Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New writing teacher - Uncle Howie - Helene - Night visitors

Say hello to author Richard Bank, my new writing coach. We met at Weinrich's Bakery Coffeeshop this morning.

I brot in a couple things for him to look at. The query letter for my novel. Plus the first chapter of my novel, whose name I am not revealing.

He took one look at the query letter and said, An agent will never read the whole letter. The first sentence isn't good enough.

I began by saying, "May I submit my novel...."

Then he read the first sentence of my novel.

I waited for him to reject it.

"All I needed was to read the first sentence and I knew you could write."

Whew! When I write my 1.5 page query letter, he said to mention my support group, my credentials, and the dollar amount of my Leeway Grant Award to show them I'm not just some nut.

Well, I am a nut, a nice one though, demonstrated by when we got up and left.

I collected all the extra napkins at our table and told Richard there are rules for "stealing napkins." You're entitled to all the napkins on your table but you can't just go and help yourself to more before you leave.

I keep them in my glove compartment to use as hankies or stationery.

"That's like something Larry David would do," said Rich.

Read a newspaper article at Mom's house that "Uncle Howie" Zeitz still works at Willow Grove Day Camp, as does his once high-heeled wife Gloria. His son, tho, really runs the place.

Sign on Davisville Road.

I was his sec'y about 17 years ago. It was a job that saved me cuz Chris Ray had just broken up w/me, one of the great loves of my life. Chris died a decade or so ago, but, by his website you'd think he was still alive.

When I knocked on the door, Linda answered and let me in. I wrote Howie a note. I had missed him by five minutes.

I asked if "Uncle Marv" was still involved.

Yes, he ran a sister camp in New Jersey.

It was one of my favorite jobs. I learned to use a mimeograph machine for daily announcements distributed to the staff and counselors.

Parents were very fussy but Howie had a terrific way of handling them when they complained.

More camp pix:

Everything a kid desires, including playing on a real fire truck. Can't see it.

If you click twice, I think you can see this beautiful horse. Horseback riding. How I'd love to go for a ride now. Giddeeyup, Copper, let's ride fast around the grounds.

The campers' cabins used to be part of the throngs that came out to Willow Grove from hot Philadelphia, taking the trolley down, and then visiting Willow Grove Park.

I interviewed Uncle Howie at the end of the camping season and wrote a wonderful article for one of the local papers. All I remember is that I said he had big leg muscles and a clarion voice. I dunno where I got that word from, clarion, but unexpected things come out when you write.

Today, Uncle Howie is 80 YEARS OLD!!!

My dear friends below - Helene and Aaron - are no spring chickens.

Got there just in time to watch em eat dinner.

They had a helper, Liz, a lovely young woman who's a vegetarian.

I told them my writing coach, Rich Bank, is also a vegetarian. He doesn't eat anything that has a mother.

When it was time to go, I asked Helene to do a "Sam Maitin." That means walk me to the car. I'd done an article on Sam when I worked for Art Matters.

Tonite I got two phone calls from members of New Directions who had gone to Abington Prez thinking there was a meeting tonite, but there wasn't.

I'd canceled the third Tuesday meeting of the month, unbeknownst to Laura and Barbara.

I invited them both over here.

We found Barb a new psychiatrist that takes her Cigna insurance. Laura showed us pictures of her handsome new boyfriend Mark on her phone. Silly girls that we are, we went on his website and sent him an email.

Barbara asked Laura if Mark had an unmarried father for herself?

Barb wants to meet a guy. And why shouldn't she?

She's a few years older than me. Eureka! I remembered one of our phone greeters - Nick - who's about her age.

I got Nick on the phone - why waste time? - and the two of em are gonna get together.

Wouldn't that be great if it works out?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane! Unscatched so far -The conversion of Frank Schaeffer / Poem: Neighbors

Patch does a great job with the weather updates.

Hope your owner AOL doesn't shut you down.

Shortly after noon, I just came back from my walk up and down the street. Very high winds. I walked in the middle of the road in case branches came crashing down.

Minor branches were in the road. I picked them up and put them on the curb. No sense having motorists drive over them.

Above is my little pile of sticks. Also picked up Nancy's from across the street (you can see em if you enlarge photo). Patrick, from my poem "The Man in the Distance," had huge numbers of fallen branches. I picked up the lighter ones and piled em up.

He will know who did it.

Met Gary at 232 Cowbell, I think, who'd lost a lot of tree branches. He was outside wearing sensible blue gloves and was breaking them apart.

His crawl-space flooded. (I haven't checked mine. It never floods.) This is the third time his has.

I looked at his house. "Dyou live in the house Ken Roberts lived in?" I asked.

"They were two before us. They were crazy as shit."

I agreed.

"Actually it was his wife," I said. "I'm a poet and I wrote a poem about her called Neighbors."

She had manic-depression and refused to take meds. She was impossible. At a garage sale, I bought some of the items she routinely bought when she went on bipolar shopping sprees."

In fact, I still have the four TV tables I bought and have my laptop on one of them.

My 89-yo mom, who lives up Byberry Road in Huntingdon Valley, was up all night with my sister Ellen mopping up 3-inch flood waters from the family room and laundry room.

I offered to go and help, but they finished the job. They also had one of those vac-u-sucks.

Actually it's not a good idea to drive. Many roads - or portions thereof - are closed. Byberry Road at Pioneer is closed, so I never would've made.

I slept downstairs in my family room with a flashlight next to me.

Watched the 1946 film Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham which was excellent. The TV signal kept fading (my TV has wabbit ears) and it was sooooo frustrating cuz some of the lines were really well-done. It was Tyrone Power's first starring role in something othan as a swashbuckler.

He was very convincing. The film was the highest-grossing of the year.

But our eyes kept turning to his former girlfriend, Gene Tierney, whose outward beauty and delicacy was the opposite of her interior manipulations and narcissism.

While waiting to see how Irene would blow into town, I finished "Patience with God" by former right-wing evangelical Christian Frank Schaeffer, who says he's "lived to take back" most of his former beliefs.

His 230-page book is so well-written, I hoped to find a video of him on YouTube. Here he is on the
Rachel Maddow show. His interview is positively apocolyptic.

