Category Archives: People

I Met Sandy Today

Having just come from getting fingerprinted so I can teach in the local schools, I was sitting in my car emailing a response to my friend about a Creativity Circle she is orchestrating. Hell yeah — I’ll hit that! Part of my self-defined Creativity Quest and Dragon Whispering syllabus includes a weekly meditation workbook by Lynn V. Andrews called The Love and Power Journal. Guess what it’s about? Making room for Love and walking in Personal Power.

Week Five’s assignment is to be mindful of mirrors: those upside-the-head-with-a-wet-fish slappers that we dismiss in our-whacked out, dis-integrated Western lifestyle. Think heart-grabbers, emotional triggers, places where we get stuck, and surprise meetings. These things facilitate our spiritual and emotional health if we can discern them when they show up and extract from them their lessons. It is worthwhile to attend to these ‘mirrors’.

I’m still in the car, clumsily emailing from my phone: yes, sign me up for the Creativity Circle! when my eye discerns activity. I look up.

An oversized, dingy-pink fleece zip up jacket and grey stretch-waistband pants carry a nondescript woman down the alley, cardboard fruit crate in tow. They weave their way over to a motley batch of soon-to-be-discarded buckets and bags of potting soil loitering at the side of my garage. As the responsibility of a procrastinator, the buckets and bags may be there for some time, so I generously hop out of the car to offer her the chance to take them off my hands. I’m a giver. (It is that kind of neighborhood. Had a guy  take a gas stove off my porch and thanked him sincerely for asking.)

“Hey, feel free to take any of that stuff if you could use it.”

The nondescript woman begins to speak. She has no teeth. “My husband died a week ago of a heart attack. I don’t have a home, and I am looking for food.”

Sensing a shift in agenda, I offer the arms-length suggestions that come naturally. “Have you tried any of the shelters?” [I’m already thinking about what I have in my car that can help this woman. Without getting too involved. Ah, a bag of clothes about to be donated (truth be told, they’ve been in the trunk about as long as the bucket/bag gang squatting next to my garage). I just bought a big water and some Mango Green Tea from Trader Joe’s. Internal dialogue racing: ‘The Green Tea: really? Can’t we keep that?” I hope she doesn’t ask for a sleeping bag. Mine’s a good one.]

“Yes, they won’t take a woman by herself unless she has a husband or a child. I went to the places where they serve meals and they just say ‘kitchen closed’.” I would be more skeptical if I hadn’t called for resources to help in the event that my ex went postal when I left. (He didn’t of course, but I felt better knowing what was at my disposal, and… not much.)

“You were living somewhere a week ago. What happened to your house?” I’m out of the car now, somewhere between suspicion and Pollyanna, heading to the trunk for that sweater.

“His family came in and kicked me to the curb. And they took my grand-daughter,” she follows me to the trunk. “I haven’t eaten for four days, and I keep praying but God isn’t answering. Maybe He’s testing my faith.”

Okay, well there’s its own book.

When my kids grow up, I hope they aren’t still expecting me to tell them what to eat for dinner, and yet I understand need. I’ve spent $400 on organic gluten free shopping sprees which included agar agar, bean flour, Himalyan sea salt, and organic beets. I’ve also stood in the line at DSHS, hoping to get my kids on state insurance. I don’t judge quite as much. But still need is disconcerting. My own mostly. Other people’s by an order of degrees. And guess what? The bottom feels rickety.

She extends her hand. “I am Sandy, she says.” Her pointer finger has a small open cut on it. I shake around that and make a note to wash with plenty of soap and warm water.

“Hi, Sandy. I’m Kaley. Sounds like you’re in a spot, huh?”

And here is need. Hungry and without teeth, asking for a blanket and a book. “I really like to read.” Though I don’t have a lot of extra resource right now, I have enough to help. Even without dipping into anything that would really impact me to give, I have plenty to give.

We go through my trunk and find a baseball cap, some Christmas-Book lifesavers, a pair of pants to go with the sweater. I say, “This Mango Tea is probably too heavy to carry?”

“You’d be surprised what you can carry.” In a cardboard fruit crate. Fine. This is a worthy cause.

Sandy steps onto my porch as I go inside. Prudent to leave her outside? Feel guilty for not inviting her in? For a bath. For a meal. I get plastic bags in various sizes (ad hoc suitcase, staying dry, bartering), some apples, some of those new individually-sized Jiffy peanut butter packs, cheese sticks, pretzles, crackers. (I’m thinking fats and proteins. It’s cold tonight.) Zach really likes the Rajneeshy colored checkered blanket, but he won’t notice it’s gone. Jane Eyre.

