Saturday, April 22, 2017


   But in the middle of the month I received some bad news about my cancer which has returned to the lining (epithelium) of my stomach.  This time the chemo won't be as bad, they say.  But the doctor also said that I didn't have to take steroids this time. But she wasn't right about that. One of the chemo drugs is different and there should be fewer effects. But most people I spoke with didn't have pain with chemo, and I did.  As with most health issues, everyone is different, and responds differently to medicine.
   The pain began two weeks before and the first visit to Urgent Care sent me home with laxatives. Two weeks later they hadn't worked.  Meanwhile, and this is what makes me most angry, a blood test had been done when I first went and some doctor (not the UC doctor) asked for a CA-125 count.  It showed 92!!  Well, the month before, my six month check up, the count was 14!!  Yet this outcome didn't ring any bells, set off any alarms, nothing.  Had I not returned because of the severe pain, I would be walking around with the tumors on the lining of my stomach continuing to grow and spread.

Not like a baobab  tree that was across the Ruaha River from me in February 2015 when I visited Tanzania and Zanzibar, probably for the last time.  I am heartbroken that my health won't be good enough to fulfill that bucket list I had:  Amsterdam and the art museums, Yucatan and Oaxaca in Mexico, Ireland and Wales, Vietnam and Thailand.  Or a cruise in a very small ship around Europe. Don't forget all the places in Latin America I haven't seen -- Peru, Ecuador, Chile.

So I thought I would set my sights a bit closer to home and concentrate on that lifelong dream I have had of creating a beautiful, handmade, unique dollhouse.  Please don't laugh.  It has symbolic meaning in my life as I was gifted a beautiful handmade dollhouse for my sixth birthday.  Made by friends of my parents, it had a lift off roof, and a ranch style feeling, a fireplace, doors and windows that opened plus (I am pretty sure) lights that actually worked.  I turned six in 1953 when I was living in Croton-On-Hudson, New York.  The government was continuing its surveillance of my father and consequently my entire family. We suddenly had to move.  We purchased an old truck with a wood station wagon body that was owned by Allen Funt of Candid Camera. You have to be at least my age to know who he was.

More important than my dollhouse were the many books my father lost. He asked a friend to hold them for him in his attic in Croton but at some point the friend got scared and threw them away (possibly burned them all).  I guess my obsession with books and dollhouses goes back to those dreadful days when I was terrified but didn't know why, was told never to open the door to anyone, and lost the most precious gift of my short life.  I have never seen a dollhouse like it since and do not remember the names of the makers.  So sad.  This is the closest I've ever seen - by Marx - made of tin with a lift off roof.  Amazing!  The one I was given was wooden, with a shingled roof, and lights that worked. Much more sophisticated than this.

But now that I live in Los Angeles, close to Mexico (THIS IS MEXICO!), I think I should design a more logical house for this climate and natural setting.  So of course I thought of an hacienda - doesn't have to be a huge one, just one story perhaps, with a central courtyard, and the arches for the porches.  Found a blog with an excellent looking one and even wrote the artist.  She kindly sent me back the plans with the measurements!! So beautiful!  But it still isn't exactly what I want.  

I love that she designed it herself and figured out all kinds of beautiful touches to make it look real.  There is a center courtyard with a fountain but it is very very small.  The furnishings are exquisite and belong to a very upper crust family. Do I want my hacienda to be that bourgeois?  Not sure, yet who would own an hacienda if not a bourgeois?    I once stayed in an hacienda in Huejotitan, Jalisco, Mexico which was actually an orphanage.  It was huge, or seemed that way to my 16 year-old eyes.  Some of the staff had their own suites, bedrooms with a bath.  Larger rooms for multiple beds were plentiful to house the groups I had traveled with- about 15 of us - as well as the orphans themselves.  

The base of the above dollhouse is 39 by 25 -- that's quite large.  Access is from the back.  I imagined my doll house as a rectangle with a smaller one inside for the patio, with lift off roofs, so you look down on the rooms.  Indeed, I even hoped for a two-story affair.  And perhaps another way to open it by separating the whole into two parts that are also hinged in two.  But that's a lot to ask.  Our amazing carpenter/handyperson Gilberto Osorio (highly recommended - he can do anything and does it well, and if he can't he finds someone else who can) can probably make whatever I ask but I really need some good plants.

