Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Downward Spiral

We look innocent:



But don't be fooled.

Yesterday, as we were deciding where to go to brunch, Meagan spoke these legendary words:

"I don't care where we go as long as they have champagne."

So we started at La Note, a classy little French cafe in downtown Berkeley, and sat in a window seat over brunch and mimosas (we ordered a bottle).

After we left La Note, we decided to walk down the street to Jupiter. After all, nothing wrong with sitting outside at a brewery on a beautiful summer sunshiney day, right?

Three or four beers (each) later, we figured it was time to go home. But all that changed when we walked past Beckett's Irish Pub on our way down the street (don't worry; we walked to La Note, so neither of us was driving).

And that's where the magic began to happen . . . and then was immediately truncated when I picked a fight with a guy who worked there and got us kicked out of the bar. What a scrappy drunk I am.

But that didn't stop us! We then took a bus (not sure how we ended up on the right bus) back to my house, where Meagan proceeded to drink sweet tea vodka, while I decided it was a perfect time to pop open a bottle of wine. At which point my phone rang--it was a good friend of the family's who was in town on business. Come on over!

Needless to say, Ciaran arrived to two very sloppy girls. But he claims he still had fun.

And that, my friends, is the reason for my latest break from booze. Tomorrow I will be drinking wheatgrass shots and eating raw vegetables.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Thanksgiving, a few months early

My dear bloggy friend Faiza has a blog that she calls a "gratitude journal," which is just as lovely as it sounds. I get so excited when I see a new blog post from her; inevitably, I feel better after I read her posts, no matter what my mood was prior. Faiza recently did a guest post at The Perfect Compilation Tape in which she highlighted five things she's grateful for, and encouraged everyone to play along. Here is Faiza's original post (read it, seriously, this woman inspires me!), and here is my own version:

Five Things I'm Grateful For:

5. Summer is Here!
I've always loved summer, and living in California has only nurtured my love for beach season. Being a teacher (and a teacher with a second job, at that!), I'm so busy during the school year that I rarely have time for relaxation in the months between September and May. Thus, June, July, and August are all about languor, and I love it! Plus, my birthday's in August. I share a birthday with this legend:

So far my summer's been about visiting family and friends, lounging by the pool, waking up slow, and drinking good coffee (plus ambushing City Hall to give me my job back, but that's circumstantial!). On the horizon: days at the beach, drinking beer on patios with friends, summer playlists, reading & writing.

4. Blog Friends
When I started this blog on January 1, it never occurred to me that anyone I didn't know would read it, or that I'd become attached to girls across the country (and the world!) whose blogs I love to read. It's pretty amazing how that happens, and some of the connections with lovely women I've made are incredible! Here are some of my very favorite blogs to read . . . with the disclaimer that you already know that I love my long-time-friends-from-childhood, Lesley at Homemade Grits and Christina at Down & Out Chic:

Micaela at Dolce Vita
Marianne at Royal Mail
Hope at Hope Chella
and you know who is so nice? Jeanette at Everton Terrace

There are plenty more that I will continue to share with you, but that's a pretty good preliminary list. Please go check out those blogs! They're all wonderful, entertaining, and beautiful.

3. Music
My current obsession?

I love summertime playlists! More to come on that front.

2. Forgiveness
I'm really not talking about any one specific situation here, but I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness--how we forgive others, and perhaps most importantly, how we forgive ourselves. This is one area in which I'm definitely working on myself . . . trying to be all about compassion, understand why others (and I) behave the way they/we do, and forgiving. I think it leads to happiness! I've spent far too much of my life feeling hurt by others--seems if I can just cloak myself in compassion and understanding, I'll be able to breathe, forgive, and be happy and peaceful. Maybe all this is coming from working with prisoners--a population who, sometimes, society neglects to forgive.

1. Family & Friends
(There's too much cross-over for these to be two separate categories)! At the beginning of the summer, I got to visit my family in Georgia (and some of my oldest friends), and there's just nothing like that feeling of being home. No sooner had I gotten back to San Francisco was I down in southern California visiting my dear friend Amy!

