What to do when a bird gets stuck in your house

Present, how to be
23 April 2016, 7:28 am
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Having just wrapped up a two-day workshop on health activism and immigrant and refugee rights and mental health, I’ve been having a quiet, reflective day. I went for a walk this afternoon to enjoy the sun and the last of the lilacs, and on the way home I crossed paths with an elderly woman, a bit lost and a bit nervous about being a bit lost. She asked me where 18th Ave was, and I pointed, but when I saw the panic in her eyes I asked if I could walk with her. She nodded, then grabbed my arm and didn’t let go.


We were really only a few blocks away from her apartment, and in that time I learned so much about her: she has 4 grandchildren, she is from Taiwan, she loves to cook, she is bursting with pride for her daughter. Her English wasn’t great but that didn’t stop her from trying – she was practically bubbling over with stories. She asked me over for tea and for dinner; she showed me a picture of her granddaughter. We eventually found her place. I made sure she got inside safe and sound, and then we parted ways.


I keep on thinking of the workshop we just finished – we talked about mental health and the challenges that people who move to a new country can face. Feelings of isolation, difficulties with language, a lack of the familiar cause stress and can lead to poor health outcomes. As this little old lady held onto my arm (not because she needed the physical support, I gather) I kept on thinking about how often we grapple with coming up with big solutions, systemic changes that are necessary to improve people’s lives. I am so grateful for today’s reminder that our challenge is also to come up with a million different micro-solutions, individual connections, offers of an arm to steady someone on, a space for stories.


This one’s gonna hurt in a coupla years
13 December 2012, 1:07 pm
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Letter home:
Ok, so last night my own FACE was bitten by mosquitoes, so I was like, ASSEZ IS ASSEZ you PEUPLE.  I talked to Dali about it at breakfast and he was like, no, it’s no problem.  Just tell ’em to spray your room.  And I was like, JE DETESTE it when they spray my room, b/c CA VA ME DONNER cancer when I’m 40 years old.  He’s like, no, really, if they do it in the morning you won’t even know it.  So against all my better judgement I asked the front desk if they could spray my room un petit peu this morning b/c I don’t want to fucking ATTRAPE LE PALU at Christmas. 
I just came up to my room during the lunch break and it was like they dropped a freaking toxic bomb in here.  It’s so stinky and terrible (but, to give them credit, I believe there may be no living things in this room any more, including whatever took a dump right by my toothbrush last night).  I hope hope hope it is less headache-inducing tonight.  Holy moly.
And that wraps up today’s chapter of Aventures en Afrique Quoi. 

Chosen families, of
21 August 2012, 2:53 pm
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The plea:

I should be happy they support each other – they are alike in so many ways – they have needed someone to validate and reaffirm and complain to. They have found that in each other (I say as the voyeur, because neither one of them talk to me.  Ever.)  But I hate the word “should,” so instead I am thinking of the hours I spent on the phone – where is the recognition for that? – and of the constant struggle to show understanding, to be patient, to be there, to know that I think she is making terrible mistakes but they are hers to make, not mine.   I think of the pain and the heartbreak year after year.  The disappointments, the embarrassment, the let downs.  I feel deep sorrow for not being included in my own family, like I’m just looking in through the windows.  I feel petty and mean and jealous. My ideal, enlightened self feels far, far away.

So here it is.  I feel terrible.  I don’t know what kind of pep talk would get me out of this.  I don’t even know if there is a pep talk to give, maybe I’m not done being in it yet.  I had a yoga teacher who said that you need to acknowledge and honor negative feelings and emotions before you can let them go.  The acknowledging part is easy.  This honoring business sucks ass.

I was going to end this email by begging you grrrlz for help, because my well of wisdom feels dry and I know yours are always overflowing.  But even just getting here, to today’s end to the long, stupid chapter of the story that is my family’s life, has felt enormously helpful.  That said, got any wisdom to spare?

