Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and best wishes for a prosperous, happy, healthy 2011. Hey, did you know tomorrow will be 1/1/11?

(If you're out tonight, choose a designated driver. Watch out for the drunk idiots on the road. Drive safely and buckle up. Okay?)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stanford Breaks UConn's Winning Streak!

And this girl, Jeanette Pohlen, was a big part of the reason. I swear, I saw even Tara VanDerveer crack a smile on camera after the game.

And it wasn't even close. Stanford won 71-59 at home in front of a sold-out crowd. This time they were ready for UConn. They shut down the Huskies' Maya Moore and weren't frazzled by UConn's aggressive defensive play.

Go Cardinal! I'm glad it was Stanford that got to end UConn's 90-win streak.

Camo Jerry

One of the presents I got for Christmas was a San Francisco Giants throw, which has a silky rug-like white backing. Jerry has discovered he can camouflage himself in it. This morning he attacked many strings and won the battle. Here he is waiting for another string to appear.

I don't have the heart to tell him his blue eyes are a dead giveaway, along with his orange points.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Progress, Not Perfection

Well, my grades are all submitted, and thus ends another semester. I always get a little sad after posting final grades. Inevitably there are students who don't pass, and I always wonder how I could have done a better job. Of course, having a certain number of unmotivated students is par for the course in a developmental English class. Some of these kids, fresh out of high school, don't aim for anything higher than just getting by, and they're used to sliding on through with a minimal amount of effort. Then they get into college thinking they can do the same thing. I don't know why some students think they can pass without turning in a couple of papers and by skipping their lab assignment. I tell them they can't, and to turn in something, if only to get partial credit. A five-point "F" is still better than a zero. But I reckon some of them think I'm merely rattling a saber and I don't really mean it.

So, I've posted final grades and some will realize--too late, after the fact--that I did indeed mean it.

And all of this got me thinking about where I just slide on by, put in a minimal amount of effort, in my own life. Chelle and I were talking on the drive home from Hat Creek (six hours in the car, what else can you do?) and remarking on how much we've turned into an old married couple in a rut. She comes home, I'm parked in front of the tv with my laptop on my lap, she grabs her iPad, and we sit there engaged in everything but each other. There's comfort in routine and being able to sit quietly with a loved one, but there's also the fear of taking each other for granted. We've both gotten pudgy over the years, too, and so we wound up making a New Year's resolution: instead of the same old routine, I'll make us a healthy dinner every night, and we'll sit down together to eat it and talk before we retreat into our books or our computer games or whatever's on the Idiot Box.

I've been good about not drinking, but my cholesterol's a little elevated, and I've been lazy about exercising. My treadmill right now is covered with boxes. What I've got to do is get back into the habit of running sprints every other morning before work. That seems to be the only time I'll do them. Fortunately, my first class isn't until 9am next semester, and I have Tuesdays and Thursdays off, so I won't be as easily able to conjure excuses.

And I reckon that's what's bugging me about seeing students who are perfectly capable putting forth so little effort. How to motivate them? How to inspire them to do better? Other students have snarked that I ought to dock more points than I do. But, see, that doesn't work. I don't want students to FEAR an "F"... I want them to desire an "A."

So it's a never-ending quest to make things that seem mundane relevant and interesting, important--even crucial. Students say they enjoy my classes because it's clear I care.

But today I'm wondering if caring is enough.

Oh, well, as they say in AA: progress, not perfection. Every semester is different, and I get better and better as I learn from each failure.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Home Again, Home Again

We left Hat Creek around 10am and are finally just now getting home. It rained the whole way except for when we were going over the pass--then we were treated to a winter wonderland. Lassen, of course, is totally covered with snow and remains snowy at the peak year long. That's the crazy thing about California--you can be at the beach surrounded by swaying palm trees one minute, get in your car and drive a few hours, and go skiing.

Not that I've ever gone skiing, but still.

It's good to be home, and the kitties are delighted to be out of the carrier. They are presently stalking each other. Derby always wins this game since she's quite a bit brighter than Jerry. Car rides don't bother him at all as long as he has his red fuzzy blanket.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Up and At 'Em

Well, not only did I get everything Zenyatta this Christmas, I also got everything San Francisco Giants, so here I am wearing my new Cody Ross (my boyfriend's) jersey. I am still a little under the weather, but at least I'm out of bed today and I even played canasta with Chelle and her mom. She won, of course. I came in second. Chelle lost. Sssh.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I'm sick, and this is how I feel about it!

Merry Day After Christmas

A reader's fantasy, huh?

Our forecast snowstorm eluded us, so no snowshoeing for me, which is just as well since Chelle also saw fit to give me her cold for Christmas. This morning I took some time to show her how to do a "vampire cough" into the crook of her arm.

Derby and Jerry gave Mom a game of Apples to Apples for Christmas (which I enjoyed playing when I was in rehab!), so we spent the morning playing several rounds of that. I'd planned on taking some time to record grades and start posting them today, but I'm feeling a little too punky for serious work. Thus I will return to Netflix and making my way through the Monarchy series (and as far as I can see, Henry did indeed usurp the throne from Richard, and it's making me want to go back and read my Shakespeare once again. Then again, the Bard couldn't upset Elizabeth because they were pretty carefree about lopping off heads back in those days).

Santa Anita's opening day is today, so naturally I will root for Smiling Tiger.

I hope Santa was good to everyone, and may I say I really like the bathroom scale here at the Pell household because this morning it told me I'm down five more pounds, and I know that is not even remotely possible given all the candy snarfing I've been engaging in lately. I just won't step on the scale when I get back home.

My second Christmas sober, so yeehaw.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What Do You Get Joyce for Christmas?

Anything Zenyatta related, and a big fat check to go to Breeders Cup next year.

Thanks, Chelle, Mom, and Dad. You guys are the best.

ps. Oh, and I got a very special pair of earrings from someone very dear to me.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas at the Pell House

Ah, the holidays with the in-laws. The beauty of this place always astounds me. This photo is at the back of the property by the pond (the self-same pond, if you'll recall, that I was dashing up the hill from to throw a trout into after pulling it from Hat Creek this past summer. I swear that knee I came down on still isn't right.)

I spent the morning doing zumba with my mother-in-law and my hips haven't seen this much action since ... well, I dare not say.

And this is our tree. There are so many windows in this place and snow on the ground already, so it's Christmas season perfect. Actually, we are supposed to be hit with a snowstorm tomorrow and Sunday. We're talking about going snowshoeing up in Lassen if it's possible to get over the pass.

It sure will be pretty with the evergreens heavy with snow.

