Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Who's Looking?

I was surprised to learn recently from my geeky techie husband that “Profile Views” on the BLOGGER profile page indicates the number of times someone has looked at your profile. I was totally shocked to find that my profile had been accessed by 74 people! Then I wondered just who those 74 people were – why they came, what they thought, whether they ever came back to my BLOG. Why is it that I am so curious about my readers? Probably because I usually think I don’t have more than a couple, and now I discover there are 74 people out there who have visited my BLOG. “Daunting” as one person put it. Indeed.

Of course, I went on to check out the same stats for other BLOGgers, to find that there are people out there with Profile Views in the thousands! Those are the ones that appear on everyone’s link list.

It’s almost too bad there isn’t a guest book where people can indicate “I was here.” I sound like a friggin’ hypocrite, saying “I write just for myself, but by the way, I surely would like to know who’s reading!” OK, which is it?

Babes and Bells

As I was driving to work today, I found myself harmonizing with the songs of the season. Even though these haven't been my songs for 30 some years, the melodies are welcome and familiar. They speak of peace, harmony, and love. They feature bells ringing out to announce the birth of a little baby who is born to save the world, born from wonder-of-wonders a virgin mother.

Although there is a lot of beautiful Jewish music, the Christians really made their mark when they came up with the Christmas story that spawned a treasure trove of some of the most beautiful music the world has ever know. I mean, who doesn't thrill to sing the Hallelujah Chorus? Or even Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Joy to the World?

I am not one of those bah-humbug types who sits around covering my ears to keep out the music of Christmas. Bring it on, I say, and let me sing! These songs put a layer of softness on a nasty world, sort of like a fresh snow covering up the grimy streets. This can't be bad for anyone!

Body Heat

Long sleeves, high necks = Hot flashes!

I never used to sweat, ever! Then I crossed into M country and my body learned quickly how to do it.

I have yet to figure out if the extra fabric causes the hot flash, or if it’s just there to soak up all that moisture.

So after another night of damp, I’ll be finding my summer skimpy Tee shirt as PJs and putting aside my nice new long-sleeve Tee shirt that I got in the Walk for the Homeless.

This is not to say that my moments of wet are isolated to sleep hours. They just seem to be more frequent then. I’m actually steering clear of heavy sweaters for just about all occasions. The good news is that my once-always-cold feet are more often warm these days.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Kissing Can Be Lethal

I just read the most unbelievable story. Check this out:

Teen With Peanut Allergy Dies After Kiss - Yahoo! News


Can you imagine how badly the boyfriend felt? I hope he isn’t charged in any way. He will suffer enough for the rest of his life...

Back to Old Habits

I feel like my life has been totally turned upside down over the past week. I’ve spent 24 hours in the hospital, stayed up later, slept in, not gone to work, and not exercised even once. Just about the only things I did as usual were to go to Shabbat services and to get my weekly massage, both of which did a lot to recharge my mind-body-soul.

In addition, Dan was home from Tucson. I have come to realize that my children don’t live here any longer. When they come, it is just for a visit. I try to refrain from the normal parental reminders and suggestions, just to have a few peaceful days. But I must say there are a lot of changes, especially when Dan comes home. His sleep clock is set quite differently than ours, so often he is asleep when we are up and vice versa. He lets Jake roam all over the house. So when he is home, there is dog hair upstairs as well as downstairs, my socks are stolen, and I trip over his kongs everywhere. Dan left today, so Jake is in mourning.

As of this afternoon, I sense that my life is returning to normal. I had a wonderful afternoon playing music with Deborah and Bill. Deborah and I are really learning how to work together – almost like dance partners. In the music we are currently playing, it’s usually her job to lead, but I must know how to follow and when to do my little twirls. Bill is the kindest, gentlest coach anyone could ever ask for. I’m sure he could play either of our parts better than we can, but he just keeps giving good advice and telling us how much we are improving.

Then I went to yoga, not knowing whether I would simply have to slip into a long shavasana. Leyla led us through a gentle 90 minutes and my body felt good as it stretched and loosened up. What a great way to begin exercising again.

Tomorrow I’ll go back to work. I’m not feeling pressured or anxious because I have such a good staff now. But it will be nice to be back at my desk directing their work.

There are doctors’ visits tucked here and there into my schedule, but for the most part, it’s going to be business as usual. Creatures of habit do their best when life is habitual!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Rocky and Bullwinkle

As I was driving along on my way home from my massage today, I was reminded of one of my favorite cartoons of all time – The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. I looked over to my left at a stop light to see the head of a huge black lab hanging out the window of a large SUV. In taking a closer look, I realized that the dog had tinted goggles on his eyes. (I swear I am going to start carrying a camera for just this kind of photo op.) He looked at me as if to say, “My owners read about the dangers of a dog sticking his head out the window of a moving car – how all sorts of debris can fly into his eyes. Aren’t they so smart? And don’t I look absolutely COOL?” He gave me a quick nod as the light turned green and the SUV lurched ahead. Who knows – maybe Tom Terrific is still out there somewhere!

Post-Surgery Detox

I had always thought of surgery as purifying – removing the bad stuff from your body. But I’m having doubts about that. Since my surgery earlier this week, I have had a raspy cough, probably the result of having a breathing tube down my throat during the surgery. For 24 hours I had an IV bag dripping who-knows-what into my veins. Then there was the painkiller with codeine. And the anti-nausea drug to combat the effect of the codeine. Not to mention the anesthesia, which can linger in your body for days. And I was wondering why even muscles that I didn’t know I had were tense and sore as I went for my weekly massage today. Oy vey! as my massage therapist would say – no small wonder!

We have developed this wonderful ritual of having a cup of tea prior to my massage every Sunday morning. This morning’s tea was accompanied by a delectable sample of her culinary efforts all day yesterday with her Puerto Rican roommate – a little fruitcake. Ordinarily I would turn up my nose at fruitcake – you know the kind with the bright green and bright red yucky fruit in them? But this was no ordinary fruitcake. It contained pecans and crystallized ginger soaked in Myers rum. So needless to say, I got on the massage table already quite satiated and feeling considerably less pain.

My massage therapist has hands that track pain and tightness the way a good bird dog tracks its game. She immediately figured out that my whole lymph system was brimming over with toxins – residue from my ordeal in the hospital. She spent a lot of time on my neck and shoulders and scalp and even my face. She found other lymphatic overloads in the lymph nodes of my legs and showed me how to continue to get rid of them at home. I could almost see the ugly sludge being squeezed out of my poor body. I felt so much cleaner when I left than when I arrived.

We talked a lot about what was in store for me. I voiced my concern about putting more chemicals into my body in the form of the radioactive iodine if in fact there was no evidence of new papillary cancer in the last lobe of my thyroid. I’m just not convinced that I want to be this proactive if there is no real evidence. My body is so ready just to be normal and healthy and free of anything that doesn’t belong in it. Besides, I want to eat cake on my birthday, not be on a no-iodine diet that excludes just about everything that I like to eat. If you are reading this and have knowledge or even an opinion about this treatment, please leave me a comment or shoot me an e-mail message.

Searching for Ms. Hot

My 24-year-old son is home from Tucson this weekend. He has spent countless hours looking at FaceBooks trying to pick out the perfect date. He is very tall and good looking. But he is also very shy. His standards for women, however, rule out 99% of the playing field. We have had some interesting – sometimes funny, sometimes combative – discussions about the perfect date. It is quite apparent that an age span of 30+ years gives you a different perspective. His main criterion is HOT. But then SMART is a quick second. It’s really hard to tell from a posed photo and a paragraph which of 500 women qualify. Could take a lot of first dates to find out. I keep relating stories about things like my first high school reunion, where all the HOT girls were fat and dumber than ever. I also suggested that he ultimately look for someone he wouldn’t mind waking up next to 30 years later. He said that was definitely not one of his criteria.

