Sunday, February 7, 2016


I thought I'd give a quick update on my health. I am slowly coming to realize that there is a medical limitation on my life, and it's chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It joins my asthma and has superseded the asthma as the biggest pain in the ass in my life. COPD means that I wake up every morning and clear the mucous out of my lungs. I cough and cough, and take my medicines; there are more than I've ever taken in my life. I have two inhalers, a nebulizer, and a daily tablet.  The best medicine is what I've been doing my whole adult life: running. 

I can't emphasize enough how important my relationship with my healthcare provider is.  Because I can have real conversations with her and because she's seen me over time, I was able to avoid getting bronchitis in January. I haven't been able to do that in years.  A short course of steroids was the trade off but I was able to wrangle the antibiotics before my sinus infection entered my lungs.  I mean, I'm not a huge fan of New Year's resolutions, but I make them every year and sincerely keep them in mind. This years is to avoid bronchitis.  To that end, I saw my doctor early, took all of the stupid antibiotics and stupid steroids, and rested like a boss.  And as a result, for the last few weeks, I've been able to get to the gym (I have to run indoors to avoid pollen, dust, and other triggers) three times weekly for two miles at a time.  I run like an aging penguin, but I do it.  And I feel better. It helps my energy, sleep cycles, and mental state.

So those are the upsides.  I think for me the major downside is that I absolutely won't have any days where I'm not coughing. People will always ask if I'm getting sick and I don't know what to say. I have some fears. I hope I never have to have an oxygen tank. I hope I don't get lung cancer. I hope that it doesn't get worse. I really, really hope that a glass of red wine is part of the cure.

And I guess I'd like to answer those questions that will come up: The diagnosis came from my pulmonologist. I got it from teaching at a middle school in Oklahoma City where they had known mold and asbestos and were remodeling right while classes were going on. I inquired about the health risks; I got sick. I had bronchitis for 10 months straight. My doctor then told me that if I didn't find a different job I could die. And he wasn't kidding. It didn't help that I grew up in a home where people smoked. They didn't know about the hazards in the 70s and 80s like we do now. 

Until this morning when I finally read the literature on my condition, I was kind of able to pretend I didn't have it.  So there you have. I'll get used to it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Naomi Shihab Nye

In light of recent attacks and some ridiculous idea from politicians to only accept refugees who are Christian (My God, do we not remember turning the Jews away during WWII?), I thought I'd share this comforting piece. 

Many thanks to David Kanigan for reminding me of this gem. 

Gate A-4 By Naomi Shihab Nye:
Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”
I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”
We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies— little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts— from her bag and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single traveler declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo— we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.
Then the airline broke out free apple juice and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar too. And I noticed my new best friend— by now we were holding hands— had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate— once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Remember me? 
Hi There.

Been awhile.

I got a couple of nudges lately that I haven't been keeping my blog up and that I should do so.

Life was busy there for a moment. But here I am, writing to you from my own time and space. Same me, same house, same sweet husband. All is well with us. Life has just been really, really busy.

Some family stuff came up recently. Mostly I've been concerned about my brother-in-law, who suffered a stroke a few months back. That same week, my "little" sister-in-law had her baby entirely too early. We weren't sure what was going to happen with such a little micro-preemie and both my SIL and niecelet were sick, sick, sick.

But they are tough, tough, tough.

You know what? Everyone is fine.

It makes me a little happy-weepy to say that. Weeks in the hospital for everyone. ICU, NICU, FYI... And they're all home from the hospital.  My niece "Little G", is up to 5 pounds thanks to her very persistent mom and dad, a saint of a doctor, and (probably) a highly dedicated team of nurses.
When all this was going down, G thought he might pop on out to either Atlanta or Louisiana to help out. We just didn't know what to do. This is the price we pay for living so far from Gs family; there's  no easy way to head on over to the right coast. His dad went to my BILs side and his mom took my older niece while everyone was hospitalized.

If you're reading this and you're of the spiritual, religious, or praying sort, please send up a big "thank you". I know I am really glad, really grateful and really relieved.

So that's the big thing on my end. I guess it takes a lot of energy to hold your breath.

Work is good. I do love it. I've gotten to meet some interesting characters. Hopefully, someone somewhere says "She's an interesting character".  And I feel more "normal" in my job. I began the way anyone should: by listening to the administrative assistant. Our office has three secretarial types. They are fantastic and know what they're doing. You never, ever want to ignore your admin. And I knew this going in. She sometimes makes a gentle suggestion and I always take that advice.

