Thursday, May 31, 2007


One year ago today, mom was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. This fact just hit me a few hours ago. No wonder I feel so craptastic today.

She lived 10 months, 12 days out of sheer stubborness mostly. She's probably still as pissed off about her dying as I am.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bad News

My (paternal) grandmother died. More later.


Moms passed away sometime near midnight last night. We got back from the beach early on Wednesday and went to the hospital to check on everyone. At the time they were starting dialysis to try to clear the toxins from her body, but she was too far gone to be saved.

Not thinking, I went into the room to see her and instantly regretted it. Sudden toxic shock to the body does not look pretty. She looked worse than mom ever had and I thought that was bad. Very dumb move on my part, resulting in instant trauma and flashbacks.

It's all too tragic for me to even wrap my head around at this point. Just the irony itself is mind boggling. A colonoscopy 10 years ago would have surely saved mom's life--and now a colonoscopy has taken my grandmother.

I think I'll just go bang my head against a wall until that makes sense...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sylvia Beach Hotel: Day 2

I wish I could wake up every morning and have a buffet and hot breakfast waiting for me downstairs with an ocean view. Perhaps I should hire some elves and borrow Tessa's Endless Beach video.

Despite wanting to get away, it's been very hard for me to unplug completely. Hence I made the mistake of listening to uncle J's belated birthday message and replying by text, after which he immediately called me back. I guess he didn't take my voice mail seriously, in which I specifically say I'm on vacation and won't be returning calls until Wednesday. And why should he, when I'm so clearly chained to the outside world? I guess I need a few more trips here so I can get the hang of it. Of course my girlfriend is exempt from the rules, which is why I even had my phone out in the first place. Next time I go to the beach, she will be with me and then the phone is going into a deep suitcase pocket, never to be seen until check out.

It's funny that with less obligations than ever, I'm also harder to get a hold of than ever. But I'm just so drained from having to be in charge and take care of people and so I've just drawn into a shell to keep away from the people who want things from me.

I've been paper journaling during my stay here at the hotel and I really like it. My hand gets tired, but I need to start doing it again on a regular basis, especially considering my penchant for blank books. I bought another moleskin book, a calendar with notebook pages included for each week. I thought it would be a good paper memory, to make notes about the details of my day, which I tend to forget as soon as a night has passed. The dates will already be in there if I need to remember something about a particular day. We'll see if this new habit can be solidified for the long haul. And maybe it will also keep my frustration level down when I don't have time to write in excruciating detail as I so love to do.

UPDATED, late afternoon:

I was expecting a call from Jess on her lunch break, so I happened to have my phone on again and picked up a text message from my cousin: Aunt Mickey gravely ill, call me or dad. I had a few moments of confusion. Why was my cousin in Portland texting me about my Aunt Mickey in Texas? Reflexively, I hit speed dial and called her. It wasn't until I was on the phone that I figured out that she meant her aunt Mickey...who is my grandmother on my dad's side.

Lee Lee had taken Moms, as we call her, for a routine colonoscopy that morning. Sometime during the procedure, a nurse came out and said that there'd been a complication and they needed to get her to the hospital right away. At the hospital, they found a hole in her colon and it was leaking feces into her abdomen and causing infection. Though the people at the clinic didn't admit to it, it pretty much sounds like they poked a hole in her colon during the procedure and had to rush her to the hospital to fix their mistake.

They were about to take her into surgery but she was unconscious and the prognosis wasn't good. I talked to my dad and he sounded pretty good considering. At least I had time to get used to the idea. I told him we'd be back tomorrow and come to the hospital and he promised to keep me updated.

When we got back to the hotel, I took a quick walk over to Illingsworth Gifts, but they didn't have the stationary I was looking for. They did have truffles so I bought one for each of us in case of midnight chocolate cravings. Then I settled back into the green chair in the library and wrote some more. I meant to plant myself there for the evening, but the sun streaming through the window worked it's magic on me and I decided a short nap might be in order. The only alarm I had was my phone so I went without and hoped I wouldn't sleep the night away.

I woke when I heard Carmen come back to the room. It was just before 7:00. I went back out to my chair and resumed writing. Then Traci came back and she and Carmen started another puzzle, this time a 750 piece panorama of Times Square.

I couldn't resist. Before you could say, “pass me that edge piece,” I was fully sucked into the puzzle madness. In fact I ended up in charge of the top and side edges, while Carmen searched obsessively for the faces of Beyonce and Jessica Alba and Traci put together the words 'Times Square” and a description of the photo on the bottom.

We only stopped because we had to go get dinner before the restaurants closed. The desk attendant had recommended Local Ocean seafood as a good place that was near but just beyond the main tourist drag. Our waitress was slow but eager and friendly (in fact her slowness stemmed in part from her friendliness) and the crab cakes were excellent.

Back at home, Carmen bailed out of the puzzle about midway and then Traci abandoned me near the end. I should have stopped and gone back to writing but I was too close to finishing. The last sections were mostly a sea of almost solid black that proved tricky but I developed a system of separating all the pieces by shape and pulling from the appropriate shape pile in turn. I finished around midnight with three pieces missing, but still satisfied.

I went to put on my pajamas before I went back to writing and was informed by Traci that we had a visitor. Dickens the cat had taken residence on my bed. I was thrilled. I went back to my library chair but when I turned in around 2:00am, he was still there, curled at the end of my bunk. I carefully pried the covers back just enough to shove myself in. There was room for one leg to straighten out against the wall and the other I tucked up against my chest. After about 10 minutes of kneading my leg, he settled back down and went to sleep. Squishing myself around to accommodate an arrogant felt just like home.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sylvia Beach Hotel: Day 1

Back at the Sylvia Beach Hotel for some uninterrupted writing time. We got out of town a little after noon today. We had to take my car, but Traci came along unexpectedly so I made her drive while I could finish my book (Blood Bound, by Patricia Higgins). It's been almost physically painful not just being able to finish it in one long session. I miss the days when I could just put everything off but eating and sleeping until I was finished with a good book. I got through Fried Green Tomatoes in one day that way, the same day I saw the movie and found out there even was a book. The book was better of course.

