Words I Love: Third in a Series

Ogle.  Now there’s a great word.  With everyone now knowing how to pronounce Google, you might think that ogle is pronounced as if you simply chopped off the first bit of Google.  But, alas, it is not.  It sounds like “hog”.  Ogle is a strange looking word, as if it should be about something ugly or weird.  It does have a kind of Jekyl and Mr. Hyde nature, in that you can ogle someone in a nice way (flirtatiously) or in a super creepy stalker way (think that dead eye stare that fighters give one another when they are sizing each other up before the match.)  Either way, I love it.

My other word I love that I used a lot this weekend is goggle.  It sounds just like what it is.  Funny looking and mildly Germanic (in both the tone and how the item is highly functional).

Which brings me to agog, the love child of oogle and goggle.  To be agog means you are in a “state of eager desire.”  Oooh, yummy.   Sort of half off your rocker with excitement being curious about something.  It’s a good one, folks.

Be agog today.


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Oh, Those Shoes!

The little old lady had killer shoes on.  Grey high heel booties, sculptural and sleekly modern.  They weren’t stilettos, but I’m telling you, they were up there and I coveted them on the spot.  I couldn’t help but notice them because one, she was walking across the street right in front of me, and two, she also had on a pretty car coat and some sort of dress without stockings, so the booties stood out at the end of her legs.   She walked into the Tyler Florence kitchen/food store, and I was t-h-i-s close to parking the car and going in after her to ask for a photograph.

You see, I have a thing for shoes, but even more than that, I have a thing for people being interesting.  Going their own way.  Being lemmingless.  This was one interesting woman, I could just tell, because what kind of footwear she had chosen.

There are a few things in life that make you happy just by donning them, and shoes, my people, are one of those things.

I can’t help juxatapose another little old lady viewing in town, but this time she was sitting on the sidewalk, surrounded by young men in uniforms.  She was right there near the pedestrian walkway that links the Safeway to the Redwoods where a whole lot of interesting older people live.  Every Friday a whole heap of them come out with folding chairs and tambourines and drums and guitars and signs and ask people to honk for peace.  The split second snapshot I got of this woman (as I drove by in my car) was a frail little old lady looking relieved as a fireman cradled her head.  She either had wilted or fallen on the spot, and the siren from the approaching paramedics meant more help was on the way.

As I turned my car towards home, I had one of those moments when I considered what it would be like to be both the woman down on the street and then in the next moment, the stylish gal with the crazy boots on.  You can guess who I wanted to be.  And how, when I erased that vision and realized I have a lot of living between now and either of those two scenarios, that in homage to the one lady, I should always embrace wearing stylish shoes.

As if I needed another reason.

(And those shoes?  Why John Fluevog, my hero.)

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The View From the Top

This blog is about inspiration, basically.  I write about what moves me, whether it is something beautiful, silly, tragic, or just … well … something.  I hope that my mutterings are interesting, and I try to keep them concise.  After all, writing should be enjoyed, not endured.

So it’s the beginning of the year, and I am full of promise and promises.  Yes, that means I worked out this morning, by taking the dog up to the ridge after I dropped my boy at school.   Actually he jumped out of the car at the stoplight, hopped on his skateboard, and pumped toward the middle school.

All action.  All the time.  It’s what boys do.

I tried to mimic his energy up on the ridge, with the idea that I would run up the hills and walk down the back side.  You know, get the steep awful stuff out of the way as fast as possible by putting my head down and trying to forget, for a brief period, that everything in my body hurt.  The pay off, if you can call it that, comes at the top, when the pumping is over but the pain is not.   I look at my shoes a lot during this period.  And pant.

But then the pain passes.   Disintegrates like a foggy windshield heated by the defroster.   That’s when I look up and enjoy the leisurely walk down the back side, taking in the view of Mt. Tam and the houses snuggled in the green trees.

Janine and Alan are running up some steep hills lately.   And they inspire me because of it.  My wish for them in this new year – and for all of us really – is that the inexplicable grace of life sets on their shoulders and allows them, and their sweet son Mason, to walk leisurely down the back side, taking in the view.

