Friday, September 30, 2011

Because I can

Home made Dulce de Leche Cake with Canned Whipped Cream
for Breakfast

Meg McGrath (Jessica Lange): Why'd you do it, Babe? Why'd you put your head in the oven?

Babe (Sissy Spacek): I don't know. I'm having a bad day...

-- from the movie Crimes of the Heart (1986)

Wit and Wisdom Giveaway Winner Announced

Drumroll, please.

And the winners of a copy of  Wit and Wisdom From the Parents of Special Needs Kids are:

Secret Pepper Person


Congratulations to you both! Please send your snail mail address to elsophie AT gmail DOT com.

For those of you who didn't win, don't despair. You can order your very own copy here.

What Republicans used to sound like

**It's your last chance to enter to win a $100 gift-card to Dick's Sporting Goods. The winner will be selected today after 5:00 PM.

More here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Car Talk

I've always thought if I were a child psychologist, I'd conduct my sessions in a minivan or other vehicle. My boys have always opened up to me during our incessant car rides around town, and I'm not sure whether it's the comfort of the ride or the fact that no eye contact is made (other than my surreptitious looking into the rear-view mirror to check out their expressions), but they often divulge their darkest thoughts and ask their deepest questions when I'm ferrying them out and about. Yesterday, Oliver and I listened to NPR on our way to watch Henry play flag football on the other side of town after school and were mesmerized by a story about a woman who was recently caught and arrested in Saudi Arabia for driving without a license. Because of strict Muslim law, this woman was convicted and given the punishment of ten lashes. And not with a wet noodle.

What's a lash? Oliver asked.

A whipping, I replied. Oliver gasped.

Then the conversation veered off into women and the Muslim religion, the United States' relationship to Saudi Arabia and oil and all that stuff in terms that I believed a 10 year old could understand.

That's why I don't like religion, Mom, Oliver said. It causes a lot of problems.

A few minutes later, Oliver piped up that he had been selling popcorn for the Cub Scouts in our neighborhood, and one of his friend's mothers (and my friend), who happens to be gay and is married to another woman, told him that she didn't like the Cub Scouts organization because it discriminated against gays.

My heart sunk. This is an issue that I've long struggled with -- as long as Oliver has been in and relished everything having to do with Cub Scouts. It's sort of paralyzed me, to tell you the truth. I love Oliver's Cub Scout troop and experience -- he's been doing it for nearly four years and thrives there, and I've turned a blind eye to the obvious: the Boy Scouts of America have a long history of discrimination against people of color (now overturned) and homosexuality. I told Oliver these things and confessed that I'd struggled with them over the years.

Why didn't you tell me that, Mom? he asked. Oliver has several friends who have two mothers or two fathers. He's shared the podium with them at our school on No Name-Calling Week when he passionately stood in front of the entire student body and educated them about the use of the word retard.

Does it make you not want to be a Cub Scout? I asked.

Sort of, Oliver said. We were quiet for a bit, and I gathered my thoughts and took my opinions and stuffed them into a tiny compartment and told him that I thought we could work within an organization to educate people about what we knew was the right thing. I told him that I hoped our Cub Scout troop was enormously tolerant, and I told him that our pack leader, an African American, had shared his own story of discrimination back in the day when he had joined the scouts in La Jolla, California. I told him a little about Don't Ask Don't Tell being overturned last week, how long it had taken this country to do that but that I believed whenever people are oppressed, whenever their rights are trampled upon -- whether they are women or people of color (other than white) or homosexual -- they eventually fight and push and right the wrong. I told him that we had to support these things and we should think about how we could support them.

We didn't say much after that, just sat there in the car, thinking.

Try to Praise the Mutilated World

Try to praise the mutilated world. 
Remember June's long days, 
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew. 
The nettles that methodically overgrow 
the abandoned homesteads of exiles. 
You must praise the mutilated world. 
You watched the stylish yachts and ships; 
one of them had a long trip ahead of it, 
while salty oblivion awaited others. 
You've seen the refugees heading nowhere, 
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully. 
You should praise the mutilated world. 
Remember the moments when we were together 
in a white room and the curtain fluttered. 
Return in thought to the concert where music flared. 
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn 
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars. 
Praise the mutilated world 
and the grey feather a thrush lost, 
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes 
and returns.

