Archive for the 'children' Category

hashtag funemployed hashtag summer of love

In May, the tech industry and I parted ways under circumstances I am contractually obligated to describe as mutual. Ever since, I’ve been having the greatest summer of my life. The bestie and I drove out to the eastern Sierras to see the wild mustang herds that live up around the Montgomery Pass. The high desert was hock-deep in wildflowers, and we spent three hours one sunny afternoon sitting on a hillside watching the wild horses fight and fuck. Mono Lake looks like the surface of another, possibly better planet, and asks to be further explored.

Then I won a residency at a writer’s center down in Santa Cruz and spent a week alone in a cabin on the edge of the redwoods. There were hummingbirds and mule deer and quail. I’d wake at 6 or 7 as usual, then read for a couple of hours, then have coffee and maybe go for a hike. Then, with only short breaks for meals, I’d draft scenes or type them up until late in the evening. When I got stuck, I’d copy out poems by hand.

I realized that, for longer than I can remember, I have been in an antagonistic relationship with time: late for work, behind on deadlines, scrambling to make as many memories with my kids and parents as I possibly could. Suddenly the days roll out before me, not as ordeals to be endured, but as hours for creative work, hours to hang around with the girls and Jeremy (without whom none of this would be possible), hours to spend at the barn, hours to binge on books.

I always regretted not taking real bereavement leave after Mum and then Dad died. I guess I’m doing it now, just a couple of years late. A friend said: “Your voice sounds lighter.” Idleness becomes me.

i would do a sport for her

“Remember, if he does anything else that makes you uncomfortable, I will rip his head off and play soccer with it. I would do that for you.”

“Yeah, Claire. Mama would play SOCCER for you.”

playing robert miles’ “children” for claire

“This is literally just a kick drum and a synth.”

“In the nineties we didn’t have any musical instruments.”

“Yes you did.”

“We had two skateboards in the entire world. We had to share.”

“Mama.”

“There were only eleven of us.”

“And you were all green.”

“Yes. We were all green.”

five images/second fortnight

Marching in the cold rain, my END WHITE SUPREMACY sign sagging, my husband and children festooned with glowstick necklaces, my city jammed with peaceful protestors from Civic Center to the Ferry Building: Market Street one river of loving souls.

The next day, beyond exhausted, crashed out on the couch; shy Alice making her way up onto my chest, quietly as if I might not notice, then crashing out there with me for most of the afternoon. Her fur from which no light escapes. The soft floof that grows out between her toe beans.

Driving up Bernal Hill with Liz to enjoy the raggedy clouds and dramatic light and rainbows. Stopping in silence at Alex Nieto’s memorial, a landslide of flowers.

An emergency drill at NERT to teach us how to self-organize and keep records. Head down counting people in and out of Logistics as incident after incident came in to Planning and Operations; adrenaline and worry and focus and exhilaration. When we got through it, high-fives all round.

At the exquisitely restored Curran Theatre to see Fun Home with my wife and our kids (it’s great; you should go.) The audience filled with lesbians a generation older than us; the ones who cared for men dying of AIDS; my angels, the saints of our city. May I walk in their sacred footsteps.

five images from the first fortnight of 2017

Catching the night bus to Thoughtworks with Liz so that Danny and Jeremy would meet us at BATS, so that even though I bugged out early because overtired, the people who really needed to be there would be there. Seeing Maciej talk about resisting authoritarianism through solidarity and feeling the hairs rise on the back of my neck, because this is the moment he was born for.

Walking through bucketing rain to visit our neighborhood masjid with Jewish Voices for Peace, and drinking scaldingly hot, sweet chai while our hosts prayed to Allah.

Having a lesson on Sam in the covered arena right at Golden Hour of Barnhenge. The sunlight flooded in over the indigo mountains and spring-green pasture and red-gold autumn trees, and the cantering horses’ hooves reached down to kiss the hooves of their elongated shadows. In other lessons, I am pointing him at higher and higher fences and feeling no fear, just joy in his glad grace, the effortless delight of him. The new footing in both arenas, springy and inviting.

