Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The essense of a person

We each look at life and death a little differently I believe.

I have known people who have died. I have known people who were younger than me, people who were older. I have had relatives die, and clients and co-workers, but I have never had a friend from that inner circle die until now. As fate must have it, it won't be the last time either. Some people might wonder why it was a shock to have Om die. After all he had a double transplant, and has had health issues his entire adult life. Maybe the answer is, it is a shock for two reasons. Om has battled and won, and perhaps, we were lulled into the belief he could continue his victories for a little while longer.
Or maybe...maybe its a surprise because he was one of us.

Today was Om's burial. Over the course of the past few days there was a Christian service, a Hindu service and finally this burial. It was people's time to say goodbye. To me it is somewhat odd to stand over a body to say goodbye, especially one that in the end failed him, because, that body is just an empty vessel. Om doesn't occupy that space anymore.

In both the Christian and the Hindu services this point was made. The body is not the person. The soul is the person. It is the soul that gives us our humanity. The twinkle in someone's eyes comes from this essence. The brilliance of a mind emanates from their soul. The humor and kindness, the artistic flare and the inventor's creations all are sprung from this intangible essence that makes us who we are.

It was evident that Om's soul had touched and continued to touch many people. As one after one, people rose to speak about those things that made this man uniquely Om. Looking around the crowd from tear streaked face to stoic stares, each person was trying to come to terms with a world without their Om Lal.

People turn to you at times like this and ask why? The answer is because we all have our time to go. When we are blessed by knowing truly special people, it is sometimes a hard truth to accept. Om fought and beat death many times, because that was who he was, a fighter. But ultimately this is a fight we cannot win, not any of us. I am just thankful, that while he graced this earth, I was blessed by knowing him.

The future will be different for all of us who knew and loved him, but no one more than his wife Ena. The one thing I know is that Om would want us all to be there for Ena. I envision some good long walks in our future. We will be there for her and help her hear the music again, because in the music she will find Om.

My eyes open and I hear the music

It plays as I watch my mother's eyes

I feel my heart beat in rhythm, rising and falling with the days.

When I found my true love my heart could not contain the beat

My feet moved in a dance with my beloved

As we spun and moved to the music around us.

But the day came when my heart stopped beating and

I wondered where the music had gone.

I closed my eyes and awoke to become

not a listener but a creator of the music I sought

And I danced the dance of angels.

Goodbye Om.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Endings and Beginnings - Choices

It's been a long time since I have gone for a walk. In the midst of the Holidays, there is not the time nor the inclination to open the door and venture out into the cold. There are things to be done, and people who are visiting; parties need their planning and gifts need their wrapping. You, you made need a walk, but its put on the back burner. Although you enjoy each day and the people in it, your walk is in temporary holding waiting for you to take flight. After the presents are opened and your guests have returned to their homes, it's time to think, is now a good time?

This morning as I woke up I felt energized to get the walking gear on and head to the Ferry Building. I sat down and looked at only to see a forecast of showers throughout the day. My mood took a dip as I went upstairs and sat at the dining table to sip on my coffee. I stared out to the heavens and saw grey clouds clinging persistently to the sky, but no rain falling. The stone patio was damp from the rain that had fallen earlier, but I saw no new drops. I had a choice. Should I believe the forecast or take a chance? What's the worse thing that could happen? I decided the worse thing would be to stay home and watch my optimism darken with the skies. I put on the New Balance 1011s, and three layers including a rain jacket and stepped out into the unknown.

I decided to hedge my bets and not go into the city. If I walked to the office in Corte Madera, I might be able to stag a ride home making the day a 6.5 mile walk, imminently do-able, with less chance of being drenched. I noticed birds I hadn't seen (or hadn't paid attention to before). Set among the swamp grass, there were around 50 of these brown colored birds. They were nearly invisible until they took wing. As they flew their undersides lit up with the undersides nearly neon white marked with inkblack tipped wings. Their brightness stood in stark contrast to the drab sky.