Come to think of it, when I was his age, my criteria were certainly different than they would be today. We didn’t use the word HOT, although there was always a similar description. One HOT guy I dated put a notch in his bed for every girl he slept with – no I didn’t add a notch if you were wondering. But we did have a lot of fun dancing as we slugged away at a bottle of RIPPLE – God-awful stuff that was. I do remember the confusion of looking for someone to add some sort of permanence to my life. I went on a lot of first dates and rejected some really nice guys. I’m almost embarrassed now about some of those relationships – how could I do it? But then I too was rejected several times, and it definitely hurts. Was I ever HOT? Probably not. I did have long straight blond hair that hung down to my butt and very long legs. But those were probably my most redeeming qualities. Today that image is just a memory. I also have a memory of those days of searching, thinking that the perfect mate (at least short-term) was just around the corner. I hope Dan finds the perfect girl and I hope she appreciates him for the really great guy that he is beneath this macho “searching for Ms. Hot” exterior.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


I had wondered if I would be able to talk, let alone sing, on Friday following my thyroid surgery on Wednesday. One of the potential side effects of the surgery is injury to the vocal cords, which is usually only temporary. The thyroid sits right against the vocal cords and cutting it away sometimes causes damage.

As I opened my mouth to sing at shabbat services, I wondered just what would come out. Much to my surprise, my voice rolled out clear and unencumbered. It was as though a load had been lifted from my vocal cords. Instead of sensing swelling and discomfort, I sensed a new feeling of openness. I must say that my voice has more energy than the rest of my body, but it was so remarkable to feel this liberation of my voice as a result of the surgery. I wonder what other surprises are in store for me?

Friday, November 25, 2005

A Reminder About Thanksgiving

Toby’s sermon tonight was about Thanksgiving. She acknowledged that for most of us the emphasis is on the food. We each have particular traditions that come with this holiday. But without sounding trite, she reminded us about the importance of giving thanks. In truth, Jews are asked to say thanks for 100 things every day. But most of us fall far short of that.

This year in particular I can be thankful for a strong body that has proven that it heals well. I can be thankful for friends, family, and health care providers who made my surgery not such an ordeal. I am grateful for the family who included us in their Thanksgiving celebration, with no expectation that I would cook or wash dishes.

Wired for What?

As I got out of the shower (that I wasn’t actually supposed to take) today, I was drying off only to discover multiple little metal sensors stuck to my back. I suppose that these were part of the system that monitored my heart during my surgery. But EWWWW! What a strange feeling to find them still stuck to my body 2 days later! I had to wonder why they didn’t clean me up better after my surgery. Why was I still wired for what?

Sleeping on the Job

I neglected to share my parting experience at Washington Hospital Center. As we sat in my room waiting and waiting for the person to wheel me out in a wheelchair, I became more and more anxious to leave. Finally David went to look for the guy with the chair, only to find him fast asleep. He finally came around with the chair to pick me up. I’m pretty sure his instructions are to wait with the patient at the front door of the hospital while someone comes with a car. This guy was so anxious to get back to his nap that he summarily dumped me at the door and allowed me to wheel my little suitcase away to the parking lot. I guess he was bummed out about having to work on Thanksgiving...

Where, Oh Where, Has My Energy Gone?

As I opened my eyes this morning, my first thought was how to pawn off my morning dog responsibilities, offering to feed Dylan and Jake in the evening if David would get up and deal with them. The idea of working out in our basement gym, of jumping on the elliptical machine, was simply out of the question. I am definitely still feeling like a SLUG!

I was happy to find my forehead cool this morning. Yesterday I had a nagging cough – one of those that just tickles your throat all the time – was it simply coincidental? or was it the result of the breathing tube being down my throat during the surgery? Who knows? I also had a slight fever, which must have broken during the night because I woke up feeling damp (could have been a hot flash). My chest seems to have a residual soreness, but I think the cough is subsiding, taking with it my fever.

So what’s on my list today? I’m planning to put my feet up and finish reading Jane Eyre. If I really scrape up some energy I may make a batch of brownies for the oneg shabbat following Friday services at Temple Micah. David had agreed to host this some time back. When I reminded him that I might not be of much assistance, we both just agreed to purchase whatever was necessary. So Trader Joe’s may cater the oneg.

So far I’m sticking to my commitment to pamper myself and just not push it. This is a new feeling for me, but I like it! After all, most of what I might be tempted to do can simply wait...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

My Clock Is Off

Spending time in a hospital is a guaranteed way to throw off your system clock. It’s never totally dark. You doze and wake and doze some more, 24x7, as people come to do their prescribed checking – blood tests, temperature, medication, and countless other interruptions.

For the past few days, even my schedule for eating has been altered. I couldn’t eat after midnight the day before my surgery. I didn’t eat my first real food until last night and it was not exactly worth skipping 24 hours for. Even today, I had breakfast and a large Thanksgiving dinner mid-afternoon.

I came home feeling sleepy from the tryptophan in the turkey. I tried to sleep but couldn’t get past that twilight feeling.

I’m just not getting those clear signals of when to sleep and when to eat. I hope my body returns to its fairly regular patterns of sleeping and eating. Biorhythms give you a sense of being normal and well.

Dueling Beepers

The noise is driving me crazy! For at least an hour my roommate’s IV machine has been beeping. People come and go and no one seems to notice. I call the nurse’s station and they promise to fix it, but no one comes.

Now mine is beeping as well. I can’t figure out what the purpose of the beeper is if it can be so easily ignored.

A woman walked in with fresh linens. I begged her to silence the beepers. It is finally quiet again.

The Morning After

I have a dull headache. My mouth is dry. My neck is still heavily bandaged and quite sore. But otherwise I am just fine.

I had forgotten how hard it is to sleep in a hospital. It seems like someone is always coming around to draw blood or take my vital signs or change my IV bag.

I finally convinced them that I didn’t need the heavy-duty pain medicine – that regular liquid Tylenol (the red stuff that kids take) was all I needed for pain. This was after another round of serious nausea yesterday. My system just doesn’t agree with those -ine drugs (morphine, codeine).

I am really starving this morning. The first food I had yesterday was an overcooked dinner at 7 PM. By the time I realized that I couldn’t eat the chicken, it was too late to get anything else from the kitchen.

My nurses are all foreigners by birth. The day nurse is called Hyacinth. Daniel from Ghana is my night nurse. They are very responsive when I call. But there is a lot of bureaucracy in their job and they must check with someone for any slight change in my care.

I miss my e-mail connection to my friends and I miss reading BLOGs. I was able to talk to Deborah, Reya, Mollie, and Rosa yesterday by phone just to assure them that I was OK after the surgery.

I am very ready to go home. They say I will be released around 10 AM. It’s Thanksgiving and I need to go home and get ready to eat turkey.

A Band of Angels Watchin' Over Me

I survived my thyroidectomy today. I feel like I was hit by a ton of bricks, but otherwise I am really fine. A gaggle of residents just came by to check me out – Washington Hospital Center is a teaching hospital.

I finally took my “Successful Surgery” CD out of its shrinkwrap this morning. As I lay on my gurney getting ready for surgery, I turned on the CD player loaned to me by Bill C. I must have confirmed my name half a dozen times, as they took my temperature, started my IV, listened to my chest, and had me sign consent forms. Meanwhile a calm female voice was starting to help me paint a visual picture.

