Friday, April 16, 2010

A Phone Call

I have been following the adventures of a reluctant activist, my college friend Janice. When her wife Lisa was dying in a Miami hospital in 2007, the hospital denied Janice and Janice and Lisa's children visitation because the hospital said they weren't Lisa's next of kin. Janice and the kids filed a suit against the hospital, which was recently dismissed because there's no law requiring respect for families in Florida, and Janice has since found herself behind podiums at LGBT events all over the country, speaking about equal rights.

Yesterday I was looking around and found this story:
April 15, 2010

President Obama is ordering hospitals to extend visitation rights to whomever a patient designates, including same-sex partners, tying the requirement to federal funding for Medicare and Medicaid.

"Gay and lesbian Americans are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they have spent decades of their lives -- unable to be there for the person they love," Obama said in a presidential memorandum.

The new visitation policy will apply to more than just same-sex partners. Under the order, patients can designate anyone -- a friend or a distant relative -- to be a surrogate decision-maker.

Hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding will be required to comply.

Gay and lesbian groups have been fighting for years to get hospital visitation rights, which vary by state.

"One person in a hospital can make a huge difference," said Dr. Jason Schneider, former president of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. "So I think this directive gives weight to the importance of recognizing the variety and the breadth of how people define families."

I emailed Janice and asked if she had heard about this - assuming that she had, but just in case she hadn't. This order, if it had existed three years ago, would have covered Janice and her family. This is the email I received back from Janice: "Oh yes dear. The president called me from air force one as he was issuing the memo."

I must admit that there is no part of that sentence that I do not find totally glamorous. But the really great news is that now the law is on the side of all kinds of families.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Beer And A Bump

From Vesuvio's in North Beach, San Francisco

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Regulation 21

From the "Institution Rules & Regulations
US Penitentiary Alacatraz"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Muscle Memory

I had my first workout with Marlon on Thursday, my first with him since late 2004 or maybe 2005. I walked in feeling very confident, knowing what I needed and having asked for it. I was clear about my goals, and Marlon is very goal-oriented, for himself and for his clients. I was already warmed up when I arrived, since I'd walked on the elliptical for 30 minutes back at my "home gym." Marlon was finishing up with his previous client so he said I should use the foam roller, a torture device by lying on which you can "massage" your own muscles.

I laid the side of my right leg on it and rolled and it hurt. I expected that and grit my teeth for a few rolls back and forth, then did the left side, which hurt even more. I expected that too - the left side is the damaged side from the wreck. I rolled that only a couple times. Then I did my usual stretches to kill the next few minutes until Marlon got to me.

Marlon placed the roller against my buttocks and had me lean back onto it to roll up and down my back. I rolled up (toward my shoulders) and then down, and Marlon said, "You look excited about working out." I said, "I feel scared" and burst into tears. Marlon sat in front of me, looked me in the eyes, and instead of saying "Everything is going to be okay," he said, "I'm scared too. It's been a long time since we worked together, and you've had this really traumatic thing happen to your body." Indeed, how I felt was that this burst of emotion was about the car wreck, unleashed first by the pressure on my IT band (the muscle that runs over the hip and down the outside of the leg), then on my low back, the parts of my body most impacted, in both senses of the word, by the car accident.

I thought about whether my outburst was due to outside reasons, like being tired, or being frustrated that my body isn't as strong now as it has been in the past. But I really think that it is because the body holds emotions of which we are not aware, and holds onto memory in a physical way. We say "muscle memory" to describe the unconscious way that once we've learned something, we just know how to do it without thinking about it - like swimming, or balancing on a bicycle, or the footwork in a dance step. I think that my left leg and low back hold the memory of the accident and fear about getting injured, and the pressure brought all that to the forefront suddenly and overwhelmingly.

Separate from that, the tears made me realize that when I see someone doing something stupid in a car, like cutting through lanes or merging aggressively or thoughtlessly, I do not immediately feel annoyance. My first feeling is fear and my first thought is, "You do not have my permission to hurt me." I often assume that they will merge into me, or that they can't or won't see the car I'm driving. It is why I am a much more cautious driver than I used to be: I do not believe that drivers are always conscious that their cars cannot be in the same place as my car.

