Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day Three

Spent a less than peaceful morning with Sophie because she is not doing so well. Sigh.




Babysitter came and I went for a big walk with my good friend J. Lots of conversation as the two of us NEVER run out of things to talk about. It's truly amazing because we talk every single day.


Lunch with J at Maison du Pain, a wonderful French bakery on Pico Blvd. run by two Filipino sisters. The pastries are old-school and fantastic. I had a tuna salad sandwich on olive bread with a bit of cheese and bechamel. J had a croque-monsieur. We shared something sinfully good and flaky filled with a lightly sweetened cheese. I bought two extra of them, ate one in the car when I left and gave the other to Sophie later on.


I went to Whole Foods and spent entirely too much money on snack foods for my kids when they get back next week. I also bought some gorgeous chard that I should be growing myself and a hunk of fish for dinner.


I walked around the corner and had a pedicure. This is the first time since last summer, about nine months ago. My feet and toes are shameful, and I was almost embarrassed to expose them. I sat in the very comfortable chair with my feet in a copper basin filled with warm water. I got the whole deal, including leg massage and I finished reading Patti Smith's Just Kids. I'm not a big crier, but when I got to the part when Robert Mapplethorpe dies, I shed a few tears. The book is completely captivating, especially if you're a sucker for romantic views about ART and want to read about the scene in the late sixties and early seventies in New York City when poets and musicians congregated at the Chelsea Hotel and took themselves and what they were doing oh so seriously. I loved it.


I returned home and sat with Sophie in her room when the babysitter left. We went for a walk because the sun was out and shining the most golden late-afternoon light through new green, and the air was turning a bit colder than it's been and Sophie was happy to walk. We went inside after that and she lay down on her bed. I put some music on in her room and told her how much I loved her.


The Neurologist called me back and we had a long conversation about Sophie and what to do next. I don't feel like typing it all out here. I'm tired of the whole damn mess. I told my friend A last night that every now and then it hits me that aside from the shock and aftermath of Sophie's diagnosis fifteen years ago, my general distrust of the medical world and the almost existential angst I feel at the unknowable of everything pertaining to Sophie are what have most defined me. Sometimes I can blithely go about my day and at others, well, it's just h


I made dinner for Sophie and me. I sprinkled the halibut I'd bought earlier with thyme and oregano from my herb garden. I brushed it with olive oil and squeezed some lemon juice, sprinkled a lot of salt and pepper over that and put it in a roasting pan and scattered cut up fingerling potatoes and baby carrots around it. The Husband came home early, for a change, and fed Sophie for me. Relief.


My friend D came over and helped me fix a few kinks in my computer. The three of us opened a bottle of wine, laughed about the slippery slope to socialism and drank the whole bottle. We also finished the weird little box of malted chocolate milkballs that I'd bought at Trader Joe's last week.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day Two

Peaceful morning with Sophie


Babysitter comes in early afternoon


Visit to acupuncturist and lunch with doctor afterward


Aimless strolling through Blick Art Store and admiration for papers and pens and beautiful journals


Bought ticket to and watched the Italian film Vincere, the story of Benito Mussolini's first wife, Ida. She and Mussolini had a very passionate love affair when he was only an editor of a "revolutionary" newspaper; she bore him a son but as he continued to rise to power and to utter derangement, she was denied by him and actually lived for many, many years in an insane asylum. Her son was taken from her guardians during the very scary fascist times and eventually died in an insane asylum as well. This was a very passionate movie made especially effective with black and white clips of Mussolini screaming to the crowds. I couldn't help but think of the current passions running so high in the United States, today, especially in the aftermath of healthcare reform. It made me feel angry that people in this country, those that are protesting the loudest about government takeover and socialism and all that garbage, have the nerve to do so. When I am reminded of the true nature of despotism and of fascism and how it rises from real destitution, it's hard to take seriously, to have nothing but disdain for those who are comparing it to our country, now. I'm not a scholar and I'm the first to say that I probably don't know more than I do know, but when I hear these people ranting and raving about Obama and comparing him to Hitler or Lenin, I have to think DUMB. It's just plain dumb. As I drove home through traffic after my very satisfying afternoon of relaxation, popcorn, diet coke and a really good, transporting movie, I thought about how technology and education and awareness have all conspired to make the world a very different place and that really education and awareness are what it's all about. I thought how the fundamentalists of all persuasions try to staunch progress and stymie education, how their "leadership" is based on fear. I thought about the eight or so dumb-ass lunatics caught in Michigan yesterday who were conspiring against the evils of government with Jesus on their side. I read that most had not finished high school and some had never gone to school. I thought of all those tea-baggers with their silly white people agendas, afraid that the America they know and love has gone the way of "the blacks" and "the Mexicans." I thought of myself and the twinge of almost fear I felt when I saw the "report card" of the school that Sophie goes to -- a school on the edge of the hood where you are hard put to see any white students at all. The report card gave statistics -- how many Hispanics, how many African Americans, how many Asians, etc. How many whites? 0%. Zero percent Caucasian which means, since Sophie is definitely a student at the school, she is in such a minority that it's less than 1%. The twinge of fear is replaced, for me, by wonder. Wonder to be alive in a world that is growing faster than I can imagine -- a world that will, maybe, perhaps be more tolerant and diverse than we might imagine -- or not.  Vincere means win, and the movie makes clear that winning is ambiguous. Ida remained fearless throughout her life and uncompromising about who she was (Mussolini's wife and the mother of his heir), but she and her son died and were never recognized as sane or even persons of dignity; they were both buried in common graves. Mussolini beat them, in a sense, but he himself was eventually executed, hung by his heels by the people. These are the thoughts I had as I snaked my way home to my girl.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Day One

