Monday, June 30, 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Who Says You Can't Go Back?



We made it!

We sold our house, packed everything we own, and arrived here at our destination, the San Francisco Bay Area. This is the result of no small effort and plenty of aggravation, but it is primarily the product of Leslie’s sheer will and, of course, her good design sense. I am ever amazed at how thought can indeed become action when strong will propels it.

God, I love that woman!

It took almost two full weeks to pack the house, which was a huge ordeal. I was still boxing things from the shed in the back yard until two hours before the tractor trailer was filled and backing out of our cul-de-sac. Have you ever worked until you could barely move? And then had to get up and do it again regardless of how you feel? When you move across country, every single item must be packed in a box and sealed. Every single item. And the clock just keeps ticking away in defiance of your work. There were many moments when I thought I should’ve started my “personal revolution” about eight months ago.

A long time colleague of mine who works for one of the nation’s biggest trucking companies filled me in on issues caused by the flooding in the mid-west. Apparently, cross country tractor trailers traveling on I-80 are being sent up to 600 miles out of their way to avoid flood zones, which means delays of up to a week. While our things were picked up from our home on time, they will be warehoused until a California bound trucker is available to pick them up. Right now it looks like it will be July 3 when our things leave Connecticut. Even though it isn’t exactly desirable, warehousing isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Having a house full of personal belongings on the day of close would have been the worst. It does, however, open the window significantly for problems like lost items.

Don’t worry. We don’t have anything that is truly valuable. That is, except one another, of course.

Also, because of the flooding (and for other more esoteric reasons), we decided to fly rather than drive to California. After working like dogs for two weeks, I doubt Leslie, Elizabeth, myself, and our two dogs would have been able to remain trapped in the van for another week at least.

Let’s give a round of applause for good sense in the face of Mother Nature’s unbridled fury!

Last Tuesday, the Faber Girls began their journey by spending a day doing last minute packing, making sure the house was cleaned to a “T”, and then driving the hour and a half it took to get to JFK.

We were there in a Ramada Inn for one day and two nights, and completely grossed out by how disgusting the hotel was, a sensation broken only by the good news that our house closing went well (we signed with our lawyer in advance) and our money was in the bank where it belongs. Leslie abhorred the place and slept in her clothes. Elizabeth ended up with an anklet of bug bites. Daizy, who is in charge of security in the family, was up barking at every fart and whistle. And there were plenty. This Ramada Inn has people lined up out the door all night to check in because it’s where the Port Authority sends passengers when flights are delayed or overbooked. There were doors slamming shut constantly.

Let’s recap.

Our hotel room was the size of a shoe box, the walls were made of spit and toilet paper (and mold), and our Boston Terrier aka Boston Terror, Demolition Daizy, freaked out every half hour, give or take, launching herself off the bed growling, barking, and snarling. The good news is that it was so noisy in general, no one (but us) really noticed, and we didn’t get kicked out. Needless to say, no one slept.

The second morning, we were up at 3 a.m. and had a driver waiting for us at 4 a.m. Jack, our Golden Retriever, was relegated to fly cargo because he and his airline approved crate together were 20 pounds over the 100 pound limit. We had him there; in a separate building location we had the foresight to scope out the day previous, by 4:30 a.m. There was paperwork and weighing, and then of course, getting Jack into the crate itself, which I was worried about. The last time he flew, it scared the stuffing out of him. I was certain I’d have to wrestle him, Greco-roman style. This time, however, it seems he knew what was happening, and, as soon as he got into the cargo warehouse, settled into a resigned sort of depression. Poor Prince Jack. He went into the crate with minimal pushing and prodding, and only trembled a tiny bit.

Daizy, on the other hand, handled the entire trip quite well. She didn’t even pee on herself, which I found surprising.

Long story short, we made it here to San Francisco, and we are in a lovely Marriott. The view over the Bay is stunning. We’re in a beautiful one bedroom suite, and they give you breakfast for free. We haven’t found a place to live yet. After all, this is only our first full day. But we are officially homeless. It’s a strangely liberating feeling. If we haven’t found something in about a week, I’ll let you know. Chances are we will have graduated from liberated to slightly hysterical.

This weekend we will attend San Francisco’s Gay Pride parade. Leslie and I have done it before, but I expect it will take on new and special dimensions with our eleven year old in tow. This is, after all, her birthplace and part of her legacy. Elizabeth wants to make signs that say “Gay Means Happy” and march down the middle of Market Street. Given the condition of Leslie’s knees after all this … well … we’ll see how THAT goes, hm?

This Monday, June 30th, Leslie and I mark our 23rd anniversary together. We met the day of the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco in 1985. It’ll be a special day for the entire family, but I find it particularly special under the circumstances. We’ve spent the last two years in Connecticut addressing and putting closure on emotional issues, relationships, and circumstances rooted in the past. I’ve made wonderful discoveries about myself and my spirituality. I’ve also been blessed with precious time spent with my grandmother who, for the most part, raised me. Leslie was gifted with time to heal physically after almost 10 years of various surgeries. Elizabeth got to see some of her own lineage, as well, even if it was particularly intense in Thelma’s rest home some of the time.

They say you can’t go back.

I did go back, you see. I went back to the state of my birth for two years and was given the opportunity to clarify how I felt about issues that caused me pain. That clarification led to closure. Now, we’re back in the Bay Area and it feels like we never left.

