Seven by Seven

bridge2

I’ve been thinking alot lately about why I work.

My maternity leave from August to December last year was the first time since I was 15 that I’ve had so much consecutive time to myself.

Granted, that time to myself was largely spent changing diapers and pushing a pram through the park. But still, it was week after week of 40 hours NOT spent locked down at a desk.

And the thing that amazed me the most about it was that I never once got bored.

Ok, yes, there was the whole new mother thing happening. But putting the baby metaphorically aside for the moment, the point is that I had no trouble filling my days. Each morning was a gift of “What are we going to do today?”

The aforementioned walks in the park became a big deal, something I always looked forward to. And there were poems to write and cinépoems to edit and a yard to putter around in and if there had been a dog on the premises, there would have been even more to do.

But then my time was up and here I am again, surrendering 40 precious hours to the machine.

I can’t tell you how many times since December 8th I’ve sat in meetings listening to marketing muckety-mucks arguing about what headline I should write to get people to buy a bunch of crap they don’t really need. And all I’m thinking is, “I could be pushing a pram through a park right now.”

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I work.

And the answer lies on the tip of a western peninsula, within the seven by seven miles that I call home… San Francisco, where the majority of residents are renters because buying a home is too expensive.

When Bruce and I pulled up stakes in Illinois ten years ago, we knew the move was permanent. There has never been any looking back, not even in 2001 when I got laid off six times in a row. (In any recession, it seems the copywriter is always the first to go.)

More than any other place on earth I’ve been, San Francisco is home.

Before Lucette arrived, I didn’t mind working. I have always tried to find the most creative word-wrangling job I can to finance the life I love to live.

But now that our family is one person larger, I have begun to begrudge those workaday hours. And so I have to remind myself why I do it.

Because I don’t have to work.

We could always move somewhere cheaper. Perhaps a nice cul-de-sac in a beige suburb where everyone drives the .05 miles to the neighborhood Wal-Mart.

But the dream was never to hie westward and settle in San Mateo. Or Oakland, Alameda, Fresno or Dinuba.

The dream is San Francisco. And it’s a dream I want to give to my daughter.

I want her to grow up here, in this beautiful city, surrounded by people of all races, creeds, languages and sexual orientations. I want her to wake up to the salt air of the ocean, to sleep to the sound of the foghorns.

I want her to have the Golden Gate in her backyard and the mountains within reach. I want her to own the wealth of used bookstores and know the wonder of world-class ballet.

I want her to eat more food from Farmer’s Markets than McDonald’s. I want her to wear out her walking shoes. I want sand on her toes and sun in her hair.

I want her to disagree without being disagreeable. I want her to know that it’s ok to be different.

I want what all parents want — to give their child the world. The difference is that in San Francisco, I can actually give it to her. Because the world lies just outside our front door.

And that is why I work. For Lucette. For San Francisco. For the dream.

-Lo, whose paychecks fuel freedom

Here’s to New Horizons

mood: list-less | drinking: all done

new_horizons

Everybody and their mother likes to make lists around this time of year. Lists of all the things they loved about 2009. Or hated. Lists of the top songs of 2009, the top movies, the top news stories, the top celebrity meltdowns.

I’m a list lover, too, I’m not going to lie. But this year, instead of looking back at the 364 days behind me, I’m going to look ahead to what’s on the horizon.

