Wednesday, October 31, 2007

in Bangkok!!!!

I'm at the Bangkok airport hanging out with Tom! The brand new airport is amazing, very open and 21st century. But the most amazing thing is after a nearly 15-hour flight I got an amaaaazzzziiiiinnnnngggggg Thai massage. It's like getting yoga done to your body. And get this -- 45 minutes for $16 USDollars!!!!! Or 500 baht. Woohoo!! My calves were sooo sore from teh flight I thought I was gonna die. So this was perfect. And now I'm drinking a mocha and hanging out with some other people heading to Kathmandu also. We have a 5-hour layover and we leave in 3 hours or so. And this may be the last I'll email again but maybe when I'm in Kathmandu. We'll see!! Ciao!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

off to Nepal!!

I couldn't leave the last blog entry as "stress" so I'm in the apple istore in Pasadena, California and I wanted to just say bon voyage to myself and to everyone!! Had a blast hanging with my friend Paige and friends out here!!! I'll update when i can! Joy and love and peace!!!

Friday, October 26, 2007


I didn't realize how much stress I was feeling until it all came out today. I have been pretty calm, and feeling like I'm staying on top of things as far as planning my trip (I leave Monday!). I've got a pile of things I need to pack piled on my bedroom floor... my version of early packing. Ha! And I've done my shopping to get various and sundry things. I spent some time researching places to stay for my "one night in Bangkok" (and one day, technically) and am super excited about that short but totally solo part of my travels, and I made my reservation. I screwed up on something this morning but it was over-ridable, and I spent time driving around doing necessary errands. I got 2 articles done and 1 very short one to go, due tomorrow. But then it all hit.

Let me backtrack. For starters this morning I felt super exhausted. The day before I'd thought I may be coming down with a cold (scratchy throat) so I took vitamin C and Echinacea, and yet this morn I felt super tired. After I dropped the kids off I went back to bed and slept till 1130am. I deliberately decided to miss my "coffee" with the girls that I LOVE, but then changed my mind and stopped by at the end of that meeting. I then did some errands, and decided to stop by home before picking up Savannah's bike which I'd dropped for repair of the flat tire so we can go for a bike ride this weekend, and saw on my Calendar I had a after-school conference with the kids' teachers. I was SO glad I came home & saw that on my calendar, b/c otherwise I'd have missed it. So I rushed up to the school and got there at 320pm (normally they're in after school athletics til later). I was told the conference would be "right after school" but wasn't given a time. School gets out at 315 so I was just very slightly late. When I got there one teacher was walking out the door, and the other had already left! The one leaving said they'd told me the meeting was at 3pm but I NEVER got that correspondence. Dude! So... I went in to meet with the last of the 3 teachers, who was still there (apparently my meeting with her was at 330pm) and I burst into tears!!! Like sobbing!!! LOL at myself....

I guess you need to know that this is NOT normal behavior for me. At least not in several years! During my divorce, hell, I burst into tears at the drop of a dime! But anyway, it made me realize how I really must be worried about this trip subconsciously (because honestly I don't feel stressed!). I think I have fears about several things. One is going to a place where the US State Dept has just issued a warning against travel. Another is just going to a country where the native language is not English or Spanish (Hablo muy poquito Espanol --> enough to get by). I'm thrilled, but a bit scared I think. I also don't love flying. I have overcome this fear of flying, and I don't get stress on the plane (though I can't sleep well), but I don't "love it" either. There's also just a lot of stress about my book proposal being sent out by my agent next week, because so much in my life rides on it, and it's so important to me, and I believe the topic is important to the world and especially the US right now. And just money issues, and getting everything done, and yada yada yada....

So now I am going to sign off, and I hope I can squeeze in one other blog before I leave. Godspeed!

PS I was tagged - 5 random facts (have to make this quick)
1. John Lennon is one of my personal heroes, and has been since I was young.

2. On my desk: A super-soft stuffed crab from San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf (I'm a Cancer), A card from my dear friend Laurie with a kid looking up at the stars that says "The wishing stars twinkled a little brighter each time she thought of her friend," A framed photo of the Central Park Strawberry Fields memorial that says IMAGINE,an incense burner, a stapler.

