Vendela Venting!

Welcome to Vendela Vents!

Over many years on this planet, I have discovered how definitive my opinions are, and decided fairly recently that it was time to do something about it. The things I will be commenting on will most often be something that so many others are feeling and experiencing in droves. Other things will be more personal, yet will reflect a reality I share with too many other people. 

Venting will not always be in the form of angry (and hopefully funny) rants, but they will always be the real adventures of Vendela — not the tall, gorgeous Swedish actress who stole my nickname — but the short and continually shrinking Jewish lady alive and well in Los Angeles.

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Surrender Vendela

I AM alive.

Barely, but I am still kicking. I have little energy these days – who would, after surviving six months of chemotherapy only to find that the mothereffing drugs created a scarring in my lungs that I ravaged with 40 years of smoking (that by-the-by did nothing to those breathing balloons) but eight little cycles of chemo created fibrous tissue that stops the flow of oxygen to my system. The brain, too, hence my lack of writing the last several weeks. 

Just call me Sarah Heartburn.

But ‘twer it only the lung/breathing issue but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Here’s the list of the rest of the crap:

  1. Fibrous tissues in the lungs stop my breathing hence they stop me from walking;
  2. Next up, deep levels of fatigue leading also to feeling unproductive – feh!
  3. The last CT scan also revealed a small hiatal hernia, affecting my stomach..WTF?
  4. Whoo whoo, a lymph-edema, a horrific swelling of my right leg refuses to go away;
  5. To check the edema they did an ultra-sound – yippee! I have a blood clot!!!! Yea!
  6. Now I am on Coumidin and being stuck like a freaking pin cushion for blood levels;
  7. Also means sticking myself with syringes full of something to distribute the Coumidin;
  8. Finally, last Friday I was struck by the most vicious pain I have ever experienced that may well be BURSITIS on my hip, making sitting and walking, which is already difficult, nigh impossible.

 Think I am a little pissed off???

Remember the evil witch flailing on her broom to illuminate the infamous memo to Dorothy for her to surrender? Tho this was the very first movie I ever saw in a real theater (my aunt Dora took me, in a dress under which were a million crinolines as was my wont at the time to show I was dressed up – I was four) I thereafter never recognized let alone perceived the witch’s statement as anything more than what it seemed – her flying and green skin were the things that caught my attention as did Dottie’s great red shoes. Until I had a number of gay friends it never occurred to me that this scene ever existed other than to show Wicked Witch West’s ability to soar and sky write….

Well, I don’t have any wicked witches trying to get me to surrender, just evil doctahs who are not paying attention. The SOB’s. Like the idiot pulmonologist who asked me to rush my CT scan then didn’t bother to read the report after giving him five days from distribution of said report to my in-person appointment with him.

Don’t misunderstand, surrendering is not giving in or giving up for me. No fucking way – not remotely.

Surrender is resigning myself to, yielding and consenting compliantly to the evil tortures this disease and the ravages of the medications are causing as my body is breaking down. What fucking choice do I have? But this is all getting ridiculous…

I started an art therapy group some weeks ago. One woman spoke of the trauma surrounding her illness talking about her surrender — not an easy thing for an independent, self-sufficient and fully capable person. I understood exactly what she meant when she discussed this. Fact is, it’s not about the disease:  it’s all the people in it and the adjacent crap outside it.

Between the first two sessions I could not stop thinking about the term surrender. I’d already been deeply contemplating the phrase “fighting cancer” that always seems to pop up when talking about someone that either has or dies from this dread disease. That phrase has never set right with me…why would I want to fight something that is insidiously stealing more than half my energy?

One of my doctahs agreed: “Fight cancer? She said. “Wouldn’t that be exhausting??”

The bell rang to a question I’d been postulating for months.

“That’s it — precisely!!” I responded. ”EXHAUSTION!!!! I don’t want to fight this, I want to deal with it, get thru it, get past it, survive it, but I don’t want to fight it. I’m already exhausted; why would I take one ounce more of the energy I have left to give it to this fucking disease???”

I felt much better after talking to her. But the answer still eluded me until I heard this new acquaintance speak about her troubles and they were many, the most important that one of the doctahs attending her was not listening to her when she was complaining of not feeling well and he basically impounded her into an ICU – stuck there for two days against her will and contrary to her real illness. She talked about surrendering herself – her body, her mind, her wishes, her soul to these idiots only to go home after this hospital imprisonment to find that she’d been robbed.

Surrender. Surrender of this kind is acceptance but not acquiescence. It is an understanding that the people around you are not hearing you and you must not allow them to condescend and pretend to hear your choices and views, or blow them off. I’ve walked in to doctahs offices with lists of complaints that were both viable and valid, and even when they read the page down the entire list those viable and vital complaints were ignored. What I failed to recognize at that moment though I thought I was surrendering – per my definition of being complaint and fair — was that I was giving in to the stupidity of others, and choking on my own strengths, rather than surrendering to the reality of being ill and thus taking control.

You cannot control the illness, more often you cannot control the idiot doctors but you can force them to understand who you are and what you will tolerate or not.

Remember I said the last CT scan revealed a hiatal hernia – not a big deal, but I’d been complaining of stuff going in with my diaphragm for over five years and NOT ONE Doctah heard that complaint. I called it flutter breath – I’d have an intake of breath and would compensate by taking two or three short breaths at one time. Not scary but annoying and certainly indicative of something not right, if not something decidedly wrong. It was an anonymous physician who wrote a report that was looking for lymph node sizes and fibrous materials on my lungs who reported this small issue that seems to me (after reading the symptoms and affects) to reveal significant things about the way I have been feeling…duh! And still not one doctor has presumed accountability for ignoring this fact.

So, I will not attempt to control any of this but I’ll be damned if I am giving up or allowing those sons of bitches surrounding me that are badly controlling my health to do so. The idiot pulmonologist is getting fired forthwith – I gave him four weeks to contact me after promising to read that CT report and getting back to me. Have you heard from him?

 I fucking surrender.

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Scenes from a Candy Store

My boyfriend in early high school was a semi-thug; he later became a policeman. Mike loved to humiliate me in front of my friends thinking that was a measure of control; he was nice to me privately. Talk about dichotomies! He lived a half block off the local playground. His hang out was at the candy store across/waaaayyyyyy on the other side the playground; I hung out across from his back alley in the Community Services building that was my nightly destination. My close friends and I were allowed to go there to visit our adored mentor, a junior high teacher who loved us back by regaling us with hysterical stories of his not-much-younger students no doubt embellished for our great amusement.

Ladies really did not hang out at candy stores – I knew that – so I did not traverse there often. Later in our relationship we met there, but I rarely felt comfortable there without Mike. Philly was a city of candy stores so this was hard to negotiate esp. if you lived in older neighborhoods where every corner boasted some kind of store. Candy stores were the precursor of 7-11 with soda fountains, indeed, the fount of all neighborhood gossip, with all the convenient bread and milk products.

A friend, call her Gemma for expediency, wanted to go out one early summer evening but due to a three-day holiday our center was closed, mentor Art was away on a trip, and my boyfriend was down the shore (Atlantic City pre-gambling) with his parents. Gemma got me fired up – I was happy to hang at her house, but she was bored and though we were having a typical 14-yr old sleepover, it was a warm, sultry enough late Spring evening to get us antsy. Her mom, a die-hard neighborhood tough allowed us to go out provided we were back by her proscribed time. Though she frequently amused us with stories of her growing up in rival hoods, how she had to fight her way through always tainted “a dirty Jew” or like epithet, she never believed her girls were capable of that kind of toughness. Nor did she ever encourage it though she clearly believed it was a grand virtue.