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It’s the Middle of the Night

Why is the bathroom light on?  Why is the bathroom light on when I can hear snoring next to me?   Is Hans awake for some reason?  No, he’s right there in his bed.  So why is the bathroom light  on?  That’s weird.  Wait, there’s a light on downstairs too.  Jeeez.  AND the Christmas tree lights?  Power outage.  Anders is mumbling something about a power outage around midnight.  Man, people are going to be late for work and school tomorrow.  Glad I have one of those battery operated alarm clocks.  Don’t want those electro magnetic waves all up in my brain as I sleep.  Sleep?  Yeah, that would be nice.  Maybe if I roll over onto my side and tuck in the cool side of the pillow I will fall back to sleep.  I wonder what Sophie would like for Christmas?  I mean those gift cards are great for kids, because who do I think I am picking out something for a teenager?  I wonder if they even liked what I got them last year.  That was a nice shop I visited last year when I got her gift.  What in the world is blinking in my office?  Why does my printer blink like that?  And then pause, and then start blinking again?  I just saw those electro power off devices in the drawer in the kitchen today.  I wonder how much current and kilowatt hours those things draw during the night?  We have a SmartMeter now, and so I should probably do something about that.  Yes.  Definitely.  Tomorrow I will pull out those auto power shut off things from the kitchen cabinet and put my 2 phones in the office and that silly blinking printer … there it goes again … and the computer on one of those things.  And when I go to bed and GO TO SLEEP I will turn it off.  Well, actually, I could do that when I leave the office for the day.  Yeah.  I’ll do that tomorrow.  But what about the Airporter wifi that is right below Hans’ bed downstairs.  That article talked about that being bad for kids brains … and it is right below Hans’ bed.  Yeah, need to do the same thing with all that stuff downstairs.  Then when Anders COMES TO BED at night, he can turn it off when he comes up stairs.  Maybe if I find some velcro and put it right there by the light switch when he comes up stairs for the last time, he can just flick it off.  He won’t remember.  He’s going to think I’m a freak.  But that article.  Maybe if I show him that article.  What the heck is blinking on my ceiling.  That was a blink, right?  I’m not just seeing things?   I should roll over.  Yeah, I’ll roll over and snuggle with Anders, who is snoring so softly.  And there goes Roxy, with her long drawn out sigh.  How cute.  I should record that somehow.  How could I do that?  Bring a recorder to bed, and just record the silence? She’ll do it at some point.  I wish I had more sounds of Hans when he was little.  I should tell Cammie that.  Record the baby.  For old times sake.  They’re both asleep.  This feels night to be snuggling.  But I’m still awake.  Really really awake.  I always think this position will be good.  Like, how many times do I think this will feel good enough to fall asleep, but it never does.  Never does.  I’ve got to turn over on my right side, away from him, and tuck that comforter under my chin just so.  Or maybe on my back.  Yeah, let’s try the back.  What is blinking up there?  That is definitely a blink.  Fire alarm.  Yeah, cooking those pork chops tonight set of the fire alarm.  Crazy loud, that thing is.  I need to remember this year to get Kim something cool for Christmas.  Every year she does something nice for me and I don’t have anything for her.  God, that makes me feel stupid.  Can’t do that this year.   It feels nice that I have good friends.  Cammie is such a natural.  I mean, when she scooped up Jade like that and started tickling her?   Should I just get up? Pee.  I’ll go pee and this will be better.  And put on some lotion.  This bed is hot.  I have too many covers on.  What time is it?  Where is my clock? I bed Anders grabbed it before he went to bed. I hope he did, otherwise I never wake up in the morning.  Is that rain on the skylight above the bed?  Yup, definitely a bit of rain?  And some wind.  Why don’t I hear my wind chimes.  Isn’t that funny?  Thomas hates wind chimes … Tomorrow I’ll have to go and make sure they’re not wrapped up in the tree.  No.  Can’t hear them at all.  I can barely even hear the fish pond.  These double insulated windows are the best.  Really do their job. Keep the noise out.  I should probably get another fish for that poor lonely gold fish in the pond.  I mean, one day he’s got a mate, and the next day … blam … raccoon and no more friend.  He’s probably in some state of suspended animation because it’s getting cold now.  Where is Hans’ winter coat?   I wonder what time it is, really?  Why aren’t more people buying my book?  I should do more events.  And did those post cards that I sent out, I wonder if that woman is putting them out.  I need to call her.  Tomorrow.  I’ll call her tomorrow.  Ooop.  More rain.  Sounds nice.  Now THERE are the wind chimes.  Ok.  They aren’t hooked around the tree. That’s good.  I won’t need to fix that.  Should I do a Christmas card this year? It’s been a while.  Why can he snore like that?  Left side.  Try the left side.  Cannot drink tea like that at 3 pm.  I mean, stupid.  So stupid to do that.  Did I turn on the dishwasher before I went to bed?  I think so.  Oh no… did I put Hans new hat into the dryer?  I don’t think I saw it … because that is wool, right?  I think it’s wool.  And it would suck to shrink it.  I could put in a load of laundry, because with that Smart Meter it’s cheaper to do laundry at night.  Off peak. Yeah, this is definitely off peak.  Middle of the night, off peak.  How can he be sore asleep?  What is wrong with me.  This is not going away.  I should turn on the light and read.  But that might wake him up.  No.  No. It won’t wake him up.  I mean, listen to him.   Out.  He’s out.   Favorite position.  Go to the favorite position to sleep and just lie there.  And close your eyes.  You always tell Hans to close his eyes to sleep.  Can’t sleep with your eyes open.  I’m sure someone can sleep with their eyes open.  That mango was very ripe.   Maybe a book on … what … what would the girls like for Christmas.  Monkey mind. Monkey mind.  I should just get up.  This is stupid.  I should get up and do something.  Maybe I should get up and write about this.  Maybe.  Then maybe I’ll be really sleepy.  Finally.  And then I can go back to sleep.  Yeah.  That’s what I’ll do.


