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.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I was listening to the radio and happened to hear a story about the town my husband is from. Since there are only 400 people in that town, I was surprised, to say the least, though actually this is not the first time I've heard it mentioned on NPR! The story was about the Bank of Floyd, VA, and the banker there spouted the line that has become familiar to me as an observer of the place: the mythos of the self-reliant people of Floyd, VA, who never take loans from the federal government (except when they do). My father in law, a reasonable man, and quite open-minded, though he has been exposed to very little in the way of difference and diversity, proudly tells about how the little town full of farmers built a golf course back in the 60s. He was a big part of that. He admits that the town took advantage of a poverty grant for the folks of Appalachia that was not really intended for golf courses at all, but truthfully, the golf course is still a great draw. It brings in tourists who are already there to see the Blue Ridge Parkway and to eat pancakes at Mabry's Mill, a beautiful working mill on the Parkway and one of the most frequently photographed places in the country, according to Kodak. And it has made money for the town, so it has brought prosperity to a relatively poor place. But not for the poorest members of the community--probably for the wealthier ones, truth be known.
Here is the link to the story. I'll try to find a picture of the Mill for you too.
Here's the other story about Floyd, from 1999:

The Skinny on Mom

Today after second day Rosh Ha Shanah service, the choir planned to eat its annual dinner at Marie Callendar. I've brought my parents for the past two years, and they enjoyed it, or at least my dad did. He couldn't wait to get there and see everyone and dig in. They've got PIE, and that makes my dad doubly happy! The restaurant even provides a piece of sugarless apple pie for diabetics like him!
But when I zoomed over after the service to pick them up, my mom, predictably, was dressed inappropriately. It was 105 degrees in Irvine and she had winter pants and a long sleeved silk shirt on. I changed her to something cooler, but she grumbled all the while that everything was too big and she didn't want to go anyhow, that I was forcing her to go and made plans without consulting her. I felt a little bad at that because I hadn't consulted her; she doesn't hear anyhow, and always misconstrues what I say, so I spoke to my dad and he said yes. I just assumed that whereever he was, she'd want to be.
So when she went to the bathroom for the third time and dilly-dallied and complained, I just finally said she didn't have to go, and I would take dad. She could stay home the way she wanted.
When I came back after lunch with dad and brought her a piece of pie, she said that she had wanted to go after all, and I shouldn't have left her home! She was in bed, at 3:00 in the afternoon!
Next time I will simply take her and be cheerfully deaf to her complaints, as I have in the past.