Monday, January 31, 2011


I have run upon 20 questions that I am supposed to ask myself. Sure. Why not? One a day for the next 20 days then.

#1- What Questions Should I Be Asking Myself?

I suppose it depends on the situation, but in this greater life sense I will have to think about it a bit. One thing is clear, I need to question my current path. I have become a drifter and seem to be floating in an eddy . Sometimes a little drifting gives you the rest you need to paddle back out into the current, but sometimes you get stuck in the mud of the shallows and you have to get out and push to get going again.

Am I where I am supposed to be? Am I letting myself bob along the edge of the river so long I am becoming skittish about diving back in? Are some of the things I see coming things I am trying to hide from? When was the last time I really engaged the world around me in an energetic and truly enthusiastic manner?

Those seem like enough questions for today. There will be others tomorrow. I will find myself doing something that will require new questions to be answered.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


There is much I have wanted to write about the past few days, but much has kept me away from the keyboard. Typing has become one of the daily tasks I have that has become quite painful, along with cleaning, food prep and bicycle riding. My hands, especially my index fingers have become so swollen and painful that I find myself rationing my activities to make sure that the most important things get done first. Personal writing does not rank very high on the list, no matter how much I love to do it. Making sure there is dinner on the table seems to be a more pressing concern.

Moving forward in life I can see that this is going to become an increasingly more difficult dilemma to negotiate. The demands of family and the world around me are so loud and insistent and, ultimately, not possible to ignore. If I am committed to a life without driving then the lovely long rides through the country side or the crazy social rides through town that I have enjoyed for the last few years are not really possible. If I must answer a dozen emails in an hour I can not then write about my thoughts on fear today. The bathroom needs to be scrubbed which means the living room can not be vacuumed.

With what appears to be increasing limitations on what my hands can do, how do I find space for the things I love? How do I keep from becoming bitter over what I must do?

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Sometimes there is nothing to say.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

25/365 (PM thoughts)

Here we are. It is 11:30 at night and I just rode 20+ miles up and down hills around San Francisco. I am tired and my mind is blissfully blank as it usually is after a good, hard ride. The stars were out, the air was clear. Life is good.


When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations.

When power narrows the area of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence.

When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.

- John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


It drags me down.
My only friend, the couch.
There is no call from the
sunny world outside
that speaks as sweetly
as my lovely sofa
which promises
horizontal comfort and
healing naps.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


This day, last year. Turns out it was a really amazing day! After talking about not being nostalgic yesterday, I thought it might be fun to see if I experienced something I wanted to hold on to. This was just after some huge storms had shut down the Great Highway to car traffic. After 5 storms in a row and a couple more on the way we were stir crazy and needed to get out and have some fun. The air smelled clean and the light was amazing and all of San Francisco was out in the sand just happy to not be stuck inside.

Beach Friends

On The Wall

Hands Up


Each Occupied In His Own Way

The rest of the set is here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011


I am not a sentimental person. Nostalgia is not something I spend much time indulging in. Not being stuck to things in the past is very freeing in many ways, but at the same time it is a bit like the Janis Joplin line goes- "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose". Lack of nostalgia frequently means lack of memory. There are many things that I have not formed strong memories of that others would remember easily and vividly. Sometimes I find this a bit disturbing.

A good friend of mine can remember the smallest details of people she knew 30 years ago. Another old friend remembers just about every bump or scratch she ever had. When they talk about these memories I listen in awe or bemusement, especially if they are remembering something I should be able to remember for myself. There are a good many times I end up feeling inadequate, I really should be able to remember more of my life and the people who have populated it. I can't help but feel there is some level of disrespect on my part for not remembering more and better, as though events and people I care about are not worthy of room in my mind, and by extension in my heart.

Sometimes I try to fix things in my memory which is part of the reason I take so many pictures. The world chases artificial intelligence and I try to corral artificial memory.

Adrienne and James

This is the night Barack Obama won the election. When I look at the picture I remember how cold it was out and how happy everyone was in the streets and waving to them from my bicycle as we rode through the Mission. I remember going to our friend Tom Valtin's house to see how his bid for District Supervisor was going. I can also tell by how these memories feel that were it not for the photograph of them that I would not remember most of it accept in a very vague way.

