Sunday, September 18, 2022

Bananas & Updates

Carrot's gone to a new home. It's hard to think about it long enough to write about it, but the decision was right

The bananas have slowly been creeping back in lately

In my and all your lives 

It's been heat waves

and then downpours

COVID isolation, welcome at first

then prolonged

now emerged back into the world

it's been dozens of unformed essays

just hanging there, ethereal, in the uncertain universe

that's never actualized because the queen dies

and there's tweets to read

then you're tired and more tired, and even more tired

but never rest

there's tastes of friendships so enduring: the hour long phone calls, the comfort of a group reunited, the laughs at jokes everyone remembers, the overlapping blankets on a park lawn, the flight searches

life right now is reminding yourself of the things you love

the actual things. You already know you love the people

it's the blue blanket, the new running shoes, the small mugs

the book you read at the corner bar

it's the bay when it makes those lap-lap-lapping sound as a wave hits the shore and reminds you it too is a little part of the ocean

a fraction of your heart is being carried around in a doughy chihuahua who doesn't live here any more

but another part is being dusted off, sat upright, and told to take deep breaths, and go forth

Hawaii, from Marian

Oregon, from Matthew

Waikiki, from Marian

Walking home :) by me

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

A Toast to Mich

I think most of us are good people in this world, but there are a few people who are better than good. Michelle is one of those people. She will be the first to say "I'm not better than anyone" and that is one reason she is; she is humble and self-sacrificing. She is the friend who says they're thinking of you, who answers the text (or sends the meme) right when you need it, who makes plans to go running, when it's the last thing either of you want to do but the exact thing you need. She listens to every complaining thought you can throw at her without a single ounce of judgement or criticism. She cancels her plans and sits with you at the emergency vet when your dog chokes on a milk bone. And she will do it again, and for someone else the next weekend, with no questions asked or repayment expected. 

How she does it, I am not exactly sure, but I think I have a hunch. She does two things that are rarer and rarer in this world: 1. she looks for, and finds, the good in every person. She ignores the bad things. They don't matter, it turns out. 2. She prioritizes people and relationships in life. It's getting easier and easier not to-- to not make the phone call, to turn down the invitation, to keep saying "let's get together sometime" and it never happening. She says "cool, I'll show up" and does. And she does it for so many people. 

This is on the blog, because as the supportive friend she is, she is one of my ~three blog readers! Her ability at seeing good in others fits with the Carly's Bananas mission of looking for something, and finding it, over and over again. I hope everyone has a better-than-good person in their life to learn from. 

Happy 30th Birthday Mich!
May the next decade be filled many peaks (of the Idaho and Wyoming variety) and very few valleys - except the new one you will be living in soon. And more banana pictures too. 

Banana at Planet Granite (submitted by Michelle)

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Lessons on being Alone

I became a dog mom again, about a month ago. Dog mom is a phrase I resisted with Mint, my first dog, but then came to embrace. I adopt dogs because I like mothering. Taking care of another living thing is perhaps what makes my soul sing its highest most vibrant pitch. I have tried to resist this. I don't want to be the feminist who "only dreams about being a mom". But I don't know, these last few years I have sort of said fuck it, maybe being a mom is the most feminist thing I can do. I don't have the opportunity to have kids right now. I hope I do one day. But right now, I have the opportunity to be a dog mom. For a variety of reasons I am not drawn to the energetic puppy life. The ones that draw me in tend to be tiny, feeble, and weird. They are missing teeth, or hair. They are really skinny or really fat. They waddle and snarfle and sleep hard -- with mouths open and tongues out. All the factors that make them undesirable somehow have the opposite effect, making them only more loveable.

My newest love is named Carrot Cake. She is only 5lbs but actually may be a little overweight. She has zero teeth, and stage 2 kidney disease. I work in human health care, but I am learning about low phosphorous, low sodium diets through dog food companies. She sleeps with her tongue hanging out of her mouth a bit, so a few hours into the night she wakes up hacking because it is all dried out. I keep water next to my bed now, and wake up to hold it out to her to drink. She is scared of almost everything including laminate floors which may rank near the top. When I first welcomed her to my apartment -- her new home -- she took two steps in and froze. I thought she was sad, but she was just slipping. I immediately bought her a 13 foot rug. Things like the rug and the water would have sounded crazy to me a month ago, now to not do it would be more insane.

