Tuesday, January 17, 2017

President Obama in his last days in office

I couldn't resist posting these great photos of President Obama, who will be trumped this Friday, January 20, when Donald Trump will be our next president.

This is from a Times article on Obama's Secret Weapon: Reading Books.

Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped — in his life, convictions and outlook on the world — by reading and writing as Barack Obama.

Last Friday, seven days before his departure from the White House, Mr. Obama sat down in the Oval Office and talked about the indispensable role that books have played during his presidency and throughout his life — from his peripatetic and sometimes lonely boyhood, when “these worlds that were portable” provided companionship, to his youth when they helped him to figure out who he was, what he thought and what was important.

During his eight years in the White House — in a noisy era of information overload, extreme partisanship and knee-jerk reactions — books were a sustaining source of ideas and inspiration, and gave him a renewed appreciation for the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition.

“At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted,” he said, reading gave him the ability to occasionally “slow down and get perspective” and “the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes.” These two things, he added, “have been invaluable to me. Whether they’ve made me a better president I can’t say. But what I can say is that they have allowed me to sort of maintain my balance during the course of eight years, because this is a place that comes at you hard and fast and doesn’t let up.”

In his searching 1995 book “Dreams From My Father,” Mr. Obama recalls how reading was a crucial tool in sorting out what he believed, dating back to his teenage years, when he immersed himself in works by Baldwin, Ellison, Hughes, Wright, DuBois and Malcolm X in an effort “to raise myself to be a black man in America.” Later, during his last two years in college, he spent a focused period of deep self-reflection and study, methodically reading philosophers from St. Augustine to Nietzsche, Emerson to Sartre to Niebuhr, to strip down and test his own beliefs.

To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”

 Instead of reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, you can watch a TED talk on the subject.

Why am I up so late?

Image result for starbucks peppermint mocha review

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Writers Group - New story The Whim - Poem: Vacuuming the Downstairs with and w/o Malevelant Thoughts

Image result for pine run nursing home  As you know, I'm having trouble posting photos on here, so just pretend this is a picture of the dining room at Rushing Waters, the name of the nursing home, which you'll read about below.

Just woke up with the radio on. Martin Luther King was giving an amazing speech. On and on he spoke with quotes like a nation that loves excessive materialism and militarism more than human beings needs to think again. He talked about Vietnam and the inhumane use of napalm.

These were very bold things for anyone to say, let alone a black man.

Then as I was doing my back exercises on the floor, he brought up the famous passage in the Book of John about Love and he made Love the topic of his talk. How bold!

Who did this good man have to support him? Many other black thinkers.

Let's take a look at his memorial in Washington DC.

Image result for MLK memorial     Yesterday before I could start a new story for the writers group, I had to finish submitting to Hektoen International, even tho the deadline was Feb. 1.

I can't tell you how much I enjoy the writing on there. Everything is medically-oriented. View it here. It's also a medical school in Chicago.

Chicago was just named by the US Justice Department as having a terrible record by its police department of treating blacks, Latinos and other minorities.

The screen flashed to mayor Rahm Emmanuel who said he'd look into it.

While eating my usual fantastic breakfast of an egg omelet, I composed a poem, something that was on my mind.


Miss Bissell and I go over the
champagne-colored wall to wall
leaving tracks in the carpet
like reindeer on the rooftop

I try to acquaint myself with
Kevin, a new character I wanna
put in today's short story over
at B's condo

Can't be done as the malevant
thoughts flood in.
Who named ME as the repository
of old clothes? Baby clothes, tiny
Philly caps, overalls with duckies
on the front, the odd skirt or two
with rubber pants underneath?

I managed to lug two bags, heavy
as 10 wine bottles, into the
garbage can that night. A great
feeling of triumph and self-hatred
swelled over me.

Next time, oh, in about a week, I
shall lug more bags to the thrift shop
and let other moms and dads have a
go at them.


Since I went to bed around 4 am I was exhausted and needed to nap before the writing group began at 1:30 pm.

Very little time to write my own story.

The night before there was a new opera on TV, based on a novel by Ann Patchett called Belcanto. She was born in 1963.

When she was interviewed after the opera, she said she liked to put a group of people into the same location for a long period of time - this was about terrorists and hostages - and see what happens.