Newport Beach, y'all

And on that note, I'm off to meet another bff for a champagne brunch in Berkeley. Big toast to gratitude!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summer Stay-cation

Have I mentioned how much I adore these people?

JJ & Cari

Milo & Judebug

I met the Freitags a year and a half ago when I started babysitting for their then six-month-old son, Milo (the mischievous blonde pictured above). In that time, they've become some of my best friends in California--not only do I adore their (now two) boys, but Cari and JJ are one of my favorite couples in the world. They are funny and kind and generous and some of the friendliest people I know, and I am so grateful to have them in my life. Plus, I'm getting VERY EXCITED about the upcoming Jackson Browne concert Cari and I are going to!!

The Freitags live in Marin County (a stone's throw from San Quentin), in a beautiful neighborhood right on a . . . lake? river? inlet? In any case, it's on water, and their amazing back patio overlooks the water and Mount Tamalpais. Also in their neighborhood? A POOL! Which they graciously shared with me this week as they've been out of town. I didn't take any pics, but suffice to say it was AMAZING and I am happily sun-tired and a little bit red. :)

My dear friends Anna and Rebecca had birthdays Thursday and Friday respectively, and while a bunch of us were out getting celebratory cocktails at the Paragon Bar on Thursday night, we decided that Friday afternoon at the pool would be a perfect continuation of birthday weekend, so we all headed up to San Rafael on Friday and had a day/night of pool time, wine drinking, game playing, and girl talk. It was incredible! A perfect birthday/bachelorette experience (Rebecca's getting married next month!).

The timing of our little stay-cation couldn't have been better. My rugby player and I pretty much called it quits on Tuesday night, so a mini getaway with the girls was most definitely in order. Seems like I'm becoming an expert at break-ups. :( So over it! Nothing like good friends, a pink bikini, and some wine to yank you right out of a breakup slump, though!

Hope your weekends have been just as fun! xoxo

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Thank you Micaela!

It's so rare that we meet someone and instantly connect to them in a deep, profound way. Someone whose soul is clearly so similar to our own, who is moved by the same things, makes the same mistakes, experiences the same love, and giddiness, and excitement, and sorrow. These connections are SO SPECIAL to me!

Which is why I cherish my friendship with Micaela so much.

Most of you who follow my blog probably follow hers as well, but if not, then go to her page immediately and experience how beautiful, thoughtful, open, and full of heart she is!

Imagine my delight when I found this on my doorstep yesterday morning:

My excitement made me squeal! I was on my way to a stressful, long afternoon at San Francisco City Hall, to once again beg the Budget Committee to reconsider funding my job. But when I opened Micaela's package in my car before I drove off, I was too amazed to be worried about the meeting . . .

Micaela just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Everyone says that this book is all about the timing--where you are in your life when you read it--and Micaela was at the exact right place. There's a line in the book about how snails carry their homes with them wherever they go, so she got me this sweet glass snail, and included a note that said: "from one snail to another . . . "

For years, I've been enamored with the relationship between Anais Nin and Henry Miller. There have been so many times in my life when I've been so inspired and/or comforted by reading Anais Nin's journals--especially the parts about her illicit, romantic, wonderful, and destructive relationship with Henry Miller. Can you believe Micaela found this tank top for me at one of her favorite online boutiques?? It's perfect! (Excuse the poor quality of the picture, though--it's hot pink!)

Coffee from her favorite local cafe, and an old mug . . . I'm drinking the coffee right now and it's delicious! I might be hooked.

Micaela remembered that I'd written a blog post about wanting some new art for my dining room wall, so she got me this incredible, perfectly-me print. Two (of many) reasons why it's so perfect: 1. My favorite art is that which incorporates text; 2. It's written by THE American female poet. :)

M and I are both nostalgic about our home states (I'm from Georgia; she's from Texas). She sent me this adorable Georgia plate--can't decide whether to hang it on my wall or use it as a serving platter or put my perfumes on it or what! Whatever I do with it, I LOVE it (and everything that reminds me of home).