I meet Sandy back on the porch. We cram provisions into her house-in-a-box. She tells me her husband was her soulmate. They got pregnant their first night together and he looked at her and said, “I hope you’re pregnant.” Their ‘perfect son’ Sebastian is heading home from deployment in a week. Only son, so the Service is letting him out. “I’ve got some money saved up, Mom,” he told her. Just keep it together for a week. We’ll get her back,” Sebastian was referring to her grand-daughter and, I presume, his daughter. Sandy tears-up telling me about him and her soon-to-be rescue, and I am reminded that we are all just a breath away from being stripped as humans. Again: it feels rickety at the bottom.

“You know, I woke up under Burnside Bridge this morning and there was a Bible next to me. You might think I’m losing it, but I could feel my guardian angel standing there watching over me,” Sandy recounted. “And I could feel a tear. She said, ‘Don’t worry, Sandy. Today you will meet someone who will show you great kindness… I think it might be you,'” she tells me.

And I had been thinking the same thing. I am to be on the lookout for unusual situations that are gifts to teach me what I need to learn. I’m just not sure what I’ve learned yet. It was satisfying to be able to help someone with very simple things. It felt good to engage with real need and be able to help without getting lost in it — helping others adds to us, maybe… The comment about God testing her hit a nerve, and not sure what that’s all about. I’m still growing into the idea of taking responsibility for my reality, and I don’t like the passive victim of fate that was my story for so long. I don’t like the feeling of waiting for a rescue: it is disempowering. It will take me days to process this mirror more…

Sandy with no teeth because her grandparents made her brush her teeth with salt. Sandy who really misses her recently deceased husband and all the more because her first husband brainwashed her and locked her up for seven years. Sandy who is heading over to stay at a condemned motel on 78th and Hway 99 until her son gets back from overseas to help her out. “Some guy told me to take some of his rat bait if I was going to stay there, but rats are the least of my worries. I think they’re afraid of me.” Hmm. I hadn’t thought about rat bait in my preparation for the apocalypse. Makes sense.

“Sometimes it’s a good thing to have people be afraid of you,” I offered sagely. I’m imagining life on the streets for a woman.

“Bless you, Kaley,” said Sandy, and off she went.

“Bless you, Sandy.”



It’s about all of us, Stupid

Last week we were collectively raped by a troubled young adult whose supreme act of cowardice and evil resulted in the tragic passing of 26 souls. We are shocked; we are violated beyond reckoning; we are pisssssssed. We are filled with questions, mostly unformed, which swirl around the central theme of WHAT. THE. FUCK?!!

And we are looking for someone to blame because we need this fixed and we need it to go away. NOW. This is one of the ways we process the rage fueled by powerlessness.

We’ve all sat in front of the TV before, humming our ‘oh-dear-we-need-to-do-something’ mantras somewhere along the spectrum between raw brokenness and those-poor-bastards-over-there-ism. But this time it is different. He targeted our kids.

So we have taken up our pitchforks, and in an effort to assuage our limbic fear, we have formed two mobs and are lunging at each other with our pokey tines. We are calling each others’ mobs names and we are being quite ugly toward one another. At least I am. I had to stop engaging on the topic of guns with some of my dearest friends because I realized every person truly only needs one exit for excrement and there are better ways to use my words. (I am, though, still waiting for the email from the guy who offered to send me a picture of his genitalia to prove that it is bigger than my hillbilly brain. And I might have threatened to post it on FB because, and I’m not going to lie, I love a good fight.)

About the time I was getting caught up in the energy caused by engaging with the open-minded liberal who had just called me a pussy, a dear friend of mine — a school teacher — posted about her day. Her high schoolers had been asking questions, making requests that would make them feel more safe.

Would she put some paper on the window? Yes.

Would she lock the door? Yes.

“Mizz Ed, would you take a bullet for us?”

To which Mizz Ed responded with teary-eyed conviction, “Every one of us in this building would.”

They needed to know that.


The night of the incident, I was reading an article entitled “How do deal with violent children.” I wanted to know why his mom and dad didn’t keep us safe from their nut job son. I can’t believe they were ignorant that he had issues and that they weren’t trying to get him help. No parent WANTS this for their kid.