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The Giving Spirit

This is a story of a woman taking things into her own hands.  I like women like this.  I particular like this woman, because what she took into her own hands was my book.  And specifically, getting my book into other people’s hands.

I want to share this story for a few reasons.  Because this woman is so cool, and she deserves the props.  But more importantly, I’m sharing this because I hear every day from people who say they love the book … wait for it … but they have no funding.

I had such a conversation not very long ago with Sharon Leslie, a onco physical therapist from the Bay Area.   She had found out about my book when a girlfriend she works with showed her the copy I had dropped off.  Sharon listens to women “constantly” talking about their anguish over their treatment and their children.  So she did something to bring together the women in need with the book she thought got it so right.

Here is what she did.

  1. Sharon hosted a party at her home one night.  You know, a couple bottles of wine, some very nice nibbles and sweet things.  (She even invited me over for dinner beforehand, so I got to meet her whole family!)
  2. She invited to this party her girlfriend Liz who sells Silpada jewelry (www.silpada.com), which is just like www.stellaanddot.com.
  3. She asked if that girlfriend would donate 25% of her receipts from that night to buying my book.  The jewelry saleswoman was delighted to do that.  After all, she was going to sell a bunch of jewelry that night, and who wouldn’t want to help support other women going through a tough time.
  4. She then invited about 100+ girlfriends to the party (about 50 did come).    A night out.  Shopping for themselves.  Or for gifts for birthdays or holidays.  And knowing that their shopping is going to help support other women.
  5. She also put out a basket for straight donations, if people just wanted to support the idea of giving money to purchase books.

I went to the party that night, because it was in Los Altos, about an hour away from my house.  I signed 14 books that night for different guests who wanted to give them to personal friends.   Combining the $1,285 from the “straight donation” basket, and the 25% of jewelry sales resulted in 181 MORE books.    Sharon now gets the pleasure of handing out my book to anyone she thinks could use it.  No strings attached.

