Thursday, February 28, 2008

spring has sprung

And I am in a good mood, despite myself and the proliferation of hideous student papers. And oh yes, the fact that now my dad has bronchitus and assorted other medical problems on top of mom's pneumonia.
But for some unaccountable reason, perhaps the green hills and flowering trees, perhaps the fact that I am finished grading this particular set of awful papers, I feel a sense of wellbeing. Maybe it is the unasked for gift I got today from Reb, who in return for the promise of a few paltry hours at the Humanities Center, gave me a book of Robert Hass's poems, a new one, a hardback, which I never would have bought myself, though I might have lingered over it in the store! Thanks Reb.
Finally got Jeremy to take some pictures of me doing yoga, though it is embarassing to show you my squalor. I am afraid that unless elves take over my house some day and clean it up, it is always going to look like that or worse.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

happiness is over-rated?

Be that as it may, I am entering a phase of remembering my dreams, and some of them are fears and some are wishes. A few days ago, musing perhaps on the fact that J. is growing up, and the little boy and the baby he was are quite gone, as is our previous relationship with nothing new come to replace them just yet, I dreamed that I left him, a small baby who could nonetheless converse quite fluently, on a bus. The empty stroller accused me, and I called out for him, but he was gone.
I know that I have not yet struck a balance or figured out how to be a parent to a nominally full grown boy. He is in so many respects a child still, who despite the patina of sophistication, really has been shielded and cosseted and kept in an Irvine box all his life. His neurological history has no doubt exposed him, it is true, to feeling different and alone, and made it necessary for him to find ways to cope most people don't know about, but he has always been admirably able to do this. He has never complained. I could learn from that.
Last night, I had had a wish dream, in which I came into lots and lots and lots of money. It wasn't exactly me; whoever it was owned a large house and grounds, worth a bunch of cash. As the dream came to an end (when the cats pounced on me, expecting breakfast at 3:30 AM), I was contemplating the pleasant task of whether I wanted to move to Hawaii or somewhere else. Of course, the disparity between life and the dream immediately came clear: Shadow had crapped on the living room rug, and Richard had walked in it barefoot... .

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Lou, this is for you, since you wished to know more about yoga. This week yoga helped me bear up under the strain. I have managed somehow to get all out of whack. I walk around like Quasimodo, apparently, though I am not aware of it, with one side of me noticably lower than the other. The doctor has not seen it, though I have gone to her crying and in pain. After standing in class for 2 hours, I hurt terribly all night. The chiropractor helped me with her seemingly dubious treatments. I am not asking any questions at this point. But it's yoga that has helped me most.
When I go to Bob's class, he looks at me and pokes a finger at my hip or my shoulder, which has hiked up to glory, causing pain to radiate down the side of my face, to my left hip, and all the way to my feet, which get bizarre cramps that make my toes spasm. It's particularly awful when I'm driving in heavy traffic or in the middle of a class. Sometimes in my class, I've been known to take my shoes off and teach barefoot. But Bob knows what to do, since he is the veteran of several back surgeries. He makes me do standing poses that get me exactly where it hurts and make me wonder if I'll make it through the class or even the next few minutes. But I always do. I leave class relieved, calmer, and blessedly pain free for a little while. It's amazing, like today. We did 3 sets of particularly painful standing poses. We faced the wall, both feet wide apart and turned toward it. The arms were bent and forearms were pressed against the wall. This was terribly painful for me, since I guess all the stress was sitting right in my shoulders and upper back. But after the third of these, the most painful of all, the pain mysteriously melted away... the pain in my hip, knee, and jaw were gone. The final set, in the middle of the room, was blissfully simple and pain-free.
I know I am not cured. My anxiety is not gone; it will be back, the next time I have several things to accomplish in one day and fear I'll let someone down. But I am grateful that I can always go back to class with Bob, Denise, or David and have them understand exactly what I must do to get some relief. I guess it shows that a little bit of pain can save a person a lot of pain, and this is a lesson that is useful to have.