I thought I'd do that in my short story but I only had 45 minutes to write it.

Instead I sat here at my upstairs desk, looked at my photo-stuffed bulletin board, focused on Joe, a guy from the nursing home where I work on Mondays, and wrote a story about him getting married.

I just fixed it up and will submit it as a love story. I called it The Whim.


Beatriz had a bowl of salted nuts and other things out on the table. I could not stop eating them. She showed us a jigsaw puzzle she had just finished, given to her by her son.

Every square was a book. What was the common denonimator? Linda guessed it. Female authors. Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Jane Austen.

Image result for jigsaw puzzle of women's book

Maybe Peter bought it here.

Linda brought in three poems - two named January - and one, very moving, about the life she and her mother have spent together.


Hmmm, maybe I should ask for that for the Compass.

Rem read two of his psalms to God, which will appear in the Compass. I told him to send me one other poem.

Beatriz wrote one of her delightful bug stories. This time about the colorful lives of larvae.

Ah! The breakfast gong just went off!

Be right down, Roy!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Found a new place to publish - Picked up my paints again - Two poems: Dogsville and Listening to the Train on the Backporch at Midnight

Dined tonight at The Giant, using a gift card. Kayla was my confidante and helper. She helped me choose a nice coffee... a medium roast with a spritz of peppermint and vanilla cream.

Since they were gonna close she gave me the last doughnut, a cruller with icing and colored jimmies. Just what a person w diabetes needs.

But I saw my friend Geri from the library who was with her two granddaughters and gave it to them. Whew!

Showed her the book I'm struggling through

Image result for michel faber strange new things   The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.

"Oh, I have that on hold," she said.

I'd told Kayla about the plot and she said it sounded good. Problem with the book is like it's wrin in slow-motion.

Way too wordy.

The author said this is his last novel. He's covered all the themes he's wanted to write about.

An old poem of mine, from when I worked at Bristol-Bensalem, will be published in Ars Medica, a very fine journal of arts and healing.

The editor, one Marilyn B, emailed me to take a look at The Night of Your 302 to make sure it was okay and she wanted a brief bio.

When I emailed her back, the 'mailer demon' came up six times.

I found her on FB, so she emailed me back using another E address.

They decide what to use in your bio. I ended with, "Sometimes, later in life, bipolar disorder vanishes, though we don't know why. Ruth is one of the lucky ones. She has had no symptoms for 33 years and takes no medication for the illness. 33 yrs is the wrong number.

Should I mention my diabetes low? 39. That's pretty low. What gave it away was I was in the kitchen, gonna test my blood sugar level and I couldn't see properly.

It's like I had a hole in the center of my vision.

39 is so g'damn low I had to keep stuffing myself....blubbery yogurt - I added peanuts - I couldn't get the top of the OJ off, and then I just kept chewing glucose tabs.

I also got something published in Kaleidoscope which pays you, if you're still alive when the issue finally comes out.

I'll be awake for another 3 to 4 hours. WRTI the jazz station has played a couple of things by The Bad Plus. They have a new album called It's Hard.

Listen here on YouTube.



Welcome to the neighborhood
Bentley, all the way up
from Puerto Rico, your fur
the color of warm argyle socks

And Osbourne, a big black dog
the kind you see in children's
books, pulling the kids
in a red wagon

Stanley has two lovely
barkers I met for the
first time today
Kiki, small black
yipper and Aubrey,
the out of tune beagle

Will I remember the
name Great Pyrenees,
spelling be damned.

Huge furry white
featherbed I'm
hoping to lure
into my bedroom,
no man or blankets
needed again.



Finally, a chance to put my feet up
and relax. Sure, I had to rearrange
the screened-in back porch in the
dark, moving the winter shovels
aside, as well as the summer spades,
before I moved the white wicker love seat
from Judy Diaz before she moved
to Boulder and her little coffee
table, which is where I rested
my tired legs - I'd been
painting in the middle room -
I brought out my hot Earl
Grey Tea, and sat and sat
and sat, waiting.

I felt the coldness of my cheeks -
it was probably about 52 on the
porch - how I wished I could sleep
out there all night but would have
to drape my legs across the arms
of the sofa, and waited to learn
an eternal verity as I sat there.

