I spent the weekend in Santa Barbara for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. It’s the second time I have been to this but the first time I finished both days. I was also alone this time. While alone in my room and the train on the way home, instead of opening a journal and writing my thoughts in the privacy of a book, I did what most of us do, I posted it on Facebook. Privacy? Yea, I don’t much believe in it.

I’m posting this here for two reasons, a) it’s my blog and I want to, and b) I decided to do the walk again next year and I want to put this out there for others who may have thought about doing it, or never have but think it may be a “bucket list” item to check off, or just read it and think “that’s fine for you”.

Thoughts from a weekend

Friday Sept 5: Inn at East Beach

I’m in the hotel room. I should be asleep. I have to wake up before 5am to walk to the hotel where the shuttle picks people up. I’m figuring I could wake up half an hour later and go directly to the opening ceremony but that would be walking a mile before I walk 26 miles. Not sure which it’ll be. I guess morning will determine that.
I’m in a quiet hotel alone with the overhead fan going. It’s so lovely. I brought stuff to entertain myself with but really all I want to do is play online games and type this. I can because no one will ask me what I’m doing and if they can use my phone next.
No purpose in this post. I just wanted to put down what I’m thinking and there isn’t paper or a pen around.
I think I love Santa Barbara even if it is too white washed and predictably perfect. I suppose at this point I just want to just ‘be’ rather than fight for something I think I want until I get it and lose interest. What? I don’t know.


Saturday Sept 6: Avon Walk for Breast Cancer

26.2 miles walked plus 1 mile each way to get to the shuttle. I got to my lil hotel. The owner let me know he set me up with Epsom salt (as well as other walkers this weekend) and told me to get as much ice as I needed. I like when people are nice just to be nice without expectations of any kind. Nice is nice.
The day was supportive, female focused (but not male excluded), and heart wrenching at times. Everyone was thankful. Volunteers, walkers, people in neighborhoods, tourists, passerby’s. At times I didn’t pay attention because it was a long way to the end but then I would see a woman who was obviously dealing with cancer, or a random woman would say “I’m a survivor of __ years” excitedly. There was a woman who said nothing but every couple of miles she stood with different signs telling of the women she lost and always writing thank you for walking. It was heavy but in a festive and celebratory tone. Surreal.
I listened to conversations about personal experiences while passing other walkers. Cancer is so common that it isn’t shocking. That’s sad.
So I walked for 9 hours and I came to my room, poured the ice in the tub, added cold water and Epsom salt, and thought about how so many people said thank you but nobody said you’re welcome because it wasn’t about that. It was a day of being nice to each other without any expectations.


Sunday Sept 7: Pacific Surfliner Amtrak

I’m in the train heading home. I’ve only done this one other time which was hell but it’s a quiet and smooth ride after a long weekend.
Today was the last 3rd of the 39.3 of the Avon Walk. I woke up refreshed and ready to go. Minimal discomfort and totally rested. I passed out before 8 and slept hard.
The walk was hard. The sun was bright, the heat heavy, and the town without any visual stimulation. Carpentaria was not interesting.
The tone was more subdued but the cheering was more enhanced. There was a lot of time inside my head today. Mind you, I’m not someone who complains about what happens in there. It can be intense but usually ends with a fun mental cocktail. No I never told any therapists about it, I don’t think they understand voices you aren’t scared of. But I digress.
At 6am, I was talking to two women about this event. One of them, a woman working to decrease breast cancer death rates in African-American communities was talking passionately about the reason she does this walk every year. She said that she reminds herself that she is merely the conduit for the donors who are the ones that are making the real difference. This rang through my mind as I struggled to make this last stretch worth my time.
By the time I was done, exhausted, feeling accomplished, irritated, humbled, and thinking I did what I set out to do, I realized I want to be one of the conduits that brings money to provide free mammograms to women who can’t afford it, to research organizations that are working to find out why and how to end it, to educate young women to get regular exams, and to provide support for those fighting through to survive. I want to walk as long as my body allows and I’m going to keep begging and bugging for donations to do it. Like I just texted to Sue, either I liked it or I’m a masochist but that’s what I decided to do.

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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Avon Walk For Breast Cancer


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Job interview-2004

I found this on my computer. It was written in March of 2004. I’ve been in SLO for 10 years now. It seems like a life time ago when I first got here.

