Monday, August 31, 2009

Warrior Rock Lighthouse

Robin and I spent a lovely Saturday afternoon hiking out to the Warrior Rock Lighthouse. What else could you ask for besides the company of a good friend, picking blackberries along the way, strolling through a pasture filled with curious cows, switching between the shadows and light of the cottonwood tree forest along the path, spilling out onto the beach, having lunch on a huge fallen log on the rocks by the lighthouse wall, and then heading back the same way? Not much.

Worth checking out!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The 10% Society

Back in Madison, WI when I was getting my Bachelor’s degree, I would always look forward to going to dances at the student union hosted by the 10% Society, a gay & lesbian group on campus. I’d get dressed up, have some drinks with friends beforehand, and then get down to Madonna and all those other staples you want to hear when surrounded by a bunch of queers.

I got to be part of another 10% Society this week here in Portland, OR – but I get ahead of myself.

About nine months ago, I noticed the start of a strange growth underneath my left eye. At first I thought: okay, an annoying zit; then, a skin tag; then a mole. It wouldn’t go away, ended up growing a darker color, and started peeling. I made an appointment with a dermatologist through Kaiser, and when I went in last week for a consultation, the last thing I expected to hear from the nurse and doctor was that there was a 90% chance it was Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), a common form of skin cancer. Hey, if you’re going to get the big “C”, this is supposedly the kind to get – it’s easily treatable (unless you’ve gone a long, long time without having someone take a look at it), and if treated early on there’s only a 1-2% chance it will come back, at least in that same area. But wow, when you’re sitting there, and someone tells you that you most likely have cancer, the last thing you’re thinking about is how it’s the “good” kind of cancer, or that you caught it early on. You’re just suddenly feeling sad and scared and confused and maybe angry with some of your choices around being out in the sun, your diet, other lifestyle and health choices.

The doctor ended up having a cancellation last Friday, and I went in and had the growth cut out and stitched up. I’ve spent the last few days in a fog, letting the big “C” shadow my thoughts and my sleep and my interactions with people. Plus, I was feeling self-conscious that I’ve been walking around with this bandage on my face, but I’ve had an arsenal of “the other guy looks worse” comments in my back pocket should the need arise.

I go in tomorrow to get my stitches removed, and I’d been told I’d get the results of the biopsy at that time, along with the news – should the growth be cancerous – that I’d need to come in for a second, more invasive surgery to make sure they snagged the “root” of the cancer and thus prevented it from coming back again in that same area. Because of tomorrow’s appointment, the last thing I expected this A.M. while in the grocery store was to get a call from the nurse who – immediately upon my answering the phone – informed me the tests came back negative, I don’t have cancer, the growth was another skin anomaly similar to a mole, I don’t need the second surgery, and she knew I’d rather hear this now than wait until tomorrow’s appointment. I literally felt light as air, physically and psychically. All of a sudden things just got brighter and warmer.

But the lesson is not lost: this is a good reason to pause, a good wake up call in lots of ways. We all need to pay attention to our bodies and give ourselves regular examinations. We need to make sure we limit our exposure to the sun, and use lotions to prevent UV ray damage. And we all need to make sure we do our best to eat right, exercise, and overall take care of body, mind, and spirit.

Here’s a link I found that I thought I’d share with you about BCC:

I share this story so that you can all take a moment to pause and appreciate what you have, and also to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, that you’re paying attention to your body’s changes, and that you don’t wait too long should anything disconcerting arise. I'm lucky -- I'm part of the 10% who got the good news. Just make sure where you fall so that you can plan accordingly. And, finally, don't keep all this to yourself -- let yourself feel all your emotions, even if you think it's "no big deal." Intellectually, you may be aware with something like BCC that it's treatable and far down the totem pole of types of cancers, but your heart is probably telling you different things. Build a good support system. Being able to share this story along the way with my family, friends, and colleagues has made all the difference.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm a big fan of this quote, and of my horoscope (courtesy of the fabulous Rob Brezny)

"The moment you come to trust chaos, you see God clearly. Chaos is
divine order, versus human order. Change is divine order, versus human
order. When the chaos becomes safety to you, then you know you're
seeing God clearly."
- Caroline Myss

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): I think you've been lurking and slinking
long enough, Capricorn. For now, you've learned all you need to know
about wrestling with camouflage and subterfuge. You've done all you
could to clean up the crooked places and bring integrity to the twisted
stories. Now it's high time for you to come out and play -- to exit the
claustrophobic maze and make a break for wide-open spaces. Some
cautionary advice: To keep from getting pinched by trick endings, make
sure all sales are final and all goodbyes are complete.