Anyway, Marlon and I got through it. He reassured me that he would not let me hurt myself, and would teach me how not to hurt myself when we are not together. He knows me well enough to know that I have a tendency to run with what he teaches me with a little too much, how to put it?, enthusiasm.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Starting Again

I have gone back to the personal trainer I worked with after the car wreck. There is a long backstory behind this, but it's not very interesting. Suffice to say that between not dancing and not going to the gym, my mind has been pretty disconnected from my body. I haven't been going to the gym not because I didn't want to, but because the last two times I did I threw my back out to some degree or another, even with low weights. My body knew I needed to get back to my trainer, but my mind didn't make the time to do it. A couple weeks ago I contacted him and asked if he would take me back. He, of course, said, "Yes, baby. When?"

What made me really examine the state my body is in was a massage I got at the chiropractor's office. I'd attended a two-hour lunch meeting and sat at a table with my arms folded. My shoulder was sore afterwards, but when it continued to hurt the next day I decided to actually get it massaged. My shoulder hurt during most of the holidays, and I figured it was stress exacerbated by the way I hold books, and I read a lot of books in November, December, and January. I started working on holding books in a different way, and then spent many hours watching the Olympics rather than reading. And then my shoulder was right back where it was after a two hour meeting!

I got a 30-minute deep tissue massage and I must admit that it really hurt at times. I could hear the muscle "crackle" at the MT was pushing it around with her elbow, could feel the huge mass wrapped around the shoulder blade. When I left, I felt really, really sad. I had spent so much time ignoring what I needed! Telling myself that I was paying attention now didn't make me feel much better - even though that's what I always say to people when they remark that they wished they'd known or done something earlier. I called Marlon a few days later.

We met on Monday for an assessment appointment - which consisted of me telling Marlon why I was there, and then doing many squats with my arms over my head. I told him that I am done throwing my back out, and I can't seem to complete workouts without doing it. The assessment told him that the muscles that support my back are weak and that most of the muscles in my body are really tight, and that we could work on all of that. My attitude about training has always been "Bring it on"; I recognize that there's a macho thing at work in my head, but it gets the job done. It's really different for me having someone who acts like they really want me to succeed at things I think I'm not good at.

Tuesday night I came up with my own list of goals. Here they are in order of importance:

Strengthen core and glute muscles
-core strength
- support my back
- improve one-legged balance

Lift up to 40 pounds
- increase muscle strength in arms, chest, and upper back
- increase leg strength

Super-long term goals
- not throw my back out anymore
- grace and strength in dancing
- strong bones when elderly

I really like Marlon, and I think it's always good to have a friend or two who isn't much like me. We make each other laugh a lot, which makes it easier to work with him. And like I said, the macho thing helps with my attitude. I feel like I walked in to his gym with confidence, and making this list makes me feel even more confident: I have clear goals, which makes me feel more confident about reaching them.

For The YaYas

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Self Care

Before I first started working at Harry's Mother, my first social-work job, one of the questions in the interview was, "How do you take care of yourself?" I'd never been asked that before, and I was young and hadn't really thought about how the environment and the people around me could affect my emotional state. So I pulled my answer out of the air: "Spend time with friends and talk; eat; read books; and get enough sleep." My prospective boss didn't correct my answer - in fact, she probably wanted me to think about it ahead of time, rather than there being a right answer, and this is what I've been using as my standard prescription for self-care, when asked.

Over the last couple of days I have been having experiences that have made me aware that I don't do good self care when I'm in the moment. I am getting better about just removing myself from the situation where people around me are irritating me at work, whether it's their fault or mine. I find work to do in the back room if it's a client, or I walk out the door and either walk up the street or hang out in the back lot if it's a volunteer.

What I don't do well is think about how I can make a bad situation better for myself if I can't remove myself, or, which happens more often, I forget that I can. This usually happens when I feel like I am in charge. I usually forget that I can often turn things over to someone else. Last night I didn't think I would be able to effectively facilitate the group, and it never occurred to me to call another facilitator and ask if she was available to come and do it instead. Though this is probably because my experience is that I'm the only one who says "yes" to last minute substitutions, which in itself is something for me to think about.

Maybe now that I recognize this I will be able to catch myself in it, though honestly I doubt it, mostly because I think I've realized this before - it feels very familiar.

I have definitely been having "Always Learning" experiences this week. Sigh.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Truth

Life in general is puzzling all the freaking time.
We just learn a poker face.

- Shobi-wan

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Defined By How We Treat Others

Here is an exchange of emails between me and my former high school homeroom teacher, who also taught PE. I wound up sending the email by snail mail via the Wallenberg Community Foundation.

