Wednesday, April 30, 2008

things I'd rather not think about but have to

My mom has visitors from the other side, apparently. The caregiver told me yesterday that she doesn't want to get washed and dressed sometimes because she is waiting for her sister to visit her. They have "tea" and visit, particularly at night, with my mom speaking animatedly to the air for hours at a time. I've made an appointment to take her to the psychiatrist, whom she despises, tomorrow afternoon, but I don't have much hope that it will accomplish anything. I've just got to try. And if it is a comfort to her, perhaps I shouldn't want to stop those visitors. Who knows whether she is the one who is mistaken. Perhaps we are.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

pseudo meat

Yesterday on the radio, my major source for news, I heard an odd report about PETA, an association that vehemently protects the rights of animals, and how it was offering something like 12 million dollars to the first scientist who produces tasty and viable test-tube meat. I was wondering... even if someone could do it, and I have no doubt they'll succeed at some point, would vegetarians and vegans eat it? I think by now for most of them, not eating meat probably has more to do with the whole feel and texture and idea of meat as much as not killing animals. And so to test my theory, I talked to my yoga teacher after class and some others in the class who are strict vegans, and they confirmed my assumption. The idea of eating meat was repulsive to them, even if it was not really meat at all. So why bother? My yoga teacher even said she would stop giving money to PETA! That's just what we need--more artificial stuff.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Shopping again

Yesterday evening I took my parents to the synagogue's seder. I had been looking forward to it because this is one of the first times I have not gone to any seder on the first few nights of Passover, when everyone else does family seders, and in fact, did not go to a seder at all until then. So often in the past, I have led my own seders or helped others lead theirs. This time, I was on my own. It's impossible to get my immediate family interested anyhow.
I showed up to get my parents an hour early, but it should have been 2 hours early. I've bought my mom lots of clothes, but in a rather haphazard way, the way I buy my own--mostly on sale, so you never know what you're going to get, and the stuff doesn't necessarily go together. It is really stressful to shop with her, very difficult to undress and dress her, stuff her legs into the pant legs, pull up zippers, and manage all this in a space as small as a public toilet stall. So I didn't quite realize she didn't have any clothes that were really appropriate for the event.
After an hour of holding things up, only to have her reject them, I finally put together one outfit, though it really was a winter one and a bit warm for the time of year. After all of this, we got there late, having to slink in as quietly as we could (not too discreetly at all, given that we were stumping along with my father's walker) and make our way from one side of the hall to the other.
It didn't help that the synagogue's seder is a rather overstuffed affair, in all respects. The servings are overly large, the tables too crowded together, the people trying a little to hard to be genial. The rabbi, not at all a kid person, mugged desperately, pretending to be pharoah, as herds of 4 year olds pelted him with google eyed frogs.
Meanwhile, sitting sideways at the table, I felt slightly panicky, trying to keep my mother from eating every piece of matzo before we got through the service. It was kind of like having a two year old, and I looked over at her a dozen times thinking she might fall asleep and slip out of her chair. It was past her bedtime. And in fact, I did have to take them home after the main course, just as the service was starting back up again, because they couldn't keep their eyes open.
After that experience with the clothes, I realized I would have to go shopping again. Usually, I love shopping. I always tell my students that I like research because it reminds me of shopping, but going shopping with my parents is nobody's idea of a good time.
Today the shopping began in earnest, and it wasn't all that successful. I confess I yelled a bit. But we got some things done. There's more to do, certainly, but this is a start.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

bad girl!

I realized that I need to apologize to the mother of the boy who broke his leg, the one who replaced Jeremy temporarily on first base. It isn't his fault or hers either that the coach put him there, yet I don't talk to or even look at her. I saw her today at the game (which was miserable--we lost 9-2), and she sat right behind me. I just ignored her. I guess this whole thing makes me mad and I don't know what to do with that feeling, but she didn't do anything for me to dump it on her. It isn't the kid's fault either, obviously, and he's suffered enough! I should have wished him an easy recovery, but I didn't. Bad me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I said I wouldn't do it, but I did.