It’s such a fantastic idea and a 5-way win that I just had to share it.  May it inspire more such events!

Win:  for the books.  They get to work.

Win:  for Sharon because she gets to hand out a book to someone in need RIGHT THEN AND THERE when the need arises.

Win: for the Liz, because she gets to sell her goods and feel really good about donating some of that windfall to a great cause.

Win: for the friends shopping, because not only do they get the chance to go shopping in a unique way, but a portion of their purchase goes to help other women.  That they’ve never met.  But could be just like them.

And finally a big ‘ol win:  for the women with cancer.  Because there is nothing so wonderful as an unanticipated gift that will help you deal with something so very important and difficult.

So three cheers for Sharon Leslie, who took life into her own hands and has made a huge difference in the lives of close to 200 women and their families.




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Crash & Burn

A cautionary tale.

Laptop computer with long powercord stretched taut.  Child moving at high speed.  Flying computer.  Little bits of data scrambled on the screen.

Back up your data.  (Thank god this wasn’t my computer … but I’m sorry for my husband …)


Filed under Dead things

Cute. Really?

My soulful, piercing, disconsolate, smirking boy, Hans.

Having just witnessed the ball of fury that is this performance from Katie Makkai (yes, please click this link and watch the video first), I find myself wanting to give her a giant hug.  And not for the reason you might think.

Katie gets words like I get words.   She can, of course, also memorize a whole hell of a lot of them in a row, and deliver those words with such bravery and sincerity and force (and levity) that I can only sit here and wonder.

But her performance, combined with the mosh pit sample sale I visited this morning in the lobby of a business here in Mill Valley, has compelled me to write today about the word “cute”.

What a horribly overused little word.

Women shopping, no matter if they are responding to shoes or baby clothes or dishes, will nine times out of 10, utter the word when describing what they see.  Today I experienced a public bathroom that was being used as a dressing room for athletic wear, and right on cue, when a woman pulled on a top and turned to ask for feedback, the chorus would warble: “Oh, that’s so cute.”

You can hear it, can’t you?

I’d like to emphatically state that perhaps, just perhaps, a white cotton yoga top is not cute.  In fact, to my mind, precious few things are cute.  Baby animals might be the only true cute things in this world.    The yoga top in question was well-fitting.  I thought the design was unique, although it had a strange way of framing the woman’s boobs.  Her girlfriend did mention that, but still deemed it “cute.”

“Really?” said the wearer, doubtful.

How can a sex-kitten high-heel shoe be cute at the same time an Ugg boot is?  It can’t.  A sexy shoe is hot, or makes a woman look like a vixen.  It is fetching.  Or bad, said in a way that takes three seconds for that word to leave your mouth.  “Oh, girrl, that shoe is baaaad.”  Which means, of course, that the shoe is very good.

What I’m getting at is sometimes one word just won’t do it.  You need a good slew of them, to round out exactly how you feel.  As Hans is struggling to use interesting verbs to describe his writing, I am cheering for unique adjectives to seep into his storytelling.

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The Tipping Point

I am in a very interesting bitter/sweet position right now.  My work, this book that I’ve written, is, like a trickle of a river just being born, seeping away from Mill Valley.  There are some parched people out there.  People who wished they had it when.  People who know someone who needs it now.  People who are about to lose it all, and can’t imagine life on the other side.   They tell me their stories.  My very wise girlfriend tells me, “You’re allowing them to birth their grief.”

Yes.  Airing out our grief is part of what we need to do.  It’s as normal and healthy as filling our lungs with air to breathe.  But oh, why is it so hard sometimes?

I am struck by how I am at the nexus of all this emotion, and yet I am a person who doesn’t exactly emote.  And by that I don’t mean that I don’t feel, it’s just that I have a tight seal on that bubbling pot.  Before I went into therapy after I was diagnosed, the volcano would erupt every so often, and I’d be shocked at what came out.   Like who knew your throat could hurt so much with such a short yet vicious spitting of words?  Or how your whole body gets involved when anger comes out.  Sometimes, not every often at all, it was sadness and the relief from just letting it all go, and sobbing because that is exactly what every pore of your body longs to do.  To expel.  To empty.  To let it all down.

