Saturday, April 19, 2014

"Be Well Cafe and Bakery" of Huntingdon Valley won our stomachs - Bruce "Yuan" Li returneth

 My Moroccan Chick Pea cold salad was delicious. Butternut squash chunks, along with sliced beets and a bit of spinach.

I just "liked" them on FB.
 Ellen got their SuperSalad which was also fab. Had kale in it.
 Ellen took two pix of me but I didn't see the flash go off.

 Pleasant surroundings. The guy was reading the NY Times. This space used to be Santiago's Coffee Shop, also a great place.
 Hi Ellie Bellie! She bot a slice of flourless chocolate cake for her and Mom.
 The owner Ryan took a pic of me next to the Bakery counter. As a PWD, I could not indulge.
 Clever terrariums made out of gum machines. Pop!
Be Well Bakery & Cafe on Huntingdon Pike in Huntingdon Valley, PA.

The last time I was at Santiago's was when New Directions had a program at the Huntingdon Valley Community Room.

We had many guest speakers including people from New Directions Delaware, including the late Miles Bart. 

Here's Miles' fascinating must-read obit from 2011

He was 82 and had a heart condition. He had told me about it when we met in the cafe. I was shocked. I just assume people will live forever.

Since we were in the neighborhood, we stopped at the Lord's New Church.

 Blue flowers: Please tell us your name.

Ellen thought they were grape hyacinths, which are below.

Read about the Muscari family here. They're quite different from our family.

When Dan was a small boy, he kept wanting to jump from this 12-foot high wall to the grass below. How that boy nagged me.

Finally I said yes.

"See Mom," he said, when he landed rocking on his ankles. "I didn't even fall over."

 The steep hill at the church that my kids would race down OR roll down.

When services let out from the beautiful door below, people see this topiary.
The Church is famous for its artistry. No two swirls above are alike.

It was so beautiful out today, I sat on my deck and read.
We owe it to tulips to stick our proboscis inside and sniff the beautiful aroma.
Never saw this stone table before.

I took this nice blurry close-up of a guy photographing a young woman.
Mom and I sat out on her back porch chatting. 

Bruce, the Chinese exchange student, is visiting for the weekend. His host family are spending Easter with relatives in Maryland.

We are so happy to be reunited!

 We visited Pennypack Trust and I showed him Tony's Tree. We met a nice man along the path named Paul Stall.
 Bruce is on Skype now with his parents.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thanks, Robin! Will wear the beads at my sister Donna's 65th

Today, Good Friday, the Giant Food Store was mobbed. They'll be closed all day Sunday.

All I needed were chopped onions n peppers for Sunday's Easter Pizza.

Went upstairs to say Hello to Robin Franklin, Community Coordinator. She gave me a stack of name tags, in addition to a gift.

Inside a blue box, the color of Tiffany boxes, she'd stashed a long necklace made out of New Yorker covers.

She'd made a bunch of these for a wedding and saved me one.

Robin and many of her family members have a long tradition, she said, of subscribing to the New Yorker.

She collects the covers and simply rolled them up to make paper beads, learning the technique from Etsy.

In the pic above is a b'ful vase I bought at a garage sale. Stuck inside are 'paper leaves' from thick pages I found in the New Yorker.

Happy 74th Russell !!! The Joy of Eating Half a Bananana - Poem for Russell

Russell Eisenman, PhD, remains one of my favorite people, even tho I haven't seen him in 26 years. We began seeing each other when I moved back home from San Francisco. His two kids - David and Susan - and my two kids - Sarah and Dan - had loads of fun together.

Who'd ever dream that Sarah, now 40, would have donated her kidney to her muddah!

Here's a Polaroid of the two of us at Village Green Apartments. Russell never saw my beautiful house, which the kids and I moved into around Thanksgiving, 1990.

Russell taught psychology at Temple University, but then moved out of the area in 1988.

He was immensely supportive in 1984 when I had my first manic-psychotic break.

I'm on Russell's email list and receive his often-humorous stories of his life in Edinburg, TX, where he teaches psychology at University of Texas-Pan American, which, in 2015, will merge with another school to become University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

After I became a woman with manic-depression - Bipolar One - in 1984 at age 38, Russell asked me to talk about it in one of his psychology classes at Temple, in North Philadelphia.

I probly took a train to his big house on Harrison Ave in Elkins Park, and then we took the train to Temple, as I did years ago when I graduated in psychology from the school.

Fairly shy back then, esp. after being traumatized by my illness, I stood up in front of the class and told what happened to me.

Russell said it was a great talk! The man is endlessly supportive.

Years ago, Russell had heart problems but refused to get surgery. Instead, he takes medication, and his cardiologist said he's doing better than any of the other patients who had surgery.  He now walks with a cane, he said, and I urged him to get on his stationery bike, stationing it in front of the TV.

He and I used to play tennis at Wall Park in Elkins Park. 

I called him at 11 pm - after Secrets of the Dead about the last of the Neanderthals (silent h) - 10 pm his time. I'm never on the phone this late and instinctively began to multitask, while listening carefully: checked my blood sugar and injected insulin, scanned some documents on my Canon printer, and did my back exercises in bed.