1. Yoga class, including a 30-minute, very intense, eye-opening meditation


2. Lunch with good friend (goat cheese sandwich with lots of vegetables and yogi iced tea)


3. Leisurely errand running with nowhere I needed to be.


4. Late afternoon with Sophie and an unfortunate really huge seizure


5. Late afternoon visit from two girlfriends who joined me in Sophie's room as she recovered. Lots of laughter.


6. Asparagus and fried eggs and toast with Sophie -- a dinner that I'd never get away with if The Boys were here


7. Two glasses of a delicious bottle of Lambrusco which tasted a bit like champagne and a bit like fruity wine and the always pleasurable company of one of my oldest friends, D.


Sophie in the Sunlight

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Out of Sight

The boys left this morning on a plane to visit my parents on the east coast. It's the first time they've been away from me for over three days or so and their first trip on an airplane as unaccompanied minors. They'll be gone for just over a week. When they boarded the plane, Oliver kept looking back with tears dripping down his cheeks. I cried a bit, too, and stood at the window right by the nose of the plane. I was so close I could see the pilot and I couldn't help but think that my life was really in his hands. I stared at him, willing him to know that, but he kept adjusting his headphones and taking sips of coffee and soon, the plane separated from the airport and rolled backward, out and away.

I stood for a while at the window as it taxied down but then it disappeared and I walked back to my car. The airport was bustling but seemed extra quiet and that's pretty much how I imagine my house will be this week. Sort of like the real life has been sucked out of it.

In all the excitement of getting them ready I've kept pushing out of my mind feelings of anxiety and sadness. The sadness isn't just the obvious mother hen-type separation anxiety. It also has to do with the fact that I, too, could have gone on spring vacation with them but felt constrained by Sophie. It was too short a time to warrant taking her with us as traveling is very difficult, and the expense of another plane ticket and childcare for her as well was just too much. It's difficult to live in the moment at these times, to not think that our lives are just so damn different from most families I know and will be forever. I've comforted myself with the thought that I'll have a very quiet week and respite from the clamor of my sons' constant needs. I plan on getting a little extra help for Sophie and going to movies, yoga, and lunch with friends. I might throw in a happy hour or two, too, and maybe The Husband will be able to break away from The Mistress for dinner. The boys will have an amazing time with their grandparents and will come back to us filled with stories and memories.

There they go. Out of sight but not mind.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday Night on the Town

Henry, Oliver and I went out to dinner tonight on Hollywood Blvd with one of my dearest friends who moved from here to another city half a year ago and is visiting on spring break this week She and her two children met us at La Loteria (and I don't know how to add the appropriate accent to Loteria on this computer), a fantastic latino spot with delicious, authentic Mexican food and really, really good margaritas (not too sweet, plenty sour and lots of salt). While we waited for our friends, Henry noticed this Hollywood star in front of the restaurant


La Loteria is a bingo-like game and the art on the famous Mexican cards is fantastic. The restaurant itself is a wonderful space, huge and open with a wall of tequila bottles and giant posters of the loteria hanging on the walls. La Sirena is my favorite, of course:

My friend and I sat next to each other and the four children sat opposite, and while the restaurant filled up and the noise got louder and louder, we still managed to converse about the books we were reading, the movies we'd seen and our husbands, all while sipping on the margaritas and remonstrating the children as they laughed raucously and ate chips and fried cheese and tacos. About halfway through, Henry felt cold and left the restaurant to get his sweatshirt out of the car. He came back and shouted at me over the din I couldn't find the car! Exasperated, I grabbed the keys and walked outside and around the corner, and where I'd parked my car was a

[blank space]

Hundreds of people were walking Hollywood Blvd, into and out of the tattoo shops and costume party stores. The sky was blue and the sun was setting at the west end, making the sky a deep pink and the light a ridiculous gold. It seemed unreal, and for a moment I thought that maybe I'd forgotten where I parked but I knew, too, all at once that my car was towed. The enormous sign that I had somehow not seen an hour ago, rose over me and practically threw me into shadow. I slunk back into the restaurant and announced to my friend and the kids that my car had been towed, and she put her hand over her mouth and sort of laughed and pushed my near-full margarita toward me on the table. The boys were excited about the prospect of police action.

