Spreadsheet Geekery (How To Woo Me With Chore Charts)

Am I great at making spreadsheets? No, not particularly. Not a clue how to do the math-based ones with functions and whatnot. But creating this sign-up schedule for our anti-foreclosure doorknocking was fun. I said it — FUN. Before your eyes glaze over completely, here are 5 reasons why I think tools like this are crucial for dope feminist horizontalist organizing.

1. Defining tasks aids transparency and learning. It’s like watching someone cook up an amazing moussaka, being like WTF How Did You Do That, and then they hand you a detailed recipe. And give you their phone number so they can walk you through it the first couple of times.

2. Signup sheets provide choice and accountability. You choose your task, and everyone else can see that you chose it. The person acting as Shift Coordinator can call you and remind you that you chose it, the day before you’re supposed to do it.

3. Listing the work makes it feel more manageable. Some people may not find relief and joy through lists, but I am the opposite of those people. Look! You can make sure everything can get done! It’s like a dotted-line map leading to the buried treasure of accomplishment and satisfaction!

4. You can describe the work however you want. Sometimes a little game or private joke can transform a boring chore into a delightful duty. I completely made up this Garlic & Onions allegory for no reason, but now I’m all rarin’ to go on the follow-up work. Don’t let them burn!

5. Counteracts Cliquey-ness. Related to #1. Sure, when the people you organize with are the people you live / party / smoke / sculpt / read / march / dance / sleep with, you can text each other on the the way to the doorknocking meetup and be like, Hey did u rmembr 2 print maps or shld i??? But if you want new people to feel well-oriented without having to penetrate the inner core of Cool Kids, spelling things out in writing can be a plus.

* * *

What organizing tools warm the cockles of your feminist heart? Where have you seen good ones employed? Some of my favorites have included: a massive chore chart, complete with a weighted points allocation system, for a 33-person live/eat co-op; a cartoon chore chart handmade by my housemate Noa (I still remember that the symbol for cleaning the [dish]rack was boobs); and the collective housekeeping signups used at the end of Goenka Vipassana retreats. I swoon over such systems! Seriously; skip the jewelry and just offer me a gorgeous spreadsheet. I will immediately go on a well-planned and -executed date with you.

Culture and Liberation

Study of the history of liberation struggles shows that they have generally been preceded by an upsurge of cultural manifestations, which progressively harden into an attempt, successful or not, to assert the cultural personality of the dominated people by an act of denial of the culture of the oppressor. Whatever the conditions of subjection of a people to foreign domination and the influence of economic, political and social factors in the exercise of this domination, it is generally within the cultural factor that we find the germ of challenge which leads to the structuring and development of the liberation movement.

~ Amílcar Cabral

This Housing Crisis Is Like Rape Culture.

Why did she

get so drunk? 

take that loan?

What was she


paying on her mortgage?

Why didn’t she

leave? scream? stop being a whore?

find another job? live within her means?

What did she expect would happen

when he found out she was a man?

when she couldn’t afford her payments anymore?

It’s a shame.  Some people are just irresponsible.


Or, just ignore.

Ignore the raping of Native women, the breeding and hoarding of slaves, the sale of young girls, assaults in prisons, assaults by la migra, assaults by soldiers on ‘enemies’ and fellows.

Ignore the hundreds of thousands of families being cheated, lied to, robbed, and pushed around by capital.


This Housing Crisis Is Another Katrina.

Displacement. Disaster capitalism. Clearing out the poor and the Black to make room for new money. Grabbing up land. Leaving habitable places chained and empty while people seek shelter. No right to return, no right to remain, and if you’re not fluent in English, you’re even more shit-outta-luck.


you see, intact neighborhoods mean something to me; mean more to me the more i reflect on my own family. i never grew up really knowing our neighbors, but my dad, now over 70 years old, is still best friends with the Jenkins brothers, from way back in the 1940s, in their stickball days. Over on Victory Drive, the Lonckes helped raise the Jenkins kids and the Jenkins helped raise the Lonckes. i’ve called them uncles all my life. and when i’m 70 i won’t have friends like that, connected to a street from childhood. but someone should.

i met some neighbors on my block this evening: just four streets north of the birthplace of the Black Panther Party.

a few have been in their houses upwards of forty years. Thelma. Verita. Denise’s mother, who has dementia. they’re the lucky ones. for every one who has stayed, many more have been pushed out. maybe a while ago, maybe recently.

this needs to end. people deserve sovereignty over our bodies, and over our homes. somehow we need to decommodify houses, and bodies, and land.

Green Green Green

sometime this week when i get a chance, i wanna write about what we’re learning in the foreclosure-fighting study group. for now, it’s green that gets me through the week.

