First Day

I am here, about to receive my new keys to my new kingdom. And the power they have invested in me is humbling. I have discretion, they say. I hold the possibility of a brighter future in my hands for hundreds of lives that I will touch, who will come to me for guidance. And if I just believe in them, maybe, just maybe, they might continue on in confidence and pride to do amazing things with their lives. On this first day, I feel the responsibility. And I am beyond thrilled to be here at last.

The Speech I Wish President Obama Would Give

My fellow Americans, I am here today to talk to you about the Affordable Care Act. You know it as Obamacare. I want to tell you why, even with the healthcare.gov problems and the challenges ahead, I am proud of Obamacare.

Because of Obamacare, over 6 million young adults have health insurance they wouldn’t have had before. Because of Obamacare, parents of these six million young adults can rest easy, knowing that their children have the health insurance they need.

Because of Obamacare, no child can be denied health insurance, for any reason at all. Because of Obamacare, children with diabetes, children with cancer, children with epilepsy – their parents don’t have to worry that they won’t be able to get health care for their children. Because of Obamacare, their children can get the health insurance they need.

Because of Obamacare, health insurance companies are now required by law to spend at least eight out of every ten dollars they collect in premiums on medical care.  Because of Obamacare, if they don’t follow this law, they have to give the money back to you. Because of Obamacare, over a billion dollars in premium refunds went out to Americans last year.

Because of Obamacare, millions more low-income Americans now have the option to get free health insurance, with the expansion of Medicaid. Because of Obamacare, for the first time, if you can’t get health insurance from your job or your spouse’s job, you can go to a fair Marketplace where you can shop for health insurance, knowing that you’re buying good coverage for your family. Because of Obamacare, health insurance has to cover the benefits you really need, and health insurance companies can no longer take your premiums but give very little coverage in return.

My fellow Americans, we’re building a new system here, and it’s going to take some time. We’re connecting government agencies and private health insurance companies and uninsured Americans in ways that have never been done before, and yes, there have been some bumps in the road.

But the road is worth traveling.

We must continue on. We must not let the health system break down. We must not go back to the days when the rules were unfair, when premiums kept rising unchecked, when millions of Americans had no options at all. We have already traveled too far.

And we will get there – to a health system that keeps us healthy through free preventive care, and covers every American for what they need when they’re sick. To a health system that cares for our children, and for our mothers. To a health system that coordinates our care, delivers the highest quality, and contains costs, because we need all three to get the health system we deserve.

God bless our efforts to build our greater good, and God bless America.

The Cocoon

For the past 20 years, there has been one constant in my life, through all the transitions of adulthood. There was always UCLA. I’ve been there longer than half my life, at this point. At 17 years old, I visited the campus for the first time, during February of my senior year. I had already applied, sight unseen, along with all the other schools i thought might also be good for me (for various reasons), including UC Berkeley, Tufts, Brown, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern, and Yale. I applied to them all, even though my high school guidance counselor thought I didn’t have a chance with many of them (what the hell, by the way?). And then in February, I went on a college tour with my dad and stepmother to visit the places to which I had applied.

We started with Tufts. I loved Boston from the moment I landed there (it was my first time), but hadn’t applied to Harvard out of loyalty to my family’s Yale connections. So we left the city and visited Tufts, and I found that as a high school senior, I knew more about the class I visited than many of the college students. They seemed slower than me, and the campus seemed very small, so I crossed that one off of the list.

Next was Yale. I spent the night there with some girls in their dorm hall, and was intimidated by everyone’s intensity. It was also 30 degrees below zero with the wind chill. But I was just excited and happy to be there, and did love the campus, and knew it would be a challenge. Plus, they had a world-class reputation for theater. So it stayed on the list. Then we visited Brown in Rhode Island. It felt like a small town, but an incredibly fun, funky, intelligent one. It stayed on the list, too, even a bit higher than Yale because it seemed more nurturing and less intimidating. Plus, the entire ethos of creating one’s own major strongly appealed to me.

Then came Northwestern, which was beautiful and had huge, welcoming dorm rooms, but was knocked off of the list the second I heard on the tour that all freshman take the same courses. I strike my own path – this was definitely not for me. We skipped visiting Washington University, since I had visited St. Louis many times – my family’s from there, and I was born there. I felt like I knew what it would be like; it was safe.

On a trip later that month, I visited UC Berkeley, and didn’t see what all the fuss was about. It seemed dingy and uninviting, and even though my boyfriend at the time dreamed of going there, I couldn’t see myself there at all. And then, on a 75 degree February day in 1993, I visited UCLA.

I fell in love completely and instantly with the campus. It was the perfect mix of old and new, of world class scholarship and exciting new opportunities. I loved Los Angeles, too. I loved that a movie world premiere was held in Westwood on the day that I visited, and I watched Clint Eastwood get out of his car for In the Line of Fire.  The campus was a dreamworld, and I wanted to be part of it. I got into every college I had applied to, and there was no doubt that I would choose UCLA.

And I always thought I would leave. I went to Washington DC for a time, and thought I would go back. But I had met the man who would become my first husband, and he didn’t want to leave LA. So we stayed, and after a couple of months (basically, just one summer) of turmoil after my graduation, both ended up with jobs at UCLA. Over the next twelve years, we both stayed there. He worked, being promoted a number of times. I worked and earned two graduate degrees. And at the end of it, we had grown apart and separated – the same month I left him, I graduated with my PhD and he was laid-off and left UCLA.