Team: Are We There Yet has a few new members and I am excited for them to take flight. My daughter Katie is joining us this year, along with long time friend Stephanie Cihak and Patti's friend Cathy Shea. Each of us have our own reasons why we have commitment to this effort. The overall goal is to end cancer. For some of us the cancer that we try to end is from a very personal battle. For others, it is in honor of those who we have known who have fought cancer, some of whom lost their battles. Then there's the personal challenge of walking 60 miles in 3 days. I am thrilled when I hear that I inspired someone to join. I am excited to know that whatever their reason is in the beginning, the journey will be a lot like those birds today. The journey will open up new discoveries as they take flight. I am excited to be there to watch their magic as they soar. (If you would like to join our team or make a donation, visit our team website )

Part of today's walk was to compare Alain Pinel Offices. We have opened a new office in Mill Valley. I can walk to this office in literally 15 minutes. It sits along the shore of Richardson Bay. I know that if I wanted to I could move to this office and that move would have advantages.

  1. It is lots closer for most of my clients, and it is easier to get to for the SF clients who come to Marin.
  2. It's quieter with fewer people, and that sometimes is a good thing for work.
  3. Because it sits along the water, there are water views and my Feng Shui gal Amy said, I would benefit from a workplace with an East Facing water view...
  4. Change can invigorate you.

but....... I knew Corte Madera has its pluses too.

  1. It's located off the freeway and has great visibility.
  2. The support staff in the office is fantastic and the management spends most of its time there. There's lots of energy.
  3. I have a nice large office and have my marketing pieces all printed with the 101 Nellen address on them...
  4. I dislike change.

So I would appreciate your opinion because I am truly torn. What should I do? You tell me. Glenn would say don't make any sudden decisions. Pick an office......



I had hoped my walk would clear this dilemma up as well as brighten my mood. My heart is still heavy from the loss of our friend Om. His memorial services will be this Tuesday and Thursday. I hoped each step would help make me stronger for the emotional journey of this week. I think the thing that will make me stronger will be the arm of my husband. I hope he can find the same strength in my arm. It will be fitting the memorials are on New Years Eve, because on New Years Day we will have another choice; Shall we huddle in the swamp grass and disappear for awhile, or shall we together take flight and blind the world with our collective brilliance? And finally what would Om want us to do.

Life is full of these choices. Sometimes it is easier to hide. Change always carries with it some sadness for the things you leave behind. I hope the new year will be one in which we all venture forward and embrace each day. I hope you find the courage to take flight and the courage to look around you to see the magic.

Walk on friends... walk on.... because it is the only true way you can honor not only the future but today and equally importantly the past.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A changing wind

Today the sun has come out, just like any other day, but maybe a little brighter. A light rain storm blew through the Bay Area yesterday, and with it came a changing wind. This morning you can see forever. Beyond the Bay and off to the hills in the distance, the Farallon Islands sit on the horizon so clear you can almost make out the rocks on their shore. A changing wind.

The night before last, our dear friend and warrior Om, lost his battle.

Om went to school with my husband Glenn. Although Om was a brilliant man and designed some impressive innovations in the tech world, I am not the right person to tell you about that, because I really never knew that part of Om. I knew quite a bit about a different Om.

A zest for life.
Although a disease doesn't define a person, in Om's case he lived with diabetes which caused many close encounters with death for years. It robbed him of his health, impacted his eyesight, almost cost him a leg. But it never took away his zest for life.

Some people tip toe through life. Om danced. I don't know if he always danced, but certainly once he married his wife Ena, Om danced. He possessed a joie de vivre that few do.

A couple of years ago, I got a call from Om. He asked me if I would consider going on Deal or no Deal with him. He LOVED this show and thought nothing could be better than to be a player on that show. In his mind I made a good candidate for his support group, along with Ena and his niece. Now you have to picture Om. His health was not good. His heart was not functioning properly and he was easily tired. He was on the transplant list for a heart and kidney, but he wouldn't qualify until he could go a certain length of time without a heart incident. But Om was committed to the idea of doing this show. We got together at his house to practice.

To be selected for Deal or No Deal you have to send in an audition tape and we were getting that put together. I had had shirts made for the support group to wear that said OM on one side and NO DEAL on the back. Om's niece's pitch was to remind the producers, her uncle had had a brief run at fame already as the Mosquito in an ad for a travel website.
He was ready for run #2. Ena said something along the lines, you have to pick Om because we love to dance! We each did our part as we tried to prepare a pitch for the show. Om's pitch was he was doing this to help bring attention to the thousands of people waiting for a transplant. He wanted to inspire them to hang in there. But he also wanted to make a DEAL! But about 20 mins into it, Om looked as though he might faint. The prospect of the game show went on hold as he continued his battle with his health. "We'll do this after you get better," was my thought.

