2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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J is for Japanese Tea Garden

Originally created as a “Japanese Village” exhibit for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, the site originally spanned about one acre and showcased a Japanese style garden.

Japanese landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara and superintendent John McLaren reached a gentleman’s agreement, allowing Mr. Hagiwara to create and maintain a permanent Japanese style garden as a gift for posterity. He became caretaker of the property, pouring all of his personal wealth, passion, and creative talents into creating a garden of utmost perfection. Mr. Hagiwara expanded the garden to its current size of approximately 5 acres. The garden currently features classic japanese garden elements including: an arched drum bridge, pagodas, stone lanterns, stepping stone paths, native Japanese plants, serene koi ponds and a zen garden. Cherry blossom trees bloom throughout the garden in March and April.

Today, the Japanese Tea Garden continues to be recognized as one of the greatest man-made Japanese Gardens in the world and it is one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco.
Hours

Open Daily, no holiday closures.

Summer (3/1 through 10/31): 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
Winter (11/1 through 2/28): 9:00 am to 4:45 pm
Admission

Mon, Wed, Fri: FREE admission if entered by 10:00 am
Adult: $5.00 (Residents), $7.00 (Non-Residents)
Senior (65+) and Youth (12-17):
$3.00 (Residents), $5.00 (Non-Residents)
Child (5-11): $1.50 (Residents), $2.00 (Non-Residents) Child (4 and under): Free

For more information visit http://www.japaneseteagardensf.com/

C is for California Academy of Sciences

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California Academy of Sciences

@ 2012 The Academy of Sciences

The Academy of Sciences is the only place in the world with an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, a 3D theater, a lecture hall, a Naturalist Center, two restaurants, an adjacent garden and aviary, a roof terrace, and a 4-story rainforest all under one roof, which is located in world-famous Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, CA. The Academy is a stunning architectural achievement with hundreds of unique exhibits and nearly 40,000 live animals.

The Academy of Sciences renovation took ten years to complete and cost $100 million privately funded dollars. The Academy’s commitment to sustainability earned the platinum rating (highest rating possible) for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

The museum is open 363 days a year (closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas) Monday – Saturday 9:30 am – 5:00 pm and Sunday 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased on-site or online. During peak periods, a $5 admission surcharge is added to ticket purchases at the door. This surcharge does not apply to tickets purchased online, which are valid any day, including peak periods. More more information please visit http://www.calacademy.org/visit/

General Admission Buy Tickets
Adult $29.95
Senior (ages 65 and over) $24.95
Student $24.95
Youth (ages 12-17) $24.95
Child (ages 4-11) $19.95
Ages 3 and under FREE

Reflections ~ Biopsy Results: Gratitude Journal #9

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This past week has been very emotional! I spent most of it waiting for my biopsy results. I was in good shape for the most part, until Wednesday came. I felt anxiety creeping in as I began to think about how these results were going to change my life. I waited for the Nurse Practitioner to call me with the results and the morning whirled by and my anxiety began rising. The office’s lunch period quickly came and went and I decided to call if I hadn’t heard from her by 2:00pm.

Finally, the call I’d waited for six days finally came. I was so nervous as I answered the telephone. My stomach was in knots as I thought about the possibilities that were before me. Benign or Cancerous? Radiation or Chemo and a Full Hysterectomy, or just a Full Hysterectomy. I gasped for air as she began explaining the results of my biopsy. She stated that what looked like fibroid tissue was in fact endometrial tissue growing deep with in the uterine wall. The baffling thing is there was no blood source attached to the growth, but the great thing about the mass was it was COMPLETELY BENIGN!

BENIGN. Yes, it was benign! I was transferred to the scheduler to get my Hysterectomy date, and we confirmed May 10th. I will stay over at the hospital for one night and then I will be released to go home and all of this ordeal will be OVER!!!!

I spent Wednesday night celebrating my results! I called friends, sent text messages and took pictures to remember this moment. I needed to remember THIS moment! I needed to remember how I was feeling at the moment I heard that the mass within me was benign. I will always remember this moment and I am so grateful that I have had a wonderful medical team that always listens to me and advocates for my best health.