That is, of course, except that I feel lighter in mind and spirit.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hey You



Artist : Madonna
Album : Live Earth fundraiser (2007)
Song : Hey You

Lyrics :

Hey You
Don’t you give up
It’s not so bad
There’s still a chance for us

Hey You
Just be yourself
Don’t be so shy
There’s reasons why it’s hard

Keep it together
You’ll make it all right
A celebration is going on tonight
Poets and prophets would envy what we do
This could be good
hey you

Hey you
Open your heart
It’s not so strange
You’ve got to change
this time

Hey you
Remember this
None of it’s real
including the way you feel

Keep it together
We'll make it all right
A celebration is going on tonight
Poets and prophets would envy what we do
This could be good
hey you

Save your soul, little sister
Save your soul, little brother

Hey you
Save yourself
Don’t rely on anyone else

First, love yourself
Then, you can love someone else
If, you can change someone else
Then, you have saved someone else

But, you must first love yourself
Then, you can love someone else
If, you can change someone else
Then, you have saved someone else
But, you must first...

Hey you
There on the fence
You’ve got a choice
One day it will make sense

Hey you
First, love yourself
Or, if you can’t
Try to love someone else

Keep it together
We ’ll make it all right
A celebration is going on tonight
Poets and prophets will envy what we do
This could be good
hey you

First, love yourself
Then, you can love someone else
If you can change someone else
Then you have saved someone else

But, you must first love yourself
Then, you can love someone else
If you can change someone else
Then, you have saved someone else
But, you must first...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mother's Gift

Another day has gone by. This one is a Monday. As predicted, hours seem like minutes, minutes like seconds, and, as though in a time warp, we’ve moved out of the waiting phase and into the “get it done” phase that occurs before each major move in any household. On one hand, I am thoroughly relieved to have the space available in my brain that was left by my job when I left it. My last day was Friday. On the other hand, there are plenty of details that fit quite neatly into those vacant spaces. And as I sit here writing, those details are cluttered all around me in numbered boxes, piles, and partially packed pictures that used to be on the wall. They are waiting to be handled, and I fight the guilt I feel for writing instead of packing.

I really don’t mind this place we’re in right now; this place between leaving and arriving. It’s pregnant with new horizons and new possibilities. I find it invigorating.

After visiting the vet today and dropping over $200 on vaccinations for the dogs, we went to visit my grandmother where she lives in a rest home (there’s plenty more on that topic here). The last time we were there, I told her we had to leave, knowing full well grasping the fact would be a process for her. She was relatively clear headed today, however, and had specific questions. Thelma never ceases to surprise me with those times when she is fully cognizant.

Last night I wrote a comment on Jane Devin’s recent post. The article focused on her father, but, perhaps inadvertently, what she wrote was a revealing description of her mother. I really enjoy and relate to Jane’s writing. It got me to thinking about how my mother’s disdain for her children often left us as beggars, waiting for the tiniest scraps of her love and attention. Her article had me reflecting on the years that I spent there “at the gate”, as Jane wrote, waiting to see myself reflected positively in my mother’s eyes. When finally I no longer needed those tiny scraps of attention, and when I was able to release the confusing need I had for my mother, I was surprised at how strong my resolution was in the end.

I was surprised at how I'd emerged a stronger woman.
Packing
Today, it was mid-day and lunch had been served. My grandmother ate heartily in her room surrounded by room mates, who also ate ate hungrily (with the exception of Mary, who was too tired). Thelma’s aid, Karen, has limitless energy and limitless compassion, and she buzzed from one resident to the next, fussing over this and that, tending energetically to what I consider one of the most important, but least paid, jobs in the country. I sat in a chair close to my grandmother, as I always do, so I can reach out and touch her, scratch her shoulder maybe, or lay a wet one on her forehead when I feel like it. We were going to leave soon.

And through the door walked my mother.

I did a double take. It felt like I was watching the twin towers burn down again, really. You know that moment when you’re not sure your eyes are seeing what they see? My mother lives a few hours away in Massachusetts, and for the last three months has been virtually nonexistent, so what were the chances of us running into one another? She’s somewhat infamous for not visiting Thelma, as well. Rumor is that she’s left her third husband, again, and was set to move into a senior complex. She’s only 60.

She was as shocked to see us as we were to see her.

Leslie started laughing, which is what she does when she’s surprised and slightly uncomfortable. I took stock of how I felt, and it surprised me that I wasn’t disgusted with her any more. She looked terrible, tired and run down, and wore one of those funky bandanas on her head that she wore when I was a kid. I hate those things. It always meant her hair was dirty. She’s put on a lot of weight, too, although I’m not one to talk. But she looked puffy and uncomfortable. Her shirt was torn, and her jeans didn’t look clean.

I gave her a big hug, a good squeeze, and kissed her cheek. She always seems surprised when I do, as if she isn’t worthy. How ironic that is considering the pedestal on had her on when I was a child. I remember loving her with the same intensity that my daughter loves her mothers, Leslie and I. I remember wanting to be with her all the time, rather than outside. I remember adoring her with everything I had, and then being devastated on the most visceral of levels the first time she left when I was four. And then again when I was 11, and again when I was 17, even though by that time I was living with Thelma & Ed, and had numbed myself to a degree.

