A favorite recipe

Here’s a change of pace. Enough of the writing stuff for moment. Instead I’d like to share a recipe I made for a dinner party of twelve last night. The event was scheduled to take place in our house but since we’re still not living there since our water damage, our dear friends offered their beautiful home and their always gorgeous table settings and flower arrangements. That left my husband and I, who were still considered the hosts, to organize the dinner. As hosts we were responsible for the main course, side dish, wines, and other libations. I was also responsible to give cooking assignments to the other couples who brought delicious appetizers, salad, and dessert. However, cooking my dishes in two strange kitchens was a challenge. I did some prep work in our temporary home’s kitchen, which lacked some essential equipment – measuring spoons and cups and a citrus squeezer. While I was out shopping for the needed ingredients for my recipes I bought those items too, knowing full … [Read more...]

What! An alcohol fast in September…

Whether it is scotch, chardonnay, even coconut liqueur, or my favorite red zinfandel, I’m going off all of it in September. About 30 years ago after too many celebrations in December leading up to the new year, my husband and I decided to take an alcohol fast in January. And believe me that wasn’t easy. We had both been used to a glass or two or wine every evening, so not reaching our for that fine crystal stem and pouring in a beautiful red liquid alcoholic substance into its bowl took a conscious effort. But after a few days we both liked the results – more clear headedness, less sleepiness during the day, better sleep at night, a nice cleansing feeling inside, and of course a great feeling of accomplishment when the month was over. After a few years of fasting in January I decided on a two times a year fast – every January and July, which often led me to ask myself if I would let go of alcohol all together. Though I never took that big step, I’ve kept up the alcohols fasts e … [Read more...]

More about our water damage

Part Two As planned, the water mitigation folks from Servpro arrived early Monday morning, June 25, with water testing devices in hand, which they scanned over all walls and floors to determine the extent of the damage. As they found damage, they marked the areas with dark blue masking tape. By the end of the day I saw dark blue masking tape in the kitchen, the hall backing up to the kitchen, parts of the dining room, and essentially the whole first floor, including Bob’s office, the laundry room, the bathroom, and my office. The only room not affected downstairs was the guest bedroom down at the end of the hall. That meant they would need to pack out all our stuff from our kitchen cabinets, the china closet that stood in the upstairs hall, and everything from the laundry, bathroom, and our two office closets downstairs - including removing our closet built-in cabinets and shelves. The next step was taking the affected walls and ceilings down to the studs and pulling up the r … [Read more...]

We had huge water damage at our house

Part One On June 22 2018, while my husband and I were out-of-town, I got word from our son Ben that there had been a “minor emergency” in our house. He had just heard from our cleaning lady, Elma, that water was pouring out of our bathroom ceiling like rainfall. In her words, it was a “total disaster.” I immediately called our go-to home contractor, and since this was a Friday afternoon, none of the staff was available. I was referred to a plumber who had worked at our house before. He too was out-of-town and unavailable. But he suggested I get the water turned off as soon as possible. My next thought was to contact our next-door neighbor, Ron (we call him Ron Next Door). Since his house has the same floor plan. I thought he’d know where to turn off the water at our house. Sure enough he did. Also, he could see from his yard that part of our outside wall was already wet from the leak. Thankfully, about an hour later Ron called me back. He was able to get his plumber to come … [Read more...]

A travel story in poems

Here is the travel story I submitted to the Facebook group, We Love Memoirs' travel story contest. Alas, it didn't win, but I thought I'd share it here anyway. ​It was fun to put together. Also, our African safari in the fall of 2013 was amazing. As usual when I travel, my goal is to write a poem a day. A Travel Story in Poems    Preparing to Go Even while I am on the elliptical reading my New Yorker I wonder: should I add more shirts? should I pick out some silver jewelry? do I need a pair of high heels? While my Pilates trainer says my form is excellent, I visualize the piles of shirts, pants, undies, jackets on the sofa, shoes scattered on the floor, and stuff bought especially for this Kenya and Tanzania trip: insect repellent, bite itch eraser, and a new camera with built in telescopic lens. Even while I do my last stretches I know I have more to do: put my toiletries in travel containers, get out my contact lens solutions, lay out my travel cl … [Read more...]

