Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hello Senator Greenleaf!

State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, Bubby, Ada Fleisher, Fontaine Caldwell

We had an appt at Greenleaf's office b/c we wanted to make him aware of his many constituents who have depression, bipolar disorder and family members.

Before we left my house, I said, Okay, Ruthie, pretend you're smart and prepare a nice white envelope of information about New Directions.

White envelopes are my favorite! When I need to have a handy reference I print things on the back of a nice thick 8.5 x 11 white envelope. Used, of course.

Senator Greenleaf sat at the head of a long rectangular table with a yellow legal pad and 2 felt tip pens.

As I said to Ada and Fontaine before leaving my house, it would be nice if we did some research and knew what causes Greenleaf stood for. Fortunately, in his Waiting Room he had a whole Info Sheet of his accomplishments and awards which I studied before we went in. He's been in office since 1978.

The waiting room was filled with a huge library of brochures about everything you ever wanted to know about the Keystone State. I always carry brochures in my backpack but figured no one would notice them.

His personal office was huge and filled with windows. I opened my white envelope and spread out all the goodies on the table: a Compass with a Carl Yeager photo on the cover, an article about me in the Inky Neighbors section, a trifold brochure about my favorite illness, a brochure for my Writers Group at Weinrich's (I wanted to tell him that bipolar people are creative) and a New Directions brochure.

When our 35-minute meeting was about to end, I stuffed everything back in the white envelope and pushed our brochure toward him.

We asked his help in changing the way A Local Mental Health Center runs itself. There's a forward-looking movement called OpenAccess where a person in crisis can get an appt on the same day, much as a dentist will see you for a toothache. My friend Fran Hazam told me about this.

As long as I have your attention (hopefully you haven't fallen asleep) lemme read from some notes in front of me. A depressed woman called me today. She's so despondent she can't enjoy her 3-year-old son.

She just had ECT which did not work. I told her, in my experience, it doesn't work in half of the cases. What meds are you on, I asked.

She named a few, including Topomax. I reflexively said, "that's useless." (Readers, I am not a doctor.)

I told her to get a consultation w/someone else. I did not say that the psychiatrist she's seeing is not on our Top Doc List and never will be. I told her, "I'm cooking now, so I can't look at my list, but as soon as I put the fettucine in the water to boil, I'll look at the the List."

By now, I was chopping the onions, garlic and carrots to saute in another pan. With olive oil, of course.

"Okay, we'll go to the computer," I said. "Hold on, my computer is real slow."

I gave her four names.

While driving to the Bryn Athyn post office, I pass so many b'ful buildings I can hardly stand it.

But, you can't look at em while driving. Hence the photos which I can look at on mine own sweet blog.

All the beauty you'd ever want...5 minutes from home.

What is your favorite beautiful place, Dear Reader? Close your eyes a moment and picture it. Then go there! Often! Bring someone you love. I'm busy all next week.

Today is my son's first wedding anniversary. Went over to Stutz Candy - yes, they're still in biz - and picked out 2 lovely boxes of candy.

Then I drove to the kids' house and Dan and Nicole each claimed their favorite pieces. I took a tiny bite of mint bark to bring back memories of when we lived in the apartments and bought 'kitchen seconds' at Stutz.

Is life just a bunch of memories? A bunch of yesterdays? Seems like it, doesn't it?

This girl has a strategy for everything including

reading scary novels.

Pure and simple, it's a terrific book. I cart it along wherever I go. While reading it this afternoon, here's the strategy about reading a scary book where horrific things happen. The villain is Norman Daniels, a cop who likes nothing better than killing people. He likes seeing them suffer. He does terrible things to them.

When I read a book, I never look at page numbers. I have no idea how many pages are in the book. I'm seven-eighths finished.

I try to get quickly off the page where Norman does horrible things to people. You read it once and never again. He uses foul language. He's a racist and hates everyone. He particularly hates women like his wife in the title whom he beat within an inch of her life for 14 years until she 'woke up' and realized she could run away.

Natch, Norman is after her. I highly recommend this book. Am proud to say I read it when I'm home alone at night. Usually keep some music going to keep me in the pleasure zone while I read this fantastic horrible story.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Welcome, Grace Catherine Deming

And I shall be called Bubby to preserve the Jewish heritage in my happily assimilated family. My ex-husband, the late Millard G Deming, came from an amazing clan of people - East Texas farm people on his mom's side who I had the pleasure of knowing and loving way back when - Aunt Mae's quilt she made for baby Sarah is still intact. His dad's people were the brilliant scholarly Demings, tho alcoholism captured Mike's dad when this brilliant geophysicist worked in Venezuela and he drank himself thru 3 wives until he died at 60.

One reason I married Mike was that he was so different than me - blond, blue-eyed - a scientist at heart. I am the opposite of a xenophobe, being forever attracted to those who are different from me, so that I can absorb new knowledge and ways of being from them.

All this is reflected in the genetic heritage of Grace Catherine, born August 15.

She is gangly, long-armed and long-legged. You can easily imagine her dancing across the floor with her 'brothers' who are all cats.

Grace Catherine has become a magnet in the family. A baby jesus, as it were, to whom we all make pilgrimages to see. Bringing with us, not gold frankincense and myrhh, but pineapple bread pudding (sister Lynn), baby books, and Kiehl's creams for baby skin.