Today, in my funk, I decided to Google myself. I had sworn heretofore that I would never do it because I didn't want to read the stupid reviews students gave me on and like sites. But I went ahead and did it, and found to my pleasure that these reviews were way down on the list of information about me on the Net. Though I didn't find this blog at all, I did find the two poems I'd published recently at qarrsiluni, a review essay I wrote for Amazon and am rather proud of, and other stuff either neutral or complimentary about me. Then I looked at Ratemyprof. It was as I expected it. The usual complaints--too hard, bad handwriting, can't hear well. And some I didn't expect--first day writing samples seemed unbelievably harsh to a number of students. It's hard to believe that other teachers don't give them too. And also, it seems that somewhere along the line I've become an old fart. Bound to happen. But the reviews went either one way (5s from about half the students) or the other (1s or 2s from the other half or so). The 5s chastised the 1s and said they were being unrealistic and unfair. That was interesting too. It didn't bother me, needless to say.

The rough spots

One thing I don't like about being a teacher is that some students take offense because of the grades one has to assign. I had a student, an older woman who is in a masters program in nutrition, who I liked very much. But she did not do all that well--or not as well as she thought she should--on her last essay, and this caused her to stop attending class and finally to drop at the last minute.
Though she dropped last week, I heard from her today, saying that she did so because I was not fair to the paper. She had not said anything about it when there was still time to discuss this issue; she just stopped attending. I feel terrible--not because I didn't give the paper an appropriate grade, but because she had been stewing for all this time and hadn't said anything about it. I told her that I would be glad to discuss the essay with her; I would even reinstate her into the class if I could and if she wished to, but I don't think it's possible.
Also on the school front, I was really excited that I had been assigned a creative writing workshop for this summer, but so far, only 2 students have signed up, and my signs have been taken down all over campus. I plan to make more and have them stamped so they will be official, but I don't know if it will help.
I'll try to relax and hope more students sign up; otherwise, I'll have to go look for another summer job, and I don't relish that.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Matzoh matzoh everywhere

It's Passover again, and for a week starting tomorrow at sundown I will have to think up new ways to avoid grains, bread, flour, rice, etc, and come up with new things to do with potatoes. Passover is a re-enactment of the enslavement of the ancient Hebrews in Egypt, and the two ritual dinners (seders) staged on the first two nights of the holiday are a way for every Jew to relive that experience.
Even though I'm hardly that observant, Passover is my favorite holiday. It reminds me that we, like the ancients, live in what can often seem a narrow place (the original meaning of "Egypt"), and are slaves to forces beyond us, such as an oil economy that becomes ever more oppressive, and, more insidious, human evil that shows itself increasingly it seems in the world today. Passover can and has been adapted to any political purpose one can imagine. I've been to feminist seders, Jewish-Palestinian seders (that one worked particularly well), Catholic/Jewish seders (specifically, ones given by the Catholic Worker, so they were anti-war and left-wing). This year, I heard about a Darfur seder and a Jewish/Latino seder. I'm not going to them because I'm taking my parents to the congregational seder at my synagogue, and that's fairly pricy. I'm also going to a restaurant for a "seder" with the choir from synagogue on Monday.
My house is not such that it is a good place for a seder of our own, since it is too small, cramped, and messy for that.
Since this life often seems like a prolonged wandering through the wilderness, Passover is a good time to mull this over collectively in an organized sort of fashion.
I sometimes wish I were more observant. The ceremony to clean one's house of "chametz" (non-Passover items like bread) is really fun. After thoroughly cleaning all the cupboards and shelves of these things, one deliberately plants some crumbs in conspicuous places, then stages a hunt for these, going around poking in corners with a feather, and ceremoniously burning the crumbs when they are found. One can even "loan" chametz to a non-Jew for the week, then take it back after the holiday. Those guys thought of everything!