Despite this, even when there is something I want to remember and can't (especially about the kids when they were small) I find memories burdensome. When I listen to the extensive memory catalog that some of the people I know have access to I experience an acute sense of the tremendous weight of it. I find myself wondering how they live with it? With that many sharp, detailed and obviously closely held memories, are they able to experience this moment on its own or only in comparison to the past? How much energy does it take to carry it all, and shift through it, and keep it cataloged and continue to add to the collection?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Classes started yesterday, but I have not been given a registration time as yet. Another semester of not being able to start what I want. In the past this would have been enough to kill my motivation, these days, though, I have enough going on that contributes to my future that I can be patient.

I sometimes wonder about the things that seem like obstacles. Are they meant to stop us, or are they there to challenge us and what we think we want? If I am going to get back into school I am going to have to really want it. Every step of the way there will be mountains to climb, just getting in will be the first. It is better to know now how much I want to achieve this goal instead of getting half way through and realize it is not what I want and quit (something that has huge consequences in the future should I ever try again to study something).

Those things that come easy always seem untrustworthy to me. There should be some struggle. We should have to work, we should have to fail, we should have to try again and again.

Looks like I am right on track.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

17/365 (work in progress)

I walk a fine line
between myself
an edge on a razor
that cuts
as I
and bleed
tea and sympathy

Monday, January 17, 2011


I rode through the fog this evening. Lovely, thick, dense fog that hugs the trees and seeps through my hair. I love to walk through trees in this kind of fog, or sit out on the cliffs and listen for the fog horns. It is the kind of fog that acts like a time machine and lets me be in any place in time. A beautiful, enveloping fog that makes the Universe a more intimate place. This is the fog of my childhood, that I remember with such longing and tonight it is all around me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Sunday is the day of family.


Saturday, January 15, 2011


Last year I became the person in charge of my local elementary school's Food Pantry. Every Friday afternoon we give away food to those at the school who need it ($150, 000 worth last year), and until this day that has been about 50 families (in a school of just over 300 students that is pretty significant). Every week I see the same people and I have come to know them pretty well. We have managed to make our little Pantry a very friendly one where no one seems to be embarrassed or shamed. It ends up being a pretty social event with lots of people staying to chat with one another while the kids peek into the bags to see if there are any snacks to pillage.

Friday, through a misunderstanding several people were encouraged to come for food before we were officially open. There are usually one or two people who just can't wait until we are open for any number of very good reasons. The other families understand that there are some who have special needs, so there has never been a problem. The people who came today were new to the program and my guess is that they are accustomed to other pantries where people have to stand in line and competition for food is sometimes quite stiff. I couldn't believe how pushy they were, or how unwilling to listen. There are very few times when I feel even a little bit of stress while at the Pantry, but this was little bit like being in shark tank.

By the end of the day, we had increased our client list by 50%! It is good to know that there are people in need who have now been identified. I have increased the amount of food we will be shipped each week and I will increase the time the Pantry is open to accommodate these new people. They, however, will have to learn the rules- no pushing, no grabbing, no snatch and run... in other words, this will be a very calm, civilized Pantry. There is no reason on Earth why charity has to be uncivil or aggressive. This is not an emergency air drop of C-rations to a disaster zone.

Maybe this week I will play some music and hide the food a little bit so I can keep a tighter lid on poor behavior.

Friday, January 14, 2011


I love concrete and geometry and those things that have fallen apart just a little bit.

Momentary Hope


No Escape

Fading Away

Thursday, January 13, 2011


How my friend Melyssa sees me

oh hai

How I see me



Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I was having a rough day on the personal-view-of-self front yesterday. That seems to be one of the side effects of self reflection. For myself, I find myself wondering how the hell I got to this point in my life and still know just about nothing about just about everything. It can be a bit of a downer at times.

The O'Chan Face In Action

Then I looked at this picture of my family. They all look so much alike and they are all giving me the same look that James gives me when he is being patient with me as I make him do something that seems like a good idea at the time. I had to laugh. I may not be all that I can be on a daily basis, but I am enough to have put this crew together and that is amazing in my book.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

10/365 (Dizzy)


try to remember those days
and hold on

Monday, January 10, 2011


How do you get past being self-conscious? I want to start a project, one that encompases my photography and poetry, but I am a little intimidated by the process. Getting it started is not the issue, I have already done that. It is more an issue of showing it to others and leaving it open for the opinions that follow.

It seems silly to me that I would even allow doubt to be an issue here. I am trying to go back to grad school and that is not the least bit intimidating, even coupling it with a change in career. Showing people my poetry, especially coupled with photography is hooking me up. I hate to think that for even a moment I would start shooting with the idea of what other people will see or write with any worry of how other will accept it- I would just stop both or second guess myself into the grave.



