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USA Election – The Graphic Novel

9 Nov

This is the United States of America:

 

This was the USA during the presidential campaign:

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This is the USA today:

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This is my dream for the USA:

To get there, this needs to happen:

And then we’ve got to stop doing this:

And start doing this:

The END

Listen to Your Mother – video release!!!

14 Jul

So while I’m frantically revising picture book manuscripts to take to Highlights Summer Camp

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Fake picture of me….

 

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The Real Me

 Listen To Your Mother released the 2016 videos from shows in 41 cities. As promised, here’s my piece in the San Francisco Show! It was a privilege and an honor to be on stage with such amazing women. Cheers!

Summer Life Saving

17 Jun

I hadn’t planned on going to my niece’s wedding. She was getting married in Orlando last week and had planned a large party/reception for friends and family in Illinois in early July. In honor of her grandparents (my parents) who had been married 65 years, she had decided to get married on their wedding anniversary, June 10.

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But when I received my niece’s email, asking friends and family to send or bring a rock to the wedding, I knew I had to go. You see, my mom LOVED rocks. She once chased a Caterpillar D10

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working on road construction through a field on her little John Deere

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to ask the driver if he would push a mountain of a boulder onto the farm ground. He did.

My niece learned to love rocks—well, that might be a stretch—she learned to wash the landscape rocks that surrounded my parents’ house. My mother believed that the landscape should be washed every spring, and the grandchildren (once the kids were grown and gone) were just the people to help her do it. So my niece learned to LOVE washing rocks.

It was natural that she would want rocks for her wedding. They’re a symbol of a strong foundation, right?

I got the email and immediately knew I had to TAKE the rocks to Florida, not ship them. We boated over to Angel Island, scavenged one large 10-pounder, one fist-sized, and a handful of smaller green stones called serpentine. Perfect! I would skimp on clothes and carry these in my luggage.

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Yes, the TSA left their calling card in my suitcase. They must still be shaking their heads, wondering why anyone would cart around a bunch of rocks.

Anyway, I delivered those rocks and myself to Orlando four days later. The ceremony was quite moving, with my nephew telling his rock story during the ceremony. A few months earlier, he had been shopping for a First Communion gift for a family member and saw a pile of rocks at the store. One read something along the lines of “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The saying reminded him of his grandfather’s calmness and how he dealt with stress. The second rock he picked up read “This Too Shall Pass,” his grandmother’s favorite saying. He decided those two rocks were meant for him, and he bought them along with a communion gift.

Then a couple of months later, he gets this request from his sister to bring rocks to her wedding on a date that honors their grandparents. So instead of keeping those rocks for himself as mementos of his grandparents, he gave them to his sister. (Yes, he is a fantastic guy!)

Really, those two rocks were my parents’ way of sneaking into the wedding.

Now, fast forward a couple of hours after we all head out to the hotel pool complex.

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We’re settling in, when my sister-in-law passes by a couple of people shaking the arms of a little girl lying on the pool deck. They had just pulled her from the water, and she’s not responsive.

Sooo, my sister-in-law grabs my niece and nephew (her kids) who happen to be physician’s assistants. They find no pulse and begin lifesaving techniques that include an inverted heimlich with the girl’s head below her waist. My nephew tries to activate the little girl’s gag reflex by sticking his finger down her throat. (Someone calls 911. Concerned bystanders suggest laying her flat. NO! Don’t do that! They also suggest giving her a glass of water. REALLY??) Still no response, but the heimlich is pumping lots of water out of her. My nephew tries again and again until he gets a gag from her and she begins to vomit water and food. Another few seconds of heimlich with her head down and she’s still vomiting but begins to cry. Success!!

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In honor of the wonderful world of Disney

Paramedics arrive, give her oxygen, and prep her for heading to the hospital, where she will stay for observation.

Two days later, I leave for home and get a text with a photo of my niece and nephew “meeting” the little girl and her babydoll at the hotel after she was released from the hospital. I’m not going to show it here because I don’t have a release from her parents, but suffice to say, I cried when I saw all three of them together and smiling.

Soooo, everyone, it’s summer swimming pool season. Please be vigilant. This was one of two bright spots (wedding, too!) in a horrific week for Orlando. Watch those swimmers, and if they don’t know how to swim, keep them in floaties whenever they’re near the pool. The one shown below snaps behind the child’s back, so they can’t take it off themselves. 

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Remember, a child slips below the surface without making noise. Be watchful, and listen for silence.

Life, Love, and LTYM Show – San Francisco

21 Mar

When my son was three, he was fascinated by all things siren-related. One night in the Mission District of San Francisco, an ambulance was parked outside the restaurant where we were eating.

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No emergency, just hungry paramedics waiting for their “TO GO” order. 

When we left the restaurant, my son ran to the ambulance and peered inside the open sliding door. The next thing I knew, a paramedic was asking him if he’d like to see his heartbeat.

What! 

My son was too shy to agree, but I wasn’t. So the paramedic hooked me up to the heart rate monitor, and we all watched as a paper tape began unfurling from the machine.

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“This is what your mama’s heartbeat looks like when she’s loving you,” the paramedic said.

I still have the copy of that printout, but it’s stored in a box of my son’s baby memorabilia in the garage. Maybe I should frame it with the paramedic’s words and give it to my son for his 18th birthday. 