What I discovered in this moment today, in this gift the Divine Mother gave me, was an objective and genuine affection and a little bit of sadness that, for once, didn’t pierce me to the core of my being. I felt no confusion and no internal battle. In fact, I wasn’t upset at all. At this point in my life, when I'm carefully taking stock of what baggage I'm casting off, what burdens I leave behind when we go, I'm very grateful for this clarification.

I have to admit, however, that I had no desire to sit there and chat either.

Packing


So, we left, my family and I, after I gave my mother one last hug. Elizabeth hugged her, too, and under the circumstances, I have to applaud my 11 year old daughter’s compassion. She’s fully up to speed on these circumstances, and still finds the strength to grace the adults in her life when she knows it’s appropriate. Her hug made my mother shine. Even Leslie, who still feels stung by my mother’s carelessness this time around, had it in her heart to impart a smile and a warm gesture before leaving.

Thelma was thrilled her daughter was there to visit. That smile, beaming out of her toothless face, was priceless.

Maybe the last two years helped my mother see how easy it is to lose someone, and maybe my grandmother will reap the rewards of her lesson.

Maybe that is the Divine Mother’s truest gift to all of us.

Maybe.

Friday, June 13, 2008

You Think You Got Problems?


When we are challenged by change or adversity, we have an opportunity to take our true measure. Do we deal with change by freaking out? Being angry? Do we look for an outlet that is constructive or otherwise?


My friend Jen has Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and when it comes to dealing with adversity, she takes the cake. She's stared this cancer in the face for several years, and is now in the fight of her life, for her life. Jen doesn't freak out, although I'm sure she has her moments. She doesn't vent rage on her friends. She uses a finely honed sense of humor as her greatest weapon, and as Dory said in "Finding Nemo", she keeps on swimming.


I'm so proud of Jen. I just had to share this with you. We have people like Jen to look up to when problems or change take us out of our comfort zone.


The real heros in this play.


***************************************************
Jen & Mom 06-09-08
Jen and Her Mom, June 2008



Hi Everyone,


Normally I don't send documents regarding serious things, like the attached Stem Cell Transplant information that I will be enduring. I've been asked by a few of you when I will start the stem cell transplant. At this time, I don't know. It could be next month, two months; not sure. On the 16th, I will have to have another PETscan to see if the tumors have shrunk enough for the stem cell process to begin, plus another spinal tap, bone marrow biopsy, and more tests on my organs to see if I'm a good candidate. According to the blood specialist/oncologist, I'm a good candidate ... yet the preliminaries have to be completed.


If you feel the urge to donate blood - please do. I will be enduring some blood transfusions and will need blood throughout the stem cell process. Please read the attached file if you want to know what my future holds. Yes, it can look bleak, but I'm strong and stubborn.


I'm too much like a New York cockroach; you just can't kill it.


Any and all comments are welcome. Am I scared? Hell yes! But knowing that I have a great support team such as y'all ... I feel like I can beat this. I appreciate all your prayers, positive thoughts, light and love.


Jen
Jen & Dad 06-09-08
Jen and Her Dad, June 2008


UCSF Medical Center
Adult Leukemia and Bone Marrow Transplant Program
Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Two-Step Approach Consolidation Chemotherapy with EAR BMT and CBV


Introduction


I have a malignant Lymphoma, which has either failed to go into complete remission with initial therapy or has recurred despite initial treatment with chemotherapy. Even though my disease may be in remission, without further treatment it will return again and become fatal. It is very unlikely that additional “standard” chemotherapy such as I have been receiving will be able to prevent a future recurrence.


In order to give me the best chance of permanent control of my lymphoma, my doctor has recommended treatment with autologous stem cell transplantation. This treatment is more intensive and difficult than “standard” chemotherapy, but can be more effective in eradicating lymphoma. The purpose of receiving this treatment is to try to give me a chance of cure of my disease and long-term survival.


Procedures


I will initially be evaluated to make sure my disease is in reasonable control, and I am in satisfactory condition to proceed with this intensive treatment. This evaluation consists of physical examination, routine blood tests, tests of heart and lung function and bone marrow aspirate and biopsy.


Treatment will consist of two sequential steps, “consolidation” chemotherapy and stem cell collection followed by high dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation.


Step 1 – Consolidation Chemotherapy and Stem Cell Collection


First, I will be admitted to the hospital for chemotherapy treatment and will be hospitalized for approximately four weeks. I will have a large IV catheter (“Groshong catheter”) placed in one of the large veins in my neck. This catheter will be used for IV medications and transfusions and for drawing blood samples.


I will receive the chemotherapy drug etoposide intravenously (by vein) continuously for four days. I will also receive the chemotherapy drug Ara-C intravenously for two hours twice daily for the same four days. After completion of chemotherapy I will be supported with antibiotics, blood transfusions, platelet transfusions, and nutritional and general support. I will also receive 2 doses of the anti-lymphoma antibody Rituximab. These will be given IV over 4 hours 1 day and 8 days after completing the chemotherapy.


Starting two weeks after beginning this chemotherapy, I will receive the growth factor, G-CSF daily by subcutaneous (under the skin) injection to help my white blood count recover more quickly and to stimulate the release of “stem cells” from my bone marrow into my circulating blood. When my blood counts have recovered to adequate levels I will undergo several (usually 2-4) “leukopheresis” procedures to collect stem cells out of my circulating blood. Depending on the type of intravenous catheter that I have at that time, an additional catheter may need to be placed for this collection. This catheter is placed in the large blood vessels in the chest. During each of these procedures my blood will be circulated through a machine that separates the blood components by spinning them. My stem cells (together with some white blood cells and platelets) will be collected into a bag and the remainder of the my blood cells will be returned to me. Each collection procedure takes three to four hours. These will be repeated daily for 2 to 4 days until my physicians have determined that enough cells have been collected to restore normal bone marrow function and to allow me to proceed with the second phase of treatment. Small amounts of these collected stem cells (less than 5% of the total) will be saved for research studies.