When I called 3-1-1, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa himself answered the phone and told me what to do. He also advised me to wait for the next service agent and while I was waiting I could enjoy the music of the LA Philharmonic.

Good thing I was drinking that margarita. And even better that my red snapper with tomatoes, onions, capers and olives was moist and flavorful,  and that my kind and generous friend bought me and the boys' dinner. When she dropped us off at the tow lot, Henry insisted on escorting me inside where we were led through a series of locked gates and I was helped by a very courteous gentlemen who also kindly took my credit card and charged me $248.34 for holding my car for two hours. I suggested to the boys that we should wait until the morning to tell The Husband and Father about the excitement, so when we pulled up into the driveway and walked up to the front door, Oliver announced as soon as The Husband opened the door to greet us

Mom got the car towed and it cost two hundred and fifty bucks!

Speaking of Faith Saturday

At the end of this crazy week of health care reform and the subsequent strife (or ongoing strife), it's hard to make sense of it all. What some of us think is only the first step in a more humane, civilized society that must move toward cost-effectiveness and keep ingenuity and freedoms intact, others see as a dark foreboding, a harbinger of weakness and loss of power. You know where I stand, and I was pleased to listen to the ever-wonderful program Speaking of Faith. This week's replay is called Getting Revenge and Forgiveness and makes a fascinating case for the place both acts have not just in our daily lives but in our evolutionary history as humans.

You can listen to it HERE. And be sure to listen to the terrific soundtrack that goes along with it. Let me know what you think and maybe even your favorite song. I'm having a hard time deciding between Jimi Hendrix's Hey Joe and Patty Griffin's Rain.

Friday, March 26, 2010

An afternoon in Los Angeles without photos

I spent the majority of the afternoon in my car, today, driving my sons and their visiting friend up to a tennis lesson in Griffith Park and then down the hills into Hollywood. The traffic on Friday afternoons is outrageous generally, and today was no exception. People love to deride Los Angeles, claiming that the smog, the traffic, and the culture all make for an unexceptional city. Even recently someone commented about the smog after one of my glorious spring posts. The fact is that smog is really not a terrible problem in the part of Los Angeles that I live in and has vastly improved since the days when a yellow cloud hung over much of the valley and its environs. I can honestly say that blue skies, very blue skies, with few to no clouds are what I see on the majority of days. As for culture, well, I would stand on the Hollywood sign and yell out the fantastic culture that I have been exposed to and participated in for the dozen or so years that I've lived here. Even after living in New York City for many years, I have never felt a dearth of interesting people, cultures, art, dance, theatre, film, poetry and architecture. The key is taking advantage of what the city brings you and part of that key is the car, which leads me to what I do agree on and that is the ridiculous amount of time spent in one's car and the scary amount of traffic one encounters in certain areas of the city twenty-four/seven. Did I mention that I actually hate driving, too? I hate driving and could care less about cars -- clean cars, dirty cars, fancy cars, beat-up cars, old cars, new cars, luxury cars and outrageously expensive cars -- they're all the same to me and I just could care less.

My sons, though, are quite the opposite. Living in Los Angeles and spending so much time in one's car as a passenger affords a boy who loves cars an opportunity to see cars and know cars that is perhaps just not possible in any other city. Today, when we drove down out of Griffith Park which sits way up above the area where we live, we passed about five or six luxury vehicles -- the kinds whose names I don't know but whose models and features are easily shouted out by my sons.

OOOOO!! There's a Mazerati -- awesome!

Wow! Look there's an Aston Martin and it's got after-market wheels and look at those guys inside! They're so young! They're pulling up beside us. Oh, my go!!!!!

And the car pulls up beside us and I look over to my right and yes, the guys are extremely young. They look to be no more than twenty-five, some sort of Entourage-like age and type with black curly hair and days-old facial hair growth and they're both smoking cigarettes and tapping their hands on the steering wheel and dash. When the light turns green, they roar off, literally and figuratively smokin' and the three boys in the car scream with pleasure about V-8 engines and the noise, the noise!

Mom! Can you believe it? An Aston Martin and they're smoking inside! Isn't that terrible and stupid? To have an Aston Martin and be smoking? And Oliver rolled down his window at the next light and shouted out the window You're stupid to be smoking and because it was a fine, blue-skied and sunny day, their windows were unrolled and they looked over at us and Henry looked straight forward, dying of embarrassment and Oliver quickly rolled up his window, triumphant in eight year old moral outrage and then the light changed again and they were off.