So goes the preservation of the species. Our genes are engaged. Our hard wiring. We must visit that baby. And they want us. Something big is happening. Why has natural selection made it imperative to visit the baby? What are we doing for her?

I believe we are sharing our germs with her as well as our voices and rhythms as she learns what it means to be a human being.

Her eyes look around. What does she see? What is her little brain recording? Everything - the air, the food, the voices - feeds her brain and enables it to grow and develop, sending messages to her body to do the same. Oh, if only you could feel the softness of her little arms and the tiny bird-like bones beneath.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Woman about town: moi

My favorite walking shoes.

Had to go to the small town of Hatboro, PA, to return my Jack Dempsey autobiography from the Philadelphia Athletics Store next to the post office so decided to do my half hour walk in town.

Nothing makes me feel better about life than walking quickly and swinging my arms and seeing the shops on main street pass by thru my eagerly swiveling head. Can't stop, tho, cuz gotta get my aerobic heart rate up there.

Hatboro Baptist Church

Here's the Baptist Church, an old building and quite lovely. I've always preferred the soaring beauty of churches to synagogues. Cutting thru the church I walked thru the wet grassy cemetery in the back and saw very old stones.

You may cremate me but please make sure I'm dead, Sarah and Daniel.

Then I went in back of this huge office complex that was once the home of some wealthy family. You can see the house poking up in the middle of the complex.

This is sort of like the way our brains evolved. We kept the primary core and then simply added on different sections, right Harvey Cushing, father of brain surgery? Article in today's Times about him. I read almost every medical story in there which goes in one lobe and out thother.

I just gave my head - and implied brain within - a little massage of love to show my deep appreciation for all the good work it's done over the course of 64 years. And I ain't dead yet. I love the Self-Esteem Group I run from my living room.

Remember this. In group therapy, the members do most of the work, not the leader. One of most effective techniques is doing role playing. Rehearsal for real life.

When I thought I'd walked half an hour I returned to my car. The ole brain was working and I found it parked in front of the post office. But then instead of getting in, I couldn't stop myself from walking a little bit more....and I discovered an old colleague of mine from the days I worked as a therapist at Bristol-Bensalem Human Services, which is now a housing development with rocking chairs on the front porches.

Glendetta was in a hurry so we didn't have much time to chat. I had been in a silent way until then and was aching to talk to someone, so I rounded the corner and passed the home of my old friend Carrell Beame who died at 96 sev'l years ago. Sure enuf, the new person was in Carrell's old garden.

Now this was quite a thrill. Bill said several people had come by, wanting to see who moved into Carrell's house. Bill and his partner Keith run Rose in Bloom, custom floral arrangements for weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, and parties.

I was thrilled to be in Carrell's old backyard, b'fully maintained by Rose in Bloom which operates from an office out front. There was the huge white birdbath w/seahorse motif. And the sweet peas, which I have in my backyard, a gift from Carrell.

The kitchen was pretty much the same with a wall-oven that was quite old and a bow window that Carrell told me used to leak. Ah, the things we remember.

Bill and Keith had three beautiful cats. Carrell had one cat, Opie. Altho he had no children, his family took c/o him in the days before his death, building on a front addition for his downstairs bedroom.

I wrote a poem about Carrell called The Iris Man. I met him when he was 86 and very mobile until his death at 96. They say when his twin sister Caroline died a month before he did (she lived around the corner) he just gave up and died. Quite a psychological component to dying.

I had nothing to read. Scott lent me a Harlan Koban which was no good so I had that awful feeling of Need a Good Book to read. Reminds me of a sign on the Hatboro Baptist marquee: Let God fill that empty place in your heart.

Let a Good Book fill that empty place in your heart, says my marquee.

The Guermantes Way by Proust

The New Yorker mentioned this book so it was on my mind when I went to the library. I'd tried and failed Proust before, like so many people try and fail antidepressants, but decided to give it another chance. Began reading it around 11 pm, alternating w/the Stephen King thriller below.

The rhythm of this first translation - by Scott Montclief - was so b'ful I told myself, Just keep reading, the meaning will follow. The images were pouring forth like a walk thru Hatboro or the Amazon Rainforest or atop the Great Wall of China, my eyes were dazzled by what Proust saw, and I was reminded of Va Woolf's The Waves which also contained rich torte-like layers of delicious writing.

My eyes teared up while reading. I'm reading Proust, I'm reading Proust, I said between lines. I'm grown-up. I can read. I can really read. She's 64 yrs old and still thinks like a child.

Is that a quality of the manic-depressive or just really fantastic people? My doubts are numerous and forever but I never let on.

Stephen King novel that begins with a riveting story of domestic violence sustained by the main character for 14 years until she 'wakes up' and won't take it anymore. Her husband is a cop.

Cheltenham Adult Evening School brochure

Also perused this catalog. The cover showcases a class on Raising Eggs in Your Suburban Backyard. Hey, that's an idea for you Marcy! Something to live for. Fuzzy baby chicks. Can you imagine me out there in my jammies ... never mind. Anyway, I wanted to tell you the BRILLIANCE of our eyesight.

When I go hiking at Pennypack, my eyes -- like yours -- take in so much. It's our chief way of learning, even if we don't pay attention to what we're seeing. It comes back to us. So when I go onto this particular trail, I hear a rooster crowing and sure enuf there's a hen house on someone's property. So without paying much attention, my brain was picking up knowledge of this event.

That's really the whole point of this post. That we know more than we think we do.