When my blood counts have recovered to adequate levels and I have recovered from the side effects of chemotherapy and no longer require intravenous antibiotics I will be discharged from the hospital. I will remain out of the hospital for at least four weeks until I recover from the effects of this chemotherapy treatment.


Step II – Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation


After a four to six week rest period at home I will again be evaluated to make sure I am still in remission and to make sure that my internal organs (heart, liver, kidney and lungs) are in satisfactory condition to proceed with further intensive treatment.


I will then be admitted to the hospital to proceed with the second step in the treatment, the autologous stem cell transplant. I will be hospitalized continuously for 3-5 weeks. As with the first hospitalization, a “Groshong” catheter will be placed in one of the large veins in my neck.
I will receive high-dose “CBV” chemotherapy. I will receive BCNU IV over 2 hours on day -6. After a rest day, on day -4, I will receive Etoposide IV over 4 hours. After another rest day, on day -2, I will receive Cyclophosphamide (“Cytoxan”) IV over 1 hour. After another rest day, on day 0, I will receive an intravenous infusion of my stem cells which have been frozen and stored since their collection. The stem cell infusion is given through my IV catheter like a transfusion.
During the remainder of my time in the hospital I will be supported with blood transfusions, platelet transfusions, antibiotics and nutritional support in a manner similar to that during my previous treatment. I will receive daily subcutaneous injections of G-CSF to help my white blood cells recover more quickly starting 6 days after the stem cell counts have recovered and my body has healed from the effects of the high-dose chemotherapy, I will be discharged from the hospital. These will be given until my immune system recovers to a safe level. During the first two years after transplantation I will be monitored periodically. After two years I will only be seen yearly for blood counts unless I have other medical problems which need closer follow-up.


Risks and Discomforts


The primary risk of receiving this treatment program is that the proposed treatment may not be any more effective than other treatments but could be more difficult and hazardous to me. The treatment of lymphoma with high-dose chemotherapy is an inherently risky and uncomfortable undertaking. Some potential complications are serious and permanent disability or even death may occur as a result of this treatment. Overall, the chance of death due to a complication of treatment is 2-5%. However, these sorts of risks would be inherent in any form of aggressive treatment of lymphoma that had a reasonable chance of cure.


Step I – Risks


During the first chemotherapy treatment with etoposide and high-dose Ara-C I may experience nausea and vomiting from these chemotherapy drugs. Anti-nausea medicines will be used to try to minimize this. High-dose chemotherapy has a number of complications. The most serious complication of chemotherapy treatment is lowering of normal blood counts. Lowered red blood counts leads to anemia and this will require correction with transfusion of red blood cells. Lowering of the platelet count leads to a risk of bruising or bleeding and I will require periodic transfusions of platelets to prevent bleeding. If my body rejects platelet transfusions it may be difficult to keep me free of bleeding and bleeding could even be fatal. The most serious consequence of chemotherapy is lowering of the normal white blood count since white blood cells protect the body against infection. Having a low white blood count leads to an increased risk of infection. Although I will be given several antibiotics to attempt to prevent infections, these may still occur and may require additional antibiotics. During periods of a low white blood count infections can become overwhelming and even fatal.


Chemotherapy causes other side effects as well. High doses of Ara-C can cause fever, skin rashes, eye irritation and damage to the liver or lungs. I will be given eye drops to prevent eye irritation. High doses of Ara-C may also cause damage to the brain. This usually consists of a temporary (2-5 days) loss of coordination and temporary difficulty in speech or thinking. However, in rare cases (less than 2%), these changes may be permanent, disabling or even fatal.
Etoposide can cause sores in the mouth or in the intestines which may be painful. These may prevent me from eating, and the discomfort or pain may require treatment with narcotics. Etoposide may also be harmful to the liver. Etoposide may affect nerves, causing numbness or burning sensations in the feet. If these occur, they usually resolve in 1-2 weeks. The white blood cell growth factor G-CSF may cause pain in the bones as it speeds up the regrowth of bone marrow and leads to faster recovery of blood counts. This pain will be controlled with pain medications as necessary.


Rituximab may cause fever and chills during the infusion. I will receive medications to try to minimize these reactions.


Placement of the large intravenous catheter in my central veins for the purpose of collection of blood stem cells may be temporarily uncomfortable or even painful. There is a risk of puncture of the lung which rarely (less than 2%) could require placement of a tube into my chest to re-expand the punctured lung. There is also a risk of bleeding and infection. The actual collection procedure may cause fatigue but is not otherwise uncomfortable or painful.