Ok, enough updates. Let me throw in a few photos to catch you up, and I promise I'll write sooner rather than later.
Lucy is a snuggler. Her favorite snuggle time is 4 a.m. The rest of the time, she's a little spooky. 
Yes, we're at a RODEO! 

This is the "before" of one of the night stands I am rehabbing. 
Here is an "in progress" photo of the same night stands. The color isn't this dark. It's deep blue. 

My buddy Rich and I on "National Coming Out Day". My shirt says "Ally".

Today we went to our first powwow in Washington state. Met some really nice people! 

Saturday, July 11, 2015


I got a new job at my university.

I love it, I really do.

I was asked to be the interim Associate Dean for Student Achievement.

My friend Jesse held this position. In fact, he is the one who brought me from Oklahoma to Washington in the first place, saying he felt for sure that I was a wildcat.

But for family reasons, Jesse and his family moved to Oregon, where he took a position at Oregon State.  I miss my friend. In fact, I think everyone who ever worked for him misses him.

I got a tap on the shoulder from the Dean of Student Success. She's a good mentor. She's outspoken, she's got red hair. Hey, what's not to love? And she placed her faith in me by asking me to do this for a time.

So I guess that makes me her "mini-me".

Really, it's quite interesting work. I head a group of 9 directors who run programs to help students succeed academically.  I'm the idea person, and the one steering the boat. I try to coordinate all of our efforts and make sure we're not working at cross purposes. There are about 75 of us. My job goes a million miles an hour...all the time.

What this means for me is two things. First, that I get to try on the job for size. I've only committed to 6 months to a year. If I dislike it, I can go back to teaching full time. The English department is holding my job and my office, just in case. I have time to learn what to do-and what not to do. It's important to me that they do a nationwide search so they find the best person for this job. It might be me; we'll know soon enough. But sometimes in academe there's this move to just directly hire someone without a larger search, and I don't want that. I want to be interviewed and asked the hard questions and to win or not according to my merits and not by any perceived favoritism. If I end up with this position permanently, it will be because of my own performance and not because some higher-up likes me. I wouldn't want my employees to think that's why I got a job. I seriously couldn't handle that. I resent it when it happens to others and a national search is the right thing to do. Yes, I could lose. But also, I'm still not sure that I want the job. Mostly though, I want to do things right.

There are definitely good things about this. I work with pretty amazing people who are committed to helping others. They have a passion for what they do. They're effective. They're well educated. I couldn't ask or better people.

And there are clear paths for my own actions. I tell people that I really work for the secretaries, since they pretty much tell me what needs to happen and what some of the processes are. I do a lot of writing, of research (YAY) and interacting with others in the university. And these last two weeks, I've been volunteering with our new student orientation. Orientation is a huge deal- we have two offices committed to running it every year. Hundreds of people at the university at all levels are heavily involved in this group effort.

There are only two real drawbacks. First is that this doesn't come with teaching responsibilities. At least until January. I'll miss teaching; it's my true passion in life and something that keeps my soul alive. If I do this on a regular basis, I'll need to be able to teach a couple of classes a year. Of course, the upside is that I don't have to do any grading on the weekends, in the evenings, or at any time. My job usually runs from 7:30 to 5:30 or 6.  That's it. I am refusing (so far) to think about work when I'm not at work.

The second thing is that I'm an introvert who has been called upon to do many, many extrovert activities lately.
I love them, and I love doing them. Sometimes the things my office does can make all the difference in a student's life.

Being an introvert doesn't mean that I hate people or being around people. It just means that I draw energy from being alone and engaging in quiet activities and that being around groups means that I spend that energy. And by the end of the week, I am usually drained.

So you know my last post with all the pictures? Yep, we're out recharging my batteries.

I'm going to tell you something embarrassing right now. You might need to sit down.

When I'm all out of battery power, I become cranky and somewhat irrational. I try to keep that to myself and just deal, but uh, that doesn't work. I even try to just ignore it and pretend that everything is ok with me, even though on the inside I'm just about to stop whatever I'm doing, sit down on the sidewalk, and scream like an overly-stimulated child who has had too much carnival rides and ice cream and who now needs a time out or a nap.  Extroverts do understand this. My husband understands this philosophically.  Eventually, I just need a day to myself, to hide under proverbial blankets and not really talk to anyone. So last night, after a long walk and some dinner, G gently suggested that we not go anywhere this weekend. I have to go to a parent barbecue today, with people attending, and be a dean. He suggested that I go to bed early, sleep late, and read a book today. That we not have adventures, that I take care of myself, and that he just leave me alone too.

It's like turning your phone all the way off. The batteries recharge faster and when it comes back on, it's ready to go.

