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Posts from April 2009

Looking for Love Online: Plenty of Fish

Someone suggested that since Craig’s List and Chemistry were not working for me, I should try Plenty of Fish. On this free site, you post a picture and fill out some information on yourself, and your ideal first date. If someone is interested in you they can either put you on their favorites list hoping that you’ll send them a note (for the less bold), or he will directly contact you with a note (the notes are on the site, only notifications that “you have mail” go to your email).

Now, I have to admit that I had a nice date (not getting expectations up) this weekend with one man I met on the site (the soccer-playing scientist), and may have one this week with the lawyer who would rather paint. But I just could not resist sharing with you some of the notes I have received. They are just too… well… when you read them you will wonder how anyone got out of school (elementary?) and through half a life with such thin communication skills. I am sorry in advance if I offend any of these men, but really, they should put more effort into themselves than anger directed at me for exposing their paltry writing skills and thinking ability. There were some more normal responses, but they were far outnumbered by these ineffectual ones and they are not mockable.

I have included the age of the writers in parentheses because I think it’s interesting to know; also, I have changed phone numbers and names to protect the guilty.

Subject: Hi!!!
Hi Cutie!!!!
I did want to just let you know that I just got done browsing every woman on the east coast.......Thats 14 states and thought Id let you know that you are definatley the cutiest, sweetest,Hottest most Georgous woman on here!!!!!! It took me 2 months ..11 days..... 16 hrs.....and 22 minutes to do that!!!!!
Shew am I whipped!!!!!
You could be on my FAV 5 anyday!!!!!!!
See ya! Mel

Subject: u are a gorgeous --- do u have yahoo IM
u are a gorgeous --- do u have yahoo IM - what is your id to chat more --

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Mediation, or Sitting around a Big Table with Someone You Hate (Part 3)

This time I lasted twenty minutes around that table. It could be that my lack of patience with slime and mediator man is because this is the third time (1, 2) around that table (with more goodies in the middle that I did not touch) and I already knew how things would go. Or it could be because the day before slime was yelling at me, yet again, for moving his dishes and then within the rant he proceeded to fill a bowl with water and throw it on the fish I had draining in a colander in the sink, and then throw a cup with orange peels in it and so I was in a still annoyed-stressed-exhausted state of mind. I almost threw that cup with orange peels, that I was originally holding in my hand, at him: I raised my hand and saw his red, throbbing face and his little tape recorder and heard his little voice saying, “Don’t touch my things, if you do I will put yours on your bed”; “Call the police”; “I’ll take you to court and win.”And I just knew that I didn’t want to have to pay any more for having made the mistake of staying with this man for too long, and throwing anything at him could do just that. I guess I still haven’t lost my sanity.

Before I walked out, I stood up, told slime that I don’t have to listen to him insult me anymore and said to deer-in-the-headlights mediator man that it’s not okay that he lets slime speak to me like that.

What especially stands out is that slime is whining that he has to pay me $5,000 (which is a lot less than the $25,000 he should owe me but I relinquished $20,000 to get moving last time; I did say that he stole it from me). Then, when I said that he still hadn’t paid for $1,000 of home repairs his little voice started saying, “Read what the contract says.” Uh, no. No maneuverings, you should have paid for more repairs; it’s not legalese here, it’s about getting the house attractive enough to invite an offer. And that stupid mediator man is not able to discern a difference between how the two of us act or talk?!

By now I know that not only is mediator man not on my side, but more of the “yes, what this guys says makes sense” kind of person because, as my mother says, he hasn’t really seen him. Her analogy was a gynecologist who never gave birth. If you haven’t lived with this type of manipulative person and seen how he twists everything, you might think that he makes sense. When I said, no, I don’t agree to slime’s new price both slime and mediator man came in on a chorus that the court won’t address this. The implication was clear, do what he says because you have no other recourse. Really I thought, thinking of Leopard-Lady Lawyer.

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Not a Post about Cleavage, but about the Village

I was planning on writing a humorous post on how if you wear a push-up bra with a lightweight sweater that is not low enough to reveal cleavage you will visibly show that you have partially constrained breasts and partially bouncing breasts, which is just not an attractive look, especially since it looks more like you’re wearing a small, ill-fitting bra than that you have perked-up breasts just eager to be subtly peeked at. But then I started thinking of three people I talked with yesterday, and the boisterous (vocabulary word) humor left me.