Much later, after stopping at In N Out, truly the world's best hamburger drive-in and one we Californians claim is not really fast food, we snaked our way through Hollywood, and I entertained the boys and their friend with stories of just how stupid I am about cars in general. I told them that for about six months or so I saw what I thought were Bentleys at least three times a day and every time I saw this shiny, black car I'd think man, that's a $150,000 car and so many people in this crazy city can afford one! And then one day, when I pointed one out to The Husband, who is the original Formula One race freak in our household, he said to me in his withering German accented English that car isn't a Bentley, Elizabeth, it's a Chrysler. The boys love this story and laugh every time I tell it.

And later, much later, after we'd finally gotten home and The Husband came home from work and I dashed out, AGAIN, in the car to Whole Foods, to buy some homeopathic cough syrup for Henry, I sat in the crazy, crowded parking lot and stared right into the front window of a small truck with this message emblazoned over the front windshield:


Of course I had forgotten my cell phone at home and didn't have my camera with me, so I couldn't take a picture, a picture that was going to be the sole reason for my post tonight about the cars and traffic and craziness and culture that is Los Angeles.

Purple Day

Today is Purple Day, a day to learn about, advocate for and be aware of Epilepsy. You can go to the website HERE

Wear something purple. Tell someone about it. Support those with it.

Friday Hope

Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.
-- Native Indian blessing

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hail to Kale

My sons' school is fortunate to have received an Edible Schoolyard grant and they spend some time each week in a beautiful garden, planting, harvesting and cooking vegetables and herbs. This week my youngest, Oliver, came home ecstatic about eating


You heard me right. Kale chips. Evidently, they had picked some of the leafy kale from the garden, separated the curly bits from the stems and baked it in a hot oven. They then drizzled a little olive oil and sea salt on it and ate it.

My son Oliver despises most vegetables and would never, ever eat kale if I had prepared it. Despite The Husband being a talented, amazing chef, and yours truly a former chef and damn good cook, this boy is very, very picky.

Except for KALE CHIPS.

I literally ran to the grocery store today and purchased some red leaf kale. When he came home from school, eager to make kale chips for me, I let him.

He separated the leaves from the stems and instructed me to put the stems in the compost.
He objected when I attempted to drizzle too much olive oil on the leaves in the bowl and insisted that it came afterward. The same with the salt. We put it on a half-sheet tray and popped it into a hot oven.

In about five minutes, we took the tray out. Each rather large leaf was shrunken to a crispy curled up bit of green crunch.

We sprinkled lots of sea salt on and put them in a bowl. Then we ate them.

Imagine that. A bowlful of incredibly nutritious kale, eaten by an eight year old.

The end.

City Lights

Last year I finally got to visit City Lights, the famous San Francisco bookstore owned and operated by the great poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I couldn't have been happier walking in what I deem to be hallowed aisles where books are stashed and stored and where an entire room is dedicated to poetry.

Lapham's Quarterly has published a new poem by Ferlinghetti on the occasion of his 91st birthday. The poem is dedicated to Pablo Neruda and is titled At Sea.

How wonderful to still be writing such beautiful, provocative verse --

Product Review!

This is the logo for a new company, WAT-AAH! (TM), the first premium brand of pure water with function specially targeted to kids and teens. I was approached by the company and asked whether or not I'd like to sample their product and write a review. Being a lover of all free products and game to help out a small business, especially one that could potentially benefit children, I said yes and quickly received a box of goodies from WAT-AAH! My boys ripped the box open and were delighted by the silly graphics on each plastic bottle, eager to open and try them.

The BODY bottle claimed to be pure spring water with no sodium, chemicals and absolutely no sugar. The BRAIN bottle said that it was ultra purified with kid-friendly electrolytes and absolutely no sugar. The BONES bottle also claimed to be ultra purified with bone-building magnesium and absolutely no sugar, and the ENERGY one had the addition of energizing oxygen and absolutely no sugar. Oliver picked the brain bottle, telling me that he thought it might help him with his math problems and Henry, who had the flu, picked the body bottle. My initial reaction to bottled water with extremely cute graphics was dubious. Do we really need more bottled water on the market? Are additives, albeit natural ones, really all that beneficial? 

WAT-AAH is challenging families to stay away from the unhealthy, sugar-laden beverages and to drink more water. The letter I received from the company stated that WAT-AAH will "soon be available on the west coast (April 1st) and that "water is simply the key to true hydration. WAT-AHH is ultra-pure water containing the right amount of essential minerals to fortify and maintain children's health." Their mission is "to reverse the established behavior and dependency on sweetened drinks among American children, thus reducing the alarmingly high rates of childhood obesity." Ultimately, the company claims that its aim is to "teach kids that healthy bodies can be obtained through healthy hydration."

