Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Update from the Front Line

I took mom to visit dad today at the hospital, after speaking with his doctor yesterday afternoon. When I got there, the doctor was in his room. The doctors are so young they look like Doogy Hauser, but they are really good, open, willing to listen, and not arrogant at all.
The doctor said he had been trying to call me, but I don't answer my cell phone while I'm driving, as I have no Bluetooth (the phone isn't capable of it--it's kind of primative for a cellphone). I probably wouldn't answer it even if I had an earpiece as it is too distracting for someone who is rather nervous about driving anyhow. Anyhow, the doctor said that my dad had a kind of a cardiac episode at 5 this morning. He hesitated to call it a heart attack, but that's what it was like, a very small one.
When we got to the room, my dad was sleeping, and the nurse said he had been sleeping all day, not like yesterday when he was walking around, laughing, raring to go. She was concerned, as was the doctor.
It made me feel that he might just not be coming home this time. Or very soon.
On the way home from the visit, I was thinking about whether I was ready to handle his death, just the logistics of it... contacting the mortuary, the rabbi, finding the money to pay for the funeral. Jewish people must be buried within a day of their deaths, unless this occurs on Shabbat (Friday night to Saturday night) or on a major Jewish holiday. And though Jewish burials are supposed to be simple (no embalming or fancy coffins), they cost bigtime. And my father has said he wants a Jewish funeral. Technically speaking, Jewish people are not supposed to be cremated, though they are cremated all the time--particularly when this is all they can afford.
And that's when the check engine light came on in my car. It is the third time this has happened in a couple of months. The first I found out there was a tear in the pressure seal of the gas cap. The second time the gas cap was missing altogether. Don't know how that happened. The third time was today. No one was there capable of diagnosing the car, so I had to leave it till Friday sometime.
Richard rescued us and drove mom home. We then went out to eat dim sum and soup, where the ducks and chickens skewered on the rotisserie reminded me of chorus girls (sans tete).


My dad is still in the hospital. He is feeling well, walking, and impatient to come home. However, his doctor says his blood still shows sign of infection, and so do his lungs. They now do not think he had a stroke, but what else would explain the symptoms he had? I disagree, but it doesn't matter. Today I will have to tell him what the doctors told me, if they don't do it themselves.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hard Day

Yesterday I planned to go to morning yoga class, as usual, but before I went, I called my parents' doctor to make an appointment with her. Then I called my dad's room and talked to Susie, the caregiver. She told me to cancel the appointment for my dad because he needed to go to the hospital, so Richard took my mom to her appointment while I sat in the same hospital emergency room with my dad.
Luckily, the emergency room was empty when we came, a first. My dad got taken right away, and admitted pretty much immediately, but there was no room in the hospital proper, so we stayed in the emergency room area until a room should come up (it didn't, though we were there from 7:30-5 PM. The nurse said she'd have him put into a hospital bed if nothing came through.
Seems that my dad woke up early in the morning in terrible pain. Probably it was a blood clot in his leg, where it attaches to the hip. He couldn't walk, his speech was slurred, and he couldn't see either. Susie wanted to call the ambulence, but he wouldn't let her. He didn't want to go to the nearby Memorial Hospital, but to have me take him to UCIMC. But Susie had the notion that he didn't want me to be called either, though he denies this is what he meant.
Anyhow, when I asked, Susie said to take him to the hospital, which I did. He was limp as a noodle and didn't talk at all until we got to the hospital. I pulled right up outside with my handicapped sticker, and somehow I got him up the ramp.Most of the day he slept. I had to feed him, but he really couldn't eat much, a first for him. But by the evening, he was his old self, sly and manipulative. He wouldn't say whether he wanted heroic measures taken, should something go awry, but put the decision squarely on me, where he always puts it.
I think he'll be okay this time. But it was scary.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dinner with Mish and Lydia

We didn't go eat at Inka Mama's last night. Instead, my father favored Persian food. He has only had it once or twice, but the prospect of beautiful kebabs and flavorful mounds of saffron rice sounded good to him, so despite the fact that Jeremy hates Persian food ( we had initially thought he would be working anyhow), we went there. The fact that it was less than 3 miles from their house also contributed to the choice of this place, and also the fact that Monster Munching had enthused over the quality of the food at this small, family owned place in Lake Forest.
It didn't start off well. Mom was not feeling well. She had caught the cold and cough we all have been passing around to each other. But the caregiver talked her into going. The thing about her memory is that a few minutes after you ask her, she is ready to be asked again, and this time you might get a different answer.
But she finally agreed, and I handed her a small bouquet of yellow roses and a box of truffles. Mom doesn't eat much these days, but she's a sucker for chocolate, so those were welcome. She, in turn, gave me the gloves that my dad bought for her. They are buttery soft black leather, with a warm lining, very welcome in this uncommonly cold weather. But she wouldn't wear them. Instead she dropped them into the black hole at the bottom of the closet. I didn't have warm gloves, so I told my dad that if she wouldn't wear them, I would! She wanted me to have them, and I put them on immediately.
We found the restaurant easily, and in a few minutes were seated in the cramped space, in a strip mall notable for its diverse ethnicities of restaurant--sushi, Indian, and Persian all within the same little space of half a block. I ordered for everyone, since I know more about Persian food than anyone else. I got soup for everyone but me. I knew that my father and Richard love lentils, and that mom is always cold. I don't like lentils, generally, so I ordered a shirazi salad for myself.
A shirazi is a lovely salad, composed of crisp peeled shards of Persian cucumbers, niblets of red onion, and fresh diced tomato. All of this is topped with a Persian spice called Sumac, and a squeeze of sweet lemon (such as Meyer) and olive oil. The shirazi at this restaurant was extremely bright and lively in taste, possibly the best I have ever had.
Meanwhile, everyone but mom enthused about the soup. Her tastebuds have gone awry, and so she found the soup inedible, much too salty. She pushed the bowl away, so I took it, and shared my salad around with everyone (except mom, who won't eat salad now). A few minutes later, she was looking at me with hurt eyes, asking, "Why don't I get soup?" By then, the soup was gone. It was good, despite the lentils, not salty at all.
Then two great platters of rice and kebabs arrived. We ordered a rice dish full of tomatoes, green beans, and pulverized beef. I don't usually eat beef because of the cholesterol and because I am unused to it now. It is tremendously heavy and doesn't taste right to me anymore. But the rice was delicious. On the side was a long beautifully spiced kebab of soft ground chicken. My parents were to share a mound of cherry rice (sour cherries in saffron rice) and a long long skewer of filet mignon with green peppers and onions, very tender and again, beautifully spiced.
My mom tried a bit of everything on her small plate, but besides squares of flatbread smeared with sweet butter (squares of bread which she initially took for paper), she wouldn't really eat anything, but looked at us hungrily. I guess Persian isn't her cup of tea, though the drinkable tea she was given was deemed acceptable (a rarity for her).
We didn't get any dessert, but instead hustled back into the cold cold car and headed back to the board and care. It was still early for us, but nearly time for the folks to turn in. My dad called an hour later to thank us for the beautiful dinner, flowers, and candy. I'm sure my mom had a boiled egg before she went to bed. She was certainly still hungry.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day

Today is the day for after-Christmas sales, but I have no desire (and no money) to shop. It is true I might stop off at Borders, but only to check on their supposed sale on cookbooks. But the truth is, I have nowhere to put more stuff.
I will go to yoga today, then come home and do some tasks, such as working on my syllabi for next semester and reading a friend's manuscript. Then my family and I will take my parents out for their anniversary. We have lost count as to how many anniversaries they have had at this point. I think it is something over 60. Their anniversary was actually yesterday, but we decided that more restaurants would be open today. Plus, yesterday we were having dinner with good friends in Laguna Beach (thanks Robin and Manny for the wonderful feast and good company!). It was cold outside, but warm inside, with a company full of convivial conversation and good feelings.
Today we will probably go to Inka Mama for Peruvian food. My parents like that place, and it is fairly close to their home.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dedicated to Difference

I heard a radio commentator today try to shoehorn Chanukah in with Christmas by saying something like "I wish you and your children the values represented by the holiday you celebrate." I wondered then. Everyone knows the values Christmas represents because there are songs galore we all know that enshrine them-- good will to men, etc. So what ARE the values Chanukah represents? I guess I know that, but don't say it so much.
Chanukah has come to mean, ironically, keeping up the with Smiths, because you don't want to feel left out or let your kids feel left out. This is ironic mostly because what Chanukah REALLY represents is that one needs to embrace his own difference.
The word "Chanukah" means "dedication," and it commemorates the amazing military victory of a small group of ragged rebels, the Macabees, against the mighty army of Syrian Hellanists arrayed against them, soldiers of King Antiochus, a convert to the Greek worship of the gods of Olympus.
We all know that there's no one more zealous than a convert, so Antiochus decreed that the Jews had to convert too, or die. So he forced them to do that. And some went along willingly, even doing everything they could to erase the difference embodied in their flesh, undergoing painful operations to undo or disguise their circumcisions.
But the Macabees defied that, and that's what the holiday represents now, something we need to remember when people have turned against the right of gay people to marry, for example. People need to flaunt their difference, to celebrate it in the face of overwhelming odds. To be proud of it.
And that's a value that we don't hear out there very often.