Friday, February 22, 2008

more about mom and dad

I took mom and dad to the doctor today. These things are never uncomplicated. The doc is conscientious, asks a lot of good questions, and refers us every time to other doctors, requiring hours of patient waiting, and tests to arrange for, and medication to pick up. Today I helped mom and then dad disrobe so the doctor could look at a rash on my father's legs and back and refer him to a dermatologist and my mom could have a chest x-ray, a follow up to her bronchitus that isn't going away.
She eats nothing but chocolate and meat, believing that food has all begun tasting bad because of the massive incompetence of everyone but her. She cannot cook anymore; hence, she cannot eat. She won't eat vegetables because she heard some months ago (and I'm sure doesn't even remember that anymore) about the salmonella outbreak and fears all green things might make her sick. She won't eat tomatoes either, for good measure, but does eat fruit sometimes, it's true.
I was trying to grade a last few papers, pretty sad specimens, but didn't get in more than one half-hearted essay before I had to stop and help my parents dress and get ready to go, ride the elevator, find the car, and drive on home. It was 6:30 by the time I got home. No one had made dinner. Luckily, I was able to call Jeremy and ask him to feed the poor cats, though.
Sigh. I guess I can check another appointment off the list, at least.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Predictably, the shoes we got awhile back weren't acceptable to my mom (though she waited till it was too late to take them back to tell me). I don't think any pair of shoes will please her. I have reached that conclusion after buying about 5 pairs of shoes and having to keep most for myself. So I told her that she needed to wear them anyway because I was not going to buy anymore. She wore them, and they didn't hurt, though she complained that they were too high. They were flats. Sigh.
But what really got to me was that yesterday was the first time I realized that my mom has forgotten who I am. She thought I was her sister's daughter. My aunt Sheila apparently looked a lot like me when she was young. Some people in the family think I look more like Sheila than her own daughter, my cousin Carin, does. I told her she was my mom, and she didn't seem surprised, but I think she had forgotten who I was.
I know the day will come when she doesn't know at all and when she won't remember who dad is, and may start yelling when she wakes up and sees him in the room. I'm not looking forward to that day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

odd fruit

Today I was shopping at a local ethnic grocery store where the produce is interesting and various. There are wrinkled gourds and strange substances in unintelligible jars. I generally resist the temptation, though sometimes these fruits and vegetables remain untouched in my fridge till they rot because I can't figure out what to do with them. Today, however, I was drawn to the bright yellow Buddha's hand citron because I actually wanted to put a picture of it here. To me it looks like a deformed foot or a deranged anemone, but it smells sweet, like lemon soap. I don't know if I'll eat it. Anyone want it?'s_hand

Monday, February 18, 2008

I'd like to have a picture of me doing yoga, but it's pretty tough to do that while I'm doing yoga. I'll get R. or J. to take a picture of me or ask one of the clerks at the studio to take a picture of me in class some time, if they'd be willing. Meanwhile, I borrowed a picture from permitted "free" photos. I do Iyengar yoga. It's a particularly cerebral, precise style of yoga. It doesn't matter so much whether you can get the pose perfect by yourself. You can use all kinds of props to get there, but there are no compromises in this style of yoga. Pain is good, up to a point. It's taught me a lot about life.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

long weekend

I have supposedly been relaxing this weekend, but my jaw has been aching. I've apparently been clenching my teeth all day and night, despite mouthguard and daily yoga practice. My head aches all day.

I delivered flowers to my mom on Valentine's Day, only to find that she had developed a terrible cough. Yesterday I took her to the doctor. It is interesting how an appointment turns into an all day affair. Even if the doctor gets you in right away, there are multiple trips to the bathroom at 15-20 minutes each (hers, not mine) and the necessity of picking up medication, and driving hither and yon, mostly yon. It took me about 5 hours in all, and I was exhausted by the time I got home.