One of Marieke's posts on health insurance in the US v. the UK

A powerful and thoughtful blog post:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Just got back from Alaska, one of the most magical places on this earth. Back in the day (years ago), my family had always half-joked about spending Jordan’s 30th birthday in Alaska, taking a cruise of some sort, exploring the Last Frontier. Then lo and behold, Jordan landed a job at one of the lodges in Denali National Park for the summer season, and plans fell into line for the family to gather for the big 3-0. Mom and I arrived on a Thursday, Aaron and Stephenie the next day, and the five of us spent a glorious week hanging out and soaking in that fresh, fresh, fresh Alaskan air.

I’m blessed and thankful we were able to embrace so much of the outdoors; we barely spent any time inside our room (though the Bluffs Hotel was certainly cozy and accommodating, with a breathtaking view from our balcony). On Jordan’s birthday, after a breakfast at the Salmon Bake, we hiked Savage River, winding in and out of crevices in the mountains, looking at snowcapped peaks and down at the remnants of glaciers, avalanches, raging waters. The next day we took a guided bus tour 2/3 deep into the park, and saw tons of wildlife – the driver, Craig, told us we should pause and be thankful that we saw more in 6.5 hours than many people see during their entire stay in Denali: Dall sheep, golden eagles, caribou, a moose, six brown bears (one cub was climbing a tree while its HUGE grizzly mama grazed nearby), and….a lynx! I love that a lynx ran out in front of the bus, then paused on the side of the road and looked up at us with its deceivingly cute eyes. Rarely do we experience a moment and understand its preciousness in the same breath, but this was one of those moments, watching that lynx dash in front of us on its strong haunches, the way it turned and blinked at us so up close. I was in awe. On a more tame note, I adored all the sled-pullin' dogs; Mom and I went to the "Dog Demo," where the rangers educate you about the history of sled dogs in Alaska, do a demonstration run for you, let you stand on the sled, etc. Fin was my favorite, as was Willow. But all 32 dogs were friendly and loving and cute as buttons. It was fascinating to hear how snowmobiles are banned in the park during the winter, as they aren't as reliable as the dogs. Now perhaps most adventurous of all,the five of us went….whitewater rafting! What a hoot! There we were in chilly weather, slapping on wet suits (Mom too!), and then getting our mini-tutorials about never letting go of the T-grip on our paddles, how we’d only survive for so long in the water, if one of us falls out the others should do this, etc. We were all like, “Ummm….” But I was impressed with all of us, especially Mom, for taking the 11-mile trip down the river, which had several Class 3 and Class 4 rapids. I was in the front of the raft on the right, and definitely got hit the most by the silty, cold water! It took several hours of warming up (and drinking beer and eating pizza at Panorama, a pub about 30 minutes down the road from Glitter Gulch, the “downtown” of Denali).

Maybe more than anything, I’m most impressed with all the kind, genuine, fun people we met. Jordan has made some great friends and acquaintances, and all of them were so accommodating, generous, and sweet; and they all love Jordan so much. Everywhere we went, people were saying “hi” and smiling and stopping us to chat and get to know us. He’s met quite the crew at this “adult summer camp” (Jordan’s terminology). Some of my favorite moments were hanging out in Jordan’s room with his roommates and friends; sitting in the Overlook Bar inside the Crow’s Nest and drinking beer while chatting with everyone; eating midnight tacos; riding down the hill from the Grande Lodge on the back of the cart at midnight with it still sorta light out, slipping and sliding in the mud, ready to bounce off but laughing the entire time; having those random conversations at the workers’ cabins that were nestled on the hills amongst the lodges. (And yes, for all you Dirty Dancing fans out there, the first thing I said to his friends when I met them was, “I carried a watermelon.”) On our last night, we went to the Cabin Nite Dinner Theater, where the performers enacted the history of Alaska through song, dance, and audience participation (i.e. getting two older fellers to enact a famous gun duel and have one of them fall “dead” in between two dining tables). The food was delicious – huge platters of meats and veggies and sides, our “garbage can” these metal buckets where we scraped everything we didn’t want from leftovers to napkins. And I loved (and am happy I didn’t get picked) that the men and women came over and placed big smack-a-roo kisses on anyone for a buck; you just raised a dollar bill over their head and the ladies or guys would plant one on their cheek; Jordan got three kisses (one gal, two guys) and you could tell he loved it, even though he turned a bright, burning red.