Scarier than laminate floors, is being alone. My other dog stayed at home sleeping without batting an eye. I just assumed I could do the same with CC. I bought her a tempur pedic dog bed, an indoor pee pad, and so many blankies. I built a ramp to my couch. I made my apartment so damn comfortable any dog would want to stay over. But my first day of work she barked for 14 hours straight. My second day, a neighbor left a respectful but clearly angry note, informing me that she barked for 14 hours straight -- and was still barking. When she is with me, she makes zero sound. But becomes this shrill fount of endless disruption when by herself.

"Separation anxiety" the dog blogs said. My instagram community said the same thing along with casual judgments that OBVIOUSLY she will be anxious and I would be unreasonable to expect otherwise. She was just SEPARATED from her lifetime owner, placed in a weird dog orphanage, and told to go on with her life. In one afternoon I went from thoughts of planning my indefinite future with Carrot, to wondering if I would have to give her back. I felt stupid for thinking it could go smoothly, stupid for even hoping to own a dog. Mostly, I felt frustrated. When she is with me, she sleeps 20 hours a day. Why couldn't she just be calm by herself? 

In my anguish of trying to keep her quiet, arrange her care, work my normal job -- I realized I am going through my own dog orphanage. I have just moved back to a city I love, but with very few people I love nearby. I have a life that is at times very full and at other times very quiet. It can be peaceful solitude, but also utter loneliness. My manifestations of fear of being alone are more societally tailored than Carrot's, and held in check by a slightly more evolved frontal lobe. But sometimes, I am basically barking for 14 hours myself. And yet, being annoyed a small, less evolved being (sorry CC) is not able to do the same. 

I think we are making progress, me and Carrot. Now, she sometimes just sits and stares at the door for many minutes before starting to bark. I have found care for her during my work days, until she is more settled. But, I know she will never not long to be in the comfortable presence of someone she loves. She will just learn how to pass the excruciating time between those presences. And frankly, I can relate.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Mint King ~2011- 2021

“It’s funny to think about the things in your life that can make you cry just knowing that they existed, can then become the same things that make you cry knowing that they’re now gone” 
-Ted Lasso S2E1

Mint King was an estimated 10-year old Chihuahua mix who came to her forever home on February 27th, 2021. Carly, Mint's mom, had seen Mint on the social media of an SF-based senior dog organization called Muttville, and after seeing her soulful eyes and crooked snout, was immediately hooked. Mint died in the arms of her mom on October 4th, 2021 from complications of chronic seizures.

The first decade of Mint's life remains a mystery, but her last 9 months were full of leisure and love. Her favorite activities included sprinting down the apartment hallway, snuggling like a donut in her beloved "crate bed", and nuzzling into sun-heated bark chips- making sure every bit of her 7lb body could catch some rays. She enjoyed eating her chicken and sweet potato food which she made abundantly clear with the excessively audible snarfling noise she made as she vacuumed up the contents of her bowl every night. One of Mint's largest achievements is obtaining at 13/10 rating on "We Rate Dogs" when she was featured in Feb 2021 with her famously tiny crossed paws. Carly felt honored to be living with such a celebrity. 

Though their time together was brief, Mint and Carly enjoyed some wonderful adventures. Mint saw the Pacific Ocean multiple times at Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. She dined alfresco at Alpine Inn and Coupa Cafe, and visited Dolores Park in San Francisco. She jaunted around at the local dog park and nearby walking paths. She was a (semi-)regular at Baylands Nature Preserve. She even made two separate trips to Eugene, Oregon, peacefully flying on an airplane each time. Despite her defiant indifference, in all places she met dog and people friends who loved her.

And loving Mint was not always straightforward! She was not overly affectionate, and made you work to gain her interest and trust. Her tiny body carried a strong soul. She did not ask for love - she expected it and assumed it was there. She was confident, and independent, and knew exactly what she wanted - whether it was a particular sunbathing location, or her dinner to be stirred up just so before she would even sniff it. Mint did not settle for anything that did not suit her. She was content to be alone, but in her most vulnerable moments of bath time, or blood draws, or nighttime seizures, she clearly found comfort in the arms of others, especially her mom.

Mint is survived by her mom, Carly, who will miss her every day. She is also survived by her loving foster parents, Diana and Sheldon, who gave her a home in her most vulnerable period. At their house she gained weight, confidence, and the comfort of her Sacred Space - the crate bed (which just consisted of a dog bed inside an open dog crate). It was at their house Mint started treatment for her chronic seizures and the village of her medical care team was formed. In particular, we thank the veterinary team at Mid-Peninsula Animal hospital, especially Dr. Celia Megdal who went above and beyond to prolong Mint's quality of life. We also thank the caring team at Adobe Animal Hospital who provided such tender care in her final hour. And of course, thank you to Muttville SF who made this beautiful scenario even possible. 

