Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

It seems that although we do not at this point have a formal acknowledgment that our offer for the house in Lake Forest has been accepted, it most probably has, and the escrow will go through in a much faster than usual period of 35 days. So we enter the New Year ready to assume a new home in a new town and a greater burden of responsibility that will also be, we hope, a way of insuring our long term security.
I hope for all of you that 2011 will lead you on a path to places you would like to go.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back to the Other Place

Before we signed papers for the place in Tustin, the one we backed out of, we looked at a place in Lake Forest that reminded me of a little cottage in the woods. It sits like a private house on a little greenbelt, facing the pool, on the end of the unit. I liked it, but the living area and rooms were very small, and the kitchen seemed to have very little storage space, so we passed it by for the spacious glories of the Tustin place, located as it was on the corner of that splendid shopping area that seemed so much of a funky metropolis.
In the wake of the disastrous inspection, we were thrown back either on a two bedroom in Irvine (all we could afford) or a 3 bedroom in Lake Forest. The driving to Lake Forest seemed onerous, but the likelihood of finding a suitable place in Irvine, even a two bedroom, we could afford seemed low, so after looking at a messed up two bedroom in a very nice complex and some other places in Lake Forest, we decided to opt for the one that got away.
As though it had been waiting for us, the place, a standard sale, was still without a bid, so we put one in last night. On this end of the year day, we are waiting to hear about it.
The house is much more affordable and cheerful than the Tustin place or anywhere else we looked at. It needs work, but we can do it. Let's see how it goes.


Yesterday I went back to my parents' old house and visited with Susie, their former caregiver. Susie was very close to my parents, especially my father. She looked after them for over 3 years, longer than she had cared for anyone else.
When I showed up after yoga class yesterday, after a long period of not seeing her, I noticed something odd about her face. She seemed to have an odd expression about the lips, as if she had had dental work, perhaps, or more ominously, a stroke.
Susie is a young woman, in her 30s, perhaps, and very strong. So it was alarming to see that sign that all was not well with her health. She is way overweight, and has had problems with her gallbladder, so I guess I knew her health was not perfect, but this was alarming.
Before I could say anything, she told me she had to go to the hospital the day before with an an attack of Bell's Palsy, but at least at it wasn't a stroke! She also said she was leaving this place of employment, where she was hired specifically to care for my parents. She hopes to go to college, and I think she absolutely should do that, but she comes from such a poor, large family, in which both parents were deaf, that it isn't easy.
We talked about my dad and my family, and she cried. She misses my dad as badly as I do. And she told me about how she had distributed all their clothes, particularly my dad's shoes, a size that is small and hard to find, to her relatives, who were so grateful. One relative had never had leather shoes before, and he was enjoying my dad's 3 pair of shoes, kept immaculately clean and new looking, and his long sleeved shirts.
That was a good thing, though it raised some strong feelings in me. Later on, when Jeremy came to visit, these emerged as anger in the face of the aggravations I usually have to ignore, and this outburst drove him away. I felt terrible about that, and apologized. We set each other off.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Appointment with the Zoo

On Friday we will go down to the San Diego Zoo! I am so looking forward to visiting with my friends there, all the animals, and to walking on the paths of beautiful trees and vines. It always calms and inspires me. A good way to start the year and to end it also.
Meanwhile, I have been deep into the process of redoing my syllabus, and doing a slightly different version for Cal State. We'll see whether that presents problems. Two of my texts for that class are different, and my assignments will differ slightly also. I haven't actually put that syllabus together.
The faculty for that class do not meet. I don't know anything about CSUF, having taught only at Long Beach, and that perhaps 25 years or more ago. But I wrote to the course director and asked him for guidance, and he agreed to meet with me on the new campus shortly before classes start. I hope that will be sufficient. For someone with anxiety, doing things that spontaneously is not preferable. I want to know where to refer people, what is what, what rules I want to avoid breaking, and what to write in my information sheet for students.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


We signed papers to cancel the sale, feeling thoroughly sick of the whole expensive affair. We didn't look at places today, but reordered our priorities and went home to lick our wounds.

Wanted: New Outlook

The new year approaches, and I wish I could shed the current frame of mind I am in as readily as the calendar sheds its leaves. I would have liked to go up to L.A. perhaps or on another train trip or down to the San Diego Zoo just to reboot. That always works for me.
Anyone want to come along?

Monday, December 27, 2010

The King's Speech

Last night, we went to see a film I've been saving for the break--The King's Speech. It is one of those British productions one so cherishes, with an array of fine actors and a beautifully written script, modest and yet highly burnished, as the British do it so well.
This was a terrific film, the best I've seen all year. It gave me a lot to think about, concerning things I knew little of, such as the royal family of England and the difficulties of being part of such a system.
I heartily recommend it, while it is still around.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The House (not that one)

I finally took my basket of goodies over to the house where my parents used to live. Their special caregiver, Susie, was out of town, but the other two, who were also pretty special, were there. When I saw him, one of them, whose name I have now forgotten, shocked me by his ill appearance. He had lost a lot of weight, but clearly, not because he was in fine shape. He looked drawn, and most of all, he had lost half his teeth! This is not a young man, but too young to have lost his teeth, and he was always extremely energetic and hearty, with unstoppable energy.
I didn't mention his teeth or appearance, but he did, telling me he had been diagnosed with diabetes and over-active thyroid. He had stopped taking his thyroid medication, and this is what happened! So he started up again. And soon, I hope, he will be better, if not tip-top, since diabetes is a bad disease, which affects every organ of the body.
He couldn't eat any of the goodies I brought, though he could have a cup of tea or coffee, if he wanted to (special teas and coffees were in the basket, along with tiny individual mince pies, fancy pancake and waffle mix, and small bottles of maple syrup).
This morning I will drop by and see Susie. I won't go to lunch with her today, but I'll make a date for another day. I want to give her a gift certificate, small though it is, for Steinmart.
Speaking of which, my father-in-law, who was upset with me about us staying out here instead of moving to Floyd (R finally told them), loved loved loved the watch I sent him (a buy from Steinmart!). He hadn't bought a new watch for about 25 years, so it was timely (heh heh). He is hard to buy for, like his son, so this was a coup!
My mother-in-law liked the poem about her father (or the mountain named after him) published in Floyd County Moonshine, and the print I sent her, something we picked up on our trip up the central coast last year. So I am doing okay on the gift front!

Saturday, December 25, 2010


By the way, so far, the student I was concerned about has not emailed me. Perhaps this is because I sent his grade breakdown and a nice note with the paper I sent back in his S.A.S.E.

Fun Evening

It was a terrific evening at the synagogue. The weather was cold and clear, not raining for once. The social hall was decorated gaily, with tongue firmly in cheek, in Christmas-bush type decorations, a reference to the cultural milieu of the American Jew, who, at Christmas time, finds a way to participate in a half-assed sort of way in the general celebration going on around him. This upset some rather humorless sorts in the community, who thought it was terrible that a synagogue would concede any ground at all to a Christian holiday. But I thought it was funny, and suitable to the light-hearted mood of the evening.
The food was mediocre--a vegan take on Chinese food, with overcooked, steam-table vegetables. But the company was congenial. Many of us from the choir clustered around one of the back tables. The film was hilarious... just what I needed at this time, a silly 70s French comedy called The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob.
No one makes silly comedies like the French. Before the age of cinema, it was theatrical farces, and this film came straight out of that tradition, with completely nonsensical physical comedy and other silliness. There were children with their parents, elderly people, people like me, and young adults from all around, and we all rolled on the floor in laughter at the sight of people coated in chewing gum chasing each other around the roads, fields, and streams of France. Add to this a season-friendly message of multicultural friendship and everyone went away happy.
I drove home with a smile on my face, to the light of a gigantic 3/4 moon, streaming silver light onto the empty roads and hills before me.

Friday, December 24, 2010


It is sometimes difficult to be Jewish on Christmas. So little is open and one feels bereft because of the great celebration all around when for us, Christmas is usually just another day, unless we have non-Jews in the family and are visiting them or unless Chanukah happens to fall on Dec. 25. This year it didn't, and though we celebrated quite enough during the holiday, it can be depressing on Christmas.
Difficult to celebrate personal celebrations, like anniversaries, also. My parents' anniversary was on Christmas, and we were never able to take them out to celebrate because in Philadelphia, all the restaurants were closed.
Tonight though, I will be going to synagogue for a Jewish celebration: Chinese dinner and a movie. I'm looking forward to it, and will fill you in on it tomorrow.

We've pulled out

Merry Christmas my friends. We have pulled out of the house. The bank that owns the place refuses to fix any of the problems in the house, and even if they had, it's clearly the HOA that is a large part of the problem, along with faulty design. We don't want to get involved in a community that is going downhill, where the HOA payments will balloon as people jump ship. That explains the low price of the house.
Luckily for us, we have a fabulous real estate agent, who plans to expose this business in the L.A. Times. His neighbor, who is an editor at the paper, has been begging him for dirt on foreclosures, and now he will have it, in spades, and the report we paid for will be evidence of wrongdoing. When this goes to court, we may even get damages, particularly if they won't give us back our deposit.
I guess we'll resume our hunt after the holidays. There isn't much of anything new on the market right now, of course.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

House, Again

Today the report the house inspector wrote came by email, and it was a doozy. Looking at those awful pictures of what is inside that crawl space/attic, I was absolutely appalled at the tangle of duct tape and soggy junk. There is no ladder and no light up there, and it is not high enough of a ceiling to stand up, so probably, no one has been up there since the place was built. In this respect and in others, it is very badly designed.
The full effect of the report is to make us see how blind we have been, even though we looked at the place several times. I don't think the HOA will do anything about this stuff. Clearly, all the houses had the same pools of water on their roofs, and probably they all have termites and have to watch out for them themselves, despite the high HOA fees. The plants growing through the garage walls (easily pulled off the wall, it is true, but disturbing nonetheless), the work not done up to spec (even for the time the place was built) all make us feel this is something we do not want to get into.
It is too bad we cannot afford another $50,000. for the house; if we could, we could have a much nicer, newer place, with fewer major repair headaches, or perhaps none at all. I would have to win the lottery for that, though.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


The house inspector came and spent almost 3 hours going through the house extremely carefully, turning on all the appliances (except the air-conditioning, which IS there, but wasn't listed, so that's odd) and checking things multiple times, taking notes and pictures. We went through with him, asking questions, and he explained the leaky roof, visible in the crawl space under the rafters and in the furnace, the places where work was not done correctly or up to spec, the termites in the front bedroom's window, something the termite report did not catch, though it was quite obvious from the frass on the sill.
None of the things he found were our responsibility; they were all things that should have been covered by the HOA or by the seller, but because this is a foreclosure, the seller may refuse to fix some of it. We will have to decide what to do about that.
I was happy to see the sun come out for a little while, but now it seems to be clouding up again. My trip to yoga class this evening may not be advisble again.

