full moon safari

it seems to me that a deceased 17 year old boy was on trial for his own murder a month or so ago, and was somehow, much to my own (and may others') heartbreak, confusion and frustration, found guilty.

it felt like falling a million feet.

i go back to twenty years ago and how the world was a different shape through a different set of eyes. the urbanscape casting shadow and light into different places, making moments and places look new, larger, smaller, safer or more dangerous than they appear. and i can't seem to reconcile anything about loss anymore. it's too unfair. too sudden. too violent. too sad. too uncertain. too predictable. too familiar. too alien.

i was a wild teenager. i kind of stayed wild for awhile, and was kind of wild to begin with. my mother (like many others before her) wished onto me furiously on more than one occasion that "i should have a child just like myself one day," and here with each belly kick, i think maybe this tiny dancer (boy or girl) doing back flips and somersaults all day might just be. riding a rapid of internal streams of consciousness linking and winding i am taken back into that rabid fold like a ghost of adolescence past.

i've made tons of mistakes and have done so many things wrong.

i've run when i should have stayed and kept still when i should have got going. i've whispered when i should have shouted and been too loud when i should have been quiet. pushed when i should have retreated and held back when i should have fought harder. cried when i should have laughed and laughed when i should have cried. been careless when i should have been cautious and been too careful when i could have let go. refused help when i really needed it and accepted it when i could have done it all myself.

and in the throes of looking forward--i keep looking back.

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it's been done forever. babies (which then grow up to be people) come into the world via the most elusive yet known path. i really had no idea. sure i've read some stuff, heard some stories and known some people but none of it aligned until it began happening to me; i'm a hands on learner of the purest kind. and now at eight months along, i am certainly no expert. i am well aware that i am just approaching the starting line of what is sure to be the ride of my life, and i am not going to attempt to articulate the dorsal constellation of physical, emotional and even spiritual complexities i've experienced so far because i'm not sure that i can, and i'm not so sure that i should.

in a word, however, it's been powerful. each of my senses resting on a fault line of an earthquake that acts like a volcano that erupts at unpredictable intervals each day. sometimes i'm my very own cyclone and sometimes i'm like a glassy lake shell reflecting on a million years of erosion, mirroring the mountain at both ends. sometimes i'm in love with a bowl of cereal and sometimes i look at my husband and i can't imagine how lucky we got. to be able to have a baby seems like the easiest thing in the world to take for granted, when truly it's the most generous gift nature could give.

and then the largeness of the world comes back into focus and i am panting trying to wrap my arms around the exquisite beauty along with the tremendous sadness folded into each day. wanting to prepare myself to teach someone else how to make sense of the vast paradoxes that line our lives like trees on a street.

and then i think, maybe a tiny dancer this belly kicker is not. maybe we've got a poet wading. busy writing tiny poems about what it's like to be a fish in its very own universe or about what it's like to hear about another world in another language and still find sense in everything that goes missing in translation.

it's been passed around for weeks, but that won't stop me from sharing George Saunder's  commencement speech to Syracuse's graduating class of 2013. what a perfect message to us all, and to those approaching the world on a pivot, no matter at what stage. if there was a church of kindness and nature, you could find me in those pews and i would consider that speech a sermon, and one for the good book.

these days you can find me somewhere between moments. i'm awake in the space between the synapse; feeling and thinking and so on. waiting in vain for the planet to spin on its side so we can shake it up a bit, and tirelessly pulling for the good guys to win.

i am a writer because it saves me.

project light bulb

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the rain a couple of weeks ago reminded me of panama. i counted the seconds between the lightning and thunder and i wasn't certain that it wasn't crashing down much further than the edge of my backyard. my emergency kit leaves a little to be desired, but cocooned in my bed, looking out the window, i felt safe.

i have a habit of second guessing myself. it's so boring. i mentioned the ferocious meltdown  i had a few weeks ago, the one that flung me upright into a new attitude. up until then i had been disjointed, unfocused, and clumsy with my time and energy. yes, wedding planning is a shockingly saturating experience, but clarifying as well. through the planning process i have learned things i had no idea i would. some harsh realizations have occurred, but some really comforting ones as well. and because everything i needed to know, i did not learn in kindergarten, i get schooled, constantly...

it's probably happening now.

several years ago i was fortunate enough to live in a friends house in panama for a few months. the house was built by him into saigon bay, a body of water surrounded by mangroves on a tiny island shaped like an 8. the house lay on the bayside, in the center of the isthmus, where the caribbean was a short walk from his pier up a path and across the street. i packed a bag full of books and bathing suits and flew 4000 miles to a small archipelago about 4ooo miles from san francisco, where i had been living until then.

