Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Today is a New Day, and we're alive

Last night was so hard. It took all my courage to walk into that funeral parlor and see what used to be Mark. Quietest I've ever seen him--by a long shot! Mark was *always* talking--wouldn't let anyone get a word in edgewise. And, as I expected, he looked terrible.....but then, he'd been dead for over two weeks already, and even the best they can do for him wouldn't cover up that fact. I think it was important that we all see him though...since no one who knew him saw him until yesterday, if we hadn't seen him, we would have all been left wondering "maybe they made a mistake, and it wasn't really Mark?"

But today is gorgeous. Actually, yesterday was gorgeous, too--we have sun back in the Sunset district of San Francisco! Yay! I hadn't dried my laundry outside since June, but I did yesterday. It just doesn't dry in the cool, foggy damp that is summer for us here. We get our real summer in the fall. So, we're soaking it in now. I think we're headed out to the beach (if I'm recovered enough from yesterday's physical and emotional exhaustion) this afternoon with the kids that usually play soccer on Wednesday afternoon. The dad who coaches them said "it's too hot for soccer! It's a beach day." Sounds good to us.

When we got home last night, I could hear the ocean's roar in the distance--we live about 25 blocks from it--and I wanted to just go and sit and watch it in the dark. But I had kids to get to bed and food to put away. Paul said "that means you're getting old." I said, "I'm not getting old! I had obligations!" He said, "yeah, that's the same thing."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Honoring Mark

Last night, Mark's younger daughter Melissa organized a candlelight memorial service at the site where Mark's body was dumped. It was a good idea, and it was a very healing time. We got a chance to talk with some of the neighbors on the street--one of whom saw what happened. The people driving the truck got spooked, and while they were trying to get Mark's body out of the truck they sped up and finally the body fell out of the back, right in the middle of the street. If it was a shock for us to hear about Mark's body being dumped in a trash bag, I sure don't pity the person who thought it was just trash in that trash bag, and went to investigate and found Mark.

We sang Amazing Grace and prayed the 23rd Psalm and the Lord's Prayer, and then just talked about Mark. There was one ex-convict there who talked about Mark as a father figure---he said that whenever he got out of prison, Mark would admonish him not to go back to his old ways. He talked of finding religion and how God was keeping him on the straight and narrow. Mark himself was beginning to find God at the end, too, whereas when we first met him he didn't want anything to do with God. Sheri wanted Paul to talk to him about God, to try to coerce Mark to get religion, and Paul told her he didn't force things like that. The last time we saw him, when he came over for dinner five days before his death, he crossed himself when we said the blessing for the food.

Tonight we'll have a wake for Mark. His body will be there. I'm afraid of seeing Mark's body--afraid that he will look terrible, mangled, not-Mark. He didn't live the most pampered life. Mark was 50, but he lived a lot of that on the streets and on drugs.

I've put myself in charge of food for the wake. I'm making egg salad sandwiches, raw veggies and dips, and chocolate cake. Mark always did love my cooking. He always promised to one day cook for us, but he never did.

You can view Mark's obituary here.

Monday, August 29, 2005


I laughed and laughed at this Bizarro!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Which Holy Grail character are you?

From the sublime to the ridiculous.....

The other night we watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail....Paul and I had watched it a few years ago, because we heard that so many people liked Monty Python. We really just didn't "get it" back then. But recently I was thinking, you know, we've changed, perhaps we'd like it now. So, when I went to the library looking for something good for the whole family, and Holy Grail popped out at me, and I even saw that it's rated PG, I brought it home. (If I was a tiny bit more squeamish, I would have really balked at the mentions of oral sex and bondage, with the kids watching....) The kids thought it was the sillyest thing ever, and thoroughly enjoyed it, and so did we! And duh that we didn't "get it" before--it's full of stuff about the repression of the ruling class--"did you see that? How he was repressing me?"

I don't know how Paul found this site, but he did. Now you, too, can be a Holy Grail character! Just take this silly quiz!
Which Holy Grail Character Are You?
I'm the Three Headed Knight. Paul is the Brave Sir Robin. Hibi's King Arthur, and so is Zac. Wow, two monarchs under one roof! That explains a lot of things....