So here’s my contribution to the blogosphere’s collection of lists…

Ten Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2010

1. Settling into the new home with Boy and LeeLoo: Unpacking those last few boxes. Building new bookshelves. Sprucing up the backyard. Taste-testing all the neighborhood eateries. Finding new routes to walk to the beach. Discovering a whole host of lovely new things about my new ‘hood.
2. Shooting our new cinépoem: “The Tyranny of the Mirror” is our biggest cinépoem to date, with 8 separate shoots in 8 separate locations and our fabulous ensemble cast of 8 gorgeous ladies (including my very own sister). It’s going to be amazing.
3. Going back to Illinois to see my parents and various and sundry friends: This year was the first year since I’ve moved to California that I didn’t return to my hometown, not even for a quick visit. It was weird. So I plan to remedy that omission in 2010.
4. Getting back into the running routine: I was doing so well there for a couple of years, but the whole house-selling, temporary-apartment-living, house-buying thing kinda messed it all up. Time to get back into the groove.
5. Teaching my nephew new words: He’s two years old now and at that super fun (and dangerous) stage where he likes to parrot everything you say. Fun times for Aunt Lo.
6. Thursday night writing group: More great critiques, more great poems, more great bitch sessions, more great Chinese food. Bring it, girls!
7. Vacationing with Boy: We have a big anniversary coming up, and we’re going to celebrate that milestone in style, come hell or high water. The question is not “if” but “where?” and “when?” (I’ve got Prague on my wishlist, and my passport is itching for some action.) We’ll have to wait and see.
8. Exploring more gorgeous nooks, crannies, and weirdos in this gorgeous city I call home: It seems that every year I find something new here, uncover some previously unknown nugget of awesome about this place. I have no idea what I will discover or who I will meet in 2010, but I’m ready for it.
9. Growing my hair out: Yes, it’s a weird item to include on this list but I just keep whacking my hair off before it reaches the desired length and I swear this time I’m going to curb the impulse to whip out the scissors. Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow.
10. Finding something good in every day: It’s something Boy and I have been trying to do a lot of, a tactic that began out of desperation. In the middle of one of the most difficult years of our lives, we realized that moaning about everything that was going wrong wasn’t making a rough patch any smoother. So we started trying to find something to be grateful for every day, something good in each other, in the people around us, in the smallest, most random happenings. And it works. Not only by making life a bit easier, but by making yourself a lot easier to live with. A good way to go about new beginnings, wouldn’t you say?

Alright. You’ve got my list. How about yours? What are you looking forward to in 2010?

-Lo, who’s also looking forward to all of you lurkers figuring out how to use the comment section.

Finding Gratitude

mood: quiet | drinking: koolaid-tasting vitamin water
us_house

In the spirit of the impending holiday, I’m going to make myself a little list of the things I am grateful for.

I’ve realized recently that I’ve spent the better part of this year griping about all the changes in my life. Time to step back and take a breath and notice the things that haven’t changed, or that have changed for the better.

So. Here they are, off the top of my head: Ten things that make me happy to get out of bed in the morning.

1. Boy. Through good, bad and ugly, he’s always there when I wake up. It’s an easy thing to take for granted in the hubbub of everyday living.

2. LeeLoo. She’s had a tough year, and is coming up on her 12th birthday, which in dog years is rather geriatric. But she’s hanging in there and is always ready with a lick and an eloquent Boxer sigh.

3. Our new home. We’ve only been sleeping under its roof for 10 nights, but it already feels like home. It’s cute, it’s cozy, it’s ours. And at night, you can see the stars so brightly and the ocean thunders so loudly. I feel incredibly lucky to be here.

4. My family. Mom & Dad were here just a few weeks ago, and my sister and I were talking about how weird we are, among most of our friends, that we actually enjoy spending time with our parents. I’m grateful for that kind of oddity.

5. My friends. Recently a small group of good people gathered for chicken pot pie at a cozy restaurant in the Castro to celebrate my birthday, and I looked around the table at all these people who love me–just love me, asking nothing of me in return–and I was overwhelmed with my good fortune to have all these lovely ones in my life.

6. Books. I’ve been reading so many good ones lately. Right now I’m nearly finished with Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. God, I love books. I love getting lost in another world or being enraptured with the turn of someone else’s phrase. I would be lost without words in my life.

7. New acquaintances. You’re never too old to make new friends, and I’ve made two new forays in that direction recently, meeting Louise, the friend of a friend, and Julie, who took my photo for her art project I live here: SF. I love those unexpected moments when you connect with someone new and think, “Huh. This chick’s pretty cool.”

8. Etsy. Yes, I know, it’s geeky. But this website has opened me up to a whole new world of artists and crafters and seamstresses and amazingly creative people. My sister bought me a Lisa Falzon print off Etsy for my birthday this month and I’m totally in love with it. How else would I have discovered an illustrator in Ireland and have one of her pieces hanging on my dining room wall?

9. Creative outlets. My writing group, first and foremost. The girls in this group rock my face off every time we meet, and I’ve written some things this year that would not have been possible without their input. And then there are the cinepoems. Michelle and I just continue to work so well together and continue to churn out new ideas. We just finished “Homogeneous” and already we’ve got another shoot in the works for December.

10. San Francisco. As I said in my last post, I just really really love this city. It’s a beautiful, weird, wonderful place and I’m so happy that I get to call it my home.

As it turns out, there’s so much to be grateful for, even in the midst of a truly crazy year. And I am, I am grateful. And lucky. And blessed.

And so are you.

