Tag Archives: family

If you ain’t scared, maybe you ain’t livin’

Well, at least this is something I tell myself as I delve into my new life here in the Bay Area, after a relatively mellow run (work wise) in the Pacific Northwest. I am incredibly nervous about my first day in the office tomorrow, knowing there is a great deal of political and other pressure on me to make the project I am to lead, succeed.

The move has not been without its drama. My subleasors have decided, after 3 days in my old place, that it needs major work which my landlord isn’t willing to do (like servicing the furnace after a 13 year hiatus and cleaning out the nasty duct work and moldy windows…As a result, I may lose out on the return of my sizable deposit should they leave, and I feel badly that my new tenants are so unhappy and will likely move out, due to unresolved problems. I’m also mad at myself for living in those conditions for a year and a half, and not insisting the work be done when the landlord ignored my requests or asked me to deal with it myself.

All this said, I’m loving California – the sun was shining today and there was a warm breeze outside the open window. I slept in a bit, worked all morning, then took a break to go buy a printer and have lunch at the Emeryville Market, and to purchase an audio book to accompany on my new commute to San Jose, starting tomorrow. My temporary roommate is warm, welcoming and accommodating. I feel fortunate to have found such a great temporary housing situation, however, I miss my kiddo and girlfriend terribly…who am I if not a partner and mom? Oh, yeah, career girl! I asked for it, after all. Yes indeed.

Oakland sky today, December 6, 2010

I have to be patient and loving with myself and just trust that I’ll get through this state of ambiguity…being away from my friends and loved ones, living with a near-stranger, living in a city that I must reacquaint myself with, and the uncertainty of a new job and all its expectations. (What if I fall on my face???)

Yet this is exactly what I’ve been dreaming about – a challenging new direction, living in a sunnier, more urban climate, and I just have to go through (and embrace?) the transition period. A year from now, I will feel settled once again…reacquainted with old friends and family, established in my job, newly acquainted with co-workers and associates, and Jack will be with me, hopefully enjoying own Bay Area adventure. And with any luck, Noel will be here, too. So much trust, so much patience, required for this larger-than-life move.

I realized today that not since 1986, have I made a move of this magnitude, alone. I’ve always had a lover helping me with all the little details, comforting me in bed at night, pitching in with all the little details like setting up the cable. It’s hard to do all of this alone and I do find myself waking up at 2am, heart pounding, and palms sweating. But then I talk myself down, remind myself this scary feeling is part of any big, positive change, and keep moving forward. I remind myself of all the times I made big changes in the past, and how afraid I was – to attend graduate school, to have a baby, to move to Seattle 5 years ago…all huge and wonderful changes, that I don’t regret, but which terrified me at the time, as does this change.

Breathe, Alisa. Just breathe, and take it one day at a time.

I’ve been reading through numerous documents related to my new job. Feeling there’s an awful lot of bureaucracy and verbosity involved, and that it could all be much more simple than it’s become. Maybe that will be my contribution to the project….applying my motto of, “KISS”. Hopefully, I won’t just be dealing with a bunch of egos, but with people who sincerely care about the educational and psycho-social needs of young children and infants. I’d love to be a part of something meaningful, with a lasting legacy, that I can truly believe in and promote. I hold a high vision for myself, hoping to make a positive and constructive contribution to what is about to become my 24/7 life, at least for a while.

Here’s hoping for a good nights sleep, sweet dreams, and keeping the faith, when I find myself asking myself, What the hell was I thinking?”



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Embracing Unexpected Time Out

Smack dab in the middle of my frantic efforts to move out of my home by Sunday night, a severe storm wiped the power out on Monday. Huddled in front of the wood burning stove on Jack’s mattress, we managed to keep a warm fire going until we ran out of wood, around 8pm. The temperatures plummeted as we slept, and when I awakened at 5am, it was 20 degrees. In the house.

Jack tending the wood burning stove.

I live in a little mobile home park community, and so to be very honest, I bundled up and went in search of wood to steal (borrow?) from my neighbor’s new wood pile to build a fire…but there was no kindling, and the log I stole was too big for my stove anyway. So I sat on the floor in front of the stove, shivering pathetically in the dark, as my slept on his mattress, trying to figure out what to do next.

