02 July 2010

Out with the old, in with the new.

Well, folks (those of you who still check this blog), I am dusting off my untouched keyboard and having a go at--yes, that's right--a brand new blog. Holes in my Rainbows is officially closed for business. Thank you to anyone who's read any of it, even though almost none of you comment (ahem), it means everything to me to think of you there, taking the time to read what I've taken the time to write. I hope you'll stay with me. It's time for a change, a fresh start, a clean slate--whatever you want to call it. I will now be blogging here.
So change your feeds, your readers, your following. Bookmark it, memorize it, love it, because it will be better. And I will actually post on this one. That's a promise. I hope you'll read and hold me accountable, so I don't have a choice but to stay with it. Holes in my Rainbows will still be there gathering dust in case you want to revisit anything I've written in the past, but for now let's set our eyes ahead of us. Let's see what happens.

31 March 2010

Short Distance Water Conduct

In lieu of finding blog-worthy things in the suburban limbo in which I currently exist, here is a glimpse into the life of a swim teacher (me). It's almost impossible to describe these kids (or in some cases, adults) as they test out unfamiliar waters, some wild and uninhibited, melting seamlessly with the aquatic world, and some stiff and unnatural, paralyzed by fear.

There's the 4-year-old Indian boy who stands on the deck, his toes clinging to the edge of the pool, willing himself to leap into my waiting arms in the 3 1/2 feet of water below. Instead he just hops in place when I say "Jump!" Trepidation keeps him from stepping forward on his own into the water he'd already been swimming in for half an hour. He can only get himself to hop once or twice and then stumble backward, saying, "I can't do it! I am jumping!" When he does go for it, he clings to me with the pinching, clawing fingers of an animal outside his element.

In another class I teach a boy the same age, who seems to be trying to fuse his very molecules with the shifting water. He is weightless, fearless, and does not listen. He's constantly submerged, opening his eyes and mouth, trying to fill himself with the swirling freedom and fluidity that this unearthly environment provides.

Then there's the little girl who can't grasp the concept of blowing bubbles. She'll begin to lower her face to the water, exhaling, exhaling, her tiny mouth curled to release only the slightest whisper of air, and then as soon as her lips reach the surface she opens wide and with a quick and mighty inhalation, fills her delicate lungs with water.

A 6-year-old, new to swim lessons, carefully tried lowering her mouth, then nose, then eyes into the water, and before long she was gliding off the steps, kicking and emboldened and strong. Half-way through her first day, she suddenly started cheering, "I love swimming lessons! This is the best day of my life!" Success.

The other day I spent a delightful 30 minutes with a teenage girl with Down syndrome. Her favorite thing to do was go under water together, sit on the bottom, then wave at each other before twirling around in circles, coming up for air, and doing it again. Again and again. She stared at me through her enormous snorkel goggles and I marveled at the pure silence surrounding us, the simplicity of the moment. It was the kind of fun most people of a certain age don't allow you to have.

At the end of that day I swam back and forth across the deep end with a bookish 9-year-old boy who loved to chat. We discussed butterfly kick, and after giving it a quick try, he returned to the wall and proclaimed that, after backstroke, butterfly kick was his "favorite short distance water conduct." This is a direct quote. I laughed and commented on his choice of words and, after swimming another lap, he popped his head up and said, "If you're wondering about my vocabulary, it's probably like that because I spend 99% of my time reading books above my grade level. Mostly fiction."

29 March 2010

Hey! It's Monday.

Most of the time I think my life is boring. My life in the suburbs, anyway. The two days of the week that find me strutting around the Mission District in my trendy flats and long necklaces, helping kids write about leopards and the color of their skin, and rubbing elbows with members of the San Francisco literary community are supreme exceptions.

But that's just two days a week. The rest of the time I am here. Oh so very much here. Suburbia. Where women drive monster truck SUVs with license plates that say things like MALL HPR. This place with its shopping centers and strip malls and people who all look the same, this place where folks only interact with their neighbors in a timid glance when their cars are stopped at the same red light, this place. Unique in some great ways, but impossibly drab in many others.

