Friday, February 27, 2009

She loves A. Lincoln

Maira Kalman looks kind of like a librarian and writes wonderful illustrated stories about quintessentially American themes. Her latest tiny book appears in today's Times. It is about her great love for Abraham Lincoln who signed his name A. Lincoln. In her piece, you will find her drawings of the pistol that killed him, the red rocking chair he sat on in Ford Theater, and a lone unmarked grave at Gettysburg.

Did you know Lincoln loved the music of Mozart, esp. The Magic Flute, and also the work of Shakespeare, esp. Macbeth? He also loved eating apples, all kinds of apples.

You will be surprised to hear he was only 56 when he was shot dead in the head.

I didn't know these tiny tidbits. But now I do, thanks to Maira Kalman.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ruth Deming goes to jail

I drove to the township building to pay what's called the business privilege tax. Don't get me started on whose privilege it is to be headquartered in Upper Moreland, PA. Personally, I think it's their privilege and they should pay me. There are over 2,200 businesses here, said the nice lady, half of them rental properties (whatever that means).

A short walk inside the township building is the police station.

I just love cops! They have personally helped me in many ways.

Now, the buzz in my small circle of friends is that Ruth Deming is writing a spectacular piece about her first manic-psychotic episode. Marcy read it and told Helene. Helene told me. So, we've got three folks excited about it and Scott makes four. And now we've got YOU, Dear Reader.

I'm writing a 20-page handout to be given out at my Bipolar Talk on March 7. It can only be 20 pages so it can fit into an attractive little booklet. I AM PSYCHED!

So far, I've got 10 good pages written. It's divided into 2 parts - My Life - and Keys to Recovery. The Life part is enormous fun to write. This is the story of a nice Jewish girl of 38 whose mind goes haywire one night and she becomes a raving maniac.

C'est moi!

Twenty-two years later I'm writing the story. I take great pains to be accurate and write strong compelling prose. I labor over it. I work on it day and nite. I bring it up to bed with me and make tiny changes with my black pen. I've got to get it right. In the back of my mind is an image that somebody else might do it better than me. I'VE got to be that somebody else. I'VE got to do it better.

In my piece I mention that I'm taken to a mental hospital by the Upper Moreland cops. First we stop by the police station - the very same one I visited today - so we could fill out..... paperwork so they can lock me up in Norristown. My sister Donna, who accompanied me, said they wanted to put me in a jail cell for safekeeping - I was totally out of control, talking nonstop nonsense - but she talked them out of it. I was cussin something fierce.

So today after I met with the Privilege Tax-me without representation People, I swaggered into the police station.

Two dispatchers were behind the bullet-proof glass. First I asked, "What color were the police cars in 1984?" That's the year I had my episode. They were white w/a gold stripe across them, unlike today when they're a frightening black and white. However, as Officer Scott said, They are immediately recognizable.

Next I asked Officer Scott if I might view a jail cell. He checked first and then said he'd show me the female cell. He held the door open and we walked into the back room and then he unlocked a door with no window and inside was a tiny jail cell. The door stood open. A video camera on the ceiling kept watch.

My god, I said walking inside, it's so small! There was a stainless steel toilet and a sink in one corner and a large platform with no mattress that served as a bed. White shiny cinder blocks formed the walls.

I told him I was almost jailed in '84 and told him why. He was a very nice man wearing a sports shirt and a holster with a big black revolver inside.

I've said before that your average cop has an enormous knowledge of human nature. It's up to them how they want to use it. Officer Scott could see how grateful I was he let me into his prison so he was gracious enough to let me sit on the empty bed. "My god it's so boring in here," I said. This is so the 'criminal' has time to contemplate their deeds. No tv, no reading material, no laptop. The room was so tiny you could barely even pace the floor.

The stainless steel sink and toilet operated with buttons, similar to on airlines. A roll of forlorn-looking toilet paper sat on the bed.

I stood up and felt the bars on the jail cell. I wrapped both my hands around the bars and felt the tough cold metal. I shook them. They did not budge. All the while young Officer Scott was looking on, a very kind man.

When he saw me out he wished me good luck in my presentation on March 7. Perhaps I'll give him a copy of my 20-page booklet, if I ever stop blogging long enough to finish the piece.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stubborn women

When Talya and I entered Ben & Irv's, the place was mobbed. All you could hear was the happy sound of people talking and the clank of dishes. She ordered pastrami and I got the tongue. We hadn't stopped talking since we met up earlier this blustery wind-filled February day.

We'd visited the library where we'll give our talk Yes I Can: Living Successfully with Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. We stopped in the meeting room and decided how we wanted the chairs to be arranged. She had definite ideas. I listened calmly. Asked some questions and said, That makes sense. We'll arrange the chairs that way.

There was only one table available at Ben & Irv's. We didn't like it so we waited ten seconds until another one became available. We are two women, two stubborn women, who refuse to settle for the ordinary. She wore a red-knit sweater that kept her neck warm and tiny diamond stud earrings. I told her if she didn't live so far away and have so many children and one husband I'd call her up more often cause I like talking to her.

Just yesterday, I told her, I was driving and was amazed at all the thoughts my mind produced when let loose outside the house. Oh, there's the usual neighborhood thoughts, so-and-so's garbage can is rolling in the street, this one's got the Roto-router in his driveway, whatever happened to the color of the grass, and then, suddenly, the thought that No one is out, everything is still, what if the bomb went off and I'm the only one alive.

I wonder what it would be like, I thought, if I were God himself driving around and going to town for a cup of hot chocolate. What ever would God be thinking. I knew his thoughts would be quite different from mine since I carry around half a century worth of baggage inside which interferes with living in the moment. All thoughts are tempered by the layers and layers of experiences I've had over the years.

God, I imagined, would be driving invisible, a sylph through which all material objects passed through unchanged. But God never changed. He was always the same. The Eternal Present Tense Dude.

That's the closest I could figure him out.

He is, by the way, unbothered by the current state of the world, having given up on us, oh, sometime after the first fist-fight between two chimpanzees. By then it was too late. Evolution, he discovered, was capable of making mistakes in the twisting of the DNA strands, the lining up of the chromosomes. His perfect beings, relatives of the chimps, once bore perfect DNA strands.

