Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Under the covers snug!

How I love early mornings. Nothing like the feel of burrowing under my two cozy comforters and feeling their love and warmth. I sleep downstairs in my huge family room and turn my head to see the blur of green leaves still on the trees this late September.

The light is simply beautiful. I catch the faintest fiery glimpse of the sun rising across the street. I hold the fire in my mind, staring and staring at its reflection, not at the sun, as if it will impart its grandeur into my humble bones.

There is much to do today but let me commune with myself before rising. Perhaps I can do a little reading. I pick up Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. I read it as a teenager but need a great novel to keep my mind stimulated. The first thing we notice about Lewis is He is a poet. Next we see that he stuffs his novels full of ideas and images like a Thanksgiving turkey filled with all manner of chestnuts and white raisins and savory seasonings. We are in the presence of a great mind. He's a Nobel prizewinner, writes with a confident voice that makes you want to jump from your bed and sample all of life's glories.

I shall read more of him later when it's time to go on my stationary bike.

The light has moved now to Charley's lawn across the street. Soon I will have windows that actually open up and let in the breeze. My house is an inferno in the summer. No cross-ventilation. Bob will fix that. For a small fee, of course.

Sinclair Lewis chronicles Minnesota the way Faulkner did the South. I wonder if Ethan, my son/law, has read much of him. Ethan has the same kind of love-hate relationship with the area as does Lewis. The female heroine is doomed by her marriage. As a free-thinking woman, I identify with her. She's brilliantly portrayed.

I have lain under covers for 63 years. Not always happily. I think to myself, My whole life is contained within my brain. Everything I have seen or heard, real things or movies or baseball games I've been to or played in, it's all in there - where? how? If set free, where would it go? Balloons in the sky? Thoughts sailing over the trees, lodging in alleyways, doorsteps, swallowed by dogs, chipmunks, Buddhist monks. My own thoughts - do they really emanate from ME - or have I caught them like radio signals with antennae?

These are my thoughts under the covers early in the morning as I draw the covers up to my chin. The birds sing their mystery chorus outside.

Last week, three sparrows paid me a visit inside. I was upstairs brushing my teeth when I heard the piercing cry of sparrows. I opened an empty bedroom door and saw two of them flying back and back, back and forth, trying to get out.

It is one thing to love the little creatures on your backyard trees but another to see them flying in your bedroom. Patrick came over and shielding his eyes, which they began pecking, opened a window and they flew out. As he was leaving, another flew back in. Scott came back over and stuffed some cardboard in the window to keep them out. This is where an air-conditioner was removed.

I imagined this morning living with wild animals in my house. How about some of those cute deer that eat everything in sight? They could have one of the empty bedrooms. I'd simply move out back in the forest. Like John Muir.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Our holiest of Holidays / Poem: Goldenrod

Today we celebrate Yom Kippur, the holiest of the Jewish holidays. I called my dear friend Freda who expressed to me her great pride in being Jewish, stating that Jews are not a warlike people. Bloodshed is abhorrent to us. Our holidays are family-centric with beautiful liturgy found in our prayer books.

My friend Rob said he just learned that the time between last week's Rosh Hashonah - or the Jewish New Year - and today, Yom Kippur - is when God decides whether to inscribe us in the Book of Life or in the Book of Death.

I know that, Rob, I said. He remarked that I was raised a 'conservative Jew' - that's a denomination - in Cleveland, Ohio, where we were taught that particular belief. On Yom Kippur I would cower in fear that God would smite me down and was comforted by my father who said, in most instances, children do not die.

Who can understand the ways of the Lord? For they are incomprehensible to us mortals, try as we may. I wrote my friend Fran Hazam today that the Lord led me to buy a new pair of shoes for my w - i - d - e feet. My daughter and I plan a trip to the Mediterranean so I must begin collecting my gear.

If God so chooses I shall make the trip. We are but small beings who try very hard but thrive only by his mercy.

There are so many questions. So many mysteries. The biggest is, Does God exist? Unfortunately it's not something a jury can decide for us, each person is on his own.


Much maligned beauty
your dusty fingers so like our own
point southward
where birds vanish
as does the sun

Accompany us, Goldenrod,
down the aisle
into the emptiness
of winter,
shine on
one last feast for the honeybee
and myself
my color-craving eyes

Once we thought you mean
thought it was you
who caused the twitch and sneeze,
but no, it was Ragweed who raged
like nettles in our nostrils

Fair nature
a lass to whom
all must bend,
to whom
all must show their fair form
then droop,
and pass,

Now, Goldenrod,
it’s your time to shine
across meadows deep
to remind us summer’s spent
to remind us soon we’ll be alone
with the sparrows
and the hidden voice of the wren
calling from unseen places.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

An afternoon with my people / Poem: Faure or Bach

It's good to be among poets, I said as I sat down in the tiny coffeeshop. I'd just spent the morning in the innards of my computer searching for my autobiographical bipolar piece to send Andrew of St. Petersburg, FL, whose BipolarPorch website plus blog I added to our New Directions list of favorite websites.

While searching, I discovered scores of poems I'd written and totally forgotten about. Ruthie, I said, you are good. Don't ever doubt it. Then I hastily printed out one - The Breasts of Linda Esposito - to bring w/me to the coffeeshop.

My powers of observation were never sharper than when I walked thru the door. I found myself scribbling notes as if I were writing a newspaper article. I didn't know a soul at the shop except for Linda who drove. I ordered a hot chocolate which was super-cheap and not that good. Poets don't throw their money around. None of us have any money. I'd never ever seen glasses of water - in real glasses - sitting atop the tables. The nice owners at the shop gave out water. I simply sipped the thick dregs of my cocoa and coughed silently and spasmodically into a torn-off lime-green patterned sheet I use as a hanky.

I sat at the table with the two featured readers. Each had books out. Each had won prizes and been well-reviewed. I thumbed thru Conrad's books. You have a great imagination, I said. He read sitting down. His blue fingernail polish glimmered in the gray light of the afternoon. Afterward I told him I was riveted, my mind never wanderered once, unlike when his partner read.

His partner was a great storyteller. He works as a bouncer at a downtown bar. As he himself said when a construction-worker patron read his poetry, "You're either a fucking genius or totally full of shit."

Depends on your perspective.

A young guy walked in with his pregnant girlfriend. The poet saluted them. Most of the men in the coffeeshop were fat. This guy was no exception but he looked like a virgin. And here he's walking with this very pregnant woman who looks to me like she's mentally ill tho I'm no expert. The two of them sit and fondle each other thru the whole poetry reading. I watch them de temps de temps in the reflection of the counter which, on that side, is filled with a tall iced cake, some dry-looking scones, and - get this! - self-serve cups of Sugar Pops and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I guess they like serving healthy vitamin-added breakfasts that taste like crap.

Three people work behind the counter. My waitress is the enbodiment of the word DEADPAN. She never smiles. (Talk about mentally ill. I'd think that'd be a sure sign.) She watches the program with furrowed brow, eying everyone. Who knows? Maybe she's a poet waiting in the wings. She's chewing gum. In fact, half the people are chewing gum.

Later, I learn why. A salesman came in with free gum. Dentyne Ice. I popped two in my mouth. My eyes began tearing.

Strong, huh? said the shopowner.

Wished I'd chewn it sooner. Totally cleared up my sinuses. Bettern horseradish.

After the featured poets, everyone got to read one and only one poem. What was their rush? I mean, limits are important, but this was downright rushed.

A man about my age w/colored hippie beads read a poem. I didn't pay attention to it cuz I wanted to nurture my fantasy. I pretended to be married to him and walk hand in hand with him down the street, me in my regular unobtrusive attire, and he in his jeans n hippie beads. I wanted to pretend I'd feel proud walking down the street with a guy who looked like this.

