Monday, May 30, 2011

Overcoming Anger

My son, who I'll call Batti, has tried my patience of late. He borrowed my phone charger on Friday, promised to return it on Sunday, and not only he not return my charger, but he hasn't returned my frantic phone calls for it as well.

So instead of completely losing all power to the phone, I went out this morning and bought a new phone charger.

Now there are people who would say, "oh come on, you've got your health, you're kids are happy, school is almost over." I say true to all that. But would it be too much trouble to have a 17-year old son who was thoughtful, considerate and responsible?

I can answer that - yes! There, now I feel better.

Working To Get Unstuck

I have written five papers and finished a major power point presentation on the topic of frozen foods in the last week. I am burnt out.

So I'm frantically struggling to write my last paper on Vitamin D and HIV, a paper I've been working on for 3 days now (not to mention the weeks of preparation to get to this point). So why am I having a hard time writing the literature review?

I tried taking a nap, going for a bike ride, eating lunch, and watching a little TV. Nothing has really helped. I get this sinking feeling that I will once again be up until midnight slugging my way through this paper.

Oh well. One thing I know for sure - I will finish this thing today.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Joining The Gym

I am absolutely determined to lose weight. And get in shape. Soon.

So this week I once again joined the local senior center to use the treadmill. Great to see old friends (okay, I've only been going there, on and off, for 2 years, but still, they seem like old friends), and make new ones. The new one would be Doug.

Doug is the cheerleader, the guy who keeps us going, encouraging everyone and working out himself. He can't be more than 55 years old, and he's the kind of person you feel you've known your whole life. Chances are, you have. Because Doug is the kind of person who was everyone's friend in school - the feel good person who just wanted everyone to be happy.

And happy we all are. I read Tehillim on the treadmill, and join side conversations when possible. The guys lift weights. The trainer helps out where he can, and the room is so small, everyone knows everyone else's business.

Just the way I like it. A womb with a view.

My Last Day

I can't get over how things work out. I just finished writing a short paper on genetic disorders among Ashkenazi Jews for a class, and was concentrating on the next short paper when I took a break and went to teach my high school class some physiology.

Okay, more like I went to a room where the high school girls were sitting, talking non-stop, and I tried to get their attention. Thank the Holy One is was my last day - literally. Since I wasn't offering a final, teaching ended on Tuesday for me.

On Tuesdays, I pitch in and act as the teacher of record for a 1/2 hour detention. As I sat there eating my lunch and planning out my next paper, a student of mine came up to me all nervous. She had to give blood in a little over an hour and didn't know what to expect.

Why are you giving blood, I asked. For Dor Yeshorim. Oh my gosh. I couldn't believe it. For those of you who don't know, Dor Yeshorim is an organization that tests orthodox Jews for genetic diseases. Instead of giving the actual results, the test taker is given a number instead. When it's time to date, both parties contact Dor Yeshorim with their numbers to see if they are genetically compatible, or incompatible. Kinda like the cup is half full or half empty.

But how weird is that? I had just finished a paper on that very subject, and here it was, happening right in front of me. I was so excited that when I got into class, I told all the girls, since 11th and 12th graders had the option of taking the tests, all about what they were about to do.

Not that they listened. Oy vey. I just thank G-d it's over for me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Print Out and Be Happy

Today, I made a commitment to myself. Today I signed up for the gym at the local senior center (again) and went to work out. Okay, not exactly Olympic material, but I felt good walking for about 40 minutes on the treadmill, reading Tehillim, and sweating a little.

Of course, I left my phone in the beverage holder - standard operating procedure. Didn't notice until I got home, and went to check out my notes on the phone. I had written down the name of a couple of printers I saw at Staples last night and went to look them up on google.

Thank G-d the staff found my phone and waited for me to call. So I googled the printers from memory, and found one I hadn't seen before: HP Deskjet 1000. Cost: $29.99. Location: Target. Total win-win.

As my laptop is not attached to the main printer at home, it's a hassle to send the document to my email account, or put it on a flash drive to walk over to the main computer and print out. Starting this afternoon, I can print out at my own desk. Talk about excited. And my new little printer comes with a carry pouch for travel!

It's the little things. And the things that don't weigh so much. Things like my deskjet. Oh yeah.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Biking My Ride

This was my off carpool day, and I looked forward to taking a long bike ride. I started out to a destination that would definitely take 30 minutes, but when I hit the 20 minute mark, I was beat. It had hit the wall.

Lucky for me there was a traffic jam up ahead, which meant the bus had stopped before the actual bus stop sign and was letting a wheel-chair bound passenger off. The takes a good 5 minutes, long enough for me to catch up to the bus, load my bike up and stand in line to enter.

