, and I went to a preview of the new California Academy of Sciences, which was amazing. I am really excited to go there when the whole place is open. There were a few familar things: the pendulum, which a docent told us hadn't originally been planned as an exhibit in the new building, but the docents petitioned and persuaded the curators to add it back in; the T. Rex skeleton; the original Hall of Man with dioramas of African animals (which now includes an African penguin tank, and had a human in it playing with the birds); and the original seahorse railing around the alligator swamp.

In the evening we met Zirpu, KT, and No at Destino for dinner and alfajores for dessert. A great birthday weekend!

The best thing for me - and excuse me if you think I'm getting soft in my old age; I've always been sappy - is that I got to spend it with people I like who like me.

Now, what to do for my October Unbirthday...? I'm celebrating the whole year, you know!