Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Hanah is staying in Santa Rosa now. Last Monday Sonny went to get her, and she spent half a day with us (she is not an early riser and, after working for 13 hours the day before, she wanted to sleep in, so she arrived at about 1 o'clock in the afternoon). Fortunately, it was the Memorial Day holiday, so Taka was at home and Sonny didn't have to go to school.
     It was sweet to have Hanah with us! We planned the day: lunch at a restaurant of her choosing, then the older folks would return home, and Hanah and Sonny will go to the movies, after which he'll take her back to Santa Rosa.
     The day got away from us! By the time we finished eating lunch (or an early dinner), it was too late for kids to go to the movies. So, we went home, watched a film there, and after Hanah loaded her backpack with a lot of foodstuffs from home (in addition to claiming for her own the restaurant leftovers), they set off for her home for the summer. Sonny called at 11 to tell us, he was going to spend the night at Hanah's apartment, since it was already so late.
     I liked the fun day we spent together and prepared to have an easy, quiet evening. 
     Taka came to the living room. He was not happy and had some loaded questions for me. I was not feeling well for the past few months and spent nights on the couch in the living room. I would really understand his frustration at that, if it wasn't for the fact that, I really WAS NOT FEELING WELL FOR THE PAST FEW MONTHS! 
     What was lacking, was any kind of concern for my well being. I am, actually, very used to it, but it came to me at night in Arcata motel, when I lay in bed next to him in agony from the allergic rash, and he, knowing about my discomfort, didn't move a finger to help me or had no desire to do so, that it would be wrong to continue our marriage in the same way! So, I did what Mr. P. suggested, and began talking to Taka about it. 
     Oh, he huffed and puffed and kept on trying to avoid the issue, but, little by little, he began to open up and become genuine with me. He said, it was not in him to be sensitive to the needs of others, beyond what HE THOUGHT, was good for them. He kept quoting a Japanese saying, which goes something like: "you can't carve rotten old logs" - meaning, we were too rotten and old to be able to make changes in our characters. I told him, I was not THAT old and, certainly, not rotten, and that in the past couple of years I've seen wonderful changes in our relationship.
     That conversation went on for a long time. I spoke to him of my need if not for his love, then for, at least, his concern. It looked, like he was getting my point. Then the topic switched to the way he behaves with Sonny. I expressed my apprehension about, what I perceive as, the aggressive and even hostile attitude Taka shows, when dealing with our son. He said, it was his way of showing attention, and could I talk with Sonny to make sure, that he shares my feelings about his dad's methods.
     It was getting late. Taka had to get up early the next day, so he became impatient again. He irritably suggested that, I make an appointment for some other day to talk more. An appointment to talk to one's husband! That's it in a nutshell: we are more like a boss and an employee! 
     I replied: "Why don't you show me an example, how to make such an appointment?" I wanted him to catch the bitter irony of such a proposition, but it was lost on Taka. He simply suggested to meet on Wednesday night!
     I may be delusional, but even this seems like a step forward to me. I am not the only one, who feels all alone in this marriage. Taka must feel pretty lonely and misunderstood too, but the only way the two of us are going to become happier and closer, is to be 
more authentic. 
     One of the Al Anon's sayings is: "principles over personalities". We both need to practice taking care of each other in the ways that won't detract from either of our needs and dignity

Monday, May 25, 2015


     I was born thirteen years after the WWII ended. In Russia it was called the Great Patriotic War. It claimed, approximately, thirty million of my countrymen's lives. 
     Thirteen years later, Russia experienced huge growth in economy and a Baby Boom. Is that how the humanity survives: by meeting the obstacles head on and returning from devastating events with an avid desire to rebuild and do better from then on?
     My father was one of the generation, that defeated Fascism. He started in the army as an eighteen year old, went through six years of combat and working on the army installations in Siberia already after the victory. He and millions of his comrades came back from the front and immediately dived into reconstruction. There was no talk about the PTSD or any understanding of it, although, obviously, that problem must've been huge among the veterans and the civilians, most of whom were intimately touched by the war. 
     Thirty million dead. That's about every seventh person in the Soviet Union. Imagine the extent of grief that country experienced, the despair! 
     It's seventy years later, but the Great Patriotic War is still a poignant subject in every heart there. We emigrated to the United States, as did many other veterans' families, but even here they constantly recount their experiences as soldiers, organize the veterans' associations and walk in the parades, as part of the victory over the Fascism. And my own heart, that never experienced personal loss because of the WWII: it swells with tears of sorrow for the lives, broken in that tragedy, and gratitude to men and women, who, at the immeasurable cost to themselves, brought about peace to the world. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015


     My dad loved to tell us this story, which happened to him during the WWII.