The largest thanks goes to Minty's devoted midday visitor, Brittany, whose compassion for Mint knew no bounds. She is the artist behind many of the best photos of Mint, as well as the author of creatively written and often hilarious recaps of their half hour daily outings. Her attentive care was so appreciated. 

Mint's presence will always be felt when basking in glorious sunshine, snuggling in cozy blankets, or doing a BIG stretch when getting up from a nap. Her legacy will live on in the lives of those close to her. Caring for her reminded us to care for all those who are less fortunate, to have empathy in tough moments, and to be willing to love even when there's an end in sight. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Six Months

Six months ago to the day I drove up to Eugene, fleeing an unfurling pandemic. I look back at that time, not too long ago, and get that same feeling of when I look at photos from middle school: “we were such babies :)”. We thought hand sanitizer and lysol wipes and a few simple public health policies and practices could return our lives to normal in a few weeks. I moved back in with my parents thinking it would be a hop skip and a jump til I was resettling into my own life. 

Each Friday my parents watch the PBS Newshour and Judy Woodruff started doing this obituary segment, showcasing the lives of people who died from COVID. And we thought it would be a one-time thing, while New York was going through its worst. But then it continued, every week. And every week, we watched as ten second summaries of beautiful lives flashed across our screens: young, old, acclaimed, unfamiliar, important lives. First 2,000 then 20,000 then 200,000 of them.

Then instead of watching weekly obituaries, we wrote our own: for my uncle and great aunt who died in a nursing facility that had a major outbreak in Illinois. Then for my aunt who died from cancer after multiple hospitalizations that she had to endure all alone. All along the obituaries kept playing: now for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, for Jon Lewis and Chadwick Boseman. For Hermann freaking Cain. We marched, we screamed, we learned. We are still learning. But all along people kept dying. 

When I left Eugene, to come back to the Bay Area for the PA job I got in the midst of it all, I had to clear ash off the windshield. The streetlights were still turned on even though it was daylight hours. Our beautiful Mckenzie River forest went up in flames during the time it took for my parents and I to sit down for my farewell dinner. I wore a mask in my car because ash was getting in through the vents. And there were more obituaries. Of people, but of houses and restaurants and dear places that meant so much to so many. 

But 6-months to the day after leaving, I am back, getting settled into my own small space in Palo Alto, FaceTiming my mom on her birthday. Her showing me the rain and clearer air in Eugene, me showing her my shelves and curtains. In the middle of the call, a text from my dad on the screen. I saw from afar it was two words. And just like that “RBG died!” rocked all our worlds again. 

In six months, we’ve lost 200,000 to COVID-19, dozens of Black lives to police violence, and countless more who went “naturally” which from what I can tell right now, means fearfully and swiftly and sometimes alone. Six months ago, a population the size of Eugene/Springfield was ALIVE. And it’s Friday night, and the obituary segment is on once again. I didn’t see it tonight, but I know RBG’s was added. Give us time to read it. 


Monday, January 13, 2020

Imperial Valley in the Fall

Banana in Brawley, CA

I'm sitting here on a Friday night in the trailer on the property of Pioneers Memorial hospital in Brawley, CA. It's less of a trailer and more of a temporary classroom. I'm drinking a winter lager that my classmate left in the fridge (thx Jen), watching muted football on my iPad (Go Ducks), reflecting on the fact that I will be leaving this area in one week's time, most likely never to return, at least for a long time. I arrived here 6 weeks ago expecting the worse. My classmates prepared me for that, unfortunately. But as the daughter of two small town Illinoisan's, whose summer vacations frequently involved making nostalgic pilgrimmages to the lot where my father's childhood home stood before it burned down in a mysterious insurance claim fire, just to stand there and take a picture in front of the remaining lopsided garage, I like to think I know a thing or two about small towns. From the beginning, my comfort with small towns has made this experience not just more bearable, but enjoyable to the point where I think it's my favorite part of PA school. And honestly the happiest I've felt in the last few years. The Imperial Valley, the area in which Brawley is located, has surprised me in many ways.

Two bananas in Brawley. Found near car by Pioneers Hospital.