So Gemma and I walked through the neighborhood anticipating the fun we’d have at the candy store. Mike was away, but his friends were always amusing, fun to hang with for a few hours before we went home to giggle and yent the night away. The night was gloriously balmy, a beautiful sunset wrapped itself around the city, and we were in rare form. Gemma and I had similar humors, we made each other laugh, certainly the best aspect of friendship. Arriving at our destination I instantly felt we were intruding on a sacred spot – good girls navigating the slums as it were. Gemma felt invigorated; she was attempting to be her mother incarnate; all I wanted to do was to leave – just enjoy the evening walking at a time in our lives and the history of man that we could without being molested. We lived in good neighborhoods. I appeased her:

“I’ll stay for ten minutes but I know these guys don’t want us here – I’m real uncomfortable.”
“C’mon Vendela, it’ll be fine.”

Gemma wanted to flirt with a guy she liked, which I had to support since I had a boyfriend knowing deep down this was a dire choice. We were in bad territory…that ten minutes unfortunately proved me right. Had we gone inside, grabbed some candy and left we’d have been fine. But we opted to stand outside, playing and laughing, until the local Jewish girl gang showed up. They really were no different than we were, except for their self-perceptions and the fact they were from another school, another culture. Truth be told, Gemma and I were from the “tougher” Junior High by reputation — and like I said, I hung out with all groups including tough girls. We all danced in the girls’ lunchroom to the same tunes…along that same immobile, permanent seating.

Suddenly the winds changed. What appeared to be flirtatious fun turned to nasty fast-flung smart-ass remarks. Directed at us. The boys were not our friends though they were nicer; the girls were hell-bent on humiliating us, to the amusement of the boys – and to get us to leave since we were encroaching on their territory. Gemma never saw that.

What I never knew prior was that one of the girls was jealous of me because she liked my boyfriend – I was the target of her personal sarcasm and threats to “…punch your fuckin’ face in.” The other girls chimed in because that’s what little women did to prove to their little men how equal they were. I never felt the need to prove that – can’t say why; maybe I had enough bullshit at home to ever give a crap. My outside life was my retreat, my home away from home to survive a pretty lousy emotional roller coaster childhood; I needed my friends to get me thru that. Bad kids were easy to avoid if I did not communicate with them. “Just walk away,” I thought. And I tried. Gemma never saw that either. She’d been seduced by her mother’s stories and what she thought were mom’s expectations. 

We two were harangued for those interminable ten minutes until I turned to Gemma, saying emphatically “I‘m going.” She pleaded with me to stay thinking her sarcasm could beat theirs but this was not a test of wits — she didn’t see that either. She thought we’d all become friends through this ridiculous Kabuki drama. Masks all the way round. Who’s tougher, meaner, more a woman. Please, get over your 14-year old selves.

When the threats became real I started walking; Gemma could stay. My mother’s best friend lived around the corner and I could call my mother from there….Frankie, my personal menace kept trying to scare me by threatening to “pound me down,” but my fortitude and ire were rearing their ugly heads, rising rapidly. I figured real womanhood, real strength (my Bubba Bessie, paternal grandma walked her way through London suffering TB with a 10 yr old son also infected after being refused passage to America – this was true grit) came from standing down the idiots on parade. I refused to buckle where Gemma was petrified. I was scared too but I rejected showing fear. Though my heart is generally on my sleeve, when needed I can be as inscrutable as the next guy. Besides I was getting pissed off.

I’d never have beaten anyone up – I hate fighting and physical violence as much as the verbal kind. Even flame-ups in so-called kindly writing communities annoy the living hell out of me. Confront yes, inform of condescending and bad advice, yes, but snark the hell out of someone in a mean-spirited, cruel way? That’s not a community I ever want to participate in — that’s no community, just a better mask. Again, I digress… 

Those threats along with menacing dark skies after the sun went down, clearly scared Gemma even more. She started blubbering, incoherently saying things she thought would amuse if not placate the enemies or stop them in their tracks. She was a funny girl but attempts at cynicism in the wake of fear were turned to Jello-like sophisms. You cannot reason yourself out of a fight with an angry mob; by definition a mob is subject to stupidity. I knew this at the tender age of 14; I banked on this knowledge to get me the hell out of this bad situation. I never believed they’d physically harm us.

I started walking away – frontward, upright, forthright as possible without running like I had a stick up my ass if you wanna know. Gemma, whimpering pitiably, fell over herself walking backwards, fearful these girls would jump us. I trusted my instinct they would not; theirs were mere scare tactics to reclaim their territory.

“Gemma, get your ass up, and walk… forward. They won’t hurt us. The boys have to jump in since Mike’s my boyfriend,” I scornfully whispered.
“T-t-t-t-they’ll h-h-h-h-h-hurt us…,” she whined.
“They’ll hurt us if you don’t walk proudly, fearlessly. Your mother’s the South Philly girl who tells us those stories all the time…” My mother was just a girly Kensington girl whose parents owned a dress shop.

I was right. Walking purposefully, audaciously, straight as an arrow with pride, I easily imagined my grandmother in all of her tsuris (Yiddish = troubles) saving her young sisters from Cossacks in the Russian pogroms by hiding under a simple straw bed. Gemma finally caught up with me her knees nearly buckling under the fear. The one guy who “liked” HER was our savior. At the end of an interminably long block on the side of a hauntingly empty nighttime playground was this guy with a jeep (forward thinking then) offering us a ride home. We were breathless, scared, and happily accepted his timely gift. And we could not shut up, hysterically laughing while on the verge of tears and significant relief.

Endless dichotomies. 

The sleepover was energized by this furor – she begged me not to tell her mother — fueled by orange juice and liverwurst, with an ice cream chaser (feh!), we analyzed this event to death thru the night. The next week, the holiday weekend over, my other friends heard about this:  MY tough girls rallied behind me and threatened to pummel the crap out of our menacers. Because they could, because they knew and liked me, and they earnestly felt for my perennial sadness. These were big-boned, mean-looking girls, too, with lots of slathered black eyeliner and white lips:  the Goths of their time sans vampiric models. A preponderance of gang girls without affiliation – as in IChing #44 Coming to Meet – confronting the Idiots on Parade (we all know that nothing, esp. anger, is without consequence) dovetailed with my boyfriend swooping in to save the day, my female protectors intimidating on one side while Mikie Boy slapped Frankie broadside her mean, sarcastic little face. I can’t say I was sad about it, though had he told me I would’ve stopped him. I really do abhor violence. 

Sadly Gemma and I were never the same – individually or as best friends. She’d revealed her fear under inflated bravado which really scared her and ultimately annoyed me, while I discovered great inner strength necessary to me then for so many reasons. We never discussed the event; the shards of our friendship drifted away, ground to beads of nothing, like glass on a tarmac where evidence of an accident is blown away by wind over time and  lots of traffic. Funny thing is, Gemma later became friends with Frankie:  the death knell of our friendship. She conveniently forgot what happened and how; that was the stake in the heart of the small remainder of our closeness.

Oh well. C’est la vie.

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Growing Up Girly in Philly

Things, as we all get to know growing up, are not what they seem. Growing up in Philadelphia, PA, was weird; probably still is – I’ve been away for 40 years as of my recent birthday. But trust me, adolescence in Philly was always a YIKES! moment.

It was not all hot yummy oozy oniony cheesesteaks available on every corner in every neighborhood before the suburbs really took hold; ditto large, doughy soft pretzels sold in vendors’ carts, with just the right amount of salt; both washed down with Frank’s Black Cherry Wishniak soda offered up as a Saturday treat when the parents went out for their weekly date out with other grownups. It was not bargain hunting at our favorite discount house for heather sweaters and delish matching plaid skirts, or buying preppy loafers to complement the total outfit…

Ditto, this City of Brotherly love is a dichotomy mirroring much of the rest of our magnificent country offering up a grand wisdom, a sense of true freedom and as I’ve stated in other blogs, this intrinsic feeling of what liberty meant to our forefathers, and what it should mean to us peons. Conversely was (and may still be) the great graft – the absolute corruption of the city’s local politicians.