Another Wet Day

The promised gigantic storm that kept me home from yoga class last night, afraid that at the beach, I'd be overwhelmed by winds, fog, and gigantic waves, may not have materialized, at least not here. But it is still raining, slightly. Today the forecast says (last time I looked) that thunderstorms may be on their way.
We are on our way to get the house inspected. If it is not flooded or leaking now, it probably won't.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Not an Easy Day

This day has begun with difficulties. It is still raining, and normally, I would enjoy that because I have nothing much I need to do except go and turn in the Incomplete Form because I forgot to yesterday and maybe some last minute shopping.
But when I turned on the computer this morning, I found the Internet connection not working. After an hour of talking to machines, I finally got a live technician who walked me through repairing the router and modem, and now here I am! I am sure that if I were not confused about which was the router and which the modem (my instincts turned out correct, though), it would have been fixed earlier.
I have not been back to the place where my parents lived since the day my mother passed away. I have not seen Susie, my parents' caretaker, and have not gone over there. Theoretically, I hoped to keep in contact with her and to go back a drop off a gift for the caretakers, but I have not been able to muster the energy or the time or something to carry this out or even to buy such a gift, like a big basket of goodies. I have wanted to avoid the place and the people, though this is not fair to them.
If I could bring myself to do this, I think I would feel I had completed something that is hanging now in the air. Perhaps today I can make myself put such a basket together and take it over there.

Monday, December 20, 2010

End of Semester

This is the longest I have ever taken to get my work done at the end of the semester. There are 4 more papers to grade in one class and an Incomplete flap to take care of in the other before I can turn in grades, plus the e-lumen ratings I never got around to when I was supposed to have done them. And the house inspector thinks we are coming this morning when we are not. We cannot get the pilot light turned on because they sent instructions too late for us to manage it.
Meanwhile, it has been pouring rain, and is supposed to continue for much of this week. That is very unusual for us, or at least, for most of the year. In winter, anything can happen, but rain can be so unusual the rest of the year that one's umbrellas rot from disuse. Sometimes I take them out to use in the first rain, and they are defunct! I have to go buy new ones. And people have a problem driving in the rain because they are so unused to it. Somehow, the car slides about because of poor drainage, and on a crowded road, obviously, this is a problem.
I had to fail that student I have written about a while back, the one who threatens to go to the dean. He was emailing me frantically for weeks, and so despite the fact that he sent his draft late, and I usually won't look at people's drafts if they do that, I commented quite a bit (a page and a half of end-comments) on his, hoping he could revise and pass and we'd be spared the hassle I was sure would follow his failure. But despite that, and a peer's bulldog-comments (far sharper than mine, and just as accurate), he didn't do it. I have to fail him, so here goes my break.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Inspection Tomorrow!

Tomorrow the house inspector comes in the morning. We will see whether there are hidden problems that will cause us to pull out of the deal. If the repairs are too daunting, we will have to, since the costs of getting into the house are too large to do much of anything in the way of repairs. Bad plumbing or electricity will scotch the deal. So wish us luck.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ups and Downs

I am sorry to everyone that I made crazy yesterday, including the realtor and the loan guy and all my friends. Seeing figures like that on the page is very scary. I guess everyone who buys a house goes through this, and when one has a severe case of anxiety, as I do, it is probably worse, especially since we hoped we could buy all new furniture and throw out the crap we have. It isn't looking likely now, except for the hopeless bed and the couch.
We will have to buy things a bit at a time, other than that. And we have to have the floor upstairs replaced (that is, replacing the carpet with flooring I can easily clean) because of the cat, with her stomach problem.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Back on the Track

After getting the financial guy to run all the numbers again and discussing the fact that we don't NEED to buy more insurance because the HOA already gives us that, I agreed that we can hang in there till the next tax refund and extend ourselves a little more than is comfortable to cover the mortgage payment and tax.
It wouldn't be a problem at all if it weren't for the car I am going to have to buy soon. Mine is on the way out, and the garage thought last summer that it had no more than 2 years in it. Richard's also is dubious, even more so--it's a 1988 Honda Civic that he's trying to coax 200,000 miles out of. Now that we have further to drive to work, it's a little more crucial for him to have a workable car, though he won't need to drive as much around town as he used to. Many things are within walking distance.
And he plans to take the bus (probably with at least one transfer) at the bus stop down the block.
So for the moment, things are okay. We are proceeding toward the goal of getting the house. It is scary, of course, committing ourselves to this kind of debt, but in the long run, as everyone says, it's a good thing.

All Over Again?

We got our papers from the mortgage company yesterday, and it makes me feel we cannot afford this house. Without the homeowners' and flood insurance added in, it is $200. over per month what we can afford to lay out monthly. Richard was as jumpy as a toad last night when he signed those papers, but it was I who couldn't sleep because I realized we just couldn't make those payments. If we go into this thing, I don't want to lose the place. We are going to have to pull out and go for the much cheaper place if it is still there even though the kitchen is so small. What I am afraid of on that one is that it will end up a mess because it has even less storage and counter space than this place and the fixtures are old and need replacement. But the place itself is beautiful and charming, if a bit small. And it is much, much cheaper than this one.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Life Changes

I recall that when Jeremy was born, I had three whole days in the hospital because of his various anomalies, which all turned out okay... that is to say, he became his own, own unusual self, and that was fine. But the doctor poked his head in the door just after I had given birth and said, "Now starts the difficult part." We had tried really hard, for years and years to have a child, going through difficult fertility treatments, injections, etc. But that was all nothing, as the doctor said, compared to what lay ahead.
I wonder whether that is not also the case with a house. Now we have to worry about maintaining it, looking out for mundane but essential things like the water heater and the wiring and the taxes that we never had to trouble ourselves about before. Suddenly, with the weight of owning something large upon me, I believe I will become a conscientious householder at last, rather than the careless if not feckless slob I have been all my life. Yeah, right!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Finding Out More

Yesterday, despite R's appointment with Jeremy to help him study for his math final, we had to go over to the real estate office to sign papers. The bank that owns the house insisted that these must be signed immediately. As I said, there was a stack of papers a foot tall at least. And I am not exaggerating for once. The bank altered the contract in sneaky little ways designed to remove every last shred of the rights people signing a contract are usually guaranteed--for example, the right to sue, the right to get back our deposit, etc. But the real estate agent says that such is his influence, if the bank ever exercised these clauses of the contract, he would make their lives hell, and they would soon back off.
All the same, we didn't sign last night. R. wanted to get back to Jeremy, a meeting that took place fairly late in the evening, after I had already drifted off to sleep.
We are due to go back this afternoon. If the bank doesn't like it, then the deal is off. But we feel that if they call it off for this, we don't want to be involved in a deal with them anyway. It is outrageous what banks, along with Fannie Mae, the other party involved here, are pulling on consumers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vagaries of the Blogosphere

Sometimes the Internet hiccups, and people's comments get left out. Apologies to Other L and Beth, whose comments on the house were omitted accidentally. L, as I said earlier, the house is in Tustin. Today, most probably, we will go sign papers. My lawyer friend, Ilene, from Hollins, recommended that we bring in a lawyer to look these over, but my friend Liz, experienced in house buying in CA, says no need. Our realtor fiercely protects the interests of his clients, it is clear to us from the time we have spent with him, and he hates, hates, hates big banks, the owners of this place. So we feel fairly secure, though we will take our time with the papers.
That will probably mean I've got to skip Torah group this evening, but this is very important.
Then will start the exciting process of furnishing this house, preparing it for our habitation, after we have it inspected. Bob, one of my yoga teachers, recommended we have plumbers, electricians, entomology, and roofing come in separately and inspect, but the realtor swears up and down that if we hire an inspector from the professional organization, CRREA (sp?), we will be in good hands.
Then we'll go get a washer and dryer, possibly a new fridge, bed, and look into taking out the upstairs carpet and having it replaced with wood-grained laminate. I wish we could leave it there, but with the cat and her stomach problems, we are better off with an easy to clean surface up there. Downstairs we already have tile.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Good News!!!

The realtor just called me and told me we got the house! I am happy about it, despite belatedly realizing it had no air conditioning. I think we will be fine. It is a good sign that the person or people who lived there previously didn't think they needed one, or perhaps it just broke and they couldn't replace it. We will put up ceiling fans, and maybe a window unit for Jeremy, if he moves in.

