Tales of a wandering lesbian

Posts from — February 2010


I had a session today with a spiritual counselor of mine.  I check in with her when I’m looking for a little confirmation that I’m on the right track, or when I’m struggling to see what my next steps are.  She’s someone who helps me get more fully in touch with my higher self.  Today we talked about how the work that I do in this life impacts not only me, but the other people in my life, and even souls that aren’t quite here yet.

That got me thinking about my sister.  I’m headed to Idaho this weekend for her baby shower.  She’s having the first baby in the family in quite a while.  She and my bro-in-law don’t know if it’ll be a boy or girl, so we call it UBC – short for Un Born Child.  When UBC is born, it will come into a small family, but one full of love.  I’ll be an aunt – that blessed position that will allow me to support unconditionally, spoil unmercifully, and return the child to its parents when it gets gassy from all the sweets I’ve fed it.

Until now, that’s how I’ve thought of my relationship with UBC.  The child is scheduled to be born near my birthday.  A beautiful and challenging time of the year to be born.  At a beautiful and challenging time in our history. After today’s conversation, I started thinking about how my life will impact UBC.  And about what I can offer to this child.  Here’s what I came up with:

I will listen.
I will offer support.
I will encourage your dreams.
I will take the time to answer when you ask, “why?”
I will live my dreams so that you know that you can live yours.
I will speak my truth so that others won’t be so surprised when you speak yours.

All I ask in return is that you love and trust and dream, that you live fully and speak the truth you know, so that the next generation will find this world a little softer, a little more peaceful, and a little more ready to love.

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February 27, 2010   3 Comments


Portland is my home base.  In between travels, I find myself back here, staying with or housesitting for friends.  This return trip to Portland has been a string of housesitting gigs, punctuated by forays out into the exciting and quirky spots that Portland has to offer.

Last night I had a free night in between gigs, so I decided to get a room at one of Portland’s landmarks, the Kennedy School.  Part of the venerable McMenamins family, the Kennedy School is housed in a 1915 schoolhouse that was once part of the Portland school system.  In addition to 23 classroom/guest rooms, the property includes a soaking pool, 5 bars, a huge, interesting restaurant and a theater pub.

If you haven’t experienced McMenamins, here’s the skinny:  many of the bars, restaurants and hotels are located on historic properties in the Northwest.  The properties are restored and revitalized, filled with artwork based on the history of the properties.  The feel of the locations is one of history and carnival all in one.  Reality alert:  the restaurants are notoriously understaffed, making for an often challenging service experience, but the overall atmosphere almost always makes up for this.

Yesterday, I checked in to my room – Originally “classroom 4” and now the “Mirror Mirror” room, and headed to the theater for some dinner and a movie.  Along with lodging, the room rate includes free movies in the old auditorium and unlimited soaking in the soaking pool.

The theater is located in the school’s auditorium.

Movie-goers can order pizza, calzones, and a variety of other pub food – as well as beer and wine – to be delivered to the sofas and tables that serve as theater seats.

Yesterday was Wednesday, the day that the Kennedy School holds “Mommy Matinees,” movies for parents to bring their kids without concern for the running, talking and screaming discouraged in other theaters.  I ordered a veggie calzone, staked out a velvet sofa, and turned on my computer to check email while I waited for “The Princess and the Frog” to start.

The movie was completely enjoyable and the surroundings delightful.  And it was great to walk down the hall to my classroom bedroom when it was over.

The room itself was pretty darn cool.  The walls were lined with the original chalkboards, some of which were sliding panels enclosing old-school  coat racks doubling as a closet.  Too cool.

The room was decorated with phrases from the fairy tale “Snowdrop” (you might know it better as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves).  The “Mirror, mirror on the wall” sequence was cleverly written backward on the bathroom wall.

