mamagotcha: (flower)
Whoa dang, I really dropped the ball on that one. I thought I could keep this up during our trip to Kansas City, but it fell by the wayside as we had our adventure. So I'll try to do some catch-up and get back into the groove...

A week in one go... )
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Today, I had the opportunity to visit my old Nia class. I stepped right back in, as if the last two years away had never happened. It wasn't just the kind women and welcoming teacher... although those things were wonderful. It was the dancing.

The routines are a framework upon which you build your own movement, stretch what you need to stretch, flow at your own speed. It's such a forgiving, accepting place, and I feel so good when I finish (although today I was crying a lot, which was OK too).

I miss Nia SO MUCH. It was like slipping into a warm, familiar bath, even though I'd never done a single one of the routines that were in today's class. Now that Bill got his grant and maybe things aren't going to be so tight, even with the car payment, maybe I'll be able to do it again back in Chicago.

But for this week, while I'm here in Kansas City... I'll be there for every class. The next ones are on Wednesday and Friday mornings, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., over at Research Medical Center. Your first class is always free, and if you let me know you're coming, maybe we can catch breakfast at Sharps Cafe first?

I am SO GLAD I found Nia, and so very grateful that my first teacher and class were here. Kansas City, you don't know how lucky you are!
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Something I've been getting more and more interested in is the study of game theory. I'm in the middle of writing a longer post on it (honest, Julia!), but the whole thing is fascinating.

In the fall of 2010, I heard about a new MMO (massive multiplayer online game, think World of Warcraft) that was aimed at adults but non-violent, creative and humorous. I immediately emailed the creators and asked to be put on their tester list, and was invited to join the alpha players last December. The game, Glitch, went beta early this year and now is scheduled for an official launch this fall.

Yesterday, it was announced that Keita Takahashi, the mind behind the ground-breaking game Katamari Damacy, has come on board the development team (already filled with some amazing minds; one dev I communicate with often was a founder of Flickr). The game was already amazing, in my opinion... I can't wait to see what this new addition will bring!

I feel SO incredibly fortunate to be on the ground floor of this project (and through Glitch I heard about Tinkatolli, a game I've been beta testing with Linc). It's been a blast, meeting people online from all over the world who have been waiting for (and even better, working on) a game like this. The developers are in communication with the players often, and really seem to take a personal interest in our ideas and criticisms. I feel like my tiny little fingerprints are going to be on a fantastic thing that is growing before my eyes... I am so lucky!
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When I found out I was moving to Chicago, there was one uniform response from people: "Oh, the winters are so hard there!" I wasn't TOO worried... we had already survived the shift from sunny Davis, CA to humid/snowy Kansas City, MO.

A few other folks mentioned the museums, which I was excited about, and which have indeed proven to be fascinating (I still haven't made it to the one about surgical science).

But nobody said boo about the beach! I was invited to one of the unschoolers' beach days on the first housing foray I made with the kids, and while I couldn't stay long enough to really get the full experience, I was amazed: acres of soft-sand beach with a very gentle slope out towards blue and beautiful Lake Michigan, maybe eight lifeguards on duty constantly, free parking (though that's changed, but it's still a deal), bathrooms and a snack bar, and tons of very happy people doing nothing more than lying in the sand, visiting with their friends, and doling out goodies from their coolers to their kids.

We get to come here and just veg for hours on end once a week throughout the warmer months. We've also headed out there in the deepest winter, and it was an incredible, otherworldly place, with huge grey chunks of ice lifted out of the water at odd angles... walking on the mix of sand and snow was unforgettable.

But it's the summers that are wonderful. Even when it's crowded, there's still breathing room. Linc is a total little fish, and digging is almost as fun as the water. Lots of homeschool moms show up, and I've started bringing Merl Reagle crossword books with me to share. We also share boxes of cookies, fruit, and yesterday one very kind lady had a cooler with sherbert, ice, and pretty potent mixers, from which she concocted delicious boozy treats for the moms.

There are definitely Beach Rituals that took me a while to figure out: the cooler and chair and umbrella triumverate, and how to properly set up your umbrella sturdily in the sand, and One Treat for the kids from the wandering vendors.

Linc very often insinuates himself into a group of teens or adults playing in the water with a ball, and invariably when I come to rescue their game (that has been slowed to a crawl by my little guy), they laugh and insist on him continuing, with lots of thumbs-up and clapping and cheering for when he DOES manage to bop the volleyball back to them. He eats it up, and somehow manages to keep choosing good-natured folks to pester each week.