-- Adam Zagajewski 

(thank you, lizisilver, for reminding me of this magnificent poem)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Turning my curmudgeonly ways

photo via

I've written about being a reluctant sports mom despite having two boys who are jocks and I've titled an episode in my life as "Our Lives Are Shit" in an essay in a new book. But there's benefits to both!

Read about Gatorade, me as a sports mom and your chance to win a $100 gift card from Dick's Sporting Goods HERE.

Leave a wise and witty comment HERE and get a chance to win a copy of Wit and Wisdom, the new anthology. I have an essay in it!

King Solomon writing Ecclesiastes

I read, with gratitude, all the comments on my post from last night, my falling apart post that barely skims the surface and I wanted you to know that I will be all right and that down deep, where it counts, is my belief that nothing stays the same and everything changes and there is nothing new under the sun. These three things floated through my mind this morning as I drove Sophie to school and listened to her humming and moaning and wondered as always whether she was happy or uncomfortable whether her stomach was hurting from the drug whether she had a headache or a presentiment of a seizure but wondering is the best I can do and it has to be enough. Those three things, that nothing stays the same and everything changes and there is nothing new under the sun floated by my mind's eye like fish, silent and swift and sure despite the murk, knowing that where there is light there is food. I saw Dr. Jin yesterday for the first time in months, the needles hurt like the dickens which I imagine is good and then she gave me two little bottles of pills and a bag of fresh figs from her garden and sent me on my way, dazed. These three things rounded their way through the other muck, insistent and sure that there will always be Young College Republicans having racist bake sales and always be those who push their morality upon one, and there will always be mornings of fog that brighten and shatter like glass into sunshine. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's been more than three years since I started this blog, and I've written 1,533 posts. This might very possibly be the first time that I have literally nothing to say.

Well, maybe something.

When my son Oliver was nearing the age of two, he was outrageously awful -- and funny. His favorite expression at the time was

I hate everything and everybody.

I'm feeling a bit like that these days.




I'm so glad I'm not them.

What I'm Reading

the way upward and the way downward is one and the same

Heraclitus - Michelangelo

School 'Reform': A Failing Grade by Diane Ravitch, The New York Review of Books:

...In these two books, we have two versions of school reform. One is devised by Wall Street financiers and politicians who believe in rigidly defined numerical goals and return on investment; they blame lazy teachers, and self-interested unions when test scores are low. The other draws on the deep experience of a compassionate teacher who finds fault not with teachers, unions or students, but with a society that refuses to take responsibility for the conditions in which its children live and learn -- and who has demonstrated through her own efforts how one dedicated teacher has improved the education of poor young people.

from the 49th issue of the literary journal Tin House, the issue titled The Ecstatic, a feature by Elissa Schappell called How the Light Gets In -- a mind-blowing accounting of the author's experience of temporal lobe epilepsy:

...However, this is how I reconcile my belief in science with my belief in the divine. You can say it was a seizure that sparked my ecstatic experience, the same way it brings on an aura. I will argue that because of the epilepsy I was open, the scar in my brain the crack that let the light in.

T.S. Eliot's (prompted by a recent New Yorker article about him) Burnt Norton in Four Quartets:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.

                                 But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

I am grateful for this reading, for my ability to read, for the ease with which I read and for the unending curiosity I have -- I am grateful for these graces bestowed upon me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Koan?

I do not indulge in anger.

The Ninth Zen Precept

He who cannot be angry when he should,
at whom he should, and how much he should
is a fool.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

I'd rather read this than that

from Maurice Sendak's  In the Night Kitchen


"I want to be alone and work until the day my heads hits the drawing table and I'm dead. Kaput," he says. "Everything is over. Everything that I called living is over. I'm very, very much alone. I don't believe in heaven or hell or any of those things. I feel very much like I want to be with my brother and sister again. They're nowhere. I know they're nowhere and they don't exist, but if nowhere means that's where they are, that's where I want to be."

--Maurice Sendak


The company known for its progressive politics is now giving money to the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Republican Governors Association, the GOP firm The David All Group, Crossroads Strategies, the Republican Attorneys General Association and the Republican State Leadership Committee, among others. On Thursday, Google and Fox News cosponsored a Republican presidential debate.

-- from Google Goes Red on Huffington Post

It's Banned Books Week. 

Read a banned book or give one to your child to read for the first time.