The Future is Now

Now we are waiting to hear from the bank about whether they accept our offer for the house. I was looking at the sheet describing the place and noticed for the first time that there is no air-conditioning. There are also no ceiling fans. So we will have some installations to do, but all of the houses we looked at required something. This one had fewer major installations than some of the others, and was generally ship-shape. Even if we did nothing, we would be fine living in it for a while, except for buying a washer and dryer because it doesn't come with those.
If the offer is not accepted, there are a couple of places in Lake Forest we can fall back on.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hard to Stop Shopping

Shopping for a home has been stressful for me, but once I get going, it's hard to stop. The house we chose will change our lives because it's so urban, unlike the quiet, secluded and sanitized life in Irvine. It's a nice, upscale neighborhood, but located at a crossroads, busy and bustling. And it will require more driving to get to work and to yoga. But we look forward to it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Another Bid

Today I skipped yoga class to go to the place north of here with R and the realtor. It is a large place, almost 1700 sq ft and 4 bedrooms, and on the older side, but it is in a bustling neighborhood, full of shopping and ethnic restaurants. Our doctors' office is there, as is the garage where I have been taking the car. It is perhaps a few minutes further from work for each of us, but it seems much more comfortable to me, for some reason, although there is no doubt that the other community is nicer looking and the little 1200 sq ft place much more charming and full of light.
In return, this one has a large kitchen, while the other kitchen is small, with almost no counter space. It has a linen closet, while the other did not, and two pantries, along with other storage space. There is a downstairs bedroom and three bedrooms upstairs, one of which I will turn into an office, another a yoga studio, after we take out the carpet and put in wood flooring. That seems to be fairly inexpensive and easy to do now that wood comes in tile form that you can just get someone to lay for you and can order online or go to a store and easily find. There is even an orange tree bearing full sized oranges right outside the kitchen window.
As soon as Richard said he really wanted this place, I suddenly felt a weight lifted from me. I think I will sleep better tonight. But we still have to put in a bid. Since this is a foreclosure, the bank is selling us the house. The price is theirs, hence already approved. It will be much quicker than a short sale would have been, and less likely to go south.


I am feeling that same sad feeling about leaving Irvine that I was feeling when we were seriously considering the 2 bdrm place in Lake Forest. I wish we could afford to stay here, but there is nothing that otherwise fits our criteria that we can afford, except the dubious foreclosures I see listed for the suspicious sums of $2500. and the like. I would be afraid to buy anything like that, even if were genuine.

Friday, December 10, 2010

No Certainty

I remember before I got married I asked myself how I could be sure that this was the right thing to do. I heard no peal of trumpets or little voice in my ear, and it is the same now, many years later, as we prepare to buy our first house.
Today we went back to look at the place in Lake Forest, the one we couldn't see because it was dark and the electricity had been turned off. We were sure that we really liked the shape of the place, the complex it was in, its relative closeness to Irvine, for a place that was not in town.
The owner and her friend were in there painting and cleaning, and by the light of their portable lantern (a large, bright one), I saw that the living room/kitchen area was really quite small. The fixtures were somewhat old and shabby, including the stove, the toilets, the tubs (though one of the tubs was a very large, deep one). The sinks were small, and there was no storage area in the two full bathrooms. The kitchen was small and plain.
There is a fireplace, which seems to have been stuccoed over and decorated with hand-painted leaves, rather amateurishly, but not in an unattractive way, more like primitive art. There is no walk in closet in the bedroom, like the very large one we have now.
I realized we would have to get a t.v. that we can hang on the wall because there is nowhere to put the big old cabinet style tv we have now. But on the other hand, there were big windows, filling the place with light, even in the waning hours of the day.
I also looked at two places in Tustin, near 17th St. They are much older, and old-fashioned in design in comparison to the Lake Forest Place. But they are considerably bigger--nearly 1500 sq ft to the 1260 sq ft of the LF place. And there were two walk in closets. But the garage was poky, perhaps not big enough for even one car. They are also in very good repair, with new fixtures and a far bigger kitchen, which has a lot of storage and a patio with a flourishing tree full of oranges.
When I had to make up my mind, I couldn't. There was too much traffic to go back down and take R to see the Tustin place, since he hadn't gone with us to see that.
He will go see it with the realtor without me tomorrow morning.
Making up one's mind is difficult.

More houses this afternoon

We're going to look at more houses this afternoon. I'll fill you in tonight about what we see.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Feeling Perkier

I didn't go to the 6:00 yoga in Laguna last night because I was too tired to drive. Good thing. Passed out at 6 when the Chanukah candles for the last day were still burning. Luckily, the cats were cuddled up with me on the couch and showed no interest in the candles. Got used to them I guess!
I feel much better today, so can make it to yoga this evening, earlier.
I am excited about the house thing. Maybe too much. It's hard on the nerves, all these big steps, and then there will be the packing and cleaning and moving and fussing around in the new place till we get comfortable, like a dog turning around and around on a mat.
Last day of the semester proper. Next week, exams and collecting the final papers. I was hoping some students would turn them in early for extra credit, but no dice.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Another tough night

Last night I again didn't sleep well--partly because of pain but mostly because I was just too excited by last night's house stuff and being chewed out at work for the emotional ups and downs that have been seeping into the way I grade papers and write assignments toward the end of this semester. I just need to get this semester over and smooth it over next semester by rewriting assignments and restraining the critical monster in myself. That's what erasable pens are for!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Oh the heck with it! Houses.

We tried to look at houses at night, with a balky GPS not doing a bit of good to help us find them. The one at Woodbridge, actually a bit too small, in my estimation, was apparently already in escrow; a combo lock kept us from going in.
The others were all in Lake Forest. The first was 1700 sq ft, and pretty reasonable, but there was a lot of work to be done on it, despite a two car garage, huge patio, breakfast bar, and big big walk in closet. The second was bank-owned, cheaper, almost as big, 4 bedroom,in the same complex, but had a leak in the garage somewhere and was right out on El Toro--loud. Kind of shabby.
Even before I saw it, I had high hopes for the third one, which despite its comparatively smaller (1200 sq ft) size, was full of light, despite the fact that there was no electricity, had a downstairs bedroom and tile floors, and had a huge pantry room where even I could spread out. It was cheap too, and had low taxes, and was in a lovely complex, not far from Trabuco, so travel would be fast. Richard thought it had great promise, as did I. So far, I think we will take it.
But we plan to look at at least one more place, in Tustin, near Crab Cooker, near 17th.

Whale Poem, Revised

Saw some more houses. More tomorrow. Meanwhile, whales.


The ocean surges
a basin full of quicksilver.
On a boat somewhere
near the shore of the gray
Pacific, a small group shivers
in the morning chill.
We’ve come to see the whales
riding the warm current
all the way
the coast to Baja.

Onboard the naturalist
fights the waves that almost
shake him from his spot
intoning lines about
the whales’ intelligence
their stupendous size
their gentle ways.

It is their size he says
more than all else
that makes them objects
of our awe.
We cannot take them in
all in one glance.
Much like a mountain
or an ancient Bristlecone, this
renders them sublime.

The speaker crackles
as the naturalist explains
that whales like us
are curious. Mistaking
ships for kin
they have been known
to squint in at the portholes
touching the glass
with a supple fluke.

Small wonder that alone
in this whole ocean
one of few things even
larger than themselves
the whales take company
where they can find
it and seek us out
as we do them.

Yet other senses
serve them more than sight.
Their eyes spaced far
apart on either side of the great
head, seem little
more than human;
yet chambered cochlea
curl within the caverns
of their skulls.

Does seeing even matter
to the whales?
Immersed in song
chanting their collective
saga that will never end--
perhaps of humans
in their clumsy
ships their subtle
hands ill-shaped
for swimming
their grapple hooks
and insatiable nets.

Happy Chanukah!

Last night the choir had its annual Chanukah party at Harriett Walther's house. Harriett often has festivities at her beautiful home in Tustin. Actually, technically it is Santa Ana, but it is on the Tustin side, off 17th St.
Anyway, the party was a blast, the best ever! The choir is full of an assorted bunch of oddballs, like myself. We have grown comfortable with each other over the years, and can say almost anything to each other.
Everyone counts on me to bring food for these parties. I worked yesterday, as usual, and was too busy in the weekend to make the food then. Plus, it wasn't the kind of food one could make ahead of time.
As usual, I got ambitious and determined that I would make Japanese curry croquettes, a variation on the latkes (potato pancakes) I usually make. Technically, as long as they are fried, they are Chanukah food. So I spent all afternoon after class messing up every single dish in the kitchen. There was oil spattered everywhere, on the floor, the walls, and the two cast iron frying pans were full of used up dirty oil. I didn't have time to clean most of it up, so predictably, R was really pissed off at me. I did manage to do one or two loads of dishes before I had to flee out the door, but all he saw was what was left, which was bad enough.
To make the croquettes, I first had to fry up a huge batch of onions in melted butter, while the potatoes (golden, peeled and quartered) were boiling in a pot of water. Then I mashed the drained potatoes and the carmelized onions together, adding salt and pepper and Japanese curry powder to taste. It's strong stuff, so I didn't need much. Then the hard part! I had to form the potato mixture into golf-ball size patties and flatten them, letting them cool. After that, I rolled them in flour, beaten egg, and panko crumbs and fried them in oil. They were lovely and very tasty. I didn't have time to make the Tonkatsu sauce, and 99 didn't have any, but Zion market did! Every morsel was eaten!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bad Nights

Perhaps the reason I'm feeling so stressed is lack of sleep. I am waking up in the middle of the night with a sore hip and back, and am unable to sleep. Last night I forced myself to stay in bed and finally fell asleep, but I had a nightmare, in which I took my mother to the mall. I kept thinking, "You're dead," and she looked very pale indeed; however, she was in much better shape than when she died, walking and talking and being her old old self. She was telling me I looked old and tired, and I realized that I was naked too, right there in the middle of the mall. Unpleasant.