March 2004

I went on a job interview today in SLO. It was for a job working with the homeless at a shelter. As I was driving into the parking lot (the main office is in a complex that reminds me of the ever present industrial parks) I heard myself say “what the fuck are you doing back here Houry?” I parked and took a look at myself in the mirror and just wanted to drive away. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life taking on the role of “social worker at large”.

Every time I see this in me, it takes me back to a day last summer at Gaspar’s house. His housemate worked in a day-program for years and years, and one day said “that’s it, there’s got to something else out there”. So he quit and got a job in the normal world. And on this day, we were standing around and talking about a new position I got through UCSF, which had me spending time with homeless people with mental illnesses who were participating in a research study to interview them-basically getting paid to hang out and drink coffee with the homeless-loved it!! So he says to me that life hasn’t been the same since he left, the world outside seems bland, boring, almost non-existent. And then he compared it to heroin- it eats at your soul the longer your in it and you get out and detox, and now your clean and in the real world and you know it’s the right thing to do because the toxicity of the adrenalin is killing you, you don’t know how to be with other people who aren’t in that place. So you go on with your life but the cravings kick in sometimes and you need your fix but you fight as much as you can but you’ll go back because it’s in your blood now and that’s where you think you belong. We laughed about it but it’s how it feels for me. I hate it.

I went in and did the interview. It’s funny coming in from SF into a small town. They have no more than 5,000 homeless people in the county of SLO and people are panicking. I asked them how many shelters there were and they said 3. I hope I had a poker face on because I just couldn’t even imagine what the fear was.

So I left and on the way home, I got thinking about this one man I met last August-Stan. It was a bitch trying to find him in the city. I knew that he was diagnosed with depression and that he was on heavy doses of pain medication. He had temporarily lived in a residential hotel, which by the way, I wouldn’t put my worst enemy in-just down right disgusting.

We finally met at the corner of Powell and Market-he was the guy in the black leather Giants cap. I was nervous, almost didn’t do it but what the hell right? He was homeless and had been since he got to SF after his wife died from cancer. He had had a really disgusting accident with some sort of snow truck in the dead of winter (east coast thing-I couldn’t picture it in my head) just before she died and is on pain killers-so he is identified as a junky with depression-lovely. Seems they were each other’s lives and she had always wanted to live in SF. And so after she died, he figured he had nothing left so he had nothing to lose. So we did the interview and when we were done, it is customary for some of these guys to ask me for more money than they get from the study, so I was prepared for it. But this one didn’t, he asked me if I had to get to work and if not, it would be great if we could finish our coffee. So we talked and it was nice until he told me about his life and the one thing that I was told never to allow myself to do happened, I felt the pain of this man and just burst into tears. Times after that, whenever I was in the area I would look for him just to see if he was all right and if he wanted to grab some coffee. I never saw him again.

Anyway, I hope that if they call me about the job, I am able to just let them know I’m not ready for another fix.

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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Uncategorized


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In 2010, National Geographic stated that San Luis Obispo is one of the happiest places to live. In 2011, Oprah Winfrey sent Jenny McCarthy out to SLO to do a segment about how it’s the happiest city in the US. After that, this town has used the “happiest place to live” as a commercial motto to bring in tourism, invite businesses in, sell homes at inflated prices, and make this little town into a very prosperous place to live; which makes people happier. So, yay Oprah and National Geographic for letting people know that we do live in a beautiful place with incredible mountains, clean oceans, clean air and (somewhat) controlled development. So yes, it is happy.

This isn’t about that. I see the positive aspect of taking on the role of such a title but then I also spend a lot of time walking in just about every part of this happy town, seeing the things people forgets to recognize when they are so focused on “happy” and meeting people who are invisible because they are reminders of what isn’t right in the place they live. There are little clusters of forgotten people who have made homes out of little corners of this town. Under the freeway overpass, under bridges, behind large multimillion dollar commercial spaces. People will find anywhere they can to make a home for themselves. As much as I find this the strength of the human spirit to survive, I always know that no man (person) should go without basic needs that help him look in the mirror and know he matters. Every man should have a place to lay his head, to wake up and be able to make himself something to eat, to wash himself, and make his way through his world as a member of the community he lives in. No man should be living under a bridge or in his own filth while there are those around him live with more than they know what to do with.