In fact, the news is so gruesome nearly every day that I'm headed for my proverbial hills to read poetry, perhaps a copy of Sendak's In the Night Kitchen, too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Teenage Bedrooms

Mine had green and white shag carpeting and two single beds, canopied, with green and white polka-dotted bedspreads. I hid racy books under the mattress that I found lying in my parents' room or den: copies of Jaws by Peter Benchley, books by Harold Robbins and Looking for Mr. Goodbar. I had a record player/stereo with a smoky plastic cover that sat on a low chest in the bay window (one of the perks of being the oldest of three daughters was getting the room with the bay), and I'd lie on the rug and play music for hours, The Carpenters and John Denver, the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas -- later the Beatles and Van Morrison and Boston and Fleetwood Mac. I'd lie on my back with those huge squishy black headphones on.

Oh, the seventies.

I was powerfully awkward, a bookworm behind glasses, sweet and smoldering all at once. The photo above is around sixth grade, so I was on the edge of being a teenager, still confident, for the most part.  I think that's a Holly Hobbie necklace, and I must have taken off my aviator framed glasses for the picture and endured the giant blur.

On one wall was a giant cork bulletin board, filled with photos and awards, swimming ribbons and magazine covers from Teen and Seventeen. On the back of my door was a life-size poster of Clark Gable. Weird, right?I think it had something to do with living in Atlanta and being enamored of Gone with the Wind for a time. I had my own bathroom then which was also carpeted in shag. I had a bookshelf in the bathroom, and on top of that resided my owl collection. Over the bookshelf and all those owls, I hung a circular hook rug that I'd hooked myself -- a large owl. It was green and orange and spectacularly ugly. I wish I still had it -- I could probably find something similar, though, in Anthropology. On the bathroom sink lay an array of big, fat Bonne Bell Lipsmackers, a Clairol hot roller set, my rouge (that's what we called it, then) and mascara, Love's Baby Soft and Jean Nate.

I was reminded of all of this when I stumbled upon this website:

What did your teenage bedroom look like?

Wit and Wisdom Giveaway!

The book is out! I got several copies in the mail yesterday, and I want to give away two! Please leave a comment that is either witty or wise or both. I know my readers, and I know that you are all capable of both -- and more.

Just so you know, my own essay is entitled Our Lives are Shit, except that due to the no-swear words rule, the word Shit is written with those funny symbols. It still works, I think,  and the rest of the essays are wonderful, too.

I'll pick a winner next Friday, so start leaving those comments!

Order a copy HERE.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Talents and Gifts

It is worthwhile making a distinction between talents and gifts. More important than our talents are our gifts. We have only a few talents, but we have many gifts. Our gifts are the many ways in which we express our humanity. They are part of who we are: Friendship, kindness, patience, joy, peace, forgiveness, gentleness, love, hope, trust, and many others. These are the true gifts we have to offer to each other.

Somehow I have known this for a long time, especially through my personal experience of the enormous healing power of these gifts. But since my coming to live in a community with mentally handicapped people, I have rediscovered this simple truth. Few, if any, of those people have talents they can boast of. Few are able to make contributions to our society that allow them to earn money, compete on the open market, or win awards. But how splendid are their gifts! Bill, who suffered intensely as a result of shattered family relationships, has a gift for friendship that I have seldom experienced. Even when I grow impatient or distracted by other people, he remains always faithful and continues to support me in all I do. Linda, who has a speech handicap, has a unique gift for welcoming people. Many who have stayed in our community remember Linda as the one who made them feel at home. Adam, who is unable to speak, walk, or eat without help and who needs constant support, has the great gift of bringing peace to those who care for him and live with him. The longer I live in L'Arche, the more I recognize the true gifts that in us, seemingly non-handicapped people, often remain buried beneath our talents. The so-visible brokenness of our handicapped people has, in some mysterious way, allowed them to offer their gifts freely and without inhibition.

More surely than ever before, I know now that we are called to give our very lives to one another and that, in so doing, we become a true community of love.

Henri Nouwen

Thank you,  Carolyn, for reminding me of this beautiful writer.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How We Do It - Part III in an ongoing series

Sophie, with beads, 1997

Sophie, with beads, 2011

We indulge Sophie with beads, something she's loved her entire life. We don't look on it as fostering "stimming" but rather as indulging her with something that she loves.

Because that's how we do it.