PS - Signed up for the Poetry Workshop w/the great Bill Kulik! I told him I prefer writing prose and he suggested I write Prose-Poems. I'm psyched!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dinner is served!

Thai iced tea

I could not believe my good fortune! A reprise from cooking. Stephen and Arleen invited us over for dinner! They kindly asked about my dietary restrictions and I said I couldn't eat: tomatoes, potatoes, mangos or meat (to name a few popular items) due to my kidney disease. How thoughtful!

I fished into my basket of directions and found direx to their condo on the back of an envelope. We arrived exactly on time. In the parking lot was an attractive-looking couple, to whom we said hello, and then discovered they were Mike and Meg, who were also going to the party.

I was carrying my contribution to the dinner party....iced Thai tea. Since I had my Writer's Group earlier that day (we critiqued the below Letter to Eric) I stopped off at the Viet restaurant Pho and Beyond to buy their scrumptious iced Thai tea for the guests. Yes, I knew it was risky. People might not like it. But it is so incredibly delicious. You must put it on your bucket list.

Now. We were in the garden. The birds were feeding in the squirrel-proof (yeah right) bird-feeder. We sat on the patio. Stephen was firing up the grill for the salmon and butterfish and I was walking around with a large glass of iced Thai tea and ice.

It was even more delicious than I remembered the first time. I was afraid of getting a caffeine buzz cuz I don't drink caffeine. It also had arf n arf in it and I'm not allowed dairy products (phosphorus). Quietly, I took one last sip, then walked around the corner by the hastas and the tomato plants and dumped the contents into the dirt.

No one knew.

One of the hits of the meal was a brown rice/black rice dish w/mushrooms Arleen made. The salad included a yummy grilled fig! Arleen is a really creative cook. A peach tart made its appearance as one of the desserts as well as a flourless brownie. I figured if I ate the whole brownie I'd shorten my life by three hours so I only had a small bite.

What's this? I smell popcorn. Scott is making us popcorn now. It's Sunday and it's raining outside and here comes the popcorn to accompany our next movie: And Then There were None.

Remind me to post all the great movies we watched or slept thru recently.

Letter to Eric: Your choice whether to take meds

Dedicated to my friends, met and unmet, who have bipolar disorder

Dear "Eric,"

Yes, it’s that time of year when your mom, pushing 80, phones me and says, Will you give Eric a call? He stopped taking his meds and he’s suicidal again.

Look, taking meds are a drag. No one knows that more than I do. They’re expensive. They have side effects. They may make you feel weird. They remind you, when you see them sitting on your kitchen table or your desk, that you’ve really got a problem. An illness. A disorder. And it won’t go away.

You did the right thing, Eric, going off your meds, once or twice. The majority of people with bipolar disorder do this. However, almost without exception, they learn the illness comes back. With a vengeance, of course. The illness is mean, we know that. And when we go off, we think, “Perhaps I can make it this time.” I believe you’ve been going off your meds once a year since your diagnosis 15 years ago. Yes, we must question everything in life. Is there a God? Should I become a vegetarian? Is that a maple or an elm tree? Do I really need meds?

Your mom tells me you can’t find a psychiatrist you like. Or a therapist or a support group. I understand. I too am choosy. We must be. I go by the rule of thumb that only 10 percent of all professionals are excellent. Excellence is what we strive for. What we must have.

Since you live in the Northeast Corridor, Eric, you must have hit the 90 percent substandard shrinks. A good shrink should have two qualities: competency and personality.

His or her competency should encompass top knowledge about the psychopharmacopeia. He should be well-read about new developments and new meds. The doctor must be a good listener. His practice consists of seeing one sick person after another. He must have the stamina to remain fresh -– and wide awake -- when he sees you. He must devote total attention to you, as if you are his own sweet child. Yes, we demand that of our healers.

And, know that he demands no less of himself. That is, if he is one of the Top Ten.

Doctors have their favorite drugs. Let’s say that “Dr Marshall” prefers lithium to treat his bipolar patients. But you, Eric, as a well-informed individual, do not want lithium. Dr. Marshall must respect your opinion. If not, we toss him out. We are very very particular about the man or woman who is medicating our minds.

If competency is the number one quality we seek in a psychiatrist, what role does their personality play? A huge role. We all come with a personality. We’re attracted to certain people, repelled by others. It’s awfully difficult to follow a doctor’s orders if we don’t feel a connection with them.

That’s why I suggest you find a highly recommended psychiatrist and have an initial telephone exchange with them. Here’s a subtlety few people know about. A doctor-recommended psychiatrist is not the same as a patient-recommended one. You must get a recommendation from a lay person, a fellow patient, not a professional. Then go with your gut feeling.

Knowing you, Eric, you are probably asking yourself, Why do I need to see a therapist? Aren’t meds enough? Allow me to be blunt. No, medication is not enough. Meds are the first defense against the illness, but did you know that through psychotherapy -– the conversation that ensues between ourselves and a competent caring therapist –- that changes actually occur in our brain? Positive changes that are nearly as effective –- sometimes even moreso –- than our meds?

The goal of therapy is to help you evolve into your best possible self. To bring out the “greatness” inherent in every individual. Most people diagnosed with bipolar disorder feel shame for this diagnosis. You will want to address this with your therapist and then move on. Through therapy you will get to know yourself. And, believe it or not, with a therapist’s help you can learn to change things about yourself you don’t like. Goal-setting is paramount. You are mid-life. A Top Ten therapist can help you achieve your dreams.

