Donate to Climb for the Cure!


Help me raise money for diabetes research! For every foot of Mount Rainier, donate one-thousandth of a cent! ($14.41). To donate, click on the link above or send me an email at After expedition costs, all funds will be allocated to the American Diabetes Association. If you represent a private or a public sponsor, or if you are also wishing to make a donation, send me an email with the subject line SPONSORSHIP. Your help will get me to the top of Mt Rainier! Thank you, and wish me luck with my journey!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Home is Where the Heart Is

In the deathly hot European heat wave of summer 2003, I bought little 6-oz. bottles of water for 8 Euro. Then, that was the equivalent of about six bucks, rounding that out to about a dollar a gulp. Believe you me, it was worth it at the time. And those peddlers selling them out of backpack coolers made a killing! In the Netherlands and in Amsterdam, and in Paris and London, I braved the searing temperatures to take in the extraordinary experience of travel.

For the first week, I stayed in a suburb of The Hague, where Slobodan Milosevic was being held at the time for war crimes committed during the Kosovo war. Passing by his place of residence, the International High Court of the UN, I recall feeling a sense of connection to the world.

Yes, this was an "I've-arrived" sensation, a rare feeling of delight and worldly wonder, and I continued to experience this throughout my incredible trip. Cavorting around bustling Trafalgar Square, gazing at the languid, sparkling canals of Amsterdam, taking in the power of the cold North Sea, and listening to the midnight laughter and gaiety of Paris' thoroughfares, I fell in love with a world that existed in girlhood dreams. Books and stories filled my imagination as a child, and I created fantasies of romance and travel and intrigue, desperate to fulfill them. This was my dream coming true, thrilling me entirely.

The sprawling metropolises, dizzying diversity and staggering history of Europe were overwhelming, and I happily submerged myself in its complexity. I felt alive, and excited beyond expression. Only during a brief trip to New York City, years before, had I felt such passion for my surroundings.

Europe was perfect, it welcomed me with all its offerings, and I loved it back. Still, I look upon my memories there as my most precious, and I hope to return one day.

Those feelings of interconnectedness with the Great Big World, and the excitement it gave me, brought me to the belief that I wanted to make my home a place where that could be experienced always. And I also want to bring that into the rest of my life, where my job and pastimes can reflect secularism and global awareness. I'm not certain what that even means; I just know I have to do it. I simply have to. To be a part of something bigger; that's what makes me feel real and here; to feel that I belong.

Upon my return, I was duly homesick and ready to be in my own bed again. Were I not so exhausted, I would have taken a moment to bend down and kiss the American earth. I've never been so happy to be home, even despite my wish it were elsewhere. My trip afforded me the extraordinary ability to see the world through a broader perspective, and that alone was worth the time and money. Let alone the fun I had!

My family moved from the house we returned from Europe to the next summer, and I was happy to go. That was the second home I'd lived in, and there have been many since. But perhaps home is not the right word. In truth, I never wanted to live there. I was utterly restless and did not feel that I belonged. Later, I lived in Alexandria, Virginia, a very posh suburb of Washington, D.C., and then moved many times after that. Alexandria was certainly the most hip and happening of all, and that was the closest I got to feeling that lost sense of belonging.

Now that I've moved again and I have effectively established myself, for all intents and purposes I mean, I find that I do not consider my home my home. Not just the physical house, but the environment, the community.

What makes a home? Familiarity? Comfort? Family? Perhaps it takes time for all of those things to settle in, and also the effort of home-making. Personal touches and routines, and the safety and trust of a welcoming, inviting place of living.

While I am happy to sink into a bed that is safe and made warm by the comforts of my little world, and though my "stuff" is everywhere, and I have cluttered my home with the familiar objects of daily life, I feel a calling to somewhere I cannot fully describe; a higher place that satisfies my thirst for secular belonging. I hope to find it and make it my own, and I have no doubt that I will when the time is mine to claim. My passion for discovery will fuel my restlessness. In fact, I may never really rest at all, for there is so much World to be found, and I have only but a lifetime.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Can't Wait for 2008!

Last Saturday, I attended the ten to twenty-thousand-strong march on washington to protest the war in Iraq among other things. This was the first protest I have been to in several months, but it was certainly the biggest and most provocative I have ever attended.

After the pre-march rally with various speakers, and the march that seemed to take forever, the highlight of the day was a "die-in" staged by Iraq Veterans Against the War, with dozens of vets leading the way. The veterans and other participants, myself included, laid down on the grounds of the Capitol building in order to represent those that died in Iraq that serve in American military forces.

Somewhere between one and three thousand people laid down, causing the Capitol cops to bring out the riot police, in full regalia. It was certainly intimidating, and it discouraged many who had previously planned on jumping the police lines toward the building.