Since I started doing so much yoga (every day or at least 5 times per week, depending on schedule) I have been much healthier and stronger. But today the fatigue of the holiday season finally caught up to me and I am not feeling very well. In fact, I fell asleep at 7:30 last night and could barely drag myself out of bed at 7:30 this morning. Of course, I was up several times during the night, thirsty and with a sore throat. My eyes look like I have been out on a real bender, although of course I haven't. I'll skip yoga this morning and hope I get over this and that someone steps up to take my dad to the VA this afternoon so he can see the doctor. I've caught his awful cold that I'm afraid in his case is becoming something worse.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I had a hard night. My left hip and lower back are not so great. Standing at the stove and frying/cooking was not good for them, and they complained loudly all night. Consequently, I spent a pretty rough night.
But I was thinking about my mom at the party last night. On one hand, she didn't eat any of the food, except the caregiver's beautiful matzo ball soup, which was as close to perfect as it could get. She even told me to "get the recipe," only to be told by my friend from the choir who attended that she didn't need it because Susie could cook it for her any time! But she was extremely animated and happy, jabbering away about her life, completely lucidly! Everything she said was true, as far as I know, and the tales included no imaginary visitors or events. I haven't heard her speak that way in years, and it was like having my mother back for the duration of the party.
I couldn't push it too far though. When I asked why she hadn't eaten anything I prepared--not the latkes (which turned out good) or the challah (frozen dough, but warm and beautiful when it came out of the oven)--she said that she knew when she looked at the plate that the helping was way too big, so she thought she shouldn't even get started on it because it was impossible to finish! I thought that was so absurd, I laughed. In some kind of way, it had a logic of its own, though perhaps not the kind I accept as logical.
Afterwards, I gave my dad his terrarium of carnivorous plants and gave my mom her outfits from Steinmart. I am not sure she liked them. I will have her try them on, and if they don't fit or if she tells me she won't wear them, I will exchange them.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Tomorrow night is the first night of Chanukah. I will cook a dinner for my parents and the people at the house where they live. Today I will fry fry fry those latkes. I already feel tired!
I'm also looking for a platform bed with drawers. My mother-in-law sent me some money, and that's what I want. Jeremy wanted one too, but I don't think so right now. Maybe another time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It hits the fan

Not more than two or three days ago, I had a brief discussion with a friend (she will recognize herself) about my son. Jeremy has grown up a lot in the past year or so, working, going to community college, and becoming an independent person in many ways. It was very abrupt because he had been an extremely dependent kid, no doubt because of his history of Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, and OCD. He didn't used to go out much, and hung out with us, seeming much younger than his years.
All of a sudden, when he graduated from high school and got his driver's license, everything changed very suddenly. We seldom saw him. He was out constantly with new friends, few of which we ever met. He stayed out till late at night, and I caught him smoking weed in the house.
When that happened, I decided that to throw a fit would be counter-productive and hypocritical on my part. So I made him promise not to drive stoned and to avoid using other drugs and drink, especially when he was driving, at work, or at school. He assured me he would not.
Well today Richard told me Jeremy got busted by the cops and has a DUI. To make it worse, there was weed in the car. He has to go to court.
Jeremy was very upset, R. told me, and has agreed to forfeit his Chanukah present (which was supposed to be a new queen sized bed and linens) to pay for the rise in insurance costs and fines.
I don't know what to do. I haven't gotten to talk to him yet, but I plan to tell him that I want us all to go into family counseling and that I want him to go back on medication.
In addition to all of this, I also learned he failed his career planning class for lack of work. He lost his syllabus early on, and repeatedly emailed the teacher and asked her also in person to give him another syllabus. I even emailed her. She never sent it. So he didn't know about assignments. Of course, he could have asked other students in the class. He was clearly at fault, but she also had some responsibility for this. She has no Blackboard site and never checks her email, apparently. But for whatever reason, he failed a very easy class!
Things are not going well.

Holiday dessert season

This is the season of grading, of course, and I have bloated research papers going belly up on my dining room table. But it is also the season of holiday potlucks. Yesterday we had our Torah group meeting again, and before that, joined a Jewish education class for a Chanukah potluck. There were all the favorites: two kinds of latkes; applesauce; sour cream; two kinds of brisket (one with limas and one without); two salads; darling cookies decorated with icing; and my assembled almond cake. I found the recipe in one of my fusion cookbooks. It is a virtually flourless torte, made with ground almonds and eggs. On top of it, you put dried papayas soaked in Grand Marnier and orange juice, and various kinds of fruit (quartered pears, green grapes, blackberries,and pomegranite seeds). I added whipped cream to this, slathering it over the tiny cake and putting the fruit on top at the last minute. Then I drizzled the left over grand marnier and orange juice mixture, leaving some on the side for people to add themselves to their plates. It was beautiful! And it tasted good too. Not difficult either.
Last night in Torah group we had some juicy bits to ponder. We returned to the Annunciation of Sarah, where she laughs "inwardly," according to our translation, while in the previous book, Abraham had fallen on his face, hysterical with laughter, with no repercussions. Despite her relative discretion (and who could blame her, since they were both so old?), God apparently fingers her for making light of the whole affair. But the Rabbis, in their wisdom, didn't find that reading convincing. They said that it was Abraham, not God, who accused Sarah of laughing, his male pride coming to the fore. IE: who are you to say I can't get it up anymore???
Interestingly, while God (or his messengers) communicate directly with Hagar, they don't do so with Sarah. She hangs behind the tent flaps and the angels deliver the news to Abraham instead.
This is part of a pattern we see later, when Lot's wife (who remains a nameless pillar of salt) turns to look behind her at the destruction of the city, where two of her married daughters might have remained, and is punished for something she never heard, since the angels told Lot but not her not to turn around.
We also discussed Lot's daughters, who think they are the last women on earth, and seduce their father, immediately conceiving (and bearing two tribes that become Israel's enemies). There is no overt condemnation of their act, but perhaps the fact that their progeny are Israel's enemies is a tacit condemnation?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rain, Rain

The sound of rain penetrated even my deafness last night. The steady sound is a known sleep-inducer, and seemed even to soothe hungry cats. Whistler let me sleep an hour later than usual! Of course, I budgeted his food so that I could give him a bit of kibble before I went to bed, and that probably helped too.
It's still raining now, as I sit here writing this, and a blank grey slate of sky is visible through the shutters facing my computer. I wonder where my umbrella is? I am sure I am not the only one asking this question right now.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Trip to Another World

Today, perhaps by way of celebrating the car's renewal, after another flat tire yesterday (in one of the new tires, natch!), I took my parents to Little Saigon in Westminster. My dad has been saying for a while that he wanted to go, and trips to our usual spots were lackluster and boring, so I finally girded my loins and took him. When one doesn't drive on freeways, this kind of trip is challenging, but I found a fairly direct route, up Moulton/Irvine Ctr Dr/Edinger, to Bolsa. There was some nasty construction in Santa Ana, but besides that, it was not hard, not even for me, who hates challenging drives.
Dad wanted to go to the A Doung market, which is an amazing and amazingly cheap amalgamation of all sorts of smells, people, etc. The meat and fish section alone is a festival for the senses, not of all of it pleasant. It's like the 99 Market to the 10th power. Then we walked down the strip to a dim sum restaurant (took the elevator upstairs), and had lunch, bargaining for some Hello Kitty pjs on the way. It is tough to eat dim sum when you don't eat pork. My parents still don't, and don't eat shrimp or other seafood (nonfish seafood) either. We ended up with a lot of very tasty tofu. Everything else had pork!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Car, Redux

Turned out the car was more complicated than I thought. The brakes were almost entirely out. They needed replacement. And so did the tires, which were not too old. It was my fault for not filling them up with air when they needed to be filled. I won't make that mistake again. And to top it off, the debit card didn't go through because they suspected someone had stolen it, and I had to go through an enormous rigamarole to get it fixed. But I have my car; I can go to yoga class as well as to a workshop on campus tomorrow (which I would have gotten to by bus if not by car anyhow). Everything I do seems more complicated than it ought to be!
My friend Linda, in Philadelphia, got the dishes from my parents' house and is storing them at her place. It was a long way in the pouring rain, in heavy traffic. What a good friend. It was nice of my old friend Amy to take them out there too. Sometime I will have to go to Philadelphia and figure out how to get them out here.


We don't often think about how crucial our cars are to our lives' smooth continuance. As a person who did not drive until relatively recently (about 8 years ago), I think about it a lot, but even I have come to take my car for granted. Lately, the car is doing strange things. The brake light comes on when the brake is not on, when I am driving. Sometimes it goes off on its own, but sometimes it goes off then comes on again. The front light is out again, for the fifth or sixth time this year. And I worry that the car may be on the verge of dying, though it is not all that old. It does have a fair number of miles on it... almost 100,000, most of which I put on it. But buying another car at the moment is not in the picture, so I hope it holds on for a while.
How did I manage taking the bus? As I recall, not all that well. It was tough because it took hours to get anything done. Going one place was a major project. Now I zip effortlessly from one place to another. Maybe I appreciate that less than I used to. This will be a reminder that I need to be grateful for the car and the ability to drive it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Terrible term papers

I am now poring through elephantine research papers. I am shocked at how little some students seem to have learned about incorporating quotations, citing, doing works cited, and simply creating an argument out of the material they have collected. They seem to have forgotten everything the previous papers have taught them. Oh well! I'm sure making mistakes is instructive too. I've learned plenty that way myself.
Looking forward to the break, if I can make it!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Supremes