Step II – Risks


During the administration of CBV chemotherapy, I may experience a number of side effects, but I will receive anti-nausea medications to try to keep me as comfortable as possible. BCNU may cause temporary low blood pressure and I may need extra IV fluid or possibly medications such as dopamine to help maintain and adequate blood pressure. Etoposide can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, fever and chills, and temporary low blood pressure. Cyclophosphamide frequently causes temporary nausea and vomiting despite the use of anti-nausea medication.
During the re-infusion of my blood stem cells I will experience a number of side effects related to the chemical DMSO which is mixed with the stem cells in order to allow it to be safely frozen and thawed. The stem cell infusion takes place over 30-60 minutes. Typical side effects are nausea, vomiting, headache, flushing, chest tightness and pressure and abdominal cramps. I will receive anti-nausea medicines to try to minimize these effects and they should be gone within several hours after the infusion is completed.


Even though the chemotherapy drugs themselves are out of my body by the time of the stem cell re-infusion, most of the serious side effects of chemotherapy do not begin to appear until several days after the stem cell infusion. CBV can cause mouth sores which may be severe. It is possible that I will require continuous infusions of morphine or other narcotics to keep me reasonably comfortable, and it is possible that during at least on week when the mouth sores are most severe that I will not be completely comfortable. The mouth sores may make me unable to eat and it is possible that I will need to be fed intravenously for at least one week. In addition to causing mouth sores and skin rashes, the combination chemotherapy affects the entire intestine. This may lead to long periods of nausea or vomiting, diarrhea or crampy abdominal pain and inability to eat for several weeks. All of these side effects will heal on their own with time.
There is a small chance that the high-dose chemotherapy will injure some of my internal organs. CBV can be damaging to the liver and lungs and severe or even fatal damage may occur. The risk of this small, approximately 1-2%.


In addition to these direct side effects of the chemotherapy drugs, the major side effect of this chemotherapy is lowering of the normal blood counts. As with other chemotherapy, I will require transfusions of blood and platelets and will require a number of antibiotics until my blood counts recover.


There is an additional risk unique to autologous stem cell transplantation and that is that my blood counts may fail to ever return to normal. The doses of chemotherapy I am receiving are expected to cause permanent damage to my bone marrow. Reconstitution of my normal blood counts will depend of the health of the blood stem cells which have been collected from me and which are being infused following chemotherapy. My bone marrow stem cells have already been injured by exposure to chemotherapy. The stem cells are further subjected to a period of freezing and thawing which may cause additional damage. Although my physicians will not proceed with the bone marrow transplant procedure unless they are confident that enough healthy stem cells have been collected to restore my blood counts, there is a small chance (less than 1%) that the cells will not grow back as expected. If my stem cells do not re-grow completely I could become permanently depended on transfusions. If my stem cells fail to grow, I will die of bone marrow failure.


After leaving the hospital there are still some additional risks. It will take my immune system several months to recover to the point that I can protect myself from infections and serious infections could still occur. There is a delayed form of lung injury caused by BCNU chemotherapy which can appear 1-2 months after leaving the hospital. If I develop cough or shortness of breath after leaving the hospital, it is important to get medical attention immediately. This lung injury can be effectively treated with medication, but if treatment is delayed for several days it may not be effective and the lung injury can become fatal.
The most serious risk is that despite intensive treatments my Lymphoma could still recur. The risk of this is approximately 50-60%. Therefore my chance of cure and long-term survival is approximately 40-50%.


There are some long-term side effects of high dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplantation that pose potential risks. It is highly likely that I will be infertile (unable to have children) after this treatment. I will probably need to take sex hormones (estrogen or testosterone) because my own production of them may be inadequate. There is a small risk of developing a second type of cancer because of this treatment.
Jen's Doggies
Jen's Doggies, June 2008
***************************************************


When I think I have problems, I take a moment to sit and think. For every problem I think I have, there are many, many others out there with bigger problems.

And chances are they're faring better, too.


D~

End Note: The photo at the top, "Glass Sculpture, June 2008" was taken by Jen on June 9, 2008.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Pace Picks Up

Now the pace really picks up.

SOLD


It starts tomorrow at work with saying good bye to my staff over cake. These people love to have cake. They have cake for holidays, birthdays, and special ocassions … you name it, they have cake. It’s been a wonderful year with them. Once they realized I am trustworthy, and the barriers came down, we did wonderful work together. My three supervisors are all awesome in their own way. Duane, a dedicated Virgo family man who has the heart of a prince, needs only to have as much confidence in himself as I have in him. Katarzyna is like a tigress, an Aries who is hungry for opportunity, as well as smart and quick. She came to this country only nine years ago without speaking a word of english, and now she successfully navigates a changing workplace with confidence. And then there is Linda, a sensitive empath and a natural leader. She is another Aries whose quiet demeanor only slightly covers a steely interior and a streak of strong independence. I’ve pushed her hard to prepare her to take the account when I leave. I hope she gets what she wants from it, and I hope that it is what she wants it to be. All three of these people have taught me much about myself, and I am grateful to them for that gift.

After tomorrow the clock moves faster. Minutes pass like seconds, hours like minutes. I stare at all the packing I have to do, all the arrangements we have to make, before we hit the road, and it makes me feel a little flippy inside. I have to admit I enjoy this purposeful energy, however. It’s fast and furious. It’s all about the goal, and I’ve always found that satisfying.

This will be the second time Leslie and I have moved across country and back. I’ll do what I always do, and get to it one thing at a time … one thing at a time.

The pace really picks up now.

Gonna Jump Again



JUMP
Written by Madonna, Joe Henry and Stuart Price

(spoken):
There’s only so much you can learn in one place
The more that I wait, the more time that I waste

I haven’t got much time to waste, it’s time to make my way
I’m not afraid of what I’ll face, but I’m afraid to stay
I’m going down my own road and I can make it alone
I'll work and I'll fight, Till I find a place of my own

Are you ready to jump?
Get ready to jump
Don’t ever look back, oh baby
Yes, I’m ready to jump
Just take my hands
Get ready to jump!

