Monday, January 30, 2017


Today I didn't cry

until 8:47 a.m.

when I remembered that time, when
I told HNIC a story about a minor local celebrity, trying to impress him
with my NOLA street cred

and he said - most assuredly not impressed - "oh yeah, he and my brother
used to have a crack house together" and he told me the whole story.

And it was hilarious and poignant.

Nobody has storytelling skills like HNIC.

Nobody knows New Orleans like HNIC.  He knew
everything, everyone

and if he didn't, then his dad did.

I remember the time he really cried to tell me
about his dad.  About
the emotional abuse, all those years.
His whole life.
A hatred, because of a family resemblance to a hated grandfather.

And I remember
HNIC was with me when he got the call
that marked the beginning of the end of his father's life.
I had forgotten, but he reminded me. 
That was one of the periods that we
were trying to be something together, before
another explosion because
it is entirely possible for two people to love each other deeply, truly
and be entirely unable to be in any kind of relationship.

And I cried this morning,
as I drove down the street, late to work
(don't lose that good job, he would admonish me)
because I realized

he will never tell me another story.

being Juan

If you haven't seen Mahershala Ali's SAG speech (he won for Moonlight), please spend two minutes being inspired to be a better person.

rhymes with mafia

Before I post this, I have to say:

I don't care for poetry.

With some strong exceptions (Edith Sodergran, ee cummings when he's not a sexist ass)

And this:

Self-Portrait With No Flag

Safia Elhillo

i pledge allegiance to my
homies      to my mother’s
small & cool palms     to
the gap between my brother’s
two front teeth      & to
my grandmother’s good brown
hands       good strong brown
hands gathering my bare feet
in her lap

i pledge allegiance    to the
group text      i pledge allegiance
to laughter & to all the boys
i have a crush on      i pledge
allegiance to my spearmint plant
to my split ends      to my grandfather’s
brain & gray left eye

i come from two failed countries
& i give them back      i pledge
allegiance to no land    no border
cut by force to draw blood    i pledge
allegiance to no government    no
collection of white men carving up
the map with their pens

i choose the table at the waffle house
with all my loved ones crowded
into the booth     i choose the shining
dark of our faces through a thin sheet
of smoke     glowing dark of our faces
slick under layers of sweat     i choose
the world we make with our living
refusing to be unmade by what surrounds
us      i choose us gathered at the lakeside
the light glinting off the water & our
laughing teeth     & along the living
dark of our hair    & this is my only country

Sunday, January 29, 2017

old hippie chick

Y'all, I was less than a year old when Woodstock happened, and I came to sexuality in a time of AIDS, but I"m the second hippie wave.

"I'm making beet-farro-feta salad, dark bread, and Moroccan vegetable soup.  Let's eat early - how about 6 or 6:30?"  And then I put more scraps into the compost bin while Joni MItchell was playing.


I will never learn to cook like a southerner (though the dark bread is a nod, since it has molasses) or a carnivore or a fancy person, or anyone other than just me.  The person influenced by Frances Moore Lappe and Mollie Katzen and the More-With-Less Mennonites. 

The dog is anxious today.  On edge.  I have some tricks to play to keep her calm - a bone, mostly, and a peanut butter kong.  A Himalayan dog chew if I need.  I'll pull out all the stops. 

But until then, I need to start the soup. 

survivor's guilt

Years back, we had a hurricane and power was out in the city in lots of places for over a week.  I refused to evacuate and my house was an oasis - because it was built over 100 years ago, it's built smart.  Open up the windows, get a breeze - it's refreshing even after an August hurricane.

HNIC was saving people, as per usual.  He spent three nights sleeping in a desk chair, handling thousands of people.  He was, after all, the HNIC (this was the term he told me to use for him; once he asked how I refer to him to my friends

As we stayed in contact, I could hear the tone shift and he was exhausted.  I pressured him relentlessly to just come shower and nap and my place. It's quiet, it's relatively cool. 

He finally succumbed to the pressure and came over, enjoying a shower and a nap.  We probably had sex, I probably fed him - I don't recall those details.  I just remember him arriving beyond exhaustion and him leaving hours later feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world again.

I was his oasis on a lot of occasions.  An escape from being so "on." 

And so I wonder if I could have prevented his death.  What if I'd been better about being in closer contact with him and would have pushed him to take a different medical route after his accident?  What if I had been pushy about monitoring his meds? What if I had showed up at the ER, for his surgery?  What if I had forced my way into his doctors' appointments and demanded answers? 

One of our rules was that we didn't push too much.  It used to make him kind of crazy that I would just go MIA for extended periods of time.  But if I didn't want to see him, then I just didn't.  Usually just because I was busy or tied up with something else and he wasn't always a priority.  And I feel tapped out these days, unable to take on more priorities than what I'm already juggling. 

And also: HIPAA and respecting grown man's privacy, and all that. 

But he told me what was going on.  It sounds like very few other people knew.  And I didn't bully my way in because he didn't like when I did that.

But if it had saved his life, even if he was so angry at me he never spoke to me again so long as we both lived, it would have been worth it. 

And I know it wasn't my place.  But I think of the times we saved each other, how we would catch each other, sharing our deepest secrets only with each other, and I feel guilt that I didn't save his life. 

I just wish, like thousands of other people do, that he weren't dead.  Far, far too soon. 

delight enforcer

Some mornings, my dog is so delighted about life that I look at her and need more coffee.  They're building a house at the lot adjoining the back of mine, and she has some strong opinions that she is going to voice at 7:30 am on a Sunday.  Because she is Ziggy Stardust, champion of whatever cause she's obsessed with at the moment. 

Life doesn't get her down, she is just always delighted in some way.  Delighted to bark at the neighbors, delighted to pick up the sock I dropped, delighted to drink water, delighted to do laundry, delighted to get her morning pill, delighted to wake up.  We haven't even gotten to the goo stuff - she overflows with delight at a walk, a treat, a toy. 

She's not the stupid happy-happy dog who dumbly waits for whatever is coming his way.  No, she is a carpe diem pup, and she seizes life by the balls and doesn't let loose.  She is rabidly delighted because if she doesn't like something, she makes it change.  Or she changes her mind about it.  When I got her she wasn't apparently leash trained, but now she literally leaps for joy when she sees the leash, and if I try to remove her collar she gets very distraught - and then is delighted to be reunited with it.  . 

She is not an easy dog.  She is a wild beast, completely lacking the obedience and loyalty that people attribute to dogs. 

But I don't frankly need obedience or loyalty.  I don't demand conformity with my wishes - I taught 8th grade for years in "disadvantaged" neighborhoods BECAUSE I like challenging pushback.  Of course I don't want my dog to bathroom in the house or destroy things or bite me or any of that - and she doesn't.   It's just more that when I ask her to do something, she weighs the advantages of compliance - and I don't always win.  And when she gets in these moods, she doesn't want to be pet or touched - she stays out of range at all times.  If she wants something from me, she stands about 10 feet away and stares at me.  It drives me crazy. 

Ziggy Stardust provides me with what I need, though.  Her delight makes life always seem better.  She takes a shitty day and sparkles it with glitter.  She REFUSES to get down. No matter how bad something, she is DETERMINED to make it seem fun.  That is her little superpower: creating and enforcing delight. 

Beyond that she's great because if I'm really down about something, she is comforting.  She does it entirely on her own terms - she is not interested in snuggling on command.  She often looks at me and weighs how I'm feeling and she responds, but her way.  Sometimes that means sitting at my feet and leaning against me.  Sometimes that means nosing the laptop out of the way and resting her head on my lap.  Sometimes it's pestering me mercilessly to take her for a walk. 

And she is also a great workmate.  I'm never alone, the Catahoula is always at my side.  "What are we doing today?  Plumbing? Electrical?  I'll hold the screwdriver.  Let me take a look at those pieces.  Oh, you want to dig a hole?  All over it, move over." 

Ziggy is a force of nature whose reign of terror makes us get few visitors here at Stardust Manor.  She's not welcome in a lot of places. 

But she always makes my day better.  She accomplishes that task with great aplomb.  Every morning I get up and the first thing I do is say good morning and pet the dog.  And then I get coffee, because I always need it to keep up with her. 

Today's to-do list is super long and I have friends coming - one to overnight (she departs shortly for Haiti) and two others to join us for dinner.  The ones joining for dinner are good with challenging dogs so hopefully it all goes ok (the "she" of the couple has visited Ziggy several times, and the "he" has offered to do so, however I like).  I can't really keep Ziggy on a leash and prepare dinner simultaneously.  So, I'll try taking her for two walks today and see if that helps.  But also have to do a lot of reading.  And cleaning and such. 

So with great delight and a wagging Catahoula at my side: I face this day.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

where we come from, where we go

While digging through crates for items for my upcoming trip (to see what I need to purchase), I find lots of treasures.  Rash guards I wore when learning to dive which now I'll wear kayaking. That dive instructor was such a great guy and the water on The Island so delightfully warm.  I'm glad I did that. 

And then I find the best treasure of all as the weather is dipping down into the 40s here: my purple sweater. 