The CD has you visualize a safe beautiful place. You watch your breath and let go of your thoughts as you begin to feel comfortable. Just as I heard “you are facing a bright light”, I was wheeled into the operating room, where just as the soothing voice on the CD said, a team of people were busily preparing for my procedure. They sheathed my body in warm white blankets as I continued to listen to the CD.

Throughout this prep time, I sensed a growing group of people assembling in the room – including Deborah, Neal, Reya, Kathryn, Rosa, FL, Sam, Marjorie, Barbara B, Matthew, Sharon, Mary H, Pam, Mary R, Ellen, Ginger, Toby, Meryl, Lynn, Liz, Jan, Kris, Bill, Linda, Michael, friends from work, friends from Temple Micah, my immediate family, and most importantly my parents – what a surprise! I’m sure there were additional people, perhaps some that I don’t even know. The room was absolutely packed with people who all love me very much. They all stretched their arms out towards me just as I slipped into a deep and profound sleep. I continued to listen to my CD all throughout the surgery.

The next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room. My band of angels had disbanded once they learned that I was successfully through the surgery. But the memory of their support will be with me forever.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Do You Give 'em What They Want?

Our office holiday party is coming up again. For years we have repeated the same variation on a $5-10 gift exchange – you know the one where everyone puts a gift under the “tree” and one by one you either go to the “tree” or steal someone else’s gift. Over the years I have come to recognize the audible groans when someone opens a cute little Christmas bell or a can of caramel popcorn. The worst was a box of BEAN-O – can you believe that? The groans are countered by the sighs when the gift is alcohol of any sort. Alcohol even scores over chocolate. The other favorite are bizarre toys. I remember one year feeling really victorious when I ended up with a bird that was propelled by a wind-up rubber band – something I really needed!

For years I bought something that I might like to receive, my gift falling into that broad category of unremarkable. Then I had a change of heart and decided I wanted people to fight over my gift. So I now look for the most unusual bottle of ale or wine or liqueur. It has become much more rewarding to see my contribution stolen multiple times during the game, sometimes with the final owner never even knowing the source!

I have read a hell of a lot of BLOGs recently. There too are emerging popular themes – anything to do with physical anatomy, and it doesn’t even matter whose anatomy it is! Anything to do with dating, weddings, or failed relationships. Anything to do with drinking. These are the ones that get the comments. It’s not the cute pictures of kittens, or situations involving ethics, or things that deal with the beauty of nature for the most part – not unless there is a particularly artsy element involved.

I have on occasion asked myself if I acquired an audience, would I be willing to try to come up with posts that would elicit their comments, that would entertain them, that would keep them coming back for more? Probably not. Even if I wanted to, I’m not sure where I would get the material. I just don’t seem to run into situations where I am talking about anatomy in public restrooms or finding my hand inside a stranger’s clothing or talking to checkout girls about breast appeal. Maybe I need to enlarge my circle of acquaintances, find a new neighborhood to hang out in, cross-dress, or do something to provide a new story (just kidding about most of that...)

So the real question is whether I would start to consider my audience when I sat down to write... if I had an audience and if I had something appealing to offer them. It might be tempting. After all, I caved on the gift exchange and love the attention my bottles of booze get. I would probably be so flattered by my readers’ comments that I would go for appeal instead of simply spilling my guts out day after day. I suppose I wouldn't be the first person to be corrupted by notoriety...

A State of Calm

I am feeling remarkably calm as I move forward toward my surgery tomorrow morning at 11 AM. This time is so different from the last.

Last time I did it completely on my own, probably by my choice. (I think I was trained to be a martyr-stoic-speak-no-pain type growing up.) I listened to my “Successful Surgery CD” ahead of time – over and over – until I could practically recited it. I drove myself to the hospital. No one was there when I went into surgery. I didn’t insist that anyone stay afterwards. I was in such denial that I got up the next day and drove to the grocery store. For heavens sake – how STUPID!

This time I have been very open with everyone about what is happening and haven’t felt compelled to be so independent. I haven’t opened the plastic wrap of my new “Successful Surgery” CD. But instead I am buoyed up by messages and thoughts and promises of prayers. I even sense by ESP some that haven’t been spoken or written – now isn’t that weird? I still plan to use the CD during surgery if I can find a portable CD player before then. But if not, I probably just won’t need it because there is such a positive field of energy growing around me.

For 2 weeks I have been putting a dab of FEARLESS oil on my wrists every morning after I shower. In addition to smelling wonderful, it has given me extra courage to face whatever is coming with calm and understanding. I really love my life and all the people who now are so important to me.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Why Write?

Some people write because it’s their job – that’s what they get paid to do.

Others write because their grade depends on it. They write to satisfy a requirement for a class.

There is a large group of people who write these days because that is the way they talk to friends and perfect strangers. Part of their reason for writing is to get feedback from those other people. And they get plenty.

Then there is the rest of us who don’t get paid for writing and aren't writing term papers and don’t have a fan club. We write because it makes us feel good. There have been countless times when I could only separate from a thought by typing the words and letting it go. For us writing is self-amusement, self-therapy, self-growth. My writing is like having a conversation with myself.

Sometimes I imagine an audience. I think about who it is I would like to get a comment from. I even imagine what that person might say. That really sounds WEIRD! You might say if I was that desperate I should just be writing anonymous comments to myself. That’s the equivalent of fake-BLOGging. Just wouldn’t be right.

There are days when I can’t find enough time to write about all the things that come to mind. Then there are other days when my mind is blank. I wonder what makes the difference?

If I were given the choice of being able to write and having a piece of very dark chocolate every day, I would have a hard time deciding which to pick! Very likely I would give up the chocolate. WOW!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Picture This

My son Daniel was a champion swimmer when he was 12. Part of his training involved visualizing each race – watching himself take his mark, leave the block, swim the length of the pool, make a perfect turn, swim back, however many times, and then finally touch the wall at the finish before any of the competition had arrived. Over and over he would hit the wall first, shake the hand of his nearest competition, and then pull himself out of the pool. The mind gradually replayed that victorious finish with no effort.

A woman from Washington Hospital Center called this week to conduct my pre-anesthesia interview – all sorts of questions about my last surgical experience and my general health history. Then another woman called today moving up my surgery to 11 AM instead of 1:30 PM on Wednesday. At least it’s moving in the right direction.

It must be time for me to get out my “Successful Surgery” CD and start visualizing what is going to happen this week. I will find myself in a room that is safe and comfortable. I have capable staff all around me. They give me something in my IV bag that gently puts me to sleep. I see Dr. B reopening the incision from my last year’s surgery. She gently separates my remaining thyroid lobe from my vocal cords, taking care not to injure the delicate parathyroid that sits just behind. She cuts out the thyroid lobe, about the size of a large chicken heart. An assistant prepares it to be sent off and analyzed while Dr. B attends to my wound, first closing the inner skin with dissolving sutures. Then the outer skin is once again pulled together and stitched. Someone applies antibacterial ointment and then tapes a gauze pad over the new incision. The anesthesia is discontinued and I am wheeled out to a recovery room. I wake up to see my family who have been silently cheering for me during my surgery.

Every time I go through the visualization of the surgery, I always wake up and everything is OK. That’s the best part.

I’ve had another thought about what is removed. Maybe it would be possible to load that thyroid lobe with all of the things I am currently carrying in my body that I would like to get rid of. I would put in:
– All precancerous basal and melanoma cells.
– The inflexibility in my hips.
- My lack of balance and fear of falling.
– My sometime lack of self-confidence.
– Feelings of guilt surrounding my parents’ deaths.
I can see that thyroid lobe as the repository for all of these things. When it comes out, so do they.

Maybe tomorrow I will actually listen to the CD, with its soothing music and female voice. Then the visualization will become real. What powerful imagery to work with...