So today, I'm catching up my blog. I'm going to go for a walk, make some baba ghanoush, and read a book. And by tomorrow, I'll be ready to go. If not, I have an extra day to rest.

See you soon; I'm putting myself into time out.

Catch Up

It's been way too long since I've had time and energy to compose my thoughts. No posted photos, no thoughts on marriage rights, nothing. So, in ten photos or less, I'm going to get us caught up.

I wrapped up the quarter with AMAZING students

My wonderful niece graduated from her 2 year college

She's headed to Eastern Washington University- because Hogwarts doesn't take FAFSA

See the family resemblance?

We enjoyed Walla Walla once again, and all of its beauty

I got into a stupid Facebook argument after posting this picture. But seriously, this is an issue close to my heart
I am proud to be an American right now. I mean, I am always a proud American, but marriage equality came to our country. YES! Some say congratulations to same-sex couples, but I say congratulations to all of us! We're not free until we're all equal. 

G and I have been traveling around the state

This is Snoqualmie Falls.  My friend Chris Stinson says that next time we're in the area, she'll take us hiking!

Ever watch Twin Peaks? We went to the cafe.

In the TV show, Kyle Maclachlan has a piece of cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee. And so did I.

We went hiking outside of Leavenworth one day

This is the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. We came across a deer, snake, and a bunch of other wildlife

I've been up early- 5 am- since about January. I go for walks or go to the gym every weekday

The 4th of July weekend took us to Olympia.  We don't have AC and it was over 100 in our town
"When the tide is out, the table is set"

I could live in Olympia.

Yep, just buy a houseboat and live on the water.... 

"Dignity in Labor". I framed the state capitol building in this. 

In Washington, lots of wilderness runs right through town. This photo was taken right by a giant freeway overpass.  This is Tumwater falls

I laugh at this photo all the time. It's a face and it's drinking water... 

Lovely little bed and breakfast

This is the Swantown Inn. Great place to stay, excellent homemade gourmet breakfast. Xeriscaped with a garden in front and lots of recycling.  They even keep bees.  

So that just about catches us up, right?

Except that I got a new job. I'll write about that in the next post.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Black Lives Matter

I get up most mornings between 5:30 and 6.  I just naturally wake up early.  This is a new thing in the last year, as I've always been something of a night owl.  In any case, I usually get up, make myself a bit of coffee, and head to the gym. My normal routine there is a bit of cardio and then a bit of weight lifting. Then home, breakfast, and off to dive into my work day.  It's a nice routine. Healthy.  Since I'm at the gym early and since I don't really want to talk to humans that time of day, I haven't made many friends. I'm one of the regulars. Me and the old timers do our stuff and go.  There are a couple of bro dudes who continue to swell their pectorals and utter guttural phrases such as "gotta get swole" and "I'm doing two-a-days this week. Gotta get a tiny waist."  There is a younger guy, perhaps in his early twenties, and his buddy and possibly bro dude mentor, in his late 30s to 40s.  For some reason, Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" is the older bro dude's favorite song.  Why do I know that? Because I didn't have my music turned up high enough. They are sort of intimidating at first, due to the dropping of weights and profound advice, but I got used to them. On the other hand, I actively enjoy the morning crew: Pat, who is the only person to talk to me, is retired and is traveling to Germany and Turkey next year; old guy #1, #2, and #3, all of whom do cardio for like a minute, then circulate chatting about agriculture and investments while periodically lifting a weight and scratching. They all have those old Navy style tattoos like "Mom" and the eagle with where they were stationed on their biceps.  There's Seahawks gal who wears head to toe gear every day. She's got style. I have a place too: sleepy sweaty woman who never talks.

There have been recent changes at my gym. New owners, one a personal trainer and the other a former police officer.

I don't like change, not this kind.  I like the old owner; he always says good morning to me and is both peppy and mellow. He sort of sets the vibe in the room to "chill".

Some of the changes are good.  There is more emphasis and space for the personal trainers. There are now books on nutrition and training available. They tried offering daycare, even though that didn't work out.  And there's a push for better equipment and more group fitness classes.

And a problem: There's a free for all board where members can anonymously write whatever is on their minds. I like that, for the most part. I commented on how women feel comfortable working out there. But one week there was a comment about one of the staff members.  That he was hot chocolate.  Another member commented assent. This went on for two weeks. I don't like the idea of objectifying people or commenting on their hotness (or coldness?), and this made me uncomfortable. I'm pretty sure if this were a female they were commenting on, it would have been erased quickly.

And another problem. There are now printed signs everywhere that say "Law Enforcement Lives Matter. We support all law enforcement, all the time".

