Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My friend Helene grieves for her daughter, Carol - Poem: While the Dogwoods Weep

Carol Ruth Ryesky
CAROL R., on April 27, 2014, of the Indian Harbour Beach, FL, formerly of Ambler. Daughter of Helene (nee Silberman) Ryesky and the late Aaron Ryesky; mother of Adam Snyder; sister of Kenneth H. Ryesky, Esq., and the late Matthew Ryesky. Relatives and friends are invited to Graveside Services, Tuesday 12 Noon, Har Nebo Cem., Oxford Ave., Philadelphia. Donations in her memory may be made to the Chai Lifeline or to another appropriate charity. -- From the Internet

The first thing you see on the home page of the Cemetery are ADS - see above - wanting your business.


Visited Helene this afternoon. She was exhausted and listless, feeling not much, after burying her second child.

"I have no daughter," she told me. 

The funeral was very well attended, she said. She was shocked. Her cousin Jerry picked her up at Rydal Park old age home - "Ruth, you can't believe how awful the food is here" - and they drove to the cemetery.

The weather was sunny, unlike today when we have a downpour, including flood warnings. 

Said Helene: You see this huge hole in the ground and next to that is a huge mound of dirt.

Her son Ken brought his orthodox rabbi with him from New York or New Jersey.

He did a wonderful job, said Helene.

A funeral service, whether Graveside like Carol's, or in a chapel should provide comfort for the bereaved family and friends.

It did.

The online  had 10 messages of comfort for her. The last message was from a Maple Glen neighbor:

May sweet memories of your dear Carol be of comfort to you at this difficult time - Ross Shriftman. Ross spoke at our support group about insurance and about a memoir he wrote about his late mother.

Helene reads the print-out of Carol's death notice in the Inquirer and also the condolences on I copied them this morning, per her request.

Her son Ken wrote the notice. "There's no mention of Nate in here," I said.

"Yes, that's Ken's doing."

avatar Like all the Ryeskys, Ken is a really smart guy

Before I went to Helene's, I stopped at Whole Foods.

Up in her three-room apartment - living room, bedroom, kitchen and baffroom, I asked her The Two Questions: 

Do you like licorice, I asked.

You know I do, she said.

Plunk! I put the Panda licorice on her ottoman empire.

Do you like chocolate, I asked her.

You know I do, she said.

Plunk goes the chocolate making the ottoman empire even stronger than before.

Gentile Bellini 003.jpgDon't mess with Mehmad the Conqueror.

Gee, says the small voice, I've always wanted to live in a harem. Like Vashti.

Fair is fair. I had Helene - an outstanding photographer! - take my pic. I told her I slept in my sweat pants. When I woke up this morning - it was rainy and damp and still is - I chose one of Walmart's finest tops to keep me warm. Outrageous price: $12.99.

How's your friend, Peter? I asked her.

Just talked to him, she said. B/c of conflicts he wasn't able to attend the funeral.

My beautiful friend and mentor, Helene Ann Ryesky or HAR.

Whenever I visit her, I get a cup of Egbert Decaf from the dining room. I wanted to bring the coffee mug up to her room, but you're not allowed, so I transferred it into a Sippee cup, I mean a plastic cup.

A dollar and 19 cents and worth every penny.

Just read my poem to Helene over the phone, while my Sweet Potato Soup is cooking.

Delicious! The bowl is from Helene.

BTW, Helene's clever husband, Aaron, used to call them Dagwoods.

Here's the late Aaron Ryesky. We had a party at Mom's house - for her 70th b'day - and took movies.  Mom is now 91.5. In a few years, she'll be room temperature, following her sister/law Aunt Selma in Cleveland.


In memorian Carol Ruth Ryesky (1956 to 2014)

Temperamental as a winter storm
beautiful as the fallen snow crowning
the fence tops
You have fallen
your work left undone

Never again will you see
your sons:
Adam, tormented as the one
in Genesis, who,
like his namesake, cannot
resist temptation
There’s still time,
there’s still time.

And Nathan, your first-born,
residing happily in cornfield
country, slanted Japanese eyes
the color of his mom's.