Getting rick-rolled by Nancy Pelosi at the rally to support the Affordable Care Act at City Hall. Never gonna give you up! The glare of bright sunshine, the edged bite of the winter wind.

That same evening, taking a yoga class with Julia and Annie Sprinkle.

there have been good moments

Lots of them, in fact. Snow in Central Park. Laughing, giddy, with Leonard and Sumana and Brendan and Kat and Claire and Julia, saying “What do you wanna do now? Shall we go see that show, what’s it called, the one about Hamilton? Yeah, let’s go see Hamilton!” Sitting around the evening campfires on Diamond Beach, toasting Mum and Dad with gin and tonic and love. Walking into La Sagrada Familia and feeling my knees buckle. Christmas Eve, when we saw the Bernal coyote, her golden eyes, her wild face. And every single moment with Sam Horse, my wisest, kindest teacher since last January 1.

When I went back to church in November, I chose an Episcopalian (Anglican) church because of a dark wave of rage and grief and protest that rose inside me, to the effect that it was my mother’s church and her mother’s church before her, and terrible men tried to take it from me, and they can’t have it, because it’s mine. So too this year. So, too, my life.

adventure time: mountain climbing

As a fan of sunbeams and meadows, I am very much in favor of Mt Tam.

Some of our short roommates share my enthusiasm for these landscapes.

Others find the whole California thing kind of tacky and overdone.

only in new york

Manhattan maintained its tradition of being an exceedingly nice place for us to visit. A few of the lovely things that happened:

– Liz loaned us longjohns so we wouldn’t all die of cold
– Delta gave us all cupcakes for Valentine’s Day, and I got a bottle of pink champagne too
– our hotel randomly upgraded us to a suite
– it snowed the perfect amount, and then the rain washed the slush away
– Leonard gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the NYPL and made sure to point out the Gutenberg Bible, which I would otherwise have missed
– on Monday night, the cast of Hamilton performed at the Grammys and won a Grammy, so that on Tuesday night when we saw the show, everyone was obviously both hungover and super jazzed
– Daveed Diggs signed a $10 bill for Claire at the stage door

A perfect trip, and an ideal birthday present to myself.

adventure time: in the greatest city in the world

The Egyptian wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

The Museum of Modern Art, including my favorite works of art:

The New York Public Library:

Some show or other:

What an unbelievably great and awesome trip; we are so lucky.

adventure time: sausalito

The Week of All the Deathiversaries, which I have taken to calling Shark Week for short, ended with some kind of football game which I resolved to go to the far end of our metropolitan area in order to avoid.

Pretty safe to say that we have, as a family, grown fond of kayaking. Among the floating homes of Sausalito we discovered this round, glassy lagoon. Venice has nothin’ on us.

I would also like to call out this colony of harbor seals for some really fine achievements in lolling.

I like it here.

all hail the executive functions!

Jeremy is in Australia and I am, naturally, bereft, but otherwise hanging with my cats, my children and my children’s recently developed executive functions has been good fun so far. When he is here, Jeremy (as a programmer by definition a member of the proletariat) makes the kids’ school lunches for them, whereas I (having ascended to the managerial class) supervise the children making their own lunches the night before. They’re also pretty competent cooks of simple if eccentric evening meals, such as sweet-corn-with-bacon or this evening’s tentacle-y pasta surprise. Our tastes in media are converging, so we pile onto the sofa to watch and discuss Steven Universe or The Fosters. It is convivial, and it’s a world away from his business trips when they were small. Parents: it gets better!

They’ve both been taking advantage of the time alone with me to grill me on various topics. Today Claire asked about Ireland, and I told her about the great Not-Getting-Into-Oxford fiasco and how well that all turned out in the end, and how picking up how a stray copy of Wired Magazine in Dublin sometime in 1994 led so unexpectedly and wonderfully to San Francisco. Later I made some wild assertion or other and Claire scoffed: “What would you know? You didn’t even get into Oxford.” Later still Julia (and this is a good illustration of how hilariously both the same and different they are) named different people in our family-of-choice and asked exactly why I loved each of them, requiring me to show my work.