3. I have excellent credit! LOL.

4. I love my kids a million billion pieces!! (we often say this to each other, I think because one of them said this when they were younger)

5. My next dream destination: Africa!

6. I love bubble baths!

7. When I ride my bicycle I love to stand up and ride without holding the handlebars. Sometimes I even hold my hands up in the air like Victory! It's soooo freeing!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bhadrapur, Nepal

I have so much to say, but no time to say it in. I've been busily getting ready for my big trip to Nepal, my first time to Asia. I've been to South America, North America and Australia but never Asia! So this should be cool. I am a bit of a cold wimp so hopefully I have enough warm weather gear now to not totally die or get frostbite or a case of the whines. ha ha! I don't think it will be THAT cold because it's not like I'm climbing Mount Everest or something. We'll be at mid-elevations but heck this is the freaking Himalayas!!! After a day in Kathmandu, we fly into Bhadrapur, in eastern Nepal. We'll be trekking along the Singhalila Ridgeline at the border between Nepal and Inida, which apparently was only opened up to trekking around 2000. Surely on one of those rinky dink planes that I hate, and I've read that Nepal has some of the shortest runways in the world because of the mountains. Nice! At least I've (mostly) overcome my fear of flying!!

Here are some maps and weather info for the Bhadrapur area. Loooks like 12-24 degrees C which translates to 53-76 degrees F. Not so bad. But we'll be trekking around and camping some nights. Here's another map. We'll be heading into that snowy part, to be sure. I'm really very excited. Mostly because when I get away on these adventures the whole world falls away. There's no stress of anything at all... no chores to have the kids do, or chores and errands of my own, no deadlines (at least none that I work on while away), and surrounded by pure beauty. I hope all goes well and safe since there's been some interesting developments there in the past few weeks. I've been told by someone that the Maoists have promised no violence until after November 16th. I don't know why that date, probably has to do with some of their holiday and the election (that was postponed) but it's nice of them to delay the violence until the day after I leave :)

I'm eating wasabi peas and my mouth is on fire. When I eat them they remind me of my friend Clea from Italy who made the funniest face when I gave her a few to try and was like "eww! bleh! gross! Why would anyone want to eat these???!!!" and then she proceeded to eat more. Ha ha!! It was so cute and funny. I miss Clea!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm on the radio!

Host Sidney Wildesmith interviewed me yesterday about my writing on the Wild Side News: Nature Talk Radio, a San Diego based radio talk show. You can listen to the interview ("Want to be a Nature Writer? Wendee Holtcamp talks about what it takes to be an environmental writer and journalist") at their website. Check it out! Click on "Segment 2" then forward past the "news" to minute 9:14 if you don't want to listen to the news before it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

camel, lion, child

I just finished Martha Beck's book, Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith. Wow! Not only was it a fast-paced, well-written and hard to put down book, it gave me a couple of spiritual insights that really resonated. I came across it by total serendipity. I was browsing the audiobook CDs in the library and even though I had several others on my list to read, there it was, so I checked it out. I'd seen her columns in O the Oprah Magazine, but never knew about this book. So it's a memoir about her experiences outgrowing the confines of a ritualistic religion and finding a faith that fit her spirit. I resonated with that because my own book, which my agent is sending out the proposal to this week, deals with losing my own childlike faith to atheism, becoming a scientist but then finding my faith again - a Christian faith but not a fundamentalist one.

It's rare to have a sort of Eureka moment, but I had one reading her book. On my bathroom mirror, I have a paper with graphic of a white dove with an olive leaf in its beak, along with a Deepak Chopra statement: “When you die, God holds your heart in one hand and a feather in another. If your heart is as light as a feather you know you have evolved.” I've always loved this Chopra saying but I didn’t know how to square it with Christianity, exactly. In the Bible, Jesus says that unless you become like a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:13). Here's where the revelation comes in.

Martha says she read about many different spiritual experiences and religions and mentions this parable of evolution of the spirit from 'camel' to 'lion' to 'child.' I was running while listening to the CD and now I can't find the exact place on the CDs where she talks about this. I'd thought she said it was from a Buddhist or other spiritual tradition, but I've traced it back to Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, his most well-known book. I can't tell if the concept originated with him, or came from another spiritual tradition and Nietzsche put it into a work of fiction to illustrate the concept. If anyone knows, please tell me as a Google search did not turn anything up other than Nietzsche! Now Nietzsche was against religion, so this is interesting, but one has to think outside the box and not just condemn everything that is not directly from a religious person because all people, I believe, are God's children and we all have some divine wisdom which we impart on the world, even while we may also be wrong in some aspects of our own wisdom and our own beliefs. The way this spiritual maturation process squares with Christianity and also other religions - as well as with psychology - is amazing, if you synthesize everything.