Carol, you will never see
the beauty of the copper-clad
pastures as they turn green
in spring

Or the pounding raindrops that
cleanse the world and make it
pure, for the little time we have

Never again will you hear your
mother’s voice, standing in
her old-age home, her voice
davening across the lonely
miles, to comfort her only
daughter, her beloved
Carol Ruth Ryesky,
while the rain-soaked dogwoods weep.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

H. Michael Zal, DO, draws full house - Poem on Anxiety by Ed Quinn

Psychiatrist H. Michael Zal, DO, relaxes before his presentation. In practice for 45 years, he just retired in October.

His book sold out at the lecture. He didn't realize we'd have such a large turnout.

About 40 people.

Karl Rickels, MD, "wrote the beautiful forward." We had Karl speak at one of our Tuesday evening meetings a couple of years ago. Fantastic!

Rickels, a native of Germany, fought with Rommel "The Desert Fox" as a young man. Read about it here.

Read Dr Zal's impressive bio here. Scroll down to see all his books

Dancing with Medusa, written in 2010, sounds really interesting. Dr Zal - pronounced Zoll - was a first-year psych resident who met 20-yo Bella in the throes of severe psychosis.

"Everyone was diagnosed as schizophrenic back then," he told us. But he realized Bella had a better outcome than most people w/schizophrenia.

Talisman -Vayou -Vaslav Nijinsky -1909.JPG

Russian ballet dancer/ choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky, considered the finest dancer of the early 20th century, had his career cut short by schizophrenia. Read discussion by his "analyst," the famous Alfred Adler here.   

Altho Nijinsky died at age 61, he was actually cured by Dr Adler of his schizophrenia.

For his book, Ten Steps, Dr Zal asked 25 to 30 of his patients who suffer from anxiety to answer two questions:

- Describe your anxiety

- What helps your anxiety

He told the patients' stories in his book.

Dr Zal stressed that anxiety has a genetic component.

During his years in practice, Dr Zal prescribed meds for anxiety if appropriate, and also did psychotherapy.

This, as we all know, is the best way to treat a mental illness, but is rarely done anymore.

"We all have anxiety," said Dr Zal, "from a single mom taking care of her children" to men and women with busy careers.

Anxiety disorders - including post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia, OCD, and panic disorder - affect 40 million people in the U.S.

GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects nearly 7 million.

"I'm honest with my patients," said Dr Zal. "I tell them I can't cure you but there's so much we can do."

In his initial interview with patients, he listens for CLUES that a patient is anxious. He hears statements like "I've been anxious my whole life." Some patients have a "startle response."

When my BF Scott comes over - he lives next door - he knows that no matter how quiet he is, I'm gonna "jump" when he comes through the door.

Dr Zal listens for "excessive worrying." And also recognizes "avoidance behavior." You're afraid of doing something - like driving somewhere or meeting other people or going on job interviews - so you avoid that activity.

"Take a risk and avoid avoidance," he tells his patients.

Anxiety disorders may overlap with other psychiatric conditions like depression or bipolar d/o.

Many individuals - including myself - suffered from extreme anxiety before their first psychosis. In 1984, I had no idea what anxiety was, but I sure had it. Then I found out after I landed in the hospital.

Here are some tips to help cope with anxiety:

STOP. Anxious people, said Dr Zal, move around a lot. Sit quietly. Meditate. Listen to music. You have the power to stop your anxious pacing. Give yourself permission to do so.

BREATHE. In and out, yes, but it's the "breathing out" that's especially helpful. S-L-O-W-L-Y.  One of Dr Zal's patients was so stressed out while driving he would get hives.

Dr Zal told him to exercise.

As you can see, his patient was a new man when he came for his follow-up appointment.

TAKE ACTION. Many anxious people are afraid to call someone on the phone for fear of getting rejected.

Now, I feared rejection and was worried that no one would show up for our program. This is always true with every Giant Supermarket program I run.

So I took action and you heard my call and we had a bigger audience than I ever expected. I put Noam in charge of getting more chairs.

TAKE THINGS AS THEY ARE.  People don't generally change, he said. Learn to like the positive and not-so-positive things about yourself.