6 weeks ago, around 6:30am as I was walking to Black Horse on Marsh to get my morning coffee, a man literally stumbled into my life. He had a hurt leg, a walker, a backpack, and that was all. I ran to him to help him get up and the first words out of his mouth was “I’m not crazy, I won’t hurt you”. He was homeless and in pain. He is one person in a larger group of people who are disregarded, considered failures, who are put into a cluster of whatever view there is in the culture that blames a person for a bigger social problem that isn’t going to be resolved. So after helping him up and getting him a cup of coffee, we sat at the bus stop and talked. His name is Pauly. I laughed and told him that I live in the house of many Pauls. I told him I’d look for him and he told me the same. He seemed like the kind of guy who fell on hard times and hasn’t been able to get out of it. After that I looked for him when I was out but didn’t find him. I hoped that he found a place to live or was able to get out of town to a better situation.

Last week, I was walking to get my coffee and I looked at the place I saw him the first time and he was on the bench, weeping alone. I went over and said hi. It hurt my heart all over again to see a perfectly capable person unable to be capable because of his situation. I listened to him and tried to put together what his story is and figured out it doesn’t matter. He is a person and he matters. As I was leaving him, he said “I don’t believe in god anymore, I thought I should tell you”. I’m not religious person but I understand the need to believe in something bigger than oneself, to have faith in something to keep the spirit to move forward. When I heard that, I got angry. To lose your faith, whatever it maybe, means that you have lost faith in the people around you. This man needs a place to call his own and it shouldn’t be under the bridge. This man needs a door to walk through every night, and chair to sit in, a kitchen to make coffee in, a bathroom to…, and a job that he can work at to earn his living. But more than that, he needs to know that he hasn’t been forgotten because he matters.

What’s the point of all soap boxing? I don’t know. I just know that when I’m walking around and looking at all that is celebrated about living in this happy place, I also see a whole lot of people who would be happy with something as basic as a little acknowledgment that they still exist, even if they aren’t living the happy life we are selling to ourselves in the happiest place to live.


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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Uncategorized


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It’s contagious!!! I hope you catch it.

ImageSomething incredible is happening around me and it’s contagious. People are helping each other just because it’s good to help each other. I don’t know when it started and how it is spreading but it feels like a little bit of light shining through in a world of anger, selfishness, and retaliation. I don’t think it’s the start of this grand step toward a loving and caring world we keep telling our kids they can create because let’s face it, as long as people keep holding onto the idea that ‘mine is mine and get your own’, that’s never going to happen.

No I’m not about to go on a hippie-dippy rant about giving up your possessions or sharing because I would be thought of as naive and ridiculous. This is about the little things people are doing around me at a time when everyone is uncertain of what is coming around the corner for them at a very politically and socially fragile time. It is at these times when the big boys/girls in government don’t know how to play nice, bickering and fighting like unruly children that people in communities start to see the importance of becoming active members of the communities they live in.

I know when I met her but I’m not sure how that introduction in a backyard kid birthday party manifested into the relationship that is developing with Terri Kurczewski but it’s a nice one to be in. She is involved in helping children try to reach their potential in their world of uncertainty. She isn’t a saint or anything but dammit if you can’t give kudos to anyone who doesn’t try to help the ones most of us disregard as unfortunate. What’s her do-gooder thing? She went from being part of a school to help kids to creating a space to bring people together to feed off of their own creativity, donate their unused goods, sell the goods to make more goods, and take all the funds and put it toward helping the children AND creating a more sustainable way of creating thing. WHA? She is doing two good things in one? Yup.

Plug for her gig: If you are in SLO, stop by. If your not, contact her and donate the unused (but meaning to) things that are collecting dust. if it isn’t being used, it’s useless, people.Just sayin’.

From this comes the fund raising that I was lucky to be involved it. The brains behind it was Sherry Jimenez. She has a hair salon (plug for her place below) and loves to do her part in making a difference in the town we live in. She doesn’t seem to think that what she is doing is significant but it is INCREDIBLE. She decided a couple of months ago to have an fundraiser with local artists who create their work with recycled, reclaimed, reused items. You know, using the stuff you keep holding onto but never get around to using? Yea. What’s the money going for? To help the school that Terri is part of. See the connection? So with over twenty artists donating their work, musicians donating their time, incredible food donated ( for the event, the party happened and the feel goodness of knowing that the money you spent didn’t go to a handful of people who don’t care. Good things happened.