Tap, tap, tap…there was a light knocking on my door. Embarrassingly, it was the very neighbor from whom I’d just stolen wood. With an uncharacteristically big smile on his face, he extended his arms full of kindling and smaller pieces of wood, saying, “This should do the trick,” to get a fire going (obviously I’d had no smoke billowing out of my chimney). I sheepishly confessed my theft which it turns out he’d observed from his window, and he simply responded by asking he could take my tea kettle and heat it on his bbq to make hot water for me. I can’t tell you how much this gesture meant to me; it’s probably one of the kindest things anyone’s done for me, in light of the dire circumstances of the sub-freezing temperatures and no power on the island!

Later that morning, we accompanied Jillian to work at Virginia Mason Clinic, blessedly warmed by a generator. As our feet thawed out, we spent a lovely day in the spacious and generously stocked staff lunch room, visiting with Larry, Eli, Jillian and her co-workers. We had a thoroughly lovely day, but when it became apparent that the power was going to remain out yet another night, Jack and I hightailed it to Seattle (in the sunlight of the 14 degree afternoon, while the black-ice-coated streets had had half a chance of melting a bit). A relaxing and unexpected evening ensued, spent with my son and Noel’s father, who prepared a delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs for us.

Although I was extremely anxious to get back to my packing (and my mess of a house, by this time), I made the decision for Jack and I to drive to Cannon Beach, Oregon, to fulfill our plans to spend Thanksgiving with some of my family, who had come up from California to visit my niece who is attending a little Bible college there in Ecola, just a stone’s throw from legendary Haystack Rock.

Haystack Rock, Ecola, Oregon

Despite my anxiety about the move, and all the pressures I felt, I was actually able to relax and enjoy our visit together in our tiny cabin for two days. We enjoyed Cornish Game Hens (or as Jack named them, Turkish Corn Hens!), steamed broccoli, yams, potatoes, and lots of goat brie and crackers. Not exactly our typical over-the-top Thanksgiving fare, but made all the more special for the long treks we each took to arrive at the beach just for the enjoyment of one another’s company.

The trip home included an enjoyable detour to Portland to explore the Hawthorne district and enjoy an incredibly delicious Thai lunch with Jack’s other mom and her step sons.

I’m so glad that I took time out of my hectic life to enjoy some small pleasures. The gorgeous drive down the snowy coast, walking on the beach at 9pm, with the tide seemingly miles out, hanging out with my niece at her dorm and meeting some of her friends, and even watching mindless HGTV upon awakening at 6am, waiting for the rest of my family to stir, hours later. The trip to Portland, and a sweet reunion with my honey (who arrived with homemade pumpkin pie), upon my arrival home last night.

Today, it’s back to hauling, painting, Goodwill runs, and cleaning. All fortified by the time I took to rest, enjoy loved ones, eat some good food, and take a few more days off (due to the storm and power outage) then expected. I’ll always enjoy the memories of our trip to Cannon Beach, and the time spent with my son, before the pace of life triples in the next few weeks, following the move to California and the start of a new job.


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My mother, myself

Last weekend, I attended my mother’s memorial service. She died of cancer at the young age of 68, and was followed to the other side by her husband and dog, within 6 months after her death.

We held a simple, informal, non-religious service at the site where she and her husband’s ashes were buried, in the family cemetery out side of Memphis. The day was unseasonably warm and sunny and we were joined by family members from three different countries.

As we each shared our memories and thoughts of mom, a few themes became prominent. Mom was a woman unto herself – a cheerful recluse, who doted on her dog, and made long honey-do lists for her husband, who in turn, doted on her. Everyone agreed that mom was a great conversationalist, both on the phone, and through highly detailed correspondence. Mom had a great laugh and most of all, mom lived a simple life, and truly appreciated the small things in life. She loved herbs and spices, natural beauty products, a good fabric softener, caring for her schnauzer, and keeping a tidy home. Although she and my step-dad traveled throughout Europe for several years, she was happiest at home, studying new recipes, listening to NPR and reading esoteric books and magazines.

