It's Christmas. Time for our annual NakedJen Film Festival.
I'm not going to lie, I really do miss the days when this was a larger gathering in Santa Cruz and we spent a few days sorting out the schedule and even having a bit of an argument over which films would actually make the LIST and how it was all going to go down on Christmas Day. Because, you know, FILMS and sitting in the dark, and a break for some decent food and discussion and all that good stuff.
I'm alone in Salt Lake City this year with the professor in Korea and having to choose not to travel to NYC where I would be able to share the festivities with my partner in all things that make the Nakedjen Film Festival TRULY a FESTIVAL.
So, without any further ado, here's my recommendation for your viewing pleasure tomorrow, or in the coming days, when you may find yourself wanting to escape into the darkness and quiet and to allow someone else's beautiful, tragic, or even happy story unfold and take you away. There's always the option of a two drink minimum and some popcorn, of course.
BIG EYES ~ Tim Burton delivers to us a holiday gift starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in the true story of Margaret Keane. I'm terribly excited to see this film because, well, Tim Burton (and finally not Tim Burton doing his goth turn, but Tim Burton doing something more like BIG FISH) and a story that I think just may be this year's The King's Speech. I feel OSCAR. Go see it.
INTO THE WOODS ~ We all love the musical. We all need a musical on the Nakedjen Film Festival line-up. We also all love Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp. Especially at Christmas. It's dark and edgy and perhaps not even suitable for all the children. So that makes it worthwhile to go and see it.
THE GAMBLER ~ Some of you will hate me for this recommendation. However, we've got Mark Wahlberg as a WRITING PROFESSOR. So, yeah, I'm going to go sit in the dark and watch this film. Plus, the adorable Brie Larson is here. I know YMMV, but I know I'll find it entertaining.
STILL ALICE ~ On the other end of the PROFESSOR spectrum, starring Julianne Moore, again I have my very own personal reasons for really wanting to see this film and it isn't even bowing tomorrow, but has been in theatres for a week or two. That said, this is a film that deals with Alzheimer's from the victim's p.o.v. and as a woman who has a long list of brain disorders I really want/need to see this film. I have a feeling there's a LOT of story here for me to really THINK about and digest.
SELMA ~ The most serious of my choices for the NJFF, but also perhaps the best of the bunch. (Some of you may choose to go see UNBROKEN instead and I may see that, as well, if I can). I have heard nothing but excellent things about this film and especially about how well David Oyelowo captures Martin Luther King's speeches. But more importantly, it feels as if this film is especially historically correct and quite timely and will give me a lot to consider and that is one of the best reasons for me to go and sit in the dark, to watch and to listen.
Whatever films you decide to see this holiday season, may you also leave the theatre with something new to think about and to consider and perhaps a lighter and happier heart.
I'm leaving #Korea tomorrow.
When the professor accepted his position to teach here for the full year and our initial plans were being made one consideration happened to be for all of us, me, LilSalty, the dogs and the professor, to come here together as a complete family and live here. It seemed completely plausible and exciting and like a grand adventure, quite honestly. Let's remember that I am a girl who really does love grand adventures.
As time passed, though, and the details got less fuzzy and far more clear, and other hearts and minds became involved besides just ours, it also was made very obvious and clear that what seemed like a grand adventure and opportunity for some did not for others and so our grand experiment of living a year as three 6,000 miles apart began with the professor in Korea, me in a desert in Nevada and LilSalty with his own mother in Salt Lake City.
I finally left that crazy wonderful experiment in the desert and found my way back to Salt Lake City and to my big black beautiful dogs and a house filled with college boys and college angst (provided by the college boys) and while I adore those boys (I really and truly do) the pieces there were all rearranged and very different and I bumped into things and had lots of trouble finding my own heart in a place where it just did not feel like it belonged because other than my dogs, I felt like two large parts of it were really and truly missing.
They were missing. The experiment we had created together, the one we thought we would try, was really hurting. I had substitute boys living with me (again I really love them), but my heart felt split and torn and I couldn't find enough super glue to hold it tightly in the ways it was supposed to be held together.
That is why I have been calling Korea home for the last five or so weeks. I was not supposed to be here, but when hearts are splitting in two from failed experiments, what we do is not just sit and suck it up buttercup, but perhaps re-think the experiment and see if there is another solution. X + Y can equal love if you solve for Y in the right ways.
I am going to admit that I behaved rather badly in the months leading up to my professor's departure for this adventure. I was not as lovingly supportive as I could be and there are a lot of reasons for that, some of them selfish, some of them not, but I am going to own my bad behavior and publicly share that I do feel bad that while he was already under immense stress and doing his best to take care of his own son and me, I was not being exactly the very best in return.
I am also going to admit that I did have my own pile of things that were not going well at the time, my own personal whirling tornado of anxiety and that did not help, of course. It isn't an excuse because certainly bad things happen to good people every single day and those good people still manage to, yes, suck it up and actually continue to radiate good and DO GOOD and make the lives of those around them lovely. I did not and with my mirror that allows ample reflection, I know I can always do better. I will do better. I am doing much better.