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i was in the middle of a storm. my life had just changed in significant ways and i was lost. it was the first time in years i felt i had no reason not to leave for awhile, so when an opportunity to go somewhere presented itself, i took it, and fast.

i had been to panama before, in fact i had been to panama many times before. when i was 18 i lived in costa rica not far from the panamanian border of which i crossed every three months to get my passport stamped.  often times, if oscar was working the immigration kiosk, i would pay him $20 to forfeit the mandatory three day stay over the border and just cross right back that day instead.

another story, for another time...

going back to panama was the first time i had ever lived alone. i would have to remind myself that i could act, say, or do anything i wanted to and there would be no one to offend, annoy, or to which to cater. it was amazing, both because that was a conscious thought i had and that it was true. at the time i remember being pretty certain that there may not be another opportunity like this in my life again, so i did my best to make the most of the experience.

there was a night shortly after i arrived when i could have sworn the lightning was crashing into the water beneath the house. everything was moving. the rain owned the sky and i was alone on a dock in a place where i knew no one and nobody knew me. i had no technology to rely on for help, no link to the outside world other than my thoughts about it. i laid in bed watching the rain, measuring the distance between my own fears. at some point during the storm, i thought about the transparency between loneliness and being surrounded. any control i thought i had was an illusion so i stopped being afraid and i decided to enjoy the show.

my life changed in many ways down there. my life was changing down there. and the experience itself is one i cherish beyond measure.

so, after that nostalgic storm the other day before the sun returned and traffic was restored to its usual pace, i had a moment. i was in a dance class and i was thinking about the truth about things. i was mid-routine, where clarity of thought is sharp and pure but fleeting. i was probably going the opposite direction as everyone else, when it occurred to me that i've made an incredibly faithful choice about my future.

there is a lovely hugeness to any type of investment when it come to matters of the heart.

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in an instant i can go from the depths of confusion about so many things to a profound wholeness that encompasses my entirety: i have everything i need in order to survive and actually be happy. i can laugh and cry throughout the day about the same things. i love and am loved. while my life was much wilder at some point, i am still on my toes most of the time. and when i think i've got it under control that's usually when i catch a gentle sucker punch.

but truthfully, there isn't much, if anything, i would change. i am a writer because i started this post last week and ten million things have happened since then, but the song remains the same...

hematoma galactica

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i didn't realize until i was heading into the shower the next morning that the middling pain i felt was coming from a huge heliotropic bruise in the center of my belly. i stood in the mirror and in the same instant i remembered how my shoulders had been earnestly painted in light blue by a woman in a black afro wig who gave me psychic reassurance about my future. i let my eyes follow the blue toward the white vine-like and sparkling design that spread to my collar bone. my hair was slightly pressed against the side of my head that i had slept on and my lips were still stained pink.  i'll be 35 in a few months and it's been awhile since i had to go around my bedroom collecting clues from the night before, the morning after; nothing important had gone missing. there were other centers of pain. i had a bruise on my knee, one on my shin, and on my left hip, the other hip, on the bone, an unfortunate location; one that reaches outward more than you would think. i could have drawn lines connecting these points, a constellation mapping one of those nights that line up ahead of you, instead of you, before the main event. a perfect little resource, like an alarm clock or a fossil.

a couple of months ago when getting married mostly felt like planning a wedding, someone asked me what i was looking forward to most in the process. without a breath i said that it was spending time with the women in my life that i love most. i had been getting lost in the details, all the facts, and what i couldn't change or dress up around or over. it was getting messy, if only beneath my own hair.

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i use being a poet as an excuse, a lot. i use it to explain how i feel when i'd rather be writing. i say that i am just being, "poety," as an act of diffusion when i can see the reflection of my own emotions getting the better of me on someone else's face. if i really could act, i don't think i would ever have to write.

i sat at the head of a long table this past saturday lined with certain key faces of women that i share my life with. i knew that this would be one of the more fortunate moments i've ever had. i was overcome. every time i tried to address the group i stumbled across my own words. i tried to tell a story about mixing up names and i mixed the names up so that they weren't mixed at all, the point getting lost in my own confusion. i think i feel that way a lot. earlier that day i had been shuttling my thoughts through the maze and was lovingly told by a dear friend to talk less and write more.

so when i tripped over something later that evening and sailed downward in my four inch heels i found myself remembering that moment slowly while so many others were let go. as i hit everything on the way down, i wished that instead of feeling the corner of the chair, the edge of the table and the floor--i could have stayed slowly in those moments that, for whatever science, seem harder to hold onto. how my slipping is bigger than my constant falling and why all those other moments that compete for center stage, can drain each space, flatten the light, and turn rooms into ruins, have ever had even temporary residency at all.

