Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Some end of year thoughts, prayers, wishes:

that we visit my brother-in-law very soon

that my next door neighbor has an easy journey

that Annie’s neck heals properly and quickly

that Jason continues on the road to recovery

that Tony is all well by now

that Lizzie and Zach bring a baby into their family – by adoption or ???

that we spend most of the month of May on vacation

and, that Ben and Marissa live happily ever after. We have a wedding coming up this summer. We all have that wonderful event to look forward to.

Bring in the LIGHT in 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Post op three weeks and all is going very well.

Bob went to see his knee doctor today - post op three weeks - and doesn't have to come back for a whole year. He just needs to keep his knee moving (inactivity will build up scar tissue which is the enemy of a complete recovery), walk 20 to 30 minutes or more a day, do his exercises, and ice after them. That's it. No special physical therapy needed at all. He can take Advil if he has pain and has permission to drive – even though he’s been driving for a week and a half already.

This is definitely a partial knee replacement success story.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 -- not that great a year either

Last year at the end of December I wished for more rest and no deaths. I said, “Those are definitely the things that mean the most right now. I’m forever tired. And I’m tired of the losses in my life.” Like last year I’ll have to celebrate Paul’s birthday at the cemetery again this year – the 11th of his birthdays I’ve spent there with him. So, again, I wish for “no more deaths. Only happy occasions. And stop with the bad news already too. I’ll take the tiredness any day over sickness and death.”

So, looking back on 2009 I find an abundance of sickness and tiredness. Three of my friends spent a lot of time emailing friends and family and asking for prayers, light, hope, good thoughts, and love relative to their loved one’s illnesses and recovery. These emails resonated with me because I have used writing to heal for the last 16 years – ever since Paul was first diagnosed as bipolar. But, I never thought to get my writing out there almost daily to friends and family. These emails have been updates on progress and/or set backs, and in all cases show much frustration because the writer can’t do something to make everything better quicker. Yes, writing is a way to get the frustration and guilt out too. In Jack’s case, his first reaction was guilt that he wasn’t injured in the accident too. He just couldn’t understand how he could walk away from it without a scratch and Annie was so beaten up. The other emails are from a mother and mother-in-law. These are so close to home they make my heart hurt. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been reluctant to open and read the emails coming from one of them – for fear of the worst. Thankfully, the last email showed some improvement. Any improvement is good in this case although there has been improvement, then a set back, then improvement, then a set back – and so the vicious cycle has gone month after month throughout this year. I’m thinking light, light, light that this latest improvement will stick and her young son will regain his health permanently.

So, what else happened this year?

Bob’s sister had successful back surgery – something she put off for years and now that she finally had it she’s totally free of all pain.

Bob’s brother has just been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer – his lung cancer has now spread to his liver and bones. And, this was a cancer that was discovered during a routine exam to find out if he could withstand knee replacement surgery. Bob would like to beat him up for smoking all those packs of cigarettes a day for over 50 years and doing this to himself, but it’s too late for repercussions. We just need to visit with him. Ben spent most of a day with him a few weeks ago. I’m so glad he got to do that.

It was one of the busiest years at work. I worked on one proposal throughout the whole year with a few extra assignments in between. The one I’m most proud of is the LCROSS Aviation Week award application. We got the award and the satellite was instrumental in finding water on the moon. Because I worked for a short time on the application I felt very much a part of its success. Not so much regarding the year-long proposal. Though we successfully delivered it the day after Thanksgiving, I found it one of the most frustrating efforts I’ve ever participated in. There were a lot of people changes, a lot of strategy changes, a lot of interference from upper management, a lot of last minute changes to the written document, and in the end it’s hard to tell whether what we ended up with will sit well with the evaluators. It certainly didn’t sit well with our in-house evaluators. I felt so bad at the end of it because of all the time and effort I put into it and that all the last minute changes did more to ruin it than make it better. We’ll see what the customer thinks soon enough.

I had several poems published this year and now I’m volunteering as a reading for a great on-line and print magazine. I also completed two poem-a day-challenges – one in April and one in November. I’ve learned to fit my writing in no matter what is going on in the rest of my life. I have to. It is my salvation. However, there’s still no light at the end of the tunnel regarding my memoir.

This year also was a year of loss socially. A friend of over 25 years has left my life – because we’re geographically incompatible, because we don’t have the same interests anymore, or because of a reason totally unknown to me. At any rate this was the first Christmas in all those years we didn’t exchange gifts or even cards. It’s amazing how a close friendship like that can deteriorate so fast – and without any clear reason. I lost another friend simply because she refuses to spend time with me in my environs – she always wants me to come to hers. But, I don’t feel such a loss with her – she and I had newly connected just a couple years ago. It was nice hanging with her, but she’s not a big loss in my life. Like I’ve always said, life is too short to deal with such pettiness. I guess that’s what it all boils down to. Like Annie said to me a few days ago, her accident has made her realize what’s important in her life. She acknowledged that I discovered that concept years ago as a result of Paul’s death. It takes a big event to create that kind of epiphany. The pettiness of where we should meet for lunch or when to have a cup of tea is just that -- pettiness.

And, now for some good news from this year:

• Ben and Marissa’s engagement
• Jeremy and Kelly’s wedding
• Bob’s successful partial knee replacement
• We've grown back our nestegg almost to where it was before the crash
• And, we’ve finally made a firm plan – actually put a deposit down – for a cruise trip in late May – our first real vacation in three and a half years.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

New poems

I just submitted the chapbook I created as a result of the November poem a day challenge. The prompts were creative and varied. And, I swear I tried to limit writing poems about Paul to a bare minimum. But, as usual I couldn't help myself. And, since this is his birthday week, it's fitting to post those now while I'm here in my office in what used to be his room. And, as always he is very much on my mind. It turns out I wrote four Paul poems out of the 30 poems I wrote last month - not too bad for me, usually a one-subject poet.

November PAD 6 – someone (or something) covered

The rabbi sets the baggie of ashes
into the tiny grave
and we, shovel by shovel,
cover him with dirt.
After a year we lay a gravestone
on top of the bare earth
as an added protective cover.
I return to that gravesite
two times a year –
on his birthday and his death day,
always wishing I could
lift off that granite stone
and dig away the dirt.
I wish I could uncover my boy,
reach inside that baggie,
take those ashes into the palms of my hands
and transform them
back into the son
I lost so many years ago.

November PAD 10 – a love poem

What do you do with love
for someone who is gone?
Where do you put it?
How do you contain it?
I haven’t learned yet
after 10 years to stop
loving my boy
who left us
by his own free will.
I love him as if he were
with me right now
and not in the cold ground.

November PAD 21 – an invention poem

Bach’s Two-part Inventions

As a girl I was enthralled by Bach.
I would practice his inventions over and over
on my piano
never tiring of the intricacies
of his compositions.
When my son, Paul,
started to take piano lessons
I introduced him to Bach
and he too, played the inventions.
He integrated them into his daily pratice routine
and made them sound so much better than I ever did.
It was if Bach had invented his inventions
just for him.

