Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Couldn't say it better myself

Again from Daily Kos:
Lessons Learned Hotlist
by Hunter
Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 09:10:13 AM PDT

Things I have learned during this campaign season:

In a race that includes a former First Lady of the United States and a multimillionaire Republican senator rumored to share up to eight residences with his wife, the black guy from Chicago is unforgivably elitist.

Racism in America is caused primarily by black Chicago preachers.

The guy who keeps getting confused over the relationship between Iraq, Iran, and al Qaeda is the foreign policy expert.

The guy who goes to campaign stops on his wife's private jet aircraft is the most down-to-earth.

The guy who changed his stance on tax cuts, Roe v. Wade, immigration, gun control, the confederate flag, torture, public financing, and his own anti-earmark rhetoric is the "straight talker".

People in the heartland don't like it when you call them bitter, but they do like it when you explain to them that they're too dumb to understand issues more important than whether or not they like to be called bitter.

Arugula is the measure of a man.

Bowling is the measure of a man.

Orange juice is the measure of a man.

Flag pins are the measure of a man.

Success in Iraq consists of any reduction in violence, except when violence increases that's good too.

A recession is only a recession if you call it one.

Bill Kristol, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Karl Rove, Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, David Broder, Charles Krauthammer and Bob Novak are all intensely interested in giving advice to the Democratic candidates because they just want to be helpful.

There are people in this world dumb enough to believe every one of these things.

Obama and my breaking heart

I haven't written about Obama and his current media struggles (let's reword that shall we?) - the current media savagery on Obama - because I actually admire and respect the man, because I still think he is the best person for the job of president, because I admire and accept Rev. Wright and his theology.

What is so flipping ugly about this current battle is the way white America seems to have been taken completely off-guard by the idea that there are still blacks in America who aren't satisfied with the status quo. It's as if white America is waiting for a big thank you note signed by black America: thanks for ending our slavery! thanks for giving us the vote! thanks for guaranteeing our civil rights! thanks for all the ways you tell us we are no different than you and so should not feel at all in the slightest injured by what we perceive to be racism! thanks for all that old-fashioned respect for our abilities to transcend white injustice by the "boot-straps" techniques. In other words, thanks for just being you - white, privileged, unconcerned with the color of our skin, so happy when one of us finally moves into the suburbs and drives a compact.

The idea of vomiting comes to mind right about now.

The Daily Kos has a great post on this topic.

Yes, I have officially migrated to the dark side, completely radicalized, in the pocket of black radicals... you know, the ones on crystal meth, who live paycheck to paycheck, who have spent time in prison but are trying to find a way now, who go to church each week hanging onto the white man's religion for hope. Those "out of touch" blacks who still imagine that white America has it out for them... because clearly whites don't - I mean look at the fair treatment of Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama...

When the primary season started, the Right thought Hillary was the danger and Barack would be a preferred candidate. They were utterly taken aback to find out that there were huge numbers of whites in America who really don't see race when evaluating a candidate for president. About that time, Sean Hannity switched his "Stop Hillary Express" to "Stop Barack Obama." No one had discovered the Reverend Wright yet. So Hannity spent his days explaining that race would become the issue and that he would find the dirt on Obama.

Yes, fair and balanced Sean Hannity.

The entire scandal and debacle is manufactured shit. Rev. Wright's tirades from the pulpit have nothing to do with presidential policy and everyone who stops to think for six minutes knows that. This is one more instance that Colin Powell predicted: Build up the black man, then publicly Take. Him. Down.

You think blacks were cynical before? You ain't seen nothing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Kindness Work: by Kimmy

My entries from my epic journey will continue to roll out. They're taking me between three and five days to write (similar to working on a book chapter). What an odyssey it is to work through the writing of the insights, not just having had them. Thanks for sharing in the journey with me. If you are writing about midlife anywhere and want me to know about it and share it with others, I hope you'll drop me an email or post in the comments.

Today, though, I want to feature a blog entry that brought me to the brink of tears. Kimmy shares about what she calls "Kindness Work."

That brings me to "Kindness Work." What the heck is that? To me it is old fashioned community. Kindness work is something we used to not need a name for because when someone in our community was ailing, troubled, vulnerable, sad, sick, or otherwise in need of support there was SOMEONE there to lend a hand. Whether it be a friend, a family member, church congregations, or a neighborhood do gooder. In this modern life, it is harder to come by that kind of support. Therein lies the reason people all over are engaging in kindness work. Choosing to be kind is a choice you can make just like being overscheduled, self involved or sarcastic is a choice.

