Thursday, February 25, 2010


It's cold out there!! I told Norma I thought it would be warm enough to go for a walk outside today. What was I thinking?! I did the walk but it's only 30 degrees. No hat or ear muffs or anything. I was fine until I turned around to walk back to my office and I got an arctic blast in my face. I think it's frozen in place now -- you know, when you've been in the cold a long time and it feels like you can't even smile because your face is about 3 inches thicker than it was when you went out into the cold? I think I was delusional because I'm so sick of this cold, dreary weather. Every single year, I forget this happens. 
  It does feel good to be in my office and warm again and I saw some blue sky peeking out. Imagine the time millions of years ago when people really didn't know that the weather was seasonal and thought winter might last forever.

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Arms Are Tired and the Rest of Me Too

I just flew in from New York and my arms are really funny. I'm wiped out!! I seriously had trouble getting up this morning. The trip wrapped up with a visit to Toby's new apartment - much better that the place he was living in before. His roommate Krista, whom I had met during his college days, fixed a delicious dinner for us. I like her a lot. She's an environmental lawyer who wants to work for nonprofits. Not a good economy for that, but I hope she finds something soon!
   I had to laugh when I got off the subway in Toby's neighborhood. He lives in Bushwick, the residents of which are primarily from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and are also mostly working class. I must have stood out like a sore thumb because an older man who was working on his car, said "can I help you?" Now, he either thought "this white chick is surely lost" or I looked confused enough that he thoughtfully tried to help. The GPS on my phone was a great help on this trip. I found my way just fine.
   The last day there, Susan and I went to the area where the twin towers were. It was really eerie to be there. The big gap in the buildings where the World Trade Center had been was remarkable and very sad. As we walked toward the site, I also had little flashbacks of some of the video scenes of the streets leading up to the towers on the day they were hit. I can't imagine how horrible it was for the people who were there. It was sobering and surreal.
   Later that afternoon, my nice driver came back to give me a ride and the flight was smooth from there. I did realize this morning that I'd left my cute little knitting bag and my mp3 player on the plane. That's the second time I've left an mp3 player behind while traveling. This time, though, I called lost and found this morning and they actually found it and are sending it back. I wouldn't have been happy to have to replace it again. One little ray of hope in a dark, dark world. :-) I feel like Willy Wonka when Charlie gives back the Everlasting Gobstopper (in the original movie, not the creepy Johnny Depp version!). "So shines a good deed in a weary world." 
   I was glad to hang out in New York but I'm also really glad to be home. I'll be in bed by 8pm tonight, no doubt. The city just wore me out!

Friday, February 19, 2010


Well...second day in the Big Apple. I have to say, when I got here yesterday, I was a little grouchy. The city felt dirty, overcrowded, depressing and expensive and I wasn't sure I'd enjoy being here much. When I was riding to the hotel, we passed Central Park and there were dozens and dozens and dozens of horse drawn carriages. I always feel so sad for those horses! I know they probably like to "work" but it just seems like not a good life for an animal. 

When I came out of the airport, I was going to wait in line for a cab but a man asked me if I needed a cab and said he could drive me. He was a very nice Indian man (not that his cultural background is important - kind of reminded me of the movie The Namesake - sad movie). Anyway, he said he's been running a limo business for 20 years and he's never seen business so bad. He's really felt the hit of a bad economy. Kinda hard to believe when he charged $55 for the trip but cabs are just as expensive! Considering he was driving an Escalade, that probably barely paid for gas!! 

The other thing I've noticed about being here is hard to explain but it's like for every one worker you'd see in the midwest - at a hotel or restaurant -- you see two or three here. It's like jobs are split up more because more people need to be employed. Maybe it's like that in all larger cities but I guess NYC is really focused on a high service people to customer ratio.

I guess I realize that NYC is not really my favorite place in the world. I think it's just not my cup of tea even thought it has lots to offer. My preference is for fewer people and less concrete, I think. 