Writing through chaos

I've been writing small stones again. As the group admin says: Write just your thoughts and ideas and have fun. Post small poems and thoughts; please share and enjoy each others talents. Everyone is individual and that makes this page brilliant. I took a long break from this writing, but started back at it last month when the group page was called Mayday Mayflower. This month we're June Jubilation. Here's a few small stone thoughts from May: I’m almost finished with Revision Ten of my novel. And when I’m finished I will declare victory. Ten revisions are really quite enough. I’m sad about the death of Tom Wolfe. He was a brilliant journalist and author. Anybody not read The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities? I’m in the edit poem mode, getting ready to submit. They say if we haven’t gotten 100 rejections in a year, we haven’t submitted enough. LOL  [note: I'm still not submitting enough!] I forgot to say the dinner I spent so much time on two days ago was a … [Read more...]

My hair woes

Strands of my hair accumulate on my bathroom counter, on the floor, on the window sill, in the sink, on my clothes, stuck on my toiletries bottles, and sometimes even in my toothbrush and in my mouth. But, it is most visible on my brush every time it touches my diminishing head of hair. Many years ago, while traveling in Europe I noticed my hair was shedding quite a bit. I went to the pharmacy in the town we were visiting, and the pharmacist recommended biotin. Biotin seemed to work then. It also helped grow and strengthen my finger nails. I’ve been taking that vitamin product ever since. Is stress the cause of hair shedding? Then about three years ago I noticed another bout of shedding hair. It looked like my brush had more hair on it after I dried it. I asked my dermatologist for advice, and her first question was: did I have a particularly stressful experience nine months before. My answer was a definite yes. She recommended women’s Rogaine 5% foam. She didn’t have much … [Read more...]

What else is happening in May?

This month is full of happenings, especially family ones. May 4 would have been my brother-in-law’s 79th birthday. Today would have been my dad’s 115th birthday though he only lived to be 72. They both died of cancer. Of course, next Sunday, May 13, is Mother’s Day, though I also commemorated Bereaved Mother’s Day yesterday, in memory of our son Paul who left us almost 19 years ago. And after that is my birthday on May 20, and Bob and my 48th anniversary on May 28. … [Read more...]

Can grief be contagious?

I met Martha Clark Scala at one of the first Esalen Institute workshops I took after our son died by suicide. And it was in that workshop where I found my voice in poetry. "Aftermath," the simple poem I wrote resonated such with Martha, that she wrote the following piece about her brother's death. The poem and the article both appeared first in the Summer 2001 issue of "We Need Not Walk Alone," published by The Compassionate Friends, an organization that provides friendship, understanding, and hope to those going through the natural grieving process. Martha and I have been friends ever since. I’m Not Contagious By Martha Clark Scala​ In the two or three weeks immediately following my brother Nick’s death, I received numerous calls, cards, plants, flowers, and offers of help. My loss sat on the front burner of many wonderful people’s stoves for about 21 days. I was in their thoughts, prayers, and blessings. Unfortunately, many issues and events vie for front-burner status … [Read more...]

Writing in the Dominican Republic

I met Lindsay de Feliz, author of What About Your Saucepans? and Life After My Saucepans, through a wonderful Facebook group called We Love Memoirs, and it was instant admiration. Her story is gutsy, heroic, and so, so different from my own that I had to share it with you. When I asked her to be a Choices guest she immediately said yes, and within a few days she sent me a story about her writing life in the Dominican Republic. My Writing Life in the Dominican Republic – Every Cloud has a Silver Lining by Lindsay de Feliz I was not a writer when I arrived in the Dominican Republic in 2001; I was a scuba diving instructor. I used to write a long email once a month to around 100 friends and family and often they would say you should write a book, but I didn’t think about it until I was shot in 2006 and was no longer able to work in diving. I was shot at 10.30 at night, and I remembered the first 15 minutes but then had no recollection of anything for around 6 hours, although I am told I … [Read more...]