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and now that the planning has evolved past stressing, i am planted firmly in excitement for this next phase. i can't wait to take these next steps with the man i love. still, there is no shortage of material these days, and it still remains a tricky balance between writing and talking. knowing that i am less apt at the latter and not particularly gifted at holding it in, we'll see what makes it onto the page.

i am a writer because there are volumes and i don't believe in hoarding...

it's complicated

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because valentines day has a way of excluding those who aren't being wined and dined by someone that gives them butterflies, i've always preferred to see it as a day to spread the love. if it's about anything at all, it should be about disbanding the lonely hearts club and making it about everyone important to you, not just your date.

programming note: i think i have become a temporary wedding blogger...it seems to come into focus each time i sit down to write and i just can't help myself...

and so here goes my broken record spinning: planning a wedding has brought each relationship in my life into a bright white light that hides nothing. i still love all the same people, but in some cases our relationship status is whatever, "it's complicated," is, on 10.

and if my wedding record wasn't completely on repeat already, here it goes winding around and around: i've got daddy issues, and guess what, planning a wedding hasn't solved them. in fact they have officially become the elephant in my brain.

i was never the kind of girl that, "played wedding," when i was little or made drawings of some cream puff fantasy dress or knew what song i'd dance to with my prince charming. my parents split up when i was about 11 and nothing was ever the same again. family and marriage took on a completely different shape. they both became scary, uncertain covenants, and grown-ups seemed a little less all-knowing as a result. from there i became a little more guarded and  less convinced of  fairytale endings despite the fact that in many ways i am living one now.  i always felt a little like an alien next to girlie-girls whose hair was perfect and who knew how to do their makeup just like on 90210.

and in a way, spending a little time early on envisioning my wedding could have saved me some trouble now. up until pretty recently i have been at a complete loss with the whole wedding thing. i have been blindsided by planning and pleasing. i think i can see clearly now, and my fiance and i have managed to patch together a sincere reflection of what's important to us and how we choose to celebrate that...and with each day, we get closer and closer to closest.

about ten years ago i was catering an event in the neighborhood i grew up in. after my parents split there were all kinds of interesting living arrangements.  my father, who chose to stay in the house, didn't move until i was a senior in high school. he remained there, reinventing his life, for what felt like the entire world to see.

i didn't realize until i got to the client's house that the address i has scribbled down was that of a family's that we had known in our past life, quite well, before, during, and after the storm. i braced myself as i parked around the corner. feeling the cracks in the sidewalk was surreal, let alone the familiar stairs beneath my feet as i walked through their front door. the mother of the house had a tendency to gossip and upon seeing me her face lit up. "ali!" she said, "how arrre yooooooouu?!" she searched my appearance, had i survived, she probably wondered. her insincerity was piercing, loud, dangerous. i took a deep breath and said smiling through my teeth, "great, i'm great, thanks for asking."

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i was sweating, terrified. every person i had remembered pumping me for gossip as a girl about my family were all there, lurking in every room. i was completely exposed, vulnerable, and serving them hors d'ouevres. needless to say i was mortified. i was working with a new company and with people who are now my close friends, but at the time i barely knew.

at one point the hostess approached me while standing in a group of familiar ghosts and asked me three of the most inappropriate and insensitive questions about the other three members of my immediate family i've ever been asked. i was in a cold sweat, i had been hit. my tongue was paralyzed, i could barely breathe. my colleague, and now dear friend, terry, was within earshot, completely horrified at the behavior of this woman. i backed my way out of the lion's den and terry convinced me to take a minute to re-collect in the concealed area in their backyard.

i had been called into battle, i wanted to defend my troops despite how we seemed to be fighting on different sides. i ducked into their guesthouse where we had stashed our personal belongings when we arrived to the job. i was covered in light from the glass ceiling, i could see the edges of everything around me. i called my mom and told her where i was and what just happened. she was audibly upset.  she wanted me to leave right away, and she may have even suggested that i break something on my way out. i told her i'd come right over afterwards and hung up the line. i felt a little better so i called my brother. i had to convince him to not drive right over to answer her spiteful questions in person. he was harder to get off the phone, upset and feeling very protective of me, as we said goodbye he said he'd be standing by if i changed my mind. i was starting to see a pattern, so i called my dad. he vacillated from wanting to run into her in a dark alley and then hoping, for her sake, that would never happen. he was the angriest and wanted me to know that i didn't deserve to be treated that way, that i had done nothing wrong.