But somewhere down the line the signal was given that allowed in errors and God could only cringe when he saw his own quirks reflected in his creations. And how he suffered for it, sleepless nights on the mountaintops, sighs of sadness at the rivers' edge.

He was not a happy camper. But then again, he simply waited around a while for someone like Mozart or Beethoven to come and cheer him up with their music. He immensely enjoyed the 17th century concerts in Leipzig and stood in the balcony for the premiere of Handel's Messiah.

Phone message to my boyfriend

At the Circuit City blow-out sale I bought one of those big new TV sets. It's not that big, about the size of a large suitcase but real flat. I've forgotten the acronym that explains what kind of TV it is, possibly LCD. I'm too old to remember things like this. I'll have to ask my 86-yr-old mum.

I'm doing some heavy-duty writing this evening so the TV is off. Occasionally while writing I do peek at the Times and they tell you what's happening at the 81st Oscar ceremonies.

Finally, I COULDN'T STAND IT ANY LONGER and turned on the TV. Watched the last suspenseful moments. Scott works the graveyard-shift at SEPTA so he won't be home till 8:45 next morning. It's a mean place to work. No phone calls allowed, so I left him the following message on his answering machine:

(roaring of the crowd can be heard in background)

Scott, Sean Penn just accepted the award for best actor. (He looked adorable in his reading glasses with that tiny piece of paper he pulled from his inside jacket pocket.)

There were five people nomionated for Best Actor and RICHARD JENKINS from THE VISITOR was one of them.

See you tomorrow.

Scott and I had never heard of Richard Jenkins OR The Visitor until we watched it tonite. On Walt's recommendation, I went online and ordered it inter-library loan.

Okay, back to work on a handout I'm writing for my Bipolar Talk on Saturday, March 7. It begins something like this (a little piano music please):

I'm not so young anymore. How has it happened that three years ago I passed the 60-year mark? No matter. Nothing can be done about it. I fulfilled my biological destiny and raised two fine children. Unlike me, neither suffers from manic depression. Though, truth be told, neither do I anymore. My own manic depression came, tried to wring the life out of me, and then like a fast train passing through town disappeared for good.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chicken Livers - poem, recipe, tales of

It always amazes me that people maintain more than one blog. One of these ambidextrous writers is Stephany. Hi Steph! The facility to write more than one blog - and the necessity! - is due to a fabulous cognitive property we have called compartmentalization, dividing life into chewable easily manageable chunks.

On this blog, every time I write something about New Directions, the support group I founded 22 years ago - or is it New Beginnings - or New Dimensions - I can't remember - anyway whenever I write something on this here blog about it, I end up deleting it cuz it just doesn't fit. This is my "everything else" life. Did you know I have a life apart from my work?

Actually everything I do I consider work. Everything important equals work, whether it's preparing a fantastic dinner for Scott and me, concentrating on the latest film we watched together - the phenomenal The Visitor - studying the NY Times photos of tonite's Oscar candidates. I just sink my teeth real hard into everything and breathe.

Bob, dyou think I'm nuts?

Yeah, but we love you anyway, Ruthie.

I'm nervously biding my time. An hour before the noon deadline today, I posted the next chapter of my novel on Am waiting for novelist Erika Mailman to critique it. Scuse me while I take a peek & see if she's gotten to it yet.

Stop it, Ruthie! Exert some self-control!

Must I?

Yes, tell them about your chicken liver story.

Oh, thanks for reminding me.

The humongous new Giant Supermarket, the crown jewel of my town, Willow Grove, opened up a small softly-lit wine shop near the check-out aisles. I bought a ten-dollar bottle of good cheap wine. In fact, I'm gonna go right upstairs right now to have a sip. Nothing can stop me.

I bought it for two reasons. First, to pretend to have a glass of wine every nite like my 90-year-old friend Walter does. Everyone should have as good a sex life as he does. Two, to make my chicken liver recipe from my early days.

Just your luck, Dear Reader, that I actually found an old poem I wrote about the sad state of affairs when I was diagnosed with manic depression, put on lithium, and banned from drinking. Actually, most docs say it's fine to drink in extreeeeme moderation, but, being an extremist, I decided to stop altogether.

This poem is about my formerly abstemious lifestyle while also alluding to the magnificent chicken liver dish I used to make. Thing is, no one would eat it! My kids, Sarah and Dan, couldn't stand liver, and I never had no husband, not even now - oh! I forgot! there was a husband one time but he wouldn't eat no liver, that's cause he was a Texan and they only eat beef - anyway, I had to eat the whole dang thing myself.

You cook the livers until they're still slightly pink in the middle. Then when you bite into them they're as soft as eating a handful of roses. After I made this dish for the first time in, I would say 15 long years, I sat at the kitchen table, took a couple bites and was a-moanin and a-groanin with joy like I was having great sex.

Scott liked it too but his enthusiasm scale doesn't go as high as mine.


It's easy to make. Simmer in butter n olive oil in a large skillet: onions, mushrooms, red pepper, and whole garlic.

While still crunchy, add a pound of chicken livers and stir well.

Cover. Keep your eye on it. Cook until livers are slightly pink inside. Serve over brown rice or nodules (that's what my kids n I used to call em).


They are frying in the skillet
even though in this ever-diminishing household
I shall be dining alone tonight.
Never let it stop you, said my grandmother.

As the chicken livers darken toward completion
I catch a whiff of wine.
How can it be? There is none. A racial memory, perhaps.
Perfection would be to pour it on - an inexpensive Paul Masson
would be lovely - straight from the bottle into the pan
sizzling and smoking and creating a great sensation.

Is it possible that ten long years have passed
since my drinking days came to an end?
Ten years in which I have not set foot in a
modern serve-yourself package store, save to salvage

Never since that day
to buy
nor sniff
nor sip
nor swirl
nor heft
in the crook of my arm
a bottle?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Homemade yogurt

I make 3 cups of yogurt at a time. Here's how:

Bring 3 cups milk to a boil. I use whole milk b/c I believe our bodies need a certain amount of fat.