We grabbed some lunch at the Chowder Bowl one block over from the hotel. It's nice being out with meat eaters and not having to think too much about the restaurants we go to. I ordered Slumgolian Chowder, which doesn't sound like anything you should ever put in your mouth, but is really just chowder with a bunch of baby shrimp in it. The waitress couldn't tell me why it's named that though. It didn't matter because it came out piled with shrimp and a pat of butter on top! What could be better?

UPDATED 12:41am:

We had a fabulous dinner tonight with MUCH better company than the last time I was here with Jess. Carmen opted out of dinner for tonight so Traci and I went together. At our table was a couple who lived just up the street, Jim and Pam. They appeared to be in their 60's at least and seemed like a really happy, very romantic couple. His parents had gotten them a gift certificate for dinner. Gay (yes, that was really her name) and John were a mother/son pair from Portland. John is a theatre director who helped start the NW Children's Theatre and then went his separate way to start something new more recently. Because the theatre community is so tiny, he knew my friend Adrienne, who now runs the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center. John also asked about the last production I saw Adrienne in at the Coho theater, written by Dan, another high school friend who is now living and writing plays in New York. I couldn't remember the name of the play to save my life (until 30 minutes later, when I suddenly blurted "Jingle Spree!" into a conversational pause, causing John and my sister to look at me at first, oddly and then with knowing expressions), but after a brief plot synopsis, John remembered the play.

Randi is a judge from Cleveland who was visiting with her mother Rita. They're staying in the Agatha Christie room and found SBH through the booklet on 1000 places to see before you die. Everyone seemed very nice and told interesting stories. Rita and Traci found quite a few favorite Columbus restaurants they had in common, proving once again that it's a small world.

Most of our table was game for the two truths and a lie game and we had a lot of fun once we got going. Pam was especially good at grilling people with pointed questions that made me sweat when it was my turn. I started to ramble out of nervousness and was sure I'd given myself away but I fooled a couple of people. My statements were that I rode my bike from Seattle to Portland twice, I performed on stage with Ani Difranco and that I had bungee jumped from a hot air balloon. Pam asked me how the balloon was anchored, which was one of the questions that got me in trouble. I have been bungee jumping, just not from a hot air balloon, though I've heard it's been done.

Other people were quite clever with their lies and it was fun questioning them. I was kind of jealous that everyone at the table seemed to still have parents, or at least the parent they liked best to travel with. I wonder what it would have been like to still have a mom in my 60's. I'm trying not to dwell on how many long years I'm going to be without a mom—assuming I live that long. Sometimes, I still can't believe she left us.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Spa Day

Last night Idge decided to sneak up from her usual sleeping place near my feet and curl up next to my side, squishing me into a tiny space between her and Jess. I spent most of the night dreaming about cats---Jelly Bean was dying of loneliness because Traci was traveling so much so we were trying to get him to be friends with Willow by luring them together with string. Jess offered to move Idge back to her place but I turned her down, cause I'm that much of a sucker.

As soon as I was awake for real, Jess reached down to the floor by her side of the bed and pulled out a card and two more presents. Now that's what I call a good way to start a birthday.

I let my inner child handing the wrapping paper with a lot less care than the night before and soon revealed a new teapot with a loose leaf filter from my favorite tea house on Alberta. There was also a second filter with smaller holes that would work with the vanilla rooibos tea I usually drink. And it'll fit into a cup as well. The teapot was the cutest shade of baby blue and round like a pig's belly. I loved it.

After a proper sleep-in, we got up and I took a quick trip across town to drop my road bike at Cory's shop so he could tinker on her while I'm at the coast. When I got home, we made breakfast together—potatoes, fried eggs and fresh mango. Yum.

By the time we got cleaned up, it was time to head out to Bonneville Hot Springs for our spa day. We took the bridge to Vancouver and out highway 14. It was raining and the Columbia Gorge looked splendid from the Washington side with the mist hanging low into the trees. I enjoyed the view and read my book until we arrived, only a little bit late.

The people at the spa desk were as nice and welcoming as you'd expect. We got signed in and an attendant led us back to the locker rooms, gave us lockers, robes and towels and said someone else would be back to get is in a few minutes.

We were scheduled for a mineral bath & wrap which were a gift from my friend Jacqueline and then I'd added on Rock n Rain treatments-- aromatherapy followed by hot stone massage and then a full body Swedish massage. I'd been looking forward to it all week.

Our attendant came to get us and gave us a choice of 6 foot or 4 ft long tubs. I wasn't sure which one to take. I was leaning towards a long one, but it was in a separate room from Jess, not that we'd really be chatting. The attendant said that she was 5'5” and enjoyed them both so I took the shorter one.

As soon as I got in, I knew I'd made a mistake. I spent a few minutes stressing out about it--it would take a while to fill a whole new tub—but I felt so cramped that in the end, I got out and switched to a longer tub. It was totally the right decision. For some reason I still had trouble quieting my brain during my soak, but my body relaxed anyway.

After 25 minutes, our attendant came to get us and lead us to the wrap room. After putting a hot towel down on the table, I lay down and was covered with heavy blankets which were tucked in on each side. Not so tight I felt claustrophobic, but just enough to feel sort of like a swaddled up baby. A cool towel over my face scented with eucalyptus completed the wrap. The scent was completely soothing as was the feeling of pressure from the blankets every time I took a breath. Now I was able to really relax and enjoy the moment.

After a while, I felt hands on my legs, which was my massage therapist's way of announcing her presence. She introduced herself as Diana and said she'd be doing my massage. She helped me into my robe and I followed her to a massage room with a little warmer for the stones and a lot of oils on a shelf.

She wished me a happy birthday, which meant she'd been paying attention to the form I'd filled out—and then asked if I'd ever had aromatherapy before?

“Nope...oh wait, yeah actually just this week. My half hour massage at Loyly had included some nice lavender scents in a bowl beneath my head. But I could see from her expression that what she had in mind was a little more intense. She went on to explain everything that was about to happen.

First they put drops of some very powerful scented oils along the spine. She explained that viruses lay along the spine and this was a cleansing procedure. She said that if I was getting over something, this would kick it to the curb—likewise, if I was about to get sick, this would bring it on quicker but I would also get over it quicker. I was glad to hear it, since my cold is still lingering after two weeks. She also warned me that my skin might get hot and start to tingle and if it got uncomfortable, to let her know because she had something called Ortho-Ease to take the edge off.

After that she'd use some unscented oil for my massage, using the rocks on my back and legs finishing up with regular massage on the rest of me.

