Sunday, December 02, 2012


© danny howard
 I was able to chaperone a field trip to the San Francisco Symphony this past week for Zoe's third grade class. We endured a broken MUNI light rail train and rainy weather and managed to arrive a few minutes into the program. We heard Beethoven's intro to Symphony No. 5 as we filed into the rows in the upper balcony. Dim lighting and warmth relaxed everyone. When the program ended, the kids were complaining that it was too short. And it brought back memories of similar field trips from my elementary school years.

Growing up as a child of working-class immigrants, culture generally was the last priority on the list of enriching childhood experiences, which was very short to begin with. My parents' focus was on food, shelter, and education. I looked forward to field trips, any field trips, because they took me outside of my immediate circumstances. I remember the coziness of the War Memorial Opera House, the pre-Loma Prieta earthquake deYoung museum and Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts. They were mysterious places, full of history and stories. We saw the King Tutankhamen exhibit - the 1970s version - and watched planetarium shows. Cow eyes were dissected back then, too. Dates and details are vague after 35 years; impressions are as sharp as they were when I was eight.

On the way back to school, we boarded a nearly empty train. As we traveled westward, past Castro Street station, one of the kids said, "Look at that! That's so cool."

I looked out the front window of the train and saw a seemingly endless stretch of track illuminated by closely spaced lights on either end. Forest Hill station was too far away to be an end point. Some of us gazed at the void while the train moved at a steady clip, the wheels providing a soothing rhythm, the car slightly swaying. It was easy to imagine that West Portal, our destination and transfer point, was not just another station but a portal through time, through physical space, through dimensions, a wormhole to a separate reality.

Wonder still reigns.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

my Mary Tyler Moore moment

I'm staring down the cobbled and meandering pathway of single parenthood with a slight feeling of trepidation and an expanding feeling of exhilaration. This was not one of the milestones that I had charted for my life. I was to be married for life, partnered for life, and due to a number of circumstances and ironies, that life was not meant to be.

Being a mother has taught me what unconditional love is, and that awakening starkly demonstrated what I did not have. I yearned for it. Wondered why I didn't have it. Wistfully observed couples of all genders and orientations who were attuned to each other's needs and desires, wanting to be part of that club. Love had to be real, right? Not in the pop music sense of the word, but something deeply entwined and bare. It's the ability to be vulnerable and knowing your other as well as you know yourself. It's a feeling of quiet contentment and the appreciation of simplicity.

I made two mistakes in my early years. One: I became the person the other wanted me to be, rather than being myself. Two: my definition of love isn't universal, but until I was able to assert my true self, it wasn't possible to realize love.

I'm happier being on my own, and more content, and more accepting of the person I am. I had spent far too many years pushing down my true self, believing that my flaws and foibles made me inherently unlovable and undesirable.

I will no longer apologize for being myself. Those who can't accept me, well, they can keep moving.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

just uncomfortable enough

I signed up for an online creative writing workshop which kicked off last week. I turned in my first assignment today. I also posted a bio a couple of days ago. Both of these activities were a little terrifying.

To back up a bit, I decided to take this class because I felt the need to start writing in a structured environment again. Past attempts at online classes have failed miserably because I was undisciplined and impatient. Taking online classes is a solitary activity as well; there are fewer ways to be held accountable by your classmates if you don't have to physically face them. Now that I've stabilized my life - and learned how to comfortably schedule time for myself without feeling pounds of guilt on my shoulders - I feel better equipped to get through the next six weeks without flaming out.

The next hurdle is putting my work out for public consumption. I haven't been in a writers' workshop for nearly 20 years. I'm not super confident that my writing assignments are going to be any good by my own measure. The point, though, is to just get started in a non-threatening environment. I keep telling myself that.

I submitted my first piece with surprisingly minimal angst. My bio was another matter. Not only did I have to write, I had to explain myself. The first version had a defensive tone. The second version delved into residual issues from my teen years. The third, fourth, fifth...all had flaws. Then I finally got stern with myself and stopped belaboring style and tone. I uploaded three short paragraphs and didn't look back.