Friends are important.
Om loved his friends. I really can't speak about other friends, except I know he felt close to his neighbors and enjoyed their yearly get togethers. I know he loved his family, and his children and of course his angel of a wife Ena. But I witnessed many times how much he valued his buddies from High School. If there was an event, despite health issues, Om would be determined to be there with his buddies.

The first time I knew how much they meant to him, might have been the first time even he knew how much they meant to him. We had a trip to Turkey planned. A sailing trip, our first bareboat cruise. Dana, Chuck, Stephanie and Glenn and I were planning on going, Om wanted to go too. He had recently had heart surgery and his health had been bad. Honestly, if I can speak for myself, I was a little skeptical this was a good idea. But Om was determined.

He and Ena glowed on this trip. Om brought along a huge satellite phone to keep in touch with business. Honestly I don't remember him using it though. I do remember him in the Turkish bath with the other buddies, walking in and realizing for the first time it was a coed bath with one hot naked girl in it. They quickly backed out of the room to return with boxer shorts and towels wrapped around them...

And I remember him sitting in the cockpit turning to the buddies and saying "for years I have thought about nothing but how sick I have been. This is the first time I am thinking about how well I am." I believe that was a turning point for Om. Everything I saw from him from that trip on was more about what he could do, versus what he could not.

A perfect example of this would be September three years ago. Our daughter Allison was getting married in Columbus Ohio. Om wanted to go. He had to go, his buddies were all going to be there and it was important. But Om was undergoing Dialysis nearly everyday.

He found a center in Columbus, and coordinated with his Doctors, so he could undergo dialysis in Columbus. I don't think anyone ever impressed me so much with a tenacity that was driven by love. When I saw him dancing with Ena at the reception I was thrilled to know the photographer captured the utter look of complete contentment on both their faces.

Last year, before Christmas arrived, Om had a kidney and heart transplant. We visited him in the hospital. There were the warnings about germs and safety, and there was Om. The color in his face had already improved. they threw in a cataract surgery and he could see without his glasses for the first time I recall. He was excited about the life he was regaining.

During the past year he enjoyed parties and he danced at Mike Cihaks wedding. He came to support us at our Wine Wars in Marin. He planned on attending our holiday party and the Cihak's Christmas Eve. His health had taken a turn for the worse after a bout with a virus. The other night he was not feeling well, his wife insisted they go to the hospital. Om said no, they had an appointment the next day, it could wait. After staying up with Om until the early morning hours, Ena went off to bed for a few mintues rest.
Later, Ena walked into his room to find Om had died during his sleep.

He fought a courageous battle. He honored us all by showing us how much friends mean and how it is important ALWAYS to see the things you can do, and not be bound by the things that would restrict us.

I will always picture him with a huge smile on his face, grabbing his Ena, and leading us ( on another cruise) through Spanish streets to find a place to dance.

The winds come and have changed our lives and Om is no longer here with us. We all are very sad and will miss him so much. But I really truly believe he is smiling. Because I know without a doubt the man is dancing.

Friday, December 11, 2009

All I want for Christmas...

Back in the days of selling drugs, I was quite the looker.

I was one of the only women to work for Merck in sales. This was 1978. My territory was from San Bernadino to Arizona and I had a wide variety of customers to call on. I called on hospitals, and pharmacies, doctors and clinics. I also called on a little company town called Eagle Rock.

Eagle Rock was a mining town of some sort. Set far off the highway in the desert moutnains, you could tell you were near when you saw enoromous earth moving machines with tires as tall as houses. They people who lived in this isolated location, all worked for "the company." They all looked like they had been there way too long. I remember sitting in the clinic waiting room where there was one man with jeans barely held up up by only the large silver belt buckle engraved with bucking broncos. I avoided looking at him too long, since there was only one place your eyes would be drawn. So I looked over to the corner with a woman who had three children circled around her. I nodded and said hello, hoping to strike up a conversation that had nothing to do with belt buckles and she smiled at me. She had no front teeth.

I realized I was in another world.

Well, two days ago, I crossed over to the other side.