After it boils, let it cool for 25 minutes or until you can safely stick in your finger without getting burnt.

In a large glass bowl, put one tablespoon of your favorite yogurt.

Pour the hot milk over the yogurt.

Do not stir.

Cover the bowl. I use a small plate as a lid. I avoid using plastic as I'm one of those people who believe, erroneously or not, plastic is bad for you.

Put your fermenting yogurt in a warm place such as oven with a pilot light.

Check back in 6 or 8 hours. When all of its liquid has turned into yogurt, it's ready to refrigerate.

When cool, eat with fresh fruit.

Teach your kids how to make it. It takes less than 45 minutes, saves you money, raises your self-esteem and makes you stand out in a crowd.

What's next? I'm getting up my nerve to make lebne.

My fascination with true crimes

Was working hard on my novel when out of the corner of my eye I saw drops coming out of the sky. I knew immediately it was not oobleck (a prize if you know what this is: Nicole, my future daughter/law probly does).

Our peripheral vision is so smart. I could tell it was snow flurries, a lovely sight. Did I use it as an excuse to remove myself from novel-writing? No I did not. Instead, I found another excuse. Hunger.

Still I did not budge. I kept writing. And then - the last straw! - from my peripheral vision, I saw Mailman Bob tromping by. The mail had arrived! Perhaps there would be something other than a bill. Perhaps someone had lovingly thought about Your Little Ruthie and graced me with a personal message.

Walter, you darling, you! As is his wont, he enclosed an article from his favorite columnist Liz Spikol plus a book review of The Well-Dressed Ape (that's us!) and asked me to call him tonite to discuss.

One thing you've gotta know about me. If I like you, I will obey.

Now, the other day Scott said something to me. "I didn't know you liked crime stories," he said.

"Scott!" I shouted, "I love true crime novels. I zipped thru Helter Skelter about Charles Manson." Ted Bundy is one of my favorite serial killers (so glad he's dead tho - imagine getting into the VW with him and finding there was no door handle to get out). And of course, Hitler! I can't get enough of him.

After Scott left for work I decided to do some homework about Manson. I could barely remember the details. Today he is 74 years old. His home is Corcoran State Prison in southern California, described as "the most troubled of the 32 California prisons." The guards shoot and kill many inmates, often the wrong ones.

The assassin of RFK is locked up in Corcoran. He and Manson both - and some other human monsters - are in what's called Protective Housing Units so other inmates won't attack them. What a world.

I am imagining right now that I step out the door and all my neighbors begin yelling and brandishing clubs when they see me.

Whew! that was close, I say, slamming my door.

From Wikipedia: The Protective Housing Unit has been described as "strikingly calm" because inmates "don't want to be moved somewhere less guarded." Only one violent incident occurred in the Protective Housing Unit, in 1999 "when a guard left a door open and three inmates from the secure housing unit next door attacked Charles Manson and Juan Corona.

I spent part of the evening when I should've been working on my novel watching a fascinating video by Vincent Bugliosi, author of Helter Skelter, an account of the Manson murders. Here's the link if you're interested. Bugliosi went out to the crime scenes himself, he said, not trusting the reports from the cops. He wanted to make sure he had an airtight case against Manson and his family.

A killer like Manson - who has his followers do the dirty work for him - is a rare commodity, says Bugliosi, because you need two qualities to create a killer on that scale: an immense hatred for other people and the ability to lead and persuade others to follow your orders. Manson was very clever in breaking down a person's ego so they would blindly follow him. Note the particularly chilling footage when Manson commands his followers to cross the street on their hands and knees like babies.

This total submission of their egos, which he learned how to do, is similar to what Hitler achieved with an entire nation. Neither man was crazy. Their diagnosis? Pure unadulterated evil.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

One more hour! / Requiem for A Lost Son

It's been nearly a year since I attended my River Poets Group in Lambertville, NJ. I'm gonna present two poems today - In Memorium Bob Stuller and Requiem for a Lost Son. As I said to Gianna this morning on Facebook, when I'm overwhelmed with emotions, I write a poem.

Unlike the novel I'm working on, I need immediate feedback for my poetry, so I go down my list calling people to read it to. Of course I want them to like it, but more importantly, I want them to understand it at some gutteral level.

Thanks esp. to fellow poet Carolyn who is my most faithful reader. She heard the poem in its three stages of creation. The third time she was in the kitchen with her year-old grandson who is visiting from Oregon. Little Joseph wanted his parents to buy him a play kitchen set. They declined. So Carolyn borrowed one from a friend.

Did you watch poet Nikki Giovanni last nite on Bill Moyers? She's a charming woman, 65, and a dynamic poet who was instrumental in the I'm Black & I'm Proud Movement in the 60s, which I basically slept through.

The reading assignments for my novel-writing class are incredibly time-consuming PLUS you've gotta remember all the characters from the different chapters people post online. I just got a great idea. I'll critique the chapters while I'm on doing the ultra-boring exercise bike in my family room.

I always bring healthy snacks to our poetry group so I won't be tempted to eat Milano cookies and Mallomars. Today I'm bringing red grapes from Chile. Even tho I was the sixth grade spelling champ from Mercer Elementary School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, I used to misspell these words this way: the country Chili - stationery bike. What words dyou frequently, misspell, Dear Reader. On my word documents I have the spellchek turned off. The wiggly lines drive me crazy.


here in this once warm bed
you lay
child of our unlikely marriage
blond like she was
when first we met

every day was the
happiest day of your life.
when I lulled,
you said, chin up Dad
and ran to your bedroom to play
or brought me white roses
from the backyard fence

more than most
you knew your way
threaded your tan muscled limbs
through our barbequed suburban life
-save me the rare one, Dad

we thought:
this boy
like a young
sparrow grows

at nineteen you sprouted
manliness as gracefully
as your mother’s kiss
still held her hand sometimes
-for Mom’s sake, not yours

you were, after all,

now that you’re gone and
your bed is cold
a ghost - not exactly you - roams the house,
scurries wind-like
on the yellow grass of the February yard,
he sits in your chair
eats your food
lies in your bed
and dreams your victory dreams.
with pleasure
we let him in.

have you gone to the angels, Blake?
where else could a tender blossom find a home?
I see you sometimes
when I stand by the window
flashing on bird’s wings
beyond the pines
beyond the cold gray
February skies
still leaving home.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

St. Valentine's Day / Ah, Mania!