Get your hair done here because I said so:

Okay so now I’m going to pull a ‘me, me, me’ moment. I had this crazy whim to do something bigger than I think I can and signed up for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Santa Barbara. I figured it would give me motivation not to slack off this summer and when the time came, whatever money I raised is going to do something necessary for people who are fighting cancer. I know it’s cliche but I HATE CANCER. From this came an incredible outpouring to support that has made this event bigger than just a two day walk. It’s becoming a community that I am taking with me. It feels incredible. One of the most wonderful things that has come from this has been my dear wonderful and creative friend Robyn Berry who started a portrait photography business from her house last year and is now just having a blast creating images. She contacted me and said she is having a fundraiser photo shoot sessions for families and 100% of the money would go toward the event. Please mind you that i know for each short session she is having, she is putting in a whole lot of time editing, cleaning and delivering her products. AND all of that work is being done without compensation. She said to me “I could just give you $20 or do this. It just seems funner to do this instead”. Okay Robyn but you are a super star for it.

Her link because she sorta kinda seriously rules both as a photographer and a human being:

Oh and if you want to donate some money to the Avon Walk, here’s the link. No this is not a plea for funds, it’s just something I thought of adding into it.

So that being said, I’m feeling pretty happy to be surrounded by givers. Kindness is contagious and side effect is a good feeling.


Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Yes Paul there is a Santa Cat.

ImageThis was the year that my son decided that he was going to do whatever it took to believe in Santa. He spend weeks trying to figure out the logistics of how a sleigh would land on the roof, how a big old man would be able to get down a chimney, how he would find ways to find real evidence that this was real. You see, I never insisted on creating the myth nor did I deny it. We had Christmas as a time to give gifts to each other and to spend time with family. No big build up to it. This year, he is in a school with different children from different family structures and conversations aren’t as monitored as his previous school; therefore, Santa became a topic of many discussion with information he collected and brought home. Having this dropped on our laps, we decided to go ahead and let it play out for him. We made cookies, his dad got a gift he really wanted even though we told him we would not, could not get him. We put foot prints coming out of the chimney trailing to a box with different wrapping that was from SANTA. It was all there. He tried and tried and tried to make it real for him but he just couldn’t do it. There were too many inconsistencies that bothered him about it. Therefore, he just let me know that even though it’s all there, he knew it was dad and that’s okay because his dad got him what he wanted. He shrugged it off.

NOW there is another side to this story that blows my mind. Each year my husband buys and wraps gifts to each of us from the cats. The wrapping always has cat fur on it and it’s generally something like cat treats or cat toys. It’s been something he has done for 10 years and I always look forward to what Bert and Ember are going to give me. This year, there was a gift from the cats to the little guy. He opened it up with shock and excitement. It was special cat treats from each cat. He took the treats and put them in his room to give to the cats each day and he was so excited that they wanted him to feed them. HE ACTUALLY BELIEVES that the cats somehow went to the pet shop, bought the gifts, wrapped them and put them under the tree. Wha? Okay. It’s been three days now and he still reminds me that “Bert got this for me because he likes tuna treats”, “Ember got dad a scratching post because she wants a new one”.

 And so there we have it. The true spirit of Christmas comes from the two fat, lazy, sloths like cats that are sleeping on the couch right now.

 Merry Christmas little man.

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Posted by on December 28, 2012 in life with the pauls


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These feet

My car is in the shop. Nick, the tow truck driver took her away to be checked out and repaired. Anytime anything happens to that car, my heart sinks a little. I refer to her as the prom queen. She is everything that is perfect and I’m lucky enough to have her BUT she makes me work for her attention. So she is not here today and won’t be back until at least mid-week. As Nick drove away, I felt a sense of liberation and dread. How was I going to manage to do my day to day errands without her? I wondered if I could rent a car or use Pauls before he has to go to work. BUT wait, before cars, there were feet! So I’ve decided that I’m going to be a functioning person WITHOUT a car. Now mind you, I know that I have the privilege of time on my side so I can take longer to do things without having to watch the clock. I also know that my town isn’t that big. The furthest I’m going to have to walk is 3 miles each way if I want to go to New Frontiers. So with a little bit of thinking and planning, day one was a great success.