November PAD 22 – an emergency poem

There are no more emergencies.
After my son’s suicide death
and the calls to 911,
police and fire emergency vehicles
blasting their sirens
as they came down our street,
strangers stomping through our house
looking for evidence,
breaking him out of the shower enclosure,
then taking him in a body bag
to the coroner’s for more investigation,
nothing is an emergency anymore.
Nothing else could top that.
So, I stay calm and collected
and take things as they come.
There are only little worries now,
nothing I can’t overcome.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Reading pros and cons

For the last several months I've been a reader for the online and print magazine, "Memoir (and)." After they published a couple of my poems they asked if I would be a volunteer reader for the next issue or so. And, of course I was honored and said, yes.
However, this volunteer job has become a bit of a push given that I work full time and the reading assignments come in once a week like clockwork. This morning I submitted 10 critiques that had been in my queue for that last several weeks. Now I only have five more pieces left to read and critique - over my holiday break.

But, the plus side of this exercise is how much I learn from it. So many of the entries come in with typos, overwriting (my writing guru always said to "write like you talk)," lack of organization or a set topic, no dialogue, telling and no showing. Some of it looks like pages full of random ideas.

But, to be fair, I have found a few good pieces, and a few pieces that could be improved with some heavy editing, Mostly, though, I've seen nothing to write home about – so to speak. This encourages me to keep on reading. I'm learning from it, and it really makes me think I’m a pretty good writer after all.

By the way, "Memoir (and)" is an excellent magazine. In the end they pick out the cream of the crop to publish. I'm honored to be a part of this magazine. Check it out. You'll see my name on the masthead.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Time heals

In less than two weeks my husband fired me as his driver. He had had just about enough of being tied down to my schedule. He didn't want to wait until I had the time to take him where he needed to go.

Well, one would think a person post op from partial knee replacement surgery would not have a lot of places to go. Well, my guy defied the odds. One week after his surgery he declared he was ready to go to work and thus began our little routine: get him there by 8:45 am, pick him up sometime in the noon hour so he could go home to ice and rest, take him back to work after that, etc. And so it went Monday through Thursday -- many trips back and forth while I was trying to complete the professional responsibilities of my own job as well.

When I dropped him off at his office on Friday without the credential that allowed him to get in the building where he worked and without his regular glasses -- he had left them in the car -- and he couldn't reach me to come back to help him for over an hour, he was done with our arrangement. He demanded his car keys and off he went, acting like he had never had a surgery at all.

And, you know. I was very pleased to hand the keys over. I had had enough too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Road to recovery

I have only to look at this photo of my dear friend, now in a rehabilitation hospital, to know that I have not a thing to complain about.

I wish her a speedy and complete recovery and many more walks on the beach with me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A heavy week

This past week has left me exhausted. I can feel the weight on my shoulders and see a drained and old look on my face.

It started with Bob’s knee surgery which, it turns out, has not been so bad an ordeal after all. He had a couple of hard days, but sometime on Wednesday night he decided to abandon his walker, and he’s been almost self sufficient ever since. That is, he can shower, dress, change his bandage, and turn his refrigeration machine on and off by himself. However, he is still not able to drive, so besides keeping up with my own work load and being the chief cook, I am the chauffeur now as well. And that job got a little busier since he decided to start back to work today.

But, then things can always be worse – not for us, but for some folks we know and love.

One of my oldest friends – we went to high school and worked on the high school newspaper together – was in a terrible automobile accident on Saturday. It was a one-car accident – the car she and her husband were driving in went out of control and rolled over several times while they were driving through New Mexico. I understand they were both wearing seat belts – luckily; otherwise who knows what would have happened?

He was uninjured. She had severe injuries to her neck – such that she needs to be in a neck brace, called a “halo,” for 10 to 12 weeks and heavily medicated for pain. And, once she is released from the hospital in the next day or so, she’ll be medically taken to a rehab facility near where she lives in Arizona. He has been sending us long emails describing her progress though we haven’t spoken to him (or her) yet. He says her cell phone is MIA.

Another one of my old friends – in fact the first friend I made when I moved to California in 1961 – has been updating us on the illness and treatments for her son. He has had heart problems for several years and recently has been hospitalized for rapid and irregular heartbeats. Today he is undergoing an ablation, hopefully to correct the problem that is now affecting his liver, once and for all.
Our friend keeps asking that we hold the LIGHT for him. Believe me, I’m holding the light. I know so well how hard it is to mother a sick child – even if the child is an adult.

Well, today is Monday. Maybe things will get lighter in this new week.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Two days post op

Well, it hasn't been as easy as the doctor said. The surgery went perfectly on my husband's right knee but the recovery is going much slower and with more complications (swelling, loss of appetite and nausea, and drowsiness) than we were led to believe.

Thank goodness for the ice and compression machine, the pain medication, the walker, and his calm and caring wife -- without us all where would he be?

After this is over I'm going to need a good long girls only vacation.

Any suggestions!?!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Back from Denver -- there's no place like home

I was expecting cold, and what I got was COLD. And today, my last day to be there, it was so snowy, that I decided I had to get out FAST.

After a few quick calls to the airline and family members, I changed my flight to the 1:00 instead of the 4:30. But until we were in in the air -- after an hour and a half wait to take off -- I really had my doubts that I'd make it out of town in time to take Bob to his date for knee surgery tomorrow.

Even so, the visit with family was wonderful. It's just their choice of a place to live that I find a problem. As I've said before, we all make our choices. And, it's very clear, some folks make choices that are not necessarily in sync with our own. But, that's a story for another time. Right now I'm relaxing on my family room couch, blogging, reading the Sunday paper, and glad that I won't wake up tomorrow to a snowy landscape yet again. Sure, the snow is beautiful, but not in my backyard.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Finally a choice -- after too long a delay

Today is a special day.

I decided to take the day off so I could go with my husband for his appointment with his knee surgeon in Santa Monica. The appointment started at 8:00 and after xrays, an exam, and much conversation, we decided to go ahead and book Bob’s surgery for Monday. How's that for making a decision!!! How's that for finally choosing to act rather than living with pain and the inability to walk more than a block without discomfort.

Also, the prognosis is very good. He only has damage on the inside of his knee – no more cartilage there so the bones are rubbing against each other and causing him the pain and his leg to bow. So, he only needs a partial replacement. Before I saw the xray I was definitely an advocate of full replacement, but not anymore. Plus, recovery time is much less with a partial.

Anyway, he’ll have the surgery on Monday, they’ll get him walking the same day, he’ll go home the second day, and he will be able to go about his business almost immediately after that. The doctor says he should be able to walk a mile without any pain, limping, leaning to the right and with a straightened leg within three to four weeks. Amazing. Really amazing.

It’s just too bad he didn’t choose to do this two years ago when his first doctor offered him corizone to ease the pain instead of telling him the benefits of surgery then. Think how much pain and knee and leg damage he would have avoided.

Well, he says he was scared. He needed a push to go forward. That his sister had a successful back surgery in the last year pushed him a bit, but I think my saying over and over that I couldn’t travel with him until he could walk distances again was the actual springboard.

Hopefully, he’ll have a successful time of it, and he’ll stop calling himself an old man once he can walk normally and long distances again -- without any pain!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

More November poems

The November PAD challenge is almost over. Here are a couple more from my collection.

