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3 posts from May 2014

More Shawls!May 28, 2014

Hi friends, 

We have two more entries in the giveaway: Make an Alice's Embrace lap blanket/shawl for an Alzheimer's patient (full instructions here) and enter for a chance to win one of these THREE shawls! The first two were made and donated by Christian, and they're blocked and so gorgeous: 

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I made this next one, and it's not blocked, but it's very warm and squooshy. 

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Make a simple (quick!) blanket or shawl using Diane's instructions, mail it to her, let me know, and you're entered. Good odds. GREAT cause. 

BIKE UPDATE: 

This is ridiculous. I'm not getting over this bike bug I have. I made a pledge to do all my errands by bike for the month of May (once a week, I allow myself to take the car to get things like dog food and pick up big packages at the mailbox). And I have done it. A couple of times I thought I wouldn't (going from our house in East Oakland to the Grand Lake area takes about an hour each way), but then I made myself and loved it. Once I took bike-to-BART to attend the Oakland Museum food truck half-price-entry night, which was great, and I can see myself doing that a lot more. How fun to think about going to San Francisco on a bike! I will do that soon. Things I carried on one trip this week have included: A zucchini plant, a burrito (naturally), a food processor blade, and my computer. I love its versatility, and let's face it, my SmartCar isn't THAT much bigger. 

Right now, though, I'm a still a little scared of night riding. I have ALL THE LIGHTS: 

 but our neighborhood is not ideal for night rides. Friends of a friend (male and female riding together) got mugged at gunpoint the other night not too far away, and that freaks me out. I like to be brave and daring! I like to pretend I'm not frightened of anything and then, eventually, I'm not. Some folks would be nervous to ride in our area during the day, but I've gotten over that, and now, while I ride quickly past the sketchier stuff (drug deals in progress and hookers at work in cars while pimps stand guard), I've gained a whole new appreciation for the beautiful things in our neighborhood (small produce stands, fresh tortillas, kids playing basketball in the street, saying hello to people). 

But night makes the scary folks that much more scary (click on Christian's link, above, to read a terrifying night ride experience in Sacramento) and I'm not sure I'm ready for that. That sucks, because night riding sounds awesome. I would like to ride and look up at the stars. I'd like to go see friends and have dinner and get home under my own power. I'm just not ready to do so yet. I might never be, not here, anyway. I might change my mind, and I'm sure I'd feel better riding with a group (but not just one other person, see above mugging story). 

That's okay, though. It's almost summer, there are plenty of daytime riding hours, and now that Lala's bike is fixed (she's the original cyclist in the family - remember when she rode to LA on the AIDS ride?), I predict a lot of summer rides to the movies and, of course, to ice cream. 

Mother's DayMay 11, 2014

For years now I've put together a Mother's Day drinks party at a local Oakland pub. The only ones invited are people who've lost their mothers, and we call it Dead Mother's Day. It's a place to go to be bitter about all the spam emails we've received ("Don't forget Mom!" As if we could.) It's fun, it's a bit more raucous than you'd think, and the bartender knows us now, knows why we're there year after year. 

This year I don't want to do it. I'm officially Unorganizing it. For the first time, I'm okay not being angry at the day. I'm still sad, mind you. I'll never not be that. 

But I'm not furious with Hallmark for promoting a day of shopping that serves to do nothing but rub my face in the fact that I'm motherless. I'm not as wildly jealous this year of those who send flowers to the mothers they still have. 

I'm just thankful I got the one I was dealt because she was the best, and I was lucky to have her. 

The way I honor her (every day--not just today because that's ridiculous) is that every book I write ends up being about mothers. 

My most recent book, Pack Up the Moon, is about a woman with a complicated history with her own mother.

Kate checked her cell. Stared at it. Clicked the button and scrolled right. Left. She pulled up the entry for Mom and pushed Call. It rang once, then the recording said, as it always did, “You’ve reached a number that has been disconnected or changed. If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.” Once upon a time Kate could call her. In the year since her mother had died, Kate called the number at least twice a week.

Kate pushed the disconnect button and stopped the recording. Someday someone would answer the phone and she’d know that the number wasn’t hers to call anymore, but until then, it was.