We discussed how we both get cold at night. His students bought him a warm and expensive blanket from Mexico - Pan Am University has mostly Hispanic students - and they refused to accept money for it. He also has an electric blanket. I told him I sleep in sox, and he said he does too.

I prefer pink.

Because of his frequent emails, which he sends to a dozen people, I keep up with him. Ram, his next-door neighbor, is 50, I ascertained.

Oh, he's young, I said.

To us, that's young, said Russell.

We laffed.

Russell teaches students who are about 22 yo. To them, he must seem as old as God. But he's very popular with the kids, esp with his great sense of humor.

He mentioned that any time he thinks about moving, he'd have to give up his neighbor Ram.

Two things, he said, about Ram. He does chores for Russell... mows the lawn, fixes things like leaky faucets, plus he's a great friend.

Sounds like my next door boyfriend/neighbor, Scott.

Scott in his warm gray sweater I bought him from Paris.

Russell and I talked about how we love living alone and sleeping alone.

I suppose it's what you're used to.

During the course of our conversation, Russell and I both used other people's names and spelled them afterward.

For example, at the end of our conversation I told him I'd mail him our new Compass, which Russell remembered as being "terrific." I went over his address with him and he said, You're one of the few people I don't have to spell the word "Pheasant" Drive for.

Very few people up here know enough, I said, to spell tricky names.

We talked about computer skills. I told him I was very impressed that in today's email he sent a photo within the email. Comme ca:

My pet tiger who guards the house.

I told him that when I left my job as a therapist at an agency I had absy no computer skills at all, othan sending emails. So I volunteered at two libraries where I picked up some computer skills.

Russell did something similar. He wanted to teach at another college, so he purposely interviewed at a school where he didn't want the job, but would practice his interview skills there.

Wearing a suit and tie and speaking in front of a number of people, he took off his jacket since it was unbearably hot.

Everyone looked at him as though he'd committed a crime. He learned you cannot do dat!

Told Russell I went shopping this evening and how difficult it is for me, as a person with diabetes, to bypass all this delicious food and doughnuts and fruit but still maintain my sobriety (sic).

However, on a Diet Plan my diabetes doc Rachmel Cherner gave me, it said OK to eat half a banana as a bedtime snack.

After we hung up I savored it

I told Russell I'd call him next year on his seventy-fifth birthday.

Just wrote a poem for Russell in the cinquain form I just learned at Lynn Levin's Poetry Workshop


Who knew

we’d never part?

Healer, teacher, lover

you never really left my side



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Just made SEVEN appointments to have Cataract Surgery - Poem: Herr Professor or My New Eyeglasses

What's this?

An iron with a Teflon-coated bottom surface. I posted it on FB b/c it was a parting gift when I worked in San Francisco at Cal/Ink.

My friend Da Na Singchai - then Da Na Brooks - asked me what gift I wanted and I chose this iron.

Just ironed a new pair of slacks to wear to a very important event next week.

Martha Hunter from my Writers' Group hemmed them for me.

Drove my friend Rosemary to her hairdresser yesterday. During the wait, I sat in the Fox-Chase Library and got lots of reading done. At one point, I slipped outside in their courtyard to check my sugar.

It was 84. Perfect. Nonetheless I ate half of my delicious Hi Protein Granola Bar.

Tired of sitting so long, I went into the stacks. How I love books!

Much to my joy, I found a Readers' Survey in the front of a book by Patricia Hightower.

Sure enough, someone had rated it. Believe it or not, I've always had this idea. I'll email the pic to Margie, our head librarian.

I remember when our family lived in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, and I went to the library and checked out
a record album by Richard Yardumian.

When I returned it, there was a young girl nearby.

"Great album," I said. She looked at me like I was nuts. Like you weren't supposed to be friendly in the library.

Come to find out that the Armenian, Richard Yardumian (1917-1985), was from the Philadelphia area and became a member of The Lord's New Church of Bryn Athyn, PA, five minutes from my home.

He became its concertmaster.

Listen to the Armenian Symphony here. 

For a few years, his niece was in our support group. Something was terribly wrong with her. Brain damaged, perhaps. We wondered why she stopped coming to the group and found out she had died.

She was 41 when she passed in 2006. Her death is listed in these public files. 

Bifocals are awfully clever.

But the damn things cost $200. I'll wear them only a month and then YOU can have them.

Gotta wear the eyeglasses a whole month. Then my eyesight will be tested. Surgery on Left Eye - where my vision is the worst - will be performed, then go back next day for eye-checks. Three weeks later, the Right.

From June until September I'll be in the hands of Sir Francis Clark. When I was at his office yesterday, my eyes dilated, I couldn't even see what he looked like.

Hi Ruth, I'm Doctor Frank Clark.
Hi Doctor Clark, I'm Doctor Ruth.


I hold them in my hand
my first pair of eyeglasses
since the eleventh grade,
contact lenses cured my

vision at eighteen, hard
plastic the size of a fingernail
curling like a pink petal
atop my Hungarian-hazel
eyes. My word for these wonders:
”My eyes.”

