Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The last January 2012 small stones

January 22
Dark gray clouds cover the roaring waves. I wonder why the surfers aren't riding them instead of taking them them one by one lying down.

January 23
Kristi's photo was posted on Putting a Face on Suicide today. She was just 19 when she took her life. I wish I could share her huge eyes, her smooth skin, her friendly closed-mouth smile with you. She was beauty. And even that couldn't save her from a drug addiction that sucked the life out of her.

January 24
I met an old friend this morning and within five minutes of talking she was in tears. She told me about her mentally ill daughter in yet another healing institution. She's been in nine since she was thirteen; she is twenty now. I hope my writing will inspire my friend to take good care of herself. Her daughter will have to find her own way.

January 25
I was so proud of myself last evening for being an advocate in getting a mentally ill young man some help. I was told at ten in the evening that he would be in good hands and not to worry. But this morning the news is that he is still in harm's way, in a jail cell naked wrapped in a quilt and not eating and drinking, and I don't know what else I can do about it. I have never felt so frustrated. Unfortunately this story is bringing back bad memories of my son's behavior and how he was treated during his bipolar days.

January 26
Every time I am in Pilates class I hear Jeffery's mantra: shoulders in your back pockets, slight curve in the small of your back, sway your heel out just a bit, feel yourself getting taller with each breath. And you know what? At that moment, I do feel myself getting taller. But in the end, I'm still as short as I ever was. Pilates is a great stretch and mobility and agility exercise, but it's not going to make this vertically challenged person grow.

January 27
Every day I wake up stiff and slow, yet move with vigor again by the end of my morning workout. Then after five or six hours at my computer, my old lady stiffness returns. Ginger's massage helped yesterday. I wish I could afford one everyday.

January 28
I walk through the women's surrealistic art exhibit and stop in awe in front of the wedding portrait of Frieda Khalo and Diego Rivera. She made him seem a giant next to her. Yet she was a giant among the women artists of her time. This was a woman who died much too soon.

January 29
I watched a video called "Get in Line (Behind Tricia)" while sitting at the bar at LACMA. The action by seventeen dancers dressed in dirty white hoody robes was slow. They maneuvered long wooden poles into triangular, rectangular, and square configurations over and over again. When they finished, they set the poles down on the wooden floor, took off their robes, and walked in a line dressed in tangerine-colored togas. I'm lucky that I didn't have to see all eight hours of it.

January 30
There she is again with another pair of workout shoes. Today they are dark gray with a red Nike swish, red laces, and white soles. This pair perfectly accentuates her little workout short-shorts in an abstract print of blacks, lime greens and reds. This woman's closet must have more shoes than Imelda Marcos'. I've seen her in a dozen pairs of workout shoes at least.

January 31
In celebration of my husband's success, I had some sips of wine last night after a 30-day hiatus. It was a nice red Syrah. It felt smooth and dry going down, but as usual, it didn't give me a buzz.

Review of Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling by Laura L. Mays Hoopes

I can definitely relate to Laura L. Mays Hoopes memoir, Breaking the Spiral Ceiling: An American Woman Becomes A DNA Scientist (March 2011). She and I grew up at the same time, and we both entered careers in the scientific and engineering world. We also both experienced the inequities between men and women that abounded in that world. Though I am not a trained scientist as Laura (Laura got her Ph.D from Yale), I worked as a technical writer, editor and proposal manager in the aerospace industry and trained many scientists and engineers to write.

However, Laura is not a scientist who needs writing help. Her memoir is easy to read even for non-scientists like myself, and her voice is humorous and friendly. Not only does she tell the struggles of moving up the spiral ladder in her scientific world, she shares her life as a wife and mother. During that time if woman wanted to make it in the “man’s world,” she had to prove herself way more than her male colleagues. Plus, she couldn’t let her life outside of work interfere or take precedence over her professional endeavors. Laura’s book is so inspiring, because she shows how she was able to do it all. In fact, she is still doing it as a professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California.

Unfortunately, many professional women are still struggling with inequities in the workplace. For those who are I recommend the lessons and inspiration in this book.

