Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sometimes it's just too much

An old pic, but a goodie
My kids had a good week. A really good week. Not a single note, or phone call from school. Don't get me wrong, they're not bad kids. But they have their issues. Don't get me started if you believe wholeheartedly that all ADHD can be "cured" with diet....sometimes the brain is just wired differently. We've tried every dietary restriction out there, and they are very healthy because of that, but who they are doesn't change - and my kids ARE the ones who will be discovering something new, or inventing something we've never seen before, or taking off to climb the world's highest mountain - because their brains are working 50 times faster than anyone else's. There's a reason, and those of you who know me well already know what it is. Look back through my archives, and you'll see I've alluded to this, but I'm just not going to do it right now. Who knows exactly why special needs kids are the way they are, anyway? And does it really matter?

My kids had a really good week. They had a great time at church today - Emme found a friend she hadn't seen since changing schools in kindergarten. Jake finally saved up enough "bucks" to buy a marshmallow shooter....

My kids had a really good week. They both asked to go to Burger King for lunch after church. They actually agreed, and worked together to convince me. I think it's the last fast food restaurant in town with an indoor play area.

As I waited for our food, I sent them in to play. I noticed three women come in to order right after us. One well-dressed, and a bit older than the other two. The younger two had beautiful smiles. They were very short, and one obviously had Down's Syndrome, while the other seemed to have another genetic difference I was unfamiliar with. I gave a quick prayer of thanksgiving for families and love, and resiliency, and my children's good health. The shorter one paused at the soda machine, choosing her drink carefully. I told her I liked her t-shirt, and she gave me a smile.

A few minutes later, I turned to bring our food into the play area room. I saw this young woman on the floor, cradled by her older friend and a man who'd been having lunch with his kids. She was having a seizure. I asked what I could do to help - they had already called 911, so I went out and told the staff of Burger King that an ambulance was on its way, and grabbed some napkins....the young women had been ill, and I wiped her face clean while we tried to determine if there was still food in her mouth. We were afraid she would choke.

I comforted the girl with Down's Syndrome, then my own kids. I got everyone settled down and returned to the sick girl's side. As I was saying a short prayer, I heard my son call out, "They're here!" He held the door open for the firemen.

A gurney was brought in, an IV started, and she was on her way to the emergency room in no time. It turned out her friend was her Special Olympics coach. She followed the ambulance to the hospital.

During this time - probably only 10 minutes, though it seemed longer, not one other person tried to help. Not one employee of the restaurant came to see if the young woman needed anything, nor did they come out to clean up the mess. We were there another half-hour after the ambulance left, and the mess remained on the floor and tables. I went out to remind them, and a young man told me that he had been too busy.

At first I was angry. Then I realized they were all young teens, probably scared, probably overwhelmed...probably not wanting to clean up the mess because they were afraid. An older couple had stood and stared the entire time - I had to ask them to move so I could get some napkins. Honestly, I'd never seen anyone suffering a grand mal seizure before, either, but I just saw a young girl who needed help. How can anyone not help?

My kids had a really good week. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Glory Hole

We always stop here - my kids are endlessly fascinated, as am I. We've never actually seen the water spill's very low now. No chance of that. It's right next to the Kennedy Memorial. President Kennedy dedicated Whiskeytown Dam during his last visit to California, only seven weeks before he died. We love to look over the lake, and I imagine what it must have been like the day JFK stood there.

My mother was a Kennedy lover....I remember the day he was shot (yes, I'm that old). I was home sick from school that day with German Measles....I guess if anyone gets them anymore, they don't call them that. Not PC. Now it's Rubella, and preventable. We had quite an oubreak in town - the first grade teacher caught them, and was pregnant. Nine months later she gave birth to a deaf child. I'm a believer in vaccinations.

My mother cried when saw saw the news about JFK. It seemed to me, a kindergartner, that the whole town was crying for days. I know we've never seen a president since that's engendered that kind of emotion. I'm saddened and afraid that people would gloat if some of our recent presidents had been killed.

Last night we were leaving a benefit for a dear friend with cancer. Just at sunset, we rounded the corner from the NEED camp by the dam and saw this. We weren't the only car to pull in, but I was the only one without a camera - except the one on my cellphone. I never thought this photo would turn out.

Smoke from a prescribed burn hung over the water. The sky was just beginning to turn color, and was reflected in the lake.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Think Pink Day for Breast Cancer Awareness

Today is Think Pink Day. We wear pink to encourage and educate others about breast cancer early detection. This is important to me. Too many friends and family have had to walk the road of breast cancer. My sister-in-law, Ellen. My best friend's sister, Dorothy (unfortunately, she was not a survivor). My friends Wanda, Michelle, Rana, Sharon, this list could go on and on. My friend Heide is fighting this monster right now.