Read the whole entry. I want to make magic wands and deliver them! How do you spread kindness where you are? Give us more ideas. Thanks Kimmy!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Panicked makes the Friday Five

One of my favorite blogging friends recommended my post "Panicked" to the Five Star Friday collection and it was featured for this week.

Thanks to my buddy who runs Blogtations, which you should definitely bookmark and check out. She collects great quotes every day from the blog world and posts them for your enjoyment.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

When you forgive....

I remember when my parents got divorced, people used to tell me, "Time will heal your pain." I hated that rhetoric. Why should my dad and his new wife get away with wrecking our family by virtue of time's ability to heal, to make us forget, to help us move on? So I vowed that time would not heal, that I would not forget, that, in fact, the pain would last.

I knew then that a vow like that was supposed to be dangerous to my own soul. I wasn't quite sure why, though. It just seemed like the universe was letting my parents get away with selfishness, 1970s style, and since the law, religion, and our tennis club friends all seemed perfectly content to overlook my pain when they moved along and accepted the devastation to our family, I decided to take it on myself to mete out justice. I did it by holding onto resentment and an unwillingness to ever forget that my dad, his new wife and my mother made terrible choices.

I didn't know then that these adults were choosing a path for their lives and I was merely collateral damage. No one told me I didn't have to adopt a posture of judgment and anger as a way to cope. It would have been startling to have someone suggest to me that I could simply focus on the pain they caused and work to create a better life for myself, without also focusing on how to make them pay. In fact, I felt I'd be betraying the moral fiber of the universe to love them, to find likable qualities in my dad or his wife, to forgive my mom for her abandonment. So I held them all at this "I love you, but that's in spite of..." arm's length distance.

To move on without judgment—that just didn't seem like the right thing to do. I would be aiding and abetting the cosmos in its indifference to what was clearly unjust! I didn't want to accept the idea of yin-yang, of pain leading to growth, or good and bad coexisting. I didn't want to believe that good could come from evil.

I've been more about linear progress, getting it right, not making mistakes, paying big attention to your impact on your loved ones, and so on. The idea that you could "move on" from making such powerful mistakes deeply troubled me... so I didn't.

The night of the Gilbert-Lamott evening at UCLA, I found myself jarred loose from my usual thought processes. I had already spent half the day in panicked arousal. Now I found myself unraveling my past while sitting in the place where my identity had been formed, for better or worse.

As a college student, I spent plenty of energy adjusting to the new reality that my family home no longer existed for me, that Christmas vacations would be spent on a pull-out couch at my mom's apartment where she lived with her boyfriend. I rarely, if ever, saw either my brother or sister (who lived with my dad). I spent summers in my apartments, not at home visiting high school friends or hanging around my siblings. In many ways, my college years were characterized by an unacknowledged loneliness. I had loads of friends, I participated in Campus Crusade, I belonged to a sorority. But at the end of the day, I had lost my family and had forgiven no one.

Sitting alone, writing in my little blue notebook, these memories swamped me. So unexpected. My young adult self walked right into my pencil and journaled herself onto paper.

The next morning, I went out to breakfast with an online girlfriend. We talked about midlife and marriage, painful choices and taking ownership of one's soul, one's life. Her honesty in revealing her journey to me led me to find new compassion for my dad (something I have not allowed myself to ever feel). I wondered what it might have felt like to be my dad, making choices or allowing them to be made for him. I thought about how he violated his own self-image in having an affair... what it must have taken for him to reconstruct a self he could be proud of and how I've been unwilling to let him ever do that.

I imagined each of my parents not wanting to create a mess in our lives, yet making a huge one as they fumbled forward into their truths and lies, not aware of what the long term consequences would be to us, but certain that the status quo had to be upended; that no matter what, they both were going to reclaim happiness and companionship because They. Had. To.

I joined Campus Crusade in the usual way: within minutes, I was sharing the Four Spiritual Laws with unbelievers. I had determined in college that I'd do it all differently, all rightly, all better. My Bible study leaders taught us about sin. I wanted truth. They tried to get me to see my own sin. All I could see were the sins of others against me.