Kale and chickpeas with toasted coconut, ginger, and garlic
A loud-clicking and uncatchable insect made a home in my bedroom for three days, until I finally nabbed him in my tea glass.



Breakfast this morning: genmai cha, little gold potatoes, and steamed kale.

Insisting On The Totality, Or: “No One Is The Boss Of Yeast”


When I feel weak, or lost, or unworthy of love, I’ve learned to expand my focus.

This doesn’t mean squashing or shutting up the painful parts. It just means paying close attention to what else is there. That way, the loud, dramatic emotions don’t dominate the scene.  Grief and despair are not my only guests.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi

Today, it was tantrums.

When someone I love told me, to my face, in a backyard garden, surrounded by roses and mint and blueberries and artichokes and rosemary and grape vines, that they don’t love me anymore, tantrums arose.

Oh, tantrums a-ROSE.

At first they rattled me, bat-swooping around my internal kitchen. But I neither repressed nor expressed the thoughts. I watched them.

Don’t believe everything you think.

~ Thomas Kida

And yeah, internal-tantrum-dialogue exists. Tears exist. You know what else exists? roses and mint and blueberries and artichokes and rosemary and grape vines. these are also real.

so are other things i’ve seen lately. beautiful students, parents, and teachers fighting against Oakland school closures; demanding education; rallying after police shut down their free summer school.

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and so is this poem, written by children.

The Ways Of Yeast

No one is the boss of yeast.
It doesn’t listen.
It doesn’t talk.
It smells like warm dusty yellow water.

Abelina, Miles, Reece, Francesca, and Natane

There are also neutral things. The corners of boxes. Unscented air. A teacher advised me to acknowledge those, too.

By insisting on the totality, I re-establish myself in a landscape greater than the strong emotions. Not to make those emotions go away, but to be able to take better care of them. As Larry Yang says, awareness practice and lovingkindness are ultimately the same thing. Neither avoiding nor indulging tantrums (ooh, I don’t even dare to publicly write the thoughts that were bubbling up in my skull!!!), in offering awareness we offer ourselves.

A bat trapped in an unexpected kitchen swoops around in part because it is scared. My tantrums are not unrelated, I think, to the fears that many women of color experience, that we will never truly be worthy of love. And that the people we love, or on whom we rely for love, will hurt us. And somehow it’s our fault. Descendents of African slaves in the US have been fed this message countless times over the centuries. We are unlovable. We are less than human. No matter how hard we try, we will never succeed. (This, I think, keeps many Black people vicariously invested in Obama, despite the routine murders of innocents that he, through his job, carries out.)

But no one is the boss of yeast, and my fears are not the boss of me — no matter how deep they run.

Expanding the focus, I listen closely, and insist on the totality. Feels like more freedom.

A Different Kind of Femme


Trigger Warning: discussions of fatphobia and sexual assault.

This week I made a What Not To Wear intervention on my own wardrobe. Based on my own preferences, but preferences I tend to sideline when I don’t really take the time to find separates that fit and interest me. Which leaves me with a closet full of stretched-out t-shirts in solid colors. Browsing the few stores I visited, I had to keep telling myself: no solid t-shirts. Only things that are nice and snug in the waist. And if something has to be solid, let it be an interesting fabric or shape. (Hence the red skirt.)

There are many reasons I shy away from dressing in a style I think of as “hard femme.”

Wanting to be taken seriously.

Wanting to avoid extra harassment.

Wanting to be able to hop a fence at a moment’s notice.

Wanting to bike around and sweat and cartwheel (difficult in heels and a pencil skirt).

Not wanting to confront my body image issues.

Not wanting to encourage fatphobia in myself or others: feeling a twinge of pleasure and the ghost of shame when people compliment me on losing weight.

At a certain point, after my 3 months living and working at the meditation center in Spain, I was even concerned that presenting my body in a more stereotypically “hot” or hard-femme way might cause more suffering for others: playing into a sex-saturated culture that doesn’t give us the tools to examine our own lust, or our own desire for approval.

Even as my internal debates swirl, I also realize (again, with some sadness) how fortunate I am that the styles I prefer are pretty much socially approved for the body that I have. On Fathers’ Day, my dad and I had a conversation about the violence that often happens when someone discovers that a person’s physical makeup, or sex, doesn’t fit with what they had expected, based on reading their gender. The discoverer becomes enraged. I am safe on the transphobic score, though I also know that the average US person would much more likely blame me if somebody ever raped me while I was wearing an outfit like this, versus a stretched-out t-shirt and wide-legged corduroys. In summer, when my skin is darker, the blame (or lack of compassion) might be worse.