Today I took my dad out to buy pants. He sat in some bleach and needed new pants. We did find a couple of pair though. Success!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentines Day

Today I wanted to make a nice dinner. This is nothing so extraordinary, I know, especially for Valentines Day, but I haven't spent any significant time cooking since classes started more than a month ago. I bought a ridiculously expensive piece of Hawaiian fish at Gelsons... I forget the name of it now, one of those names with lots of vowels. It began with an O and I remember the common name of the fish when it's alive is "moonfish." (I remember now: it's Opah) And I marinated it for a few hours, then took a guess about the best way to cook it. I ended up broiling it, but it was so thick that it took a while to cook through. I wanted to take a picture of it because it was beautiful, opalescent inside, with a pink tinge in the middle, like a conch shell that has been vacated by its occupant. And the flesh was silky and delicious. But as usual, I didn't take a picture. I never do, not even when something significant is happening, a relative is visiting, someone is graduating, whatever. I don't take pictures. I like pictures, though when I do take them, they are less than inspiring. I end up with an off center look at a corner, with a bit of person hanging off the edge of the frame as if off the proverbial edge of the universe.
I should put photography lessons on the list with all the things I mean to learn, like Spanish, something that would make sense to know because I'll be happy to have pictures of all these things later on. My husband, R., could teach me because he is such a good photographer, though he gave it up years ago in favor of other hobbies (he has so many) such as golf--though truthfully, to call golf a hobby is a misnomer. It is more of like breathing for him. It's not just playing golf, which he actually doesn't do so often because it's expensive. He thinks about, reads about, watches golf all the time, and pretends to play it in the living room with little balls made out of paper. The cats run all over the place after them, and that's how we discovered their favorite game! And he's teaching himself to play the keyboard. He's already taught himself harmonica, and is very good at this point. J. also is a very good photographer, taking after my husband's family. He's good at laying out pages, all sorts of visual things--stuff I am awful at. I like to look, of course, but making those things seems to be beyond me at the moment. So I'm not going to put a picture of the lime meringue pie with a chocolate crust I made. I discovered that making meringue with raw sugar is dicey. Its texture is different from that of regular sugar, but it did whip up after a while, though not quite as high as regular meringue would. It's a nice shade of tan though, sort of like the cat's greyish brown splotches. Once it cooked up, it was considerably darker than usual. But I'm not going to taste it; I'll let others tell me how it is.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


My friend R. asked me why people blog. This question troubled me since it is akin to asking why people write or, in my case, why I have always been an obsessive story teller in every aspect of my life.
Today on National Public Radio (another obsession of mine) I heard an anthologist who put together excerpts from blogs into a hard copy book talk about the difference between writing in general and blogging. She felt that people who blog have an altogether different attitude toward their writing and their own public lives from that hard copy writers have. To her, people who blog are very courageously putting themselves out there in public, like nudists or the exhibitionists she assumes them to be, while writers on paper are somehow more anonymous and less vulnerable since, presumably, they can craft personae to cover up what is really there.
I don't know about that distinction. It's just that we're more used to writing on paper, and the convention of this kind of writing has us imagine an impregnible barrier between audience and author, who hides from the reader in a Joycean way, "paring his nails." On the other hand, writing on the net is nakedly confessional, quite often. For example, I belong to support groups for parents of children with Tourette Syndrome and related disorders. My son, J., and my father both have these disorders, and my compatriots on and other such groups have been invaluable friends in my struggles to deal with the fallout of these things and the people who have them. But blogs are not quite the same, not necessarily, anyhow.
The more consciously one writes, the less likely s/he is naked in this same way.
My friend and colleague L. has said that she thinks about how she'll explain the events of her life on her blog even as they are unfolding, consciously shaping them and questioning herself about their meaning even as they occur. In that way, writing makes our lives what they are are as well as resulting in concrete evidence of our existence beyond the tax return.
And where does that put "confessional" writers like the poets of the 60s-70s (Plath and Sexton, et al)? I guess we have all decided that this is a pose, like every other, rather than "reality," whatever that is.

