April 14th, 2006

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Good Morning!

The day is lovely. Last night I sat outside and watched the full moon rise, and enjoyed the warmth of an evening. It truly feels like spring. I noticed last night that my eyelashes are starting to grow back. What a wondrous experience is that. I am delighted. I am feeling warm and cozy inside. I am happy to be alive and well, and I am  feeling well.   Each day I feel more energy and strength. 

A woman I have not met is going to start reading the blog to help her through her chemo journey. She is afraid of Taxol. I will have to go back and look at what I wrote at the time, but from this end of the tunnel, all is fairy dust and light. I feel well and grateful for wonderful care, and life. The attention in the radiation department is amazing. I have been transferred from one pocket of love to another.  I hope this blog offers support for what this journey has been for me, and can be for another. 

My radiation appointment is now fixed at 8:30 each day, so I can begin to plan my life a bit, and celebrate.  It is not my chosen time, but I am realizing that having a set time allows a planning that is important to me.  Before I wanted spontaneity, and I still somewhat do, and I am wanting more of a schedule now, more planning in my life.  Perhaps, I am grateful to know I can have a schedule, that I can put things into the slots of my day, and fulfill.  

I finished reading Julia Child's Memoir last night. I am inspired.  What a woman, and what a Life!

Today is Good Friday.  Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, and many  compared him to Jesus. His death was considered a sacrifice.

Julia Child has a great deal  to say about the McCarthy Era. This country has been through frightening times before. I was surprised to read that McCarthy was backed by Texas oil men. It seems their level of control has not changed.  Perhaps without that control, we would have a public transportation system in this country that works.  Imagine mag-lev trains squirreling us quickly along branches, and trunks of this country.  That might have opened up communication between people that each of us in our own metal box,  blocks.   Perhaps there would be less red and blue dividing  the states, and more a purple haze.   (Interesting that the word purple seems to want to be followed by haze.  Jimi Hendrix is still a strong influence with his song, Purple Haze..)

The headline of the NY Times was cheery  today. "More Retired Generals Call for Rumsfield's Resignation." It works for me.

Good Friday always feels like a special day to me. No matter what our beliefs, I think there is something about dying and resurrection that is important to honor. It feels especially precious to me this year. Today, I honor the need to go within, and the pull that draws me out.

My good friend Anna who guides me through the breathing for radiation is on vacation today and for the next week. She hugged me yesterday knowing how important her guidance has been to me. I'll work with someone new today, and that is okay. I'm glad Anna has a break. She will be home with her dogs. Today is horse day, so I am very excited about that, too.

May this day flower and wiggle all around you.  I am seeing some incredible, colorfully ribboned worms.  The rain is giving gifts, and maybe today, it will give us a break,  so we can more fully appreciate them.  Joy to you, and happy soon to be Chick , Bunny, and Resurrection  Day.   May your eggs crack easily in fulfilling the resurrection of Joy, and may all those who have died in the name of peace see their dreams fulfill one day.  
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E.B. White - Imagination and Spring!

Perhaps E.B. White is best known for his book "Charlotte's Web," the best selling children's paperback of all time.

If you haven't read it, you must. Perhaps, you remember when it was read to you. Certainly, it is a story of death and resurrection, a good Easter book.

In a letter to a young reader, White wrote:

"In real life, a spider doesn't spin words in her web . . . But real life is only one kind of life—there is also the life of the imagination.  And although my stories are imaginary, I like to think that there is some truth in them, too—truth about the way people and animals feel and think and act."

In his essay, "A Report in Spring," White wrote this.

"ONE NEVER KNOWS what images one is going to hold in memory, returning to the city after a brief orgy in the country. I find this morning that what I most vividly and longingly recall is the sight of my grandson and his little sunburnt sister returning to their kitchen door from an excursion, with trophies of the meadow clutched in their hands—she with a couple of violets, and smiling, he serious and holding dandelions, strangling them in a responsible grip. Children hold spring so tightly in their brown fists—just as grownups, who are less sure of it, hold it in their hearts."