I've been busy here, and bored in spite of that. Lately, though, I've realized that if you think your life is boring, it's probably because you are boring. So strip malls or no strip malls, here's to keeping things interesting.

21 February 2010

Spring Thaw

Hi! Remember me? I'm the girl who used to update this blog.

Holes in my Rainbows has been hibernating during the cold California winter, and while I can't promise anything, it looks like maybe, maybe, some posts are about to blossom. Again, though, no promises.

With honest optimism, however, I do give you these photos I took last weekend. Evidence that Spring, sweet green and warm and light, is on its way.

16 January 2010

Shiver me timbers!

Loyal readers, I am thrilled and altogether delighted to announce my most recent pursuit as a shiny new intern for the San Francisco nonprofit 826 Valencia. It's a writing center in the mission district that provides free and spectacularly fun help to kids ages 6-18 in all their literary endeavors (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, basically any form of expression with the written word).  This includes drop-in after school homework help; field trips in which a class collaborates on a story that is illustrated and published on the spot for them to take home; workshops taught by professionals in the field on things like publishing, graphics and journalism; and full-blown book projects in which students can see their work in print and for sale through major booksellers across the country.

The place also doubles as a fully equipped pirate supply store complete with peg leg sizing charts, scurvy begone, and belly of whale escape kits. They also sell publications of student work and all proceeds benefit the writing center. In case any of this interests you, they do take online orders. In fact, as a trusty intern, I just may be the one to package and ship it off to you!

826 Valencia was started in 2002 in part by author Dave Eggers who has taken the literary world by storm in the last decade. You may recognize him from his bestselling memoir "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," his highly acclaimed novel "What is the What" about a Sudanese refugee, and his most recent book "Zeitoun," a nonfiction narrative about a Syrian-American family in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He also co-wrote the screenplay for "Where the Wild Things Are" with Spike Jonze, and "Away We Go" with his wife, Vendela Vida. See him talk here, with infectious enthusiasm, about starting 826 Valencia, which has since spawned locations in New York, Boston, Michigan, Chicago, Seattle and LA.

So now you know where I'll be every Tuesday and Thursday for the next few months! It's a perfect hyprid of nonprofit programming, education, and literary arts. Despite the commute into the city and the lack of wages (they are a nonprofit, after all), I am overjoyed to be involved, and to learn a few things along the way. I'll just have to keep this online pirate glossary I found handy when writing copy for the website. Now haul wind ye bilge rats!

04 January 2010


We put our dog to sleep two days before Thanksgiving. Euthanized her, rather. Put her to sleep? Euphemized her.

She was old. Cadi (pronounced like Katie). Fourteen or so. It was a difficult decision because, technically speaking, she wasn't really ill. She had arthritis and trouble getting up the stairs. Sometimes her legs just failed her completely. She was stiff, tired. In more pain than she let on, the vet said. She was almost totally deaf. She'd started pooping in the house almost every day. It was what it was. Her dignity and quality of life were running out.

It's been over a month, but I don't think we're used to her absence. In her old age she slept 23 hours a day, so we hardly noticed her anyway. But she was there. Always there. Sprawled sideways on the carpet, in a nearly unconscious sleep with her pink eyelids slightly open, her toes twitching every so often. She always retained the air of a puppy, the soft coat she had from the beginning. Other than her creaking bones and rotting gums, it was as though she never aged.

For a couple of weeks my parents joked about how it's sad that she's gone but at least there's no more dog shit to pick up! I'd shake my head at their insensitivity, but I realized this was probably harder on them than any of us. I know they are glad to be freed of dog poop duty, but I do wonder if they joke because they feel the sting of loss more acutely. They were here all along, after all. As the rest of us moved on, came and went, my parents fell asleep every night to the light breathing of a faithful companion on the floor by their bed.

