Big Fire, Little Fire

Photo of smokey skies in Seattle.

Seattle skies show smoke blown in from Central Washington fires.

I’ve spent a lot of time this past month exploring sites like to see exactly what part of the United States is on fire at the moment. And I’ve been having some weird thoughts. You see, when you look at the tiny little fire icon on a map, it doesn’t seem real. It just looks like a tiny little baby fire, the sort that you could snuff out with a wet towel or a fire extinguisher.

So then I click on the tiny baby fire icon to find out more information. Let’s say, for example, the More Info tells me the fire is 12 acres big and has been burning for a month. It tells me the resources on hand are 19 fire engines, and at least 30 firefighters. I start wondering how 19 fire engines and 30 firefighters have still not put out a 12 acre fire after a month.

I get silly ideas, like: why don’t the residents of the nearby city do a bucket brigade? Why don’t I just drive 6 hours to the fire and put it out myself? With, you know, my mental willpower, rain stick, and a whole lot of spit.

  • But then I think about how busy the map makers must be this time of year, trying to keep maps like this updated.
  • I think about how it’s likely by now the fire has in fact been contained even though the website doesn’t say so.
  • I think of how many firefighters are working hard out there.
  • I think of how resources are likely being diverted to fight the significantly larger fires.
  • I think of how many firefighters have died fighting the fires this year.

And I’m grateful so many people are making such a strong effort to put out all the fires, big and small.

Denying Someone Else’s Reality

Last month my husband and daughter were playing a casual game of soccer, which basically meant Daddy was standing there kicking the ball at the Kid, who was chasing it all over the place. Eventually, the Kid got mad because she was doing badly and all Daddy was doing was standing there. She thought he should run around more.

“I’m tired,” said Daddy.

“How can you be tired? You were just lying around all day,” said the Kid.

“I’m sick,” replied Daddy.

“How can you still be sick? You got sick last week,” griped the Kid.

The conversation continued with the Kid still in a state of denial.

When a child does this, we understand that they don’t understand, and think it’s cute, even though it’s also annoying. However, when a healthcare professional does it, it is mindblowingly unfathomable.

If you are a person who is sensitive to internal pain, you have probably experienced a fair amount of gaslighting from healthcare professionals. Although this post contains some personal information, I wanted to show what it’s like when another adult just can’t seem to fathom that we are capable of feeling what we feel.

  • I went to a gastroenterologist complaining of pain under my right rib cage and burping (classic signs of gallbladder trouble if you care to google it) and was told my burping was just a “habit” and the pain I was experiencing was just “nerves.” Turns out I had chronic cholecystitis and needed to have my gallbladder removed.
  • When I was in moaning in pain during labor my midwife actually told me at one point, “you don’t have to make all that noise.” As if, I would be like “Oh! Ok,” and then just have a baby, all quiet-like.
  • After the pain drugs wore off post colonoscopy/polypectomy, I had terrible pain in the region where two polyps had been burned off. When I spoke to the nurse on the phone, she told me that the colon does not ever feel pain, unless it is extended with gas (wow, I guess she’d never had a case of food poisoning). Turned out I had post-polypectomy electrocoagulation syndrome, which basically means stuff inside my colon got burned that wasn’t supposed to be, and yes, I could feel that and it hurt.

If you’ve got your own story to add I’d love to hear it.


RedBubble: Fun with Commodification of my Art Work

You may recall that last year, I had a show of my Fruit Voodoodles painting series at CMA Gallery and sold three of them on opening night. What’s left of my work is currently on display at Gordito’s in Seattle, minus Power Strawberry, which lives in the collection of a relative..

And now, I’ve set up a profile on RedBubble, where you can obtain copies of my art works in the most consumer-ific ways possible: on t-shirts, stickers, notebooks, pillows, and more.

I don’t know about you, but I find this very amusing.

If you have any kind of original art work lying around, take a good digital photo of it, and upload it to RedBubble, then see the magic unfold as your work is placed digitally onto mugs, onesies and scarves!


Sympathy, not Snootery, Please

“Excuse me,” I asked the server at a private event at a posh Seattle restaurant, “Can you tell me what you have here at the buffet that’s gluten-free?”

“The vegan table is over there.” The server waved his pointing hand.

I walked away, furrowing my brow. Doesn’t he understand that vegan is not the same thing as gluten-free?

Afterward, I spoke with a friend who had worked for years as a server for a fancy restaurant, and she said basically, high end restaurants look down on their customers with dietary restrictions, because they think we deliberately choose to avoid delicious food in favor of unsavory alternatives, because we are, idunno, uncouth people who love to be miserable?

Well, yes, I have made a choice. I have made a choice to feel as well as I can, rather than feel sick, out of it, or tired all the time. I know there may be some people in this world who can continue eating deep fried stuff, spicy foods and alcohol up until the day of their death, but I am not likely to be one of them, unless those foods end up being the things that kill me.