Micaela loves all things Italian, and we both love all things love . . . I fell asleep too abruptly to start this book last night, but I can't wait to start reading it today.

Just as much as I love all those incredible gifts, I love these sweet notes that M included with each of them. We're both writers/talkers/explainers, and I love that she so sweetly wrote little explanations to go with each present. ♥

I can't stop gazing at all of these wonderful gifts from my darling friend. My heart is so full and grateful today; thank you so much sweet Micaela!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The O.C.

You know, I've come to realize that the fact that one of my best friends lives in Orange County is not the only reason that I don't hate it. Sure, the parking lots are flooded with luxury SUVs, there are lots of chain stores, and let's just say they could use a little color up in the place. Buttttttt . . . there's also the Beachcomber, a perfect restaurant right on Newport Beach where you can sit and have a glass of white wine overlooking the waves. And there's Sprinkles cupcakes. And of course Amy and Dave's new baby doesn't hurt:


new wedges!

I'm kind of in love with my new black wedges. Plus, believe it or not, they're comfy! They were my sole O.C. purchase this time around . . . oh, and I must point out that Fashion Island in Newport Beach is teeming with overly tan women in rompers and tiny dogs. WHY BRING YOUR DOG SHOPPING? Seriously, people.

Sprinkles is a little bit of heaven

clockwise from top left: key lime, red velvet (my fave), lemon, peanut butter chocolate (Amy and Dave's favorite), vanilla, and milk chocolate. To the right? A pupcake for Amy & Dave's dog, Roxanne. :)

Auntie Claire and babysam!

Check out Sam rockin' his Juicy Couture duds I got him. I mean, he does live in Orange County after all. We can't have him being a baby pariah. :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bikini Body?

Is there any girl out there who truly enjoys bathing suit shopping? Like most girls, my weight fluctuates up & down, but even when I'm at my skinniest (which I'm certainly not now), standing in that dreaded fitting room light in front of a full mirror in a bathing suit can spiral me into the worst mood in a split second. Even when I'm the happiest with my body, as soon as I try on a bathing suit, everything I criticize about myself becomes grossly exaggerated . . . those bright mirrors are cruel! And mocking!

I'm heading down to the O.C. in a few short hours to visit my dear friend Amyola (and her new baby, Sam!), so yesterday I went to Target to try to find a new bathing suit. Needless to say, it was an unsuccessful endeavor. In my fantasy, I'm wearing a white monokini, big black sunglasses, a floppy hat, and red lipstick. HA! Never gonna happen.

The terrible irony is that the trying-on-a-swimsuit experience isn't nearly as bad in my own house as it is at the store, but it's way too risky to buy a freaking bathing suit without trying it on first, considering I have to try on about 42 of them in the fitting room before I find one that I think actually looks cute on.

Today, though, I stumbled upon this beauty at Anthropologie's website, and it just might be worth ordering (and inevitably shipping it back):

Gorgeous, right??

Anybody have any tricks to making bathing suit shopping any less miserable?

Also: thanks to my sister and stepmom, I'm now obsessed with playing Words with Friends on my iPhone. Who else plays this?! I need to know right away so I can start a game with you! Tell me your username! And if you don't play it yet, please download it pronto. ;)

Wish me luck finding Seth and Ryan on Newport Beach!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lesson learned

There seems to have been a theme to my trip home to Georgia this time around . . .

about mistakes.

It's so easy to make decisions based on what's important in the moment without thinking about how your actions will affect others (and yourself) down the road. Part of being a whimsical, romantic, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, intense, emotional, impulsive, passionate person who feels so much is making reckless mistakes, sometimes time & time again. I've been thinking a lot about convergences, and when a certain number of events happen at once, I can't help but think it's a sign, that there's a lesson to be learned.