Happy holidays to all my friends and family (and AA family) who follow this blog.

May all your Christmas dreams come true.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Christmas Funnies from LOLcats

I'm thinking Senator Lindsay Graham is trembling in fear of mortal peril at the moment. If he were out, he'd have nothing to fear. Well, merry Christmas, Senator.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Last Night's Lunar Eclipse

In case you missed it (and I did since it was cloudy here), here is video of last night's lunar eclipse. It's pretty rare to get one on the Winter Solstice.

3 Doors Down: "Here Without You"

If you're missing someone, this song says it all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

This Is Why I Don't Miss Spokane

Yikes! And to think Chelle and I were so very close to buying a house on the South Hill.

No offense to my friends who live in Spo-vegas.

Need Your Hooha Steamed?

Women are funny about their vajayjays.

It used to be that women never even trimmed their crotch hair. Big ole bushes were the norm. And if our vaginas got skunky, we douched. Or got a DNC. (And by that, I don't mean the Democratic National Convention.) Nope, I distinctly recall one of my foster mothers raving about how much better she'd felt after getting a DNC. I guess doctors used to perform this procedure on women who felt punky and unfresh. Then again, doctors also used to use vibrators on women as a cure for hysteria.

I guess if I had a cute doctor, I might be going in for office visits, complaining of hysteria on a regular basis.

Anyway, nowadays, douches are passe (revealed as prone to causing vaginal infections), and we hail the hooha as a self-cleaning oven. Any smart woman owns at least one vibrator of her own, and most of us are more educated about what makes us feel good.

Alas, it seems that once women start to feel empowered and comfortable with their genitalia, society decides to raise the bar a little higher. I'm not against trimming (heck, all that hair can get in the way; a nice trim provides easier access), and women with shaved or waxed vajayjays are just hot. (Landing strips are just silly, though. I don't get the point, unless you feel your partner needs a runway, and if so, then get a new partner or train this one better.)

No, now we're supposed to vajazzle our vajayjays so we shimmer down there like a disco ball. Or if we're too stretched out from childbearing or other rigorous sexual activity, we can have our hoohas surgically retightened (vaginoplasty). And now some spas in LA are offering a new treatment: steaming your vagina. Yup. You straddle a stool over a boiling kettle of herbs and steam your precious lady for a half hour or so.

All because our vaginas supposedly have nasty little teeth that otherwise bite.

(Okay, not really.)

Look. When are women going to feel good about themselves JUST THE WAY THEY ARE? If you keep Ms. Puss clean and reasonably trimmed, and if you eat a healthy diet, you're fine. Stay away from spicy food and asparagus if you know things are going to get intimate. Take in a little more citrus than usual. The same holds true for men.

You don't see men being told to bejazzle their balls or soak their peckers in vinegar, do you?

Didn't think so.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Vision of Students Today

This is an interesting short video that still manages to pack in a lot of information. As an educator, I'm mostly intrigued by this because it shows so very clearly how we are failing our students through outdated instructional practices... especially when you're working with developmental students. Drills don't work. Rote memorization does not work. The average student has an attention span of about 20 minutes maximum, so you constantly must change whatever it is you're doing in the classroom every 15 minutes or so if you want to keep your students tuned in. Incorporate video, slideshows, text, discussion, group work, all in a single period. They don't learn if you don't keep them engaged. The days of the tweedy old gray-bearded professor pontificating in front of the room are gone.

Or they should be.

Hat tip to Shawn Chinn.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Staying Sober During the Holidays

It's that time of year when even people who don't normally drink will imbibe, at office parties, family gatherings, or at the homes of friends. What's an alcoholic to do with so much temptation? You can't exactly say no to every invitation, and besides, it's the holidays and you SHOULD enjoy yourself! Here are some tips on how I handle temptations, many of which I learned in rehab.

(1) Go with someone who knows you don't drink and who will support you. Stay away from friends who are "drink pushers"-- you know, the ones who used to encourage your drinking when you were using or are alcoholics themselves who were bummed when you decided to stop. (Chances are good you don't see these folks that much anymore anyway.)

(2) Have an escape plan. If the profusion of booze turns out to be too much for you, don't give into temptation. LEAVE. If you can't leave (because, say, you're the designated driver), call your sponsor or alert your trusted friend that you brought along with you that you're having a rough time. Perhaps go outside for some fresh air, or to the bathroom to splash some water on your face. If you have a smartphone, there is a One Day At A Time app (ODAAT) with prayers and quick meditations. Briefly reconnect with your 12 step program. As they say, once you've had a good dose of AA, drinking is a lot less fun to do.

(3) If someone walks up to you and asks if you'd like something to drink, say, "Sure! Do you have Diet Coke (or club soda or water or anything nonalcoholic)." Most people stop at that and give you what you ask for. But some will persist. "What? There's some great eggnog! You should try it!" (or rum punch, or wassail, or peppermint martinis). You can answer any number of ways: "No, I'm watching my calories" or simply "I don't drink." If they keep persisting, they're either tipsy themselves or have the sensitivity of a fly. To these folks, I'm prone to smiling and saying firmly, "Seriously, no. Thank you." If they persist, they're being a jackass, and you can walk away from them with a clear conscience.

(4) Watch out for hidden booze. Rum balls, bourbon balls, holiday punch, some cakes and pies. Even a simple bite with that old familiar flavor can set off unbearable cravings, so just don't go there to begin with.

(5) Alcoholics Anonymous. Meetings are always packed this time of year and just after the New Year, when people are trying to turn over a new leaf and start the year sober. Going to meetings keeps you connected to the program and you'll be less likely to drink. But AA also has holiday bashes... potlucks, dancing, speakers, the works, all without the booze. Often they run around the clock for several days, and you can drop by as needed. They do this because they know.

I know. It's normal for this time of year to be a little rough. Hang in there. Focus on other things: giving and receiving gifts, singing, music, conversation, games. One thing I was afraid of when I quit drinking was that parties and gatherings wouldn't be fun anymore. It's not true. Actually, most people don't drink to excess (it just seemed that way when I was drunk off my ass all the time). I've also discovered that most people like me much better as a sober person: after all, they get to interact with the REAL ME.

One day at a time. If you can get through 24 hours without a drink, that's all you need to do.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Serving Others

The holidays are a time of year of tangled emotions. On the one hand, there’s the happiness and joy of the season, the fun of giving and receiving gifts, seeing family, and, as Chelle likes to say, “Feeling the love.” The flip side of that is regret, or grief, over the absence of those feelings. Some of us are alone, or some of us have suffered a loss over the past year, and we feel keenly a person’s absence. This time of year is also supposed to be a time of forgiveness and wiping the slate clean, starting off the New Year vowing to be better and do better.

