Living Eulogy IX : Suzanne

If I had to select a theme for my friendship with Suzanne, it would be honesty.

Very rarely have I met a human who so boldly goes face first into honesty, wherever it may lead her. When we have grown up rebellious, it is easier to be honest. In fact, it is so far in that direction that it becomes difficult to admit enjoying the mainstream, to being comfortable with an element of the status quo. I have always been drawn to the rebellious, which didn’t explain the initial phases of my friendship with Suzanne.

She tells me now that she fell in love with me, and in hindsight it all makes sense. You see, we needed each other, though neither of us could’ve known at the time.

I met Suzanne in 2008, during a production of H.M.S. Pinafore with Lyric Theatre of San Jose. I was understudying the role of Josephine, and, as luck would have it, the Josephine was in another production and ended up missing many rehearsals, the first one included. I, of course, had no warning of this, and ended up sight-singing Josephine in front of 30 people. Anyone who’s told you that singers have big egos hasn’t witnessed this particular version of a three hour shaming. Suzanne was disgusted with me. A masters student in voice at the time, there is no way she would’ve come for rehearsal as an understudy without having the entire role memorized. She sat one row behind me, perfectly put together. I suffered through those three hours, feeling the judgment of all of the Sopranos behind me, red-faced, mispronouncing the British version of “Ralph”, and wanting to sink into the floor. I survived, but not without incurring the wrath of the other singers in the room.

My self-effacing brutal honesty is like a beacon in the dark to the right people. It is never wont to attract the wrong people to me, and this was no exception. Learning that, left to my own devices, I would not feed myself, Suzanne began bringing me portions of home-cooked meals. It is an instinct she can’t turn off. She later confessed she had wanted to hate me for not being prepared but getting the cover anyway. I didn’t know then that, within that kernel of honesty, lay the birth of a tentative friendship.

Suzanne was kind, Christian, appearance-conscious, and I couldn’t quite understand why she sought me out. But she did, repeatedly. The beginning of our friendship was formed with small challenges; a question thrown over the wall, a response batted back. I always wondered when it would reach the end; when a response of mine would finally crack the veneer, and judgment would come raining down.

It never happened.

The wall came down instead. I don’t know when we went from casually mentioning auditions we’d done the next day to telling each other about auditions in advance, or feigning life perfection to confessing unpleasant truths. But it happened, and continues to happen. And so, a few years ago, when Suzanne faced a personal archaeological expedition that would mean forever changing her life, we talked about it. I told her that, for good or ill, her life would never be the same.

When you have nothing, and nothing to lose, the cost of embarking on a journey of truth is minimal. When your life is established, the journey takes far more courage, and far fewer people do it. This is why it is so rare to see someone who is both spiritually and financially wealthy. Not to say it doesn’t happen, but it is rare.

I watched Suzanne make a conscious decision to go face first into this fire. This sweet woman would not live another day in an unexamined life. She risked everything to do it, and I watched with a few proud members of her cheering section as she completely altered her world. It has not been easy, but she has faced every challenge with love combined with kindness, allowing preconceptions and judgment to fall away.

The friend she has been to me during this time has been unwavering, kind, compassionate, and hilarious.

Yesterday, when she called, I answered the phone simply saying “we both sleep with Juan Diego Florez, right?” Yes, she said. “And Jonas Kaufmann. But not that other guy…” “No, neither of us is sleeping with Dimitri Hvorostovsky”.

That exchange, that exemplification of how close we have become in the relatively short time we’ve known each other, is what prompted this writing. My friendship with Suzanne is uncommon and rare. I learn by watching her openness, not because she has told me to be open. I value her self-awareness and exploration, not because she has told me to, but because of how she examined every part of her life and her world. I have watched her grow as an artist like watching someone climb a sheer cliff face, determined, unwavering, never looking down. She is a dear friend and mother, and is bringing two boys up in this world to be young man who will inevitably reflect her light.

I am not religious, but I look to her as an example of true Christianity. Her self-examination and willingness to commit some major upheaval in her life make her one of most rebellious people I have ever met.

The evening of April 21, 2012, I went to see a performance of hers on the other side of the Santa Cruz mountains. There was a power outage, and we found a bar in the hills where we regaled gritty, self-professed opera hating patrons with arias and duets in exchange for drinks, because their ATM was off-line. The next day was life-changing, and Suzanne helped heal my heart during that time period, one of the most isolating of my life.

