Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Hope?

I am feeling very emotional. And I can't sleep.

I have tried really hard to remain calm and optimistic about this year's elections- partly because I have been trying to keep my little family strong after our recent loss(es)- and partly because, despite the major shock and disappointment of our last presidential elections, I want to believe that the American people have had enough, have seen the light, and are finally willing to work for change. Mostly, though, because I, too, have caught the Obama HOPE fever, and I am afraid of losing it.

Now, I am not one to worship the man like a Messiah. There are few people in this world that I believe exude such God-like qualities (my kids, The Dalai Lama, maybe Amy Goodman and Elizabeth Stinson....). I don't think the man is perfect, without flaws or superhuman. He is a politician, after all. What I do think, and what I think we are ALL desperately hoping for, is that change is around the corner. I am hoping that he is going to give all of us the room and space to continue working diligently on the issues near and dear to us- with little or no resistance. I am hoping that his presence in the oval office will inspire people who have been marginalized and hopeless to stand up for what they believe in and finally feel supported. But what I am hoping for most of all, is that my children- one of which has only lived in a Bush-Controlled America- will have some of their worries relieved.

The entire world didn't get as fucked up as it is solely because of Bush, but just look at how much has happened in the last 8 years! We watched Bush- immediately after his inauguration- pull funding out of family planning clinics world wide- particularly in Africa, where those clinics played an enormous role in HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment. We watched America grieve the losses of September 11th, only to turn around and watch our young men and women persuaded into fighting this never-ending war in Iraq. And for what? Certainly not all of the benefits they were promised... Cheap gas? I think not. We have watched community based organizations come under fire and accused of "terrorism" simply because they want to make change. We have watched social service programs, small medical clinics and community schools either close or have money pulled away resulting in less services for those who need them. We've seen more poor air quality warnings, clear cut forests and proposals to dump nuclear waste on sacred land than ever before.

I am anxious. You see, something in the back of my mind is tugging at me, saying, "what if... what if..." and it makes me sick. What if McCain somehow weasels his way in and we have him and that idiot woman "in charge"? What if Prop 8 passes here in California? What is that teaching our kids? What if Prop 4 passes, and brings my daughters one step away from having control over their bodies? What if? What if? Would any of us even bother voting again? I want to believe that people have come out of their Bush-induced stupor and that we finally realize that we deserve better than another crazy-ass, choice-hating biggot... and laws that infringe upon our rights. I really, really do. I know you are all with me on this. Lets cross our fingers, meditate on HOPE and remember we're all in this together.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Chaneling Frida





I was lucky enough to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit at The Moma on July 19th this past summer. I cried through the entire thing...



I later discovered that July 19th was the day that Ava's father left a suicide note and disappeared...
His body was found 2 weeks later.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Living Oprah's Best Life


Dear Oprah,

Last week, while visiting my best friend in the hospital over the course of a few days, I familiarized myself with your magazine. You really have come a long way and I want to applaud you for all of your achievements. I remember watching your talk show as a kid and I remember how "On Fire For Oprah" my mom would get after a particularly inspiring episode- it was just like how fired up she'd be after a really, really good AA meeting. She'd sometimes parade around for days preaching the word of AA- and Oprah- to whoever would stop long enough to listen to her. You really made an impact.

Now you see, Oprah, the reason I am taking the time to even write this, is that I have a small bone to pick. Your whole "Live Your Best Life" motto is pretty great, but makes people like me feel a tad bit bitter. How do you live your best life if you're not a gazillionaire and can't afford daily massages, personal chefs, drivers, maids, and the countless other luxuries that you benefit from? And what if, despite your greatest of all efforts, living your "Best Life" only means that your life just sucks a wee bit less than it did before you spent the $4.50 at the Memorial Hospital gift shop to buy "O" Magazine while visiting your sick friend?

I mean, think about it Oprah. You really are selling the whole "money can buy happiness" thing, and I think I'm finally getting it. Shit, I'd be STOKED to have a tenth of what you've got. I'd be happy if I had a nanny so I didn't have to drive my kids' asses all over town before and after driving my own ass to a job where 75% of the people I am supposed to be helping end up pissing me off every day. I'd be happy if someone else prepared all of my meals, cleaned my house and went to Trader Joe's for me so I didn't have to stand in line with bitchy housewives quietly judging my cart full of cheap wine and frozen veggie corn dogs. I'd be thrilled to have someone to force me out of bed and into the gym, yoga class, track, etc every morning, followed by a massage and a refreshing Acai Berry smoothie. I'd love to have someone wax me, do my fucked up, white girl afro and apply my make-up so it makes me look 10 years younger. And contrary to my bitter, smart-ass, poor, single mom tone, nothing would make me happier than to give deserving people millions of dollars for doing good work in the world. Vacations to 5 star resorts would also make me very, very, very happy.

