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Reading Donna Leon

            Lately I’ve been reading Donna Leon’s Commissario Guido Brunetti books: police procedurals set in Venice, Italy. She is a master of place: the specifics of transportation, and weather, and neighborhood cultures that change every few streets. And she’s a master at the bureaucracies and corruption and duplicities her characters have to deal with, and the ways they try to manage to do good despite all of it.

            I keep hoping that the next mystery I read, or the next episode of Murder, She Wrote I watch, will unlock the secret of how to write a mystery, without having to pound my head against the wall a thousand (more) times, but each time I think, no, I couldn’t do that: I can’t be as confident as Jessica Fletcher; and I don’t know enough police procedure to write about a detective; and I’m just not clever enough to come up with a good puzzle, and then solve it.

“I can solve it!”

            But even though reading these books and watching these shows hasn’t made me feel more capable of writing a mystery novel myself, I do feel like it helps me fill up on the possibility of justice and the hope that there really are good people in the world who are trying to make things better.

“Like me?”

            I actually started writing my first mystery novel this summer, instead of just endlessly plotting it on tiny pieces of paper the way I’ve been doing for the past few years, but the pages have come in fits and starts, especially because I’m also working on the continuing Yeshiva Girl saga, and blog posts, and trying to fit it all in between various crises. But even though it’s been difficult, it IS progress. And my only choice is to keep writing, and reading, whenever I can, and learning from other writers about how they’ve untangled their plots to see if they can give me new ideas for how to untangle the plot points in my own mystery that still have me wrapped up in knots.

“Hurry up, Mommy!”

Even if I never get to Venice and experience the flooding of the Acqua Alta in person, or ride a boat from one crime scene to another, or sit in the overheated office of the Commissario, I feel like I’ve been there and learned from him, and from Donna Leon, and Jacqueline Winspear, and Agatha Christie, and P.D. James. I’m hoping that, however slowly, my own pages will continue to add up into something I can be proud of.

“Will the chicken treats add up too?”

p.s. I want to thank Leslie Bowman, from The Adventures of Bitey Dog (at https://theadventuresofbiteydog.com) for her beautiful portraits of Cricket and Ellie.

Cricket
Ellie

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

Cricket’s Struggle

            Cricket had great plans to help her grandma with her exercises after hip replacement surgery back in May. She also planned to be the heating pad after each workout, and she was going to bark Grandma awake every hour or so to walk up and down the hall, and then bark her Grandma down the stairs and outside, once she could go without the walker, and she was going to remind her to bend her knees instead of bending at the waist to put on the leashes, and she was going to sit on Grandma’s lap to keep her from lifting her knee too high, or crossing one leg over the other.

Cricket, the guard dog

            Alas, right from the beginning, Cricket was told no. She was told no when she tried to sleep on Grandma’s hip, to keep it warm; and she was told no when she tried to guide Grandma’s walker down the hall; and she was told no when she woke Grandma up at six o’clock in the morning to go for a walk.

            It was devastating. And to make matters worse, a stranger came into the apartment, called a physical therapist, and Cricket was told that she was not allowed to stand next to him and bark her critiques of all of his work. Instead, she was sent to bark in Mommy’s room with that other dog. Nothing could distract Cricket from her work of barking, though, since it was the only thing she could do to make sure that Grandma survived her physical therapy session with that STRANGER!

Cricket and that other dog (aka Ellie)

            After two weeks, a new physical therapist came, a woman, and she took Grandma for walks outside, without Cricket. She took Grandma to the garden and watered and weeded, without Cricket. She even took Grandma to the car, to practice sitting down and getting up again, without Cricket. And there were new exercises for Grandma to do, in the living room, that required Cricket to be SOMEWHERE ELSE. 

“This is unacceptable.”

            But finally, after what felt like years, Grandma could go for walks again, and hold the leash again, and the stranger didn’t come to the apartment as often, and Cricket could finally relax. But then, disaster struck, and Grandma left again, to the hospital, Mommy said, for what felt like forever!

            Mommy said that Grandma was on the phone, but the phone didn’t have a lap; and it didn’t smell like Grandma, and it couldn’t hold a leash, and it never gave scratchies.

            And then Grandma came home, and Cricket was thrilled, but Grandma started to say no all over again. No to sleeping on Grandma, no to walking in front of Grandma, no to holding leashes and sharing snacks and having cuddles. No to everything!

            And then the physical therapist came back AGAIN! And Cricket was trapped in the bedroom with that other dog AGAIN, with only Mommy there, giving not enough treats, while Cricket knew that Grandma was in the other room with a STRANGER.