I've mentioned before that I like pushing myself. The unchallenged life is a dull one. I'm just uncomfortable enough to make the most of this opportunity.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I don't do well when I'm sick. I don't like being sick, for one thing. I don't often get sick, so I'm not experienced in throwing the pity party for sympathy either. I go into wounded animal status, where I crawl into a quiet place and growl at anyone and anything that comes near.

I have a cold that is finally on the wane. Today was the worst of it: low grade fever, headache, coughing, congestion. I nearly rallied myself to go into the office and then thought, am I an idiot? I'm doing the same thing I tell other people not to do. I don't need to be branded as a petri dish nor blamed for spreading this plague throughout the workplace.

I stayed home. I read. I checked emails. I did a couple of low energy tasks. I napped. Napped! I never nap. I took some ibuprofen for the headache. I don't typically do that either. I drank many, many cups of water. I had orange juice. I had tea. I had udon soup delivered for lunch. I put on my downtempo Pandora station. I read Facebook posts. I did nothing.

I was tempted to do something. I wasn't that sick. 100.4 fever, I laugh in your face. I wanted to go grocery shopping, do some laundry, pay bills, be a grownup with grownup responsibilities.

And, the grownup said, 'Take care of yourself. You're sick, for God's sake!'

So, I did.

Taking care of yourself is one of the most difficult things to do if you're a giver. I would gladly sacrifice time, sanity, and well-being to make others happy and functional. That left very little time to attend to myself, and when I did, I felt nothing but guilt.

Today, I took care of myself, and I didn't feel that guilty.

Friday, August 24, 2012

being human

School has started for the minis. I typically feel a sense of gravitas with the new school year. It's not just a fresh start for the kids, with their new backpacks (my kingdom for a backpack that can withstand multiple forms of abuse for more than a year), backpack bling, squeaky clean lunch bags, and various items of freshly laundered clothing that may be a tad large right now but that they'll outgrown by May; it's a reset for me as well. I marvel that they are racing through their childhood, a generally happy, multi-faceted one at that. I then turn the reflective lens upon myself and think about what I've been able to accomplish, where I've had setbacks, what I want - really want - for myself.

I want a life filled with joy and love and incandescent moments that propel me to reach beyond my comfort zone. I want to be the best mother, the most appropriate and responsive mother, to my two spirited children. I want to be a partner to someone who can and wants to be my best friend. I want to immerse myself in fulfilling, satisfying work. I want to make a positive difference in small ways; I'm not one to insist on being in the limelight.

This has been a year of significant, ground shaking change. I have plenty to worry about. I can choose to let that worry consume me, or I can choose to look it straight in the eye and refuse to go down. Guess which way I'm going?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

nearly two years of ruminations to be unleashed to the unsuspecting public

sick penguin, circa 2011. styled and photographed by Zoe Neumyer.

I've had quite a time over the last two years. I've divested, downsized, delved deep into myself to ask the hard questions. Who am I, really? Where was the self with which I was most comfortable? Who and what should surround me to get me to that best self?

My conclusions put me on an unpaved path. I'm still hacking my way through the wilderness. But, I'm at peace with myself and my decisions. I'm happy. I no longer indulge in wishful thinking over the life I should be living, because I'm living it now.

Writing, which has been blocked for me for too long, is coming back. Even creating checklists of work tasks and home duties provides a great deal of satisfaction.

Nesting in my new home that I share with my rapidly growing up children is another pleasure. I made dinner for myself for the first time in ages last night. Pappardelle egg pasta and organic marinara sauce from Trader Joe's laced with my own concoction of ground turkey, garlic, caramelized onions, fresh basil, and a liberal sprinkle of parmigiano-reggiano on top...divine.

I'm loving the simple, smaller details. And, I'm glad to be back.