First was the twin sister of a student I had last year who started to explain to me that the doctors finally found out why her sister, her twin, had been having migraines and falling asleep during English class and other sundry maladies for the past year or so. And then, just as she told me the punch line, my sister needs brain surgery, her sister walked in to tell me the news herself. As my class walked in, I wanted to hug these two girls, but that is against the rules (and especially not good in front of an entire classroom of kids), whatever, and so I walked around the projector that had stood between us and just touched the arm of the girl who needs the surgery, who certainly needs more than an arm touch.

And then later that day, at my afterschool teaching job at the synagogue, I covered for another teacher who was running late because she was picking up her daughter from the airport to take her to the hospital to be with her husband, the girl’s father. It seems that he did the manly thing and ignored the irritation he had in his throat until it couldn’t be ignored any longer because he could barely breathe, only to find out that he has cancer there. Her comment to me was: my life changed in a minute.

After I absorbed their news, or as much as possible, I thought about how good it is to be connected with people. When I was with exman there was this understood rule of his not to tell people about what goes on in our house. This went beyond what we talked about, it also covered anything personal. I mean I had a cyst removed from my left breast when I was 25 and his suggestion was only to tell my parents after so that they wouldn’t worry. Why, why shouldn’t they worry, or at least know what’s going on with me? They’re my parents, after all, the people who raised me and cared for and about me for an entire life. I took his “advice,” obviously regretting it to this day. And look who still cares about me.

Why? Why hold yourself apart from others? Why not let people know what you are going through? Where is the benefit to holding in that your husband is ill and that you need support? It’s not that this woman poured her heart out to me, but she reached out for a hug, and a moment of relief.

For me, this transformation, of leaving behind the woman I had become with exman to the woman I am, is the most wonderful thing about having divorced him. Leaving behind a controlling man not only enables you to open up to the people in your life, but even more than that it enables you to feel yourself freed—and thankfully able to savor those connections. This, perhaps, is the strongest sense of before and after: before I held myself back from people and they, sensing that, held themselves from me; and after I am joyously out there to and for all.

What is life if it’s not shared? Obviously no one wants to get sick, but if you do, don’t you want to tell people? Have them pray for you or think of you? Don’t you want to look into someone’s pain-filled eyes knowing that she sees compassion in yours? I rejoice in colleagues and friends asking me how I am knowing that I can answer them truthfully (sometimes). And you know, no one goes running, not wanting to hear of my pain. What you get instead is their knowing that they can come to you when they need that compassionate look and touch. What more can a person’s life be about if not that?  

Blogging Thought Bubble

It finally came to me the other day why I have not wanted to blog lately, neither read nor write. It’s that blogging is a conversation, an on-going conversation at that, and since I am still at my core an introvert, a writer, this constant discussion is counter to what I usually do, or have done. It’s an illusion, this blogging, you think you’re writing, but you’re really conversing. The burnt-out feeling that I had was from too much interaction, not keeping things in to stir and settle, and not giving myself time to observe without formulating reflections. Sure, I’m writing but at a certain point, especially lately, posts have taken on a more conversational tone than a reflective one, and that is what I think has triggered my discomfort.

Perhaps I started writing for an audience and not myself. No, that’s not quite what I mean. Maybe I have been writing to write as opposed to writing to develop thoughts—in myself and the reader. Yes, I think that is what I am thinking. I have not been giving myself time to not write, to have writer’s block (I cannot believe that I am saying this), which perhaps is what I need every once in a while to do some assessing, or at least to let my thoughts catch up to my keyboard. Not that I have any intention of stopping to write, it is, after all, what I have wanted to do since I was 18 when I realized that I don’t have to just read books, I can write them too, but maybe I need to regain that distance from the writing to the reading that enables more intensity—for both the writer and the reader.

Of late I have read too many posts that really are like phone conversations with one’s friends about the kids and the spouse and the in-laws and work and trip plans and diets and and and. But that is not what I want to do—or read (I am setting myself up for desertion here), I really want to write from my depths as I have done for most of the past year (yes, yesterday was my blogiversary) and so I need to release this blogging-discussion bug that seems to have invaded me. I need to get back to writing as an expression of self and understanding of the world, and not just because it's my turn to talk.   

Looking for Love Online: Yes, I’m Jewish

I am well-aware that religion is a very personal thing and no one is forced to have to deal with anyone else’s religion, or even their own for that matter, but I must say that the number of men on who don’t want a Jewish woman in their lives is becoming disturbing. It’s not upsetting in the “Oh, no, there goes another potential life partner,” but disturbing in the sense that people are hunkering down in their own religion (whether they practice or not) and don’t want to dabble outside of those lines. I have noticed four trends for the opposite sex in the religion category: anybody who believes in anything or believes in nothing; spiritual but not religious; any type of Christianity; any type of Christianity or Muslim or Hindu. Nu, should I have gone to Jdate maybe?

