Detox in the Desert. With Yoga. 

I am in a beautiful place. Palm trees and crisp winds from the San Jacinto Mountains surround me. Here in the desert, the landscape is lush with only the dry brittle patches of sand and brush to remind me where I am. My room is poolside. There is no TV, DVD, HBO or $300 a month Comcast bills. There is a big fluffy pillow-top bed, candles and saddlewood incense. Oh, and a spa kitty that has adopted me as easy game. And there is quiet.

The hotel is small and intimate with only 11 guest quarters which all surround the pool. By the end of Day One, I know practically everyone staying here. We are all in detox boot camp together which includes morning yoga on the lawn, powering down juice and herbal tea all day and evening meetings. Bonding is quick and becomes an unexpected bonus even though I came here solo. I guess it’s really a 12-Step program for people who are trying to conquer their supersize it life although the people who come here are already health-conscious. If detox was easy, as the cliche goes, everyone would do it.

 I came here knowing I would most likely be one of the people in most need of “recovery.” I didn’t fool myself. I knew a concept this extreme — five days of supported juicing, mandatory morning yoga and no “technology” (only in the rooms) — was not your run of the mill boot camp. However, I have a history of challenging my myself and my body despite most people’s sense of good judgment. I am qualified to say that after a triathlon career that started at 43 and was supplemented by marathons, half-marathons, snow-shoe running and any other crazy thing I could find that was physically challenging. That was nearly 15 years ago. This is now. This body, the one that helped me survive breast cancer five years ago and the one that I pour Diet Cokes into as I work successive 17-hour days sitting at my laptop, survives for me. Coming here is a way to honor it and say “I’m going to try to give you some help.”

Talking on Airplanes

In airplane, squashed in like a full body mammogram. Sitting next to two completely unresponsive seat mates. I must have a sign on my forehead saying, “I adore chatting on airplanes” which I don’t. I guess I’m Old School. I believe that a smile and a nod and 10 words of perfunctory chatter are fine prior to saying “excuse me” and putting on your sleep mask and noise-canceling headphones. Maybe not. Every small gesture on my part is ignored and the woman next to me glares at me after the following exchange with the flight attendant:

“Do you have tea?”

“I’ll take care of that in a minute.” (Apparently the skill it takes to pass the plastic tray of nuts and crackers requires complete attention on her part. Answering me—like I’m actually a paying guest on this plane–is not happening now. Didn’t you get the schedule? That’s the next part of her job and I have interrupted the scheduled cattle feed as she tries to kill us all using salt and carbs.

She helps the people next to me and then gives me the “you’re up” look. I wind up my courage and ask, “Do you have any herbal tea?”

“No, we just have regular tea.”

“Ok then. No tea for me.”

I put my headphones back on and close my eyes. A minute later I’m aware of a cup of hot water being brandished in my face.

“Oh thanks. Do you by any chance have any lemon?, I ask her.

“No,” she replies, making a mental note that the chick in 4A is trouble, “…we don’t have lemon.”

I notice that during each exchange with the flight attendant, her face is smiling at me but not really smiling. It’s one of those pageant smiles, the kind that arrays your teeth and mouth in a certain formation without involving any real feeling. It’s a little creepy and makes me feel like I’m a 3 year-old asking “why, why, why…” and she is a patient adult.

So as I settle back into my seat, appropriately chastised for such a ridiculous request, I say to no one in particular, “I know this isn’t the Four Seasons. I just thought they might have it for drinks.”

That’s when my seat mate glares at me. Maybe it wasn’t exactly a glare but it had a little glare to it, mixed with have you ever been on a freakin plane before?

That’s when I notice she smells likes she was on a bender the night before. Coming through her pores. Lovely, but I take pity on her. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. (Sorry.)

It’s like the time and I went to dinner with a good friend in downtown Minneapolis. The restaurant was getting good reviews and was kind of the “it” restaurant in certain circles. I had been there several times because of its convenience to The Orpheum and loved the Cali-style food. When the waiter arrived at our table he asked if we had been there before. I said, “Yes, I have. Several times.” I wasn’t bragging, just being factually responsive.

His reply was, “Well then maybe you’d like to tell us the specials?” I just looked at my friend and didn’t know what to say. He left to get our drink order and when he returned he apologized for his remark and said he didn’t know what came over him. We all laughed and said No worries. Then he asked if we were ready to order and I said:

“I need a few more minutes. Lately I’ve been dining at restaurants where they have a photo of the food on the menu.”

I thought it was hilarious and true. Insightful actually. But the waiter never smiled. When he left, I commented on this and my friend said, “Well, I’m used to you and I understand your sense of humor.” That stuck with me. Have I become socially handicapped? A person that has to “grow on you” to understand them? When did that happen?

I had a friend years ago who called it as she saw it, day-in, day-out. No one was safe. Bosses, family members, friends and enemies alike all received the same acid wash of her opinion. One day she was complaining about a mutual acquaintance. I was somewhat friendlier with this person than she was and said to her, “You need to let her grow on you.” And her reply, which makes sense to me now, was “Why would I want to?”

