JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools

pictures and stories from the water’s edge

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Living with injustice… and with grace

March 1st, 2008 · 9 Comments

I’ve been reluctant to begin blogging again because I know I can’t get started now without first saying I’m missing Anita Rowland. And I don’t think I can write about Anita and do it justice.

I first met Anita through a trackback. It was a relationship based on blogging, with an electronic beginning. Back in August 2003, I’d only been blogging for a month or so, and although I knew I had a few enthusiastic friends who were readers, and Ted had linked to me, it was mostly quiet on the blog, with familiar faces. Then the trackback appeared in my mailbox. I had no idea what a trackback was, or who Anita Rowland was either. I remember that moment of mystery and wonder…and gratitude. Soon Anita and I were having some conversations (when I search for “anita rowland” on my blog, more than 50 posts come up!) and by 2004, I was attending some of the Seattle weblogger meetups, led by Anita.

Anita connected me to Dave Winer through her post on geek boyfriend which I described and to Robert Scoble through the meetups. She connected me to many others on the Seattle scene, and to bloggers near and far. I might not have spoken at conferences or received attention for my blogging if Anita hadn’t helped me. And I would certainly have far fewer friends. I owe her. Back in the summer of 2004 she came out to the island, along with Robert and Maryam and Beth Grigg, among others, for a fun blogger picnic. Friendships were formed, thanks to Anita.

When R –, Anita and Jack‘s grandson arrived, Anita and I started hanging out together here and there. Anita generously rode the ferry to Bainbridge. R— and our Elisabeth are close in age. It seemed to me Anita was an amazing mother to R—-, firm and sweet. Anita had fun ideas for entertainment. When we enjoyed the toys she brought, she would let us borrow the game. For example, Anita and R— introduced us to I Spy. By the time I got around to returning it, she would say they had bought another one and we could keep it. Now my children love I Spy. At the Apple store the other day they were playing I Spy while I waited for my appointment. And I was remembering Anita.

Anita was gracious and giving. She poured herself into people, into the blogging community, into her grandson R—. I admired her in many ways. It takes lots of courage to live a life like Anita’s, going forward with spunk and knitted hats, raising a grandson, organizing events, constantly reaching out and connecting people to each other, learning, reading, traveling, being herself always.

For the last year or two, the girls and I tried to help with R—while Anita was getting treatments. All the planets had to align in order for us to be able to go over to Redmond for a day, and I always wished we could have helped more often. But the girls and I had fun hanging out with R—- and it was good to see Anita. We last saw her in the spring. Before that I remember going into a convenience store in Vancouver and walking back to the hotel with Anita after Northern Voice 2006. Probably one of my most fun memories will be the time we stayed late after a meetup at Crossroads had ended and emptied our pockets of change, letting the children ride together on the mechanical toys in the mall, Anita, Jack, R—, my girls and me.

In writing about Anita, I have to write about cancer. My relationship with Anita started with the trackback email, and ended with another email on December 10th 2007 saying she had passed away after a long battle with cancer. 2007 was a difficult year to watch people around me receive diagnoses. Reading Derek and Airdrie’s journey this past year has been intense. I think of them often. In June, one of my high school classmates died from a brain tumor (here’s a blog post a friend wrote about him). I did not know him well but I went to the memorial service along with many others from our class. In his eulogy, the beloved English teacher our class had asked to speak at baccalaureate, revealed that he too was fighting cancer, for the second time. I came home from the memorial service and that weekend went into the garden ripping out blackberry bushes with clippers and vengeance. Then I sat down at the computer and wrote the angriest piece of writing I have written. I was mad. Mad at cancer for taking away my classmate, affecting Derek and his family, attacking my teacher who had impacted my life. And yes, I realized I was angry about my brother too who died from his third brain tumor several years ago. I was angry Anita was ill and so many others I knew. (Note: in the week since I drafted this post I lost yet another friend to cancer.)
Anita is one of the first friends I have lost in this new way of existing online. I still see her face on my Twitter page. Anita is still one of my Facebook friends. I can go read her blog. On Flickr I can read some of the last communication we shared, comments on photos she had posted. I miss her. Her face reminds me. Her words are still here with me. I will always be in her debt for what she gave me, and I will never be able to repay her. It is unfair she has gone. It is unfair she had to suffer intensely. There is much injustice in this life. But Anita also reminds me of the grace and generosity she gave. In this injust world, I can strive to be kind as she was, to build relationships and create community, to pour out mercy and love, to be brave in my battles until the end.

→ 9 CommentsTags: blog

My first sea slug

March 1st, 2008 · No Comments

My first sea slug: Ringed nudibranch
Last month I saw this nudibranch on Bainbridge Island’s Rockaway Beach: the low tides are returning during daylight hours. One of my goals for 2008 beachcombing was to find my first wild sea slug. Later I was told by a nudibranch expert I know that this creature is usually found subtidal. The sea slug captured the afternoon sunlight with its translucent body, appearing almost ethereal. When I returned two days later, it looked as if the creature had been eaten, leaving behind only white rings of flesh on rock.

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Updating to WordPress

March 1st, 2008 · 5 Comments

Updating this blog to WordPress. Please email me (harrowme AT yahoo.com) or comment if you experience any difficulties. Apologies for the falling plaster.

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Cavy cakes

July 27th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Nine cavy cake for Abigail's birthday
Abigail wanted to have a birthday cake that would fit into her friend’s gluten-free diet. So we bought some namaste brand brownie and blondie mixes. Using a template Abigail had made we cut guinea-pig-shaped brownies and blondies. MnMs, frosting and chocolate turned the little cakes into cavies with eyes, ears and smiles. We were all smiling to see these nine cavies celebrating Abigail’s special day!
Cavy birthday cake for Abigail

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6.5 down, 11.5 to go

March 22nd, 2007 · 6 Comments

I have completed more than 6 weeks of my 18 week marathon training plan and I’m beginning to realize how foolish I was. I don’t yet think I was foolish for running a marathon: no, I’m sure that will come later, during the race itself or afterwards. But I miscalculated the amount of time and energy training would require. The running itself is less than an hour a day, averaged over a week. Extra sleep though also factors into the equation. As well as some extra mental energy spent mapping out the distances, trying to find creative ways to run more than ten miles on this island for weeks in a row, and yes, Googling my questions and symptoms, aches and pains, to ensure my preparation and injury prevention.

I told myself that running a marathon would only take a few months, and wouldn’t need that much time. I’m discovering though that this race is becoming a central focus of this spring season. I’m rearranging my schedule to fit in the distance runs and planning my summer around the marathon. I’m shopping and researching which items I should obtain before I get stuck in the middle of twenty-six miles as a blistered mess. It’s a delicate dance: in order to run such a race I need passion and perseverance, yet I also need to hold it with an open hand and keep my priorities in order for the other 23 hours of the day.

I’d be a fool to think that at 6 out of 18 weeks, I am a third done with the training. The longest and hardest runs – and weeks – are yet to come. Only recently did I begin to mention to friends and acquaintances my maniac marathon plan. I was afraid to look foolish, especially since my attempt last fall ended before finishing five miles. Already I feel a bit of the blahs, the excitement of the early morning rising and running competing with a need for sleep, a sense of impatience and weariness setting in before I am out the door. It is this middle of the training, as in the middle of the marathon, that requires endurance. I’d be a fool though if I stopped now, when I can start to imagine how the finish line feels.

→ 6 CommentsTags: health