Despite all that, we're staying in a pretty cool hotel. It's called the Empire and it's really funky (in a good way). Here are some photos of the lobby.

And here's the wallpaper in the hallways.
It's pretty neat -- kind of like walking through a fairy tale to get to our room.

For some reason, they put us at the end of a hallway where there isn't any light (probably because Susan got the room on Priceline and they don't want us mixing with the rich people who paid full price). Kind of creepy... 
Susan said it reminds her of The Shining. I hope that turns out to just be in her head...

Last night, we had an Italian dinner at a place called Cafe Fiorello. The meal was so-so but the dessert was fabulous. We ordered chocolate mousse and it literally came in a bucket. The server came over with two big metal buckets -- one had chocolate mousse in it and one had whipped cream in it. He plopped two huge spoons full of each on our plate. We just stuck our faces in it and sucked it up. All you can eat!! Unfortunately, we were too full by then to eat more than what we were served the first time. I'll order it as an appetizer if I ever go back.

Today, I was lazy in the morning and then met Susan for lunch. I don't usually take pictures of the bathrooms where I go but at the little restaurant where we had lunch the bathroom was so interesting, I took my camera back in and and took some shots. It looked like someone just took a thick pencil and quickly sketched these "drapes" on the walls. It was great!

After that, I went to Museum of Arts and Design while Susan did her conference stuff. The main exhibit at "MAD" was called Slash: Paper Under the Knife. Really amazing. I'm not pasting any photos here because they really wouldn't do it justice. Believe it or not, I didn't purchase a single thing from the museum shop. :-)

Susan was pretty disappointed in the attendance at her presentation. It's ironic that she is presenting at a diversity conference but feels marginalized. She was presenting on the topic of physical difference and physical disability. Within the professional community of people who work in the area of "diversity," most are fairly neglectful of the dimensions of physical difference and disability (as well as social class and religion/spirituality). It's really pretty annoying and disappointing. That's where the "experts" often fall short of their own talk. They (we?) tend to deny our own biases and values systems. They end up marginalizing and invalidating people when they feel so secure in their own position. Any true expert on diversity never feels confident about "getting it" and is always working to learn her/his own limits of understanding! Anyway, I felt for her. She's been fighting this battle for years...

When we were walking back after lunch, I saw this sign and it cracked me up so I had to take a picture (and share it, of course!).
It's so funny that the person is running behind the dog chasing his poop. Sorry, that's the 10 year old boy in me coming out.

This evening, we had dinner at a phenomenal restaurant called Rosa Mexicano. There was a really cool tile wall that must have have been at least 2 stories tall -- maybe 30 feet? -- and covered with one inch blue iridescent tiles and then these little white plastic figures of a man diving were attached. It's hard to describe it. Here's a little bitty picture so it's hard to see but gives you an idea.
The food was amazing. Guacamole made at our table side. I had delicious beef enchiladas with a mole sauce made with white chocolate and pine nuts. Two words -- yum mee. 

Can you tell that a lot of my visits with Susan involve eating? I'm enjoying my food experiences here because when I get home, I have to cut down. In my last physical, I was told that I have pre-pre-diabetes. Luckily, that gives me plenty of time to make corrections. Besides, I have to pinch pennies to make up for these incredibly expensive meals. in SoHo and then I'll go to dinner at Toby's apartment in Brooklyn. His roommate, Krista, has offered to cook for us. I'm looking forward to seeing both Toby and Krista and eating the "mild curry" she's planning on fixing. I'll post more photos!

Monday, February 15, 2010


Norma and I had the opportunity this evening to talk with University of Illinois athletes about career possibilities in Psychology/Social Work. The Intercollegiate Athletic Department has a career night every year where all athletes go to a big gym where professionals from a range of careers are ready to sit and talk with them for a bit. I'm not sure how they got my name but I agreed to do it and Norma was able to come to offer a Social Work career perspective. I wanted to write about it because it surprised me. 