Matt saw the title of the article. He’d just kneed his brother in the butt for hogging the WII remote and been met with the perfect amount of scolding. “Why are you reading an article about violent children?” He was wanting to know if his butt-kneeing was grievous enough to the taken to the Internet gods for a ruling. “No, Sweetie, I’m just upset by this whole thing today and I don’t understand how somebody can be so icky.”

They started talking about their lock down drills, so we snuggled up together on the couch while they told me about them. They sit on the rug, very quietly while the teacher locks the doors and puts paper on the windows.

1) What fucked up world has kids going through lock-down drills?

2) Thank you, teachers, for putting the kids through lock down drills.

Talk about lock down drills led to talk about their building and how it’s built for their safety. How the teachers are trained to keep them safe. How every parent that they see would absolutely do anything in their power to keep them safe. How law enforcement is trained and ready to protect them. How we as a family will keep each other safe. How the entire rules of the road are built around school buses. Because we are a society who loves our kids, and if there is one thing that brings us together as humans, it is the safety of our kids.

I left out that when something breaches that code, we feel brutally ripped apart. Together. They’re kids. They haven’t forgotten that yet.

We do this. We protect each other. We don’t fight each other with pitchforks and leave the real issues unaddressed and all of us more vulnerable. We become grounded, and proactive, and we expand to allow complexity and nuance as we walk together toward our solutions.

I’m including a link to an essay written by a mom of a kid at high risk of going wonky. It is very powerful, and it reveals the complexity we face and the ardent need for a proactive address of what we are up against as a society. Let’s do this the right way, Tribe. I promise not to post the picture.

Link to essay by Liza Long “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” <–


(Brene Brown writes an outstanding book about shame called I Thought It Was Just Me, But It’s Not. Excellent discussion on the insidious rooting of shame which keeps us separated from each other.)


We give up a lot to keep things fair, and I cleaned out the car

…about contextual happiness…

I was in the car with the kids the other day (this was before Chloe and a friend tried to wax their legs with zebra-print duct tape) and the boys were fighting about how much money they had. I’d dispensed it out of sheer kindness and not as a link to any work performed. They had coins — fifty-five cents each, a pretty strong feeling I had based on the fact that I actually cleaned out my car the other day and thought it was kind of cute they’d both made nests for the coins I give them from my spare change.

(How many dirty socks can one person tote around before shame tips the balance? At least a dozen, it turns out.)

Zach thought he needed another quarter to make it equal, so I gave him a quarter. I couldn’t be sure.

(How I capitulate shamelessly to keep from going bat guano nuts in the car with complaining children is NOT the topic of this post.)

Matt thought he needed another nickel. Then Zach was mad because Matt had more nickels even though Zach had more money. It was insane.

Naturally, aside from the fact that I was just flinging bits of change at them in an effort to make them shut up, I was flawlessly adult in my speech.


I had them both stop and count their money which they did mostly because they find my flawless adult speech to be somewhat intimidating. They found they were, indeed uneven. But if you took Zach’s quarter and Matt’s nickel away, they were back to even, where they’d started.

You thought you were the only one, but you’re not. We all do this: compare ourselves with each other. As soon as the little critters perceived unevenness, the squawking began. They hadn’t done anything to earn the money in the first place. They both got more than when they started, but the unevenness made them unhappy and rather than let someone have more than they, they were willing to give up their gain.

We humans need to quit worrying about our neighbors’ flow and focus, instead, on the size of our own hoses. If our neighbors have big flow, how are they doing that and what can we learn? If we want more flow, quit comparing ourselves with our neighbors, and start learning about how to expand our own hoses.

Mastin Kipp on Getting the Dream Lived

Birthday gift to myself: watching this video and spending a day listening to what my soul has to say about where we go from here. Well, today was eating Oreo’s and playing Wii with the kids. Tomorrow is soul day.

While on that topic, this video is amazing. It’s all about framing, purpose, and integration. Twenty-seven minutes of gentle mindset reminders and hellz yeah!

Mastin Kipp on Living a Life of Purpose

Exploring Happy Today

Things that make my math brain happy:

Today I realized that I will turn 44 on 11/4/11. No idea how I missed that until now.

Chloe notes that on Elise’s next birthday, Elise will be an ‘Old Fart’. She’ll be 18.  So as of 11/4/11, I will be [(Old Fart x 2) + 8] in Chloe math.