There's nothing wrong with any of this, and despite our own very healthy household, my own kids clamor for soda and those nasty sports drinks, especially after their baseball, soccer, flag football and basketball games. I admit that I shy away from water products, but there's something about this company that appeals to me, and if it's affordable and attractive to kids, marketed in a positive fashion, well, then I'm all for it. This process of educating children AND adults about nutrition and poor eating (and drinking) habits is ongoing. I think WAT-AAH is a part of it.

Here are some links if you'd like to see more. The website is especially great for kids!

Follow us on Twitter
Become a Fan
Blame it on the SUG-AAH! (our newest site!)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An interesting dialog about siblings of children with special needs (I'm so tired of writing that phrase by the way!) and their perceived responsibilities toward their brother or sister, especially as the parent primary caregiver gets older or dies, is going on over at the wonderful blog Bloom. I've touched on these issues a bit in my blog and certainly have devoted a few chapters on the subject in the book I'm writing. I've read what little literature exists regarding the effects of having a child with special needs in the larger family and believe I sort of, kind of, know what I'm doing.

Just like everything else, though, that comes with the territory, there's a fine line between protecting my boys from taking any responsibility for their sister and the fact that it is what it is. I have intentionally paid them "extra" attention and made sure that they can be angry and stubborn and disgusted and sad without feeling guilty about their complex feelings. Given their ages, they can not possibly be expected to "take care" of Sophie, but I do ask them periodically to check on her in her room and they certainly go into help mode when she has a big seizure and I need their help. Henry, now eleven, learned to buckle himself into his car seat seatbelt, unbuckle himself and jump out when he was no older than three. I didn't realize this was unusual until I drove a carpool and found myself helping the more "helpless" children that I drove, those that held their arms up for me to lift up and out of the seat and then to jump down out of the car. Oliver, too, is probably more self-sufficient than most kids his age and I don't believe that either of them resents this.

One night, a few years ago, when Oliver was no older than five, he and his brother were in bed and, I thought, fast asleep. I heard Oliver call out to me, so I went into their bedroom and asked him what was wrong. I'm scared, he said. I asked him why and he replied What's going to happen to Sophie when you are old? Who is going to take care of her? If I could have, I probably would have gasped, but I was sort of shocked into silence there in the dark by my very young son's bed. I imagined him lying there, in the dark, pondering the deepest, darkest things so I prayed, quickly, that I might answer him correctly. So much of parenting is winging it, no? I told him that Mommy and Daddy would always take care of Sophie or have someone help us to take care of her for as long as we could.

Oliver said but what about when you are really, really old and die? Who is going to take care of her? I don't want to take care of her.

Again, I could have gasped, but I think I smiled and told him that that was a long, long way off, and that by the time I was really old, he and Henry would be big men and would be able to help to take care of Sophie. I think the idea of a being a big man appealed enough to Oliver that he was distracted from the larger existential turmoil, so the conversation ended and he went back to sleep.

What the whole exchange did to me, though, was to put into stark reality just how much children absorb and how complex their feelings really are. I don't think I was naive about the "effects" of having a child like Sophie and I certainly had done my fair share of worrying what the stress of seizures was doing to them, but the bigger and, I think, scarier issues of long-term care and the boys had not crossed my mind until then. I imagined my death in the far future and Henry, the compassionate, easy-going son immediately saying that they would have to care for Sophie just like mom wanted. I then imagined, with my customary dark humor, Oliver saying, mom's dead; it's time for an institution and that thought lightened the heavy load, however briefly (and I would clarify, to those who don't know me that I'm kidding).

What I do trust, though, is that each of my sons will figure out what he is capable of in caring for his sister. Parenting mirrors life's ambiguities and while I like to imagine that all will be well when I am old and gone, I also think who knows? 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

If I can't

be cheerful all the time, I can keep posting photos of spring in Los Angeles.

Here's a Meyer Lemon blossom. This little potted tree has hundreds of blossoms -- the leaves are yellowish which means it needs a little fertilizer but lemons are on the way!

In the back of the yard, I've got a tangerine tree and an apple tree whose branches are literally entwined. So much for the expression about apples and oranges, no?


Apple Blossom

Apples and Tangerines

And just so you don't think it's all some sort of southern California bucolic paradise, just to the left is this scene:

which I think is some sort of scary guillotine-like structure, made from an old dog crate, ropes and discarded baby toys and balls. I had nothing to do with it.

Word of the Day

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.
Eleanora Duse (Italian actress known as Duse)

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Big Break

I was talking to a good friend tonight about how difficult it is to be a parent in general, how we find so much joy in being mothers to our respective three children (two boys and a girl) but that it also often amounts to being just a plain pain in the ass. She spoke to me of a recent health issue with one of her sons and how it taxed her patience and even sanity when she realized that it wasn't a truly serious issue but one that was manageable, really, if it weren't for the difficult behavior of her son. I spoke of dealing with one of my son's current academic difficulties in school and his irrational defiance of help. I told her about the drama of my afternoon with him at the Korean learning center, the tears, the defiance, the obstreperousness and the almost teeth-gritting patience and lack of drama of the teacher at the center.