Her Bio
Laura L. Mays Hoopes is a biologist turned creative writer.  She is the Halstead-Bent Professor of Biology and Molecular Biology at Pomona College in Claremont, CA.  In June, 2009 she received a Creative Writing Certificate with Distinction from UCLA Extension. Laura has written Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling, a memoir about growing up in the Eisenhower years, being recruited to science by Sputnik, falling in love with DNA, and crashing into gender-barriers in molecular biology. She is working on two novels and a biography of two prominent women in molecular biology, Joan Steitz and Jennifer Doudna.  Her shorter work has beenCeiling published in The Chaffin Journal, North Carolina Literary Review, Christian Science Monitor, Rose City Sisters, The Scientist, AWIS Magazine, and other magazines and newspapers.  One of her stories was a finalist for Story of the Year on Rose City Sisters online anthology in 2009.  A poem about Chopin came out in March, 2009 in Chopin with Cherries anthology (Lulu availability).  Laura enjoys the Inland Empire California Writers Club where she is President and Editor of the Fresh Ink newsletter. Please visit her website.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Women Over 45 Speak

Marla Miller's website Women Over 45 Speak posted a three-minute video of me speaking about how I reinvented myself after the age of seventy.

Please take a look. And if you're a woman over forty-five, go over to her website and make a video of yourself. The directions are right there on her site.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review of Adventures in Mother-Sitting by Doreen Cox

Adventures in Mother-Sitting by Doreen Cox is truly a love story. No, not a love story in the boy-girl romantic sense but a story about the love between a mother and a daughter.

Author Doreen Cox shares her experience as a "care bear" during the last three years of her mother's life and how she learned to live with her mother's slow progression from a viable, interesting, lovable, and happy woman to a woman overcome by dementia unable to handle even her most basic bodily needs. And Ms. Cox doesn't shirk away from those details. She repeatedly quotes her mother's mantra: 
"You just do what you have to do."

Ms. Cox starts out this story as her mother's daughter and friend and roommate. She gradually becomes her care bear and then her "mommy." Though her mother always could articulate a thank you and big toothless smile for everything Ms. Cox did for her, she became like a child thanking her mommy.

Ms. Cox gave up her as a career group counselor at an alternative school for at-risk and SED high school students to care for her mother, and she never regretted it. She took on all the necessary tasks that were required to keep her mother fed, medicated, and clean and she never shied away from them. Even after her mother's death, she says: "The desire in me to take care of Mother to her end-time had been very strong, a `calling,' I had termed it. My `calling' included the care of Mother's body to its end."

I am in awe of Ms. Cox' loving and un-resentful care of her mother. She never asked the question on many other's minds: "How could anyone do this day after day, night after night, for so long?" 
Her loving heart and soul just wouldn't allow it.

I recommend this book for anyone dealing with dementia. It definitely is a lesson in love.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Old Town Music Hall, El Segundo, CA

Our friends Lisa and David came over to our part of the city last Saturday night, but before they did, they did a little research about what we should do for our “play-date.”

Well, I’m pleased to tell you that they found a venue I had kind of heard of, but never gave a second thought. That is so sad, because the Old Town Music Hall, home of the Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ, in El Segundo, CA is a real gem.

We thought we were only going to see the 1952 film, “Singing in the Rain,” but were we in for a surprise. Bill Field the theater owner strolled down the aisle in his wheel chair, transferred himself to the organ’s seat, and played it for us for about an hour. His tunes demonstrated the capabilities of the organ’s pipes and percussion instruments and accompanied our sing along and an old Monty Banks silent film.

Here’s what the music hall website has to say about this great old venue:

Old Town Music Hall is a concept that started in 1958 by Bill Coffman and Bill Field with the purchase of the Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ from the Fox West Coast Theater in Long Beach CA. This concept became a reality in 1960 when this fully restored instrument was installed in a small studio in Los Angeles for the purpose of presenting organ concerts and silent films to public and private audiences. Due to inadequate space the instrument was dismantled and stored. In November 1968, the search for a new and suitable location resulted in its present home of 188 seats in the original El Segundo State Theater at 140 Richmond Street in El Segundo California.