i felt the light pass through my body where i was sure it was stone. i straightened my apron and held the light in. i realized that since things had fallen apart, that was the first time i had really felt like a family. like a bunch of misfits, we still had each other's backs and beneath that fractured wasteland was still something whole.

my mom is walking me down the aisle. and while i've had many years to accept certain truths about my family, there is still a little girl inside that is a little bit shocked. i realize now that while maybe the other girls were wishing on stars for the perfect dress or groom, i was wishing that things could be a little less chaotic, a little more normal, and that there was a sense of solidarity between my brother, mother, father, and i. as it was, in many ways, it was each man for himself.

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there aren't any violins playing the background, this is no sob-story, it's just my story, one that i am in the process of rewriting. despite how gravity lets these feelings sink into us, there is always a choice. i am a writer because i believe in changing your story.

i try over and over again to convince my brain to tell my heart to feel something else, to hold onto less, and to behave more. but the heart is complicated. the best i can do is take these stories and spin them. where they are scary or sad, find the beauty and safety. own each moment for what it is and be grateful to experience the full range. finding the strength, light, or laughter despite the let downs is worth all the heavy lifting.  so i'll keep pushing those shadows until they bend and disperse, back into the sun.

it's your birthday

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every year on february 1st my brother turns five years older than me. we get one year closer in age at the end of may, when my birthday is, but as of now, this moment, today, he's got even more of an edge. we've known each other my entire life, i guess that goes without saying, but it's easily taken for granted. nobody else can make me laugh as hard (even if it is at him) and no one else can make me feel like i have the power to set things on fire with my eyes. he's a much nicer person than me and seems to know everything about everything...

i have spent the better part of my life thinking about and trying to understand certain types of relationships and why they are so important. as a child of divorce (a couple times over) natural questions about consistency, reliability, and conditionality emerge. many of those questions don't ever get answered and life inevitably carries on, a little fractured maybe, but still with a persevering cosmic direction.

they say the things you can rely on are death and taxes, and i can't argue either. i sometimes wonder how we are able to do anything at all with the weight of losing surrounding us, always. i'm no fan of the taxman, but i get a thrill when i can do them myself, but that's mostly because i don't have a lot to account for.

but i do. i have so much.

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the other day i found myself in a wedding planning rabbit hole. i was sitting in traffic, probably adding costs up in my head, feeling both ashamed for becoming what i swore i never would, and wondering  how wedding planning is, unanimously, a take no prisoners situation. and then all of a sudden, without even realizing it, i was dialing my brother's phone number.

since i've been engaged he's been incredibly supportive. he's happy for me and loves my fiancé. having always wanted to have a brother (and having only me, who aims to please, but doesn't quite cut it) he's embraced my fiancé and our planning for our future in a way i'm not sure i expected.

when he picked up the line, we exchanged a few pleasantries and then before i knew it i was knee-deep in a longwinded planning predicament. i was even boring myself but couldn't seem to back my way out once i got started. i was practically panting. his end of the line was quiet. i was sure he was checking his email or thinking about what he was going to eat for dinner. i kept going. about a year in, i checked to see if he was still there. he was. he was actually listening really intently. he may not have been interested, but he cared.

ET healing Elliot

while no revolutionary decisions were made or solutions met during our conversation, something much better was realized. we've been through a lot together, my brother and i, sometimes we didn't have each other around when we really needed it, and sometimes we were so close that we couldn't see past certain issues. he didn't take an opportunity to remind me of how, in the scheme of things, planning a wedding is not death or taxes, but instead he was patient, kind, loving, and funny where he needed to be. i got off the phone knowing that he's in my corner, that he'd probably try to learn how to bake my wedding cake if i needed him to.

so today especially, since each day is worth celebrating, i am doing it for my brother, jake. i am a writer because all i know is that i find, at times, the world a hard place to seamlessly articulate, so there are certain things i'm just going to have to leave to feeling.

happy birthday, jake. thanks, i love you, you're funny mostly because you're left-handed, and you are a really good person!

