Wednesday, July 30, 2014


tumblr_ml55n2CaOt1s199fdo1_500.gif (440×353)     An update on Chickie: he is fine! That same day after our glorious flight to the animal clinic, free from a piece of bone in his gum, he began to beg for people's food. 
580736_original.gif (226×400)The next morning I found a dish with baked salmon, which was left on a kitchen counter,lying upside down on the floor, next to about one fifth of the salmon left uneaten. 
        I feel sorry for him, so this time he got away with the theft!
     He spends more time asking to be petted and scratched , than before. In people's years he is already about eighty years old, but when he climbs into my arms, I feel like he is a small baby. 
     We didn't hear from the vet yet concerning the results of the blood tests. I am very apprehensive about it: I have no idea, how much the medicine and necessary procedures will cost, and whether we can handle it all. 
     My sister left a comment to my previous blog. She wrote: "Poor Chickie and poor your wallet!" I think, that says it all!

Monday, July 28, 2014


     Today we had a little bit of excitement here!
     When I got up to go to the bathroom today, instead of Sylvie, Chickie enthusiastically ran ahead of me there. I don't know, why cats find it so alluring to go with us to the john! Maybe, they react to us suddenly walking somewhere, like it was the most important thing in the world. Cats are predators and need to be engaged in rigorous activity. Unfortunately, the indoor cats lack that purpose in their lives, and that's why are prone to being bossy (like Sylvie) or naughty (like Chickie). Or, maybe, they like it that you can't get away from them in the bathroom, and they have you for themselves there!
     Anyway, today it was my twelve year old tubby cat, who took me to restroom. While I was occupied, he tried to snip a piece of plastic from a toilet paper package on the floor. That's when I first noticed it: he suddenly shook his head, like something was bothering him. He did it a few times, and I thought that, he might've had a piece of plastic stuck in his teeth. I watched him do it many more times during the morning. He didn't come to beg for milk, like he usually does. I also saw his lip twitch, as if it was irritated. 
     During the breakfast, although he begged for food, when
Roberta gave in and broke off a bit of sausage for him, he didn't eat it! Same thing happened at lunch time. That was it: I yelled for Sonny to get off the couch, where he spent the whole morning, and together we tried to pry Chickie's mouth open to look inside. 
     Those needle-like teeth really hurt, when they close on your fingers! We passed Chickie to each other, like he was a hot potato, each of us thinking that he or I will be better at getting at the root of problem. Chickie's eyes were about to pop: the pupils became so large from fright! Finally, Sonny declared that he saw a piece of bone in Chickie's gum between the teeth. We would have to go to the vet to get it out.
     All that time, I was waiting for my food to cook, and didn't like it at all, that now, when everything was ready, we had to leave. Sonny said something... I thought, I heard words "insensitive" and "cruel"... OK, OK, we'll go now!
jpeg (299×168)     Everybody, including Roberta and Reina, wanted to go to the vet! We extricated frightened Chickie from under Roberta's bed and stuck him into a pet-carrier. He immediately started a mournful dirge: "M-m-m-ow! M-m-m-ow!" 
     That's how we spent the time driving. Chickie never stopped crying, although he made some variations in the tune. 
     Did you ever try to call the information to get a number while getting onto the freeway? Well, - don't try it! Automated voice refused to understand my Russian accent, which got thicker from stress. I slammed the phone shut, swerved  crazily into a lane and decided to just surprise the animal clinic's staff with the appearance of an injured cat followed by four people, - one of them - with a walker!

 It took two people to get Chickie's mouth opened. The doctor looked and looked and then said: "There is nothing here!"

I made an effort and closed my own mouth. Nothing there? Like with Sonny's cut a few weeks before, we didn't need to go to doctor? I will just shell out my money for: "there is nothing here"?!
     Sonny was rooting in the pet-carrier. "Could that be it?" - he asked, showing a tiny something to the doctor. My jaw dropped ajar
the bone was about a fifth of
an inch long
again: they found a little piece of bone that Chickie dislodged from his gum while meowing on the way to

the vet! "He-he-he!" - the nurse giggled - "Chicken Bone's
Yep, that's how they labeled the little vial with the bone.
(Chickie's real name) chicken bone!" I didn't know, whether I should laugh or cry or smack the nurse!

