Sunday, November 27, 2011

Solving a Thanksgiving Mystery

every year i do the same thing at thanksgiving - go to my in-laws.  except for the years i chicken out or get "sick".   usually, though, i go.  the first one was 28 years ago.  the sister-in-law told jewish jokes at the dinner table stating she heard them from the doctors she worked with..  she obviously doesn't know what everyone else seems to - members of a minority group (and i am jewish, and gay) can make jokes about the group, but others cannot.  connie knew i was jewish.  to say we got off to a bad start would be an understatement.  to my mother-in-law's everlasting credit, she defended me, and a rift was created that lasted quite awhile.  i was happy my m/i/l took up for me, but not about the rift, having come from a family full of rifts.

after a couple of years, we went back - they being the only local family either of us had.  connie's been nicer, and i've always been guarded.  and she's also not been so nice.  one year, i answered when she made her annual invitation call.  being a decent baker, i offered to bake a pie, really wanted to contribute.  as a reward, i was uninvited, connie stating she just didn't "feel comfortable".  second rift.  my partner's mom had passed on, but my partner took up for me and she didn't go either.

then invited back again.  you can see why some years i just didn't go.  this year i actually felt stronger about going - one of the nieces had lost a daughter earlier in the year and i wanted to be supportive.  the kids have always been nice to me.

and it was this niece that showed me why i'll never fit in.  i tried to pick up some empty plates and carry them into the kitchen. the niece very nicely stopped me and insisted she take the plates, that i was a guest.  and that's when the lightening bulb went on - after 28 years, i shouldn't be a guest, i should be seen (in an ideal world) as family.  and i'm not.  actually, figuring this out feels good, it helps me understand why i've felt guarded.  so i don't have to be anymore.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Is it really been a week since my last post?  Time flies, having fun or not.  Been reading, nothing terribly original or challenging, but better than the constancy of the Idiot Box.     I did, however, become a constant viewer of Oprah Winfrey's Lifeclass, which was kind of like Oprah's Greatest Hits.  She went through her shows and grouped together those that supported a single lesson, life view, etc.  One that stood out to me was "when people tell you who they are, believe them".

I have tended not to believe people, as often what they'll say is a negative attribute and we're trained in this culture not to support negativity - but people often know more about themselves than they might be aware of.  I have a friend who used to say the following about herself:  "deep down inside i think i'm really superficial".  i used to think that was a clever use of words, until there was a crisis in our friendship and she simply stopped returning my calls.  The crisis?  According to Janet, i wasn't paying as much attention to her as i usually did and it went on for months. It took me awhile to figure out the timeline - yes, it did, for the first few months after my mother's death.  At times I wonder what it was 'really' about - then i decided it was about exactly what she told me.  She's not that complicated.

Oy vey!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The complications

This is cervical spine surgery - the way it's typically done is by going in front through the voice box, which makes one sound awful for several days.  A 'few complications', like my left hand feels like it's on pins and needles since the surgery - a week ago.  The doc says it will go away.  Maybe it will, but it hasn't.

All in all, I feel very lucky.

Monday, October 31, 2011


so...........i had surgery on my shoulder in June - had a bone spur irritating some nerves running along my shoulder.  fast forward a few there's another bone spur sticking out at about C6-7 irritating yet more nerves along my cervical spine.  really, really irritating them. so tomorrow, more surgery.  in the meantime, my incompetent work place can't seem to get me the FMLA paperwork, and i'll have to call in every morning before my work shift to say i won't be there - until the paperwork gets filed.  and it will oh-so-much-easier to file the paperwork when i get it faxed to me  by HR.  oy vey.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


i can't help but compare the ignominious ends of both saddam and gaddafi - one in a spider hole, the other in a sewage drain.  it seemed both were surprised by the furor their presences created.  talk about denial.  both waged war on their own citizens, killing hundreds of thousands for one trumped up reason or another.   each flirted with nuclear weaponry.  gaddafi pepetrated one of the worst terrorist attacks against the US with the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, causing hundreds of deaths.  saddam's spinning of the tale of WMD caused bushco enough heartburn so as to cause him to go to war.  over 6000 deaths later, we're ostensibly withdrawing all troops by the end of this year.

i have no idea why the above formatted as it did.

anyhow, denial.   why was gaddafi so confused and surprised by the end as it unraveled?  when you surround yourself with yes-people, when no one sheds a light on can decide what reality is - until it rears up and bites you in the ass.

a dangerous game, believing your own propaganda, large or small scale.  regular person or dictator, make sure you have someone on your side not afraid to tell you the truth.......

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

It's October, and all becomes pink, the color that embodies the fight against breast cancer.  I even saw a pink grill on sale!

