Hello 2015

My 2014 ended with a bang, the reverberations of which I am still feeling. No need to go into detail, but it’s been a hard time. And when hard times hit, I tend to lose interest in speaking.

So I have been listening to a lot of music, loudly and by myself. When the Hobbit and Two are at school or after they’ve gone to sleep. And I’ve been trying to find my way back to my writing life.

In pursuit of this latter goal, I returned to one of my favorite writing spots last week. It’s a cafe called Bean There, and as far as I’m concerned it’s got a perfect combination of warmth, light, space, sound and nourishment. There are people who’ve been hanging out there since I used it as my “office” fifteen years ago. Probably longer, but I can’t verify. The vibe is mellow, unpretentious. And the coffee is better than average. Not amazing but affordable and effective nonetheless. It’s a very San Francisco place, in the best possible sense, and I did some really wonderful writing there way back when. Long story short: from the moment I walked in I felt a little sunnier.

Eudora Welty also helped. I’d pulled her One Writer’s Beginnings out of my basement stash of writing books and brought it with me to Bean There because Eudora’s writing books are so good and they tend to illuminate not just writing but living. Example: when describing her father on the second page of the book, she writes

“He told us children what to do if we were lost in a strange country. ‘Look where the sky is brightest along the horizon,’ he said. ‘That reflects the nearest river. Strike out for a river and you will find habitation.'”

Sound advice. And so beautifully put. It made me want to be lost in a strange land. It made me wonder where the river is in my own situation. It made me stop, look up, feel gratitude anew for Bean There and its cast of characters. For cities and San Francisco in particular. For habitation and my fellow human beings.

It made me think that there just might be a bright place along the horizon of this year that started so strangely.

Thanks, Eudora.


While Digging

At the playground with Two, who’s now three! – 

“This shovel is old,” she said. “We should throw it away.”

“Nooooo,” I said. “Don’t throw it away. I’m old – give it to me.”

“Ok.  But are you broken?  Because it’s broken, too.”


After the Battle

The Hobbit just fell asleep in my arms.

We fought this evening. There was shouting. About what?  Ugh. Who knows.  I didn’t give him enough free time.  I rushed him.

“Why are you so cruel?!” he said to me. “I don’t know!” I said. “But if I’m so horrible, why don’t you go to the Mom Shop and get a new mom?!”

Man, do I hate fighting with him. I hate yelling. Even while I am doing it, I’m thinking: Surely there’s another way this could have gone. And I feel hasty, impatient, childish. Then I think: What was it that Dr. Spock wrote? That it is okay to get mad? That it is healthy even, for a child to see a parent dealing with anger?

Yeah, yeah. The things we tell ourselves. But did I deal with it okay? Who knows. I did what I could.

At least the night ended with a cuddle. And Two went to sleep easily.  Lord help me when she really gets to talking.

Wine anyone?

This Really Got To Me

On Saturday, I actually had a moment to read the paper.  It was breakfast time and I was sitting at the table with the Hobbit and Two.  The paper was the San Francisco Chronicle, and when I opened it I found the following picture and list of programs that were cut in the just-passed California budget. Damn, I thought as I took it in.  First there was the picture – all those faces! – and the knowledge that all those people would be affected.  I’d seen the picture before, a few weeks back, when the Chronicle ran an article profiling some of the programs that were set to be eliminated in the budget, so I knew that it was a day program where adults living in one of San Francisco’s most under-resourced neighborhoods went for health services, meals, socializing.  What would they do now? I wondered.

Then there was the list itself and those stark line-items standing out there alone without jargon or spin. They left me with a strong sense of the tough days and nights ahead for the people who receive services and the people who provide them.  As these are people who already have been living through tough days and nights – I suddenly I imagined them coming under increased pressure and stress.  I thought of the homeless people I used to work with and how most of them were just fragile people who had been pushed too far.  And I thought of some of these people cracking under the pressure.

I know budgets are tight.  I know.  And I know cuts need to be made, and that no one wants to drive businesses out of state by raising taxes, and that no one wants to pay more in taxes period.  But the vulnerabilities are real.  And the money is there.  It doesn’t feel like it is because everyone’s belt is tighter than it used to be.  But it is.


Programs that were cut in state budget

Mike Kepka / The Chronicle

Al Williams waits for lunch at the Bayview-Hunters Point Adult Day Health Center. The state cut all funds for such programs.