It’s also a time to remember those less fortunate than us—truly tough this year, because so many of us have lost our jobs or have taken pay cuts, or haven’t seen a raise in three years despite an increased cost of living. We want to help, but then feel like we can’t, and then feel guilty about that during this season of giving.

And sometimes, the stress of the holidays brings out the worst in people. I was watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” the other night and remarked on Facebook that this world nowadays has way too many Mr. Potters and not enough George Baileys. There is indeed something wrong in the world when 9-11 first responders can’t get government assistance for health problems tied to that event, but millionaires can get their tax breaks extended. And how many Grinches and Scrooges do you know—except that the story ends differently for them? Their hearts don’t grow, or they don’t have a change of heart?

Over the course of a year, it’s so easy to get self-involved, bogged down in your own problems and your own desires. Once in that space, it’s hard to get unstuck.

AA offered me a solution to self-interest. It’s so simple that it’s laughable, but it’s profound in its simplicity. It goes something like this. If you don’t want to be a liar, don’t lie. If you want to be sober, don’t drink. If you want to be unselfish, give. If you want to be forgiving, forgive. If you want to be a better person, start being one.

The point is, stop rationalizing why you CAN’T. Just do it. Actions first. Then your state of mind, your life, will follow suit.

It’s not the other way around. We get stuck when we think actions follow.

I’m reminded of something my father told me the last time I ever saw him in 1986, when I left home after Christmas Break to head back to Penn State and the start of the spring semester. He’d be going into surgery for a pacemaker in a few more days—he never made it out of the recovery room. What he said to me, in a nutshell, was this: “The reason we’re here is to help other people. It’s the only thing that counts.”

I wish then that I had fully understood what he meant. It took me 48 years to get it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Lolcat Christmas

Not a bad cat. The tree is still standing.

Train: "Shake Up Christmas"

I loved "Drops of Jupiter." But "Hey Soul Sister" has been so overplayed that I change the station whenever that comes on the radio! This little Christmas ditty is actually a lot of fun (thanks, Randy, for the heads up about it). They're yet another great band out of San Francisco.

Monday, December 13, 2010

On Not Fighting the Current

I am living a charmed life nowadays. Even when I think things may not be going well, I say a quick prayer—something like, “God, show me what to do here. I’m stuck about what’s right—“ and inevitably the situation resolves itself with a good outcome. I’m learning to follow my nose, trust my instincts, and trust that something will intervene if I misstep. God, or my guides, or however you want to label this Loving Force, shows itself all the time, mostly through other people: if my path is taken because of a poor choice, obstacles get set in front of me that make me reevaluate the decision, or if it’s smooth sailing, then I know I’m going the right way.

I know, to someone who is totally ego-driven, that this sounds naïve and insane. All I can say to that is, when I was the one in charge of all my decision-making, I often made bad decisions–even when I thought I was doing the right thing--and then had to suffer negative consequences. Whenever some little part of my life felt out of my control, I’d panic and do whatever I could do to try and force a particular outcome. The result was often chaos. Plans backfired; I hurt people; people and events were unpredictable; I often felt frustrated.

And it was I who kept making the decision to drink, even well after I knew my addiction was out of control. So, there you have it.

Let me tell you, we individuals don’t rule the world. You can suffer from the delusion that you do, but you are not the one in charge. The only thing you’re in charge of is YOU. And you can either fight the current with your ego the whole trip, or you can go along for the ride and enjoy the scenery on the way and get from this life whatever it is God intended for you to get.

When you decide to put your life in God’s hands, worries fall away, serenity enters your life, and everything that happens to you is part of a blessed plan.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

San Francisco Fog

San Francisco is famous for its fog, in much the same way London is, I suppose. The fog is welcome in the summer, for it provides natural air-conditioning (indeed, summers in San Francisco can actually be quite chilly, so everyone here knows to dress in layers). Anyway, Chelle and I came into the city yesterday to do some Christmas shopping around Union Square, and we stayed overnight at the Fairmont (and before you think we're millionaires, let me just say that Groupon is a wonderful thing). Here is the view yesterday afternoon from our room on the 20th floor:

That's Coit Tower on the hill in the background, with San Francisco Bay beyond.

Now here is the view this morning:

Fog. Live it. Be it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Foray into Beltramos

Last year for Christmas, I didn't purchase booze for anyone as a gift because it would've involved going into a liquor store. I wasn't too sure that would be a good idea, being only a little over three months sober at that point. Well, yesterday I took the plunge. I've now been sober for 15 months, so I decided to go into Beltramos to pick up a very special bottle for Chelle, who, God love her, still religiously hides her bottle of Makers Mark in the kitchen in the trash compactor (that we never use,) lest I be tempted to take a snort. (That has now turned into a joke between us since she knows that I know full well that the bottle is there.)

As it is, I actually do go into a small liquor store twice a week to buy my replacement addiction, Camel Snus. I like the Frost and Mellow flavors. I know; you're thinking this is a disgusting habit. Actually, not so much: there's no spitting or chewing; you just pop it into your mouth and hold it there for about a half hour, but as every one inevitably splits open at some point, I just remove it and toss it. Chelle calls them my "poo sacks." They are much lower in nicotine than regular tobacco, so it seems a minor thing when compared to binge drinking.

But I digress. The little liquor store selling the Snus is more like a corner convenience store (selling snacks, cigarettes, soda, lottery tickets, and coffee drinks as well as booze), so going in there never bothers me.

Beltramos is different. That place is a booze warehouse (the photo above just shows the entrance, going into the first room). It stocks everything from expensive single malt scotches to jug wine. It is a vast building with free wine tastings in the back room. When I was drinking, I'd typically go there once, maybe twice, a month and buy about $350 worth of liquor all at once. I didn't feel complete unless I had about a case of assorted wines at home, along with bourbon for Chelle, and makings for mai tais, margaritas, and martinis for me. I didn't drink the cheap shit, either. Light rum and dark rum (typically Meyers or Pyrat), Patron tequila, Grey Goose or Belvedere vodka. Half the pleasure of drinking was derived from the ritual of crushing the ice and measuring carefully, then either pouring and stirring or shaking, then adding the garnish. I made very pretty drinks, if I do say so myself.

And then I drank them.

And then I drank some more.

By the end of the night, I didn't care so much how pretty my drink was: I would be chugging bourbon straight out of Chelle's bottle if my stock was all gone.

