Monthly Archives: December 2008

Happy New Year


Quel Year! (not that last year didn’t deserve an even louder “QUEL YEAR!” for me)…but quel year. People have lost fortunes, homes, and bigger losses loom in the distance–it is in, some ways, like seeing the Orcs on the horizon and waiting for them to make it to Helm’s Deep where they will then attack and do battle. And for those who have not lost money, there are those who have experienced heartbreak and unbelievable painful loss this year.

But I hope you count your blessings and keep them close to your heart throughout the new year. I hope that regardless of where you are, that you see beauty in life and hope perpetually lingering around the corner. Because if I am to use yet another Lord of the Rings metaphor–may the light of erindian light your way when you think all hope is lost.

Shit. I’m going to stop writing this post before I geek out too much. Happy New Year, everyone. Keep hope alive, keep on keeping on, and keep your eyes on the dream. 🙂

I am not for resolutions because a lot can happen in a year. And I may gain a few pounds eating chocolate to survive the year ahead. But–I have set one goal in 2009. I am going to finish my novel.


Filed under Inspiring, The Novel, Writing



It all started when someone in my life started making some despicable decisions. It shocked me–and de-stabilized my world, the pretty world I’d constructed in my head. It was not so pretty. And it just went from there–stirred and enraged, I began looking around and was NOT happy with what I began to see. I’d drawn a picture and thought it was my life, thought it was the people around me, the work I was doing. Nope.

Now it’s a full-on meltdown.

I am having a meltdown right now and I think it’s going to change my life.  I am enraged and frustrated, and worst of all, I am feeling HELPLESS.  I feel…trapped, and I must get out of this situation without harming myself.

For those of you who know me, helplessness is NOT a feeling I tolerate very well.  Whenever I feel helpless, I feel like I’m handcuffed and what I then immediately do is try to saw my hand off so that the handcuffs are off of me..but then I stop (because well, it physically and psychically hurts) and try to figure out another way.  I am figuring out another way, now.

I cannot stomach some of the behavior around me, and I am realizing that I am not a fit for the life I’m leading.  I am going to make a change, get on another vector towards happier more positive climes.  I can’t say what that change is, because thus far, it’s merely a decision to make a change.  I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, too. (btw, I am still happily married).

I am feeling awful right now, but at least…at least, I’m unbottling it.  Now, back to crying and lying in bed. Why I numb out in the first place and block out all the pain until it becomes unbearable–well, that is another question I must ask myself because this is a pattern that has repeated itself too many times in my life to date.

Maybe at the end of all this, I’ll feel lighter.

p.s. I did see the Yves St Laurent exhibition at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park today with a good friend. It was historical and beautiful. Tuxedos! Safari jackets! Peacoats! Unwearable haute couture! Russian bohemian clothing! Hand-beading! It was FULL of PEOPLE.

The park was beautiful and FULL of PEOPLE. I felt odd the whole time. I love being around people, so I didn’t know WHY I’d maxed out on all the PEOPLE around me. But there I was, feeling TOO CROWDED. I guess my body knew before my brain did, that I was about to fall apart.

But you see–fashion and friends are a good thing. Fashion and my friend must have created the safe place in which for me to begin to fall apart.



Filed under Life

forefront of mind

  • The world is falling apart.
  • But…I am going to finish my novel in 2009.
  • The world is falling apart.
  • But…I’m going to travel anyhow. I am going to use my credit with jetblue and fly out to New York, Februaryish. Looking for friends to house me!
  • The world is falling apart.
  • But…I’m going to hum a cheerful song.
  • The world is falling apart.
  • But I’m going to seek out friends.
  • The world is falling apart.
  • But there’s always a way around.


Filed under Uncategorized


Man. I just reread my last two posts…the one just an hour ago, detailing my restless hermitage in the snowy mountains…and then the one previous to it, remarking on wacky weather patterns and burying myself in knitting. I have some serious underground psychic spelunking to do. Eventually the evasion must stop.

And clearly, I do not feel safe enough to do so for now.

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Filed under Abstract Thoughts, Life

a quiet snowy night


It is a quiet and snowy night here in Tahoe, where we have come for a Christmastime pilgrimage. A bit eerie for me, because the last time I was here during the holidays, I had my stroke on New Year’s Eve. Even now, I get nervous when I get slightly dizzy or disoriented or develop a blind spot, even if it’s caused from a camera flash.

Even though I find Tahoe a peaceful retreat…this time I’m awfully restless. I’m cooking up a storm, baking cookies (learning to bake at altitude!), I can’t sit down and be still. Even though it’s breathtakingly beautiful and I love watching the snow pummeling down to earth, muffling all the sounds until our house feels like a lone cabin in the woods…I can’t settle down. I can’t settle down.

I meant to write. I meant to read. But nope. No writing (unless you count this blog post). No reading (unless you count the New York Magazine I’ve been reading). Been traipsing a bit in the snow, shoveling out the driveway and brushing the snow off the satellite dish (so I can get internet). Been cooking up a storm (I said that, didn’t I?).