I've been pretty jaded lately but meeting with these young women and men was very fun and reminded me of why I've enjoyed working with college students. Norma and I met with soccer players, swimmers, gymnasts, and volleyball players. They were so eager and motivated and friendly. They were also a little scared and vulnerable. This combination is what drew me to work with college students in the first place.  One thing that was especially funny was that this gaggle of big football players was walking around and they all stayed in a group like it was a little scary to venture out on their own. Just young boys, really, despite all the bluster.

As athletes, they are clearly dedicated and know how to persevere and work hard. It was really cool to be around that energy. One of the drawbacks of not being on campus any more is that I don't see students who are doing well as often. I guess I forget that most college students enjoy their lives. It was really nice to see that again!   

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Beautiful Morning

I went out this morning to meet a friend for breakfast (who ended up not showing up because she wanted to be my Valentine date so badly that she thought we were meeting tomorrow!). As I pulled out of the drive, I looked across the street and saw how pretty the snow was on the lake and trees. Across from my complex is a place called Kaufman Park. In the park is Clear Lake. I'm not sure how clear it really is but I'm looking forward to nicer weather when I can take walks around it or maybe just sit by the lake and soak up the sun. 

The morning frost coated the trees really heavily so that when the sun shone on them, they looked so bright. I stopped and took a couple of pictures to share. 
The sky is so blue!! As always with photos, it looked better in person. If you look to the right, you can see a little pier. This is a new addition. I'm looking forward to hanging out there in the warmer weather. 
I ended up ordering breakfast at the restaurant and eating alone which was a good challenge for me since I don't do that much. Here's a weird thing I don't think any of you know about me. When I was in high school and through the first couple of years in college, I never wanted to eat in front of anyone -- especially boys! Seriously, it was like a phobia!! I was so scared of boys/men and I didn't want to have some piece of salad stuck in my teeth or mustard on my face. I'm so strange. Obviously, I got over that little phobia pretty well. I'm still afraid of men but I can chomp down a triple decker hamburger in front of any of them. Maybe not Colin Firth or Laurence Fishburne but anyone else. 

I thought Valentine's Day (or as I like to call it People-Who-Are-Separated Awareness Day) was going to be lonely and a drag. But...I have a date! I had a date last night too. I'm rockin' this town, baby. So what if the man I had dinner with last night is gay and the woman I'm having dinner with tomorrow asked me because her partner's out of town and we have to have carry-out Chinese because all the restaurants are booked. I'm considering them my Valentines.

I'm doing my share of grieving, of course, but I'm also starting to get used to my new circumstances. Staying close to Maddy. Trying to maintain a connection with Geoff. Building a different kind of social life. I think I'm going to survive. Things are pretty calm. Much less drama which is good for me. Just the internal healing and stretching I've needed to do for years. I have a number of things to look forward to. Next Thursday, I'm going to New York to hang out with Susan while she's presenting at the Multicultural Summit Conference.

I'll have lunch with Toby and go to a museum or just watch cable and order room service in the hotel while I'm there! I'll post some photos -- this new phone is awesome because I can access the web anywhere and hook it up to my computer so I can be connected 24/7 wherever I am.  I'll try to send something from Central Park if the weather isn't too awful.

Maddy's asked me to go with her to visit UMass Amherst sometime this spring to see if she wants to go to college there. Isn't it cool that she wants me to go with her? I never had a doubt that I'd always want to stay connected to her (and Toby) but I was a little worried about how things would pan out. Made me feel special and more secure about it. And it is all about me, of course.

One more thing, if you haven't heard of or checked out Michael Franti, check him out! His music is really upbeat, very smart and also socially aware. He's in DC on the 20th. Too bad I can't get out there to go with my sis. I just want to get up and dance when I listen to him. I don't actually get up and dance because that would just be scary. I feel like it, though! I really like Hello Bonjour and Have a Little Faith is a nice John Hiatt cover. You can listen to some of his music here. He'd be cool to have dinner with...I wonder if he's available tomorrow...hmmmm.    