It would have been incredibly helpful, in looking back, if someone had simply mentioned that Jesus died not just for my sins (sins I couldn't see, identify or feel), but that he died for the sins against - for those sins committed against victims. It would have been even more helpful if I hadn't been admonished to forgive my parents, but had rather been told how important my pain was to God, how proud God was of me for caring that much about truth, justice and suffering... and had then shown me a way to use that pain to create a more just and compassionate world (not just a tiny, in-grown sense of personal revenge-as-justice that I had adopted).

I don't blame anyone for this oversight. It's taken me twenty-five years to tease apart all the threads that make me who I am today.

Later in the afternoon after I said goodbye to Westwood, I drove to my dad's to watch UCLA beat Xavier in the NCAA basketball tournament. My dad and I have always connected around sports. We rarely ever get time alone together. We sat, side-by-side on the couch, hardly sure of who to root for; after all, it was like watching me play me, since I'm an alumnus of both schools. I wanted UCLA to win theoretically, but I was attached to the Xavier seniors who we've watched play here in Cinci. When Xavier lost, I felt I had lost too, even though my team, the one I was rooting for, had won.

My life has been a similar emotional tug of war. I love my parents, both of them. I'm proud of them for all kinds of accomplishments and gifts they've given to me, for the ways they have created stability in spite of the chaos of those earlier years. But I also really loved my family of origin, that original formulation of the five of us that I lost, forever. It's been hard to know which team to root for - the first family that holds my dearest childhood memories, or this new, reconstituted one, born in pain and violation.

After twenty-eight years, after all this time, while sitting with my dad in the home he and his wife have made together, I finally let it go. I'm going to accept, love and root for the family I have. I started that afternoon.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Anne Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert

Good writers use a schtick that we readers indulge with laughs and attention. It's called craft: the narrative arcs and little moments of insight woven between honest revelations, good vocabulary, a sense of humor and posturing which all work together to create best sellers. As a friend once said to me, we want "telling on myself honesty" but we probably don't want the gritty, underneath kind of soul-exhibitionism that looks more like stripping in one of those awful little dressing rooms with the carnival-style mirrors and fluorescent bulbs that make even the sexiest clothes look frumpy on a cover girl.

There are just some truths that are best left private. Evenso, humorous self-disclosure is the creative non-fiction niche. Gilbert and Lamott: pros.

The problem for me is that sometimes I get bored with writing - with my writing, with the writing of others. It's like I see the writing tricks and feel this huge urge to grab a sharpie marker and write in the margins, "Ha! Fraud! Writing trick! You can't dupe me."

I had some of these feelings the night I listened to Anne Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert. Don't get me wrong. They're excellent writers, both, and equally compelling speakers. Lamott was "tears streaming down your cheeks" funny and Gilbert was insightful, gently humorous and genuinely warm. I spent half the night wanting her to cuddle me.

Yet, sometimes in the name of honesty, I feel misled. There's a seduction at the heart of writing and speaking. It's the thrill of audience, the sense of being a god in your little universe of words. That means you can shape the person in the middle of your narrative into whoever serves that ravenously hungry entity called "humanity" (or less romantically: readers).

Both Gilbert and Lamott are known for their soul-baring writing styles. They spare no aspect of their lives from scrutiny, including painful divorce, self-flagellation for their spiritual deficiencies and even the art of masturbation. But of the two, Lamott surprisingly came across as the more forced, the more conscious of taking the audience for a ride. There were times I didn't fully trust her.

Elizabeth introduced Anne and then Anne read from one of her books. Anne's a wonderful writer and we laughed, nodded and sighed at the right moments. Elizabeth's introduction of Anne was deferential, humorous and honoring. She filled it with genuine affection and insight, and positioned herself as someone who couldn't have been successful without Anne's previous writings about the spiritual life with a sense of humor. The irony, of course, is that Elizabeth is wildly more successful from one book than Anne is with several.

Weirdly, Elizabeth's deference led Anne to hog most of the night. As I exited the huge Royce Hall with hundreds of other women filling the aisles, I overheard several commenting that they didn't understand why Anne spoke so much more than Liz. Well, the truth is, Anne simply didn't yield the mike! It almost seemed that Anne was desperate to ride a little of the wake off of Liz's celebrity.

I noticed that Anne relied a lot on self-deprecation for humor as is the typical manner of co-dependents and ex-addicts. She gave the impression that she didn't fundamentally like people. She deliberately maintained this "I've not grown much" spirituality as a way of staying in synch with her audience. But it had the opposite effect on me.

It felt phony!