November PAD 25
For today's prompt, I want you to write a temperature poem. Remember: Temperature can mean the heat outside, the heat of something (or someone), or even the temperament of someone.

My husband says lime sherbet
runs through my veins.
He could be right.
My hands and feet are always freezing
even in the hottest summer days.
But, remember that old saying,
“Cold hands, warm heart.”
I like to think my heart is warm
making up for my body’s chill.
And, that works fine for me.

November PAD 27
For today's prompt, I want you to write a poem involving a shape (or multiple shapes). You can make the shape the title of your poem, or you can work the shapes into the actual poem in some way. There are two dimensional shapes, of course, like squares and circles, but don't forget some of the other shapes available out there: horseshoes, coffee cups, houses, etc. After all, some objects become so iconic that they actually are considered shapes unto themselves.

The Shape I’m In

I’ve learned over time
that dieting doesn’t have a lot to do with it.
I’ll still have the thick waist I’ve had since puberty
and a straight up and down torso.
I’m a rectangle.
I’ll never be the ideal, the hourglass,
no matter how much I work out
or control what I eat.
I’ll never have big womanly breasts
that people can snuggle into,
hips that sway as I walk,
and a waist small enough
that a pair of hands can wrap around.
But I am lucky.
I’m not a triangle with a big top that tapers down
to skinny hips and legs
like my poor mother-in-law
who kept breaking her ankles
because they couldn’t support her weight.
I’m not the inverted triangle either,
tiny on top and wide from the waist down.
You see a lot of examples of those
on TV these days,
examples of how not to be.
No, I’ll keep the shape I’m in.
It’s served me well all these years.
And, I know better than
to try to change myself now.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Choosing not to take no for an answer

Lee Daniels, who directed the movie Precious, refused to take no for an answer when he received one no after another when he tried to get financing. No one wanted to support a film about an obese Harlem girl who had been raped by her father, abused by her mother, impregnated, and afflicted with H.I.V. But he persisted and this movie that he wasn't sure America was ready for has become enormously successful.

Well, I'm not sure America is ready for my book about madness and suicide, but I'm encouraged by the success of Precious to keep on pushing. I won't take no for an answer either.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I can't beat the words of President Obama on this day. So, here they are:

Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, Americans across the country will sit down together, count our blessings, and give thanks for our families and our loved ones.

American families reflect the diversity of this great nation. No two are exactly alike, but there is a common thread they each share.

Our families are bound together through times of joy and times of grief. They shape us, support us, instill the values that guide us as individuals, and make possible all that we achieve.

So tomorrow, I'll be giving thanks for my family -- for all the wisdom, support, and love they have brought into my life.

But tomorrow is also a day to remember those who cannot sit down to break bread with those they love.

The soldier overseas holding down a lonely post and missing his kids. The sailor who left her home to serve a higher calling. The folks who must spend tomorrow apart from their families to work a second job, so they can keep food on the table or send a child to school.

We are grateful beyond words for the service and hard work of so many Americans who make our country great through their sacrifice. And this year, we know that far too many face a daily struggle that puts the comfort and security we all deserve painfully out of reach.

So when we gather tomorrow, let us also use the occasion to renew our commitment to building a more peaceful and prosperous future that every American family can enjoy.

It seems like a lifetime ago that a crowd met on a frigid February morning in Springfield, Illinois to set out on an improbable course to change our nation.

In the years since, Michelle and I have been blessed with the support and friendship of the millions of Americans who have come together to form this ongoing movement for change.

You have been there through victories and setbacks. You have given of yourselves beyond measure. You have enabled all that we have accomplished -- and you have had the courage to dream yet bigger dreams for what we can still achieve.

So in this season of thanks giving, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to you, and my anticipation of the brighter future we are creating together.

With warmest wishes for a happy holiday season from my family to yours,

President Barack Obama

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A couple more November offerings

November PAD 17
As mentioned above, today is Tuesday, which means we've got a "Two for Tuesday" offering. Remember: With "Two for Tuesday" prompts, you can write to either one or both (or none, if that's how you roll). Here are the two prompts:
1. Write an explosion poem.
2. Write an implosion poem.

We recently caused a small explosion
in a deep dark crater on the Moon.
A little satellite, called LCROSS,
crashed into it,
creating such a disturbance
that water vapor burst
out amidst the other debris.
After further investigation
that explosion exposed
the presence of water
on the Moon
in vast amounts.
Something we’ll surely use
as we continue in our omnipresent
quest for life beyond the Earth.

Note: Though I didn't work on this project or the proposal, I helped write the Aviation Week program excellence award application. We recently received notice that LCROSS won the award.

November PAD 19
For today's prompt, I want you to write an attachment poem. There are all kinds of attachments you could write about: physical, emotional, digital, etc. You could even write about your fear of attachment OR fear of no attachments OR fear of seeming to be afraid of attachment when really you're afraid of not being attached but you don't want other people to know that you know that...where was I?...oh yeah, write an attachment poem. Write it now.

I wear it everywhere.
It attaches to my clothes
on the wasteband
of my slacks or skirts.
It counts out my steps
and if I press a little button
it also tells me calories spent,
miles walked,
or the time of day.
My goal each day is 12,000 steps
and usually I overachieve.
Every year when it’s time to renew
my gym membership
I think about deleting
my step counting device
and the uploading software
from the menu of added perks I pay for.
I feel I’m much too attached to it
and much too obsessive about
amassing so many steps every day.
But, so far,
I can’t bring myself
to even begin process
of becoming unattached.
This little counter and I are
attached at the hip.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another November poem

A prompt from last weekend was perfect because we actually spent a lot of time renewing old friendships. And, I do mean old. We were with people I went to high school with back in the dark ages -- or as my mother used to say -- in the Year One.
In fact we're going out to dinner with two of the couples again tonight -- probably to tell more lies to one another (just kidding).

November PAD 13
For today's prompt, I want you to write a renewable poem. I suppose you could write about renewable energy or renewable books (from the library). But there are other ways to come at this, too. Vows are renewable, as are promises and oaths. In fact, if you think about it long enough, it's hard to think of things that aren't renewable. Now, get writing.

This was a weekend to renew old friendships.
We celebrated Lee’s 70th birthday,
the first one of our high school newspaper staff group
to reach that proud and
totally unbelievable age.
The Fell’s from Illinois,
the Doyle’s from Arizona,
and the rest of us,
convened first at dinner Friday night
and yesterday at the birthday celebration.
We ate tacos, drank champagne,
and gooey birthday cake
while reminiscing about kisses
through the screen door
trips to downtown Chicago
to see burlesque
and books and screenplays never written,
except in our heads.
Though we met while working
on the high school paper
Lee was the only one
to actually make a living as a news man.
But that only came after
stints at two less than prestigious publications,
called Penthouse and Hustler,
and rides in Ken Kesey’s magic bus.
Boy, does he have tales to tell
if only he’d stop acting like an old fart
and write them down.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November poem a day challenge

I've almost kept up with the November poem a day prompts. The object of this challenge is to produce and submit a 10-20 page chapbook by the end of December -- so, not all of the November poems need to be included. Here's my first five days' attempts with the prompts.