            Clearly, more barking had to be directed at Mommy, to make her do the right thing, aka get the stranger to leave so that Cricket could be in charge of physical therapy. She could get Grandma in shape in no time! But no, no, no, no. All the time, no. When Cricket woke Mommy up at six o’clock in the morning, no. When Cricket barked at Grandma to share her snacks, no. When Cricket barked at Ellie (aka that other dog) to tell her to start barking too, no. Everything was no!

“Why is it always no?”

            But Cricket is confident that, one day soon, she will get a yes, and then another yes. She will get her lap back, and she will get her Grandma-walks back, and she will get her life back. In the meantime, it’s no, and can’t, and don’t, which is an awful, terrible, horrible disaster. But one day soon, things will get better. Cricket is sure of it. All it will take is persistence.

Ellie’s not so sure.

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

The Paw Paws Are Growing

            In the midst of a lot of drama this summer (doctor visits and surgery and jury duty, oh my!), I’ve been keeping my eye on the paw paw tree for a sense of hope and stability. And it’s been working. We have eight or nine paw paw fruit on our tree, some in pairs but mostly singles, and every week they grow a little bigger as if they’re being inflated by a bicycle pump when I’m not looking.

            I don’t visit the tree each time I walk the dogs, because I follow the shade wherever I can find it and sometimes the tree is in full sun (good for the tree, bad for me, and my heat intolerance and tendency to sun poisoning), but I check on it at least once a day, and carefully duck under branches and around paw paw leaves to look at the growing fruit.

            It helps to have a calm, gradual, positive thing in my life, while I have to do a lot of things that are (way) out of my comfort zone. The paw paw tree has been that reassuring thing this summer – that, and the dogs: Ellie’s sweet, loving face when she cuddles up next to me and asks for head scratchies, and Cricket’s great joy when she sees Kevin, the mini Golden Doodle, coming her way. The good things don’t make the bad things (the news) or the scary things (surgeries) go away, but they give me the strength to keep going, and I feel so lucky for that.

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

Oral Surgery, Interrupted

            At my most recent visit with the dentist, about a month ago, I finally asked her about the oral surgeon’s recommendation that I get a full implant to replace my upper teeth – with screws in my cheek bones to stabilize it – and the dentist said it was the best option for me, despite the cost. She said that I will lose more teeth, more rapidly, in the near future, because of the progression of gum recession and bone loss. She was definite, and the hygienist, who I’ve been going to for about twenty years (she worked with my previous dentist too), agreed with the dentist’s assessment, and said that I’d be in good hands with this particular oral surgeon. My mother had also done her research, with friends in the dental field and of course on Google, and she felt that this was the right plan too. And, Mom said, as a result of my father’s death last fall she would be getting a larger social security check from now on, so, in a way, my father would be helping to pay for it.

            I was still scared, though, of the cost of the procedure and the radical nature of it; but I was more scared of not doing it, or of not doing it in time, and losing more teeth without having something to replace them.

As soon as we called the oral surgeon to say yes, the process started to move forward at high speed. The office manager at the oral surgeon’s office had to do a credit check to see if I qualified for a loan, and then I needed to go into the office to sign the loan papers, and get x-rays and a lot of pictures of my smile, and intra-oral pictures to cover every centimeter of my mouth, so that the surgery could be planned out and the temporary and permanent implants designed. The doctor’s assistant, who did all of the pictures, some even with her cell phone while I used the retractors to hold my mouth open, also gave me a rundown of what to expect after the surgery: a lot of pain (with a prescription for Percocet, just in case), and bruising on my face for ten days to two weeks, and oh yeah, it might be difficult to get used to eating and talking with the temporary implant (the permanent one would come in three months and be made of less bulky and more long-lasting materials), and I’d have to be on a soft food diet for the whole three months to protect the temporary implant, and probably not eat much at all for the first few days while my gums healed, before they could even put the temporary implant in place.

I went home with a gift bag (a Water Pik, signed loan papers, cough drops, and colorful plumes of paper), and a lot of fear. I knew I had to follow through with this, not just because of the loan papers, but because this would be my best option to feel like a viable person in the future, but I had a lot of nightmares: teeth being pulled out of my mouth with rusty plyers, monsters shoving things down my throat while I’m under anesthesia, etc.

“Monsters?”