A lot of people did anyway, and about 150-200 people were arrested for it. Most arrests were peaceful, and well-planned. "Die-in" participants were forewarned of the likelihood of arrest, a chance I was grateful for, as most headlines proved to focus on the arrests rather than the march. After all, publicity is what it is all about. We want people to see the unrest and hopefully think about it on their own terms.

It is unfortunate that the turnout was so small, because organizations did not work together. Antiwar groups have become splintered in their tactics and strategies for protesting and grassroots networking. If United for Peace and Justice, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Campaign, etc. united for one protest, it would easily reach the one million mark.

Though the turnout was less than expected, the results were achieved, as it made headlines across the world. In fact, in the days following the protest, American media outlets covered it far less than foreign medias. For example, Al-Jazeera, Australian newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald, Cuban news Escambray, Russian outlet Russia Today, Chinese organization Xinhua and others all read something like, "Police Oppression, Arrests Made, Protestors Held, Peaceful Antiwar Protest."

U.S. Media, however, was a fairly mixed bag. The New York Times and the Washington Post both covered the march, with headlines that focused on the arrests and the march, respectively. Many other U.S. media outlets covered the march, and the perspectives ranged widely depending on outlet angle.

Watching the cable news networks was very disappointing. There was no mention whatsoever that I saw, and CNN online mentioned it in an article buried under layers of linkage.

The most pleasing coverage was the Washington Post article, as for a time, it graced the front page of the paper's website.

While media attention is probably the highest hope for realistic protestors, I wonder to what extent that is even effective. Does anybody really read these articles and feel that perhaps Americans are more against the war than originally thought to be?

While the protests themselves are exciting and liberating, and not to mention a civic and patriotic duty expressed, they are unlikely to have a single broadly sweeping effect on political agendas and policymaking. They are collective efforts, as protests after protests put heavy political pressure on legislators and executives, which has always proven to be an effective tactic of policy change in American government.

I suppose the last step not purposefully taken would be economic pressure, but that is not needed as the war is draining the economy as it is, and politicians know it.

Lately, blessed be the Americans with the guts to come out and put pressure on our government, the President has made quiet mentionings of troops withdrawal. This is a major breakthrough in my book, but it all remains to be seen. I won't truly believe anything until I see it, but one cannot deny the overwhelming discontent with the Iraq war strategies.

This summer has seen major blows to the administration, with the Attorney General firings scandal, and the resignation of Karl Rove. Let's hope the administration leaves office without having gone completely under, and having been able to right one of many of the wrongs caused Americans and the International Community.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tale of a Tattoo

Several months ago, I acquired the first of what I hope will be a small but colorful collection of tattoos. Although it was my first tattoo, I felt the irresistible urge to defy expectations and common practices and get a really big one. I already had in mind what I wanted, but after much inquiry and exploration of the parlor's templates, I remembered a tattoo idea from many years past that I had nearly forgotten.

Over time, I created new ideas for tattoos, such as a traditional Arabic phrase of peaceful welcoming, and serene buddhas and picturesque lotus flowers to represent my diverse cultural interests. There was no resident Middle Eastern on site, and alas, I had forgotten at home the inky plans that a friendly restaurant owner had generously drawn up for me. Perhaps serendipitously, I found a template of a giant bird with long feathers in blue and green. This drawing perfectly expressed my ideal tattoo of a phoenix, rising from the ashes in its promised and continual rebirth.

After a few adjustments, resizes (bigger!), and of course, a change of color from fairytale blues and greens to fiery reds and oranges, the tattoo was ready for its monumental application, to bless me with a lifetime of memories, attention, satisfaction, and inspiration. The pain itself was expected and just as I had imagined it to be; the years where I so deeply knew that I wanted a tattoo had prepared me for the ritual.

It was a spiritual experience through its pain and intense commitment, where I was forced to come face to face with my pain threshold, and the meaning and importance of such a tolerance and the moment's purpose were forged and tattooed upon my identity. Part of the experience was the exhilaration of the pain, also the excitement of the rebellion, and the serenity of my intention, and yet also the people that were there with me, bearing witness to a spiritual rite of passage, and otherwise an equally incredible event. My friends stuck it out with me, holding my hands and talking to me, entertaining me and supporting me. My artist, my savior, and my constant companion was also supportive and validating. His work is true art. And then there were those who were just passing through, people whose names I don't recall or never knew, who stopped to watch and ask me if I was sane or stupid.

The attention I got was a taste of what was to come, because of the novelty and impression of tattoos. Also, I don't think that people see me and consider that I'm the "type" of person to do such a thing, perhaps because some people think it's not a smart or healthy thing to do. But the whole experience of getting and bearing a tattoo is to express one's identity; and I believe that I have done that in the fullest, and best sense.

The tattoo itself is a representation of what I hope to be the happy core of my essence; redemption, peace, struggle, and strength, all symbolized by the eternal flame of the phoenix who is forever etched onto my shoulder blades, spine and pelvis, captured in her moment of truth, as she is reborn from the fire of her being and rises from the ashes of failure.