I was hungry and decide I wanted something I could gnaw on, so I stopped at Bryant's and bought 3 pork ribs. I lustfully bit into the meat and noticed something chunky in its midst. I thought I had bit off a piece of the bone, but was horrified to spit it into my hand and see the crown from my front tooth laying in my hand. I hoped it had just come off the underlying tooth, but unfortunately the tooth had sheared off to the gum. I ran to the mirror only to see a woman who looked strangely like a woman I had seen in Eagle Rock looking back. The gap in her mouth was slightly bleeding, and tears started rolling down her cheeks.

(not me.... used of illustration purposes only!)

I called Glenn and then my dentist. Our dentist is one of those fellows who explains things slowly. "It's bad..." he said, "but you have options." He explained the root was spilt under the gum and the tooth would need to come completely out. The options were to do an implant, or a bridge. Both options would take a lot of time so, here he was after hours taking my crown and attaching it to a retainer so I wouldn't have to continue to look like Eagle Rock woman. (If you need a great dentist, call Roger Solow. He went the distance for me, and I, my husband and anyone else who may need to look at my sorry mug are very grateful. )

Yesterday I had the rest of the tooth removed. Frankly besides being embarrassed, I was kind of angry for the timing. $$$ during the holidays is tight for everyone. I have places to go and places to be seen! I bought a great dress for the office party and wasn't able to go. I had to make a cake that I had donated as part of Wine Wars to be picked up this afternoon. You aren't supposed to eat or sleep with the retainer... (It's a good diet plan for the holidays don't you think?) Well, I can still drink wine right???? Not if you believe the latest research that says there is a 30% increase in the incidence of Breast Cancer recurrence in those people who drink (even 3 drinks a week!)

So today as I was finishing my cake (a cowboy boot with a bottle of tequila for a 21st birthday), I thought about western things. I thought a about the most western place I had ever seen Eagle Rock, and I started to feel lucky.

Circumstances of birth, and life choices have us on many different roads. My journey started with being lucky at birth, continued with obtaining a great education and wonderful friends. I married the man of my dreams and 28 years later we are still happily married. This life had blessed me with choices other people just don't have. I can have an implant. I am not doomed to a toothless grin. I can opt to decide which studies make sense to me and which do not when it comes to my past breast cancer. I am alive to do this after 14+ years of survival. I have survived things a lot worse than losing a front tooth.

I can choose to be the one who is angry that she broke off her tooth, or be the one who considers herself lucky that she can repair it. So as I put the finishing touches on my 21st birthday cake, I contemplated grabbing the tequila and having a toast.

Here's to Eagle Rock and here's to me not having to live anywhere near there. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baby its cold outside....

Two days ago - From Novato

Sometimes, home feels like somewhere else entirely.

The other morning when I got up early. I had a 7am appt with a client to pick up a counter offer, and I struggled to get out of my warm bed. As soon as the quilt flopped reluctantly over I realized the morning was more than brisk, it was COLD.

Admittedly, in the San Francisco Bay Area, cold is different than Big Creek Wisconsin, but to my California blood, this was cold. I looked at the outdoor thermometer and saw a chilly 28 degree reading. I put a pot of coffee on and opened the door for the dogs to go do their doggy business. Tucker wisely would only stick his nose out the door before he came straight back in and cuddled deep into the doggy bed in the kitchen. It was COLD.

Later in the morning I read an email from Jill in Moraga... "Snow here!!!"

I would imagine Jill's house to be at about 500 ft. not exactly mountainous. I asked that she send me pictures and the next day here is what she sent.

That's COLD! Jill said she was going to make a snow man.
So with all this chilly weather, what had happened to my training walks? Well Patti and I did make another walk out to Cavallo Point on Sunday, but here it is Wednesday and I haven't gone anywhere. I get up and put on layers of clothes. I head off to work early and can't imagine switching into my walking clothes or heading to the gym. before you know it, the time has come to go home,then the day is done... and there you have it...

I suppose coldness has an impact on my motivation. AND.... consequentially, my mood.

Walking has given me such optimism and energy. I realize it's been only 3 days since my last walk, but already I can tell that my energy had frozen like the water on top of the neighbor's roof. I need something to warm it up... to melt the ice and get me moving again.