This is what I told my children

when they glanced at the front of the paper this morning and asked, what happened here? And I told them that that man was executed in Georgia, the state in which I grew up, the state where their grandparents live and that many people, including the man himself, believed he was innocent and had been tried unjustly.

I told them that the Supreme Court decided that he should be killed, despite these claims of his innocence.

I told them that the state of Georgia killed him with lethal injection, a poison that is put in his veins, late at night. I told them that a person killed him, actually put the poison in the needle that went into his veins and killed him. I told them that was the job of that person, to kill him. I told them that while many people were upset over this, many people were glad.

I told them that the death penalty is something that our country, America, should be ashamed of having and that killing a person, no matter what they have done is wrong.

I told them that most countries in the world have thought long and hard about this issue because it's difficult to know what to do about people who break the law and do terrible things, but most countries have decided that it's wrong to kill in return and have gotten rid of the death penalty. I told that there are still millions of people in our country that believe the death penalty is justice, that torture is right and necessary, and I told them that killing and torturing our enemies is absolutely, unequivocally wrong.

I told them that I do not respect those people who believe otherwise about these particular things.

I told them that despite being ashamed that our country institutionalizes killing, I believe that eventually we will abolish the death penalty because it is the right thing and the right thing happens, eventually.

And then I sent them off to school.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Universe is abundant.

One and 1/2 hours -- all is well.
Individualized Easy Peasy

When you read this,

I might very well be in the second or even third hour of Sophie's IEP, or Individualized Education Plan. In lieu of feeling the usual butterflies and nausea (this seems to be a theme this week) because this is our 13th annual IEP, I have decided to rename the acronym to what it might better signify. That way, those of you who think of the IEP as one of the wonders of the education movement -- how do those kids get educated? you might think -- and those of you who, like me, have participated in this oft-hellish few hours of a day might be amused.

Because I'm telling you, the old sense of humor, bitter and dark, is what sustains me, at least, 90% of the time with 100% consistency. (That, too, is a joke that only the insiders will understand. Please let me know if you do.)

The IEP, or Individualized Ecmnesia Plan (the definition of ecmnesia is loss of memory of the events of a specific period)

Amnesia by Dominic Piperata


The IEP, the Individualized Ecorche Plan (the definition of ecorche is a human figure portrayed stripped of the skin)


The IEP, the Individualized Emberlucock Plan (the definition of emberlucock is to confuse, to bewilder)

is an ass-kicker in every way, no matter how many years I've been doing it.

We must remember this:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I've got two bits of news -- good news -- that I'll share with you here. I'm holding on to my IEP posts and will update you later this week when I've gotten through both of them. One down and one to go!

Completely unrelated is my Top 25 SoCal Mom Bloggers award -- I landed up placing twelfth, which wasn't too shabby and thank you for diligently voting for me each day in what might have been a silly contest but when you do what I do each day, well -- I'll take any kind of award! A brief interview and several of my favorite blog posts have been posted here, if you'd like to take a look.

My second random announcement is a new book in which my writing is published! The anthology Wit and Wisdom from the Parents of Special Needs Kids was organized and edited by the hilarious Lynn Hudoba. She worked on the book with the equally hilarious Big Daddy of Big Daddy Autism. Lynn's blog My Life as an Ungrateful, Unhinged, and Unwilling Draftee into the Autism Army is as funny as it sounds, and I am proud to be included in the new anthology. I will have a giveaway for a copy of the book as soon as I get it, but in the meantime, show us some blogger love and check it out HERE.

You can also order the book by clicking the button below or on my sidebar! And we encourage you to write a review of the book on Amazon!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Whatevers

I wrote a post last night that was supposed to go up this morning, but I woke up with a start and realized that it might be a teensy-tinesy bit offensive, so in a sleepy daze I opened my computer and cancelled it. Here's an excerpt of an article titled Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus by Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California.

The results from a recent poll published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life ( reveal what social scientists have known for a long time: White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus. It is perhaps one of the strangest, most dumb-founding ironies in contemporary American culture. Evangelical Christians, who most fiercely proclaim to have a personal relationship with Christ, who most confidently declare their belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, who go to church on a regular basis, pray daily, listen to Christian music, and place God and His Only Begotten Son at the center of their lives, are simultaneously the very people most likely to reject his teachings and despise his radical message.

You can read this article and get an idea on what my post might have been about. Think family and differences in opinion. Think about discussing religion and politics to someone on the opposite side of the spectrum who is also your relative.