Here are some of the choices I have had to make over the years:

  • A few years ago, I discovered that wheat (including the wheat in soy sauce) and barley malt both caused me to feel hungry, tired, and out of it. I prefer not to live my life like a starving zombie, so I avoid gluten containing foods as much as I can. I guess that makes me one of those gluten-avoiding bandwagon-jumping people everyone makes fun of now, eh?
  • When I was in my third trimester of pregnancy, I couldn’t eat deep fried foods without getting heartburn. If you have ever had heartburn, you know it sucks and Tums can only do so much. Luckily, this period of my life was brief and people are usually sympathetic to pregnant women. Unfortunately, deep fried foods in any quantity beyond a few french fries are still likely to make me sick (I’m unsure if its from cross-contamination with wheat, gallbladder issues or what), so visiting fairs and carnivals isn’t as much fun now that I have to pack my own food.
  • In recent years, alcohol has begun to not agree with me, especially sugary cocktails and white wine. I can handle a glass of red wine sometimes, but not always. I never quite know for sure if the wine is going to make me feel like a hungry crazy person, so generally I just avoid it. I guess that makes me one of those party pooper types.
  • Last month after a colonoscopy I learned I really am at risk for colon cancer. It’s no longer just a mythical maybe due to family history. So now, in addition to colonoscopies every three years, I have to be judicious about consuming foods and drinks known to increase the risk of colon cancer, like red meat, processed meat, and alcohol. If I choose to be smart and care about my health, that is.
  • The latest bit of news is that I’ve got bile sludge, which is painful and nausea-inducing for me. Fatty foods make it worse, spicy is scary, seeds are now the devil, and dairy products are super bad news for me at the moment. So trying to plan a night out to eat with my husband, I realized I was limited to…sushi. Which is fine, I like sushi, but there are so many awesome restaurants in Seattle and I am afraid to try most of them, because trying to find a restaurant that can serve me gluten-free, dairy-free, low-fat food is next to impossible. The alternative is to eat what I want, then feel like someone kicked me under the rib cage, and risk a trip to the ER if I get a fever along with the pain.

Having a limited diet is like being alone in a hot air balloon that is slowly lifting off into the air. As it gets higher, you can see all the people around you enjoying awesome foods and drinks you used to love, before you discovered how sick they were making you. It’s a very lonely feeling.

I would never have deliberately chosen to have a diet so different from that of the people around me. It is not fun to make a separate meal for myself when my husband and daughter are eating foods I used to like. It sucks to avoid events and activities because packing my own food can be such a hassle. I would never have chosen this for myself and I do not wish it on anyone. I do not enjoy feeling like some kind of diva when people look at me funny for packing my own food instead of eating what everyone else is eating. It saddens me to turn down your potluck item because it contains something I can’t have. However, the alternative…sickness and death…are truly not much of an alternative.

Have your own stories to share? Feel free to comment.

Putting Others First

I have a friend who lives by the philosophy, “Help everyone around me be happy, and that way I’ll be happy, too.” I conveyed this idea to another person, who responded with, “That’s a terrible idea, because you can’t rely on another person for your happiness.” Well, right. But my friend was not saying she can’t be happy unless everyone else is happy, too. There’s another way to look at this, which is rooted in Buddhism.

To be as happy as the Buddha was rumored to be, see all beings as equals (upeksa), recognize our interdependence (shunyata), and eliminate clinging to the concept of yourself as a separate, independant person. If you can do those things (easier said than done of course), then putting others first will come naturally.

If you don’t believe that putting others first can make you happier than you would be otherwise, try it for yourself.

A couple of years ago I needed to have an MRI of my brain, which required me to hold still for thirty minutes while a cascading racket of special MRI noises (blended with 80s pop songs they piped in) filled my ears. It didn’t take long for me to get a crick in my neck and feel like there was no way I was going to sustain this. Then I thought of my daughter. I thought of how she deserved to have a Mama while she grew up, and if I didn’t hold still, they might not get a good picture of my brain and then who knows what could happen? Thinking of her gave me the strength of will to hold still with purpose. (And luckily there was no brain tumor).

A nice way to practice putting others first is to donate your birthday. Because if you are like most people, you have a certain expecatation, conscious or not, that everyone will treat you like royalty on your birthday. You’ll be treated, dined, wined, whatever you want. Lots of cards, gifts, phone calls, etc. And the reality is no matter how much of that you get, it’s easy to feel like it just wasn’t quite enough. I’ve donated my birthday this year, and you can help out if you feel inspired.

So try this when you wake up on your birthday (or any day, really). Set the expection that you will do as much good for other beings as you can that day. Smile at people, do favors for them, cook a meal for others, give money to a person on the street. See how much better you feel at the end of the day.

Microbeads…haven’t heard of them? Coming soon to your plate

It’s a classic case of corporate greed. Cosmetics companies want to save money so they replace natural exfoliants with plastic substitutes. Consumers unknowingly end up washing tiny plastic balls down the drain. They are too small for wastewater treatment plants to filter out, so they end up in our waterways, where they are consumed by fish. This is bad for the fish of course, since plastic is not their natural diet, but it’s also bad for those higher up on the food chain — larger fish, birds, and of course, humans.









Luckily, there is an international campaign against microbeads, and in recent news, the state of California just banned them.

What you can do is avoid products that contain microbeads. Check the appropriate list for your country, and boycott away.