It makes me feel insane and not because it's really all that stressful. It makes me feel nuts because, sometimes, it's just so damn boring. There's a small -- o.k., maybe slightly bigger than small but certainly not huge -- part of me that just can't be bothered, that just wants the kid to get on with it, stop the drama, accept the help, do the work, be happy and move on. I want to feel those things purely and perhaps not really act on them (I can continue to be encouraging and gentle and oh-so-politically correct and be aware of his self-esteem) but I also don't want the tortured feeling that comes way too quickly after -- the feeling that something might be going on that's deeper and more psychologically intense, that somehow the particular dynamics of being in a family like ours, his birth order, the fact that his sister has a severe disability and he's seen thousands of seizures and she can't talk and nothing seems to help her -- well, all that always, always enters into my thoughts on the tail of the other parenting is such a pain in the ass feelings and I just want to feel the simple parenting is such a pain in the ass feeling all by itself.

And if that isn't enough crabbiness for you, I also told my friend that given my insurance issues of last week (still waiting for birth control prescription for Sophie to be approved), the third grader's academic difficulties, The Husband's spending an absolutely unprecedented time with The Mistress and continued financial woes, well, I want a break.

Actually, I don't want just a break. I want a


I'm so crabby that I don't want to think a telephone call from a friend at a particularly stressful moment is my break. I don't want to think about the grace of God or the moment I have a vision in a yoga class and all is well in that moment. I'm just a teensy tinesy bit tired of the gratitude movement and the thinking positive thing.

I want a


I'm thinking huge here -- my friend suggested to shoot for half a million dollars. I'm thinking the birth control is covered by the insurance company, Sophie begins taking it and her terrible seizures stop. I'm thinking that someone calls me and wants to help me finish putting my book together, represent me and sell it to a publisher for an advance. I'm thinking that a few families with lots of money want to start a school for children like Sophie that is modeled after Waldorf Schools, a beautiful place with lots of nature, art, movement, animals, trees, flowers and music.  I'm thinking someone tells me that I will be fifty pounds lighter tomorrow and so perfectly conditioned that I can begin running 3-6 miles daily.

Big sigh. Humor me.

Thank God

it's Monday

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Speaking to Me

If the sun and moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you. 

from Auguries of Innocence by William Blake

Healing and Curing over at Hopeful Parents

Today's my day over at Hopeful Parents. Click HERE if you're interested!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Big O and Priorities

Oliver: I'm going to be super-rich one day.

Me: You are? What are you going to do with your money?

O: Well, first, I'm going to buy a whole lot of medicine for Sophie and it's going to work.

Me: That's great. What else?

O: I'm going to buy a limousine and have a brochure.

Me: What do you mean? What's a brochure for?

O: You know, the brochure. He'll drive my car.

Me: OH! You mean a chauffeur! You're going to have a chauffeur.

O: Yeah. A chauffeur. And he can drive Sophie around, too. And you.

Vernal Equinox

Happy Spring!

Sweet-pea bush


Meyer Lemon Tree (smells amazing)

My little utility sink fountain

Yellow Button Water Plant

I forget its name, but this plant looks like this year-round.

After quite a stressful week, it seemed fitting to celebrate spring and all the effortless profusion of flowers that grace my yard. I swear I do very little to make this happen, and happen it does. I've already been to one baseball game and am off to another and then, hopefully, a movie and dinner with a girlfriend. I'll wish you happy spring today and thank you for sticking with me during this week. Your support and laughter, your comments and prayers, your FLOWERS and encouragement mean the world to me. Keep Sophie in your thoughts and prayers, please, as she is struggling quite a bit right now.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mystery Solved

One of my friends has confessed, and I must say that I'm relieved. I feel a bit silly but more relaxed, now, and actually grateful that she thought of me in this beautiful way. I found it interesting that so many people responded that their husbands would be really bothered if they were to receive flowers from a secret admirer. Maybe because my husband is from a different culture, maybe because he's resoundingly NOT the jealous type or maybe because he's just, well, different? he found the whole episode amusing.

Which makes me think I should, perhaps, not tell him that the mystery is solved...

Secret Admirers

This is the arrangement that appeared on my front porch yesterday late morning. It came with a little envelope with my name on it. The card inside said, love from your secret admirer. I'd like to say that this made me happy, but it really didn't. The thing is I need to know WHO is my secret admirer and WHY they admire me. I don't think it's one of my friends because they give me so much, anyway, and they would surely tell me if they'd done such a thing. I don't think it's a man, or at least I HOPE it's not a man because if it is, I find that a bit creepy -- and like my good friend J said, The last thing you need right now is a boyfriend. That made me burst out laughing because it's so, so true (unless, of course it was George Clooney or maybe Alec Baldwin and they loved me, not in spite of, but because I am aging rapidly and am about five hundred pounds heavier than I was twenty years ago).