One of the things I learned from his book is that Revelations in the New Testament almost didn't make "the canon." Similar to Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, but for different reasons.

I love Bible history and the discussion of religion.

My happiest moments are when I lay in bed, ready for sleep, feel no pain whatsoever, and enjoy my small pin-dot spot in this mysterious universe.


Just go to her
he said from the sidewalk,
just poke your head in the door
and say hello. I have to go down
the street and fix a lock. He carried a
a toolbox no bigger than a toy
and walked bowlegged
like a rodeo rider
or a man whose legs
were coming apart.

His wife was a
Christian Scientist. Imagine
finding a religion to
endorse your desire to
take no medicine and nurture
a ruthless condition with verses
from a Holy Book.

Her manic-depression
shook our street. Doors shut
when we saw her coming fast
up the hill, her mouth
jabbering at the birds,
her limbs flailing at
invisible assailants.

So I took the hill and cut across
the grass. His blue Taurus
waited in the carport. She
didn’t drive. He told me
she would badger him for hours
to take her shopping.

Finally, because he was an old man
and losing ground, he would give in
and she would load the car with
heaps of fresh fruit and
button-down blouses and
sale items clipped from the paper.

I rang the bell. After
a while she came to the door
in a brand-new hairdo.
“Looks nice,” I said.
She made a face and mouthed
she didn’t know what to do with it.
I had never seen her still.
Getting a perm meant
being able to be still,
to sit in a chair
feet off the ground and
follow the commands
of the woman who winds
the curlers through your hair.

“Just fluff it up,” I said, showing
her with my fingers. Her hair was
a fine brown and three-quarters of
a century old.
“Well, I combed it already,” she said.
“Yes, it looks nice.”
I knew that no matter where her
husband had gone or how far
into his seventies or eighties he
had gotten
he was stuck with this woman.

When she left for good for the nursing home,
her kids threw a huge garage sale
for the things left behind,
some still swinging with tags.
Ann, I’m sorry , I said as
I lugged home the bathroom rugs
a winter jacket and button-down
blouses I found in the carport.
I threw the jacket out a while ago.
Didn't want to think about her
in captivity.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane watch: A Lovely Walk in the Rain / Poem: The Man in the Distance

I walked in my shorts, sandals, and sweat shirt with hood. Gotta exercise that new back of mine.

Click here to track Irene, from the NY Times.

She's moving slow. In Virginia now.

Just talked to Sarah. Since Ethan's in Europe, she's staying with Lisa of Mini-Cooper fame. First she went to Julie's apartment to cover her piano in case the ceiling leaks. She's a newly retired Mark Morris dancer.

Puddles are starting to form. When I walked earlier today I looked at all the drains in the neighborhood, all covered with dead leaves.

Neighbor Patrick was outside with his son Little Pat. He showed me where the rain would rush unstoppably from a high hill in his neighbor's backyard.

Then we walked over to the corner and I said, Shouldn't there be a drain here?

Me, a girl, thinking about drains. As I've said before, I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up but I couldn't do chemistry or math.

"You'd make a fine doctor, Ruth," said white-haired fifth grade teacher Mrs. Evelyn Hess. Scroll down for photo of Mercer Elementary School!

Anyway, I told Patrick I was working on a poem about him called "The Man in the Distance."

He crumpled over with laffter.

So I was determined to finish it.

I was exhausted and was gonna nap, but I tricked myself and finished the poem instead!

My orange hazard cone stored here for safekeeping, thank you Mr Scott!

First casualty of the storm: a dead tree branch falls down. I went outside in the rain and deposited it in the little woods behind my house.

Scott was outside. "You missed it," he said. "The fox was sheltering himself under the [un-enclosed] back porch.

We hadn't seen him in a long time and thought he was dead. Lemme tell you something. Sometimes the noises in the little woods are amazing at night. Animal fights and killings.


I know him well
the man in the blue house on the corner
out on the lawn with the kids
baby acorns raining on the sidewalk
drives a couple of cars
never waves
never stops
a man of purpose
the man in the distance.

Sunshine licks the bricks
on the front porch
I’ve stood there
by the Federalist door
awaiting entry

Played on the floor
with Ian and Little Pat
helped Sue carry in
the apples and wienie buns
but the man in the distance
the father of booming voice and
Irish eyes
eludes me now.

I’m a prisoner of my living room
crippled, though not old,
can no longer mount the high hill
that takes me to their door
can no longer see the Irish "Kiernan" crest
though she is half-Chinese,
a mathematician.

Here on my white couch
my wheelchair, cane, and walker,
though I refuse them all,
I close my eyes, stir my tea,
and let myself in.

Friday, August 26, 2011

My adventures at Heilman's Sunoco, Willow Grove PA

This was the traffic on Easton Road heading north.

After the Hurricane has crushed me and my house, you'll have my blog as a keepsake.

Read this important NY Times editorial by Dr Cornel West of Princeton University. This describes America perfectly.

Tell it like it is, Dr. West (and Tavis too)!

Well, of course I needed an oil change today, so off I went to Heilman's Sunoco on Easton Road in Willow Grove.

The place was so busy I parked on a side street.

A couple of PA state troopers. My friend Lou Wentz is a retired Jersey trooper. His girls are cops.

Jim Heilman, owner, is chatting with Father O'Donnell.

Here's my car. Last nite I finally remembered to look on the sticker and saw I was a month overdue for an oil change. I panicked. Don't wanna ruin my car.

I walked down Easton Road in the heat while waiting for the car. Tom told me I had half an hour. I'd worn my walking shoes and socks.

In honor of former boyfriend Russell Eisenman, I took this photo. It's the only way I can get him to read my blog.

Two women who work for elderly people at Regency Towers were waiting for the bus in the shade. The woman from Jamaica (not in photo) said this hurricane is nothing compared to the ones down there.

"We don't close down the whole country," she said, noting that NYC has closed its bridges and subways. That billionaire mayor is pretty smart, methinks. Who wants a legacy like Bush's for Katrina?

Leave it to me to notice Diane's hair. "Is it marcelled?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. Her niece did it. "Touch it. It's real hard."

Sure enough, it was. Her niece is going to the beauty academy.