A day or two later, I got an email from the Anesthesiologist’s office telling me what I’d need to do for medical clearance before the surgery: I’d need an EKG and blood tests and an overall exam from my primary care doctor, and an okay from a pulmonologist. But my primary care doctor didn’t have any appointments available until the week after the surgery, and it took a while before one of the schedulers at her office offered to let me see the nurse practitioner there who had an opening. And then I called the office of a pulmonologist I’d seen five or six years ago, for shortness of breath, and his scheduler said he didn’t have appointments available until October.

So, back to the primary care doctor’s office for a referral to another pulmonologist, and, wonder of wonders they had a name ready and he had an appointment available within an hour. And he was lovely. He read through my test results from five years ago, and checked my breathing, and took a short history, and gave me his okay for surgery. He told me that he’d had a similar situation where he’d needed pulmonary clearance for surgery, and they wouldn’t take his own medical word for it, so he’d gone to the pulmonologist I’d seen before (the one with no appointments until October) to get his clearance done.

            After that, I was finally able to take a deep breath. It seemed like things were going to be okay, and there were even nice people in the world who understood what I was going through, and then I got home and found a jury summons in the mail, for the week of the surgery.

            Really God? Really?!

            I had to email the jury commissioner’s office directly because the only postponement options offered online were for during the school year, and luckily they were able to give me a new date in August (by which time my bruises would, hopefully, be less visible).

            At the same time, I was preparing for the trip to the hospital in Philadelphia (which turned out to be a virtual visit at the last minute, thank God), and worrying about whether or not to take the next semester of my online Hebrew class over the summer, knowing I’d have to miss a couple of class sessions, and possibly stay off camera for a few others, what with bruises on my face and lispy, awkward speech. But the idea of not having those classes, and only having the pain to look forward to, seemed too awful, so I stuck with it. And then I needed to go for a Covid test and pick up the meds from CVS that I was supposed to start three days before the surgery, and…

And then Mom’s hip replacement popped out. Her hip had been sore for a few days, but the doctor wasn’t worried and just recommended more rest. But when I came in from walking the dog’s Saturday morning Mom said, “I have some bad news,” or something equally as understated, and she told me she could feel something protruding under the skin and she was ready to throw up from the pain. I raced around looking for the doctor’s phone number, which was probably in plain sight somewhere, and eventually found it online, and the doctor said to call for an ambulance and go to the emergency room. The dogs barked up a storm from behind my bedroom door when the paramedics arrived, but Mom was really calm and just needed some help getting her shoes on before they guided her down the stairs in a wheelchair and out to the ambulance.

“Why can’t we go with Grandma?”

The ER was crowded with Covid patients, so I wasn’t allowed to go in and had to wait for news at home. And I still wasn’t allowed to go in later in the day, after they’d decided to transfer her to the hospital in the city where she’d had the original surgery, so I had to drop off her clothes and phone charger with a very nice security guard, without seeing her at all. And then I went home and called the oral surgeon’s office and left a message (it was the weekend) telling him that I would have to postpone the surgery, which was supposed to have taken place that Thursday. And then I had to sit and wait.

Up until that moment I’d felt like I was on a speeding train with all of the doctors’ appointments and the upcoming oral surgery and jury duty and then getting Mom to the emergency room and bringing her clothes. And then the world just stopped, and all I could do was sit by the phone.

“I’ll sit with you, Mommy.”

But Mom’s second surgery finally took place mid-week, and it went well, though the surgeon sounded more humble on the phone this time around, explaining exactly what he’d done to make the hip replacement more stable. And then I heard from the oral surgeon’s office manager that my new surgery date wouldn’t be until late in August, dangerously close to the beginning of the synagogue school year (though I’m hopeful that with the latest Covid sub-variant going around, I will be able to wear a mask in the classroom and not feel too self-conscious).

Now that Mom’s home, and safe, I should be feeling better, but I’m afraid of what will happen when the world starts moving again and I have to rush to the drug store, or see doctors, or go to jury duty, or prepare for my own surgery, or go back to teaching in the fall. I feel like a stopped clock that has to be reset, and my arms will flail out of control as I start to speed forward through the hours again. But for now, there’s a calm in our house, as Cricket climbs back up onto her grandma’s bed, and even lets Ellie sit nearby (though not for long); we can all breathe a sigh of relief, knowing we are home, together, where we belong.

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

My Appointment in Philadelphia

            I had a doctor’s visit scheduled for this past week at a hospital in Philadelphia called CHOP, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which is kind of embarrassing. All of the paperwork for my visit included references to “the child” this and “the child” that, and I am, of course, an adult. I worried that somehow they’d missed that detail in my medical history and when I walked into the hospital they’d be horrified that I was so tall. But, I was told that this was the place to go for a possible mitochondrial disorder, so this is where I’d have to go, no matter my age.