The thing I was most looking forward to was the soaking pool.  Located where the teacher’s lounge used to be, the soaking pool is a beautiful, tiled courtyard area.  The water is the right level of hot, with bubbles running down one length of the pool.  Last night it was a good mix of Portland-style, tri-athlete-looking folks, Rastafarians, steam rising from their hats and dreads, and young families sporting matching racing goggles (kids are allowed in the pool until 8PM, so plan to go later if you aren’t willing to move aside for them).

One of the great things about the Kennedy School is that it feels like one big living room.  It’s almost like visiting a friend’s big, old house.  There’s a lot of room to kick back and relax.  Like when I decided I wanted a brownie and ice cream at 10:00 at night.  I grabbed my computer and trotted down to the Courtyard Restaurant to eat and write.

I sat and listened to a few other people who were chatting and snacking.  And I wrote about meeting a new friend in the soaking pool.  When I’d mopped up the last bit of ice cream I packed up and walked the 50 yards back to my room – where I passed out in a brownie-induced stupor.

My time at the Kennedy school was fantastic.  The property is amazing; the room was original, roomy, comfortable and spotless.  The movie was entertaining and the soaking pool was ultra-relaxing, even with kids walking the perimeters of both.  And the food was good.  I’d say I had one of the best service experiences I’ve ever had with a McMenamins property.  It was so enjoyable that I’ll be recommending the place to my parents next time they’re in town.  It really does offer a genuinely Portland experience.

It’s nice to find new places to have adventures, and nice to be reminded that adventures are in my back yard – wherever I am.

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February 25, 2010   4 Comments


Alright, people.  I know I haven’t been posting much.  Part of the reason is that I’m starting the book-writing process.  I’ve got one little segment done, so I thought I’d share it.  Enjoy!

Choose.  Every day, choose to live in love.  Choose to trust yourself, and others.  Most of all, choose to choose.


I planned to be President.  It came about pretty rapidly, really.  One day I was receiving a college scholarship from the local homebuilders organization.  The next, a reporter from the local paper was asking me what I thought of the First Lady, Hillary Clinton.  And then it happened.

“So, would you ever run for president?”

“Yeah, sure.”  With that flip answer, I did a quick calculation, determined when the earliest feasible time would be for me to run, and made up my mind.  I would be President.  I was 17.


“Daniel!”  The girl from the school newspaper was shouting at the group of us posing for a picture.  I was back in town from a series of extended travels.  One of the High Schools I’d worked with over the last 4 years was presenting a $11,000 check to the charity I’d worked for.  I was tagging along to congratulate the students, and see the completion of my work.

“Daniel, get out of there, you’re too tall!”  Daniel’s shoulders hunched as he jogged out of the picture.  His linebacker’s frame oozing disappointment as the smile slid from his face.

“Here, Daniel, come kneel in front,” someone offered.

“Nah, I don’t want to make the picture ugly.”  He said it as though he truly believed that his presence would destroy the memory of this great day.  The tone in his voice was absolute.

The 6 adult women holding the oversized presentation-check gasped in unison, “NO!”  Daniel was covered immediately in a hurled web of reassurance.  “You have to be in the picture!”  “You’re part of this, Daniel!”  “We want you here!”

Daniel found his place on the ground in front of the check, and we all breathed a sigh, glaring at the totally clueless photographer who was clicking away, her unnecessary flash blinding us.

I’d known Daniel for a couple of years.  I’d seen him as an awkward teen, too tall and too big to do what we all so desperately want to do in high school – fit in.  The first time I met him, he assured me that he was a dumb jock.  But the questions he asked during my presentation betrayed his words of self-doubt.  He was engaged and funny, asked intelligent questions, and served as a great role model for the other students.  His deep voice and heavy brow couldn’t mask his keen mind and personality.  By the end of the year, he would find himself in a statewide leadership role with the Future Business Leaders of America.

Now, a year later, he was just as engaging, outgoing and talented.  And just as willing to believe that he wasn’t good enough.

Standing in the entry to the school, we all said our thank yous and good byes.  I reached up to hug Daniel.  When we stepped away, he looked at me with curiosity.

“You know, I can’t even guess at how old you are.”

“Thanks, Daniel.”