So it was a weird feeling, wandering the aisles at Beltramos yesterday, knowing that anything I bought was not for me. I experienced a little bit of a sense of loss for something that I once thought had brought me so much pleasure (when, in reality, it didn't.) I remembered the rush I would get on my shopping jaunts here, not unlike Nick Cage at the beginning of Leaving Las Vegas, when he's filling up his cart with booze at the liquor store, looking forward to the upcoming bender that winds up his downfall. I experienced a bit of wistfulness, too, that for whatever freaky trick of nature, unlike most people, I'm unable to have any of this stuff anymore. They can have one drink and stop. I can't. I'm just not wired with the proper stopping mechanism. We alcoholics weren't born with a STOP button.

I left with Chelle's present and another I spied for her brother, and a couple of stocking stuffers from a gourmet candy display. Went home, wrapped the bottle, stuck it under the tree. There's nothing else to report.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Indigo Girls: "There's Still My Joy"

You know, when I first heard the Indigo Girls were putting out a Christmas CD, I rolled my eyes. I never even bought the one Melissa Etheridge did because I'm fed up with artists milking their fans with these kinds of compilations. I figured Melissa did a Christmas album because she'd run out of fresh ideas and maybe had child support to pay. But the Indigo Girls? Hard to believe they'd sell out.

Well, they haven't. They're just stretching a bit. Especially since Emily has written a book with her dad about music and its importance to the spiritual life, and knowing that Amy majored in religion in undergraduate school, a Christmas album and a series of holiday shows this year actually makes sense for them. They're genuinely celebrating the season, not just trying to sell albums. There are only three traditional Christmas songs on the album, some of the songs are original, including one about Hanukkah, and there are guest appearances from Chely Wright and Brandi Carlile.

Altogether a good one to add to your holiday collection (buy or read more about it here). Enjoy this song by Emily Saliers.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Starbucks Refueling

Getting ready for my shift in the Writing Center. I'm glad I have this. Pray for my survival.


Well, Hell Week is here. It’s the last week of the semester, so the Writing Center will be overrun with students desperate to finish their hour-by-arrangement requirement, and tempers always flare when they realize all the appointments are taken. Of course, it’s no one’s fault but their own. They have an entire semester to complete their lab assignment—it’s not even graded. They just have to do it, and then they get 10 points. If they don’t do it, they lose 10 points—but as always, it boils down to which of your students have self-discipline, and which ones don’t.
The ones who don’t swarm the Writing Center during the last week of classes, sitting there for hours on end, hoping they can be squeezed in if an appointment ends early, or if someone doesn’t show up. As they sit there, they get angrier and angrier, and it never fails to amaze me how they manage to blame us for the situation they find themselves in. We aren’t open long enough; our hours aren’t flexible enough; we don’t have enough staff; the lab requirement is stupid. Anything but, “I should’ve listened to my teacher when she told me to finish my lab early because the lab is slammed during the last two weeks.”
And then I wonder if these kids are the same ones who’ll grow up to always blame things outside themselves for problems of their own creation.
Sometimes I think the real benefit of college is less education in book-learning than it is early practical experience in living in the real world as an adult.
Of course, some never do learn. The German economy collapses after World War I, and the Nazis blame the Jews. The American economy collapses due to the unmitigated greed of Wall Street, and citizens blame illegal immigrants. A student fails an English class, and the student blames his unreasonable bitch of an instructor.
Sobriety has been a blessing, for in looking over my life in completing my Step work, I’ve learned that many of my problems were the result of taking others’ nonsense personally, when I was way too willing to shoulder blame that either I wasn’t at all responsible for, or only partially responsible for.  People learn quickly who is willing to shoulder the blame for their own failures and are only too eager to pass the burden off if you’ll accept it.  It seems to be the way of the world, and it can swallow a sensitive person up. Me, I coped by trying to drink myself to death.
Not anymore. I am responsible for my own life, my own choices, my own feelings and actions. Nothing more. Those are the only things I have any control over.
I don’t accept responsibility for your mistakes. YOU made them; they’re YOURS.
Some students learn, and they don’t repeat the mistake next semester. Others we see in the Writing Center at the end of the semester, over and over again, every semester, until they finish their English course sequence.
And some we never see again.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Silent Monks Sing the Hallelujah Chorus



What do you get a wife who loves horses and a sponsor who loves horses? Tickets to Cavalia! We'll all be going (along with my sponsor's partner) on January 2nd.

Think Cirque du Soleil, only with horses. There's trick riding, dressage, Roman riding, acrobats on horseback, and the like. This video shows only stills from the show, but you get the basic idea. Check out their website here. Can't wait!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Zenyatta by Chelle Pell

Forgive me while I take a minute to brag on my wife. Her photographer's eye just keeps getting better and better. On Wednesday, she flew down to Los Angeles to visit the backside at Hollywood Park and get some photos of Zenyatta before the great mare ships out to Lane's End in Kentucky. She snapped many photos, but here is the "money" shot:

Now, what you're looking at is actually my iPhone photo of the photo she took, so her original is even sharper, but this gives you the general idea.

Last night Chelle spent about five hours printing about 200 of these, and this morning she overnighted them down to southern California. Sharla at the Second Race will be selling 8 x 10's and 5 x 7's of this photo on glossy or mat stock this Sunday, December 5, where Zenyatta will make her last appearance before departing California. If you're there, be sure to pick one up, as all proceeds go towards horse rescue.

I'm proud of my wife, both for her artistry and for her generous spirit.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ah Freilichen Chanukah

In celebration of Hanukkah, this favorite by Adam Sandler. Ah Freilichen Chanukah to all my Jewish friends.

There is a "Mordecai" in my family tree on my father's side. So maybe I'm, like, an eighth Jewish. "Not too shabby." Grin.


Sometimes the Bay Area drives me nuts because of all the traffic congestion and the high cost of living, but then we get a spectacular sunrise over the Santa Cruz Mountains and I'm glad I live in this beautiful place.

I snapped this photo this morning with my iPhone on our balcony before heading off to work.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Grinch!

In honor of the holiday season, I bring you How the Grinch Stole Christmas! This is just a trailer, but the whole episode is on Hulu if you can't find it airing locally. As a child, I loved the Grinch more than any other Christmas cartoon, followed by A Charlie Brown Christmas, then Rudolph. I hated Frosty the Snowman....zzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Today I Am the Queen of Swords

On Facebook, I have an "Inappropriate Tarot Card Readings" app. This is what was drawn for me today.

QUEEN OF SWORDS: One of the few women graced with the gift of having no emotions, the Queen of Swords can also see right through your bullshit. Lying to her is likely to get something cut off.