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     Meyer sighed and got up. The balmy evening swaddled him, calming the young soldier's fears. It was the second year he was in the army and the third year of the Great Patriotic War, as the WWII was known to Russians. 
     He loved being out and about without carrying a huge spool of wire, as well as his rifle. Today Lt. Serov chose him to go to the Supply corps, located a few miles away from the army Communications Unit,  to pick up some fresh linens. Meyer suspected, that happened only because he was the only one, who was still sober enough to stand on his feet!
2Q== (176×132)     It seemed like his life during peace time was eons ago! The only reality he knew now was the constant terror of being killed or maimed and the nagging discomforts of a soldier's life. He got used to the usual pain of "portyankis" - the cloths, which the Russian soldiers wound around their feet instead of socks, rubbing his feet raw. The weight of the telephone wire spool dragging him to the ground and wearing our his shoulders was a normal occurrence. It was harder to get used to the unending anti-Semitic abuse by the "superiors" and everyone else in this army. That's why Meyer welcomed every chance he could find to get away and be on his own.
     Linens? When was the last time he slept on "linens"? Only the officers had that privilege! "I hope, they send us some fresh "portyankis" - Meyer thought, wincing, as he suddenly became aware of his painful feet. 
     But a few miles were nothing to him now. He got to the supply corps, filled out all the necessary papers and now was on the way back, carrying a large, paper wrapped package of the linens. Meyer walked back to his unit, absentmindedly drinking in the beauty of the stars in the black-purple sky. They had nothing to do with the ugliness, which the humans perpetrated against each other.
     He heard the noise behind him and turned to look. Two, no, three shadowy figures were stalking him, and, what he heard, was a clink of a rifle, slipped from a shoulder and pulled up back by a strap!
     Meyer's thoughts raced, It's better to die than be captured by the Germans.He had no illusions of what will happen to him, if  he got caught and sent to one of the concentration camps. 
     They were already on top of him. 
     - "Stop, stop, I tell you!"- With some relief he heard, they were Russians. Deserters, then! A hand grabbed his shoulder, and his pursuer knocked him down to the ground.
     - "What do you want? Who are you? Let me go!" - He was unarmed, and one of the deserters easily grabbed the package from his hands.
     - "What's this then?" - 
     - 'Linens."
     - "Linens! What the devil are we to do with the linens?! You have any food on you?"
     They laughed and he saw, they, probably, didn't mean him any harm. Probably...
     - "No food? Do you have any money? What a useless idiot you are! Come on, lads, I got thirsty from all that running, let's have a drink!" - Then, offering Meyer a bottle: "You, you want some?"
     - "No, th-thanks, I don't..."
     When he showed up at the camp, lugging the torn and mud spattered package of linens, Lt. Serov listened to his report and spat in disgust:
     - "Och, you, stinking jew! Can't you do anything right? A Russian would've at least gotten drunk in your place!"

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Friday, May 22, 2015


 Hanah said, she'd come to visit for one day before going to her summer job in Santa Rosa, but yesterday I got a, e-mail under a title: "Uh-oh". In it Hanah said, her ride to the Bay Area fell through and she'll just go straight to Santa Rosa. 
     It's not that far, really. Just a couple of hours by car. 
     I am disappointed, though. It would've been good to have her here, and she'd get re-acquainted with the feeling of the family and the house around her. 