I moved back to LA to be closer to the campus and cut my commute, and for the past four years, have created my own career path in the University. It has cocooned me, sheltered me, absolutely been a major part of turning me into the scholar and poet and woman I am today.

But yesterday, the cocoon cracked open, just a bit, and sunlight started to shine in. Because I was told I’m no longer able to forge my own path here, I have to conform to the path I’m supposed to be on. It’s looking more and more like it’s time for me to find a new path, now that I have a strong partner to walk with me wherever I might want to go (for my faithful readers, you know who I mean).

After 20 years in my cocoon, it might just be time to fly.

Oh, the irony….

When I started this blog, I was about to break. So many things had to change, I didn’t even know where to begin. I was brokenhearted in many different ways – drained out by where I lived, by what I was doing at work, by my loneliness and aching need for a true partner. That was a little over five months ago.

So, here’s what I did, in order. I took a deep breath and went out on a first date. I kept my head and didn’t expect him to save me. I travelled the world. I gave my 30 day notice for my apartment. I went out on a second date, and let him into my life. I moved into a place that moved me to tears. I fell in love and so did he. I submitted a new proposal and gave up one of my jobs. I got engaged. The proposal at work was rejected and could finally let that idea go. I planned a wedding. I came up with a better idea that brought new life into my work.

And now, five months later, I’m able to go do my enjoyable work, knowing that my true love and partner is with my children. I come home to see the newly carved pumpkins glowing in the driveway of our new home, which contains both my tarot cards and his prized original stadium seats, out in the open. Through the window, I see all three of them on the couch, talking and laughing. Happy tears in my eyes, I thank God for this moment, and for the years of moments to come.

High hopes, no matter how silly….

I just completed my fourth book of poetry. Ok, let’s let that sink in for a bit. My fourth book of poetry. How in God’s name did I end up having that sentence be true in my life? It makes me laugh with it’s pomposity and audacity. They’re all self-published, because I don’t want to go through the process of having someone professionally reject my work. Criticism of my feelings put into words is just hard to take, and since I don’t really have any kind of editorial process (it is what it is, usually), what could I do to change it if someone didn’t like it? Not much…it has to feel right to me, and that’s the bottom line.

So, if all that’s true, then why am I taking this risk and going for a contest that I have no hopes of winning? None whatsoever. But the thought of entering just sends me into giggles every time. I tell someone about the contest and I can’t help but laugh, at its pomposity, at my own audacity. It’s a poetry contest for mid-career poets, which evidently, with my fourth book, is me. I’m mid-career. Wow. Ok, letting that sink in for a minute. Moving on. It’s hosted by one of the top graduate schools in the country, which requires that if you win, you have to travel on your own expense to their campus to be their poet laureate. Ok, it helps that it’s within driving distance of my house, sure, no problem there.

And the first prize, the only prize actually, is $100,000. A ridiculously high amount of money, insanely high. Where else can you possibly win that for writing poetry? So I’m sure that every actual professional poet in the country (all those English professors and actually published people out there) send in their work every year, and it much be incredibly competitive. So I have no shot at all.

But I’m taking it anyways. Fourth book is done, I’m waiting for the proofs to arrive in the mail now. Screw the proofs – let’s just approve this sucker, publish it, submit it, and get going with this thing. I’m in it to win it…feeling like the ant climbing up the rubber tree plant, but I’ve still got my high hopes!

 

Another Plane

What the hell am I doing here, sitting on another plane, another runway? I never travel this much – three different trips in less than a month. This new one is again for work, a trip that I usually look forward to, that I wanted to use again to reconnect with my old friend. But I’m not, and even if I were, it wouldn’t matter. All I want is to be home.

But home is complicated right now. So many different moving pieces, so many transitions. At least (no, not at least, more like thank God for this right now), I’m having a blast. Seriously. So much is up in the air, so many pressures and deadlines bearing down, and yet I feel like I’m floating happily from one to the next.

Kind of like four years ago, when I defended my dissertation, added a whole new chapter, and then separated permanently from my now ex-husband, all in a little over a week. I floated then too, under immense pressure and, I admit, breaking down in tears every once in a while. But still overall happy.

Because I knew I was doing the right things then, what needed to happen. And I feel the same now. What is happening is what needs to happen, what I need to do.

So I’ll just take this plane to where I need to go. And be happy to come home.

The Journey Continues…

I’m sitting in the airport in Philly, waiting to get on the longest airplane flight of my life (so far) to go to Tel Aviv, Israel. And I can’t believe how much has changed in the last five, four, even three years.

Just three years ago, I got my first passport at the tender age of 34, and went on my first international solo trip, all the way to Canada :). Four years ago, I was still seeing my very good friend every day (see True Friend on Cytherean Dreams) and I said to him that all I really wanted was a passport and to take at least one international trip. Five years ago, I was still scared to live on my own, couldn’t even conceive of travelling internationally on my own, convinced that only other, stronger women did that.

So here I am now. I’m that stronger woman. I’m doing this because of my own merit, sent from my work to represent us and what we do. Standing alone, with my name known, on stage in front of international peers.

I am so thankful to be here, so grateful for my family and friends who are doing all they can to keep the home fires burning while I’m on this Journey.

But they’re calling my number (lucky number 6), and it’s time to fly.