Who Pays for a Mistake?

Despite my pronouncement about seeing clearly last week, it really wasn’t so. Getting my second pair of new glasses did fix the problem of horizontal centering (making sure the center of my pupil is behind the center of the lens). However, I continued to have headaches and eyestrain.

I finally realized that what was causing me the greatest problem was playing the piano, looking at my computer keyboard, and reading – all of which I spend a lot of time doing. With a little experimentation I determined that the ideal focal point for reading a book was 8". No one holds a book that close! ...not if given a choice, that is.

I finally went back to the optician’s office on Monday. My guy Ron who turned out to be nice the last time was not there. So I had Peruvian Maria instead. She pretty quickly concluded that the prescription for the bottom third of my new lenses (the part for reading and close work) was not correct. This was not welcome news, but at least confirmed why I was having trouble seeing!

Aside from the headaches and the eyestrain, there was this little problem of having expended $900 on three pairs of glasses – regular progressive lenses, sunglasses, and a third pair for close work. I quickly concluded that all three were now WRONG!

So the next day I trudged back to my ophthalmologist, the source of the prescription. His cute little assistant took my glasses and determined that they had been made according to the original prescription. She checked my distance vision and concluded that it was perfect. Then the doctor, with his crisply pressed gray suit and schoolboy smile, came in and said, “How’s it going?” When I told him about my near vision problems, he had the audacity to say, “Could you perhaps just read without your glasses?” To which I replied, “Now why would I want progressive bifocals if I could read without my glasses? I don’t think so.” He did some quick measurements and determined that the magnification factor should have been 1.5 instead of 2.5. The real kicker came when I asked him how he had determined the factor in the first place, to which he replied, “I just looked your age up on a chart.” What this says to me is that this idiot thinks that all 56-year-old women have the same level of deteriorating eyesight. He handed me a new prescription and was about to walk out the door when I said, “Who is going to pay for my 3 new pairs of glasses at the tune of $900?” thinking that he might cover or share the expense. He quickly responded that the optometrist’s office would cover it, or else he would never send them another customer!

There is something ethically wrong with this picture! It wasn’t poor Ron of Powell Optician’s problem who caused all three of my pairs of glasses to be made wrong. Why should this little company be responsible for a fat-cat doctor’s stupid mistake?

But what was starting to come to my mind was a similar situation 10 years ago when I once before struggled with new glasses, only to learn that the prescription had been wrong. I said to my self, “What a fluke! I’ll never go back to that doctor again!” and I didn’t, after paying a fortune to finally be able to see again.

Next Tuesday I will go back to Ron and hopefully finally get lenses that are correct for my eyes, which are obviously not your average 56-year-old eyes. Meanwhile, this is what I have learned from this experience:

(1) When you get a new prescription, make sure they check the focal length for reading, as well as doing the test for distance vision.
(2) Know the distance between your eyes (in my case 62 mm.) and make sure they use this in cutting the lenses to fit the frames.
(3) Make sure one set of lenses is PERFECT before ordering additional pairs of glasses.
(4) Don’t assume that a headache or eyestrain are necessary to get used to new lenses.
(5) Don’t trust that anyone involved will necessarily do the right thing, but that everyone will be more than happy to charge you for the wrong thing.

Will someone please remind me to read this before I ever attempt getting new glasses again? PLEASE!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

And Here's to You, Mrs. Rothmueller

Do you have a parking benefactor? I do. Mrs. Rothmueller has come through for me 4 out of 4 times I have asked her for help.

My friend Rebecca and I are taking a Torah class on Tuesday nights – one book a week. This is pretty weighty material, so it is necessary to fortify ourselves before facing the Ten Commandments of Exodus or the pus and sacrifice of Leviticus. We have picked a series of really great restaurants on Wisconsin Avenue for our pre-class sustenance. However, at rush hour it is next to impossible to find a place to park in that busy stretch – a legal space, that is. (I have gotten way too many DC parking tickets, so I am into legal parking these days.)

Here's where Mrs. Rothmueller comes in. As we turn onto Wisconsin Avenue, we petition Mrs. Rothmueller to make a spot available and inevitably one opens up more or less in front of whatever restaurant it is. In return for her help, we scatter a few coins on the sidewalk and then head toward our restaurant-du-jour.

Rebecca became acquainted with the powers of Mrs. Rothmueller in San Francisco, where parking is totally impossible. I can't remember the specifics, but she seems to work equally well on the east coast.

I'm not sure which I look forward to more – dinner out or the class itself. We have sampled Japanese, Thai, and Indian food so far, with no shortage of other possibilities for the last two classes. Maybe we'll write a BLOG entry critiquing our various meals when the class is over. Or maybe we will have been stretched way beyond food at that point. After all, the Torah is pretty intense at this pace.

Anyway, I am eternally grateful to Mrs. Rothmueller for her help in the parking situation. I can spend my money on gourmet food instead of lining the coffers of the DC Government!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Painting Mental Pictures

I have recently become a BLOG-aholic. My favorite pastime is reading other people’s BLOGs. DCBlogs provides the ideal forum for this because it gives you links to such a wide variety of writing and photos.

As I click on a new BLOG with no pictures and little personal information, I immediately find myself creating a visual image of what this person looks like and an aural image of what she sounds like. Is everyone curious, or is this just my peculiarity?

I have always had this curiosity. I have mental images of all the local radio show hosts. I realize when I finally see a picture of one of them how very wrong I was. But somehow I need this picture to connect with the voice.

The Internet adds an even greater level of mystery because there is no voice, only the words. So you are often left to wonder about age, sex, race, sexual preference, marital status, voice – all those things that we use to characterize people around us.

I often find myself returning to BLOGs where the author is one of these mystery people – trying to look for those clues that might define her. Why in the world does it really matter?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Bugs Revisited

(See my November 9 post for an intro to the bugs.)

I can hardly believe that just two days ago I was horny as hell and was planning a seductive candlelight dinner and today what am I doing? Ridding my pantry of creepy, crawly bugs – tiny beetles to be exact, a type that thrive on food products. I have gotten really good at squishing them, taking great relish is seeing them exterminated.

Today we took virtually everything that could even possibly serve as beetle food out of the pantry. I then filled big plastic trash bags with the assorted contents and stored them in our car, way away from the scene of the bugs. We carefully washed all the varied “spares” – catsup, vinegar, vitamins, etc. The plan is to wait a couple of weeks with the pantry down to bare walls and then see if anything is still crawling. If so, we have to get it sprayed with some chemical crap that is probably a carcinogen. I’m hopeful that it won’t come to that.

After two hours of this awful cleanup work on a beautiful day, I am asking myself, “Is God punishing me for not (ever) cleaning the chametz out of my pantry in preparation for Passover?” Maybe these little beetles are like one of the Biblical plagues – a wakeup call to get out my feather duster and CLEAN every year!

There is a silver lining in every cloud, however. We found so much old stuff that was no longer good or that we no longer needed that when the incubation period is over, it will be a lot easier to load the pantry back up. It will almost be fun to re-line the shelves with new shelf paper and then make sure everything is fresh and clean again.

The real question is whether it will take another round of bugs to make me clean out the pantry the next time?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Remembering Horny

After 29 years of marriage to the same person, sex has become like a familiar old friend who comes to visit regularly but has few surprises. Yesterday, however, was different. By early evening I was feeling really romantic. I made an impromptu Indian dinner which we ate by candlelight (Shabbat candles inspired by my friends Ginger and Rebecca). After finishing off the last swirls of wine, I suggested that we make love and my husband had no objection. It was slow and affectionate – just the right ending for a holiday.