I understand, really I do. I would prefer to date someone who is Jewish just because there would be a commonality there and, honestly, I don’t get Jesus. Granted, this not getting is a built-in to how I was raised, but still I have dated outside the faith and didn’t have a problem relating to those men and their religious beliefs and practices. One man was a practicing Catholic who went to mass every week but he still found a curiosity about my religion and I had one about his. Our level of commitment, and thinking about God, and what we got out of our religion was somewhat similar, which perhaps at a day-to-day living level might be better than being of the same religion but with a different commitment and learnings from the religion.

But back to the boys on Chemistry. At this point I just look to see their religious preference and often find myself clicking “Archive” (which means “no, but maybe in the future I will become desperate and will seek even in the reject pile”--they don't let you delete anyone. I wonder if they let men delete?) because why bother with someone who is so dismissive. One man, who seemed charming even though he did exhibit this closedmindedness, I still indicated an interest in; not a shock that he never responded. So they’re off my list. Which seems to make the options even slimmer, what with my also eliminating men whose political affiliation is listed as conservative. I just don’t feel like debating and I don’t want to be with someone again whose political leanings and understandings of the world and one’s responsibilities to the other of the world are so contrary.

Which brings me to another category where I seem to not fit the requirements: everyone seems to want a slender or toned/athletic woman. Some things I can change, some I can’t. Or maybe there are no things I can change and I need not to feel that that will prevent me from finding someone (a true love as we discussed today in class now that we have begun reading Romeo and Juliet) but rather this makes it easier for me to find a man who is looking for me and not bother with anyone else. 

I guess the benefit of the sites where you don’t have to fill out a profile is that you aren’t so dismissive or so dismissed. All the closedmindedness can surely come from experience: you know what you like, but it also has an awful tinge of bigotry. Perhaps this is the modern dating version of “not in my backyard.”

Who knows? At this point I’ve become a practicing skeptic, on both the religion front and the dating-with-positive-results front.

But… I just might be having a dancing date with Carlo who I met on a site where all you start with is a picture and a few words that give as much insight as you want into yourself, and then it’s up to the two of you to see if there is potential chemistry in the email banter. But who knows. I might say something that seems innocent and charming to me but is a red flag for Carlo. Oh, and then there's the tea date with Lee; another man I met on a non religion-expressing site. A busy weekend. I will definitely keep you updated.

A Minute to Myself (176)


"And God brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and an outstretched arm..."

(Deuteronomy 26:8--part of the Passover story)

Have you been freed from something or someone? What were you freed from and how were you freed? How does freedom feel? Is that a feeling that can be recaptured or does it need to be recreated to feel it?

Back Home

Here I am, after a four-day trip to LA during which I did too much driving through too much traffic amidst inconsiderate drivers (even taking into consideration New York drivers) and in full-view of too many accidents. The car that careened into the dividing wall after, I assume, the driver pressed on his brakes too hard was far too much drama for me. Older daughter’s response a few moments later was: “Why are you driving so slowly?” And younger daughter’s response when I told her about the accidents I saw was: “Maybe you’re bad luck.” You do have to love those girls: they are committed to not being a support to their mother all the time but becoming their own people with their own thoughts and causing me no end of concern as to their compassion… or lack thereof.

I was free of thoughts of ex-husband, which was good because the moment he noticed my return this morning he was back in slime mode. As I sat down to a plate of too much matzo brie (matzo that is softened in water, then mixed with an egg, heavily salted, and then fried) he took his egg carton out of the refrigerator and said: “Excuse me, these are my eggs.” Yes, he refers to me as “Excuse Me.” Lack of class cannot be made up for by using a term like that when it is dipped in bile. And since my daughter finished my eggs (I guess he knew this because he keeps tabs of things like this) and I knew what response I would get from him if I touched one of his eggs, I calmly responded: “I bought a container of 18 this morning.” And off slime went, leaving behind his dirty and clean dishes for someone else to take care of before more people were supposed to see the house, but didn’t show up.

I shall not dwell on seeing the university where older daughter wants to go except to note that she really wants to live in the LA area and study at this one school and is not concerned about going into massive debt to study there. In my role of mother I have tried to talk to her, but she will be 18 very soon and is very smart and confident. Grandma will try to talk to her tomorrow. It is true, I am not one of those mothers who sets down the law but have tried instead to make my daughters independent women. While I am sure that is the right way, sometimes I wish they would just do what I say!

Dinner with my blogging friend and her family showed me that blogging friends can be real friends. If I had met her in “real” life I am sure that we would have been friends. Dinner, then talking and meandering in a bookstore, and then ice cream—that’s the way to spend some time together away from a keyboard.