I’ve written, because I’ve been asked, of what piece of advice I’d give friends of someone who is diagnosed.  And I’ve cleverly said that even more than my book, the gift that every cancer patient (and in fact any human being in any situation good or bad) wants is for you to listen.  Just listen.

People, it is hard to listen sometimes.  It takes a certain amount of self control.  You have to not interject what you want to say, and instead just receive what that person has to give.  Sometimes it’s over in a minute.  Other times, it will take half the night.  Or 3 weeks.  Or a year.

I’ve had a number of pretty heavy conversations as of late, spanning topics and situations.  Because, that is life.  It’s sticky and messy and oh, oh, oh so confusing sometimes.  We all just want to live in peace, and that is true whether there is some foreign thing attacking us from the inside out, or a relationship that is just not firing on all cylinders like we wish it should, or a job that no matter how hard we try to make it work, it’s just not behaving.   Children.  Husbands.  Health.  Stuff.


I’d be lying if I said I am a good listener.  I am a doer.  I want to fix.  And although I just spent all those words saying that one really must just listen, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that sometimes I have this need to wade into the deep end with people.

Because if all you’re doing is being a sounding board, and you maybe have something to say that might change things (even the tinest bit), maybe that interaction or interjection could be the tipping point for change.  Because, you know, things do tip.  It may be something you read that offers a different perspective.  Or a comment from a friend that makes you ponder for a moment your position.  Or a stranger.  Maybe you’ve been teetering on a decision, and all you need is that featherlight tap to hurl you into an action that will change your life.

I just recently learned that the act of speaking raises our blood pressure from 10 to 50%.  The act of listening?  Lowers it.  So with our overall health in mind, both physical and mental, here’s to listening to each other.  What we fear.  What we hope for.  What we wish our life could be like.

Let’s listen anew.


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Being Bald

Boy, if I didn’t already know that you don’t get what you don’t ask for, I certainly have been learning that in spades lately.

Having come from a family of “Oh, I don’t want to be a bother” and “You don’t have to if you don’t really want to,” it’s taken some getting used to this idea of promoting oneself.  Like it doesn’t come naturally.  At all.

I have to be reminded by my pr savvy girlfriends that I’m trying to do good work, and part of how I can help others is by shouting from the tallest branch with the most authentic message.  And shouting a lot.  Or maybe whistling.  Or making a video that rocks the shizzocks.

So there I was at the Zero Breast Cancer Dipsea Hike event the other Sunday, having been convinced by my one girlfriend to set up a table and at least hike the course.  So I did what I was told.  I set up my little card table, put out copies of my book, and stood behind it with my cup of coffee in my hands and a big smile on my face.  I sold 2, count ’em, 2 copies that day.  One to a teacher of young kids from Tahoe and another to a nice woman who kept tearing up when she looked at the pictures.

Not exactly a spike in sales.  But I have heard of such things, from other authors, who have talked of book signings where nobody shows up.   (Ouch!)

So I’m standing there post hike, and I notice that there is a woman who looks familiar not because she is a friend of a friend, but because I know she is on television.  Somewhere.  I know it.  And as I try to watch her without staring, her name pops into my head:  Gayle King.  That’s it, it’s Gayle King.  I know she is a television news reporter from San Francisco.   In that moment, my PR mavens jump on my shoulder and start whispering into my ear.

“Go talk to her, Sue”

“Give her a copy of your book.”

“It’s perfect.  This is a breast cancer event and you have a breast cancer book.”

I watch as she winds down from the run, as she peruses a table of free swag from another vendor, and as she goes and gets food to eat.  I try to do the mind meld where I ask her mentally to come over to my table, but that doesn’t work.  I even mention to my friends next to me, “Hey, that’s Gayle King, and she’s on tv.  Should I go and tell her about my book?”    They of course encourage this action on my part.