Another Couple of Weeks

By dragging out the papers this semester I have made tons of work for myself at a time when I am almost at the end of my strength and endurance. This often happens at the end of the semester, and it is happening more than usual this semester for some reason. Perhaps I was already worn down at the beginning of the semester because of all I had gone through in the summer, and now my fatigue is becoming more patently obvious. It's a new curriculum too, so that always makes a difference. I just have to force myself to prepare my classes this week and deal with the students' problems writing their final papers. Then I am left to grade them. Then comes the break.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Surprising Myself

Yesterday my yoga teacher, Bob, was sick, and I skipped the sub. I made up for the dearth of shopping by spending much of the day scooping up what I needed and then wrapping whatever I could. Not that I'm finished or anything. But I got quite a bit done! I hope there is a better sub in his class today, or that he is back. He sounded pretty bad; according to the receptionist, he was going to the E.R.! I hope he's better today.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Usually by this time I have accumulated and wrapped all the gifts I will need to give. The ones that need to be sent are in the mail, and the rest are neatly stacked in the corner. But this year, I have not shopped, wrapped, or mailed. I am a mess, in short. Only a short rumpled stack of last year's boxes and tissue paper is available, and some presents I didn't give last year. I think it's hopeless.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


The new gang in Washington, a gang of swaggering teabaggers and right-wing Republicans, are talking about getting rid of the very mortgage deduction that made us want to buy a house. If they manage to get rid of it, it will tank the economy again, of this I am certain, causing more people to lose their homes. Meanwhile, they are insisting that rich people should pay fewer taxes, the better to hire cheap workers from China and India to do work Americans once did.
In a few years, the whole country will experience what California has experienced: obstruction on a grand scale from nay-saying legislators who have no compunction about holding up the budget for half a year because it doesn't completely give them what they want.
Then people will discover why we've thrown them totally out of office this time around. Not that, truth to say, the other guys are wonderful or anything, just not AS objectionable most of the time.
So should I be afraid to buy a house?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


This is a tremendously busy time for me. Chanukah, with all of its various interchangeable spellings, starts this evening. I have a dental appointment, and then, given the state of anxiety I feel at the moment, I have decided to go on to yoga class in Laguna. When I come home, I will light the candles for another year's go at the holiday.
The irony I speak of above is this: all this time I have wanted a poetry workshop somewhere, and yesterday afternoon, I got notice that the Emeritus program at the college is seeking someone to teach workshops for them. The workshop in question is smack in the middle of one of my classes for next semester, so I cannot teach it. But it is odd the way things work.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Chanukah starts tomorrow and I don't know where my menorah and other paraphernalia are. Somewhere I have dreidels galore, books, hannukiah (menorahs by another name), candles,etc. But since Jeremy moved out I don't know where they are. They used to be in his drawer, in the storage bed, where I knew how to find them.
Jeremy naturally loved Chanukah, as Christian kids do Christmas, and every year for a long time I would have a big dinner party, for which I would cook for a week. He would invite his non-Jewish friends, to show off what a great holiday it was. He would light his own menorah every night, and spin dreidels day and night. Naturally, the daily presents were nothing to sneeze at either.
This year I managed to get R a couple of gifts, but nothing for Jeremy because I had no idea what he wanted or needed. He said simply to take him shopping for clothes and to give him money for food. That's what we will do. Yesterday I took him out to eat sushi to discuss this, and today I will take him to the dentist to pay for his extensive treatment plan. He didn't go for years, and this is the price he pays. But he also needs a night guard because he grinds his teeth and has to have his wisdom teeth out too. Before that, dentists were no big deal for him, as for me. I have had only two cavities in my life. Good genes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Talk About Awkward

I met up with the former student who is living in the house on which we put a bid. He and his mom are losing that house, and I feel rather awful about the fact that I stand to gain from that. But not awful enough not to bid because we have such a limited amount of money to spend on a house and I really want to stay in Irvine. If I go elsewhere, it is likely to be someone else who is losing a house. Most of the places we could afford will be priced that way because of this. So would it be hypocritical or silly to withdraw the offer for that reason?
In any case, he says that his mom is trying to get the loan's terms changed so they can stay in the house, and I wish them the best of luck on that. He is a very nice kid, and a good student, soon to transfer to a 4 year school.
So many people are suffering in this economic climate. It is too bad it is the only way I can afford to think about buying a house here.

Still Waiting

The realtor told us that there were multiple bids on the place down the street. So we don't think we're going to get it. We get MLS listings every day that fit our criteria in the places we would be willing to consider. Just about all the Tustin places look as if they are along big loud streets and in bad neighborhoods except for a couple that are too expensive. We will look at some more Lake Forest places because I am beginning to doubt that we can get anything in Irvine. There are a couple of Woodbridge places, one I would love to have, but it is too expensive. The place we looked at first, with the wet bar in the bedroom (weird!) and the black granite floors is still available, but the price has been raised beyond our range.
I don't know if the realtor will call us to go look at some of these places. Maybe I will email him this morning.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cold Like Somewhere Else

Winter is truly here. The days are dwindling now, and I am wanting my sweaters, the few I have. The rest of the year makes them items that just get in the way, and I stuff them somewhere because I don't need them. Now I need them.
The winter holidays are almost upon us. I can understand our ancestors' desire to celebrate light, as darkness encroaches.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Thanks for hanging out with me all year long!
Spurred by my yoga teacher Denise's repeated entreaties that we not engage in animal sacrifice for the holiday, I decided that since my parents were gone, and it was at most, just the three of us, I would make something different and untraditional--at least, not part of MY traditions. I took out my gigantic Deborah Madison Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone cookbook, and paged through it. It is a beautiful book, and comes highly recommended. Many times, sitting at yoga waiting for class to start, I looked through it. Finally I just decided to check out Amazon and see if there was a used copy I could buy.
Today I made three dishes: pearl onions and Portobello mushrooms in cabernet sauce; buttermilk skillet cornbread; and red bean gumbo. The onions were rather ugly (what I have seen called a "twilight" dish, like black beans), darkened by the wine glaze and the blackness of the mushrooms, but they tasted great--a bit crisp to the bite, and sweet. The cornbread was wonderful, particularly since I used coarse ground cornmeal, not that stuff out of the box that has been degerminated. The gumbo was very impressive looking, with red and yellow bell peppers, assorted shreds of greens, and red red kidney beans. It took forever for the roux to darken, and I think I should have waited some more. It might have had more taste. The pot I cooked it in, the enamel coated cast iron pot I bought last year, cooks everything way too slowly. My back hurt too much to stand there stirring any longer, so I quit. I shouldn't have. The wild and white rice pilaf I made to mix in it helped a little, but it wasn't as good as regular gumbo. It was a disappointment. At least it was warm. Seems like the right sort of day for that.
The real estate guy was here today. He told us that the agent who was handling the house down the street finally told him there have been multiple bids on it. I don't think we will get it, but one never knows. I am just hoping that we will get SOMETHING and not be bid out of everything in our price range in this town. Still, I am feeling excited about the future, anticipating having my own home to have Thanksgiving dinner in next year, if all goes well.
Hope you are all enjoying your families and your dinners, whatever they may be.

Reading the Contract

I'm no legal eagle, but I just read the contract for the little sale I made of the essay I wrote last year to order for an anthology called Flashlight Memories, and I'm impressed. $10. isn't much, but the terms are nice. I retain full rights,and the book will be sold in print and e-book forms and will be available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online and print. I can get author's rates for 2 years.
I'm new to all this, and it is amazing to me. Soon I will sign what I am sure will be a more formidable agreement for the other anthology I'm to be published in, Bless Your Heart, the one where my essay/story, "A Village" will be published. I worked much harder on that one, and the editor was a really sharp cookie, eliciting more and more details from me that I added to the story.
There is drama on the home front, though I don't know what today will bring, besides dinner, after a few hours of labor. The realtor will be coming at 10:30 to give us news of the counter-offer put forward by the other party. All I know is that it doesn't involve money. What it could involve I have no idea, and whether this means that we will not get the house I don't know. If we don't, I guess the search is on again.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


You may remember that I wrote a piece for an anthology about reading called Flashlight Memories about a year ago. It was accepted, and I got a contract, my first, since the one for the parent anthology hasn't arrived yet. I will be paid $10. and one copy! Whoopie do! I guess this makes me a professional?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New One

I've been tinkering with the whale poem.


The whales gather
calling across
thousands of miles
their wise if
inadequate eyes
on either side
of their heads.

In contrast
the ear cannot
be seen; its chambered
cochlea coils
within the cavern
of its skull.

Humans experience
the ocean with
their eyes:
pulsing coral
flame bright
Imperiator Angel
the angler with its
worm-like lure.

Seeing hardly
matters to the whales
chanting their collective
saga that will
never end perhaps
of humans in their
clumsy ships
their subtle
hands ill-shaped
for swimming
their grapple hooks
and insatiable nets.


We put in the offer last night, and now we wait. I pick up papers today and tomorrow too.

Monday, November 22, 2010


It ain't over till it's over, as they say, but if this does go through, it will be the fastest shopping trip for a major purchase I ever had. We knew that the place a few doors away, a two floor townhome, where one of my former students lived with his family, was for sale. It is the biggest style in the complex, where we have lived for a number of years. While I had preferred a one floor model, it was, according to the realtor, the only place for sale in Irvine that fit our criteria and price range. So it was the first place we looked at, and I decided after our epic trip to Lake Forest, that I wanted to put a bid in on it. So many people had looked at it by that time, I assumed there was no chance at all we'd even get a chance to bid, but only one person had put an offer down on it, and he bid so low, below the asking price, that the owner wouldn't even consider it, according to the realtor. So if the bank approves, we will get this place. It is more expensive than the ones in Lake Forest, but it is here, in familiar territory, close to everything, and it makes me feel comfortable. It has beautiful fruit trees in the yard (it's a corner unit) and no mello roos. The taxes are low and it is lots less expensive than the comps, though we can't figure out why. But we aren't asking.
If it doesn't happen, we'll hope more Irvine stuff turns up. And we'll look at some places in Tustin.