“No really, I can’t.  But it seems amazing that someone your age can live such a fulfilling life.”

When I left my job with the charity, it was to change my life.  I sold my house, quit my job, left my girlfriend and my dog, and took a leap.  The kids I worked with knew this.  Daniel knew this.

“It’s amazing,” he continued, “that you, at your age could be living like you are.  There are so many people who don’t even try until they’re 65.  And then they can’t even enjoy it because it’s too late.”

“Thanks.  That’s exactly why I’m choosing to live this way, Daniel.”

“I know, but who gets to do that?  I mean really, who gets to do-“ I cut him off.

“Anyone who chooses to.”

He looked at me.  And then he blundered on, “Yeah, but It’s really incredible.”

“Anyone who chooses to.”  I caught his eye with my hand and brought him to my eyes.  “Internalize this, Daniel.  Really.  Anyone who chooses to. That’s who gets to live like this.  End of story.”

The beautiful boy stopped.  And he listened.  Still looking at my eyes, he nodded once.


I smiled, nodded back, pulled my visitor’s badge off my shirt and tossed it in the trash as I walked out the door.

Once in the rainy winter air of Portland, I breathed.  Maybe – just maybe – if I was lucky – he’d heard me.  And maybe that would be what he remembered in 10 years when he looked back to this day, and not how he’d ruined the picture.  And maybe – just maybe, he’d remember that he gets to choose.

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February 18, 2010   4 Comments


There are things my parents have given me that I recognize every day.  My hands look exactly like my mother’s, and I see my dad’s mannerisms when I’m doing any type of business.

There are other things that sneak up on me.  Things that surprise me and make me grateful for what I’ve been given.  I know how to eat healthily.  I value good sentence structure.  And I recognize the benefit of physical activity.  I’m reminded of these things sporadically when I read a really badly written book or feel my body respond well to exercise.

Right now, I’m in Portland, housesitting for some friends.  In their living room, they have something that I grew up with – a piano.  Yesterday, when I walked in, it called to me like an old friend inviting me over to chat.  Like an old friend, I remembered some things, and forgot others.  I knew some of the things we used to chat about, and started through familiar territory, plunking out the first few bars of “The Entertainer”, something I used to play at parties and on dilapidated uprights everywhere.

I knew where my hands started; how the black keys felt on the sides of my fingers.  I remembered how to start.

I could feel my little, French great-grandmother sitting on the bench beside me, encouraging as she sang her songs.  She loved playing, but her hands were so small they couldn’t reach even a full octave.  She played anyway.

As the melody died away into a cacophony of unintended dissonance and hurried corrections, I reached up to open the beginner book on the music stand.  Working through the little book with the big notes, I smiled and laughed.  I played piano for years as a kid and then flute in high-school and college, as well as a plethora of other instruments, so I was able to read the top line of the music immediately.  The bass line was a challenge, though.  It took a full 5 minutes for me to remember all the mnemonic phrases that would help me identify the notes.

I’ve done this before, started over with the piano – on trips to my parent’s house, trying to re-learn Christmas songs.  It’s always been vaguely frustrating, trying to recreate something I used to have so fully; something that used to feel so natural.  It was like every missed-note was a confirmation that I wasn’t meant to be a musician, raising doubts;  taunting with unexpected sounds.  But over the last couple of days, I find myself gravitating toward the piano, the little upright that is so at odds with the perfectly tuned grand that I learned on, welcoming the learning that comes with rediscovery.

And I’m grateful.  I don’t need to start where I left off.  I don’t actually want to.  I remember how to start, and for now, that’s enough.  Actually, it’s more than enough.  It’s a beautiful, beautiful gift.

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February 10, 2010   2 Comments

Around the island – part 2

Our already long day was just about halfway over, when we climbed back into the car and headed for the lava flow.  We usually take a route past the Kilauea caldera, down the Chain of Craters Road, to the point where the new lava is emptying into the ocean.  Parking where the road is overtaken by lava, and walking in about a mile, you can see the plumes of steam rising where the hot and cold mix.  This year, the road is closed, due to new activity in the caldera, so we drove a different route to where the newest lava flow has been making its way to the ocean.