Health and Human Services
Medi-Cal co-pay for hospital admissions of $200 and co-pay for each day in the hospital of $100 $151.2 million
A 10 percent reduction in what the state pays for Medi-Cal patients at all long-term care facilities $172.3 million
A 10 percent reduction in what the state pays to physicians who see people on Medi-Cal $567 million
A cap on Medi-Cal visits to doctors of seven per year, unless otherwise medically necessary $44.9 million
Medi-Cal co-payments of $3 (generic) and $5 (brand name) for prescription medications $140.3 million
An increase in premiums and co-pays, benefits, and elimination of vision care for the Healthy Families program $30.5 million
A broad cut to services for the developmentally disabled, including to regional centers $568.6 million
Reductions to the In-Home Supportive Services, a program that’s an alternative to nursing home care. $486 million
Eliminate Adult Day Health Care programs, which provide rehabilitation and social activities for elderly, disabled people. $90 million
General reduction for the medical supply stockpile and mobile field hospitals for major public health emergencies $5.8 million
Shift from early childhood development fund to the general fund for Medi-Cal expenses $1 billion
New Medi-Cal co-pay for physician and clinic visits of $5 per visit $152.8 million
Welfare and child care
Cut welfare grants for families by 8 percent $300 million
Reduce welfare limits from 60 months total to 48 months $171 million
Reduce all state contracts for child care, including pre-school, by 15 percent $267 million
Eliminate some child care services for 11- and 12-year-old children $38.5 million
Reduce state reimbursement for child care by 10 percent $109 million
Colleges and Universities
Unallocated cut to UC $500 million
Unallocated cut to CSU $500 million
Unallocated cut to Hastings College of the Law $1.5 million
Unallocated cut and a fee increase of $10 per unit for community colleges $510 million
Natural Resources
Reduce number of firefighters on Cal Fire engines from four to three $30.7 million
Closure of a yet undetermined number of state parks $11 million
Eliminate state funding for fairs and agricultural districts $30 million

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/03/18/BA5B1IENKI.DTL#ixzz1HIH8xLPG

Funny Little Two

I think I’ve got a soul sister on my hands.  Possibly even a Diva in the making.

From the first time Two rode in the car with me, the only music that would settle her was the Etta James At Last! cd.  No joke. We’ve got a six-cd changer, sometimes an iPod hooked up, and for over a year now, whenever Two has started to holler – from sleepiness, hunger, whatever – it’s been Etta and only Etta, singing about how blue she is, who can calm her.  No Dan Zanes for our Two.  No Jack Johnson or Putumayo Playgrounds.  Not even Hank Williams, one of the Hobbit’s favorites.  Just Etta, Etta, Etta.

Or so I thought.  Then, last Wednesday, we were driving home after dropping off the Hobbit at school and I reached a limit.  Hosni Mubarak had just stepped down as the President of Egypt and happy little me was happily driving along, happily listening to the incredible news.  Then, suddenly, Two started to fuss.  I winced.  “Not much longer, darlin,” I said weakly.

She started to holler.

No!!!  I thought.  Please!  Not more Etta!

As she started to get really loud, I reached toward the Play button, toward that cd number 4.  But I just couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t listen to any more Etta.

So what did I do?  I mustered some cheer and said, “All right, all right.  How about this?”  And I held my breath, switched from NPR to KISS FM – our local 70s and 80s funk, soul, R&B station – and waited.  As a funky beat came through the speakers, I checked the rearview mirror.  It was a real, groovy, chikkawakka, bell-bottoms and big afro sound.  And…

Two was settling!

No way, I thought.  That’s hilarious.  I checked the rearview mirror again and found:

A smile!  Full-on Stevie Wonder head weaving!

Praise God Almighty!  I’m free at last.

Here’s A Funny One

So, we moved the Hobbit to a new preschool a few weeks back.  This one happens to be part of the synagogue we go to, and on Fridays all the classes in the preschool gather for a Shabbat service – a few prayers, a song or two, blessings, bread breaking.  Usually it is led by one of the rabbis. Sometimes by a teacher.  All very nice.