No one commented about my poem. I asked Linda, on the way to the car, if she understood it. She did not. I told her it was about someone with breast cancer.

Here's another poem I rescued from oblivion.


I was at war with a man at Tower Records
and wasn’t sure if I wished to win or surrender.

At issue was the Requiem of Gabriel Faure.
Bob was a retired insurance man, we met over the counter
where my deploringly overweight friend Marce
was getting me discounts on a stack
of records, CDs I suppose I must call them,
designed to tied me over, to give me strength
through one of my procrustean falls,
Dear God.

I asked my dear friend Marce
to select and gather some
Dave Matthews and Pearl Jam.
My niece asked me how I knew
the names of these modern bands and I said
it was just by accident I happened to
hear their names announced on the car radio
and memorized them.

Bob was standing there, too, with his stack,
all classical, and I remembered classical,
God! for the first time in all these years.
It is never too late to retract and I heard
Bob asking about some Haydn symphony,
there seem to be hundreds of them, and
he was looking for one particular recording,
one thing that meant more to him than
the whole world. He was a man of discernment
with his golden colored toupe and keen eyes.

I asked him, (I am not particularly polite
or girlsome) but asked him, as I was in a terror
trying to circumvent my fall,
if he could get me some music
some real good classical music,
that he was certain I would like
a masterpeice of great renown.

Without hesitation, Bob led me down
the escalator, a man on a mission,
o I was so unappreciative, and let
him get far ahead while I lingered
at the top of the stair chatting with Marce,
while he kept on and on,
never looking back
unlike Orpheus, never looking back to see if I
was following him, he didn’t care
only to get to the bin of his beloved.

And pulled out two versions of the Requiem,
stating they were both quite good, I would be
happy with both.
Faure? I said. Why is it I have never
owned a Faure, never pined for a Faure,
I know all the ones I love or wish to love
and Faure’s not among them.

You’ll love this, he said and did a dance
of faureism.
My eye forgot till then about Bach and Brahms
but as soon as talk about Faure got still and heavy
and I became mistrustful and didnt want to be
left in a room alone with Faure, frightenend
as fright could be, left alone with a bore,
a no thinker, endless sappy tones going nowhere,
the panic grew like a cyst inside and when Bob
wasn’t looking I hopped over to Bach and
suddenly a light went on and I remembered
the cello suites.
The sound alone is unsurpassable
Unaccompanied Suites for Cello.
o say it to yourself, roll the
words round and round your mouth
like shiny marbles that melt and go down

I was doing that There wre many versions
and the only reason I ignored Yo-yo Ma is
that he is a modern man and I am never a
modern woman, so “not to tango with Yo-yo”
was my motto, and I selected among many
what else but Pablo Casals and saw for the
first time his rough face, like a Van Gogh peasant
potato eater. Yes, rough is the only word for it,
that thick unrefined nose like Genet’s, that bald
head that either means pimp or poet.

And bob was now discussing at the classical counter
other versions of other things. We had long since
stopped looking at one another. He got terribly
mad when i suggested Bach as an alternative
to Faure.

Too much counterpoint! he shouted.

Counterpoint! I yelled. Why that’s what it’s all about.
Fuck Faure.

Marce, add Bach to my account.

New windows for the Belle!

The window man is sitting at the kitchen table making up the contract for me to sign. Scott is pacing back n forth cuz he can't ever keep still unless he's watching TV or fixing a SEPTA train.

I met your daughter, Chrissy, I said. Nice girl.

I don't have a daughter, said Bob.

You don't? I thought she works at your store in Hatboro? Lives in Warminster, married to a cop?

I don't have a store in Hatboro. That's Gallagher's Windows.

Oh! You mean you're not Gallagher?

No, I'm Bob's Home Improvement.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Proper stance while eating

I was just reading the New Yorker online and it made me wanna write. So here I am. Bread is in the oven. Timer set. I'm sposed to be working on my novel but got cold feet even tho I'm wearing my $20 Walmart sandals that are falling apart.

After I kneaded the bread and set it to rise, I went food shopping. They say never to shop on an empty stomach. That's why I go directly to the cheese bar where they always have free samples. I popped a sample of spicy hot cheese and a delicious cracker into my mouth which fortified me for my nonmanic shopping excursion.

I always get a carton with a lid at the Giant which I use for my paper recyclables and the detritus from my Shark vacuum cleaner. Ah-choo!

Driving home I immensely enjoyed looking at all the cars and the people inside. Suddenly I realized how lucky I am. Several friends of mine are terribly depressed. They cannot enjoy the beauty of the world. Here I was this morning, pedaling away on my stationary bike, while looking outside at my b'ful backyard. Sparrows were eating bright red berries from some sort of huge tree, convoys of sparrows, they travel in packs. I imagined they saw me - who really knows? - and were trying to relay messages to me that I can't understand.

After they disappeared I hadn't finished my 10 minutes, so I picked up my autobiography of Claire Bloom which is a wonderful tell-all of all her affairs with great actors of her day. The great love of her life was Richard Burton. I'm a huge fan of gossip and used to subscribe to People magazine before it got horrid so this book is perfect for me.

When I came home from Giant, I shaped my bread into two neat loaves, and unloaded the Cuho salmon into the fridge. I was now ready to eat a small meal.

I have always been a hedonist. (Note its connection to that awful word 'anhedonia' suffered by depressed people.) When I eat I want to enjoy it to the hilt. Spooning out my cabbage-onion-noodle and cottage cheese dish, I plunged in while walking across the living room and dining room. Walking while eating seemed to intensify the pleasure. Just as we did in the caves of France (you see, at my advanced age I've forgotten their names), where I gobbled down the toasty remains of the mastodon thighs. Mmmm!

I find that if I read while I'm eating - the Times, Bill Hess's blog - I forget to taste my food. Plus, I'm always thinking, always thinking.

Hey! A total strange commented on my blog this morning. Check it out, the previous blog. He's a bipolar dude w/two great websites. I put them on the New Directions site under Andrew of St. Petersburg, FL.

Oh, I felt so guilty today after reading about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the 76-yo member of the Supreme Court who just returned to work today after surgery to remove a tumor on her pancreas. That woman is busy every minute of the day! Plus she travels and teaches. Me, I'm reading confessions by Claire Bloom and fantasizing sleeping with Richard Burton.

Here's a nice story. Scott came over around 9 last nite. I was sitting on the living room couch eating my vanilla pudding. He usually is so tired he goes straight downstairs to bed but he sat across from me on the opposite couch. He looked so adorable in his shorts and Hush Puppy slippers.

I'm eating the last of the Dr Oetker's pudding, I said. I'm not gonna buy it again.

That right, he said. It's too sweet.

Yeah, plus it's lumpy, I said.

I never minded lumps, he said. I love Cream of Wheat with lumps in it.


Yes, that's b/c I love to chew. You know that. I love chewing meat and hoagies. And you hate chewing.

Right, I said. I never advanced beyond baby food.

He will be very happy I'm making salmon tonite. It melts in your mouth, no chewing necessary.

Oh, one more quick story. My psychiatrist friend Pam always says, If she doesn't call me, she'd never hear from me. So yesterday I called her cell phone.

She works at Norristown State Hospital with really sick individuals. A reporter should go undercover and live on her unit and see how these people behave with one another. Anyway, she answers her phone with a whisper: I can't talk now.

Oh, okay, I say, I'll talk to you later. Love you!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Help! I can't get out of bed

I could not wake up this morning. Why am I so tired, I asked myself as I burrowed under the covers and listened to the school buses chug up our street. Was that the garbage truck? I wondered if Scott would bring in the garbage can. I tucked the loudly ticking alarm clock under the pillow so I wouldn't suffer water torture and found myself snoring loudly on my back, waking up every 15 minutes to check the time. Today is Mornings at the Mall.