Feel spring bloom in your heart!!  I do.  The flowers are amazing this year, within,  and without.  
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Where we live -

I firmly believe that our attitude influences our response, and yet, I do respond to certain areas more than others. I love Monterey, Sea Ranch, and Mendocino. Here is an interesting take, on Carmel. I am reminded, though, that when we moved here from San Clemente, Jeff, who had just turned four, found it lonely. We lived in a townhouse in San Clemente. Our home was one of eight, and Jeff rode his Big Wheel to the various neighbors and was invited in for treats. The swimming pool was at the end of our group of residences, four on each side. We wanted him to have a house though. We were thrilled to give him his own yard with space and trees. His comment was "Where are the lawn mower men?" We hadn't realized that he enjoyed the ritual of the gardening staff, and that he loved having other people around. He came to love Mill Valley and when he went to UCSC and was told there was no more beautiful place in the world, he said he was from Mill Valley. The answer was, "Except for that." I present this, because I think she brings up some good points, and it is true that "Home is where the heart is open."

Home Is Where the Heart Is Open
By Carol Lloyd, Special to SF Gate

When I was 8, my family moved from Kumasi, Ghana, to Carmel, California, and I fell into a depression. It wasn't about having to make new friends -- in our peripatetic lifestyle, I was used to that. The cause of my downward spiral was something else: It was about space, urban design and the way that an environment shapes our souls.

What is it about a place that makes someone happy?

Since I had moved from a region known more for desperation, danger and deprivation to one known as a veritable paradise, I've always thought my melancholy a curious example of the ways that America's urban design -- even at its best -- can fail us.

In Ghana, where my parents served a two-year stint as Peace Corps volunteers, we had very few of the things now assumed to make children happy. We lived in a house with cement floors, no refrigerator (at least, not one that worked), no toys, no TV, no sweets.

But there was a kind of permeability about the place that made me supremely happy. Even though we lived on the university campus in a single-family home (not like the gated mansions of diplomats but more private than many other homes), there was little sense of boundaries. There were no fences. Doors were always open, and everyone -- including the cantaloupe-sized tarantulas -- took this as a sign of welcome.

Friends, neighbors and strangers constantly visited the house with their agendas and needs. Traders dropped by in the evenings to offer my mother "the best price" for their wood carvings, antique brass canisters and kente cloths. Women with green-tinged oranges piled high on their heads and babies on their backs sold us fruit. Locals knocked on the back door to offer to smoke out the sewer rats -- once caught, they'd be spit-roasted in the backyard -- or harvest the bananas from the tree.

The streets were filled with kids (including me) running races barefoot -- the only sport in a society of children without things. Even our lack of a refrigerator contributed to our use of public space -- we had to buy food from the open market almost daily.

Even though we were newcomers and foreigners, I never felt isolated. We had been plunged into a place where the demands of everyday life required us to interact often and intensely. The result was a thrilling sense of spontaneity and story -- things seemed to happen more often there.

In fact, the sheer lack of urban planning made the place surprisingly vital. There were villages -- with family compounds and giant fire pits and all-night drumming -- inside the city. There was a jungle in the ravine behind our house. Nothing had yet been zoned, and though it made for some extreme juxtapositions, the different kinds of space seemed to be in constant conversation with one another.

Carmel was a very different story. It was not as if the town embodied everything bad about American urban planning. Far from it.

The downtown had everything to make an 8-year-old happy and more. In addition to a cozy house with the all-American staples of sweets, TV and toys, I got to romp in a hobbit land of big trees and tiny village shops seemingly crafted by a child's imagination. And because it was safe (or thought safe), I had a lot of freedom: walking along a forest path to town with my best friend, buying bread and cheese from her big sister at the cheese shop and picnicking on a white-sand beach.

So what was it about this idyllic village life that sent me into a downward spiral?

In many ways, Carmel proper is the prototypical planned community. It was conceived as a place to make people happy.

In 1903, when San Jose real estate developer Frank Devendorf began advertising plots for his new seaside community, he had a quasi-utopian vision that many urban planners would still applaud today. He designed a dense, pedestrian-friendly town that preserved the natural beauty of the site. He sold the first plot to a black woman to support the idea of racial diversity. He gave discounts to artists, with the aim of nurturing local culture.

To this day, the town tries to control development devastation and nurture community. The towering Monterey pines are treated as community treasures -- developers and pavers are expected to work around them, not cut them down. The town doesn't deliver mail to people's doors. Instead, residents visit the local post office with its thousands of tiny brass mailboxes.

And it works: For many retirees and second-home owners who live within the central village, something akin to community is palpable.