For right now, though, I am trying this on. Results so far (internally, and from others) have been mostly positive, supportive, fun. I actually felt extra confident doorknocking to fight foreclosures last night (not in the outfit above, but something along similar lines.)

We’ll see how it goes.

Stinson with Sierra and a Story from Retreat


Let me tell you a story from the meditation retreat last week.

One bright afternoon, lunch had ended and I was in the zone. Aware of each step, feeling the weight of the swinging doors and the giddy lightness in my legs after sitting on the floor so long, I glided out of the dining hall and turned to where the sky meets the hills.

I decided I wanted to sit at one of the old wooden picnic tables and watch the breeze ripple the sunnygolden grasses. This would put me even further in the zone. Deeper and deeper (that’s the root of the word “profound”: toward the fundus — bottom, or foundation).

To unlock the mysteries of my fundus, not just any old grass-gazing spot would do. Even in noble silence, I needed some extra solitude. A yogi VIP position. So I passed by the picnic tables occupied by one or two meditators, and chose the very last one in the row: empty, simple, and inviting.

Except for one slight problem.


If I were to sit on the bench of this lovely old rustic picnic table, the best, most poetic view of the hills would be slightly obscured by a leafy bush.

Undeterred, I came up with a solution. Instead of sitting on the bench, I would sit on the table top itself. Perfect! Ingenious! Mildly rebellious! At the very thought, I could feel my fundus draw nearer.


Eyes locked on that poetic spot in the hills, I felt my way around to the head of the table.

And as I gave a graceful hop up and back, pushing myself into the perfect perch, I noticed a sudden, unexpected sensation.


The Pacific Ocean is extremely cold in these parts.

Not stuck directly into the back of my legs, fortunately, but dozens of splinters, of various sizes, poking through my long skirt and sticking my skin.

And so, rather than grass-gazing meditation, the next forty-five minutes became a splinter-removing meditation.

Which, honestly, gave me as good and frank a look at my fundus as would anything.


Now, Sierra and I, our spontaneous trip to Stinson Beach went the same, in a way. After a string of gray mornings, we awoke on a Saturday to a brilliant blue North Oakland sky. We had to get to some kind of water, we determined. So we packed a picnic and set out, across the Richmond bridge to Marin. Delicious drive. Not a whisper of a cloud anywhere.

Until the coast came into view.

Each of us felt the other’s heart sink as we saw it. A layer of fog thick as buttercream, like some cosmic cake decorator had piped icing right along the shore.

But that’s what’s amazing about traveling with a dhamma buddy. You are learning how to laugh at your own expectations. You remember the teachings: most of the time, we humans live our lives only through the angle of Gratification. We seek pleasure: the perfect view, sunshine at the beach. We remain oblivious to the second angle of reality — Danger (splinters, fog) — until it smacks us directly upside the head. Even then, we forget the next time, and the next. We always keep a fresh supply of disappointment.


But the third angle of reality — Freedom — releases us from the disappointment. We learn how to loosen our grip on our own expectations.


After debating turning around, Sierra and I decided to stay, eat our lunch, and see what happened next.

Liberated from the craving for immediate sunshine, we were free to notice other things. And we found that despite the fog, the sand was warm. And the chill was fading. And eventually, the clouds rolled out to sea completely.


First Home Dinner After Retreat


Back from retreat: new house, new kitchen. Usual suspects: quinoa, kale, lemon, garlic. Each small potato wrinkles perfectly and tastes like a dream. Rosemary fresh from the new backyard.

Leora, Noa, Cat, Nuria, many others with whom I’ve cooked: I love feeling you with me at the stove and cutting boards.

Aneeta, I thought of your eating meditation. “Thank you.” [next mouthful.] “Thank you.”

This earth, and all the people who work to farm and harvest it: you amaze me. Things are bad right now, I know. I love you and want us to be free. Let’s keep trying to make it happen.

*      *      *

cooking — simple cooking — is becoming something of a devotional practice for me. i’m realizing more and more that food is a miracle, even while the process of creating it for human consumption is full of exploitation and suffering.

by the time food reaches me, it is caked with the invisible pain of others, saturated with the grim labor of thousands. this accumulated degradation is harder to remove than the wax off an apple, or the gerrymandered genes from a cup of Monsanto rice.

but maybe, somewhere along the line, the food has also been blessed by the whispers and motions of resistance. maybe the diggers of these potatoes are meeting secretly, to organize. maybe the truckers and dock workers are forming alliances. maybe the grocers in the produce section are imagining a world where the beets belong to everyone.

so i want to treat the food with love, to honor not only the bad, but the good and neutral of its past. may it fuel me, and others, toward collective liberation.