This one on one 24/7 time with my professor, here, in Korea, has been such a beautiful gift. On so very many levels. Once again, the shape of my heart has changed. The shape of us has changed. We are, again, together and different. But the glue is definitely stronger. The roots are deeper. The love is hinged back together in just the right ways in the places where we seem to fit together best. I found my wings on a random street and I believe that was not a simple accident.
Exploring unfamiliar territory, together, of course, has helped. But what has also been truly lovely, for me, has been participating, truly participating, so actively in my professor's life as a professor. It isn't something I've really done before and while I know he's a very smart man, I have to admit I have a new admiration for him as The Professor. He really is a gift not just to me and LilSalty, but to all his students, as well.
I'm grateful to Korea for pushing all of my boundaries, all of our boundaries, for the things I've learned about myself while I have been here, for the patience, medicine, the good love. I have you in my heart. I love you long time.
I knew as soon as we started exiting the stop at Jegi-dong Station that we were in for a fun adventure.
I know I am both blessed and lucky, as well as, yes, even perhaps a bit spoiled to be able to be here, in Korea, without worrying about, well, really much of anything. How many people get this kind of opportunity? I want to suck every little bit of it right through the biggest straw I can find and make sure that I say "YES" to all the little and not so little things that come my way. At the same time, my professor is, in fact, professing. He has a job to do here and I don't want to get in his way, you know? And, let's face it, I am a rather independent person when it comes down to it. I just like including him in on the adventure if he wants to come along.
Which is what happened yesterday. As I was mentioning, when we started exiting the Jegi-dong Station in Seoul, I knew, straight away, that we were in for an adventure. We were, by far, the youngest people in the station by about a good 30 years. It was filled with very old Koreans who all seemed to have a variety of ailments. This was not a huge surprise to me because the whole reason we had come to this specific part of Seoul is that it is the location of the Yangnyeongsi which is the traditional Korean medicine market. Above that subway station, winding through the streets, were over 1,000 herbal medicinal clinics and dispensaries of all kinds. There are all kinds of practitioners who are selling a variety of fresh and dried herbs and tinctures and who are willing to consult with you, right on the spot, to concoct a remedy or tea or prescription for whatever it is that may be causing you trouble.
I was in heaven.
My little Dreamsweet heart burst with such excitement and what made me particularly happy was that as I walked from shop to shop I actually was able to recognize the various herbs sorted in their huge baskets that were for sale.
I realized, quickly, that herbal medicine, like love, really can be a universal language. Koreans have been practicing their form of herbal medicine for over 600 years and over 70 percent of all herbal transactions happen right here in this part of Seoul. My professor and I were absolutely the only non-Koreans present yesterday and I know we were quite an attraction, but I was so happy to chat with more than one shopkeeper and actually do some business. I want to make a medicinal kombucha while I'm here (for both me and the professor) and wanted to get specific herbs for it, as well as find some other herbs that would aid in my own quest to rid me of a parasite. Through broken Korean and a lot of gesturing, I was able to explain what I needed, but more importantly to me, why I needed it. And I got exactly what I needed from not one, but three different shops. It was just lovely and also, well, kind of magical. Deep down I know that I know this stuff. Sometimes, I just forget that I really do know this stuff. But being there, standing still, surrounded by all those herbs and their powerful energy, I knew that I still speak that language. And it still really speaks to me.
We had an even more gracious surprise when I insisted that we walk back to the subway by crossing to the other side of the street. There we found a museum dedicated to the History and Culture of Herbal Medicine in Korea. It was a very complete museum and we were given our own docent who made certain we truly saw everything. What I most appreciated were the very old acupuncture tools and all the various herbs, plus how she kept showing me the difference between Korean herbs and Chinese herbs. Earlier in the market, I had actually insisted upon buying Korean herbs instead of Chinese and that was a very personal choice on my part. I wanted local herbs, of course, but also I have also learned from my many years of herbal practice, that the herbs from China just are not very good quality.
At the end of our tour at the Museum, we were given tea and gifts (a very Korean thing to do) and then we were also both given a health analysis. Again, this was a gift and a surprise! We learned that according to Korean Traditional Medicine the Professor is Soyangin and I am Soeumin. I honestly was surprised to learn this about myself as I imagined from all my time getting acupuncture that I would be Taeyangin. And, as our docent said, perhaps I really am and yesterday was just a day where my qi was showing something different?
Full of that adventure and new knowledge, the professor and I headed to Hongdae to find some lunch. Late lunch. But we were in for such a treat.
Last March, when we were in London and Paris, one thing we ate quite a lot were falafel. It's an easy meal to eat when you're vegan/vegetarian and traveling because you can sort out quickly if it truly is what it is AND it also allows me to avoid the dreaded avocado (usually). Yesterday, in Hongdae, we headed to a restaurant called Jack and the Bean. It serves falafel in a variety of ways. Korea is not exactly the hot spot for falafel. But what struck both of us, immediately, was that on the wall in THIS restaurant were photos of the two falafel spots in both Paris and London where we had eaten in March! Those two restaurants are not related to each other or to this one. All three just happen to serve falafel. And, well, the professor and nakedjen. They also are all quite DELICIOUS.