And I think back, to a time five years ago....five years. In some ways it seems like yesterday, in others a lifetime. Marilyn's sister Dorothy was still sick. Very sick. I saw a commercial about the Breast Cancer 3-day, and made a commitment that very day.

I raised over $2,000 and walked 60 miles in three days. Was it easy? Uh, no. Was it fun? Absolutely. Heart-warming? You betcha. Will I ever do it again? Probably not, as my knee ended up being damaged far more than I thought.

In honor of what so many people do to fight this enemy, I'm reposting my diary from the Breast Cancer 3-day I was a part of in 2003.

Day 0 - November 6, 2003

I traveled to Sacramento via Amtrak bus...met some interesting people and got to see the newly remodeled Redding Amtrak depot - it's a beauty! My friend Marilyn picked me up at the Sacramento depot - remodel going on there, too - what I saw was lovely. We shopped for some new jammies, grabbed a quick lunch & hit the road!

Arrived at the Expo Center in San Mateo for registration - very well organized! We saw a safety and orientation video (okay, I was crying already - is the whole weekend going to be this moving? I have a feeling it will be!). We then moved on to towel rental (no one wants to use a wet towel all weekend, do they?), and got in line for final check on our donations...we all had to commit to a minimum of $2000 and many of us had checks that still had to be turned in to make that minimum...lots of great volunteers helped this move quickly - had my first meeting with "Pretty Woman Guy." Okay, pink hair, pink gloves, lots of smiles - who is this guy? His name is Phil...that's about all I know now....he made sure that those who didn't meet the minimum got matched up with those who went over, so that no one was turned away from walking. Anyway, after confirming our donations, we got our official event badges!!! We got our tent assignment - G048 - and we were on our way! There were ladies at the door to hand us pink carnations and off we were to the Radisson Villa Hotel in San Mateo.

Very nice hotel room - built in the 50s but recently remodeled - we had a picture of Albert Einstein to inspire us! We ventured to the restaurant for the walker's special pasta buffet - and were seated with a couple from Redding! Small world...

We stuffed ourselves, showered and off to sleep early....with visions of blisters in our heads.

Day 1 - Friday, November 6, 2003

It's my wedding anniversary! Six years ago today, John and I pledged our love to one another before God and our friends and family. Today, I walk to save families...

Started early. The bus picked us up at the hotel at 5:00 a.m. On the way to Bay Meadows racetrack, we met a woman named Jackie. She has flown from Ohio, by herself, to join the walk in honor of her friend, Mary, who recently underwent a mastectomy. We invited her to join our merry band! After dropping our gear at the big "G" truck, we walked to Opening Ceremonies, which started just after 6:30 a.m. Okay, they were beautiful...I was crying already. Just talking to those around us, we met women from all over. There was a group of survivors standing onstage holding a banner - one woman looked as though she might have just finished treatment - she had about 1/8 inch of hair - and a glorious, triumphant smile! A physical therapist led us through about 15 minutes of stretching, and off we went! Folks were there to cheer us on our way in the breaking dawn. We walked 19.9 miles the first day - honestly, it wasn't that bad. Marilyn and I had trained well, and the exuberance of the crowd carried us on. Since I'd trained pushing 75 pounds of kids around the River Trail in a double stroller, this seemed easy!

There were about five pit-stops, along with lunch, where literally dozens of volunteers fed us, filled our water bottles with gallons of water and Gatorade (by the way, blue is much favored over orange), provided porta-potties (some even were decorated!), medical care, laughter and positive encouragement! There is a group of women calling themselves the "Cheerios" who taught us the chant, "Urinate, hydrate, stretch, stretch, stretch!" Very wise words from women who know! And now I know the mystery of "Pretty Woman Guy" - he drives his truck back and forth along the route blasting the song, "Pretty Woman." Actually, he alternates this with the theme from the movie, "Rocky." This guy is awesome!

By about 3:00 the clouds were thickening, our feet were starting to hurt and we were getting tired....and still it was nothing like the fatigue a person with breast cancer endures. On our last stretch into Coyote Point Recreation Area, the heavens opened and it poured! We squished our way into the campsite that was set up for us. It was great. We got our gear and our tent and mercifully, it stopped raining before we set up the tent. There were, again, lots of volunteers to help - they carried bags, set up tents for these who had never done it before, answered questions (like, what is the best way to apply moleskin, and can you remove it without removing vital layers of skin?). Once the tent was up, we went off to find the dining tent. We were certainly well fed! Salmon, wild rice, breadsticks, salad, green beans and a choice of desserts! We sat family-style at long tables, which was just as it should be. We stayed for the announcements, then decided to skip showers and go to bed....yes, Marilyn and I were in our sleeping bags, asleep, by 7:30 p.m.