Even Clay joins us once in a while, which is terrific... there aren't many activities anymore that he is interested in with us. Sometimes we stop at the roadside fruit vendor on the way, and stick berries in the cooler with our sandwiches. Every once in a while, this funny old geezer with gold chains sets up his lawn chairs and a huge silver hookah in the parking lot, blaring Middle Eastern music from his car and flirting with the ladies... Hookah Man. Sometimes I bring our kites. In the spring and fall, before and after the beach is officially "open" (no lifeguards or snack bar and just portapotties), we could bring Wiley with us and let him run free... he'd bring home pounds of sand stashed in his woolly fur, but he absolutely loved it.

Foster Beach is, hands-down, the best part of moving to Chicago for me. I am so grateful it's here and that I get to enjoy it so often!
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Spent some time doing laundry today, and felt a huge wave of gratitude for these modern machines.

There were days, when I had babies in diapers, that I was running a load nearly every single day. I can't even begin to imagine what that would have been like without a washer and dryer.
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One thing I tell my clients when I'm a doula (and to other friends going through a hard time) is that it is a gift to their community when they let others help take care of them. I honestly believe this, although it can be hard to take my own advice.

Remember how, when someone you love was sick or injured, and you felt so helpless and useless? You offer to help, but often they shrug it off and leave you feeling even more impotent, watching them struggle. Or perhaps they said, "Yes, please! Can you pick up Annie from her summer class at 3?" and you felt so good, because you were able to save them a whole bunch of pain and maybe some pulled stitches, just by going ten minutes out of your way and doing an easy errand for them.

The other way that letting people take care of you is a gift to them is something a little less obvious but still very important in my book: you are letting them know that it is OK to ask for and receive help within your community, and that when it is their turn, when they are knocked flat by that wicked flu bug or break their arm or scratch their cornea, they won't feel strange or needy or rude by accepting YOUR offer of help.

Today, I'm making dinner for a local friend with a broken leg. She's got two little ones and stairs to her condo... she's gonna be stuck there for a while. One thing she asked for was bread, so I spent time making a few loaves of sourdough sandwich bread this morning. I felt like the girl in "Like Water for Chocolate," feeling the live, pliant, nourishing dough rolling under my hands and filling it with sturdy healing thoughts for my friend.

I am so grateful that I have friends who gladly accept my offers of help, and especially that my friend asked for something in particular that I know I can do for her. I'm bringing over some Italiany pasta casserole and some flowers, too, but it's this bread that she likes... I know it will bring her a little bit of pleasure while she's in pain and can't move. That feels so good, that I can do this for her, and I'm so grateful that she's willing to accept it.
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Today was the Fourth of July, which isn't much of a holiday for us. We don't have enough cash to blow on fireworks, and the big fireworks show over the lake would mean huge crowds, so we just don't do it. I loved it when we did the picnic and show in Davis, but we haven't been to anything like that since we moved away from California.

So I do what I do for most holidays: I make food. Most of you already saw the long list of treats we indulged in on my Facebook, so I won't bore you with another rendition. But I will integrate it into my Gratitude Project.

I am so very grateful that we are doing well enough that I can support local farmers and producers via the organic food and dairy delivery services we subscribe to, as well as local farmers markets and so much more. We are so fortunate to live in a place that has a truly international attitude towards food... a few miles east and I've got all the Indian spices I could ever want; a couple miles north and there's a gigantic Asian market with an amazing range of supplies (with a Korean spa next door); less than a mile away, we've got an Sicilian deli that makes the best pepper spread in Chicago, as well as hot fennel sausages; there's a package of pierogies in the fridge made by a lovely Polish woman who owns an up-and-coming Chicago bakery.

One of the coolest aspects of the way we learn about our local food sourcing has been hooking into the terrific LTH Forum, an online community of truly fascinating, passionate and knowledgeable characters. So the search for good things has brought us friendships with good people (such as that baker).

The bread and the salad I make in the kitchen I waxed lyrical about yesterday... it's not just the act of creating the meals, but learning where to procure the ingredients in the first place. It's a challenge, almost a game, to try to wring out the very best goodies from our current resources, and I am so happy to have such a wide and varied range of items to choose from.
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I want to make these entries all lofty and noble and virtuous, but today... well, today the thing I am grateful for is pretty much as basic as it gets. Today, I am grateful for my kitchen.