Once we ate, we wandered all over Hongdae and took pictures of street art for the professor's upcoming class, admired lots of the lively vintage stores, chatted with many shopkeepers, I got to love a huge sheepdog, we snuck through back alleys, the professor ate some sort of crazy fish cake concoction stuffed with ice cream and custard and chocolate skewer of grapes and pineapple because, as I mentioned to him, you only live life once and you have to do the things you want to do in this life when you have the opportunity and not say, "Oh, maybe next time..." because what if there is not a next time? and then I actually took my own advice and ate some Korean street food, too. It was a hot donut kind of thing, my professor says it is a hotteok, that had been dipped in honey and OMG. I feel like I need another one. And then another one. I also said to my profesor as I was literally INHALING IT that what would be great was if it had walnuts in it and he told me it sometimes DOES have walnuts in it and now I feel like I have to go find the ones with walnuts in them. I mean, for research purposes. So I can share with you if they're as good as I think they should be.
We got back on the bus, eventually. Did I mention the bus? There's a bus that takes us from the University here to the University there. And it's rather civilized and seems the way to go if you're wanting to go from here to there to have an adventure and suck everything you can through the straw in all the days that you're here. Because, honestly, how many people really do get this kind of opportunity?
Before I write another word, the first thing I must do is wish a happy birthday to Lydia. I know most of you do not even know who Lydia happens to be, but I will share with you that she is one of the reasons I happen to get up every morning with a smile in my heart and show the world all the love that I feel. She's that friend you can call at three in the morning who will answer the phone and actually will get out of bed and bring you M&M's to eat after she's bailed you out of jail. Or, you know, will drive 3,000 miles because she didn't think you sounded quite right on the phone and she thought you might need some company. She's THAT friend. The one who shows up.
She also will tell you that I am THAT friend, too. My world collided with her world a very long time ago and we've been best friends ever since. I wish I could tell you that we've been inseparable, but that would not be accurate, at all. Still, I can honestly say that on this day, half a century ago, Lydia decided to bless all of us by choosing this planet to land on and this planet has not been the same since. She's the one who will happily grab the microphone and sing the loudest no matter what song happens to be playing. Lydia's the one who is your biggest cheerleader at whatever sport you're playing, but especially if it happens to be Steeler's football. She will absolutely throw you a parade, if you need one, and maybe even if you do not and she's always happy to invite you to take a spin across the dance floor. But what she's best at, honestly, is love. Unconditionally.
I was not making that up about getting up in the morning with a smile in my heart because of her. It's been over 30 years since she started shining in my own little orbit and I am so grateful for that light. Every.single.day. So, happy birthday, Lydia-Jane. May this spin around the sun be your most magical, love-filled and hopeful one, yet. I love you the most. I really and truly do.
I realized quickly this afternoon, that while I may have been the only non-Korean woman in the entire women's spa area of the jimjilbang, I had definitely found myself in familiar company.
This was absolutely a Sunday afternoon family affair and there were small groups of grandmothers with their grandchildren, mothers with their babies, girlfriends gossiping as they soaked and relaxed in all the various mineral pools and saunas and steam rooms. I almost felt as if I was intruding on a party without an invitation. Almost. Except that being naked, soaking in warm waters, having the sing song of laughter dance over my ears, and taking a cozy nap next to an ajummas while we both lay together on the cedar planks of the sauna just felt like the most natural thing I could possibly do on any day, but especially today.
Whole families come to the jimjilbang. The men going one way, the women another, later meeting in the common rooms where they all can even sing karaoke, share in wellness classes, gym classes, more massage, more saunas and detox rooms and eat a delicious meal or grab a sleeping spot, get cozy and stay the night. All I kept thinking as my body and soul relaxed and renewed was, "We could use a whole lot more of this in America."
I mean that. Sincerely.
Let's put down our worries. Let's get naked and have a laugh, tell some gossip and have a soak. Let's rub off all our dirt and all of our dead skin and let it all wash down the drain. Let's take a nap together and share all our dreams.
Dave Winer said that. Dave has said a lot of wise things to me over the years that I've been very blessed and lucky enough to love him. I mean that sincerely. I have Grace Davis to thank for introducing us properly even though Keith Teare, my boss at one of my previous companies, had actually sent me to Dave's original BloggerCon to try and interest him in what our company was developing at the time. Dave was working on Podcasting at the time and what we were doing was video chat and hosting with all the bells and whistles (think Google Hangouts!) that you could actually record and save and we really thought it might be a good marriage for the podcasting world.
Anyway, I went to BloggerCon and introduced myself to Dave (and we both really do not remember THAT), but what did happen is that I went to many of the sessions on BLOGGING and I was inspired beyond belief and my own little blog was launched that very weekend. NAKEDJEN happened because of BloggerCon, because of Dave Winer and this blog you're reading now actually would not even exist without his loving heart, his generosity, and the really wonderful tools that he has created.
Yes, this sounds like a love letter. I suppose it really is. The thing is, sometimes we have to just sit down and write it all out and say thank you out loud to the people in our lives who have made a real difference. Who matter. Who show up in our lives, whose hearts crash into ours and we have that recognition, who make us laugh just a little bit louder than the rest, who get our jokes, who actually listen when we're talking to them, who call when no one else wants to pick up the phone, who create things that might seem like just small little things, but actually are big important things, and who, well, make a big fucking difference in your own little life on this blue ball that is spinning around the sun.
Sometimes you just have to actually sit down and write a thank you letter. Or a blog post.