It all sounded great to me. She left the room and I got on the table.

At about the third oil she dropped on my spine, I figured out what she meant when she said I might “get a little hot,” In fact, my neck and shoulders lit up like a hot chili pepper. It went from a tingle to a burn in about 20 seconds. She smoothed some of the ortho ease on it as soon as I said something. It didn't work right away but after a few minutes it was more tolerable. After a couple more aromas, I asked for another dose of the ortho. After that I felt OK. I figured that must be where my cold was residing and maybe the fact that it was so intense was a good sign. Still I was happy when she got some hot towels and rubbed everything off. She made sure to wave the towels to cool them and told me to tell her immediately if it was too hot, but it felt great.

Next we went onto the stones. Again she warned me about the temperature and at first I jumped a little, but she promised that they cool down fast and she kept them moving. Once I relaxed, it was absolutely heavenly—the best thing since sliced bread as far as I'm concerned. She went over my whole back and moved onto my legs as well. As she moved around, she started with a hand on the area so I'd know where she was on my body. She said lots of people fall asleep during this treatment because it's so relaxing and she didn't want me to be startled.

Once the rocks were done, she finished up with an old fashioned Swedish massage. Usually when I get a massage, the therapist can sometimes get caught up working out the massive knots that usually invade my shoulders, but by this time the bath, wrap and rocks had done their job. So the massage was geared to be more relaxing over all and because of that it was a rare treat. I slid into a pleasant fog somewhere between sleeping and waking.

When she was done, I lay on the table for as long as I thought I could get away with and enjoyed the feeling of being a complete noodle.

I tottered out of the room with my cup of water and another bottle for the road. I sat on the bench in the locker room and drank all the water while I waited for Jess. I knew she'd gone in after me and figured she might be a few minutes.

When I was done with the water, nature called so I headed into the bathroom and was surprised to find Jess already there and showered. So I hopped in the shower and met her back in the locker room.

“How was your massage? I wanted to know.

She said it was OK, and something about her tone got my spider sense tingling. As much money as I (well, my friends anyway) were paying for these, she should be as blissed out as I was right then.

Further interrogation revealed that her massage therapist had been terrible. Oh sure, she gave a decent massage but her bedside manner was reminiscent of mom's first oncologist. She'd barely said two words to Jess, not even to introduce herself. She asked if Jess had gotten this treatment before and even when she said no, the woman offered NO explanation of what would go on other than, 'first you'll get the rain, then the hot stones then a massage. No explanation about the possible hotness, no checking in about the heat of the stones, NOTHING. And in fact the aromatherapy did get hot, but Jess has a high tolerance for pain and since the woman hadn't warned her or told her it could be relieved, she didn't say anything.

I was totally upset to hear that she'd been shafted out of a good experience. First the ice cream and now this. What was going on?

When we got up to the desk, she explained what had happened.

“Do you want to speak to a manager?'

“Yes, and I wouldn't mind a discount since her experience was so lacking.” They didn't respond to that, simply called the manager. A woman who's name tag said Joyce came out and talked to us. She listened attentively while Jess told her story. When Jess mentioned that her skin had gotten hot with the aromas, Joyce asked if she said anything about it to the therapist and I wanted to smack her. Victim blaming much? One is not exactly at one's most assertive when lying naked on a table in front of a complete stranger. And we were there to relax. The LAST thing she should have to think about in a setting like that is having to advocate for herself! This Joyce person was pissing me off already.

When Jess finished her story (followed by a few comments from me about the huge contrast between our experiences), Joyce said, “Well obviously Stephanie needs to work on her communication skills. She's been with us for a while so maybe she's getting lackadaisical about explaining things. I really appreciate you telling me. We can't fix these things if we don't know.”

And that was it. She didn't offer us a discount, didn't offer a coupon for a bath and wrap, nothing. As she walked away, it was on the tip of my tongue to ask her about a discount but I didn't do it. Partially because I was so stunned she hadn't offered us anything to take the bad taste of horrible service out of our mouths and partly because I didn't want to get into a confrontation when I'd gone through so much trouble to relax. I paid for the both of us and we left.

Instead of blissing out in the car on the way home, we spent the whole time complaining about the crappy service we'd gotten. I've been in customer service since I was 17 years old and it is a basic principle to offer a customer something to try to turn around a bad experience. When I was at Kinkos we always offered a discount or to redo the job, sometimes to the point of ridiculousness, but it's just good corporate policy.

I spent the rest of the night getting more and more pissed off. I spent almost a month's rent on those treatments! I wondered if one of us a were a man or both of us were white, would Joyce's attitude have been different?

I had already decided to write a letter to the manager of the whole resort so I called and got his name which made me feel slightly better. But I have a lot to do to get ready for my trip so it's going to have to wait till I get back. They need to give us free massages or give my money back so I can spend it somewhere where they know how to treat their customers.

I tried not to let my anger totally ruin my after massage buzz, but it was hard. But I'm going to go get packed up for my beach trip. Traci is coming with us on the spur of the moment, on pain of not being annoying and not chattering at me while I'm trying to write, which is the primary purpose for this trip. We're going to have the dorms all to ourselves, which will be very cool (and cheap!). I'm going to attempt to be mostly off the grid except for calls to Jess and spend a lot of time in the library with my laptop, enjoying the ocean view and spilling out words.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Birthday Bowling

I soooooo did not want to get up and get on my bike today. But we're officially in training for STP and there are a limited number of days we have to train and this was one of them. I lay in bed past 9 and snuggled further under the covers, when Jess said we really should be thinking of getting up.

I gave in eventually, and we got up. I put her in charge of breakfast, while I made pasta for lunch that we could fall on after our ride. We ate waffles, mango and scrambled eggs.

I put the spaghetti carbonnara (or bacon spaghetti as we like to call it) into Tupperware in the fridge. I made two separate batches, real bacon for me, fake for Jess. It's one of the few things that easy to cater to both our tastes.

We finally got on the road around 11:30 after one false start. It wasn't warm by any stretch but we forgot to factor the wind into our clothing choices. As soon as we got away of the shelter of the house, we turned right back around and put on more clothes. I wore my new Showers Pass rain jacket to check out the wind-proofing and the breathability.