More will follow.

November PAD 1
For today’s prompt, I want you to write a poem in which you (or something) enters something new. Sound abstract? Some examples: Write a poem in which you travel somewhere new. Or try some new exercise. Or diet. Or hair stylist. Or, well, I’m think you get the idea. And remember: It doesn’t have to be about you. You could, I suppose, write a poem about an insect entering a new phase of development. Or a plant being introduced to a new environment. And so on.

I’m always up for a challenge.
So when promised a point award
for upping my weekly steps total
by 1000, I took it and walked with it,
so to speak.
That meant only 10 minutes more
cardio exercise everyday
for seven days,
a surprisingly small commitment.
But when I finished the week,
successfully upping my total
more than the minimum 1000,
I was tired
and took the next day off.

November PAD 2
For today’s prompt, I want you to write a poem in which you look at something from a different angle. For instance, a chef could go out to eat at a restaurant where he’s not the chef, or a short person can look at the world from the vantage point of a tall person (maybe with the help of stilts or a stool or something). The predator could become the prey. The photographer could become the photographed. And so on and so forth.

Last night I judged a poetry reading.
High school students
showing few nerves
got up, stood at the podium,
and gestured appropriately
as they shared their favorite poems
and talked eloquently about their choices.
Judging a reading isn’t a simple task
especially when a monetary prize is involved.
But it’s so much easier than being judged
for reading poems myself.

November PAD 3
Prompt #1: Write a positive poem. Like how great writing a poem a day through November is. OR
Prompt #2: Write a negative poem. Like how un-great technological hiccups in November are.

Today it’s all bad:
the hair,
the face,
the job,
the boss,
the people on my work team,
the food.
It couldn’t get any
worse than a greasy plate
of chow mein for lunch.
Even after a piece of gum
the greasy taste remains.
So, today is a day to stay cool
and not make any rash decisions.
Just put one finger on the keyboard
at a time and push down
and let it all evolve
as it will.
Though tomorrow bodes to be
just as bad.

November PAD 4
For today's prompt, I want you to take the phrase "Maybe (blank)," replace the (blank) with a word or phrase, and write a poem using that new phrase as your title. Some example titles: "Maybe we really did need a bigger boat," "Maybe next time you'll listen to me," "Maybe never," "Maybe baby," and so on.

Maybe I should drive to Big Sur
instead of going to work.
I would see blue sky and small white clouds
once out of the city
and fog
hovering over the cliffs
as I climb the coast.
I would smell the salt and pine air
and stop and look at the ocean
lapping against the rocks
every few miles or so.
I would not be in a hurry
but once there,
I would immediately
run down the hill to the tubs
relax in a bath
of hot sulfur spring water
and let the stress of work
ease out of me.
And I would never look back.

November PAD 5
For today's prompt, I want you to write a growth poem. This could be psychological or emotional growth, physical growth, or however you'd like to take it. Maybe your poem is about growing hair or growing hungry or growing impatient or...

I’ve decided it’s time to look my age.
I’m done with the dyes and low lights
and all those bottled hair coloring potions.
I’m done with the bluing, the cinnamon, the henna.
I’ve dumped them in the trash.
I’m growing out
my natural gray/silver color.
Slowly, month by month
as the colored ends get trimmed,
more and more
of my true color shows.
Now, the question is,
will I keep it that way
once I’m done with being done
and dye it all over again?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A beautiful Sunday morning

We spent a lot of this weekend with my New Trier high school friends, culminating in Lee's birthday party yesterday. (I won't say how old he is because that will give away the age I'll become just a few months from now.) Suffice it to say I feel very blessed to still be so close to folks I knew way back when we were all working on the school newspaper together. Lee is the only one of us to actually work on a newspaper; however, that job was preceeded by stints at Penthouse and Hustler and rides on the magic bus with Ken Kesey and company. Needless to say, Lee has lived a long and interesting life. I love him dearly.

Unfortunately we didn't get a photo together, so I'll post some I took this morning during my big long Sunday morning walk. Today was a perfect day for the surfers, and they were out in droves.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembering those killed at Fort Hood

Last week a military psychiatrist opened fire at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, killing 13 soldiers and wounding another 30. It was a horrific act, and one hard to explain. There are rumors that the attack was terrorist inspired because the killer is a Muslim. And, it also could be explained away by post traumatic stress – which is now running rampant in the military. The memorial service was held yesterday with President Obama speaking. In reporting the event, one of the news people called the survivors the “walking wounded,” an expression someone used for me many years ago. It refers to those of us who have lost children. This killing touched me closely – young people dead, mourning parents, and all the possible result of mental illness.

It just never ends. And, it always makes me cry.

Let's not forget our military on this Veteran's Day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Restaurant games

The other night while out to dinner with friends we tried to guess why a table nearby had an added feature -- a tall vase filled with beautiful red roses. Since no one was seated there yet, we really had no clue about the people when we started to play the what do you think the roses are for game.

With that my friend immediately suggested a marriage proposal. I countered with a 60th wedding anniversary celebration.

After the couple finally arrived we knew, even without any facts, that we were both wrong. He was kind of a paunchy, balding guy and she, not a spring chicken, was rather plain and dressed like she was living in the 50s of Donna Reed, wearing a long sleeve white blouse and a full skirt. She also had long wavy hair and wore dark rimmed glasses.

Could this be a first date? Had they met on or eHarmony?

They certainly didn’t look like they knew or even liked each other very well. She sat in one corner of their booth and he in the other, barely talking to each other. Then when she returned to the table after a bathroom break she sat closer – but still they showed no affection toward one another. One would think if they were celebrating a special anniversary they would have looked lovingly at each other once in a while.

Well, we finally gave up and asked our server if she knew what they were celebrating. And, much to our surprise it was a 29th wedding anniversary.

Is that how most people who are married 29 years celebrate? Alone, sitting far apart, not talking to each other? Like they had nothing to celebrate at all?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The B series

Okay, here's the tweet size poems about the B. No names here. Just let it suffice that this pain in the A at work was a yeasty poetry subject....until she left the company. Right now, it's out of sight, out of mind. And, that's a good thing.

The B Series

The B swaggers across the room,
looking from side to side
with a judging pursed-lip smile
on her face. Doesn’t she know
that will cause wrinkles?

With her ubiquitous Coach bag
slung over her shoulder,
her Daytimer and papers
tightly in her arms,
she stomps her 4-inch heels
down the stairs.

I wonder why men
gather and cow-tow.
She’s got something they want.
Certainly not her sweet demeanor.
Oh right
I’m a girl.
No way I’d understand.

The B is retiring
Only 51 more days to deal with
her demands, her haughtiness,
and her lack of appreciation
No I won’t miss her
when she’s gone.

Little lacey see-through tops
Showing lots of arm
rhinestones on her belts
And short skirts with flounce
Anything to detract
From her flat chest.

Today it was a white low-cut
clingy number
with enough sheering across the breasts
to give the impression
of something under there after all.

Why does she
walk through my room?
Certainly the hall is there
for a reason.
Perhaps she’s out for
human adoration
rather than mean blank walls.