My husband exclaimed, “You have a tough time relaxing!” This was during the ten minutes he was awake today, between extended multiple-hour-long naps. Did I mention both dogs napped, too? The one who just had spinal surgery napped in her crate, curled up and cozy, and the other curled up on the sofa next to my husband. I was the only one awake. Hrm. I watched the “House” marathon on the telly. Even though I have a DVD of the first season of “The Wire.”

Restless, restless!

Our friends arrive tomorrow with their toddler in tow. I know these are my last moments of solitary quiet, and here I sit, squandering them away. I even had a short story I meant to start. I have a novel to continue. And I have more spare time coming my way–I’m likely going to work less in the months to come, thanks to the economy. (The economy! Alas!).

I want to enjoy this snowy country! Berkeley had its brief encounter with hail and snow last week but then the clouds dissipated and unveiled a brilliant jeweled landscape…


For in wintertime, Berkeley sparkles. The hills turn emerald green, the trees turn brilliant ruby and gold, and the sky aquamarine. Seriously jewels.

I want to enjoy the snow country–but I guess when it becomes quiet and dark and snowy, it’s a time that encourages inward inspection…and I’m harboring darker thoughts than the landscape. And that makes me restless.

But in other news…I did cut my hair. I’m working on my “fun list” (not to be mistaken with a bucket list, which I have yet to assemble).


And for the record…here is a picture of some of the hail that fell a few days ago:



Filed under Life

my favorite kind of winter


Dudes and dudettes: it SNOWED in the Oakland and Berkeley hills this morning. (did I hear a flap of wings and an “oink!” in the sky?) I hear it also snowed on the hilltops of Portola Valley, too.

I don’t live high enough and thus did not experience the snow firsthand–but those who live above 1,000 feet in the hills experienced snow. And I’m not talking about one or two little snowflakes–I’m talking about a REAL snow shower like the kind that fall in the Sierra Nevadas. A *measurable* amount of snow, about 1/8 of an inch. I have pictures to prove it!

The last time it snowed in the Berkeley Hills–I was sitting in a neighbor’s living room up at around 1000 feet, and peering out their picture window–and saw a few snowflakes from the sky. That was momentous…today’s snow was UNBELIEVABLE! In an awesome fairytale way–like walking into the wintry Narnia forest for the first time.

OMG wonderful! Yesterday it hailed for some time, and the temperatures dipped low enough to make me feel that snow was imminent. (Yes, above is a picture of the windshield as I drove through hail, crazy me).

It’s collld–so cold you can’t wear open toed shoes (yay!) and you *have* to wear pants or hose (yay!) and so cold you *have* to wear layers and a warm warm warm jacket (yay!)

And now I’m knitting obsessively. Knit, knit, knit. I’m not writing, I’m not reading, I’m just knitting like a banshee with an emptied mind. No thoughts about the economy. No thoughts and worries about my ailing dog (who came out of spinal surgery just fine, according to the doggie neurologist–and who is healing so well she will be coming home tomorrow!).

Just knit, knit, knit..purl, knit knit purl purl….

And even though I’m coming down with a cold (thank you to my hubby who brought it home with him!)–I STILL LOVE THIS COLD WEATHER!!!!!


Filed under Life

fading brain


Enough time has passed such that I am unsure as to what memory deficits of mine I ought to attribute to the stroke…or to just…aging.

I know that my brain used to be a lot sharper 2 years ago, prior to the stroke.  I used to remember names and faces, and license plates, and I could balance a checkbook.  Now not so much–I am constantly ashamed of how I forget people’s names as I run into the same people over and over again at things like birthday parties and weddings.  Friends of friends that I don’t interact with on a regular basis, but still!  And I still can’t balance a checkbook.

When I’m tired, I can’t keep track of my own calendar either–I only have a *feeling* I’ve got something going on next Saturday night when you ask me if I’m available (inevitably that feeling is very true once I check).  I have gotten into the habit of never committing to social engagements without consulting my calendar.

Or I won’t remember a substantial conversation we had in late 2006 or early 2007. (I don’t remember a lot of stuff two months prior and two months following the stroke). It’s embarrassing, for both parties. If you know why that might be, then it’s all rehashed…and if you don’t know I had a stroke, well…I either have to stay silent and apologize hoping you won’t think I’m terribly arrogant and aloof, or I explain about my stroke and then that becomes the topic of the evening. Believe me, I like being the center of attention at times, but right now I’m in the awkward stage of wanting to put it all past me. And I’m not sure if you all want to hear about it.

Day to day no outstanding issues…but these little things crop up over and over again and remind me of that little black and dead spot in my thalamus.  It is dead forever.

I got a new primary care physician this week–I got to talk about my stroke in detail. It was strange rehashing it, and seeing it from a bit of distance, finally. My doctor knows I”m a writer and she asked, “Have you written about it?”

Only on my blog. I’ve got an essay-in-progress about it right now. Not easy to write.

“Well it’s understandable,” she said, adding that I might only just be getting enough distance from the experience to start really thinking about it.