We had planned to do 60 miles but time wasn't on our side anymore and the route I'd been wanting to do was closer to 40 or 45 miles anyway. We went over to Willamette Blvd to Interstate and down to the Eastbank Esplanade. Then we kept going south, through Milwaukie, past Elk Rock Island, the site of our one and only midnight ride adventure and on to Oregon City.

We stopped just before the bridge into Oregon City at a very new looking gas station/mini mart and took turns taking a nature break. I gave her a small kiss before I went in and before I remembered where we were. “Oh my God, we could get shot!” I exclaimed, only half joking. But no one threatened and one guy just asked how far was our journey today.

But I wasn't to escape totally unscathed. As we approached the bridge to Oregon City, I heard stupid boys yelling at me out of their car. At least, I assumed they were yelling at me because all I caught of the words were “f&&k that n-----” at the end. I didn't turn my head, just nodded to myself---we were in the burbs alright.

After that I was eager to get back to so-called civilization where people only think their racial slurs at you for fear of reprisal. We rode through 'the city' and back over another bridge onto hwy 43 and headed through Lake Oswego. We passed a strip mall and I saw a big Cold Stone ice cream sign leap out at me...but we were training so I resigned myself to drooling as we went by. That is, until I heard Jess yelling something from behind me.

I slowed down so I could hear her. “Don't you see the Cold Stone?” she was yelling.

“Well yeah, but we're training and...”

“It's your birthday weekend baby.”

“Oh YEAH!” So I turned down the steep driveway and we parked our bikes next to the outside tables.

Since we didn't have locks, we ordered separately. I went first, since Jess would be paying for our treats. The guy who served up my dish was generous, heaping a nice pile well over the edge of the dish. By contrast, a different worker practically robbed Jess. Her dish was barely over half full, with air pockets on both sides. I barely gave her a chance to pout before I grabbed her dish and mine and went back inside. The stingy guy who'd served up her scoop was still at the counter.

I smacked both our dishes in front of him and said, “She's feeling a little cheated.”

He proceeded to explain that mine was over filled. I just looked at him.

“Um, I can put some more in if you want...” he said, in a tone that said clearly, this time. That was fine by me. It's not like we'd be out this way again anytime soon. He still seemed disgruntled so I said to him, “It's OK, it's my birthday.”

“Oh,” he said, as if it actually made him feel better. I took the now repaired dish of cake batter and coffee ice cream back to Jess and we enjoyed our mid training ride treat.

The ride back was more climbing but the peace and scent of the woods in Tryon Creek state park more than made up for it. We cruised through at a leisurely pace, both because Jess is not great at climbing and so we didn't run into any pedestrians on the twisty wooded trail.

The rest of the ride was uneventful and we made it home by 4:30. I wasn't as starving as I thought I would be so I opted to shower first and put my birthday cake in the oven before falling on my pasta. I insisted on making my cake myself. This being my first mom-less birthday, I wasn't really willing to chance that anything about my cake might be different.

At my request, Jess had organized a cosmic bowling party for me at Interstate Lanes. We arrived just before 7:00 and had four lanes to ourselves. I always forget about bowling but when I do remember to do it, I always have a great time. Fourteen people showed up and it was a blast. Jess claimed to suck at bowling but it was quickly revealed that we had a few ringers in the crowd. Jess, Leslie, Tessa and I had the highest scores after the first game so then it was decided by the group that the high scoring players should be on the same lane to lower the pressure for the rest of them. I manged to break the hundred point barrier in my second game, but Leslie, Tessa and Traci in the lane next door proceeded to wipe the floor with the rest of us. Luckily the great thing about bowling is that it's so fun no matter how bad you suck. And everyone loved my cake.

Eris had picked Traci up from the airport on her way to the bowling alley and then Traci came home with us. When we got home Jess asked me (rhetorically I assume), “Do you want a present now and a present tomorrow?”

Well duh. So I got to unwrap a box slightly smaller than a breadbox that contained an Eagle Creek toiletry bag for traveling, the kind you can hang up in the bathroom while you brush your teeth and what-not. I loved it 'cause I would never really think to get one even though I always admire the one Jess has. It's easy for us to shop for each other because we just pick out whatever we'd buy for ourselves. Actually, since mine is newer, I think she's a little envious now.

Tomorrow we have a fabulous spa day planned at Bonneville Hot Springs.

Happy Birthday to me

I haven't written in forever and it's driving me crazy but I console myself with the knowledge that I'm going back to the beach in two days. In the meantime, I'm finally caught up with math and I'm in the middle of a fabulous birthday weekend.

I got an award letter from Ford Family Foundation this week, notifying me that I got picked to receive a scholarship. This means I probably won't have to work for the next _ years while I go to school, except in the summer. They actually prefer it if you don't work, which is why they pay 90% of unmet need for any school you want to go to. I'm going to stay at PCC for another year and then we'll see. They'll even pay for grad school if you graduate with a good GPA. It's a pretty awesome deal. Maybe I'll just become one of those people that just goes to school for umpteen years.


Birthday festivities started on Wednesday when Jess and I rode our bikes downtown to Jimmy Mak's to hear Steph and Tony play for happy hour. I knew that Tony was a great musician but I haven't heard him play much. He did things with a banjo that were too fast to be seen with the naked eye. Very awesome.

I love having a bikey girlfriend who likes to commute around with me. We're making our peace with the fact that we're total and complete dorks, with our matching commuter bikes, matching helmets, racks, lights, etc. It's not our fault we have the same taste in, well, just about everything. I've given up fighting it.

This week we also started training for the Seattle to Portland ride in July. We tried to do it last year but sickness of varying kinds prevent us. This year it looks like we'll have no excuses, so the next 6 weeks will mostly be spent working (for her), eating, sleeping and riding. Yesterday we did 30 miles on windy Marine Drive and today 41 miles down one of my favorite loops on River Rd to Oregon City and back up the other side of the river through Tryon Creek State Park. The weather was a little chilly, but aside from one racial slur yelled from a car in the heart of Oregon City, it was a gorgeous and peaceful ride.

In a little while it's off to my cosmic bowling birthday party with 15-20 of my closest friends.