EXPRESS MORE POSITIVE FEELINGS. "Mr. No" was one of his patients. He was forced to retire early as an attorney b/c of a chronic condition - a personality disorder. He had an inferiority complex but Zal told him, Look, you'll always be an attorney, feel good about yourself.

CYCLE OF FEAR. People "catastrophize," thinking something terrible will happen to them. He tells his patients, "Your mind is speaking to you in Greek. Say, 'I'm feeling anxious.' You can break that cycle." 

EXPRESS NEGATIVE FEELINGS. "It's the way you say them, that's important."

If you're going to get married, you need to share negative thoughts with your partner. Talk to a clergyman. Meet a friend for lunch to talk. Write your thoughts down. You can also write a letter to someone but don't mail it.

MEDS:  Must take a full psychiatric history before prescribing. Can't prescribe some meds - like benzoes - if the person has a substance abuse problem. Dr Zal prescribes benzodiazepines, antidepressants including SSRIs, atypical antipsychotics and antihistomines such as Benedryl. Also propanolol.

"The best part of the book," he said, "is the last chapter: The Road to Contentment."

People who having caring people in their lives are more content. We also must learn to live with our good points and our bad points.

In his book he quotes Leo Buscaglia, PhD, who used to appear on PBS

Read Leo's account of when he taught at USC and a student took his own life. This inspired him to contemplate human disconnectedness and the meaning of life.

Dr Zal quotes him, stating how important "the sense of touch is" and doing small kind things for others.

Have you done something kind for anyone today, Dear Reader?

 Here's Alice Zal before our meeting began.
 Here she is with the chrysanthemums we presented them as a gift for coming out from Lansdale.
 In her retirement years, Alice has taken up oil painting. I kid you not that her paintings are unusual and truly wonderful, worthy of being in both her home - her daughter's home - and in an art gallery - and a museum!

I was so pleased that my daughter and kidney donor Sarah stayed for the lecture. She's in town for my sister Donna's 65th birthday celebration which lasts two or three days.

When Sarah and I are together we walk arm in arm, tell each other "I love you" and are so grateful for the wonderful lives both she and I have.

Sarah got friendly with Alicia, a peer specialist at Lenape Valley. Her boss, Donna Giordano, suggested we give out Certificates of Attendance, so I gave out two of them, designed by one of our members.

After lingering awhile at the Giant, talking to various people, Sarah checked the SEPTA train schedule.

"Mom," she said. "A train leaves in seven minutes from Willow Grove." She wanted to be home tonite to hear husband Ethan and The Bad Plus play in NYC. 

Now, a funny thing happened when I went to the Giant this morning to set up our room.

I brought a carton of materials - The Compass, brochures, donation basket - and set it aside in the flower department while I chose the mums for Dr Zal.

When I returned to where I'd parked my cart it was nowhere to be found.

I asked Joe at the Courtesy Counter what to do. He made an announcement, asking people to come forward if they took the wrong cart.

Meantime, I'm thinking, "You're always so trusting, Ruth. This should be a lesson to you." BTW, I always keep my money and credit card in my backpack, never leaving it - ever! - in my cart.

Went back home, preparing to recopy the Certificate of Attendance and recreate my box of materials.

Meantime, Elyse Bonner from the Giant called and said they'd found the cart and were bringing it up to our Classroom.

When we were leaving to go home, I asked Joe, "Where did you find it?"

"Outside," he said.

Ed Quinn on Right

 ANXIETY by Ed Quinn

There's someone in my head but it's not me.
Not the me I used to be.
I yearn for the old me frequently.
My mind complies only occasionally.

Such is the world of anxiety.
I want remediation constantly;
so I go to therapy
with a healthy dose of pharmacology.

I have read the literature religiously,
to rid myself of pathology.
Nature or nurture, what could it be?
Could this be caused by family?
Or the law school that cost too much money.

Sometimes I think I can clearly see
that I'm Einstein's definition of insanity.
While I'm busy living so painfully,
"experts" get grants and other fees.

Will we always exist simultaneously,
co-habituating in perpetuity?

Anhedonia looms; not the least bit funny,
when I don't see a sunny day as sunny.
Some say it's just negativity
that prevents me from going forth happily.