     In a meanwhile, the doctor was feeling Chickie over his whole body and listening to his lungs and heart. We were happy to hear that he has very good teeth for a 12 year old, as well as his weight and lungs. That 's why it took me a minute to understand the doc, when she said: "He has a heart murmur". 
     She let Chickie go. He scooted off the table and into a tight
"Safe place. No one will look for me  here, I think!"

 place behind me on a bench. I put my hand back and could feel his warm, moist muzzle. 

     "Elderly cats can get heart murmur because of different reasons. We should get some bloodwork done, to see, if it's because of the problems with his heart, kidneys or thyroid that Chicken Bone's got it". 
Roberta, is listening to the vet while Chickie hopes that no one
can see him on top of my purse.
     I noticed, of course, that Chickie became slower and mellower than before. Taking him to the vet usually costs a lot, so I hoped that, these changes were due to his age. Now we knew better!
     The nurse took Chickie to get blood. He just hissed at her, but didn't try to scratch or bite or run away. She brought him back a few minutes later, saying that, he was the best patient they've had that whole day. Somehow, it made me even sadder to hear it! 
     While I paid ($268.00 - and we just did half of the things that the vet suggested!), Sonny took Chickie and the rest of my retinue to the car. Chicken Bone, probably, knew that we were going home, because he didn't meow at all on the way! 
This seriously bossy cat oversees our vet's practice,
Arroyo Veterinary Clinic, for years now!

Sunday, July 27, 2014


     In Russia there is a saying: "Steam - in a column!", which we use when we want to say that, things  are rolling full steam ahead. That's what's been going on in our kitchen today!
jpeg (281×179)     Reina's mom, my sister-in-law, Hitomi-san, sent us a whole box of goods. It contained cold ramen, different furikake - rice toppings, and the mix for making okonomi-yaki - savory Japanese pancakes, full of chopped up veges and other, unthinkable to Western mind, add-ons, like tiny tempura or dried octopus and shrimp pieces. 
     Taka and Sonny have been salivating ever since they first saw the bag with the mix. Today, all morning, Sonny lurked on the outskirts of my vision, until I finally asked him, what he wanted. "Ask Reina if she wants to make okonomi-yaki today!" - he blurted out. "Why can't you ask?" "It's awkward!" - replied my very grown up son. 
     Fine, when I happened to be in the part of the house where Reina's room is, I asked her. 
    Chopping, mixing and frying commenced. Together with it came Japanese noises of making an effort: "Urph! Ah!"; pain: "Atsui!" - hot; and confusion: "Mmmmm???". It was all very entertaining
Reina is getting some music to help the process.
and cute, but I under-estimated, how much work kids had to do and how much mess they would make. I managed to stay out of the food preparation, but couldn't avoid mountains of dishes left in the wake of their activities. 

     In the meanwhile, as Reina began working, Sonny slinked away. I noticed it and asked Reina, if she needed Sonnys' help. She made some more of the bright noises: "Huh? No! Mmm.. Maybe, - yes!!!" I yelled for him to come back.
     Roberta sensed that the focus this day was not on her, and she started to watch, of all things, a Korean historical drama, using an external DVD player with her laptop. The thing didn't work well, so, - plus to being involved in food preparation, - every few minutes Sonny had to go to her room to set things right. Did I really say that, the focus was not on Roberta?
     Sonny tried to escape to his room a couple more times, but we were on him
like white on rice. He ended up frying pancakes next to Reina,
over his objections that the kitchen was too small for two people to work so close together.
     Surprisingly, because it was the first time that Reina made them herself, okonomi-yaki came out really well. Judge for yourself!  
Not as professional looking as in site, but quite tasty!