Meanwhile, Elizabeth came across utterly differently. For instance, someone from the audience asked if either of them had discovered that through their struggles, they had come to gain some wisdom to share or some gifts to share with others after having doubted themselves and their spiritual health, etc. Elizabeth answered that it is startling for her to feel that she's grown, that there are gifts in her hands (she held them up) for others, but that it still humbles her and she is in awe of it. Anne came back with, "No." She never has anything to give away, never knows it, doesn't feel she has anything of growth to offer anyone.

Now some people may have thought that a wonderfully honest comment. But I found it self-interested and posturing. How can Anne not have grown ever? How is it that she is spouting her insights but thinks she never has anything to say that helps people? Why write books? Why undercut Elizabeth's genuine self-evaluation with this "I'm a more honest, and raw kind of person than her" statement? It bugged me.

Elizabeth, meanwhile, deferred, classy.

The event was entertaining, enjoyable, the place to be in LA that night. Women buzzed, came dressed up in sandals and colors, big earrings and warmly hooked to each other as girlfriends so often are. I loved observing the whole space.

My take-home from the actual talks had more to do with my personal writing than any of their specific content. My soul searching had begun. What does it mean to share your life, you spiritual self, your broken-down person in the dirt versus the revised version of self that is slowly emerging? What does that look like in writing for me? Before the event began, I had purchased a little blue notebook from a drug store. I sat on the cold hard steps leading up to Royce Hall, took my pencil in hand and scratched letters on the pages.

Halting, stilted, hidden words. I couldn't coax them to come out and play like they usually do. The panic attacks for my physical safety morphed into emotional panic: Could I write what I was really thinking and feeling without it ever being "found out"? What a thought! What a thought for a writer of autobiographical essays!

To break through, I had to literally tell myself I could take a match to the little sheets of paper once they were written if I felt the need. Even as I had that thought, another one crashed into it to invalidate it: "If you never want anyone to know what you really think, don't write it down. Written words come back to haunt you and ruin your life."

What an odd thought to have while totally alone with a tiny notebook 3000 miles from home! I had hidden thoughts and feelings that didn't surface in my day-to-day life in Ohio yet with isolation, physical vulnerability and the up-close memories of the "me" that went to college, I suddenly felt exposed, in danger emotionally because I found my mind rearranging some of its assumptions.

So I bungled my way forward, overwriting, under-writing, hesitating and then gushing. The personal writing I did before the event acted as backdrop to these pros who make their living investigating the self and then translating it into entertainment. I listened at both levels: the primary one that entertained and that meta-level that taught me about what kind of writer I want to be.

In the days that followed, a different kind of personally dangerous deconstruction developed. Some of that journey I'll share here over the course of this week... and some of it went up with a match.

Friday, April 18, 2008


I got off the plane in Los Angeles and clutched my purse and laptop. It's home, but it's also hostile. I feel less safe in LAX than I do in any other airport in the world, including Kinshasa where we were told they do actually sometimes steal your suitcase.

Once I walked past Wolfgang Puck's cafe and caught my first glimpse of a palm tree through the tall sunny windows, I felt better. I picked up my red bag, headed to the rental car station and snagged a set of keys to a white PT Cruiser. I did do the LA walk-around where you surreptitiously glance in the back windows of your car for lurking rapists before climbing into the front seat. The car was cool. I hopped in, stripped off my sweater down to the cami and drove.

I know LA. I love knowing it.

I exited at Wilshire Blvd. and turned right heading toward UCLA. My hotel, the Claremont, was (and still is) situated on Tiverton, right in Westwood. It's an old place without TVs or parking. I knew that going in. Its advantage to my stay: walking distance from UCLA and 60 bucks a night.

I liked the look of the place from the outside. I pulled up, hauled my bags out of the back, dragged them up the sidewalk steps and then up an entire flight of stairs (apparently no elevators either!) and dumped them in my clean, spare room.

My next mission: parking. Finding parking in Westwood is a test of the gods. You have to know which one is in charge of that day. Otherwise, forget about it. But my real concern this time had to do with finding parking that would allow me to drive to the UCLA event that night and return my car to a safe, lighted parking space that was within an easy walk from the hotel.

No such place exists. The paid parking was around the corner, on a hill, with no attendant and no re-entry. That left street parking which is, as I said, a crap shoot or a miracle depending on who you tell your parking stories to. As I sat in my car, halfway up the curb deciding where to put this rented vehicle, twinge. Like shots of tequila through my veins.

