Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dad's 92nd birthday

Today we had a late lunch/dim sum for my dad's 92nd birthday. It was pretty far away, at a restaurant in Fullerton, where we ate on mother's day. My dad really liked it, so I told him that we would come back for his birthday. We kept the promise. Unfortunately, I forgot the time I originally set and showed up an hour later. Some friends were there, but they had almost finished their food!
The food and service were nowhere near as good as they were for Mother's Day. It was an off time of the day, and this might have been the reason. And I got totally lost on the way home. But at least my parents weren't with me. The caregivers came to the party and took them home afterwards.
Jeremy didn't come to dinner. He said he forgot about it, but he did go visit my dad and spend some time with him. He really enjoyed that, probably more than he would have just having Jeremy present at the meal.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

new stuff

Yesterday my parents' caregiver finally walked out. She was being worked extremely hard, and finally something went over her threshold. She left all her clothes there, so maybe she'll be back, but I suspect that will happen only after she finds another job, which shouldn't be hard because she is so competent at so many things. She is a trained Chinese cook in addition to her administrative abilities and experience caring for elderly people.
I doubt that the owners of the house will be able to continue caring for my parents adequately, and I know from experience that they cannot find anyone to work for them at what they want to pay who is competent.
I suppose I ought to start looking around for another place. Damn.
We might go wherever she goes, but there are so many places we can't afford, and it will probably be one of those, if she even stays in this business. If I were her, I wouldn't.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The child is father to the neurosis

All these years that my son has been on medication, I have known somewhere in my head that it was as much for me as for himself. He first went on the current meds at about age 10 after a terrible period of rage, aggression, anxiety, and unhappiness for all of us. He was prone to enormous mood swings, self-destructive tics, and rage, and this wrecked havoc in the household, as one might imagine. It was particularly hard on me, since I was the focus for much of the rage, being a safe person he could release it on without losing my love and affection. He would hold it together at school most of the time and with his friends, but as soon as he walked through the door, watch out! Homework time was particularly difficult, being a focus for all of his frustration because of accompanying learning disabilities.
Now that he is going to be 18, however, he has gone of his medication, with the support of the psychiatrist. I have been very anxious about this, hoping that those bad old days would not return. Generally, I have been pleasantly surprised that he has grown into a person with coping mechanisms. Gone are the tremendous mood swings, though he still has minor ones, a bit more intense than the average person's, but not terrible. The tics are virtually gone, at least for the moment. I know that Tourette can be deceptive because it moves in cycles, and the tics might emerge again at some later date, but for the moment, they are not in evidence, not even the minor, irrelevant arm tics or throat clearing. I haven't noticed that his obsessions or compulsions have worsened either, though he's very secretive about them. What has happened though is that he is entirely oppositional once again. We cannot tell him anything, give him any instructions, or enforce rules. He just will not tolerate it.
He has taken to regarding laws as irrelevant too, insisting, for example, that he will use his cell phone without a wireless device if he wants to, and no one can make him stop. If he is indeed caught doing that, I have told him I will discontinue paying for the phone plan, but he doesn't care. Yesterday he slipped into the movie theater twice in one day without paying. I don't know what else he is doing. It scares me.
He is also continuing to download music on his computer illegally. Our unsuccessful trial of Rhapsody didn't replace that because it is unreasonably expensive. In addition to the $15. per month I was paying (with 10 free downloads), every piece of music costs another dollar on top of that. He downloads maybe 100 songs per month onto his IPod. Clearly, that wasn't possible. I couldn't get him to stop.
He pays no attention to me or to Richard, though paradoxically, he still calls and asks for permission to stay out after work. If we say no, he often goes ahead and does it anyway.
Maybe a lot of this is typical for the age, but knowing Jeremy, it's far more intense. That would be typical for him.
I have made an appointment with the doctor for her to check him out, but truthfully, I am not sure we'll be able to stuff the genie back in the box. We can't force him to take the meds, even if she says he needs them.

Monday, July 28, 2008

sticker shock

My mom is in the donut hole for Medicare Part D. This means that we must pay full price for her medications. She takes 4 meds, half of which do not seem to be available in generics. The bill this month alone is almost $900., and that's just for her! Luckily, my dad gets many of his meds through Veterans, and we don't have to pay for them. I am not sure what to do about this. We need to hold onto every cent so she can continue to afford to pay for her housing. I am not sure what I will do when the money runs out. I know they will have to go live in a less satisfactory place, but given their emotional problems, this is going to be very rough. I find myself wishing, as I have said before, that they don't live long enough for this to happen. It's awful to have to think such a thing. What we accept as normal in this country is shocking.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The movies have failed me.