The Supreme Court decided not to hear that case. Whew.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

new worries

Yesterday I was listening to NPR, which is my wont, after yoga class and heard on the news quiz a comment about Clarence Thomas, a scurrulous Supreme Court justice, accepting a case challenging Obama's right to be president because he might not be a "native born American." I didn't know how seriously to take this.
I haven't watched the news all that regularly. I used to be a newshound, but after 9-11 and Bush, I couldn't stand to look, frankly, so I stayed away from the news. It became a habit, and now I watch irregularly. Though I listen to the radio news and scan the paper, I don't always get every little story. The implications of this one though are very large, and when I checked it out, I freaked.
To forbid Obama to take the Presidency, when the US teeters on the brink of a depression, is terrible! What would we do? I don't want to think about it. I kept me from sleeping last night though. That's why I don't watch the news!
The Constitution has not defined this crucial term, "Native Born American." Does it mean someone born in the States, no matter his parentage, or someone whose two parents are both citizens or born in the states themselves, or does it mean someone with at least one citizen as a parent? And what if a person like Obama has one citizen parent and one non-citizen and is born abroad? What does that make him?
These are questions that should be resolved, but for this to come up now is not good, especially when our economy is in such a delicate state, and this is bound to worsen it, if Obama is summarily bounced from the office before he even takes it.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Stuff from my parents' old house continues to affect my life. Of all the junk and valuables in that place, which we emptied out about 3 years ago, when my dad had a stroke, and sold, only the good china, bone china from England, and my great-uncle Isaac's painting of my grandfather are left. The painting has been at my friend Linda's house in Philadelphia since we cleaned out the house (or actually, took what we could and paid others to take the rest away so we could sell).
The dishes went with my friend Amy, whom you will or might remember from a blog entry a few months ago. Amy is now moving away from the small town where the horrible people torment her and her family to another, better place, I hope. However, she does not want to take the dishes with her. This is partly because the house was full of vermin, and some traveled along with us in boxes and other items. To this day, we are still plagued with some sort of mite that is extremely small, not visible with the naked eye, and so no insect control service will spray for it.
Amy's husband is a licensed pest control person, so they sprayed a number of times and finally got rid of it in the rest of the house, but she suspects that the bugs are still in the box of dishes, and does not want them in her new house.
I was not at all sentimental about anything from the house. I had a miserable childhood there, and wanted only to put the whole thing behind me. In fact, I had nightmares for years and years about having to deal with it, and begged my father in the years leading up to his stroke to sell. I even found a service that would help him pack up and sell things from the house, so he could move either out here or to an assisted living place in Philly.
He refused to go, so I was stuck with a horrible, nightmarish task, in a house full of two refridgerators full of rotting food, rats, roaches, etc. In addition, he buried envelopes full of cash all over, and we had to find them. We never found my grandmother's diamonds or other valuables.
But the one thing I wanted, besides the painting and the death mask of my grandfather, was the dishes. I did have wonderful memories of family holidays together using those dishes. And they are lovely. If I ever got them here, they would be the nicest things I owned.
A few months ago, Amy contacted me and told me she would leave them at the house if I didn't send someone to get them. We have become estranged since the episode with the bugs that also infested her house. She and her husband, like me, happen to be allergic to them. Most people aren't. However, she seems sympathetic about my plight.
Linda has said she will go get them, but eventually I need to relieve her of them and of the painting. I have no idea how to go about this. The house and my past just won't let go.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Abraham and the gang

Yesterday evening was the Torah group's third meeting. We discussed two parashahs, both telling the story of Abraham/Abram and Sarah/Sarai/Ishai (Sarah's 3 names)--Lech L'cha and Vayahi. We only made it through the first because there was so much to discuss. In this section, Abram leaves home with his retenue and passes his wife off as his sister (twice). In the process, the old trickster gains a lot of booty and renown. So does his nephew, Lot, his adopted son under the Levirite marriage system that dictated brothers become responsible for their brothers' family after his death, and must marry the widow. In fact, that's why Abram marries Sarai, who is his niece. We also learned that this was not considered incest; nor are father-daughter relations-- under the biblical definition at least!
We discussed the interesting fact that Hagar is thought to be the daughter of the Pharaoh. You'll remember her as Sarai's slave, who bears Abraham's first son, Ishmael, who becomes the father of the Arab tribes--12 of them, just like the 12 Hebrew tribes. Supposedly, according to the Rabbis, the Pharoah was so in awe of Abraham that he thought it was better for his daughter to be a slave in his household than a princess in Egypt! Ha! Fat chance.
She gets a lot of attention in the book though. In fact, she is about the only woman God talks to. He didn't address Eve or Sarah. She, on the other hand, got to look at God's back and to give him two names--both having to do with "seeing." In fact, that is one of the themes of this section of the book.
We also talked about Abraham's bizarre sacrifice, where he cuts up several animals into two pieces and also includes a bird that is not cut into pieces. I noted that the bird has already been associated with God's covanant in Noah, so it is perhaps not so surprising that it makes its appearance here.
We'll meet again in two weeks and discuss the demise of Sodom and Gomorrah and the wonderful pillar of salt. I already asked about the salt, and read an interesting interpretation that said that Lot's wife was punished for the foreign habit of seasoning her meat, but primarily because she went to the neighbor's house to borrow some salt and told the neighbor about the visitors (the three angels) at their place. That's when the neighbors formed a rape mob and came over to rape the angels. Appropriately enough in a book with so much to-do about seeing and not seeing, the angels blind them, and all hell breaks loose.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

End of Semester Gunk

It is almost the end of the semester, and I am feeling my students' pain. I always tell myself it's their problem, not mine, but it doesn't help. I feel the anxiety they should feel because they haven't fulfilled their responsibilities for my class and are heading for a failure. If they only felt some of it themselves, they probably wouldn't have this problem.
This semester I am teaching a class on research and argumentation for the first time in many years. I am a little rusty at this. So I did not plan the class in a foolproof way, that would guarantee their papers would be ready at the end of the semester. Instead, I told them to follow the sequence of assignments I have been giving for a couple of months, which was supposed to assemble the paper a piece at a time--topic, question, research, plan, draft, works cited, final. But naturally they did not follow the time table and most dragged their feet and are still puzzled about what to research. Meanwhile, it is way too late for that.
It's not as if all of them have screwed up. At least a few have taken me seriously and are doing fine. They asked for help when they needed it, and I gave it to them. I even went to the UCI library to help students do some research, though actually they did better at finding sources on the topic than I did! But I suppose it's all something to learn from. Next semester I'll be ready to deal with this.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Growing Up Nicely

As I write this, Jeremy is getting ready to go to school, where he will have a mock interview. He had to wear business attire, so we spent a part of the weekend shopping for, fighting over, and agonizing about a suit, since he didn't own anything remotely resembling "business attire." Neither does Richard, unless you count a suit from 1976 and an ancient sports jacket, neither of which come anywhere near fitting him now. He just hasn't wanted or needed that kind of clothing. Forget ties. So Jeremy had to start from scratch, and it wasn't easy since he doesn't have patience with or understand the art of shopping.

But he looks great. He wouldn't let me take a picture, but I can tell you it's a black thin pinstripe suit with a blue gray shirt (gun metal blue) and I didn't get a good look at the tie. I think it has stripes. I couldn't talk him into anything wilder than that.
It turned out the interview isn't today, and good thing because there's a whole other part to the assignment, a portfolio. I have the feeling he isn't going to do too well because he refused to buy dress shoes, and she specified that she was serious about business attire, and referenced shoes. But I did my best. Sometimes a kid has to fail to learn that college isn't high school.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Upcoming Torah Session

The Torah class I'm taking isn't till Tuesday evening, but I've been reading the Abraham story in preparation for it. That's such a complicated bit that we're going to spend two classes on it, but I noticed something for the first time this time through.
You might remember that tricky Abram/Abraham passes off his wife, Sarai/Sarah as his sister twice before fessing up to King Abimelech, and he never gets chewed out by God for anything he does, including that. But what I hadn't noticed before was that according to Abraham, Sarah is his sister--his half-sister. In that passage alone, there are several taboos that we take for granted now that were apparently no problem at all then. One was incest. (There's more incest in the story in the form of Lot's daughter's act of getting dad drunk and getting pregnant by him; if you ask me, they'd spent too much time in Sodom or Gomorrah!). The other was the mixing of meat and milk, when Abraham sacrafices a kid seethed in its mother's milk to God. This is specifically forbidden in the laws of Kashruth, but of course, Abraham isn't Jewish yet. There aren't any Jews yet.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rain Rain Can Be a Pain

Don't get me wrong. I like rain, the wonderful summer hose smell of the ground after it has showered for a while, the dewy grass, and even the puddles, which I am just childish enough to dabble in, wetting my shoes and sometimes even my socks. But the rain in this area, when it finally does let loose, can bring some problems alien to other, wetter places.
First of all, people in this place don't know how to deal with rain. Their umbrellas have been sitting in the closet so long they get moth holes or disintegrate or break. They don't know how to drive in the rain either. Of course, it doesn't help that there is no drainage on the roads and the soil doesn't absorb very much water. Rain, even a light rain, can mean pile ups and slow downs and big big accidents sometimes too because drivers sometimes don't have enough sense to slow down.
Sometimes it floods, and that can happen really fast. I was once trying to cross the street from the shopping center across the street from my apartment. During the half an hour or so I was in the market, a flood poured into the street and made it impassable. It hadn't even been raining when I went into the store, but when I came out, there were cars floating by, a dead dog, and terrified people hanging onto poles on the islands in the middle of the street.
The only way I escaped from that disaster was by begging a ride with a gigantic SUV, which drove me across the street to my house. But just as when someone is contemplating a jump from a window sill, there were "cheerleaders" on the corner urging me to jump into the white water, where I certainly would have drowned, particularly because I can't swim, despite many years of attempted swimming lessons. Truthfully though, I haven't seen anything like that for a number of years now.
Then there are other kinds of flood, brewing in areas where there have been fires. People who live in rural areas or areas at the edge of the known world/suburb are very vulnerable to fire, and when all the trees and brush burn off, to flood and mudslides. There are any number of ways to meet your maker in this place. Poor Reb, whose family has been evacuated so many times, could tell you about this, couldn't you, Reb?
So when I am sitting quietly in my house, reading and listening to the relaxing sound of raindrops on the roof and the windows, I wonder in the back of my mind if someone will wake me up at 2AM screaming in my ear that I have to get out, that the water is rising in the living room, that the safe and the normal is not really safe at all, but the harbinger of disaster.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Old Problem