The instrument consists of four manuals and twenty-two sets of pipes. The console has 260 stop tablets plus an array of controls and pedals. The console is connected to a Devtronix Computer thereby controlling over 2000 pipes plus many moving percussive instruments and effects.
I took this on Saturday Night

The pipe tonal sources include the following pipe sounds: Vox Humana, Concert Flute, Viol D’Orchestre, Viol Celeste, Salicional, Clarinet, French Horn, Oboe Horn, Tibia Clausa (2), Kinura, Orchestral Oboe, Quintadena, Tuba, English Post Horn, Brass Saxaphone, Brass Trumpet, Gamba, Gamba Celeste, Horn Diapason, Diaphonic Diapason, and Krumet.
Percussion instruments include: Piano, Marimba, Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Sleigh Bells, Vibraharp (2), English Handbells and Chimes. A rhythm trap section includes: Bass Drum, Kettle Drum, Cymbal, Crash Cymbal, Snare Drum, Tamborine, Castanets, Tom-Tom, Chinese Block and Triangle. A sound effect assembly includes: Siren, Car Horn, Bird, Whistle, Surf, Fire Gong, Boat Whistle, Telephone Bell, Horses Hoof, Chinese Gong, and Police Whistle.
The entire system is air-powered from a 10 hp. Spencer Turbine Orgoblo. This source of wind pressure runs the entire mechanical system as well as playing the pipes. The organ requires constant maintenance – it is a mechanical nightmare! But… there is no sound as great as the theater organ emanating from any other instrument.
So if you live in Southern California or plan to visit here, I recommend going over. You’ll see an old movie and be quite entertained by Bill’s organ music. “Singing in the Rain” turned out to be a wonderful surprise as well – what dancing! – but with Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and a very cute young Debbie Reynolds in it, how could it be otherwise?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

More January small stones

January small stone month is almost over. I've managed to write one almost every day, only having to backtrack twice. Now I'm thinking of continuing the practice of paying attention and writing down what I pay attention to throughout the year.

Here are the stones I've written since I last posted them on January 9. For more information about this practice visit Fiona Robyn's website Writing Our Way Home.

January 10
My young friend sat at the dining room table and looked through the book of her baby pictures I had made for her. She smiled, she chuckled, she complimented the rad style she had even then. I've known this girl since she was 18 months old. She is now 18.

January 11
I'm at Putting a Face on Suicide again today, still wondering what goes through such beautiful young minds that tells them to kill themselves. These people are 14, 16, 19, 22 years old and have so much to live for. We must find a way to save these precious ones who should be so full of life.

January 12
I'm racing around today like a whirling dervish. First a workout, next grocery shopping, a quick breakfast, a shower, then get dressed, make the bed, straighten up the rest of the house, and now I'm here at my desk with only two and a half hours to work before I make our lunch salad and the  guests arrive. I am exhausted already. I need to drink my tea slowly and take a good deep breath.

January 13
Ben and Marissa made me go over my video lines over and over until I said them perfectly. I got so frustrated I even said oh, shit at one point which broke up the room. But after about a half hour of starts and stops I finally finished with the short three-minute piece. I certainly would never want to be an actor. Those guys have to memorize their lines every day and know how to say them perfectly. That is definitely not a profession for me.

January 14
I felt the chill down my backside from my waist to my calves as I trekked toward the beach this morning. My legs numb from the cold, they didn't want to move. Then intermittently the sun warmed my shoulders as I walked up the crest of the hill until, on my way down toward the sand, gusts of cold air blew and chilled me to the core again. 

January 15
The actress on the screen transformed herself from middle-aged to a tottering and demented old woman, and I believed her in every scene. 

January 16
I notice that my book club colleagues are not committed to coming to meetings. They find any excuse in the book. However, when one says her husband's appointment with the oncologist may preclude her attendance I take that seriously. Life and death issues are more important than eating and discussing a frivolous novel.

January 17
I bought a new little silver cube incense holder on Abbot Kinney last Saturday, and now I'm burning incense on my writing desk. The sweet smoke leaves the stick in a fine thread that dissipates as it reaches toward the ceiling. 