We learned our lesson from the start, my sisters and me
The only thing you can depend on is your family
And life’s gonna drop you down like the limbs of a tree
It sways and it swings and it bends until it makes you see

Are you ready to jump?
Get ready to jump
Don’t ever look back, oh baby
Yes, I’m ready to jump
Just take my hands
Get ready to, are you ready?

(Spoken:)
There’s only so much you can learn in one place
The more that you wait, the more time that you waste

I'll work and I'll fight till I find a place of my own
It sways and it swings and it bends until you make it your own

I can make it alone(my sisters and me) (repeat 7x)

Are you ready to jump?
Get ready to jump
Don’t ever look back, oh baby
Yes, I’m ready to jump
Just take my hands
Get ready to jump!

Are you ready to jump?
Get ready to jump
Don’t ever look back, oh baby
Yes, I’m ready to jump
Just take my hands
Get ready to, are you ready?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Meditate


I meditate, and the magic imparted by Amma’s Saraswati mantra transports me. The seed syllables, echoing the sounds of the universe, are like waves on the shore of my mind, easing my muscles into complete relaxation, and sending me into a fine trance with ease. She is in the ocean, She is in the moon, and every day I spend 30 minutes in this quiet place with Her whispering a sacred lullaby in my ears. Let every word be nectar, she whispers, let all your words be good. Find no fault in others, child, find fault only in yourself and then correct it. Harm no one at any time, child. At individual blessings last week, she said, “Do not miss even one day of meditation, children!” Like a Divine Mother Hen, she clucks these reminders in my ear every night as I meditate, and when I open my eyes, I feel Her presence stronger in my heart than before. My commitment to this discipline is renewed if for no other reason than Her insistence.



This faith, this devotion, is a wonderful thing. It keeps me afloat, peacefully navigating through this changing world.

And, of course, you know how much I need a mother in my life.

So, this is surrender.

I won’t be here in this state of my birth for too much longer. The quiet time spend I spend each night with Mother allows me the silence I need to take inventory of what I am releasing when I leave. I have no disappointment in what’s transpired, why we came here. Rather, I see the hidden lessons, I accept them, and I am now able to move on, no longer anchored by uncertainty, expectation, or fear.
This is gratitude, not regret.

Situations that once bogged me down are apparent, even transparent, obvious through greater clarity, their mystery undone. Their hold on me is dissipated, and it’s a relief. I feel lighter with each passing day, although I do not minimize the finality in the change of location and the accompanying change of mindset. These are life lessons, emotional baggage, worn down relationships, and old states of consciousness that I do not intend to revisit. I may be long in truly letting go, but once I do, it is final.

About a year ago, I wrote a blog entry on Multiply that revisited significant details of timing and predicting this move specifically. It’s rather ironic, and I share it with you here …

I know deep down that we’ll be where we’re supposed to be. If California is our destination, then circumstances will unfold, and off we’ll go. I’m not into numerology. It’s not that I don’t believe in it, I just don’t connect to it. But Leslie and I seem to do everything in two’s. We are two women. We’ve traveled between two states (Connecticut and California), twice. We had two cats before, now we have two dogs. Both my grandfather and Leslie’s dad, two men, died two weeks apart from one another, two years after Leslie and I got together. We’ve taken care of two women more or less, first her mom, and now my grandmother. If all goes according to schedule, we should be heading back to California in May or June of 2008, two years after moving here. And that, by the way, is precisely how many years we have to live in this house before we can avoid paying capital gains tax when we leave. "


“We cannot change the world;
We can only change ourselves.”
Blessed Souls, Vol. 4

“Do not injure anyone,
In any way,
At any time.”
Blessed Souls, Vol. 5

“It is not your duty to correct others.
Only God, who created all, has this duty.”
Blessed Souls, Vol. 1

“Whatever it in our heart,
Emerges in our words.”
Blessed Souls, Vol. 5

It’s late here now. Already I’m turning into a night owl, staying up later and getting up later. It’s natural for me. I bought this neato little booklet called “Pearls of Wisdom” when I was in New York. It’s a small book of Amma’s words that I really like. Some of my favorite quotes are above. Sweet dreams to you.

Good night.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Amma 2008


I went to Amma in New York City last Wednesday, and I have to admit I’ve been selfish in keeping that experience to myself. An awful lot has happened in the last two weeks, as well, the least of which is that I’ve given my notice on the job. My last day in the office is this Friday, the 13th. I also have a house full of packing to do. It’s a good thing I operate best under pressure, because there’s no shortage of that around here these days.

For those of you who don’t visit my site much, Amma, aka Sri Karunamayi, is a Hindu Holy woman who is revered as a modern day saint. After 10 years of relative seclusion in the Indian jungle exercising meditation for humanity and personal austerities, Amma emerged with a mission. Her life is spent ministering to others in a completely selfless fashion. She is considered an incarnation of the Divine Mother, or the feminine aspect of God, and is particularly revered as Saraswati Ma, or the Hindu Godess of learning, education, the arts, and rivers. Word is that there are more of these kinds of enlightened beings incarnate on the earth now to offset where mankind is in this Kali Yuga Age, i.e., a not great place spiritually, ecologically, and emotionally. We, as a people, are on the verge of a spiritual transformation, and if you look hard enough, you can find all sorts of supportive information to that effect on the internet … and in your heart. I consider Amma my spiritual mother, and after my first visit with her in the year 2000, I’ve written copious amounts on my subsequent experiences.