Whatever people may say about it, as a planned community Carmel is a success for many. The local people are exceedingly kind to one another. The densely built, nature-friendly village has done what few communities have managed to do: It embodies many of our culture's highest values.

Yet despite all the resources and good intentions in the world, the American ideals behind this most privileged housing development -- which emphasize luxury, privacy and controlled beauty -- didn't make me happy.

When I moved there in 1971, Carmel was betwixt and between its old bohemian village self and its new "real estate über alles" one. Although there were no poor or even working-class neighborhoods (even if there were plenty of lower-income renters and elderly living on fixed incomes), the subtle gradations of class difference were well known even by the children in my fourth-grade classroom. I recall one friend telling me in a hushed voice that Mission Fields, the modest subdivision south of the Carmel mission, was the slums.

After living in a place with extreme stratification between rich and poor, but where I had no sense of social segregation, I was now privy to the geography of status and the separation it fosters.

As you got closer to the beach, the property values went up. South of Ocean was better than north of Ocean -- unless, of course, you were next to the beach and near Pebble Beach, one of the country's most exclusive gated communities. Each of the various subdivisions just outside town represented distinct rungs on the ladder.

When I arrived, the monster cottage (with its 4,000 feet of living space squeezed into a 4,000-square-foot lot) had not yet become the new development norm, and chain stores were virtually banned from downtown.

Within a few years, it all began to change -- the drugstore, hardware store, everyman's grocer closed. Carmel Plaza -- with its stronghold of corporate stores like I. Magnin -- opened amid much controversy. Just outside town, the artichoke fields at the mouth of Carmel Valley were being replaced by shopping centers, condo developments and office parks, floating in massive parking lots.

With the contrast of another, far less affluent culture so vivid in my mind, it was clear where life in Carmel was headed: While downtown might fight hard to preserve some of its original ideals, ordinary citizens were leading more and more suburban lives -- getting in their cars and driving to shopping centers to buy a bag of groceries, a bottle of aspirin, a wrench. Gradually, fewer and fewer people bought in Carmel with plans to live there: Currently, about 60 percent of the houses are used as second homes.

Outside town, where we (along with most of the middle-class families) lived, the sense of a village faded away.

In fact, I recall an ominous sense of lawlessness. It was in a liminal zone on the path behind the Holiday Inn off Highway 1 that my 10-year-old friend was raped in broad daylight. It was on my suburban street that I was nearly attacked by a man who had dropped his drawers. It was on the unpaved edge of Rio Road, which connected the tract-home subdivisions to the local elementary school, that bicycling children were occasionally victims of hit-and-run drivers. In each case, no one saw the perpetrators because people were inside their houses with the shades drawn.

At the age of 8, I was acutely aware of these juxtapositions. After being exposed to poverty, diversity, filth and dangerous animals, I was suddenly living in what might have been called the "prettiest place on earth." But it didn't always feel so pretty. After my stay in Africa, Carmel seemed like a very lonesome place. A feeling that all the money in the world was helping to create.

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about Bay Area real estate. She teaches a class on buying your first home in the Bay Area, and another class based on her best-selling career counseling book for creative people, "Creating a Life Worth Living." For more information, email her at surreal@sfgate.com.
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Checking in -

The day began well for me and then I ran out of steam, and when I do, I continue to have to realize, I just don't have the reserves I would like to have. I guess I find that a bit sad, and it is what it is. I had such intention to have a full day, and I did have one, and I got home, sat down in a chair and fell sound asleep. I over-extended, and felt angry and sad that I was so tired. It seems silly now. I was tired. What is wrong with that? And now, I consider my day. Maybe I had a reason to be tired.

I drove up to Greenbrae. Kirk is my new person for radiation and he and Jane do a great job, so all is well there, and my check-in with the nurse went well also. They drew on me again today, and took more pictures. When I see the doctor, I will ask why so many pictures. I have had pictures taken four days this week. The nurse didn't know why that would be so, since it is usually once a week. Anyway, it is another step in the procedure, and I don't think I am really relaxed for radiation. The breathing has to be just right, not too much and not too little, and I guess I am worn out from trying to do it "just right." It feels odd to me to have to perform what should be natural. Anyway, I realize now I didn't let myself feel how tired I am from five days of running up there, and trying to breathe just right, and having the pictures taken, and the four times of radiation spray each time. I am worn out from that, but I didn't realize until this moment. I have been trying to be a happy camper.