I glanced in my rear view mirror. Street sign: 2 hour parking between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. It was now 3:30. Perfect. Parking until morning. I suppressed the surge of panic, hauled that puppy into reverse and did my parallel parking thing, which being from LA means I'm a beast at it.

I walked back to the hotel, working my way into what would become a paranoid thought obsession: How will I get home from the Anne Lamott/Elizabeth Gilbert event tonight without getting assaulted, raped, shot, burgled, jumped, spit at, or flipped off?

It didn't help that I began this cycle of panic in the old hotel. My little second story room had windows that were open with tiny little latches. The door had one twist lock in the handle and that's it. No deadbolt, no little chain. Thousands of dollars of electronics, my all-by-myself body and a lock I could pick with a bobbypin!

The room went hot and airless.

I paced and panted. Every bad decision about safety I had ever made came back to me in waves - the times I jogged in college right by the rapists hiding in bushes at 1 in the morning with my 5' 2" roommate without blinking; the time I got into a car with an Italian guy at midnight in Zurich because I didn't have a hotel lined up, then he felt up my knee, so I heroically jumped into another car with another guy, and still wound up in the red light district alone; the alley in France I walked down as a shortcut to the movies where a North African male hand grabbed me in the wrong place, and my friend and I leaped three feet in the air, screamed and fled... I could, unfortunately, go on.

Now at 46, those memories, 25 years of news stories, this squalid half-locked room all bundled themselves together to beat and cripple me. I wrenched open my laptop and logged onto the Grand Wilshire hotel website. For $300 per night: parking! two blocks away! rooms with triple locks!


An anvil smashed my chest. I had hit full panic mode, the kind where every nerve ending thrashes my skin and my thoughts turn irrational but the whole time I'm in awe of their rationality. I couldn't imagine any way to safely make it through the next 24 hours.

I called Jon. The hotel can't exist if people get raped and burgled. You can always call a cab after the event. You will be fine. I dropped to my knees, accepted Jon into my life and adopted his Gospel message. But I still felt sick to my stomach.

After we hung up, a strange sound wafted to me from behind the barely locked door. Ce qu'il y a ici est... French? Outside my door? I could not believe my bon chance!

This hotel must be on the list of cheap places to stay for Europeans who come to America. No French person would ever steal my iPod! They won't fight wars! They love the Dali Lama! They drink wine till they have a cigarette, not so they can jump unsuspecting middle-aged women! I'm saved!

My breathing returned to normal. My stomach, not so much. I still had to figure out how I'd get home from the event. I inquired at the desk which held a barrel chested man who would be watching the front double bolted glass door all night. Is this a, um, safe neighborhood to walk in at, say, oh, 10:30 p.m. all by myself after an event at UCLA? I squeaked.

Funny how I walked it as a nubile 20-something without ever thinking twice. At 46, really, what do I have to recommend me?

He replied: Safe enough. But why go through all that? You can just get the UCLA escort service to walk you back to our hotel.

Salvation! Choirs of angels burst through the clouds... Well actually, they didn't. And this is where it gets interesting.

I heard him with my ears, I believed him with my head, but my body said, "No way. There's a flaw in this plan. You will surely die, after you've surely been burgled, and raped." For the next 24 hours, even after I had been safely escorted home by a nice Vietnamese ROTC student, every nerve-ending continued to fire, zing, and say "You're in danger!" In fact, I didn't eat well for nearly half my ten day trip. My body didn't recover or forget or believe.

I sat, parked, in the "let the trucks go by" lane of the San Marcos pass, shaking, though it was two days later.

Jon says it's midlife: the sense of vulnerability, mortality, danger sensed and narrowly averted, the weird out-of-context alone feelings that overtook me.

On many more levels than one it turns out. A foreshadowing of internal work to come.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Midlife Mess

Must be the forties.

I went to California because my mom invited me to celebrate her 70th birthday. I imagined a trip filled with sunshine; friends; good food; UCLA; dinner with my dad; time with my sister, aunt and mother; and a solid dose of the California crunchies (healthy food, tan bodies, beaches and surfers, tattoo parlors next to drug stores, recycling bins on street corners and traffic).

A friend wrote in an email that I was on an "epic journey" and I smirked. Yeah, right. Ten days in my home state. What's epic about that?

Apparently everything.

I want to write about that trip, about the various impressions and emotions that broke over my head like the egg-mayonnaise-avocado shampoo concoction of the 1970s. I've got journal notes and emails to comb through.