Tomorrow is spa day. We're going to Bonneville Hot Springs to use the gift certificate we got from my friend Jacqueline for a mineral bath and wrap. We also took some bereavement donations and added the Rock n Rain hot stone massage. I'm sure by the time we leave, we'll need a designated driver. :)

Friday, May 18, 2007


Today after math class, Jess and I went out for one of our first real training rides for STP. We didn't have much time so it was a fairly quick 30 mile trip out to Blue Lake park and back. Winds were reported 10-20 mph and it was pretty brutal coming back on the path. Of course, I'm the one who always gets to take it in the teeth while Jess cruises behind in my draft. It's the price I pay for having the bigger thighs, but I don't really mind. I made her lead the whole way out so I could check out her uh...form. :)

When we got back, we had time to shower and eat before heading to the next birthday festivity, a date at the Livewire variety radio show. We saw Jay Graves, Bike Gallery owner and he recognized and said hello to Jess, which was a nice change—usually I'm the popular one so of course I had to tease her. But I lost my high ground when it turned out that I knew two of the people in the show tonight. Dave Allen, Dirty Martini manager and former bassist for Gang of Four was on interviewing the creator of the CD baby website. And Ashleigh Flynn performed. I didn't even know that I knew her but she came up to me at the Pickathon a couple of years ago and she used to work with one of my exes at Cascade Aids Project. Such a dinky world.

The show was not the best I've seen them do, but it did have some high points. Afterwards, I wanted to say hi to Ashleigh so I grabbed Jess's hand and walked backstage like I belonged there. Fortunately the first person I ran into was Jim from Mississippi Studios, who also produces Livewire. Jim knows me well from the musical company I keep.

“Hey Jim,” I said.

“K, how's it going?”

“Good, I'm looking for Ashleigh.”

“Come on, I'll take you up.” And he lead us up some hazardously steep narrow stairs to the hallowed green room. I love being on the fringe of the cool kid crowd.

We didn't stay long, just exchanged pleasantries with Ashleigh and I introduced Jess. She asked what I'd been up to and I kept it light. I don't think she knows about my mom and I didn't bring it up, despite the strong urge I always get to let even the most casual acquaintances know-- I feel like they should know they're dealing with the walking wounded, rather than a regular person but it's just not always appropriate.

When we left, Jess scolded me for grabbing a chip on the way out—but they were Doritos, I had to do it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I'm not sure how it happened, but I found myself today with not one obligation on my schedule and Jess at work. It felt like a miracle.

I slept in till 9:30 but woke to a cat fight and had to get up and put a stop to it by locking up my bad kitty. I was annoyed but I didn't really want to sleep the day away so I tried not to be too grumpy about it.

My back has been very sore lately so I decided to see if I could use the gift certificate that Lisa got me for a half hour massage and sauna at a place called Loyly over in southeast. They had an opening in the afternoon so I scheduled for 2:30, intending to get there early to get into the sauna first.

I forced myself to eat—when I have no structure to my day it's very easy to get caught up doing other things and forget—and then spent most of the morning and early afternoon making arrangements for our Seattle to Portland ride. Jess had only just confirmed that she could get the weekend off and I knew it was late to be trying to find housing for the midpoint of the ride.

Unfortunately the woman I stayed with at the midpoint the last two times isn't hosting anymore. I knew I definitely didn't want to camp though so I emailed all the other options for private housing and got a hit with Centralia College. I sent off reservations for the bus to Seattle, midpoint housing and officially registered us both for the ride. We'll stay with mom's best friend Liz when we go up on Friday night. She's an early morning person and won't mind too much getting up at the butt crack of dawn to take us to the start line.

I was feeling very pleased with myself but also running late by the time I left. I had at first thought to drive since it was about 10 miles across town, but then realized that I'd be terribly cranky driving around on a gorgeous day like today. Plus I needed to go to the Lloyd district at 5:30 and there's no way I wanted to be driving the car at that hour.

So instead of putting the pedal to the metal, I put a little extra foot to the pedal and arrived at Loyly about 10 minutes before my massage was scheduled. That gave me just enough time to get the lay of the land, put all my things in a locker, take a shower and appear in the common room in my fluffy white robe and slippers.

Since the massage was only 30 minutes, I had Kim, my therapist, focus on my feet and back only which was a good choice. Afterwards I hung out for about 45 minutes. I didn't even last a minute in the steam room. It feels too much like I'm about to drown in a hot tub. The sauna suited me much better and though it was still uncomfortable at first, I was able to relax into the wall of heat and sweat out my troubles. I went in twice and each time came out feeling pleasantly light headed and woosy. There was an open garage door and outside of it was only a bench that caught the sunlight and a wall—so you could sit 'outside' if you wanted and relax after the sauna. I got my book out of my locker and spent a few minutes reading.

It was starting to get late, so eventually I made myself get dressed and headed out. I stopped at People's Food coop as I realized that it's snap pea season again and last year they had some of the best. They did not disappoint this time either.

Then I went over to Seven Corners Cycles to say hi to Cory. He too, laughed about my touring vs cargo bike dilemma. But in the meantime I told him that I wanted to bring my road bike in for some love while I was out of town and he said no problem and he'd get her all fixed up for me. I love that guy.

In my head, I had this grand plan that involved massage, sauna and several hours of sitting around a nearby coffee shop but when I left Cory's I barely had time to grab a bite to eat at the Clinton Corner Cafe. I used to go there all the time when I worked around the corner and the woman who runs the place was very friendly.

“You never come around anymore!” she said, glad to see me and disappointed with my infrequent appearances at the same time. I explained that I lived 10 miles away and didn't work over here anymore. I certainly don't miss the certifiably insane people I worked for, but I do really like that neighborhood, especially riding through Ladd's Edition.

I ordered a Reuben sandwich and sat at an outside table. When my food came, the owner's dog Rufus left the guys he was staring at to come and stare at me instead. Me being a sucker an' all, I gave him a couple of chips and a bit of pastrami. Rufus was singular in his focus on food and made it clear that he was simply using me for grub and not interested in affection of any kind. I could live with that kind of clear boundary setting.

I scarfed my sandwich (Rufus left me as soon as it was clear I wasn't giving up any more goods and someone else got served) and then headed north back to the Waddell & Reed building. Anne was hosting a wine and cheese networking party and she and another woman who is a personal coach and deals with money issues a lot, both gave short talks that were interesting and informative. I invited Eris, who enjoyed it as well. I ran into one person I knew (but couldn't remember where from of course) and one woman handed me her card and turned out to run a publishing company called Spirit Press. I have the card in my wallet for when I'm ready to get my Chickbeat book done for real.