Tuesday, May 19, 2015


     I am tired, my friends. I take something for the rash, visited on me, undoubtedly, by the furies or my own conscience, sick of something that I've done... or thought... 
     Never mind... The medicine takes care of the itch. Will the furies let me be from now on or not, I don't know. All I want to do is sleep.
     You know, that thing that I touched on about whether God loves idiots or not. It often comes to my mind, although I never could put it so clearly. I guess. the despair made me more exact in crafting the words.
     Does God love idiots? 
     I have a strange family. Odd things happened to all of us often, mostly, because we'd make a stupid mistake, or get muddled in our thinking, something like that... We could be excellent at other times in our lives: shrewd, full of deep realizations and instinctual or spiritual insights, but then we'd do something stupid and spoil everything. 
     Might God have made us this way ? What other forces could be responsible for screwing up a family so badly, yet still imbuing us with a certain unending hope? 
     I'm describing a character of a village idiot, aren't I? No matter, how many times we get knocked down into the mud or, more often than not, knock ourselves in there, we get lured by the next ray of sunshine to still go on living and providing a comic relief to some invisible Puppet Masters, who could one day get tired of our routine and cut the strings.
     Wait a minute there! I started by asking if Heavenly God of endless Grace and forgiveness loves idiots. Now I switched to blaming some, perhaps, non-existent other powers, who enjoy watching us struggle on this track of time and life. What about God?
     I once told Sonny that, money makes the world turn. Then I added: "And love is why it turns." Power is a much bigger motivation than money of why all beings do things. And we begin to crave power and control, when we don't feel loved. Love is - everything. Destructive or life-giving, it rules the Universe. And I choose to believe, God is the source of the sweetest, purest, eternal love. 
     Do we love our idiot children? When they make stupid mistakes or make a wrong choice on purpose, do we love them? Do we want for them to always be able to pick themselves by the boot straps and try again, even though we ache together with them from a previous setback? 
     Wow! I didn't know, where this discourse would end, but, it seems, I just found once more that ray of sunshine I was talking about! God loves us: the morons and the geniuses, the devils and the saints not only because He has no choice: we are His children, after all; He loves us because that love is what turns the world on its axis and gives Him the power to Continue To Be. 

Monday, May 18, 2015


9k= (361×140)     It was fun! At that time, only the students from the Liberal Arts Department were graduating, and their creative abilities were evident in the way they went about the business of graduating.
     Their names were announced by two people. Sometimes they would be very special, telling us something different about the graduate. One young man's name was announced as: "Peter-I-Love-You-Dad-Smith". Another one was "Frank Cannonball Rogers". The announcers used thick French or Spanish accents, when introducing kids with the degrees in the fields of the French or Spanish languages. 
     All the while I was waiting to see my daughter to grace the stage and get her diploma. Finally, she showed up in a group of her classmates. My little camera couldn't capture her to the best advantage, but she must be on this photo somewhere!
I think, she is the one, standing without her cap.
     I thought, after Hanah gets her diploma, we'll be just dying of boredom, waiting for the end of festivities, but the fun continued! Young people decorated the flat tops of their hats with different designs. One young lady had it looking like one of those Latin singers' hats:
You can see the Latin fruit bowl girl here.
with the fruit piled up on it! Others glued golf balls to their caps or had on corsair hats  with the feathers instead. The crowd of parents and relatives ate it up! We yelled and roared with laughter, as some graduates from the Dance Department chose to waltz down the steps and through the aisles, waiving their diplomas joyously!
images (259×195)     As the ceremony concluded, a girl with a wheelchair came to fetch Roberta again. I felt torn: on the one hand, we needed the wheelchair: the terrain was too rough for Roberta to brave it on her own uncertain feet. More importantly, we had to meet up with Hanah, give her all the leis we prepared for that occasion and congratulate my child with her amazing accomplishment! And there was also the third hand: I had to go to bathroom! So, I let the young volunteer push the chair with Roberta in it to the bathroom, thinking that, after I use it, I can see my charge to the car and come back to be with my family to congratulate Hanah. I told Taka and Sonny to look for her in the meanwhile in the huge crowd of graduates and relatives. 
     Remember, what I told you about my family and making arrangements to meet each other? It never fails! Taka and Sonny gave up too soon on trying to find Hanah and just walked away. She, as she revealed it later, was looking for me (zeroing on every bright red head of hair). Everyone ended up in a different part of the campus, and it took us some time to get together. It also took tremendous amount of patience not to blow up at my inapt menfolk!
Here she is, my beautiful grad, 
proudly holding her diploma! 

     Here she is with Sonny (and all of us) at a wonderful Japanese restaurant, aptly named Hana as well. 
It was lovely to see my daughter! She will now move to a new apartment (otherwise, she'd have to pay rent for the summer months), come home just for a day and go to her summer job in Santa Rosa - a town two hours away from us by car. 
See you soon, Hanah!