The Fray: "Over My Head (Cable Car)"

Gotta love the Fray, though the little boy is kinda creepy.

Back on We Go ....

Well, what can I say? You’ll remember that last May and early June I experienced a few uncomfortable weeks withdrawing from Cymbalta. It was an experiment; I’d originally been put on the medication for anxiety and mood swings, which my physician’s assistant attributed to perimenopause (because I had bad morning sweats at the time). When I quit drinking, the sweats went away (duh) and I felt tremendously better, coming out of the alcoholic fog. So I was thinking that perhaps I didn’t need the Cymbalta at all. I wanted to see if I could get through life totally drug free.

That didn’t happen. I do have a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder, which, luckily, is fairly mild for me. It’s tough to explain how the symptoms present themselves; the easiest way I can think of to describe it is “having perpetual stage fright.” What’s heinous about it is that the anxiety attacks come of out nowhere: I can be fine one moment and two seconds later, my throat is getting dry, my knees start shaking, I start to feel light-headed, and my heart starts racing. It’s extreme anxiety bordering on panic. And for absolutely no reason. They come out of nowhere.

Over the years, I’ve come to recognize the symptoms when I start experiencing them, so usually I’m able to talk myself down. I take deep breaths; I remind myself it’s all in my head; I force myself to slow down at whatever I’m doing; I tell myself it will pass in a moment. It always does. When it happens in the classroom, I doubt my students even notice.

But those few terrified moments are hell.

Other people with a more extreme degree of this disorder suffer unbearably. Some stay confined to their homes (in which case agoraphobia is usually the diagnosis); some can’t take jobs that require dealing with the public; any job in which public performance is required gets taken off their lists of possible careers. Two famous performers who’ve admitted to their struggle with SAD are Cher and Donny Osmond. Medications and cognitive behavioral therapy have proven effective.

The thing that differentiates SAD from simple stage fright or panic disorder is that the anxiety is centered around the specific fear of being judged. Actually, it’s not so much being judged as it is being judged unfairly. I’m pretty sure this is just the way my brain got used to thinking when I was a kid, growing up with a stepmother that therapists have dubbed “an irregular person,” someone who was impossible to please and who withheld affection when I was found failing. And since I couldn’t be perfect, I was always found to not measure up.

I think it was the unpredictability of how she would respond to me that knocked me off any equilibrium I ever had as a child. Once I brought home a “D” in Geometry, and I was prepared for a whipping and to be grounded; she just said, “I don’t know why you have to take that nonsense,” and that was the end of it. Another time I brought home a “B” and I was punished for not getting an “A”—I guess it was a subject she thought I should do better in. I never knew her agendas (and nowadays, I think maybe she wasn’t even aware).

The human mind is full of mysteries that we’re only just now starting to unlock. Like brain chemistry: do our brains get screwed up on their own and we’re born with a chemical imbalance; or do patterns of behavior get the brain used to operating a certain way, and we get locked into that? Psychotropic drugs supposedly correct imbalances.

Think about someone with OCD: they have to have things a certain way or complete particular rituals or they become so upset and uncomfortable that they fly into a panic and can’t function. What about hoarders? If you try to remove something of theirs, even a magazine that’s years old, they panic. Your trash is their treasure. They need that magazine. What impulse in their brain makes them think that? That their life will unravel if that magazine is no longer in their possession?

The brain makes no sense.

In any case, my social anxiety has been creeping back over the semester, and I suppose it should be no surprise that as more stress enters my life, my body’s way of coping returns to the way it once was. I’ve had a few bad moments in class (still, they never notice); my back is a solid rock of tension; I’ve felt unsettled, unfocused, out of control. The one thing I don’t want to do is return to booze. There’s the old-fashioned propranolol (beta blocker) and Ativan (anti-anxiety med) that got me through so many years, but they make me tired and listless. No, I actually felt pretty good when I was on Cymbalta, after I stopped drinking. I was losing weight, I was exercising, I felt calm but all there, too. I don’t like feeling out of it.

Isn’t that just what wacky people do: they start feeling better, so they go off their meds?

So the experiment didn’t give me the result I wanted. I don’t thrive when I’m not on my medication. But that’s okay. I’ve learned to accept the fact that I’m not a perfect human specimen.

There are some Old Timers in AA who insist that any kind of drug (beyond aspirin, cigarettes, or caffeine) are not to be taken or else you're not sober. I'm glad my sponsor doesn't think that way. [It's not like Cymbalta gives you a buzz or lifts your spirits (even though it is mostly known as an anti-depressant). It just evens me out.] But you know, I feel like if this is going to be a recovery blog, I need to be honest and put this out there.

I'm hoping it won't make one whit of difference to any of you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Parody of Crystal Waters

Now this is funny shit. Seriously. What IS the name of that Crystal Waters song? You know, the "la da dee, la dee do"... no one ever knows the name of it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Relaxing in Bodega Bay

Chelle and I just got back from spending the weekend with her parents in Bodega Bay, which is about a two-hour drive north of San Francisco (depending on traffic). There's not much in Bodega Bay but spectacular views of the Bay, walking paths, and a slew of little art & gifts galleries, a surf shop, restaurants, etc. Since it's now crab season, we ate a lot of fresh crab. We stayed at the Bodega Bay Lodge, which is a bit on the pricey side but each room has a fireplace and a view of the Bay, and Chelle's mom treated me to an in-room massage, which I really needed. My lower back has been acting up again, and Dawn the Massage Therapist did a great job of limbering me up.

Remind me that I need to get my doctor to refer a chiropractor in my network, okay? Because I'll forget until my back starts screaming at me again.

Anyway, on the way out today, we decided to swing by the town of Bodega itself, which is actually about five miles away from the coast, off Highway One on the way to the 101. Why, you ask? Well, the town is famous for being the place where Alfred Hitchcock shot the schoolhouse scene in The Birds. The schoolhouse still stands and so naturally I had to go stand in front of it.

The movie clip I've posted below, but you'll see that Hitch took a few liberties with the reality of the place. The biggest is that the Bay is nowhere within viewing distance of the actual schoolhouse. And I sure as heck didn't see any big black birds. I didn't even see any gulls. Or sparrows. Not even a crow. I guess Hitch had to truck those suckers in.