I ended up being a few minutes late for my appointment, but had a wonderful meeting. My mentor is a delightful person, and has become more like a friend. We chatted away and actually made some real progress on a project we're working on.

When it came time to go, I knew I wanted to go to the local farmer's market, an outdoor affair with all kinds of fruits and vegetables, usually delicious and beautiful, at astronomical prices. So I rode my bike to the nearest subway stop, got off at Hollywood/Highland station with about 8 million other tourists, and rode the short few blocks to the market.

I decided to choose wisely and spend no more than $10. That included a hit of wheat grass, with a spritz of ginger. Feeling incredibly invigorated, I sprinted the rest of the even shorter way home.

Ah, the joys of moving around the city on bike. Now if only I was actually in shape to do it right.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Final Word About Today

I asked a dear friend of mine to save me a seat the Bikur Cholim luncheon today (see previous post) so when I got there and it was mobbed, all I had to do was find my friend and put my purse down. I was then sent off to get food.

Before actually joining the buffet line, I dashed over to the exhibitors. There was a chef there with a big plate of cactus salad for us to sample. I was so excited - finally an opportunity to try what the locals here called nopales. They are oblong, flat prickly pear cactus denuded of spikes and grilled or sauteed to add to tossed salad.

I had a quick conversation with the chef, mentioning to all around me that nopales, the term used to refer to prickly pear cactus in Spanish, is a local remedy for elevated blood sugar. Of course I also mentioned that I thought it was interesting that Hispanics, which have a genetic tendency toward diabetes due to a mutated allele, live in a country where this cactus abounds.

The chef smiled, and everyone around me went about their business in much the same way most people would when they hear something talking about their encounter with space aliens. I decided I really need to keep some information to myself, and vowed to do so whenever so challenged.

I tried the nopales salad, and thanked the Holy One, Blessed Be He, that I don't have diabetes. Or maybe it just needed a different dressing. Still, I think it's amazing how G-d puts the cure to the disease right where it's needed.

What A DayThis Was

I got the rare opportunity today to go from one mitzvah to the next. The day began with a bris milah, welcoming the son of a cousin into the covenant of Hashem. Ah bliss. The baby was cute and cuddly, hardly cried, and the mohel passed the time working on his stand-up monologue.

At first I was a bit put off by it. This is an important moment for the baby and his parents. Why all the jokes? But when I looked around, I realized that the mohel was really playing to the crowd, a mixed bag of seculars who really wanted to have lunch.

How secular were they? They thought my husband was a rabbi, which never happens in our crowd. In truth, it's a big deal for people who have little tradition in their lives to have an orthodox bris for their son, and I was proud of them. Even thought the baby's father looked like he was going to faint, and had to be helped to a chair, they did the right thing.

Since the food wasn't really kosher (they call it kosher-style here), I had my family drop me off at the annual Bikur Cholim luncheon, a stunning array of food and exhibits to raise money for an incredible organization. Ladies, I have to say, you are amazing. But unfortunately, it's an organization for women who are not otherwise engaged - in other words, don't have a full time job and/or have the financial resources to devote themselves to a spur of the moment request for help.

I am, unfortunately, not one of these women. But I thank the Holy One, Blessed Be He, that these women exist, and they live in my neighborhood. Ladies, you rule.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tofu To See You

My food science class got a real treat today: a tour of House Foods tofu factory in Garden Grove, California. Home of Knotts Berry Farm, the small community of industrial sites was very warm and inviting.

First, we learned a lot about tofu. This company makes tons of it, literally, and almost all of it is kosher. I was so excited.

Then we toured the plant and watched workers creating all the different types of tofu - soft, hard, firm, semi firm, soy milk. In fact, we even made tofu ourselves, in groups of three, out of warm soy milk, calcium sulfide and water. Talk about cool.

The plant R&D department made lunch, which I turned down as I really need a Rabbi supervising things when I'm away from home. But it looked and smelled good, and chances are, was perfectly acceptable to eat. All, that is, except the mock cheese cake, which actually did have dairy in it.

We had been expecting a long trek to get to Garden Grove, and prepared ourselves for a 1 hour there and a 2 hour ride back. We got the "there" part right, but actually got home in less than 1 hour. I rode my bike to my friend's house to carpool, so I rode home afterwards feeling like I had learned a lot today.

One thing's for sure: more House Foods tofu in my diet. My estrogen receptors need it, and my hormones crave it. I think I'll try garlic and pepper.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Parking Spot from G-d

I was on my way to teach physiology when my phone rang. I stopped my bike, on my street, and answered the call. It was an old friend asking for a favor.