-Lo, choosing the bright side.

i live here: SF

mood: delighted | drinking: teashalott2

It’s no secret that I’m in love with this city I call home. I’ve been living in San Francisco for just a couple weeks shy of 10 years now, and I think I love it here even more now than I did the first day I arrived.

That’s why I was eager to be a part of a very cool art project called i live here: SF.

Last week I spent a few hours on a fine sunny morning at (and on) Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park with Julie Michelle (aka TangoBaby), shooting a bunch of pretty amazing pictures for her website.

Julie has been chronicling the faces and stories of the people of San Francisco for nearly a year now. In her own words, “It is my goal to share some of the spirit and fascinating layers of this city through the eyes and visages of those who live here.”

I’m happy to be a part of Julie’s art. My photo shoot and story are featured on her blog today. Go check it out (there are more photos if you click through the link at the bottom that says “see the rest of LaDonna’s photo shoot”).

Be sure to read all the tales my fellow San Franciscan’s have to tell, too. And if you’re a San Francisco native or transplant and you want to be a part of the i live here: SF project, just drop Julie a line at ilivehereSF@gmail.com.

Fair warning, however — you could spend hours on her site. (They’d be hours well spent, though.)

It seems to be a good day to be featured on SF blogs… “Homogeneous” got a shout out on Muni Diaries today! Check it out.

-Lo, trying to work a Lady of Shalott sort of vibe.

The Other Side

mood: visionary | drinking: new tea

nightbridge

October has, thus far, been a month of Happenings. I feel like we’re finally coming out the other side of months of upheaval and change. Certainty awaits.

Among the biggest of those happenings is the happy news that we close escrow on our new house next week. I can’t wait to get those keys in hand! Of course, after I get those keys  I’ll need to grab myself a paintbrush, too.

But it will be nice to have something to DO, finally, after all these months of waiting and wondering where we would end up. I’ve happily submitted my change-of-address forms to the P.O. too, because it makes it feel official. (As if signing a mountain-sized pile of loan documents doesn’t.)

Amidst all the good news this month there has been sad news, too. Last week an old friend of mine died. Her name was Heidi, and I have known her since we were 4 years old. We grew up together, carpooled to school together, rode bikes, walked our dogs, attempted to learn Spanish.

In high school, Heidi was in the cool crowd while I hung out in the front row with the other nerds. But she never made me feel slighted, and when we ended up at the same junior college for a year or so after graduation, we went nearly everywhere together.

Heidi married shortly after I graduated from college, and asked me to read a poem at her wedding. After I moved away I only saw her rarely, but kept up with her from a distance as she got her nursing degree and had two children. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago and survived.

But cancer reappeared earlier this year and claimed her life last Sunday. Her funeral was yesterday and I wasn’t able to attend, but my thoughts have been with her and her family these last few days.

I have only lost two friends my age so far in my life. Which is lucky, I know. But it’s still so strange to think of people around me suddenly not being there anymore. Mortality is a mystery to the living.

…I’m at a loss for a segue. I seem to just be rambling along here anyway.

Last weekend Boy and I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin headlands. We had no particular destination in mind, we just wanted to go somewhere, to be moving instead of sitting at home. We ended up high above the fog, in the dark, watching the clouds close in on the bridge down below.

And I thought, for the hundred millionth time, how happy I am to live here. And how lucky.

My parents fly in today from Illinois, so there’s a family reunion in my very near future. They’re bringing my Gramma Ruth with them, her first trip to California and her first time on a plane, I think since 1968.

Boy and I are in charge of bringing pies to the family festivities, so I’d best get off my duff and up in search of flaky crusts.

I’ll be back next week with a set of brand new keys.

-Lo, getting up and at ’em.

In Escrow

mood: overjoyed | drinking: raspberry tea
housefront1

There’s a funny thing about tunnels and the lights that sometimes appear at the end of them…

When there is no end in sight, you feel as if the state of limbo, of darkness, of uncertainty will stretch on and on and on into infinity. You begin to feel like you’ve been there for so long, you can’t remember what it is to live any other way.

And then, suddenly, light! And though you’re still within the tunnel, though you still haven’t reached the end, everything has miraculously changed. Suddenly you are certain that the end is, blessedly, near. And somehow you find yourself laughing at things (*cough* drunk frat boys outside my window at 3 a.m. *cough*) that, a week ago, made you feel like turning into a cutter.