I am so grateful for my family and friends for their support. I am especially grateful that this entire process will soon be a part of my past.

I do not have uterine cancer — whew it feels great to be able to say that! But I have to acknowledge the thousands of women that are diagnosed with uterine cancer and cervical cancer because my heart pours out to you. The mental anguish that one suffers through the discovery process is unbelievable. My prayers are with you and your families!

Reflection on Happiness

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
Dalai Lama

Happiness is not a fleeting moment that can be captured in a mason’s jar. Happiness is a conscious choice. I believe that to be the case. It’s kind of like mind over matter. I say this after experiencing some of the best and worse times in my life.

As I sit here enjoying yet another day, which will be filled with blessings, I reflect on the choice that I am making to be happy, regardless of the bumps and bruises that I will encounter today. I am cognizant that I am making this choice without the aid of the anti-anxiety medication that I have used for the past six months to help me deal with PTSD and frankly I am okay with that!

Today I choose to be happy. Yes, I said CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY! I choose to be happy because happiness is really my choice. I can choose to dwell on the negative or positive things in my life and right now I am choosing happiness!

There have been so many negative and bad things going on lately but they can not be allowed to outweigh the good and positive things that continue to surround me and bring me joy. I read a brief about the Happiness Project book and I have to admit I was truly inspired to put it into practice in my daily life. So without further adieu:

My Twelve Personal Commandments of Happiness

1. Let it go! (The bitterness of the past arguments, fights and life’s disappointments will only continue to cause problems in the future if I don’t let go of my anger, bitterness and resentment.)

2. Do it now. (There is no time like the present. If I don’t do it, I can’t count on anyone else to do it!)

3. Doing something everyday just for me. (It’s important to take care of my own needs especially since I spend my days taking care of so many other people’s needs — especially my children’s needs first.)

4. Treating others as I desire to be treated. (This really requires me to reflect on item number one so that I can react to people differently.)

5. Enjoying the process. (Too many times I am over-scheduled with too many things that I don’t want to do but I am required to do because of the kids activities. I know I should enjoy things more especially when I see that my kids are enjoying it. I need to take time to remember it’s not always about the end results it’s the process of getting there as well.)

6. Being more open with others. (No longer hiding behind my kids, insecurities to inform others that I can’t participate in things due to lack of money. My family is not the only family dealing with an economic crisis. Sharing my true and honest feelings about things instead of withdrawing from friends and loved ones.)

7. Purging. (Ridding myself of the clutter in my mind, heart, body, closet and house. Things bog me down. Be it purging the things in my mind: ie.. fears, doubts, anger, confusion, desires. Be it purging the things in my home ie… the clutter of holding on to things that are no longer relevant in my life. Purging “things” that create confusion is now a necessity that must go high up on my list of things to do. When there is too much of everything and that feeling of utter confusion occurs, I know it is time to purge because if I don’t it will lead to chaos. Nothing more needs to be said about that.)

8. Venture out into new pastures. (Trying new things, new foods, new friends, immersing into new cultures. Develop a new skill set, try a new job, volunteer for something that will allow me to learn something new.)

9. Decide to have it ALL! (Stop selling my hopes and dreams short and settling for less than I deserve by making the decision to say, “I can’t do that.” I can do anything that I put my mind into figuring out. However, I can’t do it all at one time and I must discern the difference. There will be times in my life where I can dedicate some time and energy to being the best at something else. I need to stop feeling like, if I’m tied up with one thing right now that it means I can’t do specific things. I just need to be patient and know my time is not GOD’s time!)

10. Conquering my fears. (Accepting the unknown and understanding that whatever happens is the way that it was supposed to be.)

11. Honoring my temple. (Listening to myself and my body.)

12. Be grateful. (Being grateful in all things at all times for the lessons that I will learn.)

What will your commitment to happiness be in 2012?

Song of the Week ~ Wind Beneath My Wings

By the time you read this scheduled blog. I will be sitting at my twenty-one year old “son’s” funeral. The last few days have been an emotional roller coaster to say the very least. While I am so grateful for Richard’s love and presence in my life, I have found myself angry. Bitterly angry! Angry at CANCER. Angry at lost moments. And dare I say it? Yes, I was even angry at GOD.