Growing up female in Philly was no less a dichotomy though it took years for me to figure this out. This was true in the 1950’s but I surmise it was true way earlier in the 20th Century as well. Why? Row houses created neighborhoods by their decorative applications as much as differences of the people that lived inside them. Blocks were territories and marked as such. Philly is a city of immigrant neighborhoods much like other cities but our houses were mostly connected – row houses built to mimic the Londoners’, like much of Penn’s Woods were meant to mimic the parks and lush lands of England throughout this beautiful verdant state. Penn lucked out when he chose this property for his freedom. Philly was the original gang city; girl gangs existed because both genders fought their counterparts to prove their strengths; for the Darwinian preservation of their species. It is just human nature, I guess, to battle, though for the life of me I cannot/never have understood this reality.

I remember visiting my mother for a minor operation, taking the bus from the airport through South Philly directly to her downtown hospital. The standard green and white striped metal awnings affixed to typical brick row homes demarcated Italian neighborhoods, offering up sweet little pots of beautiful flowering plants that later ushered us into the streets where Italian markets of all kinds lined the narrow streets – butchers, bakers, sweet shops and more. I was entranced by my home town after many years of living away…But per the norm, I digress.

Being female in Philly was never about being a lady, though I was no less a lady – it just was never spoken to me as such. My mother never admonished my sister or me for behaving in an unladylike manner, though Mom may have laughed at the amount of make-up I used as a novice 14-yr old applicator:

“Do you really like all that stuff on your eyes…You look like a clown…!!!!” (Mind you there was never a moment for the answer between that paused statement-into-question.) But she never, that I remember, said aloud, “Ladies do not behave that way.”

Later in life I thought that living without a father in the house, as a child of divorced parents (Quel SHONDA!!;[Yiddish for SHAME]) was the cause of my lack of a so-called ladylike education. But my mother was never unladylike: as a matter of fact, she was always dressed to the nines; she was gorgeous, funny, and magnetic – in public. In turn, my sister (who admonished me more for my “bad” behavior than did Mom) and I were always circumspect in our behavior outside the house. All my mother really wanted was not be embarrassed by us in front of other people — though she had a hard time living with her divorceé reality, and her fatherless-in-residence girls were admittedly often unnecessarily hard on her acting out our stresses. Hence our best behavior outside the house – sometimes we were two chubby peas in the proverbial pod. Pictures prove this – even one in then 16-yr. old Sylvester Stallone’s semi-suburban house.

On reaching pubescence, no less a cute giggly girl than most, I too, had my dichotomy. I read voraciously. Most of my time was spent reading, often to the wee hours of the morning despite the sheer luck of having a guilty parent who early on provided me with my own personal TV. I was the kid who read Taylor Caldwell, Margaret Mitchell and the like before age 12 – relatively sophisticated adult books, romantic and otherwise – that fed me what being female, a lady, a woman was meant to be. “Little Women” was always one of my favorites based on the hardships the March girls braved, and the patient lucid role model Mrs. March made. I was awed by Alcott’s painful truths…I was also the kid who was sent to the movies with Sis to see “Autumn Leaves” – a heart-rending story of mental illness — while my parents fought over their “agreements,” at age eight or so. I understood every word, every nuance and still cry when I think of that day, esp. on returning home to see how distraught my mother was…

Like my mother, sis and I LOVED (still do) clothes. Not that Mom was shallow but I surmise she spent the better part of her life looking for the perfect outfits – for specific events and those just-in-case-life-moments– an ongoing useless quest which kept her moving through her pain. However, when Sis and I went to college she became our equal student insatiable for Hesse’s Siddartha, Plato’s Republic and all our other thought-provoking books.

I was friends with every group in my very large high school, a school I was recently reminded by sister Curl’s friend, was memorialized in Frederick Wise’s documentary film “High School” and where Tony Danza recently taught for TV. A Smart Kid, Artsy Kid, Fashionable Kid, and Smart-Ass kid I fit into a lot of areas – and could communicate with a very wide variety of people. I really liked other Smart Kids – the nerds as well as those social wonders who ran for office, the most likable folks you’d ever imagine and probably still are that way – sweet, charming and real. But as far from my Jewish enclave as one could get, though I had many Jewish friends then many of whom remain close in my life today. Some I’ve just reconnected with after 30-40 years…Digression: Zuckerberg has no real idea of what he started with Facebook. He’s too fucking young to get it.

The feminist movement later deeply clarified for me what society taught me more than what Mom did. Mom was, like my Bubba Bessie, a pioneer, living a life not of her choosing but in a world both of her own making, choice or not. My mother was a dichotomy of one, living her own private cold war. She was a helluva role model. Late in life her favorite saying was, “Old age ain’t for sissies.” She even bought the pillow.

End part one

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Snarky, Snark Snark, Snuck



OK. I love sarcasm, wit, and cleverness. I hate snarkiness. Yes, I am an admitted hater — of nasty, cruel, and self-promoting quips hurled at unsuspecting persons. I see snarkiness as a form of bullying. Snark is the sound of the snot of a 12-yr old boy who forgets or refuses to blow his nose, as it moves back up into the nasal cavity; then down again. Yuck. The sound makes me cringe every time I hear it. Truly. Feh!!!

A couple of weeks ago I witnessed a flame-up in one of the blogging sites I frequent. I was incensed and very angry – so angry I could not write for over a week. Not because I cared what these people thought of my writing but because I was so lathered by the sheer stupidity I was witnessing by a self-touted “community” of writers, I was rendered near speechless; not very common for me I might add… I always have an opinion.

I actually happened into the center of this flame-up by reading a parody of the original blog, which took a few readings to get that it WAS parody; it was so stunningly stingingly scorpionic and mean-spirited I could not calm down for hours. The writer’s tone — meaning to be funny — was simply spiteful and malicious. It took more hours to get to the original blog that inspired this, which, granted, was rather pretentious and a badly thought-out blog that poorly estimated her audience and their response. It required commentary; it did not require the degree of nastiness I saw unless of course, your own writing is so insecurely self-regarded. A week after a bad reaction to chemo and a true annoyance at ongoing snarky language and a bunch of malcontents calling this blog site a community (which I found antithetical to their behavior) I calmed down. This is now four or five weeks later so I guess it took a long time to be able to express myself about this issue. I am often slow on the uptake when it comes to anger – I smoulder.

Bullying is bullying no matter what you call it; snarky writing is bullying when you can so easily decipher a singularly nasty tone versus great language. Mind you, I also hate Pollyanna-like thinking; I don’t see myself as that unsophisticated or that dumb – I see myself of as a realist, and equally hate the idea of condescending to an audience in any way. I am neither brighter than nor smarter than my audience – I simply might have experience and knowledge they do not, or a way to get somewhere that they might benefit from, and that includes my using sarcasm, and hopefully wit, to get there. Do I dare say I am witty, a bon vivant, a clever sophisticate? Hell no, I am your average smart-ass…

Great parody is worth every word as is great writing. BUT I always thought parody was meant to be burlesque, humor, spoof, a lampoon of an original not the distortion or willful insult that what I read was at least in my estimation. This is a completed non-event and I don’t need to rehash it – anyone reading from that source this will recognize the who/what/where – that it occurred is what I find so distasteful. Obnoxious might proclaim my feelings better…much in the way I feel about that happened to that sweet young man in Upper Darby, PA and the response to his bullying by the adults in his community. His parents were told to move (they did), and take him out of his school (he’ll be home schooled now) because they could do nothing about it. Nadin Khoury, a small-framed intelligent boy went on TV almost immediately to tell his story, and was showered with kindness by his heroes. This young man cried openly on TV at their willingness to go out of their way to make him feel good, reward him for being brave enough to move his life forward.

A few of my favorite writers on this blog site posed some even-keeled and fair questions regarding this non-event; they even managed to aid the original writer in redeeming herself. What I discovered in not participating much (tho I did respond to the people questioning the event not the snarkers – I probably would have been equally or more evil to them – GRRR!) was that there is this dance you do in a “community” of writers – whom you do not know other than through their writing — which is to tango/cha cha around the people you like, and comment on their sites to try to get them to be nice and comment to you. You want to be rated and selected for the home page to broaden your audience and therefore become validated. I had not realized before this event that your audience on this and other blog sites is other bloggers, unless you have a list of readers that you connect with on other sites; other social networks.