I got home just in time for a quick shower and watching the Grey's Anatomy finale with Jess.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gift Fairy Day

Today I did something I've been wanting to do for weeks. I surprised Jess at work with coffee from Vivace. I know she usually goes to break around 10am and I had to hustle to get there in time. I called ahead and order four mochas, so she could give a couple to her work friends, thereby encouraging them to walk the extra block past Starfucks for some coffee that actually tastes good.

When I got to her floor, I got lucky. She was sitting at the nurse's station doing her charting. The look on her face was totally worth it when I sauntered up to her with my tray and said casually, “working hard or hardly working?” She lit up like a Christmas tree and even gave me a little kiss. “Did you come all the way here just to bring me coffee?” she asked.

“Yup.” I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. I love it when a plan comes together. She had time to even take a little break and come sit out in the courtyard with me while we drank our coffees. It was fun.

From there I headed to Lloyd district for a meeting with a financial planner to help me figure out what to do with the sick consolation prize that is life insurance and other inheritance type monies. But first I stopped by CK's office two blocks down to deliver a card and some home made cookies as a thank you for helping me with my algebra the week before.

I was a little worried about just showing up at her office unannounced, which is probably why I was a little quieter than usual when the receptionist asked who could he say was calling. I figured the cookies would make it OK though. There's not much that home made cookies can't make OK, and from her reaction, I was right. “Oh it's sooo the day for these!” she said, and I was glad I'd come up and delivered them. Also, I'm quietly spearheading “operation bootleg” in an effort to get copies of songs her band hasn't recorded yet.

The meeting with Anne at Waddell and Reed was pretty enjoyable considering how uncomfortable I am dealing with and talking about, money. Maybe it's like therapy, easier to to do with a stranger. In any case, I felt really comfortable with her and it was refreshing to learn that she does what she does because she genuinely loves helping people and not because she's obsessed with money. The consultation was free, but I will probably go back and hire her to help me open up an IRA to roll mom's 401k money into and set up an investment portfolio. This whole having to grow up thing really blows.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Girlfriend Day

I was supposed to drive out to Damascus today to return the Haelen to the naturpathic clinic, but I haven't spent a day with my girlfriend in far too long so I put it off till tomorrow and stayed home. We both managed to get some work done (math, always math!) and then later in the day we went out in search of a park to throw the Frisbee around in. We were headed for Arbor Lodge park but on the way we found another tiny little park just a couple of blocks long filled with really large trees and a couple of small playgrounds that was practically deserted.

She warned me that she doesn't throw very well, but I think it may have just been a set up so she could run me around the park a little. :) We tossed for a while, then sat back to back in the grass and read, and took a short turn on the teeter totter before we left. I was feeling all superior holding her up in the air when we realized that the teeter totter was skewed so my end was longer. We evened it out and then took turns holding each other hostage in the air. She's 5 lbs heavier than I, so she always has the advantage but I can hold my own once I get into position.

After we left the park, we rode over to Dalo's Kitchen for dinner. We haven't been there for a long time. They remodeled and the service is slower than ever, even though there weren't many people there. We ran into H there and she reminded us that they're probably on African time, which makes sense. I suppose I'll keep that in mind next time I go, and make sure I'm not starving and won't mind the wait. I don't think Jess will be going there again though as dinner agreed with her even less than the last time she ate there. Maybe it's the lentils.

We got home just in time for me to watch the second to last episode of Heroes.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

The worst thing about my first mother's day with no mom is all dread from other people on my behalf. If I had a dollar for everyone who said/texted me: "I know today is hard for you..."

We never really bought into the Hallmark holidays too much so it's really not that bad. If there's one thing I've learned it's there is no predicting what will send you into a downward spiral but I highly doubted that something so contrived as the big M.D. was going to do it, and I was right.

I got up and met my friend M at the house at 9:00 and we moved the last of the new mattresses over to my house to put into the guest room. She even brought the van from work (a futon store) so space wasn't an issue. And she took the old futon back to work to be recycled and waived the $15 recycling fee they normally charge. I love having friends in all the right places. :)

After that I scarfed a quick breakfast and then went to meet up with E so we could go bike shopping for her. I LOVE bike shopping, even if it's not for me. She hadn't eaten yet, so we walked over to Vivace, where I had one of their highly addictive Mexican mochas and we waited too long for food. We kept forgetting that trying to get food out on Mother's day was sheer folly. But we amused ourselves watching the endless array of cute children coming by.

After that we finally got going and headed over to River City Bikes, where I ran into Jonathan Maus of , shopping for a mother's day bike for his wife. Stacy, my favorite sales person, wasn't available to help us and sent us another woman that neither of us was very impressed with. When I asked her to start by measuring E, she flatly refused and said that didn't really help, she was just going to have to test ride some bikes. Hence, we spent almost our whole hour there with E on a Gary Fisher that she liked, but couldn't quite get to feel right. When we finally asked for the next size up, it was perfect. I hate that! Seems like I keep having to tell customer service people how to do their jobs lately and it's really annoying.

Crappy sales person aside, there's not much that's more fun than test riding shiny new bikes. I went out with her on a high end Redline cross bike I had no business riding. Luckily it was too small for me so I wasn't at all tempted. I like the idea of getting a cross bike, but I really can't justify it. My bike dilemma right now is that I want a touring bike and a cargo bike but I don't want to buy two bikes. However those two styles of riding are pretty much diametrically opposed to each other. Cargo bikes are heavy and sturdy and meant for short distances, while touring bikes are much lighter faster, comfortable and meant for the long haul. I'm thinking that getting an Xtracycle and then maybe getting this snazzy new trailer type thingy for our road bikes might be a good compromise. We'll see.

E was all set to buy a bike today, thinking that it was like shoes or something, you just go in try one on and take it home. I advised her strongly to think of this more as the beginning of a research process that might take a few weeks (I took six months buying my first full time commuter bike after my car was stolen, but that's a little extreme). By the time we were done, I had gotten through to her and she decided to try a few different stores and bikes before deciding. I really need to take her over to see Cory at Seven Corners.