Here a House, There a House, Everywhere a House

This weekend was full of house hunting, house thinking, house obsession. We thought seriously for the first time about what we really wanted in a place. And I realized how attached I had grown to Irvine. It is hard for me to imagine how I, a city girl, born and bred, from a tough blue collar Philadelphia neighborhood, and hence, I thought, skeptical about suburban splendor and little-box mentality. But I have grown attached to the amenities in this place, the beautiful trees from all over the world, the thoughtfully designed walking paths, the amazing ethnic grocery stores and other shopping, and most of all, to the proximity of our digs to our places of work. That, by far, for someone who does not like to drive and has a car that is admittedly somewhat old and on its way out in the next couple of years, is the largest concern.
Irvine is full of short sales and foreclosures, and they look affordable, even for us. We must save our money to help our son transfer to a four year school, and if he plans to go all the way to the prize, an advanced degree in psychology and eventual career, something I hope with fervor that he does do, though I recommended that he go the education route and teach small children, something he would be very very good at, without the need for so long a haul, we need to help him with money and perhaps a place to live down the line. So we are looking for a 2-3 bedroom place, and our ideal place would also have two full baths. But in Irvine, these are tough to impossible in our very small price range, especially since I refuse to move into a place where I will not have my own washer and dryer.
Over the weekend, we (I got R to come with, and he participated with enthusiasm that surprised me) took a trip with the realtor to look at places. Our first journey was quite short--several doors away to look at the place one of my former students and his family was losing in a short sale. His mother was there, looking about to cry, and it was awkward, to say the least, but although I am ready to say yes to this place, so are lots and lots of other people, who are going to bid it up way beyond our means in no time.
Then we went to Lake Forest. We looked at 4 places there. The first was respectable. It had nice wood floors and a granite counter in the kitchen as well as its own personal little laundry room out on the huge patio. True, the neighborhood was a tad questionable, the parking scanty, the HOA very large (in fact all the places in Lake Forest had huge HOAs, though the cost of the houses was extremely low), and the carpet upstairs and on the stairs as well as the curtains gruesome. But it was really large, had three bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths, and nice storage space of all kinds. The next place was the stuff of nightmares, with a drooling and barking pitbull whining for our blood locked in a crate in the kitchen. The whole place looked like a drunk who had had a very bad night. The cabinets were scored and scarred, the walls painted intense, almost dayglo colors, the closets covered with makeshift curtains, and the bathrooms dingy and tiny. I hated it with a passion I seldom feel about anything, even though the realtor said he could get it really really cheap and then we could tear it apart. It was huge, almost 1800 sq ft. The third was in some ways worse than the second, being located in a complex that was so poorly designed we wondered at how someone could have screwed up so badly (on coke? drunk? hard to say). There was nothing at all good to say about it, and it was weird in a way that is not interesting enough to examine here, especially the enormously high ceiling that looked like one could shoot a rocket from it or set up an enormous telescope, something R might have been tempted to do if we were foolish enough to buy this place. The final one was sublime, from the moment we opened the door and saw its immaculate garage and stairs. It was not a short sale, though it was very cheap. It was beautifully kept, with dark wood cabinets all over the house. Even the pantry shelves slid out so one could see what was in the back, something I desperately need because there are things in the back of my cabinet I forget almost immediately, and hence waste lots of money buying again. There was a huge linen closet. The bathrooms were generous and had new looking fixtures. There was a patio the whole length of the place, but one I could not think of a use for since it was up over the garage, not on the ground. The ceilings were so low, they even made me feel oppressed, and that was worrisome, but R, seeing that this would be a great place for the pool table he was dreaming about, which will double as a dining room table, wanted to buy it right away. At first I thought it was okay with me, but the more I thought about it, the less I thought that was true. I want to stay in Irvine, if that is possible. So the search continues, if, as I expect, the bid on the house next to ours falls through.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Learning More About Houses

Today I went to see the real estate guy. He discussed what I was looking for and where for a really long time, and he told me that what I wanted at the price I could afford to pay for it was going to be difficult to find, especially in this town. If I go over one town, I can find something, most likely. He said that the place we were looking at that had come down to $250,000. had attracted a number of people who were bidding the price up beyond what we could afford.
Tomorrow we look at more places, including one a few doors away.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Swinging back in the other direction today

I spoke with Michael, the finance guy, and he gave me some numbers. Looks like if I am more flexible about where we live and the price of the place, we can swing this house thing very well. I may have to go for a fixer upper and put some money into having it done up, since neither I nor R nor J can do anything to fix it, or go to neighboring communities to live, but this is more than possible, and we may end up paying less than we do now for rent.
We are helped by the fact that people with short sale and foreclosure houses are getting desperate and dropping their prices at an alarming rate. I am sorry to have to take advantage of someone else's misfortune, but I will do it because it's the only way for me to get into this market.
For example, the only house I have looked at so far was almost $400,000. It was damaged and there were lots of little things I didn't like about it. But now it is $250,000. For that much less, I can overlook some things, have them fixed. It wouldn't be hard to pay that off, in comparison. I ask myself whether there are other places of this ilk, and I am sure there are. In fact, I've seen a place listed that was from all appearances quite similar right down the street from that one.
So tomorrow I will have a chat with the real estate guy and see whether he is willing to help me find a place like this one. He seems set on putting us into a brand new place in West Irvine with Mello Roos and marble counters. I don't need marble counters (though the place I looked at has granite floors that are pretty fancy too). I don't need a brand new house. I just need one that is basically sound and not full of toxic mold, bedbugs, or something of that nature. If he's up for that, we can work together.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nominate Food Posts

I just got this in email about nominating blog posts about meals and food. I plan on going out there and looking at Lou's blogposts and nominating one of them, if she doesn't mind.


I need to eat my breakfast and take vitamins, but I confess I've gotten into a bad situation with one of my students. He has been consistently difficult, hyper, immature, and a trouble-maker. He naturally fancies himself a writer, and has sent me a chapter of an ersatz fairy tale, and asked me to give my opinion, clearly thinking I'd rave, as probably high school teachers did. I didn't, though I told him it was worth taking to a workshop. He didn't know what a workshop was; I explained. I don't think he'll like workshops. I use similar techniques in my comp class, putting up anonymous samples for class discussion, and warned students of this at the start of the semester. No one told me not to use his or her writing, until, after the fact, he did, taking it personally rather than a means of instruction. But he tends to walk out of class in the middle of peer review, not do homework, not listen to comments (or not to understand them). Not surprisingly, he tells me that he didn't bother to sign up for the Writing Center because they didn't help him in earlier classes. I'm sure he was one of those students who couldn't listen to what people were telling him then too. I've made the mistake of persisting, trying to get through to him and actually help him improve, and I deserve what I get. He thinks I'm persecuting him. Should have just let him be.

On a Dime

As I've said about myself before, though I don't think I've inherited my dad's bipolar disorder, I am pretty volatile. Last night, with all the house stuff in motion, R and I had a talk about things.
People don't know him very well since he isn't very open, the direct opposite of me, who is Ms. Blabbermouth. One of my cherished early memories of him is before we were married, when he came to Philadelphia one Winter Break to visit me and my parents. He drove up from VA, and I remember the sight of that tiny white Datsun chugging along. I thought then that the car and he, despite the disparity in size, with R's long legs crunched almost up to his years as he sat behind the wheel, were much alike.
The car was nothing fancy. It was new when he bought it, but had no radio or other frills. But it was beyond all things reliable. And he is just the same, to this very day. Everyone can always count on Richard to serve, never complaining, chugging along, not needing or accepting repairs.
He has been like that as a partner, a parent, an employee. Now, after he has taken over as supervisor of writing teachers for James, R is becoming battered and weary. He sits in a sort of hunched over way, and I know he is suffering. He will, as usual, never complain though.
But when I wanted to talk to him about the house and he said we couldn't afford to pay the monthly payments we would need to in order to cover HOA, morgage, insurance, and yearly taxes, I confess I flipped out. And he laid it out for me in such a way that I realized I have forgotten a lot of important things, like how I am going to be able to make these payments when I am in my 80s, and not working, and how we are going to cover the cost of Jeremy's transfer to four year college and probably graduate school, since he wants to be a psychologist, and this indeed is where his talent lies.
As usual, he is the calm, rational, responsible one. I am impulsive in comparison, and above all apt to fly off on gusts of fancy, either toward the negative or the wildly, unrealistically positive.
I am not sure what to do now. I guess I will consult my financial sources, and see what they say.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Search Begins

Heard about the loan! The process begins, as soon as I have time ,maybe today, maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What ABOUT THanksgiving?

I just read blog-sister Lou's wisdom on the holiday of Thanksgiving. She amazes me with her energy and the way she pours love into the meals she makes, even if it is just the three of them at home; when her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren come to stay, she really goes to town, and sounds like she is doing that next Thursday too. No surprise.
A few days ago, J surprised me by saying when I asked him to come to dinner on Thanksgiving that HE and his roommates would fix dinner for us at his apartment, which I have not yet visited, though he has told me to drop by any time. Knowing that he does not like to make appointments, and in my strictly scheduled life, there is no other way of doing things, I have never made it over there, and I wondered how the spontaneous kid would ever in a million years manage Thanksgiving dinner, particularly since he refused to allow me to teach him the rudiments of cooking. Not surprisingly, yesterday, he said forget it. He is going to work, for double-time at the market. R and I are on our own. It makes me feel sad because I will miss him and of course my parents. Last year's Thanksgiving dinner saved my mother's life, giving her another half a year of life, I believe, before she stopped eating for good. It is up to me to get excited and overcome the fact that I will have papers to grade, most likely, and do this thing up right, if somewhat simply, for R and me. He isn't crazy about turkey, but I love it. I could make a very small turkey breast or buy that Trader Joe's half a turkey and make a vegetarian dish that he would prefer. I'll ask him what he wants.

