More Found Words

I write these words
mostly in my head because
they’d be too loaded
to have brazenly displayed
on my computer
or on my calendar.

And anyway
our feelings are
communicated, even though
they’re unspoken.

So I’ll just keep writing
what I feel
in my head to
keep me safe
and sane.

(written some time in the early 1990s)

Short On Words, Long On Things To Say

I am at a complete loss tonight. Of all the things I could have heard this morning, I was not prepared to hear that Chris Cornell died. I’ve been in a tailspin since 5:15 this morning, with virtually no time or space to process this news and grieve.

If you follow any of my socnets, you may notice a Chris Cornell influence. My Tumblr references “Drawing Flies” and I may still have “Searching For The Good With My Good Eye Closed” as a tag line in a few places.

To appreciate the gift of Chris Cornell’s words, and the power of Soundgarden’s music, it isn’t necessary to have been in the Pacific Northwest 30 years ago, as some incredibly powerful and innovative music was gestating in clubs along I-5. If Louder Than Love or Badmotorfinger made you sit up and take notice, then you knew early enough what an influence Soundgarden would have.

Portland was fertile ground for many of these bands that had formed a few hours north, in Seattle: Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Green River, Alice In Chains, and many others. For those of us who are contemporaries with these artists, who came of age with them and supported them in those early years, in small, steamy clubs with sticky, beer-soaked and blood-splattered floors (those mosh pits tho), they are we and we are they.

Andrew, Kurt, Layne, and, now, Chris. Losing them hurts like hell.

Many people are posting many Soundgarden/Audioslave/Chris Cornell videos today. I’m choosing a live version of “Seasons” which has been playing in my head all day long. It is one of the most perfectly beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, and I like this live version because it shows Chris’ humor. Even if I can’t cry yet, he at least got me to smile one more time.


Found Words

I was going through a box yesterday evening when I came across a stack of old journals, many had been started, then stopped.

One in particular has a few entries beginning right after my mother’s death, as I began processing that and everything that came at me in the months that followed. I wasn’t consistent with the entries: some are a couple of days apart and then there is a gap of several months. Some entries are letters that I wrote to Mom.

It isn’t easy to read those old entries, yet in re-reading them I see that I handled her suicide really well. I was very aware of what I was feeling and very tuned in to those who were helpful and those who were full of shit.

From 22 December, 1991: “I remember right after Mom died people were saying that they hoped one day I could forgive her for what she had done. And I couldn’t understand that because I wasn’t ready to be mad at her yet.

“Of course, time has changed all that. I was at my angriest last month when I was trying to finish up on the house.

“I’m still angry, but now I’m more lonely and scared. And no amount of love and support from friends and relatives can fix that.”

There was the trip I took with some friends a year later, when we visited San Francisco. The ticket for Alcatraz and receipts from various shops and restaurants are pressed between the pages.

I also was trying to document random things about Mom so I wouldn’t forget (how she drank her coffee and the way we would sit on the couch with the dogs and read or watch TV). Three and a half years later, after my Grandpa died, I wrote more random things about him that I didn’t want to forget.

That journal stopped after I wrote only about 1/4 of the way through it. Usually when I find partially-filled journals, I press them back into service and finish writing in them, but for this one, I think I’ll just let it end where it stopped.

For the Love Of Soccer: Part 1

For several weeks I’ve been writing and editing (and writing and editing and writing and…) a post about my love for soccer. And I’m realizing that the problem I have with the post is that it needs to be a series, because even with a gap in the 1990s, 30-ish years of loving a sport is a lot to cram into one blog post.

And over the weekend I was reminded that the story of my love for soccer—and, especially, the Portland Timbers—includes my friendship with Gisele and Paula Currier. Indeed, there really cannot be any discussion of the history of soccer in Portland that does not include Gisele and Paula. They are the history of soccer in Portland.

I met Paula and Gisele in the late 70s, soon after I began going to Timbers games and Boosters functions. I knew they were Ultras before Ultras was a Thing here in the States. When they weren’t supporting soccer, Paula worked in the laundry for the Sheraton Inn at the Portland Airport, a job that seemed particularly grueling and stressful, especially for someone who was in heart failure (I learned about Paula’s condition very early on in our friendship). Gisele did not have work outside of the home that I was aware of. Both sisters lived with their parents in Southeast Portland. I had been to their home a few times: it was a comfortable home, that I don’t think had changed much through Gisele’s and Paula’s lives. One of the more vivid memories I have was a lot of purple in Gisele’s room.

