Category Archives: Outlandish? Oakland-ish.

An ever-growing list of sights, sounds, and happening that make Oakland, California a stimulating home. The idea being that the act of recording / reflecting will ease out the judgement / frustration and usher in the joy / delight that I experience living in this fabulous city.

My Thoughts on Why Boys Should Pull Their Pants Up


This post was intended to be the last of my resolutions posts, something of a collective resolution.  But then two more jumped into the hopper.  Click over for those in the coming days…

Given that I live in Oakland, I often see young men sporting pants around their thighs.  I recently had the uncommon experience of watching a Justin Bieber video and arrived very late to what has become common knowledge, that sagging has become quite the trend.  I realize that I’m not alone in my confusion of why boys would want to wear clothing in such a fashion as to render themselves unable to walk, much less take part in any productive activity.  When I sit in my car watching our society’s future shuffle to keep up with the snails crossing the street, I wonder what the impact of such a gait pattern must be on their hip joints…and their backs…and their legs.  This is what baffles me most about the current style, my profession seeps into every aspect of my life.

I was told that sagging had a practical beginning, in prison where inmates didn’t have belts to hold up their pants.  Whatever the origins of this captivating trend, these young men aren’t going anywhere fast.  Which reminds me of a point that I’m pretty sure Bill Bryson made in one of his books that I recently read, and that Ben Hewitt also made within the past few months:  that in our current societal arrangement teenagers have become our designated specialists in nothing.  Which begs the question, if you haven’t got anywhere to go, why not take your time getting nowhere?  I find it a pity, all the potential that’s going into holding up pants and possibly causing lifelong physical ailments, rather than doing meaningful work.

I believe that we who are concerned about this fairly extreme fashion statement are being caught in something of a trap.  We adults keep wringing our hands trying to convince these kids to pull their pants up, and they keep on doing what they do.  I think that the important point of consideration is what might actually be going on with these youth who are catching our attention.  I’d like to suggest that perhaps we shift our focus off the pants and back to the people wearing them as well as to ourselves.  I’m pretty sure that will give us a fresh perspective on what is happening with these kids and give them some relief in fending off commentary that is tangential to the substantive content of their lives.

I am entertaining the idea, in truth it is based on someone else’s idea that I thought was a good one, that if we all start focusing a little bit more on the content of our dreams and the contributions the we all can make to the greater whole, we’ll be thinking more about the work that needs doing rather than a fleeting fashion trend.  Maybe this annoying trend is offering us an opportunity to redirect our focus back onto each other rather than the clothes that we wear.  Or we could keep it simple and look at the situation from a purely mechanical perspective, it’s a pretty sure bet that once these kids of ours have some purposeful work to get done, their pants will rise.  Because it’s downright impossible to get anything done with your pants around your thighs.

Three Christmas Gifts


It’s tough to narrow down my list of gifts received in recent days for life itself offers us such a bounty.  But there have been a few moments of note and I thought that it would be nice to share.  What I’m writing here, is about as close to my heart as I can get in words, and yet I post this on a day and in a place where few are likely to ever read what I write.  So I guess it could be said that I write to remind myself.