In other (more serious) movie reviews....last night we watched The Long Walk Home. It was amazing. It was about the bus strikes in Montergomery, after Rosa Parks was arrested. It showed the principle that all it takes for evil to continue is for good people to do nothing. A black maid was able to convince her white mistress to do what she knew was right, instead of going with the flow of evil.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Highs and Lows

This past weekend we went to the HSC conference in Sacramento--the annual homeschool conference I have been attending for the past seven years. The kids and Paul have been going for the last three or four. It was a great conference! My highlight was hearing Julia Butterfly Hill speak. She was *so* inspiring. "So you're inspired," she tells her audience. "But what are you inspired *to do?*" She is the only person I've heard address the problem in a positive way of do-good burnout. It's so easy, when you start digging into the injustices of this world, to throw your hands up in despair and say that we'll never make any headway, the stakes are just too high, there's too much work to be done, the opposition is too great. She says it's a matter of doing what you do out of love, as opposed to doing it out of hate or anger. There's a place for anger, but when you act in a positive way, it's both a source of creating community and is sustainable. She talked about losing the business model of worrying only about the outcome--doing what we do because we care, regardless of the outcome.

We listened to a CD set all the way home of some of Julia's former talks, and the whole family was inspired. Perhaps it was a good thing to listen to to prepare us for what was waiting when we got home.

There was a business card on the mailbox, and one on the front door. It said "Please call re: Mark Castle." It was from the Medical Examiner's office. This never bodes well. Mark Castle, if you haven't read from previous posts, is a homeless man we've befriended over the last year and have tried to help him get on his feet and into programs that can help him kick an addiction to heroin and help him figure out how to be a productive member of society. He got out of prison on July 31, and tried over and over again to get into a program that could help him with that.

As we were to find out later in the evening, after tracking someone down from the medical examiner's office, Mark apparently overdosed on heroin last Monday, August 15, and died. Someone near Buena Vista Park in San Francisco saw a car pull up and dump out a body. It was Mark.

Mark had been trying not to go back on methadone, since he'd gotten off it during his prison time. Perhaps he should have taken it again....but we all feel that if he could have gotten help when he asked for it. he would still be alive today. This is directly related to my earlier post, asking why we just want to punish people, and won't address the root problems. Mark was in prison for violating parole, and the original charge was for carrying a small bag of drugs. How is it that we can't see that Mark needed help, not to have his hand slapped? How does putting someone in prison help to make them a productive member of society? It would even make much more economic sense to provide enough programs for the people who need them, than to just lock them up.

I'm angry, and I'm trying to turn that into actions made out of love for Mark and others in his situation.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hibi and Zac at the vigil at Ocean Beach last night

I brought my camera, but the battery was depleted. So, the coordinator sent me this one. Kind of fuzzy, but you get the idea.

Big Box Bane

I never read Mark Morford before Jennifer posted a link on her blog.....he used to be only online, and I didn't know he existed. But I've become an on-again, off-again reader of his column, and yesterday's was great.

I've been thinking about Big Box stores, and the homogenizing effect they have on the US. Since moving back to San Francisco, I've sworn off, as much as possible, shopping at chain stores, or at least national chains. I've done pretty well, but once in a while I'm left with a "where in the world am I going to buy a six foot folding table, except at Target?" kind of question. Even here in San Francisco, I am forced to shop, once in a while, at a chain store. I don't ever have to buy books at Borders anymore, or eat at a chain restaurant, though.

My mother-in-law made the observation that when you eat at a non-chain restaurant it's usually crummy food. Now, I disagree with that, but it can be so. What I think is closer to the truth is this: when you eat at a chain restaurant, you know what you're getting. It doesn't matter if you're in San Francisco, or Fresno, or Cleveland, or Boston, or Timbuktu. If you eat at Burger King, it's going to taste the same anywhere. There is a certain comfort in eating the same mediocre food. Our taste buds have gotten used to this certain mediocrity. But when we try something new, it may taste different from what we've tried before! Which can be disconcerting. We've gotten so used to the same bland food that we are scared to try something totally wonderful.