The stages represent how the spirit must sojourn in order to become creative, or truly free - which is of particular interest to me because I recently read Scott Peck's People of the Lie in which he defines evil as that which opposes the creative life force (consistent lying, confusion, and hiding behind a pretense of being good). God is Creator, after all, and we humans,"made in His image," also create - we bear children, we write, we build, we create art, we create societies and cultures. The camel stage represents submission to external rules, and the willingness to bear the burdens of religious teaching. But taking on this burden drives the came into the wilderness or desert (also rich with imagery from Jesus' time in the desert wilderness). There the camel confronts the dragon, which is evil and must be overcome to ultimately progress to the lion stage. The lion rebels against authority and takes on its own authority, its own wisdom. And camels (which most religious people are) often feel threatened by those in the lion stage.

In my memoir I'm working on (about science/faith), I relate this to the stage of atheism and rebellion against religious rules. But the rebellion has to occur after the camel stage to truly grow spiritually into the next stage, the child. A metamorphosis occurs. Martha describes the child as a stage of joy and laughter. That was what the revelation was for me. It seems so obvious now! I have been chasing joy for so long, but it's not something one can chase. It's a butterfly that will arise only when one metamorphosed beyond the lion stage. I've rebelled from religious rules for some time now, and I've taken on the authority of the lion for some time. Joy comes in bits and pieces. It will come, I can't choose it. It must find me, as I move along my journey.

It never made complete sense to me Jesus' parable about the child, because I didn't understand what he meant by "child." Certainly it was not the "blind faith" that some Christian leaders say it is, because that opposes truth and God is Truth. But it makes complete and absolute sense that it refers to the childlike joy and laughter that is so natural to kids, that they unfortunately grow out of and get squashed out of them by the burdens of the world. It's our duty, and our spiritual imperative, to seek the joy by embarking on the journey to wholeness and maturity. Unless we become like the little child, we will not see the kingdom of heaven... that does not mean we will not "get to heaven" after life, it means we will not see the kingdom of heaven on earth - in our lives - which we can achieve if we seek God with our whole hearts, minds, soul, and strength. Amen!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

the irony and the literary

I had to laugh at the extreme irony when I read this CNN article, "Rice says Kremlin's consolidated power endangers democracy". I have to wonder if the journalist and CNN realize the irony because everything Secretary of State Rice is warning that the Kremlin is doing President Bush is doing in our country as well. I can't help but think that she's either in denial and her subconscious is reflecting exactly what is going on with the US through her criticism of the Kremlin (as people in denial of their own behavior often abhor that same behavior in others), or she is sending out a 'message' in the only way she can, within her current regime. She said "In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development," and "I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin....There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma," (the Russian parliament). Hello people!!!! That is exactly what's happening in the US, too.

What I'm reading now (or listening to on CD) ... God's Politics by Jim Wallis, a book by a progressive Christian minister concerned (as I am) about the mixing of the conservative fundamentalist Republican politics with Christianity, since of course Jesus' agenda was pretty much completely opposite in many aspects of their current agenda. ie care for the poor, treat all people with humility and respect, love your neighbor as yourself, oppose violence. Instead we have war, privilege to the rich at the expense of the poor, and a very selective addressing of human social ills. Check out his blog, linked above, as well as a video of him on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I also just started Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith by Martha Beck who is a columnist for O the Oprah magazine.

Books I want to read, having already read many of those on my list from my blog post of 7/21, are below. Any comments on these books? Other suggestions for must-read books? Anything related to Nepal that I'd like since I leave for there in 2 weeks? I'm finding that I'm really craving this literary stimulus these days. I used to love to read as a kid, I devoured books. Since college I pretty much lost time for any pleasure reading until I joined a book club a few years ago, but that circle of friends has fallen away so I didn't read again until recently anything except nonfiction books relevant to my writing topics (and some of my reading list, such as God's Politics and Leaving the Saints, are related to my book - though also enjoyable - I'm really enjoying Leaving the Saints).
  • Water for Elephants: a Novel by Sara Gruen
  • The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Taleb
  • The Liars Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
  • The Red Tent: A Novel by Anita Shreve
  • Love in the Time of Cholera (Oprah's Book Selection for this month!) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Save Me From Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story by Brian "Head" Welch
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
  • Don't Think of An Elephant by George Lakoff
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Henry and June by Anais Nin
  • The Inheritance of Loss: A Novel by Kiran Desai

