School Days Begin Again

Susie began her first day of fourth grade at John Burroughs Elementary School, and she’s loving it already.  Stephanie took her to the bus stop, the bus came on time, and off she went.  (The reverse was true when it came time to come home.  The bus was late in arriving, and Steph called me at work on her cell phone to let me know, and she was worried.  About 10 minutes later, while I was standing out on High Street waiting for my bus, she called again to let me know that Susie had arrived safe and sound.  I could tell–I could hear her chattering in the background.

They really loaded her up with homework this first day.  She had to do a page of multiplication problems, a page of division problems, and a penmanship exercise.  We expedited the arithmetic by showing her the multiplication table (12 x 12) inside the back cover of my paper-and-ink diary, which is in a composition book.  I’m typing this entry at the Franklinton library branch, and the first thing I did was Xerox the table for Susie to put in her school notebook.

Steph shooed both of us out she could teach two piano and voice lessons.  I don’t mind, because it gives me a legitimate reason to be at the library.  Upon our return, we’re supposed to take the exterior steps up to the second floor and enter through my office.  (My office is in the back of the half-double where we live.  I have my computer (it’s not hooked to the Internet) and about a dozen “borrowed” milk crates that are now bookcases.  There’s no logic to the arrangement of the books, except that I keep the works of Jack Kerouac and Robert Lowry (a Cincinnati writer I was friendly with during his last years; his name will pop up quite often in this blog) arranged in chronological order.  There is also a crate full of my diaries, which I try to keep in chronological order.

Speaking of my diaries, I was remembering a passage from Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina.  One of the major characters, Levin, is just about to marry Kitty, and here is what he does beforehand:

The confession he had promised was the one painful incident of this time. He consulted the old prince, and with his sanction gave Kitty his diary, in which there was written the confession that tortured him. He had written this diary at the time with a view to his future wife. Two things caused him anguish: his lack of purity and his lack of faith. His confession of unbelief passed unnoticed. She was religious, had never doubted the truths of religion, but his external unbelief did not affect her in the least. Through love she knew all his soul, and in his soul she saw what she wanted, and that such a state of soul should be called unbelieving was to her a matter of no account. The other confession set her weeping bitterly.

Levin, not without an inner struggle, handed her his diary. He knew that between him and her there could not be, and should not be, secrets, and so he had decided that so it must be. But he had not realized what an effect it would have on her, he had not put himself in her place. It was only when the same evening he came to their house before the theater, went into her room and saw her tear-stained, pitiful, sweet face, miserable with suffering he had caused and nothing could undo, he felt the abyss that separated his shameful past from her dovelike purity, and was appalled at what he had done.

“Take them, take these dreadful books!” she said, pushing away the notebooks lying before her on the table. “Why did you give them to me? No, it was better anyway,” she added, touched by his despairing face. “But it’s awful, awful!”

His head sank, and he was silent. He could say nothing.

“You can’t forgive me,” he whispered.

“Yes, I forgive you; but it’s terrible!”

I think it would have been a deal-breaker with Steph and me if she had read my journals beforehand.  It would alternate between boring her and repelling her, especially the entries I wrote after or about heavy drinking bouts when I lived in Cincinnati or was making road trips to Columbus to see a friend.  (She has snooped in my more recent diaries in the past, and came away bored.  I guess I should be insulted, but I’m more amused than anything else.  She had to wade through rehashes of union meetings.)

Susie has finished her penmanship homework, and I’m looking across the room here at the library, and I see she’s looking at’s Website.  She is such a paradox.  I’m just as likely to come into her bedroom and see her with a chessboard in front of her, looking at Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess as I am to see her setting a toy table for her dolls.  When I was going on nine, I wanted to come across as adult as possible, and being a kid was something I hated.

Went to New Shrink

I didn’t go to work today, but this was more for business than pleasure. I saw my new psychiatrist, Stephen Schneir, M.D., today in the office complex by Mount Carmel East Hospital. One of the things I wanted to discuss with him was possibly undergoing vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy as a way to ease my depression. I had a very bad flare-up of it over the weekend… an all-day-and-most-of-the-night fight with Stephanie, and a public blowup in the Arby’s downtown yesterday, which involved leaving the table without even a goodbye or a backwards glance at my daughter.

If I am to have VNS, it won’t be anytime soon. Dr. Schneir wrote me a new prescription for Lamictal (an antidepressant that originally was prescribed to control epileptic seizures), and I will be seeing him in mid-September. He also told me that getting my particular insurance (United Behavioral Healthcare) to agree to pay for VNS will be an uphill battle.