Didn't hear from the loan guy

I didn't hear from the loan guy yesterday, which probably means nothing. But it doesn't help that feeling go away.
Now I am in the thick of dealing with students' problems with the research paper. I cannot do much for them because each is responsible for picking out information from the research and deciding how to use it. Once they give me a draft, I can help them, but maybe 1/4 of the ones still left gave me a draft yesterday, and I cannot delay this paper. I assigned a chapter on this kind of argumentation weeks ago, but it seems that the majority never bought the book. That should not be my problem, but I cannot in conscience fail most of the students. Ah the moral dilemmas of working with people!

Monday, November 15, 2010


Today we are supposed to hear from my yoga friend, Michael, the morgage guy, about whether he will give us a loan to buy a house. I made less this past year than the year before, quite a bit. Though R may have made more, it is not enough to make up for the difference. This coming year, with the new job at CSUF, I may be back to what I made before, but of course, that is not reflected in the figures we gave Michael. If he gives us a loan that is too small to buy here, less than about $400,000, I am not sure what I'll do. I'll have to consider moving somewhere else or to a different town than this one, where houses will be less expensive. Still, I am not sure whether we will be able to get anything decent. But I won't catastrophize here. I'll just wait and see.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Last Night At Shul Again

This weekend was the annual meeting of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation convention, which met at the Hyatt Hotel in Irvine. Our synagogue is part of this federation of synagogues and groups who espouse a Reconstructionist philosophy of Judaism. The simplest way I can explain Reconstructionism is that it is a rational, modern form of the religion that "reconstructs" or adapts the tradition to suit the sensibilities of intelligent, educated modern Jews. This means that it is uncomfortable with the notion of a supernatural God or with exclusionary doctrines like "the chosen people." Instead, this movement embraces those parts of the tradition that are all about social justice and social action, education, and progressive government and international policies. In other words, it comprises that branch of Judaism that has always existed--the left-wing and socially aware. Sometimes I am a little bit uncomfortable with how much it privileges science over other things--for me, science is no more "true" for the most part than anything else, though I know this is problematic. And sometimes I feel that there are elements of supernatural in the world that this movement neglects, but there is room in the tent for me and others like me. No one is casting me out for a few ideological differences. The name of the game is tolerance.
Last night at the service, I gave out social action information at the door--actually, I was trying to round up locals to fill out a social action survey. Although I don't have time to do much for the Committee, at least I can do things like this, and I am glad to do them. Once a year or so, I try to go to a soup kitchen with the committee. I wish I could do that every week. We used to go to the Catholic Worker years ago twice a week and cook for homeless people, and we got to know them. I felt privileged to be able to do it, and found it was a boon to myself more than anything else. I wish I had time to do that again, but I find that I don't, between school, yoga, and writing. But there will be time at some period in my life, and I will begin doing that again.
Anyway, it was our monthly musical service, which is always wonderful. We have some really gifted musicians who play and perform, including our cantor, Ruti Brier, who is married to the Rabbi, and others, including a clarinet/sax player, Leo, who does kletzmer, and a violinist, Julie, who plays for the Pacific Symphony when she is not playing for us. Because of the convention, there were others, including an amazing Argentinian cantor who performed like a star singing a Spanish Jewish song, "Gracias por la Vida." Our cantor, who is from Argentina and Israel, does this song sometimes too, and she is good, but this guy was amazing.
Then Irwin Chamerinski, who is a member of our synagogue, spoke. He is the dean of UCI's law school and an expert in Constitutional law. He discussed separation of church and state, and told us that for the first time in the history of the U.S., there are 5 justices on the Supreme Court who do not believe in Jefferson's "high and impregnable wall" between church and state. For them, only the government's actually starting its own church or coercing others to join a particular church would break that law. He said that in the 40s, even the most conservative justices did not believe that, and told us about a case he tried before the Supreme Court, the last case Renquist heard before his death, and how Renquist responded to Chamerinski's case about the 6 foot high three and a half feet wide monument of the Ten Commandments that if the client didn't like it, he could just turn his head. Of course, Chameriniski lost the case. He urged us to write to our representatives about this issue, and to let them know that we were not against religion, but that we wanted to feel that this was our government too, and that for the sake of Buddhists, Moslems, and atheists and others, we didn't want to feel excluded from our own government.
I remember having the annual discussion with our son's teachers in elementary school about Christmas, and how I told them of his tears every year when he was forced to do Christmas crafts. His ignorant teacher told him he could make his wreath blue and white, but a wreath is a Christian symbol, and Jeremy and his Moslem and Buddhist and Hindu classmates sat silently and sadly, feeling as though they were being made an example of. We told Jeremy we would hang his wreath, and that we loved anything he did, but he wouldn't let us, and sadly dropped it into the trash bin, crying all the while.
No child should have to feel like this, but of course, the parents of his Christian classmates and his teachers didn't understand this. They didn't see why we had to be such killjoys.
Every Jewish child who grew up in the public school during the time of school prayer as I did has memories of this. I would sing very religious Christmas songs, thinking that maybe lightning was going to hit me. I would say the prayers, which, to be fair, were mostly from the Old Testament (though not from Jewish translations of those books), but I wondered how others who were neither Christian nor Jewish felt. And I thought that it would be better even then not to have had to say these prayers at all.
After his talk, there was more music, and my friends Shannon Fowler, head of the choir I sing in at synagogue, and Steve Hirsch sang a terrific duet that was among the best music all night. Hooray for the homies!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Revision of Harvest

Richard and others have been telling me that this poem isn't finished for some time, and I knew it, even if a few people embraced it as it was. So this morning at 3:45 I got up and added the narrative it needed to make it complete. I'm sure it isn't finished, even now, but perhaps you can suggest what needs to be done.
in memory of my father, Mish Kellman

The air has lost its savor.
Once, the fields and lots of Irvine
shone with star-bright blossoms,
the sweet air heavy with twilight
heralding the trees’ full load.
Then, I would be drawn to stand out
in the silent grove, dizzy with perfume,
and gaze up into dark green depths
where secrets swelled. I’d peek
into the petticoats of leaves and reach
a hand to palm the nascent fruit,
mindful of proprietary farmers and their dogs.

In a month, as in a nebula light years away,
galaxies are born in bursts of brightness
no one can see, the perfect planetary globes
of lemons, grapefruits, and oranges would light
our moonless evenings, smooth-skinned and bright—
the Meyer lemon, rounder than the ordinary kind;
squat mandarin; pink grapefruit
blushing in the half light of the leaves
among the twisting rows of guardian eucalyptus.

At home in Philadelphia, with only
one small square of rock-hard dirt,
you made things grow beneath a narrow
sky fretted with wires, wondering
all the while at what you
managed to bring forth.

In California where the wide skies
stretch for acres, sown with clouds,
you planted everything: the seeds
of each new fruit—pomegranate,
star fruit, hand of Buddha,
dirt beneath your nails, along
the half-moon cuticles. Every week,
you wandered narrow aisles
of nursery and farmer’s market,
holding up each perfect berry,
burying your face in golden
bells of angel’s trumpet, nurturing
each sign of life. But though I tried,
I couldn’t do the same.

On nights like these, only
knot-hard stars will ripen
where the trees once stood.
No wonder that I haunt the farmer’s
markets Friday afternoons, taking in
the glistening peppers, pendulous tomatoes
like grandees, pebbled avocados,
that even I, a stranger to the soil,
now long to plant a seed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I offended a student yesterday by using his paper anonymously as an example of an approach that would not work. He was so upset, he left class early. I told him later that he was not the only one with this particular problem of not writing an argument or using research. Though this is supposed to be a research argument that persuades an audience, I see very little of either go on. Again, it is something we have been talking about and practicing all semester, but once they are immersed in their research and take a side, they forget all about the necessity of argument or persuading a reader. It is frustrating to me, but I guess to be expected. This morning I will see that student individually, and I hope he is less indignant now about my using his paper.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Gig

Next semester, in addition to teaching at the college, working on the same course I've tested this semester, I'll be teaching it also at a satellite campus of Cal State Fullerton. I have to thank Lou and my other friends at the college for writing recommendations for me.
I'm a little nervous. This is the closest to full time I've been in a very long time, teaching three classes in the research paper. It will be a lot of work, a lot of grading, a lot of conferences. Of course, at the college, there is nowhere to conference my students to speak of. At the library people get annoyed when I discuss their papers with them. The one room available to do that is always occupied.
I don't know whether things will be different at the University. I know I could arrange to meet them at coffee houses. There is a nice coffee house near the college. Though I once did an open mic there that was a nightmare, it would be a good place to see my students, and I'm sure they wouldn't mind, especially if I ordered an occasional tea and muffin. I think the U's new campus is near the Spectrum. There are enough places to sit around there, in addition to places that are probably on the campus itself. I haven't gone there yet.
I took on the task not for its own sake but because I wanted to get a foot in the door at the University in hopes of being assigned more varied sorts of classes--lit classes, poetry workshops, etc. Though going up to Fullerton would be hard, for one who doesn't drive on freeways particularly, I'd do it for that opportunity. A workshop would likely be only 4 hours on one day, as it is usually taught. That would be relatively simple. Lit classes may be taught at the satellite too. So we'll see.
Now that I don't have excuses, it is time for me to branch out.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Research Paper

My students are engaged in the first part of their research paper--the definition argument. Though I talk and talk and assign pages and chapter and put up examples, I sometimes wonder if I have been yelling into a wind because none of the students seem to have any idea what I am asking them for, and they are afraid to jump into the breach and make their own topics or use the research to argue it though I have modeled it for them again and again. It is a new curriculum for me this semester. Perhaps I will do better next time at guiding them so that this stage will seem like a natural progression, the way I intended it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Morning Again

The first week of the time change is most difficult for animals. I had already been preparing myself somehow for the change. I wonder about this because after all, it is a figment. In the natural world, there is no time change, no standard or daylight savings time, just the world with its usual rhythms. But the cat knows that at a certain time every day, the owner should get up and shake herself awake, should go to the big bucket of cat food and take out a handful and put some in the bowl. If he cannot rely upon this, what will become of him? So I have been all too happy to sleep for an extra hour for weeks now, but the cat is puzzled and insistent. He won't allow it. His indignant whiskers poke me in the shoulder, in the neck so that in spite of myself, I heave off the covers at last, and feed him an hour early, angry with myself to have failed in the training. The sky comforts me with rain, its soft murmur lulling me back to sleep. One can get used to anything.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Some Places

We looked around at places I found listed online, but we were only able to get into two of them. One of the two was potentially nice, but a wreck, with holes punched in the walls and the cabinets a total wreck. It had beautiful granite floors though, and some nice rooms. I don't want that much of a fixer-upper though, particularly since I have no talent or patience for fixing up.
The other was actually not one I saw on the list, and it was more than we could afford, but it was like another one that was the right price, the agent said. It was beautiful, far nicer and larger than anything I thought I could afford, but it was a newer complex, and everything was so crowded together that it was almost impossible to park or drive the narrow streets. It seemed to me that things are still coming down, by what the agent said, telling us to come back in a week or two, when the things that were too much now would be just the right price for us. But I don't want to live in that complex, something more spacious, even if it is a bit older.
I have lists of places we haven't looked at yet, and I haven't been to an agent. I think it will be time to do that soon.