Monday, April 14, 2008


Meanwhile, my mother's dementia steadily worsens. When I went to pick up my parents yesterday to take them for their weekly tour of retail establishments, my mom was dressed in a velour pantsuit. I told her it was nearly 100 degrees, and proceeded to go through her closets, as I had just gone through mine, exchanging winter clothes for summer. In her case, this involved moving winter stuff to another closet and exchanging it for summer things in the big closet she shares with my father. Many of the summer things had never been worn, still had tags or were in bags on the floor of the closet. So I found her a likely looking outfit and left her to change. That was a mistake. When I turned around, she was gamely trying to stuff her legs, still wearing the velour pants, into the new pants, and had long underwear on beneath this, I discovered. So I stripped her and started again.
She is tired and sore, so weary all she wants to do is sleep. She no longer complains, except for an occasional whimper about her feet. Her body and mind are just worn out. It is very sad. Despite the fact that people always want to live to 100, I don't know whether that's the best thing, in most cases.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The other shoe

This shoe isn't my mother's. It's about my dad, and the long-awaited visit to the testing psychologist, who was to deliver the dictum about whether he had dementia. We knew when we left the office three weeks ago that there had been some decline in my father's performance on tests of his cognitive functioning, enough for him to feel afraid that he would not be able to ride the Access bus to the Senior Center anymore with my mother and, worse, would be doomed to spiral downward into oblivion, like my mother.
However, things didn't come out quite that way. Though the psychologist's recommendation was that he go only door-to-door in the bus rather than being responsible for guiding himself and my mother to the door several feet away, she said that he did not meet the criteria at this time for dementia, but rather, has only mild cogitive impairment. When she told him this, reading him the entire report, in its very technical terminology, which I am sure he didn't follow, especially since his hearing aids have stopped working and he had only a pair of amplifiers sitting sideways on his ears, he became extremely upset. He took off the amplifiers, which look like headphones, and laid them down on the desk, staring down at his feet, clearly unwilling to listen to her anymore. So unencumbered, he began to speak over her, telling her how well his mind works and how capable he is, at this advanced age.
I felt rather sorry for the psychologist, who was just trying to do her job, after all. And she, in her turn, became more and more concerned about him and about our situation. She asked questions no one had ever bothered to ask before, like would we be able to afford the switch to door to door service, and how many years of funds did we have left before we were out completely, and did we have plans for that time. This last is a subject of great concern to me, so much so that I lose a lot of sleep over it but haven't been able to come to any useful conclusions.
I have researched board and cares that take social security and Veterans' pension only, and I don't like what I see. The place where they live now is beautiful and comfortable. They are used to the caregivers, and vice versa. The food is carefully prepared and good. In some of the cheaper places, residents are not well fed or cared for. The surroundings are shabby, or worse, dirty. Of course, some of the expensive places are that way as well because so many people dump their elderly in them and never bother to visit or check up on how they are doing, whether they are comfortable and experiencing some modicum of happiness.
So I have tried not to think about this or about funeral arrangements, and have instead prayed they would die before the money ran completely out and felt terrible for praying that. In all, it's not something it does me or anyone else any good to think about.
Before I reached this point, I of course asked everyone I knew what we could do when the money ran out, where we could turn. I talked to the rabbi, social workers, the doctor, psychologists and psychiatrists. No one had an answer. Clearly things in this society are extremely screwed up. What will happen to any of us? We better all tackle this issue as a society-- the sooner the better.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Jeremy gets a hit (see below!)

When my son was small, Richard and I often had to intervene in the process of his education. Because he has Tourette and other disorders, teachers frequently treated him unfairly, not understanding the nature of this disabilities. I made myself a total pest, speaking with teachers, demanding meetings, getting an advocate, even threatening lawsuits when I thought it was necessary.
But now he is almost all grown up, about finished with high school. It seems though that there are still some inequities to deal with, involving his baseball team. Jeremy is a natural athlete. All those things that make it difficult for him to sit still--his tightly wound energy, his need to move, his obsessive hyperfocusing on certain details and ideas to the detriment of everything else--make him a very good baseball player. Though he isn't the shining star of the field as he was when he was younger, he's a very very good second baseman, a good thirdbaseman, and a pretty good shortstop as well. So I have had trouble with the fact that Jeremy has mostly sat games out on the bench this year because others with more time and money to devote to the program want their own kids in the infield, even if they cannot perform nearly as well in these positions as Jeremy can. Add to this a coach who clearly does not understand or appreciate Jeremy or his neurological profile and will not even permit him to see his doctor for med checks every other month as the law requires and you get angry resentful parents, who nonetheless must keep their mouths shut, since this apparently is the unspoken rule of high school baseball. DON'T BOTHER/QUESTION/SECOND GUESS the COACH!!! (Even, I might add, if he is an asshole.)
The outrages he has perpetrated this season have been many and varied. First he let Jeremy play 2nd base, and he performed very well--except that his batting was awful. For that reason, he removed Jeremy from second and sent him to the bench, replacing him with others he already knew did not like and were not adequate in this position. Then he brought up a freshman and put him there. The kid is very talented, but no better than my son, who is three years his elder, on the base, and lots worse at the bat. So we've stewed and I mentally threw darts at the coach's eyeballs for weeks until the kid at 2nd broke his leg. I am very sorry he broke his leg, but now Jeremy is back on base, and doing very well at the bat, thanks.