Aha! that's why I'm tired. It's all Scott's fault. Of course. Always blame the man in the family for your own problems. There's a psychological word for this - displacement? He got me in the habit of watching TV before going to bed. The two of us lie there switching between PBS and Turner Classic Films. Neither of us has the patience to listen to commercials.

Sea Hawks is one of my favorite films, he said. Erroll Flynn is vastly underrated, he said. They typecast him in swashbuckling roles so he never had a chance to grow as an actor. So I watched Sea Hawks while Scott slept, and then I fell asleep during The Prince and The Pauper.

I was half hour late for The Mall Talk. Helen does a great job. When I got there she'd pulled four tables together but we had to add more cause more people kept coming. I'd brought my own uncaffeinated Bigelow's raspberry tea, still steaming in my Dunkin Donuts mug.

I wish I could tell you about all the interesting people at that table. Everyone offers input to help each other. I waved to Lana, my former hairdresser who went to one of the booths for her lunch. Since "Danny" was just downsized from his engineering job, he joined us at the mall. His doctor has him on Seligiline, which no one had heard of. It's a newer MAO, isn't it, I asked. What doctor is smart enough to put you on Seligiline, I asked.

Merizalde, he said.

Does your mind work like this? After a while, you automatically begin thinking about what you're gonna do when you leave a place. I imagined myself going to the library to pick up a book they've got reserved for me and returning a book by a new MacArthur Fellow short story writer I couldn't get into. You know when a book is bad when you can't give it a second chance. Sorry, Deborah.

Oh! You're reading my blog Deb? You've been a fan of my blogs since 2007? Thank you so much, Ms. Eisenberg. I was just testing you.

I practically stapled two of our women together cuz I wanted the two of them to become friends and I was sure if they spent time together they'd bond. They did, going to Macy's to buy a new comforter for one, sheets for another.

It's the little things in life.

I love these people!

Question is, should I run out and buy more licorice? Just discovered the world's best. Can't remember the name but it's made in the land down under and is very chewy. Ah, thanks for your interest, Helen. Glad you love licorice too. Here's my number one favorite.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Los Angeles gang members rounded up

In a massive early-morning raid, more than a THOUSAND police officers and federal agents, in full-body armor, arrested members of the most violent and dangerous gang in LA known as "the Avenues." Gang members are Latinos and profess a hatred for blacks. Officers arrested 45 of 88 people named in arrest warrants, including Tammy Armstrong, a corrections officer who cooperates with inmates.

A friend of mine whom we'll call Chaim was manic and took off for California in his early twenties. He was fearless and tireless and walked for hours and hours ending up in East Los Angeles, a place where few white boys wanna go.

The Avenues gang is controlled by the Mexican drug mafia behind bars. They find stooges like Ms. Armstrong who smuggle in cellphones and act as secretaries and go-fers for the criminals.

For more meaty reading about gangs, click on the NY Times story here, (from which I cribbed for this blogpost), the LA Times story here, and a very sad story about a white woman who married a black man and had a beautiful half-black son (no not Obama) who was targeted by the Avenues and shot dead in his bed.

O how the greatest accident of all - who we're born to - determine our fates!

Ding-a-ling MacArthur Foundation calling/ Poem: Going down

If I counted correctly, 24 brilliant minds received a phone call last week announcing they'd won a half a million dollar prize from the MacArthur Foundation. Here they are.

A couple years ago, I actually had the nerve to see if I could get a grant from MacArthur and was soundly rejected. My philosophy is: Expect to be turned down.

We had such a great guest speaker in September and I'm now making calls for a financial expert to speak to our group about What to do with your money in these hard times and also Debt consolidation. I just called my personal banker at my credit union and do expect to be turned down. Does anyone have any ideas of who I could get to speak? Please send me an E. My daughter laffed when I told her my passcode. It's daylily.

My friend Nancy just called. I told her I was making my famous potato salad sans potatoes (high potassium count, bad for my kidneys). I substitute fresh green beans for delicious skin-on red bliss potatoes. AND THEY WOULDN'T GIVE ME A GRANT, THE NERVE!

So the phone rings this morning and it's Nicole Pimble, a psychotherapist I worked with at NHS. She's now working at Abington's Creekwood Center. I could not picture what she looked like but her voice sounded very familiar.

We talked about old times. A couple years ago I drove over to NHS (Northwestern Human Services) off Sunset Road in Fergusonville, outside Bristol, PA, and found to my horror, the old schoolhouse building - Clymer Elem School - had been torn down and a housing development put in.

I just sat there in my car and breathed. Then I comforted myself by going to a nearby Rita's Water Ice and ordering a small lemon.

Did I tell you my email was broken for 2 days? I could receive but not send. I spoke to Comcast teks Erica and then Josh. Erica of Newark, DE spent 40 minutes with me, during which time she had me disable my entire email system, but that didn't fix the problem. Then I called Josh of Wilmington, DE. I complained to him that my entire inbox was gone plus all the important emails I'd saved over the past year such as info for a trip I'm taking later this year and I asked Josh how I could retrieve my inbox.

Steel yourself, said Josh. You can't retrieve it.

Not good.

Comcast was sposed to phone me within 6 to 48 hours. A day had gone by. I called again. This time Abdul of Canada answered the phone.

I see the problem, he said. It's on our end. I want you to pull out the black wire from your router.

Abdul, it's not gonna work, I said. I did that already. I've done everything.

Please try it, he said.

I went upstairs into the room w/the dead stinkbugs and unplugged the black wire. We waited 30 seconds and then I plugged it back in.

The email worked. I thanked him effusively. He was nonplussed.

I drove over to Creekwood Mental Health Center in Abington to say hello to Nicole, bringing her a copy of the Compass, arguably our best issue yet. She loves to run groups there at Creekwood and I peeked into the empty group room. I told her I'd recently found a poem I'd written about the demise of NHS and seeing her had given me the opportunity to print my poem. It's about a former boss of mine and speaks for itself.

THE DAY THE SHIP WENT DOWN: The Closing of Northwestern Human Services, Bristol-Bensalem in Fergusonville, PA

I knew by the way my boss moved
across my office toward the empty chair,
a man who never sat,
a man who never rested,
so full of loose grace and a misplaced
assurance that he was — to what avail?—
descended from a line of Scottish royalty,
knew without a word that I had lost my job.

Knew, too, by the way he sank in the chair,
the whoosh of it,
the sigh of it,
that it was something greater than myself,
greater than my endless worries of pleasing my clients
or whether my charts were done up in
the proper shade of black ink.

Finally, he said, it’s come to this:
Our flawed, failing, panic-stricken
agency was shutting down for good.
Bankrupt on promises.
He sat in one of my for-company-only
chairs, an impossibly gorgeous blue upholstered
chair with dust so old I couldn’t
budge it from the corners
even with moistened fingers.

Now he was seated,
the man who never sits,
one tree trunk leg crossed over the other,
shiny black policeman’s shoes
reflecting the light of day,
the future King of England
had things gone his way.

I loved our newfound virgin closeness, the pretense that
he would share with me the rumble of
his discontent; his massive ambition knocked silly,
the man who sat atop tables at meetings and consulted his
watch with flourish. Henry the Eighth, I called him,
and waited for them to take him down.

Instead, we’d end our lives together,
he and I, an odd, out of sync pair,
sinking together.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Poetry Group, The White Cane and Poem: Introduction of Artificial Intelligence into my Body

Mary Brucker is a blind poet from Glenside, PA. She attends our Coffeeshop Writers Group at Weinrich's Bakery in Willow Grove plus many other poetry groups in the Philly area. She travels with a large case on wheels she pulls behind her plus her white cane to find her way. She works as a social worker at an agency for the blind.