“Our children are pretty great,” I texted Jeremy. “Did you know? Why wasn’t I told?”

adventure time: staycationing

Claire is at Star Wars again, Jeremy and Julia are with Yoz and Dexter and I am sitting in the house alone with the kittens and the clothes dryer! Amazing scenes.

I have become the type of mother that keeps a To-do list of holiday activities in Evernote; Ian accuses me of being “improving.” Monday we finished off the Christmas shopping – Desigual had a sale so the children made out like bandits, as you shall see. Tuesday we went ice skating, Wednesday we visited the Winchester Mystery House, which was more interesting than I had expected, and the Tech Museum of Innovation, which was slightly less. God love my little wolf pack, though; they can kill hours in even the most dated of science museums.

Christmas Eve we had lasagne at Jack’s house, and I made a very ugly pavlova; Christmas morning we went out for Claire’s birthday dim sum and then to Ian and Lisa’s for Orphan’s Christmas, where I made a very pretty pavlova. It was all very delicious and satisfactory.

Yesterday we finally made it to MoAD, which has terrific shows by Alison Saar and Kenyatta A. C. Hinkle, all about black women’s bodies and the pressure of history and the thorns and glass and glitter beneath the surface; and to the Contemporary Jewish Museum which had a great show full of robotics and color and light, of which the below was my absolute favorite.

I lay there for a while pretending to be an astrophysicist studying a white dwarf from a ship in zero-G while Jeremy and Julia came and went around me at interesting angles. I’ve checked off not-quite-half the items on my To-do list, and it’s been a terrific holiday.

two homecomings

I spent the week in Vegas for work, which is always deeply strange, like going to a habitat on Mars. You fly in over red wasteland and craters and then everything is under one roof and you never go outside. Except for one walk along the lobby of the convention center after the keynote, I had no direct sunlight for four days. Not good. How can I photosynthesize under these conditions.

It was an indescribable relief to be home, basking in a sun-drenched San-Francisco-in-October day, even if the Blue Angels were roaring overhead, reminding us that our space for progressive pacifism is provisional and may be revoked at any time. Claire spent the same four days at a school camp and I met her at the bus. She was filthy and cheerful. She demanded that I play Hamilton in the car, and she wanted Peruvian for lunch: “Camp food was too bland.” Definitely my kid, then. We had empanadas and lomo saltado and chicken and sweet potato fries and mango lemonade. She told me the camp gossip and I caught her up on our mutual fandoms. Mallory Ortberg discovered Steven Universe, which makes us both very happy.

I missed her in a new way during this separation, not only as my kid but as someone who makes me laugh in her own right, who makes me think. Someone I would want to be friends with anyway.

The city has had a series of almost tastelessly lurid sunsets lately and tonight’s was ablaze.

“The sky is weird colours,” I told Jeremy.

“You’ve been in Vegas,” he said. “You haven’t seen the sky.”

“The sky is colours!”

“The sky!”

(I already used half these jokes on Twitter; sorry about that.)

five things because i’ll probably forget again on friday

1. There is a much longer story about the horse show that I will doubtless tell each of you over a bottle of wine some time, which begins with Nick-the-horse dumping me onto a fence at our Friday lesson, such that his bridle came off and I still have a spectacular bruise on my right butt cheek, moves through a 2-hour drive to get a delightful Dutch breeder named Constanza from the showgrounds to the airport (we are fast friends now and I am invited to her farm outside Utrecht), and ends with me enjoying myself in a show ring for the first time, riding the kind of blissed-out, fluid round we can do at home but never before in front of a judge. “Shit,” Casey reports the trainer standing next to her saying of our performance: “they are laying down some good trips.” We were.

2. Once again I have been puzzlingly overlooked for a Macarthur – perhaps something to do with the fact that I haven’t actually written anything – but I was completely goddamn delighted with two of this year’s picks: my longstanding beloved Ta-Nehisi Coates (have you read his new book yet, why haven’t you read his new book yet), and my new fling Lin-Manuel Miranda. I’ve listened to the cast soundtrack of Miranda’s musical Hamilton approximately one gajillion times since it was released last week. It’s a masterpiece. There’s fine-grained, scintillating brilliance in the detail work, a pattern not so much sequential as unfolding ever outwards, revisiting themes to add nuance and complexity and shadow. But there’s also the straight-up shot to the heart of a staggering story, fiercely told. God, just listen. Trust.