Why was her smile so wide
when Joe announced a security breech?
Was she reveling in someone else’s mishaps
or just savoring her own daydream?

She doesn’t seem to notice
how her stomach sticks out.
She just keeps strutting,
swinging her hips, and clicking those
heels across the floor.

Now here’s a scary thought.
She retires on October 31,
just two more weeks from now.
A perfect witchy day for
transforming the B into a W.

This is it. This is her last day.
Her replacement is here.
He communicates, he’s pleasant,
and he can do her job without a hitch.
All is good.

Work life without the B
is peaceful. We communicate
openly without fear
of her insulting retorts
and fake-y slimy smile.
Our smiles now are real.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Palin -- the lowest common denominator

Yesterday I heard an interview with Michelle Norris of NPR and Mary Kehe, the book editor of the Christian Science Monitor, about the flood of books coming out about Sarah Palin. The last interchange really hit home to me, because of the number of rejections I’ve gotten about the subject matter of my book.

NORRIS: If we look at all of the Sarah Palin books that are about to be published, what do we learn about the book publishing industry in this moment?
KEHE: Oh boy, I - you know, I hate to say it, but I don't think it paints a pretty picture. It seems to me it smacks of a bit of desperation. And in many cases it shows a little bit of disregard for quality, a willingness to cater, in some cases, not every case, certainly, but sometimes to a lowest common denominator.

Well, that conversation makes me feel less like a failure. I think my work is good. I've heard from others that it's good. Unfortunately, it’s not the subject matter that will grab a book agent or publisher who wants to deal with popular people and their thoughts no matter how banal they might be. And, I’m not a celebrity. One agent said she could only see a publisher interested in my book if I were a famous person. Well, maybe once the economy picks up, these folks in the book publishing world may be more willing to take some literary chances. I can wait.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Query update

So, I got the most direct rejection of my material via email yesterday. The agent, no, no names here, wrote me back almost immediately saying: “Thanks for the query, but I don't want to deal with such pain.”

I'm enraged that a person could be so short sighted and actually admit this. Yet, he is more courageous than most agents who just blandly say my material is not right for them or doesn’t fit into their list.

I am tempted to send Mr. Blatant Agent Glenn Close’s article. I’m tempted to send it to all the agents who have rejected my work, but it’s a waste of time. I need to keep moving on. I need to keep querying and taking the rejections – no matter how they come. I just read a success story – that it took an author three years to find her perfect agent. I’m not anywhere close to that. Another reason to keep querying on.

And, speaking of moving on, I’ve started the November Poem a Day (PAD) challenge. I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue with busy day job is this month, but at least I’ve started. I wrote the first two poems today – just little bitty things, but at least I wrote them. I also wrote another 140-character poem for the B series.

You'll see them all here -- soon, I promise.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

California Women's Conference

For the last four years I've attended the California Women's Conference hosted by Maria Shriver. Fortunately, my company pays for the tickets and for my time there. It's a great deal. This year 14,000 people (mostly women) attended.

Hightlights for me this year:

A conversation between Annie Leibowitz and Katie Couric with Annie commenting on her photos shown overhead

Maria Shriver's welcome speech and her openness about her grief over the loss of her mother and uncle just in the last two months

The panel moderated by Maria with two women who lost sons (Elizabeth Edwards and Susan St. James)and one who just lost her husband (Lisa Swayze) -- a very emotional experience for me

Jane Goodall and her eloquence in accepting a well deserved Minerva award for her work to save Africa from polution

And of course Madeleine Albright's famous quote (she said it last year too):
"There should be a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."

Whether I'm still working for this company next year or not, I'll attend again. It's interesting to find out that today's women have some of the same issues we had years ago -- they too have to make choices about careers vs. raising a family or both.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A book whose time has come

I’m beginning to think the time has come for the subject of my book. Whether it will help motivate an agent and a publisher is another story, but just in the last week two pieces have come out discussing mental illness and dealing with it. One was an article by Glenn Close in The Huffington Post about eliminating the stigma of silence about mental health. Another article was on NPR this morning about helping college students with mental illness and the need for more counselors so their needs can be responded to quickly. Akin to a broken leg that gets immediate attention, a mental break or deep depression also needs immediate attention. This has become more prevalent in the last 10 years because more students with mental illness are attending college – enabled by the availability of the anti mania, anti depression, and anti psychotic new medications.

So, looking back at the response Paul had when he had his first psychotic break when he was in college. Someone from the school’s medical office walked him to a hospital nearby and left him there, and within minutes he left. The only concern the school seemed to have was that he have a signed note from a doctor stating he was healthy enough to return to school. No one was there to monitor his progress and check in on him during and after his break. If more attention had been paid at the outset would the outcome have been different? He always felt stigmatized by his disease. Perhaps had it been dealt with openly he would have been more willing to get help and not feel like he had to hide it.

Oh, I know there is no way to know. Yet, I do know that that was a different time. People’s attitudes and awareness are changing about mental illness. And the more articles about it in the media, the more it will continue to change. Like a parent whose son killed himself said on NPR this morning, perhaps more attention will save lives. Yes, that’s the ultimate goal.

Here’s Glenn Close’s article:

Mental Illness: The Stigma of Silence
by Glenn Close

"Mental illness and I are no strangers.

From Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction to Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire to Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Weber's Sunset Boulevard, I've had the challenge -- and the privilege -- of playing characters who have deep psychological wounds. Some people think that Alex is a borderline personality. I think Blanche suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and everyone knows that Norma is delusional.

I also have the challenge of confronting the far less entertaining reality of mental illness in my own family. As I've written and spoken about before, my sister suffers from a bipolar disorder and my nephew from schizoaffective disorder. There has, in fact, been a lot of depression and alcoholism in my family and, traditionally, no one ever spoke about it. It just wasn't done. The stigma is toxic. And, like millions of others who live with mental illness in their families, I've seen what they endure: the struggle of just getting through the day, and the hurt caused every time someone casually describes someone as "crazy," "nuts," or "psycho".

Even as the medicine and therapy for mental health disorders have made remarkable progress, the ancient social stigma of psychological illness remains largely intact. Families are loath to talk about it and, in movies and the media, stereotypes about the mentally ill still reign.

Whether it is Norman Bates in Psycho, Jack Torrance in The Shining, or Kathy Bates' portrayal of Annie Wilkes in Misery, scriptwriters invariably tell us that the mentally ill are dangerous threats who must be contained, if not destroyed. It makes for thrilling entertainment.

There are some notable exceptions, of course -- Dustin Hoffman in Rainman, or Russell Crowe's portrayal of John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. But more often than not, the movie or TV version of someone suffering from a mental disorder is a sociopath who must be stopped.

Alex Forrest is considered by most people to be evil incarnate. People still come up to me saying how much she terrified them. Yet in my research into her behavior, I only ended up empathizing with her. She was a human being in great psychological pain who definitely needed meds. I consulted with several psychiatrists to better understand the "whys" of what she did and learned that she was far more dangerous to herself than to others.