I write a lot of words and say a lot of things and am noisy and naked and disruptive and really appreciate that I have the freedom to do this without fear that someone might come and lock me up. That's the beauty of blogging and the gift that we have been given by those who stepped up and gave us the freedom to hit the publish key and say exactly what we wanted to say, just as boldly as we wished to say it.
I can't imagine how different my life may have been if I had not been naked for the last twelve years. Yes. Twelve years.
Dave has been at this for twenty years. It's been a gift of letting me stand naked on the corner and shout at all of you for twelve.
I thank him for not asking me to ever put my clothes back on.
He's truly a man who stands up for all of us. Especially those of us who have a lot to say.
nakedjen: Sorry the mirror is so dirty! This is my best find at DI ever! Look out Korea! ♥️
Oh. My. God. Any way you could send a clearer picture?
And did you get my msg about the kombucha??
I've removed the clothing. I need a photographer.
Wait until you see it in person. Trust me. It is truly remarkable.
my professor: From what I could make out, I agree entirely. And it is on a remarkable body, which makes it that much better.
It is gold and has sparkles and a halter top and I'm not quite sure who in Utah ever wore it?
my professor: Someone who said to herself, "this is NOT for me. I need to take this to DI so nakedjen can find it."
nakedjen: It honestly must have been made for someone in a marching band...like a
baton twirler. Only, of course, I see it and think....OH MY GOD, I'm
going to wear that every day!
my professor: That is one of the many reasons I grin when I think about you.
I get excited over baton twirling outfits to wear grocery shopping and the man grins. You have to love a man who loves me like that.
I have a standing acupuncture appointment every single Monday at 4:00 p.m.
Acupuncture it turns out is very effective at keeping me alive and well and actually with two feet firmly planted on this planet. It isn't that I mind floating among the clouds like a small pink balloon every once in a while, but the professor is not here to hold on to the string I tie tightly around my ankle during such occasions and also it is not the best thing for my brain, truthfully, to take those adventures.
I've written before about some of the troubles of my head and the challenges it has so I won't bore you with all that nitty-gritty, but I will share for those who may be new that I have seizures that are non-responsive to the usual therapeutic doses of medication, I suffer from migraines, I'm bi-polar, and I currently have a blood-clot that is in the deep recesses of my brain and is inoperable. Yes, I've been dropped on my head a lot. I am asked that often.
I'm grateful, honestly, for every single loving person who has found their way into my life, crossed paths with me, and has helped me to sort out a way to not only feel better, but to thrive. I had my first traumatic head injury when I was just six weeks old so, yes, this really has just been my life.
I am this way simply because this is the way I am. There's no other me to be.
At acupuncture today, I arrived and my acupuncturist said, "So, Nakedjen, what's the word?"
And I said, "Pending."
And he said, "Pending?"
And I said, "We've had thunderstorms since yesterday. There are more on the horizon. Your work has kept a migraine at bay, but...I can feel it coming. Right over my right eye."
He was holding my wrist at the time, checking my pulse and he said, "Pending was quite an accurate description. No more chatting. I've got the answer."
With that, he quickly stuck a needle right into the edge of my left foot, just below my pinky toe, and I yelped. Electric impulses zinged up my body and I felt like I was going to throw up. He looked at me, smiled, and asked, "How's your head?"
I could feel the pain start to break apart. "It's starting to break apart, but I'm pretty certain I'm going to puke on my own toenails."
"Oh, I have no doubt about that. You're the most sensitive patient I have. Now, hold on..." and with that he put in another needle just below my big toe. Again, I yelped. More nausea, less pain. This continued as he placed more needles up my leg following the liver and gallbladder meridian and explaining that he was releasing the stress and blocks that were trying to cause the migraine.
He put matching needles in the right leg and foot and then two in each of my hands. Those were especially painful and he explained that I got no awards for being a hero about it, but I reminded him that it always "calmed down" and I knew those were emotional centers (the hands) and I wanted to let that STUFF go.
He left me to think about things. Or not. I try not to really think. I try to imagine bright golden light flowing out of the top of my head. Or I try to think of myself as love energy flowing to those I know need it. You, for example. I always know you need it, so I send you some of my own heart as I lay there getting tuned up.
I was there for two hours.
My acpuncturist is truly wonderful that way. He knows I can't just get some needles and go. He knows I have to be left alone to do my thing. So he just leaves me alone until I decide that, like the scarecrow, I've been stiched carefully back together again and am ready to go fight the good fight for love.
"How's the head?," he asked as he gently removed the needles, each one giving a little zing as it said goodbye.
"It's all good. Like magic! I'll be back though if it doesn't behave."
"Of course you will. You love it here."
He's absolutely right. I do love it here.
It is easy to be a carrot when your own soul is orange.
There's so much for me to say about my own personal experience this year at Burning Man, but when I start to try to talk about it, to write about it, I really feel like words are not enough. I want to hand you my own heart, let you hold it in your own two hands, feel the shape of it and how it has changed. Because it has. It definitely has.
I arrived at the playa very early this year. To fluff those who were building our little corner of what would become a city of 70,000 revelers and celebrants and, yes, burners in the middle of the desert. When I arrived, I am not going to lie. I burst into tears. Why? There was no one there. Not even the Man was standing. There were just pockets of small campsites dotting the vast horizon and I honestly felt such peace and joy and like I was really HOME.