I am finally working my way through the first chapter of a long awaited book by a favorite professor from my university days.  I don’t know much about the project only that he has chosen to begin with Africa and the program that he had the wisdom to set up a while back.  As a lead in to my initial thoughts upon reading, I’d like to remember a salve for my soul that came by way of NPR a while back.  I was listening to the reports of the celebration of Nelson Mandela and the African correspondent made the point that in Africa, it is universally acknowledged that what we in the west call death is a transition from our material world to the spirit world.  It is a lonely life to hold such truths in solitude and that has been my lot so far.  To hear even a little sentence or two of a place where what I know to be true is the universal knowing feels like a great relief.  Now, back to the book…I read exclusively while nursing and so it was during a side-switch that I was struck by a thought, that in my heart of hearts I am African and yet in this material world I’m pretty far from it.  And then I read this:
Flying a world away, little did I know that Ghana would return me to a welcoming world of childlike curiosity; nor did I “pre-imagine” that daily encounters with its incredible citizenry would remind me, over, and over, and over again of who I am at my core – a person who loves people.
Each day, new introductions and yet another occasion for handshakes.  But no one mechanically shakes my hand; rather, each Ghanaian “stranger” holds my hand compassionately, while making eye contact as though we were old friends.  Many would call me “sister”, opening their hearts to me in a moment – an act seemingly so profound to many, but for me, so beautifully human.  With deep trust, each gave full expression to their belief that, “caring is not just for those in one’s immediate circle of family” – but for every person, “strangers” included.
Retracing my steps…flying a world away, yet again, how can I ever fully describe such incredible showings of trust and trustworthiness to others, back home?  I can’t.  Instead I am left with a grateful heart and the hope that others will get to meet the beautiful Ghanaians who so deeply changed the way I now see the world.  Initially, I feared that I would never experience people so genuine, so caring, so trusting, and so full of faith again.  But then I quietly realized that all of us have these qualities at our core.
All I needed was a little reminding.
-Laura Sewall, Studio ’12

With that passage, I shed a tear, felt my gratitude, and had a renewed sense of knowing and courage.  These places of our individual lives are but constructed stages.  The real and enduring place is deep within ourselves and I would dare to say that Africa is the vast place on this planet of ours that holds that place of true connection sacred.  Indeed, we ought each to be very grateful to that continent and what it holds for “each of us” in holding the knowledge that there is only the “all of us”.

Every word in this chapter could serve as the beginning of a lengthy and interesting conversation.  I will say this much more, that Africa is indeed the place to start and I thank my professor for acting rightfully on his knowledge of that.  It is the essential place on this planet, the place where we can each return to the basic truths of our existence and from that point of departure, survey the vastness of possibilities that is life in every moment.

I have NPR to thank once again because last night during my 7 minute drive to my chiropractor I was (atypically) tuned in (these days our classical station is our music of choice since I a doing my best to cultivate a certain knowing of musicality in my young son).  It was a very productive 7 minutes because I also realized that my husband had less than 24 hours to initiate his health insurance research.  And while we are grateful to have been clued in, what followed wasn’t exactly fun and this post is pretty much about things that make me so grateful I cry, so the great rush for health insurance doesn’t apply.  What does is the news story about a Federal Judge in Utah who has enabled thousands of couples in that state to apply for a marriage license.  In hearing that piece of news I felt a swell of joy, perhaps a taste of the feeling that those who are finally permitted to express their love and commitment in a public way feel.  In any event, I am grateful to bear witness to the  the opening of the love-floodgates even if while making a quick drive.  I personally believe that marriage is an important rite of passage and I can’t imagine a good reason to prevent any two people who wish to cross through that passage from doing so.  The timing seems all the more special for the folks who stand to benefit the most from the judgement of one person – what a Christmas gift!

Last Saturday, just after the hour of its closing, I made a fast and frenzied trip to our farmer’s market to pick up veggies and Swedish Bitters.  Although my basket was heavy with purchases upon departure, I was was walking lighter with the joy that I have discovered a little place of community at that weekly market.  Rupam Henry is such a force of love and kindness, I am always comforted in her presence even when I pay her booth a very brief visit.  Each visit proves that I am not the only person who is nurtured by Rupam and I have enjoyed discovering  the community that surrounds our local healer.  Beyond her small space is the market at large.  Because I work on the weekends, and because I am a working mom, it is rare if not never that I have the time to visit a marketplace leisurely, and we are blessed with many such marketplaces here, but this one has something special.  Even popping in and out, I am grateful to be a resident of Oakland.  This city of ours that is full of so many cultures, and much grist for our collective mill, always gives me something to think about, a way to open my heart a little wider, and all the comforts of home.

And now, I must begin the final preparations for our family’s Christmas celebration.  We must prepare ourselves for Santa’s brief but oh so momentous visit!
I Send A Very Merry Christmas Wish to All!