I told her I might be called by Patch.com to give witness to the storm. So I wrote down her name Diane Armstead-Brown. I told her my dear friend Walter Straus, 93, used to live there. He called just the other day from his new home in Sicklersville, NJ. He plays a mean game of Scrabble.

Here's Father O'Donnell now. He works at the Holy Redeemer Health System. I told him I'd given talks (on bipolar) for Sister Gerry Fitzgerald.

"We're all Irish," he said. I told him I was Jewish and had never seen a priest up close just rabbis.

Actually, that's not true. When I was married and lived in Ossining, NY, I worked as a secretary at Maryknoll Seminary. Father Meehan was my boss. But my favorite was Father Vittengl, who looked like Richard Burton, and had manic-depression.

They would all go into town to the best restaurants. Mike and I used to see them.

Every time you looked out the window at Heilman's, another car was pulling in. Their price was 2.59, I think. I got back in my car to get gas but then came back in the office.

I give up, I said to Jim. It's too busy.

He took my keys and filled up the car.

Good customer service. Just like you get at New Directions. Hmmm, better check the phones and see if my phone greeter has gotten the Friday call.

Preparing for Hurricane Irene

LinkTrack it here, courtesy of the Times. Watch for the swirling "eye" which is inching its way up the coast. Click here.

These are the best tips I've read.

Plug in your phones to recharge!!!

Here's a list Scott and I prepared. We'll weather the storm together. He's off until Monday nite.


Thunderstorms overnight in the Philadelphia area – Friday nite and Saturday.

If problems arise ...


Saturday morning:

Battery radio for news updates

Laptops with batteries charged

Flashlights - as many as possible - all with working batteries


Water: Fill all your empty bottles with water.

Make ice! Fill empty containers with ice. Put in fridge if electricity goes out.

Have canned or packaged food ready to eat – can of chili, soup, tuna, etc.

Refrig: Have coolers w/ice ready to store more perishable items, which you can also put in freezer. Should last 24 hours or more.

Pay online bills today so won't get charged late fee

For those with medical issues --

Put my refrigerated insulin in cooler with ice

Fill pillbox

Move furniture inside. Who knows where it might end up with high winds?


Bring in all furniture from outside, lawn chairs, birdfeeder, move birdbath

Doublecheck to make sure windows are shut – car and home.


Good time for families to have fun together. Plan activities - reading aloud, storytelling, games.

Marvel at nature. Usually she's our friend, but not always.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Watch: Sense of Purpose Floods East Coast

Table full of hurricane food.

I'd forgotten all about Claussen Pickles. When I was on 'kidney watch' I couldn't eat anything pickled. Too much sodium.

I had four sliced pickles tonite. Barely any calories or carbs. Think "cucumber."

I always wheel my cart around to the pharmacy to say hello to Bob Mazza. When his Italian forebears arrived at Ellis Island, they changed the family surname to "Mazza."

Everyone loves Bob. Even my mom knows him.

I was in such a great mood after shopping I thot I'd drive to Hatboro to get some gaz, the station was closed, and check my PO box.

The PO was still, and I put the ads and mental health announcements in the recycle bin.

I went for a long walk on the streets of Hatboro.

The record store just went outa business. A young man named Jesse owned it. Formerly, it was Mayor Celano's shop. He now lives alone, his wife Arlene having died years ago. She ran the YMCA thrift shop right next to the PO. It's no longer there, either.

Celano, in his mid-90s, lives in one of the most beautiful houses in Hatboro, a large stone house. Quite senile now, he's still the friendly man he always was. I wrote an article about him for the local paper on his volleyball team at the "Y."

My mom is all happy about the Hurricane. Puts a little spice in her life of sitting in a chair and shuffling thru her papers.

My sister Donna lives in a flood zone in a beautiful Hatboro townhouse. She and her neighbors have probly put down loads of sandbags to thwart the rage of the hurricane.

Can you live with a bit of mystery? We don't know when or where it will hit.

My worry is that the electricity will go off.

"Finding myself through poetry." This is a topic I'd like to discuss somewhere, either on this blog or in the next issue of the Compass, or maybe even a Patch.com blog.

Thanks, Dear Reader, for letting me think outloud.

Kidney Talk - Psyching up for the Next Compass! / Poem: People of the Midwest

0They leave the old kidneys in.

One of the topics in the next Compass will be Lithium and Irreversible Kidney Damage. This is the T-Shirt I made up and wore after my April 1, 2011 Kidney Transplant. My daughter Sarah donated her left kidney which now resides in my lower right foot. I mean, abdomen.

Most psychiatrists turn a blind eye to the potential damage to the kidneys. Hey! We can't live without our kidneys.

My kidney transplant surgeon - Radi Zaki, MD, of Einstein Medical Center - said, "We're seeing it more and more."

Yes, b/c people like me had been on the drug 15 or more years.

Fortunately, loss of kidney function - known by the scary name "end-stage renal failure" - doesn't happen to most people - I think Kay Jamison is still on it - but it did happen to me and Denis Hazam (and a man in his support group), and Sharon Piercy, RN.

I spoke to Denis this morning from his workplace in downtown Philly.

He's leaving work at 1 pm today to go to Thomas Jefferson Hospital for dialysis.

When he was there on Tuesday, the day of the 5.8 magnitude Earthquake, they evacuated the dialysis unit.

It took a long time to unhook everyone.

I asked about the people in the unit.

They're very passive, he said. They don't ask questions, they don't seem to care about things.

This is how you feel when you are very ill.

He said many of the dialysis patients who were led outside during the quake did not return for the rest of their session.

Grueling, hard-to-take dialysis. This is why I would rather fly to the Afterlife than go on the machine.

Denis is optimistic, tho, he'll get another chance for a transplant.

He had one 6 years ago, after being on The List only one year.

The cadaverous kidney of a 24-yo man was flown all the way from Washington State to Jefferson, one of the top transplant units in Philly.

"I was lucky," said Denis. "I was third on the list, but the other two people were not prepared, so I got the kidney."

It lasted all of 6 years. His body began to reject it so he's on dialysis for the very first time.


My son Dan said to me: Mom, the idea of getting you a new website was so your homepage wouldn't go on forever. Now, it's longer than it was before!

Well, I figgered out how to do that NEED HELP WITH YOUR MEDS? Click here.