Today We Start the Process

Starting a new endeavor is rather frightening. Perhaps it is appropriate that today, on the first day of standard time, we begin the process of looking at houses. Liz, with her expertise in the business of buying and selling real estate, will look at a few places with me, though R has not yet filled out the papers so we can be pre-approved. There are many tempting sounding places out there, and I am afraid of being whipped into a frenzy, and buying from someone unscrupulous. We are not going to a particular person, but looking at things advertised online. The idea is to get a feel for things, not to go for a particular place yet at this point. I am going to have to restrain myself.
Although I'm pretty sure I don't have my father's bipolar disorder, per se, I do sometimes feel a proto-manic surge of unbounded energy and satisfaction. Right now, I feel those things, the sense that I am blessed in many ways that sometimes it is hard for me to see, and that things are going well. Knowing myself, I can wake up tomorrow with an altogether different sense of half-emptiness.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Last Night At Shul

I delivered the Torah interpretation I posted here the other day, the one about Jacob and Esau. The audience was rapt. Afterwards, many people in the small group came over to discuss the piece with me, and to ask me how I managed to put this interpretation together. I discussed it long into the night, though that afternoon I had felt so tired that my body seemed carved out of lead. Somehow, I got a second wind. Maybe that short nap I took in the afternoon helped?

Friday, November 5, 2010

At last, the conversation

Last night I finally sat down and made time to listen to my friend from college, Ilene, and what she had to say about the manuscript. Though it is enormous,
a heavy burden, she was happy to be asked, since she has long ago stopped writing poems, but the poems are still in her although she is unwilling to give voice to them.
She explained that they and the stories she was writing at one time were the opening for a prophetic power that frightened her, the power to foresee death, illness, and accident, not only of her immediate family, but of those she did not know at the time. After some encounters that came too close to the bone for comfort, she stopped writing, unwilling to live with this.
It was a long long conversation that will cost me a lot of money, but it was worth it. She perceived things about the poems that no one else I have spoken with does, and was able to cut through some stylistic nonsense that did not have to be there, allowing me to see through to the poem's impulse and free it. I may not take all of her advice, which will require me at times, as I thought, to reconceive of some of the poems completely, but I will think about it and perhaps act on it in the future. It was good to know that, at least for her, the majority of the poems and the essential design of the manuscript worked okay, and that I can go forward feeling that with some work, this is a viable book.
She kept looking for the writer I used to be long ago, and surprisingly to me, she found that writer there, the voice I thought had been altered beyond recognition since that time. A continent and many years later, I apparently am still there.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


I have had a very interesting semester of class, teaching a new curriculum that has gelled very well. Of course, there are some big changes I will make next semester when I teach it. I gave the students too much to do on the first assignment, and it ended up taking twice as long as I had expected. Next semester I'll scale it way back, so I can give them more time to work on their research projects.
But this semester, despite the very very good discussions and classes I have had, for most of the semester,despite the enthusiasm of the students, who are always engaged and interested, the place has emptied out because students who were passing, students with C+ or even B- averages, don't want those grades. Anything less than an A won't do. So despite the fact that they need to learn these skills and no one teaching Writing 2 at our college is guaranteed to be easier than I am, one student told me that she was probably going to drop and go take a class at Saddleback, our sister college, that is equivalent to this one and requires only one essay. Everyone gets an A, she said.
I pointed out that when she gets to a four year school, next year, perhaps, she will need to know how to do research and integrate material into her papers and cite them, and she won't have done it. She will therefore be getting Cs and worse at that school, when it will cost her many times more than it now does, and may indeed mean that she fails her upper division classes. She shrugged. I guess that means she would have to find out the hard way.

November already?

I cannot get over the idea that it is almost the end of the semester... hell, almost the end of the year. That this has been a difficult year is undeniable. Reading Lou's blog about the tremendous difficulties this year has brought her and her family (traumatic illnesses, financial crises, accidents, considerations for the future), I see that things could have been worse here.
I lost my parents back in June, and that of course haunts me all the time, nearly every day. When I sit in the car, the stillness scares me sometimes. When I come in from work, and there are seldom messages on my answering machine, it still feels wrong.
No one needs me to do this or that. While that is something of a relief, it feels sad and wrong sometimes too. There is no one now to do anything for but us, me, R, and J.
This strange weather is also a bit off-putting, and it saps my energy. I wonder if the intense heat at this late point in the year might mean that the big one, the earthquake we've been told to expect, is imminent. Last time we had a big earthquake, back in 1990, there was heat like this, but it was August. I heard somewhere that this sort of heat sometimes heralds earthquakes.
But probably it is just an anomaly, one last opportunity for people to hang out at the beach, as they were yesterday when I drove down to Laguna for yoga. I was very grateful for that yoga class, as my hip has been aching for days.
Tonight after yoga class I am supposed to call my old friend and have a long talk about the manuscript. Somehow I will manage that, even though I will not have had any supper beforehand. I'll eat some lunch today so I can manage that, though I generally don't. I'm a bit nervous. How many poems will she advise me to take out? How many will need to be given a great shaking, like old rugs? We'll see. Maybe the whole concept is wrong, and I'll have to begin again. This is what I asked for, so I have to be grateful.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Commentary on Toldat, Genesis 25:19-28:9

Commentary on Toldat

The relationship between the Torah and commentary is rich and complex, as an examination of the literature on the parashah Toldat reveals. Because of his actions in striving to divest his brother of the rights owed traditionally to the first-born, and his active deceit in the service of this goal, a reader relatively unschooled in the tradition, like me, is tempted to see Jacob as a trickster, a man who lives by his wits, and as such, one who embodies those qualities that have permitted the Jewish people to endure so many years of hardship. The fact that he will later become the namesake of the nation Israel after he wrestles an angel, in pursuit, yet again, of his blessing, makes this theory seem even more likely. Yet despite Jacob’s deceit in pretending to be his brother and in twice taking from Esau what is his elder brother’s by birth, the text hints that Jacob is “wholesome” or “innocent”—an observant and civilized man who dwells “in tents” rather than “in the fields” like his brother.
Commentary magnifies these hints, creating an entire tradition in which Jacob embodies all that is pious and pure, despite his lies and deceit, while Esau takes on the coloration of the true liar and deceiver, a shrewd conman, controlled by his violent urges, and progenitor of Amalek, enemy of the Jewish people.
In this tradition, the struggle of the twins in utero ensues when Jacob endeavors to escape to a house of prayer Rebekah is passing, while his brother wishes, even at that early stage, only to worship idols. Besides a lengthy rap sheet,this alternative tradition even gives Esau supernatural powers. One rabbi declared Esau's hunting prowess to be aided by the possession of Adam's clothing, which drew all beasts and birds to him, the better to be bagged for Isaac's supper.
In this presentation of the case, Esau sells his birthright, the place of spiritual head of the family and the duty of service in the temple on behalf of his family, because it seems to him worthless, too tedious for a man of action like himself to bother with. On the other hand, the blessing Jacob makes off with on the behest of his mother would have given Esau and his children political and economic riches. It is this part of the package that Esau truly covets, and for this reason, he has curried the favor (as well as the stew) of his father, taking advantage of Isaac’s blind favoritism to persuade him that he, Esau, is pious and observant, despite being married to two idol-worshipping women. Not one to let sentiment stand in his way, Esau later abandons these wives in order to marry a woman his parents might regard as more suitable, his uncle Ishmael’s daughter.
Stylistically, the Torah itself remains cryptic, saying less than it omits. The commentators embroider on each bit of wordplay, each hint until the world they reconstitute by interpretation swells in relation with what is visible to the naked eye. Investigating these characters, I feel like the man in China who went to draw water from the well, but instead uncovered the enormous head of an ancient stone warrior, only to learn, upon excavation, that an entire army of gigantic stone warriors, in full armor, with many mounted on horseback, lurked below.
Thus, in this looking glass world of commentary, the man who appears to embody the simple physical laborer, none too bright, in contrast to his brilliant and sophisticated twin brother, becomes something quite apart from what he appears.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Yesterday was Halloween, but I didn't celebrate it. I used to love the holiday when I was a kid and young adult, making up bizarre costumes that disappointed my mother no end. She wanted me to be a sexy black cat, but I preferred concepts like a #2 pencil, a lightbulb, a fly, or a moth. Actually, the moth was kind of sexy, but she still didn't like the idea of her daughter dressing up as an insect. And after the experience at age 11 when I did dress up as a black cat, and was mortified because I was precociously well-developed, I didn't allow her to dress me in the costumes she chose.
Even though no kids ever come to our door, I still buy candy just in case the really little ones come early in the afternoon, but they don't. I didn't decorate. I just can't get it together. I will take the candy to my students today, as always.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Left too Long

Yesterday I looked at my calendar for the first week of November and saw to my dismay that the commentary on Torah I was to give early in the month is THIS COMING Friday, and I had done nothing to prepare for it as yet.
It is a short commentary on the parashah (section of the Torah) Toldat, the portion about Jacob and Esau. That is a really interesting section, complex, especially when one begins to read the commentary of the Rabbis on this passage. What seems a story about a tricky guy, Jacob, expert deceiver, who steals his dim-witted brother's birthright and blessing (two different things--another wrinkle!), turns out to be just the opposite. The physical laborer, "man of the fields," Esau, becomes a regular snake-oil salesman, master of slick speech, a liar and worshipper of idols, while his brother, who "dwells in tents," becomes a learned man, who contends with his brother even in utero to emerge in order to enter the house of prayer and study Torah.
This apparent reversal is what I will focus on in my commentary. The Torah is stylistically so tacit and cryptic, leaving so many things unsaid, that it begs readers to project entire worlds of commentary in the interstices, and so the volume of commentary proliferates.