A Surplus of Cucumbers and Lemons

I realize that this particular situation most probably only happens in certain places.  Here in Oakland, we have lots and lots of lemon trees.  It was one of my first discoveries about this city upon moving here and one of the things that I love most about it.  One small indication of the ways in which the Oakland lifestyle is imbued with practicality.

Our neighbors have a lovely backyard garden and they are frequently sharing its bounty with us.  Last night we came home with cucumbers, lemons, zucchini, and tomatoes.  I’ve been hearing variations on using the whole lemon for tonics lately and so I decided to make one of my own.  Everybody in the house agreed (excepting the cat), that it was a tasty creation.  And it was pretty healthy too!

Lemon-Cucumber Cooler:  Combine the following ingredients in your high powered blender until you have a nice smooth beverage.

  • Equal parts cucumber and Lemon (this will depend on your specimens).  I cut out the seeds of each, but otherwise left them complete with skins.
  • Enough water to make your cooler mostly liquid, rather than a smoothie.
  • Honey or maple syrup for sweetness (local, raw honey will add to the healthy benefits)

Here’s to healthy summer eating and friendly neighbors sharing!


Come Out Come Out Where Ever You Are!

It’s June in Oakland and I’ve been noticing some rainbows in our neighborhood which reminds me the it’s about the time of year when I used to go to Pride with my friends back when we were in our twenties.  For the most part, they were lesbians, which is why Pride was an important event to attend.  I went to support my friends, it was not a particularly magical excursion for me since most of what I remember is hanging out on the street amidst lots and lots of people, although to be fair, I usually spent a relatively short amount of time at the event since my weekend calendars usually had multiple activities (ah to be young and un-obliged).  In one sense, just the mass of people was enough to make it special.  But I’m sure for folks who are much more involved in the community, it’s a more significant event.

Now I catch a glimpse of the rainbow flag flying from my neighbor’s window and the rainbow eyeglasses display laid out over a giant pink triangle while I’m out for a bike/walk with my nearly two year old.  And I think with a smile of fondness, “oh it must be Pride season”.  And I think about Harvey Milk and what a service he did us all by just being openly who he was and encouraging each and every one of us to do the same.  (I absolutely loved MILK).

Mostly I’m grateful to live in a place that welcomes anybody and everybody.  While I have been very minimally involved in any aspect of the gay-rights movement, at any and every point in my life, there is one story about the movement from which I always derive inspiration:  let love.  Celebrate love.  Welcome love,  Be love.  Love.  Love.  Love!  From there I go on to say a little prayer for every person who is present on this planet:  love yourself, be who you are!  This world of ours will certainly be the better for it!

Have a Love-filled day!

Gradations of Integrity

I’ve noticed a little something happening in the wake of the many changes in consciousness that we are currently having with respect to food.  And I thought that perhaps the mighty keyboard might have some influence on the subject.  I’ll be honest, I’ve been having a case of the blues the past couple days which may be tainting my thoughts on the topic.  Which is both why I turned to writing and why I feel obliged to make a full disclosure.

First a little background.  Here in the bay area, we enjoy a delicious bounty of food year round.  Given my frequent visits to the farmers’ market and our membership in Full Belly’s CSA program, I have a pretty good sense of what is available throughout the seasons a local level.  I am a fairly conscientious eater, I have been choosing organic for years, local now almost entirely, and my methods of food preparation are becoming more deliberate thanks to having read this book, and this one.  And here I live in the heart of the slow food movement, where folks who once worked at Alice Water’s pioneering eatery open up shop quite often.  As with food stuff, we enjoy a bounty of dining options.

Here’s the rub:  not all these establishments are holding themselves to the same high standards that words like local, organic, in season, sustainably raised, etc evoke.  And I find that a little frustrating (especially when my mood isn’t super light, sure.  But the point stands).  Case in point:  yesterday we sat down at Mintleaf  in Berkeley’s “gourmet ghetto”.  I was at first comforted by the chalkboard above their kitchen area that has most of the words I listed above artfully displayed.  On quite another tangent, my husband thought to inquire about the origin of their rice because he recently read about this worrisome fact.