Standing with Cindy

We attended a vigil last night for Cindy Sheehan. It was a small neighborhood affair....just about 60-70 of us at the beach, trying to keep candles lit. Not a whole lot was said--it was just to show up and show support for Cindy Sheehan's cause, and for all the mothers' children who have been killed. It was pretty cool meeting others in the Sunset district who are against this war. We even met another Orthodox Christian family. How amazing is that?

I know we could have just lit a candle here in our home in support of Cindy. But there's something, some kind of power, that comes from getting together, even in small groups like this. No, I don't harbor any illusions that it'll make Bush pull us out of this war, or even think about it. But it forms community. Perhaps I'll see some of those folks on the street and we'll be able to stop and talk and know we have something in common. I think this is where real change comes from--getting to know your neighbor. Just like Jesus said--love your neighbor as yourself. Maybe that's more revolutionary than we all think.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Zachary's tooth

Zac had cavities when he was two years old, and his front four teeth had to be pulled. So, he's lived for these six years with no front teeth. Finally, at 8 years old, one of them has popped through! Here he is, showing off his new adult tooth and brandishing a hair brush.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

cute story

I'm backtracking here....I was just remembering a story from when the kids were younger that I would have blogged if I'd been blogging back then!

Hibi, then known as Carissa, was 7 years old and Zachary was 4. We were staying in a hotel, and as always, my kids were being restless and not going to sleep. They have a hard time settling down in a hotel. Carissa was talking about this and that, and we kept telling her to stop talking and try to sleep. "I'm hungry!" she complained. We patiently explained that there was nothing to eat in the hotel room; we weren't at home. "Do you want me to die of starvation?" Always melodramatic, that one.....

Zac then parrots, "I'm hungry!"

"Zac, there's nothing to eat!"

Zac says, "Do you want me to tie up a starfish?"

He says now that he thought that's what Hibi said, like to tie up a starfish to eat.

Sunday, August 7, 2005

foreign policy

Over a week ago, someone who reads my blog and with whom I regularly correspond, someone who knows I don't support the current war, asked me an honest question: "What specific US policies led to the 9/11 attacks?"

I've been thinking about this all week. Other than the obvious fact that 9/11 and Saddam Hussein are not related.....but that was not the question. I talked with Paul about it, and he said that there is no easy answer that we can point to, but rather it goes back to the myth that all little US citizens are taught from birth--that we are the United States and therefore we are more deserving than others.

It wasn't until tonight that the answer became quite obvious to me. I was thinking about the Chinese immigrants that I blogged about at the end of my last post. I was thinking about Hiroshima, where we killed 75,000 people, mostly civilians. I was thinking about the Japanese interment camps, where we put innocent Japanese people after Pearl Harbor just because their ancestors came from Japan. I thought about the racial profiling we did after the 9/11 attacks, where just for being Arab, men got the privilege of being arrested and held for hours and days without as much as a phone call.

What have we ever done to discourage terrorist attacks? It's like the school bully pouting and saying "why doesn't anyone like me?"

I blogged earlier how keeping slaves meant that the slave owners were also in danger of being killed or hurt. This is true now, of the United States. We are not safer because we are being the bully to the world; we are in more danger because we are not nurturing healthy relationships with other countries. Give and take....seems we only know how to take while they give.

Angel Island

Yesterday we went to Angel Island. We got up early and left on the 9:45 ferry (meaning we had to get up at 7 am on a Saturday! Can you say martyr? ;-) It was beautiful on the island, and we were all in the mood for lots of hiking, which is a good thing because that's what we did....lots of hiking!

Here's Hibi and Zac on the ferry over to Angel Island. Half the fun is getting there, right? Well, going on a boat is always fun.

Elizabeth, overlooking Alaya Cove

The trail started out with some awfully steep steps. They probably went up about 5 stories. We stopped for a break already after we got to this overlook.

Paul, Zac, and Hibi on the trail at Angel Island

View from Mt. Livermore

The amazing view from Mt. Livermore! We could see all around the island from the peak.
After we left Mt. Livermore we all got very tired very quickly. Even though we were going downhill, we all had very sore feet and legs. When we got home, we ordered pizza. I self-medicated with two glasses of wine, two advil, a hot bath, and going to bed at 9:30. Whew! What a day! But what great memories.