I know that I'm supposed to be pleasantly surprised by it and grateful and thankful and just be laid back and accept it with pleasure, but I can't. It's actually sort of driving me crazy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My friend A's brilliant response to my newest insurance maneuvering and insanity

It's survival techniques in a country run by corporations.

(and I promise that I'll be back soon with the poetry and the photos and less hysteria, gloom and doom)

This is what happened today, this day in a bit of joycean stream of consciousness

I woke up and tended to my three children, made their breakfasts and sent the two boys off to school and fed my daughter her breakfast and put her in her room where she lay on her bed in a curled-up position, exhausted-seeming but not really, perhaps fatigued from a few days of seizures and looking so thin and tired that I tried not to worry because I know she'll perk up eventually and all will be well for a week or so before the next cycle or down-time begins. I changed the sheets on the boys' beds and threw them in the washer, checked on Sophie who was sleeping, still, on her bed quite peacefully. I spoke with a couple of friends on the telephone, declared my intention to go see a movie at 11:15, because Carmen the babysitter was going to come early, at 10:00 to take care of Sophie. And I was so looking forward to seeing The Ghostwriter but I decided like a fool to call the insurance company to check on the progress of getting Sophie's hormone medication/birth control covered and that was about 9:45 that I made the call and the clock ticked onward as I was put on hold and transferred and spoke my name and Sophie's name and her ID number and birthdate and our zip code and what I was calling for and there were some steely resolve and a few threats that I need you not to put me on hold but answer my question NOW and the question, quite simply and it was simply was this: Can you give me the address or fax number for where I should send the neurologist's letter of medical necessity but the question wasn't answered because it wasn't quite clear that what we were asking for was the dispensing of more than a month's supply of birth control because it isn't being used as birth control, you see she needs to take it continuously which means we need more than a month's supply and then I was transferred from the pharmacy guy back to the anthem blue cross lady, the third anthem blue cross lady that I had spoken to and did I mention that the clock was ticking toward eleven o'clock and the movie started at 11:15 and surely we would be wrapping it up soon but it wasn't happening and it's amazing that I didn't shout, I only cried a little but I think it did the trick because I finally got the o.k. and the fax number for the neurologist to send the letter of medical necessity and what it boiled down to was a rewriting of the prescription for a 21-day supply and I will have to go to the drug store and refill it every 21 days to ensure a continuous dose and that will cost a whole lot more, another $57 every 3 weeks, to be exact, instead of the $30 usual co-payment and that will be added on to the $150 per month that we currently pay for the non-FDA drug that we get from Canada and the $30 per month for the other drug that we get from here and if these medicines help and one already helps a bit and the other has great potential, the third being a wash but too difficult to wean if they help will it be worth these hours ticking by, it's 11:45, now, and $237 per month? What is the worth? I have missed my movie and Carmen has come and is about to leave with Sophie for the park and she has heard my raised voice through the door and when she says good-bye I burst into tears and she puts her arms around me and tells me to relax, now, and that Jesus will be with me and I almost wish it were so. I put away all my papers and wipe my face and go to Anthropologie and wander about in a daze, overcome by the fabulousness of all that stuff, the lampshades, especially, and the soaps and candles and the dishes and aprons and the shirts and I have a $50 gift card that I got for Christmas from one of my sisters but I just can't do it. I can't pick anything out and I realize that retail therapy isn't as strong as it used to be that I perhaps need something more, in fact, I need a visit to Dr. Jin, I need some Chinese herbs and needles and forty-five minutes on the table listening to Chinese restaurant music and remembering my friend Jackson, the Chinese waiter at the Chinese restaurant where I hosted during college, the man who got a perm in his straight, black hair and told me that my eyes were James Bond eyes but I couldn't do that now because I needed to pick up my boys from school, their laughing boisterous bodies careening into the car, papers thrust into my arms, and can we go to Yogurt land, please and I said, yes, yes, yes before dropping them off at home and heading to Trader Joe's and as I wandered the aisles I felt tearful again and thought to myself that perhaps I'm just depressed, on top of everything and I must look stricken and there's something about me looking stricken that I believe men like because every time I have cried or look like I've been crying despite the age and the weight and the immutable fact that I do not turn heads, anymore, when I am in such a state, men of a certain persuasion, the clerks, the grocers, the kindly burly ethnic sort always stare but in a kindly way and say hello and I feel the zing of attraction and I think how primitive we all are really.