She both challenges and accepts me with every interaction, every conversation. She drinks with me, laughs with me, cries with me, thinks with me, and gets dressed up and does silly things with me.

When I’m at Burning Man, she mails me Christmas cards, and they always say something to the effect of “Burning Man is like your Christmas!” She is more accepting than any self-proclaimed accepting hippie I’ve ever met.

Suzanne is my most unexpected friend. I would have survive the tragedies of the last seven years without her, but not very well. Her home is the emotional bomb shelter to which I intend to retreat if everything goes tits up in my world. You’ll find me there, drinking port and re-watching episodes of Sex and the City, and reading Jane Austen. Thank you, Suzanne.

Other living eulogies here.

Bacon Brussels Sprouts

A recipe from a non-chef. Non-cook.

I buy everything at Trader Joe’s*, so I’m going with their sizing. Obviously if you’re a real cook you will change these proportions.

1 package sliced, thick-cut bacon (12 oz? ok)
2 packages brussels sprouts (1 lb each, so… 2 lbs. I don’t know, I’m a girl, my math could be flawed; you should check it.)
4 cloves garlic

olive oil
garlic olive oil
21 seasoning salute
garlic powder

First, clean and slice your brussels sprouts. Cut off the ends and cut them in half.
Cut your bacon into small pieces. I like to cut the strips length-wise, then widthwise so they’re about 1cm square.
Slice your garlic thinly.
Put water into the bottom of a colander like this one:


throw the sliced brussels sprouts into this part of the colander:

add some olive oil (2-3 tablespoons) and put the lid on.

Now fry your sliced and cut bacon. You know how. Wear an apron. Like, a sexy one. With heels. Yeah… heels. Like that. Maybe nothing on undernea…


Fry your sliced and cut bacon about 3/4 of the amount of time you would fry your bacon to your taste. Apparently to fry bacon you have to pay attention to the stove and move it around.

When the bacon’s not quite done, and the brussels sprouts are al dente (you DO NOT want mushy brussels sprouts here), take the brussels sprouts off the fire and drain. Don’t forget to turn off the stove. Check that, like, three times, just to be sure. Turn off the fire under the bacon, pour off the grease and save that in a Disney mug of some sort.

You should now have a pan (with the grease poured off) of not-completely-done bacon and a drained pot of all dente brussels sprout halves.

My pan isn’t big enough to do this all at once so, at this point, I put half the bacon into a bowl. Because the bacon isn’t burnt to a crisp like I like it, I can usually refrain from eating all of it.

Leave the bacon (or, in my case, half the bacon) in the pan.
Put the brussels sprouts (or, in my case, half of the brussels sprouts) in the pan.
Turn the stove on low.


Put the sliced garlic in the bottom of the pan!
Add 1 tablespoon of garlic olive oil!
Put the brussels sprouts on top!
Shake some garlic powder onto that whole mess!
Shake some 21 seasoning salute onto that whole mess!
Add a pinch of truffle salt! You’ve gone mad! DO WHATEVER YOU WANT! But don’t add nutmeg. Revolting.
Now, the piece de resistance?

You have your bacon grease mug, right?
Take your tablespoon and SPOON THAT STUFF ON TOP OF YOUR FRYING, GREASY, DELICIOUS MESS. Let the brussels sprouts soak it up.
Let the garlic fry in it.
Let the bacon unite with its grease, as nature intended. Smell the delicious smells as they unite as one in the pan. Resist the urge to eat the garlic slices straight out of the pan; they are hot. You should still be wearing your saucy apron and heels.

Stir this stuff all in! Move it all around! Make sure the bacon and brussels sprouts are evenly burned cooked!

When it looks done… for me, when the bacon is burnt to a crisp and pretty much all of your delicious semi-firm brussels sprouts have brown edges, YMMV, take that mess off the stove. Pour off any excess grease (LOL, excess)(avoid pouring directly into your mouth), and serve.

Serves 1.

*my husband buys everything. Grocery stores make me panicky.