Next time we go (if there is a next time) I want to go to the Immigration Station. The brochure says that Chinese immigrants were held there by the thousands. They were kept there for up to six months, while wealthy Europeans were admitted right away into the US. Isn't it lucky that Chinese were later seen for what they were: good railroad laborers. (Sarcasm here, in case your sarcasm meter is off.) Ah, the home of the free, that's what we are.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

diet technology

Good grief. I just read in the newspaper that, in order to "help" people lose weight, they're thinking about implanting something in the brain to make people think that certain foods made them sick as children. In their tests, it's worked, and some of them really believe that strawberry ice cream did make them sick as kids. They can't even discriminate between "what I perceive to be true" and a true memory.

You can read the article here:

Real life version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Scary People

This is a topic I've been thinking about a lot in the months (almost a year!) since we moved back to San Francisco. I'd appreciate any further ideas you all have on the topic.

Sometimes at park day when I'm chatting with other moms, someone will throw in a comment about what parks they don't like to go to because there are "too many scary people there." I've been struggling with this comment, and how to respond. See, I don't like to think in terms of "scary people" anymore. What is a scary person? What makes him or her scary? Blue hair? Too many piercings? A big scowl on the face? Drinking out of a paper bag? What exactly is scary about these people?

When we moved back to San Francisco, I realized I still had some (probably a lot) of residual racism left in me. When I saw a group of black or Mexican men standing together, I got anxious as I had to pass them. That has to go, I thought to myself. I've never been assaulted by a group like that, or anyone. Until I am being assaulted, I am not going to be afraid. Hey, they are people, and I am going to assume they are congregating for the same reason I congregate with my friends--for companionship.

This has been a liberating concept for me. One thing I really realized while watching Roots (we just watched it as a family--I had never seen it before, except for small snippets I saw when I came out of my bedroom as a kid and found my parents watching) is that all this racism didn't just hurt black people. It hurt their white owners, because they lived in constant fear of rebellion, especially after some slaves started the rebellion. When we treat people badly, we do have to be afraid of them, because of the possibility of retaliation. (Ooh, global ramifications to this too....)

One recent issue at stake, that I've been trying to sort through and filter through my new ideology.....our formerly homeless friend Mark got out of prison on Sunday. I don't want to see him. I have talked with him on the phone, and I guess I've come around a little.

Before Mark went to prison, he was very controlling of Sheri. He was always trying to get her to do what he thought she should do. He has hurt her physically a couple of times. Sheri did sometimes just take off, and Mark would storm all over the neighborhood, to all her haunts looking for her, and once when he came to our place looking for her he uttered the words "when I find her, I'm going to kill her." I was very afraid for Sheri that night. Paul actually went looking for her too, just to warn her about Mark.

While he was in prison, he wrote us letters in which he was vaguely threatening. He blamed us because Sheri said she wanted to break up with him. He thought we told her to break up with him. Seems he can't conceive of Sheri doing something without someone telling her to. He was angry with us, and I was annoyed with him for being angry.

When I realized he'd get out of prison on Sunday, and Paul would be gone most of the day--to church and then he did a baptism--I realized I didn't want to open the door to Mark without Paul being there. Mark had his stuff shipped to us when he went into prison, and he wanted it back. I was somewhat afraid of him because of his threatening letters. I decided I would not open the door if he came while Paul was not here. But I also realized that in addition to a small amount of fear, I also feel a need to "show him" that his behavior is not acceptable. I need to punish him because what he did wasn't appropriate.

I partly feel justified, both in being afraid of Mark and of feeling the need to punish him. But as I've worked through it, I've realized that what I'm doing is cutting him off from someone who is on Mark's side, someone he can receive support from. He doesn't need a whole lot of talking from me, but he does enjoy the meals I cook. Paul is good at talking to him, trying to work him through the frenetic energy he gets and calm him down to figure out the best next step to take.

I didn't have to figure out what to do with Mark on Sunday, because he didn't show up--he had other things he wanted to do before he came over here. Maybe when he does come over I'll let him stay for dinner.

kid comment

I'm working on another post, and I just heard a funny comment come from a friend of the kids who spent the night. They've been talking about aliens and UFOs, and the friend just said,

"Do you think that aliens believe in God?"