The original ending of Fatal Attraction actually had Alex commit suicide. But that didn't "test" well. Alex had terrified the audiences and they wanted her punished for it. A tortured and self-destructive Alex was too upsetting. She had to be blown away.

So, we went back and shot the now famous bathroom scene. A knife was put into Alex's hand, making her a dangerous psychopath. When the wife shot her in self-defense, the audience was given catharsis through bloodshed -- Alex's blood. And everyone felt safe again.

The ending worked. It was thrilling and the movie was a big hit. But it sent a misleading message about the reality of mental illness.

It is an odd paradox that a society, which can now speak openly and unabashedly about topics that were once unspeakable, still remains largely silent when it comes to mental illness. This month, for example, NFL players are rumbling onto the field in pink cleats and sweatbands to raise awareness about breast cancer. On December 1st, World AIDS Day will engage political and health care leaders from every part of the globe. Illnesses that were once discussed only in hushed tones are now part of healthy conversation and activism.

Yet when it comes to bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia or depression, an uncharacteristic coyness takes over. We often say nothing. The mentally ill frighten and embarrass us. And so we marginalize the people who most need our acceptance.

What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation about illnesses that affect not only individuals, but their families as well. Our society ought to understand that many people with mental illness, given the right treatment, can be full participants in our society. Anyone who doubts it ought to listen to Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins, vividly describe her own battles with bipolar disorder.

Over the last year, I have worked with some visionary groups to start, an organization that strives to inspire people to start talking openly about mental illness, to break through the silence and fear. We have the support of every major, American mental health organization and numerous others.

I have no illusions that is a cure for mental illness. Yet I am sure it will help us along the road to understanding and constructive dialogue. It will help deconstruct and eliminate stigma.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by the year 2020 mental illness will be the second leading cause of death and disability. Every society will have to confront the issue. The question is, will we face it with open honesty or silence?"

Read more at:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The same old choices keep re-emerging

This was the 14th day in a row that I went into work. Of course I don’t work the long full days on the weekends like I do during the week, but I still went in. And this pace will continue until the night before Thanksgiving – exactly one month from today.

The way I’m feeling now, I can’t guarantee that I’ll ever do this again. In fact, I’m thinking of my options yet again:
• Ask my boss if I can work part time – 20 hours or more with benefitsw
• Officially retire and come back once in a while as a contractor
• Give up my day job all together and concentrate on my writing
• Get back to planning to live in Italy which means getting back to my Italian lessons. I definitely could write as well there as here and I could take a few cooking classes besides.

Needless to say the options are there. Whether or not I even have the energy to pursue them is the big unknown. Whether or not I trust that I can stand not working is another unknown. And the most important unknown is what the state of the economy will do in the next few years. Can I really afford not to work entirely? Can both Bob and I afford not to work for months at a time?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jew by choice

I went to a Bat Mitzvah last Saturday. One of the most beautiful and brilliant performances on the pulpit I’ve ever witnessed. The Bat Mitzvah girl is the daughter of a good friend who is, in her own words, a failed Catholic. The girl’s father is Jewish. And, as the Bat Mitzvah girl said in her speech, “I am a Jew by choice.”

The most amazing thing about her choice is that she made it when she was seven years old. Her mom waited for about six months to see if the notion would stick, and when she was sure it wasn’t going away, she took her daughter to the Rabbi to discuss her options. And, this seven year old was determined and articulate when the Rabbi asked her why she wanted to be a Jew. She said she believed that the Star of David was her guide. And she believed in one God – no other beings or symbols made any sense to her.

This seven-year old girl has emerged into a beautiful, smart, and talented young woman just like her mom who raised her mostly on her own. I can’t wait to see what the next few years have in store for her.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I can definitely relate

We saw "August Osage Country" today with Estelle Parsons. The writing and acting are brilliant. And, so is Estelle's ability to run up and down one or two flights of stairs several times during the play.

There was a Q&A with Estelle in the program. Here's the question and answer I could definitely relate to:

"Q: Everyone marvels at how you go up and down those stairs. How do you stay in shape?

"A: I've been very physically active all my life. Dance lessons, yoga, running, hiking. I would have loved to have been a skier or a tennis player if I weren't an actor. I run or swim or go to the gym everyday, and also do yoga. i started doing weights when I got into my 60s, and have had a lot of trainers. When you get older, your strength dissipates very quickly. It probably starts in your 60s, but when you get into your 70s, if you don't walk a mile for a couple of weeks, pretty soon it's hard work to walk a mile. So, I've always kept up with it...I just can't help myself...."

I've never heard the reason for keeping fit on into our old age so succinctly put. And, now that I'm pushing 70 it's nice to have validation that I shouldn't slack off. I used to think I owed myself a break once I reach a certain age. But, that isn't so at all. I think I need to more diligent as I age. Plus, like Estelle -- I can't help myself.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Whadya think?

Except for a few loose ends and the garden work, the house resurfacing and painting is finished. So, what do you think?

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Another sign from the light

I got word today that two of my poems were accepted for publication in Perigee: Publication for the Art's October 15 issue. I'll post the link as soon as they appear.

Here’s what Perigee said:

"Your work was among the very best, and we are pleased to inform you that we would like to publish both "Demolition" and "Reaching for a Star" in our upcoming issue. You are to be commended on your craft and should be proud of your work….We are so pleased that you submitted to us, and we hope to see more of your work in the future. We also hope you will take pride in your achievement: these are the successes which make the creative act all the more rewarding. Thanks for making Perigee a part of it. Congratulations.“

WOW that was a real shot in the arm to get my creative juices flowing again. I’ve been very dormant lately, and with that and the signs I’ve been getting re resources for submitting my work, I feel like I have to get going with my writing and submissions. Another agent's name came up today, and I’ve put his blog on my list of resources to read. If only I had the time to give my writing the attention it needs.

The light is shining very brightly over my writing life this week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My writing light

One of my friends always says "bring on the light." With that she means bring on good vibes. And right now I seem to be receiving a lot of light about publishing resources. One person told me about the Independent Writer’s Organization of Southern California and its tremendous list of resources and links. Another person sent me the UCLA Alumni magazine that highlighted the Wordhustler web site – a perfect place to go to for help in researching, organizing, and sending out submissions. It’s seems that all of this light is telling me to get back to my writing and submissions and querying. It’s telling me to end this little hiatus I’ve taken for the last few weeks for “reasons” – lack of motivation, too much work, the dreaded month of September, completing the 45 hours continuing education needed to renew my real estate license, the house redo, whatever. It’s always easy to find a reason. Well, right now I have a reason – the light – to get back into the writing game again.

And, I’ve just taken the first step: I registered for a four-day workshop in February to learn about writing the first novel. One never knows. Maybe I have a novel in me after all.

Bring on the light!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday morning

I took my usual long Sunday walk this morning and it was blustery and cool -- but oh, so beautiful. The clouds hinted at rain, but before my walk was finished it was hot and sunny again.

And, here's some show of more house progress. This past week all the trim got painted. Next week, the fence, deck, and atrium will be stained, and the garage door and railings will be painted. Could I even hope that this project will be completed by Friday? Probably too much to ask?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The end of the dreaded month

Many folks suggested we move out of our house after Paul died there, but it wouldn't have made a difference. He is everywhere. So, to end this dreaded month, here's the poem I wrote at Esalen last July. -- about seeing him everywhere. It's a topic I have come back to over and over.

