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Me and Gabby at the Larner Seeds demonstration garden in Bolinas

I don’t know if it’s turning forty, or if it’s having baby who’s swiftly transformed into a toddler, but my energy level and health have taken a nosedive lately – it’s  time to make a change. By that, I mean, if I want to be a healthy, mindful mother, and one that ages relatively gracefully (I’ll be 60 when my daughter is just 20), I’m having to take a hard, honest look at my emotional and physical bad habits. What doesn’t serve me anymore? What does?

In the interest of not losing interest in this project (I have a tendency to chase after whatever fly-by-night idea hits me for about five minutes before moving on to the next GREAT IDEA), I’m going to be documenting this shift towards better emotional and physical health here on my blog.

Unlike Walden, I don’t have the luxury of going into the woods to find myself, but I do have the luxury of community and time, not to mention boundless inspiration courtesy of the public library.

Fair forewarning: I’m looking at the next six months  as one big experiment. I heard computer scientist and tech- philosopher Jaron Lanier on Forum recently, and he said something about how he encourages his students to experiment with their own behaviors, so as not to be at the mercy of ingrained habits. For example, what does it feel like to go off Facebook for a few months? I couldn’t tell you because I still head to FB way too often for my five-hit-a-day dopamine habit. But Lanier is right. You don’t know the effect of an action until you give it an honest try.

My parents did this when I was young. They left behind family and friends to live in a house on stilts, on the beach, in Kauai when I was only three and my sister eight-weeks-old.  Thanks to my surf bum parents, I spent my early childhood in paradise , eating foraged avocados, papayas and fish, living in nature, swimming and playing all day, studying the stars with my Papa at night.  What if my parents had been afraid to leave Los Angeles, to leave what they knew, all of their family and friends? It was an experiment, and parts of it  sucked, but other parts were glorious (I have the blurred memories to prove it).

The house on stilts in Pila'a, Kauai

The house on stilts in Kauai

Please join me for this experiment. I’ll be posting short essays, photos, successes and failures about three times a week. Leave me comments. Encourage me to stick with it. Help me come up with ideas for how to live healthfully without spending tons of cash on Crossfit and yoga classes (and if you catch me buying those see-through Lululemon yoga pants, just take me out into the woods to die or send me a vision quest to retrieve my soul). Bear with the paleo  phase and cliched complaints about life without sugar (but with honey – I could never totally give up the sweet).  Read books with me. Engage in dialogue about whether having time to garden, bicycle and  is only for the privileged and not for the working-class.

See if it’s possible for a lazy-ass, city-raised, (we moved back to Los Angeles from Kauai when I was 6) working-class lady like myself to make real change; can I put my ideals about simplicity, consumption, sustainability, community-building, kindness and mental health into action? I think I can . . I think I can . . . I think I can . . .






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In My Bag

inmybagI’m super fascinated with this series by Jason Travis that documents the contents of different style makers bags. It appeals to my enjoyment of the mundane, the everyday things that make up a life (probably the same reason why I love Haruki Murakami and his descriptions of coffee-drinking and spaghetti-making in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle).

In the same spirit, I decided to take a photo of the contents of my own bag. Well, it’s one of about three different bags that I switch between, but this is my “work” bag and the only one that doesn’t contain a random (unused!) diaper and hoarded tiny pieces of paper from who knows where.

My writing group met last night and my friend Jess returned a borrowed copy of No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. As she returned it, Kara and I talked about the story we always remember the most, “The Swim Team,”  where the narrator gives swim lessons in her kitchen floor, teaching her students how to breathe underwater by having them blow bubbles into bowls of water.  The copy of The Best American Essays (edited by Cheryl Strayed) is part of my grand plan to educate myself on the art of essay writing without paying for a class (I’ve yet to actually crack the book, but I will, dammit!) Then we’ve got an old Bohemian that I’m holding onto strictly out of narcissism since I wrote about Write On Mamas for this particular issue. And here is a copy of Mind Your Manners, which is ostensibly for my daughter to “read” while we’re out and about, but should be at the top of my own reading list, if we’re going to be totally honest.

What else? A pen that probably doesn’t work, a random, pretty bracelet that I never wear, an ugly wallet that I keep meaning to replace with something more svelte, notes on an essay called Climate Change, Baby that I submitted to my writing group yesterday, a baby sweater, and earbuds that (also) probably don’t work.

There ya go. What’s in your bag?




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Friday Free School

Today’s visit to the Graton Day Labor Center to watch my friend Lisa Morehouse report on immigrants who’ve been shut out of Obamacare for KQED’s California Report, has me thinking hard about labor, economic justice, the material conditions of work, and exactly what is a living wage? A story by Monica Potts in the American Prospect, Yes, Being a Woman Makes You Poorer examines the failure of the Paycheck Fairness Act this week, thanks to those *super generous * Senate Republicans. According to Potts, the gender wage gap contributes to poverty and near-poverty for women in the United States. This is a big deal.

With radio on the mind, I was happy to stumble upon the Belabored Podcast over at the Dissent Magazine website. Hosted by Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen, this week’s episode features an interview with Ruth Milkman on the future of labor and the work of revolutionizing communities from the bottom up. I’m glad to see people speaking up about economic injustice and exploitation of workers for the benefit of the owners. Labor, economy, work, jobs – let’s do this.

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Write On Mamas

“A lot of writing about motherhood is still considered ‘mommy memoir’ or ‘mommy blogging’ and isn’t seen as serious memoir,” says Kovac. “Even the word ‘mother’ is so loaded. There are some in publishing that are just like, ‘We don’t want motherhood stories.’”

Kovac adds that whatever literary space there is for moms tends to be taken up by well-known writers like Anne Lamott and Ayelet Waldeman. The stigma has led to an ongoing conversation among the Write On Mamas about whether or not “Mamas” should stay in the name.

The answer is always a resounding yes, says Kovac.

“Isn’t this how we take it back?” asks Kovac. “We’re writing, and we take it seriously; we’re parents, and we take it seriously.”




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Restorative Justice

“True justice has to come from a place of love,” Sanchez says. “If it comes from a place of vengeance, there’s no true healing. There’s very little you get out of asking for vengeance. I truly believe it has to come from a place of love, especially for youth, who pick up these subtle messages. When you tell them, ‘Get out of here, we don’t want you in our schools anymore,’ the youth think, ‘These schools hate me, my teachers hate me, everybody’s out to get me.’ But when you remind them, ‘No, we love you and we need you here,’ it speaks volumes.”

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