Equal Means Equal invites you!

Please join the movement to finally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Attend the screening of Equal Means Equal, a documentary by Kamala Lopez, next Monday night in El Segundo California and find out how you can get involved.  Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, says: The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal rights for all citizens regardless of sex; it seeks to end the legal distinctions between men and women in terms of divorce, property, employment, and other matters. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman. The amendment was introduced in Congress for the first time in 1921 and has prompted conversations about the meaning of equality for women and men. In the early history of the Equal Rights Amendment, middle-class women were largely supportive, while those speaking for the working class were often opposed, pointing out that employed women needed special protections regardin … [Read more...]

Missing Sherman

My beloved cousin Sherman died yesterday as a result of a massive stroke. The shock of it, the fact that he is no longer with us, and the sadness I feel are overwhelming. We grew up together in Chicago though he was five years older than I. That age difference didn't matter. He was always caring and loving toward me. One of my early memories of him was at his Bar Mitzvah party. My dad was the master of ceremonies and he asked me to read a poem about Sherman as part of the program. I wish I remembered the poem or had a copy of it. I'd like to read it now. Instead I'll share the loving words his daughter put up on Facebook yesterday. It says it all: I am beyond heartbroken to share that my beautiful dad passed away this morning in my arms and those of my mom. There are truly no words to describe how kind, positive, caring, smart and generous he was. He reached out to everyone around him and always had a beautiful twinkle in his eyes. He loved to learn and made more of a … [Read more...]

How journaling helped B. Lynn Goodwin decide to marry at age 62

B. Lynn Goodwin used her journals as the foundation of her memoir, Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62. Well, I have to say I did the same when I started my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I had pages and pages of journal entries that I meticulously copied from my handwritten notebooks to computer Word files, and my book was off and running. For me, writing in my journals helped me heal after losing my son too suicide. For B. Lynn Goodwin, journal writing helped her to decide whether to jump into a marriage with a two-time widower at age 62. We both agree that journaling is like having a secret friend that we can trust with anything in our minds and hearts. Here is B. Lynn Goodwin and her thoughts about the benefits of journaling for her. Need a Venting Partner? Try a Journal by B. Lynn Goodwin When I was dating Richard, I had crazy thoughts running through my head. What did I know about love or commitment or becoming a wife? I didn’t even tell my friends about him at fi … [Read more...]

A room of my own – revisited

This morning I talked to a man I recently met at my gym while we both worked out on the elliptical. That’s a new one for me. I usually plug in my ear buds, listen to music, read my New Yorker, and hardly say a word to anyone while I exercise. And he was very inquisitive – he asked about my back ground, my religion, my home town, my current home town, how long married, where I’ve traveled, and of course the dreaded question – number of children. That question always stops me in my tracks – even now, over 18 years since my son Paul left us. And I told him truthfully that Paul took his own life because he had bipolar disorder. As a result I resurrected a piece I wrote for the now defunct Red Room site in 2013 – about the room I’m in right now – my private writing space. Even my husband knows not to bother me in here when my door is closed. In rereading this piece today, I can honestly say, not a lot has changed. He’s still in my room with me. My Private Island - A Room of My Own … [Read more...]

Women’s March photos

A week ago we marched in downtown Los Angeles to get out the vote and to express our feelings about the first year of our forty-fifth president. I was greatly encouraged about seeing the many numbers of young people marching with us. Could that mean we'll have more voter turn-out from this group in our 2018 mid-term elections? That could mean a Democratic flip - so important in passing some important legislation and getting rid of the liar we have in the White House in 2020 - if not before. Here are a few photos from the day. … [Read more...]