恭喜发财 enter the dragon

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1986 was the year of the tiger. i was nine and still remember a lot from third grade. i was desperate for my brother's breakdancing hand-me-down's and i took a big yellow school bus to and from school everyday that i caught in front of my best friend's house. i was charlie chaplin for halloween and i lived for now and laters, playing outside until it was dark, and the muppet show.

i grew up in berkeley which meant that i got to celebrate every holiday from many of the 400 races attending berkeley unified that could also be found in any given classroom. my brother, four years older than me, had the same teacher when he was in third grade, which made her stock go up considerably.

third grade was the year our entire class pulled our tiny chairs around a tv in the late morning to watch a spaceship take off another coast toward the moon.  it burst into flames while still racing through the earth's atmosphere. the ocean swallowed the debris, burying it deep into the very planet we read fairytales at night on. it was the year i grated my finger while demonstrating how to make potato latkes, and when i first remember celebrating a whole new year twice in one month.

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"gong hei fat choi!" we said to each other while making banners to stretch across the classroom in bright red paper. we used gold pens to decorate them, and took smaller pieces of red paper and folded fake money into their crease. we dutifully passed them out with wishes for good fortune and happiness in the new year.

i have chinese characters tattooed on my neck and one on my shoulder. at some point i fell in love with the beauty of the language and its storytelling.  like a house, each character contains so much. i lived in costa rica after high school on and off until i was twenty. i was back home at one point and it was raining. i emptied out my checking account, quit my job cooking at the cafe, went to the student travel agency before dropping out of school, bought a ticket back to costa rica, took the bus to telegraph ave., and had the chinese characters for, love, strength, and luck, inked into the space on my body between my mind and heart, like an oil drill.

i realize now what i may have loved most, while i have been hovering around the theme of new beginnings, start-overs and the like, it is the duality and ability to press reset so quickly on such a big machine. here we are, knee-deep in january, the year already shaping itself in its predictable and unpredictable ways, and then, just like that, enter the dragon, and we can start all over again. i am a writer because i was born the year of the snake.

hipcheck

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i would love to say that 2012, the year i am marrying the love of my life, that my business took a huge step forward, and when i met each resolution with enthusiasm and triumph, started on a high note, but i can't. the holidays nearly ate me alive, the end of 2011 got so chaotic that i found myself teetering into a place of no control, which is my kryptonite. i still managed to convince myself that i felt great about everything in theory, but i was staring down the barrel of a big and complicated push.

we went on a hike the afternoon of the 31st, our tradition, to discuss what we are excited about for the year to come and what we'd like to work on. a convergence of events had us unusually stressed, our conversation seemed less hopeful and more testy. we still rounded it off with a mutual acknowledgment of the excitement for the year ahead, and a gust of solidarity and the notion that we make our own luck, something we have decided to believe.

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on january first my fiancé and i had a lazy morning. my gut has always done a lot of the thinking for me, and i can't say that a funny feeling didn't lead me down the hallway toward the front door. he saw it first and froze. a little finch laid there at our feet in the center of our welcome mat, small and lifeless. we avoided staring into our mirroring gaze. before exchanging knowing looks, we each took a respective moment to summon a weak dismissal of what was surely a sinking feeling to us both. we share many things in common, one of which is a strong sense of superstition. what did it mean? i could see this random act burrowing a portal between us, connecting our thoughts of bad luck and the like. we never said anything.

by the 6th, his 35th birthday, it was apparent that the little bird at our door was right, this year was not going to be all fun and games. the first week had engulfed us in a series of events that turned us on our sides. heartbroken at best at the way the new year was shaping up, a pain in my right hip had crept in that i was prepared to ignore until it piqued into a body-shattering halt. something had to give.

it was as though my body was telling me to stop trying to climb this year already. that starting a whole new year wasn't as simple as replacing a calendar. we went to the doctor and they asked me if i needed a note for work; i should be resting, or the injury could get more serious. my doctor had very understanding eyes, i think we were similar in age, so i figured she understood when i told her that a note to me is what i really needed. that i could in fact really use a note written by someone else to tell me to slow down, to heal, to breathe, that the first week, day, minute, whatever, of a new year is just like any other week, day, or minute...she laughed like she knew what i meant and i took a few days off to focus on healing.