My mother's first cancer was of the breast, and the cancers that came back came from there.  Knowing that she died of breast cancer makes me passionate about assisting with the many volunteer opportunities for fund raising this month.  I just signed up for numerous shifts for the local Komen Race for the Cure on November 13 (no idea why it's that late....).

The Komen Foundation is one of the largest organizations in the world working with the medical, psychological, political, and societal implications of breast cancer, and announced a major new initiative just a few days ago:

"DALLAS – October 14, 2011 – Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, today launched a major new outreach to dramatically improve cancer screening, education and outreach in the Latina community, where breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. The outreach initiative is called Lazos Que Perduran.

Telenovela actress Angélica María, and her daughter, actress-singer Angélica Vale, are among the Latina celebrities helping to launch Komen’s Lazos que Perduran (Bonds that Last) outreach in October. Lazos emphasizes screening, education and support programs to stem breast cancer deaths in women in the nation’s fastest-growing population group.  More than 14,000 of the estimated 200,000 cases of breast cancer expected in the U.S. this year will occur in Latinas; more than 2,200 women of Latin origin will die."

Donate TODAY.  Find out about the Race for the cure nearest you TODAY.  (Just google it if you're not sure).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hidden Benefits

The New Old Age blog recently shared some research on hidden benefits of caregiving.  As a caregiver, I paid attention to this - it seems counter-intuitive because it's an exhausting job.  However, some of the tasks are easily connected to the general suggestions that play a role in healthy aging.  For example, I get more exercise if I need to get up a few times an hour to retrieve this or that.  I stay active, more than I might simply on my own behalf.  And negotiating with insurance companies and providers serve to keep me more mentally nimble than I might otherwise be.  The final point - I am serving a purpose more vital to me and my partner than any other purpose I can think of.

This is all after a full day of work, and in addition to all the other tasks I perform in my life.  I know what I'm doing is vital to the overall health and focus of my household.  And I'm fortunate.  her illness is intermittent, so there are good periods of respite built in.  Many others are not so fortunate.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


At 54,  i find noticeable changes in my body that take some adjusting to. for example, last year as part of my physical, i asked my physician to check my hearing and sure enough, there were a couple of deficits.  the referral card still sits on my bedside.

i had shoulder surgery ages ago - 3 1/2 months ago, and i still have pain.  not just pain, but pain strong enough to require pain medication.  and frequent ice.  i have no doubt that had i had this surgery 20 years ago, the pain would be all gone and the arm/shoulder at full function.  i know, patience......

i don't grasp things in a split second.  very, very quickly, but a noticeable hesitation before the light bulb goes off.  noticeable to me, at least.  seems like it used to be different.

while i notice all the above, i feel OK with the changes, because of the other ones.  i feel wise at times.  i watch someone manifest my own hallmark impatience, and i know it, whatever "it", takes time.  i bring a multitude of experiences at my disposal from which to relate, to learn, to connect.

i've seen very, very difficult examples of aging and i know it is not for sissies.  but right now, i'm just old enough to know more.  not necessarily to know better, but to know more.  and that's a good place for now.  and just maybe i'll act on that referral to a hearing specialist.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Memorium

Four years ago today, my mother passed away after a short battle with an overwhelming cancer.  So very many other losses and challenges tumbled out after her death!  It was more than two years later before I could fully catch my breath, look around, and feel the landscape might look the same on a continuing basis, and it did and it does.

My family winnowed down from five to two.  My father suffered a massive stroke that has rendered him helpless.  One brother's rabid homophobia erupted, unfettered now by parental disapproval.  One brother, sister-in-law and niece remain blessedly normal and connected.

I miss my mother.  I miss our talks, shopping trips, I miss her sense of humor.  I miss her.  It's amazing how things happen.  The family just fell apart.  I wouldn't have pegged her as the glue that held the family together, but she was, probably equally surprising to her.  And I was shocked to see how much she and my father held my eldest brother's venom in check.  He went in a flash from  someone I knew to someone unknowable, his face and voice twisted and warped by spoken hatred.  I have no idea who or what I symbolize to him - I just know I will never share common space with him again.

One major blessing - I have no regrets concerning my mother.  I said everything I wanted to to her, and I believe she would say the same about me.  That is uncommon grace.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Saudi Women Step into the Modern Era

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia just granted women the right to vote, and the right to run for office.  He is perhaps taking a look around at the 'Arab Spring' and deciding to get ahead of the curve.

"Abdullah said the changes announced Sunday would also allow women to be appointed to the Shura Council, the advisory body selected by the king that is currently all-male.
The council, established in 1993, offers opinions on general policies in the kingdom and debates economic and social development plans and agreements signed between the kingdom and other nations."