In the past week:

1. I've spent many hours with four women who've made such bad mistakes that they've spent years in prison, away from their families and their own children (one of whom gave birth while incarcerated--while shackled to her surgical bed--and had to leave her baby at the hospital and return, alone, to prison). I'm certain these mistakes will haunt these women forever.

2. I've made a reckless mistake, and while it isn't anything that will send me to prison or affect my family . . . isn't guilt just the worst feeling in the world?

3. My dear friend is hurting, so badly, because of what many would call a "mistake." I'm so sad for her right now, and I wish I could take away her pain. Oh, how regret eats away at us so relentlessly.

What's the secret to always being the best possible person we can be? To not making mistakes that hurt us and other people?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Yesterday I met some people I will never forget.

Some of you know about Voice of Witness, the book series spearheaded by Dave Eggers, which confronts contemporary human rights crises through oral history. There are currently four books in the series: one about people who were wrongfully convicted and exonerated from prison, one about those displaced during and after Hurricane Katrina, one about undocumented workers in the U.S., and one about Sudanese refugees. All of which are full of extremely powerful narratives from those most directly affected.

A few months ago, my friend Mimi (who is Executive Director of Voice of Witness) contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in helping work on their fifth book, which will hopefully come out next year, focusing on the abuse and neglect that many women suffer when they are incarcerated. Of course, I agreed.

Yesterday I got up at 5 am and drove to Montgomery, Alabama to meet with two women at the AIM (Aid for Inmate Mothers) center downtown. I prepared my (incredibly futuristic) audio recorder and sat down with the first woman I was to interview. To say that she silenced me with her strength, resilience, and grace would be a drastic understatement.

The same thing happened with the next woman I interviewed. And then I drove to Birmingham, and was once again stunned by the story that came forth from this woman. All three of them had spirits & bodies that had been crushed, and all three of them were humble, gracious, and so unbelievably brave.

After I left the last woman's hot, humid living room in Birmingham, where we sat together swatting flies and in the loud hum of her fan, I drove to a Cracker Barrel and had dinner by myself in rural Alabama (sweet tea, fried okra, macaroni & cheese, and red skin potatoes). How's that for country? I figured I could use the time to sit alone and think about my new heroes.

Man, are most of us so, so lucky.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


I'm on a plane! Oh how I (sometimes) love the modern world. Wifi on a plane makes the flight go by SO much faster, and I'm less likely to get fidgety and stir-crazy and start doing weird stretches in the aisles.

However, wifi doesn't solve my hunger problem: I bought a tomato & mozzerella sandwich at the airport before I got on the plane, but when I opened it, I tragically discovered that it had mayonnaise on it so I threw it right into the trash before I got contaminated. I hate to waste food, but I hate to touch mayonnaise even more. GROSS ME OUT. I shudder even thinking about the incident.

Pretty excited about heading from this state:

to this state:

Peaches are most definitely on my "Food LOVES" list. As opposed to mayonnaise, which accompanies meat and mushrooms on my "Food HATES" list. What's on yours?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Poetry, Prosecco, and Pretty Girls

So my favorite day of the week is Wednesday. Why Wednesday? Cause that's the day I get to see my Cobras!

The Cobras:

Claire Ali Diana

We all went to grad school together to get our ever-practical Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (ha), and since then have been the best of friends! I love these two beauties . . . (seriously, aren't they so pretty?)!

Every Wednesday evening (with rare & devastating exception), the Cobras gather at my house and drink wine and eat dinner and workshop our poems from that week. The three of us take turns coming up with the assignments. Last week was my turn, for instance, and since we were going to have to skip a week (horrifying!), I assigned two poems:

1. Write a sestina, pantoum, or villanelle;
2. Pick a "mentor poet," read 30 poems from him/her, and write a poem that is inspired by your poet

But our lovely Ali just moved into a ridiculously gorgeous, serene house in the Oakland hills with her boyfriend, so we packed up and had a little Cobra field trip to her new digs . . . OMG:

I mean for real??