January 18
I tried to speak. I opened my mouth and tried to get a word out. But the woman across the table from me kept on talking, and talking, faster and louder, not even taking a breath, and I had to lean back, look interested, and swallow my thoughts down until I thought I would choke.

January 19
Every morning it's the same thing. I wake up and the first thing I do is grab my cellphone. I check my emails, I open my Facebook pages, I look at my blog, and go to Amazon to see if there are any ranking changes for my book . I can't do anything until that's done. It's like having a morning coffee fix.

January 20
I finished The Paris Wife today, and I wonder how this woman could bear for even one minute her husband's lover and how she invaded their lives and marriage bed. 

January 21
I feel an ache in my right groin, my upper thighs groan, and  my left little toe cries out to me to take off my shoe and smooth out my sock. but I spin on in class this morning. The background song, "Hurts So Good," sings just to me.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blatant bragging

This book is getting lots of kudos

As of today my memoir has twenty-two reviews up on Amazon. Twenty are five-star, and even though they wrote terrific reviews, two people gave the book only four-stars. Really what’s up with that?

But rather than complaining I’m just going to shout out Hip, Hip Hooray. I am just so thrilled with the response and with people’s reaction to the story and the writing in my book. Never in my wildest dreams did I think people would react so well to my words.

A friend told me last night that she was just going to read my book to support me, and she found once she opened it she couldn’t put it down. She kept raving about it. Now I couldn’t ask for more than that. Plus, when I asked her to post a review, she posted almost immediately. That’s a true friend. I thank her so much.

So, if you’re reading this and you’ve read my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, please post a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or wherever you have access. I will appreciate it to no end. And I’ll copy and post it here on the Endorsements page of this blog and brag about it blatantly.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Revisiting the bucket list

When I first started this blog back in November 2007 its purpose was to write down a list of things to do and places to go before I die – in homage to the movie “The Bucket List.” And even though this blog has become much more than that – I post photos and poems here, I write about my writing life, I report on special happenings – always in the back of my mind is the question: how am I doing in checking off the things on my list?

So I went back to two of my earliest post and copied the lists below. And I’ve commented on each one so you and I will both know what I’ve accomplished. And then I’ve written down a few more things – mainly about where in the world my husband and I want to travel before we’re unable to travel anymore.

That’s the thing. I feel very strongly lately that my time is very finite, so I need to make every moment that I have left count.

My Garden Buddha
 The List
  • Climb down into the Grand Canyon – not done yet, but still on the list.
  • Go to the parts of the United States I haven’t been to yet – Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, the Carolinas – we’ve made plans to visit these places this spring.
  • Get my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On published – hooray, that has happened. It probably should have been first on the list.
  • Get a poetry book published – no, but I haven’t worked hard on it. I have a lot of those poems in my memoir. Does that count?
  • Read all the books that are waiting for me on the shelves in my closet starting with:
  • The Golden Notebook – yes, I read that, and I’m still working my way through the others. Of course, you know how that goes. Other new books always get in the way. Yet, I just found that I have a copy of Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on that shelf. It’s up next to be read.
  • Spend time outside in my garden – no. I don’t do that, and now I wonder why I even put it down.
  • Get a Buddha for my garden – yes. The Buddha is there. See photo above. It stood out wonderfully during Ben and Marissa’s wedding.
  • Spend more time in my office – yes. In fact I’m in my office almost all day, everyday.
  • Write some new poems – yes.
  • Take another cruise on the Cunard in the Princess suites to Scandinavia and Russia – yes.
  • Visit my brother and his family in Denver – yes. And I’m so glad we did. We went there every other month for the two years before he died. 
  • Go to Virginia to see Anna and Ian and their mom and dad – and while there see the Annie Leibowitz exhibit at the Corcoran – yes. We’ve also gone there several times since and will go again in the spring as part of our northeast trip.
  • Contact some folks about my blog – yes. I’m doing that constantly.

My brother, Ken

A Few More Things
Israel – if all goes as planned we’ll do that in November
And my most important goal of all:
Live for a while in Italy. I just can’t get that one out of my head.

Please share your hopes and dreams with me. And also give me some feedback on what we should see and do in the places I’ve listed above.