All of that to say this: After 4 months, 134 houses, and 15 offers, the search is over. We’ve got a house.

Or, more accurately, we are in escrow. Apartment living shall continue for the near future. Keys to our adorable new house are not yet in hand. But there is suddenly an expiration date on Limboland, and that changes absolutely everything.

There were 7 other offers on this house, as is common in San Francisco surreal estate. But this time, finally, we were the ones who came out on top, thanks in no small part to the efforts of our most fabulous realtor, Jennifer Rosdail. And also to a letter I wrote to tell the sellers why Boy and I would make such wonderful buyers.

Turns out that sometimes people really do care about who buys their house, not just who has the most cash.

Our new home will be just a couple of blocks from the beach–you can hear the thunder of the Pacific Ocean when the windows are open. We’re also pretty close to Golden Gate Park, one of my most favorite places ever. So we’re pretty pleased about that.

The house isn’t huge, but it does have an extra bedroom, a nice garage for Boy and a big huge backyard for LeeLoo. It was built in 1939 and the previous owner bought it brand new. She took very good care of it, leaving the original details intact, so it’s a very charming little place with hardwood floors and sweet little alcoves.

We’re pretty much in love. (And one of us may have been overtaken by the repeated and spontaneous desire to do some booty-shaking in celebration, much to LeeLoo’s confusion.)

One of the things Boy and I kept telling each other throughout the last few months was that we couldn’t settle. We couldn’t just pick a house to have a house and be done with it. We had to end up with a house that made the whole ordeal worthwhile. We had to choose a house that we loved, that could become a home. A place that we could see ourselves in for years to come.

We feel like we’ve found it. And in about 30-ish days, it will truly be ours.

So here’s to lights and ends and certainty. A new adventure begins…

-Lo, in escrow.

Home Is Where

mood: deflated | drinking: daily teapalmyra_porch

I have learned a few things in the three weeks since we sold our house.

1: I am not good at being displaced. 2: I still do not find anything charming about drunk college boys cavorting beneath my window at 2 a.m. 3: Home is not the place where all your stuff is. That’s just where you live. Home is something altogether different…

Where the heart is. Where you belong. Where you feel safe. Where you go to get away. Where you long to be in the middle of a stress-filled day.

And while Boy and I continue our long and arduous search for the place we will eventually call home, I find myself getting a bit frayed around the edges. The lack of home is much harder than I imagined it would be.

I thought apartment living would be a lark. Like playing house.

It’s not.

Apartment living reminds me of all the things that I miss about having a home. And they’re not things, really. Because I have all my things, stacked in boxes all around me. What I don’t have is the feeling of belonging in the space that I inhabit.

What I don’t have, at night, after a never-ending day of deadlines and demands and divas, is a refuge.

Although that’s not true, entirely. I have Boy. I have LeeLoo, even (who hates apartment living as much as Boy and I do).

Here’s the thing I never realized until now, though… Growing up, I had a home. 497 Palmyra Road. That was where I belonged. And then I got older and I went away to college and I got a degree and then a job and then a succession of apartments and roommates and temporary living arrangements.

And then I met Boy and we had our own apartments and rental houses, and they were better. They were homier. And then, five years ago, we bought a place of our own. We settled in. We nested. We chose paint colors and carpets and dishes and drapes. We turned that place into a home. It was the first time in my adult life I felt like I had a place to go to, in a very specific sense, that was my home.

I didn’t realize until now how much that meant to me.

On better days I tell myself, or Boy, or both of us tell each other: “We will find a home. Soon. And it will make all of this worthwhile.” And I believe it.

Today is not a better day. Today is the end of a very long week in which I’ve wobbled along, hanging onto shreds of my former bouncy optimism. Today is another day in which I go to the place where my stuff is, the place where my mail is delivered, the place where I lay my head, and feel the lack.

I feel guilty, too, for complaining. What about the homeless, I think. What about all those who live in apartments like this and have no alternative, no other home on the horizon, I think. I have so much to be grateful for, I think.

And it’s all true.

But this is my reality, and it is true as well. And today is just… not a better day.

Maybe tomorrow will be.

-Lo, searching and searching and searching.

Closing Time

Mood: relieved | Drinking: yes

640_2004

Finally, at long last, our former home is good and sold. To someone new. Which means that Boy and I are no longer homeowners.

We put our home of 5 years, a 1911 Edwardian condo just two blocks from Golden Gate Park, on the market at the beginning of June. We had a buyer on the hook within two weeks. But escrow, in the day and age of cautious banks, takes forever. So we officially closed just this past Friday.