I love to go to the movies, and given the choice, would do it nearly every day, maybe more than once a day (if I could afford it). But this summer, the choice has been sparse, despite the numerous theaters near me. The same old thing, squared. Just as I was getting excited about a new film, Boy A, and saw it listed at a local art theater, I checked again and saw that with the new Friday schedules, it had been eliminated, just when I was getting set to get into the car and go see it! I ended up not going to the movies at all. Feh. I'm getting tired of Regal theaters doing this to me. It's happened several times in the last year! I should complain. Who has the energy?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

At least I went to the reading!

Last night, there was a poetry reading with an open mic at Goldenwest College, and I went. I had tried to coerce my students into coming, and they expressed interest at the time, but the thought of an open mic probably terrified most of them, so they did not respond to my emails and urgings to go there. In any case, I really enjoyed hearing Michael Miller read his poems. As soon as he publishes a collection, I look forward to buying it. They are full of energy and intelligence.

I always enjoy reading, of course, so I insinuated myself into the show, and actually preceded the main event. I will have to write some more new poems so I have something to read at the series reading next time!

Friday, July 25, 2008


ARRGH. I wrote a post and forgot to publish it, so now I have to do it again.
Today is Friday, and it's summer, so I am happy. On Fridays I go to yoga, which is not unusual because I do it almost every day, usually in the morning, and then I went to the farmer's market at Laguna Hills Mall parking lot, where I bought white and yellow peaches, green beans, baby yellow squash (almost bought the blossoms, but I didn't want to fry or stuff them, so decided not to), and my favorite, a pound of beautiful John Dory fillet. It looks rather like flounder, but the flounder out here is gross and gelatinous, not like back east. This stuff looks firm, and I hope it stays firm when I cook it, which I plan to do in brown butter with almonds. I will serve the yellow squash roasted on the side. Maybe I can find a picture of john dory to assuage your visual senses, since I am such an unreliable and inept photographer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

parental problems

Yesterday I took my dad to the psychiatrist. He seemed as if he were about to plunge into a bipolar cycle of ups and downs (mostly downs). His temper was more volitile than usual and he occasionally did not sleep. I had the feeling of extreme nervousness around him I used to have before he was on meds and he might snap any moment and begin ranting and raging uncontrollably, lashing out at whomever was in range and some who were not.
So the doctor doubled his meds. I hope that helps. But at the same time, it came to light that the medications he is taking to lower his extremely high blood pressure were so lowering his heart rate that it is in the dangerous range. We don't have much choice. Either we can cut back on the blood pressure meds and risk organ failure from the high blood pressure or keep it as is and risk heart failure. Not much of a choice, is it? I hate having to be the one who makes it, but there is no way to escape from that.
Sometimes I get so anxious to escape this unrelenting choicelessness that it is like walking uphill in mud. I try to distract myself, but the ache in my quads from slogging uphill is too great for that to work. The things I like to do normally, like going to yoga class, cooking, shopping, reading, even writing, talking to friends, going to movies, eating at new restaurants, are not the joy they were before. I have to work to do them too. But since I don't see a choice (as usual), I will go on with what I am doing.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Happy Homemaker? Well... maybe not.

As promised, I cleaned the fridge this morning, dumping numerous containers of dubious proteins and freeing up countless bowls for new uses (more leftovers I will probably never look at again). I used the new steamer device my friend Linda advised me to get. She says it makes cleaning somewhat exciting, and that is true. The jets of steam emitted by the device make me feel as though I'm cleaning with a contained volcano or nuclear powered teakettle. And the heat takes off encrusted crap better than any cleanser, as well as sterilizing the surface. The grills at the bottom of the fridge never looked better.
Best of all, I rediscovered lots of things I bought, looking forward to using them (there's that hot and sweet mustard! That Chinese sauce! And oh, too late! Those cherries I was sure I bought a few weeks ago!), and lost in the black hole of the top shelf. Now if only I could promise that that wouldn't happen again.
But I am sure that I will make a habit out of steaming the fridge, just too feel that thrill of harnessing a dynamo.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Fair

Today I went to the fair. I've been there before and was not impressed at the tawdry geegaws and the food (fried twinkies? pizza on a stick?), though it is amusing. Pigs are not my thing, though I generally enjoy the company of animals more than most people do. But I found the collection of art in the Visual Arts building much better than I expected to, and the watercolor demonstration was interesting for a while. I also took in my colleague Linda's sculpture, and although I enjoyed the full-size versions of these pieces more, they are beautiful and evocative, even in their miniature incarnations. The smoked turkey leg wasn't bad either. However, the parking lot (finding my car, for instance, and finding my way home when all the streets and routes I needed were blocked off) was a nightmare. However, I finally made it. Hooray!