All for now! I had an awesome fun day and evening with Daline yesterday. I went to get my immunizations for Nepal and my India Visa and since I was already downtown, spent the rest of the day with Daline. Went to REI shopping for cold weather clothes and such (got sooo many cute clothes! and warm!), and had so much fun esp trying on funny hats. We ate lunch at the Hobbit Cafe, then dinner at Whole Foods then went back to her sisters pad to chat and hang out. She played me Brown-Eyed Girl on her guitar which she'd learned at lessons. I LOVE that song! Love and laughter to all!!

Some funky robots in a window in Berkeley on Telegraph Avenue.

Me and my niece Kira!

My adorable niece playing with yuk soup!

Me, my "sister-in-law" and friend Zofia and Peggy Vincent, author of Baby Catcher in CA last weekend!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

hugs from my daughter

How I wish someone with my daughter's huge heart was around when I was younger. I've always told my daughter that "some bad things" happened to me when I was a child and for some time she's been bugging me to tell her the nature of those things. She's a very precocious, well-read and extremely intelligent child for 12 (nearly 13) but I've always had a hard time telling her just what happened to me, though she knows very well about the birds and the bees and loves to watch crime shows (NCIS, Criminal Minds) as well as health shows - she's been hooked on them for years and that's what made her want to be a doctor for the last 4 years. An emergency pediatric surgeon to be precise. But today she read my Chapter 1 from my memoir, (which is about balancing faith and reason, and Christianity and evolution specifically). Chapter 1 talks about how my parents --specifically my mom's denial of my reality and my dad's hippie lifestyle - led to my intense questioning of everything and ultimately to my becoming a scientist. It also talks about the difficult childhood experiences such as being molested at age 10 and raped at age 15. She read these things and asked me some more questions about the situations, and then gave me a really big hug. We're a huggy family already, but she deliberately gave me several hugs throughout the day, and when she did, she would just look at me in this compassionate wise way. So sweet. This week my agent should be sending out my book proposal. Prayers are greatly appreciated!!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

on the road again...

Having just come back from the San Francisco Bay area for the ASJA East Meets West writers conference, I am leaving tomorrow (yet again!) this time for Caddo Lake, Texas' only natural lake. I'm going with my son's classes outdoor ed trip. Each class does an outdoor ed trip every year. We camp and canoe and have a campfire which is great fun. But I leave for Nepal in less than a month - holy cow - and have so much to do. I also found out that the Maoists quit the government yesterday, and started protesting. There had been a 10-year civil war in Nepal that ended peacefully when the king stepped down from power but now unrest arises again... it may be an interesting time to be there. The Maoists never turned violent against tourists, but you never know what will happen in the future. Prayers appreciated!

I've been feeling restless lately. I find that I'm allowing the little things that used to drive me crazy, make me have a bad day etc sort of roll off me. I vent but I don't get too upset and feel alright that things will all work out, as they always do. But I can't help but feel some sort of internal unrest in my soul over the world, and my own place in it. I wonder if I'm doing what I should be doing in terms of writing, activism, evangelism, spreading love and wisdom. Am I doing enough? Am I on the right path? Where am I getting sidetracked and on what should I focus? It's a very difficult challenge to balance single motherhood and career in itself, but combine that with a life calling to make a difference, to spread the seeds of love and light which this world so desperately craves and needs and yet to still need some love and light sprinkled on myself as well. I'm blessed to get that love and light from my friends and family! Loved seeing Zofia and Kira in SF this weekend! I also met a longtime friend and colleague, Peggy Vincent, author of Babycatcher and a longtime midwife in the Bay Area. We had known each other online but never met in person. I'll put up pics when I get back from this trip to Caddo Lake.

If you ever get to San Francisco you have to go to get the best hot chocolate in the world - Bittersweet chocolate cafe! That's where I met Peggy. Have the spicy hot chocolate which has chipotle and other pepper and is so yummy and has a real bite! It's great with a shot of espresso. Yummy!