Cleveland, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Detroit
Lincoln, Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Twinsburg

The people of the Midwest know
the importance of Life,
uncorrupted by big money
or shiny autos with fancy insignias.

Have you ever seen a Cadillac truck?
Not in Cleveland you won't.

We Midwesterners with our long lazy drawls
love people more than things.

Sure do.

We live in houses with porches
and sometimes we even paint the porches
gray or yellow or white.

We're Midwesterners for life,
wherever we go!

Duty commands us to sit outside
and chat with our neighbors.
Have you ever seen one of our great
wraparound porches?
We sit out there in the day
shaded from the sun
Or in the evening when the moon comes 'round.

Light me up in moonbeams!

Climb up the stairs and sit beside me sometime.
I'll put out one of those
plastic stacking chairs
on sale
at the CVS
just for you!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Directions: A Sad Story: "Is this my Beloved Son?"

This is a true story with details changed. It is literally one of the thousands of stories we have heard at New Directions Support Group -- for People with Depression, Bipolar Disorder and their Loved Ones -- since our inception in 1986.

If there is a moral to the story, it is: “JUST SAY NO.”

“Josh,” now 26, first came to our group when he was 22. He was taking a hiatus from Syracuse University after a debilitating mania, followed by depression. His parents welcomed him back into their suburban home, thinking he would return to college when he was well.

It never happened.

Instead, he stayed home for three straight years, smoked pot and became a terror to his family. Occasionally he ventured out half-heartedly to look for a job or see friends from high school.

Josh was 17 when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He accepted the diagnosis and took his medicine faithfully.

But his personality began to change. This once likeable, popular teenager became nearly unrecognizable. Anger swept up from his depths. He began having conflicts with many people who crossed his path.

“Bipolar disorder is the worst thing that ever happened to me,” he fumed at his parents. “Why did this have to happen to me? My life is ruined.”

Indeed, it almost seemed that Josh was "willing" it to ruin his life.

As the oldest of two children, Josh began bullying his younger sister Laura. The two of them could not be in the same room without Josh physically blocking her way, “playfully” punching her arm or teasing her, telling her she was getting fat or that she was a slob.

Profanity coursed from his lips.

He treated his parents no better.

“Is this our Joshua? Is this my son?” his mother lamented.

Like any mother would, Adele asked herself, “What have we done, as parents, to cause our beloved son to turn out this way?”

She came up empty-handed.

There was one good quality about Josh that Adele thought might just “save” him. He loved gardens and wanted to become a landscape architect. He certainly had the brains for it, and the talent. It was just a question of his “sticking to it.”

Josh had finally stopped smoking pot, moved in with his grandmother and then found an apartment in Mount Airy.

He also found a job in a local garden shop.

Adele was ecstatic. At last, they were seeing progress. Josh seemed to be his old self again, cheerful, charming and optimistic.

Adele and her husband Barry even agreed to put him through Temple University Ambler’s Horticulture Program, at Josh’s request. He could pay them back later.

Maybe, just maybe, she thought, things will work out for him.

Since Josh had no income, she and Barry supported him. Every time they turned around, he was asking for more money. Not only for rent but for frivolous things like more clothes, a newer phone and laptop. His needs were endless and he was sucking them dry without compunction.

Soon Joshua began complaining about his job at the garden shop. “Everyone there is stupid, inept, disorganized. And no one likes me even though I’m the smartest one there.”

After three weeks, Josh had had enough. He quit.

Ditto for the next six jobs.

And now, his apartment lease was expiring.

“I want to come back and live at home,” he told his mother.

Adele went into a panic. Laura was home for the summer. They still could not be in the same room together. His behavior was downright abusive to his sister. Not to mention to his parents.

At this point, Adele came to a New Directions’ meeting and got excellent advice from our Family Member Group.

“Arrange for your son to get on disability,” said the group. “Let him have his own money and learn to how to manage it.”

Adele put it on her “to-do” list. A busy woman, she was vice-president of an engineering company owned by her husband. There was only so much she could do in a day.

By now, it was nearly futile for Adele and Barry to engage in a civil conversation with their son. If you didn’t “yes” him to death, he’d have a tantrum like a 2-year-old and storm out of the restaurant, which is where they usually met.

How could she ever break the news to him that she didn’t want him to return home to live? She feared his anger.

She also had insight into her son's condition. The young man was suffering terribly inside. He probably never had a moment's happiness. He could not face reality ("everyone else is to blame") or his own inability to grow up.

She had an idea how to present him with the idea he would not live at home this summer.

Joshua liked his therapist at the University of Pennsylvania. The therapist had a way of talking that was calming to Josh. He used a very soft voice that was non-threatening.

Occasionally Adele and Barry would attend sessions. The therapist was honest with Josh and often talked about his bullying his family.

In only a week, the three of them would see the therapist together.

In that safe environment Adele planned to tell Josh he would not be living with them this summer.

At last she was ready to save herself, her daughter and her marriage from the encroachments of her son, who would eventually have his own Social Security Disability check instead of taking advantage of the endless “cash cow” his parents had inadvertently become.

With the therapist they would halt the newest crisis. How tired Adele was of going from crisis to crisis. They would finally have the courage to break the “coming-home” cycle and say No.
She hoped her resolve would hold fast.

I told her she could do it and sent her an affirming email and also told her to write herself an affirmation note and put it in her wallet:

Joshua is my son and I love him dearly. However, I will not sacrifice myself, my husband, or my daughter for him. Three years was enough. He will not come back to live in my house.

But what of Josh’s future?

For now, Adele put that out of her mind. She concentrated on her job at the firm. A promising business opportunity presented itself in the Republic of Singapore.

They would fly out shortly after the landmark therapy appointment and immerse themselves in this new opportunity.

And hope for the best for their beloved son, Joshua.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where were you when the 5.8 magnitude Earthquake quaked? / Poem: Stormy

The Rebels were storming the Gaddafi compound.

Dan called and told me about it. He and his colleagues in Huntingdon Valley, PA, felt it around 1:50 pm. Five seconds of a shaking floor.

I sent a tip to Patch.com, the paper I write for.

Sarah was in her living room in Brooklyn. "It was really scary," she emailed me.

She and husband Ethan have huge floor-to-ceiling book-cases in the living room.