Even while ensconced in a hotel room that was formerly part of a silo (with round cement walls to prove it) and the rails of the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe a few yards from the room so that I could hear and feel the trains rush by I was not disturbed into thinking about men or the men who are either not that into me or who are not that into keeping up email correspondence at a Laura-suitable pace. This was good, very good. I was focused where I needed to be.

But just in case you were wondering, I had two emails when I returned from Chemistry-related gentleman: one who seems to be illiterate and the other who is taking too darn long between contacts. I had written him off, and oops, there he is. Oh, and there is a Craig’s List gentleman who seems to be more of a gentleman even though he has no degrees than many of the men who have graduate degrees. No, you cannot be my "pronce charming" whoever you are. And if you start every sentence with “I” in your profile I will archive you. And no, I don’t trust you when you say you want a faithful woman—not with my controlling-man experience. And if you say that a woman should never be in front or behind I will question you too (it was the never in front part that was a real turn-off, why can’t we take turns leading and following?). But we shall see, and if nothing comes of these, then c’est la vie, or c’est ma vie.

I walked a lot. I drove a lot. I didn’t eat too much. I adhered to Passover restrictions except for a couple of self-granted leniencies (I tried not to eat too many of the dry noodles in my awful Asian chicken salad that I didn’t know would be there, and I pretended to be Sephardic one day and had some pinto beans with my rice-less, taco-less Mexican lunch). While I am still not drinking coffee I have not been as good on the chocolate ban. How I wish the cashier at Trader Joe’s in Pasadena would not have wished me a “good evening with your chocolates” on Thursday night. Who says things like that? Besides, I bought the small box of truffles (only 30) and not the big box (50) and there are still some left.

My daughter and I got along most of the time; there were a few snips from her, but she’s really not used to being with mommy so much (or anyone or that matter), and even she said what a good time she had. That would be (as in the good time) except for my repeatedly bringing up the subject of the cost of tuition and her wanting to say “I do” to indebtedness.

And on the subject of meaning of life I decided that I need to do more and think less. So even walks during which I mull to myself need to be supplemented by real action. I’m not quite sure what, but perhaps hiking with other people would be a start. Maybe take a crafts class; I’ve wanted to learn how to throw clay (on a potter’s wheel) for more reasons than creativity.

Which brings me to a discussion of my writing and blogging. I think that I will be cutting back on the number of blog posts I do—that would be daily, and focus more on the questions and then one or two posts a week. This would enable me to start the book that I decided that I need/want to write. I’m not quite sure what shape it will take since the words “fictionalized real-life,” “philosophy of life” and “funny” are battling for control of my mind. I want to keep my connection with my readers, with the blogs I read and with the wonderful world of immediate communication but I also want to explore my depths even more, hence “the book” project.

Lastly. Happy Passover! Happy Easter! May happiness emerge from within us all.

This should be an interesting week: another mediation session.

A Spring-Break Break

On Tuesday morning I will be flying to California with older daughter to check out the university that she plans to attend. During that time I will not take my laptop with me because I want to take a break from my routine. A routine that encompasses checking my email too many times an hour, and reading too many articles and blogs that often end up making me feel like I have filled my time but not used it. Not taking the laptop is symbolic of my desire to assess what I want out of my life, see what it is that I am doing that is preventing me, see what I do that is helping me, and come up with more ways and things to do that will make me feel more content and purposeful, and maybe even happy.  

During this time I will try to take a break from thinking about:

THIS BLOG and how it has not met my expectations. I had hoped to be discovered by an agent or editor who would offer me a book deal for my book (Get Your Words Off Me) or a new book, or a job (paying even) as a columnist. I had hoped, too, that I would be a success—according to the numbers. While I have not met any of those goals, I have met others, but still there is a very strong sense of failure. And to counter that I need to reassess what it is that I want to do with this blog and with my writing. By writing I mean “meaning of my life,” because for me that is what writing is: it distills me, it stills me, it defines me to myself. I need to think, too, of other ways to define myself.

In two weeks I will have reached my one year blogiversary. Much has been achieved in this year of which I am quite proud. My writing has improved; even though I still use too many commas, I think that I have depth, style, interest and relevance. I have finally managed to write funny, to reflect a key part of myself. I have written almost every day on a range of subjects; I did not have trouble finding what to write about. I have had insights from cherished readers and much-needed comfort, too. I have come to believe that I am a writer, and not just say that I want to be a writer or envision myself as a writer. But where to go from here? Do I stay here? Do I challenge myself with writing something longer and more developed that could find itself to a bookstore? Of course, the best thing about the blog was that it wasn’t daunting, it was fun to sit down for a couple of hours writing a post (alternating, of course, with watching tv, doing dishes, cooking, munching and supervising my daughters) so that I never felt that I was facing the almighty blank page. Okay, enough thinking about this here, I need something to do this week. 