Saudi Arabia is a deeply conservative Muslim nation.  These changes are perhaps the most modern to be seen in such a country even throughout this time of deep reflection and deep change.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hillary, among others

According to a recent Bloomberg Poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans approve of Hillary Rodham Clinton.  A tad of buyers' remorse?  I know I feel it.

I remember those high flying days of Hillary's campaign, waiting in the freezing cold to see her, hear her at a local arena.  I came late, and resentful, to the Obama camp.  Who knows what would have been - she would have inherited the same mess he did.  But......but......ah, we'll never know.

I'd love to speculate on a Hillary challenge to the incumbent, but it will never happen.  She's already said her current public service position will be her last, and who could blame her? 

Could there be a viable challenge to Obama?  The last time an incumbent was truly challenged, a Democrat incumbent, was when Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter.  What a fiasco that was - who can forget the infamous Roger Mudd interview when Mudd asked Kennedy why he wanted to be president.  There was a pause the length of which would challenge Rosemary Woods (there's an oldie but a goodie).  You could see Kennedy's brain trying to engage with something, anything, other than  "......................because that's what Kennedy men do!"  He was a better Senator than he would have been President.  A great example of a man who loved to work with others to compromise - but a leader when that's what was called for, unafraid to stand on his own.   He would have served as a great mentor to the sitting president, had he lived longer.

That's what we need and don't have - a true leader.  Compromise is great, but we all know where the buck stops.  It's just stopping, and keepin' on keeping on, and the bill gets higher and higher. 

On a more positive note, I passed a truck that had a picture of Rick Perry on it, with the caption:  "Does this ass make my truck look big?"  Pretty good for Perry-land!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Nine Eleven

ten years ago today, i drove my partner to the local airport and waved goodbye as she flew off to NYC for a conference.  i went off to work, without her itinerary.  a couple hours later, i followed a group of people walking quickly into a conference room with a wall size t.v. and watched the horror unfold.  remember how long it was before we knew anything??  well,i didn't know my partner's flight numbers, arrival time, nothing.  i left work shortly afterwards, and my best friend met me at my house for an impossible vigil.  where was K?  she could have been anywhere, now that all the planes were grounded - but what if there were still rogue planes?

in addition to the lost-loved-one trauma, i was stunned as only a native new yorker can be to see such destruction writ large on my much-beloved city.  i have a treasured memory of being with friends in 1976 sitting on the World Trade Center Plaza watching the tall ships come into the harbor, the bicentennial celebration.

it wasn't until about 6 p.m. that K called - her plane had been grounded in atlanta, a city she was forced to stay in for three long days, until transportation could be arranged.  she described massive confusion in the atlanta airport.  it was before everyone had cell phones, and the lines for public phones took hours.  eventually, volunteers moved up and down the lines with cell phones for people to use.

we connected.  we connected.

Friday, September 9, 2011


My mother, who died a little under four years ago, would have turned 82 today.  It all still feels so odd - the not-celebrating of it.  The birthday of hers I most often remember was her 60th.  She was not happy about it at all, and I was determined to make it memorable in a happy way.  Mom loved animal figures all her life - clay, brass, stuffed - so over the course of a couple weeks I found 60 unique animal figures to give her.  I lugged them all the way from my home in Texas to my folks' home on Long Island - and what a hit they were!  All five of her granddaughters were there, pretty young kids then, and some of the animals made their way into the kids hands, but Mom kept the majority.

When she died and I chose items of hers I wanted, I chose most of the animals.

Mom was simple, and complicated - actually, she was simply the most complicated person I ever knew. That made much of her life difficult for her to negotiate, and she lived with disappointment and unhappiness for much of her life.  Yet she also knew joy, pleasure, fulfillment.   A woman of extremes.  A woman of deep intelligence, a sharp wit, astute observations.......

And a woman who loved animal figurines - the more eccentric looking, the better.

I believe in reincarnation, and I like to think she's been reincarnated as deeply beloved animal. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Central Texas is on fire!!  Fires to the north, east and west - and we are, gratefully, south. Hundreds of houses are being consumed.  The destroyed acreage is in the tens of thousands.

We fear a shifting of the wind.  It's time to make rescue plans - starting and ending with the animals.  And maybe pictures.  It's doubtful it will reach us - but it was doubtful that the wonderful Bastrop State Park would go up in flames.

God bless the firefighters and other first responders, now from all over the country.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Couples

There were three key couples as I grew up:  Sam and Judy (my parents), Nory and Burt (my mother's sister and her husband) and Edith and Bill (contemporaries of my parents, 2nd cousins of mine).  It might be months, sometimes years, between visits, but they were always there.

Now, in the middle of my life, things change.  My mother is no longer here, my father lost to the twilight of a massive stroke.  My uncle Burt also struggles through a stroke, living for now in a nursing home (as is my father - both needing 24/7 care).