We both had places to be so I dropped her off and then went off to Rerun consignment store to drop off mom's shoes. This trip went MUCH better than Buffalo Exchange and they took all but two pairs of the shoes I brought. They have about 6 weeks to sell before they take them off the shelf and donate them. Mom had a lot of nice shoes so I'm pretty confident that they'll find a home. The woman who sorted them for me said, “I think we can fill the shoe needs of all of NE Portland just with what you brought in!”

After that I went home and finally went to work on my never ending math. All in all it wasn't any worse than any other day that mom's been dead and it was a lot better than some.

Procrastination in the form of errands

Traci called this morning in her usual no-notice fashion and said she needed a ride to the airport, which totally messed up my plan for a lazy morning and breakfast. I dropped her at the airport at 11:15 and by that time my brain was filled with things that should be done that had nothing to do with math. The chief of all these things, now that I was driving the car again, was to get it cleaned out. The trunk was still filled with rejected shoes from our trip to Buffalo Exchange and the passenger space was too filthy to bear thinking about.

So I altered my plan to do homework all day and instead sorted all the shoes to be sold at Rerun consignment shop into two grocery bags—my limit for my appointment on Sunday—and stored the rest in the garage. Then I put on latex gloves and cleaned the rest of the garbage out of the car. I spent more time than I meant to running errands, but I'd read the first few pages of Traci's book before she left town and gotten hooked so I went to Barnes & Noble and picked it up with a gift card that had been a birthday present for mom. Then I returned some vitamins left over from the reign of Grammy. I had to have the book before I went to the car wash, to make the waiting around bearable.

I finally got home just after 2:00 and spent a few hours reading and then forced myself to do some math before it was time to go to JD's (again!) with Carmen. The first night, the show was so good that I was determined that one of my friend's should see it. Danette wasn't available so I called Carmen and offered her a ticket and she was free. She was coming from the other side of town though so I took the bus downtown in a rain so hard I was wishing I'd brought my umbrella. We met in the lobby and enjoyed another good show. I could tell the kids were really tired though, as well they should be after four high energy shows in three days.

After the show, we went to Rimsky's for dessert and I had a pot de creme, which always makes everything seem better.

On the way there, I called Jess to say goodnight and she confessed that she had needed entertainment and so had watched our tape of Grey's Anatomy without me. I told her that was OK. She offered to watch it with me again. I know I should have fessed up, but it didn't seem like the time to admit that I had watched it the night before. I knew I'd get in trouble later. Jess finds out everything eventually, and usually sooner than later.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Couch madness & Jefferson Dancers

I got a small crew together and we met up at mom's house to move the rest of Traci's stuff into storage. It all went fine until we tried getting the couch out of the front door. After about 45 minutes of struggling with five different people working on the problem, Traci decided that maybe she didn't want to move the couch and matching recliner across the country after all. That's great, but it was still stuck in the doorway. After nearly taking the whole door frame apart, we finally managed to shove it through and then just left it on the porch.

We tried craigs-listing it but when that didn't work, I sent a quick email out to the network and had people emailing me the next hour. My friend Lauren was the first to ask, so for the price of a nice lunch, I told her the set was hers. I'm glad because I totally love Lauren and I'd rather give it her for free (especially now that we totally scraped it up shoving it through the door) than sell it to some stranger.

After we left all our blood sweat and tears on the front porch, we took the recliner back out of Meredith's car and into the house. On the way in, it came apart in our hands. Which is to say, the little switch that you turn to make the top come off, got pushed and so we carried it back in two pieces.

“I wonder if the couch does this too?” asked Meredith.

“If it does, let's just keep it to ourselves,” I said. She checked and sure enough, said she found similar latches on the couch. But in the end, it all worked out because there was no way the couch or the chair would have ever fit into the storage space. Not to mention, Traci would have to make friends pretty fast at law school if she wants someone to help her get that behemoth into her new apartment in August. No, I think things are better off this way.

Once that was done, I took Jess out on a date to see the Jefferson Dancers in their spring concert. I thought it might be emotionally hard because it was such a tradition for mom and I to go see shows...and then Traci once she graduated...but it turned out it was more upsetting because I hardly saw anyone that I or mom knew. Over the years we slowly have less and less connection to the new crops of younguns coming through until now we really don't know anyone except the director and the choreographers. What used to practically be a family reunion is now just a really good dance performance by some talented kids.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I'm so behind on so many things. Life is moving way to fast already. I thought I was supposed to be taking this time to grieve? (insert violins here).

Today I had my big interview for the
Ford Restart scholarship. I I had to drive to Eugene which was the second hardest part and I had to dress up, which was the first hardest part. Every time I have to go into drag, it takes a whole village to accomplish the task. But I was entirely happy with the results, so I'm not complaining (this time). My fashion consultant Erica approved my basic look, then took me over to Goodwill where she put her hand on the perfect shirt in .03 seconds (I hate/envy people who can do that!). The next day I was on my own at the mall (where's mom when I need her?) but I found a really cute blazer for $20 at Sears. Bonus: it was cuter than the $111.00 blazer at Macys! Go me. When we were going through stuff at the house last week, I kept a bunch of mom's shoes that I thought I could stand to wear for just such an occasion and she had the perfect little black low-heeled shoes. Traci is still shedding tears just about the fact that her feet are not the same size as mom's. It really is tragic, since she would so appreciate it more than I do, and mom had aproximately 10 billion pairs of shoes, some of them never worn.

I was just starting to get a handle on the math thing and then I got sick this weekend. And I was in a generally terrible mood with lots of sobbing and what not. So I skipped math yesteday so I could spend the day trying to pull myself together and finish my fashion crisis.

I somewhat succeeded, at least in terms of the clothes and my mental preparations. I cut my hair, took my shower, got all my stuff together and planned to turn in right after Heroes. Everything went fine until the going to bed part. Then my cold decided to strike. This cold is my absolute least favorite kind, the endless phlegm model. I had this one right before my second date with Jess and also sometime in the fall/winter of last year. I hate it because A) it's totally gross and B) it goes on FOR.EV.ER. First the coughing drove Jess crazy so I vacated to the guest room. But every time I lay flat, the phlegm just collected in the back of my throat, causing me to have to cough and hack it all up. After two 20 minute sessions in the bathroom, I gave up and went downstairs and watched some more of my Battlestar Galactica DVD. But I couldn't stay up all night, so in the end, I 'slept' on the couch with my head propped up, which seemed to help some. I was up until 3:00AM and got about 3 hours of sleep.