Friday, July 18, 2008

the grown-up-kid dilemma

Now that Jeremy is in college, I am faced with yet another dilemma. As both a parent and teacher, I have frequently been faced with such problems. The college had him take assessment tests, both to place him in classes and to determine whether he needs DSPS' assistance. The results are puzzling and odd. He has always been good at math, doing complicated problems in his head. Of course, he refuses to show his work, and this has sometimes caused problems. Now he has been placed in the lowest remedial math class and in college writing! Given his serious problems with reading (and writing; he has been tentatively diagnosed with dysgraphia), I don't know how he will manage there. And the math will bore him. Knowing those remedial classes as I do, since I taught in that district for a while, the math class, where he will already be out of place, may also encourage him to fool around and give him the false impression that college is no different from high school. It will certainly introduce him to students who do not belong in college at all and who will not last more than one semester.
When I taught remedial writing in that district years ago (though not at this particular school), there were students who were so out of control it was a nightmare. It was more like a mental hospital than a college class. For example, there was one student who could not sit down for more than one minute. He would race around the class continually, taking his shirt off and putting it back on, and he couldn't shut up. It was either drugs or mental illness and perhaps both. I referred him to people, but I am sure he never went. Finally, I asked him to leave. There was at least one stalker. The students erupted everytime I turned my back to write something on the board. The dean came to observe and said she didn't know how I maintained my composure and went on teaching them exactly what they needed to learn, even though they were paying no attention at all.
I had hoped that Jeremy would be getting exactly what he needed and never got in high school, particularly instruction in reading. Now it seems that isn't going to happen. But I cannot by law intervene. I just have to sit tight and hope that the English instructor and the math one notice something odd and reassess him. Or perhaps he will surprise me and rise to the challenge of the English class? Who knows.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Computer Problems

Yesterday I tried to set up Jeremy's computer and discovered (again) that no matter how much I use computers, I am quite inept in that respect. The laptop has one of those mouseless systems, with a little touch pad at the front of the machine. I have enough trouble with mice; this was impossible for me to control. So there was that. Then, I tried to access our wireless network, which an acquaintance from yoga who has drifted away from me set up, and realized that I did not remember the password we set up, though I had a vivid memory of at least part of it. After a frantic search through my junk drawer, I discovered this person had spelled the password I intended incorrectly! After Jeremy wakes up, we can try it again.
The person from DSPS at Jeremy's college called us for the 2nd time to remind him to go register for classes today. That's a good sign! Perhaps things will turn out after all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

J grows up, a continuing saga

Jeremy has gone completely off all of his medication. He has wanted to do this for some time, insisting that it doesn't do anything anymore. It seems as though he may have been right. Since he has been off of it, he has not been any worse as far as his ticcing, obsessions, or behavior are concerned, as far as I know. The only thing I have noticed, and this may have nothing to do with meds, is that he runs around like crazy, a 360 degree turn around from his old, homebody self. He insists he only stayed home like that because of school and baseball, and that once school starts again, he will be staying home a lot more, but I doubt it. College can be a real trap for kids who like to party. He'll be meeting all these new people and there will be old friends there too.
I am not liking the way he approaches college, which he insists will be no different from any other school he has ever attended. I will try not to panic and just let things unfold the way they do, unless he asks me specifically for help or advice, which I expect he will not do.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Richard's Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day