Anyway, it was a nice, relaxing weekend, but I didn't get nearly enough papers graded. Sigh. I'd better stop stalling and get to it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

John Mayer: "Heartbreak Warfare"

This is a cool video. (I also learned a new term: augmented reality.) I admit I'm a little embarrassed to be posting a song by John Mayer, because I did nothing but snort at the music on his first album, but I'm 'fessing up: I do like this song.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mark Twain: Man of Zingers

Anybody who loves Mark Twain is probably just as excited as I am about the release of his memoirs. Twain dictated them in his later life, following no discernible order such as chronological, but rather one of "today I'm going to talk about what's on my mind." Thus he leaps all over the place. He also stipulated that his words not be released until 100 years after his death. So, he didn't hold his tongue. And let me tell you, in his later life, Twain was a crotchety old man. A smart, opinionated, and in many ways an angry, bitter, suspicious old man. Still, he's funny as hell and is a lion of American arts & letters.

I can't imagine editing the mammoth three volumes amassed, but the first volume is now on bookstore shelves and I've asked for it for Christmas. (That's another hint, Chelle.) Reviews are positive, and they all remark that Twain's political comments hold true to this very day, almost prescient. He's arrogant but often hits his target with a bullseye. Here's a Twain quotation from today's Chronicle:

"When I build a fire under a person ... I do not do it merely because of the enjoyment I get out of seeing him fry, but because he is worth the trouble. ... I do not fry the small, the commonplace, the unworthy."

You see what I'm saying.

Here's a link to the book at Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1.

Tummy About to Burst?

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, why did I make so much? How the hell do I get rid of all this stuff? Why didn't they take some of this shit home with them?!

The fact is, you can eat only so much leftover turkey before you lose your mind, or stay perpetually asleep because of the tryptophan overdose (actually that's a myth. Chicken and cheese actually have more tryptophan than turkey. The after-Thanksgiving-dinner sleepies are due to the massive carbohydrate overload. Just sayin.) And here's another bit of day-after-Thanksgiving trivia for you: the number one day of the year for plumbers to have the most house calls is... you got it.


So, enjoy your turkey soup, your turkey tetrazzini, your turkey pot pie, your turkey sandwiches. Me, I feel lucky we had Turkey Day at my brother-in-law's, because that means we have no leftovers in the fridge that we have to nibble at for days on end. (Blessed are we, in many ways.)

Oh, and 'fess up. You know you had pumpkin pie for breakfast.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving


Dear God,
We thank thee for food and
remember the hungry.
We thank thee for health and
remember the sick.
We thank thee for freedom and
remember the enslaved.
May these rememberances
stir us to service,
That thy gifts to us may be
used for others. Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Crazy for Brandi Carlile

This is my first attempt to make an iMovie, so it's anything but perfect, but it was a fun project (and I'll do just about anything to put off grading papers). This is Brandi Carlile's solo cover of Patsy Cline's "Crazy" (written by Willie Nelson, actually). She and her band did their own acoustic opening set and then the Seattle Symphony came onstage. "Crazy" was the last song of the set, so at the beginning of the recording, that's Brandi joking that she will be going backstage to don her evening gown with rhinestones. I recorded the song at Benaroya Hall 11-21-10 with my iPhone, so ... you know.

The woman has pipes. Crazy pipes.

Will You Be in the Doghouse?

Do NOT give your partner a vacuum, a duster, a toolbox, a drill, workout equipment, diet pills, deodorant, and the like for Christmas or birthdays. It ain't cool. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Weekend in Seattle

Ugh. Vacations are draining. I woke up yesterday morning to a vision of Seattle covered in a light blanket of snow. Nope. Not dreaming. It was snowing, and traffic was snarled all over the city. They're accustomed to rain there, not the white stuff.

Still, I thought it was pretty until the cabbie informed us there was an accident ahead, and MaryLou and I sat looking at bumper-to-bumper stalled gridlock, and then it wasn't so lovely. (Look at those flakes falling through the back window. And no making fun of my hair. I'd had my head covered with my scarf since I didn't think to bring a hat.)

A couple hours later, I thought the snow was even less pretty when my plane got delayed as they de-iced the wings.

When I finally got back to San Francisco, I unpacked my suitcase when I got home, threw my dirty clothes into the hamper, crawled into bed, and struggled to keep my eyes open. At 8pm, I failed miserably and went to sleep. Slept straight through until the alarm went off at 6am. Oddly, I am still tired. As I write this, I am drinking a cup of Pike Place Special Reserve, a bag of which I purchased at the original Starbucks, and I still just want to lie down and take a nap.

Speaking of which, here is a photo of the lovely head barista (manager, maybe? tres chic) at that Starbucks, informing everybody waiting in line about what makes the original store so special. One, you can't get any souvenir Starbucks gear anywhere except HERE that has the original naked Siren (two-tailed mermaid) logo on it (you want boobs, you gotta go to Seattle--or, you can just zoom in on the photo to the left to look at the logo in the upper left hand corner). Two, you can get Pike Place roast anywhere, but not the Special Reserve (you want it, you gotta go to Seattle). Three, they use super-de-duper-woweee-amazing-machines at the original store--the ones that make better coffee via a much slower but much improved process, unlike most other Starbucks, where, apparently, the baristas are all unskilled and merely have to push a button. Fast, but nowhere near as technical and tasty. At least, this is the gist of what she was telling us. (Frankly, I didn't care so much; I was cold and just wanted my damn peppermint mocha.)

Other things I did in Seattle--well, there's the Brandi Carlile concert I mentioned in my last post. We went to the second Seattle Symphony concert on Sunday night (the first was on Friday), and it was good too, but I preferred the first night's. That could be because it was my first Brandi show, but I think I also liked the song selection that night better. We also went to the "secret" show at Neumos Bar that turned out to be not-so-secret. MaryLou did have a friend get to the show early and hold a place in line for us in exchange for a ticket (and then MaryLou also bought her a ticket to the next night's show as well), so we only had to wait, shivering, in the cold for about a half hour before doors opened. We managed to get a good viewing spot crammed up against the balcony overlooking the stage. The sound quality wasn't great, but some fun things did happen during the Neumos show; namely, not only did Brandi drag her sister Tiffany onstage at one point to sing, she was telling the audience about how she grew up in a home full of country music because her mother sings--and then, snap! She called her mother up to the stage for a version of Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man," and there is just nothing more hilarious than watching a cute little lesbian singing that with her mother. View below and see for yourself.

Other Seattle 'haps: we stayed at the Fairmont Olympic, which was a lovely hotel, all decked out in Christmas decorations (seriously, we came in late Friday night after the concert, walked through the usual lobby, and Saturday morning, the lobby had been transformed into a magical Christmas land). I don't know how that many trees went up in the span of about six hours, but it happened. Here's the main tree, and there were probably twenty more little (6 foot) trees circling the entire lobby.

Downstairs, by the front door where the valets are, there was also a faux fireplace, a tree, gifts, and a Santa checking his list. Ever the prankster, I had to get in on the action and mimic Santa. I have quite the "Bad List" going, let me tell you.