At yesterday's poetry group she read one of her wonderful poems, "September Looms," about her memories of 9/11. I sat next to her and lent her my new Chico's zippered jacket cuz she was cold. I'd gotten a $100 gift certificate and if you're me, you end up spending twice the amount of the gift certificate. I had Linda dress me at Chico's - "I'll take care of you, I'm looking out for you" - and I came away w/five different pair of slacks which are the hardest things for me to find.

We had a good turnout at the group, maybe 10 people. Interesting people including a Jehovah's Witness, a devout Christian who goes on retreats w/his wife, a UPS worker, two trashmen, a waiter, a birder, a woman w/schizophrenia who pours out poetry every time she breathes and an old friend of mine who billed herself as "a mental health consumer."

"Please," I said, "this is not a support group. We all have issues, every single one of us." She's a brilliant woman and one of our best writers. The piece she ended up reading was not only magnificently written but was cathartic. As a kid she'd teased someone and felt guilty about it for forty years so she turned the experience into a piece of flash (short) fiction. Freud calls that sublimation, don't you Siggy, you darling poodle you?

I read a poem I'd composed that morning. One day when I was driving I saw a sign at a nearby church reading "How do you want to spend eternity?" I do have a rule, Never read signs on churches b/c they're usually so awful, but this one caught my eye. I began typing up a poem but another poem came out instead entitled "Upon the Introduction of Artificial Intelligence into My Body."

What we do is pass out copies of our work. The writer reads it aloud, once or twice, and each reader critiques the copy and then returns it.

I love these people!

You should read the great comments they put on my poem. "Darth Garbage," one of our trashmen, wrote on my poem:

"I must despise the world that does not realize magic is a greater revelation than all wisdom and philosophy." - Beethoven

When the group was over, for once I wasn't in a rush to leave. My Rosh Hashonah dinner had been cancelled. Scott's mom had an infrequent bout of sciatica so she'll reschedule. I said to Mary, the blind woman, I'll be happy to drive you wherever you're going.

We walked out, arm in arm, and I tucked her into my car. She automatically seat-belted herself and we drove to Nature's Harvest, a nearby health food store.

"Aren't you scared to travel all over the city?" I asked as we got out of the car.

"Nah," she said. "The only thing that's scary is crossing the street."

"Yes," I said, "cars go terribly fast."

She said she taps the curb w/her cane and that guides her. She learned in the fourth and fifth grades at a school for the blind.

"Okay, we're going up a huge curb," I said, leading first. She takes the bus all over the city. She has a great philosophy that more people in New Directions should espouse: rarely stay home. She goes to as many poetry readings as she can. So many of our people isolate themselves. They can't think of a darn thing to do to get out of the house.

This morning I'm taking Scott to my favorite Italian grocery store, Altomonte's in Warminster. We've run out of olive oil and want to price it. Scott buys the hugest tin and refills my bottle. He uses it as a hand and body lotion and lubricant. This morning I made us some delicious moist scrambled eggs cooked in olive oil and butter. We had my dense whole wheat bread made w/blueberies.


welcome to my body
I wished the pneumococcal vaccine
as it fled the clear plastic tube
with a whoosh
and entered my arm

make yourself at home
I've never been inside my highways
of blood
that tumble with traffic old and new
movement furious
clatter of horseless vehicles
- salutations to the polio vaccine of my childhood –
the tetanus that protected me from the nail wound
in the backyard treehouse –

this morning’s dark bread and butter
paddles by in altered form
the congestion is fierce
sloughed off by portals of exit
too numerous to name

come evening
when the sun doffs its hat
I’ll play for you a quartet
Schubert’s Trout
and will serenade you
o river of life
my highway of desire
Mississippi of my body
for you are the earthly representative
of who I am

let the music soar to the ceiling
the dancing beads of joy
the only true way I can express
my love for you
my adoration
my rockbottom thankfulness
till day is done.

Sunday morning

Nothing like reading The Times on Sunday morning. Here's a superb video detailing the WW2 Battle of Iwo Jima - my former neighbor George Schuler served on this tiny island in the Pacific - one of the bloodiest battles of the war w/7,000 Americans killed and 21,000 Japanese. In the video, a letter from a dead Japanese soldier is returned to his family by an American serviceman from Brookline, MA, 60 years after he took it from the dead man's pocket.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

We love a good scandal as long as it's not about us

NAMI, who bills itself as the nation's voice on mental illness, offers excellent local programs in the Greater Philadelphia Area on how to handle difficult family members w/mental illness. These NAMI groups are nothing short of superb.

So it was w/deep amazement I read about the national NAMI organization and their corruption by the drug companies. Money is often hard to resist - even when you have it! hiya Bernie - and the blurring between the lines of taking money and feeling you're helping your constituents is certainly easy to understand. Here's NAMI on the take, thanks again to Gianna's blog.

Several years ago I met with a woman from the makers of Geodon who promised to take me out to lunch and donate money to New Directions if I'd promote it at our group. I ended up paying for our expensive lunch (her luggage never arrived from the plane) but I had no problem at all NOT promoting it at our group. Meds work differently on different people.

The drug rep confessed to me that she believed she had sold her soul to the devil by marketing Geodon for Pfizer. I don't remember her name but remember she had a 10-yo son named Jonathan and we ate at an outdoor cafe in downtown Philly. I ordered noodles with venison.

She told me she'd reimburse me for lunch but I told her to forget it, too much trouble. Nice woman. Agent of the devil.

Friday, September 18, 2009

He loved his country so

Reporters are often criticized for printing the news but not getting involved. Some, however, like the NY Times' Nicholas Kristof are passionately involved in helping people in poor countries stand up to political oppression. He is esp. involved with women's rights around the globe. I subscribe to Kristof on Facebook where total strangers leave hundreds of comments for him.

Common Dreams is a progressive blog I subscribe to and rarely have time to read but today the top headline read Why I Threw the Shoe by the now famous Iraqi reporter who so eloquently tells his story here. Altho I know people will disagree w/him about this evil war, how can you read his words and not feel his pain?

The truth can slap people in the face but many of them are unable to believe it. You wonder if God almighty came down and took Iran's president by the hand and marched him thru Auschwitz and Dachau what the man would have to say.

You are probably wondering what smells so delicious in my house and what I'm popping in my mouth with such relish. Thanks for asking.

In the oven is a sweet-smelling whole wheat bread I dressed up with cinnamon and leftover cooked blueberries. My grandmother, who bragged about me to her friends, but treated me as if she hated me, called it "garbage bread" b/c I creatively introduced leftover ground-up fruit into my breads to make them even more delicious. Funny how the mean things people do to us last a lifetime.

The soup I'm zupping up right now is a thick chicken soup with rice and spaetzle (German egg noodles). Floating inside are simmered onions, bell peppers from my son's garden, chopped carrots, split peas which soften in only 45 minutes.

I am in heaven, eating and typing at the same time. You wonder if life could get any better?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Guest speaker: John J Worthington, MD

Dr Worthington spoke about 45 minutes in one of the most informative presentations we've had in our 23-year history. He was our annual Mysteries of the Mind presenter w/a donation in his name going to the Peter C Alderman Foundation of Bedford, NY. In my letter to the foundation, I wrote:

At our support group, the leading Philadelphia group for people w/depression, bipolar disorder & their loved ones, we also know the meaning of mental anguish and the importance of alleviating it, which is why we have chosen your organization for our annual gift.

Here are some notes I took during his presentation. Thanks also to Murray, Mary and Mike (the 3 Ms?) who helped jog my memory.