When I graduated from college, I had no idea what to do.  I had no skills and no support with that - which seems so strange to me in retrospect, as I graduated magna cum laude, fluent in two foreign languages, from a pretty prestigious school.  But nobody ever explained to me how to move from jobs-I-work-to-pay-my-way-through-college to career. 

So I became a parking lot checker.  I would drive (or bike) from lot to lot and give parking tickets.  And I liked parts of it - the freedom mostly.  Also gaining the skills to very quickly boot a car and then get the fuck out before an irate owner came after me. 

But of course it was also pretty boring, and as winter came, I joined a knitting class.  I had crocheted and other such things but never knit before and it was fun. I bought a book of Icelandic sweaters and my instructor remarked on my ambitiousness and then supported me through it.  I knit a MASSIVE purple and grey sweater with Icelandic wool, much of it while parked in parking lots between checks.  And then I had an experience where a person in the lot got abusive with me and I don't suffer fools gladly and the boss said: a woman's husband called to complain about you, and I said: did you tell him his wife is a raving bitch who needs to shut the fuck up, and he said: no, you don't talk back to people like that, and I said: fuck yeah I do and I quit.  Not that anybody ever really expected me to stay long, but I wanted to finish the sweater, which I had done just hours before. 

And that sweater is THE BEST.  I took it with me to Washington, where I lived briefly in a homestead sort of place without heat in the winter, and to Alaska, where I have never found anything better for skiing at -25 degrees.  I'm glad I made it so huge because I layer it over thermal underwear and two shirts and it's still roomy to allow full freedom of movement.  I'm glad I spent the money on such fine quality wool because I've now had that sweater for ... since ... 1994?  23 years?  Daaaang. 

When I pulled it out of the crate, Ziggy went insane with delight.  She sticks her nose up the sleeve and takes a deep whiff, and I know she smells adventure.  For while I have washed it sometimes, it's not machine washable and so it's quite an ordeal to wash that bulky thing by hand and dry it thoroughly.  I think of it as protected outerwear (I wear a jacket over it when exposing it to dirt and always at least one shirt underneath it) that doesn't need such frequent cleaning.  And I know that Selma's fur is likely wrapped up in the yarn as she was always around (I threatened to make her a matching sweater with the leftover yarn, but that dog did not suffer my foolishness gladly and she would NEVER wear things I put on her - Ziggy is so much more of a good sport about such things). Is there the smell of the moose, the caribou, the porcupine, the whales, the rabbits, the bears, the ptarmigan - all the things I encountered while wearing this sweater?  Can she smell the hiking, the snowshoeing, the skiing? 

Now I just wear it to stay warm in a house I don't heat heavily.  It's great for sitting still warmth, but it never really gets cold enough here for me to require the heat of wearing it while being active.

In finding that, I found some other old clothes, which I took time to try on.  Kept some, more in the pile to take to Goodwill.  My weight does shift, but a big gap at the back of my pants will never change.  I even found some leggings with big rips that can't be mended - I know that I hung onto them for painting and such things, but ditch 'em.

OF course I need to be doing other things now.  Reading, mostly, but also laundry and walking dog and shopping and food prep and housecleaning and figuring out how to get rid of the burned food at the bottom of the pan. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

what was home

IN the past year, I have lost two of the few men who have truly loved me.  Both of them were very close friends and lovers - both of these relationships complicated but rich. 

Both of these men felt like home to me.  Despite their great differences.  In both cases, we would cycle around with our relationships, always being in some kind of touch, never going too long without reconnecting.  IN both cases, long pillow talks led to an intimacy that is rarely forged. 

I feel ungrounded to lose both of these people so important to me. 

I"m not only thinking of me - both left children and so many people behind who loved them so very much.  Both were far too young. 

But this gets to be about me because it's my blog, and I feel unraveled.  My weft disintegrates. 

Both of them knew how much I loved them and I know how much they loved me.  Tremendously.  To both I got to say good bye and thank you - not because I'm prescient but because I was lucky. 

Because these two men who knew my deepest secrets and desires and fears have left, a piece of me dies with them.  I'll never have relationships like these again - in part because they made me better. 

Sometimes I think: I have loved and been loved so deeply, I have lived multiple lifetimes of adventure - what else do I need?  I said yes.  All the time, yes. 

Now, I say "no" more often.  I have less desire.  Definitely less sexual desire - who'd ever think I"d become rather asexual?  I certainly couldn't have imagined it, having decades of bad choices from an overactive sex drive all under my belt. 

But sometimes I made good decisions, like with these two men.  Good men who made me better.  Good men who lived good lives; both single fathers, who know how to love.

Knew how.

To think of them in past tense is not really possible.  Pardon my verbs. 

As we age, this happens more, of course.  I get it.  But I'm only in my 40s and my dog is tired of me crying. 

The other evening a friend messaged and we stayed up too late chatting. She thanks me for being an ally.  "You can always speak for this Paki woman," she says.  Of course I can't, but I thank her for her trust.  She struggles with the choices she's made - the man she married, the city she lives in.  WE talk of how life is so different now, how just two generations back were so different, where you would have such deep relationships with the people surrounding you because you'd know the same few people all your life.  Now, we meet so many thousands of people, always forging something new, never really knowing where people stand as we get to know them, often facing disappointment.  And then we both laughed at being nostalgic about this, because what if the village was full of idiots?  We'd both be burned at the stake.

But the point is: true friends are hard to find.  True love and true friendship even harder.  I've had it a few times, and two of those people have died in the past year, and I feel like pieces of me left with them.  They were my shelters in storms and now I'm on the plains alone, where tornadoes can bear down. 

So yeah, I feel loss.  I feel sorry for myself. 

But mostly I'm just really sad that these two really good men are gone. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

she's my dog

I accidentally got a Home Chef order recently (forgot to log on and cancel it), and it included porkchops.

I hate pork. It grosses me out.  I makes me feel awful.

I also hate wasting money.

So of course I made the porkchops and ate one ... half of it at least.  Gave a piece to Ziggy who took it and looked at me with: yeah, i'll eat this because you want me to, but what I REALLY want are more of those roasted carrots!

Me too, pup.  

all the drama

Today I went to work and entered my office and put my phone on speaker to check voicemail as I turned on the computer.  The usual.  When the second message (of two) was about finished, the crazy co-worker whose office is next to mine came and closed my door, saying "Close your door during conference calls."

I got up and opened it and she came flying out.  "Why are you opening that?  I told you that it's rude to have your door open during conference calls!"  "I am not on a conference call. Thank you." 

She flew into a rage and came into my office.  "What are you saying to me?!"  Etc. 

MInd you, the whole office area was mine until I first got an employee and then lobbied for crazy co-worker to move in.  No good deed goes unpunished.  When she moved in she was super annoyed with how we were always talking (because WE WORK THERE AND COMMUNICATE) and always had her door closed; now in the past days she has decided that it should be me constantly closing my door.  She just suddenly started pulling my door closed when I'm on the phone, etc. 

I don't even care about that, honestly. 

But I do care about her flipping off on me because then she really dug in about how I am so rude to her (because I do not drop everything to greet her - I say a quick hello and keep walking), "hateful" (same thing?), an "ugly person" and it "nauseates her to have to come to deal with [me]" and so on.

Of course at this point, I'm writing this shit down and I said: clearly this is something we need another person to help with.  So I pick up the phone and call the head of HR.  On speaker, so crazy co-worker can participate in the call.  She asked us to call the supervisor first, which is fine.  I knew she wasn't in so I started drafting an email asking for a meeting, and crazy co-worker then was all: what on earth?  I'm going on the record to say you don't need to involve them, blah blah blah.

Right.  You are FLIPPING OUT ON ME for not keeping my door closed when I'm not on a call, calling me hateful names, accusing me of outlandish behavior (all I do is not be chummy with her - again, I'm professionally courteous, which she vehemently denies*), and intruding into my office space and not leaving when I say: I really do not have the energy to deal with this drama.  Sure, I'm not going to tell people.  WHAT THE FUCK.

The phone rings and it's the head of HR who says: i haven't reached your supervisor.  Do you want to come up and talk, take a walk? 

Sure.  So I head out and crazy co-worker is shouting: ARE YOU GOING TO TALK TO HR?  WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?  I'M COMING TOO!  WHY AREN'T YOU RESPONDING TO ME?  And so on.  She follows me out the door and onto the elevator, fortunately not shouting the entire time.  I open the door and gesture for her to go first and she snaps: As if I would trust you!  I'm not letting you hold the door open for me!

Really, ok, so you're afraid I'm going to physically assault you because I don't pay you any attention? 