Every time I try to say whether the year closed up or down, I remember something to push it in the other direction. Solstice last year was 17 minutes, crossing the international dateline on our way to New Zealand. We tromped through rivers in New Zealand, braved the masses in extreme heat at the Sydney Opera House. We rang in the western New Year, releasing burning lanterns on the beach in Phuket with dear friends,while singing of our memories of those passed. We swam with sharks with my brother, halfway around the world in Koh Tao. We smoked cigars poolside at night, playing with wildlife. I saw a location that had been etched in my mind for years. We had a bowl of noodles in Tokyo. And this was all in the first three weeks.

I modeled for Dark Garden. I debuted four new roles. Attendance was an excellent barometer of what I’ll support in the coming years. I produced Thunderdome three times with, quite possibly, the best and certainly the most professional, crew we have ever had. My father camped with Thunderdome.

My fiercely kind sister completed another year as a single parent, mother to my favorite child, one who greets me with smiles and wonder and who gives me renewed faith in the world. My sister insists on seeing kindness where the bearers would bury it; a lesson in herself.

I went to Germany. I saw Leipzig and Dresden for the first time. I planted potatoes. I said what I couldn’t know were final goodbyes.

I managed to stay happily married for a year. We celebrated in Canada, during the summer. We kayaked with a native guide in the crisp Canadian summer.

I went back to Germany. I was thankful for one of my favorite lessons; treat everyone as though this is the last time you will see them. If you do this always, overblown sentiment and dramatic outbursts are rendered unnecessary. Live well, be well, speak well and, when those for whom you care (or even for whom you don’t) die, your conscience will be clear. Know how deeply irrelevant your un-loving words are. Let no loving words go unsaid.

We put her in the ground. I watched her go first where the rest of my family there will go. I watched three grown men struggle to take care of themselves in ways they should have learned well before. I watched them learn most of these things from a man who has never in his life learned anything the easy way, and I left knowing that those three boys could not have a better teacher.

I have learned that the people who challenge us, insist on facing off with us, feel the need to compete with us, are paying us the biggest compliment we can ever be issued; they would not do this if they did not consider us their equals or better. This must be taken not in the way it is intended, but for the depth of what it actually is – a declaration of equality at the least, and almost always one of admiration as well.

As a corollary to the above, I have learned that, to truly ally oneself with someone, one must respond to what someone feels rather than what they say. That one of the most egregious underminings of a friendship comes when we insist on calling out failings publicly, or calling someone out as being other than they purport to be. Whether or not it’s true is irrelevant; our own image of ourselves is carefully crafted and fragile. Without coddling the ego, we can still be good and honest friends without deliberately smashing self-perceptions; it’s graceless and unnecessary.

I have learned the hard way that, if I take on too much, I will end up in the hospital. I have simultaneously learned the hard way who my friends are. Again.

My career gives back what I put in, with colleagues that amaze, amuse and humble. I am learning to Not Look Down.

This year, the premium has been on kindness and humanization, on awareness and reciprocity, and the dividends are exponential in all the ways that matter. I have invested time in relationships in the way I have always wanted; actually taken the morning tea, the quick lunch, the long-promised dinner. I have not raced through to do as many things as possible, but have been present, awake, responsive to as any moments as possible… and have in that way accomplished more in a year than I have in many previous years.

The me of the future is stretching, breathing, wide-eyed, and thrilled for what’s to come; it will, as always, be built on what has been.

Happy Solstice.


The sun has set, and we are well into the eve of October 1st.

October is a big holiday for my people, and I have deep concerns about how it’s been incorrectly celebrated over the years. One might even say that this holiday has been… appropriated*.

I’m concerned because I believe that some of the people who celebrate this holiday have never experienced a German Summer. There are these daft illusions that Europeans get “all of August off” as though it’s some sort of extra vacation.

There’s a possibility these people haven’t awakened early in the day to attach the Mähbalken to the tractor to go to the fields and cut down the hay. And then do it again. And again. And again. For days.

I’m concerned that some of them have not then waited anxiously for three days for the stalks to dry, hoping there will be no summer thunderstorm (there are often summer thunderstorms, you know, clouds peeling the sky back to expose broad thunder, lightning coursing to the ground or destroying the tallest trees), don’t know that you can’t immediately bundle it or it’ll mold.