I did find this beautiful painting that I posted at the top, because Jacob wrestling with the angel is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I've written about it here.

Vision After the Sermon: Jakob Wrestling with the Angel
Paul Gauguin 1888

In other news, I'm still collecting comments for a chance to win a $100 gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods. Don't you want to read or re-read about my efforts to be a good sports mom to my boys? Go HERE.

In yet more news, I have not ONE but TWO IEPs this week. My youngest son has some reading difficulties, and his IEP is actually a piece of cake, but I anticipate some fireworks at Sophie's. Not to mention the yearly bout of butterflies, depression and despair that the IEP generally brings, no matter how many times one has done it.

La Nausee. (that's French for nausea with an accent aigu). I read Sartre's book of the same title while studying French in college. I lay in a tire swing on the front porch of the house I lived in which we had christened The Shanty and parsed out the novel's spare French angst. Here's a picture of my copy which I still have:

Creepy, right? There appear to be dead trees and plants still growing out of the guy's head. I think that's symbolic, and perhaps I had a presentiment twenty-five years ago of my future with the Los Angeles Unified School District. I hated Sartre just about as much as I hate IEPs, even though I did love lying on that paint chippee porch with my best girl friends.

On the plus side, I'm grateful that the Individualized Education Plan actually exists and that my children's needs are accommodated, however haphazardly. When I dropped Sophie off at school this morning, I realized that I actually love her aide. I realized that I needed to write an entire post about Renita. I'm going to do that one of these days.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pie and Where the Regular Folk are in LA

Tonight are the Emmy Awards, and when you live in this town you always know people who are either going or might even be nominated for one. I do have friends who are going, but the rest of us, the normal people, go to the Pie Contest at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. We wait on line in the blazing sunshine and walk slowly by the tables laden with every sort of pie you could imagine. One special category was the Tim Burton Pie, in keeping with the Tim Burton exhibit currently running at the museum. Here is my favorite one in that category:

James and the Giant Peach Peach Pie
As we strolled down that table of pies, Sophie kept reaching her arm out toward them, trying to grab one. I love that she was so engaged.

"Overcoming Disability" and Other Brilliant Thoughts

So...bionic legs are okay to dump obscene amounts of research money into, but creating good quality, affordable wheelchairs is not.

My dear friend Claire at life with a severely disabled child has written a provocative post on disability in response to a statement she read in a larger article about the terrible airplane show accident in Nevada this weekend.  My mind was once again opened and challenged when I read this piece -- I urge you to do so, also.

Read it here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Larchmont Larder

Otherwise known as The Mistress, my husband's business is called The Larchmont Larder. I've started taking a bigger role there and have been working on the website the past couple of weeks along with a most creative web designer. I hope you'll visit the site but most importantly, check out the food blog that I've begun. I plan on posting exciting food news, recipes, photos and other quirky and eclectic stuff.

I hope you'll visit, read and comment. And if you live in Los Angeles, please come in and treat yourself!

Visit us HERE.

Saturday Keyword Analysis

Every now and then it's fun to see what keywords people use to land on my blog. The page that always gets the most hits is titled "Big Guns." I have a vintage photo of a man holding an enormous gun at the top of the post, (see above) but the post itself is about starting Sophie on a new seizure medication. The folks searching for Big Guns are nearly all American. Either they're weirdos, like me, or they're weirdo gun-lovers.

Today, my favorite keywords were:

depressed lady laying in a bed looking at wallpaper

The tone of the blog, of late, is pretty


so down that I appear to be attracting people looking for supine women -- Kate Chopin style. Wasn't there a short story about a woman going slowly mad in a room looking at her wallpaper?

Anyhoo, as some people say.

Saturday has dawned gray and sort of chilly, but that's not getting me down. I'm going for a walk with the dog and anyone else who wants to come along. I have a party to go to tonight with all my closest friends. I have you, Reader, and all your sweet words of concern, jokes and wise advice. 

Thank you for that.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Low Rider

I was talking to Ms. Moon this morning via the internets about how low I've been feeling and such is the inspiration that I feel from Ms. Moon that my mind made a quick metaphor and I realized that I feel like one of those low-rider cars that Los Angeles had back in the day.

I'm so low, I'm like one of those low rider cars driving around, looking for a fight.