The water is poured and the glass is placed.
I notice the water drops on the counter.
The light marks the space and small colours appear.
I listen to what you tell me
and see that everything has changed.
The water and the light whisper it to me
while I try to stay in my seat.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Because I am uncomfortable on Facebook I tend to post very impersonal things. At least to those who read them they must seem quite impersonal. I usually post about what I made for dinner, which for some reason people seem to enjoy. Tonight's post was-

Bits and pieces soup- cranberry beans, farro, mirepoix, and ham finished with cheese according to individual taste (pecorino, ricotta ensalda or mozzarella). Rosemary bread and blue cheese.

The fact is, you can tell a lot about my day by what I cook. Lots of ingredients or something that needs a lot of prep means I have had at least a couple of great days and lots of energy. Roast chicken means I want homemade food but I don't have the energy to chop or prep anything. Delivery pizza... I have no interest in food at all but the kids are hungry.

Tonight was cabinet soup. Make something out of whatever is around. I want to eat at home, I don't want to leave the comfort of my living room. I need a rest and real food.

I guess nothing is what it seems. Nothing is impersonal, just interpretive.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

7/365 (Distraction)

There is no escape from distraction for me anymore. Every time I try to do something or think in a straight line I am derailed by one thing or another. This is an endlessly frustrating challenge for me. I find it draining and tiring and after a day of it I have no patience. Phones always ring the moment I have my hands full doing something that requires my full attention. The exact moment I decide to start a knitting project and need to count stitches and lay a correct foundation for it someone in the house decides that now is the time they need a question answered in the other room.

I end up having to do the same things over and over and over again because I get interrupted and distracted all the damn time. If something takes more than 30 minutes it will never get finished. How could it? Everyone has something that needs my attention now. They know that this is the 12th time I have started and pulled out the same knitting because of repeated interruptions but they just keep coming at me. I put my project down until everyone is doing something engrossing in hopes of having a few minutes to do something... but no. Suddenly someone needs something right this moment.


Thursday, January 6, 2011


On this 5th day I will invoke my right to not incriminate myself.


I listened to a podcast from the SF Zen Center, today. It was by my favorite lecturer, Christina Lehrner. She was asking the kids in the audience to remember what it felt like, physically, to be happy or sad or angry. I listened while I was cooking dinner and the whole time I was feeling all of these different things. It was all very absorbing and I didn't realize that Declan was listening, too. He came to be with me and started talking about what he was hearing and about what love feels like to him- warm and snuggly. He stayed to make the lasagna with me.

Christina asked her listeners to start the day with a positive thought and to end it with a loving, reflective one. I will end mine with thoughts of lovely, 5 year old snuggly hugs over lasagna. It does not get better than that!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


No Rivalry

I took this over the summer. Cameron and Úna spent half an hour just lying there, talking about nothing, telling silly jokes, Úna letting Cameron get the tangles out of her hair. That little moment made me ache with happiness. It takes such trust and comfort to let someone play with y0ur hair or to talk while resting your head on someone's shoulders in the sun.

Watching them I thought of a moment I witnessed when I was 16. Several of my friends and I were waiting outside a church in Lake Tahoe in the middle of the night, in the snow and cold waiting to be let in. My friend Laura was leaned up against her brother Greg while he leaned on the porch railing. He had his arms around her to keep her warm and she kept talking to me like this was no big thing. I was so aware in that moment that the only thing I felt I was really missing in life was a sibling that would drive me crazy until that moment I was cold and needed someone to put their arms around me to keep me warm. A big brother who would be there when I needed him.

I never had siblings. My kids do. It was the least and the best thing I could provide them.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2/365 (A Girl's Gotta Eat)

When James and I first started living together in 1991 I didn't cook. I knew the basics, but eating was just not important enough to spend the time needed to really learn how to make anything interesting. The call of the cereal box and the soup can was sufficient. James didn't agree with me so he did the cooking. He had more patience than I when it came to chopping for half an hour for a meal that took ten minutes to eat on the way out the door to go to the bar.

Having kids certainly upped the ante when it came to food. My Mom baked bread several times a week when I was growing up. We had desert every night. I don't remember going out for dinner many times. I was never forced to eat anything, but I was encouraged to try anything new and because of this I have never been a picky eater. So when Cameron got old enough to eat real food I had to start cooking. There was no way I was going to raise a child who wouldn't eat and the only way that was going to happen was by making food a fun thing. Smelling food cooking, watching it being prepared, helping where possible is what makes kids love food. It also helps if they don't see a Mom who is angry or frustrated about cooking.