Day 2 - Saturday, November 8

Wow - I felt pretty good! No muscle soreness, no blisters, the sore feet feel great! Ah, the recuperative powers of a good night's sleep....we made our way, again, to the dining tent - so much food! But I guess we need the calories. Grabbed a shower, packed up our tent and gear and off we went. Today we met Venus - she's a local and joins us for the rest of the walk...this is great - she's our tour guide! Sprinkles off and on today - we've heard that our campsite for tonight is flooded out from the rains yesterday. They will bus us back to Bay Meadows Racetrack to eat and sleep. But off we go to Daly City...we walked through some wonderful neighborhoods. You meet so many people...while walking, at the pit-stops, at's amazing. We are all so different in so many ways, but at the core, we actually have far more in common than I had ever imagined. We are moms, dads, daughters, sons, friends, businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, students, white and blue and pink-collared workers, homemakers (okay, honestly, I didn't run into any others besides me) - but we are all here because we believe - we believe that we can make a difference, that we are not powerless, that many working together can do so much more than one individual...I met orphans, and widowers, and survivors! And I met one young man whose life had not even been touched by breast cancer - and he was there, make a difference. There were those with disabilities, with illnesses, with breast cancer, even, and we were all walking together...Some were fast, some were slow, and most of us were in between, but we all walked to raise money and awareness to fight this disease that touches so many lives.

The feet started hurting earlier today - around lunchtime. And my knee started hurting as well - I ran into this problem during training, and would rest for a day or two and it would be okay...that is not an option here. We are all starting to feel the miles....every step is a concerted effort to make it to the finish line. It starts raining again about 3:00 p.m. We keep slogging along, up and down the biggest hills I've ever seen (okay, maybe that's an exaggeration) until we make it to Junipero Sera Elementary School in Daly City. We are cold, we are wet, and we are tired...we are ushered briefly into a church next door to get a cup of coffee, the moved across the parking lot to an area where we wait for buses to transport us to the race track. It's still pouring rain...we are given mylar emergency blankets and told to stay wrapped up. There are 13 buses to transport 1404 walkers and nearly 400 crew members to Bay Meadows race track....needless to say, we are in for a long wait, since traffic in this area is a mite busier than I'm used to in Redding. We meet some new friends...we laugh a lot...we are so tired of standing. My left ankle is starting to hurt every time I put weight on it, so I'm standing on one leg. But it's nothing like what Christy's mom went through 13 years ago following her mastectomy and chemo, not to mention the radiation...After about an hour they started handing out those little disposable hand-warmers, and advise us if we start shivering and can't stop to flag down a volunteer medic. An ambulance takes someone away...we all wonder, and some of us pray...

Finally, it's our turn! We ride in blissful comfort to Bay I know a little of what it must feel to be taken to an emergency shelter following a natural disaster...I think of refugees, and the homeless. We are allowed to put our bags down - we find a spot near the betting machines and find the nearest bathrooms...blessed flush toilets! We then are told we can stake out a spot for our sleeping bags upstairs, but must leave the rest of our gear downstairs. Marilyn, Jackie, Venus, and I find a spot - it's carpeted! And it's in the Ladies Lounge....oh, well. We go outside to the buffet line (it's stopped raining) and go back in to find a table. We have dinner in the Sports Bar, but unfortunately they're not serving tequila tonight!

I then find my way to the medical triage tent. I see a nurse, get a quick massage and then the massage therapist decides I need more care....I wait some more and am seen by a chiropractic intern from Palmer College...again, these folks have donated their time to get us over the finish line! By 10:00 I find my way back to the Ladies Lounge and it's off to sleep...not for long, alas, as the flushing toilets are heard all night...and the crew awakens at 4:00 to get ready for the day.

Day 3 - Sunday, November 9

I head back to the medical tent to get my foot taped and knee wrapped, have some breakfast, and we wait for the buses again. I'm tired, I hurt, and we still have a full day. I am not giving would be so easy to just take the bus to the finish line..there is no shame. Not every one can walk every step. But I'm going to see what I can do today. I spend most of the day walking behind my friends...but I meet some new folks this way, and spend some time walking alone in prayer. That's okay. And I meet up with Marilyn, Jackie, and Venus at every stop. And the day is absolutely beautiful. Lunch is pretty long today... When I arrived at Duboce Park, where we eat, I am in so much pain with every step I don't see how I can go on....I called John on my cell phone and he was so wonderful, so positive, so reassuring, but my body is screaming - I am almost in tears, but when I hear him tell me that he knows I can finish, I believe him.....I head over to the physical therapy area, and after some care, and ice, and re-wrapping, I'm good to go!