No good support groups in the Northeast? Hmmm. Questionable. Since support groups are comprised by nature of numerous individuals, there’s more to find fault with in a support group than a single individual. So, here you will learn to strengthen your Tolerance and Compassion. (Read Thich Nhat Hanh, my favorite man of compassion. He’s a Buddhist monk.)

I readily acknowledge the difficulty of attending a support group. You will see others with your same condition. Some may be attorneys or schoolteachers, others subsisting on Disability, barely able to get out of bed to make a meeting. Some may have been destroyed, temporarily, by one of our outlandish ‘highs’ where we lose everything as our illness turns us into a profligate. And then there are the self-medicators among us who lost everything through abuse of various substances. Our disorder casts a wide net.

Attending a support group takes all our courage. For –- guess what? -– it is at the support group that we meet ourselves, face to face. The ultimate mirror held up showing every crease, every freckle, every eyelash, every wrinkle. “Take it away! Take it away!” you may cry.

Who are we really, Eric? Who are we at the core? We certainly are not our illness. The illness exerts only a small influence on our being, if we properly manage it. If, that is, we choose to manage it through medication and therapy. Only you can decide what to do with the rest of your life. To go or stay. To take or not to take. To live or die.

Freedom demands we understand obstacles that get in the way of our living our very best life. My wish for you, Eric, is that you make the very best choice to reside happily in the world with your mother who loves you, your two beautiful children who love you, and yourself, who you may learn to love, if you ask for help.


Ruth Z Deming, MGPGP
New Directions Support Group
of Abington PA

Friday, August 20, 2010

Private audience with Mary Ann Moylen

Imagine my surprise when I went shopping at the Giant and Mary Ann's door was open. She was on the phone, so I wrote her a note & flashed it in front of her.

May I eat pumpkin seeds? I wrote. How's their potassium content?

When she got off she looked it up on the Internet.

Too high. Darn. I need more protein-rich foods.

Then she walked me out to the shelves and suggested almond butter.

But I can't eat nuts, I said.

Let's look it up, she said.

Turns out I can eat exactly one tablespoon. This particular brand comes laced w/honey. She asked me to let her know how it was.

Ruth, dialing the phone, w/her headsets on so she looks like a spaceman. 215 784 1960.

I love it! I said to her answering machine. I ate it on one of my water crackers.

When all hope is gone, in walked almond butter.

Just got back from seeing Grace Catherine. Scott got to meet her too. We had to leave early cuz I have my Self-Esteem Group tonite at 7. There are only 5 things on the living room couch to stowe away, but I wanted to let you in on my private audience w/Mary Ann.

She'll be speaking to our group in September.

Touring with Sarah

One of the many doors at the Bryn Athyn Cathedral. There are no repeats of ornamentation.

Whenever Sarah comes to town, we tour the area, adhering to my tenet of not traveling further than 20 minutes from home. I promise if you come to town, I'll take you too.

As we drove along, passing the houses of suburbia, I said I enjoy the personality of each house. Big houses, little houses, ugly houses, many-windowed houses, houses on hills, houses down valleys that flood. Took me six months to find my own house. I keep my swimsuit on the doorknob in the living room. I keep my tennis racket behind the living room couch. I have pennies on the wall in the first art project I ever did.

I see clients in my living room. I serve them freezing cold water in beautiful (!) Starbucks plastic cups. I wear shoes during all my sessions, tho sometimes my clients slip off their shoes.

Sometimes you can smell the basil plant on the windowsill.

Sarah and I often begin our day with yoga. We might go to my sister Donna's in Hatboro and all do yoga together with Sarah leading. She was trained at Kripalu, a converted Jesuit monestary, where I visited her once and had a brief psychotic episode, gone quickly with a timely ingestion of the antipsychotic of the day.

I called up the NIMH to ask about statistics for bipolar disorder and the information specialist told me how to find them. Incidentally, I told her I no longer had bipolar disorder and she gave me the ridiculous response: Maybe you were given the wrong diagnosis.

Why is it that people are so unlikely to entertain new ideas?

I occasionally fantasize that I'll be the first person in the world whose failing kidneys regenerate and reverse my stage 5 kidney disease. I accept it. Vat else can you do, she said in a Yiddish accent.

We'll have a conference about my impending death in a couple weeks when Ethan comes to town. It probly won't happen for a couple years. I have so much to live for! But, guess what? I'm not going to live for YOU. I'm living for myself. My kids are grown. I'm not gonna live for my granddaughter. As in, "Let's go visit Bubby. She'll be at home tethered to her dialysis machine."

However, I don't know what I'll do when the moment is upon me. Perhaps I'll surrender to the machine.

Okay, let's celebrate and go on a tour of the Bryn Athyn Cathedral.

Sarah and Donna

The spectacular door outside the main sanctuary, made from the alloy Monel (mostly nickel and copper) by the late Mr. Walter.

Good yontif, Grace Catherine!

I'm sitting here laffing. Good yontif. Yiddish for 'good evening.'

My first grandchild was born at 6:31 pm on Sunday, August 15. Sarah and I were in the maternity waiting room of Holy Redeemer, having arrived around 5. Sarah and I were finishing up our Pew Grant on her laptop. What a great job she did. One of her PhD grantgetting friends helped out. Thank you Lisa!