Monday, April 7, 2008

stuck in the same old place again

I am disappointed that I will in all probability spend another year in the squalor I have gathered around myself, like some kind of marine fish busy camouflaging myself in a cocoon of debris. All year I have kept myself going with the possibility that I would get to move on to another apartment in town, so I would get another chance to start over, to keep things livable, though I know it's not likely to stay that way long anyhow.
I have wondered whether my mess is pathological or just a bit of eccentricity, but for all those who wonder this about themselves as well, I have learned that there is a scale of such things, and on this scale, my mess is extremely minor. Until one rents a storage unit, apparently, it's not yet serious, and that's not happening, not likely to.
Actually, I like to throw things out, and do it often. Garbage bags are one of my most frequent purchases. So perhaps there's hope that over this year, I can make a dent in this mess, and make it comfortable. Here's hoping!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The ongoing saga of Lydia's shoes

I took my parents out today. Besides a perfectly lovely lunch at a recent find of mine, a local Chinese restaurant that is cheap as well as excellent, I took my dad to get some new shirts and my mom for a new watch that is easier to put on and take off than the one she has.
Predictably, she started up on me again about having no shoes that fit her, and claimed I am cruel and torture her, making her wear shoes that do not fit.
Of course, everyone knows by now that I have spent at least $200. this year alone on shoes for my mother. She has tried them on, walked up and down, and claimed they are fine. The next day or the one after that, they are unacceptable torture devices that do not fit, being either too small, too large, or ugly as an unwashed butt. I give up, and yet I find some sort of response once again to her demands.
I fished out two pairs of shoes from my bottomless pit of a closet. These are my shoes, both being pairs I either do not wear often or have not yet worn. I got both from the Internet. My mom wears the same size I do, at least I think so. I am beginning to doubt it. One pair seemed rather small, but she says don't take it back; she likes it. The other pair is very nice, though used (I got it from Ebay), but she is not sure whether it fits either. Since it costs me nothing to do this, I will let her have them on trial. If she is happy and wears them, good. If not, I haven't lost anything in the effort. I'll just take them back.

Friday, April 4, 2008

wacky inventions

I just read this morning in Yahoo News about strange inventions that people have come up with. Besides the self-making bed (every kid's dream!) and the alarm clock one has to chase around the room to make it stop the racket (why don't they just get a cat?), I relished the notion of artificial nose hair. Since nose hair has never seemed to me a particularly welcome commodity, I wondered why anyone would go to the trouble to manufacture it (out of washable pipe cleaners, as it turns 0ut). It seems that this pesky stuff, besides marring the perfection of one's perfectly turned-out face, protects people from allergic reactions, or so the inventor claims.
I should tell my son. As a baby, his greatest joy seemed to be stuffing things that didn't belong there up his nose. Things like crayons, noodles, peas found a place in his probosis. At 17, he doesn't do this anymore, but perhaps the idea of artifical nose hair would pique his interest.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Marly's meme

My friend Marly dared me, so here I go. She said to go do this little thing:
Pick up the closest book with at least 123 pages. Find the fifth sentence, and post the next three. Send it out to several people (I forget how many she said, having no memory for numbers). Dare the people reading your blog to put those up on their blogs and ship em out to their friends.
Here goes:
"And we humans can take comfort in the knowledge that at least we don't urinate when stared at. Or do we? " (from Elephants on Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments, Alex Boese)
I realize that this is not quite three lines, but I would have had to stop in the middle. So now it's your turn!