            This particular adventure started back in March, when I heard from the geneticist that I had some genetic variations that needed to be looked into, and she gave me referrals to a neuromuscular specialist (to check out a possible LMNA disorder, in the Muscular Dystrophy family), and to CHOP (for a possible Mitochondrial disorder). The appointment with the Neuromuscular specialist was easy to schedule, but the process of getting an appointment at CHOP took at least a month, because they had to collect all of my records from various doctors and hospitals to see if they really wanted to take on my case, and, of course, they needed pre-approval from my insurance. Eventually, they sent me a welcome letter telling me that I’d have two appointments on a Wednesday in July, one at nine in the morning with the lab, and one at ten thirty to see the head of the Mitochondrial medicine department. The idea of going to Philadelphia for a doctor’s appointment, a three hour trip each way, was already overwhelming, but to have to be there at nine in the morning?

“Don’t worry, Mommy. I can wake you up in the middle of the night if necessary.”

Mom said we could go the day before and stay over at a hotel to make things easier, but it sounded so expensive and complicated to me (Do we bring the dogs? Would Cricket actually stay calm in the hotel room while we were at the hospital? Could Cricket survive being boarded, even with her sister for company? Would we drive or take a train?), but Mom was confident that it would all work out; and it was still only April at that point, so the specific plans could wait.

            And then Mom went to the orthopedist and found out that she needed a hip replacement, immediately, and we fell into the whirlwind of pre-op testing and surgery and recovery. Even then, Mom was still convinced that she’d be well enough to make the trip to Philadelphia, so we focused on getting her well and continued to put off planning the trip.

My appointment with the neuromuscular specialist, about forty-five minutes away, came up a few weeks ago, the week after Mom’s post-surgical check up with the orthopedist (which went great!), so Mom wanted to test her strength and come with me. I drove, and held doors, and watched Mom maneuvering her cane like an oar, and Mom listened carefully to the doctor to make sure I didn’t miss anything important. The doctor was very thorough, and thoughtful, and put me through a lot of physical exercises and questions and said, eh, I don’t think you have an LMNA disorder (no muscle-wasting, no falling eyelids, and no to a lot of other things on her list), but she was optimistic about my upcoming trip to CHOP, and said she thought a Mitochondrial disorder could be a better fit for my symptoms.

I was proud of myself for managing the drive and the doctor visit, and for not being too bothered that yet another doctor and diagnosis had fallen through, but Mom was exhausted by the trip, and by the next day she’d realized, very reluctantly, that she wouldn’t be able to come with me to Philadelphia, even if we did the whole thing by train and boarded the dogs for two days. So I would be making the trip alone.

“Why can’t I go on the train with you?”

            I know it shouldn’t be such a big deal for an adult to travel to another state alone, but for me it’s a lot; both because of the inevitable physical exhaustion of the trip and because of the anxiety that floods my brain when I try to manage new situations. So Mom called CHOP for help finding a nearby hotel, and to find out how long my appointments would be so that we could plan the trip home. She made the reservation for me and printed out maps and looked into transportation options for getting from the hotel to the hospital and from the hospital back to the train station. And then we heard from the doctor’s office that, actually, I didn’t have to be at the hospital early, because they wouldn’t know which tests I’d need ahead of time. My only appointment would be at 10:30 AM with the doctor, so we re-planned the trip for a single day, starting at 5:30 in the morning, and cancelled the hotel reservation.

I ordered the Amtrak tickets and studied the schedule for the Long Island Railroad, and wrote up a packing list, and put all of my papers together in one folder. I was still worried that I’d miss something the doctor said, or miss a train, or just get lost wandering through a strange city, but even more than that, I was afraid that nothing would come of this doctor visit, like all the others, and the resulting hopelessness, on top of the exhaustion of the trip, would wipe me out. But I was determined to go anyway.

And then, the Monday afternoon before my Wednesday appointment in Philadelphia, I got a call from the hospital saying that the original doctor had to cancel, but the replacement doctor could do a virtual appointment that same morning. A virtual appointment? As in, I wouldn’t have to go to Philadelphia at all?!

“Yay!”

The woman I spoke to on the phone couldn’t explain why I was suddenly allowed to have a virtual appointment, when they’d told me two or three months earlier that it would be impossible, but I agreed to the change immediately. I couldn’t think it all through at that moment, though, because I had an appointment with the oral surgeon in an hour.