     "The dacha lifestyle"! What is it?
     I'll explain!
     The Russians' very favorite thing is to have a second home somewhere in the countryside. Be it a villa or a hovel, they go thereimages (271×186)
images (259×194)
This is more like what our
grandma's dacha was
images (275×183)                                                              religiously. Grandmas live there through long summers  with the grandkids, while parents come to spend weekends to enjoy fresh country air and the ease of country living. 
images (203×248)     To tell the truth, from what I remember about my grandmother and parents at the dacha, they worked like dogs trying to capture the above mentioned ease and relaxation! In the Soviet times, it was a rare person who owned an automobile, which meant that the dacha-goers had to take train out of the city (we lived in Moscow), then walk at least twenty to forty minutes, lugging with them food and treats for the kids. My mother used to tell us, how she had to literally threaten dad with bodily harm to make him go to dacha! We, the oblivious, ungrateful descendants, greedily awaited  the stuff that parents brought. Every Saturday-Sunday, we'd watch out for their arrival. My four year old cousin always spotted them first. "Uncle Izya, uncle Izya, - !ABUZ!" - he would shout happily, pointing at the watermelon magically floating over the  tea roses on the garden's fence (my dad was short, and the floating watermelon was all we could see over the fence). "Arbuz" is a Russian word for watermelon, and my cousin couldn't pronounce it very well. 
images (255×198)     The adults then would begin working in the garden, feeding the kids, taking us to the lake... until they could go back home and sigh nostalgically about the easy dacha living.
     Still, something magical happened images (259×194)

images (275×183)

images (259×194)

there, helping frazzled citizens unwind and breathe deeply, feeling in their bones, how their worries were disappearing into nothingness. 
     For me that was long time ago. The reality has nothing to do anymore with the feeling that the word "dacha" evokes in my mind.
     When I began having children, my parents moved to California to be near the grandkids. They had a small pension from the American government, - nothing much - but enough to make their life easy. They didn't have to work and neither did I. Most of the time, I took the baby carrier to their apartment (we lived in the same building) and spend a day there, cared for and in peace (until mom and I would have a fight). That was a real dacha now! We didn't have to hoe and dig or carry enormous parcels around! Granted, there was a lot of work with the kids and taking my parents to appointments or errands, but we were all wrapped up in a close, comfortable cocoon of our routine life, and it was a rude awakening every time I had to leave to go to my own home. 
     You see, my Japanese husband could not understand that, if you can have relaxed, restful moments in life, you should have them. He went to work every morning and came back to continue working in his home office, until he fell on the bed unconscious at night! He did not know any other way to live; he was driven by a need to assure that we will have an apartment and money for our lives and retirement. I didn't realize that. Even if I did - do you think, he would've adopted to the disparity of our lifestyles?
    images (300×168) Over the years he gave up his attempts to galvanize me into more activity than I was prepared to accept. He still moves non-stop from morning to night, and I, even though my parents are gone and the charmed life is over, still seek that bone-deep easement of the tension and pleasure of the country-in-the-city existence. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014


     I've been moping, thinking about my dad, whose birthday just passed a few days ago. At least, that's what I've been telling myself: "You are sad because you are thinking about your dad." Is that really true? 
     Something tells me that, there are other reasons. I need to move forward, to recover from a lifetime of confused emotions and dumb consequences. I need to recover!
     Today I went to see Mr. P. We sat in a canary room, with porcelain angels watching over us from every corner. The cat, Precious, hobbled over and laid down, snorting and sounding almost like a pig! She fell asleep, then suddenly woke up and began to sneeze violently, quickly licking her flat nose to clear it from snot. "Look, how cute: she is wiping her nose with her tongue!" - I told Mr. P. He refused to be silly together with me, because we had some serious things to discuss.
     "What was the high point of your week?" - asked Mr. P. I couldn't tell. I've been watching Grey's Anatomy, playing poker and doing errands for the last seven days, at least. That leaves no time and no room for creative thinking! Why, do you think, I didn't write anything all this time?!
     I told Mr. P. all that. We delved deeper into the reasons, why I exist like that: by inertia, not trying to connect to people or activities which can help me feel alive. I know, why I do it, but I don't know, why I keep on doing it! Does it make any sense?
     There seems to be no danger in living in a rut, except that, it always has dire consequences. But it is so easy! You just do 