Something Odd About the Book

I've had strange experiences with the manuscripts I've been working on. First, with the yoga chapbook... I sent it out to some people, only to have them ignore it completely. Since I think it's some of my best work, that puzzled me. For example, I sent it to an Iyengar yoga teacher who is also a writer and English professor. He didn't say a word. Later, someone told me he was very fussy about his writing, but I thought that at least he could have made some comments. It isn't so far beyond the pale that it deserved to be ignored.
Now I have sent out my manuscript, which is hardly as smooth and finished as the chapbook, but nonetheless has promise, in my view at least. And no one I've sent it to except an old college friend from poetry workshop will say a word, not even the people at the online poetry workshop I've joined, to which I just sent the first section (4 poems).
I have a tendency to be paranoid, which is an unfortunate thing for a writer because there is plenty of opportunity sometimes to exercise those irrational feelings. I just have to send it and forget it I guess, and grow a thicker skin.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tinker Day!

I just got an email from my alma mater, Hollins College, that it's Tinker Day! One day a year, just after the first frost, usually late October, the chapel bells ring and announce that there will be no classes that day. Instead, the women at Hollins and their professors and the college's staff make the climb up Tinker mountain. At the top, a feast of fried chicken and Tinker cake await them! Traditionally, people come to breakfast in their p.j.s. What wonderful memories!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Morning Dreams

My cats are still waking me up in the wee hours to feed them, unable to make it the couple more hours until the alarm rings. I spend 5 minutes or so squatting on the dingy carpet, waiting for them to finish eating, and when I go back to bed, cannot, for a long time, get back to sleep. But when I do, I have novelistic, narrative-rich dreams that seem to go on and on, until the cats, impatient for breakfast, swat me in the face at 6:00 or so. Sometimes I drift back off till 6:15, but the flow is broken. I only in patches remember these dreams, which have multiple characters, lurid costumes, blood and gore, and whatever other cheap thrills you can imagine. Perhaps it is because I have not been reading much except student papers and an occasional yoga book and emails, lots of emails, that I am having these dreams? I don't know. But I sort of like them, and they make me feel rested, so that's good.

Another Day, Another Year

Last night a small group of us braved the wilds of the rush hour freeway to go out to dinner in Westminister at a tiny Vietnamese restaurant, truly a mom and pop joint, called Dat Thanh. The place has only about 10 tables, and we occupied three of these with our 6 people. This is the kind of place that serves only the few hard-core traditionally Vietnamese dishes that I often do not eat because I am trying to avoid pork. Despite not being Kosher (I wouldn't be eating out at all if I were), I still try not to eat pork because I feel uncomfortable with it and it isn't healthy anyway. I eat shrimp, though it is just as verboten, but somehow, pork feels more so. It is true that many times, I operate on a "don't ask don't tell" system in Asian restaurants, knowing pork is in the dishes, which I want to eat anyway, but hunks of pork? Never. So this was an unusual exception.
This restaurant specializes in spring rolls. They are not vegetable or tofu spring rolls, but made out of homemade Vietnamese pork sausage and shrimp sausage. I have to say that they were beautiful to behold, gorgeous tight cylinders of burnished gold and tan, greens, mint, crowned with a tuft of green onion, protruding from the taut skin. We ate and ate, wrapping each morsel in generously wide leaves of romaine, layered with dark red Asian basil, more mint, cilantro, and slathered with an amazing special sauce like no other Vietnamese dipping sauce I have ever had.
The young proprietor hovered over us, telling us the story of the food, and of his parents, who could be seen cooking in the tiny kitchen. He said that the family had tried hiring out, but no one they trained could make the food to their specifications, so the family does it all themselves.
When we finished with the rolls, we ordered meat dishes. I got the barbequed chicken and broken rice, dainty pieces of tender, perfectly spiced meat that seemed to be of an entirely different order than any I had ever had before, especially over that amazing rice, which was so soft, pillowy and tender, that one had to taste it to believe. I have had broken rice and bbq chicken before, but until that moment, I don't think I have ever truly tasted them, especially drizzled with a special fish sauce the color of rose wine. And the price? Cheap! Very cheap! Less than $80. for 6 people who ate like longshoremen.
So if you eat meat, and don't mind the ride and the lack of atmosphere, go on over, and tell them I sent you.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Birthday Present

Today is my actual birthday, and it turns out the ticket won $4.00, not $54. or $304. I read the directions wrong. Boo!
I also heard a good Halloween story at choir practice last night. You have no doubt heard the story about the woman in Costa Mesa who was driving around a mummified body in the car? It turns out that the choir director, Shannon, lives next door to a person who had that individual (the driver, not the mummy) as a neighbor. Actually, the neighbor had taken in a homeless woman who used to be wealthy but was a bit insane and had fallen on hard times. That person was the one who had been driving around with a corpse in her car for 3-6 months. Because she kept all the windows closed, it became mummified, and she covered it up with a coat. The police didn't arrest her because it turned out to be another homeless person had fallen asleep in the car and died, and she was too afraid to tell anyone or dispose of the body. Very sad, but macabre. Suitable for the season.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Every once in a while, I buy a lottery ticket. My dad used to ask me to do it, when he had a feeling it might win, and it most always won something-- a free ticket, three dollars, something small. But today, I was thinking of my parents because I was out in Orange near the bbq place where I got the turkey last Thanksgiving, the one that brought mom temporarily back from starvation. It was delicious, and she ate and ate and ate the smoked bird, the two kinds of stuffing, the cornbread, the gravy, and the pie. When I turned the corner to my street, I stopped at the market and bought a ticket, in honor of them, and what do you know? It won $50.!


Today I had my annual mammogram. I don't mind so much being squeezed like a grapefruit, and after the long long wait in the waiting room, it went very fast. I am good at taking instruction on how to place my body. Yoga has done that for me. And thank goodness, all was well. Tomorrow is my birthday and then the next day I have a bone density test, my first. I don't take in much calcium because I was told and am not sure it was true that people with anxiety have more than the normal levels of calcium already. The doctor says it isn't true, but she also wanted me to take aspirin, and it made my gums bleed so I stopped. Hard to tell. Since I stopped believing doctors and everything they say, life is more complicated.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

More Theatergoing

Last night, inspired by our foray to Peter Pan, Liz, Richard, and I went to see Bell, Book, and Candle at the Mysterium, affiliated loosely with Cal State Fullerton's theater department. Tickets for their shows are available cheap cheap! on Goldstar, and the theater has moved quite close to home for us, right across the street from Foothill High School, where it shares digs with a church.
Despite a gas leak that gave me, always paranoid, a bit of a start, we settled in to the church/little theater, seated comfortably on pews, and wondering at the circular holders in the book-holders beneath the seats. I guess they're for candles. Synagogues are set up quite differently, of course, so I'm not sure.
I know and love the film with Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart, so I was looking forward to this show. It didn't disappoint, though the guy playing Shep, the male lead, played originally by Jimmy Stewart, did shake his jowls and pop his eyes a bit too much, in an effort to imitate Stewart. But the woman who played Gillian was terrific, despite, or perhaps because, she was nothing like Novak, but rather a flaming redhead. The costumes were wonderful, and the cat, Nitro, in the part of Pyewacket, was amazing! I was wondering how they got a cat to have such a wonderfully wise expression, as if he really did know plenty we mere mortals didn't, and how he could be so calm. My cats would have been halfway up the aisle and climbing the curtains before the first act was up, or chasing bits of fluff around the stage. This fellow sat like a king in the actress's arms, with only a lead needed to restrain him.
Earlier in the evening, we ate a magnificent meal at Naan and Kabob, in Tustin, and so we lacked for nothing. Great evening!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Old old friends

Lately, on the cusp of my 57th year, I have been contacted by and am contacting people I knew during the happiest portion of my life, my years at Hollins College, between 1973-76. Those were only three years, but they were packed with vivid people, memories, growth, and love that never quit, enough to make a life on.
Most of these people I have had no contact with since that time, though some, like Marly, and my friend and mentor, RHW Dillard, I have kept touch with and tabs on all along, particularly since I have gone back to the area of Roanoke every few years visiting R's family.
Yesterday, having joined an online membership workshop so I can get readers for my manuscript, I was talking to a writer named Holly Petitt, and asked her if she was related to Michael Petitt, who I knew at Hollins. She said no, but she was a fan. So I looked him up and saw that he, like so many at Hollins during that time, had become fairly well known as a writer.
I wrote him a note. Of course, I had already learned a bit about him talking to Dara Wier, who used to be married to him and has two children with him. She was a friend and teacher during those times too, and contacted me recently on Facebook.
It was another interesting and, for me, moving encounter, to reconstitute the past in that way.