The clock ticked on. We finished the grant. I did a little pacing. And peering. Okay, Sarah, I said as I sat down, let's watch that video now. She'd brought Arrested Development to pass the time. Dan will surely come out as soon as we start the video.

Sure enuf, a prancing Dan Deming came high-stepping into the waiting room with a huge smile on his face.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Our weekly nature walk / Poem: Dragonfly

It was down to the Pennypack we went for air and sunshine and all the beauty our hearts desired.

I longed to go back to the meadow with its assortment of native grasses and wildflowers. We saw dragonflies and damselflies hovering over the grasses waiting for tasty insects. Monarch butterflies flitted around but seemed not to be able to find anything to eat. Could this be 'a sign' for them that it's time to migrate south?

PBS has a monarch migration show that is astonishing in the intelligence of these creatures. You can watch it online.

Beehive at start of the Raytharn Trail. What the picture doesn't show are seemingly hundreds of bees flying pell-mell to and from the hive. From where we were standing we could hear the buzz in the hive.

Support your local beekeepers by buying local honey. The taste is rich and deep.

Scott had never been to this woodsy part of Pennypack. A sign said this was an old forest, in decline. It's good to go w/someone cuz we each see different things. Scott saw a hawk high in the air. The hawk was emitting some sort of cry. We'd never heard hawks talk so this was a thrill. We thought perhaps he was calling his mate. Hawks will migrate in late September. Long ago I wrote an article about the Hawk Watch at Fort Washington State Park, which still goes on. They count the different raptors they see. Can't believe my mind actually upchucked that word. Ain't the mind always amazing?

Look how the timothy grass emerges from its sheath.

At the end of our walk, Pennypack has a wild garden where I used to volunteer in years gone by. Hovering on a 'money plant' was a hummingbird moth. By the time I pushed the button on my camera to get the lens out, the moth was gone.

Keep your birdbath filled. This one was half-full.

I always like to visit the Springhouse which stays at a constant 55 degrees and is a short walk from the main house, so the original family could store milk and butter and cheese and keep them cool.


I came out of the water one day and became a dragonfly. I didn’t know what to do. Under water they called me a nymph. Like the fish that surrounded me, I flashed my gills and thought that’s how it would be. Then the silent hand of God pulled me upwards, out of the water and into the summer, all of one sky. My shell dropped off and I hovered with terror over the only home I’d ever known.

Oh, what was I to do in these long afternoons with my slim quiver of a body that bent in every direction, with these long sticky wings that stuttered me onward across the pond. And the swollen globes of eyes, so big, so round,so full of corners I could glimpse my body whole.

Over the fluttering color of days I learned what a dragonfly is. I hung with the others and flicked, as they did, the insects from the air, and dropped my eggs, one by one, on the silent skin of pond. Through the muck and breeze, the days marched by. I warmed myself in the sun. Winter was what we looked to. Time would push, would lift, would lilt our aching wings back to the waters of our beginning.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sweet Thursday

Pam and I went to see The Kids are All Right at the beautiful Ambler Theater. We both loved it. Superb acting.

Parking is a problem that should be addressed by the Ambler town council. I parked for free on a side street and jotted down my location -- E. Ridge Street on Forrest -- cuz I had no idea in the universe where I was. Ambler is known for big b'ful houses that once reigned in the days when the city was the asbestos capital of the East Coast. Cough!

As always, we had a rousing discussion at the Willow Grove Giant Coffeeshop.

Afterward I bought 3 lemons for this morning's lemonade. I ran into Debbie, the Fish Monger (better than a war monger) and told her how delicious the red sockeye salmon was. Told her we grilled it on a cedar plank -- thanks Dan! -- that we'd soaked for hours in water so it wouldn't catch on fire.

A time to pause and reflect when you get stopped by the Willow Grove train.

Here's how it looks when you're simply waiting for the light to change. Since this is my home territory it has the sweet taste of familiarity to me.

Two minutes down the same road is the ongoing construction of the Settlement Music School. You may remember the b'ful turquoise infrastructure which has now been replaced by gray tile and plenty of windows. I wanted to get the cement mixer in. I've always liked manly earth-moving machines ever since I was a little boy. Actually, since Dan was a little boy.

When you're a parent, part of you becomes the age of your child. I particularly liked my construction man phase. A highlight was when we lived in the apartments, Dan was about 2.5, and a garbage man let Dan sit in the front of the truck and toot the whistle. Proud mom took pictures. Ironically, two of my very dear poet friends -- love ya Chris and Bob -- are indeed garbage men!

Did you watch Lord of the Ants on Nova? It profiled seminal thinker and entomologist E O Wilson -- Ed -- whose discoveries include how ants communicate with one another: thru chemicals. Wilson is not only a scientist but is an activist in preserving our rich cultural ecosystem.

I actually missed the program b/c I was on a 78-minute phone call to Helen but then I watched the entire show on my laptop.

Scott and I had a movie marathon over the weekend. Admittedly, we slept thru half the films, but we enjoyed what we saw.

Notable were:

Ingmar Bergman's 1966 Persona w/Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson. The commentary afterward was particularly helpful which took you scene by scene and was simply a verbalization of the thoughts of the commentator. Ingmar considered it his finest film, one in which he didn't care if he made any money with it. I thought to myself, that's sort of like me writing a poem I think is great and not caring if anyone else likes it.