In thinking about this again this morning, I commented to my husband that I had actually felt “horny” for the first time in a long time and wondered why. He immediately said, “It’s probably because you spent hours yesterday reading DCBlogs." And I realized that he was probably right. Reading about the sexual exploits of 20-somethings is enough to make anyone horny! And there is certainly plenty of that to be found on DCBlogs. It’s not that it’s X-rated, just descriptive and very provocative.

What’s sort of cool about DCBlogs is the fact that it represents life in all generations. Many of these bloggers are the age of my children. But there are plenty of baby-boomers like me writing also. I think people are finally starting to be so open and honest about what they do and how it affects them. Wouldn’t it be ironic if there was a decline in psychotherapy because the interactive Internet was proving to be therapeutic? Now there’s a thought...

(My) recipe for Indian beef (and great sex!) – for 2

Olive oil
3 garlic cloves (minced)
Medium onion (chopped)
1 sweet red pepper (chopped)
A handful of asparagus chopped
Sliced mushrooms (of your choice)
Liberal amount of garam masala (purchased or homemade)
Beef tenderloin (sliced thin)
Kosher salt to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet. Saute everything up through mushrooms until the asparagus is tender. Move vegetables to the outside of the skillet. Add a little oil and put in the garam masala in the center of the skillet. When fragrant, add the beef and saute just until the red is gone. Add salt and serve over cooked rice. Yummm...

A New Poet

My choir friend Betty is around 80. You’d never know it to look at her. She’s in great shape, she wears the latest fashion, and she regularly goes to the opera. I also recently came to know that she loves poetry. I loaned her my David Budbill collection “While We Have Feet” several weeks ago. Today she brought me what looks like an extremely interesting collection of poems by Wislawa Szymborska (a Polish poet). Both Budbill and Szymborska have this unique way of portraying death. Here is one of her poems:

On Death, without Exaggeration by Wislawa Szymborska

It can't take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.

In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.

It can't even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.

Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.

Oh, it has its triumphs,
but look at its countless defeats,
missed blows,
and repeat attempts!

Sometimes it isn't strong enough
to swat a fly from the air.
Many are the caterpillars
that have outcrawled it.

All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.

Ill will won't help
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d'etat
is so far not enough.

Hearts beat inside eggs.
Babies' skeletons grow.
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.

Whoever claims that it's omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it's not.

There's no life
that couldn't be immortal
if only for a moment.

always arrives by that very moment too late.

In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you've come
can't be undone.

By Wislawa Szymborska
From "The People on the Bridge", 1986

WOW! That’s all I have to say...

Happy Endings Still Happen

I have a friend who is a professional musician, in his mid-fifties, and until recently had never given any indication of a love affair with anything other than music. I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with that. It’s just that he is such a great person, I always was a little sad that there was no one for him to share his life with.

But when he came back from playing in a summer orchestra this year, something was different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then about 6 weeks later, I heard that his girlfriend was in town. GIRLFRIEND? Apparently he had met her a couple of summers ago while playing in the same orchestra, but this year they found each other and fell in love.

Since then they have been commuting back and forth across the county as their schedules permit. (I neglected to say that she too plays first chair in a major symphony orchestra.) When I asked him about how he liked this arrangement, he said, “It really sucks.” Then when pushed he admitted that she might be moving here. That amounts to a huge commitment on her part as you don’t just walk into a new orchestra and play first chair anything. Hmmmm...

Well, the latest is that they are getting married in December. How’s that for a whirlwind romance? But knowing my friend, he has thought long and hard about this and he is obviously really in love. She will go back to her current job for the remainder of the season and then move here next fall. Meanwhile, they have another summer orchestra experience to look forward to. That’s almost as good as a honeymoon!

It’s been a long time since I experienced that feeling of being “newly in love”. I am so excited that he now knows what it feels like. Here’s hoping that marriage will be everything he has always wished for!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Age in the Workplace

My boss Larry who is about my age recently announced that he is retiring in January. We have been through a lot of the same things in our 30+ years in our venerable Federal government office. We know who has had affairs with whom. We know who got fired and why. We have children of about the same age.

Larry’s successor was announced just this week and yikes! she is probably 20 years younger than I am. My initial impression is positive – I think she is going to do a great job at managing a really important project with a huge budget. But she is young enough to be my daughter! Will she think of her mother every time she meets with me?

This idea of getting older first dawned on me when many of my doctors began to be younger than I was. Then recently one of my newest employees reminded me that he wasn’t even born yet when I received an award that was on the wall of my office. (Good for a laugh, but not great for your boss’s morale).

As long as I am making a significant contribution and people aren’t snickering behind my back about that senile old fool, I am content to keep working. But when I truly begin to feel like a housemother, it may be time for retirement.

Perfecting a Crisp

Until a month ago I had never made an apple crisp or a fruit crisp of any sort, although I have always loved to eat them. My friend Linda has always made to-die-for crisps of apples with sour cherries thrown in. And Rebecca talks about her pear crisps. Yummmm...

My first crisp attempt was for our Sukkot dinner for 35. That turned out to be a lot of apples. I carefully followed a recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook, since crisps are too funky to be in upscale cookbooks like the Joy of Cooking. That crisp had good cooked apples but the crisp part was so soggy that it didn’t deserve to be called a crisp.

I have always been a better cook when I followed my intuition instead of using a recipe. So I started experimenting. I decided that a lot of the ingredients in the gloppy part were found in granola. So I studied the multiple varieties of granola at Whole Foods and chose one that had the most things that I like in it. I doctored it up with lots of spices – cinnamon, cloves, allspice – some flour, definitely raisins, and some melted margarine (since David is lactose intolerant). I used tiny crisp apples and hard bosc pears. I layered the fruit and the glop and topped it all with some light brown sugar. Tres magnifique!

This crisp just keeps getting better every time I make it and add something new. My third attempt is in the oven now and is starting to smell like aromatic warm fruit and sugar as it bubbles away.

Fruit crisp is really comfort food. I can predict that the second half of my life will make up for a crispless first half. (Do I really think I am going to live to 112?)

A Different View of Time

David’s retirement two years ago was a big change for us. It meant that I became the primary breadwinner, that he was fast asleep when I left for work every day, and that he shopped and cooked dinner during the week. Believe me, it was worth it just for this last one!

My life is packed with way many more things than there are room for. I won’t even begin to list all the things I do on a regular basis. Then there is piano practicing and reading books for two book clubs. When I say I don’t have any spare time, I mean it!

David, on the other hand, has not accepted a paying job since his retirement. He has instead thrown himself into a major learning and producing project, which is gratis for the recipient. He has built a website extraordinaire for Temple Micah. We would be so rich if this job had been at even $10 per hour, work that usually goes for upwards of $100 per hour. He is happier than I have ever seen him, soaking up the compliments and continuing to polish and improve his product.

With that said, I still have to scratch my head when he tells me how overworked and just plain busy he is. Notice I didn’t say stressed. But is this how retirement is supposed to be?

Today is an interesting day. I have a holiday – Veterans’ Day – where I am paid to sit home and write in my BLOG or do whatever I damn well please. And David? For him, either every day is a holiday or there are no holidays; all days are just the same. He has an interview this afternoon with a very RICH synagogue which wants a website. It will be interesting to see where this takes him. Sometimes it isn’t nearly as much fun to do something when it becomes a paying job with fixed deliverables and demanding clients.

My only hope is that he will still continue to cook dinner every day, at least until he is once again earning more than I am...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Perpetual Jokesters

Do you have friends whose only e-mail messages to you contain jokes, some of which aren’t even funny?