After about a half hour, the pain is back, but I am not giving up now. We finally enter Golden Gate Park, and it's one of those miraculous Sunday afternoons I remember from the Bay Area...families and singles are everywhere, enjoying the park...there are dogs and kids, volleyball games and roller-skaters, and everyone is cheering us on! I finally get to victory row, and every walker who has already finished is there in long rows for high-fives.....including the police officers from San Jose who have taken 4 days without pay to ensure our safety....I am in tears again, but this time they are tears of joy. I meet up with Marilyn, Jackie and Venus and we walk together to get our T-shirts and wait for the closing ceremonies....

We did it...we walked every step..we encouraged each other and laughed together and made new friends...but most importantly - we raised four million dollars!


I read this now and it all comes rushing back to me - every emotion, everybody's face, all of it. My life is so different now. In 2003 I was a blissfully unaware, happily married, stay-at-home mom. Today I'm divorced and working hard to support my wonderful kids who are growing so fast. But those three days in 2003 remain three of the most incredible days I've lived.

Go hug your mom, your sister, your best friend. Remind her to do a breast self exam, and if you're a woman, do one yourself. You owe to the people who love you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Our Daily Bread

Am I a nut? I love to bake bread. No bread machine for me. I want to feel the fingers going deep into it. Kneading the dough is a great stress-reliever. My absolute favorite recipe book is Peter Reinhart's "Brother Juniper's Bread Book - Slow Rise as Method and Metaphor." I've used it for YEARS....First I got hooked on the bread (you can buy it in cities OTHER THAN REDDING). Then I got hooked on making my own. Honestly, I'd baked bread since I was a child - my mother taught me when I was very young, but it was the basic white loaf. But now I know that bread is an art form, the dough my medium. With bread, I can be an artist just as much as I was when I was an actor or a dancer on a stage.

When summer is here, I don't bake. Too hot. The dough rises too fast in our Redding heat. It's just not fun. But when the weather cools, watch out.....I have a loaf of whole wheat, and a loaf of flax/whole wheat rising right week it may be Cajun Three-Pepper, or Oreganato, or Struan...

Honestly...if you're a baker: Read the book. If you're not a baker: Read it anyway. I'd loan you my copy, but I've gone through too many that way.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic'.

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging,beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because--why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

A woman named Wendy, who studied women's history, saw an HBO movie, "Iron Jawed Angels." When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was--with herself. 'One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,' she said. 'What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use,
my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.' The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her 'all over again.'

HBO released the movie on video and DVD. I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy. The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.'

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party, remember to vote.

History is being made.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I miss him

I've been thinking about my father a lot lately. Thanks to Google Alerts, not a week goes by when I don't have something in my emailbox about my father or one of his brothers. TCM is running some kind of marathon of the old RKO films, so Uncle Costia's been hitting the alerts this week. Last week, it was Loren Maazel's upcoming retirement from the New York Philharmonic (he studied under my Uncle Volodya).

My father died when I was two years old. I don't remember him. My siblings always said, though, that I have some of his mannerisms and patterns of speech (strange - since I'm a born Angeleno and he spoke with an always thick Russian accent). I have pictures of him, back when he was a young man. He was an old man by the time I was born - a happy accident, they called me. He had just turned 68 the week of my birth, and my lovely mother was 39. He spent hours composing and playing, with me in a bassinet at the end of the piano bench.

Once, my sister played a recording for me, without telling me first. I knew in an instant that it was him speaking. I never for a moment thought it might be Uncle Costia or Uncle Volodya, though they both spoke their own versions of fractured English.

From him, I gained a love of music, and a sensitive ear. A fascination for all things Russian. I have his nose and his chin. An inexplicable attraction to men who make me laugh. I think that he must have been the first.

He wrote a song for me when I was an infant...I know the title - "Sweetheart, Baby Ann." How I wish I knew the lyrics or melody still.

On July 31, 2007, one of Ray Harryhausen's great B movies, "20 Million Miles to Earth," was re-released. Mr. Harryhausen always wanted to make it in color, but didn't have the budget for it, so it's now been colorized. Most importantly to me, there is a 22-minute documentary on disc two. "David Schechter on Movie Music's Unsung Hero." Mr. Schechter is a talented and intelligent man - I've spoken to him several times on the phone, and count him as a friend, though we've never met. He has a company called Monstrous Movie Music, and releases a new disc now and then that he will share with me......

You see, according to Mr. Schechter, movie music's unsung hero is none other than my father, Mikhail Roman Bakaleinikoff. Mischa. My Отец.