Hard Candy with Canadian actress Ellen Page. This is a difficult movie to watch with equally repulsive main characters. The amazing actress Ellen Page played a woman bent on bringing her own vigilante justice to a suspected pedophile and killer.

Viewing a movie is such a private experience. When I saw Kids Are All Right at the Ambler thother nite, people were laffing at all these ridiculous places in the film. You were distracted from the movie by what I felt was totally inappropriate laffter. When you watch a movie w/someone, you've gotta ask yourself, How will they respond? Will they interfere w/my pleasure?

District 9 was an imaginative sci-fi film that was so choppy and hard to follow I gave up on it halfway thru tho there were lots of interesting things to watch: the sets in South Africa, the unique insect-like creatures from outer space and the growing of a crablike arm on the main character who was morphing into one of the creatures himself. Great idea, but poorly realized.

Two other notable films I highly recommend are David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross with the great Jack Lemmon and Tin Men with Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito.

Both are indictments against corporate greed and conning the public.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Guess who came to dinner?

After my living room therapy group, Sarah and I had one of the most fantastic meals ever! She BBQ'd our entire dinner on the backyard grill, one of the essentials to be a fullblooded suburbanite.

Wild-caught sockeye salmon is now in season. Here's how one expert fisherman in Alaska prepares it, courtesy of Bill Hess on his Wasilla blog:

Sarah came to town to help celebrate my mom's 88th birthday. As we sat around the kitchen table eating the good food we've had all our lives we discussed the incredulity of all of our ages.

When Sarah told her husband Ethan that Gram turned 88, he said, "88 piano keys." Ethan is the pianist for The Bad Plus. Here he is performing w/his band and also several dancers from Mark Morris in a setting of a Milton Babbitt piece.

When Scott came over the this morning after work I raved about the salmon we had for dinner. He helped us prepare my backyard BBQ. My son Dan had given me some cedar planks to grill it on and I tell you, this humble meal was truly monumental.

Sarah marinated the salmon in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon and garlic. As always she marveled over the cheap price of food out here compared w/New York. We also grilled fresh corn and marinated eggplant slices.

A feast fit for The Demings.

While she was here, she worked hard on behalf of New Directions, writing the beginnings of a grant to the Pew Charitable Trust. I think we have a good shot at getting it.

I particularly wanted to show my little darling the beauties of Pennypack Trust. So before we started work on the grant we went on a knock-your-sox-off walk at Raytharn Farm, a grass-studded meadow that takes to you a beautiful vista.

After the walk we went indoors to say hello to the staff and to buy a jar of local-grown honey. Stick your finger in the honey like Winnie the Pooh and then experience of many nuances of flavor that the bees in the area have prepared. The flavor might be likened to a fine wine in that washes over you in waves like the ocean at sunset.

I have a jar here in my cupboard and Sarah got one to take home.

Here's my latest newspaper article, published by the Times Publishing Co. of Penndel, PA. I think it's only up for a month and then it disappears and new news takes its place, so I'll print it below for you. It appears in one long paragraf, so think of it as an extended prose poem. Or not.

Upper Makefield Girl Scouts deliver books to Camden schoolchildren
by Ruth Z. Deming

Girl Scout leaders Lois O'Donnell, Kate Kay and Dawn Wyatt told the 14 members of their Upper Makefield troop it was time to vote. Time to select which project to work on for the coveted Bronze Award. The choices were tough and included: help with a food pantry, an animal shelter, raising money for a rare children's disease, or collecting books for the less fortunate. Hands down, the girls voted for a book drive. They would collect books for children from poor neighborhoods in Philadelphia and Camden, NJ. Their own school, Sol Feinstone Elementary in Newtown, boasted all the luxuries of a modern suburban school. The girls would send 1,500 lovingly used books - for grades pre-K through eight - to the less fortunate. The young go-getters, ages 11 and 12, set up colorful collection boxes at their school. Soon enough, books began thumping into the boxes; Harry Potter, of course, and other best-selling children's books like the Magic Treehouse series and Cam Jensen mystery series. The whole school was on a mission to collect books for Troop 22018. At the end of the two-week book drive, said Dawn Wyatt, they topped their goal with an astonishing 8,000 books. One Girl Scout mom offered her garage so parents and kids could take turns sorting, packing and labeling the books for future distribution, aided by the DiMedio Foundation for Children, based in Washington Crossing. Much to their surprise, said Dawn, the Philadelphia school district would not allow the girls to accompany the books due to "security concerns." The DiMedio Foundation stepped in and delivered thousands of books to five inner-city schools. But Camden wanted the scouts! So, on May 11th, four carloads of Girl Scouts and their moms drove across the Ben Franklin Bridge into the famously run-down city, once the home of industrial giants like RCA. "It was a fantastic experience," said Dawn, whose own 11-year-old daughter, Katie, is a member of the troop. Wearing their tan-colored vests studded with an array of badges, they walked into the ECO (Environment Community Opportunity) Charter School housed in a refurbished office building. The girls personally handed out the cartons of books, packed in Girl Scout cookie cartons, to the eager school children across the Delaware River in grades K through four. "I was blown away by the school," said Dawn. "The principal runs a tight ship," she said, noting the kids wear uniforms and are models of politeness. Dawn's own daughter remarked she wouldn't mind attending ECO Charter. The ride home was something Dawn will never forget. "The girls couldn't get over how excited these kids were to get the books. The students would stand up and say, 'Thank you so much for these books. We are so lucky.'" Thank-you letters poured in from the Camden students. One child wrote, "Our school is so happy because now we will have nice books to read." The Girl Scouts want to go back. The principal said she would welcome future partnerships. "Maybe," said one of the girls on the ride home, "we can go back and help them plant flowers around the trees." For this troop from the green suburbs of Pennsylvania, the trip to Camden was a lesson on their ability to make a lasting difference in the world beyond Bucks County.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cousin Lloyd came to visit

Cousin Lloyd came to see mom today, driving in from Manhattan, then getting lost on the way to the house, while Mom and Ellen fretted nervously in the kitchen, one nervous person inflaming the other.