My friend Lauren is searching for her Valentine. An exceptionally bright and talented woman, married and divorced once, she is energetically searching for the man of her life. If letters of recommendation were in order, I would gladly write her one.

To avert any Valentine blues that might descend this Saturday when the V-holiday arrives, Lauren & friends will get together to host their own party. Great idea! I highly recommend YOU do the same if the holiday gets you down.

Twenty-five years ago I had my very own, very Ruthian solution for Valentine's Day. My family and my two little children weren't too happy about it, but the situation was clearly out of my control.

Boyfriendless at the time, having gotten unceremoniously dumped by sculptor Christopher Ray several months earlier and now, at the time, doing some of the best writing I'd ever done in my 38 years, forces deep within me conspired to, well, blow my mind.

I landed up in the hospital for my first and most horrible manic-psychotic episode smack dab on Valentine's Day. Luckily I was wearing my red reversible jacket for the occasion.

A poem I wrote several years ago pretty much captures my mania. However, no matter what you read in the poem, know that the experience was so horrible, that I was fond of saying at the time, You could give me all the money in the world, all the great love in the world, but I would never repeat the experience. And that's why, Dear Reader, I faithfully took my meds sans tampering ever until it was time to stop.


You are faithful, I’ll give you that,
coming ‘round just in time for Valentine’s Day.

You snuggle close and ask me to be yours.
I smile knowingly, and say,
Show me your virtues… if you have any.

You, in the guise of a gypsy,
with pots and pans strung across your back,
take down a few tarnished wares and hold them out to me.

I snort. Haven’t we been through all this before?

Then, as I touch your rouged cheek, I ask,
Why won’t you give me up? What am I to you?

Your gypsy eyes, ringed with soot, brush my face.

Okay, I say, it was good. I admit it.
I saw the stars with you.
We ran with the moon at our backs,
leaped across the sleeping earth.
You showed me the future in a
dead dog’s eye, then led me away
lest I drown in my own dream.
You spun sweet songs from the morning breeze
and trickled them through my hair.
You peeled back the world so I could dip inside.
Took the fire from the sun
and winked it in my heart.

Okay, I say. You’re a friggin’ marvel,
a regular storehouse of miracles.
But can’t we say goodbye?

It’s February and you’ve come back.
You always do.
I hear you breathing at my front door,
soft as a kitten.
I’d know that sound anywhere.
Let me in, let me in, you whimper.
Can’t you be more original?

I followed you
never dreaming of deceit,
dazed by your taste for light and color
awed by your contempt of boundaries
so like my own
which you swept away
with a lion’s paw
while I cheered you on from the sidelines,

until I found myself
to a hospital bed.

And forgot I had a name.

Amid the tumult,
amid the sea of screams,
the broken minds a-bob the
slicing waves like so many
wind-up clocks jangling out of time,
who should come ‘round but you.

There, amid the black,
the granite slab of eternity sawing through my chest,
Your shadow on the wall.

You kissed my eyes
and bid me see.

Ah, Mania,
My debt to you is incalculable,
simply beyond measure.
But no pots and pans today,
Dear Gypsy,
Put them away.

Today I shall travel the world alone.
Fishing for words,
as I do.


The man in the parking lot

I made a mad dash to the supermarket yesterday right before rush hour. I don't mean I was driving madly, my car would never put up with that, but you've gotta leave home by 2:30 if you want to avoid the madness. And I've had enough madness in my life.

I critique while I drive. My alternate life would've been a traffic engineer. Funny cuz my ex-husband is a city planner. So I'm pulling into the Willow Grove Giant Supermarket. It used to be a Home Depot. They've kept some of the eye-popping orange color but - whoa! - the curvaceous road leading downward into the valley where the store is located is fierce! And dangerous. Since the average speed in this neighborhood is 50 mph your average driver can easily lose control of his or her vehicle and end up anywhere - in the wrong lane, against the steel fencepost, thru the windshield.

Very poor traffic engineering, I say to myself as I thread downward toward the parking lot. Plus the concrete median strip in the middle is unmarked - a 63-year-old dame with failing eyesight could easily mistake it for the road. Hiccup!

I always park in the same area. I back in for a quick getaway. Backing in is good for the whole body - particularly your aching neck which sits at the computer more hours than it should. Remind me to tell you later about pedaling on my stationary bike.

I keep a canvas bag in the back of my car in which to carry my groceries. I abhor plastic bags, which are outlawed in Canada, I believe. Ever seen the suckers sitting high-up in trees like they own them?

So I fetch my shopping bag like I'm a European, sling my backpack over my shoulder and head into the store. A good-looking man is ambling out of the store, pushing the cart with his elbows in a relaxed fashion. What a honey, I think. HE would be fun to snuggle up to in the wee hours of the night when noises from my laundry room beckon.

When is it polite to look at cuties and when should we avert our eyes?

Can it be? Can it be he? My long-lost love?

I'm wearing my long skirt over my thermal underwear and have on my sandals. My hair as usual is unbrushed. But look! You can't hide who you are. No matter how hard you try. It's like if you're a cigarette smoker. You're gonna reek from top to toe, and the person you're talking to will gag inside.

Plus I've got these hideous sunglasses on cuz I've lost my two favorite pair. But I need to protect my contact-wearing pupils from the bright light.

We get closer to each other. He's totally bald with a sexy mustache and wearing a navy jacket that says Ford Motor Company.

I feel like flinging my arms around him and hugging him but I've gotta get moving.

We exchange pleasantries. "What dyou want for dinner tonite," I ask.

"I'm easy, you know that," he says.