Monday, February 8, 2010

More Pix

Waiting for the snow storm to hit this evening. I have to be honest and say that I'm slightly hopeful that I'll get snowed in and won't be able to come to work tomorrow...Not because I don't love my clients but because I've kind of been avoiding too much time at home and I think I need more of that. 

Yesterday, Maddy came over for dinner and we watched the Superbowl while she did her homework. She was funny because she looked like some computer dweeb working on two computers! 
I finally figured out how to get the internet through my fancy new phone since I don't have wireless in my apartment. Maddy had to use my computer for online stuff and hers for her homework. That's the tree of knowledge sprouting from the top of her head. 
My bedroom's getting cozy-er and cozy-er. I fashioned a "headboard" out of mirrors. Better than a blank white wall and cheaper than a real headboard since I took them from home.

I've gotten some canvasses and will be painting these mandalas (in colors -- blue, silver, brown, white). They'll hang across from my bed.

Sarah sent me a link to so I stole these from that site. As circles, mandalas are symbols of perfection and are also used in spiritual practices in many cultures. Jung thought they were a symbol of our unconscious. I wanted to use the mandalas but make them off-centered because that reflects what's going on inside of me right now. I do feel a kind of spiritual, personal awakening but I also feel thrown off center and pushed into a time of upheaval. It's kind of an interesting phase in my life where I do feel some hope and energy but am also in pain and struggling.  I plan to alter the trunk of the tree. (No offense to my lesbian friends but I'm not all that interested in waking up to a vulva every morning.)   :-)

I read an amazing book once called House as a Mirror of Self. The author is an architect who specializes in the meaning of place. She also has a book called Housing as if People Mattered where she writes about medium density family housing - she really connects architecture with the people who inhabit it. Anyway, House as a Mirror of Self talks about how our homes reflect who we (and our housemates) are. For example, think of which places in your home are "yours" and which places belong to others. How do the decorations and furnishings reflect who you are (or not)?  What kinds of power struggles are played out in your home's design and furnishings? How attached are you to your home? How is your home now similar to or different from where you grew up?

For me, right now, the world feels both full of promise and off kilter; hopeful and full of despair. I have trouble listening to NPR (or any news) these days because it's all so depressing but then I have therapy sessions with people whose resilience astounds me. I feel a responsibility to witness the stories of people in the world who are suffering but also feel like I want to nest and cocoon in my safe little privileged haven. It's definitely a privilege to have a home (well, right now, actually, two homes!) where I can create a place of calm and a place that mirrors me back. 

I'll post progress on the mandala art. I'm feeling weird again about writing a blog. Seriously, who cares?! I'm just narcissistic enough to see my own writing and photos up on the screen, though, so I'll probably keep posting.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Here's a better picture of Norma's housewarming gift. Nice, huh?


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

More pictures

I'm still settling into my new place. Good days and not so good days but mostly all right! I just wanted to post a few more pictures.

Here's what my place looks like when I wake up in the morning:

When there's more light, I can see these wall tattoos.

A friend of mine sent me a gift certificate to Target (a temporary apartment dweller's best friend). You'll see another wall tattoo I got with the same certificate. Pretty, huh? No nails and I could move them around as much as I wanted which was helpful because I didn't have a tape measure or anything to help line them up! They're soothing to me and they go perfectly in my bedroom. 

After I get up in the morning, I stumble to the bathroom and am greeted by Sedna. This is a sculpture I got when Geoff and I were on our honeymoon in Quebec. It's carved by an Innuit artist.

Again, from quick and dirty wikipedia:
According to one myth, Sedna, similar to a mermaid, was the daughter of the creator-god Anguta. She is said to have been so huge and hungry that she ate everything in her parents' home, and even gnawed off one of her father's arms as he slept. According to some versions of the myth, she took a dog for her husband.
Anguta was so angry that he threw her over the side of his kayak. She clung to its sides, whereupon he chopped her fingers off one by one until she let go. She sank to the underworld, becoming the ruler of the monsters of the deep, and her huge fingers became the seals, walrus and whales hunted by the Inuit.