And, perhaps with a new month starting tomorrow, the topic will also be new.

Today I Saw You on the Hill

Just after my morning walk on the highway
up to South Coast,
just after my relaxing soak in the big corner bath,
just as I start my trudge up the hill,
towel in hand ready to dump in the box,
I see you engrossed in a conversation.

I know you instantly
the buzz cut
the long sideburns
the slight build
the intense blue eyes
giving full attention
to your friend
as you talk.

Today for some reason
the clothes are wrong.
Instead of your Doc Martins
you wear bright striped sneakers
Instead of the brown leather book bag
slung across your body
that I bought you for school
you have a backpack.
Still I know it is you.

Like on the other days when I see you
in your dark gray sweater
or black jacket
and levis crossing the street
or on the pier
or at the piano
or sitting outside Starbucks.
Like when I see you at work,
young, brilliant, and so sure of yourself,
I have no doubts.

Please go on, my beautiful boy.
Give it a rest.
I don’t want to think about you here
I don’t want to write about you anymore
I’ve written about you ad nauseum
and still you won’t leave me alone.
Even here among the hummingbirds
and the pines and salt air
I’m not safe.

You’re dead. Your choice.
So stop bothering me already.
If you wanted to stay in my life
and bother me
why did you choose to die?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

House progress -- week of September 21

New fence and gate -- prestain stage

Color tests in preparation for next week's painting and staining. Could it be almost finished at last?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The first day of the eleventh year

We went to the cemetery yesterday to visit Paul’s grave. We couldn’t find it right away, and my mind jumped to the thought that he wasn’t dead after all and of course it wouldn’t be there.

But that was just a fleeting thought. It was there – right in front of me. It had ants crawling all over it, and I wondered why they had chosen his gravestone and not the others. Could it be that he was so much younger and more succulent than the other dead people around him who all died in their 80s and 90s. Another silly thought because everyone around him had been reduced to ashes as well. All the succulence burned out of every last one of them.

It’s always anticlimactic to go to the cemetery. I worry over it, I think about it for days before, and then once I’m there, I lay down a stone, touch it, brush away a bit of the dust, shed a tear or two, and then we go. We spend maybe five minutes in all, and we drive away.

Writing poems about him seems more productive. Here is yesterday's tweet.

The color purple
Cat Stevens
Zen parables
Dungeons and Dragons
teeny trains
Mr. Rogers
formed his young years
until music took over.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another tweet for Paul

Only one more day and
it will be ten years
since we found him
and knew we would never
hug him, kiss him
or have to worry about him
ever again.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Skin and cure

Last Monday, the 14th, the house got the skin coat. When I got home that night I thought I was having a deja vu experience -- my white rough surfaced house still looked like a strawberry ice cream sundae. But after two days of drying time the real transformation began -- application of colored stucco.


However, upon seeing the first completed section I had more angst -- the color looked way too dark - though the surface is indeed silky smoothe.

Cure - Day 1

In fact it looked like chocolate brown instead of light mustard. We called the contractor and he assured us our color choice would emerge after a week of curing -- or longer depending on the weather.

Cure - Day 4

Cure - Day 4

And, today, after 4 days our color is slowly coming through. Now wouldn't it have been nice to know a little bit about this skin and cure process at the outset? As far as I knew before we got started, skin and cure were just terms from a cookbook.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More short poems

And, all for Paul.

Cell phones, iPods, TIVO, DVDs, Wii,
arrived since he left.
But, his beloved vinyl records
still prevail. He knew what technology
would survive.

I would love to show him my iPhone
he’d figure it out immediately.
He’d know the Apps to choose
and within a minute or two
he’d make it his own.

I was shocked to learn
Joplin, Hendricks
and Morrison all died
at 28 in 1971
the year of Paul’s birth.
Paul was 3 months shy
of 28 when he died.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More 140 character poems - remembering Paul

The 10th anniversary of his death is soon.

Even after 10 years I know
by the first note
it is Paul’s music. I try to listen,
but, usually I press the forward button
and shuffle through.

The sands of time don’t heal.
The memories, good and bad,
don’t leave
don’t lesson the pain I feel every day
even after living with it
10 years.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The house -- inching toward the finish

New molding

Progress is going slower than we expected. This week we got molding around the garage (made of foam) and reinstallation of our house number. But, having my number back at all and in such great shape makes me very happy.

We have been promised that the stucco skin process will start on Monday and that the fence and other painting will get going later in the week.

So, our house project won't be finished in three weeks as promised. Probably more like five (fingers crossed).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Speaking of choices

A friend sent me the following via email. It is worth the read and definitely worth passing on.

Two Choices

What would you do? make the choice. Don't look for a punch line, there isn't one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by
all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:

'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection.. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.

Where is the natural order of things in my son?'

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued.. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature
presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.'

Then he told the following story:

Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys
would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and
the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy
at my son being accepted.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.

In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the
field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat. At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?

Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the
ball. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.

The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first
baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates.

Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!'

Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!'

Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball . The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay'

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third! Shay, run to third!'

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!'

Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

'That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world.'

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully
embrace her little hero of the day!


We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the 'natural order of things.' So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with two choices:

Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate amongst them.

May your day, be a Shay Day

Monday, September 7, 2009

140 characters (or less)

I've been toying with writing 140 character poems -- the length of a Twitter -- just to keep up with poetry's latest trends.

Here are my first attempts (with their character counts).

The B swaggers across the room,
looking from side to side
with a judging pursed-lip smile
on her face. Doesn’t she know
that will cause wrinkles?

Wildfire smoke obscures
the Santa Monica coast.
It dissipates into Georgia O’Keefe clouds
that hover over our quiet beach town
to the South.

Shopping in Beverly Hills
for finely tailored Italian clothes
after two drought years,
good for the economy
or just a way to shore up my closet?

Swarthy vs blonde
Artistic vs scientific
Insensitive vs an abundance of tears
One birthday is 2/3/1937
The other is 2/4/1937
I married them both.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What do you think?

Not a lot of house progress since the big sand blast last week. We got the electrical work done, and now we have a color sample on a square of smooth stucco. And, I think this first sample is the right one.

Here is a picture of the look I like (though the color in the photo is a lot more yellowy than the sample) plus a couple of images of the square against our naked outside walls. And, if I give the go ahead, I suspect the new stucco will go on next week.

Rght now we're living with the square up against the house for the weekend. If we still like it by Tuesday morning, it's a go.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thanks to the Crossroads class of 1989

for remembering Paul at your 20-year reunion.

Paul is one of two from the class of 1989 who is no longer with us. It made me cry to see your thoughtful "and as a whole we really missed Shaw C. and Paul S. They will always be a part of our class and in our hearts" comments in the 2009 Alumni News. It's so nice to know others remember him.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

September - the dreaded month

because it was the month that Paul died.

Bob and I were listening to Paul's music last night, and Bob started to cry. It became so intense I had to ask him to turn the music off. Sometimes I can listen and sometimes not. Not is probably right for this month.