But after I got back from the oral surgeon, with thoughts of general anesthesia and swelling and bruising and 3D printed teeth swirling in my head, I started to worry that maybe CHOP had changed my appointment to a virtual one because they’d decided that I didn’t have a mitochondrial disorder, and therefore there was no point in seeing me in person.

I spent the next day canceling train tickets and looking into possible refunds (nada) and starting to finally feel the relief at not having to get on four, or was it five, or six, different trains in one day. And then I got the email with the link to my virtual doctor visit and did all of the pre-visit check-ins and I finally realized that Mom would be able to be there for my appointment after all, and so would Cricket and Ellie, and a lot of the anxiety that had built up over months finally started to dissipate.

At 9:30 Wednesday morning, I logged on, with Mom and Ellie sitting next to me and Cricket grumbling from her bed on the floor. First, I met the program director, and she was very nice and took some more family history and explained my genetic test results in more detail, saying that I had a rare mutation, as in, no one else in the database had the same mutation on that particular gene (though the database is far from complete). And then she told me about the tests they wanted to do (which I could do at home and send in), and she asked Mom if she’d be willing to get tested as well, to give them a more detailed sense of my genetic background. And then the doctor joined the visit. He did an abbreviated physical through the screen (look left and right, turn your head left and right, show your hands, back and front, and walk to and from the computer), and then he told me that it’s unlikely that I have a mitochondrial disorder, though an LMNA disorder would be an interesting possibility. But do the tests anyway, just in case.

I wasn’t surprised, though Mom and my therapist were both surprised and disappointed, having spent months telling me that this would finally be the breakthrough. For me, it was just one more doctor visit that ended with a ho hum instead of an answer, but at least I got to stay at home, in the air-conditioning, with Mom and the dogs. And it saved Cricket the trouble of having to spend the whole day worrying that I’d been captured by space aliens or enslaved by fire-breathing dragons, or whatever it is she worries about when her people are away. We were also able to celebrate her fifteenth birthday as a family and watch her eat all of her birthday hamburgers until she was well and truly satisfied (don’t worry, Ellie didn’t go hungry either).

Cricket and Ellie are my shining reminders that life can always get better, even when your body isn’t working the way you want it to, or your hair is something of a mess. They know that life will always be full of things that are worth looking forward to. Though not always hamburgers in particular.

“Why not?”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

The Water Sorting Puzzle

            When I use the Duolingo app on my phone, since I refuse to pay for the premium version, I see a lot of ads. Some are for local furniture stores, some are for Duolingo Plus (the paid version), some are for other language learning apps, but a lot are for games. There’s one where you have to put pieces of a “wooden” puzzle together, and one where the fat king gets in all kinds of danger and his life depends on you moving little icons around on the screen, and then there are all of the different versions of water sorting puzzles; some use test tubes, some use bottles, or vases, some even use colored balls instead of water, which is not the same at all. There’s something unreasonably peaceful, and satisfying, about watching water pour from one bottle to another, until all of the blues are with the blues and all of the greens are with the greens. I found myself watching the water sorting game ads all the way through to the end, instead of dropping my phone and looking for something else to do for those thirty seconds.

“Play with me!”

            And a few weeks ago, after the Duolingo tournament had raised my stress level into infinity instead of the app’s usual calming effect, I gave in and downloaded one of the water sorting games.

            There’s no productivity excuse for playing this game; I’m not learning a new language or important scientific principles, but the game is actually the embodiment of some lessons I keep thinking I’ve learned, and keep having to relearn: one, that it’s okay to fail, as long as you keep trying (the game lets you retry the same puzzle until you’ve mastered it, without penalty); and two, sometimes, in order to reach your stated goal you have to take a circuitous route, because there will be barriers in your way that you can’t foresee.

“I love to run in circles!”

            The goal of the water sorting game is to move the sections of colored water from one bottle to another until each bottle holds only one color of water, and you get two empty bottles to help you sort, because you can only pour purple onto purple or green onto green, but any color can be poured into an empty bottle. And the strategy that works for you in one puzzle rarely works in the next one, so that time after time I have to relearn that even if my goal is to get all of the purples into one test tube, I’ll still have to deal with the reds and greens and yellows in the way.

            So, for example, if I want to write the sequel to Yeshiva Girl, which I’ve been trying to do for a very, very long time, I have to accept that there will be more barriers to overcome, and that I won’t always (or even usually) know what they will be ahead of time. I’ll need to try new things, again, and again, again, and if I continue to fail, I may have to start over from the beginning with a blank page. But starting over doesn’t mean I’m failing, it means I’m learning, and inevitably, I will find a way forward.