The response:

Overwhelming.  I was wrong.  My ideal self is never far away.  There are three of them, in fact, and one email has all three tapping on my shoulder, reminding me of who I am, who we all are, our little chosen family.

greener, meet other side
22 July 2008, 2:10 pm
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Hey ladies,

I cut the boy off of this message. Sorry boy. But you ain’t a lady.

Lola, thank you thank you for the update. I know how difficult it must be to take the jumble and shape it into words, but even though we don’t say it enough, we appreciate the updates and a part of every waking minute is with an eye and a heartbeat towards you. I’m glad you’ve got the fam around, that your mom knows what an embrace she’s in, that you have two beautiful children around to remind everyone what it’s all about.

And hey, I don’t think one can ever classify “my mom has a brain tumor” as blah. Just sayin.

Update from here: not a helluva a lot these days, just summer in the city. It’s been beautiful, lovely, full of exploring the town and looking at snow-capped mountains. Some hiking, some evenings with friends (some 4th-of-Julyness with the aforementioned Mr. O…). I’m in a quiet-style job right now, in an org that is in a serious phase of transition and I don’t feel like I’ve put in the time to make these growing pains worth it. I feel a bit demoted, after the glamor of W Africa (W Africa? Glamorous? Well, you know what I mean. Authority. Capability. Praise. It’s hard to become a worker bee after all that. After the adventure of that place. It’s hard not to have the itch to travel, be dirty and exhausted and challenged and fully fully present. It’s hard to contemplate starting a blog, to work on it during worktime.) Hence the job application yesterday (greener, meet other side), hence the daydreaming out the window.

But these are the angsts of an extremely privileged woman. Remember this above all else.

Also, the pull to move. Yeah, the whole fam wants to go and the thought of actually buying a house and having chickens and being near family (not in that order) is real. I think it’s the ovaries calling. Such a fucking cliche, about to turn 29 and becoming obsessed with studies about older pregnancies = autism. Seriously? Do you even WANT kids? R’s been nesting more these days too, looking at the university as a future career. I (gently) remind of the (half? third?) not-quite finished phd. Somehow my professional prospects are added on as an afterthought. Oh well. I could always write letters to the editor. Or follow the dream of young adult lit, right? Everett, you wanna be my co-author in crime?

Ok. Is it time? It may be time. With great freedom comes great responsibility. Time to figure out the “great” part.

I love you all. Like nothing else. Lola, hug your mom extra from me.


17 July 2008, 9:30 pm
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Scope of project: 16 pages? That would be 8 pieces of paper, folded in half. Maybe just half that – four pages, folded in half. Or two pages, folded two times. Something small, shall we say?, birdlike.

Origin story.

Opening scene: close up of an eye from the side. The house in this episode is the house of the mind (muhaha) and the bird getting stuck is of the malevolent variety. Cheesey Rush song. What malevolent bird? Crow is the classic choice. Fuckers. Swooping at your head.

Next: What to do to get it out. This presents a challenge because what to do if a bird gets stuck in your head? You can’t exactly pound it out, open up your skull to let it fly out. How did it get there in the first place? Is this a topic to explore? The origins story. A la creation myth. Why we are.

La Familia: The beginning of it focuses on the creation of the bird, how it flew in in the first place, where it came from, all the rest. If it has brothers and sisters, kid birds. What it was like in birdland, if it was better (and the flying into the head was just a mistake, regretted) or worse (the bird is a refugee, a squatter, and you feel like an asshole for kicking it out).

Now we’re getting somewhere: How the person created the idea of the bird. What space the bird fills in the person’s life, if it’s helpful or harmful. How much attention, diverted, paid to it.  What will happen when the mortgage payment is due?

The kicker of it is that the bird has actually created the house. Need to come up with a way of deconstructing the image to go from a polished people-looking person to one made out of sticks, Styrofoam, bits of shoelace.

End: In progress.