3. Three audiobooks by dudes, of varying quality but interconnecting themes: the Oliver Sacks memoir, and then Laszlo Bock’s book about people ops at Google, and then Vaillant’s account of the Harvard Grant Study. You always think you can’t love Oliver Sacks any more, and then you do. People are so real and present and urgent to him. I wanted to be scathing about Bock but his sincerity and curiosity were hard to resist. (Like Maciej Ceglowski and Sebastian Stan, he grew up a communist; maybe that’s why all three seem to have an inner core of diamond-hard idealism. Easy enough to sneer at freedom when you’ve never been unfree.) Bock’s description of evidence-based everything has the distinction of being the first thing I’ve ever read that gave me the slightest interest in working at Google. Still slight, though. Weirdly, Vaillant’s book has made me yell at the car stereo a lot more than Bock’s did. The Grant study is an extraordinary, 75-year-and-counting longitudinal study of a bunch of college men. With this astonishing wealth of material at his disposal, Vaillant’s mistakes are both egregious (autism, for example, is not a “genetic lack of empathy” and fuck you George for saying that it is) and pervasive. The case studies are quite glorious, almost worthy of Sacks, but the conclusions I draw from them are very different from Vaillant’s. A delicious takedown in the Atlantic paints him as a deeply flawed man.

4. Three books by ladies, of uniformly high excellence: Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up is just as life-changing as advertised. Sparking joy is good but the part that clicked for me is the act of thanking your no-longer-needed belongings for their service. My medicine cabinet has never looked so spare. I put off reading What Works for Women at Work for months, afraid that it would make me feel (more) guilty, but in fact it’s one of the most validating books I’ve read in ages. Jessa Crispin’s Dead Ladies Project documents a sojourn in Europe in search of reasons to live. I am devouring it.

5. How is it even possible that I haven’t blogged about Steven Universe yet? There’s probably a German word for the first time your kid recommends something to you and you pay attention to the thing and you realize, Holy shit, this thing is really good. My kid found a good thing. SU is, for me and Claire, that thing. It’s a love letter from maker Rebecca Sugar to her younger brother, and from both of them to the beach towns where they spent holidays growing up, and to the anime they adore, and it’s also a fully realized world with compassionately drawn, three-dimensional characters. It is beautiful and wise and sane and also hilarious and adorable. It’s a love letter to all of us, and so’s Ta-Nehisi’s book and Lin-Manuel’s show and Oliver’s memoir, and I needed all of them, I needed all the reasons I could possibly find to get out of bed, I literally needed reasons to get back on the horse, and they came when I needed them and I’m so grateful.

hashtag humblebrag

Re-entry has been tough, because apparently all I really want in life is sunshiney France, steak frites, gelato and endless hours with my kids to swim and read frivolous novels.

Now I am back to my mundane life of sunshiney Northern California, high-stakes venture finance and show-jumping.

the separation of church and state and the tour de france

A busy week! We are in Villerouge with the girls’ grandmother and uncles. On Saturday, Christopher and Alicia drove up from Barcelona with their puppy, Tosia. We walked the puppy up to the ruined castle and ate blackberries warm off the bush. We had a lovely dinner together (tomatoes and basil from the garden, grapes warm off the vine) but our visitors had to leave the next morning. We see Chris about once every five years for 24 hours. It’s not enough. I didn’t cry when they left but it was a near thing. Afterwards we all went to Annette’s for a swim.

On Monday I was hell-bent on visiting Carcassonne at last. It was extensively rebuilt in the 19thC by Viollet-le-Duc, who also restored Notre Dame. Carcassonne is only thirty-odd years older than the Eiffel Tower but the Tower looks forwards and Carcassonne looks backwards. It’s a gaudy, inauthentic fantasy that is said to have been an inspiration for Disney. Visiting felt like I imagine Disneyland, which is to say crowded and hot, until we got through to the old keep itself and the crowd thinned and J and I looked at each other and heaved a sigh of relief.