I spent the next seven days creating magic with some of the most incredible people you'll ever hope to meet (and I mean this quite sincerely). I feel so blessed and lucky that I shared that journey with them, that kitchen in the middle of nowhere with them, the laughter and tears with them. That they put up with me and my shenanigans and would just smile and literally march in the desert sun with me as we somehow produced wine from water and manna from dust. Our evening meals, with tired workers crammed at our tables in our Fluffing Academy tent, had love bubbles bursting in the air and my heart bursting right along with them because THIS, all of THIS, was not even supposed to be happening.
But it did.
And all of us, every one of us, needs to take a bow.
Of course the city grew up all around me and the rest of the week found me giving away vegetables at our Farmers Market and Marching against Pesky Rabbits with my beloved Carrots and climbing to the tops of amazing art and taking foam showers with lots of naked people and dancing until sunrise and learning more about tantric sex and giving my heart in all the ways I know how to so many gorgeous people and receiving their hearts into mine.
That's how it changes shape.
I've explained to my professor, now that I'm back, that what Burning Man really is for me is a whole lot like what being on tour used to be like for me. Especially now that I've sorted out this going very early and fluffing business. My heart lives way outside my chest. The best medicine I have to give is the love that I share every single day. I can't even contain it, really. For me, love has no edges and loving is like breathing.
I live to love. I love to live.
My professor left very early this morning. He took a small part of my heart with him because, well, that's how these things work. I gave it to him, but I will admit that he had to earn it and it did not come easily to him. At all. Still, the knowing of him, now. some how makes all of this not as hard as it may seem from the outside looking in. Or maybe it is just that I'm a different me than I used to be?
With the exception of a trip to Korea for his birthday, I won't be seeing much of LilSalty over the next year because he will be living with his mother. That small child also has a big piece of my heart in his heart, though, and we all know this because, well, that's how these things work. I have bits of both their hearts in my heart, too. Right in the very spaces and places where my heart went into their own.
It's all good, as I like to say. The love will keep going. Family is not defined by the house that you live in. It's defined by the hearts that hold it.
Our hearts hold it fiercely.
If we had a theme song for our summer this summer, it would definitely be PEACHES by Presidents of the United States of America. Yes, I realize it is a song from 1995, a good ten years before LilSalty was even born. But here's the thing about this kid. He's got a very wise soul. He just knows things. One thing that comes pouring out from all the molecules of his body, every single one, is music. He can't stop making it. Ever. Even if he tries. He sings in his sleep.
I introduced him to Peaches at some point in the late spring. It has been our summer jam ever since. We've created all kinds of lyrics for that song. It's special for us because the Oregon Country Fair logo is a peach, the dragon's name is Peachy, the fair is our MOST FAVORITE THING EVER, and there's a lot of OREGON to drive thru from here to there and that means a lot of singing with a lot of made up lyrics.
You get the drift.
I've talked a little bit about how life is changing in a lot of very big ways for the Salty Family.
Today, the last day I really had to spend with LilSalty before we all begin our year of living separately, he and I took the dogs for a walk. We talked all about art, because that's the kind of thing we talk about. Van Gogh and Monet and Ansel Adams and Yosemite and how you photograph large landscapes and how you paint a painting like A Starry Night and how you might, one day, have your own art gallery. And we also sang about peaches, only we sang our own lyrics about Stella and Buddha and the dragon at the fair.
I picked some lavender for him as we walked along and told him I'd put it under his pillow for good dreams. He asked me about charming some bees. We wondered about dinosaur foot prints on the sidewalk and how they possibly got there and he told me all about Godzilla and a mod that was troubling him in Minecraft. And I swallowed back my own tears and refused to be anything but furiously happy that everything was absolutely filled with sunshine and love and, well, peaches.
Because this, this is who we are. This is how we love each other. This is just what we do.
No matter what.
I've been cruising along, making plans, doing my thing, sorting bins, making costumes, kind of ignoring AUGUST which, you know, has been looming on the horizon. The calendar days have been slipping right on by and suns have been setting and rising and July 4 turned into July 24 and, fuck me, my professor just asked me about LilSalty being here for two weeks instead of one week because after that my professor will be gone (GONE!!) and I'll be gone (GONE!!) and our year of living a life of three separate people in different houses and on different continents will have begun and...
I am not going to be an ostrich about all of this or even the slightest bit selfish or grumpy, but I am going to just share that I may need to hug a few of you even more fiercely than I normally do over the next year or so.
This grand love adventure continues...
LilSalty joined me in the kitchen today and I taught him my secrets to making Clyde's Cookies (you know, Clyde's Cookies, those vegan, organic, cookies that I've been making for years) because the FUTURE needs to know how to make these cookies and let's face it, I'm not going to live forever!
More importantly, I've promised Clyde's Cookies to anyone and everyone who makes a donation to our crowd-funding campaign for my sweet little More Carrot Camp at Burning Man. We're a real farmers market, rising out of the dust on the playa, providing fresh fruits and vegetables and delectable smoothies for our brothers and sisters. And, well, vegan, chocolate chip cookies for those of you who donate because you happen upon this video and because you know and love me.