We walk into the HR office and the person - well, I've not always been impressed with her, but she was on point today.  She handled it well.  CC: "[Gringa] isn't working with me and not talking to me and that is hateful!"  Me: "I've been told by people above me NOT to work with you.  When you send an email asking for something and you don't get a response from people above my pay grade and you get mad at me - what am I going to do?  It's not up to me.  You presented the information - if they were interested they would respond.  A lack of response indicates a lack of interest.  I told you that's the protocol, that's what you've done - but just because you don't get the response that you want doesn't mean that I"m withholding something from you."  She snapped at me and I said: people in charge have told me to just leave you alone, and that's what I do; they don't want me to engage with you and so I don't.  That was of course one of the more tame sections.  You know, I'm a horrible person for not stopping to talk to her every day, mostly.  I could see the HR head's eyes getting kind of big, "Ok, I think we all need to accept that we're from different places.  When I see [Gringa] in the hallways, we greet each other and continue on our ways - she doesnt' stop and chat with me but I don't see the unprofessionalism there."

I gave the example: "The other day I was in the hallway talking to a co-worker about a very dear friend to us both who had just died.  A very emotional time.  And you came up and interrupted, and even though you didn't stand right there, you kept shouting questions about something else to the co-worker, and he would have been rude to not respond.  In my culture, that is incredibly rude.  I'm not mad, I'm just pointing out how you do these things that seem very rude to me but I don't blow them up, so I don't understand why you're so upset."  "But [co-worker[ is my friend and I hadn't seen him for a few days and I was asking about his health!"  "This is my point: things are not always about you." 

She was upset that we don't communicate better so I relayed the episode of when she melted down on a VIP because she wasn't looped in in the manner that crazy co-worker thought she deserved.  I could not even imagine her justification for her outburst, but I said: "Again, not everything is about you.  You have said that I must hate you, but I frankly do not care.  I'm here to do a job and that is what I do.  You are not an important part of that."  

"You're sitting there making ME sound like the bad person!" she protested. 

"Well ..."

HR was explaining about the need to be professional and things should be about work, and crazy co-worker was crying.  She stood up: "I apologize [HR], but I don't need to be here anymore" and walked out. 

We finished up, and then I went to talk to Supervisor, who was in by then.  She has long been annoyed with crazy co-worker, having warned me early on about her bullying nature, but not actually dealing with it and putting me in this position.  She wanted details, and both she and HR Chief said they would talk to crazy co-worker.  HRs suggestion was to stay calm - even when crazy co-worker is shouting at me and saying untrue things, to not get worked up about it.  OK.  I can handle that.  And they will probably move her away from me, which was likely to happen anyway.  Supervisor spun out again about office space and I was like: whatever you decide is fine, I don't think it will end her ridiculousness. 

So that was my morning.  A crazy person flying off at me.  And I think I handled it pretty well.  I said to both: look, I'm sorry to bring you into this - I've not ever had to deal with somebody like this before, and I think it just needed some intervention for her to back off.  HR said: it's two very strong personalities, and I didn't argue, but - what?  She's crazy and trying to control me and I'm doing my job.  What does that have to do with personality? 

Later crazy co-worker came into my office.  Her face was still tearstained so I think she'd been crying more.  "I just want you to know: I'm sorry."  "I'm sorry, too.  I don't mean to be rude to you."  And I don't.  But there is NO FUCKING WAY that I'm falling on my sword for her.  And the best part of this is that the first time that she threw me under the bus - it was HR chief and Supervisor who were screwed by her action (she was supposed to do something and didn't and then blamed me - but they were both there and saw her flaking).

Crazy co-worker is of course crazy, but she has worked herself up into a frenzy over nothing.  Is her life so meaningless that she needs a villain?  I don't know or care.**  But if she wants it to be me, she needs to do it more quietly.  And smarter.  I have so many examples of things that she does inappropriately, trying to jostle ahead of me.  It's as though she thinks we're in some race and she needs to elbow me hard to make me fall (she is extremely physically competitive; she's in very good physical shape and I'm sure it aggravates her to no end that a fat slob like me is more successful than her).  Hey, I don't fall easily.  The people know she's crazy.  They're the ones who tell me. She trips herself up coming for me and whoever else she wants to try to beat. 

Of course I'm documenting this.  Of course I'm reporting it.  She needs to grow the fuck up.  But also: if there's no support, of course I can defend myself. 

After she left the HR office, I said: look, you know how things were my first year - it was horrible and so very rough, and frankly - I'm still just trying to survive.  They tell me not to talk with her? Fine.  I'm NOT falling on my sword for her.  This isn't even her concern and she wants to get all up in the middle of everything.   And HR head said: "Looking back at the first first year, you have been incredible at turning it all around.  I don't know what all you've done, but things are really positive now."

So that was kind of smart for me to bring that up.  For her to remember: I'm not impossible.  I make things work.  I'm not the problem, even when I'm accused. 

Lord, I just didn't need this.  Such a stupid, stupid thing.  All of it. 

*She had the same problems with my predecessor.  She wants to control me and she wants me to adore her.  Those things are not going to happen. 

**Once her college-age daughter came to visit and I was BEYOND friendly.  Let her show me pictures of her dog, all that.  I let crazy co-worker save face and this is my reward?  Seriously, NO GOOD DEED. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


It looks like - if I have dog care - a friend will join me for kayaking and camping.  She happens to be in Florida the weekend I want to go, has a condo there, and I'll fly in and can stay with her and we'll go together to the launch site. 

And, a person I dont' actually know and I are co-hosting a Postcard Party - an opportunity to get together and write to legislators.  We have oodles of mutual friends, and I know she's very much a person of integrity, as is her husband.  We'll do it at her house because I have to accept that my dog is insane. 

Isn't it amazing how community can work? 

So, on my to-do list I've accomplished exactly two things.  And it's 5:15 pm, after the time I would have gotten home from work. 

I did take the pup for a long walk along the bayou and she was good.  The prozac may be helping with her impulsivity because i could even distract her from squirrels running right around and above us, taunting us.  Fucking squirrels. Seriously, they are just mean. 

Just took first step for reserving kayak trip. 


It seems like I'm always kinda stressed about money, despite making what I consider a livable salary.  Things just add up, and I set high bars for myself with things like expecting that I save 1/2 my salary, making double mortgage payments each month, etc. (I don't, but I still think I should).

That said: I still want to have fun.

I just got an email from an Everglades kayak-camp trip that I've been eyeing for YEARS.  Literally, years.  It just never seems to work out for so many reasons.  but it's on my bucket list. 

I think it could actually possibly work out in early February for me.  There's a spot available, it looks like some relatively inexpensive flights (though I would need to rent a car, but that's not a problem - maybe I'd tack on a couple of days for some other exploring), I could get back in time for class on Tuesday, I can miss a few days of work (and how GLORIOUS to not have phone reception!), etc.  I'll ask my friends if they would watch Ziggy, but they love her and she's been great (for her) and their dog has been so happy to see her; she's recovered from heartworm treatment and a break from me won't hurt her (I remember her little furry face through their front window last time I picked her up - she's fine when I leave her and she's fine when I pick her up - she really is resilient).  If not them, maybe another friend. 

I need a vacation, and frankly there is nothing better than camping and kayaking for me for that.  One of the very best trips I've taken in my life was a week kayaking/primitive camping off Baja California.  Amazing trip.  Absolutely amazing. 

Started pricing things out and it all seems reasonable.  Yep, I should put money away in my Roth, but life is short.  Unless it isn't.  And we don't seem to have much control over that.  On top of always staying super healthy and denying himself nearly all vices, HNIC was meticulous about saving for the future - he left a large nestegg that was to care for him for the next 50 years.

police my tone and I will cut you

I rather pride myself on not being too ageist.  Most of my friends are not anywhere near my age, and I have always often been the significantly youngest or oldest person in a group.  I also like people my age, but I don't limit myself.

But sometimes there are incidents that make me rather recoil and get a matronly expression of disapproval.

There were people on a friend's FB timeline who were being idiots in a number of ways (oh, the sexism), which I called out.  As did another guy whom I don't know, a Black gay man.  We both felt no need to take nonsense and then some people attempted to police our tone.  You know: if you just wouldn't take things personally then we would listen to you and assess the value of your argument, but until then, whatever you're saying isn't of value.

But the best part: the most outspoken kept listing his credentials: I was at Occupy and I attend community meetings in NYC - you know, not really credentials at all for proving you're not sexist or racist or transphobic.  If you don't know that movements often don't get intersectionality at all, then you need to go read up.

And that's exactly what I said - to all of them, I gave specific homework, but that's the sort of thing I do.  "YOu need to go learn what sexism is, because saying that you love your mama doesn't disprove it," etc.   And oh how these young boys melted down to be called out, how they wanted to control me and other people and the conversation as a whole, to set the framework and the tone and everything else, and I say FUCK THAT - not only because, but including the reason that: I'm old enough to be their mother.  "YOu're not in charge of the world or this conversation, and you do not get to tell me or anyone else how to speak truth that you clearly don't understand."  Oh, the whining that ensued.  To my friend: "I cannot believe that you have friends who are so rude!" Oh, son.  You think I'm rude?  Your inability to understand that Hillary Clinton is actually a separate human being from her husband is rude. 

And this is something that I find really interesting - how these people who like to say: people are so easily offended! are usually the ones who are actually offended so very, very easily when their worldview of privilege is challenged.