So...I took Sedna as a role model and she inspires me every morning to eat more, keep company with dogs, and make my father so angry, he throws me over the side of the kayak and cuts off my fingers. Check, check, and check. 

Once I've accomplished these morning tasks, I move on into the kitchen. (I didn't show you the bathroom because I think I need to be 60 or 70 before I start including posts about my visits to the bathroom -- frequency, nature, level of frustration...that sort of thing.) As you can see, it's a galley kitchen. Nothing to write home about but functional. Worst part -- electric stove. Best part -- ice maker in the freezer. Yay!
Once I'm done in the kitchen getting my coffee, I usually go to the gym and then come home to get ready for work. I'd put pictures of my newly configured bedroom here but that just seems boring. Just the usual...getting showered and dressed and ready for work. I can say that the apartment has ample closet space. Not that I fill it up with my glamorous wardrobe but it is nice to know I could have a much larger wardrobe if I were able to or wanted to.

I have no idea what my apartment looks like when I'm at work. Maybe the pots and pans have a party; maybe Sedna goes into the fridge and eats whatever she wants; maybe my coasters and Carol's coasters get it on; maybe the dish runs away with the spoon. Who knows? 

By the time I get home, they've all settled down and I get some dinner. Initially, I was eating frozen dinners -- delicious Amy's Southwest Style Chicken. Doesn't that look mouth watering?! I know you want some.
More recently, I actually went real grocery shopping for the first time since I moved in and am cooking better dinners for myself. Oh, yeah, I guess you can see that I put my jammies on before dinner sometimes. I might also watch some TV. I was obviously watching Bones because that's Lance Sweets, the Psychologist on the show, talking to the ever so attractive Agent Booth.
You can see how lovely the wall where the tv is. I'd like to paint something abstract on the wall but I need to find out if the rental company will care. It's a HUGE wall and I just don't know what else to do with it. 

I had dinner in the dining room for the first time on Monday. Geoff had gotten back from Mexico on Sunday so he came over and I cooked. I made something called Eggplant Penne Pasta which calls for smoked mozzarella cheese. Now if you saw this:
in the grocery store refrigerator case would you say, "There's that smoked mozzarella I've been looking for!" I asked one of the deli workers if they had any and she picked this up and handed it to me. As she walked away, I said "This isn't mozzarella, it's a hot dog wrapped in bread." She assured me that it was mozzarella and that the "hot dog" was where it had been smoked. She was right. I was slightly embarrassed at my ignorance. I've never seen mozzarella that looks like this, though.

So...we ate in the dining room and that was my first meal there. 

You can't see it well but the art on the wall is an abstract dandelion in bright, bright purple. Norma got that for me as a housewarming gift when we were at Pier I last weekend.

One evening, I made a fire. It's really great to have a nice fireplace to use. I'll probably be home a lot this weekend and I think I'll make a fire and watch the superbowl. I hope it's blustery and snowy outside so I can feel warm and cozy.
Sometime after I took the picture with the fire in the fireplace, I got the wall tattoos I mentioned earlier. Here's the second one. I hope it's not too stark. I just liked that it was different and interesting. Maybe the starkness appealed to me...? It's kind of hard to see in this picture. I think if you click on it, you'll get a larger image with more detail.
Finally, at the end of the day, it's time for a midnight snack. Here's what the kitchen looks like when I'm going in from the living room.
That banana is black now and starting to smell. I think it's time for banana walnut bread! This concludes the tour of my new home. I hope you will come visit me to see it in person.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Truth and Love

"The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love." --William Sloane Coffin

This was the signature line on an email I received from a colleague/friend. According to Wikipedia (the source of everything good and true) Coffin looks like he was a very interesting man. He was a liberal Christian clergyman, a peace and civil rights activist, a superb athlete, and a CIA agent (huh?). He also supported gay rights. You go Bill!!  

Anyway, I really like this quote. I think I have the truth part down. It's the love part I'm working on now...How about you?