"All right, I'll pick up something delicious. See you later, Scott," I say squeezing his shoulder.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The bipolar blog

This is NOT one of the literally hundreds of 'bipolar blogs' around the Western world. Part of the healing that these bloggers rightfully undertake is to blog. I can't think of anything more healing than writing.... or talking or sharing your feelings. And leaving the blogosphere to get some nice fresh air and participate in the real world out there, right Roberto?

I do enjoy talking to my readers.

The question I ask tho about the bipolar bloggers is: Do they remain ill by constantly dwelling on their illness?

I feel I slowly lifted myself out of my ill world by hanging out with 'normal people.' The surprise is, of course, that they have the same sort of problems that we do. I'm thinking here of my poetry group in Lambertville, NJ, that I attended for many years. They were my first en masse exposure to so-called normal people.

A friend of mine just lost his 15-year-old son on Saturday, cause of death unknown. I've named the son "Sean" and have begun working on a poem about him. Gustav Mahler wrote a series of songs about fallen children. Kindertotenlieder. Inexpressibly sorrowful.

Hey what's for breakfast?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Shhh! Obama's first press conference

He looks good. Red tie. White shirt. Wedding ring. Wristwatch. Perfect teeth. And - did you know? - you've read it here for the first time - he wears a bracelet on his right hand. Need we say, How cool!

Tho I'm not learning anything new in his press conference with those perfect teeth of his, I hear him say like a wise Father-next-door, "Bad teachers should be fired. We should experiment with charter schools." He is aghast at our country's archaic and inefficient school system.

Ada in our group teaches developmentally disabled pre-schoolers to speak clearly. Carolyn teaches inner-city Philadelphia school-kids the beauties of nature at Peace Valley Nature Center in Chalfont. My future daughter-in-law teaches fourth-graders in the slums of Kensington how to think, reason, and love themselves. Tiffany in our group tutors children in math and reading. Their parents are incarcerated.

There's so much to do here in America. "Together we can clean up America and make her whole again."

I eat licorice for dessert. I am invited again to Helene's to partake of a fabulous meal: borscht, far from the Belt, featuring beef and cabbage and beets. I put sour cream in mine. When we are finished, I sit with her husband Aaron at the dining room table. The bright full moon shines outside over the leafless woods beside her house. The phone rings and who should it be but Our Marcy! From my seat in the dining room and Helene's in the kitchen, the three of us talk as I call in hello's in this participatory democratic phone call.

While Helene asks Marcy about her family - Philadelphia-bred, but transplanted one by one to the flatlands of suburban Los Angeles - I sit back in my chair sipping on my hot water and feeling unutterably content. Perhaps I am a short story character in someone's book. All I ask is a nice piece of lemon cake to go with my hot water. I'll clean up the crumbs and help with the dishes.

Thanks to Peter for listing this blogspot on his own. Peter, you're a terrific writer. It's easy to enter your mental abode thru your words. And what a lot of fans you have! Hope you're getting out each day which we spoke about. I'm stuffed into my house all day long, vacuum sealed, and it takes a great thwunk to get me out. Or promise of a great meal.

And Pete - I love when you ruminate out loud. I haven't the nerve to post my similar ruminations. I write em out and then delete before publishing. All my internal musings are enclosed within about twenty different diaries scattered throughout various rooms in my house. Once I'd write the entries, I never read them back. I only wrote when I was depressed or in love. Those days are happily gone. One is almost as bad as tother.

Monday arrives on time

Called Scott who arrives home from work at 8:45 a.m. He came over in his bedroom slippers to hear the story of the mysterious tapping noises in my laundry room. We both went in and looked around. "The best I can guess," said Scott, "is that a mouse got into your dryer vent and was trying to get out."

All noise had stopped.

During the day I read snippets of the online NY Times. Here's an interesting story of the pilot's thoughts as he steered his passenger plane into the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers. Notice the way his mind worked during this crisis. Also note how an unthinking passenger caused an onboard disaster.

Overheard at our board meeting yesterday

Three of our board members have grown children w/bipolar illness. They happily commiserated with one another. None of their children are doing well. One man said with a laff that his son has sampled all of the mental hospitals in the Philadelphia area. The boy lacks a goal. He lacks an area of expertise. Find one interest - baseball, blogging, bicycling, basket-weaving - and make it your own. Gotta love something in order to survive.

So, we've got a newcomer there who hasn't the foggiest about bipolar disorder. She's the stand-in for our accountant who was sunning his handsome self in Florida. "He gives, he's Joe" - that's part of a poem I wrote about our accountant Joe Quinones. He sends his associate Yelena of the Ukraine. She's beautiful, the mother of two young kids, and knows nothing, absolutely nothing of our world.

And now she's hearing "bad stories" about people in Our Crowd.

I defend the Underdog. It's part of my character. I begin to speak. I have just eaten some spicy lemongrass soup which has rendered my voice gravelly and scratchy. I must project my voice all across the long table so I can hopefully impress the attorney at law we've invited to be on our board. And he accepts yet! So I say, "When I had the illness, I could not allow myself to be wild and crazy because I was the solo parent of two children I was raising. I sure would have liked to have been wild n crazy but I had to behave myself on their account." The little boy who played with trucks and Legos, the little girl who read "chapter books" as she called them.

I call myself a 'garden variety' bipolar. No bells or whistles. You know what you do with them bells n whistles? You put em in your writing, you keep em in your thoughts, you never let yourself become banal, you let your thoughts whooop out of control and enjoy the ride. And, yes, you gaze at the sky every single morning like it's your last day on earth and you try to take others along with you on the ride.

Because one day you will not awake to cut open the ruby red grapefruit or spoon out your creamy homemade yogurt to eat w/banana & maple syrup or gaze fondly on.......

A Little Night Music, please

After a busy weekend of (1) giving a well-attended breadmaking class at the library, (2) hosting our New Directions board meeting at a new Thai restaurant around the corner in Ayutthaya and (3) grinding out some chapters of my novel to post for my online class, I fell into a grateful slumber round about midnight.