I'm not offended when I have to point out to you REPEATEDLY that sexual assault and calls to register people by religion are not petty things to be ignored.  I also probably will not be patient with you, but while it boggles my mind that some men see rape as a petty annoyance that I should just overlook and have NO FUCKING CLUE how the threat of rape is a CONSTANT thought for women out of BASIC SURVIVAL, I'm not offended.  I'm pointing out your crappy fuck thinking that is perpetuating oppression - YOU are the one who is offended when I call you the names you deserve.

So I thought of this as I was in class yesterday and a young man sat beside me.  At one point he said: what is that assignment he just mentioned? I said: were you here last week?  He talked at length about it then.  "OH, I wasn't listening."

Wait, hold up.  You are saying that you chose to ignore the professor explaining a key aspect of the course and you want me to tell you about it?  Oh, son.  No.  And that response is two-fold: as a former teacher who is fucking TIRED of repeating instructions, and as a woman who doesn't think her role in life is to coddle men.  DO YOUR JOB, which as a student means paying attention.  So I said: "There's information in the syllabus," and the best part is a young woman who is a friend of my friend said, yes, it's in the syllabus, and she and I turned to each other to have a conversation about something else.  Zapatistas, I think.  He pulled a couple of other such things - like he came without any of the books that we were discussing, and he would look wistfully at my book that I was using, as though I would share it with him.  Really?  No.  If he were my friend and we had a relationship and he said: oh yikes, I forgot to grab my book - then of course.  But again: DO YOUR JOB.  And the prof explained about assignments when I asked a question and figured it out, and two hours later the kid asks: so is he going to tell us when the assignments are due or what? and I said: you have to figure it out from what he handed out.  (Matching page numbers to dates.)  And I turned away because DO YOUR JOB.

Look, I have no interest in being rude to people - I'm generally exceedingly helpful.  But this kind of privilege and expecting that the woman sitting beside you is going to break things down for you that you chose to ignore?  OH FUCK NO.  I did that when I was young, it seemed nice to be needed I guess.  I know I speak school language fluently and I share my gifts.

But, I got over that.  And when you're in graduate school, you need to buck the fuck up.

So, I'd been thinking about how I would enjoy going back to teaching undergrads, but this past week has made me seriously rethink that.  I have a number of friends who gripe about "students these days" and while I don't think they're necessarily worse than in the past when considered en masse, I also know that I have zero fucks to give.  My patience with young male privilege is zero.  And it can be so oppressive - I remember being in a women's studies class and the football players decided to sabotage the class and being absolute assholes.  The prof handled it well, but their open aggression scaled back just to constant nonverbal resistance, etc.  Of course I've encountered that hundreds of times, nay, thousands, and also since working with Very Important People who at least PRETEND to not be such assholes, I expect more of the everyday people.  Even though their mommies and daddies have taught them they're special and nobody should ever challenge them.


Anyway, here's a fabulous explanation of why tone policing is bullshit.   (I tried to copy and paste but my skills are weak.) will work really hard to not commit or allow it.  Many of us are uncomfortable with being called out for the cis- and white privilege of the recent marches - I still don't totally get it because much of the cause is specifically about reproductive rights which are biological, but I really appreciate being challenged on that, and I sure as fuck am not arguing about it - except when some asshole tells my friend that her desire to be more trans-inclusive is the sort of "extreme PC that got Trump elected" then I will ARGUE THE FUCK OUT OF THAT BULLSHIT AND I WILL DO IT WITH PROFANITY MOST LIKELY BECAUSE THAT'S MY LANGUAGE OF CHOICE.


I called in sick today because I'm still really wiped out and my head does hurt and I need downtime.   And by "downtime" I mean a chance to catch up around the house since I think a friend is coming this weekend on her way to Haiti.  My list is too long to accomplish today, but if I make progress it's all good.

And my resolution to allow myself to not socialize because it stresses me out when I have so much to do - well, I need to balance that better.  We need comunidad - now more than ever.

Monday, January 23, 2017

dance while you can

The thing about losing a close friend is that the conversations never really finished.  HNIC was such an important part of my life for the past ten years.  Even though we could go time without seeing each other, he was my touchstone, my reality check.  We definitely did not always agree, but our mutual respect was profound.


Here's my last exchange with HNIC:

Me:  how was the surgery?

Him:  It was a bit rough but I'm ok. Thanks.

Me:  How are you feeling?  Do you need anything?

Him:  Lasted seven hours and took a helluva lot of sedation to put and keep me under for that long. Starting to feel normal but still groggy me very low energy. I'm fine though. Thanks.

Me:  So you're telling me that you don't want to go out dancing tonight?

Him:   Lol....nah...l gotta wait a bit.

I think of all the places we've gone together, all the conversations we've had.  The depth to which he has influenced my entire worldview cannot be overstated.

And now he's gone.  Forever.

I have so many more things to talk to him about. 

Today I learned that an old friend has metastisized ovarian cancer; for many months they kept misplacing her lab results, canceling appointments, etc.  Was she only stage 2 when she first went to the doctor, knowing something was wrong, but now it's too late?

The rage that I feel at the healthcare industry right now is burning bright.  Look, I make mistakes all the time, but nobody dies because of it.  Why aren't there better safeguards?

A mutual colleague of ours died of ovarian cancer ten years ago.  I flew to California for the funeral, and they had an awesome slide display of her life.  I sobbed.  I hadn't even realized how much fun we had had until I saw all those pictures.  I still miss her. 

Facing mortality, losing beloveds - this is just not easy. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

the thing about New Orleans

Today I met up with a friend to see Moonlight (probably an important movie but it was a wee bit too implicit for me).  Another friend was supposed to meet but when she got there it was sold out (I was holding a seat for her but didn't know her aunt was coming).

So we all met up for lunch, with her mom and the itty bitty baby, who - just like her big sister - quickly found me boring and soft and after a half minute of fuss just snuggled right into me and conked out.  "I've never seen her sleep like that with anybody," said the grandmother.  "Boring and soft.  It's what I'm working with." 

When we'd finished I stepped out to take a picture of ... well, I'll post in another post because I can no longer load pics from my camera to my computer.  A gorgeous mural.  The aunt - whom I'm still trying to impress because it's our first time meeting - came out to take pictures with me and then I realized: that's Studio Be.  I first learned of the artist - Mike Odums - with his last great installation - graffiti art all over an abandoned housing project.  It's spectacular.

Image result for exhibit be

Image result for exhibit be

Who knew that cans of spray paint could do that?

Now he's 'legit' and has a studio which is a massive warehouse.  It was closed but as we looked around, she said: I swear I've seen his work before on a TV show ... what was it?  And then it came to her - Queen Sugar.  Yes! I exclaimed excitedly.  The journalist sister interviewed this artist with his work.

Oh, the aunt got very excited then and they will go back when it's open - and I'm glad of this because then I looked it up on-line to see it's closing this month.  So yeah, I want to go, too.

We kept walking and I said: look, that's where Homer Plessy was kicked off the bus.  She was perplexed because this was all so without context.  "You know, Plessy v. Ferguson, separate but equal ..."  I didn't have the heart to tell her that the train tracks across the street might not be the actual tracks of the streetcar he was kicked off, but we're close enough.

The funny part is that none of that was planned.  We planned to go someplace else for breakfast but when they said an hour wait, we made a Plan B, and then a Plan C.  And we happened to land right there.

The thing about New Orleans is that it's culture and history everywhere you turn.  They're from Philadelphia so they damn sure have a lot of interesting history and culture, but our culture is something else - this city breeds creativity and hustle.  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

life is short

I just learned that a dear friend recently died. 

I saw him about a month ago - we met up and he told me of some health issues.  He had been in a car accident and then there was a cascade of issues from negligent medical care (doctors prescribing things with very bad effects with other medications). 

All from a broken shoulder, he had dramatic ER visits and surgeries - last we talked was a couple of weeks ago, and I knew I needed to check in with him ... and now he's dead.

He has been one of the most important people in New Orleans.  We started as lovers and became friends. 

He was always so alive.  So present.  So ... I can't even explain.  I'm reeling.  I know that this is what he wanted as opposed to any kind of prolonged measures, but ... none of this needed to happen.  I tried to boss my way into taking some charge of his medical care, but he was always protective of his privacy - not telling his children things they should have known.  LIke the seriousness of his condition.

He never wanted to be decrepit.  While he wasn't suicidal usually, we talked about it a lot.  He suffered from PTSD.

We didn't hang out much anymore, but we stayed in contact and I always knew he was there.  I will miss him so much.



I think I may have given myself a concussion when I hit my head really hard on my truck door when getting the dog out.  Blurry vision, hard time concentrating, headache, nausea.  t

It's mild, of course.  I'll be fine.  But it's making my day of reading lots quite difficult.

Thoughts today: what's next.  Had hours of conversation yesterday with a highly intelligent person, a friend of a friend, a law professor.  He asks questions, he's polite, it makes me think.  What do I want next?

It makes me do things like investigate a good AWD vehicle for me.  High clearance, maneuverability, a good deal.  These kinds of vehicles are not inexpensive, requires planning. The future that I want for myself requires four-wheel drive, which my truck does not have.  Plus my truck is 16 years old, so there's that.