Mom and I headed back to Anchorage to catch our flight – on the comfiest train on the planet, I might add. We drank Moose Kisses, ate in the dining car with a pleasant couple from Texas, and stared out the clear ceiling and walls of our dome car at all the lush wildlife, trestles, mountains, and rivers. I also loved standing outside between the two cars and letting the wind whip through my hair and onto my face. Jordan, Aaron, and Stephenie had a chance to shimmy up to Fairbanks (stopping along the way at, um, a pub called Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn), go to the Ice Hotel, and partake of the hot springs. Oh, and they also saw a beaver chow down on a tree on the Horseshoe Trail; they happened by right as the tree toppled over. I have to admit I’m jealous I wasn’t part of that experience. Then again, I’ve never really been into beavers….

So many feelings flooded through me during the vacation. Taking in Alaska’s vastness made me feel small but infinite, a tiny, tiny speck, but one that is working with all the other specks/spokes to turn the wheels of the universe. I can’t quite describe it, but I’d say I felt close to the start of stillness. Those stolen moments – the walk by myself that one day, sitting in the Bear Creek café and reading Jim Lynch’s The Highest Tide, looking out at the rainbow from the balcony – drew me in to silence in a purer form. The spectrum of emotions ebbed and flowed through me constantly, but all for the greater good – helping knot a stronger, steadier, vaster sense of Self.

p.s. And the Alaskan men are total hotties. Those beards, the overalls, the big aww-shucks grins. Consider me a fan(tasy).

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

quote of the day

"What is laid down, ordered, factual is never enough to embrace the
whole truth: life always spills over the rim of every cup."

- Boris Pasternak

Monday, August 03, 2009

Magic by Way of Bruce Hornsby and the Range

I've just had one of the best weekends ever. It was "book-ended" by two simple, beautiful, earthy weddings: Meagan and Matt's on Friday, Jennifer and Lee's on Sunday. Meagan and I have become fast friends, and I felt honored she asked me to be a witness for her ceremony with the lovely Beekeeper. And Jennifer and I have known one another since high school, and I am so happy she's found Lee, a kind and introspective soul. What impressed me most about the four of them was their embrace of the true nature of a marriage, and of a wedding, not all the "superficial" stuff that can go with it (if you've watched an episode of Bridezilla, you know what I mean). They all are plugged into the true love current of such a momentous event. While I don't have any photos at this point to share of Jennifer and Lee's wedding, I thought I'd pass along these two of Meagan and Matt's (and the other witness in the photo is Kristin).

On Saturday, smack-dab in the middle of said Awesome Weekend, Mom and I attended a benefit concert outside McMinnville. We spent the earlier part of the day driving into downtown McMinnville and shopping; eating at the Oregon Hotel, a McMenamin's restaurant; getting lost on the country roads while listening to Bruce Hornsby and the Range; and enjoying the sun and company and beautiful day. You all would have loved Ramsey, whose family has the McPhillips farm referenced in the below poster. He and his cohorts did such a fine job organizing the event, and I loved sitting on my lawn chair (right behind rows of hay bale seating) and listening to some really beautiful music from top-notch performers. The farmland was breathtaking: at one point I wandered off by myself, munching down on the best thing I've ever tasted, a macaroon cookie from Red Fox Bakery (; the sun was setting behind the trees, pink rays caught amongst all the dripping moss, and the river was off to my left and a huge meadow to my right with two deer grazing, and I felt so close to (inner) silence and the true, raw meaning of beauty and stillness and belonging. A truly magical moment for me.