My 80+ year old aunt discovered the joys of e-mail and the Internet just a few years ago when we gave her Daniel’s old computer. She has always been game for just about anything. She lives in Minneapolis and drives a red convertible. Just a few years ago she injured her foot while doing handstands on the knees of her 65-year-old boyfriend. You get the picture?

Anyway, I have yet to get her to write a straight message that tells me how she is doing. Instead I keep getting these messages filled with animated cats and winking babies and other things that someone must find appealing. My dilemma: Do I continue to simply reply “Thank you” and then delete her messages or appeal to her to send me something of substance?

Why is it that some people have a real aversion to reality, but instead prefer to view life as a series of jokes?

Play It Again

I was recently reminded of those books that offer you alternate plot lines depending on which thread of the story you follow. I had a terrifying dream that went something like this:

I was standing behind a sliding glass door looking out at a driveway. On the driveway was our new Prius with its magnificent GPS system and with multiple suitcases in its trunk, one of them mine loaded with many of my favorite things. As I watched the car, it exploded, touched off by a bomb planted deep in its belly. Fortunately no one was hurt, but all my things were consumed by the fire of the explosion.

I relayed this dream to my friend Rebecca, not understanding in the least what it might mean. She said right away, “Do you think it might represent your fears about your upcoming surgery?” To which I replied, “I don’t know how it could since I haven’t even acknowledged being afraid.” My BLOG post a couple of days later was about all the fears that I had been saving up, pretending that they didn’t exist. Both Rebecca and my therapist Kathryn today when I told her about the dream seemed to know that in our dreams the walls that hold our real feelings at bay are gone.

Rebecca had an interesting suggestion: Start the dream over again. This time fill your suitcase with all those things that you want to get rid of during the surgery instead of your prized positions. You aren’t really concerned about the car since you don’t get to drive it anyway. Now watch the car blow up once again. It will be a very different feeling. WOW! It would be just like one of those multi-ended stories.

In my session with Kathryn today, I had yet another thought. This whole surgery thing is in a sense a repeat of what I went through just a year ago. At that time some things didn’t go exactly the way I wanted them to go. They wouldn’t let me take my guided meditation tape into the surgical theater because the foam earpiece coverings were disintegrating. Go figure! Also, I found myself alone for much of the afternoon after surgery as I barfed my guts out with morphine poisoning.

So in a sense my upcoming surgery provides me with a way to solve the problems of the last time. I have a spiffy new headset that shouldn’t pose a problem. I am going to demand that someone stay with me after the surgery in case I get sick or afraid or I just want company. This is so like another ending for the same story. But this isn’t fiction. It’s going to be real and this one is going to work so well.

Shakespeare: I Still Just Don't Get It

I got only two C’s in college: in Tennis and in Shakespeare. The tennis is understandable because I never excelled in anything athletic but golf! But I’ve always been good at anything to do with English literature. I faithfully read all the plays, but there were so many words and phrases with footnotes that they just never seemed terribly understandable. Even today when I see Shakespeare in the theater, I pick up the story more from the acting than from the spoken lines. In college if it hadn’t been for Cliff’s Notes, my grade might have been even lower.

The reading selection for one of my book clubs this month was Othello, led by a high school English teacher. I thought to myself, “I’ll bet now that I’m older this Shakespeare will read a lot more easily. I must just not have studied it correctly in my youth.” But guess what? I started to read Othello (actually using my multiply used anthology from college) and the same glaze came over my eyes. This time I didn’t need to purchase Cliff’s notes. There is a preponderance of crib sheets on the Internet. So I went to “class” knowing the characters and the plot, but still stymied by the text.

The teacher, John, showed us a clip from a performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was marvelous, with Anthony Hopkins playing the swarthy dark Othello. I found myself watching their actions, their gestures, their body language instead of processing their words. John made several very astute comments:
– Black people are of marginal color in the play.
– Othello moves through various animal images (starting with “an old black ram tupping your white ewe”).
– Othello knows he can’t be loved.
– Sin originates in the inability to love yourself.

WOW! In a million years I couldn’t have come up with this analysis. Maybe before I die I will finally learn how to delve into one of Shakespeare’s plays and come out with more than just a headache, but I have recently proved that I still just don’t get it!

BLOG Inspiration

How and when do you do decide what to write? I find that my most creative moments are between 2:00 and 4:00 AM. I wake up with these great ideas that would sound brilliant if I wrote them down. But I often forget them by the next day. Occasionally I just have to get up and write, especially if it is a troubling dream.

I would love to be clever like Goldpoppy or creative like WashingtonCube. But instead a recent new reader described my BLOG as “thoughtful.” To me thoughtful translates into honest, sincere, grammatically correct, and BORING! Are cleverness and creativity things that we can learn or are we born with a writing style?

I want to understand what it is that unlocks my brain in the middle of the night, that allows the words to flow so fast that I can hardly keep up with them in my thoughts. Why is it that during the sunlight hours I have long pauses when I write? I write and delete and rewrite? What is it about somnambulance that unleashes my creative juices?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Creepy, Crawly Bugs

Eeeewww! We have bugs in our house once again. I have always associated bugs with dirty houses – houses where people didn’t do the dishes, take out the trash, throw out rotting food. I had always prided myself on the fact that for years and years we had no bugs – except for a random cricket in the basement, we were bug-free.

I have always had an aversion to bugs, growing up in northern Florida where the cockroaches were often several inches long. I remember hiding in the bathroom while my mother would kill one that had strayed into view, trying to avoid the sweet stink that accompanied smashing them.

It was just last year that I was gossiping with my friend Rebecca about the fact that our friend Bill had ants in his kitchen and didn’t even seem to notice them. In her typical way of setting me straight, she said, “Oh, cut him some slack! A lot of houses on Capitol Hill have ants.” And just two weeks later, we had ants in our house. As annoying and persistent as they are, ants are really easy to get rid of. You simply get some “ant hotels” and they march into them in a straight line, eat the poison, and never come out.

Soon after the ants departed, we began to see flying bugs. They didn’t bite and they didn’t seem to be coming from anything in particular or headed for any specific destination. My husband actually named them “those dumb bugs” because they were so easy to kill. You simply had to swat at them, they fell to the ground, and you could squish them. They didn’t even stain the paint if you smashed them against the walls, coming off like a layer of gray ash. We finally determined that they were originating from a bag of kitty litter on a top shelf awaiting another round of snow and ice. When it was gone, so were they.

But now we have a new bug – a little brown weevil type bug. They don’t fly, hop, bite, or move very fast. What is so incredible about these bugs is that they are everywhere. I keep asking myself if they walked to the basement or if they just jumped inside the heat ducts and were thrown out down there. David started randomly pitching out good food, feeling sure that our bag of apples or my uneaten chocolate bar had to be the source of the little beetles. In desperation he finally called an exterminator, who said they were food related and went away to research a way to get rid of them without using poison that would harm us or the dogs.

I want to be free of these unwanted guests that follow me everywhere. I want to invite everything and everybody who enters my house. BUG-FREEDOM is my obsession right now!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I Can See Clearly Now

I finally picked up my newly re-made glasses today, fearing that once again they might not be right. After all, there are an infinite number of ways that progressive lenses can be oh-so-wrong.

I went in and Ron carefully took all sorts of measurements before actually cutting the new lenses to fit my frames. While he worked, I sat there with my sunglasses on reading Othello, the play we are reading for the GDS book club on Wednesday night, and wondering at all the noises of cutting and polishing going on in the back room.

As soon as I slipped on the new glasses, my eyes relaxed and said THANK YOU! The instant visual clarity reminded me of when I was 17 and put on glasses for the first time and suddenly the world came into sharp focus.