My first surprise came the dark Sunday night when I drove in and passed the "Welcome to Brawley" sign. It said: "population: 25 thousand and change". I guess I didn't do a simple thing like Google the town in which I would be staying for two months, but by the way people described it, I was picturing our trailer, the hospital, a walmart and a hitching post and that's it. I was thinking maybe, 3 to 5,000 people tops, but 25K??? That's not even small! That's not a village, not a burg, not a middle of nowhere, that's a town! Like it has to have a mayor and a functioning city government and a high school or two! I came to learn that the Imperial Valley is home to close to 300,000 people over its tons of a square miles. And Mexicali, the border town that is a stone's throw away in Mexico, is a city of >1million people. There's lives here. Entire generations of families in fact. Old people, young people, tons of screaming babies. It may not be New York, NY or Palo Alto, CA for Christ's sake, but people live entire lives here, without ever having Philz coffee, or Salt & Straw Ice Cream, and they survive and even flourish.

I was going to write about other surprising things about the Imperial Valley. That its population is >90% latino. That's likely not surprising, because if you look on a map and see its proximity to Mexico, then it makes a lot of sense. Spanish is often spoken first in an interaction here. And I imagine if you really didn't speak any at all, you'd be missing part of the Imperial Valley magic. I was going to talk about its land, about the Salton Sea, the Sonoran desert, the national parks and vacation destinations that line its perimeter. I was going to write about immigration, and border patrol, and how there's a detention center not far from here. That it's been surprising that I've heard very little about the immigration debate, or about President Trump for that matter.

Bananas in Brawley. Across from Wal Mart Super Center

I have a lot to say on that matter. But instead, I'll write about the old lady who had pneumonia once more than a year ago, and now comes in every week just to have the doctor use his stethoscope to listen to her breath. The appointment is just labeled "lung check" in the day's schedule, and everyone knows what that means. The man dying in the ICU, whose family agonized about whether their decisions would be the ones he'd want for himself. And then huddling around him continuously, for 3 days while he took his last peaceful breaths. There's the woman who cried when she found out she didn't have TB. And the countless patients who, when you tell them their lab results, say "Gracias a Dios" after each one. There's the older man, who genuinely asked me after a recent hospitalization, "what will I do the next time, when I can't breath?". The people I've met are the kindest, most earnest, most faith-abiding citizens I know. They go through things together, as one unit. They take care of their parents the one day, and their grandchildren the next. They have the utmost respect for people with authority. To the point where I worry they could be taken advantage of like they have been, and continue to be, in every societal, governmental and historical instance until now. But the healthcare providers I've met have my complete trust. Of course there's a financial bottom line, but they put people's wellbeing above or at least next to that bottom line. The patients light up when their doctor walks in the room. The patients have their trust too.

I'm so impressed with the Imperial Valley. Other than being cussed out in the landromat parking lot once for taking a parking spot (we didn't even see the other car....) everyone has been extremely welcoming and curious about why we are here. Patients are not just forgiving of my Spanish, but they teach me new words or the right pronunciations all the time. They bring in fruits, or chocolate or bread. They crossstich signs that say "God Bless our Doctor". Everyone seems to put everyone else before themselves. I want to live in a place like that.

Bananas in Brawley: Hospital parking lot between the electric vehicle charging and the daycare
It's true that the main Imperial Valley towns aren't that scenic. They're full of small strip malls, and overflowing dumpsters, and more often than not this rank smell of manure emanating from the slow moving sludgey river nearby. The downtowns are boarded up, not bustling. People's favorite restaurants are Panera and Olive Garden. The super Wal Mart is the busiest place in town. On paper, there's a lot to criticize or be weary of. But spending three minutes with a elderly patient who has every chronic condition known to man, and seeing HER tell the DOCTOR "Dios la vendiga" at the end of an appointment really has made me shift perspective on where charm comes from anyway.

Banana in Brawley: Same banana as by Wal Mart Supercenter, this time with sunset

Sunday, October 13, 2019

T train

Sometimes I sit down and force myself to write and I end up with some stilted inauthentic sentences. I check twitter instead, and hope that inspiration comes another day. And sometimes, I'm visiting somewhere and I get on public transit and I write a poem in one fell swoop on my notes app and then put it on my blog with no edits, except for correcting the spelling of supremacists. Writing's weird that way. This was written in the context of a white supremacy rally being held in Boston while I visited for my first PA conference. 

There’s vomit on the ground
Of the T train
The Ashmont one
That’s assigned the red color
But its upholstery is rainbow

The white supremacists
were standing on the street corner
The police marched them around the town safely
While rainbows dripped from the Good Side's cheeks

I walked by
In a black dress
On my way to a conference
After sleeping in at a hotel
Wanting to start my career and meet the right people and believe the world is good
And people deserve to be helped

The vomit streamed and dried on the floor of the T train
The rainbows on the upholstery and the cheeks
Will eventually fade