My mom, my brother and I took Cadi to the vet for her final visit with the kind Dr. Kapty. My dad refused to go. Said he couldn't do it. My mom and I have done this a few times with earlier pets. There was Lily, the old springer spaniel we rescued from the pound. Our first dog. She was the sweetest thing, but it turned out she was sick and we had to put her to sleep a year later. There was Pajamas, our cranky Siamese who lived for 18 years, born the year before me. His presence in my life was constant, unquestioned, a promise. After him came Roxie, an eccentric kitten with a stub for a tail who liked to play in water and was diagnosed with feline leukemia just over a year into her little life.

But my brother had never come to those vet appointments until Cadi. He never wanted to, for reasons he didn't share. At the vet with her that day, the three of us watched her fall quickly into a drug stupor, the anesthesia softening her, freeing her of any pain or anxiety. My brother lay his big hand on her head and my mom stared blankly and said, "I can't believe this is really happening." Fourteen years is a long time. When Cadi was a new puppy sleeping curled in our laps, my brother was a little kid with bony knees and loose teeth. Now he's grown, six feet tall, covered in hair, with a voice I confuse for my father's.

There at the vet, Cadi just melted drowsily onto the blanket and lay there, a thousand miles away, until she was really gone. Still and just a body. Just fur and bones and other things I can't talk about. The little room was quiet except for our breathing. Our tears. And I realized how we've come to use the presence of these animals to measure the passing of time. Our family history punctuated by the lives and loves of our pets.

She was a good dog.

23 December 2009

Lattes, Lazers, and Little Girls

 Having spent all my money on 7 weeks of travel with my beloved, I am for now reduced to settling for whatever odd job I can squeeze a few bucks out of. The other day, it was babysitting. I found the family on craigslist. The lady of the house said her mother was in town to help with the kids while she recovered from surgery, but she needed back-up for the day. So I went.

She answered the door with stiff, shiny arms and a lavender velcro towel fastened around her chest. Moving around the house in quick, jerky motions, like a robot, she introduced me to her kids and her mother, a large woman who wore black stretch pants and reeked of cigarette smoke. The surgery, it turns out, was "voluntary." Soon her arms would be free of sun damage and the freckles she's always hated. That day, though, her arms were freshly lazered, and looked like uncooked sausages, red greasy speckled bloated sausages. She smelled like chemicals.

Scattered around the floor amongst toys and giant, life-sized stuffed animals, were two sweet little girls and a rolly baby boy, the girls made even sweeter by the entire ginger bread house they were allowed to eat for lunch. "You sure you don't want a sandwich, girls? I have cheese and salami here..." grandma said, trailing off. "I swear ya haven't eaten any real food today! Oh well..."

I was just grandma's helper while mom oozed medicinal ointment all over her bed upstairs, so I stayed out of it. At one point, grandma got us Starbucks. She said "latte" so many times I'm convinced she doesn't know any other kind of coffee beverage. "All Starbucks is, anyway," she said, "is just reeeally strong coffee." She laughed, then added, "with steamed milk!" She kept laughing to herself, seemed to think she'd made either some kind of joke or a very shrewd observation. It wasn't long before I could no longer figure out how to respond to the things she said.

Grandma brought her latte from her solitaire game on the computer to the bench on the front porch. She went out there pretty frequently with cigarettes and a romance novel. "The kids don't need to know I smoke," she said. "But when they get older, hell if I'm gonna run outside all the time to do it!"

Mom appeared downstairs every so often, usually to pick at cold orange chicken in a plastic takeout container or tell me more about the benefits of plastic surgery. I was relieved when she suggested I take the kids to the park. We spent a blissful hour, free of mindless (and I mean mindless) adult chatter, playing on the swings and doing gymnastics in the sun.

On our way home, the 5-year-old picked up big fallen leaves off the ground and collected them in a little bouquet, saying it was a bird. "No," she said, "it's two birds. They're flying... when two birds fly together, it's called a celebration."

She said this like it was total, unequivocal fact. And for some reason, this little sentence made the whole day worthwhile to me. It reminded me that so often, it's the kids we should be listening to. All day I'd been hearing chemicals, lazers, tobacco, caffeine. And here she was, the little one. All sugar and leaves and sun and cartwheels. Still young enough to speak in poetry.