My first psychotropic med was before I started kindergarten, and it was Mellaril. My parents told me that it was for my hyperactivity (ADHD, as it would be now), but recently, when I was looking at the PDR online, I learned that it was an anti-psychotic, used in the treatment of schizophrenia (but no longer).

I now have the uphill task of tracing down my various psychiatrists (Cincinnati and Columbus) and getting them to forward my records to Dr. Schneir. My one psychiatrist retired last year (aged 83!), and we don’t know if he left his records with the hospital, or if they’re sitting in his garage.

Tomorrow is the first day of school for Susie. She’ll be starting fourth grade at John Burroughs Elementary School. She and her mother were getting together last-minute school supplies (notebooks, glue sticks, scissors, etc.) when I left the house.

I like Dr. Schneir, and I think he’ll be a good psychiatrist. Stephanie was at the appointment with me, and she and I both found something rather amazing. Dr. Schneir is Jewish (there is a color photograph on his wall of an old Orthodox man davening at the Western Wall in Jerusalem), but on his right hand is a gold ring with his initials, SS. That would be the last thing I’d think a Jewish person would want to be wearing for jewelry! At least the letters weren’t in the shape of lightning bolts.

If I’ve whetted anyone’s interest in VNS, I recommend If you’re considering it, you can fill in a request online for the company to send you literature and a DVD.

School Just Around the Corner

Susie will be starting the fourth grade on Wednesday at Burroughs Elementary School, about three or four miles from our place. It has an Eclipse (gifted) program, and she’ll be the youngest kid in her class–which is to be expected, since she skipped a grade last year. (Otherwise, she would be going into third grade.)

Burroughs was not where we thought she would be going. Until Thursday, we thought she would be going to Indian Springs Elementary School, located in the north part of Columbus, in a relatively well-to-do neighborhood. But we found out Thursday that no bus transportation is available, so we sucked it up and put Susie in Burroughs.

In a way, I felt like we led Susie down the primrose path when we took her to visit Indian Springs last May. She loved the class and the teachers (the class even had its own pet chicken, named Drumstick, whom they raised from egghood), and we feel like we yanked the rug out from under her once we learned there is no school bus route that can transport her there. (Neither Stephanie nor I drive, both for physical conditions.)

But Susie visited Burroughs and her new teacher yesterday, and she seems to be looking forward to beginning class next Wednesday. We’ve already bought the clothes and school supplies, so all that’s missing is the classroom. And it’s official–I put Burroughs’ number in the “Contacts List” on my cell phone!

New medication: Peridex (the prelude to some endodontic work that’s coming this fall)

Date to Mark on Calendar

There was a short article in today’s Columbus Dispatch about a Website called You log onto it, and type in your height and weight, overall demeanor (pessimistic, optimistic, sadistic), whether you smoke or not, etc. Based on this, it calculates the day you will die.

I need to write this in both the composition book diary and post it here. According to this program, I will die December 14, 2019. My wife, on the other hand, who is two years older than I am, has until July 7, 2052. I gotta make the most of the next 4862 days.

This kind of reminds me of an All in the Family episode where Archie takes a health quiz to determine longevity. It figures he has 5-10 years left. That night, he has a nightmare about his funeral. Mike was one of the pallbearers, and he dropped Archie’s coffin, and dropped Archie right in the middle of the road in his new suit. Why did Mike drop Archie’s casket? Mike was carrying the coffin with one hand and eating a sandwich with the other one.

Good Fences = Good Neighbors, and Insomnia Reading

Robert Frost really nailed that one! On Sunday afternoon, my wife got into it with the bipolar sister of the woman who lives with her husband and infant on the other side of our duplex. The sister was walking past our house “talking” with her niece, at the top of her lungs, and everything was MFin this, or “nigger” that. Steph yelled out to watch the language, because we had an 8-year-old daughter in the house.

The sister told her to F off, and they were soon nose to nose on the porch. The sister finally lost it, threw a punch at Steph, and ripped the screen on our living room window. The police came when I called, and all we can do is file a complaint at the prosecutor’s office. Sadly, the sister is in more trouble for damaging our screen than for assaulting my wife.

Such is the life here in Franklinton, the section of Columbus where I live. The neighborhood is mostly urban Appalachians. The not-so-politically correct term used on Homicide: Life on the Street was “city goat.” (I’m a native of Southeastern Ohio, so I guess I’m a city goat.) But we live–literally–on the other side of the tracks, in the better section of Franklinton, away from most of the grime and the shootings. (There were three shootings, two of them fatal, when we were living at our previous residence.)

