Friday, February 29, 2008


Writing's coming hard these days for all kinds of reasons, so I'm conveniently attaching this email I sent to a few friends who asked about my Soapstone experience. It's been a month and I'm starting to process it some.

For some of you, this may be info you have no interest in, so just skip it. Some of you might be curious, so read on if you feel like it.

Here it is:

I have to say the experience was very strange. (Remember how you felt like the Squaw Valley Writer's Workshop 'broke you' for a while, Jessica? I'm feeling that way now about Soapstone, but for slightly different reasons.)

I honestly wrote very little while there, which I found frustrating -- all but 2 (?) 3 days (?) were spent kind of paralyzed. (I did revise and sell the Perspectives piece, and worked with momsrising, CDF, etc., but still...!)

Here's my Lame-o list:
  • I was processing my grandfather's death (I said goodbye to him the weekend before; he died the night I got there). Wrapped up in that were images of my father's death 15 years ago. So I felt very unfocused on my story or essays -- and felt like a little of the fun of the experience had shifted. I couldn't have foretold it, either, but processing a loss only made those warm, life-affirming hugs from my kids feel so far away.
  • Mick also felt far -- he was very encouraging to me (in fact, he talked me through some blocks), but he had/has a lot of his own stress going with dental school finishing up right now -- and it's time to start working on applications, and thinking about practice, moving, new schools, change, etc. (Why didn't I just cancel amid this? I couldn't come up with another date I could do this during 2008, so I took what I could get. I knew I'd regret canceling, and I didn't want to live with that.)
  • Oh! And it was way cold! Snowing, freezing, storming, etc.! I'm from the PNW, but I think I've gone a little soft. :) I could see my breath in my cabin for two hours each morning as I stoked the wood stove, and walks along the logging route were a bit windy and nippy! (I did get to the coast -- note photo of "Goonies" rock -- on one of the milder days.)
  • My housemate was nice but VERY vocal about her own daily (hourly?) writing magic that she felt deep in her bones. She gave me unsolicited updates on word counts, etc. (silent scream).
  • I think somewhere in there the writing process slid from fun and playful to strenuous and serious. I've never written well under those circumstances. (Term papers and my thesis come to mind.)

Don't I sound like a wimp? See why I haven't said much???

Here's the thing, though. I DO think I learned some valuable lessons that stemmed from identifying what's playful and too serious in my writing process, and how when inspiration hits it's divine, and how the pieces of the puzzle sometimes end up fitting together in ways we can't foresee. It was good for me to suffer for a while to learn this about myself and the writing process -- and to perhaps be more generous or patient with myself/it than I've ever thought to be. (Being patient is REALLY hard for me.)

I'm sure I've neglected many details; and I encourage anyone who's so inclined to apply if 2 weeks alone in a cabin on a creek sounds fabulous. I'll give more scoop on that if you're curious. Who knows? I might apply somewhere sometime again soon -- I'm willing to open myself up to new and bizarre lessons.

I'll attach some pictures that might portray a little more 'magic' than my report offers. :) I hope I don't sound too lame. It really was a good experience, but for different reasons than I would've anticipated. (Which reminds me why I usually try to live by that old motto about low expectations...)


My cabin, the one with the cube on top; my housemate's
cabin is right next to it, with the pointed roof.

Above: in a dusting of snow. Even on days without snow,
the weather was still usually below freezing.

Above: Haystack Rock of Goonies fame.

Above: between our cabins, the hot tub. I used it twice.

At the woodshed.

One last detail: the kids were wonderfully taken care of by Jan. Two weeks was a long time for them to be apart from me, though (and me from them). I really felt how deeply we missed each other around day ten. I know we all would've been fine if I'd packed it up then. Even if I'd been creatively juiced up, I could tell they felt it was just really long.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


with a little bit of slumber

Friends Mia, Gia, and Jade joined us for monkey fun. Dane begged to go to a buddy's house while the girls slept here, so he went to Marcus's and had his own fun.