Day one: Walked the little guy to school with a package I need to mail in hand. After the drop off, I decided that I also want to stop off at my favorite coffee shop which is 2 1/2 miles down from where I am. The post office is on the way. Exercise is an important part of healthy living. Walked through a quiet neighborhood, stopped and stared at my favorite house in town. Big, bright yellow house on Branch Street. One day, I will stand in that house. Next, got onto the noisy street. Instead of being uptight about the noise, I found there are small patches of weeds growing on the sidewalk. I decided they need to be loved too. Crossed over the freeway. Stopped for a bit to watch the traffic. Wow, we in SLO don’t know what real traffic looks like. I move on. Got to the post office. The guy I always go to asked me where I’ve been lately. It occurs to me that since I haven’t had to drive this way since the beginning of summer, I haven’t come to this station. I take a note to make more trips over, if for nothing else but to say hi to him. Nice guy. Walk over to Nautical Bean. They do have the best coffee (at least I think so). They send me on my way with a cup in hand. I head back but decide to that a different route. I am going to walk through the Madonna complex by using their bike road. I see a flock of geese flying over Laguna Lake. Geese are cool. The bike road is a great addition to the hotel/restaurant. The Madonnas definitely have made a place in their world. I’ve never met any of them. I hope they know they are appreciated for their love of eclectic tastes. I get back into town. I head up Higuera St instead of cutting over to Pismo to head home. I want to stop off for some yarn at Beverly’s. I bump into a couple of people on the way and small talk. It’s good to small talk sometimes, it makes you realize you aren’t alone in the world. Beverly’s doesn’t have the yarn I want. In fact, their yarn selection is getting worse as more specialized and more expensive places start popping up around town. No, I’m not going to get on my soap box about it but I’m not amused. I walk over to the park and notice there are a few more couples sleeping mid-day. Yea, the happiest place in the US has a whole lot of homelessness no one wants to talk about. I get home. It took 2.5 hours to mail my package. Spend time with my love. Eat lunch. Put on my shoes, walk down to Fresh and Easy to pick up something for dinner and head to school to pick up the little guy. We stop off at the Grinder for his ham sandwich. He pays for it and we stroll home, house shopping like we do every day. It may seem ridiculous to other people. I accept that. But I had a pretty good day.

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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Uncategorized


Wow, he is so much like you!

“He is so much like you!” is the most common statement I hear when family friends see us together. I suppose we look similar but I see more of his dad in his physical features. His sense of humor, love of books, want for solitude and quiet are all his father.He is an easy child to be with when things are good, which is often. I don’t see a lot of me in him when things are calm and lovely.

And then there are the other times. He is so much like me at times that it scares me.  I see anger build up in him when he sees injustice happening to him. I see posturing and standing his ground when he is hurting. I see sadness manifest into coldness in his face.

His reactions to unjust situations don’t surprise me. I don’t pretend to “know” what he is thinking or feeling. I don’t assume that because he came from me, that I know anything more than what he shows and shares with me. What I do know is that when I see his actions/reactions to things, they are too familiar and the pain pierces me deep. I try to talk to him about ways to express his sadness and upsets and tell him about how I feel when things hurt me.I think he understands it but I don’t know if he sees our connection yet.

It’s easy to talk the talk, give him resources to express his feelings, give him space to express himself and still be socially acceptable, and think that it will make a world of difference. BUT I know that there is more than that. This comes from his being. We have similar temperaments and I won’t do to him what was done to me. I won’t  tell him how he feels is wrong or unacceptable. I won’t look at him like he is just being difficult. I won’t tell him to just get over it. It’s not that easy. It’s who he is.

We are faced with similarities of the difficult kind. We deal with  the need to right the wrong with anger and force. I still have it in me. It doesn’t come out like it used to and there are times when I hurt holding it all in. But I’m a grown up and grown ups can’t hurt honestly so I “process” and “talk it out” until I get fed up and just let it out really angry and loud. I feel better afterward but I look around and see the damage I have to clean up. There’s no ‘win-win’. And so now I see my son with a path he may end up following if I can’t figure out a way to show him to be honest with himself about how he feels but without the reaction that will eventually only hurt him.

And now here I am trying to figure out how to make it so he can be so much like me without being anything like me.

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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in life with the pauls


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