In the beautiful Parish Hall of Abington Presbyterian Church, Dr. W sat on a chair and showed us the Vagus Nerve Stimulator, a small plastic device, that's implanted in the upper chest along with a wire which is attached to the vagus nerve near the carotid artery in the neck. Next he held up a "wand" that looked like a shower-head which is waved over the implant to start and program it.

Success rate at 6 months is 30 percent of the most resistant cases of depression. After 2 years, it rises to 50 percent. Not bad when considering these people have suffered for as long as 20 years and had no meaningful lives due to their illness.

Why is VNS used instead of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy)? Reasons include ineffectiveness of ECT plus ECT must be repeated on a regular basis.

Side effects of VNS are vitually nil.

VNS is done locally at University of PA by Dr. John O'Reardon. (He spoke at our group several yrs ago & is universally loved for his upbeat personality. Originally a family doctor from Ireland, he came to the US and became a psychiatrist, big into research).

ECT takes an average of 7 treatments for success. It's been greatly refined over the years. He didn't mention any side effects from ECT tho we have heard from our members who've received shock treatments that they encountered memory loss around the time they received treatment, in other words, short-term memory loss.

I asked a no. of questions including Is ECT safe for pregnant women? Dr. W said no studies have been done on this but did mention that the antidepressant Paxil has been shown to cause heart defects in the fetus. That man knows his stuff! We've had many pregnant women pass thru the doors of New Directions, all of whom have given birth to healthy babies (yes!), even while on meds.

Gianna writes a fascinating mental health blog and cited today (Sept. 18) a study by Bloomberg news admitting that Glaxo, the makers of Paxil, knew about the risk to the fetus. Click here.

One of Dr. W's patients is a woman who suffered from such terrible depression she lay down on the train tracks in Willow Grove PA to kill herself. She only lost a leg in the accident and finally came to the attention of Worthington. He convinced her, with the consent of her husband, to undergo VNS and it worked for her.

Unfortunately, Medicare denies coverage of VNS calling it "experimental" even tho they cover it for epilepsy. When Medicare denies coverage, insurance companies follow suit and also deny coverage. The woman's Aetna insurance was denied but Dr. Worthington called and spoke to Aetna's chief physician who "reversed himself" on his original denial.

The woman, who is an artist, continues to do freelance art work while working for her husband.

Depression is usually a recurring illness. With each recurrence, it raises the chance of having more depressions in the future.

When you first see a doctor, one-third of the patients will improve on the first medication that’s tried. After a number of drug trials, efficacy rate is 70 percent.

There’s a blood-brain barrier to protect the brain from toxic agents which is one reason antidepressants take so long to work: from 2 to 6 weeks.

Depression causes areas in the brain to atrophy. However cells in the brain are continually dying just as new cells are born. It’s important for the brain to "clean house" and sweep away the dead cells. In areas where cells have been killed by depression, neurogenesis or the birth of new brain cells can take place.

In other words, with depression the rate of cell death or apoptosis increases & neurogenesis is unable to replace the cells as quickly as they're lost. This could be an explanation for brain atrophy observed in depressed populations.

Imaging techniques have allowed researchers to probe the depths of the brain and discover the many areas that are affected by depression. Dr. W believes this physical evidence of depression will help alleviate stigma.

ECT changes the structure of nerve cells. It silences troublesome genes and turns on healthy genes.

Stress turns on alarm mechanisms which in healthy people are valuable flight or flight mechanisms but in the depressed or anxious person pumps too much cortisol into the brain which causes brain atrophy.

Worthington saw an 18-yo girl who had been nearly comatose w/depression since age 14. She had no expression on her face. She was tried on ECT which did nothing. Then she had VNS treatments, which she was deathly afraid of, but they worked so well she was able to participate in school and get a volunteer job.

Bipolar depression is harder to treat than unipolar.

Brilliant scientists are working hard in the field for all of us. Dr. W mentioned the work of Michael Meaney of McGill University and Helen Mayberg. Here's Meaney's profile. He speaks about the importance of good nurturing for babies and children for proper brain development. Interestingly, tho, even when a child is improperly nurtured, if they are removed from their mother & placed w/a nurturing mom, their brain can grow normally.

The neurologist Helen Mayberg was profiled here in a 2006 NY Times Magazine article.

When Worthington was finished, I gave him an ornamental pepper plant and said "I hope Mrs. Worthington likes gardening or maybe you can put it in your office." He's a good-looking man w/a full head of white hair and is probly in his early 70s.

I also told him I no longer suffered from bipolar disorder and he was delighted to hear it. I said I'd participated in a Bipolar genetic study at NIMH and the woman who interviewed me said they're finding that some people who've taken lithium are no longer symptomatic. He asked who was the head of the study.

Francis McMahon, I said.

Oh, he's good, said Dr. W. His name is cited in lots of studies I read.

I didn't tell Dr. W that McMahon, when last I spoke to him sev'l years ago, does not believe I'm cured.

You do get used to important people clinging to hard and fast ideas they learned in med school. Thankfully, not everyone is as closed-minded. I did write McMahon a note, however, enclosing our most recent Compass magazine, and telling him I am asymptomatic. Since his assistants are now acknowledging the truth about many of us being 'cured' from bipolar, I'd hope that McMahon will also see the light.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Summers End: A Poem

Thanks to my dear friend, Robert Howard Lokoff, for allowing me to read my poem to him. Private note to Rob: did you get my birthday postcard, Roberto?


they gather outside my window
in barely suppressed terror
shrieking to the trees
displaying themselves
for what I do not know
all they know of god
is man
we are often kind
when not in slaughter mode

the bluejay stops to rock his feathers blue
and lift a wing
as he submits
to the falling of leaves and
the end of his cover
o ambush me not
cries the virulent jay

cardinals cling to the branch
safe in the knowledge that
Beauty is the highest power
the snows of winter will only
enhance their
show-stopper red

and sparrows
remind us once again
that even the ordinary in nature
if feathered
can rival a majestic oak
with a flutter

with barely suppressed terror
I listen to the music of the birds
and await the first rush of falling leaves
trill on
trill on.

I Now Pronounce You

My daughter Sarah officiated at the wedding of my niece Melissa. The gazebo under which Mel, as we call her, and Rich Degrassi took their vows was on the water in Oakdale, NY, a theme Sarah used in her 'sermon.' A procession of family members, including my sister Donna, the mother of the bride, strolled up the center aisle while dozens of people were snapping photos.

The couple read their vows to one another and then Sarah asked Rich to stomp on a napkin-wrapped glass in the Jewish tradition to symbolize the shattering of one's single life and the joining together in a heavenly union.

I was sipping on a glass of water and feeling the heat of the sun beam down. It had been raining all day except for now when the sun came out as if blessing the couple.

I wondered how the Degrassi family felt about their son marrying a Hispanic woman who is also part Jewish. Isn't it something how waves of immigrants arrive and are looked down upon by those already here until they establish themselves in the business world. That is certainly something Melissa's Ecuadorean family did par excellence.

Her grandmother Maria was a hard-working cleaning lady for rich people. With no husband, she managed to send her 2 sons to school and they both became educators - principals or asst. principals - of NY city schools.

They fared very well in America. Melissa herself became a dentist. As a bride, she looked spectacular in a long white gown as she marched down the white carpet on the arm of her father Roberto Hernando Cartagena, who subsequently remarried a woman from El Salvador.

Fun-loving people. Now I've gotta go hang up my wedding clothes. They're still on the chair where I left them.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another week, another wedding

How about three people crammed in the backseat of my car, my 87-yo mother in the front seat with her infected foot elevated on a pillow, and Scott bravely navigating roads we'd never traveled on before. How we got there was a miracle....and on time.

We left at 7:30 a.m. w/printed directions from Google maps. I printed out 3 sets for 3 'backseat drivers.' Wedding location was the furthest point on Long Island, New York. I was the first driver. "Tell me where to go," was the operative word.