Those of you who live in cities understand how rare it is to have this kind of amazing beauty and space at home. Fountains! Yards! And what's that in the top left?? A HOT TUB.

We sat outside and had some okra & brie, and also some of this:

let's just say we finished both bottles . . . and only two of us drink

It was amazing. Ali cooked us a lovely dinner, we drank aplenty, and we discussed our poems. Next Wednesday I'll be in Georgia, and although I'm so excited to see my family . . . I'll be missing my Cobras. xoxo.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

If you feel so inclined . . .

As most of you know, the funding for my job has been cut entirely for next year. San Francisco's Department of Children, Youth, and Families--our primary funders--are currently revising their budget proposal, which means that they're literally in the process of deciding which programs to reconsider funding. So crucial!

The chairman of the Board of Supervisors is John Avalos, SF City Supervisor for District 11 (the district my high school's in!). Imagine my surprise when I walked into our graduation ceremony today and the program said:

Keynote Speaker: John Avalos

Avalos speaking at our graduation today

I immediately texted one of my 5th period rascals and asked if he was still in the neighborhood. When he confirmed that he was, I snuck him in the back door of graduation and we planned a sneak attack. When Avalos was done speaking, MP and I bombarded him on the way out the side door paparazzi-style. MP said "Can I please have five minutes of your time?" Avalos nodded and we gathered in the hall, where Matt and I serenaded him with all the reasons he needs to rally for funding for ROOTS! Avalos gave me a business card with two email addresses on it, and suggested I send another "mini proposal" to each of them.

My boss (who is working tirelessly to save ROOTS) says that what we need to be doing right now is overwhelming the Board of Supervisors and Maria Su--the head of DCYF (our funders!)--pleading that they add back our program. This means that we need to get in as many calls and emails as possible! Those of you know me or my students, and/or who have any personal connection with the effects of incarceration . . . if you have just two minutes to leave a message with Supervisor Avalos or Maria Su (the head honcho at DCYF), I'd be eternally grateful:

John Avalos
San Francisco City Supervisor, District 11
(415) 554-6975

Maria Su
Director, Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF)
(415) 554-3547

Here is the email I just sent off to John Avalos:

Hi Supervisor Avalos,
Just wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk to my student, MP, and me this afternoon at Balboa's graduation. I know that it's a frenzied time of year, and everyone's pressed for time (and money!), but it meant so much to us to have your ear for a few minutes to chat about Community Works' ROOTS program.

I've taught ROOTS, a program at Balboa High School for children of incarcerated parents, for the past four years. Honestly, there are far more students at Balboa who've been impacted by incarceration than I can serve. I've been so fortunate to teach as many of them as possible for the past four years, and I beg you to rally for Community Works to get the necessary funding to keep us going for another year.

Most of my students are classified Special Education, many have severe emotional disturbances, and all have been wrecked by the prison system (their family members have been incarcerated, and many of them have been incarcerated in juvenile hall themselves). I wish you could have seen them pile into the auditorium at CIIS last month, and read their brave, eloquent stories about witnessing their parents' arrest and incarceration in front of 200 people. It was moving, to say the least. They have such a capacity to shine; they just need individualized attention and special accommodations to access their feelings about incarceration. I believe with all my heart that programs like ROOTS are the most successful tools in interrupting the cycle of incarceration that plagues our society (and specifically, our young people in District 11).

Please encourage DCYF to fund Community Works' ROOTS program at Balboa High School. The amount of money we are requesting is marginal, comparatively, and it would earn four times its value in success and heart--I promise.

I will send a "mini proposal" to Peter Masiak and Raquel Redondiez, as you requested. Thank you again!

Claire Kiefer
Community Works ROOTS Teacher
Balboa High School

Please keep your fingers crossed that we get good news. I just can't bear the thought of not being here next year, teaching my little monsters. It's unimaginable. :(

Thank you!

kin-dred :)

Would you just look at this sweet blog post from Micaela?