This post is also in honor of any teachers who read this. You never know what your students are learning from you.

Hi Mr. N,

About two months ago I met another Wallenberg grad. I don't know when she graduated and she could be anywhere from 15 to 5 years younger than I (but probably around ten, though really, it's hard to tell). I don't remember her name, either, at this point.

I was telling this story about you that I sometimes tell, in which I mentioned "you by your nickname At the end of the story she asked if I'd gone to Wallenberg, and it turned out that she figured that out because I had used your nickname. My impression is that she had had you for class (as opposed to homeroom). So I've been thinking about that story and I thought perhaps I should ask you about this.

When I was in 10th grade, during the "family life" unit in PE, you brought in a panel of people from an LGB organization. I think there were three or four people, there to talk about being gay or bisexual. I think they answered questions. I don't exactly remember.

In retrospect, I think this was a pretty bold thing for you to have done. Were there even "opt out" forms in those days? Was there a lot of blowback from parents? Did you ever bring in a panel like that again?

What kills me though is to think that you had gone to all of this effort to bring these people in, and they had gone to all of the effort to come in and speak to a bunch of teenagers who may or may not have been interested, and I didn't "get it." Five years later I figured out that I wasn't straight, and it shocks me to this day that I didn't start thinking about it that afternoon. Of course, it was a different time, I may have been particularly clueless, and blah blah blah.

Though I wasn't ready or able to hear their message (other than that of tolerance, which was an easy sell for me), I wanted to thank you for bringing in that panel all those years ago.



Here is his reply, which he signed with his first name. I was not in the class he describes below; I had PE during first period that year.

Thanks so very much for the very touching note you sent. How nice to be remembered. You have no idea how much notes like yours are appreciated. You don't get much feedback in teaching and it's nice to know that someone remembers you from time to time.

I DO remember that class very vividly. It was part of the Family Life curriculum and the group I brought in was from a district approved speakers bureau. We HAD sent out permission slips and everyone, or their parents had the option to "opt out." No one did.

What I do remember was that of all the topics we covered in that six-week unit, it was the only one in which parents opted to come to. I don't know if you were in the class that exploded, but, as I recall, it happened during the last class of the day.

Once the speakers were finished, there was a question and answer period (you have a good memory!). I'll never forget, G__ C__ asked the million-dollar question: How do gays "do it"? The answer that was given was a "no holds barred" type of answer, and from then on, no question was off limits.

Finally, at the end of the class, one of the parents (who shall remain nameless) asked me and [another teacher] why these people were here and what was the purpose of all this explicit discussion. I meekly tried to explain that the speakers were part of an approved group of presenters and that everyone, including the principal, the parents, and the students knew for weeks exactly who these speakers were and why they were there. Then, much to my sheer relief, S__ A__ jumped up and started screaming at the parents that we, the students, had every right to hear what these folks were saying. That it was parents like them that were trying to hide things from us. With that, the place exploded in support of S__, led, I think, by L__ P__. There was chaos for what seemed like forever, but the bell finally rang and everyone left.

Well, I was called into the [principal's] office and he said the district office had called. He asked me what had taken place. I told him everything from start to finish. All he asked me was if I had provided permission slips. When I told him I had, he said he's take care of everything - and he did. But I'll tell you, for several weeks I was very cautious about answering the phone and opening my mail I thought for sure I was going to be called downtown for some sort of reprimand (or worse). But the more I thought about it, I was more and more convinced I had done the right thing.

The whole purpose was to try to get across to kids that there were/are alternative life-styles out there and that no one should be ashamed of who they are or what sexual preferences they may have. I wanted them to know that there are many others out there just like them and that they are not "odd." It makes me so happy to know that for someone like you, this class may have helped you discover yourself and who you are. We are not defined by our sexual preference, our work, or who we happened to be with. I believe we are defined by how we treat others.

So, thanks for the kind words.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Usable Art

Though Phil passed away a long time ago, I have found it so difficult to purchase mugs that look like the ones he made I haven't bought any. I have looked at mugs, bowls, and plates, admired them, picked them up to rub my fingers on the cool glazes, and then put them down and walked away.

Phil specifically made this mug for me one night after we'd been in the original Starbucks in Pike Place during our sophomore year. This was before lidded mugs were ubiquitous, if even invented, and I had admired a mug with a wide bottom and a narrow mouth. I imagined that I would be able to walk to class with a full cup of tea (it was also before I started drinking coffee).