After inquiring, the waitress came back to report that the restaurant uses rice imported from India.  So much for local.  Our inquiry stopped there, because when dining with a toddler, there is precious little time for deliberation.  We mostly eat in, so the occasional exposure to foods of questionable quality – but definite convenience – remains one of those “grey areas” in my choices as a parent (yes yes yes to all super nutritious high quality foods, no no no to the unending rigor of in-house-food-preparation-for-3-meals-a-day-7-days-a-week).  But given these two facts, California produces A LOT of riceand we in the bay area even have an organically and locally grown optionI felt compelled to raise the question for restauranteurs:  why not go local when it comes to rice?  Now, I realize that there are most certainly other factors that go into choosing rice, all sorts of varieties and costs and that sort of thing.  I reckon that this may be a variation on the substance versus form debate:  taste and preparation qualities versus origin qualities.  For me origin qualities trump all else, but that’s just me.

When I go to a place that touts al the qualities that I love about the local food movement and I end up eating rice from India and summer squash and bell peppers in April, I get a sort of uncomfortable feeling.  It is at these points that I realize I am assuming something very different from the proprietors about the quality of the food they are offering me.  And that I really have no idea what I’m actually eating.  That’s a hard pill to swallow for a control freak foodie who is in a crabby mood.  But the good news is, that the food tastes good, and savoring the overall experience (live guitar music, friendly staff, tasty food, happy hubs and kid) is enough to eclipse my reservations.  Unless of course I go ahead and write a blog post about the whole thing.  As an aside, we ate out twice on the same day (it was our wedding anniversary and we were feeling the inclination to step out), and the first place that fed us purports the same high quality of food and yet serves heinz ketchup.  Ick!  It would seem that considering gradations of integrity was a theme for our day out.

Long story short, having high standards can be complicated.  Worth it?  I don’t think that I could do it any other way.  But I must keep the whole picture in focus so as not to drive myself and those around me batty.  So that’s me.  But I don’t see why restaurants couldn’t do with a nudge in the direction of upping their standards.  After all, this is the bay area.  People come from all over with the expectation of enjoying some truly fabulous food!  Why not give it ’em?

Be the Shining Star that you Are

I’ve got a few blog posts in me today, but a bunch of other tasks that really need my energy. It’s funny because the one post that is going to get written is not the one that I would have thought would be written. And as I wrote that sentence, I realized that actually there is a common thread through it all, so maybe, it will all get written. In the next few minutes.


A special thanks to Tara for posting a link on FB to this fabulous TED talk. That was a while back, but today, over breakfast, I actually took the time to watch. I’m particularly intrigued by the topic because I have seen how Pilates changes lives. Starting with my own. If you give enough energy to developing your Pilates practice, you will grow more confident and more aligned with your own power to contribute in a positive way to the world that we share. I have had that experience with Pilates and I love facilitating that change in others.


I had a secret dream of being a dancer as a kid. This dream went completely unacknowledged by anyone in my life until I had a dance professor in college, who said that if I wanted to be a dancer, I should be a dancer. Simple. That was all the acknowledgement that I needed to pick a coast and get to work. I found a job working with kids that gave me income and health insurance, and nearly every day of the week I would dance, or train capoiera, or t’ai chi, or some other movement form. In dance class it wasn’t long before I became aware of an incredibly persistent voice in my head which was shooting me down before I even got moving. I would watch my teacher demonstrate the moves, and as I watched, I would tell myself that there was no way I’d be able to do that. Not surprisingly, I usually turned out to be correct. Until I realized that my inner voice was not helping and I learned how to first ignore it and then quiet it completely. That and a healthy dose of encouragement from my wonderful teacher got me moving in some semblance of competency (she later told me that when I first turned up in her class, she was dubious of my eventual success – I was that shut down). I enjoyed many years dancing in class, but I had too many other interests and ambitions to put the requisite time and energy into dance to really become a dancer. Over time, my dreams of being a dancer matured into what seems to be the most appropriate plan for me: to have a life long passion of dance training sprinkled with the occasional performance opportunity. Mostly, I am grateful that I honored myself in following my dream and I am grateful for every person who supported me along the way. Because while I didn’t get to where I thought I’d get when I first began, I got somewhere that feels right for me.