I don’t know if they’ve attached the Strohpresse (works just as well for Heu) to the tractor, racing through the fields as best they can, knowing that going too slowly will mean a loose bundle, too quickly will mean an overpacked bundle, that patience and consistence runs deep in the blood of the German people and that “right” will trump “quick” every time but both together would be preferable and really, much more efficient.

Does everyone who celebrates in October know the sweet joy of stopping briefly to drink Gerolsteiner (from a glass bottle, thanks) and eat salami-butter sandwiches, racing against time to get everything baled before the afternoon thunderstorm. If it rains after it’s bundled, that’s ok; you wait again. Have these people lifted the heavy bales into makeshift hay houses out of hay bales to protect as many bundles as possible? Made a game of it?

I’m pretty sure that one or two of these people have never loaded the flatbed trailer onto the old tractor, the one from 1917 that Just. Keeps. Going… and loaded all of those bales onto it, carefully balancing the weight load, not teetering too high because that dip just before you leave the field and get onto the country road will knock all of your hard work onto the country road. Maybe they’ve never driven the flatbed carefully. precariously. with all the caution in the world… into the barnyard, pulling up next to the hayloft and then sweat, competing with siblings and cousins and uncles, whoever’s around, to see who can throw the bales the highest, the furthest back into the loft, the work that gets more and more difficult the more work you do because the distance between the bottom of the loft and the top of the bale stack increases as the work goes on. Maybe they don’t know that making that trip several times in a day is an act that can only be committed with a good share of teasing, sibling rivalry, and pride in workmanship.

How many of them know the feeling of the blistering sun, the sweat dripping in their eyes, being covered in hay, and hay dust, and itching EVERYWHERE, from allergies or from tiny little abrasions, the sunburn on top of sunburn until it just doesn’t matter anymore because, damnit, the sun gives us warmth AND character?

Some of them have no idea that the beer after those days, weeks, months of work is the best beer a German ever consumes, even if it’s just Trumer. It doesn’t matter; it’s consumed outside, poured into glasses (because drinking from the bottle is just gauche, except not gauche because that’s French and well, we have issues), the luxury of not having to change to your inside shoes to enjoy it. That, on the farm, there isn’t really any drinking at all until all of this work is done and that to drink two in one evening is an extravagance afforded the hardest workers, the bale-tossers who didn’t give up even as their eyes watered and their skin itched and their lips split and their noses peeled. That a malzbier is just as good because it’s not a competition; it’s sharing a beverage and company and a job well done at the end of the day. I have faith, though, that most of the people enjoying this holiday are celebrating its true meaning and the heart of its intent, not drinking themselves into oblivion out of boots while wearing slutty dirndls, and faux (again with the French) Lederhosen (do yourself a favor and learn the difference between leather pants and song pants), and to you I wish a Frohes Oktoberfest.


*this post is satire. Let’s please all appreciate that not all adoption of ritual and celebration is appropriation; sometimes it’s acknowledgment of and respect that and appreciation that another culture really Got It Right. Perhaps, if someone could learn a bit more about it, a funny post, instead of shaming and self-righteous indignation, will help them to learn what you might hope they’d learn about a culture about which you care.


Occasionally an animal will come into our lives that is more than just a pet. Often coming to our lives when we least expect them, they become somehow bonded to us, and it’s apparent that this is not just a furry footwarmer, but the creature to whom we return Home. I have seen a few of these in my life; Jake, our family’s second collie. Eek!, Ben’s cat whom I met when it was a kitten, with whom I lived for four years when Ben and I were roommates, and who lived with me and Luke for the last year of his life. Spider, Angela’s giant black furball who lived with me while she was in school. Sylvia’s sweet cat who made it into their wedding vows. Thumper, Jade’s vocal polydactyl. Jasper.

Some animals bond with other animals, or are simply soft and happy, or they’re beautiful purebred creatures only; these bond to us. They know when we’re upset, they look at us like they know what we say and sometimes they talk back. They run to the door when we return home. They’re the reason we don’t want to be away from home for more than a week or so. They’re the barometers by which judge the new people in our lives, and they’re never wrong.

Saying goodbye to these creatures is to say goodbye to a part of ourselves; the part that represented the kind, non-judged and non-judging open heart that we otherwise guard so well. They are our familiars, our daemons, if you go in for that kind of thing (whether or not you do, actually), and like our own shadow (shadows that sometimes trip us), we carry them with us forever.