This week wasn’t all sad. I know GOD has been here with me carrying me through. I have stopped being mad at him and I continue to ask for his peace that transcends all of my human understanding. There was an ebb and flow to the week. It was rocky, it was joyous. I celebrated life and I celebrated death. I remembered “my baby,” @whymommy (Susan), and all of the other folks that have struggled and fought with Stage Four Cancer and I felt guilty as I remembered my miniature non-invasive battle. It was you who fought the good fight. It is both of you that will always remain my hero as you smiled and took your chemo, educated the masses about invasive cancer and always tried to make others be alright with coming to terms with your life coming to an end.

Saturday was a consistent ride on a wave of emotions. Our family woke up early to begin the difficult day and my daughter unfortunately still had painful hives on her feet, arms and torso but the first thing she said was, “This game is for Rich and my team, Mom.” My daughter’s soccer team went on to win their soccer championship. This was quite a fete because they are now undefeated for two years straight! We celebrated their success, just like we knew Rich would. He loved to win! I celebrated with my daughter and I was astounded that she managed to play in such pain. Smiling and defending the goal, helping her team to victory, just as Rich had done so many times. Yesterday he truly was the wind beneath our wings. A few hours later I found myself sitting at Cypress Lawn for his Rosary. Staring at Rich in his casket, wedding ring on his finger and his son’s favorite blanket at his side. He is at peace finally. No more pain. No more meds. No more suffering. It is those of us that know and love him that will continue to rely on the rays of sunshine that he provided in our lives.

Farewell my handsome Prince Rich ~ you are gone too soon.

Midnight Sun, Lofoten by William H. Johnson

A Reflection on Eve Ensler’s Essay ~ Over It

I love Eve Ensler. I love her because she is outspoken. I love her because she is a Lioness. I love her because her words are succinct, powerful and thought provoking. I love her perspective of the state of women and what we endure all around the world.

Eve’s life and mission are more than the discussions on the praise and neglect of a woman’s womb. She is bringing attention to the masses about the acceptance, choices, expectations, plight, and roles of women. If you have not read or seen The Vagina Monologues, I certainly encourage you to do so. I have to admit that I was expecting it to be a trite piece of hyper-sexual overindulgence, but I was reduced to tears and I gained a larger understanding of what it means to be a woman from a global perspective, and how I am one woman out of every three women who has been raped and what does that mean in the larger scale of things.

I am still left reflecting, still processing, still trying to understand why the assault on a woman’s body is still taking place. I am still trying to understand why the assault on a man’s body is still taking place. I am still trying to grasp why victims continue to suffer in silence and why there is limited resources to help victims try and heal.

Here in San Francisco, a fifteen year old girl who is visiting from out of the country was raped yesterday. I am outraged and saddened as always but I believe Eve says it best in her piece entitled OVER IT in The Huffington Post :

I am over rape.

I am over rape culture, rape mentality, rape pages on Facebook.

I am over the thousands of people who signed those pages with their real names without shame.

I am over people demanding their right to rape pages, and calling it freedom of speech or justifying it as a joke.

I am over people not understanding that rape is not a joke and I am over being told I don’t have a sense of humor, and women don’t have a sense of humor, when most women I know (and I know a lot) are really fucking funny. We just don’t think that uninvited penises up our anus, or our vagina is a laugh riot.

I am over how long it seems to take anyone to ever respond to rape. I am over Facebook taking weeks to take down rape pages.

I am over the hundreds of thousands of women in Congo still waiting for the rapes to end and the rapists to be held accountable.

I am over the thousands of women in Bosnia, Burma, Pakistan, South Africa, Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Afghanistan, Libya, you name a place, still waiting for justice.

I am over rape happening in broad daylight.

I am over the 207 clinics in Ecuador supported by the government that are capturing, raping, and torturing lesbians to make them straight.

I am over one in three women in the U.S military (HappyVeterans Day!) getting raped by their so-called “comrades.”

I am over the forces that deny women who have been raped the right to have an abortion.

I am over the fact that after four women came forward with allegations that Herman Cain groped them and grabbed them and humiliated them, he is still running for the President of the United States.