When I first set up a bank account for my parents, I found it was impossible because of the Patriot Act to include my mother officially in it. That is because she never drove, so didn't have a driver's license, was not born in the US, although she is a naturalized citizen, and I couldn't get the DMV to give her an ID card because she might be a terrorist. Yep. A 92 year old Jewish lady from South Africa is really a threat, isn't she?
We tend to think of the Patriot Act as being a threat to our broad Constitutional rights, but it really intrudes on the tiny minutae of our everyday lives, especially when it comes to banking and the like.
Consequently, I have a problem. I cannot bank the checks sent to her by the insurance company and other places. I don't know what to do about it. I will try calling Social Security and see if they will send me a letter declaring to the bank that I am her representative. The statement from Medicare, addressed to me for her, wasn't good enough for them, and I can't find the letter that initially stated that I am her representative. What a pain.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lunch with an old friend

Today I met with an old buddy from the MFA program to chat about what's been happening with our lives the past few years and to share writing we had been doing. I took home a fat manuscript (hers) with a promise to comment on it. It was heavy, but I trust it will be interesting, knowing her poems. I haven't seen any of her fiction. This will be the first time I look at it.
Today also a friend in yoga class with whom I trade recommendations for reading lent me her copy of The Inheritance of Loss. I'm also still reading that anthology for Bookies! It's pouring books! But winter break lies ahead, and I plan to make use of it. This year we aren't planning to go any place in particular. I can put together my syllabi for next semester and read and read and read. And write too. Oh, and I promised Marly I'd review her new novel for this very blog, and maybe Amazon too. Haven't gotten it yet though.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Go to the movies

Last night I went to see a film from India, Slumdog Millionaire. It is a sort of documentary fairy tale. Now I know that is paradoxical, but so is India. It is beautiful and wretched, poor and opulent, generous and stingy. It is large and various enough to contain every human thing and some things that are supernatural. It fascinates me. I have been impressed by the art that has come out of India, which is so alien to us and yet alludes to our literature, our film, our art in our language. Because of colonialism, India has taken in our western culture and has grown stronger while we weaken.
This film takes this very topic as its theme. It is a tale about a fated romance between two young orphans. Yes, the plot is very melodramatic and it could have been awful, but it was not. I will not tell you much more, except that the film has everything a film needs to be riveting--beautiful locales, addictive plot, excellent direction. The actors are not so much characters as mediums for the plot, but that too is okay, under the circumstances. It is a broad canvas, but the details are fascinating too. Go see it while you can.
The theater was full full full of Indian families from everywhere, their tiny infants and their elderly. Yet there was not a squeak. I don't know how the parents managed it. Probably they and their children were so hungry to hear their language spoken to see their culture on the screen that they were hypnotized, even the tiny babies.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


We got my mom some shoes. I am relatively sure that they fit and that they are comfortable. If they are not, there aren't any shoes out there that will be because they are lightweight, canvas comfort shoes, and look really spiffy. She says they feel better than any of the other shoes she has tried. I hope she continues in that opinion because I am not doing this again any time soon!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mom's New Shrink

I took my mom to an appointment with her new psychiatrist this afternoon, quite late, and managed to get totally turned around and lost. After three efforts to find the building, I finally stumbled into the correct office ten minutes late and had to fill out forms. But we eventually spoke to the doctor, and my first impression of him on the telephone was right. He was very nice and very perceptive. Much better than the doctor she was seeing before, whom I found to be cold and uncaring. She didn't like him either, and used to complain that there was no use going to see him, that he didn't do anything. I think she was right. This doctor is actually thinking about what he can do to help her. Some people should not work with elderly people.
Afterwards I took her to a deli to have a sandwich because she is not eating anything except candy and cream cakes. I ordered an enormous hot cornbeef sandwich for her, but she didn't eat it at all, only a couple of bites. Then I had the waitress pack it up and took it home. I was upset because I knew she would eat junk instead, and she did. But I guess at her age, she has the right.
I came home drained and exhausted and just wanted to get away from her and go home. I will just jump into bed and done with it for today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The book is sweet

Last night I went to my monthly Women's Torah class at the synagogue. I am the only person in the group with any formal training in literature. Though the leader of the group knows much more about Torah than I do, I am able to contribute many things about literary analysis, vocabulary, myth, etc. that add to the group's understanding and can take routine questions of how to understand the text as I would in my own classroom. I was concerned that I would be butting heads with the leader because of this, but it seems she is okay with it. Last night we discussed the parashah (section of the Torah) of Noach (Noah). It was Christians who first separated the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, into chapter and verse. Before that it was separated into small portions for consumption up to three times per week. The most interesting part of the discussion (and there were many interesting things) was actually not in that section, but right before it, when the text spoke about why the divine beings who, like their Greek predecessors, mated with human women to produce a race of giants, the Nephilim, who became giant heroes. But apparently God didn't like all this misegination (sp?), and destroyed everything except Noah and his household and the famous pairs of every living creature.
One wonders first of all what the creatures had done to deserve this, but apparently they too were mixing too much for God's taste, according to commentary. The point is, no one is really sure. Some speculate that it is all about God's fear that people would begin to eat meat, since they were all still vegetarians, despite being booted out of the garden. But interestingly, in the 2nd creation, which parallels the first, point for point, it's hunky dory for humans to now eat meat, and the offering of meat that God once spurned from Cain, with disastrous consequences, he now gladly accepts. Strange.
We discussed the fact that Noah, though perhaps better than most of his time, was not such a great guy. Unlike Abraham, he said nothing when God took it into his head to destroy creation. In fact, he says nothing until he wakes up from his bender and sees that Ham has sodomized (or possibly castrated) him --that's the way the commentary says those lines would have been read at the time. And then Noah curses his grandson, a way of explaining the emnity between Israel and the Canaanites that came up only much later. And also, unfortunately, a way of justifying slavery that was much bandied about in the 19th century south.
Clearly, being created "in God's image" isn't all good. If God is this arbitrary parental figure who spurns one offering to favor another, causing feuds, is it so surprising that his creation should repeatedly behave in this same way? I brought in the Kabbalistic theory that the creation was a manifestation of God's mistake, which inadvertently brought evil into being, intertwined inextricably with creation.
Another bit of bright news--a recent poem, "Taking Tea," was accepted to Caesura! Thanks again Reb for the tip!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Eady Reads!

Sometimes a person meets someone and it is as though she has known him all her life. It was like that yesterday evening when I went to hear Cornelius Eady read his poems. I had heard him years ago in Provincetown, but since then, had only tangentally followed his work. I didn't really get the blues or jazz poems, but after hearing them read, I get them now.
Eady has a soft voice that is made up of all tones. He does not so much say his poems as croon them, reminding me in a way of the Russian style of declaiming poetry, though far less self-consciously poetic. Though I had failed to wear my hearing aids, so missed the ends of many lines, I understood, I felt, quite well.
The poems moved seamlessly from autobiography (also autobiographical prose) to dramatic pieces from the point of view of the archetypal black killer white murderers have again and again nailed as the culprit for their own crimes. The voice there is matter of fact and yet very emotional, under the surface, never shrill. There is the secret I think of political poems, if anyone cares to follow this lead.
Before the reading, I had a really nice talk with Eady. It seemed as if we had been moving in parallel writer's circles, though of course he has done so much more than I have and with earned acclaim. I hope we meet again another time. B But meanwhile, read his work! I will.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shoes glorious shoes!

We didn't get shoes for my mom, yet again, though we can't be accused of failing to try. Yesterday I took mom to Shoe Pavilion, which is closing down. It was one of the few places that had an occasional pair of shoes in our size, so I hate to see that.
In the chaos of the closing store, which was strewn with loose shoes of every size, style, and description, we managed to find one shoe (but not its mate) that fit and suited perfectly. Unfortunately, no one had any idea where the other one was. So close! It was particularly frustrating.

Wind and Flame

It's almost Thanksgiving, but it feels like midsummer. The Santa Ana winds are blowing, drying out everything to tinder, and this seems to bring out the nut cases and pyromaniacs, who take the opportunity to create enormous, scary, and destructive fires.
In the past, fire season came only once time a year. Now, with global warming, it seems to have extended to the entire year. When fires aren't a problem, floods are, particularly in semi-rural areas.
Though the smog and particulates in the air make for beautiful sunsets, they also make it hard to breathe and to go about one's everyday life. Gridlock on the freeway took on a whole new meaning yesterday when the entire freeway system shut down in spots because it was impossible to see for the smoke. I wonder what happened to all those people sitting on the road for hours and how or if they got where they were going.
My dad isn't very familiar with this fire stuff. I guess he doesn't remember last year. Yesterday he pointed to the heavy clouds (from the fire) on the horizon by the hills and said perhaps that meant it would rain. I explained that it didn't mean that. I wish it would rain though, and not a thunderstorm!
Meanwhile, my thoughts are with everyone displaced and dispossed by the fires.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Meeting

The college has had a useful series of workshops this semester that have made the department much tighter as a group, I think. I now feel that I have gotten to know some of the part-time instructors, though some that I've grown to value as colleagues are already leaving. That's how being a part-timer is; people drift hither and yon, looking for a more permanent position. For me, the part-time life has been a permanent impermanence. I have gone through phases, sometimes in the past feeling angry and alienated, a second class citizen, sometimes feeling privileged to be part of such a wonderful department where I can spend my life discussing books and talking about writing and not having to be responsible for the nitpicky details of full-time committee work, etc. But these meetings have definitely made me feel closer to everyone in the department and they have given me insight into the workings of the department and of the school that I did not have before.
It was very interesting today to have a sort of mini-class meeting for the composition class I am teaching, in rhetoric and research. It is the first time I have taught it, and the first time in a long time I have taught that level at all. I have run into a problem with the research paper, the major assignment in the class, and I have learned that this is more or less the same set of problems many people who are teaching this class face. First of all, there are inadequate materials in the library database for my students to write their papers. And the students were struggling so much with the preliminary assignments I gave them (which were supposed to be finished weeks ago) that the research project will have to be slighted, not the least because there will be insufficient materials to do the work at our library. I have already researched several topics myself, and found this to be the case. We will have to work individually. Luckily, I have only a very few students in my classes this semester, so I can find materials for each one and pass them along, but the idea was to get them to research their topics themselves, and they will not be able to do that very well. And we will probably have to visit UCI library as a class and do some research in the next week or so. This coming week we are going to the college library, but I already know that won't be sufficient. Next semester, when I teach the class again, I hope to remedy that problem, but I am not exactly sure what the best way to do that would be. Today helped me verbalize all of this, since I was only muddling along by myself up to today in relation to these problems, and it seems that is what happens to most people who teach the class.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I am getting to dislike holidays like Thanksgiving because they make me realize just how inadequate I am as a housekeeper. I love to cook and used to entertain quite a bit, giving a yearly Chanukah party for which I cooked for days. That was when I lived in a place half the size of our current digs. But somehow, it was far less messy than this place, where cascades of paper threaten to bury us.That was when Jeremy was little and his toys were everywhere. Now we ought to have much more room, but we don't. It may have been because of the way things were laid out, or perhaps it was the fact that that place had a huge linen closet built into the wall, while this place doesn't have one. The rooms here are narrow also, which makes it hard to squeeze the computer and the dining table into the same niche, and the kitchen is the size of a small closet.