Last Friday was a visitor Shabbat, which means that after scooping Two out of her crib I raced off to make the 11:30 service.  We were a couple of minutes late but we found a seat toward the back of the gathering.  The group was singing a song and since I don’t know all the songs, I hummed along, bouncing two on my lap, all the while searching the crowd for my little Hobbit.  I found him almost right away, down in front, sitting with his class.  He looked as cute as ever, but I noticed that he was holding a hand over one of his ears and I wondered why.  Shoot, I thought.  I hope he doesn’t have an ear ache.

At the end of the service, when he came running over to me, his hand was still over his ear.  “What’s wrong?” I asked him.

He looked at me blankly.

“With your ear?  Why are you holding your hand like that?”

“Oh,” he said.  “I’m on a call.”


Two Is One!

My little Two turned one last week. She walks, she chatters, she feeds herself. She is quite cute and I love watching her study and doggedly pursue mastery over the world around her. This morning I passed several minutes watching her try to put a little cap on a small-sized spritzer bottle. She had the right idea, but she couldn’t quite coordinate the open side of the cap with the top of the bottle. That didn’t stop her from trying though. She turned the bottle over, then the cap, the bottle, the cap, patiently trying to fit them together. When she dropped the cap and it rolled across the floor, she crawled after it, brought it back to the bottle and started over trying to fit it on.

In addition to loving the sight of her little hands working, and the expression in her eyes that said the wheels of her mind were turning, I loved her focus. She was so present for what she was doing, so unhurried.

Come to think of it, it is pretty cool to be one. Especially when compared to zero. You have some independence. You can try lots of tasty foods. You can shake your head when you want to say no and shout when you want your milk already. You can recognize when you are making someone laugh and laugh along with her. All in all it ain’t bad.

Yay for Two! I’m glad you were born. And I’m glad to be getting to know you.

Sent From My iPhone

I entered the twenty-first century recently when my handy dandy, totally reliable, three year-old, not even remotely intelligent flip style cell phone up and died on me. I took the plunge and got an iPhone. I’d thought and I’d thought and I’d decided it was time to try it out.

So far I’ve been very satisfied. I feel much less behind on email, I found a great To-do list app, and I just posted my first phone-drafted blog entry. Here’s hoping I can do more, more often!

The Hobbit Is Four

It’s a sign of the times that I’m just getting around to this. The Hobbit’s been four almost a month now. O well, what can I do? Life pulls me in many directions these days and I’m a gal who spent most of her life seeking just one direction for her attention. Again I write, o well. At least I am feeling fully alive.

The Hobbit helps with that – making me feel fully alive that is. He is so alive himself! He is pretty excellent and I wish I had more time and more energy to write about him. Perhaps one little story will suffice.

A few months back, one of my sisters sent us a (totally excellent) picture book called Nine For California. In it, a girl called Amanda travels in a stage coach with her mom, brothers and baby sister to California during the Gold Rush. It’s difficult to say who enjoys this story more – the Hobbit or the Husband and I – but either way, the result is we read it a lot. After one reading a week or so ago, the Husband said to the Hobbit, “And you know, near my office there is a museum where you can see a real stage coach.” This thrilled the Hobbit of course, and a promise was made.

So it was that last Monday, when the Mother-in-Law was in town and willing to stick around while Tiny Two took her nap, I saw an opportunity. “Hey Shorty,” I said, “how about we go downtown and see the stage coach?”

“The one near Dad’s office?” he asked.

“That’s it. We can bring Dad a treat (it happened to be the Husband’s birthday), then go see the stage coach he told us about.”

The Hobbit was all over this idea, totally excited, and so was I. It’s not often we get to go on adventures together, and just the two of us, and on public transportation.

Since the Hobbit was already dressed, I had only myself to get ready, and get ready I did.

When I came back from my room, I found him putting on one of the Husband’s neckties with the help of his grandmother. “What are you doing, Shorty?” I asked him. “What’s up with the tie?”

“Oh,” he said in his deep ‘guy’ voice, “I have a meeting today.”

He sounded just like the Husband, and he was so serious about the whole thing. I tell ya, as we headed down the street, I and my little guy, with him wearing a tie that hung almost to his knees, chattering away about his upcoming meeting and frequently “checking his email” on an old cell phone he’d asked to borrow before we left home, I felt happier than I had in a while.

I sure do love that guy. He can be a handful and a half, there’s no denying that. But he’s great and my life is better with him in it. Happy belated birthday, Hobbit!