Over the years, through the NASL Timbers, and then following some of the Timbers players into their coaching careers (Clive Charles at University of Portland and Bernie Fagan at Warner Pacific College), and other former Timbers into the MISL—as well as following the Portland Winterhawks—I spent many hours on the road with Paula and Gisele. We traveled up and down I-5 dozens of times between Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Bellingham, and Vancouver (and Burnaby!). I logged a lot of hours in the back seat of Paula’s black Chevy Chevette (and occasionally their dad’s little blue Subaru station wagon, if snow was anywhere in the forecast), listening to a lot of Classic Stadium Rock and laughing my ass off. Gisele and Paula both had a wicked sense of humor (Paula, especially, seemed to have a pun locked and loaded for every occasion). We all had our favorite Timbers players, about whom we spent hours talking. Gisele liked Jimmy Kelly, and Paula adored Brian Gant: I was a John Bain fan all the way.

(An aside: I was surprised to read in one of the tributes to Gisele that she drove her dad on errands and to church. In all the time I spent with them, Paula always drove—and a couple of times I took over driving to give Paula a break. I just assumed that Gisele never got a license.)

We spent so much time at Civic Stadium during the summers, we knew the stadium as well as we knew the lines on our hands. And we haunted so many away matches and team/booster functions that the players would take note if one of us wasn’t spotted in attendance, and we would be questioned about our absence the next time the players saw us. We got up to just enough shenanigans to keep things interesting, but not enough to get us arrested—or deported (there was one trip through the Peace Arch, though, and I don’t think that Canadian border patrol officer was ever the same after he finally waved us through).

For reasons that I cannot even recall now, I parted company with the Curriers. I was in my early 20s, so maybe it was just me growing apart from them, or life—and school and work—taking up so much time and energy that there wasn’t much left for following college soccer teams, or the Winterhawks, around the Pacific Northwest. I don’t think there was any specific falling out: we just stopped hanging out together.

I eventually left Portland for the Bay Area, and I never saw or spoke to them again. I got curious one day and Googled them and was sad to learn of Paula’s passing. It was touching to see how much respect the sisters had earned from the Timbers organization and the soccer community: shortly after Paula’s death, the Timbers players filed into the stands before kickoff and placed roses on Paula’s vacant seat. (And thereafter, no one dared try to take that seat, next to Gisele, at the top of Section 107.)

Although the Timbers joined MLS in 2011, I didn’t really start following them closely until 2014. One evening I was trolling the archives on OregonLive and was stunned and heartbroken to see an article reporting that Gisele had died suddenly, on April 24, 2011, just after the the Timbers franchise began their MLS era.

But in my shock and heartbreak, I was also happy to see the loving tributes to Gisele. She really did grow into her role as the Matriarch of Portland Soccer. I felt so grateful that she got to know how loved she and Paula are in the soccer community (tributes even came in from rival fans).

I regret that I did not reach out to Gisele after I learned about Paula’s death (I foolishly thought I’d have more time to catch up). And I wish that Paula and Gisele would have been alive to see the Timbers win their first MLS Cup, but I know that their spirits were in Columbus, getting up to Tomfoolery and willing Portland to win.

Half A Life

My temperament has been a little on the fragile side the last couple of weeks. And yesterday, as I looked at a calendar, I realized why.

I have officially lived half of my life without my mother.

From this day forward, I will have lived more of my life without my mom than with her. That sentence feels pretty weird.

I can’t really say that surviving mom’s suicide has gotten easier over the years. It’s more like the sharp edges of the grief and pain and anger have dulled with time, as flowing water smooths out a stone. I haven’t dwelled in grief for many years, yet there are times when it just sort of pops up and stops me in my tracks. And, in that 15-day gap between my birthday and the anniversary of the day that my life changed forever, I tend to feel overwhelmed a little more often and my patience is razor-thin and I need quiet alone time even more than I usually do.

And so today is one of those days that I am aware that I need to pause and take a breath.

Because I am the one who is still breathing.

New Year’s Day

And so I begin another trip around the sun.

I’m a different Me this year. Or, rather, I’m more ME now than I have been in a very long time.

victoria, sitting with hands in prayer position

Over the past year I’ve made an assessment of my life and have been sorting what I’m bringing with me—and what I’m leaving behind—in the year ahead.

I’ve done some Spring Cleaning in my apartment: a first pass of the bookshelves and donated four boxes of books and carrying piles of magazines to the recycle bin. I’ve also been working on some Spring Cleaning of old beliefs and habits that are harmful…though releasing some of those beliefs and habits is not quite as easy as putting books in boxes and driving them off. Sometimes it requires driving the habit away several times before it stays away for good.

The year ahead guarantees challenge and change. Victories and setbacks. And learning. All the learning. I know that I’ll come to know myself even more deeply, and that many of my relationships will strengthen (and that some may dissolve entirely). I begin this year with a list of behaviors that I will no longer tolerate, just to keep peace. In turn, that allows me to begin this year with my feet firmly on the ground, and an open heart.