ever-feel-stuck-in-a-rut-going-in-circles-54821.gif (609×301)the      same things over and over again every day of your life, without exposing yourself to a danger of new relationships or deeds that can hurt you, as you've been hurt before. 
     What dire consequences, you ask? How about the spiritual and physical dangers of being isolated? Loneliness? Depression and sickness that comes with it? 
    tumblr_md8o5xCCdf1r2zzh5o1_r1_500.gif (500×280) I admitted that, just watching TV, making meals and chauffeuring left me feeling empty. When there is an emptiness, something always rushes in to feel it. It can be inappropriate relationships or thoughts or mental sickness. Thanks to Mr. P. - and to a little bit of the Al Anon wisdom that I managed to grab at the meetings, - I realized that I need to pursue my recovery with a more focused mind and agenda. I need to reach out to positive, sensitive people, who will uplift me and whom I can uplift. I need to trust God more, to take my faith to the next level, where I can be more sincere and present.
tumblr_mb48veDq091rasmnuo1_500.gif (500×282)     We also discussed, what it means to be present in a relationship. So many times we - I - resort to indirect communication, like sarcasm or hedging, to avoid uncomfortable confrontations. The thing is: without facing our loved ones or anyone else in the world with honesty and no judgement, we can not be free in those relationships. I usually use sarcasm to let out some steam and be able to "ha-ha" my way out of the conversation, if a person gets offended. Do you know that, in Latin "sarcasm" means flaying a person? Remark after remark in that fashion can undermine the closeness and stability of our connections to each other!
grey-s-anatomy-gif-greys-anatomy-30411627-500-276_large.gif (500×276)
     So, BEING PRESENT means being honest and open about your needs and feelings with the people around you. "Say what you mean, mean what you say and don't say it meanly!" This should be my motto for every day of my life!


A few days ago, my father would've turned 91 years old. Last year, at his 90th birthday, I forgot and didn't think about him. Or, maybe, I did and don't remember it now. 
My dad was about 5 feet 4 inches tall. He had squinty, red eyes, suffering from lifelong allergies. I never saw it before, and neither he nor anyone else in Russia ever said it, but the kindness and the wisdom on his face made him look simply beautiful! 
He told me: he never thought he would live into his late eighties. The soldiering and hard, hard work left him with a multitude of ailments, but in the United States the medicine took good care of him, and he wasn't feeling badly even at 89. It took a bad fall and an intracranial bleeding - and then a pneumonia - to kill him. 
Here is what I wrote about him in my story Rimka, that I published a year ago:

"Meyer was a simple fellow, his family was crude and uninteresting in her [Rimka's, my mother's] eyes. She couldn't 
jpeg (276×183)
The Cathedral of the Archangel in
see beyond the dirty fingernails and bad table manners, that her unassuming boyfriend was a true craftsman. He joined the crew of, mostly, his relatives, who did various jobs in Moscow. Sure, when there was nothing else, they painted apartments or made safety posters to keep their families fed, but their main work was that of restoration. They put gold leaf on the great cupolas of the Russian churches (Jewish men, risking their lives on the flimsy scaffolding, to uplift and uphold the Russian spirit), painted and restored the train and, later, the metro 
stations, the historical buildings and the public offices. They were supposed to use stencils to create the appearance that the patterns were sculpted on the walls and the ceilings. Eventually, my father began to just paint them freehand. The Moscow Synagogue, after they were done with it, became a jewel, in 
IMG_0624.JPG (830×553)
Moscow Synagougue
hundreds of intricate blue, green and gold patterns. In fifty years that they spent together, Rimka will rarely think of that or appreciate his talent. She felt that she could be an unchallenged leader of him and their family and that's why she agreed to marry him."

  Dad always did his damndest to help out.  
Even though during his last years he lived with us and didn't do much in a way of physical help, he was my rock, someone who never stopped loving and supporting me in every decision and situation that our family faced. No matter, how frazzled I felt, the look in his eyes when he spoke to or about his grandchildren, never failed to warm my heart. 
Enjoying ice-cream with little Hamah.