Not one to dream much, I was awakened by metallic tapping that sounded like Morse Code. Since there's only me that lives here, I thought it was the little people in the other room, you know, elves or leprechauns, the billy goats gruff, faeries from Ireland, or most likely I thought w/a shudder, Cinderella's mice scampering about the kitchen.

Jeez, I thought. It's incumbent upon me to find out what the heck is going on. I should tell you first of my peculiar sleeping arrangements. I sleep down here in the den next to a new gas fireplace that keeps me warm. When the temp gets high a very noisy fan clicks on so all you can hear is the buzz of the fan. Well, tonite, I had the heat on very low so the fan never kicked on.

Therefore the house noises were unmasked. I could hear all the sounds the house chooses to give off plus outdoor noises like the long whistle of the locomotive.

When I used to get manic the house would yield up creaking noises. I'd usually tiptoe into the kitchen to take an antipsychotic. Transient psychotic episodes I used to get. What a life!

The Morse Code continues after I switch on the light. To my surprise the sound hails from the laundry room directly next to the den. The tapping continues as I enter and switch on the light. Now the noise stops. What on earth was making that metallic tapping sound? I peer into the empty washing machine thinking perhaps a critter is caught in there and can't get out. Empty. The laundry tub? Empty. What then is it?

I return to bed and sleep with the light on. I do not like sharing my abode with either animals or humans. I like living alone and having sole possession of the remote control. I probly watched the George Carlin Special four times. Which of his routines are your favorites?

I have no place for comments on here for fear of losing control! Oh, the stories I've heard about nasty comments. Just take a look at the YouTube comments.

A piece of whole wheat bread anyone? We had 15 kids crammed in a little room kneading their bread on long tables covered with butcher paper. I went around to each kid giving them pointers, telling them what a great job they were doing. I gave em all nametags just like at New Directions. They were a lively gang, middle schoolers mostly, two boys among them and two home-schooled girls.

Adjoining the little room is the library kitchen. I always bring in a bread dough to bake when I give these classes so that we can eat a real bread at the end of the class. We could smell the loaves as they were baking in the oven. Can't wait to get up in the morning so I can have another piece of bread! Long ago I forbad myself to eat in the middle of the nite. I have however drunk quite a bit of water since the Thai food was quite salty.

We had quite a good turnout for our board meeting which always takes place over a good meal. How else are you gonna get people to attend? Bribery with good food works wonders. I'll post a photo on the ND website after Freda sends me the pictures. She's my favorite 83-year-old in all the world. Lemme tell you something about old people and this includes myself who is 63 and one month, not that I'm age-conscious. We absolutely cannot friggin believe how we got so old so fast. When we look back on our lives we view the catalog of amazing adventures that got us to this place. (Quick, Ruthie, name three: uh, I used to read Billy Goats Gruff to my kids. I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge with my friend Kim w/the round eyeglasses. My fam & I visited the Marine base where I was born when I was 21 and reading Anna Karenininina.)

Hubert Selby Jr is a dead writer I'm gonna briefly resurrect b/c of what he said. He looked back on his life - well, let's let him tell you: I was sitting at home and had a profound experience. I experienced, in all of my Being, that someday I was going to die, and it wouldn't be like it had been happening, almost dying but somehow staying alive, but I would just die! And two things would happen right before I died: I would regret my entire life; I would want to live it over again. This terrified me. The thought that I would live my entire life, look at it and realize I blew it forced me to do something with my life.

Ain't that just about the bestest thing you ever heard about Why you wanna be a writer?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hovering around freezing!

February 7 is an important day. It's my daughter's 35th birthday. Her husband will be not be with her. He will be performing in Houston where her 88-year-old grandmother and her Uncle David will hear his band play. I shall send my greetings over the phone with my apron on. I'll be preparing the dough for my breadmaking class that day at Abington Free Library.

While pregnant with Sarah and living with her dad in Giddings, Texas, the whole nation was waiting to hear what became of the kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst. She is later shown in newspaper photos - like the paper her famous great-grandfather Randolph Hearst published - brandishing a machine gun as a new member of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Many parents have things they're ashamed of to tell their kids. "Yes, Lydia and Gillian, before I married daddy, Mommy was a guerrilla warrior and a bank robber."

Presidents Carter and Blinton pardoned her and she was released from jail. The Stockholm Syndrome I think they call it. Of COURSE she should've been freed. My dad who was alive at the time said she was "a sex slave" in her new group.

Oh! Now I remember what I wanted to talk about. There were 8 or 9 of us at the IHOP last nite after the meeting. It was freezing cold outside but all the parking lots were nicely shoveled. I'm a big fan of not falling in the snow and breaking your coccyxz. I wear my big clodhopper boots which is like walking with two trees as your feet.

Some of us still wore our nametags from the meeting. I love wearing nametags and envision walking down the streets of New York and seeing nametags on everyone. I am very fussy about what kind of nametags we use - blue rimmed with the word Hello imprinted on them. It puts me in a friendly mood. Someone once bought red nametags. They were very distracting.

We all talk so much at the IHOP that we can barely order our food. We did a fun thing at the table. We all went round the circle just like at New Directions with the following instructions: Introduce yourself and say where you live and select one interesting thing to discuss about your person w/o disrobing such as your jewelry, Terry. Plus, Ruth will name the zipcode of where each person lives.

Ah, 19090, 19040, 19001, 19038, 08xxx

When it was Phil's turn, I said you live in 19002 Ambler and he said Yes. He tried to 'pass' and not talk about something on his person so I asked him about his mustache. I am interested in mustaches because my boyfriend has had one since he was in utero. So have I. Phil said he used to have a thick beard and was trimming it one day but was not paying attention and cut into it. Thereafter he confined himself to a mustache.

Me too.

At table I asked if anyone would like me to email them a link to a fascinating story of the most-wanted Nazi still believed alive. Peter said he'd like to read it. Here it is. Why is it so hard to believe the Holocaust was real, Father Pius? And Mel Gibson? I just don't understand. Let's try to figger it out. These two individuals hate Jews. So wouldn't they have applauded the Holocaust as a way to get rid of us?

Oh, I'm so distressed I had to get a drink of tonic water.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stare hard at the snow-covered trees!