How I Know That My Birthday Is Near Without Looking At A Calendar

I’m sick again! I thought my suddenly stuffy sinuses meant that my allergies might be taking off, given the pleasant weather we've had this week, following two or three solid months of rain (POLLENPALOOZZA). Alas, as the afternoon wore on yesterday, I was ticking all the boxes for Cold (allergy attack generally means stuffy and itchy; cold means stuffy and body-achy). The only box I didn't tick was the sudden intense craving for tomato sauce or salsa: that seems to have been replaced with the craving for Thai curry.

Admittedly, this is an improvement over last year, when I caught the Death Flu, missed several days of work and then had to cancel my birthday vacation to make up for the sick leave. At least with this cold I'm somewhat functional, despite snot-induced sleep apnea preventing me from getting much rest overnight. (On the plus side, I don't really need to wear my night guard, since mouth breathing keeps me from grinding my jaws.)

Since I've got stuff to do this weekend (ex. Charlie and Clancy have now decided that they hate the "yellow" can food and prefer "blue" can, so I need to exchange cat food), I'll be packing the hand sanitizer and limiting my interactions as much as possible. (EDIT) As much as I looked forward to attending the viewing party with my fellow Alamedans, I’m grateful that today’s Action Event livestream will be available to watch from Casa de los Gatos Locos, so I don’t have to worry about infecting other people (or grossing them out). This is a really important event, so I’m grateful I’ll get to attend without leaving home.

The theme for today: tea, tissues and leftover Thai food.

vicster, holding a cup of tea and a box of tissues

A Day Without A Woman

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; A Woman's Place Is In The Resistance

Today is International Women’s Day, a day on which the organizers of the Women’s March called for a strike. I elected to withhold our labor today. Instead, I attended rallies at San Francisco City Hall and at Justin Herman Plaza. It was beautiful to be in such great energy.

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; International Women's Day Rally, San Francisco (6)

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; Strong Women Scare Weak Men

We live in a time where straight white men who have too much societal power routinely dehumanize people of color, LGBTQ, immigrants, and women. We have to come together to fight to have our humanity recognized.

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; Sign O' The Times

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; Vladnald

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; There's a MADMAN

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; Pup Sporting a Pussy Hat

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; Stay Nasty

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; For ALL Sisters

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; Quality Man

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; Hands Off

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; An Immigrant Woman

Victoria Klum Photography: Photoblog &emdash; Pedicabs Against Patriarchy

On Re-Thinking

I’ve been working on a writing assignment that, on the surface, sounded fairly straight-forward. But by the time my terrified perfectionist and inner critic got done tag-teaming me, I started re-thinking this whole Writing As A Thing That I Do business.

All the while, in a very significant part of my life right now I’m feeling like I’m being pushed forward and dragged back simultaneously. Nothing in particular has been coming up in meditation, but my dreams keep playing themes of healing.

And then this evening’s yoga practice started to take a bit of a bad turn. Despite my effort to buy their cooperation with food, the cats were being just disruptive enough to distract me from my flow (because Sun Salutations aren’t challenging enough for me). Then came my balance poses. I have been so strong and steady in my balance poses over the last several days, but tonight? I could not balance on my right leg if my life depended on it. My Tree Pose uprooted after a couple of breaths. And as I fell out of Dancer’s Pose on the third try, I felt my frustration envelop me. I clapped my hands hard and stifled a scream as tears started running down my face. The old stories were trying to spin up again: No one is interested in your aspirations and they’re too busy to offer any support, anyway, and you’re going to have to go this alone like you thought you might. And this writing thing? Are you kidding? You’re falling apart over a few paragraphs, just like you’re falling apart here!

But this time I was able to stop those stories from gaining traction. I paused and observed them and took note of how I was physically reacting (pulling myself in, like a turtle). I reminded myself that I’m consciously choosing flow over frustration and love over judgement. I also reminded myself that I came home from work this evening and held my handstand longer than I’ve ever held it before. So balancing on my right leg is a non-starter tonight? Try something else! I don’t need to scrap the entire practice over a wobbly leg, I just need to get back into my flow!

I settled myself in Hero’s Pose for a few breaths, then did Child’s Pose and some flowing poses from my knees, to reset the link between my movement and my breath, before I worked my way back to standing. I went through my series of Warrior poses and came back for one last balance (Half Moon) pose. It was shaky AF, but I managed it on both sides! Forty-five minutes later, I enjoyed a peaceful Savasana.

After a brief meditation, I made myself a bowl of oatmeal for supper and took another swing at the writing assignment. I cut some sentences here, swapped some words there and finally decided to just post it, remembering one of my favorite painting quotes:

A painting is never really finished. It just stops in an interesting place.

Is it perfect? Well, if I wait for perfect, I’ll never post or publish anything! And the Universal Lesson was about finding my way through the sticky parts, moreso than writing flawless prose.

As for the other parts of my life that have me stymied right now? I’ll find my way, and I know I won’t do it alone. Instead of my default Shut-Everyone-Out Mode, I’ll keep my heart open to those who do care about what I’m doing and are willing and able to support my efforts.