I'll be posting more about Paul this month. I've been thinking about what he's missed -- mostly in technology toys. He was a computer geek as well as a composer and musician. I think he would have liked an iPhone. He probably would have been a champ at texting.

Not like Dana Perry who called her son's death, "Boy Interrupted," I call Paul's death, "Life Interrupted."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

And now it is a naked house

From last Monday until Thursday night our house was prepped for sandblasting. The construction workers put up scaffolding, patched, took away areas of the red tile roof, and finally covered every window with black sheeting in preparation for blasting off the white stucco. The black window coverings made Bob a little anxious. Even with all our windows open no air circulated through the house. But, we only had to endure that claustrophic feeling one night.

Sandblasting happened on Friday. I went by during the noon hour and most of the color was off the outer walls by then. However the noise and the dust created from it was horrible. So, much so that the workers wore ear plugs and couldn't communicate with me how long the house would be off limits to entering and exiting. Once I saw the finished product and all the sand debris and damaged plants, I realized we'll have a huge gardening expense after the stucco is finished. We will have to replace a lot of the plants that grew closest to the house -- some that have been with us for years.

This was my first ever sand blasting experience. I won't choose to go through that one again.

"Boy Interrupted"

Dana Perry produced a documentary called “Boy Interrupted” that appeared on HBO. I didn’t see it from the start last night, but I saw enough – over an hour—to get the gist. Her son, Evan, was depressed from the time he was a small child and actually talked about death and suicide from the age of five. He became so disruptive at school – he threatened to jump from the roof - that first he was hospitalized and then put into a special school for children with problems. There they finally diagnosed him as bipolar and put him on lithium, and he responded well to it. Eventually he returned to a mainstream school, made friends, and received top grades. He was well liked, very handsome, and had a lot of girlsfriends. However, by the time he was 15 he and his mother discussed his going off his medication, and with the advice of his doctor to go off gradually, he did.

And as he did he became increasingly depressed again. His last night alive he was agitated, didn’t want to do his homework and he told his mother he hated her as he left to go to his room. His father came up shortly to check on him and he seemed fine. He was at his computer and he said he was doing his homework. His father went in to help his younger son get to bed, and then came back to Evan’s room. He was gone.

Dana and her husband finally found him, with the help of the building superintendent, at the bottom of the air shaft, several stories down. He was in a pool of blood and dead. He was 15 years old. He decided to consummate his long lasting and ongoing affair with death.

Dana also had a brother who committed suicide in his 20s. However he was never diagnosed as bipolar as Evan had been, though she suspected his brother was afflicted with it as well.

Though my son, Paul’s, story is much different from this one, one thing stands out. They both stopped taking their lithium, and they both got increasingly depressed as a result. Paul never talked about killing himself as Evan did, but they both had the same result.

Now, I want to rework my book query letter to emphasize how important it is for parents to keep their children on their meds. Evan’s mother, Dana, couldn’t have known what the outcome would be because she didn’t know how deadly bipolar can be. And in a way she was lucky. She had the opportunity to keep him on the meds. He was not an adult. With Paul, we had no say in his ultimate care. We could express our concern that he wasn’t taking him meds, but because he was an adult, we couldn’t make him take them. Evan’s mother could, and unfortunately she didn’t. No, I’m not blaming her. She didn’t know better. That’s what I need to point out in my query. I will tell parents how important staying on meds is. And, perhaps this is the purpose of Dana's brave documentary about her son -- to let others know the horrible truth of a bipolar diagnosis.

The documentary was made up of a series of photos and videos starting when Evan was a very young child. There were also remarks from his parents, his grandmother who lost her son, Dana's brother, to suicide; his teachers; his doctors and other care givers; the girlfriend of Dana’s brother; Evan’s half brother, and his friends. They all spoke of him in glowing terms. He was smart, talented, and beautiful. Yes, this boy’s life was interrupted. Like his brother said, his suicide note could have been written by any moody teenager, yet Evan’s moods were thousands of times greater than the norm. And his brother was in despair that he never had the chance to say these things to him.

Some memorable quotes from the piece (probably not verbatim):
• I can’t believe he’s not here
• I can’t believe I’m sitting here doing this (Dana, his mother, the producer)
• You never get over it
• You move on
• You put one foot in front of the other and move on
• Bipolar is like cancer. It’s a killer

I realize that I’m writing this clinically. Well, that’s the only way I could get the words out. I do not feel clinical about the piece. I was greatly moved by it and very sad. And, I came away with the thought that this boy could have been saved. It’s a matter of education and the right care. I don’t believe that we have enough or the right kind of care for mental illness. Bipolar disease is just that. It is a disease. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain. And, it can be treated – like cancer can be treated. Of course the treatment is not always successful. There has to be a willing patient. However, the more parents and other care givers and even the patients know about it, the better the outcome can be. I truly believe that.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Strawberry sundae -- almost gone!

On Monday morning the scaffolding goes up in preparation for sand blasting. So, this is my last weekend with the strawberry sundae house. I am indeed impressed with my contractor. He was back to us within 3 days of signing the contract to tell us we begin this Monday. I even went to the paint store and got some color samples. Makes it even more real.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Signed contract

Today we signed the contract to begin the work of redoing the outside of our house -- smoothing the stucco, painting, replacing the fence on the west side, and a few other little things that keep cropping up. The work of the house is never ending, don't you think? I’ve wanted to redo the house's surface for years, and I'm excited that we took the first step today -- we signed on with a contractor to get the job done. We did our due diligence and got three estimates -- all from hightly recommended folks, and we finally picked the one we felt was right. Plus, his bid was in the middle of the three. One was way low and incomplete. The third was way too high for the same work.

So, I’ve decided to chronicle the job’s progress here. Tomorrow our contractor will get the stucco subcontractor on board and pull a city permit for sand blasting. The advantage in choosing a local contractor is he knows the ins and outs of the city. He knows we need a permit for the sand blasting and that it’s a city law to notify our neighbors that the sand blasting will occur. (By the way. I worry about the sand blasting. I just hope it doesn't ruin all the plants that grow close to the house.)

He has stated in the contract that he expects to complete the whole job within 45 days – at least by the end of September. Now mind you, I’ve never had the experience of a contractor completing a job within his stated time frame, so I’ll be surprised if this one will. My goal, I told him, is to have the job flat by Thanksgiving.

In the next few days I’ll post some before photos of our house – with its rough surfaced stucco, dirty white paint, and very faded salmon colored trim. Someone once said it looked like a strawberry sundae, and I was very offended. When you see it, you'll understand that It’s crying out for renovation. And another color scheme. Now, I'm perfectly in agreement with the strawberry sundae remark.

I’m thinking right now about a dark Dijon mustardy color, but I could be persuaded otherwise. The color choice is up to me, so I’ll be heading to the paint store to see what appeals. Needless to say, I’m not above suggestions from my dear readers. Mainly, I want to avoid the pale beige and gray tone – already too prevalent on my street. Yet, I don’t want anything bright and too avant garde and shocking. Quiet good taste is my goal.

So, keep checking back to see how my house project is going.