Monday, February 11, 2008

More strange family

Some time back, my uncle, cleaning out the closets of his echoingly empty home after his wife died, sent me a slew of old family photos. No one has seen them in the lifetime of anyone living today. They were mere negatives, anonymous, stuffed in envelopes and cardboard boxes, until he got a hold of a negative scanner from Ebay and scanned them, not knowing what (or who) he would find. One of the distinctly intriguing finds was a picture of my long-gone great grandfather, Abraham Trustinetsky, and his wife. I think her name was Chava, but I'm not sure. All I know about him is third hand rumors about his terrible temper and his addition to gambling. Supposedly he lost a farm in New Jersey after coming over to escape pograms in Russia at the start of the 20th century. There were also pictures of my dad and his brothers, sister, and mom and his step father. No pictures of his dad, as far as I could see. He died shortly before my father's birth. I will post some pictures here.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

new stuff

It's the weekend, which is not to say that I am any less busy than during the week since I save things to do for supposedly free time, like everyone else. Yesterday my friend Marly sent me an email to tell me about a poem of hers that has been published on a favorite online journal of ours, Qarrsiluni. I had a poem there last month in an issue called "Insecta"--things about insects, one of my obsessions. This month is hidden things. Go have a look at it at
My poem, "Public Transport," will also appear in this issue, which is about hidden messages.
I am excited about this, being a relative newcomer to all the writing and other odd things going on online. I have long been an emailer, but never ventured far beyond that. Instant messenging gave my computer viruses, so I steer clear of that, but I might as well not, since my 17 year old son uses this computer, and he does it all the time.
Marly also introduced me to Facebook, where I have a box, and got me interested in the virtual battles one can engage in there. Yesterday I threw a rat at her and at several of my cousins. Won't they be surprised? I was thinking about Chinese New Year, since I love to eat and cook Asian food. It's the year of the rat, in case you have been packed in cottonwool for the past week and didn't notice.
One of the things I try to squeeze into the weekend is caring for my elderly parents, Morris and Lydia, who are 91. I am an only child, so there are many many things I must do to help them. I generally take them out shopping, to the beach, to the movies, or such things on weekend. Last week it was an expedition to the shoestore with my mother, who has dementia.
Mom is small, like me, and her feet are too. They also hurt, probably from wearing shoes that are too big. Stores don't seem to acknowledge the existence of people as small as we are, even in this region full of small people from Asia, Mexico and Central/South America, and the Middle East. So looking for shoes is akin to searching for the grail, and when one finds a pair, there are likely to be a slew of like-minded women with murder in their eyes looking to whack you one with an overloaded purse. Since we are not blessed with an overabundance of cash, we shop at discount stores. In this case it was Nordstrom Rack. There happened to be many suitable shoes there on this visit (about 12 pair), though we had to fight through parking lots and crowds of shoppers to find them and then stand in line to get the mates to the shoes we had for what seemed an hour in which my mother had to go to the bathroom at least twice, forcing us to leave the line and start over again.
Getting her foot into the shoes was rather like stuffing a Galapagos tortoise into a pair of Speedos. I don't recommend that you try it. Then once we got the shoes on, with the help of a shoehorn the size of Delaware that poked me in the eye at least once, she really wasn't able to tell me how the shoes felt. I had to take a guess. This has not worked so well in the past (there are nearly as many discarded shoes littering the bottom of her closet as hairs on my head, though there are fewer of those since experiences like this make me want to pull some out), but what choice do we have? So we went home with two pair. From what I hear, she has forgotten they are there and hesitates to put them on when they are put in front of her, but eventually we will wean her from the old pair, probably by disposing of them before her big toe starts hanging out.
Memory loss is an odd thing. My mom has no trouble recognizing us, thank goodness. And she remembers every obscure cousin in the back closet of the family, and people's children too, who I have forgotten long ago, if I ever knew them at all. But she washes the same spot over and over, wears the same clothes, forgets she has eaten as soon as the plate has been whisked away and claims to be starving. It's a mystery, and one that saddens me.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Shadow Knows

I have just created one more expectant page to fill. I have always talked to myself in real life anyway (though now, since nearly all the people out there but me have cellphone buds imbedded in their ears, no one has to know that is what I am doing). Now I can do it even more publically!

Much of my life is about words. I teach writing, a profession that allows me to blather on endlessly about words... my words, the words of the text we are studying, my students' words.
It is only fair that I would spend the time when I am not teaching, sleeping, or doing the other little necessities of life spinning out more words, making a model of the world I live in.