My knee jerk response was to comment on more blogs than normal somehow needing to be part of the community that I was truly concurrently finding repulsive, non-responsive and unkind. Then a writer I really like a lot, someone quite genuine and never condescending as well as quite talented, bared her heart about a truly personal event she was experiencing; a lot of people redeemed themselves and rallied round her need to keep her distracted from her sadness, fear and pain.

Maybe I AM a little thin-skinned. I don’t think so, and I’ve certainly done my share of dishing –being a recipient and an advocate of same. I am a naïf, maybe even simpler in my thinking than I’d like to believe. Perhaps it boils down to being too black and white in my thinking, but certainly with age, I have learned about some grays…

Dishing ultimately is a form of gossip that I try not to engage in anymore partly because my favorite dish partners are no more, they are gone from the face of the earth and so made dishing an art form I cannot ever reach the pinnacle of great dish ever again. That said, dish is what happens after every party I have ever made or attended. I am often the last person to leave a party – maybe that’s the reason – to avoid being the recipient of being dished. Hmm, never thought of that. But it’s the marrow-sucking, “who/what the fuck was THAT?!” that has always been the most fun – watching people’s behavior, their clothes, their attitudes, and behaviors as well as that of their partners. My family has always been famous for that. I now realize that dishing can be evil, too, so I refrain from the nasty bits…

What were they thinking????

When I was a kid, I sat around listening to my stepmother and my aunts laugh and dish their way thru the after-party-dish. They talked about someone’s incapacity to cook, the bad food they brought, the stupid things they said. Et al. It was hard not to learn to do that…in a big family there is always some unresolved issue that gets addressed by acting out anger and superiority. There is also truth, but more often that crap never gets addressed directly.

The great family dish of all times was at a family reunion several years ago. With nine brothers and sisters, their 26 children and constantly expanding generations of endless cousins, by that time a minimum of 45-55 cousins of all ages, a lot of unresolved crap exists. Some viable/some ridiculous and who the hell cares at this point…right? Wrong. My second eldest aunt is a well-known artist globally. She has her opinions and expectations as do we all – we are a rather verbal and expressive family, coming from sheer size. One aunt continually reminds me that the best dressed was the first-up in the morning…we’re not screamers, but there is an elevation of decibel levels at family events….

During a video presentation on the family one of my uncles mentioned this aunt’s age. Yikes. Her response was “Fuck you!” She was neither happy nor amused, and did not care that there were children present. Most of us were both amused and ready to dish big-time after leaving the building. As you can well imagine, there are always sides in a family of that many people, with as many opinions.

Part of her response was to her reputation and celebrity; certainly much was sensitivity to her age – now her age is a badge of honor to her – she is nearing 100 and is the eldest, the family matriarch, and one of two siblings still alive. Part was that she was video-bullied by someone in her family that she always had a lot of issues with and could not control. Her anger was immediate and I salute her for it.

I am just weighing in that bullying is a ridiculous form of communication. Frankly, I perceive it as non-communication. This is not because I am weakened by my cancer; I am weakened physically but mentally I am probably stronger, sharper and more attuned to the crap I see out in the universe. I also have more time to think about this stuff, recognizing that in addition to the general bullying going on, the medical professional bullies their patients into things they may or may not need; patients bully themselves into acquiescence rather than question the need or efficacy of their treatment; and that fear itself bullies us all in every aspect of our lives.

Remember FDR?

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Laying and Lying Low

 If I’ve been remiss in communicating with anyone by blog, email or telephone, or any other method of interaction I apologize; please understand that 2011 hit me with a bang.

You always think after the new year starts that great new things will happen giving you a clean slate, despite decades of getting the message that things after a New Year’s day don’t drastically change for the better OR the worse, like birthdays. The shock of sameness is what always gets me. I guess I buy into the desire for change so I believe it might happen, then crap just starts up again after a holiday hiatus. 

THAT’s IT!! It’s the holidays; they create the faux goodwill to men and busyness so that people don’t continue their regular nasty crapola until after the first of the new year….Now I get it.

Well, anyway, I’ve been laying low. For lots of reasons.

For one, after my visit east the doc told me I was to have two more sessions of chemotherapy. I thought I was OK with it – hell, I even expected it since he’d already told me before I left that he’d ordered these two cycles. OK, I’d heard him, wore my stiff upper lip and my best “ok, no prob” expression for days until I finally realized I was pissed off, annoyed, disappointed. My expectations never included being told I was cured, with a miraculous disappearance of the expanded lymph nodes in my body (maybe they should be called lump nodes, the little basterds [borrowed from Quentin T’s last great movie!!!]) – at least not consciously.

Certainly, one wants to hear that the medicines (all 9000) you’ve been taking are working, making you well. Well means cured, right? My original grand idiot GYN/ONC Surgeon, you remember him right? The great Nefarious-Wiseass, Ph.D., M.D.? He was the first to tell me six months after my surgery five years ago that I was cured. Moron. He told me I was cured after just two follow-up visits. How irresponsible. My guess? He had a lot of patients that were dying and I was one of the few that appeared to be OK. But after six months? That reckless basterd put in my head that I WAS well way before that could remotely be true. Of course, the real damage was done well before that, excepting that he carried on the never-ending crusade of my bad medical care.

So, then, OK…Next up:  fighting bureaucracies. You know that great Abbot & Costello “Who’s on First” routine??? When I was a kid I hated that damn bit. Everybody thought it was so funny but I never got it. I just got irritated. WHY? Because I hated baseball and never understood that EITHER. I went to games, probably played them at camp and school, but baseball was then (and still is) boring to me. Watching proverbial paint dry is infinitely more interesting to me. Enough of this digression. But I’m livin’ the dream here….the very same routine I’ve have always hated (but now fully understand) is the very metaphor for my present life.

I am getting the runaround related to some current problems where three different entities – let’s call them Federico, Stanton and Courtney – are each blaming the next for having control of the purse strings. The worst part of this is that the person in charge of my case is calling me a liar on several levels. She says my paperwork was not sent (I have copies and mail receipts); that I missed a telephone appointment for which I have her written assignment (I’ve been informed she called four days earlier without informing me or leaving a message – methinks the lady doth protest, not only too much but that bitch has no right to protest at allllllllll!!!! I waited all day for her call, then called her for DAYS without a response…). All their paperwork claims that I can get a hearing AND continue to my coverage. I asked for the hearing yet each entity, esp. Stan and Court, as I said before, each claim Fred is ultimately responsible and neither of them have one smidgen of accountability. I cannot even remotely share the level of frustration I have here. I cannot express it except to ggggrrrrrrowwwwwwwllll. Loudly. GRRRRRRRR.

It’s bad enough that I have to get my head back into being a chemo patient, taking those death-defying drugs. That’s the toughest part of THAT drama:  refocusing to illness when I felt so great being away, seeing my family, laughing, enjoying myself, even having a little gathering the day after Christmas to celebrate how well I did feel. Even the little flutter of anxious breath in my stomach went away after suffering and fearing it several years – so that I finally became aware that it truly WAS anxiety. THAT little basterd is back now, too.  

Why?? Because I hate being called a liar. Especially at times when I, an incredibly independent person who literally survived a lifetime from client-to-client/job-to-job, am reduced to asking for help that is now being refused because someone else is not doing HER FUCKING JOB. And SHE’s lying to save her ass. The other entities are all lying to me to do what many legal folks do – to get me to walk away from my complaint. 