I found it striking how little her siblings are like her, how they all had careers and pursued material success and lived more extravagantly than the average person. Mom was surely the black sheep of her family.

As much as I admire mom’s contentment with her life, I also recognize that she was pretty obsessive compulsive, to the point where we would miss ferry boats and airplanes as children, due to the house having to be perfectly clean before we could leave. Mom had a form of agoraphobia, which made it difficult for her to leave the house without her husband. She hadn’t driven in years, and although she could be quite sociable, visits frequently were shortened by migraines induced by the stress of hosting people at her house, or being outside of her very controlled environment. Most of us had great phone relationships with her, but few of us ever saw her!

I admire many aspects of my mother’s lifestyle. I value her appreciation of everything from a pretty rhododendron to pictures and letters I sent her over the years, all of which she valued and kept. She was unconditionally supportive and encouraging of me. She accepted me as a lesbian. She was a curious and positive person, despite her self-imposed limitations. She loved sharing recipes and health tips.

As an Aries, I have a much greater need for social interaction, new challenges, and physical stimulation than my Aquarian mother ever did. We couldn’t be more different on the surface. But I seek to live with the kind of appreciation and gratitude she felt for all she had in her life.

Days before her death in hospice, she was having the nurses Google “laughter therapy” as a way to beat cancer. She entertained them with all kinds of stories, and there were many laughs coming out of her room right up until the end. I’ll miss our phone conversations, mom, and our giggles and laughter shared, despite 2,000 miles and the Canadian border between us.

Last photo of mom and I together in hospice, just before she passed:


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Urban living with a minimalist twist. OR – Decisions, Decisions

If I’d taken my father’s advice whenever I had an opportunity (or created one for myself!), I’d be a childless, single, secretary, never fully living this great adventure, I call my life…perfect or not.

During a conversation yesterday he discouraged me from seizing an opportunity to take a lucrative job that I would absolutely love, because it requires a move back to San Francisco (and off my quaint little island where I admittedly have built a sweet life and cultivated a few very meaningful friendships).

He suggested I examine my life-long patterns of switching-up my life every 4 or 5 years, and asked if I was just “pulling a geographic out of boredom”. I told him I have done a little soul searching (thank you very much), and I’ve decided to embrace the fact that I’m all about adventure, learning, growing, self-discovery, building community – a free spirit, who thrives from taking risks. I have unique skills (I love setting up new programs and businesses, and I’m willing to take risks), skills that it turns out, people will pay for! I’ve also maintained very close ties to my friends in the Bay Area over the last 5 years, which honestly surprised me…so on my last visit there, it felt like home.

It then occurred to me that my father has discouraged me from taking any opportunity I’ve encountered, including having a child (too expensive and burdensome), getting my master’s degree (you have a perfectly good job as a secretary, with great benefits, and a child to support). Or leaving a really unhealthy relationship (what about your financial security?) All of this is somewhat ironic giving his love of living on sailboats, and his dislike of traditional American culture. But I’m his daughter, and he worries.

I realize that dad is motivated by fear, and the need for security, while I’m motivated by the need for adventure and freedom. No judgment. It just is.

What’s your primary motivator? Love, safety, family, adventure, continuity, peace, new challenges?

Let’s discuss.

All this said, this tempting opportunity begs the question….could I continue to embrace this minimalist life I have now cultivated, while living in San Francisco? Or would I be lured back into eating out every night, shopping for recreation, buying another home, and consuming my way through the city like a PacMan on speed (given a better salary than I earn with my non-profit here in the Pacific Northwest). I’d like to think so.

I ask myself many questions. Would my spirit die from the city noise, heavy traffic, street litter, and the dense population? Will I regret a move such as this, when I’m stuck in my first traffic jam while attending meetings in San Jose? On the other hand, I look forward to seeking out my SGI brothers and sisters, living in a thriving lesbian community again, the accessibility and variety of independent local theater and music, a thriving nightlife, and exploring my beloved Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park. And not least of all, reconnecting with long-time friends who have remained my confidants all these years.