Despite all that, I managed not to wreck the car on the long boring drive to Eugene and I feel like my interview went really well. Especially after talking to the two people who went in after me, who felt they never connected with the interviewers. Truthfully, I was expecting it to be a little harder, but they didn't delve very deep and so I stuck to the standard dog and pony. They're interviewing 88 people and giving out 50 scholarships so I think my chances are excellent. The scholarship pays for 90% of unmet need for any accredited school in Oregon, which really opens up the possibilities for transferring after next year and going for a bachelors degree. I need to do more research on that though.

And now I'm back to slogging through math trying to catch up, and eventually I really should take a look at that online photoshop class I haven't looked at all term. Of course, to do that, I have to get my computer back from the Mac doctor. I got a call today that they sent it to Apple, they replaced some parts, but it still didn't fix the problem. Great. I think I've been pretty calm about not having a computer all week. Probably because Jess is working so much so I can sneak in time when she's not here.

I should hear back about the interview in 2-3 weeks.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Irony and Anger

When Jess and I went to the beach last month, we visited the little bookstore on Nye beach. While I was cruising the self help section, I found a book called, "Death Without Denial, Grief Without Apology."

"Well, isn't that 6 months too late," I said. It sat there on the shelf, mocking me, so I bought it.

It's a really good book, written by the former Governer of Oregon Barbara Roberts, about the things she learned during the illness and death from cancer of her husband Frank. It's basically a primer of everything we could have done, but didn't, thanks to something we like to call "The Bubble."

Here's a few relevant quotes:

We are so afraid of death in this culture, so geared toward "medical miracles," we seem to have lost all sense of perspective. There is nothing wrong wiht a patient wanting a medical miracle. owever we have come to a place where families are demanding miracles when death is imminent and doctors often play the Wizard of Oz trying to orchestrate false hope and deny reality.

Traditionally, doctors are trained to sustain life, not plan for death. However, if the doctor would say "dying" to a patient, the pretense of recovery would be gone. If a spouse of life partner says, "dying" to a loved one they are then free to plan, share, and say goodbye over days or weeks or months. The dying person could then speak the truth to old friends, thank parents, prepare children. Conversations could be real. Expectations would be expressed. Fears could be shared. Memories could be made that would sustain and comfort those left to grieve once death arrives.

What a dying person needs is comfort, closeness, dignity, and in some cases, pain control.

Accepting that he was dying gave Frank more space for creating good times.

Kindess is helping dying patients accept the diagnosis and then give them support and services to live the rest of their lives with as much dignity, as many choices, and as little physical pain as possible.

Denial is not your friend. Truth offers you more freedom and broader options. Denial is also costly. It uses up financial resources your family may need when you're gone. Denial uses up chances to share your feelngs with your closest loved ones. Denial wastes the life ingredient you can least afford to squander--time.

The bubble pretty much robbed us of any of the positive aspects that might have come from our situation. I have a great deal of anger towards specific people who perpetuated the bubble. Everyone who insisted that we just had to "think positively," everyone who convinced mom that pain medicine was the enemy, everyone who said all she needed was more milk thistle, more blueberries, more vitamin c, more oxygen... The list goes on and on, and the crazy making power of the bubble is inexplicable in mere words.

The result of all this is that our (mine and Traci's) time was stolen and we can NEVER. GET. IT. BACK. We can't ask about the gumbo recipe, Traci's future wedding, what to do if ______ happens, reminisce about long drives up and down the I-5 corridor...NOTHING. All because we were forced to pretend that we had the next 20 years to do all these things because no one, including mom, could just deal with reality.

And did I mention the suffering? She was miserable for the last month or more of her life because "pain medicine was too hard on her liver" (it's failing anyway, why not be comfortable?) or "pain medicine causes constipation" (we have ways to deal with that, but you won't follow them).

"Mom, what's your pain at now?"

"Two," she'd say, while the grimace on her face said, "eight" every time she moved. It took a full day to convince her that adjusting pillows every 10 minutes wasn't going to help her, before she finally agreed to one drop of morphine.

Most days I'm able to function with this anger. Some days I go to my old house and chop wood. And other times, when I can't get the horrors of the (totally unneccesary!) trip to the emergency room out of my head, I just wail and scream and wish I could yell at everyone responsible. She was finally sleeping, peacefully, and she just stopped breathing. If only they had let her go, it could have ended like that. I would've been sad that I wasn't there, but it would've been better than the two days of hell that followed. All so that other people could get here, other people could see her, other people could say goodbye. Nobody seemed able to forget about themselves long enough to care about her suffering. We're kinder to animals.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The beginning of the end

We're continuing to work on clearing things out of the house. And I use the words "continuing" and "work" very loosely. As always, just walking in the door is exhausting and I don't usually get very much done. I'm better at jobs that take me away from the house, like Goodwill trips and selling/delivering things.

So far the books netted us $42. The four garbage bags of clothes and 40 or so boxes of nice dress shoes yielded just over $30. And that was Buffalo Exchange and Redlight *combined.* I hate those places. I don't know where they get all the crap they sell because I have yet to meet anyone who's had a successful time trying to sell them stuff. Whatever. We Goodwilled all the clothes and the shoes will go to a consignment shop. They're nice shoes. Traci continues to weep that her feet are not size 9. Ironically mine are, but the majority are not things I would willingly put on my feet. I did take a few of the less tortuous shoes for dress up emergencies, such as my upcoming interview.

Today we got a storage space which means that Traci will be putting everything she wants to take to D.C. into it. It's the beginning of the end, because without most of the furniture, beds, art, pictures etc, it really won't be mom's house anymore.

Every time she comes over, Jess asks if I want to take home the canvas print of the three of us that I got mom for Xmas a few years ago. And every time I say, "No, not yet." I think it's become the last signal of "home' in that house for me. I'll probably wait till the last minute.

Today we took the big change jar to the bank which was much more lucrative than the clothes selling. And I took a bike jacket mom bought and never used back to the Bike Gallery and had them order me a Showers Pass rain jacket that I've needed for months now.

I can't get past the irony that I now have money to get all this stuff I've been 'needing' but every time I hand over my credit card, I just think how much I'd rather be broke and have my mom back.

To top it all off, Traci found a mug in the cupboards today that says, "Mom- without you, I go all to pieces!" Yeah, I don't think we'll be keeping that one.