Years ago I sued the City of Los Angeles for an accident with a trash truck. The guys driving hit me from behind while I stood still for red light. I was simply a victim:  trust me when I tell you the city attorney subpoenaed all my medical records trying to blame my ongoing neck/back pain on completely non-related medical issues to try to prove I was defrauding them after their two-ton truck hit my poor little hatchback demolishing it. I drove that piece o’s#*@^ for another two years before the city acknowledged they hit me. The deposition was a real charm – it even freaked out my lawyer — then the City de novo’d (denounced) my claim in a purported settlement meeting with a judge. It took seven freakin’ years to get the final judgment. When I heard the judge espouse the possible fee structure for the settlement I thought I was hearing things: 

The Judge,” …soft tissue damage is worth $35,000, and bone and like damage anything upward….”
I screeched in a whisper to my attorney, “Jeff, what the hell is THIS? Is this a supermarket of pain??”
“Be QUIet. We’ll discuss this when we get out of here…” 

He explained the fee ceiling once we left. I was appalled, having always thought injury cases were resolved on merit not on a system devised arbitrarily. I’d have this injury, this pain, for the rest of my life in some way or another based on the damage that was done to my body, but I’d get a prescribed sum of money for it that would barely cover the next ten years of my life. Bah; feh! Screw that kids!!!!!!*

The opposing attorney was doing his job:  trying to get me to walk away from this annoyance suit that would cost Los Angeles next to nothing in the scheme of things. What he didn’t realize is that I am an annoying person when I am annoyed; I am that displaced  minute spider who bites you while you sleep and wakes you itching without knowing why. This little fucker bit you making your next day a constant pain in the ass. With every letter, every communiqué I got more annoyed and more angry and therefore more annoying. Their insinuation of me as a fraudulent person reaaaalllllly pissed me off then. I am no different now.

Call me a liar and you’ll find out. I don’t lie, don’t tell untruths. Even my mother told me that when I was in my late 20’s – it was the greatest compliment she ever gave me.

“You really tell it like it is…” is precisely what she said. I almost choked when she said it because those words coming out of a 4’11” Jewish lady dressed in a schmaltzy track suit, with perfectly coiffed but flat hair was hysterical. It’s a good thing we weren’t eating…

So now I am essentially being called a liar and a fraud when these folks can’t do their jobs, cannot keep their budgets straight, while I am being forced back into a medical reality I hate which oddly enough is making me sicker now than I was before. I am eating. I just get sicker more frequently and have no doubt it is the stress of this bullshit with Freddy, Stan and Courtie-poo.

Others lying makes me lay low…the basterds. Thank god for Compazeine, sparkling sodas and venting.

* What a “Glee” Globe winner said in his acceptance speech about being bullied….

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I’m Disturbed. We Should All Be Very Disturbed.


By nature I’m an apolitical person; also truly areligious. Politics and religion to me are simply divisive entities. Politics and politicians are so thoroughly distasteful to me because of the sleazy, smarmy crap that goes on under the surface of the pretense of helping “the people” while many of these guys help themselves to the coffers of fame and fortune. Today Jerry Brown announced and presented the keys to his budget – the people that will suffer will be the poor, the indigent and those mentioned in Billie Holiday’s infamous God Bless the Child… This is about Brown leaving a legacy after his last mediocre term as Governor. Schmuck that I am I voted for him….

I come from Philadelphia where two political extremes have always existed: high-minded freedom and peace, and low-brow greed and political power. It is the place of the discovery of American freedom and the desire to find and hold liberty true. Elementary school students were, probably still are, taken yearly to the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross House and the cradle of Liberty, Independence Hall. The energy of the men that created the documents of freedom for this country was always palpable, no matter how many times I went there. I was perennially in awe of that process, those feelings. William Penn in developing his Quaker State created the underlying desire for peace and reasonableness; this, too, is palpable and admirable. I cannot help it if I am a dyed-in-the-wool peacenik – this history I was taught made me so. I took it to heart and believed it. It made me a patriot, too, though I deign not to be a flag-waving type. It just is not my style. My beliefs are not necessarily for public consumption, and no one really needs to know what I think, believe or care about – this may well be the last time I ever write about them.

Philadelphia also offered Tammany Hall-style politicians — Mayor, Police Chief and other people in government – who really did nothing to help the city. These guys were embarrassing, annoying and turned me off to government and the politics and strategies they lauded as much as our unique history made me proud to be an American, a Pennsylvanian, a Philadelphian (there’s more to that last element but that’s for another blog trust me!!!) – mostly to make them more money. This was a corrupt power-mongering group at best.

One mayor used to say “Youse guys…” I mean, really. You Philadelphians – remember James H.J. Tate??? We schoolchildren were being taught correct grammar and agreement, and this guy with bad language and political doublespeak represented our city??? I was forever mortified when this man spoke. Did no one tell him what an embarrassment he truly was? But I digress…

What happened to Gabby Gifffords and her co-victims this weekend is shameful for so many reasons. And this makes me incredibly disturbed. It takes me back to the sixties when many of my heroes were shot. I don’t know whether those guys were good men or not. Their politics and personal lives were kept separate yet people kept trying to blend them like they tried to do later to Clinton (who, despite my lefty-liberal type sensibilities, is not my favorite president – many economic problems we have now were from his administration and became the death knell for people like me). I never got to know whether these men were good men or good at their jobs – they were each gunned down in their primes. The sixties are another reason I fail to see the attraction to politics. We Boomers were unable to fulfill the dreams we had because they were stolen from us in the violence of multi-assassination. This made me sick then and continues to do so today. Tucson, Arizona and the subsequent intolerance it seems to be spawning is also making me ill. It feels like the dawning of an age of stupidity and unreasonableness. Like Germany in the thirties – everyone who possibly can, should watch Berlin Alexanderplatz, a German TV mini-series from the eighties available on DVD; directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder:

Firstly, Loughner was thought to be ill by so many people – he was thrown out of a community college for god’s sake for irrepressible anger. A young neighbor told his mother he thought the guy was a serial killer from the “moment I saw him.” His teachers, fellow students, and community thought the man was a problem – the man who sold him the BANNED gun couldn’t see a problem or try to determine this before the final sale??? Loughner would never admit to being insane or bi-polar or schizophrenic…he barely knows.

As for the blame game spawning itself all over the news, the internet and the world – give it up. I am no fan of Sarah Palin: I think her crosshairs targets are reprehensible, along with her purportedly “entertaining” TV political campaign and the rest of her trigger-happy political statements. And trust me when I say I NEVER thought I’d defend Palin for anything but from a feminist viewpoint this link seems mostly right on the money:

That said, I do think she is indefensible of her idiotic rhetoric and loose tongue. Kinda like the posters you saw in Great Britain in the forties saying, “Loose Lips Sink Ships…” There are, as Gabby Giffords said a few weeks ago, consequences; there are always consequences no matter what you do; why shouldn’t wannabe politicians suffer them as well when they act unreasonably to obtain power?

Yesterday I reposted a Keith Olbermann video on Facebook. I am not an avid follower but I like him; in the trenches I think he has a reasonable POV. No surprise that I do not watch nor like anyone on Fox. Presently I am too sick to let any of that vitriol and false angst touch my senses; for the same reason I am untrusting of John Boehner’s tears. I try to listen when there is a balanced viewpoint. Some woman wrote this on the original post: “He is the worst on TV He creates problems and should be fired, and off the air.”

She did not bother to listen to what he said. Her opinion is infinitely more important to her than what happened in Tucson – 20 people shot at:  more than half dead or critically injured. And many people are condoning these actions though the alleged suspect is, as I said earlier, clearly ill. We’re not talking a moment of madness, we are talking progressively, violently mad. When I read her response in all honesty I wanted to choke this woman. (So much for the peacenik, eh?) Her anger is so obvious, so unrelenting…so bad-tempered. She’s unwilling to hear what the man had to say before condemning it. It took everything in my soul to restrain myself from saying anything negative. I did say something but I contained it (it took 3+ hours for me to get un-riled) to a bland statement because I realized that my anger incited by her anger only will rile someone else.

The original poster, a friend, must’ve sensed that because she commented her well-thought and presented opinion; different than and as passionate as mine but acceptable in its lack of wrath.

And that’s the thing, folks. Anger has a way of being contagious.