 Kate loses her child (no spoilers; all this loss happens before the book starts), and with it, she loses the ability to mother. Then she finds the child she gave up for adoption, the girl who was adopted by two women. Was it really an accident that so many years ago Kate gave her own daughter double the number of mothers a girl usually has? 

Kate poured Pree the first cup, and then waited until there was enough to pour for herself. Pree pushed a blue-black curl out of her eye and then stared into her coffee cup as if she were having a hard time deciding whether or not to take the first sip. She was so beautiful. Young. Gorgeous in her casually-worn luminous skin. Alive. For one second Kate allowed herself to bask in this feeling of pride in a person she’d helped create. It had been a long time. She’d almost forgotten what it felt like.

What if, on the very small chance, Pree was here because she wanted to talk? What if she wanted something from a mother she’d never had, a mother she didn’t know?

Sternly, she reminded herself a child with two mothers doesn’t lack for maternal advice. But oh, God, if she did... There weren’t words in the English language to describe how she’d feel. The color didn’t exist that would paint the happiness it would bring.

To be a mother. That’s what Pree’s mothers had had, this whole time. Kate hadn’t been a mother in three years, and the urge to be one was almost overwhelming. The urge to touch Pree (to smooth the hair back off her face, to touch the tip of her perfect nose) burned in her knuckles and made her fingers twitch. It was ridiculous, not to mention socially and morally unacceptable. And still it was there, inside her, a feeling that might knock her down, physically, all the way to the ground.

It's a bit odd, the knowledge that I'll write about mothers and daughters for the rest of my writing career. You'd think it could be exhausted after a few books, but I've barely tapped what I know of it (wait till you read the next book, if you thought this one was mother-centric! Is this a good time to make sure you're on my mailing list so you don't miss it?). 

The love of a mother blazes with the sheer fury and wattage of the sun. A daughter radiates in it; she absorbs it. If she's lucky, the warmth is enough to sustain her her whole life, even when the sun goes out. 

I wish you a Happy Mother's Day, most especially to those of you shivering in that kind of cold. There are many of us who know how you're feeling today. Love to you. 

(Thanks, RedEnvelope, for inviting me to participate in the Mother's Day blog tour!) 

 

HildaMay 7, 2014

I got a bike. 

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I’m in love. You might have seen me tweeting or Facebooking about it. I can’t stop thinking about it. 

Lala thought I wasn’t a big bicycle person. After all, when she's talked about how great bikes are, my eyes have glazed over. During our ten years together, I’ve only owned a bike once.  When I bought that last bike, I rode it approximately five times. I eventually got so tired of it taking up space that I gave it to the neighbor girl next door. 

In my head, thought I wasn’t a big bike person. If I were, I’d have been riding that bike, right? 

I bought that last bike because it was adorable. It was an automatic 3-speed (pedaling powered the computer that changed the gears). But where I live there are hills. You need a lot more than three gears. It had back brakes, you know, the kind you had when you were a kid—the kind that take pedaling backward to stop. That’s totally fine, but only if your legs are in exactly the right position at the exact time you want (or need) to stop. Add to that the fact it was the wrong size, too, way too tall for my freakishly short legs, it meant that I fell over a lot. It wasn’t fun to ride. It should have been. I wanted it to be. But it wasn’t. 

That proved that I wasn’t a bike person, I thought. I had bike guilt. 

But that was wrong. I just had the wrong bike. 

What prompted me in this strange, new quest for a bike? I’ve been fascinated by money lately, about how to pay off debt and use it to build the life you want. Now that I know how little I knew about finances (my own included), I’ve been studying investing and interest and retirement funds and all that sexy frightening stuff. Dear blog reader K turned me on to Mr. Money Mustache, and now I can’t get enough of his blog. He retired at thirty! He tells you how to do it! (No, seriously.) One of his big tips is to ride a bike. Not only are you NOT spending fifty cents a mile on gas and wear and tear, but you’re extending your life span. That five bucks you didn’t spend on your car? Save it. Make those dollars work for YOU. I like this advice, and I suddenly found myself super attracted to getting a bike. 