Monday and Tuesday is street cleaning on my block, which means alternative parking leaving one side of the street clear. The side of the street permitted to parking was full and the family van was on the wrong side. We had 30 minutes to move it.

As I was winding up my conversation, a neighbor came running out of the house, jumped in her car and drove off. Wouldn't you know it - the car left from the permitted side of the street. I quickly called my husband to move the car while I stood in the spot.

If my friend had called a few minutes later we would have missed the spot. Thank you G-d.

Feeling the love.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day to Me!

One by one my kids wished me a happy mother's day. My friends wished me a happy mother's day. And unfortunately, if I didn't have so much homework, I would have done something special for mother's day.

But I did get a gift - a beautiful hamsa necklace. Petite, sterling silver and cubic zirconium diamonds. I really love it. Of course, I should. I bought it.

You know, if you want the right gift, don't leave anything to chance. Just get it yourself. Life is too short. Might as well be happy.

Red Rain

I have this blood condition that gives me quite a bit of problems. Courtesy of a genetic mutation, my body produces too many platelets, and now, too many red blood cells. Mazel tov to me!

So to keep my system steady, which means avoiding blood clots and stroke, my options are very limited. I can go on leukemia medication, which seems a bit much to me. Or I can drain off the blood from time to time to bring my counts down.

Last Friday, it was that time. I thought it was a joke, and tried to be lighthearted about it, but in the end I was lightheaded. In less than 5 minutes my body was drained of 540 mLs of red blood in a big old glass bottle, and it was totally gross.

My mistake to ask to see the bottle, which was all frothy and disgustingly red. I must be getting wimpy in my old age but I thought I would faint from that alone.

I just hope it helps.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Air Is Free

Oy vey, I'm becoming such an airhead. Tired out from day's long-winded adventure (see my previous post) I got a late start preparing for class, including packing a lunch and my books.

After riding the rails and schlepping my bike, I arrived at my stop around 4:30 pm, about an hour and a half before class starts, and locked my bike up outside. I took one last look - I figured with such a flimsy cable lock, I'd be out of a bike in no time, but I was also out of options. I had to get to school and this was the closest stop for me and my carpool buddy, who was already on campus. I bit my lip and thought, oh well, G-d is the Boss.

Turns out, class was cancelled, and the notification went out via email when I wasn't anywhere near a computer. Deja vu!

So there I was, sitting and schmoozing over a cup of coffee until class time, and then leisurely strolling to the building just in time to smell a classmate's dinner warming up. Met another classmate when I got to the door, and we all looked at the posted sign saying class cancelled.

Another dear friend, without access to the internet at work, came to class a little early and went home thinking I had forgotten to tell her. When I got her on the phone, I explained how her airhead friend (that would be me) was at that moment sitting outside of class wondering how this could happen twice in one week. Suddenly, it all seemed kinda funny.

When I got dropped off at the subway, I couldn't believe my eyes: my bike was still there. As I was unlocking it, a local came up behind me and told me I need a better chain for my bike. To illustrate, he picked up the skinny cable and demonstrated how one little snip and that bike would be gone.

I asked him how someone would risk going to jail over such a crummy bike, and his answer was remarkable: someone with nothing sees the worth in having something. I got the feeling he was talking about himself, and I just took the bike and walked away, thanking him for keeping an eye on it.

Thank you G-d for keeping an eye on me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What A Day

Still without a car and running quite late, my son Shlomo and I jumped on our bikes and headed out as fast as we could to the nearest subway station. I just want to mention that the station we headed out to is uphill all the way.

Well, skinny Shlomo was peddling like a maniac and making good time. His mother, aka me, was practically hyperventilating to keep up. Exhausted, we made it to the subway station with 3 minutes to spare, giving us the time we needed to make it two stops up the line, get out of the subway station and ride the two blocks to the medical office to check in for Shlomo's early morning doctor appointment.

Two hours later, we were on our way home, again by subway. This was Shlomo's first ride on the rails, and he liked it. It was pretty crowded, and with the bikes, it was a squeeze.

After we split up, Shlomo going to school and me going to the bank, I noticed a line outside the comic book store offering free comics. Okay, it was the word "free" that caught my eye, so I parked my bike and stood in line for something completely different: inflated Thor thunder sticks and a poster, signed by the director of the movie and one of its stars.

I'm not a comic book person, but I really liked the waiting in line thing. The young man in front of me kinda filled me in on things, but I've seen the billboards around town and knew vaguely about the movie. My other son Mendel is really into this mythology thing, which I find boring, and never fails to fill me in whenever we're at a stop light.