I also have a theory. We have not in a million years gotten over 9-11; we think we’ve resolved our anger, our hurts and our fears. Not a chance. The fact that this country is going down in flames economically, politically, socially and culturallyjust like Rome did – is very scary, but the only thing that will help us get through this long process is clarity, common sense and awareness of others. We don’t have to like each other but we sure need to respect each other’s views and ideas. I admit to be being a complete snob – I think most people are idiots, and unfortunately their behavior too often proves me right. But I defend their right to be stupid, moronic and useless if they choose as long as no one else strangers, loved ones, innocent bystanders, children, parents, the elderly, whoever — suffers from their angry plight; I just do not/cannot condone any violence attendant to stupidity.

My friend Linda said, “Getting angry is ok. Getting violent is not.” Unfortunately too many people do not know the difference. We all need to count to 10 and take a deep breath. Amen.

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Tennessee Williams and a Happy New year

“Luck is believing you are lucky.” Tennessee Williams (lifted from a recently read cooking blog…)

(Apparently most people that use this quote do not reference it or know where it comes from…sorry for this research gaff . I will now continue to be obsessed by its origin…)

I have been a Tennessee Williams fan for as long as I can remember. He was my favorite writer in high school where I wrote the final paper for my advanced English class on TW after seeing his then latest play with Lynn Redgrave – I do not at the moment remember the name of the play (nor know the origin of this above quote) — which has elements of an earlier play of his called Orpheus Descending the movie known as Fugitive Kind. After a little googling I’ve discovered it is called The Seven Descents of Myrtle. What Williams has always offered me is deep insight to human behavior. He could make the most ridiculous, unsavory, unfamiliar characters come to real life soundly with human frailties and strengths – the intimate intricacies we often miss because we are so wrapped up in our own bullshit. Is it any surprise that Brando portrayed his characters so very well…with a total depth of feeling and understanding??? Is it any mistake that those characters are often ridiculous-seeming; far on the fringe of society yet perfectly relatable to every one of us through viable emotions???

The most interesting thing about writing a paper on Tennessee Williams was that there was then ONLY a single article available as biographic material. I remember clearly those pages written in Time Magazine in March of 1959. I was mesmerized. Using a modern writer so intrigued me. I was not researching or reading about an old, dead “still relevant” person but someone living who was well-versed in modern problems; issues facing my world.

In my recent college stint I read a speech from A Streetcar Named Desire in a theater class that spoke to Tennessee Williams preternatural understanding of women’s issues – being treated like second-class citizens like Afro-Americans and homosexuals/lesbians. That speech is hidden on the page (I am not sure it was used in the film) boasted as a message about young gay men (another key theme of TW’s) but when you read the play it pops out as a hidden jewel. In The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone his empathy with the sexuality of older women mirrors Streetcar somewhat, but addresses fear of abandon more than fear of sex and/or mental illness as Streetcar and Summer and Smoke do.

I literally just watched Fugitive Kind with Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Joanne Woodward, Maureen Stapleton and Victor Jory – what a cast!! Two key female characters – both on the fringe of society, one trying to enter mainstream the other just trying to stay alive – and two key male characters: one totally out of the ordinary yet bespeaking common humanity; the other a sick, mean old man filled with intolerance/Southern pride.

Now I really know why I liked Tennessee Williams. The above quote is simple and clear. He knew people; he also knew life – how truly simple it can/should be/is…a simple belief that you are lucky makes it happen. It only took me 60 years to get to that concept. This is the first time I’ve read it, despite reading almost everything the man ever wrote including his poetry…

I had some friends over last week just to share some food and hang out. After having so many parties at my sister’s in Virginia I felt party-deprived here so I created one – as much to test my physical mettle (could I clean and get the place ready??) as to my emotional fortitude. Everyone kept telling me to sit down while I was happily preparing food for the table and generally being a Pearl Mesta like hostess of DC legend. I was happy as a clam – truly. I worked hard for three days and did not feel fatigued; rather I felt energized and happy to be so. The challenge was essential to my well-being – it is propelling me forward into this new year – 2011. Numerologists would call this year one for creating a foundation, something for building. Fours (2+0+1+1=4) are foundations…But I digress…Nor did I feel fatigued the next day. OK — I took a nap but the cat insisted –SHE was worn out from all her socializing.

Several people commented on my balcony “garden” and the status of my plants. I tend to kill delicate plants so I have in recent years opted to find living things that can withstand being ignored and a western exposure in LA which can be deadly esp. in a drought or very hot summers, of which we’ve had many in the last decade. My plants are very happy right now –the last few weeks has really been wonderful. Friend Michael said, “Mother Nature has really given them a boost, eh????

“Yes,” I replied to the first inquiry. Each pant is flowering — from the several “Christmas” cacti. The geraniums of each color – red, pale pink, bright pink, middle pink, white, fuchsia, and the coral-red shade called geranium; the kalenchoe all from the same mother plant; even the grandmotherly jade plant is flowering…The only plants not showing their gorgeous flowers are the succulents that bloom so radiantly in April/May…

“I am really thrilled when I open the blinds every day. Bursts of color greet me each morning…”

Someone asked, ”How did you get your plants to be so happy?? You feed them right??” “No, I told them to…I told my plants they had to mirror my health progress…and they did.”

I could see the looks on the faces of everyone. Even the most nuts of my friends thought that was nuts. But hey, I talk to my plants, and they listen; they were ignored for the better part of one plus year when I was anemic because I could barely fill let alone lift the watering can to care for them:  they nearly all died. Monica actually watered them for me a few times because she felt so badly about their near demise…she concurred about their previous state at the party.

So like Tennessee Williams said, “Luck is believing you are lucky.” I wish you all that kind of luck for year 2011 – please believe in yourselves. And may this bring you enjoyment, peace, health, happiness and whatever else you desire.

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Job Seeking for Idiots — 2011

 Some of you might or might not know that I spent a good deal of my professional lifetime writing résumés for people. I executed documents mostly for business and creative folks in the fashion industry – mid-to-top-level management – but also for other professionals (lawyers, medical doctors, psychiatrists/psychologists), students, and more. Early on I got a reputation for taking badly written single pieces pages with random data and turning them into viable, strong job-search materials that got people jobs, and more often, made them think about who they were, what they really did, and where they wanted to go in their careers.

Talk about a gratifying gig –I worked for myself after “apprenticing” myself in a large national résumé writing company that at the time was the only operation that offered this service. Though the owner was truly nuts to think this kind of service was viable and profitable, he gets a lot of credit for this vision. He had three types of people working for him – 1] sales people who were between good sales jobs; 2] writers and other artists (I replaced the timpanist!) who needed a gig to make money – the writers to practice their craft; 3] people like me, both writer and salesperson, able to sell the product and know what they were talking about re: language, organization, grammarwhat a concept!! Today there are hundreds of these companies; some owned by individuals who want to write and do not know what else to write so they can make a living. I am guilty of sorts at being that kind of résumé writer, but have to say this form taught me how to write barebones. My late-bloomed college coursework and truly innovative teachers brought poetry and other artful skills to my execution of language, with a greater critical thinking to my reading and writing.

The other truly unique fulfillment of this work was the ability to provide people with a sense of themselves they have never owned. I’d see light bulbs go off every time I finished a project (still do). It was as if for the very first time these individuals saw their worth. I was adamant they tell me the truth about their work and the things they achieved. One woman client, a truly remarkable person was a death camp survivor who father was a well-known composer in Europe in his time. With a background mostly in charitable work she felt she was not capable of finding “real” work. Her humility was terrific but over the top; she never saw the value of the work applied to other circumstances. In interviewing her deeply, the document I wrote for her enabled me to flaunt her true skills, allow those reading her résumé to best understand how her confluence of skills could work for their companies. Like many clients she became a repeat customer; I also got a lot of referrals from my clients because the work I did was constructive.

The most frequent line I heard after finishing a résumé for someone was: “I’d hire me!!!” In my long-time career in this area, I’ve created some great tools, and executed ideas that made employers think about the people they were hiring. The notion that people began to understand their worth was key.