Rather than try to maximize value on this house, I should continue to maintain it but not renovate.  No kitchen or bath redo, but keep it as is.  Which is fine for me.  If/when I sell it, the next buyer can renovate.  No pressure to get a roommate, then.

I keep coming back to the idea of selling my other house and socking away money for a new car and paying down the house where I live.

Not buying much more stuff.  I have all I need, no need to upgrade.

What I want is to go someplace wilder, with land for Ziggy and me to run free. New Mexico? Wyoming? Alaska?  Oregon? Montana?  North Louisiana? 

I don't know.  But I do know to love on this city for as long as I'm here, and then to have no regrets when I leave.  All the conveniences, all the civilization - this place is magical.  I love New Orleans with all my heart and I always will. 

But who I am in my heart of hearts is not someone who sucks up to politicians, who goes along with racist politics, who needs an active social life.  I'm someone who wants to be outside, who has simple needs. As long as I have my dog, I'd be happy in the woods, away from a city.

I want to cross-country ski again.

I want to chop firewood.

I want to hear birch forests rustle around me.

All this cries: Fairbanks.  But, we'll see.

I did recently send a letter to Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski asking her to work for healthcare access, and in it I told her I had met her father and I plan to return to Alaska.  This may be true, I don't know.  Life in Fairbanks is not easy, but it is rich in many ways.   I have no interest in returning to the Alaska where I grew up, with its months of rain.  But Fairbanks provided me with all I needed.

Something like this (currently for sale):


I lived in two houses in Fairbanks, the first a temporary stop with a friend I knew from school, and then in a house that was in a magical location - where I could step outside and strap on skis and head out with my pup, where moose were the only ones looking in my windows.  It was a big house with several roommates, poorly maintained, and way too expensive for me to ever afford, but the location was superb.  A friend whom I knew from childhood had moved away from there and left her skis in a friend's shed so she said I could have them; who knew that would spark such fun.  Booties on my dog's paws, off we'd go.  Her fur thickened, her fat layer too.  Would Ziggy be able to handle it?  Well, she has never tried to fight me having her wear things so we could bundle her up if necessary - she's a hot weather dog by genetics, but she's adaptable due to her fear of missing out on any fun.  

So, yeah.  I dream of finding a way to live this life in approximately 2.5 years. And perhaps my strong wishes will make it come true - or something else that turns out to be what I want.

Until then, the plan is: get the PhD.  Hunker down and simplify and squirrel money away.  Be healthy.  Enjoy life.  Resist the new regime.  

Now, this might be the concussion speaking, but what about returning to teaching in Alaska?  There were things I loved about it, and some things that made me leave are less important to me now (I wanted a masters ... to return with an MEd, JD, and PhD would probably satisfy that desire).  The thing about winter in Alaska is that if you can ski/snowshoe and get outside regularly and know how to entertain yourself (I read and quilt like crazy) and hang out with friends (I have dear memories of my friends there, some of whom I'm still in contact with), it's great quality of life.  My biggest problem is not being a hunter or fisher, but the village always took care of me.  I remember coming home once to find a bloody bag on my stoop; terrified somebody had killed my dog as a message (too much Godfather), I rushed in and Selma looked at me with her "what?"  My student J. had made his first caribou kill and per tradition was required to distribute the animal to all respected people in the village (he was so proud of himself and such a sweetie).  I would say to my boyfriend: hey, I need some salmon, please, and he would fill up the bathtub with the most gorgeous fish that we'd eat all year.  Boyfriend in Fairbanks stocked freezer with moose, which lasts forever and has so many great ways to eat it.

Some things are better, such as quality of food (there's now a CSA in southwestern AK that ships regularly to villages; there was NO fresh produce when I lived there).  Others are harder than when I was there, such as cost of living and the post office no longer subsidizing the cost of postage. 

I could also take the bar exam once settled there, and perhaps teaching would be temporary if I didn't like it.

My students always challenged me.  It's a hard-fuck job.  Really hard.  But also the relationships were fascinating.  Like how people would come to visit and then just sit in silence, then suddenly say "OK" and leave.  Words weren't necessary for friendship.  (I did miss friendship with women; most were so busy with family - this is often the case for people outside the life I live now.)  The birthday parties.  The animal skin sewing (to make mittens, etc.).  IT's an interesting quality of life.  I would stay for the summers, as that's really the best time there (except for the crazy mosquitoes). 

So the two things holding me back: I want to finish this GD PhD and I need my dog to be less insane - she would need to be able to be much more trustworthy than she currently is. 

Would I return to the village where I taught before?  That's rather an interesting idea.  Many of the people are gone now, but I know the landscape well and it always awed and inspired me.  It's breathtakingly beautiful. 

Oh, here is a beautiful story by a woman from a village I've been to (not "mine, but I've visited).  Rural Alaska is pretty amazing.  Is there more to life than subsistence?  I'm not sure of that.

alternatives to marching

I've marched a fair amount in my life and I'm willing to again, but maybe not today.  The crowds are a bit much for exhausted me - it really too much for me to handle right now.  I want to get trained as a legal observer, to be of value, when my introversion is not so tapped out.

I strongly support the marchers and am proud of all who participate. I feel guilt and shame about not being out there myself, but I will let that go because it's completely unhealthy.

What I will do this weekend is self-care and sisterhood.  Meeting up with at least two friends tomorrow, maybe some today.  Do my work, clean my house, cook healthy food. 

I really MUST get over this awfulness I feel about the new president.  It's not helping.  I feel like a deflated balloon - hopeful then destroyed.  I do not think of Clinton as the savior, as all right - I disagree with her on many points - but there is no equivalency to what has happened, and I must figure out my place in the resistance. 

Today I walk my dog along the lake.  I do laundry.  I read Marx.  I hydrate for the long road ahead.  I buckle down.

I need to commit.  First, I need to get my legs beneath me. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

and that's when I'd had enough

My employee's mother had a heart attack yesterday and she didn't come to work, and I get that's awful for her, but also, there's this.  She waited AGAIN until the last minute to pull things together for a big event.  So my Tuesday was awful, and today, I was just done.  I have thing today that pulled me out of the office and then we both have a thing to be out of the office Thursday-Friday, and I'm not taking care of her anymore.  Because IT IS ALWAYS SOMETHING.  I am always having to pick up after her, remind her, etc. etc.  She's not behind on work because of her mother's heart attack, she's behind because she waits until the last minute.  She shows up late to work, and she's a fucking airhead.  Things like: we're putting binders together and we get to the end and she's like "oh, I have these pages left over."  Wait, what?  Fucking fuck, I had to go through every binder and find where she'd left them out.  HOW HARD IS IT TO PUT THINGS IN THE RIGHT PLACES?  So then I had to go through every fucking binder to check for all her other mistakes.  And this is while she's complaining that it's hurting her neck to be doing this work.  OHMYGOD.  She's just always finding something. 

And she needs to haul some things and she showed up at work without a car today. Again.  I get it, her car was totalled MONTHS AGO.  She missed work because of the accident, so I remember well.  But they have money to buy a new car and they're not because she's considering and reconsidering and thinking maybe they just share a car, but sometimes she needs a car for work.  That's a requirement.  I've been patient, given her rides, but I'm pretty done with that because what this has meant is that on top of all my duties and responsibilities, I have to be monitoring hers on a microlevel.  I don't want to be a micromanager.  I just want her to take responsibility and not expect me to take care of everything ESPECIALLY when I have large tasks and dates I have to deal with.  She has been driving her husband's car every day to work for weeks, but SUDDENLY when a bunch of shit needs to be hauled that she's responsible for, she doesn't? 

I feel that she's not shouldering anywhere near her share of the burden.  Last year when I went to see the counselor again, she helped me see that this employee totally stresses me out.  I have to keep her away from people because she says stupid shit. 

But I'm kind of done.  Yesterday, one of my other employees kept trying to delegate her task to the head of HR.  What the fuck was she thinking?  The head of HR sent it back to her TWICE and then called me to say: what is she thinking?  I laughed, said "Welcome to my world," and then apologized and said I'd handle it.  "Dear Employee: I'm sorry if this was unclear, but this is your responsibility and not yours to delegate to anyone else.  Please take care of it."  And seriously, who the fuck does she think she is?  But it was awesome for somebody else to see what I've got all day, every day. 

Good help is hard to find, and our organization brings the worst out in everyone.  I get it. 

But I'm done being stressed for everybody else.  I've got high hopes for an incoming supervisor - no idea who it will be, but excited that all this drama will no longer be mine.  That person can supervise my bizarre employees (though, I do need to say - the one that I was supposed to fire, she has really come around - she's got my back and she takes responsibility for her tasks - I know when I can trust her judgment and I appreciate her).  I'm aggravated because some things went out that had pretty egregious errors - I'd had to jump in because employee #1 was out for something, because she always is, and I asked employee #2 to review it and she didn't say a word.  None of it should have been me - they should have been handling it completely.  and instead, everyone dropped the ball and now I'm getting emails and good grief.