I think I am afraid that the reason I have become far messier and less able to handle things organizationally is because I might be getting dementia like my mom. Her dementia took a really really long time to get as bad as it is. But I am too afraid to have it checked out. That is probably foolish; perhaps something could be done about it. But perhaps it couldn't. I wouldn't want to know if it couldn't.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Today was a holiday. The college was closed for Veterans Day, as was the University, so both Richard and I were off. We decided to go down to Corona Del Mar to the Beachcomber for breakfast (a really big, really good breakfast!) and a long walk on the beach. I had the egg-white frittata, sans cheese because I hate the stuff. It was delicious. In case you can't imagine what an egg white frittata might be like (a white omelet), it was a thick white circle the size of a cake plate, loaded with sauteed spinach, mushrooms, onion, and tomatoes. On the side were crisp breakfast potatoes, which I love, and a single ripe strawberry. Richard had the eggs and hash, so I got a little corned beef hash on the side from his plate. He didn't want any of mine, unrepentant whole egg eater that he is.
Then we walked maybe three miles or so down the beach, where we ran into some like-minded walkers and chatted briefly. On the way home, we climbed nearly up to the top of Turtle Rock. I was a bit nervous about running into a mountain lion, since the sign warned they did appear there every once in a while, but we didn't see any. Good thing. I was pretty winded and couldn't have run much.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I'm trying to write a story and I am really stuck. I decided that this character was going to commit a crime, though I am not sure whether he is going to outright kill his family or just find an ingenious way to get them off his back that doesn't involve killing them. Either would work. I keep adding information and detail up to the point where I have to make up my mind, but I just can't make myself go any further. I know how it will end though.
This has never happened to me before because my poems are usually so small that they don't generally have twists and turns. They go straight where they are going, or else they "tell it slant," like Dickinson said, and they don't commit to a definite direction, but leave several sort of floating out there. This is a new experience for me. One day I will just have to make a decision. I can always erase that day's work, or save it for something else. That's the good thing about writing that we don't get with life.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Movie and dinner

Yesterday afternoon I took some time off to go see Eastwood's new film, The Changeling. I am particularly sensitive to movies about serial murder. After I saw Psycho at age 11, I wouldn't take a shower unless everyone was home for about 10 years thereafter (a problem when I went off to school). But I have been impressed by Eastwood's previous films (at least the relatively recent ones), so I went to see it with Richard. He was not particularly eager to go, but once he did, I think he became involved in the drama.
If you haven't heard about it, the film is based on a bizarre true story from the 20s LA, when the police force was a bunch of thugs and gangsters, committing women who bucked the system to mental hospitals and bumping off everyone else who got in their way. I won't spoil it for you, but will only say that the film features the world's creepiest serial killer of children and, believe it or not, a very good performance by Angelina Jolie.
Then we went to eat Indian vegetarian food at the Dosa Place. It was excellent but very spicy. Richard needed to bury his tongue in frozen yogurt after dinner to get over the burn.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mom and the Two of Me

My mother thinks I am two different people. Sometimes, like today, when I took her for blood tests, she tells me confidentially that Robbi is not like me. She is harsh and mean, and refuses to buy shoes when they are needed. I, on the other hand, take my mother out for cream cakes and look after her health. No wonder, my mother says, shaking her tousled head (she won't allow the hairdresser to touch it, claiming that the hairdresser knows nothing about cutting hair), poor Robbi lives alone, while her husband and son live just down the road, refusing to allow her to occupy the same apartment. My mother thinks that it is fortunate that I show up sometimes, or she would be in trouble.
It is hard to remember sometimes that she is not herself either. I can't carry on a conversation with her, since she will ask how the honeymoon or the cruise or the trip to the another planet was, and did I bring pictures? What does one say to that, especially when she doesn't hear the answers I make anyhow. I just shake my head, and try to straighten out the mess in her closet, or peel off the top two outfits she is wearing so that only one remains, or encourage her again to try on the shoes in the closet that she has never worn or worn only once that fit her instead of wearing the too-big ones that fall off her feet and cause her to trip on the carpets.
Sometimes I do wish there were two of me. Things would be a lot easier, and wouldn't it be great to have someone to blame when things don't turn out as I would like? No such luck.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


The long election is finally over, and for the first time in quite a while, there is a result I feel very happy about, mostly. Of course, Proposition 8 passed, and I am not pleased about that. For those of you who are out of state, 8 is the anti-gay marriage amendment. I feel about this as I do about all directives forbidding anomalies: difference is healthy and normal. Forcing people to adhere to one's own idea of normality, except in cases where carrying out these practices harms or victimizes others, is a bad idea. So I regret very deeply this law, though I feel the issue is far from settled.
As far as the top of the ticket is concerned, I, along with many many others, was thrilled and could not believe what I was seeing. As the numbers rolled in, it was clear that I had not been alone during these 8 years of exile. Others obviously felt just as strongly about Bush's abuse of the office of the Presidency as I. Now we will see what a whole new perspective on these issues can do for us.
I feel hopeful that Obama, being as smart and shrewd as he is, will gather excellent advisors around him, and has available to him the brightest and most enthusiastic people in the world. He will also have the support of other nations, who were cheering him on from the sidelines during the election. This will go a long way toward helping him to make crucial decisions in the coming years.
I am interested to see who his cabinet will be and how exactly he changes things. It will give me a good reason to read the paper and listening to the news, something I gave up doing for a long time after 9-11 and during the interminable and awful Bush years.
Though I have thought of the US as being full of pinheads and bigots, there must be a lot of people out there who do not meet this description, to have elected the first African-American president. I hope that his model changes the dynamic for black and other Americans of color.
To borrow a phrase, this makes me feel proud of America for the first time in a long while.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Storied Past and Present

Now that I have gotten a start writing stories rather than sticking strictly to poems, I am presented with new problems to solve. The main one I'm dealing with now is plot. So many odd and interesting things have happened to me that it is tempting to stick to autobiography. But there are some people I have run into and up against that interest me, beyond my involvement with them. They make me curious about very odd and different psyches than my own, and they deserve their own stories, beyond my own life. So I am trying to create them, and I am not really sure how to go about it at this point.
I have always had plenty of imagination. That's not the problem. It's just that I get stuck with life, somehow, and am reluctant to bypass it, to take tiny details, as Henry James describes in his prefaces, and set them in entirely new contexts.
I am sure it is only a matter of time before I use someone's words, life, or physiognomy and that person recognizes it in a story. That doesn't happen in poems because poems don't generally work that way, at least not mine. So now I have to ponder this, or risk being like the person I met years ago in Provincetown who spent all day with her ear (and a stethoscope) to the floor, listening to others' conversations, and putting them, verbatim often, into stories that appeared in weeks to come in the New Yorker. Oh well. I guess I'll write my way out of this problem.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Playing it

I saw another play today at SCR. It was The Heiress, loosely based, the program said, on James' Washington Square, one of his novels that I have never read. I saw the marks of Henry James on the female lead, however loosely it was based on the novel. Apparently, it hews much more closely to the film, made in the byegone days, with Montgomery Clift (sp?) and Olivia de Havilland in the starring roles. I managed to miss that too, somehow.
It was a pretty rip-snorting drama, with interesting plot turns, and the audience was very involved in it, got very worked up. That is somewhat unusual, in my experience, at SCR, where audiences can be very cool, even blase, and sometimes have no idea what they will be seeing. For example, I met a woman a couple of years back when I went to see Hamlet (a very good production, by the way) who claimed to have no idea at all what it was or who Shakespeare was. Thing is, I believe she was telling the truth. She was American. It would be more understandable if she had been Turkish or Nigerian, but she was apparently brought up here, and has not been buried head first in a hole out in a cornfield for her whole life. I don't know how I come to be lucky enough to run into these unbelievable people. Maybe everyone does, and they are just not paying attention. I am.
Today I saw another bizarre thing: I was in South Coast Plaza before the play for the first time in years, and I went to the bathroom in the basement of Sears. There, in the middle of the children's department and right near hardware, there was a fully dressed bride with her bridal party. I have no idea what they were doing there. I didn't get a chance to ask.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Tonight is Halloween. I dressed up in costumes long after I was an adult, but don't do it anymore. Takes too much time; plus, I don't want candy, certainly don't need it.
Still, I had a lot of fun in the past thinking up weird costumes, even if no one ever realized what I was supposed to be. The best costumes were those the women at my college when I was an undergrad used to wear. They had verve and imagination. For example, there was the Budweiser 6 pack that stopped and sang the theme song every once in a while, and, a variation on the theme, a set of ovaries. There was Wyeth's painting, Christina's world, the part of Christina played by a flame-headed gay woman named Emily, in her pink shirtwaist.
I personally had some interesting costumes... like the Superfly outfit (not the movie, the giant fly/superhero of my own imagining). I did a poetry reading with the little fly tongue rolled up on my nose, bobbing up and down. At this same reading I gave the "Fatty Arbuckle gold coke bottle prize" for best reading.
Not many people come to my door on Halloween, but I'll be ready for those who do show.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Money Woes

I've heard a lot about the financial catastrophe now playing in a bank near you. It's also playing in my parents' stock portfolio, which is very modest. I was saving it for their funerals, but now it has tanked. It features old favorites like GM and Ford, neither of which are doing so well. The frustrating thing is that I was thinking of cashing them in just before the crash... must have felt something coming. But I was too late. Now I have to hold on to them, just when the bank accounts are emptying and worrying me no end.
There's little we can cut--the phone, the paper, the Newsweek, days at the Senior Center. That's all. And those things are what makes their lives enjoyable. I will kick in the Newsweek myself, but the paper and the Center are too expensive for me to pay for them.
I guess I'll figure it out, along with others. At least we all have a place to live.