MEN especially those who don’t respond to my emails and/or my picture. I need to just take a break from being concerned about why someone does not like me and just forget about it. I need to take a breather from worrying about people who I don’t know and who don’t want to get to know me. Talk about a waste of time and an emotional drain.

WORK, or the frustrations of classroom management and my “brusque” personality, and focus instead on what I like about teaching and maybe come up with new ways to interest myself in what I am doing and my students in what I am teaching.

THE HOUSE and how it has not sold in two years. I have done what I could do, the past is past, now I need to charge forward with the new lawyer to get the house sold and get me and my daughters out of this ridiculous situation. But I will neither think of the past nor the present, I will try to restrict my mind to future-thinking. 

ex-husband. Enough said.

What I will think about as I walk along the Pacific Ocean are the people I have met through my blog and your blogs, and how much that has meant to me in the past year. In fact, I will be having dinner with a blogging friend and her family on my trip. Between having bonding time with older daughter who has, of late, come to be respectful and kind to me; trying to figure out our way around LA (even with a GPS system in the car, something I have never used before); trying to plead our case to the financial aid people; and deciding where to go amongst all the choices; I will be will be working on my vision of myself and for myself.

(A Minute to Myself questions will be appearing in its regular every other day schedule during this break.)

Watching Romeo and Juliet, or Parts of It

Since we will be reading Romeo and Juliet after spring break, I decided to have my classes watch a movie version before the break. I’m hoping that maybe if they see the movie first it will help them understand the lines better when we read the play. Which brings me to an interesting dilemma that I have had to face: in the movie version of the play that we watch (the Zeffirelli version) there are two murders (there are three in the play), two suicides, and about two seconds of Romeo’s butt and two seconds of Juliet’s breasts.

Why did I cover the barely naked and sincerely lovely bedroom scene but not the two murders and two suicides? And why did the religious boy in one class look down during the bedroom scene (that is supposed to be a balcony scene) for fear that I would slip and reveal a sliver of something but watch throughout the two very, very long sword fights?

Is this a sign of how silly or perverse our society is that it is okay to watch violence but we should not view the beauty of love and the human form? I’m not talking porn here, I’m talking of glimmers of “forbidden parts.” It seems to me that our society needs more adjusting than in the way we spend our money; we need to reconsider what we value—what should be valued. How could I fear getting emails from parents because of a momentary butt (a very lovely one at that, since I showed it last year) and not from three impalements and one dose of poison? Why was the intense intimacy between the newly-married Romeo and Juliet more fraught with possible repercussions for me than seeing Mercutio’s stab wound?

I so wish it weren’t so. I would so much prefer beauty over violence. Wouldn’t that be better for us all? Why protect their innocence from nudity but not from barbarity? Surely in these days when people are talking of domestic violence it would be better for kids to understand the difference between love and violence; moreover, they should be encouraged to groan at the sign of pain and look head-on to the unveiling of love. Maybe this year when we read the play I need to stress how the violence led to the destruction of Romeo and Juliet’s love. This year as we read the play maybe I should get the most aggressive boys to take turns being Romeo and not succumb to their desire to play Tybalt the aggressor.

Yes, this year I will counter the internal movie censor that I was with a different kind of censorship. This year I will try to not have the boys laugh at the effusive pronouncements of love—this year I will try to get them to see into themselves and to admit that to love is far more powerful than to succumb to tawdry threats and aggression. And the girls, they should see that tenderness and love makes one stronger, not weaker. 

Tired of Teens

I must say that I am tired of teens. I’m tired of being around them all the time. I’m tired of listening to their enthusiasms and their boredoms. I’m tired of being concerned, of not being concerned enough, of needing to be concerned. I’m tired of watching them challenging me and listening to my every word.  I’m tired of needing to be entertaining day in and day out for each of my students, and for figuring out what will engage each of those students. I know exactly what it means to be drained, because that is precisely how I feel. Depleted. How much can a person give of her mind and her heart and her soul without finding that all that is left is a temper.

Spring break, ah spring break starts tomorrow afternoon. I will not grade papers nor will I plan any lessons. I need to step away so that I can come back full of the energy and excitement that they deserve—that I deserve to be filled with.

To all the teachers out there—enjoy your BREAK by using it as just that, an opportunity to break from the draining but generally enlivening routine.