Excuses they say, work because they are always based in the truth. Yes, it is cold. Yes, the holidays are busier. Yes, I have a lot of work to do these days.... but NO, that doesn't mean I can't find the time. Most likely, it means because of all those reason I have more reason to find the time. Let's see what the rest of the week brings.

What's your excuse? Why haven't you committed to walking in the Breast Cancer 3 day this next year. Team: Are We There Yet? is still looking for members. The more the merrier. Go to Http://

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Up and over, Over and under Marinview

In this time of creative cost conscience marketing,

I made a promise to myself to make the most every cent I spend.

When picking something to "give" to potential clients, you want to select an item that will be used, be in sight and/or not thrown away. In the days when my marketing budget was much bigger, I would send Christmas Cards, Calendars and include some sort of kitchen gadget that would be keep for years. Jar openers, ice cream scoops, flashlights and magnets all made the cut at one time or another. I would send via mail to my neighborhood and past clients. The cost was ... not inconsequential. 2009 is not that kind of year.

I decided to sharpen my focus and think differently.
More than my budget has changed this year.

Last year at this time, I was 45 pounds heavier. My opinion of my ability to be physical was rather low. My fear of exercise was HIGH. Then I signed up for the Breast Cancer Day and that all changed. As I walked my confidence grew. My business did not suffer because of this. I would argue it became more efficient. So this year when I contemplated what to do to mark the holidays, I knew the US mail would not be a part of it. I scoured the marketing companies to find something that would allow me to send a greeting (without the postage) and I settled on a postcard and a magnetic clip.

Today I delivered all 220 of them in Marinview. This is no small feat since the neighborhood is comprised of several very steep climbs and sharp declines. But I made it to each mailbox careful not to impede the opening of the door, lest I be arrested and sent to federal prison. In the process I saw the neighborhood from top to bottom and everything in between. I also, saved money, gas and didn't feel at all guilty about that apple fritter I bought at Starbucks this morning at 6:30!

I am trying hard to keep my walks up with at least one challenging one a week. I have so loved being able to go anywhere I decide. It has been a revelation.

Right now, I hope that the people of Marinview, understand what is behind each and every little postcard they see. I hope they understand it is a sign of my commitment to them, and my commitment to myself. Here's to a wonderful Merry Marinview Holiday!

Thinking of a donation as we near years end? Donate to my 2010 3 day walk at

Be generous! Especially now that the new guidelines have cast such doubt on Breast Cancer and its detection, there has never been a more important time to take a stand.

On my walk through the neighborhood I had a chance to stop and talk to several people. One neighbor recently was diagnosed with a new case of Breast Cancer (actually 2 tumors). She had survived a previous bout, this she says, is not a recurrence. We talked about her first episode and how old she was. With no family history of Breast Cancer she was 34 years old. SO much for the task force opinion on when women should begin screening. This time around has been challenging for her as she undergoes reconstruction (seven months into a painful process). My wishes are for her to come through the other side, grab life by both hands and refuse to let go. Then maybe she can join Team:Are We There Yet? and be another walker out to kick Cancer's ***

Thanksgivings, then and now

Its been a few days since the turkey gobbled it's last gobble. and the long anticipated sandwiches have been consumed. I have finished making the turkey soup putting it in its container, snapping its snap top lid. I gingerly tossed out the flowers and put away the china, shined my silver and placed it back in its chest. Thanksgiving 2010 has passed like so many before.

Ever since I was a young girl, Thanksgiving has been about family.
First in Westchester, in our 2 bedroom house, there was Mom with her store bought jar of spiced peaches and canned cranberry sauce. I remember waiting for the stuffing which I loved, and begging for the gizzard or heart from the boiling stock. I didn't like pumpkin pie or any kind of pie for that matter (except chess pie). We always had rice with the dinner (never mashed potatoes). I didn't really care for gravy. I remember at least one Thanksgiving at my grandparent's home in Westwood, with my Tennessee Grandmother Rose, making sweet potatoes with marshmallows (these I did like, they were like a bowl of sugar).

After moving to Los Altos the traditions continued and my tastes changed. I couldn't stomach gizzards and hearts anymore. I grew to look forward to pie (as long as there was plenty of whipped cream). I found the marshmallows overkill on sweet potatoes and was glad my mother would opt out of the dish entirely. The gravy was tasting better and better.
Our family was now the four of us kids and my parents. Grandfathers came to live in Los Altos when their spouses died and our table enlarged to fit them.