Billy Collins I am not, but did
notice the bitter bareness of all
the trees in the adjoining yards.
Very tall trees listing in all
directions like tall lollipops.

A crackle outside reminded me
I was not alone. And never
would be. Would it be correct
to say, Mr Muir, that millions
of organisms - mice, deer,
skunk, voles, moles, baby
mantises germinating, shared
the neighborhood with me?

Then I heard it. The roar
of the locomotive. The
whistle was unsure of
itself. Was it, I wondered,
the real train or simply
the Lionel we had as kids.

I checked the weather and it said 62 degrees. No wonder it was so comfortable out back.


And yes, I would've slept out there.


I attended library school at the University of Texas at Austin

Image result for university of texas at austin married student housing      Mike and I lived in Married Student Housing. I sat next to a girl from Persia, Mina Gharamani or something like that, who said they slept on the roof of their homes in the hot weather.

Image result for mina ghahremani  This is not Mina but could be.

I learned that Aunt Selma and the entire family - Linda and Jack - love eating candy.

Why did that shock me so much?

I had bought some

Image result for york peppermint patty  and mailed it to them earlier today. Told them I couldn't resist the temptation and had eaten three of em myself.

When you buy them from the bins at the Giant they cost practically nothing... would you believe 59 - hey! anyone know where the 'cent' sign is? 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Howdy Linda and Aunt Selma - Poem: We Are Not Alone

Image result for claude debussy

I often watch the Student Recitals at Curtis Institute of Music. There was a string piece played by a couple of students and I guessed it was by Claude Debussy as it reminded me of Golliwog's Cakewalk which I used to play on the piano,

Wish I knew how to download it, so listen to it here played by Mr Debussy himself.

On TCM tonight, they showed the film Rollerball with Jimmy Caan. Simply awful. But I meant to tell you Scott and watched the wonderful Tomorrow, with the young Robert Duvall the other night. I had seen it about five years prior. The Mississipppi accents were a joy to listen to.

 Image result for tomorrow film 1972

 Hadn't talked to Aunt Selma in a few months. But there she was, lively as ever. I always like to know what she eats.

The entire family loves candy! They eat it all the time. I mentioned that my favorite is

 Image result for peppermint patties york

 Guess what? It's their favorite too!

For breakfast, her son/law Jack made her French toast with fruit inside it. He wasn't home when I called as he's a volunteer basketball coach and his team was playing at Baldwin Wallace in Berea, Ohio. There are so many colleges in Ohio.

I wanted to leave Ohio to go to college so I went to Goddard in Plainfield VT.

Image result for goddard college

Selma is 98, born in 1918. I love hearing her midwestern accent with the long vowels. She had to get off the phone b/c Linda's daughter Stacey was calling.

The snow is encrusted here and is not going away. I've gotta decide if I wanna work at Symphony Manor tomro. They haven't paid me in two months. What I'll do is I'll talk to the person who sends out the checks. Previously I had wrin a letter to the CEO Oliver someone.

I did make it over to nap with Scott. Somehow the subject of groundhogs came up. We of course have a
ground hog dining at our compost heap, but not now. They hibernate.

Image result for groundhog
As far as cuteness goes, the babies are cute, but not the parents. My opinion.

Wait a minute! Just heard the voice of God.



Sipping on my peppermint tea
my mind reels with a
new revelation.

We know that the Lenni-Lenape
lived on these grounds hundreds
of years ago

When we've all gone to Mars
archeologists will one day
find their graves, many
dead of small pox, and
their kitchen middens
with the hardened remains
of their pipe-smoking pow-wows.
How they loved to eat, like
we do.

Pemmican, their junk food.

You've heard of Punxatawny
Phil. Ground hog towns
are laid out six feet
below us. When I go outside
to the compost heap, they
hear my footfalls in their
sleep, dreaming of
the leafy spring and
surcease of freezing
weather and how delicious
my brown egg shells,
lemon rinds and gizzards
will be.

Death of Scott's Sister - Chat with the Marce - My To-Do List - Poem: The Thrill of Snow


Many people die at 60.
But Cheryl? Cheryl Ann?
He couldn't sleep that
night as the snowflakes
powdered the ground.