In a nutshell, before I met Amma, I was emotionally wounded. My heart was “shut down for repairs” and in danger of never reopening for business. Now, with Her installed firmly there, my heart is open for business, perpetually undergoing construction, and always expanding to new frontiers.

I am a work in progress.

As often happens when the enlightened ones are on our radar, a little over a week ago I came across a piece of information that both confirmed and highlighted recent self-queries. A really cool website called Tarot.com has introduced a brand new report called “The Tarology Card Report”. It’s a mixture of tarot, numerology, and astrology, and when mixed with our birth information and stirred, it provides a relatively accurate snapshot of personal archetypes and the personal spiritual journey.

Check it out … My Tarot card is the Chariot, my prime number is 7, and my power planet is Saturn. Here is an excerpt from my report, as follows:

"The message of this Tarot archetype is simple - when it comes to maneuvering a Chariot, there can only be one person holding the reins at any given time. That driver is depicted by a hero-warrior character who manages to direct the harnessed beasts - a black sphinx and a white sphinx representing polarized emotions. This driver has control of emotional extremes, but not the mind or intellect. The charioteer is none other than the higher or divine self within each of us. As Carl Jung writes, "The self uses the individual psyche as a means of conveyance. Man is propelled ... along the road to individuation." … Those born to play the Chariot starring role are here to master the art of higher will. You are learning that your ego is a really bad driver who careens recklessly all over the place. Letting this aspect of self direct your life leads to inevitable wrong turns and dead ends. Instead, you are heroically and bravely giving your conscious self a chance to steer you toward success, joy and well-being … Truth be told (and your life is largely about finding out what is true) you can … conceptualize and comprehend the most intricate of spiritual puzzles. Very often you simplify and communicate this understanding to the world in art, writing or performance … The Chariot, the only Tarot archetype to garner two mistaken identities, swings between opposite character poles. Just like the two polarized black and white beasts that draw your chariot, there are two realms of character dysfunction that you can inhabit -- and during a lifetime you are sure to try out both. These extremes are far from an honest and healthy reflection of your greatest potential. This potential lies at the middle, where you balance the tension of opposites by considering self and other in equal measure.”

There is more, but I’d rather step off the precipice of narcissism. Needless to say, this is very similar to Chiron’s message to me from where it is placed in my astrological chart. This report gave me confirmation on things I’d been thinking about and writing on, and having it come together for me just before visiting my spiritual mother was personally significant.

I started my day with Amma by getting up very early and being on a 6:30 a.m. train bound for Grand Central Station. It’s nice to have a bit of a commute time before seeing Her because it gives me time to think. A commuter train, where people give you the stink eye for talking on your cell phone, is just the place to do that. One of things I needed most from this individual blessing was support on a commitment I made to myself. Oh, I’m really good at being an advocate for others, encouraging the potential in others, but when it comes to supporting myself, I can fall short. The last two years in the state of Connecticut have been all about addressing the past … my parents, old childhood friends, even my grandmother … and I’ve spent considerable time on these things until taking special steps to finally release them into the ether.

Now, I want to make my body a fit temple for the Goddess through consistent meditation, exercise and good food.

In spite of the weirdness I experienced growing up (another story for another day, but you can read about some of it here), I grew into young adulthood dancing my troubles away. Teaching ballet and tap to children, and being heavily involved in children’s theater, I danced almost 4 hours per day, 5 days per week during the school year. It’s just a shame I wasn’t “awake” enough to realize and appreciate the good shape I was in at the time!

dorothy brock

Being true to my Tarot Archetype, up to now I have given myself free reign and indulged my desires in every way. It started out as stress relief, but I’ve gotten in the habit of eating whatever I want, whenever I want, and drinking diet sodas two and three times a day. I’ve noticed that when I try to abstain, my monkey mind jumps through hoops to convince me otherwise. I have this rather uncanny sense of entitlement that runs rings around the rest of me unless I keep it tightly under reign. The result is that I’m heavier than I’ve been before, even when I was 9 months pregnant, and in physical pain enough of the time to notice.

I turn 44 in August, and this isn’t the way I want to stare down my mid-century point.

I refuse to view this commitment through a lens of self-loathing, however. I’ve worked much too hard to regain my self-respect. Oooh, I despise the not so subtle messages force fed to American women through the media … NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers .. all of these are recipes for personal disaster. I joined a Weight Watchers class here at work only to leave a few weeks later because I couldn’t stand the way the women beat themselves up over that one extra tortilla chip. I also have an uncanny feeling that any sort of weight loss surgery would be drastically wrong for me. My habits are so wrapped up in emotional response, I’m pretty sure I’d flip out if I didn’t give myself time to reprogram the existing hard wiring.

No, this is a battle of wills.

This battle is my will, my ego, versus my higher self. My greatest weapons are self-discipline and clear intellect, and the challenge is to make the right decision every time and avoid caving to the happy little pictures of maya or illusion that my mind sends up when it thinks it wants something.