I spent my Freshman year's Thanksgiving in Michigan with my college roommate Mary. It didn't feel right to be away from my family, but it gave me the chance to share other traditions. I had never had spiked egg nog before. I had never seen a Thanksgiving where the trees were bare and the threat of snow surrounded you. I missed my Mom's spiced peaches.

As time went on and marriages came to the eldest Collis girls, we grew to combine our families traditions with those of our spouses. Some years our tables would be larger than others. Some years the card tables would come out for children. At extended family Thanksgivings, there were sometimes stilted, conversations over cocktails for the adults, while the children played games with their cousins. Mashed potatoes and creamed onions were on Thanksgiving tables where rice and spiced peaches used to be. One Thanksgiving at our house involved a van for 15 and Beach Blanket Bablyon, another in Gig Harbor with no power, another in New England with snow. Thanksgiving changed a little each year and evolved with us all, and so it has continued to do this year.

My sister usually is the Northwest Thanksgiving hostess and we have spent several at her home. Its the closest I come to recreating those Collis Thanksgivings of days gone by(without the jarred peaches and canned cranberry sauce). This year she was off to Salt Lake to have Thanksgiving with our latest family addition Audrey (her grand-daughter) Michael and Kelly. Our own daughters were away for Thanksgiving. Katie wasn't feeling up to snuff, and Allison had just returned to Denver from Washington DC. Allison and her husband Chris celebrated Thanksgiving together. (She now is in Costa Rica for a couple of weeks). Glenn's Father is still not feeling up to dinners out, so we made plans to visit him the next day. My father and his wife live in San Diego. My brother lives in Bend, Ore. Glenn's sister celebrates Thanksgiving with Tom's family. That left Glenn and me with the dogs to decide what to do this year.

So kidless, and without other family coming by, this was an adults only Thanksgiving. Patti, her husband John, her sister Cindy and one of their friends, Tonya, came by. The fine wine came out. We had a wonderful evening. I believe a toast was made "Friends, the family you make."
I know I overate, I don't know about anyone else. I went to bed and couldn't sleep, the creamed onions not quite settling in my stomach and my heart a little sad.

I miss a lot of things about the past, but what I miss most is the feeling of being complete when your young daughters shrug as you plop them in front of the TV to watch Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Allison in preschool belting out,
"Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Pie. If I don't get some I think I'm gonna cry. Take away
the green grass. Take away the sky. But don't take away my pumpkin pie."
But she hated pumpkin pie. The smile on Katie's face when she knew there would be potato rolls and pie (which she loved). The sight of the two of them in their Thanksgiving dresses, putting their coats on to go over to Oma's for dinner. The sound of them giggling in the car together. Even the tired and grumpy moments that eventually would come along with all of this. The memory of them on a Thanksgiving in Vermont trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues.

I miss this most of all.
The realness of those Thanksgivings.

It's funny that at the time, I knew how lucky I was - to a degree. Now, now that those times are gone, I know I was the luckiest person in the world. And I know now how lucky we all are to have each other. Sisters, brothers, husbands, children, parents and friends remind us, we are not alone in this world. Our shared experience deepens the meaning and imprints our life stories in the process until our lives become layered with each memory. Deeply faceted and shining like the crystal on the table, our memories are there to hold up and watch as the colors dance across the room.

Happy Thanksgiving.

PS - More Thanks... to our latest team member Stephanie Cihak! Join "Team are we there yet?"
Email me and I will give you directions to sign up. Make the commitment to end Cancer in our lifetimes. Everyone deserves another slice of pumpkin pie.... and a cancer free life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Yes Viginia, There is a Big Lebowski and then there's DUDE

The Dude abides man.

Bowling... It had been a long time.

Glenn and I rented "The Big Lebowski" and were sitting in our assigned seats in the kitchen watching it. I have been thinking lately about the kind of ruts we all find ourselves in, and was feeling as if, we have landed on our own.

Our house is pretty large. It was expanded to accommodate our two children and their friends. I envisioned family gatherings and big parties as the house expanded. Now, with the girls gone, and people busy with this and that, our big house sits 80% uninhabited. We spend the majority of our time in two rooms, the kitchen and the bedroom. We sit at a large table meant to sit six. We eat our meals here. We watch TV here. And here was where we sat as the Dude began his adventure.