Anyway, it was quiet there today, and so I finished quickly enough to meet Steve for a late breakfast at Toast. That seemed fine, but I realize now it was heavy traffic getting back to MV, and the restaurant was noisy and crowded and there was a lot of commotion. I think my stimulation level is still very fine. My nervous system can handle only so much, so I drove home for a 30 minute rest, and then, drove up to Fairfax to meet with Jim, the mentors and the horses, and perhaps that is where I am angry with myself. The point there is self-care, and that means to "Drink before you are thirsty; eat before you are hungry, and rest before you are tired." The other point is to feel what you feel through the horse. The horse is a mirror for you. What I felt was fatigue. Did that mean I sat down and took a break? No, I didn't want to miss anything and, so I persevered. When I got to the car, I felt so tired I wanted to cry. Then, I beat myself up. Why do I have to be so stoic? Why couldn't I have pulled myself aside and sat in a chair? So, I managed to create a lose-lose, except now I see what happened, and so, I can do it differently next time.

Today, we learned how to groom the horses, how to start with our hand first, and get to know the horse, and let them know us, and then we learned how to use the brush. We learned to get the horse to step back, to go in a circle, and to come toward us, all through body language. We don't speak.

So, that brings up something else. My mind, or lack thereof. I feel like my memory is shot. I worked with a wonderful horse, and I can't remember the horse's name. It is completely gone for me. We learned an order of how to approach the horse. I know how to do it. I remember what to do but I cannot remember the words, and maybe that is the point. We aren't there to work left-brain, but I have always been rather proud of mine, and I feel like I've lost my mind, and they would say, Yay. Now, I am smiling. I guess it was a good day, and maybe my fatigue allowed me to get out of my mind, and just be with the horse in the way we are being taught to do. They are prey animals. We are head honcho in the prey world, and probably predator too.

Maybe that is another reason I feel sad. It was very clear to all of us how women have been taught not to use dominant body language. I found the third part, which I can't remember the name of, challenging. I am not forceful with my body language. I was raised to keep my legs together like a "lady," and that doesn't include being dominant to a 1200 pound animal. The other odd thing is why I chose the toughest horse to work with. I met the horse outside with his owner, and she told me he was tough, and my mentor said he was tough, but I wanted tough, and I did do great. I got an A in a place where they don't give grades, so why did I leave, feeling I didn't do "good enough." Why do I do this to myself, I ask now. What is the standard by which I am measuring? There is no standard. The horse did everything I wanted. Isn't that enough? And what was my favorite part? There was a part where we got to hug the horse. I put my arms around him, and closed my eyes and hugged. Tears come to my eyes now. I guess I want a horse to hug. I don't care about making him go in circles, and forwards and back. I just want to hug him, and this place is such that that would be fine. I could say that, and just stand there and hug a horse for two hours, but, and again, I smile. There is more to life than that, right?

Steve says I can have a horse if I want, and I don't think it is practical, but something was touched deeply in me today, and they said this would happen. I like hugging a horse. Thank you for listening. I was trying to figure out why I left there so troubled. There was something about hugging the horse that touched something really deep in me. The horse didn't really know me, or maybe he did. I ran my hands over him. I brushed him, and then, I hugged him. I am touched and what does it matter that I can't remember his name. I didn't tell him mine, and I doubt he could read my nametag.

What would I name him? He is an Appaloosa. They were owned by the Nez Pierce and were severely diminished by the "white man". Maybe all that history came through the hug, though I didn't know that until afterwards when Jim told me. I check the Appaloosa out on the Internet. They now think they might have crossed over the Bering Strait, and that the Nez Pierce and these horses have a longer history than was once realized. Ah, so much to learn and know. I would name him "Evolution."

We were told we will probably dream of horses. I believe that is so. I am dreaming of my new friend right now, and I hope that horse history continue now without pain, as we learn to work with these animals and communicate telepathically as they do. There is so much to learn, and we know enough. We know it all. Now, I let myself feel that. No more beating myself up, and next time, I'm tired, I'll rest.

I saw a license plate holder today that said, "Save a horse. Ride a cowboy." Now, there is something to contemplate. A joyful evening to you!!
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Aldous Huxley -

"Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him."

-- Aldous Huxley

Or what a woman does with what happens to her. Let us use our experiences well.
I feel calm tonight and tired. Soon to bed am I. May we all receive enough rest, and stimulation to thrive.