The Los Angeles Women’s March

My writing life has gone by the wayside for a while. I was asked a couple of months ago to lead my local resistance group's, South Bay Cares, trip to the Los Angeles Women’s March on January 20, and I happily accepted. At first we thought this would be simple. This second Women’s March couldn’t possibly be as popular as the Women’s March was last January 21, the day after the presidential inauguration. And WOW!, were we wrong! Last year we filled two 50-seat buses. This year we filled five with almost twenty people on a waiting list, waiting to pounce if someone cancels. In the meantime, I’ve given the wait listers instructions for taking the metro in case they don’t manage to get on a bus. They will be able to meet up with the bus riders once we all get to downtown Los Angeles. What is South Bay Cares? South Bay Cares was founded by two women in the Los Angeles South Bay community after the election of Donald Trump. Their intent is to Educate, Empower, and Engage. It wa … [Read more...]

I saw a stunning art exhibit over the holidays

Over the holidays we visited the Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles to see Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors exhibit with our niece and nephew and their two children. (They missed the exhibit in their hometown, so enticed us to see it with them here.) The exhibit, consisting of six walk-in installations and adjoining paintings, collages, and sculptures, was the most fascinating I've ever experienced. We saw the installations in groups of two, three, or four people only and were allowed to stay in them for 30 seconds. Each made use of mirrors to create the repetition of her designs - lights, phallic symbols, polka dots and huge balloons - that she otherwise would have had to do by hand.  That made the work less time-consuming and less taxing on the 88-year old Kusama. She also used the mirrors as a way to include visitors in the experience. And sure enough we could see ourselves as we looked at what she had created with the mirrors. In between the installations we were … [Read more...]

Elliptical wars

Ever since I joined my gym in 1998 the elliptical trainer has been my choice for cardio exercise. In those days, there was a long row of these machines in the back of a room also lined with stair climbers and treadmills. They were plentiful enough so I usually didn’t have to wait in line to grab one, though then the club gave us a 30-minute exercise time limit if people were waiting. Fast forward nineteen years. Only two of those old, rusty, decrepit ellipticals are left; the others have been replaced by newer versions. However, there is a group of people like me who prefer working out on the old equipment, and a few of us prefer one over the other. I always prefer the one on the left because it goes faster. Here’s my competition: Two women who can’t wait. When they are ready to use the elliptical they come over and ask how long a time I have left. I hate that. I’m always in the middle of a The New Yorker article I’m reading and their question interrupts me. And if only … [Read more...]

Poetry lessons learned at Esalen, Big Sur, Part 2

As promised from my earlier post, here's Part 2 of the lessons I learned while attending Ellen Bass' Life of Poetry workshop at Esalen, in Big Sur, California, during the first week of December. Please click here to read Part 1. Long-armed poem: The third craft talk was about the "long-armed" poem, where we scoop a lot of disparate material into the poem, but all is related ultimately. To do this, Ellen suggests: Be as open as possible, allowing the world to intrude, allowing in things I don't know Start with disparate things Make a list of words, such as names of foods, books, movies, pieces of clothing. Or gather poems and take a word from each poem. Frank Gaspar, in his long-armed poems starts with a time and place and within that goes other places. But then he comes back to his starting point. Here's a long-armed poem I wrote a couple of years ago that was published In The Words of Womyn International 2016 Anthology. Stop and Go On the drive up the … [Read more...]

Poetry lessons learned at Esalen, Big Sur, Part 1

I just spent five days at The Life of Poetry workshop with Ellen Bass and Roxan McDonald at Esalen, in Big Sur California. The workshop structure is to hear a craft talk in the morning and then have about three hours of writing time, before we meet in the afternoons in smaller groups to share and discuss our new poems. Throughout the week I wrote four poems* in keeping with the four craft talks Ellen presented. I'll discuss the first two craft talks today, and continue on with the other two later in the week - so as not to bore you too much. Metaphor: Defined as similarity between things that are otherwise very different. Use of fresh vital images to jar us, to heighten the emotion and achieve intimacy. Through quality of the metaphors, the poet can grab the reader. Try to find metaphors in your junk drawer, your garage, your closet, your throw rug (look at the fibers in the rug rather than whole). Here is an example of a poem with great metaphors: My Father’s Tie Rack … [Read more...]