One of the emails came from a now former Board member who said: let me just take this opportunity to thank you for the great work you're doing.  I hope you find it rewarding, if not particularly scintillating.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

life would be grand if I didn't have to deal with other people

Good grief.  Other people suck. 

And also: mortality.  But also, they suck. 

Just so much unnecessary drama.  blah blah blabity blah.

As I blogged about on the reactive dog blog (, today somebody pulled up next to us and called out that Ziggy is a good dog.  Lots of people stop and marvel that she's beautiful, happy, interesting - but good dog?  DID YOU HEAR THAT, MS. STARDUST?!

But of course she is, though she just tried to bite me when I told her to move her butt.  Not really bite, just snapping at me to register her discontent with being moved out of her favorite spot which also happpens to be my favorite spot.  We often are at odds about this and I've decided she will no longer win.  And just to clarify - she also didn't really snap.  What she does when something physically displeases her is she puts her mouth on my hands and tries to pull them away.  It's not like she has an opposable thumb

Had class tonight and good lord the class may suck (it doesn't yet) but it's still invigorating because that is my realm.  The realm of my job is NOT my realm.  Not at all.  But you want to talk big thoughts?  I'm all in.

Which, of course, I didn't even mention Dr King here because I'm just really overwhelmed by it all.  All of our current realities.  And this is privilege and I own it, but lord, this is just rough.


Monday, January 16, 2017


When I toy with the idea of selling my other house, there are a lot of reasons that I try to weigh, and so I go round and round.

But the truth is that what I want is a simplified life, and two houses is more than I need to carry.

I don't much like stuff.  I am happier to pay for services than for things.  This is especially true when I pulled everything out of the one real closet and see that I have a lot of stuff.  Now, most of that I don't want to get rid of - it's things like suitcases, which I use.  Camping gear, sleeping bags, tent - things I definitely don't want to replace.  A blow-up air mattress and pillows for guests.  Travel items.

In my garage I have things like power tools and painting supplies.  Besides the boxes to items that I own (which I know is a weird hoarding thing on the surface but really is about ease of moving, and if I don't have room to store the boxes then I recycle them no problem), most of it is stuff I actively use.  Exceptions are things that I want to get rid of and just need to take time - light fixtures I removed, a microwave that was here but in not great shape so I use the one I brought, etc.

When I had people looking to rent, the mother said: wow, you are so minimalist.

Really?  It seems like I have a lot.  And I do, for me.  I'm very comfortable.

But what makes me not comfortable is stuff.  I generally ask myself: do I need this or want this?  If need: could I use something else?  If want: what will it bring to me?  Does this replace something I already own, and is the original item still usable?

I hate to be deluded with bells and whistles and I eschew expensive things.  Recently I was arguing again with my insurance company who says there's no way I own less than $30,000 in personal items.  Dude, oh yes I do.

I don't want to buy stuff.  I don't want to own stuff.  Unless it's useful or interesting and not overwhelming. 

If we're muddy and sore it must have been a good day

I probably need to wash my dog, but I could barely wash myself so that's enough.  We are muddy, we are sore, it was a good day.  Ziggy is a champ wearing her bright orange vest and scouting the way.  She is a good little trail buddy and doesn't generally go around bends or ever get out of sight.  She doesn't stay close to me but she keeps me in sight.  She found two things: (1) an excellent camp spot, off the main road and shady and pleasant energy; (2) a house with big garages and dogs.  She wouldn't come when called once she heard dogs barking, but she was up at the chain link fence staring in at the dog who was staring at her, and I was able to get her as a boy was getting the other dog, and Ziggy wasn't barking or worked up particularly.  Contrast that to how she nearly ripped apart my truck cab when a Boston terrier angrily let us know we'd taken a wrong turn.  

ON the drive back I took a wrong turn which was perfect because it took me to a backpacking trail (something pretty much unheard of around here) and an interesting historical site.  We didn't stop but now that I know where it is, that's next, and it's nice to have a backpacking trail goal.  I just have to get Ziggy to not be a maniac when encountering strangers and dogs.  


Ziggy sees me get out the hiking fanny pack (space for leashes and waters and keys and phone) and she is SO VERY EXCITED but also playing it cool because she knows it aggravates me when she's too wound up. 

I spent hours last night poring over the maps of the forest and think I've found a good route today - we'll go to a campground and check it out and see if it could be good for our first foray in some weeks in the future, and then we hop over to check out some forest roads and see if there are any we want to hike on.  Some hunting seasons closed yesterday (hence we are going today) but there are still a number open so she'll be wearing an orange vest and I'll be sticking to the paths and wearing bright colors - and we won't go on any roads where there are vehicles (it is still deer hunting season with guns and dogs and that just seems like potential drama with Ziggy - I can easily see her trying to jump into any fray).  It's a big forest and hopefully we find places where there are no other people.  We've had such great luck with that in the past. 

She's on tick preventative (Bravecta - it's a pill that also prevents fleas, and I'm sure that all these pills she takes are going to cause cancer, but it's better than heartworms and tick-borne illnesses and all that) but I should still take tweezers just in case as I don't want bring any of those buggers as *I* am not on Bravecta.  We'll take water and lunch and treats to encourage her if she decides she doesn't want to come when called (we're still working on that as she has quite a mind of her own).  It's less than a two-hour drive away - which is a lot of driving for me because I hate driving, but this is our recon trip to figure out camping options for later so it'd be driving just one way each day. 

Finishing coffee then need to do a few chores and figure out a breakfast and then we are off! 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sabbath dinner

I miss having Sabbath dinner.  I used to make a mean challah. In Oregon, where I had a friend very in touch with and knowledgeable of her Jewishness, we would have fancy dinners with kugels and I don't even remember what all else.  Later, in the Eskimo village in Alaska where I lived, I would still make challah but more likely to serve it with potato soup or something such that didn't rely on fresh ingredients. 

Was that the last time I made challah?  In 2000?  Sheesh.  So many lifetimes ago.

So this is a goal with Ziggy: to be able to have gatherings of people.

With my current job, I could get off early on a Friday from time to time, to come home and start the challah rising.  That's one of the real reasons I haven't done it - I usually have a job that requires me to work long hours every day.

And yes, maybe just simple, inexpensive things - a challah and a large pot of soup with beans and such (such as my version of harira, with garbanzos). 

So, another thing that the dog and I work towards: a life with friends over more often. 

Something else for me to work for: if I can stay super super motivated, I could potentially be finishing my PhD in two years.  Classes this semester, study over summer to early prep for qualifying exams but no classes, class fall semester, two classes spring semester including one which is essentially about finalizing my dissertation proposal; in spring semester then I could potentially - again, if completely motivated - take my exams AND submit my proposal.  When approved, I could potentially conduct research over the summer and write during fall and then in two years from now conclude ... and start looking for another job?  Likely.  I will miss many things about my current job, but most definitely not the drama.  It's sort of unbelievable.  The woman who keeps melting down on me melted down when we were on a speakerphone call - "I just have to tell you that my feelings are really hurt that you didn't communicate with me.  If you don't want me to be part of anything just tell me," and blah blah blah - and the other person kept trying to say: "Enough" and it wouldn't stop.  Her feelings are ALWAYS HURT and it's never maliciously intended - it's because she looks for slights everywhere when we are just trying to do what needs to be done and she and what she does is not important.  I want to say: she needs to learn her place.  But that's what they said about me when I tried to bring my professional skills and knowledge to this job - so it's different.  Anyway, that sort of drama is just all the damn time.  I can't get people to respond to emails if they don't like me.  What?  I'm asking you a work question - sorry I'm not the person who stands around talking gossip all the time with you BECAUSE I HAVE WORK TO DO.  It's so unprofessional and ridiculous and that takes a toll.

But also of course it takes a toll that I am not allowed to be smart or anything else like that, that because they don't understand what I know, they see it as threatening.  WHATEVER.  There are other things for me to do.  It's just that for now, it nicely pays my bills and provides some flexibility to make sabbath dinners.  If I can make myself do it, what with hating humanity and all that.  


The More I Get To Know People - The More I Like My Dog
A friend is in town and wants to meet up and good lord how much I would rather prefer to just stay home with my dog.  Especially because she doesn't offer to come over here - she's thinking we'll meet up way the fuck on the other side of town where I never go, after I've driven all over doing Saturday errands and then taking Ziggy to play over half an hour away.

I don't like driving.

I like staying home.  With my dog.  In my house.

OK, so I'm a big whiny baby and of course none of if was bad.  Ziggy and I much enjoyed time with her friend and his people.  Roux bounced all around, just almost out of his mind with enthusiastic delight to have us there.  Ziggy has a big lump on her back (probably from heartworm shots) and I don't know how tender it is so I tell him to be gentle with her and he tries but then he wants to run run run.  We weren't there ten minutes and Ziggy just laid down in the grass all comfortable.  "Did I drive you here to take a nap?!" I asked, incredulous - but of course this is great that she feels so comfortable with him, with all of us, that she can just lie down.  We were there for about an hour and when we drove home, Ziggy passed out in the backseat.  She has no stamina at all now.  I left her for a party and I was gone three or four hours, and she was happy to see me and snuggly and kissy (she smelled my friends on her, some of her favorite people, but rather than giving me grief she was happy for me) - for five minutes, and then she curled into a ball and I can't roust her.