And I’m over CNBC debate host Maria Bartiromo getting booed when she asked him about it. She was booed, not Herman Cain.

Which reminds me, I am so over the students at Penn State who protested the justice system instead of the alleged rapist pedophile of at least 8 boys, or his boss Joe Paterno, who did nothing to protect those children after knowing what was happening to them.

I am over rape victims becoming re-raped when they go public.

I am over starving Somalian women being raped at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, and I am over women getting raped at Occupy Wall Street and being quiet about it because they were protecting a movement which is fighting to end the pillaging and raping of the economy and the earth, as if the rape of their bodies was something separate.

I am over women still being silent about rape, because they are made to believe it’s their fault or they did something to make it happen.

I am over violence against women not being a #1 international priority when one out of three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime — the destruction and muting and undermining of women is the destruction of life itself. No women, no future, duh.

I am over this rape culture where the privileged with political and physical and economic might, take what and who they want, when they want it, as much as they want, any time they want it. I am over the endless resurrection of the careers of rapists and sexual exploiters — film directors, world leaders, corporate executives, movie stars, athletes — while the lives of the women they violated are permanently destroyed, often forcing them to live in social and emotional exile.

I am over the passivity of good men. Where the hell are you? You live with us, make love with us, father us, befriend us, brother us, get nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us, so why aren’t you standing with us? Why aren’t you driven to the point of madness and action by the rape and humiliation of us?

I am over years and years of being over rape.

And thinking about rape every day of my life since I was 5-years-old.

And getting sick from rape, and depressed from rape, and enraged by rape.

And reading my insanely crowded inbox of rape horror stories every hour of every single day.

I am over being polite about rape.

It’s been too long now, we have been too understanding.

We need to OCCUPYRAPE in every school, park, radio, TV station, household, office, factory, refugee camp, military base, back room, night club, alleyway, courtroom, UN office. We need people to truly try and imagine — once and for all — what it feels like to have your body invaded, your mind splintered, your soul shattered.

We need to let our rage and our compassion connect us so we can change the paradigm of global rape.

There are approximately one billion women on the planet who have been violated.

ONE BILLION WOMEN.

The time is now.

Prepare for the escalation.

Today it begins, moving toward February 14, 2013, when one billion women will rise to end rape.

Because we are over it.

Song of the Week — WTF by Elle Varner

Ever had one of those kinds of days where you throw up your hands and say WTF (What the f*%^)? Well then you can totally identify with my current vibe. I am just 6 weeks out post-op and still having some troubles with digesting my food, not feeling a 100%, I have a garage full of boxes that still needs to be unpacked or otherwise disposed of and I just don’t have the mental or physical energy to deal with it.

I woke up with another song in mind for today but since my girl crush (Elle Varner) snuck into town last night, performed at Ruby Skye and dropped a Mixtape CD this morning, I had to get my grove on and test out the eagerly anticipated songs.

Much to my delight — CONVERSATIONAL LUSH does not disappoint and this song in particular titled WTF, just kinda captured my mood today. It captured the irony I am currently calling my life and although the circumstances of her song are unlike any that I have experienced before, I am still sitting here contemplating WTF!

WTF am I gonna do to get my “get up and go” back? WTF am I gonna do with my future, am I really gonna stop teaching and settle for an office job? WTF? I am really not sure what’s gonna happen but right now I am gonna enjoy the ride and sing along until the dust settles!

Have you ever felt like life on the road less traveled is full of bumps and bruises that are insurmountable? How did you manage to get through? I am choosing humor and music. How about you?

SPOTLIGHT CORNER ~ @JuliaRoberts1 of Support for Special Needs

This week in my SPOTLIGHT CORNER, I am so very proud to welcome Julia Roberts of Support for Special Needs. I am so proud to have her here in the SPOTLIGHT CORNER because she is just AWESOME!! As a parent of a child with Special Needs, I can’t begin to tell you how her words and the support of the community that she has created have helped me and my family, and although she believes that she is getting so much in return from the community she has created for families with children that have special needs, I assure you – we would be lost without her gentle support, fierce advocacy and love. I look to Julia when I am at my wits end, when I have an IEP coming up and when I just want to celebrate a good day with my son. She’s been in my shoes, she wears them well, she is my constant reminder that sometimes I have to run in heels to advocate for my families needs and its not impossible to run my race wearing shoes that I have been assigned. Without further delay here is Julia’s perspective on How Blogging has impacted her life.