If you haven't seen this movie, go get it. Prepare yourself for an abundant use of the the F word. (Rivalling Reservoir Dogs)

The Stranger: There's just one thing, Dude. The Dude: And what's that? The Stranger: Do you have to use so many cuss words? The Dude: What the fuck you talking about? The Stranger: Okay, Dude. Have it your way.

So anyway... the movie is about the Dude, also known as Jeffrey Lebowski, a mistaken identity, a rug that has been peed on, bowling, white Russians, porn stars and nihilists, friendship and laziness, memorial services and did I mention bowling?

After the movie was over Glenn exclaimed "Let's go bowling to pay homage to the Dude."

We grabbed our coats and headed out into the cold November night headed toward Country Club Bowl in San Rafael. The place was nearly deserted. We were assigned lane #6. With out bowling shoes in place and a drink in our hand, we completed 4 games. One of the staff came by smiling and said "you guys are having a good time." I have to say, given the circumstances, I was impressed with our showing. The barman came around and announced to us...(since we were the only ones still there) "Last call!"

As we returned home, I had a huge smile on my face. The Dude would be proud, even if we didn't drink white Russians.

Sometimes the best solution for being in a rut, is to climb out.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hiding your head in the sand... or ship in a wall

The vessel Gallieo at Fort Mason

If I close my eyes really, really hard, I won't notice that big ugly monster at the foot of my bed.

Even when it comes to make believe, even when it is an impossible nightmare, this wishful thinking does little more than increase your fear.

The current news on mammograms, breast self exam, and pap smears, has a chilling promise of sponsored ignorance, avoidance and ultimately death for many women. Women's health care, has been hard fought for, and we are far from done. The topics of breast cancer and cervical cancer are those that generations of women could never even name, the stigma was so great. In years past, women may have had breasts, but they sure didn't talk about them, not to mention admit to any defect in them. In recent years it has been as if a light has gone on. Now, these studies, threaten a retreat, the effects of which are already being seen.

I heard the other day of a woman who had breast cancer discovered in a mammogram. This 40 year old woman had a surgery scheduled to remove this cancer. She cancelled the surgery after the panels recommendation, saying " they aren't reliable anyway."
When given a chance of believing she has cancer, or putting her head in the sand, this woman is choosing the sand. I KNOW she will not be the only one.

When I woke up yesterday I had a choice. We each do every day we live. We choose how we are going to live that day. You can choose to live with your eyes wide open, embracing every day. You will find in doing this you will have moments of fear and sadness that are profound. But you also will have moments that had been lost in the haze of avoidance filled with love, and quiet beauty you had been missing. In running away from the truth in life you are running away from life itself.

Open your eyes...keep them wide open. Live like you never lived before.
You can't do this in hiding. You can't open your eyes in the sand.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sunday's walk...San Rafael to Fairfax and back

I have decided from time to time, I will bring you a little sample of walking season.

I don't plan on being religious about my training for 3-Day #2 until early spring, but I would feel cheated if I didn't carve out some walks through falling leaves and chilly air.

Glenn had a busy day ahead of him trying to catch up with work. I had one open house, but a colleague asked to hold it open leaving me foot loose and fancy free. When I woke I went through every possible direction that I could head, estimated the length of the walks and decided it was time to walk west, to Fairfax. The ideal walk for me these days is a total of 10 miles or so. Longer takes A LOT of time, less makes me worry I will lose my edge. Fairfax from Glenn's office would be the ideal distance.

San Rafael is the county seat. Back in Father Serra days, the Mission of San Rafael was founded. The Mission was totally abandoned by 1844, and the buildings destroyed by fire. The buildings standing now are meant to be built in the style of a Mission, but are authentic.
The buildings that stand now, was built in the 40s and is still used for church services.
This Sunday morning I walked past as the bells chimed out, signalling the beginning of the 10 am service. Part of the originally Mission that does survives are three bells seen here.
On this sunny morning I tried to envision the Mission of days past. The Indians trying to understand the strange ways of these cloaked Spaniards. Watching as their world transformed in front of their eyes and being moved by a current of change they could not fight.
Things are always changing.
Walking further down Fifth Avenue, I passed the city hall, Marin Academy and some of the charming older homes that have been converted to businesses.