I couldn't take it -- you could make a comedy of it if it wasn't so pathetic -- spray the kitchen w/Klonopin or Quaaludes -- so I went downstairs and read the New Yorker online. TERRIFIC article about the amazing incompetency of the Russian government in fighting peat bog fires around Moscow. Permission granted to take a break from this blogpost and read the article -- estimated time 7 minutes -- if you promise to come back. Or not. I'm not a control freak.

Lloyd is 81. The older people are, the more interesting they are. When his folks came over from the old country, their name was Krupnick but the Ellis Island person changed it to "Goldstein." But Lloyd's dad and uncle changed it again, this time to Gilden, and Gilden stuck. Lloyd's dad started his own women's apparel company called Jerry Gilden Dresses. He was very successful.

Many of these companies got their start in Cleveland. Why on earth Cleveland? Lampl was there. Bobbie Brooks. And of course Majestic Specialties, Inc., where my dad worked.

Lloyd is a retired college professor but still maintains a fairly large private practice where he sees therapy clients. I surprised him by telling him I looked him up online and saw he's a student of Trigant Burrow (b'ROE), the first group therapist in the world.

I told Lloyd I'm a group therapist and am currently running a Self-Esteem Group out of my living room on Monday nights. I told him about my last session which ran overtime b/c I was waiting for something to happen. Finally I picked on someone and the discussion exploded and we moved forward. I asked what I should do if I encounter a problem like that again.

Use the empty chair, he said.

At mom's, we put lots of our dead family members in the empty chair including my brother David who mom said would've been 50 years old. Sometimes I say hello to David when I see his picture in my house. I sort of hide it cuz I still feel so sad about his entire life.

Oh! My son Dan called me yesterday and told me he is reading my novel. He downloaded it on Kindle. He said he really liked the first chapter, "it sucked him in," he said, but the second chapter needs work. The dialogue was unrealistic. I told him I agreed w/him and thought that if an agent chooses to represent me, I'd fix it at that time.

Fix it now, he advised. This is probly why the one person who read the first 50 pages didn't want it.

Lloyd and I walked out to his car so he could bring in his suitcase. It's always nice when you're in a crowd to get one person all by himself. A tete a tete. I was stiff from sitting for so long tho I kept jumping up to refill our water glasses or whatnot. I told Lloyd I'd seen an incredible movie this morning -- Roman Polanski's debut film Knife in the Water.

I'd seen it when I was a student at Goddard College but only remembered their playing pick-up sticks. Made in 1962, each B&W frame was artfully shot. Only three people were in the movie, two very unlikable men, and an attractive woman who sometimes wore cats-eye glassses.

I'm trying to think of who I was in love with at Goddard College at that time. Oh, there were so many. I think it's asking a lot of a person to stay w/the same partner for an entire lifetime. I mean, there are just so many people to choose from. Unless you find someone and really hit it big. Even Lloyd himself had two wives. His dad had two. Sometimes you may love someone but they up and die. Chris Ray, I used to love. But he up and died about 10 years after he left me. I still wrote a poem about him.

Before I began this post, my body gave a shudder and I felt like I would explode. That's never happened before. Dyou think it had anything to do w/the imminent birth of my granddaughter?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My house gets a 'heat treatment'

Terry and Tony were here for 4 hours weatherizing my house. I looked at their work order and saw all the items Cadcom has authorized them to do. But here's some notes I took after asking Terry what he'd done:

- Air sealed the crawl space, and anywhere there's pipes, wires and ducts. To do this, they used expanding foam. I was busy on the computer so I didn't see what they were doing.

- Caulked the windows and weatherstripped the doors, among other things.

My mom will be happy to learn of all these improvements. She's an expert on houses having lived in many of them while married to my late father. We lived in Camp Lejeune, NC; Cleveland Heights; Shaker Heights; Englewood Cliffs, NJ; and now Huntingdon Valley, PA.

Sometimes I have a deja-vu moment and think I'm living w/mom in Huntingdon Valley. Our houses are similar. What's that about?

I just went on the Kidney Foundation website and left a question for the doctor, a Doctor Spry. Here's what I asked:

- How common is it to lose kidney function due to taking lithium?

- Am I actually postponing the inevitable (transplant or dialysis) by adhering to my strict diet (low sodium, phosphorus, protein, and potassium)?

My neff never mentioned eating healthy.

It's always unsettling to have strangers crawling in your crawl space. Hey! Sounds like a blues song, doesn't it? "My baby has strangers crawling in her crawl space."

So I sat on the couch and read while I was getting used to them being here. My current book is the autobiography of boxer Jack Dempsey. Interesting. While talking to my own little amateur boxer, daughter Sarah, we found Dempsey on YouTube, so I watched him prance across the ring. He was short, but he was very fast and invented a lot of good techniques like the one I use when Scott's about to hit me: tuck my chin down & hold my right hand over my face. I've succeeded in several KO's to my man.