In other news, I’m recovering from the effects of my dental appointment. I had cleaning and debridement done, and the dentist is talking extraction of several teeth and some endodontic work down the pike. I have a very low pain threshold to start with, so I’m sweating blood about my next appointment. Just the cleaning was bad, each time the pick accidentally jabbed my gum. I’m surprised I didn’t bite through the hygienist’s fingers. Tomorrow, gotta run to CVS to fill a prescription for Peridex, a mouth rinse.

I did miss a few days in this blog, because this is the first time I’ve been at the library since Sunday. I compensated by writing two entries in the *real* diary–i.e., the one I keep with paper and ink, in a composition book I bought at Family Dollar. I wrote one entry during lunch, after my daily trip through The Columbus Dispatch, and the other one while waiting for the bus to the dentist’s.

I’m not as broke as I usually am four days after payday. The insurance company at my old job (Medco Health Solutions) mailed me a $400 check, which I didn’t know I had coming to me. I paid the bulk of my library fines and the gas bill, and we have a little folding money to last. My sleep last night was just about zero, so I hit the Diet Coke pretty heavily during the workday. (Since I gave up booze for good in 1998, Diet Coke has been my jones of choice.)

I did put the insomnia to good use. I went down the hall to my office and read, although I would have wished to have been able to put on some music. I couldn’t find my headphones, and I didn’t want to wake Steph and Susie (my wife and 8.5-year-old daughter, respectively). I read some of A.N. Wilson’s Jesus: A Life and skipped around from chapter to chapter in The Secular Journal of Thomas Merton. I didn’t know insomnia could make me yearn for such spiritually inclined reading. I should set aside time for the religious writings of Tolstoy, whose post-conversion life exemplifies the teachings of Jesus more than most disciples, evangelists, and Popes combined. Truly a saint.

Church This Morning

Since there was a big picnic after the 11 o’clock service this morning at First Congregational Church, the three of us (my wife Stephanie, our eight-year-old daughter Susie, and your humble diarist) showed up for services for the first time all summer. It was a good service, and I ate so much at the picnic that they had to roll me out.

I think my intense hatred for religious hypocrisy came from a totally secular event. When I was 16, my 10-year-old stepsister glanced into my bedroom and saw a 21″ color TV sitting on my desk. “Where’d you get that?” she asked me.

“My mother gave it to me,” I said, which was the truth.

“Your mother *gave* you that TV?” stepsister echoed, in complete disbelief.

“Uh-huh,” I said. I was not smug about it, just confirming.

“Jesus!” said my stepsister. I don’t think that she intended it to be more than an equivalent of “Wow!” or “Awesome!”

My dad was in the next room, and he said, “Vicki, I *really* *wish* you wouldn’t *say* that!” If it’s possible for hand-wringing to be audible, it was in that tone. Never mind that he married my stepmother after years of an adulterous affair, never mind that he refused to take me to doctors (either psychologists or M.D.s). And yet hearing Jesus’ name as an interjection offended him!

The Jewish poet Shalom Spiegel once wrote that “even the honest blasphemer is closer to God than all the liars for the benefit of religion.” How true!

And We’re Off!

I am so wedded to my diary on paper (I currently have a whole crate full of journals, composition books, spiral notebooks, legal ledgers, etc. that date back from 1990) that I have crashed and burned in my previous attempts to keep any type of online journal. Yet, I am feeling ambitious, so I’ll kick it off today. I don’t have Internet access at home currently (I would–generously–describe my financial situation as “genteel poverty”), so I’m posting this at the public library. Until further notice, that is where I will type all of these entries. So, that means that I probably won’t be posting every day.

My daughter begins fourth grade at the end of the month. Just after Christmas, she was skipped from the second to the third, and she’s loving it. She has learned to play chess, and says she wants to be the next Bobby Fischer (on the chessboard, that’s okay. Otherwise, the guy is a certified lunatic.) She wants to be a wild horse rescuer, and also wants to write and illustrate children’s books.

Plenty more will (I hope) be forthcoming as this blog progresses. Anybody who shares my interests is welcome to E-mail me privately.

We’re making our first trip to church in months tomorrow, for the end-of-summer church picnic and potluck. (We go to the First Congregational Church in downtown Columbus.) Theology has always been a “long story” with me. I was baptized Episcopalian, was a very active Unitarian-Universalist throughout high school and early adulthood, and seriously considered converting to Judaism. (My wife was going to do it with me, but decided against it. The Conservative rabbi with whom I was studying wouldn’t convert half a couple, so my ger-hood is still a ways off.) The most friendly denomination we could find that we both liked was the UCC (United Church of Christ), which is where we attend now.

Current medications taking: Wellbutrin XL and Lamictal. (Re the latter: This for depression treatment, not for epilepsy.)