Today we got Jeremy his first laptop computer because he will start college this coming semester (not at my college--another nearby school). I had been doing research for some time about the best price and best quality machine for the money. Mind you, I am no tech maven. In fact, I screw up as often as hit the mark with computers. Once, for instance, I bought a reconstructed computer, on the recommendation of a computer mag. It was a total disaster. Three dead computers and 2 years later, I still did not have a functioning machine. A lawyer friend advised me to send a letter to the CEO telling the company (a big big company) that I was ready to write an article for a computer magazine about how this company did not back up its products or care about its customers. I demanded a brand new, fully loaded computer, or I would write the article AND turn over the case to a lawyer. I got the new computer, though they did try to pull one over on me, trying to get me to take another rebuilt machine, though somewhat newer. I didn't bite and I will never buy one of those rebuilt computers again.
But today, I was pretty sure where we would go and what we would buy. I needed Richard to provide the bankroll and the ID so we could go to the U and buy a Dell there, but when we got there, the person representing Dell was not there. And the clerk told me that Dell had become very flaky. There were many unsatisfied customers whose orders had been lost or confused. So I looked elsewhere.
Richard was having a day off, and it did not begin well. He is a big golfer, obsessed with the game. But this morning, he was determined to go play with Jeremy, who had been out half the night with his posse. It took a while to wake him, and he was falling asleep at the club, so to speak. It was not fun, I gather, for either of them.
He came home in an awful mood, and learning that things were not going to go as planned at the computer store didn't help. He didn't want to know about this whole ordeal, but I needed him to write a check, so he had to come.
A couple of hours of research later, we ended up at Best Buy, a few miles from our home. That would have been that (at least after we picked up the fully loaded machine), except that I decided we needed to recycle the old computer in Jeremy's room. It has been non-functioning for some time, and I wanted it out. But the college wouldn't take it or help me to destroy the hard drive, so I asked the Best Buy geek guys to do it, and they said they would. After that, we could take it to a recycling place. But it proved harder to find a recycling place than I thought. Half of the ones listed online are out of business. The others were closed for the day.
Unfortunately, after a full day of delays and disappointments, the one we chose was closed on Mondays!!
I think I'll stay away from Richard for the rest of the day.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Back to the kitchen

Today is R's birthday, a fact he tries to ignore, forbidding any parties or celebration, on pain of pouting. I usually ignore this dictum because it seems to me so silly. Though I have not in fact thrown a party for him in some time (I remember one time I surprised him with a beach party, lugging numerous chairs and food to the beach without a car, somehow), but I do usually get him some kind of gift. Today I got him one of those old-fashioned looking multi-media music centers because he likes to transfer his old LPs to tape, and now needs to transfer them to CD. Although the computer has a CD writer, he doesn't have a turntable. This machine I bought him has a turntable, CD writer and player, tape player, AM FM radio and port for an MP3 player. It was not cheap, but I had a coupon that yielded quite a good discount--maybe 30%--off the $200. price, a price that was much lower than that for comparable machines I had seen elsewhere. So he reluctantly said he liked it and thought it was a thoughtful gift, though he made me promise not to buy him anymore gifts for a whole year.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

workshop worries

The workshop continues to shrink. Part of this is due to the grading conundrum. I have to assign grades for the work students turn in. I have no problem assigning grades in a comp class, where it is possible for virtually every student to earn an A, given enough work, but in this kind of class, every student is not going to become a wonderful writer of creative work. They will learn and pick up strategies and techniques, and that is what I must grade them for. However, some people come to class blessed with inborn and cultivated abilities. How to acknowledge that without punishing people who simply and admirably want to explore writing without having those ready-made abilities? It is a problem for me, and I have lost yet another student because of it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

belated vacation stuff

On the way home from Georgia, I met another interesting person on the plane. She lives in Chino Hills, and was as different from me as I can imagine, but we really hit it off. She is a rather large, attractive black Baptist lady from the midwest originally. We talked about race and the Obama campaign and lots of other things. Though she was younger than me, I think, she has been retired for some time and travels all over the world. Travel does those things for a person. You talk to people you would probably ignore in your ordinary life. Of course in my ordinary life in the classroom, I talk to all kinds of people all of the time. But on the street, probably not, and I learned lessons the hard way in Philadelphia about talking to people on public transportation! Planes are an exception to this rule, but buses aren't. Remind me to tell you about the time R and I took a Greyhound bus across the country!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

jiggedy jig

Home again. If I hoped for some kind of fresh vigor, I am afraid I didn't gain that by my week away. I'm nearly as frazzled and overwhelmed by what I have to handle as I was when I left. However, I did get a fresh perspective. I have sworn to keep it, whenever I am tempted to go further than I must to please my parents. My family needs me, my son and husband, and my friends, not just my parents. I made my parents my first priority, and they really shouldn't be. After they're gone, I'm going to have other relationships to sustain, and the truth is, I have let those go, letting my parents be first. I'll have to change that.
Of course, when there are emergencies, I will be there, but I want to remember my friends and my other family members as well.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Adventures in the Old South