Boy and I moved all our stuff (and the LeeLoo) into short term housing while we look for a new home, probably somewhere near the beach, on the west side of San Francisco. It’s the first time since 1999 that I’ve lived in an honest-to-goodness apartment complex. Kind of a weird feeling.

But we’re hoping that we won’t be here for long. We have a feeling that our next happy home is out there somewhere, and we’ll find it very soon. Fingers (and all other available body parts) crossed.

I feel like I’ve had two elephants sitting on my head for about three months now. One elephant down, one to go…

Looking at that picture up there freaks me out a little. That was us back in July of 2004, sitting on the steps of our just-purchased first home. Looking all young and bright eyed, with a lot less grey in our muzzles. And now it belongs to someone new. Weird. But wonderful.

Once all this real estate drama is over, I’m hoping to get back on the stick will all my various projects. Shel and I have already gotten a good start on editing the Homogeneous cinépoem. And writing group carries on, so I have some new words in the works.

So it’s not all quiet on the western front. There are some faint rustlings. Stay tuned.

-Lo, who misses her garage already.

I am a hunter.

Mood: reluctantly patient | Drinking: the tea from home

empty_house

A fresh poem for you. And yes, this one’s mine. No borrowing today…

Hunter

Remember when we had a home
when every street lamp
and sidewalk crack
was familiar
as the way your palm
fit my face.

On my walk to the park
I would pass oblivious tourists
and think if they knew
they would want to be me.

Once I had a place for everything
here fits my wishbone,
there rests my dance card
and in the corner
always you
in your chair.

Now I am a hunter
ferreting through wreckage
for a piece that will
fit it all back together.

-Lo, who has taken to reading real estate listings like a horoscope.

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with String

Mood: Lost in time
Drinking: Homemade iced tea

Home again, home again, ziggity zoo.

Boy and I returned from the lands across the sea a couple of days ago, but are still a bit confused as to the date and time. We keep waking up at 5 a.m., bright as new copper pennies. Which is really not cool unless you’re in your 70s or have some legitimate reason for waking up at the crack.

I prefer sleeping a little longer, at least until the sun has made her appearance. I’m still working on that. But it’s a small price to pay for having such amazing adventures as we have had.

Here are just a few of my new favorite things:

Favorite subway ads: Milano has amazingly weird advert posters in their subways. I’m a big fan.
Favorite new H&M model: French actress Emmanuelle Beart, who had me in awe of her extremely sexy ads all over Europe.
Favorite new tattoo artist: Laura Satana, the coolest Parisian, who has her own tattoo shop and gave me my freshest ink stain.
Favorite cemetery ever: Pere Lachaise. And no, I didn’t even bother with Jim Morrison. But I did say hi to Chopin.
Favorite pasta: Spaghetti carbonara
Favorite Italian duomo: Milano
Favorite French pastry: ZouZou’s croustillions
Favorite food in Switzerland: Everything
Favorite store mascot: Blue Dog in Zurich
Favorite cathedral: Notre Dame
Favorite Parisian neighborhood: St. Michel
Favorite bierhalle: Rheinfelder in Zurich
Favorite high-fashion shopping experience: Chanel in Paris (I bought nail polish.)
Favorite walk in Paris: Left Bank, along the Seine
Favorite scooter ride: Through the countryside just outside of Florence
Favorite foreign swear word: “Merde!”
Favorite train ride: Milano to Zurich, through the Alps
Favorite subway system: Paris’ Metro
Favorite hotel room: Domus Florentiae, Firenze
Favorite lodging: Our 7th floor flat in Paris near the Bastille
Favorite painting: Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Uffizi in Florence
Favorite awestruck moment: Seeing da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” in Milan
Favorite holiday decoration: The nighttime snowflakes projected in blue and white onto a castle-like museum in Zurich
Favorite new drink: Pesca! (peach iced tea)
Favorite bookstore: Gilbert Jeune in Paris
Favorite new dress: A black one. From Paris. Of course.
Favorite airport: Zurich
Favorite traveling companion: Boy
Favorite homecoming moment: LeeLoo’s out-of-control butt wiggle dance when we picked her up at the kennel.

Obviously, it was the best vacation of all time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more recovering to do. (read: TiVo)

-Lo, who left most of her heart in Paris, but sprinkled little red bits of it elsewhere along the way.