From the PA Turnpike to the Jersey Tpke I was directed to the Lincoln Tunnel.

"You've gotta be kidding," I said. "It'll take forever to get thru Manhattan. You have to spiral downward into the tunnel. It could take 45 minutes. I'm pulling over and calling my sister Donna."

I pulled over to the side of the road & called Donna on my cell. She ordered me to call Herman, the father of the bride. Herman said to go thru the Tunnel and then to take another tunnel - the Mid-Town Tunnel onto some expressway.

"Scott," I said, "it's your turn to drive."

You see, I won't drive thru tunnels. I am not claustrophobic but another mental incapacity takes over which makes tunnel driving very difficult.... the monotony, the sameness, the lack of variation is intolerable to me. If I drive thru a tunnel, I put my hand on my brow to cut off my top vision and look only at the monotony of the road in front.

Scott did a superb job following directions and we got to the wedding on time.

I'd announced many times during the ride, Let's just get there on time, we can get lost on our way home.

That we did.

We got directions from Sylvia and Frank, a married couple who sat at our wedding table. I double-checked the directions w/the owners of the restaurant where the wedding was held.

Off we went. This time we'd be smart. We'd take the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge so we wouldn't have to drive thru Manhattan. Built in 1964, the bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world at that time, connecting Staten Island to Brooklyn. We kept our eyes open for Exit 14 off the main highway.

Our five-passenger car never saw an Exit 14. I didn't tell anyone but I was stressed to the max. Here are the forces I was battling inside:

- fear of being lost 3 hours from home
- fear of being lost in the darkness - it was now twilight
- fear of my mother's infected foot causing her an escalation of pain
- fear of inconveniencing Scott on his weekend of rest

Because Scott is a man, he refused time and again to pull over to ask directions. Finally, he pulled into a gas station. We were now directly across the street from the Belmont Race Track. The gas station was mobbed. We gassed up, then pulled over and asked someone for directions.

Literally 6 people crowded around us telling us where to go. All had deep NY accents. It was touching how everyone wanted to help us. Scott was wearing his pin-stripe navy pants and a red tie, I had a black n white dotted sleeveless pantsuit that showed my curves & my fabulous black orthotic shoes that showed my unpainted toenails.

We wrote down every word the young man said and then headed out.

The Verrazano Bridge was another 45 minutes away. We finally saw it off in the distance, sparkling with lights like the North Star. Sigh of relief. We twisted and turned with the road until we got there, then crossed on the wide top deck, forsaking the bottom deck. The bridge itself was spectacularly b'ful.

It cost $11 to cross.

Sylvia and Frank had routed us thru a number of small highways, zigging and zagging. Listen, I said, let's just take the Jersey and the PA Turnpike. I think we can figure it out ourselves. My mom had some memories of driving to New York on those routes. It was neat hearing her say things like, "My husband and I used to visit Uncle Louie this way" - or "once, Daddy and I got off at Jersey City just for the fun of it."

We left the wedding at 5 pm and were home by 9:15. I reckoned that our meanderings had cost us 45 minutes to an hour, not bad.

Scott and I were asleep by 10 pm. The next day I was in recovery from the long drive having slept 10 hours and then napping liberally thruout the day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Letter from a Young Mama Cat

I, Ruthie, was driving the backroads near home when I encountered a sign: Free kittens, Stop in.

These were the huge houses on a nearby street, I mean really really large, all surrounded by tall trees, so tall and thickly planted you wondered if the rain could penetrate to the ground. The street is narrow so at nite I often stop my car in the oncoming lights and just pause a few moments till the car goes by.

It is also deer country. We certainly do not wanna be driving fast and encounter a deer or two or three. Nothing sadder than a dead deer at the side of the road.

So I pulled up the driveway and parked next to a red jeep. Someone seemed to be home. I went to the front door and rang the bell.

Doris poked her head out the window.

"I've come to see the kittens," I said. Doris said she'd meet me in the backyard.

Doris let me in thru the gate and I was on the grounds of a truly magnificent property with a huge swimming pool filled w/greenish water and tiny little flower gardens and statuary, all of it fenced in.

A few feet away was a small cage with an opening in which lived the mama cat and her 4 babies, born in June, now 12 weeks old. The mother herself is only a year old.

I promised Doris I would try to find homes for the cats. She shook my hand and said she enjoyed talking with me. We both agreed that Obama had given the best speech of his presidency and neither of us understood all the fuss being made by the troublemakers. I did not go directly home from her house but stopped at Linda's house to see if she'd like a cat.

Except I stopped at the wrong house. Instead a man in green 'scrubs' answered the door. So I asked him if he wanted an adorable kitten. "Us? Take in a kitten? We already have a dog," he said.

"Okay," I said, "enjoy the rest of your day." Then I found Linda's house. Linda was at work. Her mom said they'd think about it.

When I got home, I removed all my stuff from the backseat of my car:

-my backpack
-some raspberry tea Marion gave me when I visited her earlier
-a black dress to try on to see if I should wear it for yet another wedding tomorrow in LI
-and rhubarb cake I'm sposed to drop off at Helene's house but have decided to eat instead
-an AARP magazine Walter gave me when I stopped over

On light blue stationery I found a note written by the mother cat I'd like to share with you. If her writing style is a lot like mine, chalk it up to coincidence.

Meow! Meow! It's not often a mother cat writes on behalf of her youngsters but heed well my words. I've been a most contented cat since living in this neighborhood among kind people who treat me well and make me feel at home wherever I roam. But it's to Walter and his wife I feel I really belong. Something about Walter that brings out the best in me. Originally from Germany, he named me Mush (rhymes w/push) and it was thru Walter I began to feel comfortable both in the house and out of the house.

In my rovings several months ago, in the dark nite, I met a fine older cat. I could've easily gone home, I'm young and frisky, but I was curious to see what it was like being around this older more mature cat who sidled up to me and made me feel so good with his seemingly well-practiced caresses. One thing led to another and I can only tell you we had the most marvelous time together out in the cricket-filled nite with the lightning bugs flashing all around and then just as quickly the elder cat disappeared.

Soon after I began feeling a pressure in my belly, a very heavy sensation as if there were movable pebbles in there. When I walked the little pebbles swayed to an fro. I did have an inkling what was going on and as the pebbles grew weightier I began to stay close to home. Walter and Doris as always would check on me frequently and filled my bowl with special new food.

The kittens are 12 weeks old now. I am so proud of them. I wash them with my paws and my tongue and watch them scamper across the yard. They are brave little darlings. One is gray and white like me, two are calico, and one is midnight with shining green eyes like their dad.

The owners will have them inoculated over the weekend so they will be all ready for adoption. Cats are not as sentimental as humans. As soon as they leave the premises I will all but forget about my babies. There are so many other things to pay attention to. Watch a cat sometime and you will see the role model of living in the present moment, of enjoying every moment of the day, of watching the raindrops drip from the maples or settle into the green water of the backyard pool.

Life goes by fast. Adopt a cat and share the delights of this fragile ever-changing world with one another. Send Ruth an email (ruthdeming at comcast.net) & she'll tell you where to find my babies.

The Day the Towers Fell - Where were YOU?

A day we'll never ever forget. September 11, 2001, though for me the memories grow dim. I was home that beautiful autumn morning and so was my grown son Daniel. He lived downstairs in the den with his 2 cats - Blank and Xena - with the door firmly shut so the cats wouldn't come upstairs and claw me to death.

His cellphone rang. It was Dan's friend A.J. I don't know what the initials stand for. AJ hailed from Afghanistan and had a huge long name. He'd graduated with Dan from Upper Moreland High School, a really smart kid who kept getting in trouble with the law until he finally got married and settled down.