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when i lived in sf i worked as a cocktail waitress in a very busy and popular live music venue for several years. on sold out nights i was a a fighter. i pushed and shoved my way through the crowd, i used every part of my body i could to create pathways through the wall of people drinking and dancing. often times when i was carrying a full tray above my head, an apron full of beer bottles and a six pack of beer in my other hand, i did a lot of hip-checking to get people out of my way. i had relied on my hips for years, and this time, my hip checked me.

so when we finally got to a place where we were laughing a little bit about the first week of 2012, i told a friend of ours about the bird. i was hesitant because i just couldn't bear any folklore about dead birds and new years day or anything else my imagination could conjure up. she listened as i poured out the dramatization of opening the door to a bad sign and just waited for her to respond with her interpretation like a bullet. she sat back for a moment and casually said, "oh, it was probably just that feral cat in your yard bringing you a gift." and just like that, the clouds parted and 2012 hasn't been looking so bad after all...i am writer because there is always more than one version of the story...

going full poet

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i've got a major case of the novembers. it's not a bad thing. i am already in love with daylight savings and feel like i finally got that hour back i waited all year for. i have decided that while october could sink ships and win wars, november is like home.

full disclosure: i have a nasty habit of reading gossip magazines and watching reality TV. i blame it on my mind. that sounds like an obvious excuse but it started in graduate school. creative writing school. i was like a poetry machine. the world was just a series of fragmented thoughts, emotions, memories, observations, and theories. i don't remember being able to shut that off. i do, however, remember an US Weekly creeping in and being bright and shiny and with the similar sentence structure of no subject/verb agreement as my internal monologue, i was easily hooked. pop-culture had lent itself unto me a little balance, a long-term addiction, and some welcome distraction.

november has been colder. i like colder, or at least i like how colder makes me feel. there are traces of holidays rising into the air, i feel that in a nice and haunted way. i swear i smell cinnamon everywhere. i feel a  sense of closeness as we all seem to agree that the end of the year is coming, so much has happened, as we all look toward 2012. while we share in thoughts about what has already changed and what we hope for in the next. i am excited to see lights everywhere. i am ready to wear something sparkly. i feel like baking.

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but going full poet means that i think about polar bears and how they move like old, lonely men between sheets of ice. how there isn't enough food for them and they often are so tired that they die hungry and  alone. as much as i'd like to think about how justin beiber may have gotten a fan pregnant or beyonce having a girl, those thoughts merely go into the fold. in the middle of my dance class the other day i thought i was going to cry. it was so beautiful. there we were, all women, all different sizes, ages, and types, dancing. and for a moment--we lined that room like a poem. we were smiling and were right there and nowhere else. i have been waking up in the middle of the night and taking notes. my car stereo has a lot of interference lately. i was listening to NPR the other morning and the sound of a pakistani man who was a club owner in the 70's in karachi filled my car. i swear his name was tony toofail. he lost everything in 1977, the year i was born. his voice was cracked even without the static of my radio. he did not measure his own loss, of which he lost everything, but only of the collective loss of his country at the time. he used to drink in those days, he said. i thought i was going to have to pull my car over.

i was calling a friend the other day. i wanted to tell him about something that i have been feeling sad about. before he even picked up the line i was choked up. i was in a parking lot. he answered and told me that he had been so busy lately with work and with his swing dance classes. i have never seen him dance. i had no idea that people were still taking swing dance classes. i was laughing. he was laughing too. the world became a place where anything could happen at the exact same time as anything else and that was fine. it was funny and beautiful and complex and it was going to be winter and it will be warm and cold at the same time and the time changed and how everything will always be happening at the speed of feeling it all.

we who witness from a distance

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saturday night, september 10th, 2011, i sat across from dear friends, p and m, over dinner in another city. unplanned and coincidentally, we had done the same ten years earlier and spent the following morning together too. they had just begun dating and i was close friends and roommates with p, the female of the pair. m, her now husband, reminded us of how time flies and of our shared anniversary. how a decade earlier we had sat marooned in fragmented information and helplessness, the futon in the center of our living room, the only thing containing our bodies.

that old apartment drifting now, like a distant planet in another galaxy.

i thought about everything. how i had dragged that futon around with me for years. originally belonging to my brother, it started with him in oregon and eventually moved with me through apartments and breakups and replacements until finally it was left on the sidewalk in front of the last place i lived in SF. it was a back breaker. it was a thermostat. it was the site of so much, like a diary or a lake.

while the sound of the phone ringing into my pillow that morning with news of a plane going into an iconic skyline still echoes:  it was early, 6:30am. she was on the other line, another old friend whose barometer for chaos and tragedy was always somewhat alarming. she had lost someone she loved only a year earlier in a plane crash.

the phone kept ringing its way out of my dream.

"we are under attack," i was barely awake and didn't understand, couldn't have understood.

p and i had only just become proud owners of a television one month earlier and maybe three channels that were in focus and audible. the news was in sync on all three, reporting in tandem the events that would define a decade, start war(s), take lives, change lives, and hurt in a profound, enduring, and universal way.

frozen in both agony and shock while we all grappled with our individual and collective fears. how the world folded like a peice of paper bringing the edges closer to strangers and family members than ever before.