Fifty years later, a dark cloud -
ripening like a peach
on the back of my retina -
demands picking. Right now!

Who me? The lover of the
daffodil, the nuthatch, the
men on my street
and the one surviving backyard
maple, whose seasons I
measure my own by.

The rub: Before the operation
all contact wearers must switch
to eyeglasses. Vision is perfect
with my “eyes.” With eyeglasses?

I trembled as I placed the black
plastic rims in my hands and
studied them. Were I in fourth
grade, the mean girls would
say: “There she goes with
her Coke-bottle glasses.”

Yes, the glass fairly pops out of
the rim. Bulging, with the
pregnancy of sight. I slip them
on, slowly, over my nose. Then
arise from the couch, tipsy, as
the walls close in, like the earthquakes
in Japan. Will I escape?

“Shorty Shortcake,” Roger called me
in fourth grade, but why do I feel
ten feet tall? Just as I did
back in Cleveland every time
my prescription was changed.
How I loved my altered world
back then, my feigned tallness.

Now? How will I drive to the
market today in eyeglasses? Or pick out
the one plastic-coated cucumber meant
just for me? How will I gaze
up at the cold burning moon
and the numberless galaxies
bearing daffodils of their own?

How will I ever find God
in these new plastic eyeglasses
made especially for me?

Or perhaps he has found me!

Robert Martin: From a Life on the Streets to Owning his Own Home

Who would ever believe that 48-yo Robert Martin was once homeless?

For nearly two years, he lived over a grate at 13th and Locust Streets in downtown Philadelphia. A cardboard box was his home, while numerous mental health problems - including substance abuse issues and two stints in jail - played havoc with his brain.

What to eat? At night when the nearby Dunkin' Donuts closed, he foraged for food in the Dumpster "before the rats got to it," he said.

Recovery came in the form of a mental health consortium that worked with Robert and other folks with mental illness to get him on the road to recovery.

"If it could work for a person like me," he said to our rapt audience at the Abington Presbyterian Church, "it can work for anyone." When they're ready.

Rob has sparkling blue eyes.

"I have a beautiful three-bedroom house, a beautiful wife" - he met Gloria at the Consortium and they married the day after graduation from the program - "a beautiful car" and a wonderful job. 

Rob works at RHD as a WRAP Coordinator/Supervisor of CREATING INCREASED CONNECTIONS (CIC) of Bridgeport, PA (near Norristown).

His speaking engagements take him far from home. New Directions has been trying for eight months to get a speaker on the Wellness Recovery Action Plan. It was worth the wait. Robert was "fantastic," as my colleague Ada Moss Fleisher said to me. 

The WRAP Plan, invented by Mary Ellen Copeland and likeminded people in VT, consists of a Toolbox of items that help stabilize your mood.

Rob's toolbox consists of:

Photo of his wife Gloria
The Bible
Scented candles and bubble bath
And more

His daily maintenance plan:

Gets down on his knees and prays
Takes his meds
Eats a healthy breakfast
And more.

Rob said, "While all of my hair is gone, half of my mind is gone, too, from all the trauma I've been through."

We cannot even imagine what it's like to be homeless or incarcerated or to use drugs until you don't know who you are anymore. 

What made his presentation so compelling was the way he involved the audience. First he asked our permission to call on them. And we spoke. 

He talked about 'triggers.' Events that will produce a mood swing, anxiety, depression, mania, psychosis, or suicidal thoughts.

People shared their triggers, both with Rob and in our Small Group Discussions which followed. 

Triggers included: An upcoming Easter dinner with scads of relatives, all asking, "Have you found a job yet?"  

Half a dozen young people in our group are students. The stress of test-taking or getting in a paper, has them teetering on the brink of a moodswing.

Rob shared many of his triggers with us.

The night. In the past, night was party-time for Robert. He liked the feel of money in his pockets so he would go out and  
p - a - r - t - y. He didn't elaborate but

The temptation has never left him. Gloria calls to check on him, which is very important to his wellness. 

Today he doesn't carry much money with him, and rarely a debit card.

Note: he didn't say a credit card, which is a huge enemy for folks with bipolar d/o when we go on our spending sprees. 

I've always been a cheapskate, so during my first mania-psychosis, I bought a Timex Watch for $22.

Do you see your triggers coming? asked Rob.

Yes! In this way, we can plan ahead and have an Action Plan ready for us. 

What do we do when we are 'breaking down?'

- Talk to someone on the phone. When Rob feels on edge at work, he'll call someone who can reassure him he can cope.

- Other ways might be to meditate, pray, put on soothing music, go for a walk, or, if necessary call your doctor. That's what the doc is there for. You are not disturbing this man or woman you have hired to keep you healthy.

We sent Rob home, 45 minutes away, with Begonias in the familiar Kremp's bag.  

And also Katy's

What a privilege it was that Robert Martin, who overcame the terrible challenges mental illness visited upon him, was our Guest Speaker tonight.