Even if you do not donate, I still love you. And please know that there's always Clyde's Cookies for you.
Especially now. Because LilSalty has learned my secret. xo
My heart is taking me back.
I know. I realize this is in complete contradiction to all the words I swore and uttered when I left the playa last year. I hear you. Loud and clear.
Here's what I know, however.
The shape of my own heart was forever changed by my own loving experiences last year in ways I can not find human words to describe. If you see me, you'd know. I sparkle just a little bit differently now. It's all good, as I like to say. Really good.
My heart beats are louder and stronger and I'm following them where they take me.
I know I should be writing more. I have had a dreaded awful no good very bad terrible summer cold that I seemed to have gotten from flying on planes. Let that be a lesson for all of us. Planes are just containers full of shared contagions. Floating in the sky. I'm still not better and it's been a month. My body is better than this, I know. The germs seem to be winning this battle, but I will win the war.
My professor said a bad word to me this morning. I'm not even going to even share the word and he realized after he said it, I believe, that it was not exactly the right thing to say to me. Then I realized that today is TODAY and had my own internal meltdown because, well, today is actually today and while I know that my life is infinitely better now and that I am just, well, more at peace and happier and, yes, grateful even, for not being married any longer, still it is that day and I have one of those very odd, strange, cellular, memories for dates and the people who matter in my life, so yeah, it's that day. And if I really were that girl I might be tempted to throw up a throw back thursday photo right here of that day, but, um, no. Not going to happen. Not a chance.
Because it is also not that day. It's just a Thursday in June when I get to spend the entire afternoon with LilSalty and My Professor at a festival. A festival of art and music. A Thursday at the end of June when the light stays just a little bit longer than we all believe even possible and we all stay up just a little bit later than we maybe should and laugh just a little bit louder because there's so much love right here, bubbles of it, holding our hearts gently and allowing us to bounce along as the family we've each chosen to become.
If I had met him then, I think my only possible response would have been a wave of my hand with, "Keep moving, sophomore. Keep moving."
I do believe our hearts crash into and recognize those we're supposed to know exactly when we're supposed to find one another. I have far too much evidence of being in places with others and NOT knowing them, then recognizing them later in my life when my heart was ready. But, you know, it's all just my own crazy fairy science.
I have a very good friend who is dying.
She's shouting her death out loud.
The light that is shining from within her, the grace that she is sharing with all of us as she truly lives every moment, one to the next, is absolutely extraordinary.
As her friend and as a witness I can only share that this is one of life's most amazing gifts.
Life's journey, for me, have been a constant granting of opportunities to learn how to both give and receive love unconditionally. My sweet friend knows this in spades.
To have real gratitude for everything that we have, including the moment we are given right now.
To live generously with our hearts.
Never to waste a moment wondering what if?
To love even when it hurts the very most.
That's where our final peace waits.
I came back to the blogging world one month ago thanks to the encouragement of my really good friend, and he really is one of my best friends, Dave Winer. I had left, as some of you know, because I felt like I had used up all my words, I had said everything that I needed to say, and that I no longer needed to really share my thoughts publicly. I needed to go and participate fully in my own life.
I must admit that I love this blogging platform that Dave has created and shared with the world. I really do. I am grateful to him for sharing it with me, especially, and for giving me a way to use all my words creatively again. He understood, even when I didn't, that I still had things I needed to share and that I needed to say.
I write because to not write would be to die. It's kind of as simple as that for me, really. It is medicine for me, just as much as walking my dogs every day or my acupuncture or even my epilepsy medicines (that make my brain all wonky) are my medicine. I realize that a lot of my writing that I do share is rather boring and uninteresting, but again, I write because I just have to in order to keep two feet on this planet. I appreciate any and all of you who bother to read the words that I manage to spell correctly, put into complete sentences and actually share.
Last night I had a phone call from a very loving friend who called me just to check in with me to see how I am doing. Here's the thing everyone should know about me and why this is so important. Years ago, when telephones and hand-written letters were our only way of connecting with one another, I used to talk on the telephone for hours. I also would write very long and detailed letters to my friends. I had huge long-distance phone bills. I also delighted in sending surprise care-packages to my friends, filled with special little things that I called thoughts. Just because. For no real reason.
The Internet changed all of that for me and disconnected some part of me from me. Somehow, seeing the people that I really deeply care about and love each day online creates this false sense for me that I'm having important daily conversations with these people. That I'm connected to them and really SEEING them. The truth is, I'm not. I have no idea how they're really doing, what they're really feeling, what is honestly happening in their lives and if they're doing okay. Just like my own very dear friend had no idea, despite seeing me every single day online, how I was really and truly doing. So she called me and asked. And we talked. And talked. And I was able to really use all my words and tell her and I was also able to LISTEN to her and share all the love.
It's that, honestly, that we are missing. I can send all the love bubbles I want out into the ether every single day (and I will continue to do it) and hope that they pop over at least one or two random people and make their day a little happier, but I also realize that real connections, heart connections, truly asking how a person is doing and sharing my whole self, my whole heart, my love needs to happen in far more personal ways.
We need to hug each other in all the possible ways we can.
A blog is a great way to share your hugs, but your arms and your loving voice are even better.