The problem is, Oprah, you're rich and I am broke. You see, Living My Best Life means that I try do little things like not judging myself for eating salame when I'm drunk. I spend money I don't have on therapy so I can talk about how to try and Live My Best Life. I let myself upgrade to 4 movies at a time on Netflix. And I talk my kids into taking the garbage out a couple of times a week so I can have 3 more free minutes of time to think of ways to get rich so I can buy happiness, too. So far, my options are winning the lottery, marrying a prince, robbing a bank or returing one of those emails I got regarding an estate I have inherited from someone in Saudi Arabia.

Someday, Oprah, My Best Life will be Oprah-worthy and you may have me on your show, handing over a check for a gazillion dollars. I, like you, will inspire viewers and readers of "O" Magazine with tales of "How She Did It: Rags to Riches in Our Backyard." and I'll make you proud. I'll do all of those things that are supposed to make me happy and they'll finally work! It will be a miracle and I will skip through fields of flowers in white capris, Living My best Life... once and for all!

Love,
Dani

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dave's Memorial

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that I am notifying you about the death of Dave Young, who chose to end his life just one month ago in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Many of us knew him as an extremely sensitive, compassionate and hilariously funny soul, despite his on-going struggle with his demons that haunted him through so much of his life. He had a passion for justice, love for (and great taste in) music and the ability to find the humor in the most ridiculous situations. He leaves behind his wife, Anne, of Hot Springs, her son Kian and his lovely former step-daughter Xenia and his beautiful and amazing daughter Ava. His parents Andree and David Young of Petaluma and his sister Rachel are also left behind, along with many Aunts, Uncles and his grandmothers.

Despite this heartbreaking ending, his closest friends and I would like to extend an invitation to the friends and family of Dave- please join us on Sunday September 14th at 2pm at The Phoenix Theater in Petaluma to remember the person who touched our lives, made us laugh and brought so many of us together in the life-long friendships that remain.

I am asking old friends of Dave to write a story or memory and contribute photos of Dave that his old friend and classmate, Alicia Feltman can then put in a scrapbook that will be given to Xenia and Ava. Alicia can be reached at alicia@laladesign.com.

Also, if you'd like to make a CD compilation of songs that you knew Dave loved, we will be playing music during the potluck after the memorial (Please bring light snacks if you can). The CDs will be given to the girls as well.

Plans for a post-memorial wake of sorts are still in the making and will be announced at the memorial. Please contact me at o_dani_girl@yahoo.com if you have any questions.

Please hold Dave's family and friends in your hearts during this sad time and please forward this message far and wide.


With love,

Dani, Xenia and Ava

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Latest Article in the Latest Peace Press

Supporting The Homeless Troops

Once or twice a week, I am visited at work by a client who stops in to get a cup of coffee and check in with me about how he is doing. Nick, as I’ll call him here, is a 54 year-old homeless Vietnam Veteran who has been living outside for several years. His valuables all fit into a brown backpack that I gave him two months ago and the sleeping bag and tarp he uses to protect himself against the elements every night get stashed in a plastic bag in the bushes or hidden in dry spots in vacant buildings. Nick once had his own business and a family he adored, but the untreated PTSD he suffers from, as a result of serving as a combat troop in Vietnam, led him to self medicate with alcohol and landed him homeless. He, like many of the homeless veterans I work with, chooses to sleep outdoors, away from the loudness and chaos of the overcrowded shelters because it is “too much to take.” It has taken Nick all of these years since he returned home from Vietnam to finally ask for help.

Many of the newer veterans, who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, could easily be heading down the same path. Most that I have spoken with are suffering from severe PTSD and anger at the military for the plethora of broken promises that were used to convince them to join in the first place. One young veteran that I speak with on a regular basis served three tours in Iraq, only to come home to limited employment offers and no affordable housing options. Another, who has extensive medical training, witnessed so much bloodshed as a medic in Iraq that his PTSD has made it impossible for him to ever work in the medical field again. And still another young man who served in Afghanistan is suffering from such severe anxiety attacks and PTSD that he drinks himself to sleep every night just so he can find some peace.

Most of the returning troops that I speak with have little idea of what benefits they are eligible for and many more have too much pride, shame or depression to even seek the help they deserve. There are also a growing number of young veterans who have been dismissed from the military because of “panic attacks” or “psychological disorders” and have been given an Other Than Honorable Discharge, which excludes them from many of the veterans benefits or services that they, too deserve. They are left feeling overwhelmingly frustrated, angry and wondering why it is that their grandfathers were given jobs and support upon return from World War II and they are given nothing.

It is so easy to get overwhelmed when listening to first hand accounts of what the never-ending “Global War on Terror” is doing to the world and how it is affecting the lives of so many people here in our community. I constantly have to remind myself that that there is some hope. The fact that many of these returning troops are already asking for help is a big sign that the healing and support they need will shift things into a more positive gear. Also, groups like Iraq Veterans Against The War (www.ivaw.org) are providing a forum and a safe space for many of these returning troops to discuss their experiences and to support each other through the difficult task of returning home. Hopefully with the support of the anti-war movement, these young men won’t wait 30 years to speak out and seek help like my dear new friend Nick and a growing number of men like him.