We also visited the Seattle Museum of Art to see the Picasso exhibit, where I furtively snapped a couple iPhone photos of some paintings, including the one to the left which I dubbed "Something I Ate and Lost."

And that's about it. There was the requisite walk along the waterfront and a visit to the Public Market at Pike Place where they tossed fish around, and a fabulous birthday dinner for MaryLou at Metropolitan Grill, which was recommended by Cathy the concierge, who, when she made the reservation for us, bought us a nice beef carpaccio appetizer compliments of the Fairmont. If I was still drinking, the wine list at the Met was drool-worthy--but we settled for steaks and the fixin's and a slice of 9-layer chocolate cake that the two of us could only eat half of.

All in all, a whirlwind trip and a fun weekend, but it's always nice to return to sunny California, hugs from Chelle, and happy meows from the kitties. Jerry is snoozing on my lap as I type.

And now it's time to get back to grading essays.

Better get a refill on that coffee . . . .

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Brandi Carlile with Seattle Symphony

In a word, Brandi Carlile was EXTRAORDINARY! This photo is of MaryLou and me before the music started; it's a bit grainy because it was taken with my iPhone, and my hair is totally flat because we got rained on, but here we are! Turns out the show was being recorded for a live album, so she sang a lot of foot stompers and bring-down-the-housers, including a moving cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (Brandi's voice with the accompanying harp was simply perfect). She also covered Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," Patsy Cline's "Crazy," and Elton John's "Sixty Years On." All else was original material like "Shadow on the Wall," "Dreams," "I Will," "The Story," "Bend Before It Breaks," "Turpentine," and "What Can I Say." I did capture a little video and sound recording on my phone, so if it turns out to be any good and if I can find a way to upload a sound file, I'll do that.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Seattle, Here I Come!

I'm off to Seattle tomorrow to meet up with a good friend and go see both of Brandi Carlile's concerts with the Seattle Symphony. Also we'll see the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Museum on Saturday. Her birthday is Monday, so I'll have to think of a good surprise (which I am not about to write any more about here since she reads this blog.)

It's a S U R P R I S E!

I doubt I'll be blogging during the trip, though if I have photos and a spare moment, I may. Chelle is holding down the fort at home and, alas, will have to spend three nights snuggling with the kitties instead of me. Wouldn't you know our friend Sharla of The Second Race is vising Nocal this weekend while I'm away and is dropping by the house for dinner and to check out our "Horse Museum." Next time, Sharla....

In other news, Zenyatta will be retired to Lane's End farm in Versailles, KY, so another visit to bluegrass country will be in order one day to drop by and say hello to her. Lane's End is by appointment only, but usually the farms are pretty accommodating to fellow horsemen (horse people?) For sure it'll have to be when the weather's better. Micki, Janett, Matt, and Dawn, are you reading this? Make a note.

See y'all in a few days.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Heart: "Alone"

A live acoustic version recorded in Seattle. Nancy is a masterful guitarist, and Ann's voice has never been better.

Which World Do YOU Live In?

The world around you is a reflection of your reaction to the world around you.

- The Dalai Lama

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Paradox of Revenge

We recently watched American History X in class as part of a unit on racism and prejudice, and one question I always throw out to my students after the movie is: “So what do you think will happen now? Will Derek seek revenge for the Crips killing his brother?”

Of course, if you’ve seen the film and know what Derek went through—a neo-Nazi skinhead sent to prison for killing two Crips and learning in prison that race doesn’t determine who is and who isn’t your friend—you know the likely answer is “no.” If Danny was killed both as a gang initiation and as retaliation for his brother’s actions, what good would getting even do? Derek would retaliate; then the Crips would retalitate. Then Derek would retaliate. Then the Crips. And so on and so on, ad infinitum, ad naseum.

The point is, revenge never ends, and no one ever wins. And as Dr. Sweeney asks Derek at a pivotal point in the movie, speaking of all the hate crimes Derek had committed in his continual attempt to get even, “Has anything you’ve ever done made you feel any better?”

Derek realizes he can’t say yes.

Revenge is a hollow victory, and not just because it “puts you ahead” on the scoreboard for merely the briefest of moments. A person who takes revenge is showing the world that they’ve been shamed, or that they feel humiliated. The act of revenge is, in actuality, just an attempt to restore wounded pride.

Consequently, those who seek revenge force themselves to wear the mantel of a victim. They feel unfairly injured or wronged. At its extremes, a fired employee may go postal and show up at his old workplace with a shotgun to take revenge (note that he usually dies in the bargain). A scorned lover might get even by going on Craigslist and posting nasty things about her ex (to the rest of the world, she comes off as unbalanced and vindictive, a person with no dignity). A grade school kid who feels picked on by the class bully might seek revenge by sneaking into class after school and wrecking the bully’s science project (and when it’s found out who did the deed, guess which of the two will wind up expelled?)

The point is, these “victims” who seek revenge in an attempt to restore their pride usually wind up harming themselves more than the person they wanted to hurt.

That is the paradox of revenge.

Many have noted this paradox and commented on it:

•“Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.” ~ St. Augustine

•“There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.” ~ Josh Billings (1818 - 1885)

•“In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626)

•“Live well. It is the greatest revenge.” ~ The Talmud

•“You cannot change the facts of the past but you can change the meaning of the past.” ~unknown

•“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968)

•“There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” ~ A.J. Muste

•“Remorse cannot be coerced, it has to be discovered.” ~ Leland R. Beaumont

•“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the whole world would soon be blind and toothless.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

•“Revenge is a dish best served cold.” ~Marie Joseph Eugène Sue

•“Think through the consequences of your actions for the next seven generations.” ~ Native American wisdom

Revenge is a bitter pill. Heed your mama's advice about revenge NOT being sweet. It won't make you feel better, and if anything, it will only make you feel worse about yourself.

An Angel In Her Ear

Okay, it's really just a piece of cotton, but doesn't it look just like an angel perched in Zenyatta's ear? I can tell you what that angel is saying, too: "No need to retire, Big Girl. Next year's Classic belongs to you."

Just sayin'.

Photo by Steve Haskin.


I’m 436 days sober today, so I suppose the issue of relapse would come up at some point. Never fear; I haven’t fallen off the wagon. But on Sunday, I went to a meeting, and there was the inevitable shaken member of Alcoholics Anonymous who told of going out a few days prior and being frightened half to death by his own behavior. He claimed to have consumed five fifths over the course of a day.