The party was fine.  I saw people I haven't seen in a long time, and because it was both an adult and a 1-year-old's birthday party it was more mature than usual with the adults.  Kind of a funny combination but I think it worked.  The 1-year-old's grandmother was there and it was fun to reconnect with her as we used to hang out when she lived here.  Lots of friends from law school but most of them are people I actually like, so that was better than expected.  And I did my duty of meeting up with the friend but it wasn't so exhausting as it can be.  She said if we go to Houston that Ziggy and I are invited to stay which is nice - but she hasn't met Ziggy, and she has spent her life with extremely well-behaved dogs.  Seriously I've never known dogs as well-behaved as the ones her father trained until I met her husband's hunting dog (who was extensively trained by someone else).  These are not the kind of dogs that I want, obedient and awaiting my instructions.  I like Ziggy's independence.

That's something Roux's person said - they were talking about how Roux wants to please and tries to understand what is asked of him and will do it, he just doesn't understand.  "Not like Ziggy," he said, "Ziggy makes up her own rules."  Which is very, very true. And they say it with love - they do love Ziggy and enjoy her sparkly presence and are wonderful sports about watching her.  They are probably the people who know her best after me, so I'm always relieved when they see the same things I do.  Ziggy absolutely adores them, but obedience is NOT writ in her DNA.  She absolutely has her own mind.  Which doesn't make her untrainable - she's very trainable.  Teaching her to do things is super easy.  Whether or not she will do what she knows to do, however - that is up to forces entirely outside my control.  And frankly: that's ok, within reason.  I don't need or want an entirely obedient dog who waits for my every command and doesn't think for itself.  But we need to work out some compromises - it's great that she barks at things outside the house, but she doesn't need to KEEP DOING IT.  Egrets are not going to attack us - that's not red alert.

Anyway, it's now Sunday and the to-do list is not overwhelming.  Finish planting the straw bales and hang string on the posts for the peas.  Cook a meal or two, to keep me fed during this very stressful week.  Go get air in tires and clean it out (lots of hair - both .  Most important: do all reading for class (that must be done).  Some more laundry.  Organize the freezer and see what I can use up.  Read the book I got from the dog trainer and all the notes and formulate my questions for them. Walk dog, of course.  Ziggy has three potential new friends waiting until I say we are good to go, but all have particular issues - one is a biter (he would wear his muzzle; he's not vicious, he just clamps on,I but that would freak Ziggy out); one is super rambunctious and bigger than Z and could hurt her if that bump on her back in tender; one is female and her people don't really know how to handle dogs (the vet and other sources have repeatedly told me that two female dogs is the recipe for danger - and I don't want to believe it because I believe my pup is an ardent feminist ... but her closest friends have all been male just by chance, so I don't know).  Ziggy just has a really wide emotional range.  The vet said: how does she respond to people walking near her?  Oh good lord, there are hundreds of responses.  Some people she ignores entirely, others she pretends to be ignoring but is really aware of, others she stops and watches, others she watches while she keeps walking, others she wags her tail, others she cries to see, others she barks at - I mean ,there are just so many ways she responds, so it's less about "people" than it is about how she views each individual. 

OK, another beautiful day lies ahead, and I'm really excited about going to the new-to-us national forest and exploring tomorrow, but I can only do that if all my chores are done.  And I'm dumping items from the list - no more bookclubs unless I really feel interested at that time.  It's just one more stressor that I don't need right now.  When no longer in school, it'll be better. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

privilege and freedom

Today I got a long lecture from somebody about how I should be more active and dynamic in my job, how I should make things happen.  I just look at her because good lord, that's a recipe for disaster, and a massive waste of my time and energy to try to make things happen at that dysfunctional place - she may want me to act that way, but there are a lot of other people who will terminate me if I do.  But she kept going and wouldn't stop, and I thought later that maybe I should tell her my plan of leaving when I finish PhD or when something better comes along, but I don't really trust her that much. 

The thing about this is: she is of very wealthy people, very powerful.  I am not.  I do not have her social capital, her resources, her rolodex of important people who would give her a new job in a snap. 

The thing about being white is that I am fearless in so many respects.  My friends of color often don't have the same sense of freedom that I attributed to my individual fearlessness but which is a result of my privilege.  And that's what I thought of when I listened to her.  Really, you're telling me to do things that will result in my termination when I have no back-up plans?  What kind of reality are you living in?  Oh, that's right, the one where your husband is super rich.  So, see, I have no husband.  Nobody supports me in any way but myself. 

There are chances that I do not take in life because I have no safety net.  That is the case in many ways.

And yet, being an educated middle-class white person, I have so much more privilege than many others. 

So the way that I just looked at her (we even had this conversation on the floor because she decided we should on the goddamn floor when she has perfectly fine furniture) as she was rambling on ... yep.  Anytime I have ever told people of less privilege how to be, I'm sorry.  Everyone has to protect themselves in different ways. 

Friday morning

So, got the pup on generic Prozac and she seems lethargic (I'll document this over at the other blog).  Decided I'm not ready for a roommate.  Frustrated with mortgage company for not properly paying insurance and taxes I'm thinking again about selling my other house to pay off this house (plus - I feel weighted down with details and stuff).  Job stress because other people delay.  Looking forward to the weekend.

What's up with you?  

Trying to get back into the habit of morning walks and it's harder than it should be.  I stay up too late. Ziggy has been great on walks and they've been really enjoyable, but the little stupid things like how it tracks dirt into the house.  I said it was stupid.  PLus I need new shoes.   

OK, enough talking, time to get out on that walk and get to work and tackle the huge tasks ahead.  Lots to do this weekend.  I'm aggravated because I bought a book that the professor said - along with 12 other books that he said were required - and now he says: "Oh, my bad, I meant this other edition" which costs $90.  After I already bought a nonreturnable other book that he said we had to.  That's aggravating.  And he can't get his act together with his syllabus but he is super demanding with students.  Dude - if you can't get organized, you don't get to demand so much of students.  Except he does, so people hate him.  I don't mind rigor, but I hate arbitrary, capricious chain yanking. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

next steps

Today I had a long call with the behavioral veterinarian.  It was mostly stuff that I already know (from all the books and websites I read of the experts) but the advantage - I hope - of working with him and his team is it's like a personal trainer.  Accountability and expertise.  Even if I know how to lift weights, I'm better with somebody guiding me.

We aren't hitting if off like gangbusters but we're cool.  Some of the things I don't like much - like he says we need set routines, such as mealtimes for her.  I get the reasoning for it, but I love my free-range dog.  She doesn't overeat, and when I'm eating something she goes and eats her own food instead of begging from me.  I love that about her, as I hate begging dogs.


He also said that my regular vet said she's off exercise restriction so HALLELUJAH TO THAT.  We went for a walk tonight, and I have to say: all the visitors last night and then a walk tonight?  Her anxiety is THROUGH.THE.ROOF.  Before I got up to warm up the last of the posole, she was laying on top of me.  She just could not calm down and I *know* I'm not supposed to comfort an anxious dog, but ... well, I have no excuse.  I just tell her to come sit on or beside me and let her calm down.  We'll work on other strategies but that one works now, and now she's simmered down.

He's right, she is really anxious.  I coudln't see it before probably because I didn't want to see it, but she struggles because of it.

So here's about the walking: it's a pain in the butt in some ways to walk the dog every day.  Have to get up earlier.  GEt bags to pick up poop.  Wear shoes (that are worn through and I need to get new ones) (and that track through the house even if I take them off at the door).  Find appropriate walking clothes, which will be more laundry.  And so on.

But then we were out walking around campus and I'd forgotten how enjoyable it is to walk the dog.  We have a good time.  She was completely melting down as soon as she saw the harness and was completely freaked out before we even left the house, but then she kind of pulled it together and I wanted to keep walking.   

The vet doesn't believe me that Ziggy is intrinsically motivated - or that dogs are.  He didn't disagree with me but he said it's probably all the conditioning I've already done, that she remembers the rewards.  And maybe I'm projecting, but I'm not so sure about that.  I'm wildly intrinsically motivated.  I've never given a fuck what other people think, and I think it's my greatest strength.  I wasn't valedictorian because I cared about anything (though it was a little fun to needle the boy who was 2nd).  I never cared about people pleasing or even competing.  I had no desire to go to graduation ceremony and had to be coerced (I'm not above such things - also, bribery works).  But I excelled in all school because I drive myself in my own vehicle on my own road.

And maybe I am projecting but I think that's also kinda Ziggy's MO.  She likes being part of a team, she likes security, she likes treats - but if I really want to change her behavior, she has to be convinced that it's worth it.  Not just because she gets treats but because it's what she thinks is the right thing to do.  It was Roux's person who first pointed this out - "Ziggy wants to be a good dog, she just has different ideas about what that means than we do."  Like playing with her bucket - that's all her, all bucket.

Anyway.  I am going to get window film to block the view for her.  And if the regular vet agrees, she's start on a Prozac-like thing.  He said it can help with her impulsivity and good lord if my dog could learn impulse control that would be a glorious day.