Last night, my husband mentioned the resurgence of stunt that our local kids are keen to pull. As is typical for my husband who takes consideration for others to a highly honorable degree, he was incensed by this sort of activity. While clearly, this sort of thing is not what we want our kids doing, it seems to me that we have no one but ourselves to blame for the fact that our kids are putting their energy into dangerous and publicly disruptive activities.


Next story. When I was working at a school I witnessed a degeneration of spirit in a particular group of children that I worked with. In my opinion, their experience was the logical result of a dramatic and complete failure of the school staff to serve them in an honorable and respectful way. And we all paid the price. I knew these kids in the fourth grade. I saw their performance in the classroom with their dedicated and inspired teacher. I saw them actively and passionately engaged in their school work. They had been with the same teacher for two years and they were preparing for their fifth grade year with a new teacher. I also, by some strange stroke of coincidence, saw them in their first weeks of their fifth grade teacher. Sadly, we were all subjected to the whims of an uninspired, deeply self-absorbed person. I was in the classroom to assist, the children were in the classroom to learn, and presumably the teacher was in the classroom to lead us all in our pursuits. I sat at the front along side her, looking at the faces of thirty bright-eyed and eager children, all sitting alert with pencils poised. She talked, and talked, and talked. She said nothing relevant to anyone with respect to the tasks at hand. It was incredibly boring for all of us. Lucky for me, I was reassigned soon. Because the sad truth is that I was powerless to affect any change upon the situation. About halfway through the school year, a good friend of mine was substituting for the class and because we would often lunch together, I went to meet him as he and the students were headed toward the cafeteria. What I witnessed was crazy. The thirty kids were completely out of control. He struggled at every moment to keep them corralled. There was absolutely no learning going on, just crowd control.


Now, this is all up for interpretation, of course. But I have my own opinion about what happened to those kids. Eight months ago, I had seen them completely engaged in their school work, all their energy directed toward a productive end. And now, with a simple, and yet completely infuriating, change of one circumstance (have you ever had to sit captive to somebody who does not stop talking and expects you to pay attention for hours on end, day in day out? Not fun.), these kids had lost control. Or rather they were wielding what little control they had. I have no idea what happened to each of those kids, I hope that that year was the last of disappointment any of them ever had with a bad teacher. There are so many amazing teachers in the world, and those kids, like every kid, deserved to have one year after year. But I know what happened to my friend. He lost his job, because one of the kids accused him of attacking her and attempting to push her down the stairs. Not that his job loss is the most significant loss that happened as a result of a bad situation, it’s just the one that I actually know about. My overall point is that we failed those kids. And they in turn failed us.


So back to today. While I am not in anyway speaking in a voice of encouragement to acts that put the general populace in danger. It seems to me that when we are thinking about situations such as the 880 sideshows that are coming back into fashion, we ought to be considering what people who have enough wherewithal to execute such a stunt could be doing with their energy were they given the respect and support that they deserve as our fellow citizens of humanity.


When I look back over the years of my youth and the challenges that I faced against myself in the dance studio and socially amongst peers who, like me, were struggling to find their place in the world, I realize that I was incredibly lucky to have found enough support to set me on a positive track. And like many who have received enough support in order to become enough of who they are, rather than to self-destructively implode, I am keen to pay my blessings forward.


When I watched Amy Cuddy’s talk, I was reminded of the power of the work that I do with Pilates. And reminded about the power that we each possess to support each other in being more of who we are. So that together we each and collectively can be better that who we are. That is, in my opinion, the whole point.