Tolstoy at the bookstore

Tolstoy and his wife, Sofya

I had stormed out of the house, the other night, miffed and annoyed and needing a break. And damn if I didn't jump in the car, the decidedly unsexy, unfreedom-like car, without my cellphone because who cares if they get nervous and wonder where I've gone and whether I'll be all right and I certainly couldn't go back inside and get the phone, I'd lose my face so I drove and drove some more. I grabbed a copy of The Best American Essays, edited by Christopher Hitchens in the Barnes and Noble and took the escalators (why so much glamour in a bookstore?) up twice to the coffee cafe and there I ordered an iced tea and a dried up scone in a paper bag and sat down to read and continue saving my face. I read the first essay The Murder of Leo Tolstoy and quickly lost my way in it, laughing aloud, wondering who the writer Elif Batuman was and then remembering that I'd downloaded her book onto my Kindle months, if not years ago. My God, it was good, I thought and I was happy to be away, reading something weird and wonderful and when I got to the last page I looked up and saw a man come shuffling into the cafe, not a homeless sort of man but an old man, nonetheless, and it seemed so strange that late at night to see such an old man in a bookstore cafe wearing a tan Mr. Rogers cardigan with a dress shirt and pressed navy slacks (not pants, but slacks) and belt and white, sensible sneakers with thick soles and a balding head, a few strands of white hair falling over large half/aviator, half/square glasses, carrying 2 white plastic bags stuffed with something, I didn't know and a copy of Merriam Webster's Dictionary and a Glamour magazine. Had I conjured him? He ordered and paid for a coffee while I continued to read about Tolstoy's wife and their thirteen children and whether she had indeed killed him, she couldn't take it anymore, I suppose, and those crazy, crazy Tolstoyans who lived around their master, creating a cult and taking everything he wrote away from her but then he wrote Anna Karenina, a desperately dramatic novel about another crazy woman who so wanted to save face that she jumped in front of a train, and who doesn't love some Anna Karenina? and then the old man did nothing strange so I grew bored with him and finished my tea and left my place, scone crumbs on the small, round table and went home.

Friday Poetry

Almost Happy

The goldfish is dead this morning on the bottom
of her world. The autumn sky is white,
the trees are coming apart in the cold rain.
Loneliness gets closer and closer.
He drinks hot tea and sings off-key:
This train ain't a going-home train, this train.
This is not a going-home train, this train.
This train ain't a going-home train, 'cause
my home's on a gone-away train. That train.

Jack Gilbert
from The Great Fires

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ironic Sign of the Day

These letters were on the wall of the Neurology Clinic where Sophie and I spent much of the late afternoon. While the letters were actually an acronym for an organization touting its donations toward research and cures, such is my jaded view of the dark world of neurology that I believe any conquests made have been more in line with Monty Python's Grail than Arthur's.

It's time for another installment of:

This morning I glanced at the headlines of the Los Angeles Times newspaper and read that the poverty level in the United States has reached historic levels and is higher than it's ever been in more than fifty years. It's becoming quite the cliche to talk about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and the middle class disappearing. The blame seems to lie on the shrinking availability of jobs.

Wow. But what do I know?

Last week I read about a woman who I went to college with who also happens to be a very powerful and very wealthy businesswoman on Wall Street. During those halcyon student days, this young woman and l  lived in the same house; I even typed some of her papers for her (just so you know, I was a typist extraordinaire, typing more than 125 words per minute on my Smith Corona Electric for $1 a page). I'm not going to tell you her name, but I read in the big news last week that she had just left -- or was "let go" from -- a company that Bank of America had recently acquired and that it's possible her lawyers will negotiate a $5 to $10 million dollar severance package for her. 

I also read in the paper this week that the same bank that is negotiating with the woman who I used to type papers for is also laying off up to 40,000 people. 

But what do I know? I made $1.00 a page in 1985, and I remember they were really good papers.

I smell bullshit. Just sayin'.

Times have changed

Soviet Student, 1958

My middle school son brought home a stack of papers to sign last night, one of which was titled Cell Phone, Electronic Device, and Network Policy:

Personal electronic devices may only be used for academic purposes under the supervision of the classroom teacher. These devices include, but are not limited to laptops, tablets, video recorders, iPods, mp3 players, digital cameras and gaming devices.

What cracks me up is the phrase not limited to.

Because for all we know, these kids are going to be asking for chips in their brains one of these days.