I think it is so remarkable that our eyes adjust to compensate for just about any problem. When I was 17, my eyes were working overtime to give me the right picture. Recently my eyes were trying to make up for the fact that my progressive lenses were not centered properly, causing me to have to slightly cross them to get a clear picture. The interesting thing is that we never know how actually clouded our vision is until we have something to compare it to.

Maybe there is a parallel in my life. I look in the mirror today and compare that image to the sad face on my badge from two years ago. My vision isn’t the only thing that has improved!

Monday, November 07, 2005

New Meditation Mantra

As I was checking out at Whole Foods this past weekend, I noticed one of those little magnets with a nugget of wisdom on it:

Yesterday is history,
Tomorrow is mystery, and
Today is a gift.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

I have been having a hard time focusing lately during meditation. My thoughts are simply refusing to slow down and take a 5-minute break, let alone a half-hour break!

This week I’m going to attempt to change that by thinking what a wonderful gift the present really is. It’s such a small slice in time between what was and what is to be. I want to learn to treasure it as if it were some rare object, revealed only once.

What's in a Name?

What do you call yourself? If you are one of those people who have had multiple names in your lifetime, they probably fall into neatly separated eras, with the diminutives in the earlier years. For example, my childhood friends know me as “Barbie”, but to this day they are the only ones who are allowed to use that name that is also identified with the doll that looks so unlike me! Until recently, my father was the only one who shortened it even further to “Barb”. Deborah has evoked this variation and I let her get by with it. Otherwise to the rest of the world I am “Barbara”. I was careful to choose names for my children that could easily be used in their entirety. To me a person’s name is just about as significant as her sexuality in identifying her. WOW! That almost sounds profound...

With that said, one of the first things a BLOGger has to consider is how to refer to the people who drift in and out of her posts. Will they be faceless, nameless, anonymous “friends”, or will they use their actual first names, or will they have fictitious names? Early on I decided to use real first names unless those names seemed so unusual that they would easily reveal a person. I also chose to use Dr. X, with only the first initial of the last name, such as Dr. E, Dr. O, and Dr. L, where clearly I would have liked to expose Dr. L as the one who never followed up on my thyroid cancer. But I believe a certain amount of anonymity for medical professionals is required. In reading other people’s BLOGs, I find it hard to sort through all those “friend” references and somewhat off-putting, whereas the use of names of any sort adds a real personal level, even if I don’t know these people.

Yesterday one of my first-name persons suggested that I just refer to her as “a friend” or that I change her name. I agreed because I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable with what I write for whatever reason. Several observations after actually going through this change:
– It is unbelievably laborious to go through and make changes in a year’s worth of posts, especially when you write almost every day.
– I now have a problem with my legacy to the future, because my readers will need another piece of information to really know who I am talking about when I reference this person. The solution will be a final post before I depart this earth that says, “By the way, Person X is really Person Y!”
– But probably most significant for me is the fact then when I read my past posts now, they talk about a person who is not currently one of my friends since they use another name. I’m sure I’ll get used to it (just like I got used to calling me husband “David” after knowing him as “Dave” for 2 years.)

For an instant I thought of leaving just one reference to this person in the original name form and challenging any readers to find it. As far as I know I have only two regular readers and they will know immediately. The person whose name was changed will also know. And to anyone else, why does it really matter? So there will be no “Where’s Waldo?” in my BLOG.

A lot of these decisions about names must relate to your reason for writing. I happen not to be doing this to pass on gossip or innuendo. In fact, I try never to pass on anything that the person herself wouldn’t be willing to share. In contrast to a lot of those in BLOGdom, I don’t spend time dumping on my boss or my job. My BLOG is really just about me, the people who intersect my life, and my various activities. There is nothing to be gained from discovering someone’s true existence, not in my BLOG anyway.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Another Torah Reading

Lynn and I met for lunch today to talk about our plans to chant the Torah together next summer. We actually spent a lot more time getting to know one another than perusing the Torah portion (Pinchas). Lunch was in a small Turkish restaurant on Capitol Hill, open to the beautiful fall day. (The waiters seemed very curious about the fact that I was reading Hebrew while I sipped my wine and waited for Lynn to arrive.)

It turns out that we are very close to the same age. She however has step-grandchildren, whereas my children don’t even have permanent partners at this point in their lives. Lynn loves to travel. She has signed up for the next Micah Israel trip. By then we can be practicing our Torah readings together. She has also been to Hawaii several times, with plans to go again at the end of next year.

She mentioned that she is going to speak about her mother during a service in June next year, marking the 40th anniversary of her mother’s death. This of course conjured up my own feelings of unfinished grief over the deaths of my parents. Lynn has done a lot of grief counseling in her role as a psychotherapist. She was very supportive of my ongoing efforts to finally recognize my parents’ death in a significant way. This may require a real letting go that I haven’t been able to achieve to date. It is one of the major things that Kathryn and I are working on together.

I always have this feeling that new acquaintances are not accidental – that someone, something is putting people together at just the right time. This may well be the case for Lynn and me. We’ll undoubtedly spend a lot of time agonizing over the Torah trope this next year, but I think we will also spend time talking about significant things like the influence of our parents, while they were alive and perhaps more importantly after their deaths.

We did get around to dividing up the portion. She will do the part about the daughters of Zelophehad, who actually obtained the right to own property. I will do the following part where God breaks the news to Moses that he will not get to go into the promised land. We also split up the Haftarah portion, concerning Elijah. Each of us will plan to give a 5-minute explanation of the Torah portion.

I am really looking forward to this new project.

Counting Down to Surgery

Most of what I write these days has this somewhat Pollyana-ish tone to it – life is very good. I have a supportive religious community. I have a wonderful set of musical partners. I still have sex with my husband on a regular basis and, perhaps more importantly, we love each other more than ever after 29 years. Rebecca and I have finally found a relationship beyond therapist-client that fits us perfectly – we are like sisters. I have all the friends that a year ago I thought I would never have. My body is becoming stronger every day as I seek to counter that imbalance that plagues me.

But then I woke up in the night remembering that in just 17 days I have to have surgery to remove the remaining half of my thyroid. Until now I have been able to wall off my feelings about this, only dealing with the whys and whens of the surgery. I suppose visiting Deborah for the pre-op exam and having my blood drawn on Friday made the wall start to crumble and forced some of my fears to the surface. Here’s what I am afraid of:

– Going to sleep and never waking up.
– Botched surgery where they remove the wrong thing.
– Getting the wrong bag of IV fluids.
– Damage to my vocal cords that affects my speech or ability to sing.
– Waking up and having no one to sit with me (like last summer when I had the original surgery).
- The biopsy results showing a recurrence of papillary cancer.
– The impending radioactive iodine treatment that renders me glowing and unable to be around people for a week.

Whew! That’s a relief just to write these worries down. Now I need to figure out how to deal with them. Maybe today I’ll open the book that Dr. O gave me several weeks ago. Maybe I’ll study the low-iodine diet that I must go on prior to the radioactive treatment (it just came in the mail yesterday.) Maybe I’ll open the shrink-wrapped “Successful Surgery” guided meditation CD
that I’ll start to listen to in order to prepare for this surgery.

I had every intention of working out this morning, but instead realized that I had all this in my head that I needed to unload. My life is very good, but I must acknowledge my fears about this impending surgery and work to quell them. The surgery is suddenly a looming presence.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Shear Shack Turns 15

Shear Shack – the name sounds like something out of a B movie! But instead it is the place where everyone in my family has gotten haircuts for years. It’s where I got my first manicure, my first pedicure, and most importantly my first color job.