We've lived in a lot of places, and I've had a pretty wide range of kitchens. For a while, when roadtripping with the kids, I carried the most minimal kitchen possible, and actually got an impressive amount of cooking out of it. The last house in KC had the smallest kitchen sink I ever saw, maybe 14" wide? And the McGee house kitchen was so far away from the heart of the house.

This kitchen is why I rented this house. I walked in and I *knew* I would be cooking in there soon. It's small, but designed in an efficient and comfortable manner. There are a few more things I would like (chiefly, higher water pressure and quicker access to hot water), but there is everything I need. I love the smooth granite counter... so easy to clean! It has a gas stove, which is hard to find in a rental. We have figured out ways to compensate for our vast amount of cooking supplies and gear (helloooo, IKEA!), and the dining room table is right over the counter... I can fix mochas for visitors and keep on cookin' during our chat.

Our kitchen is full of fun toys, essential gear, music, a notable collection of cookbooks and food-related writings, thoughtful quotes, colorful art, a vast array of herbs and spices, beautiful bowls and vases, wine and spirits... a place of nourishment and creativity.

Sometimes I feel like a painter in my studio, carefully arranging the color, texture and flavor elements of a dish according to some ethereal muse... and other times, I feel like a mad scientist in my laBORatory, fooling around with bacteria and enzymes, proteins and acids, temperature and weights. But at its very best, my kitchen makes me feel like the ultimate mix of art and science... I dabble in alchemy and create magical new things where before there were only mundane ingredients. Of course, there is plenty of failure and humility to be found as well, but where there is risk, the delight of a success is even sweeter.

When my kitchen is clean and well-stocked, I feel on top of the world... the leader of the free world and his family could sashay in and I'd be able to whip them up something delicious in no time. Vegan? Gluten-free? No dairy? Voracious carnivore? No worries... I can handle it!
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I am so very grateful for a strong and healthy body. There are issues... not many folks running around on the Earth for half a century are free of issues... but none are major enough to cause me more than occasional inconvenience. Basically, the chassis is still going strong and I'm so glad!
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Well, the first one is gonna be the easiest: I'm so grateful for my family, starting with my best friend and buddy Bill. I won the lottery four times with my kids. My sister is my loudest and most sincere cheerleader. And my dad is always there for me. I even hit the jackpot with my second set of in-laws.

I'm a much better person for having these people in my life. Thank you!


Jun. 28th, 2011 10:04 am
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[ profile] mh75 did a great LJ thing a while back, posting every day for a month about things that made her happy. She's doing another one for July, this time focusing on gratitude.

Anne Lamott writes that the two best prayers she knows are "help me, help me, help me," and "thank you, thank you, thank you." Constructive Living teaches that cultivating gratitude is a tremendous help in getting your life in order (the practice is originally based on the Japanese therapy of Naikan... a little more info here). In the past, when I have chosen to set aside little aggravations in favor of appreciating the bigger picture, I have definitely felt better.

It's an effort, though (as are all good things), so this sounds like a great way to get back into the mindset of choosing to be grateful. My pre-July gratitude is for having a friend like [ profile] mh75 to remind me of what's important, and to give me a way to appreciate it.

Oh, and of course, I'd absolutely love it if any of you would like to join us.
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"Those who said the impossible couldn't be done got nudged out of the way by those who were doing the work. But it was harder this time not to give up, harder even than with Nixon. Harder even than with Reagan: hardcore hard, like eight years of a grinding brain fever, of soul flu.

I mean that nicely."

Anne Lamott writes about one of the reasons I'm feeling especially thankful this year.

I have a lot of reasons to be cranky these days. I don't think anyone who knows my family's situation would argue that. But this last month has felt more hopeful and anticipatory and downright fraught with possibility, and one of my favorite writers has thoughtfully put the reason into words for me.

One of my best post-election moments was a conversation with Clay maybe a week or so ago. There was just this incredulous tone in his voice, truly not understanding why it was a big deal for a black man to be elected to the office of president, and an inability to comprehend why anyone would want to deny any subset of our population access to the ability to marry. He knows the history, he just really can't wrap his brain around the mindset of racism or homophobia, and has no tolerance for it. I believe Julia and Cord share this character trait. If this is indicative of our next generation of leaders, we are poised for some terrific progress in the near future.

Kinda puts things into perspective for me.

(And here's a lovely piece I always seek out at this time of year, by another beloved Bay Area essayist, Jon Carroll. Read them both to counteract the waves of Black Friday greed washing over the nation today. Now, I'm off for a wee little adventure. I'll be in touch soon!)

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