I talk about my stroke anecdotally in social situations. I’m asked, “Were you angry about it?” Not really. My brain was so screwed up that I don’t think I got depressed or frustrated or angry for a few months. I was just–numb and confused and so damaged that I couldn’t even remember what life USED to be. I was just–bewildered, walking in a foggy state of mind, wondering, wondering, wondering but never really being able to process. The way I like to describe it is that all day long, I’d feel like I was in that specific state of mind when one has JUST awakened, before becoming fully conscious.

Well. The 2nd anniversary of my stroke approaches. New Year’s Eve, which never seems like it will ever feel the same again. Last year, I was preoccupied by my MFA graduation and the following transition..and this year I finally…feel like I’m looking back and processing.

I’m so confused by the entire experience. It is a part of me. I have had the great privilege and gift of learning tremendous life lessons from the stroke. And there are more lessons to learn.


Filed under The Stroke

omg is it that simple?

I had an awesome day today. I got no writing done, but I spent the entire day with friends. With a visiting WC…and then at a surprise birthday for an old friend.

I realized: I need good people and amazing friends in my life.

I hole myself up because I’m sick of getting hurt and being neglected. Not consciously, but I do it. But that recalls Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”–what am I keeping out?


Filed under Life

here’s to a lifetime of healing


The Washington Post has an article on a North Korean prisoner escapee. He is the only known person to have survived an escape from a North Korean political prison (for nothing he did, for nothing his father did–but as punishment for the defections of his uncles to South Korea).

He’s missing part of a finger, he’s burned on his arms and body–evidence of past torture. His brother was beaten to death, his mother was hanged. Hearing him describe his anger towards his mother for making plans to escape, plans that led to his torture…makes me realize how deep those scars are, on his body, and in his psyche.

I am wishing him a lifetime of healing ahead of him.

He may very well need an entire lifetime to recover.

This I know from my own parents, whose childhoods and young adult lives were so heavily impacted (“impacted” being a huuuge euphemism for death (brothers, sisters, fathers) and suffering (lack of food, the stress of basic survival, the loss of material goods, giving up all niceties…the way my father lost his hearing in one ear, the way my mother still loves potatoes to this day) and poverty and…

They have spent the rest of their lives building as boring a life as possible, a lifestyle I did not understood as a child and a lifestyle I rebelled against, hissing “I’m borrrred” through gritted teeth. Their early lives were too filled with drama, and now they are making up for it, eliminating as much drama as possible.

It can take a lifetime.


Filed under Abstract Thoughts, Life, The World

Swink is back!

Remember how Swink magazine disappeared without a trace? It’s back and it’s all electronic.

I pinged Leelila Strogov a few times during Swink’s downtime wondering what had happened. She never responded. I guess the new Swink site is response enough.


Filed under Reading

Pushcart prize rankings 2009

Cliff Garstang of Perpetual Folly has posted Pushcart Prize Rankings for 2009. His is an annual exercise, and I like looking at the list (because I’m a sucker for lists). Maybe you’ll like looking at it too.

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Filed under Fiction Writing Links, Helpful, Writing

The food flashback


I’m doing a lot more cooking lately for health reasons. By doing so, I expected to expand my cooking repertoire, to improve my self discipline when it comes to eating and preparation, I expected to get healthier, I expected to save money, I expected to have some fun…

I did not expect all the memories and thoughts that spring up in my mind while cooking. The textures, the smells, the sounds–they really do transport me. Cooking is a largely right brained activity for me, like driving…especially when I’m grooving in the middle of a very familiar, oft-cooked recipe.

And it just so happens that those are the dishes linked to some old memory.

I made a Korean radish soup tonight. (Using watermelon radish from the farmer’s market! They’re very similar to daikon radish except…they’re MAGENTA inside! Almost flourescent pink, really. So I am made this very PINK Korean radish soup).

Usually, when I make Korean food, my head is full of thoughts about my mother, all comfort and love. I compare how my food tastes against hers, and try to match, match, match. But it never really does match exactly. Sometimes I make Korean food when I miss her, especially North Korean dishes handed down through our family.

I also remember summers spent in Korea, traipsing through the streets of Seoul, through the markets, riding the crowded buses, so unlike the Greyhounds and AC transit buses here in the States. Snacks on the street bought on the way home to my grandmother’s house. The air so humid I’m not surprised that even when I stand still, my skin’s glistening from both perspiration and…just the WET AIR.

I wonder about the culinary traditions of Korea, and how so much is wild mountain greens, how so much of it can be dried and then rehydrated in cooking. There are rich and fatty foods of course, but I imagine wartime and picking greens in the hillside, foraging for dinner. I wonder if they’re doing that in North Korea.

I usually think about things Korean. But today, as I looked at the radish soup, thinking that the brilliant pink of the watermelon radish made this dish somehow…no longer LOOK Korean…I thought of my mother-in-law, who died last year.

Whenever I think of her, I feel a stab of pain in my heart. I’m not sure if it’s heartbreak or regret or what. Even when I/we laugh at something she’d find funny (and believe there are many things she found funny), the pain is there. It’s so prevalent in my thoughts of her that the thought of my parents dying is unbearable–how insufferable will the pain be, then?

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Filed under Abstract Thoughts, Life, Memories