            There’s a variation of the water sorting game where you can’t see the color of the water below the top section of each bottle until you move the top section away and the next color is revealed, and therefore you cannot plan ahead. I love this variation because it frees me up to accept my blindness, and to accept that I won’t know everything that will be coming my way, and therefore I can take a deep breath and know that I can’t be expected to plan and strategize, and it’s okay to just take it one step at a time, and see what happens.

“One step at a time, huh?”

            I still go to Duolingo every day to work on my languages, and I haven’t fallen into a deep hole wherein all I do all day long is sort colored water instead of writing or getting chores done, yet, but each time I take time out to play the game, I feel like my brain waves are untangling and relaxing back into place, or finding new and better configurations that can help me work through the knots in my actual life with a little more patience.

“I hate patience.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

I Don’t Wanna

            Sometimes I just can’t force myself to do certain things, even if I don’t understand why not, and no one else can understand why not. But I’ve learned to trust that internal voice telling me that I’m not ready, or that I’m going down the wrong path, or that I won’t be able to do what’s being asked of me. I’ve learned to listen for the intensity of the I Don’t Wanna voice, because that can help me figure out if I can overcome it, or if I shouldn’t even try to overcome it.

“What took you so long?”

            The problem has been that my therapist (and teachers and friends) can’t hear that voice, and they don’t trust me to assess its accuracy on my own, and they tell me, meaning well, that I should ignore it and do what needs to be done, whether I want to or not, and whether I think I can do it or not. They think I can and should ignore the I Don’t Wanna voice, because they think of it as selfish, or self-destructive, or weak, or whatever else they say to themselves about their own I Don’t Wanna voices. And I hear their judgements and their impatience and their distrust of me, and it feels bad, but that doesn’t change what I can and can’t do.

            But I’ve noticed, over time, that the better I get at hearing and trusting the I Don’t Wanna voice, the more clearly I can begin to hear the I Wanna voice. It turns out that I wanna teach synagogue school, even though I don’t know why. I can’t explain it, especially after spending three and a half years and a lot of money getting a degree in social work. And I wanna take online Hebrew classes, even though I can’t see the logic in it, or make a good argument for why this is the right good step forward in my life. I just know that the I wanna voice keeps getting stronger the more that I listen to it and trust that it knows what it’s talking about.

“I wanna have chicken treats!”

            I was better at hearing these voices when I was a kid: when I knew I wanted chocolate frosting but not the cake it was sitting on, or I knew I wanted to do more math homework, even if I never got extra credit for it. But I was told so many times not to listen to myself and just do what I was supposed to do: eat what I was supposed to eat, take the classes I was supposed to take, accept the friendships I was offered; and never trust my feelings to tell me what was best. And as a result, I lost track of the I Wanna and I Don’t Wanna voices, and for a long time all I could hear was what other people wanted me to do, and their endless judgments when I couldn’t live up to those expectations, and my own confusion about why I couldn’t do what I was supposed to be able to do.

            It has been a very long road back to hearing, and trusting, my own internal voices, and it’s still a struggle. There’s so much more than the I Wanna and I Don’t Wanna voices to listen to, but they all seem to crash around in my head at once, becoming noise without much meaning. I’ve been working so hard on Intuitive Eating for the past year and a half, endlessly trying to hear these subtle voices of hunger and fullness before they become shouts, instead of relying on what I think I should eat to please the diet gods, whoever they may be on a given day. But I still fall into the abyss, almost every day, thinking that my own feelings are untrustworthy and selfish and self-destructive and should be ignored. But, in favor of what?

            I guess I’ve reached the point in the journey where I know there’s no other path to follow, even though I still feel all of the guilt and self-loathing for not being able to do what I’m supposed to do. I’ve accepted that I have real limitations and I’ve learned to trust them, instead of pushing forward anyway and just waiting for the inevitable disaster. One sign that I’m on the right track is that even though I still have a lot of anxiety, it’s been a long time since I’ve had an actual panic attack, or even a deep dive into depression.

            Part of the internal noise I keep having to fight with is that I so desperately want to be a rational creature, with explanations for everything I do and don’t do, but given how much I don’t understand (about myself, about the world, about science and math and the energies in the universe), sometimes my gut feelings are the only map I have left to follow. I wish I could say that I understand how all of the levers and pulleys of my brain work, and that I know for sure that I’m interpreting my thoughts and feelings correctly, but I can’t. All I can do is keep listening for the I Wanna and I Don’t Wanna voices, as they whisper to me, and show them, through my actions, that I am trustworthy, and that if I choose to ignore them, I have good reasons.