It was all I could think about. One weekend I went to every bike shop in the Bay Area (all forty-three thousand of them) and I fell in like with a couple of new bikes, but I didn’t want to spend five hundred dollars or more in order to save money. Then I went to the Bikery, a nonprofit in Oakland that teaches kids how to fix bikes as well as the skills needed to run a business. I test rode a red bike that was SO CUTE. It did nothing for me. Then Lala pointed out the old Peugeot stuck in a corner. It was rusting. It squeaked. And by the time I reached the corner on my test ride, we were in love. $140 later, she was mine. 

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I’d forgotten that feeling. I haven’t my own Bike of Love since I was ten. I wanted a ten-speed so badly I couldn’t sleep at night. My parents didn’t have the money to buy me a new bike (either that or they were teaching me the value of a dollar—either way it was good), so I babysat every spare minute I had (omg, I just yesterday heard from one of my old clients who read Pack Up the Moon. How awesome is THAT?). When I finally had the ninety-nine dollars I needed, I went to the bike store in Arroyo Grande and bought the blue Schwinn that had been calling my name for six months. 

I lived on that bike. We rode the hills together, me and that Schwinn. I was free in a way I’d never felt before. This was the old days, so Mom didn’t keep track of where we were after school as long as she knew whose house we were headed to (I made friends based on whether 1) they were given sugar and 2) whether they had TV, two things we didn’t have at home). Before I had my bike, I could only get as far as I was willing to walk, maybe a mile or two. After my bike? I could go anywhere. I have a distinct memory of flying down a steep hill at least eight miles away from my parents’ house (I also have the memory of hitting the rock I’d seen too late and eating it but let’s not talk about the wipe-outs). 

I rode that bike constantly. I didn’t give it up until I turned sixteen and got my first set of car wheels (an unbelievably crappy Fiat that I bought for a dollar and paid too much for), and then I turned my back on that poor bike forever. 

I spent the next twenty-five years in a car (minus the time I spent on a mountain bike a boyfriend bought me, sobbing as I rode behind him in terror—don’t send me over rocks, please—and minus the time I borrowed a different boyfriend’s bike to ride to new job as a Perkins waitress and my backpack strap broke and knocked out the front wheel from in front of me and I ate it in front of a million cars and no one stopped and I had to limp into my new waitressing job and introduce my bloody self to my new coworkers and ask them for bandages). Since sixteen, it’s been me and cars. So this new(old) joy is new again and so joyful

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Taking Hilda to get fitted for panniers. 

This is what I’ve learned in the last ten days: 

* When you’re riding a bike, you’re traffic. Today, for the first time, I kept pace with cars who had to keep stopping at stoplights and stop signs (I did, too—I follow the rules, but I didn’t have to queue like they did). I passed them, they passed me. Repeat. It was fun. A weird, rather dangerous but addictive dance. 

* You talk to people more on a bike. You say hi to pedestrians and other bicyclists. You thank drivers who stop for you, whose windows are open. 

* You smell more things. Basically, I have a dog’s nose (which is why I love my convertible SmartCar). On a bike you get all the smells, too. I love that. I love smelling jasmine and barbecue and lint filters from dryer vents. I love smelling garlic and coffee and exhaust and new paint. All the smells, even the bad ones. I love them. 

* You’re using your BODY. Dude, I’ve spent the last four months chained to a desk writing Splinters of Light. I needed to move. (I gave up sugar—again—and it feels good to listen to what my body wants. It wants fruits and vegetables and motion. And no more g.d. Cadbury Creme Eggs.) 

This is a long enough post. Just this: I’m in love with my bike. Lala was right—she usually is about these things. It just took me a while to figure that out, that’s all. This obsession, like many of mine, might wear off, but I’m thinking this might be one of the few that sticks with me. So far, since getting Hilda (that's her name) a little more than a week ago, I've: gotten groceries twice, gone to the cafe twice and to the Mills tea shop twice. I've ridden to Alameda and gotten ice cream with my sister (ice cream is my sugar allowance, and it's low glycemic and step off if you think I shouldn't eat it--I SHOULD) and I've found a mural in Oakland that was amazing. I've accidentally found a street fair. I've gotten tacos from the taco truck and filled my panniers with a burrito as big as a baby. I've smiled at lots of people. 

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Taco truck. 

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Mural. 

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Can you see me next to the elephant's leg? 

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And I remembered this: There’s nothing like going down a hill as fast as you can. Nothing.