With so much to do today, how can I possibly blog?

Because, Ruthie, you've got to tell that particular story before it fades and is gone forever.

It begins in the Fox Chase Branch of the Philadelphia Library. I wandered around in my thick furry coat, hands in pockets, my first time in this medium-sized library, comparing it to my home library - the Upper Moreland - and the Abington Library. Primarily, I was looking for a good fiction novel to read while waiting for a friend up the street.

Our home library has cozy reading nooks, as does the Abington, with comfy upholstered chairs. Here, readers sat at tables reading books on hard chairs, although I finally spotted some softer chairs and decided that's where I'd sit when I found the perfect book to read.

The Short Stories of Alice Adams was displayed on a white plastic one-book-only rack. I took it down and looked at her photo on the back inside jacket. A white woman with a cat in her arms. Born in Virginia, lived and died in San Francisco, 1999.

Alice Adams. Not Alice Walker. Nor Alice Munro. Alice Adams. I read the title of the first story - Verlie I Say Unto You - and then the first sentence. A great writer was in my hands. I couldn't wait to get started.

For one blissful hour I barely looked up, so deep was I into the characters of Alice Adams. One particular story "Greyhound People" about people who ride buses detailed that terrible bus-riding problem of the endlessly squalling child on the bus. Today, were Walker alive, she could write about cell-phone talkers on the bus. The folks on this particular Greyhound were united against a passive mother who did nothing to hush up the inane comments of her six-year-old retarded child.

Yesterday I was at the Willow Grove Giant Supermarket and was confronted with a similar situation. Deja vu, I said to myself. Just like in the book!

Soon as I walked into the supermarket I spotted them. The child first. He wasn't retarded, mind you, but he walked on his tiptoes. He was fully clothed in winter attire yet his little feet were cross-eyed as he tiptoed alongside his mother. I didn't feel at all sorry for him. I felt just the way the narrator did in the short story.

There is something direly wrong with his mother, I thought to myself. A child doesn't walk like that on his own.

I set up my laptop in the adjoining coffeeshop and began working on the handout for my breadmaking class this Saturday: Reviving the Ancient Art of Breadmaking, A Workshop for Curious Kids and Their Parents by Ruth Z Deming.

Suddenly I see a woman and child heading my way. There are dozens of empty tables in the coffeeshop but the mother steers him to the table right in front of me.

Did she know? Did she know of my critical disdain?

Oh, well, I thought. I'll figger out the source of the pathology and then I'll get back to writing.

The source was clear. The mother spoke loudly to the little fellow telling him every single thing to do from sitting up in the chair so he didn't spill his chocolate milk to wiping the spills on the table.

I never looked directly at them but you can gain a lot of information with your peripheral vision when you turn your head to look out the window.

Her voice was so loud and constant I tore off tiny pieces of napkin and stuffed them in my ears and then shoved my beret over my ears.

The poor little guy didn't have a chance. He would probly grow up to be a nerdy lawyer. But how would he walk into the room? On tiptoe?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Two poems by Ruth Z Deming aka The Belle

Click here for two of my poems. After you've read mine, click 'home page' on the bottom of my poetry page and read two by my friend Linda Barrett. Linda's in my Hatboro Writers' Group where she is the Group's "darling." She probably averages four poems per week and can be seen at any given moment w/notebook in hand. Be sure to read her SECOND poem; it's hilarious, embarrassingly honest.

Oh no! Another Dr. Ruth!

Well, Dr. Ruth just emerged from her bedroom after working for two precious hours on my novel. Bruce Springsteen said in one of his many recent interviews that he has no schedule for his writing, just makes use of 30 minutes here, or an hour or two there, and sits down to write. His narratives flow, unlike mine, my constipated ramblings passing for paragraphs.

Here is the question from "Rosalie." It's chockful of information about her way of perceiving the world. Remember, there's no right or wrong way to view the world. We see the world that God created through the billions of eyes of humanity that lie down to sleep every night.

Hi Ruth,

Some people - and I am not one of them - believe you can help people by thinking good thoughts about them.

If you are thinking bad thoughts about someone, you are sure to cause self-damage, resentment, etc. which will cause one much harm. I believe in the power of prayer - Reiki, alternative healing. I know that thoughts are energy and very powerful.

This is a huge subject - affirmations, etc. Louise Hayes stuff. At times, I think it can be extremely helpful. Actually, I know how to send love and energy to people with Silva Mind Control. I believe it can heal - who knows? Also, as a Reiki practitioner, I receive the benefits of giving a treatment. I just got a re-attunement from my Reiki master and am planning on doing that again!

A friend of mine, Larry Greenberg (all names are pseudonyms) sent me the email address of the first man I ever slept with. I was 21 and not only was he the first guy, but I got pregnant. Well, he was quite nasty lots of the time - even during the time I had the abortion. I pondered the thought of meeting him again in my hometown when I visit - after 41 years! - but to tell you the truth, I actually heard your voice, Ruth, come to me and say, "Rosalie, are you crazy? Why in the world would you want to ever connect with such a nasty man again? You've got to be kidding!"

Needless to say, I am not going to contact Barry Miller again. Nope, being with him once was more than enough.

Dr. Ruth will do her best to reply after this commercial break.

Rosalie, you contradict yourself saying, at first, you do NOT believe in fairies, and then telling us that you do.

"Thinking good thoughts about people can help them," you say. This is what I call Mystical Thinking. There are indeed a body of individuals who believe this is so. You mentioned Louise Hayes as one of them. Her books are purported to have helped millions of individuals with their psychiatric problems. When I was in the throes of my terrible manic depression, I read Hayes and she consoled me while I read her thoughtful words.

Life is so utterly mysterious that I would guess a majority of people may feel the way you do about this healing psychic energy (I call it psychic since it emanates from the brain). A study was published in the NY Times about a year ago on just this subject. People were asked to pray for ill cancer patients. Amazingly, the patients in peoples' prayers did worse than the unprayed-for people.

So much for scientific inquiry.