I know I date myself when I remember yoyos and Wacky Packs being banned from school because things were getting out of hand.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Day One: Doing Homework with a Fifth Grade Boy

September Post Redux

In lieu of pulling it up from the depths, I'm re-posting two of my favorite posts from last year or the year before or perhaps even the year before that. I think I'll have to post them annually, as long as September comes around and the yellow flowers on the tree whose name I can never remember keep blooming and falling and carpeting our grass and house and hair and car.

On Monday, before I left Los Angeles, I sat outside our house in the hammock that the boys have dragged to the front yard from the back. When they first did it, I told my friends that before you know it, I'd be pulling the couch outside and maybe even an old fridge such was the state of the front yard and a new lowering of my standards. But that's a digression because I was sitting on the hammock with Sophie at my feet, where she loves to sit cross-legged, pushing her slender hands into the grass and dirt. We were under the same tree, whose name I still don't know, the tree that turns bright green and drops tiny yellow flowers all over our front yard every September.

I realized that I'd written a post last year at almost the exact same time about this tree. There's something about fall, even in Los Angeles, where the seasons are so less delineated and where you have to pay attention to notice them at all, that makes one happy and melancholy at once. The sameness of it, year after year. September makes me realize that while things change, they are also the same. The seasons come and then they go. And then they come again. And that made me think of Sophie, in particular. Because I can watch the boys grow up and outward. It's evident not only in the shoes that they outgrow or the almost imperceptible growth in their height, the one morning when I look at both of them and think surely they must have each grown an inch overnight. Or the subtle changes in their faces and in the expressions in their eyes. Really, typical children are constantly in the process of change, changing from baby to boy to young man to adult. And this is good.

For Sophie, though, much is the same and sometimes everything is the same. There is a sort of stillness to her that defies description, something ineffable. I suppose that that could make me sad if I really thought about it , but I won't and it doesn't. And as I sit with her today, September 14th, 2009, I realize that despite the horrific year we endured, Sophie is in some essential sense the same. Like the yellow tree, she'll green out and drop her flowers. She'll shrivel and brown and be still and bare and dormant. And then before I know it the velvety shoots will appear and it'll all begin again. And while this can be exhausting, this sameness, it can also be exhilaratingly beautiful.

And the other post:
My friends and family ask me, "How is Sophie doing these days?" And I usually say, "She's all right. She has her ups and downs." I don't bother to tell them that she's mostly down right now because it's actually gotten to be routine. The down stuff. If I tell them, I'd also have to explain things and maybe help them to feel better.

Instead, I look at the moon, a huge, pale and glowing disk in the sky these last couple of nights and think it's really so close. It is what it is.

It is what it is.

There's a blanket of tiny yellow flowers lying on our front lawn. I can never remember the name of the tree that is shedding these tiny flowers, but we can't remember another fall where they were quite so profuse. We all trail them in the house and they're stuck in Sophie's carpet. I pick them out of my hair and sweep them from the bathroom rug. In the morning, when we drive off to school, they fly off the windshield and past the back windows, making the boys shout with excitement. "Yellow snow!" they exclaim.

When Sophie came home today, we sat on the grass for a few minutes and even lay back under the tree. The yellow flowers kept drifting down and around, on top of us. We got up and went for a walk around the block, and when we got back to the house, Sophie was very tired. I put some music on in her room, a CD of songs that they play in my kundalini yoga class, and Sophie lay down on her bed. I was going to leave her and go do some busy work, but instead I lay down next to her and held her hand. My palm was against hers, dry and warm and we both looked out the window at the palm trees swaying in the back yard. Snatam Kaur sang in her ethereal voice and I slowed my breathing, waiting for Sophie's own.

I wondered whether meditation could fill up the room, whether my mindful breathing could affect hers. I wondered whether she sensed my presence and whether our consciousness was linked in a way that was wordless. I thought of the green tree and the yellow flowers and the blanket over the green grass. It was all good.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Autumn in Los Angeles

doesn't really happen for a few months. Instead, we battle wildfires and the air-conditioner sometimes goes on for the first or second time. Autumn is really the only season that I really miss living out here, but I can watch this and listen:


It was a day of chocolate on Saturday -- chocolate batter, chocolate frosting, dark chocolate, 70% cacao, milk chocolate and cocoa. I felt slightly ill at the end of it but I'm feeling more and more confident that chocolate is my signature.

If you would like to order a chocolate cake, email me at elsophie AT gmail DOT com.


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