Amma arrived at the multi-denominational church in mid-down at about 10:30 a.m., and she looked very serious. I’ve experienced Her in a playful state and in a motherly state in the past, but She wasn’t fooling around. She had a lot to say right off the bat, yet I couldn’t hear much of it from where I sat in the back. So, I sort of settled in to where I was and knew it would be some time before I got up to where She was. Normal individual blessings type stuff. I concentrated on my index card, which is where we are supposed to right down our needs. You can read more about the card procedure here.

It was almost 1:00 p.m. by the time I got to the front of the Church. There was one woman in front of me, and just as an usher motioned us both off the pew (which, by the way, was excruciatingly uncomfortable), Amma brought the entire affair to a screeching halt. She motioned for everyone to sit down. None of her aids were in sight. The guys who knew how to roll with this kind of thing were either lost in the back near the book store or outside goofing around. Swamiji wasn’t around, and one of Amma’s bhajans was blaring over the loud speakers. Some guy got up and tried to get the mike straightened out for her, but I could tell he was pretty blown away just by being in close proximity. I can relate. She simply waited patiently for her children to get it together … and they did. Mike flew down the aisle from the back of the church, and Swamiji popped in the side door to attend to the sound. It was painstakingly obvious that Bob Madoloni wasn’t present. Word is he’s back in Pennsylvania battling cancer again, and it was apparent the crew missed his attention to detail.

Mother had something to say.

I didn’t overlook that she waited until I was right in front of Her before saying it. It’s not that I think I’m special in any way due to this. Rather, when these things happen and we are there, we must think about why it may have happened and then listen closely to what Mother obviously wants us to hear knowing that everything She does is deliberate.

It can be difficult to accurately regurgitate what Amma says in these impromptu discourses because I spend so much of my time spacing out to absorb her presence. I was less than 10 feet away from her this time.

1) She said that so many of her children are terribly upset about cancer. She mentioned Philadelphia specifically.
2) She said verbatim, “Children, microwaves are killers!” She was emphatic on that one. Need I say that ours is in the garbage can?
3) She mentioned the Saturn influence on the weather and people’s hardships, failed businesses, and the like.
4) She stressed using the Mahamrutyunjaya mantra, which is the power of protection from negativity through sound. She went to great lengths to indicate one of her children had done great research on the power of sound and that this was science, children, science.
5) She brought up the danger of car accidents a number of times, and stressed we can play this mantra when we are driving, while we are eating, and at any time in the house. She stressed it can be played 27 times or 54 or 108 times.
6) She also brought up the Gayatri Mantra, which is energizing, but indicated it is very sacred and should be done in a quiet room when one is focused. She also said it shouldn’t be interrupted.
7) She indicated that spirituality is self-discipline.
8) She indicated women can take a head bath on Fridays (only) to relieve mental stress and anxiety. Use sesame oil on the scalp and sit in front of the Sri Chakra. Men can do this on Saturdays only.
8) She also said something about going to the ocean. She said it is only good on certain days because on other days the ocean can take our energy. I thought this was pertinent, given that I love the ocean, but sometimes feel wiped out after being there. I’d like to find out more on this.
9) Amma said that it is okay to think about ourselves first. This really hit home with me, given what I wrote about earlier in this article. She stated that many religions say first think of God, then family, and then oneself. She shook her head, that way she does that is desperately endearing, cracked a smile, gave a giggle, and said, “No, children, Amma says it is okay to think of yourselves first.” Then, he stated that when we work on ourselves, the positivity we generate goes out into the world around us, and affects our children and our loves ones in a positive way. The group practically cheered.

There were other fun things that happened, too. She blessed a couple with their new baby, and when she touched the infant’s head, it released a loud, lusty cry that everyone in the room chuckled over. She gave Saraswati Diksa to a number of children and that always makes for good fun because not all the children enjoy the honey on their tongue.

3_017

What Mother said just before my blessing hit the nail on the head. As usual, it was as if She spoke to me directly. I took note about the danger of car accidents given that we are driving to California from Connecticut this time around.

More so, however, the time I spent listening to Her discourse was time spent opening my heart to Her completely. By the time I approached her with my card, the tears were coursing down my cheeks. She had broken down more of my defenses, more of the barriers I may have had toward accepting Her love. She read my card in the serious way she does while stroking my head with her right hand. I looked up at Her, took Her in, eager for Her approval. This is the one place where I can be a complete child, uninhibited, and completely honest about my needs. She smiled at what was on my card, and said, “I love you, child.”

Then the damn burst, and I was really crying. It never fails. She wiped my tears with a tissue, always sympathic, always truly compassionate.

Then, she dropped a Hershey’s kiss in my hands, and sent me on my way.

11_013


Note: The photos of Amma are (c) 2008 the SVMA Trust.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

FROM OUR WORKSHOP: Desert Dog

Here is a piece of poetry by our 11 year old, Elizabeth. She truly enjoys writing!

Desert Dog
by Liz Faber

In his eyes
a desert
at night
a ring of ebony
another
of shining gold
none of them perfect
all jagged
never perfect
but always.

When you look at him
you see an old mutt
his face white
the rest a worn out rust
but when you feel him
you feel a puppy
his smile so pure
drool dripping off
his rough tongue

His life
a journey
a maze
started out
in a desert
but somehow
got to me
I don't know how
only he
my puppy
my old dog
knows the secret

His mother
the sun
his father
the moon
his brothers
the sand.

But there's one thing
that I know
he's my puppy
my old man
my dog
and I love him.
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