Today we played hookie from baseball and went to two places: the Civil War Cyclorama, a 360 degree painting and diorama of the Seige of Atlanta, and then out of town to Stone Mountain Park. Stone Mountain is an enormous, bald pate of granite. The side of it has been carved into a 4 story relief of the "heroes" of the Confederacy, Lee, Jackson, and Davis. It is surrounded by an enormous amusement park, like a low-rent Disneyland. The scale of the thing is amazing and impressive, but it made us think and engage in a long discussion on the ethics of the whole endeavor. Richard asked me whether I thought it was tantamount to painting an enormous swastika on the side of the mountain, and I said no, but I didn't do a very good job of explaining how and why it was different. We eavesdropped on some pretty funny and interesting conversations by families of the area, and butted in on one of them in which a little kid wanted to buy a popgun and be just like his heroes in the Civil War! I naturally had to be snarky, and said, "You'll shoot your eye out!" thinking about that movie, Christmas Story. They didn't get the reference. Truly an interesting experience. Of the two, the Cyclorama was far more palatable. We didn't make it to the MLK museum or the History Center yet.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Talking to strangers

As usual, I have been speaking to the people I meet on my travels. Last night I went to do the laundry and almost got left there at 9:30 PM because the shuttle didn't show up to pick me up until very late, and the store was supposed to close at 9. Jeremy has particularly pressing laundry needs because of the hot sweaty baseball he is playing, and there are no coin operated facilities at this hotel, though it boasts many other services (including sporadically running elevators, daily maid service, and free Internet available in the two rooms where I am writing from right now). In the interval, I talked to the owner of the laundry place, a Korean man of about 45 years old, I would estimate. His face was unlined, but seemed somehow pained and sad, if a bit blank. Sure enough, when we began to talk, the reasons for this poured out: his divorce and apparent breakdown, the loss of his business in Alexandria VA, his children's indifference to his absence (they apparently live in VA with their mother). He says he goes nowhere and sees no one, only the people who come to this place to do their laundry. He doesn't trust or like the locals, who have very small minds, in his view (and in mind, judging by what I've seen so far). He came to Georgia with a friend, with big plans of doing a low stress job, but eventually selling the business and moving on. However, the drought in this state and the high electric/gas bills caught him unready when the friend died, and he is apparently stranded. He struck me as being like the Sirens Odysseus encountered. His sad song sticks in my mind and makes we want to help him, but there is really nothing I can do. I hope that he gets himself out of this hole. People are the answer--they always are.

Out of Sight and Mind

The latest from Atlanta... . When I came here, I thought this area would be just another manifestation of humanity as I have come to know it in the various places I have lived. I am no stranger to the south, having lived in Southwest VA and visited my inlaws in VA every year since I graduated from undergraduate school there, but GA is a totally different world.
After the baseball game yesterday (Jeremy's team was slaughtered, and Jeremy especially, who had to pitch when he has not really pitched since he was 12 years old), we went to a barbeque restaurant to sample the local cuisine. We stopped to get gas, and I went into the convenience store attached to the gas station to ask directions. All of a sudden I felt as though my head were being squeezed in a vise and got a terrible blinding headache. My legs turned to rubber bands and I started to black out. I guess that even though it wasn't really very hot or humid I didn't get enough to drink or something while I was watching the game. I called for help and my father in law came over and led me into the convenience store to sit down. But the people who were in the store (the owners, I think) not only did not get me a chair, wet cloth, or ice (unless I bought a 5 lb bag, which I didn't need or want to do), they didn't care or react at all. I have never seen that sort of response, even in Philadelphia. It is possible that they didn't understand what I was saying, since they were Asian, probably Korean, but they didn't look as though English was the problem, and I think I can tell that by now, having taught English for so long. When I later stopped off at a store to buy a hat and thus prevent a recurrance of what happened to me yesterday, I got the same sort of coldness from the African American salespeople there. I had the feeling I had walked into something I didn't understand. The best I can figure it, the culture of the slavery system or at least the tacit rules of that system still continue in some form entirely unlike VA. This is, after all, the deep south. I guess everything is an adventure. Though I am not getting to explore Atlanta (haven't even been there yet--I'm in the suburbs near the ballparks), I am seeing and learning about different ways of life.