This is how I imagined the rich interior - full of beautiful pottery and rugs and art from Mexico.  I had started to collect furniture as well years ago so I have some.  This dollhouse will fulfill two of my particular wishes - bucket list I suppose one could say -- and those include a love of miniature animals and people.  I collected tiny ceramic animals and people for the first 14 years of my life, when I decided I was too old for them and told my mother to give them away.  A strange thing to do since adults collect these as well.  There is a tiny store at Olvera Street which houses many of the miniatures that I love.  I hope to lavish some love on them as well.  The store is owned by a couple who are struggling, as are all the stores there since the city decided to stop subsidizing them (so as to push them out in order to gentrify I suspect).

I wish I could believe in prayer and that I could pray for health.  Unfortunately this round of cancer is very painful -- to the point that I cannot really go anywhere unless I can sit with a heating pad on my stomach, and nod out when I am tired (which is most of the time).  

I'll end with something more positive - the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, a beautiful human being!  First African American to win the Pulitzer and poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, among other great honors!


Already I am no longer looked at with lechery or love.
My daughters and sons have put me away with marbles and dolls,
Are gone from the house.
My husband and lovers are pleasant or somewhat polite
And night is night.

It is a real chill out,
The genuine thing.
I am not deceived, I do not think it is still summer
Because sun stays and birds continue to sing.

It is summer-gone that I see, it is summer-gone.
The sweet flowers indrying and dying down,
The grasses forgetting their blaze and consenting to brown.

It is a real chill out. The fall crisp comes
I am aware there is winter to heed.
There is no warm house
That is fitted with my need.

I am cold in this cold house this house
Whose washed echoes are tremulous down lost halls.
I am a woman, and dusty, standing among new affairs.
I am a woman who hurries through her prayers.

Tin intimations of a quiet core to be my
Desert and my dear relief
Come: there shall be such islanding from grief,
And small communion with the master shore.
Twang they. And I incline this ear to tin,
Consult a dual dilemma. Whether to dry
In humming pallor or to leap and die.

Somebody muffed it?? Somebody wanted to joke. 

Friday, April 7, 2017



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Poppies in East Los Angeles

 Paul Thomas, blogger par excellence, quotes from John Dewey:
What avail is it to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win ability to read and write, if in the process the individual loses his own soul: loses his appreciation of things worth while, of the values to which these things are relative; if he loses desire to apply what he has learned and, above all, loses the ability to extract meaning from his future experiences as they occur? (Experience and Education, p. 49)

So how do we promote poetry and libraries so we can save our civilization in the age of Trump and complete disregard for anything meaningful in life?

I have always been intimidated by poetry and never thought I could write any.  I only wrote one that I liked - in 8th grade - about the lemon tree in my backyard.  My teacher loved it.  I think I loved my teacher too. She made me feel a whole person -- as most other teachers didn't. 

In honor of this lovely teacher I thought I'd try my 'hand' at a poem today.  And as I thought of this, I looked down at my own hands and realized I was starting to see the hands of my mother.  The idea of generations of hands. 


My two hands now aged and wrinkled
Dark spots dot them here and there
The dryness aging them even more
Do they show I'm wise or just weathered?

Hands give us away I think.
They made my mother's beautiful face 
An aberration in her composition
While her hands told all.

We can't escape them and rely upon them.
They give us so much.
They provide us with so many alternatives.
Do we appreciate them at all?

My hands have always seemed inadequate
They couldn't draw a single image
Nor could they master the classical guitar
But they did allow me to learn to crochet.

Hands are more than a gift
They are a blessing 
Without them we wouldn't find our lost glasses
Nor would be find any peace.

These hands
Are they my hands
or my mothers?

Brown spots and 
wrinkles mark their
aging progress.

Thin skin means
bruising, and
nicks and bleeding.

They have withstood the
tests of time.

Wildflowers in Los Angeles

Find out what will inspire your students to write. Maybe it's their cell phone. So be it! Let them make a stab at it!   
   And not too much criticism.  I know that's why I didn't write anything for many., many years.