"I was scared they'd topple over," she wrote.

Well, I didn't feel nuffin. Read about it on the Times.

Actually boyfriend Scott, who lives next door, felt it. He was lying in bed catching up on his sleep since he works graveyard at SEPTA, and his bed began to shake and the metal clasps on his dresser began to jingle.

When he came downstairs, he saw my visitor Joan at my birdbath. She was giving Kalie, the miniature husky who lives across the street, a drink from the birdbath!

Joan, a visitor from Florida, was locked out of the house. She came over until Nancy came home to unlock the door.

They stayed outside while I was on major phone duty for my support group, helping one lovely woman in particular with her son.

She said our talk was very helpful. Her husband, who's a very successful businessman, and she are flying to the republic of Singapore next week.


Because he can't find any work in America, thank you very much, don't be bitter, Hillary-lover, Republican-hater, don't be bitter.

I AM BITTER. Fortunately we don't have riots here anymore like in Europe. Not yet.

So I help make Joan comfortable on my new benches outside. Bring her a glass of ice water and a bowl of water for the dog.

She pours her ice into the dog's bowl. Kalie loves chewing it.

I'm also making potato salad inside and fielding phone calls.

Every time I go inside I do a lil something more to the potato salad, stirring in the mayo-mustard-garlic dressing along w/the fresh-picked basil growing on my porch.

Finally assembled, I take a huge bite. Delicious!

Rob, if you like potato salad, I'll make you some next time you come over with your fob. Yes, he has the same 'key ring' as the Mini-Coop we talked about earlier. (This is one long book I'm writing on here.)

Pas vraiment. Every time I post something, they ask me if I wanna make a book of it.

Google Blogger: I will write my own book in my own time.

Funny you should mention this. Just signed up today for a Non-Fiction Writing Class at Temple University's Fort Washington campus. Teacher is Richard Bank. I wrote and asked him if I could work on my kidney book with him.

Yes, he said. The project is viable and salable.

The woman Joan who was locked out across the street has lived in Florida for 53 years and has a PT job at DisneyWorld.

Boy, you have a good memory, she said.

And, I said, you had a German Shepherd named Stormy. She was flabbergasted.

I had written a poem about her. I spent 25 minutes going thru many of my poetry files. They are in every room of the house except the kitchen. Totally unorganized. Is it worth it to get them in order? They're probly unpublishable, unless I sneak them into the kidney book.


It mattered not
where we lived
so long as we had each other,
and settled in hurricane country
traveling the narrow corridors
of our purring

How we enjoyed
sitting outside with our coffee
till the hurricane brought down
the awnings one year.

No matter.
We gazed at each other grow wrinkles
just the touch of his hand
as if all those years never passed and
he'd never die

like he did one morning
over a bowl of cornflakes
face went blue
body heaved forward
no longer a man
an oak uprooted.

Have you ever smelled the perfume of
the harbor and the oranges drifting
your way?

I couldn't smell it anymore.
Friends kept me going.
I pushed myself out of
that bed where he
put his arm around me and said
You look prettier this morning
than the day we met.

As if he knew his demise was at hand
he brought me a puppy.
"Stormy" from the pound.
That dog rescued me.
Became my pal. Drove with me
everywhere, eyes watching mine.
Stormy led me out
of the lonesome new land:

the land without Edward.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Back Surgery Article published on Patch.com

I learned my lesson. Always wear sox when walking. Otherwise...blisters. Photo shows these noxious plants which left untended will take over my garden. They surround the watering can and green hosta plant.

Click here for Back Surgery Article.

I sent out copies of my article to loads of people, including one to Jean at Abington Presbyterian Church where we hold our New Directions meetings.

A funny thing happened at our last meeting.

The doors were locked.

Our sexton, Nelson, was on vacation, but luckily for us, he was home when we phoned him. I know his last name, so I was able to ask the 411 operator.

Then me and Jim drove over to his apartment complex, popped him in the front seat, and drove him back to the church.

He needed to personally let us in and was very specific on how to lock the door.

So we had our meeting after all. It was too dark and bug-filled to meet on the grass.

In my Patch article, I mention some neighbors 7 doors up the hill from me.

When I went for my after-lunch walk up n down Cowbell, I put a note on the outside of their mailbox. .

Look, I was a canvasser for Obama so I've done things like this before.

And do not ask me if my first and only choice, Hillary, would be doing a better job than Obama.

As I'm walking up the street I re-read my letter, which read something like:

Hi, I'm your neighbor and live at 204 Cowbell. I wrote an article about my back surgery. You're in it. You'll like what I wrote. Please email me at RuthDeming@comcast.net and I'll send you the link.

Then I said to myself, How presumptuous! How do I know they'll like it. How do I know they want to be written about?

They get home around the time most working people do. We'll see if they come after me.

I clipped the roses this morning so they wouldn't scratch Mailman Ken. Brought a sprig inside and put it inside a jelly jar that Sarah left behind. Looks great. Click a couple times to enlarge. It's to the right of the robin's nest.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Precious moments with Sarah and Ethan / Poem: Cardboard Houses

Sarah and Ethan borrowed Lisa's Mini-Cooper and drove in from Brooklyn. Ethan asked if I wanted to drive it. First test, he said, is figuring out how to use the keys.

Back in Brooklyn, he said, Sarah had handed him the keys she got from Lisa. It took him 10 minutes to figure out how to start the car.

Keyhole is on the dash. You stick the entire black fob in the ignition, put your foot on the brake, and simultaneously press Start.

Did you know that, Rob?

The car handled very well. I loved driving it. So did Scott and my son Dan.

Ethan said, "It's a cute car, isn't it?"

"Yes," I said, "it's the kind of car where you look at it and think, 'What a wonderful world we live in.'"

I drove us to Flori's for breakfast. Sarah was still asleep so we brought her back b'fast which she enjoyed. That's my new go-to place for breakfast.

The late pianist Bud Powell, born in Harlem (1924-66), was born into a musical family and was "the Charlie Parker of the piano." Sadly, he was also mentally ill, suffering from either bipolar or schizophrenia.

Despite spending a third of his life in mental institutions, he recorded and wrote prolifically. One of his compositions, according to Wiki, is Hallucinations.