Jake died Christmas day 1996.
Eek! died July 5 2011.
Spider died January 4 2012.
Sylvia’s cat died this past year.
Thumper joined them today.

I loved Thumper. I didn’t see him enough. I always said to Jade that, I swore, I just wanted one foot. One giant polydactyl paw. She could have the rest of the cat. Every time Jade and I went to one another’s homes, we would go first to the cat and, upon leaving, try to sneak out with the cat. Thumper was Jade’s Jasper.

She had to say goodbye to him today and I am so glad that Ben was there with her, with them. Nothing I say will make it better, and today I am hugging Jasper closer and not pushing him away even when his horrible breath is right in my face. Jade, you can visit us any time… but you can’t have a paw.

R.I.P. Thumper




Jade’s blog, and beautiful posts about Thumper, are here:



My beloved, amazing friends (and in particular my ladies, my CHA, the women with whom I’m growing old(er)),

We are mostly Of A Certain Age, and I’m seeing a pattern.

The overall pattern is amazing. We’re multicolored, beautiful. But behind this glorious exterior is all that we have been through. The tribulations of our twenties and early thirties were hard; we fought the labels and worlds of our teens, we adopted and created our own, and we are now beginning to cast off the labels with which we dubbed ourselves and have begun the process of accepting ourselves as a whole. Slowly no longer referring to our chemical imbalances (OCD! Neurotic! Depressed! Manic!) as defining features, getting more comfortable simply saying “I’m having an off day,” without labeling it, saying “I’m not up for going out,” without the self-depricating comments that go with it.

Do you know what this is? This is incredible. Most people never take that first step. Most people never bother to figure out their own make-up and address it at all. They vomit their baggage all over the place and don’t apologize. This is the blessing and curse of the examined life; we know too much to feign ignorance and go blindly into the world. This is, apparently, the baseline of my adopted family. Intelligence, brilliance, creativity, and awareness. But the fallout is huge. We figure out who we are as we rebel against the world… and then we figure out that the world thinks we’re all right, the world wants to know what we have to offer, because people who are awake glow like lights in the darkness and are appealing to the asleep for reasons the asleep can’t even explain. This creates some sort of strange juxtaposition between our rebellious teen selves, our examined and perceived-as-broken (OCD! Manic! Depressed! ETC.!) selves and our teetering-on-successful not-quite-midlife selves.

Who are we, if we are not in conflict with the world? Followed by, who are we, if we are not in conflict with ourselves? Followed by, Holy Crap, You Want To Pay Me For My Brain/Talent/Take on Things?

It’s a lot to take in. Of course it throws us into a tailspin. We’ve always been responsible for ourselves; that’s the first rule, the mantra, Weirdo 101. But this is something new; this is realizing that the world, in fact, loves a weirdo (an intelligent one, an eccentric one, an artistic one, a talented one, at least), the world wants to take a weirdo and capture its brilliance, put it under glass, examine it, ram a little pin through it and put it on its wall, to brush close enough to it to feel alive and bright and brilliant for a moment.

This is exhausting. Being aware of others has never been a problem. Being respected by others, others interested in what we had to say, what we thought? This shit is unprecedented. Looking at my last few years, the turmoil, the ups and downs, the changes and finally getting over my own crap enough to breathe into and OWN IT, coming up occasionally for air, I have the chance to see all my brilliant friends doing just… mindboggling things. Amazing, creative, beautiful, intelligent things. Things for which we have been planning our entire lives. We are, together, metamorphosing into something … brilliant. But it hurts. As our old language and old patterns die away, we are exhausted, we have no frame of reference, we must rely on ourselves in a way we never thought we would, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally envy the unexamined.

Do you know what a caterpillar does to become a butterfly? It digests itself. And only the imaginal discs survive. Right now, as I watch, we are absorbing all of what we are, we are becoming bright, brilliant, beautiful, not discarding what we were but absorbing it, using it to fuel our futures. 

I am so proud of you. I admit it, I’m even proud of me, when I’m not too busy wondering when everyone will figure out I’m a fraud, I’m proud of me. And I will see you on the other side, and we will FLY.