Dan ran upstairs and told me the news that the World Trade Center had blown up. He snapped on the television in the living room and the 2 of us sat in stunned silence watching the scene over and over again with the hushed voice of the announcer.

And then of course those horrible plops that need no describing.

I arose from the couch in sheer terror. I had become transiently psychotic and believed that Nazi soldiers were marching up my street. Quickly I thought Where can I hide? Where can Dan and I go that we won't be found?

I said nothing to Dan except, "Dan, please give me a hug."

He did, a nice warm solid hug.

In the bright sunshine and blue skies, with my flowers still blooming out front, there came a knock on the front door.

Were they here already?

I slid thru the front door not letting whoever it was see the inside of the house, or that Dan was home.

Two Jehovahs Witnesses had chosen this very day to march down our quiet street in the name of the Lord. My job was to covertly question them to see if they were actually Nazi spies or if they were in fact who they claimed to be.

Since one of them was black, I doubted their ties with the Nazis but then caution was imperative and trust must be withheld until I was certain. Carefully I apprised them of the Twin Towers' demise and watched their shocked reaction.

They were in the clear. I wished them well and allowed them to give me a Watchtower brochure.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Robinson Fredenthal: We remember him by his work

On the way to the Jersey shore, we pass Roger-Wilco liquor store. Out front is a huge spiral structure twisting toward the sky, a sculpture by Robinson Fredenthal of Philadelphia. Sadly, his obituary appeared in today's Inquirer, dead at age 69 of complications of Parkinson's disease.

I was surprised he lived that long. When I interviewed him for Art Matters I was 38 and he was early 40s. His disease was so bad he popped L-Dopa pills every 10 minutes to enable his limbs to do more or less what he wanted them to do. His movements were quick and jerky, uncontrolled. I spent a few days with him for my profile, accompanying him to the University of Penn campus he so loved, and where at least one of his enormous sculptures resided.

I also went w/him to his neurologist's office where his odd physical behavior commanded numerous looks in the waiting room. I remember watching a female patient who, in retrospect, exhibited tongue- and head-rolling behavior from tardive dyskinesia which people get who are on long-term antipsychotic meds.

Robin lived at the top of a very long stairway on top of a French restaurant he had never eaten at. He was too poor. His apartment was sparsely furnished. No rugs. He was very smart. Brilliant. My job gave me the opportunity of being around people smarter than me so I could learn. I didn't know a thing about art but I never mentioned this to anyone. When writing about Fredenthal, I left my kids with a babysitter and went to work in my mother's living room on a Smith-Corona electric typewriter. I wanted to do justice to his work so I began writing a little differently than I'd ever written before.

I envisioned the writing of Dante's Divine Comedy and how he had described the wonders of The Inferno..... short sentences. I did the same in my article on Fredenthal. It worked. The story came out very well. I had taken a leap in my writing.

About a year ago I began to wonder what had become of Robin. I did an Internet search and made a few phone calls. Couldn't find him. Then by chance I learned he was in the Inglis House for disabled people. "I will not come visit you in your plaid bathrobe," I had written in a poem I wrote about Fredenthal years ago.

During our time together we discussed creativity. I told him I envisioned it as visiting a springhouse below ground, the kind where you keep meat and cheeses, but that you never know when you'll be let in or not. I wrote a poem about that too and read it to him over the phone. He agreed that not all days would we be let inside.

Who lets us in?

One more thing. His father David Fredenthal (1914-1958) was an artist and war correspondent for Life magazine. I drove over to the Philadelphia Library, Northeast Regional Branch, where at the time (1984) they had volumes and volumes of bound Life mags available for the readers to look at. I found his dad's articles, photocopied some, and brought them for Robin to see.

When he and I parted after I'd written about him, I sent him a NY Times magazine cover of Stephen Hawking in a wheelchair. I wrote a balloon caption from Stephen reading: Dear Robin, The sky is the limit. - SH

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day 2009

On this Labor Day, we can be grateful if we are lucky enough to be employed.

I commend you to Bill Moyers. His column is reprinted on Truthout.org, a progressive online website. Are you a progressive like me? I most value human rights, a theme in our recent Compass magazine, where we profiled black Americans, gay Americans, suicidally depressed Americans, and incarcerated Americans, all under the rubric Know Your Neighbors.

A book review highly critical of psychiatry appears on this online website. Read it! It'll make you scratch your head in wonder.

Other holiday reading material includes an opinion piece in The Times by convicted murderer Kenneth E Hartman. Hartman's own website is here. What is this man doing in prison? Why do we lock up teenagers and keep them in cells until the day they die?

Use your empathic brain like I do. Imagine your brother is Kenneth Hartman. He won't be joining Scott and me at Lake Galena today for a boat ride or eating a delicious hot breakfast of oatmeal n maple syrup or sleeping on smooth yellow sheets with the door slightly ajar for a nice autumn breeze.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why are my teeth purple?

Hint: it's got something to do with what I'm eating. Please muse on this while I blab on.

The phone rings. Caller ID says Unknown Name, Unknown Number. I pick it up cuz I know who it is. International calls do not say his name which, for the record, is Daniel Deming.

The moment I pick it up I hear them both laughing on the other end. They're in Venice on Day Four of their honeymoon. Rome has tiny cars. And scooters. One pope and a Sistine Chapel more magnificent than they'd ever expected.

Everything exceeds their expectations. They are giddy w/lack of sleep, waking up early to tour, and with food such as they've never tasted before. One of their 30 tour people hails from Edmond, OK, where Dan's dad lived and where his sister Sarah is now visiting since today is Dad's 63rd b'day, were he still alive. Sarah is keeping her stepmom company over the sad occasion of his first birthday after his death.

How well we know such things, Dear Dad, who would be 88 this May 4 had not a brain tumor swept him away at 59.

When I was trying to fall asleep last nite in the motel at Cape May, NJ, I said to Scott, I'm gonna meditate on Absence. The absence of my ex-husband and the absence of former boyfriend Simon Baniewicz.

The human mind doesn't seem capable of knowing what to do when people leave for good. Pictures in the mind is the best I can do. Lying in the dark and filling the canvas of my mind with images and pretend conversations. Talking to Simon about Dan's wedding, about visiting him in his Bensalem bungalow, and the latest in cancer research.

He had a beautiful soothing voice. Where is that voice now? How he loved his weather machine tacked to his backyard tree. "Come on over," he would say. "I'll pick some figs for you."

Scott and I rented bikes for our three-day trip to Cape May. You'd have thought we were in China! All sorts of people rode bikes, old folks, young folks, tall people, fat people, fathers carrying babyseats with helmeted kids inside. Since I'm short, I got the smallest bike I could find but still my feet didn't touch the ground. I had to take a leap of faith pedaling and would find myself swearing "C'mon, dammit, get that other foot up there and pedal!"

Cape May was a mob scene. We headed out early every day so we wouldn't have to wait in lines to eat or to park. At the Tomato Festival, I bought my favorite beverage: real lemonade. Even now, as I sit here, I'm drinking freezing cold water with fresh-squeezed lemon. Pucker up!

Having bought too many blueberries I just boiled em now, added some lemon, and served it over Sarah's granola. A nice healthy dessert.

For a REAL TREAT, read my daughter Sarah's blog about her brother's wedding. She'll tell you about the toast she made. We Demings are True Originals!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

All god's chillun needs Faherty Shoes

How did it happen? The sole of my right foot was in excruciating pain. I could barely walk. Never had I experienced a pain like this.

"Plantar fascitis," said Donna. "You've gotta get special orthotics."

Oh, great. I go from the healthiest 63-year-old in the world to a friggin' cripple. I do not go gently into the world of plantar fascitis.