The Chain of Craters drive is a long, winding journey to the sea, across vast expanses of black lava.  This year’s drive to the Kalapana site was different.  When we reached what appeared to be the end of the road, we were still in the jungle.  The road itself was partially overrun by the trees and grasses of the rainforest.  It was eerily quiet.  Where there might have been 60 cars parked on Chain of Craters, here there were none.

The jungle is winning

The road was partially blocked, with strange, conflicting signage.  Mom and I decided to walk up the road a bit while the others drove on.  We’d heard that you could walk a half a mile past the end of the road out onto the new lava flow.

After a few minutes of walking down the overgrown road, a beat up minivan pulled up next to us.  “You know, you can drive down in.”  The local woman was leaning out to tell us.  “The signs up there are terrible.  People come from all over the world to see this and then they turn around without seeing it.  They need better signs.” She was borderline indignant.   We thanked her and kept walking.  Surely it wasn’t that far.  As we walked, we took in the encroaching jungle, the steaming hills.  Another car pulled up.

A dude who looked like Willy Nelson, and his blue-eyelinered wife greeted us.  “You leave your car up top?  You can drive in, you know.”  They were super sweet.  “You need a ride?  Don’t feel bad about driving.  If you want to walk, that’s okay, too.  It’s like 3 miles, though.  You want us to blackmail these guys into giving you a ride?”  They pointed at a jacked up pick up coming the other way.

“No, we’re good, we’ve got a ride.  Thanks!”  We smiled and waved goodbye.  This wasn’t exactly what we expected given the description of protective locals in the usually reliable guide book.

“You think I should call your father?”  Mom was reaching for her cell phone.  Three miles was a little more than we’d planned on, and it was hot out, walking on the asphalt, through the lava.  When she reached him, he was already on his way back, having dropped our friends at the end of the road.

It was strange, driving across the vast expanse of black.  Even though the lava had taken out homes, time and again, there were new structures perched on the horizon.

Lava houses

We wondered whether they had off-the-grid power, or just went without.

Once at the actual end of the road, we examined the closed gates in front of the makeshift visitor center.  We parked next to a photographer who assured us that we wouldn’t be able to see anything, even if the gates were open, and that we should buy some of his pictures taken when you could see something.  He also told us that a few weeks earlier, when the red flow was visible, 900 cars each night would come out to watch it moving into the ocean.  Now that the flow had stopped, he expected only 100 cars a night.

Even if we couldn’t see the spectacular lava/water connection, we could see smoke on the surrounding hills.  The heat of the earth set a couple of trees aflame while we stood there.

Lava trees

The gates were set to open in about a half an hour, but we weren’t sticking around for that.  So, encouraged by some locals, a Caribbean woman, Dad and I opted for a self-guided tour.  We made it as far as the little viewing platform about 50 yards past the gates.

Stay alert - stay alive

Yeah, that’s a little intimidating.


With the promise of NO lava flow, we snapped a picture of “the newest lava in the world,”

Newest lava evah

and headed quickly back to the gate, where an “official vehicle” was pulling up.  Crap.  We all darted through the gate while the official worker was distracted by the photo guy, and climbed into our vehicles.  Our next stop was the Kilauea caldera – home of madam Pele – about 40 minutes away.

We’d heard that Kilauea had been putting on a show over the last month or so, and that some of the roads were now closed.  We were pretty surprised, though, when we learned at the visitor center that our usual overlook was basically destroyed by the sulfurous steam the volcano was emitting, and the road to the overlook was covered in rock.  In search of a good viewing area, we walked toward the “Volcano House,” a restaurant and inn on the edge of the volcano’s ledge.  And we found it closed.  “Son of a bitch” was muttered a couple of times, and arms tossed into the air.

The trail we’d chosen lead straight into a line of caution tape in front of the building.  So we doubled back and tried to attack form a different angle.  And we ran into a dead end.  But this time, at least it was an interesting one.