     You might wonder, how Hanah's graduation went. So far, I wrote about other things from that trip. Here goes the story!
     We found a motel in a town called Fortuna, about forty minutes away from Arcata, where the university is located. It's needless to say, we were dead tired, and my legs were totally stiff and sore by the time we arrived there on the day before the graduation. But how I felt could not compare with, how poor Roberta felt! We stopped at the motel to drop off our things and freshen up, but Roberta
refused to come out of the car at that time, and I couldn't blame her!
     We met Hanah near her apartment building. For some reason, that first day we both felt awkward with each other. She decided, I think, not to deal with it, and I gave her space. We went to have lunch, then she wanted to show us her apartment, but, as it turned out, her roommates, a married couple, got tired of waiting for us and decided to take a shower. Together.
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     Besides blinking too much and too fast and a few humorous quips, I did't let Hanah understand, just how bizarre that situation seems to me! But, keeping an eye on the main goal: spending quality time together and letting Hanah know, how much we appreciate herself and her achievement, we just said goodbye there and went to the motel.
     Here Roberta had to go up the second floor to our room. With the influx of thousands of relatives for the graduation ceremonies, all the lodgings in that area were overbooked. We were lucky to find that room with three king beds for all of us.
     I won't go into the details of that night. I stayed up more than I slept because of an allergic rash. The next morning we got up early and went to the University football field, where the ceremony would take place.
     As a family we have one deficiency: we can never arrange well the way we meet with each other or do things together. This time was not different. The University very kindly arranged for all the disabled people and their relatives to take a shuttle to the field, where a volunteer would meet a disabled person and take them on wheelchairs to the special seats. Despipe me explaining this procedure to them, Taka and Sonny decided to walk up to the field instead, and so Roberta and I were seated in a totally different, but much better place than they.
     When a very nice young lady helped Roberta into the wheelchair and took off for the seats, it was up to me to carry lots of stuff and keep up pace with them. After a healthy trot, with one thing after another slipping from my sweaty grasp, I didn't care anymore, where everyone sat. I just wanted to land my own behind somewhere, where I could recuperate.

     To be continued...

Sunday, May 17, 2015


     We took off driving at 7 in the morning. It was a clear, nice day. Sonny was at the wheel, Roberta sat next to him, and Taka and I - in the back. 
     By the time we came to freeway 101 North, the tension fled. Now we just needed to stay on that road for the next 270 miles or so! And soon some of my favorite country began to move by our windows. 
     We passed through Sonoma. Blue-green hands of the hills
lovingly held the blessed valley. Vineyards with their regular rows of trees covered every cleared patch of land. Soon after the trees crowded around the freeway. All was green, but - a billion different shades of it! Like a lovely song was life in those images (316×159)         woods. Just when the eyes became tired of all the green, a little bush, head to toe covered in small, bright yellow flowers would break the monotony. 
images (259×194)     Hours and hours of asphalt bumping under the wheels of our car. The giants came up to the rim of the road then - redwood cedars offered us a multitude of their prickly branches in a gesture of peace and supplication. "Stop, calm down, breathe and live" - they seemed to say. But when a truck would pass, towing the mutilated bodies of their brothers, the wood would sigh in bitter silence.
     Hours and hours passed. Catnaps in the back seat. Easy conversation. 
images (259×194)     Hanah's graduation was to take place in Arcata, but I could only find us a motel about forty minutes away, in Fortuna. The wood bid goodbye to us long before the tiny cities cluttered on both sides of the road, but, as we began to move toward Arcata, they waved to us again. And suddenly, a space opened on the left and my breath stilled: the silver expanse of the ocean came into view. It lay, lapping lazily at the shore, sparkling quietly, as if it felt secure in any comparison. 
   What love I feel in these majestic creations by our Heavenly Father! What thought towards not only the balance in the nature of our planet, but also creating the sense in us that, we are a part of it, and it's magnificent!