I focus on the word "orthotics." Hmm, you mean there's something I can do to prevent this horrible pain? I would never have made it in the concentration camps. My friends would've had to protect me lest the guards would spot me and send me to the gas chamber.

Fortunately my mother has bad feet and wears the most hideous shoes you've ever seen when she wants to stand on her feet. Actually, this was before she discovered sneakers. Now she just wears the sneakers. But I'd driven her to Faherty's in Southampton, PA, so I was familiar with it.

I squeezed my aching foot into a wide-toed sandal and drove over, radio blasting. That new car of mine has a nice sound system. It has two huge cup-holders in which I always carry a glass of ice-water. Ever notice how Americans are conditioned to buy things in plastic bottles?

Hey, if it comes in a plastic bottle or aluminum can it must be good for you. How bout some nice supercaffeinated Red Bull? Or some Gatorade with lots of sodium? Or the new vitamin waters. What a great way to waste your money.

Scuse me while I pour a nice cold glass of ice water and quench my thirst from eating 2 bowls of pudding.

Make that 3 bowls. Actually I'm revising my opinion. Jell-O is better than Oetker. Oetker is too sweet and has too much salt. Yikes!

Faherty's is nice n cool. I always bring a sweater cuz w/my kidney disease I get cold easily, esp. from drinking so much ice water.

But I LIKE IT that's why I drink it. It's worth getting pneumonia.

Their names are stitched on their shirts. Mike, Bart IV, and Ed. The latter two are Flaherty's, celebrating their 50th years in biz. Ed took over from his dad. He's the longest living man with his particular medical condition, having undergone 30 surgeries. He loves life, he tell me. Loves the little things - camping, playing baseball, spending time with his family.

Can that guy talk!

Ed explains the ins & outs of plantar fascitis, herewith known as PF, and tells me how to PREVENT it. I am ecstatic. We do stretching exercises together. Go slow, he says. You just got an injury and it's healing slowly.

I tell him we're going to the shore, can I ride a bike? Can I walk in the sand?

Yes, ride a bike with the middle part of your foot. Walk in wet sand which is better for your feet than dry sand which does not 'give.' No, you may not go barefoot in your yard cuz the pavement does not 'give.'

He sells me a pair of expensive shoes but they are beautiful shoes, a comfy sandal with all my 12 toes showing. I wear them home and drive with them, pedaling with the middle of my foot like Ed says. I blog in them and make pudding in them. I go on my stationary bike for 8 minutes in them and watch the depressing Nightly News in them.

I am in love with my new shoes and with Faherty's. Remember when you were a kid & your mom took you to the shoe store? The man would measure your feet and make you feel special. When was the last time you had this experience at Payless Shoes or DSW?

Caution, says the handout provided by Faherty's. Because these muscles are seldom stretched, the effect of doing too many stretching exercises may cause soreness of the calf area, hamstrings, thigh or shin splints.

Ed and I theorized how this coulda happened to me. The best I could guess was that Scott and I climb the high hill at Pennypack Ecological Trust off Terwood Road. I mean, this hill is huge! Next time Scott'll have to push me in my wheelbarrow. Oh well, he's quite strong.

Now that the wedding's over...

I'm left with lots of food I need to use before I leave for the weekend.

What would YOU do with organic whole milk? We used this to make the enormous amounts of yogurt to go w/the granola that was the hit of the morning-after brunch at my mom's.

If you're me, you'll make your favorite dessert with it: creamy pudding. Only 2 kinds are any good. Jell-O cook n serve and Dr. Oetker. The latter is the better and is twice as expensive. It's found in the healthy food aisle since it contains organic everything. It's made in Ontario tho the company is based in Germany. I like the idea of its coming from Canada, like our cheaper pharmaceutical products we're not allowed to buy anymore, or like Cadbury Chocolate which purportedly practices fair monetary prices in selecting African growers for its chocolate.

I think so many American companies have forgotten about fair trade and equity and view the bottom line - the dollar and beholden to their stockholders - they don't even realize how corrupt they've become. This filters into all realms of society not just big corporations. Recently I read a newspaper article about the Bucks County Office of misBehavioral Health investigating its 2 top administrators for outrageous spending of the public's money. The 2 subsequently quit or were fired. I was shocked!

Since pudding is actually a fast food, you must be careful it doesn't taste artificial. Instant pudding certainly does, but the 5-minute cooking kind does not. I still have one carton of Dr. Oetker left, so if you're interested in having some - sans whipped cream - lemme know and I'll make a fresh batch.

Since Dan and Nicole are currently honeymooning in Rome where espresso is $5 per tiny cup, I went over to take care of the cats. "Bonjour! mes amies" I say upon entering & put the mail on the dining room table. I pull out a chair and put Thursdays junk mail on the chair.

Lemme see if the pudding has cooled yet.

Wow! only five more minutes & it'll be ready to eat. I had 4 bowls last nite. You don't wanna come home from the shore to find sour milk in your fridge.

The widow of my ex-husband stayed with me for the wedding. When she left, I said to her, Thanks for being such a great step-mom. She really liked hearing that. They're pursuing litigation on the wrongful death of her husband, the father of my children. You go into the hospital expecting to get better, not preparing to die.

After she left, Scott said to me, Donna is the kindest woman I've ever met. Is everybody in Oklahoma City that kind? I thought a moment and said, I suppose so.

Dyou think 5 minutes has elapsed?

Why would they be kind in Oklahoma? For one thing, they're not in such a big hurry. Oh, they drive real fast cuz they have huge distances to cover, but they know the meaning of a front porch and a patio and those huge big skies that come all the way down to the earth. It just makes you want to sit and watch. And, sure, if there's a small herd of cattle and a bull out beyond the fence, you can watch them amble along and nudge each other and chew on the green grass.

Dan and Nicole post their Roman findings on Spacebook, as a friend calls it. I'll give them a report that the cats are doing well. Green-eyed Chaz is lying on a couple of Nicole's shirts to remind him of his beloved.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wedding Bells Part 2

Sarah and Ethan drove in from Brooklyn with their his n her laptops. Ethan stayed up until 3 to finish a huge blogpost he'd been working on for 6 months, a centennial tribute to jazz great Lester Young (dead at 50). He received a record no. of hits - 5,000.

What a great time we had together. Sarah prepared a huge post-wedding brunch for about 40 people at my mom's house down the road in Huntingdon Valley. She drew up a list of ingredients and then asked me where to shop for them.

For the German sausage dish, she asked if there was a good meat market we could go to.

Yes! I said. Rieker's in the Fox Chase section of Philadelphia, formerly a German neighborhood. The 3 of us drove over. I let Ethan drive my new car since he was unhappy w/his rented Toyota Corolla, saying he didn't like the way it braked. My car handled itself very well, he thought. Basically you want your car to be an extension of yourself, even as to the way it looks, if we could transform ourselves into cars. As you know, my car has a fin, referred to as a spoiler.

You will note, I said to Sarah and Ethan, when we get out of the car at Rieker's you will be able to smell the meat market in the driveway, a smell which will explode when you enter the shop & will make you wanna buy basically everything.

They that work there have German accents. This was not a time to make jokes about the Nazi oppressors or guards at Auschwitz. We did that in the car. This was a time to gaze lovingly on all the meat and sausages and imports from the Fatherland. Sarah asked questions and the woman told her exactly how to cook the 3 types of sausages she would buy and to add garlic and paprika to them.

Surprisingly, the hit of the brunch was Granola served with homemade yogurt. Sarah made Granola that was as potent as a fruitcake, absolutely exploding with flavor. She baked it in my oven and used real maple syrup as a light sweetener. I'd made the yogurt the nite before using organic whole milk and a small amount of vanilla flavoring. The combination was unparalleled!