So, what the hell, I think.  And I grab a book, a business card, my proverbial nuts, and stride over to Gayle who is sitting in a chair flanked by some friends.

I don’t lead with “Hi, my name is Sue, ” or “Excuse me, I have something I’d like to share with you.”  I lead with “Is your name Gayle?”, which it turns out, is NOT her name.  She doesn’t offer her name, which is absolutely her right but leaves me with this terribly horrid feeling that I must have either a) thought she was someone famous and she isn’t or b) that she IS that famous person but she would rather not talk to some half-sweaty stranger obviously interested in showing her something.   The Not-Gayle woman tells me that if I’m looking for someone named Gayle, the women at the finishing table might be able to tell me whether she has come in from the hike yet.   And so I thank her for that information, and in another awkward moment decide on my next move.

“Well, I’m here, and you’re obviously moved in some way to support breast cancer awareness because you’re here, so let me show you what I’ve done.”

Thus ensued the pulling out of the book, which one of her friends asked to see and started to read with a couple of the other women.  Not-Gayle said that this is an important issue, and clearly a pretty book, and I said something about how I thought she was on television and that’s why I came to share it with her.  And that’s when she said,

“I am on television.”

And then I wanted to vomit.  Because that’s when she told me her name is Dana King, and I looked at her and her friends and smiled and realized in that split second that Gayle King is Oprah’s friend and not the Emmy-winning anchor of the CBS news affiliate in San Francisco that I was currently talking to.

So.  It blows when you make a fool of yourself.  But here’s the thing.  Dana ended up telling me that she would take the book and give it to one of the medical reporters at KPIX to check out, because “it’s breast cancer awareness month in October” and everyone is looking for an angle.  And indeed Dr. Kim Mulvihill called me a week later to ask if she could come and interview me, which she is doing next week.  When I told her about how I’d majorly blown Dana’s name, she said that Dana hadn’t mentioned that, and that she in fact had said that I was quite nice, which, Kim pointed out, is not always the way that famous people are approached at events.

So note to self.  Don’t think you know someone’s name.  Offer yours and go from there.  And sometimes being bald has nothing to do with how much hair you have on your head.  That Sunday, I was totally bald and just cloaked in my embarrassment.


Filed under Just something ..., Stupid things

My Little Buddy

This is my scooter, Buddy.  Really.  Of all the names, the manufacturer who was clearly gunning for the Vespa crowd, picked the name Buddy.  So friendly.  And cuddly.

It is rather a contradiction that I own a scooter.    I think that motorcycles are really dangerous, and I would never allow my son to ride one.

However, I know that there is nothing finer than riding on a scooter when the weather is hot.  And I am very happy to throw Hans on the back of mine and trot him off to soccer practice or school.

At Stanford, I drove a scooter around, and actually got my ONLY moving violation to date, because I didn’t turn off the ignition when I passed the concrete bollards that marked the area where motor vehicles could not go past.  When I coasted up to the music building, one of the campus cops on a motorcross bike was there to hand me a ticket.  I mean, I was coasting.  It was ridiculous.   The scooter was lent to me by my boyfriend at the time, a big old football player that didn’t relish the idea of peddling around campus.  I loved to put on headphones, listen to  “She Sells Sanctuary” by The Cult at full blast, and drive around the campus at night.

I think this is part of my “have fun with life” mantra, tempered by driving slow and always having my left thumb squarely on the horn button.   When I drove up to soccer practice the other day to pick up Hans, one of the kids looked at the scoot, then at his dad, and said, “Awww Dad, why did you get rid of your motorcycle?”

“Because I wanted to watch you grow up,” the dad replied.

Funny, I had the same feeling when I was diagnosed.  That I desperately wanted to watch Hans grow up. But somehow I don’t equate riding this souped up 10-speed with putting my life on the line.

Maybe it’s a male thing.

Or maybe I already understand that my life is always on the line, even when I’m being careful.

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