Things that make my grammar brain happy:

Today in the thrall of the breakfast routine, I exclaimed, “Go eat, Children!” but how differently that would read as, “Go eat children.”

Things that make my humor brain happy:

After carefully preparing an enzyme-rich repast for my budding scholars, I hear Chloe say “I am eating American tribal fare and Chinese cuisine.”  Breakfast was Frosted Flakes and leftover Panda Express.

The Scholastic Book Fair was on today at school. Some noteworthy dad strolls up with two kids and a life-sized RC replica of R2D2.  (Of course, I got photo proof!) As R2 was strolling into school, he hit a concrete bump and his butt fell off. Talk about an authentic reproduction!

Some awesome dad’s R2D2, replete with faulty butt panel (not pictured)

Yesterday on the way home from school, all three of my kids somehow got the idea that licking their armpits seemed worthy of exploration. They were all successful.

This weekend my roommate was getting a footrub from her husband and suggested that maybe her clitoris had migrated to the bottom of her foot. She then rubbed his clitoris (which was on the bottom of his foot, naturally).

Things that make me happy in general:

New friends and old friends.

My pending trip to Depoe Bay with two fabulous women, one of whom was my roller skating buddy in sixth grade (go, Andy Gibb) and the other whom I have known since my junior year in high school, just before we all found out that George Michael was gay. This trip may involve too many carbs of various mediums, much laughter, and hopefully a fire on the beach. The more ‘mature’ I become, the more these friendships mean to me.

This amazing, crisp, sunny, weather-amnesia day in the PNW when Mt. Hood is glorious, the sky is crisp, and the fall leaves are resplendent.

The endless supply of popcorn at Les Schwab and the fact that we have piles of books from the Scholastic Book Fair. And that I have kids that read.

Things that make me just shy of happy:

My squeaky brakes which brought us here.





Writing from the cocoon today which I find to be quite challenging with these little stubs for wings. Yet I quest.

Yet I attempt to quest.

Helluva week. A wonderful woman who was becoming a dear friend was killed tragically in an accident this last week. I am angry at her for dying because I wasn’t done with her yet–I didn’t get enough time to know her. One of my roommates was among her best friends; as a result of the surreal experience of being with my roommate as she has been working through the loss of the friend she knew very deeply, I have become to know them both better. What an honor to watch my roommate be present and protect and honor and question her friend–her life, her struggles and her victories… It has been an exercise in seeing what being–BEING–looks like. Watching someone mourn and guard a life that will be greatly missed and is now finished.

Took my kids over to Central Oregon for the memorial. We ended up staying a couple extra days, playing hooky, burying horseshoes in piles of volcanic dirt, eating Cheetos and swimming. Despite the fact that I had no where I needed to be, I found it nearly impossible to just BE with them. Granted part of this is that the little critters wake up at Dawn’s Crack ready to rumble while I stroll into cognition somewhere around 11 AM, long after I’ve somehow stumbled through the requisite production of a morning meal and clothing ritual. But even after 11, I find that I have to fight to stay in my skin. What is that about? Why do I have to fight to show up in my own life? I don’t get this, and it may sound simplified, but it seems like maybe this is a critical piece of this answer I seem to be seeking: voluntarily, I must remind myself. Since I still have the gift of this life, how do I actually show up to participate in it? Almost a pressure to live more fully and connectedly knowing that there is one fewer live-ers left.

But not my kids. They are right there. Beautiful sunny day–afternoon, so I’m starting to habitate. We’ve eaten again (geez: I fed y’all yesterday!). I’m sitting on a picnic bench watching them become dust monkeys in the horseshoe pit, barking motherly reprimands like, “Quit aiming that at your brother’s head” and what not. Matt mosies over and lies down on the bench next to me, his head in my lap. I start stroking his hair and am just looking at him. Here’s what he says, “This is perfect, Mom. You are my pillow. The sun is my blanket. And this bench is my bed.”

Not gonna lie: I burst into tears.

How proud am I that he is comfortable in his skin?! That he can get out of the dust and recognize a moment of life and pull me back into it on a picnic bench? I am partially responsible for that–the X chromosome and all–and that is incredible! Redemptive. I want to be comfortable in my skin like that. I want to live in such a way that I recognize comfortable pillows, can make blankets out of sunshine, and find flat places that make great beds. I want to do this for him. For all my kids. For Lorri Sipe. For me.

You are my pillow, the sun is my blanket, and this bench is my bed.