On the way home we visited Lagrasse, a village nestled in a wild limestone gorge. I needed a bathroom, Claire wanted ice cream, J hoped that there might be cassis sorbet and Julia wanted to swim in the river. Lagrasse granted all our wishes in our first five minutes there and has thus endeared itself to me for life. Like Cacassonne, it is a funny melange of old and new. Half its famous Abbey belongs to the state; monks restored and moved back into the other half in 2004. You have to pay to visit both sides but it was worth it – the state kept the spooky medieval parts, but the monks got the cloister and the garden. The garden was fragrant with rosemary and thyme and I missed Skud very much.

Tuesday we rented bikes and rode the Canal du Midi, another thing I’ve wanted to do since I first came here in the ’90s. We rode an 18 mile round trip and the girls were magnificent throughout, each winning their own private Tour de France. Me to Jeremy as we set out: “When did we become the sort of family that does this kind of thing?” J: “About ten minutes ago.” For dinner I roasted a chicken with parsley and rosemary and thyme from the Villerouge garden, and we were all so hungry that we ate up every scrap.

Wednesday was supposed to be a quiet day but the markets in Lezignan were even more crowded than Carcassonne. I bought hats and sundresses for both girls and we went to Jill’s for a swim.

Today J, Claire, Barnaby and I had a road trip out to the Millau Viaduct. Good lord.

All of which sounds frenetic but there have been long quiet spells, driving through the red-earthed vineyards under the limestone cliffs, sitting in the garden listening to the cicadas and the cuckoos. There are moths here big as your thumb, with long probosci to sip nectar from flowers. The insect version of hummingbirds.

notre dame de paris

Yesterday was a lovely, lazy day full of serendipity. Our regular breakfast cafe had a broken coffee machine so we strolled on until we found La Rose de France on Place Dauphine and had a breakfast so splendid and beautifully presented that we fully expected it to be ridiculously expensive, but it came to less than ten Euros per head. I mean seriously, Julia’s pyramidal tea bags alone should have cost that much.

Then we visited Notre Dame, which was beautiful and creepy, and then we had ice cream from Berthillon as everyone had urged us to do and how very right you all were, and then we wandered through the Marais until we stumbled across Au Petit Versailles du Marais again, so we had lunch there and the baguettes brought tears to my eyes, so soft and sweet were they. We revisited the Centre Pompidou and went to the cat cafe and then Jeremy went to the Corbusier and Mona Hartoum exhibits while the children and I bought sandals and found ourselves passing La Dernier Bar avant la Fin du Monde, which Ada had strongly recommended, so we went in there as well.

It was all delicious and happy until we got back to the apartment and Liz texted me “Rach – are you ok -” and I had to sit down because nothing good ever starts that way.

Our friend Nóirín was a pretty special person.

cité des sciences

We braved the Metro (Jeremy deftly blocking a pickpocketing attempt) out to Parc de la Villette to visit the Cité des Sciences et l’Industrie, which according to Wikipedia is the biggest science museum in Europe. It is pretty big! We bought tickets to all the temporary exhibitions, which was a bit of a misstep because the permanent exhibitions were exquisite and we didn’t get to spend anywhere near enough time with them.

As we were touring the Argonaut, a decommissioned submarine, I got mail from the neuroscientist in London who is writing the case study about Dad’s blog. We had hoped to move Dad’s brain to a brain bank for further study but unfortunately this won’t be possible. The neuroscientist reassured us that although Dad’s brain has already been embalmed and used to train surgeons, the resulting anatomical report will still be very helpful in establishing the diagnosis of fronto-temporal dementia.