“There is no good reason to ignore me.”

I wish the guilt and self-loathing would shut up already, but I guess they count as internal voices too, at this point. They may have come from the outside to start with, but they are part of my gears and wires now and I need to find a way to respect them too.

Ugh.

“Ugh.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

The Mama Bird

            There was a mama bird in the rhododendron bush again. I have pictures, from years ago, of a robin’s nest in the same bush: from the little blue eggs to the baby birds as they grew and stretched and learned how to fly. But the rhododendron bush has grown much bigger over the years, and the current robin built her nest further inside and a little too high for me to get a glimpse inside the nest, even with my phone. But I loved watching her build her nest, and watching it grow taller and sturdier each day. She mostly wove in branches, but she also took other materials from the yard to add softness to the inside.

The previous robin family

            I could see the mama bird throughout the day, each time I took the dogs out for a walk, and she would be sitting on her nest, chin up at one side, tail up at the other side, so proudly guarding and warming her eggs, turning like a sundial throughout the day. I made a point of greeting her each time, and wishing her good luck, and asking her when the babies would be born, though she never answered me. There’s something about baby birds and their rubbery, alien-like vulnerability that makes me feel so hopeful.

            My neighbors and I would check in with each other to share news of the mama bird, sharing our thoughts about her marvelous nest building skills, and her ability to ignore our dogs. No one else was able to get a picture of her either, as far as I know.

            But then she was gone. One neighbor was tall enough to check inside the nest, after a few days of not seeing her, and he said that there were no broken egg shells, no signs of habitation at all. He said he hoped that meant she had taken her eggs somewhere else, maybe somewhere further out of human reach; but she’d spent so much time building the nest, and she’d spent so much time sitting on the nest, that it seemed unlikely, to me, that she would pack up the whole family and move at such a late date.

            I don’t know what happened. Maybe another bird came along and stole her eggs, or maybe the eggs fell out of the nest and another animal carried them off. Or maybe it was a false pregnancy from the beginning. When I was younger, I had a dog who had a lot of false pregnancies. Dina, a black lab mix, would create a nest for herself underneath my parents’ bed, scratching the carpet for nesting material until all that was left of the carpet was the webbing underneath. She was convinced that she was about to have puppies, and she even produced some milk, but there were never any puppies. The repeating cycle of expectation and loss overwhelmed her, with the hormones rushing through her body making her eyes glassy with confusion. I felt Dina’s grief in my own body and it has always stayed with me.

Miss Dina in later life

            Around the same time that the mama bird was creating her nest this spring, and beginning to roost, flowers blossomed on the pawpaw tree, twenty or so feet away. And then, after the mama bird disappeared, the deep red pawpaw flowers fell to the ground, leaving behind the beginnings of pawpaw fruit, little clusters that looked like hands starting to stretch out. We had our first homegrown, ripe, paw paw fruit last year, and I’d like to think this year we might have two, or even three.

The pawpaw hand.

            It’s painful to feel hopeful so often and have my hopes dashed, like Dina and her false pregnancies, and yet I’ve found that it’s even more painful to try to live without hope. It’s sad to think that the mama bird lost her babies, or never had them in the first place, but it would be even harder to have never seen her sitting on her nest, dreaming of her future, in the first place. And watching the small pawpaw fruit start to appear fills me with wonder, independent of whether or not they become full grown fruit; though I’d prefer to have a small harvest by the end of the growing season, of course. But just the harvest, without the hours and days and months of hope leading up to it, wouldn’t be enough. The feeling of hope, more than anything else, is really the point.

“Uh, we prefer the food.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?         

Looking for Butterflies

            Sometime in the midst of prepping for Mom’s hip surgery, Duolingo announced that I was in the running for the semifinals, of something. I spend some time every day on Duolingo, practicing my Hebrew and French, learning Spanish or German or Yiddish. I’m sure that part of my language learning adventure has been about wanting to feel smart and impressive, but first and foremost I’m fascinated by what languages can teach us about who we are and how we understand ourselves. I don’t practice each language every day, some days I do a little of a few different languages, some days I do a deep dive into one of the languages, sometimes I just do enough to keep my streak alive for another day.