Go hug someone you really love in whatever ways that you can. Don't wait. They need you. I know that I do. xox
Things that were accomplished this week in no particular order of importance:
I got myself some health insurance
The professor planted MORE THINGS (tomatoes, basil, beets) for me
We acquired lady bugs to work as a natural insecticide in our garden
I investigated some possibilities for bringing DREAMSWEET back to life
I sorted out some logistics for Burning Man
I read a novel by Mr. John Irving
I sponsored two different Kickstarters
I sorted out the DOGS Health Insurance (they have it, too) and actually saved us some $ which is no small feat since they are now 9 years old
I took care of my mental health
I had two seizures
I got a bikini wax (I know you really care)
The professor also planted raspberry and mint for me and the dogs
I worked on edible treats for dogs and humans
I applied for a JOB
I sent massive LOVE out to the universe
We've come so far (or at least I want to believe we have) and then I get gobsmacked by a project like this and realize that we haven't even dipped our toe in the edge of the ocean. Love, as I have said for more than most of my entire life on this planet, begins when you love you for you, exactly as you are, every luscious bit.
Own Your Glitter, people. You Are Beautiful.
Back then, when the marriage was still a marriage, there was what felt like a lot of competition. I am pretty certain it was mostly in my own head, of course. If you asked the man who was then my husband about this, I am pretty sure he'd tell you he was not competitive with me about anything at all. That he was very supportive, that he did everything he possibly could to encourage me in all my own endeavors, no matter how insane they seemed to him. That he built me websites and traded his own talents to provide me with opportunities to have the dream businesses that I really wanted.
Back then, when the marriage was still a marriage, inside our small Victorian house on the corner of two downtown streets, as the train rumbled past, you wouldn't know that upstairs he would sit not 100 feet from me, I from him, day after day and I would silently spiral down deep dark ugly holes to places people shouldn't go without lights to guide them because I was terrified that someone would pull back the curtains and discover that we were totally faking it. That our love was not love at all, but one big competition to see which eldest child could be the very, very best.
Back then, the marriage was not really a marriage at all, was it?
I'm not married anymore.
It feels like a life time has passed between back then and right now.
It has not, really, but the woman who was terrified of the light shining in and who spiraled silently down deep dark ugly holes to places people should not go got a headlamp.
I've spent the last few days sorting through my life. It's not possible to sort through a life in just a few days, obviously, but what is possible, is at least taking a bit of inventory and scrutinizing the tattered road maps that fall out of the stacks of worn boxes you've got hiding in the basement. All the ticket stubs for every death defying carnival ride that you took that delivered you right to this very moment are still there for your inspection.
Here's what I have gathered and learned:
I'm one stubborn motherfucker.
I'm loved. Crazy, madly, deeply. In spite of myself.
I'm resourceful and entrepreneurial.
I'm broke, but not broken.
I've got amazingly loyal and intuitive dogs.
When you find yourself in these situations, it's the perfect opportunity to actually figure out how to begin again.
The best part of all of this is there is no silence, there's lots of light, there's incredible laughter, I'm not faking it and I am loved. It could all disappear tomorrow, of course, but that is how life works. Every day we have to show up and decide to be exactly the present we want to be.
In 1995, because of my various brain and mental health issues, it was determined that I was disabled and would receive Social Security benefits, the primary benefit being Medicare health insurance coverage. So, for nearly twenty years, this has been the case. I've been paying for this coverage, but I have received it because I've met the criteria for disability. I will not sugar coat it, but will say that I've felt extremely lucky, honestly, to have this insurance coverage. My brain is tricky and uncooperative, at best, and at the moment, as we know, there's a blood clot that is calcified and causing all kinds of problems in an inoperable area and, well, there are additional issues that do not even warrant boring you with all my blah, blah, blah, here.
I have a great team here in Salt Lake of dedicated healers who really work with me and help me immensely to stay as healthy as I possibly can.
So what's the problem?
Social Security does periodic reviews of those of us who receive Disability Benefits. My most recent review just concluded that I am no longer disabled and will no longer receive any benefits. The biggest issue with this, for me, honestly, is losing my Medicare coverage. I understand that Social Security is under huge pressure to move people off their disability dole, so to speak. I get that "on paper" I have the capacity to perform unskilled, light work without risk to my life. I still have at least one seizure every few days, but my seizures happen at night, and I have a therapy dog to help with my anxiety and bi-polar issues, so yes, of course, I can work. But if I can work, even at an unskilled, light work job, I absolutely receive no benefits at all.
My professor has really great Medical Insurance, but it does not cover all my lovely health care providers who work so diligently to keep me on the planet. I've investigated the Affordable Care Act coverage that is available to me here in Utah and quite frankly I can not afford it. At all. Plus, first I have to sort out a job. Some sort of something that I can actually do to make money to pay for all of this that will not be so stressful that I am causing my own brain to short-circuit and my seizures become even more frequent.
You know, I suppose life really does begin at 50.
I'm not fucked. I'm just standing on a new horizon. Of course, I've got some ideas. It's just a matter of figuring out which road I'm going to take. My biggest fear, of course, is that I'm going to end up living under a bridge with my dogs. Promise me you'll come visit us there if we do.