What Aubrey thinks about when she thinks of her party:
  • it was fun
  • we had a blast
  • we played Polly Pockets
  • we made purses
  • we pretended we were grownups - Mia was the mom
  • I'm six
  • we decorated heart cookies
  • we made balloons - we put stickers on the balloons
  • we slept on the floor
  • we played freeze dance
  • we watched Shrek the Third
  • goodbye from aubrey and anjie

Monday, February 18, 2008


It might be northern California's ski week right now, but our ski week was back in December at White Pass, thanks to Mike and Jan. We stayed at a condo on the slope for two nights with them, and Kai and Dana and their family.

The kids took lessons and then skied the bunny hills with their cousins; Mick and I got a couple runs in together; and Mick and Kai got a few runs in together. (Jude sledded with Uncle Garth, and Weston stayed at the condo, getting ready to turn ONE.)

Hot POOL at the condo! The kids were ballsy enough to do snow angels over and over and over again before jumping back into the pool.

Aubs hit the slopes with an enthusiastic attitude, "wee-haw"-ing like a crazy girl and crouching like a pro.

Dane exhibited some new traits with an approach Mick and I hadn't seen before and had to adjust to: he wanted to do everything his own way, even when sliding mad and backwards down a hill away from the rope tow (now a "magic carpet") with no idea what to do. What happened to our compliant, easy little boy? (Oh, that sounds pathetic, doesn't it?)

Turns out, he really, really wanted to ski -- his buddy Marcus does black diamond runs, and his cousins had lessons last year, so they were already on the slopes. Dane was just antsy to get started, thought it looked easy, and didn't want to take the time to learn from his parents (even though his dad's been a snowboarding instructor!).

Rather than get caught up in a power struggle -- we wanted this to be fun -- we immediately signed both kids up for 2 hours of ski school and hit the slopes on our own. It worked out well: they were up and running, confident and happy, by the time we got back.

Dane even had a sweet little rash at the corner of his mouth that lasted the next few days, where he'd fed himself snow out of his glove while skiing down the hill.

"Dub-Dub turned ONE!"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

(note: this has been temporarily removed from YouTube. Too bad.)

Catch Mick on stage at his senior dental school retreat.
Oh, baby, baby...
an afternoon with fancy nancy clancy

Note: I'm typing with fuscia, which is a fancy word for purple.

We got decked out Monday afternoon in fancy frills and headed to Book Passage to meet Robin Preiss Glasser, the illustrator of the Fancy Nancy books. She wore a pink boa and gold butterfly sandals and carried a butterfly wand -- and she signed Aubrey's two Fancy Nancy books and her friend Asia Blue's too.

Even Dane came along and got into the spirit of the event -- I think he figured that's what you do when you have a sister. He wore the Mardi Gras beads his assistant teacher, Ms. Elmore, brought the class that day, and he was particularly interested in meeting a real live illustrator.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


If you're in the Bay Area, turn your dial to 88.5 fm on Monday the 11th!

My 2-minute essay, "Emergency," will air at 6:07 am, 7:37 am, and 11:33 pm; there will also be a weekend repeat on Saturday at 8:37 am.

If you are not in the Bay Area, but want to listen, go to KQED's archives page and listen to it any time after Monday morning via the web.

This is a refined version of what I wrote about Aubrey's hospitalization last spring. It turns out to be a timely piece, considering current state and national efforts to find a way to provide health insurance for all children.

I sent (an organization started by the founders of a copy of this and they've got my/our story on their site; they also sent my essay on to the Children's Defense Fund and they're using this story to present cases to legislators as they work toward attaining health insurance for all children.

Just at the bottom of this post are some "Labels." Click on the blue links "hospital" and "Joan Blades" to find out more about Aubrey's hospital ordeal last year and to see Joan Blades and learn about her activism. These are posts from March '07. You just have to scroll down past this post after you click on them.

*Soon I'll post Christmas, January, Soapstone, Birthday, etc., pictures and updates. Have to get that dialed in though with the camera...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008