And from now on, I know my favorite way to end a Pilates work out. Because, according to Romana, every workout needs a good ending, and according to Amy Cuddy, everybody can use a power boost, in my studio, we’ll be finishing with the standing twist from now on.


Shine brightly upon your day! Be the star that you are!

Nothing Like a Good Bumper Sticker to Keep the Thoughts Coming

So this entry is sort of a combo one, which is why I put it in two categories. Life in Oakland is always interesting. Sometimes in a vexing sort of way. Sometimes in an inspiring sort of way. Sometimes in an enlightened sort of way. You get the idea.

Here’s a bumper sticker I read, and I have to say that I’m still a little confused. But it got me wondering, marveling, chuckling (pretty much in that order too). And I like that in a bumper sticker. A sort of stick to your brain kind of thing, an intellectual version of soaked muesli for breakfast. I like things that require some mulling over.

Here it is, in all it’s strangeness. See what you can make of it:

“The hardest thing about a zombie apocalypse will be pretending I’m not excited”

Out and About

It has been several hours short of twenty four and I have another Oakland-ish story to share. This is the kind that makes me giggle to myself while driving along. I don’t mind writing that I’m pleased with myself for having this blog because in my pre-blog days this sort of happening would melt from my memory like a dream usually before I could share a laugh with anybody. So sad. But those sad and lonely days are over. Oh joy!

Our neighborhood is a busy one with lots of pedestrians and short little intersections. I first caught sight of this particular man as I yielded to his right of way. Given my penchant for body analysis, I was enjoying watching his somewhat peculiar gait and how high up he carried his well-used LL Bean back back. He was definitely an adult (I’d estimate that he’s circled the sun somewhere in the range of 40-60 years) and yet he had an energetically contrived, walk.

After he took his turn, I took mine and as we were going in the same direction for a brief spot of time, and as he was jay walking so as to shave some time off his trip, he happened to be very close to my open window when he heatedly exclaimed:

“Well I’ve shaven my entire f**king chest down to here…..” (pointing to the base of his chest bone).

And then he turned up the hill leaving me to wonder if he meant to share that important piece of information with me, or perhaps he had a blue tooth apparatus on the ear that was just out of my view. I’ll never know. But now, I’ve had myself a good laugh. And that will have to suffice.

Introducing…Outlandish? Oakland-ish.

Today is a perfect day to make this introduction. I arrived home from the farmers’ market in a huff, I’m sad to say. The overwhelm of my ambitions coupled with the underwhelm of my productivity is getting to me. And as often happens when my mood is on the south side of happy, things that I see out in the world leave an even less than usual favorable impression.


Outlandish? Oakland-ish. is my ever-growing list of sights, sounds, and happenings that make Oakland, California a stimulating home. The idea being that the act of recording / reflecting will ease out the judgement / frustration and usher in the joy / delight that I experience living in this fabulous city.


I’m not sure that I can talk myself out of today’s gripe though. It’s littering. When I arrived home my very kind and supportive husband came to help me into the house with my basket full of farm fresh goodness. But he was distracted by garbage in the bushes along our driveway. I wish that I could come up with a justification for littering or a defense of litterbugs, but I cannot. Littering disgusts me. Living in the city I have all too often seen people pull their car up to the curb, proceed to dump all their garbage out onto the street and sidewalk, and then pull away. Once I witnessed somebody do this very thing in our driveway. I protested and he just looked at my blankly then drove away.


All I can say is that I have more confidence in my fellow humans. This littering is not an expression of our highest potential. And it’s gross. So it puts me in a bad mood. I’d like to someday have an idea of why people do this. To me it seems like an expression of their unhappiness with their life and their community. I can’t imagine what else would bring a person to dump their garbage in public space.


I have high hopes for us all though, that perhaps we may find an alternative outlet for our personal frustrations and that we can also find a way of supporting each other to reach toward our highest potential.