He would often recuperate from his illness in Willow Grove, at his mom's house.

Ethan and I stopped our Mini-Cooper in front of the house. He snapped a few photos, as one pianist to another.

The house is quite lovely and large.

After we got home, we had a surprise visit from:

After they left, I read Sarah and Ethan two poems. They actually didn't mind hearing them.

First, I read my newest poem, Cardboard Houses, which I presented at my Writers' Group yesterday.

Then I read them Before Pinsky Went On, about the former poet laureate reading at Bucks County Community College.

When I finished, Ethan said it reminded him of a long-forgotten memory. When he was in second grade and growing up in Minnesota, his mom took him to hear a reading by then-famous poet and translator John Ciardi.

How cool, he thot. This guy has a job where he just writes poetry and reads it aloud to an audience.

Now, of course, Ethan plays jazz piano, and plays it with his band to an audience.

At our party yesterday, I sat at a table with Julio. When Ethan walked by, I whispered in his ear (that was the only way you could hear): He's a famous jazz musician.

Suddenly, Julio took note!

Americans love FAME.

When the band took an intermission and were eating at one of the tables, we all had a chance to talk. Ethan was pleased that I had liked his choice of mystery novels for me to read while in the hospital: Detective X and the Wallander books.

"Scott and I also love the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child. Dyou know them?"

"Sure do," said Ethan. "They're gonna make them into movies."

Scott and I gasped. Who would play Reacher?

Well, with Ethan you have to guess.

Reacher is very tall, around 50 or more, massively built, awkward on his feet, thick dark hair, a face that's not necessarily handsome, and he's not interested in sleeping with most women b/c he's after one woman.

We couldn't think of anyone.

Think of someone from a cult, said Ethan.

John Travolta? He wouldn't be bad. He was brutal in Pulp Fiction and he's a great actor.

No, it's not Travolta. What's the name of the cult?


Well, said Ethan, who's a famous Scientologist?

Not Tom Cruise, said Scott.

Tom Cruise, said Ethan. Totally miscast.

He's always smiling, said Scott. Reacher wouldn't smile.

Well, I said, I guess they want the movie to sell. Do people still like Tom Cruise? I have no idea since I just landed here.


Pulled by mysterious forces from
my nighttime bed
I sleepily descend the stair
open the front door
and peek as a stranger
into the dark night.

A misty, charcoal world
lay before me
no moon
no stars
was this the earth I knew so well?

Two houses like cardboard cutouts
grinned at me from
across the street
windows dark
tilting slightly toward the other.

Had they just landed?
Were they sturdy or
in imminent danger of
Did they see me or
have any regard for me?

I closed the door.
Opened it again.
They hadn’t left.
Was it my imagination or
did I hear them laughing
under the cloudless sky?

At the Writers' Group, we write comments on copies of a poem to help the poet. He can then choose whether to use them or not.

Here are some comments from my poets, with my answers:

ONE: Putting a different spin on what we see on a regular basis is very good.

TWO: I love the first line. Love this, too. Mysterious. Interesting ending written from poet's eyeview. Great. I love the way you write. I'd like to write the same way.

Answer: You have your own unique style. Stick to it.

THREE: The word "Mysterious." Would another word be better?

Answer: I agree, but I couldn't think of any.

FOUR: You make a mind picture of a dark night. "Did they have any regard for me?" Would "thought" be a better word?

Answer: No. Regard is what I wanted, i.e., affection, but regard is a milder term than affection.

FIVE: It is a very deep piece in the memory you brought up as a subtext. I'm curious, what inspired you in writing this piece?

Answer: I opened the door on a dark night and saw two houses across the street that looked like cardboard cutouts.

FIVE continued: How old were you?

Answer: 65 and a half.

FIVE continued: What's very stunning is how much character you give to the houses - and with such personality. Interesting as you see this as a poetry "self portrait" - what a neat way to look at it.

Answer: When I was halfway through the poem I began receiving unconscious messages that the poem was really about me. I tried to shut off the message and just write. I've always believed my House poems are about me, including The Tyvek House, Houses on the Corner, and about 30 others.

Does your marriage need a pick-me-up? Renew your vows with Sarah Deming

Here's my niece Nikki renewing her vows w/ husband Steve Roche. Sarah was the 'minister.' They're standing in a chuppah, which reflects Nik's half-Jewish heritage. The other half? Ecuadorean, of course.

I'm waiting now for my timer to go off. It means The Pudding is Cool, my favorite dessert. Pre-kidney operation I couldn't use milk (high in phosphorus). I tried making pudding with the weird milks - almond and rice. The pudding was drinkable, it would not harden.

Poolside. Sarah and Ethan are straight ahead. They're talking to Roberto Herman Cartegena, the former husband of my sister Donna.

Herman had a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Turns out, after a second opinion, the diagnosis was wrong. The doctor actually would've performed a costly, time-consuming procedure on Herman that he didn't need.

Guests were asked to wear black and white.

After Scott, my mom and I arrived and the ceremony concluded, I headed for the or-derve table, but the crowd was so friendly they kept stopping me to say hello and give hugs.

Actually, they were all asking about my kidney operation. All the Cartagenas knew - from New York to Connecticut!

Best food of all was at the or-derve table where I stocked up on cukes, red peppers, and cheese. I was saving my carbs for dinner and mom's cupcakes.

Mom's head is in bottom corner of below foto.

Never tell people, My pictures are awful.

My pictures are awful. And I forgot to fotograf Julio, Giselle, Melissa, my mom, Lou, Jill, and many others.

Again, ya gotta decide how to use your time.

Nikki, the bride is ascending the stairs, wearing the same size dress as she did on her wedding day.

I weighed 104 lbs and wore a $5 dress my father brought home when he briefly worked in NYC for Evan-Piccone. It was size 7. I now weigh 132. Now that I can walk I'll shed a few more pounds.

"Not too many," said Scott, who, like Mr Rogers, likes me just the way I am.

Scott thought their house was beautiful, even tho the downstairs toilet hasn't worked in a couple years.

Me, my new kidneys, don't have to go for many many hours.

Excuse me, a sec.

The house the Roches live in is the same one Steve grew up in. His parents sold it to him. Ethan conversed with one of Steve's childhood friends who said Steve was a star Q'back in high school.