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i wanted to write. i could not write. i didn't know what to write. was it ok to write

i wanted to do something significant, say something honest or important. each room i was in was breathless with an insurmountable sense of emotion, the kind that is fractured into a kaleidoscope of tiny flecks of light, impossible to distinguish from your own body, or was it just dust rising through a sunlit room. as the world went to ash on a screen over and over again on the edge of another coast, i wasn't sure if i was whispering or screaming, holding on or letting go.

and i still couldn't write.

finding the way into documenting is the responsibility of a writer. sometimes we don't know when to tell, or how, or what, or to whom we can. we see, we feel, we interpret, and at best it's what we can make out of the shadows that brings our words into the light.

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if you've been paying attention, last month was declared to have been particularly busy, this was on account of a convergence of events.

and then something special happened...

enter exciting news: i got engaged!

bliss, love, order, chaos, commitment, family, future, planning, life, stress, harmony, pressure, transition, fear, balance, romance, finance, only brush up against the constellation of words to describe what represents each moment to moment since.  i'm just being honest, it's a lot. a lot of love, a lot of questions, a lot of thinking about things you never did before and feeling great and then getting scared.

so many things have occurred since i said, "yes." some of which require some strategizing, some preservation, and some acceptance. while the micro and macro events of my life and the world constantly collide with no regard for convenience, i am left with the irony of each incident, feeling, and experience, blending into what i suspect will become a matter of dailyness going forward.

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more than a few things have gone down recently that i have wanted to write about. however, in the face of my pending merger, i find myself taking pause where i would usually barrel ahead. not for fear, but for respect. this reminds me of yet another thing i encourage others to do, but left to my own devices, you'll find me on the bench. i call this wading, not diving.

i've always been pro-diving. i feel it is our unalienable right as writers, artists, musicians, etc. to translate life into art into life into art on our own terms. whenever i've worked with someone who was wrestling their own sense of "right and wrong," in storytelling i have always made it my business to promote being fearless and unapologetic. never ruthless for that sake of it, but always rich, honest, passionate, and confident.

i believe in writing there are a few things you can rely on:

1) you can't please everyone, not even yourself sometimes...

2) a story is a story is a story is a story. it's your version when you are telling it, case closed.

3) memory is tricky, do yourself a favor when you are dipping into that ocean--honor your intentions, do your best to let go of the expectations of others.

4) when you get stuck trying to find the best way to be honest, take a step back and write what you want to write instead.

5) lather, rinse, repeat!

then duck...

let's start from the very beginning

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i'm pretty sure i came out of the womb because i was bored trying to make friends with a bladder. "a die hard people person," would be on the short list to describe myself. my mother has told me more than once that as a baby i would wake up from my naps smiling. my guess would be that i was excited to see her again, the world, learn more, talk more, and have more adventures. from the significant exchanges with my closest friends to a smile or brief dialogue with a stranger, i always get a thrill from a good connection. and i'm not kidding when i say that i have never met someone that i couldn't find interesting.

a good guess would be that my one on one work with clients and students on their creative writing, websites, bios, personal statements, or daily self-expression, is so much of what i most enjoy in life. my clients represent a wide range of types and hire me for a wide range of word services. sometimes we start small and specific, a project that needs fine-tuning or specific skill development. and more often than not, we go unchartered into the bigger, broader, landscape, finding how deeply important writing truly is. personally, professionally, academically, creatively; writing is a vital form of communication, hence my tagline: writing is the new talking...

as my business continues to grow, i stay on the lookout for patterns; it's my way of trying to keep up with the learning. in the past several months i have heard the phrase, "welllll, i had this english teacher when i was in school that..." this statement is enivitably followed by different versions of the same very sad story. somewhere along the way the joy, intuition, gut instinct, and connection to writing was reversed by inhospitable learning conditions. whether there was bloodshed with a specific assignment, grammar, injured confidence, or feeling eluded by shakespeare--something unfortunate happened and resulted in insurmountable writer's blocks and phobias that seem to have set up permanent shop in the psyche! to me, this won't do, good writing is just too essential to our daily lives.

i am a firm believer in do overs, second chances, and picking yourself up and dusting yourself off. fear and regret slow us down, being brave is how we can keep it moving. making mistakes is a drag but not learning from them is not only a poor use of one's time, but boring. i am a writer because i love the edit, and when i write, i get to do it all the time. i have never been much of a visual artist, you definitely won't find me on stage at a play or concert, i can't sing, i don't draw, don't act, but i am really in love with words.

words are to me what brush strokes are to a painter, my computer keys are always hard at work wrangling the right parts. patching together the quiet sound of gravel shifting beneath tired boots, a melancholy light caught beneath a dorsal leaf, limp in the breeze, a southern day, how to tell the world about your heart that is as heavy as the sun. hot, gold, and red, a fractured yes, the smallest voice, the sunset falling behind the couch just in time for dinner in front of the TV; the casualties of dailiness. stringing together words is the only way for me to capture the simplicities and complexities of the life around me.