There are three kids at the table every night these days. After many years of going to the Food Network school of cooking and many misadventures with eggplant and "asian lasagna" (never again) I have become a fairly good cook. I know how to use most ingredients and there is little I will not try to make. As long as it isn't too spicy the kids will try anything and are certainly not picky eaters. Like myself at that age, the kids get invited to dinner at their friend's homes because other parents hope that not being a picky eater is contagious. It is the secret dream of all California parents that their children will grow an appreciation for sushi.

However, there is a downside to all of this cooking. My family is so used to being cooked for that they have become picky about eating. They are not picky in the way my friend's kids can be- only white food, nothing that isn't fired, only if it is covered in cheese sauce... They have become very picky about food quality and get bent out of shape if they have to eat out too often. They critique the food I make each night! I get requests for lamb and putanesca and dumplings and roast chicken... there is a demand for a nightly restaurant experience. When your kids actually want a wide variety of food from all over the world it is very hard to say no.

So now, I cook. I have become the opposite of what I once was. I not only cook, I clean, I darn socks, I dust door jams. Somewhere along the line I became a housewife and I have yet to decide how I feel about it. When dinner comes out well and the house is clean and the laundry is done I am content. Other times I wonder what it would have been like to actually complete my International Studies hopes and move to some South American country and work for a consulate in some Spanish speaking place. Usually that happens when the laundry has piled up and the floor I just vacuumed yesterday is covered in crumbs from food I didn't eat. At that moment I am usually dreaming of affordable housekeeping in the Philippines.

There are days when I hate cooking. Cereal boxes still call to me, and when left to my own devices, the most complicated meal I will make is scrambled eggs and toast (with jam if I am feeling really ambitious). Many nights I am forced to make a dinner I am completely uninterested in eating. When I know those days are coming I will keep myself hungry for the second half of the day just so I at least have hunger to drive me to make real food for my family. I have succumbed to delivery pizza more often than I like to admit in the past few months. Hell, I have found someone who will deliver Brazilian food! Delivery is great, but I end up feeling bad if it happens with any regularity- the least I can do is cook if I am not bringing money home anymore. Right?

The worst is when someone cooks something for me that is way better than anything I make on even my best days- people who have nothing at stake, who can eat out of cereal boxes or cans without hearing from anyone else. When the kids like their food better than what they had the night before it hits home (never mind that I liked it better, too) and I have to battle the resentment of the home cook who has to wage war against juvenile hunger on an hourly basis. A never ending battle of food and hunger and guilt and frustration and joy and exploration.

My guess is these thoughts have been thought by millions of woman in thousands of places for hundreds of years. All of us wondering how to balance the food and the desire for freedom. You gotta eat, but you gotta dream, too. Is there a recipe that combines the two?


The year before last I did a self portrait project in which I took a picture of myself everyday for a year- a 365 project. I took 350 pictures that became part of that, some better than others. One of my favorites was this one-

Hey, Strange Adventurer! (58/365)

Some of the shots I took were very uncomfortable for me to post.

As I Lay Me Down to Sleep...(6/365)

Others were very indicative of my mood at the time.

Sums It Up Well (181/365)

Mostly, the whole project was enlightening in a number of ways, more so as time has gone on and I look back at the pictures after a year of not looking at them. I am amazed at how many of the pictures I remember taking and what I was doing and thinking at the time. We usually forget so much we forget we are forgetting! This project forced me to pay more attention to what I was doing and why and now it is one of the more memorable years of my life.

I toyed with doing another 365 project this year. I still may, but I am not sure I need that many pictures of myself again! Still, I feel the need for something that requires discipline and accountability on some level (even if it is only accountability to myself). Word Press has challenged those who use its services to blog to write a post a day for the whole year. I discovered the challenge through my friend Andy's blog. A post a day? Can I do that? Do I have enough to say on the very general topic of "spirituality"?

Perhaps that is the challenge. To take the potential topics suggested at Word Press and try to give them a spin. The very thought makes me look like this-

Curls & Patience (302/365)

which means I should probably try it. What the heck! I have nothing to lose and maybe just a little insight to gain. We are told we should confront what makes us uncomfortable, and this sure fits that bill. Anyway, if I don't want to write I can always just take a picture!