Ah, here's Nikki now, with her former principal Mercedes who had gotten schoolteacher Nikki a great job as an elem. school teacher, and Ted, Mercedes' husband.

This is Priscilla, Giselle and Julio's daughter. Her baby Scarlett is 18 days old. One of the Cartagena men is standing with her. Is it Santiago? Or, Jamie, Oscar, or Tony? The four boys and Maritza are the children of Carmella and her late husband, whose name I forget, who died while on dialysis. I last saw them two years ago at Melissa's wedding. Scott drove us there, too, across the Tapanzee Bridge. We got outstandingly lost.

Giselle and Julio Guerrero are now divorced. Giselle is from Lebanon and taught me to cook w/cinnamon. This is the oldest of their three children, the b'ful Jacqueline.

Dancing on the grass. Off-camera is a band Steve hired for the party. Sarah and Ethan dance w/our good friend Carlos Guerrero (half-brother of Julio).

In the background is Carlos's wife, Barbara Postel, an artist. I wrote an article about her years ago for the New Hope Gazette.

They live in a gorgeous house in Pt Pleasant, PA, they built themselves. Carlos is very handy.

The music you're listening to? Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert. And, yes, the pudding was delicious. I limited myself to two bowls. And now I'm going in for the cashews.

Wasn't sure my back was ready for dancing, but Carlos pulled me onto the dance floor as I knew he would.

Random shot from the grassy knoll.

We sat and ate at tables with flowers on them. Once mom sits down she doesn't move cuz of her bad legs. I understand!

At one point, she laffed and said sarcastically, "This is the part Ellen loves!"

The rock band had just begun and played so loud you couldn't hear yourself talk. My sister Ellen didn't come. My other sister Lynn was in a poker tournament. She's a couple rounds away from getting 50 grand and going to Vegas.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wanted: A Crepe Myrtle before the end of summer - Flori's Restaurant / Poem: Before Pinsky Went On

These socks were made for walking. That's my pot of basil within easy reach on the front porch.

It's tough naming each blogpost.

Here's a few samples:

- What's the point of having a gardener if he cuts down your peony bush, your astilbe, your groundcover, and leaves in the voracious weeds that are taking over my.....oh no!.....they've just come inside and and are coming closer and closer an.....

- Dedicated to my friend Stephen Weinstein

- Movie-mania: Play Misty For Me (first movie directed by Clint Eastwood) - the BBC's Inspector Lynley series, just fantastic! - Curb Your Enthusiasm w/ Larry David, seeing the first six or so is quite enuf, thank you. My shame-and-humiliation tolerance level is burned out by then, tho Scott keeps on laffing.

Yesterday was spent trying to get a New Directions member, who is suffering every minute of the day, a psychiatric consultation. Luckily we keep a Top Doc list, so I went thru it, and called up doctor's offices.

The worst experience was when I called the answering service for Arlene Bennett. I stated the rather lengthy problem to the service, after which she said, The doctor 'will be away' until the 22nd. Look, g'dammit, smart people interrupt and cut to the chase.

What finally happened is the guy checked himself into the hospital. I did not want this to happen b/c I wanted him to find ONE GOOD DOCTOR who would successfully medicate him.

My new favorite psychiatrist, with whom I communicated, is Dr David Abel.

The photo below is of my young family doctor, The Fox, who has two sons, ages 6 months and 4 yrs old. He met his wife in medical school.

James Foxhall, MD

Jim is definitely the best family doctor I've ever had, with the possible exception of Doctor Doolittle.

While in the waiting room, I learned a couple of things. From their constantly blaring TV, I learned which nail on our hand grows the fastest.

Before I tell you the answer, look at your hands, including your thumb.

Which is the fastest growing?

1 2 3 4 5 ?

It is 3.

Read Ebony mag. The most interesting article I read was about wealthy black men dating. How to find someone who wasn't after their money. Out of necessity and to keep shallow, materialistic women out of their lives, they wouldn't reveal their wealth.

One guy made himself out to be successful but not rich. On the day of his proposal, he gave his fiancee a huge diamond. He also confessed that in addition to his nice apartment he also had, like, a 23-room mansion.

Saw The Fox today for my post-op visit. We discussed many things.

I showed him a huge black n blue mark where I'd injected insulin and asked why?

You injected into a vein, he said.

I pulled up my shirt and showed him my belly. Are there any there, I asked.

Yes, he said, but DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT.

That made me feel good.

I told him my blood pressure ran low when Ginger measured it: 104 over 64.

After a chat, we decided to stop my Toprol XR and see what happens. My new kidney is doing such a great job that she's a'controlling my blood pressure like a champ. I'll have to tell Sarah!

In fact, I was feeling so good when I left his office that I stopped at the new Flori's Restaurant at the corner of Old York and Terwood, 5 minutes away from home.

Several years ago a Shell gas station was on the corner.

They're barely making it, tho they've been in the food biz forever.

The food was excellent. Why is it that impaled in our genes is the necessity to try and convert people? Is it just MY genes, or are you like that, too?

Here's Flori (Americanized name for her Roumanian name) making my organic chicken sandwich on a brioche.

I ordered first and then went home to shoot up, then drove back. The book is for my book discussion group.

I still can't think of a title for this post.

Submitted my Back Surgery story to Patch.com. It'll be a huge surprise to Foxhall that his photo will be in it. I told him the picture I was taking was for my blog. (Oh, look! Withholding information like the wealthy black guys!)

I actually didn't think of it till I was driving home.

From 1997 to 2000, Robert Pinsky (b. 1940) was poet laureate of the US, and a great one at that.

I heard him read at Bucks County Community College. I've been going thru my poetry files and dug this one out about him, which I rather like.


Part One

I sat in my seat and watched the others
getting ready for the arrival of the
former poet laureate of the
United States of America,
a grand land, if only for allowing
Pinsky to be their poet and
Robeson to star on black and white stamps.
You can't beat a nation like that!

The thrill of seeing Pinsky in this
dim, poorly lit auditorium was more than
I could bear
so I stood up and stretched my
yellow-sweatered, jeaned self
and walked out for one last smoke,
even though I don't. But this is what
would be considered a last minute
cigarette break if one did smoke.