When I started blogging in 2004 I mainly did it because I was exhausted from telling multiple people about the day, or the week, or the appointments that were changing our lives at lightning speed. In 2001 at two days old, our daughter was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease. Three months later our then 3 year-old son was diagnosed as well. A myriad of appointments, treatments, more diagnoses and wanting to update friends and family as to how we were doing brought me to blogging.

I didn’t realize it until I’d been blogging for a couple of years that blogging became my therapy. While I was meeting people and finding support, I was also finding my voice; my voice as a mother, wife, volunteer and advocate. I often blogged through the issues I was having difficulty processing. When I wrote the words that would become my best posts they were often of me realizing how the Sad Mom was really just a Regular Mom. Yes, more baggage. Yes, more stress and I’d venture to say more expensive and time-consuming, but in the end I was a mom who loved her kids and wanted to fight for them fiercely if needed. So basically the same as all the mothers I knew.
So I cried, fought and celebrated online. Through the devastating news of our son starting emergency dialysis to save his life and what we went through to fight an impossible system to keep our daughter off dialysis and move to transplant preemptively. I can’t say that I was ever prepared for the nearly 2 years that our son was fighting debilitating depression. In a matter of a few months he went from a happy, energetic child after his kidney transplant to one who wanted to kill himself. While we were in the midst of finding the right treatment a blog reader reached out to me because as her younger self she could identify with what my son was going through.
While I certainly think we would have ended up with our son mentally stable, I think the road would have been much harder without having met her. On a particularly hard stretch of days watching him suffer, she reached out to me with maybe the kindest thing anyone has ever said to me. She said that what I was doing was enough, and while my son couldn’t get out of his depression with my love and patience, just the fact that I was witness to his experience and that I kept telling him and showing him we would find a way to reach him, it was enough. She told me he heard me even if he didn’t acknowledge it. She told me when he had rages that lasted hours that he would appreciate us carrying on to the next task, that sometimes he just needed to know that we weren’t falling apart as a family.

Blogging led me to co-found Support for Special Needs, a social network community for parents of kids with special needs as well as the professionals that serve them. The experience of managing a community has been a terrific way to give back but honestly, I get so much support and knowledge from other people. I’m so proud to have been a part of building it and I hope it continues to grow.
In short (well, maybe not so short), blogging has brought me support and information to get through a maze of special needs parenting, but it’s also helped me find myself. Blogging, in a lot of ways, helped me figure out the kind of woman I wanted to be in this phase of my life and I am so grateful.

Bio
Julia Roberts married into the name. In case you didn’t know, (the famous) Julia Roberts will not call your establishment to make her own tire rotation appointment or to argue about her cell phone charges. To make matters worse, this Julia Roberts husband’s name is Julian. They own a marketing firm together. They know. It’s a bit much for them, too. A geneticist’s dream, they produced two cute kids with a rare syndrome that includes a vision disorder and a crazy kidney disease; resulting in weirdly moving eyes and kidney transplants for both at age of 8. She’d like to dispel the myth that they are heroic; they talk about their kids’ poop just like the rest of you mere mortals.

Julia speaks to groups on topics about navigating life as a special needs family. She blogs at Kidneys and Eyes and created a social networking site for special needs families, Support for Special Needs with friend/writer/blogger Dawn Friedman and she helps her daughter with her blog, at I Wanted a Blog. You can find her on twitter as @juliaroberts1 and @supportSN.

Song of the Week ~ Officially Missing You by Tamia

This has been a week and I truly consider myself blessed to have made it through. I lost a friend this week to gunfire. I know that random killings seem to be an urban problem but I am so sick of loosing friends at the stray end of a bullet. This event has really caused me to reflect on my past, my future and of course living my very best life in the present!

This song is dedicated to loves lost and memories that lead me to the love that I have found! I’m officially missing you Kiese – REST IN PEACE “LITTLE BRO”