MORIKO - repost

Here is an alternate ending for:


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It happened, when Bunsa went into the house for a few minutes. As he stepped out of the door, he couldn't see Kokuro in the spot where he left him. Alarmed, Bunsa was searching everywhere around the backyard, when he saw a fox, who stood by the trees looking at him. In it's mouth it held a cub! Bunsa froze. The fox made a step toward him, then quickly changed it's mind and dashed into the woods.  
Out of his mind with grief and horror at losing his son now, Bunsa ran after the fox. He lost sight of it almost immediately, but kept on searching and calling until he lost his voice. When the neighbors found him, he was still  rasping Moriko's and Kokuro's names, crawling on all fours, looking through the bushes and behind every tree. 
His parents-in-law took him in. He had to be tied in bed, because, at every opportunity, he would run to the forest to look for his family.
 "From willow treefrom plum tree comes the fox!" 
Bunsa Toyoda

All the haiku poems are by a Japanese poet from the 18th-19th century, Issa Kaboyashi. He was born and died in Nagano, Japan.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015


It's midnight. Taka, Sonny and Roberta are asleep in their motel beds. Yesterday, we all drove to Arcata, Ca, to Hanah's graduation. 
Sonny drove all the way. With stops for food and bathroom breaks it took us seven hours to get here. We dropped off our things at a motel and went to meet Hanah.
     Roberta endured the road well, although she didn't come out of the car at all until it was time to go to lunch with Hanah. Our room in the motel is on the second floor. After sitting all day, it took Roberta all her strength to climb the two flights of stairs. 
     On the way over Taka sat with me on the back seat of the car. He had a headache, and spent time sleeping, helping a little with navigation and making every decision confusing. I was set on building rapport between us, but, time to time, it became tiring.
     And I? 
     Although I slept just 3 hours the night before, I hoped, some catnaps I had on the back seat would allow me to spend the day well. I was OK until after lunch. 
     For the past week or so I've been taking an antibiotic. Perhaps because of it, my whole upper body itches like crazy! I could deal with it at home, but on the road it's the whole other story!
     I was really looking forward to seeing Hanah. When we met, she didn't come close to me or make any attempt to show affection. Was it something I did? For some reason, I also felt awkward! What the heck is wrong with me?!
     We wanted to see, where Hanah lives. She shares an apartment in Arcata with a married couple. My daughter seemed happy to take us there, although she'll be moving out in a few days.      First we took her shopping at Target. 
     She and Sonny immediately got lost in a giant store. I walked around by myself, looking for some clothes for Roberta. Since she came to live with us two years ago, she gained thirty ponds (my influence), and now doesn't have any comfortable, loose clothing for staying at home. 
     There was nothing to choose from in that particular Target. The more I circled the aisles, the more aware I became of how terribly tired I was. And I've never been as itchy in my entire life!
     When the time came to visit Hanah's apartment, we got out of the car to do so (Taka stayed inside, saying, there was nothing to see there, and Hanah is moving out of there anyway). Sonny and Hanah went ahead of myself and Roberta, who was walking with a cane and leaning on my arm too. As we came closer to the door, my kids came back out of there and informed us that, Hanah's roommates, the married couple, were taking a shower together, and going into the dwelling might be awkward at that time
     OK! How would you react to such revelation? This was too bohemian even for me! 
     By that time I could hardly talk. Doing anything, besides going to rest, was out of the question. We said goodbye to Hanah until tomorrow and went to the motel. What a let down!
     Even though I was dead tired, I couldn't fall asleep for a long time. And now, after only a couple of hours of blessed oblivion, I am awake again! The rash has gotten worse. 
     As if by design, I forgot the doctor's advice to take some anti-histamine before sleep. Now it's too late. Why do I sabotage myself like that? What is there to gain from the fruitless suffering and difficulty this situation creates for me and my family? 
     I would understand it, if my discomfort elicited some sympathy or support from Taka. To be sure, he did make some sympathetic noises! But from our long life together I know, I can't expect much from him. Like, for example, if it was my sister's husband or many other men I know, I could be comfortable to wake him up right now and ask to go to a pharmacy for me. 
     And why can't I do it? I tell myself: he and Sonny will be driving back tomorrow for many hours, they need to sleep. But the real reason is, I can't face possible rejection or stand the lectures about having the wits to buy medicine during the day. Do I deserve the scolding? Yes. Should I be so afraid of a possible negative response? NO! 
      Perhaps, I should've prayed more prior to this trip. Perhaps, I am an incurable idiot. Does God love idiots? He must also get tired of this type of nonsense!