Me, I’d be dead of alcohol poisoning if I ever drank that much. The worst that ever happened to me was downing nine shots in three Cadillac margaritas on an empty stomach, then two shots of Jack Daniels, then a beer, then one more Cadillac margarita, still on an empty stomach. At that point, I passed out and fell off the barstool I was sitting on. When I came to, a couple of friends were standing around, fanning me, and I opened my mouth to speak, but whoops. I puked. Fortunately it was mostly just liquid and bile since I hadn’t eaten. They dragged me to my feet and over to the bathroom where they cleaned me up, but when they got me back out into the bar, I couldn’t walk, another wave of nausea came over me, and I puked again. At this point, the paramedics showed up and hauled my sorry ass to the Emergency Room. “Acute Alcohol Intoxication” was the diagnosis…. Not exactly cute. The hangover the next day was horrible. And the experience was scary enough to prevent me from drinking-- for all of three months.

Five fifths would’ve killed me, but I saw some folks in rehab for whom that was a fairly normal day. It was nothing for them to drink several fifths and then take norcos or shoot heroin or smoke dope on top of that. I was among the lightweights of the boozehounds. So this shaken man with the ashen face and the expression of deep-seated fear… I had no reason to disbelieve him.

I imagine it was five fifths of sheer rock gut, not the good stuff, whatever he could afford to buy five bottles of. I’m sure when he cracked open the first bottle, a drink sounded like a great idea. I’m sure he didn’t figure he’d drink all five bottles, either. But with an alcoholic, a thousand drinks is never enough, and one is too many.

I’m reminded of a time I went to a women’s meeting in Burlingame one Sunday, and a butch dyke with slicked back hair showed up, looking tough enough to take care of herself even on the streets of the Mission late on a Saturday night. But when it came her turn to share, she began weeping. “My sponsor,” she cried, “went out two nights ago. If she can’t stay sober, how can I?” She’d been hitting meeting after meeting, praying non-stop, hanging on by a thread, desperate to not pick up that first drink.

And today my own sponsor told me of a friend, someone who’s been sober for six years now, who went back out just this past weekend on a trip to Las Vegas. Relationship problems set her off, and one more tiff was the thing that cut that tenuous thread. One drink led to the next, then the next, and the next, and she was off and running until FORCED to stop. Six years, gone, whoosh.

So the problem is, how do we keep ourselves from picking up that first drink? In a world where everybody drinks when things go wrong—after a stressful day, after hearing bad news, or when tragedy strikes, or when things go right--when celebrating, at weddings, on birthdays, on holidays. How can you not yield to the barrage of temptations that come, time after time after time?

In rehab, the answer for those who’d relapsed after periods of sobriety was the same: relapses happen when we let the program of AA fall by the wayside. We stop going to meetings. We stop doing the work of the Twelve Steps. We lose contact with our Higher Power. We forget what it was like when we were drinking. We start being ruled by our egos again. Pain, resentments, the things that used to “make” us drink, start consuming our lives again. In this frame of mind, we give in to the desire to drink. We say, “Fuck it.”

I’ve been sober only 436 days. So far, I don’t live in fear of relapse, but I know better than to get complacent. Alcohol is insidious—this disease of addiction is always whispering in my ear; cravings come out of nowhere. I have tools, like HALT: don’t ever let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. I have my sponsor, who would take a call from me at anytime. My sobriety is new enough that I can still remember vividly the horror of the last year of my life before I got sober, how truly fucked up I really was, how I thought and did things that made no sense. I’m one of the lucky ones, because the thought of drinking still makes me flinch; I loathe the idea of booze because I didn’t like what it turned me into.

But it won’t be this way always. One day the idea of having a drink—just one little drink won’t hurt me, right?--will come out of nowhere and seem like a good one. That is the day I need to be prepared for. I need to know that getting to the point of picking up requires a series of poor decisions, so that at any point in the series I can take action to prevent things from unfolding in a way I don’t want them to go. I don’t need to get in my car. I don’t need to drive to the bank to get money out. I don’t need to drive to the liquor store. I don’t need to pluck a bottle off the shelf. I don’t need to pay for that bottle at the cash register. I don’t need to drive home with that bottle. I don’t need to open the bottle. I don’t need to pour a drink. I don’t need to lift the glass to my mouth. I don’t need to swallow.

At any point, I can stop--if I just ask for help.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hitler Rants That Zenyatta Loses the Classic

If you haven't seen the Hitler rants on Youtube, you've been missing some funny stuff. He rants about what happens on Lost, he rants about American politics, he rants whenever he doesn't get his way. Here, Hitler rants because he'd had singled Zenyatta on his Pick 6 ticket.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Futility of Having Enemies

Recovering alcoholic or not, I can honestly say that at no time in my life have I ever considered another human being to be an enemy. Sure, there have been persons whose actions I dislike. There have been persons I think are assholes, or are ignorant, or selfish, or arrogant, or mean-spirited—some so much so that I have wound up disliking them--mostly because they do or say things that are hurtful or just because they’re a drag to be around.

But I have never considered anyone an enemy because of what that word really means: “One who feels hatred toward, intends injury to, or opposes the interests of another; a foe.”

I consider this definition, and it occurs to me that having an enemy says more about the person who has the enemy, and nothing at all about the enemy herself.

Here’s how I look at it: if someone does something that bothers me, and if I try to talk with that person about it, and if we are unable to reach an agreement about mutual respect, or agree to just disagree about whatever it is and move past it, or agree to do whatever it may take to live with each other in this world, then I don’t see anything to gain by trying to punish them. That's actually kind of childish. Hatred is a big waste of energy. Plotting revenge is a colossal waste of time. And wishing ill on another is just plain bad karma—that crap does nothing but hurt the ill-wisher in the long run. You know what they say about it coming back to you threefold.

No, my habit, if the person and I can’t have a meeting of the minds, is to just walk away. I put that person out of my mind. They can go on with their own life, and I will happily go on with mine. And I will thank them to henceforth stay out of my business, as I will respectfully stay out of theirs. It's the best truce we can reach.

It’s really that simple.

Besides, as the Dalai Lama said, “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.” I can’t really hate someone who has imparted a valuable lesson to me, even if the lesson is merely “don’t mimic this behavior.”

We're not here to fight each other.

We are here to serve each other.

Brandi Carlile and Roseanne Cash

Watch the full episode. See more Austin City Limits.

Did you miss this on Austin City Limits last night? Watch it now.

I'm getting psyched for my trip to Seattle this weekend. Gonna see Brandi play with the Seattle Symphony and check out the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Museum. "The Old Guitarist" is part of the exhibition, and it happens to be one of my favorite Picassos.