Someone has farted on the plane making me feel like a prisoner in a sealed up bathroom. I suspect it came from 3A given its trajectory. Between the close quarters and the heat of the plane, it’s like being in a gas chamber. So humiliating to every passenger that has to suffer this indignity along with the robotic flight attendants and their condesencion. I want to jump up and scream “No smoking and NO FARTING on the plane!!! I may do this since I’m already pegged as the nut in 4A.

We finally land and everywhere I go post-flight, I stumble into my seat mate. We’ll call her Banana Girl since that’s all she grabbed from the plastic tray. (I wish they had served her vegetable lasagna on this flight so I could refer to her as “vegetable lasagna over there” like the Seinfeld episode where Elaine and David Putty break up and get back together during the course of the flight, but no such luck.) After the third time bumping into her post-flight, I say to her, “You just can’t get away from me.”

Finally she smiled.

Just Before Christmas: The Important Stuff

1480648_10153514964010063_1746849631_nSometimes things hit you in a soft spot. It’s not that they hurt it more’s that they wake you up. They hit you, bounce off, but leave their mark. I’m not much of a lyrical writer but it’s not lost on me that the image that comes to mind is like a drop of water in a pond that continues to ripple outward. Volunteering at the Minneapolis Crisis Nursery yesterday was that kind of hit. I just have to share.

This is not meant at all to be a Christmas downer. For those of you, like me, who worry that it will be, I will skip to the good news. Of the 16 or so kids that were at the nursery yesterday, about five of them went home yesterday. I’m sure a few more are going home today. More good news: the kids are well-cared for. They seem happy, for the most part, when they are occupied. And the staff is wonderful. One of the loveliest things I heard there yesterday (and I haven’t been there for a while as a result of my work life and my life-life having reared up in the past few months, leaving me less time to volunteer) was when one of the staff said that she would have taken the children outside to play, despite the cold, just as she would her own child. I loved that. That’s the vibe. These aren’t some random bunch of kids. These are our kids, from the community, that we all pitch in to help through the rough spots. Especially the holiday rough spots. And for better or worse, we give them the benefits of our parenting best practices when it comes to making decisions about their welfare. You gotta love that. That and and when I put one of my little charges down for her nap, she asked me to read Goodnight Moon. (And although reading this is not sad, reading the words aloud did almost make me bawl remembering how I read the same words to Sam when he was merely a bundle of blankets in my arms.)

The part that makes me a little sad is coming up. I’ll try to get through it quickly. I had seen many of these kids before. In my years of volunteering, I had seen several of these children at different ages — three, then four; five, now many of them six years old. As I looked across the lunch room, I worried about what will happen for these kids at age seven — when they age out of the crisis nursery. Where do they go then? What do their parents do when they need support but can’t some here? I can’t help it because I do see them as our kids and I can’t stop worrying about them simply because they turn seven. I have no answers for this, but hope that 2014 is a good year for them and their families. And I hope they find the support they need to keep their families healthy and happy.

I want to thank several friends who reminded me of the real value of volunteering during the holidays (and every day). You know who you are Amy, Eileen and Vicki. And I hope this holiday and 2014 finds us grateful and aware and remembering the important stuff. Love to all my friends this holiday season.

Chapter Two: I haven’t been myself for a long time.

In 2010, I went to the doctor for a routine mammogram. It was routine because I have been always told that my breasts were lumpy. This is what doctors usually told me. I never had any complaints from lovers but of course, I can’t recall any of them ever trying to intentionally give me a breast exam.
Because of my aforesaid lumpy girls, I was used to going for mammograms every six months. This particular time, Continue reading


A few photos from our theatre date to see The Book of Mormon. Amazing show — we laughed all evening! Theatre was packed and — what else — we had great seats. Also had a fabulous dinner at Chambers Cafe. If you haven’t been to the NEW version of the Chambers (under new management) — GO! Continue reading

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IMG_1202My wonderful friends at Hennepin Theatre Trust asked me to write a guest blog about my experience as a Trust donor during the past two years. This is the first time a donor has written a blog for them and I am appropriately humbled by the opportunity to tell my story (and of course, Sam’s story) as it relates to getting back to enjoying the performing arts. Continue reading

talking in

My new blog. A work in progress. Always.

My dear friend, “Joe” (yes, his real name), will understand the genesis of this title since it is a joke between us. I tend to be an elevator talker and Joe is not. However, when we worked in the same building that never stopped me from trying to chatter at his rather stolid self with all number of personal remarks and asides. I think poor Joe was even forced to exit the elevator several floors prior to his destination just to get away from me, although he is much too nice to admit that.

Continue reading

Chapter One: Things I Did on my Christmas Vacation

My Christmas vacation is hallowed ground. It’s hallowed because the week between Christmas and New Year’s is really the only week that my son, Sam, gets vacation from his adult day program. I treasure this time with him, especially this year because this year feels like the year he didn’t need me anymore. Continue reading

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