Please bear with me. I support law enforcement. They are necessary to the functioning of a just society.  They are to protect and serve. I won't go on ad nauseam about this. I will say that my family has a long history of both law enforcement and military service.  Believe me, I get it. I know that there are good ones and bad ones.

What I don't "get", what makes me disagree, what makes me uncomfortable enough to keep me awake at night, is the idea that police are above the law, that they are above accountability and reproach.  That men like Eric Garner can be choked to death with no arrest, with no inquiry, with no justice even though this was recorded and even though if this was done by non-police, it's most likely that two people would be standing trial for murder.

I wish they would change that sign to "We Support All Law Enforcement, except when they abuse their power, because we believe in them so much that we hold them to the highest ethical standards."

Here's what happened yesterday, though. An older guy at the gym, who is there maybe two mornings a week, came in wearing this:

If you don't know what this is, it's a reference to the death of Eric Garner, who was choked by police- on film (warning: graphic video)- and saying "I can't breathe!"  He was not resisting at all and they choked him to death. To death. No charges. Why were they arresting him? Possibly for selling cigarettes. And here is this man, wearing a shirt MOCKING the death of someone at the hands of bullies who have no business being police officers. Bullying others who might think of stepping out of line.  I mean, according to this logic, I could and perhaps should be shot for speeding. Or jaywalking. Or participating in an act of disobedience against an unjust law.  Or selling cigarettes, or being a prostitute, or a drug user. Or being Black.

The shock of this message did take my breath away.

I'm going to offer several links related to statistics and the death of black men in our country.  Yes, I am going there. Go there with me. Or keep reading and catch them later. Just remember: I don't particularly trust the media but I do trust statistics.

I was pretty incensed by this shirt, and by the privileged and arrogant position this person takes. Yes, it's a free country. Yes, he has the right to free speech. But I also have a right to be outraged by someone with the audacity to say that if you break the law at all, you deserve to be murdered. That your life doesn't matter. And that due process of law means that the police are judge, jury, and executioner.  Due process. That's what I demand. Due process for everyone.

But mostly, I'm sad. At the lack of compassion and understanding by both this business and the human being who finds it necessary to wear bigoted clothing. I hope he someday, somehow, feels really ashamed of himself.

And I'm really proud of myself for not getting in his face. But perhaps he needs that. Perhaps he, like so many of us, is just ignorant. And perhaps I would have beat the snot out of him and gone to jail.

Instead, next week, all week, I'm going to wear my own shirt; one I bought a few weeks ago. Because if you need to advertise who you are, then perhaps you need to know who I am as well.

We all matter. Not some of us; all of us. Nobody matters more than anyone else. Black Lives Matter.

I wore this shirt last Friday on campus. I was in the student union making small talk with a group of students. Another person came up and complimented me on my shirt. Then he said "All lives matter."  "Yes," I said, "but today we're talking about Black lives."  "Right on." Yes, white people can have conversations about race. And it's time we did because it's not the job of non-white people to explain this to us. Or convince us. The evidence is all around us, but we've been trained not to see, so I'm making the invisible visible.

Maybe it doesn't matter at all if I wear my shirt. It's not a huge protest. It's not getting in a bigot's face, because that's not going to change his heart. But it's my thing, because I cannot be silent about casual racism and bigotry. The little things are sometimes big things.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


I'm going to upload a few more photos today of a hike to Manastash. Let me give you a topographical view first.

Manastash is south and east of town, just a few miles. It's not a straight up and down climb, per se, but it is pretty close.  All told, the hike from bottom to top is only about 2.5 miles. The Washington Trails Association says 4 miles out and back, but my fitbit says different. The elevation gain is 1,700 feet. And yeah, my hamstrings will tell you that's about right! The 4-5 miles is really doable for a beginner, but the vertical change is insane and if this is a first hike for you, just go part way.

Here is the view of top from the bottom.  Doesn't look like much.

Here is the view of the bottom from the top.  A little more impressive.  And look at those wildflowers!

Add caption
This is about 1/4 of the way up.

 Looking back from the 1/4 marker.
No, I haven't tilted the camera. That's the vertical change. Husband for scale.

 Nothing to see here, just a bunch of gorgeous wildflowers and their buzzing bees running the world.

 Trees that grow on an angle.

This is after the hard part of climbing, about 3/4 of the way there.

 At the top, looking West towards Seattle. That road leads to Leavenworth through those mountains.

 Looking East towards Kittitas.

And a perfect little cactus flower no bigger than the palm of my hand.

And just because they are enchanting, pictures of the flora decorating our path.