A friend of mine's grown daughter was missing last year. The girl was ill with schizophrenia and disappeared for six months. I suggested the mother reach out with her thoughts and ask the girl to call her mother. "I've been doing that," said my friend, "but she hasn't responded." Finally, the daughter was found rambling and homeless miles away from home.

So, look, if it makes you happy, do it! But, to get real results in life for yourself, such as getting a good man and a good job, there is only one way to do it: up front and in person. Out in the real world.

Now, about that idiot first boyfriend of yours. What woman isn't tempted by the siren song of her first lover no matter how long ago it was. Your lover, pardon the expression, was a real prick. By contacting him again, which I know you will not, you dishonor yourself and your forward momentum as a loving human being.

A couple years ago I went out with a man purely for sex. I'd been out of the loop for many years and wanted to climb back in the ring again. Both of us were using the other for sex and we knew it. When I decided to look for a man in earnest - for companionship, conversation, and love-making - I knew it was necessary to free myself from the mindspace and energy I was devoting to him.

It worked and I found my man. I'm also proud to say I wrote a great poem. Rosalie, I know you to be among the most creative women I know. How bout channeling your thoughts - healing and hunting down old boyfriends - into some of your great artwork.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"She combs her hair in the rear-view mirror"

Did you see him? Twelve minutes with Bruce Springsteen at halftime. He was so dazzled by that 12 minutes that he would mention the 12 minutes whenever he was interviewed - and also at the start of his halftime performance.

Whenever he comes on, I look for 3 things: his earring (I like to glimpse its sparkle); his facial hair treatment (tonite a tiny fuzz on the chin) and Patti Scialfa, his wife & mother of their three children. They live in Rumson, NJ, arguably the wealthiest city in the U.S.

Two years ago my family traveled to that very city for a family reunion of the richest person I've ever met, a second cousin by marriage. Dyou know I can't even remember his name? They had a brick circular driveway, a swimming pool w/cabana and blue lace-cap hydrangeas.

I brought my strapless blue bathing suit and swam laps. I used the towels they supplied in the cabana and also the hair dryer. All the while I asked myself, How can I get some of their money? I'm too old to be adopted and too lazy to work for the money.

The man was a financier. He took the ferry every morning to Wall Street for a quick walk to his brokerage firm. His wife stayed home to take care of the kids. Their house was spectacularly furnished with 75 percent thrift shop buys. These were creative people.

The financier's mother was an odious woman, many years deceased, with manic depression. The financier himself was quiet, moody and shy. I remember him quite vividly going around the room asking if he could get people drinks. It was a very hot day. I asked for some lemonade, please, with ice. About 15 different times.

Their kitchen had industrial appliances; you know, those shiny stainless steel stoves and fridges that look like they belong in an army kitchen. But, hey, we have to keep up with the Madoffs!

Look, I'm insanely jealous, so bear with my mean-spiritedness.

I thought I might dance when Springsteen came on but I couldn't take my eyes off him. At 59 he was acrobatting all across the stage. Touch me! Touch me! Love me! Love me! they all seemed to say.

Ding! My timer went off the moment he announced his 12 minutes were up. My, he was fascinated with the time frame, said it "freed him up" in a way. That's called "form" - that's why we have sonnets or symphonies or novels or short stories. We all need form to contain our spillover endeavors, much like the universe needs its orbits to keep the planets and moons from colliding with one another.

To listen to a 2005 radio interview with Bruce on Fresh Air click here. My friend Helene and I were discussing our opinions of Fresh Air host Terry Gross. Two major annoyances with our Terry. For some of her questions, Terry goes into a long wind-up like a pitcher on the mound. Stopping and starting, looking forward and looking backward. Get that question out of your mouth, dammit! Helene and I think she does it for pure dramatic effect, histrionics. We do not like it one bit as it draws attention to Terry Gross when attention should indeed go to Ruth Deming - whoops! Freudian slip! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean it - attention should go to the person being interviewed.

And then there's that laugh of hers. It goes on and on and on. For godssakes, Terry, gag yourself and get on with the interview.

I went to Helene's to help her celebrate her 80th birthday. She made us her birthday breakfast of French toast with Zomick's whole wheat challah. We ate and talked. Whenever you visit, you are required to look at all her rooms to see how neat she's gotten them just in case she doesn't wake up in the morning. She is an 80-year-old uncompromising woman and no one is gonna tell her what to do.

"Most of my books are going to end up in here," she said from her sitting room where she was standing. I swiveled around to see rows upon rows of art books. One particular book caught my eye. In serious black letters along the bookspine, it read "John Berger Way of Seeing."

You know my philosophy. Pick out ANY page. A good book proclaims itself in every single sentence. I open it up: "The art of any culture will show a wide differential of talent. But in no other culture is the difference beween 'masterpiece' and average work so large as in the tradition of the oil painting."


I sign out the book on a Post-It and promise to return it in a timely fashion. In fact, something about me cannot STAND to have other people's things in my house. Unless I've purposely stolen them. You know, like Jay Nachman's sweat shirt, or the typing stand I stole from The Record when I used to work there.

I've confessed in prior blogs.

It is entirely sad that I can't go straight home and just read the book end to end. Responsibilities intervene. But at last I'm able to read great gulps of the Pelican classic - it IS a classic, ain't it? - and then I come to a part where Mr. Berger writes: Many of the ideas in the preceding essay were wrin over 40 years ago by the German critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin.

Walter Benjamin, I ponder. A philosopher I have never heard of. Then..... wait a minute! Benjamin is a Jewish name. Let's goggle the man and see. Something tells me the results will not be a happy one.

Sure enough, one Walter Benjamin from a wealthy Jewish family in Berlin, is a prolific writer and thinker who is chased like a rabbit by the Nazis. He ends his life in Spain when he is about to be apprehended by Spanish police, taking a draught of morphine rather than fall into enemy hands.

When I read that, I was again seized by the horrific wonder of a civilized and intelligent people - the Germans - racing all over the continent in pursuit of people called the Jews, ferreting them out from every square inch of land as if they were the cancer virus incarnate.

Senseless! Like the Cherokee, we simply do not die.