Phil didn't like the way this green-brown-blue mug had come out, but I asked if I could have it and he said yes. For a long time this was my go-to mug in the morning if I wasn't going anywhere, while the long-necked one was what I took to class. It was much easier to clean than the other one, too. Then lidded mugs appeared on the scene, I got out of school and was driving to work, and the long-necked mug lived at home.

Yesterday morning I went to the Farmers' Market and there was a new vendor. He apparently comes to the Hayward FM once a month to sell his ceramics. He comes with pieces, but he also takes orders for specific pieces and colors.

Maybe because Marko and his family are in town this weekend (and I saw them later yesterday) I really felt like I would jump in and buy something. The potter, Scott, was very talkative and he and I talked for awhile about firing, glazes, and selling his usable art. Some people arrived to pick up pieces they had ordered. While they were talking, as I have in the past, I looked at mugs, bowls, plates, and casserole dishes, and picked them up to rub my fingers on the cool glazes. I found myself having a strong emotional reaction to even considering buying something that looked similar to the things Phil used to make.

Eventually I did.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Dynamic Duo and the Demi-Dynamic Duo

No's best friend and business partner Paulo turned forty this week. No and Paulo are five months apart, as are their sons.

Everyone believes that Zaye and Little C will be friends since their dads are friends. No and Paulo have been friends since eighth grade, when Paulo started at the school No was attending. And even though Paulo and I went to the same high school, sometimes I forget that Paulo didn't go to high school with No and their crowd from middle school, many of whom they are still friends with.

At the party someone remarked that maybe Little C and Zaye would celebrate their 40th birthdays together too. Someone else remarked that when the boys are 40, No and Paulo will be 80. No almost physically jumped back at the thought.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

This Is A Song

When No and I were young, among the books Mom read to us was Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown (the author of the much more famous Goodnight Moon). The story focuses on the little fur child, who spends the day hanging out in the wild wood where the family lives, meeting creatures that fly and swim and an even smaller little fur person. At the end of the book, the little fur parents sing a going-to-bed song to the little fur child.

This is my favorite illustration, all by Garth Williams, in the book, though there are many that I really like. I can imagine the little fur father singing in a big voice as if he is singing in a chorus, while the little fur mother sings more quietly to help put her child to sleep.

In truth, though, I probably like this one best because when we got to the end of the book, Mom would sing us the song. At the end, the last line of which is"This is a song," she added her own lyrics to teach us some baby music theory: "with whole notes and half notes and quarter notes and eighth notes." At some point we asked her to write in her lyrics because a babysitter didn't sing the last part when we taught her the tune.

When JayBear came into my life, I gave him a copy and taught the tune to Miz Jinkins, including the last, apocryphal, verse. He so associates the song with bedtime that I don't get to sing it when we're together because it makes him think it's time to go to sleep, and he doesn't want to go to bed when Zirpu and I are over to play.

Some years ago I found the copy of Little Fur Family that Mom used to read to No and me. Last Wednesday evening after work I was going to meet No, KT, Zaye, and Mom, and I remembered I'd wanted to give to the little book to Zaye when Mom was present. I snatched it out of the bookshelf just before I left that morning.

No smiled and Mom exclaimed, "Is this THE book?!" as she opened it to the last page. KT giggled. As usual, Zaye looked all around at the lights and the people in the restaurant. I'm really glad I saved the book for him, without even knowing who or when he was going to be, all that time ago...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Van

Two years ago I asked the Food Bank Director for a new food bank building for my birthday, and it arrived - a few weeks late, but better late than never.

The food bank received a grant to purchase a new pick-up/delivery van, so this year I asked for a new van for Christmas. I got one! The Jedi Master went online, looked all over the state, and quickly found one not too far away - a new 2008 Dodge Sprinter that had been sitting on the lot since the economy fell apart 15 months ago and no one has been buying new equipment. Facing Jedi mind tricks, the salesman agreed to sell the van at a used price.

I got to drive it yesterday. I have driven a few large vehicles at my various jobs, mostly passenger vans, and this is the biggest thing I've driven. I did drive a 14-passenger van for a couple days about 15 years ago, which is as big as you can go without a commercial or bus driver's license. Anyway, the Sprinter is easy to drive - heavy, but easy. And with electric mirror adjusters, easier to see out of than the old van is (though still not visibility in the back, of course).

The FBD is very excited that even he, at six feet tall, can stand up in the back. I am too!