Fast forward to this facockta (Yiddish for really crappy!) marketplace.

I am appalled at the continual contradictions so-called HR experts currently make in all their articles on résumé writing. Yesterday I read an article touting the top five résumé mistakes specifically stating that Times Roman as a job-search document font was passé, that résumé writers need to check into more interesting fonts; today the same “expert” claimed TR as the perfect font to avoid overdesign.

HUH???!!! (BTW, I hate Times Roman and use Garamond whenever possible or Ariel Narrow — elegant or straight-forward is the way to roll.)

Instead of over-writing the topic, these guys ought to make sure they read their own previous posts so they do not look like their agenda is more important than the information they give to poor job seekers. Looking for work is hard enough these days…doing it wrong in the eyes of such authorities is daunting especially for older workers who have real knowledge and capability yet are subject to ridicule by no-nothing “experts” who only have opinions — they have no research, no documentation and no clout in this field – they themselves more likely are unemployable.

I get that résumé styles have changed — but we seasoned (a deadly word on a résumé I’m told but I am not 12) résumé writers are slow to make changes suggested by people who cannot consistently back their opinions. Most articles I read now about résumé writing provide no real data; they merely show the view of the article writer; I find even employers are telling people things they themselves do not understand. My feeling is that no one knows how to get a job right now because those on the other side don’t know who they want to hire. OR why.

It is disconcerting, disheartening and disgusting.

I have always told clients to communicate their skills and accomplishments on résumés to  propel their careers/job searches. That started 30 plus years ago — why is this suddenly the right view???? I cannot be the only person who functioned in HR that thought this. I used to chat up my recruiter friends to get their opinions since they were in the trenches, too, trying to help companies fill positions and candidates get jobs.

An old client, Annie, called me about a year ago asking me to redo her résumé. I had not — as with many of my clients — seen her in quite a while. The original I wrote for her was a really great template résumé: she was able to tweak it until she needed a new POV, a new fresh take on her career. This is where I shine. She’d submitted her documents to a website proclaiming to find jobs for professionals in the $100K plus bracket. The writer for that group wrote a critique of her resume that upset her so much she came running to me to redo the document – she DID NOT give him her business. Why? Because the idiot was hell-bent on telling her what HE thought about her résuménot how he could intelligently fix it. He was rude, obnoxious and so desperate for her business that it never occurred to him to give her solutions. I probably charged her more than he would have but then I knew what to do and how to do it to get her results; we’ve been working together for 20 years and she trusts me.

Last summer a potential new client, a young engineering student in the Midwest found my website and called to get writing tips for his résumé. We spoke for two hours because I was anemic and all I could do was talk copiously (surprise!!!). The conversation was a pick-me-up for me as I had been lolling around doing nothing, horribly bored despite my exhaustion. It also educated me further to the idiots on parade claiming to know anything about HR. At a job fair each employer told Jake something different about his résumé – none of them told him anything of value; they basically made stuff up.  I call this reinventing the wheel. Poor kid was so confused. He lucked out finding me – tho I was not looking for work because of my illness I opted to do his document because I knew it’d be simple and help him. Turns out the changes I made to his résumé got him the internship desired and the employer in turn hired him full-time after he graduated – I know because he took the time to call to tell me…

I vent verbally and rant frequently on this subject –it’s not personal; it is about all the writers on this topic who are misinformed and who misinform their readers. People need jobs and if 10 people tell you 10 different ways to write a résumé or how to conduct a job search then that proves there is no consensus and or intelligent thinking about the subject. I find this bothersome: to jobseekers; and to those of us who aim to truly help jobseekers find new paths.

It’s 2011 — don’t let the idiots get you down!!!

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Shtiklekh for a Christmas Eve

shtikl (shtiklekh):  little piece[s] (of something), a morsel; trick –  

What’s a Jewish girl to do on Christmas Eve? I am not expecting copious amounts of gifts – nor am I giving any this year either so there is no frantic wrapping (my favorite task actually) or concerns in this area.

I was actually invited to dinner by one of nephew Hats’ good friends – a nice Italian boy cooking macaroni for friends and family. But though I might’ve loved the company and the food, I felt too settled in to get dressed to go anywhere, even around the corner. Typically I love being spontaneous – jump at the next great thing to come along — but I am actually spending the night throwing things out (a very hard thing for me to do – tho not a hoarder I am a packrat esp. papers) and pondering life in a unique way by doing so. I decided, you see, to have a small gathering to celebrate the holidays/my health, and in order to allow anyone into this abode, it has to be reorganized. This, my friends, is the method to my madness – invite people over then you HAVE to clean….That’s how I roll folks – forced reality!!! Commit first then do the work.

This is a healthy thing to do – organize and make room for the new…isn’t that what a new year is all about???

Yesterday I got a lovely surprise via the US Postal service. My friend Beth J who now lives in Austin, Texas has been following my blog; we reconnected on Facebook earlier this year. Beth and I worked together on the board of an organization for journalists/PR/marketing writers and other creative types back in the day, and we lived blocks from each other so we hung out on occasion. The organization did not survive its never-ending bout of internal politics, but Beth and I remained friends until she moved out of town, then we just simply lost touch as people will do. Each of us was having a tough time professionally, socially and personally, and needed to refocus…

Well, B sent this lovely box filled with little treats – this was a true trove (definition: 1: discovery, find. 2: a valuable collection: treasure; also: haul…) of tiny treasures. Ooooh boy! The energy she put into this collection of toys was palpable and it means so much to me. A lovely blue-toned Japanese-looking silk scarf; a terrific recycled paper fish decoration that is reversible from chartreuse green to ocean blue; two charming small books – one Haiku and another called the “The Heart Book”; a large Ghiradelli dark chocolate bar (do I eat it or bake with it; hmmm, a conundrum…); a 20-point mini-light set for a small area (too cute); tissues with Eskimos and polar bear figures imprinted (even cuter); a mini-mag flash light (the cutest!!! How did she know I’d been wanting one of those????); lovely full-bodied Earl Grey and white teas; a pin with an image of a cat that looks just like the Bengal when she yells at me; a set of shampoos/bath gels for my new hair crop; and last, but far from least, is a charming vintage bleached-white linen handkerchief with the initial “W” on it. The wubblew is pale pink hand embroidery, with French knots surrounding it…so beautiful.

This last treasure — and I do mean treasure – reminds me of the only other personalized handkerchiefs I have ever owned, gifted to me by my paternal Russian grandmother, my Bubba Bessie. Everyone in my family knows the story I am about to impart – each of us has a favorite bubba-meinsa (old wives’ tale essentially) about our Bubba – this is my fave.

I was about eight years old maybe even a little younger. Dad used to take Big Sis and me to relatives homes on our bi-weekly Sundays together – we either went where there were other kids so Dad could relax and we’d have a semblance of family life, or we’d go to Bessie’s house for a good old-fashioned home cooked meal, and some time with my grandmother. Going to Bubba’s was easy for him because we lived close by; the drive home took 5 minutes, if that from her Horrocks and Levick St.corner – I could’ve walked a beeline there from my house in those days. Bessie had been to Floh-ida for a vacation and probably spent the better part of her time there buying presents for her 40-some grandkids. There were many of us since she had had 10 children; the nine born here survived a very poor childhood and spawned this new group, of which my immediate family boasts five siblings. So here we are at Bubba’s apartment and she presents her tschotchkes to us. It could not have been easy selecting gifts for so many of us, in so many different age groups. Yikes!! Or should it be a loud OY??

Now I love to give, but also love to get presents, it could be Ajax cleanser and I’d be happy…what can I say? I’m a cheap date…I gingerly opened the quickly, imperfectly wrapped gifts to discover two bright white handkerchiefs with embroidered “W’s” — one with blue the other with a deep pink threading. Next was the box that every girl knows is jewelry – even at eight I knew this held the real treasure from my grandmother. There though was the real surprise: it was a gold necklace with a heart displaying the letter “V.”