Jeremy Stuff Again

Jeremy is going to drop his English class. He has one of those awful English teachers my students sometimes tell me about who are absolute nitpickers when it comes to what I view as unimportant matters such as margins and MLA format. As long as the students type the paper, offer some kind of margins, and put their names on the papers, I don't take any notice of that.
This is all the more unforgiveable in his case because he is a disabled student, and as a matter of fact, we do all of his typing for him because it is so hard and painful for him. We would have liked the DS&P office to have offered keyboarding lessons to him, but he of course did not tell them what his disabilities were. He didn't say anything about his reading either, and it didn't show up as a problem on the testing. Must have been a pretty cursory test, is all I can say since those in the past who have tested him certainly saw all kinds of disabilities around language processing and reading.
This teacher made me angry from the start. She added him late because he was placed in the wrong level of writing class, and she only agreed to take him if he didn't "make trouble." This was not even knowing anything about him. Apparently, anyone who was disabled was trouble as far as she was concerned. I met her once when I had to go turn in his paper and I had the impression that she was entirely clueless and inexperienced.
I am glad he is dropping the class, but I hope that he isn't going to let it stop him from trying again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Working It Out

I had conferences with my students today to help them work on their latest paper. When I left them last Thursday, it seemed as though they had the task well in hand. I had been very clear and provided a number of samples to be sure they understood the prompt and knew how to approach it. It seemed that the students were confident and had a good grasp of the texts.
I had asked them to write a rhetorical analysis of Douglass' Narrative and his "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" speech. I also asked them to use a secondary source that we analyzed and discussed in class.
While the secondary source gave them a lot of trouble, by the time Thursday's class was over, I thought they grasped the argument it was making. But I didn't hear from anyone over the weekend, although I asked them to send me their thesis and plans early. That is always a bad sign. And when I got to class this morning, about 3/4 of them didn't seem to understand that this was a comparison/contrast essay or know how to tackle it at all. This is problematic because the draft is due on Thursday for peer review.
I hope that today's class, in which I had a chance to speak with each student individually, helped, but there is at least one student who is really getting upset at the very different response I have had to her writing than that she has been accustomed to. She is an intelligent student, and on her diagnostic, she did as well as anyone could have done, but since then, her papers have been vague, murky, and have shown that she does not have a grasp on using quotations or structuring an essay.
Apparently her grades have been very high in past writing classes, so now she is sure that it is I who am the problem. It is difficult to deal with students who have become exasperated, even in such a small class as this one is.
Teaching is such a delicate thing sometimes. I suppose anything involving human beings is.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Voting by Mail

Given all the potential problems, I plan to vote by mail. I just emailed the registrar to have a ballot sent to my house. I hope it gets here before Nov. 4. If not, I will just go vote the regular way, but I think it will be pretty crowded by the time I get out of class on Tues. the 4th.
I had an unpleasant experience this morning also, as the recipient of one of those John McCain dirty tricks directed at Jewish voters. Thousands of people in Phila. received emails suggesting (again, but this time specifically directed at Jews) that Obama had a number of Muslim extremists as associates. They couldn't make it stick before with Ayres or others, so they are apparently trying a last ditch effort again. I got the email via some well-meaning Republican cousins near Philly. I don't buy it, of course. It just makes me mad.
I will be glad to have my vote in and the whole thing finished.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Tomorrow is my birthday. And though I liked it better when the time change and my birthday coincided, which they don't anymore, I'm still pleased to have a birthday, despite the wrinkles and other signs of age. As I say to my dad, the alternative is not good, is it?
A good thing about having a birthday this time of year is that when I was younger and had yearly parties, they could be in costume. A good excuse for a party any day; that's what I say!
Tomorrow night my family and I will go out and eat Chinese food, after I have a full day at a women's yoga workshop. Doesn't that sound wonderful?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More NPR Curiosities

Lately I have been thinking about something my yoga teachers sometimes say: that emotion lives in the body, and that sometimes, unaccountably, in working on yoga postures, emotion of various kinds will come to the surface and be released, causing joy or sorrow from some unknown cause. It makes sense to me, and I have recently experienced it, when I got hysterically after jumping up and down on the freeway ramp, although I didn't feel that way at all when I started.
And today, as sometimes happens when one is thinking about something, I heard a story on NPR that touches on this idea. It is about the findings of certain scientists recently published in a scientific journal. The story, which I admittedly caught only part of, told about a teacher who asked her students to hold beverages as they traveled upstairs on an elevator, where they were given a survey that asked them to make decisions about how to help a person in a hypothetical situation. Strangely, those who were holding the hot beverage (only holding it, mind you, not even drinking it!), were more generous and empathetic, warmer, in other words, than those who carried the cold beverage. Scientists who investigated this phenomenon further found it was not a fluke; warmth and coldness are more than metaphorical, but have their link in the body, where these scientists theorize that emotions first arise.
On another topic, fruitflies are driving me batty. Anyone have an idea how to get rid of them? I have put away all my fruits and vegetables and rinse out the garbage disposal every day with baking soda and hot water. They still fly around my head as if I have bathed in garbage. I haven't.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Weds. musings

This afternoon I went to a poetry reading at UCI bookstore. UCI readings are always such abbreviated things. Today's was no different, despite the fact that there were two readers instead of one-- Cp;ette LaBouff Atkinson and Stephanie Brown. These were rather local writers, one of whom works at the U, I think. I think also that both graduated from the MFA program, but I am not sure. But for some reason, there is never occasion to dawdle and discuss, as at many readings I have been to. And the writers seem to read as few pieces as they can. Both writers took up barely an hour together.
They were quite different. One was a prose poet, whose short pieces were sharp and acute. I liked them very much. She had managed to write one short piece about a yoga asana, one I am not familiar with or couldn't recognize by its Sanskrit or English name or from the description.
The other writer was various all in herself. She could be rather off-putting, and feared she was offending the assembled audience. If so, they didn't let on. Some of her things were odd and humorous, formless almost. They seemed neither poetry nor prose. Some were haunting and stuck in my head. I'm glad I went because it left me plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the evening. Though I like going to readings, I also like evenings to feel long enough to get in a bit of reading and relaxation at home before I go to bed at what would seem to most a very early hour.
So when I got home I started reading this month's bookclub novel, The Secret Scripture, by Sebastian Barry. It is an Irish novel, and has that self-consciously poetic feel about it that I associate with Irish literature. So far it is very good, though I wonder whether the 100 year old narrator, a patient in a mental hospital being considered for release, would really speak this way. But the writing has authority. So I read on.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Simchah Torah--Party Time for the Torah

The Torah consists of the first 5 books of the Bible. It is the central text of Judaism, the element that allowed a disparate, scattered group of Jews to hang together as a people, the "people of the book." As such, it gets its own holiday.
On this day, the assembled community, which is already gathered at the Sukkah to party down, carries the Torah around the sanctuary, singing and dancing, and, in some synagogues, like my own, unrolls the entire amazing scroll to see it in its entirety.
The Torah is not a "book" of the kind we are used to. It remains in its ancient form as a scroll on parchment, written by hand with a turkey feather and vegetable ink, an ancient technology and a ritual in itself. It is garbed in works of art, hand embroidered covers with such designs as pomegranites, entwined leaves, and other images of fecundity from the natural world, and resides in a carved cabinet called an ark, reminiscent of Noah's life-raft for every living creature in the primordial flood. This is no coincidence, since the Torah has been Judaism's life raft in the various catastrophes it has experienced and seems to attract as no other people before.
On this particular evening, I served as a chuppah bearer for part of the time and also held up my tiny portion of the scroll, as children and their parents danced in the middle. A chuppah is something like a canopy over a 4 poster bed. I held one of the posts, covering the two Torahs and their bearers. When I held the Torah, along with maybe 70 0ther adults, it was over my head because the guy standing next to me was very tall. I couldn't really see the entire thing unless I stood on my toes and peered over the top, which I did several times.
People took pictures of everything and everyone. If I can get one of me holding the chuppah maybe, or holding up the Torah, I'll post it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sukkah Story

This week is Sukkah, the feast of the booths, when Jewish people all over the world build little shelters on their patios, fire escapes, and in their back yards, and hang them with fruits of the season. It is a harvest festival, the origin of our Thanksgiving, and has always been a favorite holiday of mine. However, I haven't build a Sukkah at our house, even though we have a front yard.
All kids naturally love this holiday because it is part of the shtick to eat in the Sukkah and sleep in it too. What kid wouldn't love that? It's really fun, unless it rains! We used to have bbqs every night in my cousin's Sukkah and decorate it with all kinds of interesting fruits and vegetables.
Tonight R and I went to a party at a friend's Sukkah. About 80 people came, in waves. We were the first to arrive. I brought some flatbreads I baked. They were wholewheat with dates and carmelized onions on top. Tasty. It's a holiday when people eat vegetarian food. There was Israeli pop music playing, and Israeli soda to drink. I couldn't read the labels, so it was a guessing game.
All kinds of people came, kids of all ages, and we met some new folks and chatted with people we knew. It was a lot of fun.
Monday is Simchah Torah, the celebration of the Torah. So it's pretty busy around here right now.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Days Getting Shorter, Patience Too