So when my turn came to get the poster signed, there wasn't much to say to the producer, other than good luck. But Jaimie Alexander was wonderful. She not only signed my poster, but put a message to Mendel on it: "Listen to your mother," she wrote, "she loves you."

Guess who's going to see Thor?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Riding the Sad Rails

Usually I leave class early, which is 8:30 pm, but having missed so many classes due to Passover, I decided to stick it out. That meant leaving class at 9:20 pm, riding my bike to the bus stop, and waiting another 40 minutes for a bus.

If that wasn't bad enough, when I finally did get to the subway, I waited another 30 minutes for that. But you know what, that wasn't really the problem.

The problem was a short, skinny Asian kid who looked like he was 12 years old spouting off all kinds of negative stuff. Like, the government is corrupt, the Army is corrupt, guns should be illegal, non-stop. What is it with me and non-stop subway riding talkers?

So I tried to calm this little squirt down, told him to yoga breathe, etc. He smiled, then went right back into it. Repeating the same crap over and over.

My seat mate, an tired black woman, told me the kid is right. I said no. Yeah, but he has the right to free speech. I counter that he's too negative, and someone that negative at such a young age is mentally ill. Then the young man across the way took his earphone out and chimed in: he has the right to his opinion.

I smiled, and told him that the world is not only negative. There are good things going on, good things happening. If you focus on the negative, you are wrong. Think good, and it will be good.

I don't think I convinced anyway, not with the subway being held up 10 minutes at Hollywood and Western Boulevards. It was late. Everyone was tired. But is that an excuse to be sad?

Come on people, be happy!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Riding The Rails

The family van broke down yesterday, and was sent off to the mechanic for resurrection. Just so you know, in terms of automobiles, money makes all things possible.

Which meant that I took the bus today. All day. Yeap. A nightmare come true.

I needed to go to a seminar this morning on Motivational Interviewing in the health field. It's all about empowering your client and helping them find the answers to their problems. It was amazing.

What took 1 hour travel time to get to took nearly 3 hours to get away from. I thought I would go out of my mind. When the subway stop came into view, I nearly flew out the window jumping out of my seat in anticipation of getting off the bus. I had been standing/sitting on that elongated metal box for over 1 hour.

The subway was another matter entirely. The rules have changed: there are no restrictions for bicycles on subways anymore. We just have to put them on certain cars that have less seats and more room.

A fellow traveler got on at my stop, and literally talked, non-stop, for the next 35 minutes about bikes, his bike, my bike, everyone else's bike, the bike he was gonna put together. I loved it. Talk about entertaining. He took my mind off the police activity 5 stops up, which delayed our travel time by 15 minutes.

Which is a funny story by itself. When the conductor explained that police activity was going to keep us sitting still for 4 to 5 minutes, most of us heard 45 minutes and passengers scampered off the train like cockroaches after the light's turned on. It took a passenger's emergency call to the conductor to get that straightened out and we called our fellow passengers back.

If one needs to travel in public, it's best that public is happy, kind, and a little nutty. Makes the time out go that much quicker.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spending Time Making Friends

This past week, the California Dietetic Association held its convention in Pasadena, California, just a stone's throw from my home. As a member in good standing, I was able to get one of the coveted volunteer positions for students, which means free attendance.

I learned a lot, as my duties included assisting the speakers during three lectures spanning over 4 hours. But what I remember most is spending time with old friends and meeting new ones. It was great to see all my former co-students who have gone on to other endeavors.

In the process, I made new friends as well. May it be the will of G-d that this is only the beginning.

Rock And Roll I Don't Like

Yesterday, Shabbat, a friend came up to me and whispered, "are your sons planning on starting a rock group?"

Now, most mothers might get excited at the prospect of their sons entering the limelight, showcasing their talent, being popular. But not me. The thought sent a cold chill down my spine.

This is due, in part, to the fact that we have had a rash of deaths among our youth as of late. In the last six months, we've lost three young men: a 22-year old, recently engaged, drowned Erev Shabbat in a diving accident; a 23-year old overdosed; and just a few days ago, a 37 year old father of four was found dead not long after Moshiach Seudah - the final matzoh and wine bash before Passover ends.

So imagine my feelings when I hear "rock group" and my sons in the same breath. Please, boys, play your guitars, hang out with friends, but be careful about the rock world. It's harsh and not very forgiving. I did not train you for that. Making kiddish Friday night, davening with a minyan, loving babies - yeah, I'll take credit for that.

Good thing we don't know the future. No point freaking out early. For now, I'll just yoga breathe.