I thanked Bubba in an obligatory way – muttering under my breath; this was not a gift that commanded one of those great bear hugs we all so cherished. She went back into the kitchen. Dad read the paper almost in a daze.

“Daddy, WHY did Bubba give me this…??” I whined.

He was taken by surprise; he had no idea I was upset. I showed him the necklace, and he laughed very loudly. I was visibly upset but realized something was going on if he was laughing – which BTW did not stop me from pissily pouting. My take was that Bessie was a grown-up – didn’t she know how to spell my name???

“Hey, Mom, can you come into the living room for a minute…?” he called. “I need to ask you a question.”

Bessie came, spoon held vertically in hand, something dripping from it.


“How do you say Wendy?”

My grandmother was getting annoyed – she had dinner to cook and her son was asking her this idiotic question – even I could see this dynamic.

“Vendy…” she said angrily.

“How do you say the name Victoria?”


I began to laugh; her pale blues eyes were starting to blaze cobalt: a true sign of annoyance…Dad explained to her in Yiddish why he had asked. Then this large Russian woman and I shared that big all-encompassing hug and laughed together. I still have my “V” necklace – wrapped in my embroidered hankies. I suddenly had this clear picture of my grandmother shopping in some little store owned by another Jewish grandmother telling her she wanted to buy her granddaughter an initialed necklace.

“Vat’s the goil’s name??”

“Vendy…” sayeth the Bubba. And the “V” she got!

So, to all a good night!

To my friends celebrating tonight and tomorrow, I wish you a lovely and very special Christmas…to all who read these essays, I hope that memories like mine glide into your brains and give you great cheer even midst tears.

Besides, I got great presents already – I got stability AND my hair back. Strand-by-strand, curl-by-curl, thick and soft — it’s white, black and gray…so I might look like a zebra when it all comes in….but who’s complaining??

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The Results are In.

I am friggin’ tired.

My trip east was relaxing and fun; just what I needed — time away from my job as a full-time patient with each day spent with one enjoyable person or another doing something special like seeing a musical play/movie, or going to a party or something as simple as hanging out and talking with family. Shopping at Wegman’s was a considerable singular pleasure I must say. (For the gourmet-inclined who live west this is an east coast über-supermarket with all kinds of gourmand-type items both prepared and up for creative inclusion in a new experimental dish!) Par for the course, I digress.

Yes, for those astute enough to see it, I AM dragging out telling you the results of my CT because I need to tell you just how tiring being a full-time patient is. I really do feel good. I feel lucky, too, that I feel this good, that the chemo process has not beat the total crap out of me. That being what I originally expected, because radiation four years ago did just that: I expected a constant battle. BUT what actually exhausted me this last year (along with the fucking low hemoglobin/anemia!) was fear, negative expectations, and well, yes, the constant running around to 12-plus doctors of varied and sundry types. Though now I seem to be down to four docs of constancy, I am still running to UCLA all the time – bi-weekly now rather than almost daily but it still is too freakin’ often…

So I came back West feeling refreshed, peaceful and stress-free; I missed the truly cold weather – yippi-io-ki-ay freakin’ AWE-some – to bring out the winter bedding. The wonderfully rich down comforter I bought some years ago that in warmer weather is a disaster but in this wet winter wonderland (Yes, Virginia, we will have a rainy winter this year!!! Thank GOD!) is absolutely PERfect. I was hoping all this rest and amusement would do just what it did – calm me sufficiently so that I was prepared for whatever the docs told me about my future.

Fast-forward from my trip (or turn backward from now) to two days after I came home. The 2nd CT scan during this chemo protocol – for those who do not know this test tells the medical pros visually what the lymph nodes previously affected look like – are they smaller or larger? Is there new stuff going on??? I actually handled the scan OK but as each day passed anxiety set in. My POV? I felt good, looked good, have maintained a certain level of healthfulness, so the news’d be good, but there is a word in Yiddish ( )Kinehora n: A curse in reverse. A colleague says with best intentions; “Looks like you’re going to get a promotion…” Kinehora! You quickly cover his mouth, for to utter such a thing is to ensure it will never happen.) Kinehora –you spoke waaaaaayyyy too soon, so you don’t speak at all if possible about a particular subject. You knock wood a lot, you make no conjectures or prognostications – you just fucking wait.

I waited and each day a little more anxiety crept into my head; some tears flowed, my cat acted weird (sweet but weird though she had been faced with her poodle relative the night I came home – but that’s another story…I just wish I had photographed their first meeting), and I ate chocolate. Tuesday I wrote the doc an email requesting info…nicely, not in a demanding, freaked out way.

“If you want to let me know what the test results are please feel free to email me back…”

Not a desperate tone, just seeking info I thought. Yea, right. His answer was, as Big Sis sighed, “vague”, but promising and cautious. I made the appointment to see him before I even wrote that note knowing full well he’d not tell me anything unless my face was in front of his.

“Everything looks stable thus good…” was his electronic reply. OK, Stable. A very old friend who I have not seen in 30 years wrote this to me…. waiting for test results is the most stressful thing in the world. your mind conjures up every visual possible scenario you can torture yourself with. however…i would be hanging on to the word stable right now because i like that word. it’s a calm word,”you are stable!”now you’re wondering how stable? if you weren’t stable stable they would have said something like somewhat stable or unstable .so rest, mumella, i think you will be o.k. STABLE.

This was so on the money I laughed out loud – just what I needed.

By Thursday I was exhausted again. And unaware of it. Anxious and fully aware yet not freaking out somehow. I was ready for whatever the hell he had to say. Of course, Big Sis was on the way to St Louis to see her new delicious grandson, with her phone turned off while waiting on a DC runway for her plane to be de-iced a few times (yikes!!) and unavailable, so I made an appointment with my therapist to shore me up if needed. It was NOT needed.


Bottom line? OK, everything IS stable – most of the nodes are smaller, or at minimum the same. One node keeps rearranging itself like a lithe Cirque du Soleil act — smaller on one side than last time but on another side longer. Some new nodes appeared; my lungs are showing all kinds of crap (from the evil Taxol and 35 years of smoking no doubt…) but none of this, says the doc, is worrisome. I’ll be taking two more cycles of chemo, a preventive maybe even palliative measure, but now that the three-hour drip is gone from the mix this is like taking a bad lunch. (Really bad – the dietitians at UCLA need to clean up their act – when tuna fish sandwiches are horrid and cannot pass my lips you know it’s bad. And apparently wheat bread is out of their lexicon…)

“I never expected you to tell me this cancer was gone.” I share with Doc K. “I know this is a chronic disease. And that is something I can deal with – as long as I win some of the battles, maybe I can get to win the war.”

This from a devout pacifist.

He was relieved – no doubt. I can be a real pain in the ass and he anticipated that but I am a reasonable patient and would rather know WHAT is going on and deal with it than know nothing and be scared all the fucking time. Not a way I can live comfortably, nor will I.

So this IS good news. Great news would be that I am “cured” and the cancer is gone. Not realistic though. Yesterday, interestingly enough, news on my home page showed that the first HIV/Aids patient HAS been cured. It’s taken what, 30 or more years for that? I feel strongly that since cancer is an individual disease; “it” will never be “cured” in a generic way; but each day people’s lives are extended by new scientific findings. I am one of those people. As I’ve said before: Halle-freakin’-lu-jah. (listen to Leonard Cohen sing his song to hear how I really feel …

And, oh yea, my day was filled with calls from friends who want to know how I am (thanks all) and was capped finally by winning $20 in an online bookstore for touting my most recent favorite book: Cutting for Stone,” a truly remarkable book. I wrote the small capsule review the day before thinking, “other people have already praised this book, I’ll never win,” yadda yadda yadda….Then last night getting my final emails of the day I saw my Daily Dose from Powell’s Books with MY NAME on it. Huh?!?! Too kewl.

How can life be bad when a great book so inspires you to win money to buy more great books???????

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