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i pay attention to the delicate differences between certain words. they can appear or feel twin-like at first but then one goes veering off its own way--making the choice clear why one must be picked over the other. sometimes it's just for the sound, or music, the look, clack, sssss, beauty or the discomfort of a word that makes me want to wrap a sentence around it's letters.

here are a few tips to uncovering the best word for you, for right now:

1) always keep in mind the mood you are conveying in your writing, for whatever purpose, your intentions should be clear. there are obvious and discrete differences of words that have similar meanings, be thoughtful and conclusive. consider it the difference between good vs. excellent,  job vs. career, skilled vs. experienced, smart vs. impressive, temporary vs. ephemeral...

2) get a thesaurus, don't be repetitive when you can be effective as well as creative.

3) there is a harmony to writing much like music. finding the right sounding word is key to setting the right tone. alliteration in moderation is a great way to get your audience (clients, peers, colleagues, friends, family, bosses etc.) to get into the groove of what you are expressing.

in the spirit of getting your thoughts and words from A to B: good writing is to effective communication what drinking water is to our basic survival. the nuances and subtleties threaded into language are numerous, occasionally treacherous, and always important to notice. hunting down the right word can be the difference between making a meaningful connection or losing the moment to the breeze. like a firm handshake or good posture, how we write is an integral part of our profile, first impressions, and how we are perceived in the world at large.

stop me if you've heard this one before

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we met in detention. it was raining and i sat in the back of the room trying to get some homework done. something, for some counterintuitive administrative reason, against the rules of serving detention. to my right a girl i had a few classes with, who was more like a trucker than a high school freshman, was closing her makeup compact closely above her upper lip so as to remove the unwanted hair from that area. i was riveted by this exercise for as long as i could be until she noticed my staring. when her eyes darted my way, i quickly looked toward the other wall and saw him sitting a few seats away looking over at me. we sort of knew each other already, but only by proximity. we shared a few friends in common and frequented all the same social gatherings on the weekends. as detention droned on notes were being passed and numbers were exchanged and soon the late night discussions of anything from family to basketball, to the cosmos, commenced.

i think i knew i loved him when we fell asleep on the phone one night and both woke up in twinning constellations. i was on the one end of andromeda, not alone.  i heard him wake up from the same dream. but i was a bit of a tough cookie then and never wanted to like someone more than they liked me.

when i was much, much younger i would stand in front of the window that faced the street at the end of the hallway. the carpet was tight little dark green knots pressed against my toes--the walls were a soft and rich dark wood with a ribbon of purple in sunlight. i would slip into long moments of staring out onto the neighborhood; the cars, dirt bikes, families, the mail person, dogs--anything that passed before me. my eyes would drift from the view of the street to the rippled glass in the window. it reminded me of how on hot days heat rose off the street and made the world a wave. i would challenge myself to smoothing out the glass with my mind. it was a job i took without much purpose or hope for success, i think i knew that then.

in the evenings from my bed i could have sworn that the streetlamp was venus. bright, round, orange, and near; the planet closest and named after the goddess of love. i was sure she hung low, neighborly, and illuminated at night across the street from me for the better part of my childhood.

i believed then as i try my best to believe now, that on certain days when the moon is right above you, yellow and full, we are as native to our dailiness as we are alien. that we, like anything else, are perched against a limitless vast that is as random as it is in perfect order. i am a writer because for as long as i can remember i have tried my best to imagine the other in everything.

and now 18 years later, back in andromeda, we live together and plan for the future. i think about how i might translate all that has happened to get to here. i think about the other(s) and how constellations mimic spider webs in certain light and how poets and scientists both attempt to measure space and time. i think about our individual orbits barely touching and then colliding and how the wind blows from a different direction across his face today than it did yesterday.

sometimes i am thinking about all of that when i am supposed to be doing something else. but since things have a way of working out just as they should, i mostly just try and make up for that along the way when i can.