Did I mention that the dog barked quite a bit while I was on the phone, waiting for an answer to my question and that when I went to the door and opened it, I saw a flower arrangement of roses and lilies all orange and white and yellow and it was particularly fancy in a long glass bowl with greens wrapped around the inside and the card sticking out on the plastic Triton stick said:

From your secret admirer?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thank you

To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. 
But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those
unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers
and our weaknesses -- that is something still greater and more beautiful because it
widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.

Pablo Neruda

Wednesday Corner View - Front Door

Our front door always look pinkish in photos, but it's actually red. It leads to a small, screened porch, a sort of anomaly in southern California. I've always loved porches but would actually prefer to glass mine in. It's always dirty on the porch -- that kind of light dust that makes you terrified of the air we breathe.The wreath is a tradition each year from Christmas through January -- peace to everyone!

For more Corner Views and front doors around the world, see Jane at Spain Daily.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cubist Weeping

The Weeping Woman - Pablo Picasso

I cried today because:

1. I spent the better part of it on the phone with the insurance company and the mail order pharmacy trying to unwind the knots created by said insurance company to deny payment of a treatment for my daughter's refractory seizures. I was transferred probably four to five times and spoke to five different people, each of whom did not claim responsibility for knowing what to do and each of whom asked me my name, my daughter's ID number and date of birth, our address and the last four digits of my social security number. The whole episode is going to be called Birth Controlgate

2. I am burnt out at this whole spectacle of a medical system some of us call "the greatest in the world." I had listened earlier to some inane discussion on NPR between economic healthcare academics and some jokers at the conservative Heritage Foundation, both of whom spoke on and on in the driest of tones about healthcare costs, etc. etc. ad nauseum, suggesting that consumers want and need to "shop" for their healthcare plans to get the most competitive rates and that hospitals should make their fees more accessible and public so that one can SHOP for the best rate, etc. and it was all INCREDIBLY INSANE.(and I might add here that I know what they were talking about and I'm perfectly aware of the luxuries we do have here in the U.S. of A and the lack elsewhere and there is a very large part of me that even feels guilty complaining about this sort of thing but humor me, humor me, humor me). At one point, the conservative guy from the Heritage Foundation compared the shopping to food stamps and cheese and milk and the fabulous job grocery stores do or something or other and I actually wanted to stop the car and yell at the radio or at the very least call in and speak, but it wasn't a call-in show so instead I thought about how FUN that would be, to actually shop around for the best place for Sophie to get treatment -- to see what hospital outcomes were, what each individual doctor's results might be, and then figure out what plan covers what doctor. GREAT IDEA! is what I thought, maniacally. 

3. I now have to track down The New Neurologist (no small feat when these neurologists are overwhelmed with patients and are part of vast university systems) or her nurse to get her to write a letter of medical necessity stating that the hormones she prescribed for Sophie are not for birth control, technically (this despite the probably mile-high folder on my daughter that the insurance company possesses). I can't imagine how frustrating this must be for doctors...not to mention the cost, the cost, the cost of the inefficiencies. The only way I feel better about this is when I resort to utter, scathing sarcasm and with dripping condescension tell the poor soul on the phone that my daughter, who has seizures all day everyday and also has her period is NOT SEXUALLY ACTIVE that it's not something I'm particularly worried about right now which leads me to the inevitable

4. I lost my temper with the poor little Bartleby with the Indian accent on the phone who works for Anthem Blue Cross. I didn't use any curse words, except for bullshit, I think, but I did tell him that he works for an unethical industry and I didn't know how he could sleep at night. I was loudly weeping at that point, in full drama mode, and I spilled out that my daughter right that moment was suffering from hormonal issues and perhaps this medicine would help her and the fact that Anthem just raised her premium by double but wouldn't take a prescription from an eminent neurologist from one of the biggest epilepsy centers in the country without her having to do a song and dance to get through the insurance company's group medical review board and I took a few heaving breaths but I was dead serious, albeit emotional. I can't even imagine what the poor guy felt. This is what he said, though:

I understand your frustration, Miss Elizabeth. 

So I'm not even sure they have real people working at Anthem, anyway, and I'm probably just another asshole who thinks such tirades are going to not just change our abysmal situation but the system itself. It's weird how all my meditation and trying to be zen-like goes flying out the window and I realize simultaneously as it's happening that this is a test, sort of, and either I'm passing with flying colors or I'm being beaten to a humble pulp.

I feel better, now. I've put off til tomorrow what I can't do tonight. And that is call The New Neurologist's office, tell the answering machine that I really need some help. Then I'm going to take care of Sophie and ensure that she doesn't get into any trouble.

The Mom Egg

I'm the Guest Blogger over at The Mom Egg. If you feel like it, click here and leave a comment! For reasons I don't know, the link appears as broken for some. If that happens and you're just dying to go over to, actually, a really wonderful literary website, here's the actual address: You can then click on the upper right hand corner where it says blog.


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