And as I exited the packed auditorium
and into the dimly lit lobby
with real wood paneling all around
I chanced to come one on one
with the laureate.
I only need a quick look.
A quick touching of eyes.

He was a man
barely taller than I with a
wildness radiating around him
a halo of wildness
his head long
rather like my flawed
brother David's.

And I squinted my eyes and
snorted, you clever girl,
you and your cigarette breaks
that led you to the real thing.
A navy backpack slung across
his arm.

Part Two

When Pinsky was through
and did his namastes to the audience
and no one whooped
and he left
I felt there should be a mass jubilation
for the poet
for what he had done for us that particular evening
as well as his fine accomplishments five years prior
in waking up the oblivious world
the sleeping well-kept world of the Suburu and
the SUV and the taking down and
dismantling of even big homes
to put in much larger homes
waking us to poetry and the possibilities inherent
before eternity nails us.

But the audience was chaste
though some looked like poets in scarves. Carolyn and I
saw folks we knew from poetry groups across
two counties. She talked to her poets, I to mine.
One was a poet with such beautiful teeth
I hoped she didn't mind I fell in love with them
and her for a whole three minutes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Perfect Day for Hot Chocolate / Poem: Simon it's Raining

Be careful not to burn the pan. I always do. But, man, is this delicious! I'm sitting by the open door while the rain cleanses the world. My former boyfriend Simon used to shower in his backyard in the rain. It's in the novel. I had him using Irish Spring cuz it smells so good.

I'm going thru my old poems, one by one. Am gonna load another one about my former psychiatrist, Larry, but on Larry's page. Simon also saw Larry. We were once two manic-depressives in love.

And Simon's manic-depression went away before mine did. He simply stopped taking his meds and the damn beast never returned.


In the early days
when you wore a black mustache
and a shirt that was bluer than the Mediterranean
you would call to me:
Little Girl,
sit with me on the back porch
and help me watch the rain.

From wherever I was,
I'd come to you down the flights
of stairs and find you,
a king in your peacock chair
watching the miracle of the
soft rain settle in our backyard.

I'd climb into
the largesse of your lap
into the largeness of your being
of your arms
that swallowed me whole
moreso than a screened-in porch
or a yellow house with slanting roof
or a plantation in South America
with green banana trees
and coffeebean pods
swaying high on trees
just beyond my hands' reach.

Those arms
they were all
we ever needed
back then
as together
we slept
in silence
with the rain.

Feb. 16, 2005

Oh, no! The backporch screens need fixing.

"Simon! Where are you?"


Oops, forgot he died in 2008.

I talked to him constantly for a year after his death. Now I have nothing left to remind me of the man.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Grace's first birthday party

Loads of people turned out this afternoon to celebrate Grace's birthday. I came a little early to help. I never help. So at least I helped.

My job was to watch Grace while Dan n Nicole got ready for the party.

And to spread icing on 66 cupcakes.

Nicole's mom, Barbara, is one of six kids.

Her sister Kat came up from Florida with her boyfriend Tom.

Earringed boyfriend Tom and I had a good talk. He's in the same situation I was a year ago: end-stage renal disease - from diabetes and hypertension - awaiting a kidney transplant from his daughter at The University of Miami's Jackson Memorial Medical Center, "a world leader in organ transplants, performing more than 400 solid organ transplants a year."

Tom's kidneys, however, are failing rather rapidly. Walking is difficult for him due to the toxins building up in his legs. The kidney is unable to filter toxins so they find a home somewhere in the body. He's fallen a couple of times. Going down the steps is harder than up. Different leg muscles.

We each shared medication lists. I showed him my antirejection meds and explained what each was for. He showed me his diabetes medicine, including a new pill he is taking instead of shooting insulin: Glimipiride.

I kept his list and when I got home from the party emailed my diabetes doctor and asked her if I might go on this med, rather than inject insulin.

Sarah arrived early by train from NY. She was in charge of making the icing on Grace's individual large cake. The merry revelers were served cupcakes. I had iced them all, two colors yet: pink and purple.

I told Nicole I hoped she wouldn't fire me. It's harder than you think to spread icing on. And I couldn't lick my fingers b/c there's too much sugar for my diabetes.

Dan served Yingling beer to the guests, or a special home-made dark stout one of his workmates produced. My blood sugar was running so high I couldn't even have a sip, darn!!!

I met so many toddlers. A few are Sullivan, Maya, Hillyer, Kenny, and Rebecca.

The joke was, Will any child play with something more than 10 seconds?

Aunt Kat with the birthday girl.

The calm before the storm.

Oh, hello, Mom. How do you do?

Here's Jane munching on a cupcake. She lives on Guernsey Road in Abington where I park when I have an appt at the hospital. Young Sullivan is behind her. Her son Kenny, a year, is off making trouble by the electric piano.

C'est moi in the unaccustomed standing position.

There is an unspoken code among toddlers: might makes right. But after that, love wins out. Then we start all over again.

The Toohey-Demings backyard was devoid of playthings until I went on my morning walk a few days before the party. A neighbor was putting his grandchildren's toys out in the trash.

Guess who got them?

On our way home, Scott drove to one of the Pennypack Park's so I could walk my new back for about 35 minutes.

When I got home I got an interesting letter in the mail. I had submitted my work for free to a place called Writer's Relief of Hackensack NJ.

Here's what they wrote me:

Dear Ruth Deming:

Thank you for your writing samples. Our Review Board found that your writing is strong enough to offer you a place among our Full Service clients. We don't typically offer personalized editorial feedback, but we.....your writing was esp. well-received; you did a great job developing your ideas and you held our attention. (RZ: much better than you do in your endless boring blog posts)

They went on to reassure me they reject 80 percent of all applicants.

Thing is: How can you believe these people? Their review committee may consist of one 12-year-boy, the son of Writer's Relief founder.

When I read the prices to submit my poetry, prose and novel, I gasped and knew I would not go for it.

But, heck, for some reason, I do like these guys. Did they succeed in bowling me over by telling me my ideas were well-developed and held their interest?

They have 5,000 friends on FB. I read a few of the comments and knew I was in trouble when I read one that said: Writer's Relief is terrific. They finally got me back to writing.

Hey distinguished writers! Vat? They're aren't any?