Stay tuned. There's more coming.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Black Theology Reprise

Adam Clark, my black theology professor, wrote the following article for the Cincinnati Enquirer, addressing the Rev. Wright flap. I think he did it well.

Wright's teachings are part of African-American opposition to empire

The presidential candidacy of Obama can be assessed on its own terms. But the uproar over the rhetoric of Wright is largely a result of America's unfamiliarity with the history and language of the black church. The political character of black sermons such as Wright's are not rooted in the give and take of electoral politics, they derive from biblical faith. The black church has historically identified with the minority Jewish population of the first century. They regard the Jewish population's relationship to the Roman Empire as similar to their own relationship to the American Empire. This identification has caused black Christians to make a distinction between the biblical Jesus and the American Christ. The American Christ is a product of the American middle class, a deity who endorses empire and converts his followers into being pro-war, pro-death penalty and anti-abortion. The biblical Jesus reveals a God who is provocative, a God who upsets the powers and is eventually rejected and crucified by them.

The language of the black church that conveys this oppositionality does not translate well into the arena of presidential politics. It was never intended to. The black church's language is the language and worldview of a people who have been at the margins of social power - a symbolic language, not a literal language. Words seldom have a one-to-one correspondence with events. Black religious language is inherently evocative, hyperbolic and impassioned - aimed more toward devotion than debate. It is intended to convey divine ecstasy and anger to parishioners, not dialogue among pundits.

In response, a local Catholic apologist has weighed in:
Clark's Defense is insulting
What's more, Wright's so-called Black Liberation Theology bears nothing in common with "biblical faith." The Gospel message is universal. It is the message of salvation from the slavery of sin through the passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The race-based theology - ideology is a better word - espoused by Wright and defended by Clark is something else entirely.

Honestly, I find the reductionistic approach to Cone's theology insulting. And since when is the "Gospel universal" - as if the Catholics even mean the same things by that word as the Protestants, let alone black Christians struggling for civil rights?

In any event, read both and weigh the issues yourself. I did post a response to Leonardi's editorial on his blog (listed at the end of his article).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Now that's hot!

Guide for husbands whose wives have indulged in an incredibly decadent ten days away from home, leaving you holding the domestic bag. This is how Jon did it... and he's getting rewarded like every night, all night long. :)


1. Never called to complain.

2. Substitute taught my classes without lesson plans from me (made up his own lesson so I wouldn't have to prepare).

3. Made every appointment with kids.

4. Cleaned the house: the baseboards, the counters, the living room, the family room, the kitchen, and the master bedroom.

5. Had new dishwasher installed.

6. Got rid of old dishwasher.

7. Did laundry.

8. Shopped for food from all three stores we go to!

9. Bought flowers.... (It's getting good, right?)

10. Changed bed sheets and cleaned MB top to bottom. (Getting hotter...)

11. Picked me up at airport in nice outfit, smelling like heaven, asking me millions of questions and listening to my long, self-indulgent answers. (Pant, pant)

Yeah, he got some!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Good vibrations in CA

(This photo includes: My mom and me - bottom row, and my theological aunt and sister, celebrating my mom's 70th birthday.)

Clearly I didn't post a single photo while on my ten day sojourn through California. I actually (gasp) took time off of writing on my blogs. In fact, I took so much time off (ten days!) that when I returned to my office last night and looked at my desk, I saw a stack of (what is that?) mail (!) and had to think for a minute to figure out what it was and why it was there on my desk?!

California took on a whole different cast this trip. One might dub it: "The week of mid-life crisis, California style." I spent most of the time hashing through mid-life issues with friends, family and self. Crazy what that granola, a little sunshine and salt air does for the soul. Spring cleaning of the self.

Anne Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert entertained and illuminated. More on them when I can scrounge my notepad from the abyss that is my suitcase. For now, I thought I'd just post a little visual journal of my time away. Enjoy. (Click on the photos for larger versions.)

(San Francisco skyline from 18th Street at Delores Park)

(Valrhona Chocolate to be squirted inside the Pain au Chocolate at Tartine's - the world's "better than France" French bakery, I swear.)

(Santa Cruz Nieces with the green BMW their dad is working on... Who wouldn't want that car... or those girls?)

(4 1/2 yr. old nephew who wants a surfboard for his 5th birthday.)

(Manresa Beach and me.)

(This VW captures most of what I love about California.)