She would never see his house
or eat homemade pizza in
his newly designed kitchen
with low-slung lights
where he ate his early
morning breakfasts

The snow glowed on the
walls of his bedroom
as his mind began
to remember

What fun they'd had
sledding down the hills
and finding salamanders
in summer in the crick.

Now she had grandchildren
Billy and Nancy who hung
their heads in the Catholic
church as Christ cried softly
on the cross

If only things had been
different. She absented her-
self from the family. Think
of all the jokes they would
have told each other at
The Outback - "let me order
for you," he'd say and point
to the scallops and shrimp scampi.

He put on his best clothes for her.
For Cheryl. Cheryl Ann. A suit
and blue swirly tie that made his
green eyes look blue.

Would she have remembered his eyes? His sister
Cheryl. Cheryl Ann.

Excluded. How it hurt to be forgotten,
left out. Stung like a wasp on his
little finger.

Oh, get over it, he thought, as he
drove home in the three-inch snow. As
it melted on his windshield he turned
on his wipers, fast, then faster,
drowning out her death and wiping
away his tears.


I emailed my poem to my sister Lynn, who I depend upon to read my stories, and she said, Great poem.... is it fiction?

No, I said. Few people knew Scott had two sisters who are/were estranged from the family. Read Cheryl's death notice here.

Scott stopped by to tell me he was leaving at 11 am.


I told Scott to give me half an hour and I would write a poem about his sister. I got the first line while watching TV, a screwball comedy called The Awful Truth that Patrick (comb your hair forward) said was largely ad-libbed.

Scott emailed back this morning that the poem made him cry.

Marcy and I had a great conversation last night. Her mom had also had vertigo. Mine went away thru exercises I did from Willow Grove Physical Therapy. Anne Haneman was my PT. She would use endearments like "lovely lady." You've gotta have the right etiquette as well as the right technqiues.She worked very hard to get my 'crystals' in the right places.

Image result for ear crystals   Marcy and I talked about conversations. She and her family went to a Vietnamese rest. where they chatted away.

I said I sure wish I could do dat. I'd like to talk to Uncle Marvin, Aunt Selma, Donny Garber, Eddie Garber, most of whom are dead.

Hey! I'm gonna call Selma now after I finish de blog. I did call but Jack was leaving for a basketball game - he's a coach - with Baldwin Wallace - ah memories! - and didn't have time to hook me up with his mom/law.

Will call back when Linda gets home. "She'd love to talk to you, Ruthie," said Jack.

I'm gonna be on a Caribbean Cruise in February so I've gotta get a good bit of The Compass done, plus submit my work to a no. of mags, including Hektoen, who like my work.

Am drinking the delicious hot coffee now - it must be hot - and my egg was esp good, a custardy affair, praps I can concoct an egg onion custard tart. I do have the proper cups that Mom gave me ages ago.

Here's my Facebook poem of the day


Jade's new baby
was born in the
season of the snow

They drove home
from the birthing
center at 2 am

Slippery, for sure,
with snow slicked
on back roads

There's an excitement
in the air as if the
Eagles had won the
Superbowl or the
messiahs were
on their way

Kalie the barking dog
across the street
jumps on her porch
leashed, tilts her
white head
toward the sky
and howls, in
of her days in
the wild.

Yesterday, Saturday, I had to cancel a New Directions program on Changing Negative to Positive Thoughts.

I'd invited a friend of mine, who I often see at The Town Center - The Willow Grove Giant - to attend and to show his greeting cards.

He loved the idea and said Why should people buy Hallmark when mine are better and personalized.

I told him I make my own greeting cards and he got real excited. It was nice to be validated by another artist.

How dyou make em, he wanted to know.

I'll tear off the cover of a box of Triscuits, par example, paint both sides, and then staple on a beautiful scene.

Marcy loved one I sent her which had scenes of Pennypack Trust.


This guy a few houses down has two kids.... Grace and Olivia. He got a new dog that he named Osborne.

He was trying to train Ozzie to pull the sled with one of his daughters in it. Didn't work, yet.

Wonder how Bill Hess is doing in Wasilla?

Image result for bill hess wasilla alaska