I actually fell asleep while reading Dempsey and was jolted awake by a knock on the door. My new grasscutter, neighbor Bill, who did the best job anyone's ever done. He complained at the end about how hard he worked, and how it took him longer than expected. But I paid him top dollar and I wasn't gonna tip him. Like the local kids selling lemonade, he doesn't take credit cards.

Mailman Tom. Not surprisingly, I have a nice relationship w/Tom, He's got an 11-year-old son. One day Tom came around and he was limping something terrible. It was his knee. He Ace-bandaged it and limped around a day or two and then fortunately had a bunch of days off to rest the knee. Now he's fine.

Yum! This is some outstanding peach I've just bit into. Rent the movie Food Inc and take action like I did signing petitions that we want to know where our food comes from, we want the FDA and the USDA to take action against companies violating safety standards.

Oh, god, she always goes off into politix. Now I'm trying to convince Scott to read the New Yorker online due to its outstanding progressive political stories. He's rrrrigid, so it takes him a while to change.

I'd like to end this post w/something incredibly profound or interesting.

Wake me up if you think of anything.

Oh. You think YOU have problems! A local psychiatrist writes how she copes with Cushings disease.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What's in a day? The seeds of night

Owner of Yalda, an Afghani restaurant on Horsham Road in Horsham, PA. He speaks to family every day in Kabul. I asked what language they speak and he rattled off 3 different languages.

Like funnel cake, he told me, when I picked up this dessert. When we're not familiar w/something we compare it to something we know. Seemed like a strange comparison.

Beautiful rugs covered the walls and floors, all made in Afghanistan. The owner's nephew, A.J. -- 'Afzali'-- went to school w/my son Dan. A.J. has 4 kids. Family is the most important thing to most people. If you create your own family, made up of friends, it's called a 'family by choice.' I learned that today when reading an online piece and will forget it by tomro. But YOU remember it!

Guilt, when used in moderation, is one of the healthiest of defenses, and resulted in my making this delicious refreshing iced mint tea.

"Why are you growing all these mint leaves?" I asked myself this morning, "if you're not using them?"

After I drove Scott to the train station I traveled home and my lights shone on a PECO truck on our street. I was stunned by the beauty of the aquamarine reflector panels on the back of the truck.

I drove all the way around the block so I could photograf them for you. The photos came out terrible BUT as surrealistic works of art they're not half bad. Reminded me a bit of my friend Carl Yeager's photos.

Ever see a movie that not only stays w/you but influences you as well? We watched Food Inc. this afternoon. For sure, I'm not eating at the new Sonic Burgers restaurants, tho I ran off to the nearest Chipotle for a healthy Mexican grill meal that filled me up to my eyebrows. No popcorn for Ruthie tonite! Only a few chunks of watermelon. Some Rainier cherries perhaps. A handful of sunflower seeds. Any pickled cucumbers left?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dinner at Mom's

We celebrated three birthdays today. My dtr/law Nicole is due August 13. She looked fantastic in a long purple gown and flipflops. August 13 is also the date I married my former husband.

Favorite foods include:

Sweet n sour meatballs
Pineapple bread pudding
Watermelon and cant elope
Sweet n sour cucumbers
Rhubarb cake

After dinner, Donna, Ellen and I had a deep conversation w/Patrick, age 6. Two years ago, his neighbor Isaac passed away. Isaac was only 7 and confined to a wheelchair from muscular dystrophy. Patrick and his brother Quinn attended the funeral with their parents.

I think if you listen to a child, I mean, really listen, you will enjoy insights you never expected. You'll walk away amazed as I did.

Here's Patrick's mom, Nikki, a schoolteacher, next to my sister Lynn and her boyfriend Neil. Remember the old Ivory Liquid commercials? Who was the mom and who was the daughter? Do they still make Ivory Liquid?

On my way home, I passed Masons Mill Park, and a Sunday nite concert. Rolled down my window and the singing was unusually good! Parked and listened to husband and wife team -- The Arringtons -- play bluegrass.

I'm a huge bluegrass fan and stood there wide-eyed with my feet tapping away. Then I snapped Letitia's photo.

Standing there in the waning light of the evening, I closed my eyes and realized this is what life is about...precious moments that will never come again. In the long wail of the universe, a woman named Ruth Deming has never stood on the wet grass and listened to Mark and Letitia play, as was happening at this very moment.

"Kvell!" as the Jews say.

Ever meet someone and click instantly? That's how I felt about Letitia. At concert's end people passed her by and said how much they enjoyed the show. Reminded me of New Directions when people tell me the same thing. She was very gracious and lovely.

I saw a couple in the audience that I remembered from our New Directions' Family Member Group. I went up to them and started to say, Hi, I'm Ruth from New Directions.

Fortunately they recognized me and said, HEY! You rode with us to Pennypack Park last week. Yes, they were Ethel and John, fellow members of Pennypack Trust, not New Directions. They should only know!

The ride home from the bluegrass concert was beautiful. I carefully stopped in the middle of the road to photograph the canopy of trees. Yes, it's an awful picture. I don't understand my camera at all. First, it takes a red picture at the family gathering, then it takes this lousy picture of the bucolic scenery.

What have I done wrong, dear God?