I passed a church that the girls and I attended for a short while when they were young. Maybe if I had seen the charming bear garden on the side of the church, I would have stayed on.

I have always thought the placement of these two signs would be the stuff Herb Caen would have enjoyed. Diet Center, next to Cake Art.

Marin Academy

Many of these Fifth Avenue homes are Victorian but there are modern buildings that are mixed among them. I like these little cottages and sometimes think it would be a fine lifestyle to live downtown like this. You could walk to restaurants, walk to movies, walk, walk , walk.... I passed 2 people I knew and I don't even live in this hood!

This building is on the corner of Forbes and Fifth. They recently did a lot of work here. I believe, but I am not sure, it has been converted to a private residence. I believe it used to be a private club, but I could find no sign today, thus.... I gather, it is even more private than it used to be.

Fifth Avenue at Forbes is the dividing line between the Forbes neighborhood and Sun Valley.
Forbes has been known as one of San Rafael's "better" neighborhoods for many years. There are many larger homes set on "city" lots with tree lined streets.
Eventually I was walking down the miracle mile a main drag between San Anselmo and San Rafael.

As I neared San Anselmo there is a beauty salon who's name is
"Peace Love and Grilled Cheeses".
It got my attention!

From the junction, I headed down Red Hill (also known as Sir Francis Drake). I passed the Community Center where they were having an open studio for local artists.

Some of the homes on this road are really darling. In a good market many people would over look the road noise and traffic to have a house like this.

Drake High School is one of the 3 major public high schools in Marin.

The school has a unique program of academies within the school that allow kids to customize their curriculum around their interests.
Communications Academy
Studies of the Environment Academy
Engineering Academy

When I crossed into Fairfax all of a sudden things got interesting! The police were there gathering statements after an accident. Maybe it was a hit and run, I only saw a truck sitting there in the middle of the road.

My friend Kelly's restaurant Pancho Villas wasn't open yet. Given that it was Sunday I was hoping she was enjoying the day with her family anyway....

I decide to walk on to the town hall. I have visited the building several times getting building resale inspections ordered..etc...etc...

This great old building is the Fairfax Pavilion. The downtown may have lost just a little bit of its hippy edge.
But it still feels like a town unlike any other.

In the window of a cafe there is this display of customers in miniature.

The town retains its vintage charm, even though the old B of A building is now a coffee roastery and the old grocery store is Grilly's.

The Barefoot Cafe on SFD seemed to have a line waiting to be seated.

Peri's is an long time haunt.

I decide to walk back a different way and followed Center. I took a turn to explore a bridge that was posted with several private property signs.

Never being one who would trespass (very far) when there is a sign posted the farthest I went was the middle of the bridge to take a photo of the creek. This creek in winter can be swollen to the point the road down stream are flooded and homes inundated.

The railroad used to travel on this route making a stop at Lansdale Station, halfway between San Anselmo and Fairfax, on the way to West Marin.

I walked along San Anselmo Avenue, enjoying the fall leaves and interesting homes.

Fall leaves. Who says there is no seasons in California. We have seasons, we just don't have the icky stuff like slush or mosquitoes the size of chevys.

Reaching the town of San Anselmo, it is hard to picture how high flood waters have gotten here on some wet winters....

I knew where I wanted to go... Taco Janes. Despite the relatively cook temperatures, I wanted to sit outside and have an enchilada! They lit the outdoor heaters and then....

I had my enchilada!

The San Anselmo City Hall

I headed back toward San Rafael through Greenfield Avenue. This street is full of charm and character. Little bungalows that have been lovingly care for.

Want a 1958 chevy? Try this lot.

The lunch time crowd at a San Rafael Cafe on 4th Street.

I walked past Irwin (where Glenn's office is) because I was coming up short on my 10 miles. After picking up the making of a dinner for Glenn's Dad,
I finished my walk at the magic 10....Mission accomplished for today.
On my way back I bough a special surprise for the 2nd 3 day walk... You will have to donate to see it... I will send you a sneak preview. Otherwise, you'll have to wait until the walk itself... and then maybe... we'll see. So DONATE and be the first to see the secret of the 2nd 3 day.