But I digress….I want to tell you about last night.

Listen To Your Mother – First Rehearsal

In a political environment bent on emphasizing our differences, I’d like to ask: What do all moms have in common, other than being female? Maybe the question should be “What do we all have in common”?

It’s that person whose food, body, and oxygen we shared for the first nine months of our lives. The heartbeat that will forever reverberate in our subconscious.

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MOM

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MOM

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MOM

As I listened to ten women share their diverse stories of motherhood and then added my own voice to the mix, I contemplated just how wide and deep this ocean of experience is. And while each story is unique, I found myself nodding, laughing, or crying in recognition. The emotional core was all that mattered.

The joy, pain, anger, loss, fear, laughter, and—love. The love that lives and simmers below the surface of all those other emotions.

For those of you who can’t join us at the Listen To Your Mother show in San Francisco on May 6, 2016, LTYM will post the video of our performance (along with 40 other shows from around the country) on their national website.  When those videos go up, you’ll be the first to know.

Last year, the show sold out two weeks in advance. So I’ll let locals know as soon as they go on sale. But if you live in a city that’s hosting a LTYM performance, by all means GO!

I promise, it will be an amazing night, a celebration of the beating heart, otherwise known as life.

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Justice For All?

26 Jun
The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
 

Laurel Leigh, a dear friend, colleague, and co-founder of the Dogpatch Writer’s Collective, has an essay published in the July issue of The Sun literary magazine. It’s a devastating story about her nephew who’s serving a life sentence for killing a toddler, a crime he did not commit. The story will pierce your heart, and I hope it turns more than a few heads who might be able to “do something.”

In writing this story, Laurel has bravely shared her family’s struggles. But she has also DONE something.

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“We Should Do Something”  by Laurel Leigh

 

 

 

Death and Poetry – UCSF Memory and Aging Center

18 May

I few months ago, I wrote about my out-of-body experience (spending the evening with a couple of exes)

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Crossing the velvet bridge

compliments of the University of California San Francisco Memory and Aging Center, where death and dying was discussed through the medium of poetry.

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield, poet and the Hellman Visiting Artist at the center (2012-13), led the evening that left me exhausted and exhilarated.

Here’s the link to all of the poets/speakers that evening: UCSF Memory & Aging Center, Poetry & End of Life.  Each video is listed separately.

I want to draw particular attention to Frank Ostaseski, Founder of the Zen Hospice Center in San Francisco. He recites a death poem written by an elderly woman (Sono) who had been homeless before coming to the hospice center to die. The poem, a gift to herself and to him, was cremated with her body.

Ostaseski starts talking about Sono at minute 12:00. The poem is finished at 15:45, but I think you might want to watch to the end.

Ashes to ashes. Let’s raise a glass and toast to our unworlding.

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Cheers!

For after all, it is truly part of living—until we are no more.

 

Not Just for Poets

3 Sep

“Halloooooooo!” says Tigger!

I’ve brought in a Caterpillar D-10

to move my email around after hiring a Caterpillar 797F off-road truck to haul it to my office.

My husband and son under the wheel of the Caterpillar truck hired to bring my email to my office

My husband and son under the           12,000 lb. wheel

Each wheel, attached to the axle with 47 nuts torqued to 2300 lb.-ft. each, costs $250,000.

Why, oh why, did I ever go on holiday?! Surely not just to visit the Caterpillar Museum in Peoria, Illinois?

No! We went on holiday to capsize a 19 foot Interlake sailboat in the 64 degree F waters of Muscungus Bay, Maine during an around the island boat race:

Ashore at Bremen Long Island in Muscungus Bay

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Captain and Crew – My husband and I are standing on rocks behind the boats after we swam (pulling the boat with the boys on top) ashore.

There IS a reason they call this sailboat a “lake” boat. It’s wicked fast in light winds but knocks over easily in gusts above 20 knots (especially if your young crew is intent on pulling aboard seaweed and squishing it all over themselves instead of manning the jib sheet). I had been soaked from the waist down since we buried the rail earlier in the race so I was suffering from a touch of hypothermia by the time we got to shore (half an hour) and were “rescued” by the race committee boat. The boys were warm, singing and dancing on the foredeck after their initial dousing. My husband has a little more insulation than I. He was fine.

I did read a few good books while away. I just reviewed The Artful Edit by Susan Bell over at Dogpatch Writers Collective.

But now I want to share with you another:

book cover

I’ve known about this book for years, but I had never read it. From the start:

“You’ll never be a poet [or fiction writer] until you realize that everything I say today and this quarter is wrong.”

I fell in love. I’ve underlined many phrases in this book, but the one that rings truest for me is this:

“I believe that it is only in periods when you can transcend your competitive instincts that you can write. A sound analogy could be made with hitting a baseball. If you concentrate on beating a particular pitcher, your chances of hitting him [meaning hitting one of his pitches] are not as good as they are if you can ignore him until he disappears and you can concentrate on the ball. “

Many, many other lovely quotes in this book. Some of the “advice” is helpful, most all of it is entertaining. The Triggering Town is a slim volume that can help your writing practice, or at least give you bellies of warm laughs–something to consider when you’ve got hypothermia.

So folks, I’m now doing to make my editor and other writers disappear as I concentrate on my work.

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