Having watched the incredible movie, Return to the Garden, last night with my son and kindred spirit, Deborah Milton, at the historic Lynwood theater, I have cause to pause. The lives these rugged hippie individualists choose to lead are appealing, admirable, and enviable. I’m reminded that I live a sweet life on Bainbridge Island, and it’s true – it is lovely. And like the protagonists in our story, I don’t quite earn enough to support my son, and while I like my job, I admit, I’m ready for new challenges, and the stress of insurmountable old debt (from my previous consumer-driven lifestyle) is overwhelming at times.

Back to the Garden Film

Meanwhile, Noel is much more likely to find a tax attorney job in SF, and my son is chomping at the bit for the move (an Aries, like me, he’s always up for something new). Having already decided to leave high school a year early to get his GED, he wants to work at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in SF, which used to be our extended family, when his other mom and auntie worked there – until they went on to “professional” careers as a nurse and social worker. It’s a great idea – connecting him with folks who have our shared values, and many of whom remember and love him, still. Could we live in the Mission district and raise chickens and drive an electric car, like my friend Julie? Or live like Rita, who lives in a fantastic flat in Northbeach, and walks to her corporate job in the financial district each day, writing and painting by night? Could we live communally with others, enjoying shared resources while saving the extra money, paying down debt and continuing to adhere to these new values (which took me several years to achieve, after leaving the bay area)?

Here are some ideals I have, for simple living in a big city:

Ride a bike and take public transportation – ditch the car
Join a food coop, or better yet, put in a few shifts a month
Rent a place with a patch of dirt for some veggie gardening
Raise chickens
Build or join a community garden
Join organizations to meet people and cultivate personal interests
Use the higher salary to pay down debt, increase monthly cash-flow, and put money aside for the future (rather than buying the next pretty thing)
Buy experiences, not things
Seek out and build community with like-minded individuals
Spend a lot of time in parks and nature
Join on-line communities such as Urban Homesteader to learn more. Or to have a laugh, AND learn more, check out My Intentional Life

What do you city dwelling readers to do simplify life in the city? I’d love to hear from you!


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Raw, raw, ah, ah, ahhhh, La, La Oo La La..

A nod to all the Lady Gaga fans out there.  But speaking of raw….

Scored a $230 Acme juicerator and a vintage (and very powerful!) Osterizer blender at the Rotary Auction last week.  Got both for $40!  Noel got herself a juicer, and we both got a bag full of great clothes (including flip flops and a great leather purse) for $10 each, I might add.  Love our annual auction – takes up the entire middle school grounds.  I’m loving eating mostly raw (with some Ezekial sprouted bread and tortillas tossed in for variety).  I’ve discovered raw almond butter, raw cheese, raw honey, and last night, found cold pressed (raw), Turkish olive oil at Seattle’s open studios night!  I feel like I’m always on a scavenger hunt for the hidden raw foods in a store…it’s great fun.   Noel’s feeling much better, drinking a variety of green smoothies, and feels it’s helping her prepare for the BAR exam coming up on the 26th.

I haven’t had any of the negative side effects people describe when going on a raw diet because I think my diet was pretty clean already…although a couple of nights this week I slept 10 hours!  However, I’ve had tons of energy during the day, my sinuses have cleared up, and I have a lot more mental clarity – the BRAIN FOG is gone!  And I’m sleeping much better – waking up during the night much less frequently.

Followed the auction with attending Heather and Sean’s most amazing wedding ever…a bunch of us were asked to prepare foods which created the most amazing vegetarian feast….lots of baked polenta, fresh green salads, a cheese and bread/cracker bar, roasted veggies, sushi, and home brewed beers and wines (I don’t suggest drinking a lot of honey wine on an empty stomach after sitting in the sun for 4 hours, though!).  I have the feeling that wasn’t the typical 12% alcohol you find in most wines?!  Heather?  Sean? Had a blast with our extended family, Larry, Jillian, Maya, Eli, and Noel joined us later in the evening after studying all day.

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