Every year this time, as my birthday approaches, the time change comes closer as well, cutting the corners off the edges of each day, making the mornings darker and the evenings earlier. In response, I feel more tired and more stressed, and the work in my classes intensifies, combining to create a feeling that leads sometimes to 24 hour bugs or colds.
This year is no exception, particularly as the unending considerations of caring for my parents stretch on into their 4th year. There is always something I should have done, should have thought of, someone I should have called, appointments that need making, like the unending work of mending socks (if I did such stuff, which I don't).
I get weary, and perhaps that is why I am conveniently forgetting to take my cellphone with me or to charge it. But sometimes that works to my disadvantage, so I had better stop doing it. I may be unreachable, but that doesn't mean that something won't be waiting for me when I get home from wherever I was, and that whatever it is might be even more urgent by the time I know about it.
Better get that flu shot!
When I got home today, my son was lying, paper white, on the couch, breathing heavily. He clearly had gotten the stomach bug that has been going around school (evidently around his school as well). He had to turn in an essay today in English class, so I talked him into letting me go turn it in for him, though he was sure I would never find the classroom. He underestimated the many times I have had to locate my own classrooms at the beginning of semesters. I found it with no trouble at all, something that isn't surprising considering the campus has all of about 3 buildings.
By the time I got home, after going to the hairdresser, he was up and turning in his outline on Shortly after that, he went to spend the night with his friend since the school week is over for him.
I hope I don't hear from him in the middle of the night, sick and wanting to be picked up, unable to drive. Maybe I'll unplug the phone.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blast from the past

Sunday's post reminded me that I have had so many experiences related to the public transport I had to ride during those years when I did not drive myself.
Today I was thinking about one of these. When I was about 16, I went to a political meeting near the U of Pennsylvania, which is an oasis surrounded by very very bad neighborhoods. The only way to get there was to take a particular subway line I was always warned not to ride. It was generally understood that this was because it went through and to black neighborhoods, where white people were not welcome.
Being a nice liberal Jewish girl (who considered myself a radical at the time, about 1969 or 70), I decided I would show these people on the subway my desire to integrate the city. But I didn't count on the fact that they wouldn't feel the same way, although, in retrospect, I had been warned and should have known it very well.
I walked down a long, white tile hallway that smelled like pee. Gang graffiti ,with its indecipherable loops, covered everything. But I saw no one till I got on the train, a metal and glass tube covered inside and out in the same spray-painted graffiti I had seen on the walls on the way to the station. When the door closed behind me with a hiss, I knew I had made a mistake taking this trip.
The train was full of people, every one of whom was staring at me. My tangled curly hair was clearly not an afro. But I tried to ignore the stares and become as invisible as I could, huddled back against the hard plastic seat.
A few stops came and went. Then one of the men on the seats across from me, a very large man of about 6'5," with a heavily muscled build, stood up and pointed at me, as if he had just uncovered my true identity, my reason for being in this place. "You killed Martin Luther King!" he announced, and began moving toward me, lurching slightly with the movement of the train.
The other people on the train turned toward me, their faces full of rage. I stood up and stuttered, "Who? ME?"
Just then, the train stopped, and three cops got on. I took the opportunity to scramble off the train and didn't look back till I was back on the street, maybe a mile from the University.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Adventure in Freewayland

I have anxiety. That means that there are certain things that send me into a tailspin that seem negligible to most people. Freeways are one of those things. Driving was very difficult for me. I spent most of my life not doing it, and learned to drive (on surface streets only!) 7 years ago or so.
Even when I was 16 and learning to drive the first time, I was a hazard in high school driving ed classes; other students covered their eyes when I took the wheel. I was too short for the driving ed cars, and barely saw over the windshield. There was no power steering either, and that didn't help. But it was the lessons with my father, then unmedicated for his bipolar disorder, rage, OCD, and Tourette Syndrome that sealed the deal.
Every week we would dutifully get into the car and try to drive to west Phila. to visit my grandmother and cousins. By the end of the "lesson," after hours of screaming (his) and crying (mine), he would boot me out about 2 miles away from the house and make me walk home. He wouldn't talk to me for days, and that was okay with me. Sometimes, while I was driving, he would pull my hair and yell into my ears; sometimes he would make me take off my shoes and socks and drive barefoot, believing that my problems with driving existed because I could not "feel the pedals." Needless to say, this didn't help me at all. After a year or two of such adverse conditioning, I never wanted to take the wheel again.
I spent 20 years in Southern California without driving, shlepping my son around in buses with his stroller, cadging rides whenever I could. Finally, a compassionate friend and 3 series of driving lessons with a woman did the job, and I got my license. But freeways still give me trouble, to say the very least. I hate shifting lanes and going fast. I hate the huge trucks and pace of the whole thing. I figured it was best to avoid freeways entirely.
However, yesterday I had no choice but to enter the tollroad near Laguna.
I was trying to drive down to Laguna Beach to read one my short prose pieces at a reading, a first for me since I have only done poetry readings before (and an MLA conference piece or two; that doesn't count). But I took the wrong entrance and ended up on the ramp of the tollroad that lead I had no idea where. Plus, I had only 8 dollars and assorted change in cash, $5. of it reserved for the donation I was supposed to give at the reading. My cellphone was dead because I had forgotten to plug it in for 3 days (not an unusual occurance for me).
I pondered my options, but the more I thought about it, the more panicky I got, until I had a full-blown panic attack by the tollbooth. There was no way for me to back down the ramp or turn around. There was no one there. For 10 minutes or so, no other cars came up the ramp, and then, they were in the Fastrak lane and didn't stop. Finally, a car containing two young college students (guys) stopped and heeded my hysterical pleadings. They were afraid of me, thinking I was totally out of my mind. But one of them (bless his soul and my luck) agreed to get into the car with me and guide me to the next entrance.
I put my $2.00 in change into the booth and headed up the ramp, my heart feeling like a balloon in my chest, crowding out all the other organs. I was lucky; the freeway was almost empty, and there was an exit about a mile away near Soka U where I exited. The student let me use his cellphone to call the friends I was supposed to meet in Laguna, and made sure I was okay to drive back (on surface streets) to Laguna Beach.
I was shaky for a while afterwards and wonder still what the Tollroad people will make of those videotapes of a hysterical woman jumping up and down and screaming by the tollbooth. I hope they don't ticket me too highly or at all.
From now on, I will keep more change in the car and more cash in my bag, and always remember to charge up my phone.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More Family Business

I don't remember ever telling you about my great uncle, Isaac Rosenberg, the WWI poet and painter. Of course, I never knew him. He died at age 26 in WWI, totally unprepared to fight the war he signed up for, or so it seems from the books I read about him and the family lore.
He came from a brood that was marked by singularly bad luck. As I have said, though his family was composed of pacifists, he signed up to fight so his mother would have enough money to live and to feed the others. They lived in a one or two room flat on the east end of London.
His father and mother, my great-grandparents on my mother's side, hated each other, so my great=grandfather left her with the kids and went off to sell rags and bones in the countryside.
His sister, my grandmother, who I never met because she lived in South Africa for most of her life, had one accident after another. I may have told you this; she was run over by one of the first cars to traverse the streets of Capetown SA, and was dragged by a bus as my mother watched in shock. Her ear was run over by a bike as she walked with my mom. And she fell down the stairs into boiling water once. Her sister Annie died as an old woman as she walked across the bridge on a windy day in London, her umbrella lifted by an errant breeze that deposted her face first into a hod of wet cement. His brother, who emigrated to Chicago in the 20s, got involved with Bugsy Segal's gang and disappeared without a trace, as people in Chicago are prone to do sometimes if they get mixed up with people they shouldn't have.
By the age of 26, he had produced several plays in verse, a few portraits that are in the Tate Gallery and elsewhere these days, and a bulging volume of poems, the most memorable of which are frequently anthologized. The most famous is probably "Break of Day in the Trenches." I will attempt to paste that poem below.

Break of Day in the Trenches
The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet's poppy (5)
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German (10)
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life, (15)
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame (20)
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men's veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe, (25)
Just a little white with the dust.
- Isaac Rosenberg

Friday, October 10, 2008

Trying Times

Today I had one of those days I fasted yesterday for strength to handle. At about 7:30, when I was getting ready to go to yoga class, my dad called and said that my mom got dizzy and fell again. She was complaining her neck was hurting.
You may recall that she fell out of the Access bus on Weds. afternoon, and despite the fact that she fell on her back, hitting the back of her head, seemed okay. But hearing about her dizziness, I took her to the emergency room and was there till about 3:30. The docs did a Cat scan, a EKG, and examined her thoroughly. Meanwhile, she was thoroughly confused, not remembering why we were there. She thought it was about her finger, which she had stripped of its protective splint and wrappings. They decided her back and neck were not injured, and sent us home, after many hours of waiting. We would have been out much earlier, but there was one accident after another. And a patient in leg irons, with the full contingent of deputies guarding him, was right next door.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