Bill has been decimated by the cruelty of Parkinson's Disease - and, a few days ago, he passed on.  A release, to be sure, but also a profound loss.   Brilliant, breathtakingly well read, and one of the wittiest men I ever knew.

My family changes.  My brother and I take our places for the younger family members.  We are becoming the unchanging couples, until we further age and fall prey to the same infirmities. 

The circle of life.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Unasked Questions

I noticed them more and more over time.  Corks.  In ashtrays, on unused planters, next to wine glass coasters.  Lots of corks, in my parents house.  When I visited, I stayed in an upstairs bedroom, and I shared the space with corks.  I always wanted to ask after their origin, but never did.  I assume they were from times of celebration.  I think back; there must have been a story to each cork, and now I'll never know.  I have only my imagination to fill in the blanks.  I didn't ask, and now they cannot tell.  The house is gone as well, the corks scattered to the four corners of the earth, each one holding a nugget of my parents' history.  I wish I'd asked. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31, 2011

August 31st is always a kind of strange day for me.  Had she lived, it would be my sister's 51st birthday.  As it was, she was gone before she turned 19.  A suicide, successful after many failed efforts.  Suicide leaves behind a trail of broken hearts, all the more ironic because the person who suicides invariably thinks those who love her will somehow be better off.  Or an equally delusional path, thinking "yes, i understand it will hurt, but only for a little while".

What would I say to her if she suddenly reappeared?  I would tell her it never stopped hurting; that I never stopped wondering how it would be to have a sister; I would ask her if there might have been anything someone could have done to prevent her from going into the garage and starting the car;   I would ask her if she'd wanted to back out of her plan only too find it too late. I would ask her how the afterlife was for someone who suicided.

And I'd wish her a happy birthday.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Deep in my Heart

I moved away from the East Coast in 1979, making Austin my new home.  I find, tho, the old saying to be correct:  you can take the woman out of New York, but you can't take New York out of the woman.  Still having family in NY certainly keeps the connection alive, but I would feel connected regardless - it's just in my DNA. 

So this week, as Hurricane Irene began it's journey to the heart of Manhattan, I felt the anxiety of a native.  In fact, I felt the intensity of Irene so much, I was surprised that it was clear and sunny where I actually lived - shouldn't there be storms here as well?   Well, no, here in Texas we're in the grips of a deadly heat wave and a deadlier drought.

I live in the heat, I dream in the storm - these two home states of mine, two home towns, as different as night and day.  I am bicultural.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Library

I read, a lot.  I'm in one of those time periods where I go through a book a day.  At work, I have at least two idle hours per eight hour shift, and reading is benignly accepted.  Generally, I haunt the half-price book stores in town - and then someone reminded me about the existence of libraries.  Strange I would have forgotten this quaint habit of checking books out for free - my mother was a librarian.

I couldn't find my trusty library card, so I went to the closest branch and signed up all over again.  Oh, the of the early benefits that came from having a librarian in the family is that there were truly no due dates.  My mother passed away almost four years ago, yet I still have books from the Babylon Junior High Library in my home.  They are a sweet memory of more innocent times.  I loved going to work with my mother, long before one was encouraged to bring one's son or daughter to work.  I was the Librarian's kid, and the Librarian was very popular with the school kids.  To this day, when I need quiet comfort, I can always find it in a library or large bookstore.  As the world seeks online and digitized ways to read, I seek the tangible pages of a book, crisp print, a smell all their own. an adult, I found out books actually did have a due date - and I owed the library $14.75 in fines accrued several years ago.  I happily ponied up the cash, got a new card, and promptly found five must-read books.  Oh, there is one digitized task I'll enjoy - I can renew online!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Post

I'm a blogger from the first wave of Google blogs.  You've heard the story - I blogged every day, visited other blogs religiously....and got burned out.  And now I'm back.

And what's new?  The country is in the grips of partisan death throes, and I long for a viable 3rd party.  As a liberal Democrat, I feel stuck with Obama - and I know a challenger would be committing political suicide. Obama's campaign highlighted his best and highest self - a man we've not seen outside of campaigning.  The Obama who governs is stuck in compromise mode, when what we need is a person who occasionally uses the bully pulpit, and a person unafraid to stick by a decision no matter what others say.

What else is new?  I've passed the age milestone that defines middle-middle-age - and I'm the better for it.  I don't sweat the small stuff.  I sweat what I don't understand...until I find a way to understand it.  I want to know 'why' a lot.  Some 'why's' are not to be answered, just accepted, and that's cool.  I live by the Serenity Prayer - trying to separate what I can change from what I must accept.  That's where my restlessness comes to bear.  I'll use this virtual space to work towards soothing my restlessness and increasing my understanding.