If I would just think positively,
things wouldn't seem so scary.


Donna's 65th Birthday Party - From California, Florida, CT, New York they arrive - Poem: To My Sister Donna on her Sixty-Fifth Birthday

A month ago, Donna's daughters Melissa and Nikki planned a surprise party for their mom.

Donna knew nothing about it and planned a party of her own.

When Donna gives a party, you know three things:  Great food, great people, and ear-splitting noise.

Ready for the wild rumpus?

Watch the YouTube video made by B F Postel. 

 Warren! What an amazing surprise to see you here. He lives in Venice Beach, California, and is the dad of two wonderful kids.... Jade and Miles.
Everyone is busy doing something. Jeff Bigelow brought two bongos, is that what they're called? And music was blasting into the fresh air before Donna's condo itself will be blasted into oblivion some time this year and she will come and live with me temporarily.

Sarah and I both read poems in tribute to Donna Greenwold Cartagena.

Read Sarah's spectacular haiku on her blog here. 

Carlos Guerrero, orig from Ecuador. He loved my dad and helped out at the Now and Then Shop.

Donna bongs and Jade laughs. A vegetarian, Jade found plenty of her kind of food at the party. My contribution was pistachios which I'm still trying to get out of my teeth.

 Nikki, one of the party organizers, and Jade.
 Here's my Sarah Lynn with Leslie Reed, who flew in from Boynton, Florida. Donna met Leslie at the now-defunct Roosevelt School in Stamford, CT. I think this is the link.

Leslie is a world traveler! Moscow, St Petersburg, Amsterdam, Estonia. Next trip? Turkey.

Leslie convinced Sarah to stick around for one more day. Thanks, Les!!!

 The birthday girl with a long-time friend.

 Here's Barbara a couple of years ago with husband Carlos.

Barbara is a Bucks County artist, whose work is featured at the Michener Museum.

Why don't I have any of her art work?
Jerry plays guitar. He and GF of 20 yrs Sandra drove down from Manhattan. He works nights as an engineer at one of the NY airports.
 Melissa in Black. She wore one of her mom's outfits.
 Sarah made the vanilla cake with caramel icing and brought it in from St John's Place in Brooklyn.
 The Three Mousketeers. Scott left early to go home and sleep.
 This is Sandra. Don't worry, I've got your back. You, too, Mel.
 Carlos got us all up and dancing.
 Tyler and Camelia.

Quinn, 12, to Camelia: I know the capital of Ukraine (her homeland).

Ruth: What letter does it begin with?

Quinn:  K

Ruth: Kiev.
 Giselle came in from New Rochelle, NY, where she's owned her own beauty salon for 7 years.

What a beauty! She's half Lebanese and half Ecuardorean. Giselle's daughter Jacqueline has three kids. Her unique hairdo is done partially by her mom and also by a barber.
 Sparklers on the birthday cake.
 Mom and daughters.
 Trish and Sandra. It was Trish's birthday, too, so we sang to her.
 Close-up of Sarah's delicious cake. Bc I have diabetes, I shop up 18 units of insulin over the evening. When I came home and took my sugar level, it was fine:  112.
Sandra eating cookies prepared by Mom, age 91.

May I please go to sleep now? It's 1:45 am already!


I stopped sulking about your birth
when you were in Miss Patterson’s
kindergarten class, my athletic little sister
who could run faster than me
ride a bike earlier and
was Uncle Donny's favorite.

You came out of the school and into my
arms. “I’m lost,” you sobbed on that very first day.
“I couldn’t find my way out.”

In that moment, I saw you
frightened and shaking,
your tears
teaching me how I really
loved you.

And supported you through
your long hard life that
almost killed you
but spiritual woman that
you are, your relationship
to our silent Creator
kept you strong.

So here you are at
sixty-five, still beautiful
with your long dark hair
eyes shining like
your black granite countertop
beloved by your daughters
and grandchildren
and Daddy and David
gone too early to
the Other Side.

You and I know
we are only here
for a little while
Party, make merry,
let the red wine flow,
and watch every
cardinal as it sits
atop the branch
waiting to
take its leave.