It was an incredible day. I fasted the whole day, and though my stomach let me know in no uncertain terms that this wasn't the best of ideas (let's just say I spent a long time paying for it about 1 this afternoon), I feel great now, after a wonderful dinner.
When you do something like this, and spend a whole day at synagogue, you go through several stages. In the first one, you're fully awake, senses primed by an edge of hunger. About noon, you begin to get loggy. I fell asleep during the sermon, the one time I knew I wasn't going to be called on to sing. It seemed to me by looking out into the audience from the choir that I wasn't the only one with this urge. After the morning service, I went to a fascinating lecture by Irwin Chamerinsky (sp?) who is the new dean of UCI's law school and a new member of the synagogue. He spoke about the topic Are We Losing Our Freedoms? In short, he answered this question in the affirmative and very very specifically. What he said was alarming.
We all know in the abstract about Guantanamo and wiretapping and torture and eroding separations of church and state, among other things, but he has been in court recently on all of these topics, as one of the most respected constitutional lawyers around. His words on how the current Supreme Court has pulled out the constitutional rug from under us woke me up really fast.
He plans to help the members of the synagogue get involved in letter writing and other campaigns to help get some of these rights back by talking our congresspeople into overturning some of these decisions.
The most bizarre argument he discussed was Scolea's (sp) justification for overturning the separation of Church and State. The amendment, called the establishment clause, discusses the idea that the US government cannot establish a state religion. But the way the current guys on the court view this is that it means specifically that they cannot set up a church and put a preacher into it, making it the official church of this country. If they do anything short of this, they are not violating the clause.
In the same way, prisoners at Guantanamo are not being allowed to pray the requisite number of times per day or to have non-pork meals because the regulations at the prison does not make accomodations for this. Since, according to the court, the regulations were not specifically intended to restrict religious rights, they are allowable.
There was lots more.He spoke for a long time, without notes, and answered questions for a long time too.
Then I took part in a women's Torah interpretation group. That was interesting for me of course. I learned a lot.
Finally, we went back to afternoon service, getting out about 6:15.
The music was amazing and again, it was great to be with people in the choir, who I really enjoy and respect, as well as lots of interesting and intelligent people in the community at large.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Preparing for the Drought

I plan to fast (both food and water) starting tonight at sunset and going till tomorrow at sunset. During much of this time, I will be singing with the choir at synagogue. That's good and bad. For one thing, when I am singing, I won't be thinking about food, but I will be getting thirsty.
Yom Kippur is such a meditative holiday. Even more than Rosh Ha Shanah because of its solemnity, it gives you a perspective on the doings of life, as you stand outside of it for 24 hours.
However, I may not have as much opportunity to stand outside of things this year as I usually do. The caregiver just called and said that my mother fell out of the bus onto her back and hit her head. She did not pass out, and immediately began talking and complaining, so no one there thinks she needs to go to the emergency room. All the same, I may get a call before I leave at 6:15 or so this evening that I have to forego synagogue to take her to the hospital. Or such a call (or worse) may come tonight or tomorrow. I have to remember that life and death matters are deal breakers, despite my best intentions.
Yom Kippur prayers remind us that we are "sealed into the book of life" on this day, and decisions are being made about who will live and who will die. The prayer that says this has always struck me because it envisions the most gruesome varieties of death, but is couched in the most jaunty and cheerful of tunes, not like some of the solemn chants of this day we also sing.
I suppose that is appropriate, the odd disparity I mean, because when you come down to it, death is a part of life.
More after tomorrow's marathon... .

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Stretching the Truth

For the past two years or so, I've had pain in my hips. It has sort of migrated around. At one point, it was so bad that it was difficult for me to stand through two back-to-back classes and teach. By the end of the second one, I would be in tears.
Before that time, I had problems with my feet, which I still have. They would claw up, looking spastic. Sometimes it still happens when I drive, or most often, in yoga class. The only thing that can help is to have the yoga teacher, who weighs about 190 lbs, stand on my toes and flatten them out. It seems to have something to do with stretching my muscles, particularly in my left foot. It's as though the toes are being pulled up, like marionettes, in all directions, by strings tied to the muscles in my thighs and hips.
Yoga has been helpful in dealing with these pains. I tried acupuncture (nothing), and though the chiropractor improved things quite a lot, the pain is still with me. So I went back to the doctor. She sent me to an orthopedist, who said my joints are fine, but I seem to have bursitus in my left hip. I know that's not the only problem because my right back hip (SI joint) hurts when I sleep, and then there are those toes.
The orthopedist sent me to a physical therapist, and I went there for the first time yesterday. The pt was amazed at how tight my muscles were, especially since I do yoga every day. She said my flexibility was really limited, at least in my hips and legs. Of course, this is not really news to me.
I think I used to be worse before I did yoga as often as I do it now. I was never athletic; in fact, I was the kid who everyone would not want on the team. I wasn't even chosen last. I wasn't chosen at all. It didn't bother me though. I didn't give a crap for sports, though I like walking. I'm one of those people who has never been too good at spatial stuff. The ball would always hit me in the head. I would fall off the horse (usually the kind in gym, not a real horse). I slid down the ropes in gym class and burned the inside of my thighs. In fact, I was the only person in my high school to attend gym and get an F. That's quite a distinction.
So everyone was surprised when I took up yoga. I was ridiculous at first. People tried not to laugh at me when I started. But I didn't care. I didn't pay attention, and I just kept going back. Now I'm not laughable. That's an achievement, for me!
So when the pt wanted me to scale back the yoga, I strenuously resisted. I am sure the yoga isn't the reason I have pain. I know I've had yoga injuries. In fact, I snapped my hamstrings one day in class on the right side. It sounded like a rubber band. I'm not going to tell you how it felt!
And I injured the SI joint overdoing it on forward bends, more than once. But I have no idea where the pain in my left side comes from.
Yoga has given me peace. It's very hard for me to relax. I have sometimes gotten this from yoga, something I can't get any other way. I always feel otherwise that there are ants crawling all over me. I don't like to sit still too long. My mind darts around, and so does the rest of me. When I am tired, I am more like this than when I am not.
I can feel the connection between my mind and my body more than any other time when I do yoga, so the pt can dream on. I'm not going to scale back. I hope that the pain eases up though. I'll keep working on it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Musical Interlude

Today made up for the difficulties yesterday presented. After a wonderful morning of yoga, I went to Muzeo with Richard to a concert by Ladysmith Black Mombaza, a black South African musical group. They were wonderful, so charming and gifted. Their 15 or so voices sounded like 100 because of the harmonies, and their choriography was fascinating. We couldn't help thinking of the 60s soul groups, like the 4 Tops and the Tempations. Some of the music reminded us of that too, but of course, the influence goes both ways, undoubtedly, though their music and movements are in large part from traditional Xhosa culture, I think.
There was also a fabulous opening act, a drum group that was just as good as the main course. What a terrific time! It buoyed my spirits for sure.
We tried to go eat Middle Eastern food nearby, but the restaurant I had scoped out on OC Weekly was closed. Too bad.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What a Day!

Even though my mother's birthday was yesterday, we had a birthday lunch for her today, as I said. I went to pick up my parents straight after yoga, and changed mom out of the 2 superimposed outfits she had on, as usual, into a new outfit I bought for her birthday. She lost weight and looked nice in the smaller stuff I got for her. That is worrisome because she doesn't eat much, as I said.
We stopped at the Zion market, which has a beautiful French-Korean style bakery, and bought a birthday cake, and then went on to the restaurant. I parked in a handicapped spot right in front of the place, but just as I was taking the take out of the back of the car, and closed the trunk, I saw that my mother had been standing behind the car, and had put her hand inside the trunk. I nearly cut off her finger. I was in so much shock I couldn't do anything. I screamed, and Richard and Jeremy came out.
Needless to say, that was the end of the party for a long while. I took her to the Walk In Clinic a few blocks away, and we spent the afternoon there getting her nail cut off and her hand bandaged. I felt terrible. I had no idea she was there, but I did know that she had a problem putting her fingers and hands in places where they ought not to be. I felt terrible, nearly as bad as she did, I think.
We finally came back to the restaurant a few hours later and had lunch. It was good, but I think I like Beach Pit better because of the sweet potato fries.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Oct. 3

Today has been a busy day, although it doesn't seem like one. I went to yoga class this morning, then, because it is my mother's 92nd birthday, I went to Trader Joes and bought her a bouquet of flowers, the South African national flower, Protea, although not the same variety that she used to see growing on Table Mountain, which was right next to where she lived. I also stopped at Steinmart and bought her an outfit. I took 3 things from my closet to exchange for coupons, as part of an offer the store had, and got her an outfit and 2 pair of pants. I don't know yet whether they fit.
I was not going to be around when my parents got back from the Senior Center, but I left these things to tell her I'd been thinking of her anyhow. Tomorrow I will come and get them and take them to eat a bbq lunch at Dickies, the new restaurant near school. I hope mom enjoys the chicken there as much as she did at the other place.
Also today, I heard from a cousin in Israel I had been worried about for a long time. I had tried and tried to call her, but couldn't get through. She is nearly 80 and is looking after her husband, who is 91 and losing his memory. He is a famous physicist and expert in desalination, Sid Loeb. She says that although he can't remember people's names (mine for instance) or who they are, he still plays tennis, reads professional journals, and presents awards at ceremonies once or twice a year. She thinks that he does not have Alzeimers or Dementia proper. In her view, he has just used up his brain, squeezed it dry, like an orange. I don't know if things work that way, but it is an interesting thought. I thought the more you used it, the more energy and ideas you could generate. At least, this is my experience. But brains must wear out, like anything else.
And as if that isn't enough, I also heard from my old friend Amy who doesn't consider herself a friend anymore. You may remember that I wrote about her sometime ago on this blog.
She is finally getting to move away from that terrible neighborhood where the horrible neighbors tortured her and her family and her animals because, essentially, she and her family have different political ideals than the others in the neighborhood. I am happy for her that she is leaving. But she still has a box of my parents' beautiful English china, part of my mom's trousseau. And she wants me to send someone to get it because she doesn't want to take it to her new house. I don't know if my friend in Philadelphia will go and get it. Amy lives a distance away, and my cousin in Jersey has not been well. I don't think she'd get it either, though she might to do a favor for my dad. I am sad about this. I don't know what to do or to say to Amy about it. I have so many regrets about our friendship. I wish I could change her mind about putting me behind her, along with the china.
On a happier note, I also got a rare note with photos from my cousin in Canada. She sends pictures of her two young children climbing up the wall. I will try to post them here.
And yesterday I heard from my cousin in Israel, whose daughter recently gave birth to their first grandchild! I'll try to post that too.