That photo was taken in the fall of 1982. At the University of Virginia. At a Gatsby Party. Those people in that photo are still some of my very best friends in the entire world. In fact, that woman on the far right has been my best friend for 40 years. Between the two of them, those two know all my deepest secrets and I trust they'll never spill them even if you were to threaten to pull out all of their toenails.
It's the friends like that, the ones from grade school, that continue to love you no matter what happens and who you know will always answer the phone and always show up, that actually allow you to continue to open your own heart and show up in all the ways that you do.
We look back so we can keep moving forward. With love.
The Black Box
I don't know if any of you have tuned in to watch THE BLACK BOX which is a mid-season replacement on ABC that follows a brilliant neurologist, Catherine Black, who is also bi-polar. Tonight's episode has been particularly fascinating for me because a patient has presented with exactly the same symptoms (and brain scans) that I presented with at UCSF 25 years ago. My mystery was not quite as easily solved, but it was fascinating to watch the mystery unfold and see this neurologist try to sort out nearly the exact same problem.
Our brains never cease to fascinate me. They're such a complex puzzle.
This, beyond all else, is why I blog. This and the real truth that some days I just need to be able to use all my words. ♥
May is Mental Health Month
Did you all know that I suffer from a variety of mental illnesses? Surprise!! I'm fairly certain this is absolutely a surprise to exactly no one. What you probably do not know is that a couple weeks ago I spent an entire morning with a psychiatrist whom I did not know getting certified as such. It was actually quite an ordeal for me and the cause for quite a lot of additional anxiety. I'm not going to go into further detail, but let's just say I passed.
May is Mental Health Month and I'm going to encourage all of us just to acknowledge that every one of us on this planet could use a tiny bit more compassion, a tiny bit more love, a little bit more respect and, yes, maybe even a hug or two. Hugs are good. Really good. Of course for some people, hugs are scary and dangerous so before you go hugging it out with random strangers, ask if they need a hug, but, you know, at least give them a smile.
And some compassion. Life is a long and hard battle and you just never know which one someone else is fighting.
Santa Cruz is considering another Off-Leash Dog Park
It is also no secret that I love my dogs with a heart that they carry around on their collective 8 furry paws. When Buddha and Stella first chose me to share their life with them, we lived in Santa Cruz and at the time it really was an incredible place to share a life with a dog. There was a very large off-leash dog park called Lighthouse Field and a beach that was quite dog-friendly called It's Beach. The hours for off-leash activity were limited, but the dog owners in Santa Cruz were a loving, tight-knit and active community who cherished our open space and took very good care to abide by the hours and to make certain that our dogs were good dog citizens. I can count on one hand the number of times in all the years I lived there (with Clyde, too), that there was a serious incident involving a dog at either the field OR the beach. Less than five in the twenty years I was there.
But then things changed in a horrible way. Those of us in the dog community fought hard and diligently to save our open space, but the Santa Cruz City Council actually lied to us about their own back-room plans with the State of California and our off-leash dog park and beach were traded to the State of California in exchange for dollars (it is always about dollars) and a fancy new skateboard park.
Before I left Santa Cruz, I was quite vocal about this loss and refused to give up and was on the receiving end of numerous $500 tickets for walking my dogs off-leash. I may have even had to hire a lawyer and may have been on the receiving end of one officer telling me, "You and your dogs can not leave town soon enough, Nakedjen!" Ahem.
Here's the thing. Dogs need socialization and they need to be able to have off-leash playtime to be good dog citizens. In addition, so do their owners. Not only that, but the dog owners in Santa Cruz pay property taxes just like the non-dog owners and those same taxes go to pay for open public spaces. What made me so angry, honestly, was that we were not only lied to about the reality of our off-leash dog park that had been in existence and useful for over twenty years, but that there was absolutely no consideration given for the over 50,000 dogs within the city limits who now had NO WHERE to go to gather and legally play off-leash. That is why I continued to take my dogs where they had always gone. That is why I gathered all those tickets. I am, if not anything, a person of principle and willing to bark loudly when I feel injustice is being served.
I no longer live in Santa Cruz. Salt Lake City actually embraces dogs in ways that could teach Santa Cruz a lesson or two. It is not perfect, of course, but there's far less tension and far less worry here about dog behavior and where they are welcome. I received an email today from the dog activists in Santa Cruz that the City Parks and Planning commission is considering a new off-leash dog park at the corner of Swift Street and Delaware. That is not far, honestly, from the old Lighthouse Field location, but it is a world of difference from what the dogs once enjoyed. While I am certain the city sees this as progress and a compromise, what would be a far better service to the dogs is to give them back a beach with DOG HOURS and perhaps even a large park, like the Pogonip, or DeLaveaga Park with DOG HOURS, or, best, both.
My name is Nakedjen. I speak for the dogs.
I live with a boy
My professor has a son. He's nine years old. I call him LilSalty. Sharing my life with him is honestly one of the hardest things I've ever done. Mostly because I never, ever signed up to be a mother. It wasn't on my list of things I must do before I die. Also because I am determined to share my own life with him honestly and to hopefully help him to learn that living our lives from our hearts, fearlessly and courageously, is the very best way we can possibly live. That expressing all our feelings is absolutely okay and that hugs are some of the best drugs we can possibly share.
Unconditional love and acceptance is never easy. Still, we can all try. It is what will make a better world for everyone.