Dad used to take us to the Observatory and the Australian Museum and the Powerhouse and its precursor, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, all the time. He took us to Taronga and Western Plains Zoo and Tidbinbilla and Parkes. His factory built fire control systems for the Collins Class submarine. He would have loved the Cité. I feel a space where grief should be. Proposed Site for Grief. What happened to Dad is so huge and terrible I can’t even get there yet. All I have is these tiny, inadequate glimmers of what he was. Of all that we have lost.

city of light meals

A cool change blew through on our first night, thank the gods. The jetlagged girls couldn’t sleep, so I went out and lay on the sofa bed with them until the “Mama Bear is here” signal overwhelmed the “STRANGE ROOM” alarm in their reptile brains. Then I couldn’t sleep, so I climbed back in with Jeremy and his “Papa Bear” signal overwhelmed mine.

Saturday we found Kirsty outside the Louvre Pyramid, exchanged many kisses and saw the Nike of Samothrace (better than I ever dreamed), the Venus de Milo (quite lovely) and the Mona Lisa (whatevs.) I adored the Roman Egyptian mummy portraits and we all loved the Islamic art. I decided that Christian art is mostly sentimental rubbish. Jeremy says I’m going through a phase.

We had an insanely delicious lunch at the Bistro Richelieu. I had the confit de canard. It was the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.

We only see Kirsty every few years but on each occasion it is as though no time has passed.

Dinner at Vin et Terroir with Kirsty’s friends Justin and Peter. I had the lentil soup, which was the best thing I have ever put in my mouth. Sunday we did a little more Louvre, swung by the Musee d’Orsay and the Orangerie (Monet is amazing) and crossed paths several times with the end of the Tour de France. Hurrah for the sportspokes! Dinner at a City Crepes, where the grownups became perhaps too merry upon cider.

Today we walked across Ile St Louis to the Centre Pompidou.

Jeremy first went there when he was Claire’s age, and last time we visited, pre-kids, he said that if he ever did have children, he wanted to take them there.

They loved it. Renzo Piano also built the Cal Academy, their favorite place in SF, and Jan and Richard’s house was always full of bent wood furniture and Matisse prints, so it must have felt like home. Jeremy went into a full-on Art Dad fugue state and we stormed around for hours. (Matisse is amazing.)

Then we went to Au Petit Versailles du Marais for Kirsty’s farewell meal, which, wah. I wish London was closer to San Francisco. Saying goodbye is boring.

Julia ordered, and I finished, the Pyramid, a structure of passionfruit mousse with an apricot center and a macaroon base. It was the best thing I have ever put in my mouth.

getting a friday five in early

1. A recycled Twitter joke: I posted this last Tuesday and my friend Matthew asked whether the Kaiju were under water, so I said that they were, and that this picture was taken from Jeremy’s and my Jaeger, the Frock Advisory. Seriously, though, look at my beautiful city.

2. My big brother Alain arrived on Thursday and is now an essential member of the household and may not leave. We went out for margaritas with a bunch of folks on Saturday and all got thoroughly roaring and ordered Pizzahacker on the way home. Danny converted Al to the cult of Ingress and now he is part of the Resistance, firing energy weapons into interdimensional portals as he walks around the Mission. (It cracks me up that every technolibertarian and privacy activist I know is in thrall to this sinister surveillance weapon of a game.)

3. Nick-the-horse and I had a lesson with Colin in the Grand Prix arena and, in between very embarrassing refusals, jumped up to a meter ten. It’s the very lowest level of jumping that anyone takes remotely seriously, it’s my goal height and it scared the living crap out of me. But we jumped it. It turns out that my snuggly goober Nicky Boo Bear is an imported Dutch Warmblood from a stallion line that has produced (notoriously badly-behaved) Grand Prix horses in both jumping and dressage. A frog prince.

4. Jeremy and I went to NASA Ames to wait for the New Horizons spacecraft to phone home. That’s us in front of the beautiful Hangar One.

I love NASA as I love national parks and missile silos converted into marine mammal rescue centers, which is to say, immoderately. They kept describing the spacecraft as the size of a grand piano, so now that is how I picture it, a golden Steinway hurtling through the dwarf planet system, exploring strange new worlds, boldly going. A scientific instrument.

5. Ta-Nehisi’s new book is amazing.