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.