Steam vent

The area around the steam vents was covered in ferns, gently dancing in the hot mist that issued forth.  After a round of “oohs” and “aahs”, we moved along, hoping for a view onto the crater.  It was strange being at the volcano and not seeing other people.  I’m a fan of off-season travel for this very reason.  Still, the quiet was strange.  We walked along the deserted road, down a little trail, and out onto a railed platform.

Pele's breath

The volcano was breathing.  That was new.  Dad, who isn’t the world’s biggest fan of volcanoes, hung back, a cold look on his face.  “We shouldn’t be here.”  It was hard to argue.  Pele was definitely awake. You could smell her breath – feel it tearing at your lungs just a bit.

Dad backed out quietly and we eventually followed.  After a while in the visitor center, touching different lava and looking through magnifiers at different formations, we gathered ourselves for the final stage of our volcano visit.  We couldn’t get down into Kilauea and out to the rim of the Halema’uma’u  crater as we had in years past, but the Jagger Museum on the edge of the larger Kilauea crater was open and had a good view of the action.


When we walked into the viewing area, the steam was rolling out in huge columns, blowing right over the old viewing platform.  Dad was still standing back, his body language telling us all that he was ready to go anytime we were.  He mumbled something about “getting us out in time” as we started walking toward the car.

And then inspiration struck.  “Mom, will you take my picture.”  I had an image of the ridiculous tourists at the leaning tower of Pisa posing so that it looked like they were holding up the tower.  My idea was better.  Maybe not classier, but better.

Volcano breath

Mom’s pic was spot on.  “Wait, one more!”

Volcano butt

Giggling, we practically skipped back to the car where the others were waiting.  “It’s a good thing I heard Madam Pele laughing,” she said to me, handing the camera back.  Pele’s wrath is legendary.  It’s known to rip through the lives of those who disrespect her, most notably those who take lava from her island.   Over the years, we are careful to meticulously clean out our beach gear so that we leave as much on the island as possible.  Angering Pele is not on our agenda.

It was dusky as we pulled away from the museum and the volcano, Dad driving a tad bit more aggressively than usual.  Nothing erupted as we sped away, and we made it out of the park before dark.  I was dumbfounded as we drove past a military camp inside the gates, realizing at once that it’s been making regular appearances in my dreams for at least a decade.  I love that.  I wonder if I’ll recognize its cabins and green lawns the next time I visit it.

After the long, dark slog around the southern stretch of the Island and back to Kona, we were hungry.  I slept most of the way, waking to discussions of food.  Not surprising, given my family.  What was surprising is that it was dark, and we didn’t have a dinner plan.  So Mom pulled out the guidebook and I pulled out my headlamp.  We settled on a Mexican restaurant – not the horrible one with the great view, but another one, less likely to give us food poisoning.  Dad was able to locate the place on a back street – but it was closed.  Crap.

Plan B was an entertaining burger joint, with a great second-story view of the ocean, and a colorful menu.

Lu Lu's

Lu Lu’s is a tasty standby.  The big, open-air restaurant features huge tiki heads, puffer-fish lighting, and dollar bills vandalized and stapled to the walls.

Puffer light

The menu includes fantastic items like “the hogzilla” pork sandwich, “nachos the size of your head,” and “the bearded lady” burger.  This night, we ended up with aloha and Magnum P.I. burgers, fish tacos, fish and chips, and a quesadilla that could barely contain itself.

Quesadilla at Lu Lu's

Filled to the gills, we hit the road one more time.  The drive from Kona to the Waikoloa Beach Resort is about 40 minutes.  But we had nearly the brightest moon of the year to entertain us.  And each other.  We had each other.

Mildly distracted by my life back in Oregon, I barely registered the murmur in the car.  People leaned over each other to see the moon, bursting into song and laughing wildly.  After 14 hours together in the car, we were still laughing.   Madam Pele was surely laughing with us.

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February 5, 2010   1 Comment