Every year around this time the owner, Harjit, who is a slim Indian woman, gives a party for her customers. When the parties first started several years ago, the women who worked there made all the food. It was a real international night because they are from all over the world. My previous haircutter Bee was from Peru. My current person Sophia is from Cambodia. There are several Indians.

Tonight they decided to let someone else do the cooking, so the party was catered. There was Indian, Thai, and Greek food, with plenty of beer and soda to wash it down. They even had a band! We immediately recognized Gary, someone from our Micah choir, who was the drummer, and yes, he gets his hair cut there too.

What a melting pot of an affair. The staff are from all over the world. David pointed out the only native American of the bunch, who turned out not to be American Indian, but just simply Caucasian.

The clientele were equally mixed. They ranged from (very) senior citizens to young children, one of whom was wearing a pink tutu. One of the staff was snapping pictures of everyone who walked in. They seemed genuinely happy to see us.

Shear Shack is a reminder that people can come to this country from all over the world and make a success of their lives through hard work. Not too many places offer a yearly reminder that they are truly appreciative of our business.

Having just finished Tom Friedman’s book, which focused so much on India, I find myself pondering how Shear Shack fits into his flattening of the world theory...

The Tower of Babel

Another excerpt from The World Is Flat (by Tom Friedman):

When I raised the broad themes of this book with my religious teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Marx from Holland, he surprised me by saying that the flat world that I was describing reminded him of the story of the Tower of Babel.

How so? I asked. “The reason God banished all the people from the Tower of Babel and made them all speak different languages was not because he did not want them to collaborate per se,” answered Rabbi Marx. “It was because he was enraged at what they were collaborating on – an effort to build a tower to the heavens so they could become God..” This was a distortion of the human capacity, so God broke their union and their ability to communicate with one another. Now, all these years later, humankind has again created a new platform for more people from more places to communicate and collaborate with less friction and more ease than ever: the Internet. Would God see the Internet as heresy?

“Absolutely not,” said Marx. “The heresy is not that mankind works together – it is to what ends. It is essential that we use this new ability to communicate and collaborate for the right ends – for constructive human aims and not megalomaniacal ends. Building a tower was megalomaniacal. Bin Laden’s insistence that he has the truth and can flatten anyone else’s tower who doesn’t heed him is megalomaniacal. Collaborating so mankind can achieve its full potential is God’s hope.”

Score another BULL’S EYE for Friedman via Marx!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Two Ex-Southern Belles

I met Ginger for lunch today on Capitol Hill. We have known each other in passing for several years at Temple Micah. I recently came to realize that Ginger is a convert to Judaism, and as such we have a lot in common. Taking on this religion at any point in one’s life is a life-changing experience. So I suggested to Ginger that we have lunch together so we could explore our paths to this same destination and whatever else came up.

As it turns out, we have even more in common. We both grew up in the deep south, the land of magnolia blossoms and Scarlet O’Hara and sweet tea. We never knew Jews at all until we went to college. Ginger commented that her first Jewish acquaintance tried to introduce her to marijuana. Oh well, I learned about that from a good Baptist. She was at Birmingham Southern at the same time my friend from PC, Joe Lee Madden, was there. Ginger left to marry young Al, who swept her off her feet as she worked to improve the plight of black people in Alabama.

She straddled the religious boundary between her Episcopalian upbringing and her husband’s Jewish heritage for many years. And then one day, she knew what she had to do. I remember that same feeling that went something like “Oh my God, this makes so much sense!” At which points the Christian creeds and prescribed prayers no longer have meaning. We talked about how difficult it was for our parents to accept this decision. Her mother worried that she might not be able to get into certain country clubs. My mother worried about the fact that I might not be able to get out of HELL! We both vowed that our children’s happiness was far more important than their sexual preference or their religious preference or any other choices they might have to make. Truthfully, I think the parents in both families would suffer more hurt if our children became Republicans!

Ginger has done a lot more serious study of Judaism than I have, working with an Orthodox rabbi. But I am now charged up to learn as much as I possibly can about this religion and about the Torah, on which it is so heavily based. I’m looking forward to having Ginger as a friend and ally as I continue to study and get more involved in the workings of Temple Micah.

I knew we were like-minded when they refused to serve us a glass of wine in the outdoor seating of the restaurant (because of the school across the street), and we both quickly opted to go inside!

Toby on Torah

I learned all those Bible stories in Sunday school. This is one of the few things I paid attention to – the stories and the songs. I really know quite a lot about who begat whom and where everything can be found. But never before have I studied the Bible as a historical document. Never have I given any thought to how it came to be the way it is.

I signed up for Toby’s class on The Five Books of Moses not knowing what to expect. I mean how could anyone cover all that ground in 5 90-minute classes?

I even convinced Rebecca (with her Torah-phobia) to come along to the class. I first learned about this strange relationship that Rebecca had with the Torah when she came to the Shabbat morning service that Temple Micah held at the 6th and I Street Synagogue last December. She became panicky as the Torah was paraded around, making sure she wasn’t standing on the aisle. I later learned that this came about because 15 years ago she had purchased her first copy of the Torah and read it straight through in just a week. She was so confused and troubled by some of what she read that she chucked it in the trash can. Her therapist Liza (who was a devout Jew) gasped when Rebecca told her the story. After that Rebecca lit Shabbat candles for a year, but then just took another long break from her Jewishness. So this Torah-guilt culminated in her obvious fear. Over the past year, David and I have drawn Rebecca into the Micah fold on several occasions and she really likes what she sees and feels at Micah. She came to my July Torah-reading and to High Holiday services. David is even teaching her to read Hebrew.

Back to Toby’s class – What became immediately clear was just how much Toby knows. She taught the entire class with no notes, making it serious and funny at the same time. She talked about the idea that chapters 1 - 11 of Genesis were actually written afterwards, sort of as a way of setting the stage for what followed. She mentioned the four suggested authors of the Torah, with the J and E authors coming into play in Genesis. She explained that the obvious duplication of some of the stories with some variation (such as the creation story) was due to these different authors. I keep picturing those early Hebrews sitting around deciding how the story went – “My grandmother always told it like this...” And another would say, “But in my family’s version of this story, it didn’t happen that way at all.” If they couldn’t decide whose grandmother was right, they just put them both in. Then there is this little issue of accent marks that turn “water” into “day” into “sea”. One slip of the pen by a sloppy scribe working on the “original” could make all the difference in the world. Toby covered how the morning prayers were connected to Abraham (because he went out with Isaac in the morning), the mid-day prayers were connected to Isaac for some reason I can’t remember, and the evening prayers were connected to Jacob (because he fought with God at night). The most startling suggestion was that the Golden Calf was actually written back into Exodus in the era of the kings as a warning to those wicked kings. WOW! What a thought. Her parting line concerned the fact that in Genesis it is the gentle souls who come out on top – like Joseph. Of course then David said, “Maybe the Orthodox who study 24x7 are God’s favorites.” The last word came from none other than Rebecca who asked Toby about divine punishment, to which Toby replied, “Come back for Exodus.”

At one point I looked over at Rebecca and could see her mind struggling with something. Torah-phobia doesn’t die easily. Several times during class she admitted to thinking of sneaking out. (But she would have had to wait for me since I was her ride home.) I want to ask her what it was that started the conflict. But by the end of class, she was back on track, ready to come back next week for the Ten Commandments.

After class I sent Toby a message expressing my enthusiasm about the class, but my frustration because of the need to make it a quick survey course without much room for lengthy discussion. She immediately countered with an invitation to join a committee to plan future such classes. Toby is a master at public relations, as well as being a teacher extraordinaire.

Oh, by the way, did I say that Toby is Temple Micah's first second rabbi and that she looks and dresses like a million dollars? A really cool person!