I asked how to help her generalize behavior and he said I'm SOL.  Dogs can't really do that - which is why I haven't been able to get her to do it.

He said I need to only commit to 30 minutes a day - 2 walks of 10 minutes each (though I can do longer) and 10 minutes of training.  I have a hard time believing this is enough, based on all I've done before, but maybe just the consistency plus the meds will have the desired effects.

What else ...

Less casual attention and no attention on her terms.  That's hard for me, too.  A lot of times she comes to me for attention when I need it.  I like that she engages me in play, distracts me, leans against me.  If I don't want to engage, I ignore her.  I have no problem with her attention-seeking behaviors - in fact, they're very helpful for keeping me balanced.  Maybe I should ask him about that aspect of the plan.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017


So apparently I have a bunch of windows open and forget to post.  So this is days old.

If there is anything cozier than getting into a bed with flannel sheets, I do not know what that would be.  Well, curling up on the couch with the lap-catahooligan, of course.

We do winter well.  It was indeed a hard freeze last night and I'm glad I brought in my citrus trees (Ziggy of course finds it hilarious and keeps investigating them), though they are already damaged from my failed experiment the night before.

It's kind of nice to have them inside because it forces me to think more about what I'll be doing with them.  I do think the loquat will be positioned to be the shade tree for the back apartment.  I thought the lime would be in a nice central location out back but I just noticed that it has thorns so ... not so much.

I'm really enjoying my last bits of freetime before school starts in nine days, though I do want to have all reading done well in advance so that the long weekend before is enjoyable and not haunted by guilt of not reading.  I need a long block of time to learn my new sewing machine and do some other such things.

IT's a beautiful morning if very cold, and Ziggy is whining mercilessly to go out in the front.  She has been such a trooper about no walks for two months but I know it's hard for her.  Life is hard for her and keeping herself together and not falling to pieces, but she tries.  She is such a little trooper.  I'm looking forward to us working with the behavioral vet.

This cold is making me think again about moving away and there's always pros and cons.  IT's silly things but my house is always so humid that I have dehumidifier things in all my kitchen cabinets but it still always smells musty - except when it's so dry like now.  The dishes I'd washed last night and put in drainer to dry - they were all dry in the morning, which is not usual.  I could dry clothes inside (though I probably won't set up a line inside because it's rare that it's not so humid in my house).  These things are convenient but my skin suffers; my hands are a chapped mess because I wash them too often.  I always forget that I'm a little OCD about hand-washing until we have a dry, cold snap.

Today I plan to go to another bookgroup, one where I don't know anybody but it's related to groups I'm aware of that are anti-racist.  I'm a little cautious and now I know why - in one of the groups, someone has been posting things that deny interconnections between oppressions - saying things like it's wrong for Black women to be feminists because everybody has to face only racism; that homosexuality and transgender issues are to be ignored and are a threat to progress for racial equality.  Look, I work hard on myself to pursue anti-racism, but at the point where it sounds misogynistic and homo- and transphobic, I check out.  And I don't think this book group will be like that at all, but I'm cautious.  I know that I need more people in my life who work hard on anti-racism and such, who challenge me to greater activism, who keep me informed and engaged - but lord, meeting people is not always a lot of fun for me.  And I don't have time to be fully engaged and then I'm seen as only half-in and ... there are always politics.  Which I really don't have energy for.  But maybe this won't be like that.  I should make myself go. 

I went.  It was fine.  There was one person there I clicked with in a way.

I advertised the room and have two interesting prospects: 1. a graphic novelist who would be here just for a month, who is articulate and witty and used to have a catahoula; 2. a young undergrad who would be here only half the week usually as he lives with his mom on the other side of the lake but can't drive that commute every day for school because he has epilepsy.

I like that neither of these possibilities are full-time long-term.  We'll see what happens.  If #1, of course my hope is that Ziggy become star of her own graphic novel series.  If #2, my hope is that Ziggy exhibits innate therapy dog tendencies that make her a hero. 

I got other interest too but if somebody doesn't explicitly say "I love dogs" then I don't respond. 

Heard back from the behavioral vet and we are scheduled to "meet" tomorrow.   Ziggy has been displaying anxiety all weekend so the timing is good.  I think some of her anxiety is due to lack of exercise, but she's supposed to still be resting for another two weeks. 

Possible Tenant #2 is coming with his mother tonight and he assures me (reality check: I think his mother may be the one messaging) that they also have a jumpy rescue dog and they will be fine with Ziggy.  The problem of course with Ziggy is that she's not just a little jumpy - she is belligerently so.  And her claws are sharp now but I don't feel like taking that on because she'll be walking again soon and the concrete wears them down. 

Time to move the plants back outside, yay.  Cold spell is over for now. 

dinner and roommates

My dinner is:

*salad of "beluga" (black) lentils with local fresh tomatoes and some awesome Greek feta

Y'all, I love the theory of eating local cuisine all the time.  But I tell ya: having choices from across the world available so easily?  It's amazing. 

I think of this when I think of leaving New Orleans.  While any large city provides these options, remote places don't.  I remember visiting in Kansas and looking for tofu; when I asked the grocery clerk where I could find it, he said: California. 

That was 25 years ago, and I know that times have changed, but still: I want to know that most things can be found that I want to make.  Without much planning or forethought.  Actually, the main forethought I need is to cook a chicken and its stock and freeze all that to have ready - there is no comparing homemade stock with what's in the store.  And stop at the Mexican supermarket to stock up on hominy and chilis (and whatever else catches my fancy there; usually a cup of rice pudding). 

I've lived so many places where food options are so limited and I just really like having all these choices, especially when I have to prepare my own food.  OF course I miss having wild game and fresh fish, so there's that.  But ohmygod if I had to eat one more bite of taro ...

So, tonight I had the two possible roommates visit and the choice is not clear to me.

A. would live here for one month.  He is interesting and intelligent and grown up - we spoke of our values and Africa and neocolonialism and New Orleans.  He stayed for us to build community, he asked what I wanted. 

Ziggy wouldn't stop mauling him. 

B. came with his mother who clearly dominates his life, and she is a heavy smoker.  He seemed nice, though young.  Very young.  STill an undergrad in college young.  Ziggy kept mauling his mother, though I gave her a chew and she laid at their feet and eyed them.  I wish I could see her with just the son to see how she is with him alone; when I gave him treats she immediately sat for him, and then went to maul his mother.  She seemed to kind of ignore him which is good - that's how she was when she first met me.  BUt is that only because his mother was there? 

B. would want to live here longer-term, likely through the summer.  His mother said if he doesn't clean up after himself to call her and she will, or the cleaning service of my choice.  But ... I don't want a roommate like that.  He said his home with his mother is not tidy but when on his own (he's lived in dorms) is different.  And of course I don't care if his personal bedroom is messy, but I care about filth accumulating in newly redone bathroom, about the public space, about dirty dishes. 

HE would only be here a few days a week, generally going home to be with his mother three to four days of the week.  They have dogs for him to keep up with and their relationship is clearly very close.  Perhaps unhealthily so.  But that's not necessarily his fault and doesn't necessarily reflect on how he would do here.  This could be a chance to grow up. 

I know that I would enjoy living with A. more.  Especially once Ziggy calmed down, I would enjoy time with him, talking with him, learning from him, sharing meals with him, etc.

But I think that B. is a better option for Ziggy.   He seems more understanding of her quirks and less assertive.  Maybe Ziggy needs more assertive people, but she seems to behave better with people who are calm and understanding. 

B. is also a better financial choice - if I had the money for six months instead of one ... that makes a difference.

But I don't *need* the money.  I want it for renovations, for paying down my mortgage faster - to supplement my income, to help me see a way out of my job.

Which was not awful today, if I'm frank.  But I really had to take off two days last week.  I could feel the tension rising, making me physically ill.

And I'll keep doing it because it keeps me sane, because I accrue sick time, and I can't take it with me when I go.

A friend who has the worst luck in the world just got out of the hospital for abdominal pain.  She was like: "I wish I had paid sick leave."  Truth.  That's some truth right there.

I am nostalgic AS FUCK.  What the hell?  Tig Notaro dug up so much with Ferron's "Ain't Life a Brook" and now I'm even nostalgic for Russia.  What the hell?  I hated Russia.  It was awful.  OK, no I didn't hate it - it was just incredibly difficult and scarred me and I never wanted to speak another word of Russian again.  But suddenly I want to wander around the Kremlin walls again.  Wow, the memories are so poignant.  I remember our late-night drinking and shenanigans and the dachas and the lines for bread and the corruption and just all of it.  I remember visiting Chekhov's grave, and most magically: seeing Bulat Okudzhava in concert.  He was a small old man by then, but so magical.  My amazing Russian prof in Oregon had made me memorize many of his songs - I still remember some.  (She died tragically, as she always knew she would, after living the fullest of lives.  She was one of my very favorite people in the world.  But I thought so many people in Russia would be like her, but they were not.  She was exceptional.) 

So, I'm reliving the 90s of my life.