            But then there was this tournament. It wasn’t hard to get into the semifinals: I just had to do the same number of lessons I usually do every day. And even getting into the finals didn’t take much extra effort. But once I was in the finals I started to feel pressure to spend hours each day earning points, by studying old lessons and learning new ones. By then, Mom was home from the hospital, and struggling. I was basically on call 24/7 to make sure she took the right medications, at the right times, and had enough to drink and food, if she could stand to eat, and I was also taking care of the dogs and the apartment and the laundry and the shopping.

“But we’re so easy!”

            And, at first, the extra time spent on Duolingo was a relief, a chance to think about something other than life and death and pain and all of the ways I was failing my mom, and all of the ways I was failing in life overall. I won eighty points with one lesson – I must be a genius!!! But as the week of the finals went on, and the pressure grew, I was on my cellphone so much that it kept running out of power. I usually don’t notice how much battery is left on my phone, I just put it on its charger when I go to sleep and it takes care of itself, but now it needed to be charged multiple times a day. I was doing Yiddish lessons in between trips to the laundry room, and Spanish lessons while the tea was steeping, and French and German when I had free time and would normally be trying to write, or read. Every time I saw my name fall down to, say, twentieth place, when only the top fifteen would win, I felt like a failure. I had to push harder, do more, and win! I didn’t even know what I might win if I made it into the top fifteen, but it said that the top fifteen would be winners and I wanted to be a winner!

“I’m already a winner.”

            The dogs handled the early days of Mom’s recovery really well, thank God. Ellie was her usual sweet self, sleeping on the floor of Mom’s room, sending good vibes throughout the day and night, and knowing to come to me for food or trips and let Mom rest. Even Cricket did better than I had expected. She (mostly) listened when she was told to stay off Mom’s lap, or away from her feet when she was walking slowly down the hall. There was one bad night, though, when she didn’t listen. I found out in the morning that, using her good leg, Mom had kicked Cricket off the bed, and Cricket flew across the room, losing her tags halfway across the floor (I reattached the tags the next morning, pressing extra hard with the plyers so that at least if she went flying again she’d still have her identification on her).

“Harrumph.”

By the weekend of the Duolingo finals, Mom was starting to feel better, not needing me to be on call as much, and my obsession with my placement in the Duolingo rankings became constant. By midday, Sunday, I was in 16th place, one spot away from the winner’s circle, but the whole thing was becoming tedious and I was starting to hate learning languages, which is not like me at all. The only time I could get any perspective was when my phone ran out of power and I was forced to take a break while it was on its charger. I was still able to walk the dogs, and clean, and cook, and make tea when necessary, so there were a few minutes here and there when I wasn’t on my phone, trying desperately to keep up, but not many.

            By early evening I had made it into thirteenth place and I thought it was safe to take a break to make dinner, and eat dinner, since the competition would be ending at 11 PM. But when I looked at the rankings again, an hour later, I was back down in sixteenth place. I sat with Mom in the living room, supposedly watching TV, but really trying to earn enough points to get back into the winner’s circle. It was about 10:40 PM and I was still about one hundred points from fifteenth place – winner! – when the battery ran out and my phone shut off. I had seen the warnings that I was low on power, twenty percent left, ten percent left, but I was too busy to stop and charge it, and I was sure I had enough to make it through the end of the tournament, and I was wrong.

At 10:40 PM, I knew that even if my phone charged quickly, I’d still be too far behind to make up the points by 11. Each point I earned would be matched, at least, by the guy in fifteenth place, and he would always be at least a hundred points ahead of me. I wasn’t sure if the people ahead of me in the rankings had more free time, more competitive spirit, better strategy, or if they just had Duolingo Plus, the paid version, which makes it much easier to earn a lot of points at once, but I knew I was out.

            So, I finally let go. I put my phone on its charger, and took the dogs out for their last walk of the day, and brushed my teeth, and tried to accept defeat. Some small part of me felt guilty for giving up, telling me I could have switched over to the Duolingo site on my computer and at least tried to earn the last one hundred, two hundred, three hundred points, however unlikely success might be. But I didn’t do that. I just made my overnight oats for breakfast, took my evening meds, and watched the clock as the last few minutes ran out on the Duolingo tournament.

            I was already planning this essay by then – because the extremeness of my behavior around this meaningless tournament worried and intrigued me. I could stand back, finally, and wonder if I was specifically vulnerable to this obsession because of the helplessness of watching Mom struggle to recover from her surgery. Or if maybe there’s something in my brain in general that can’t tell the difference between what’s important and what isn’t important, and I truly believed that winning this tournament could change my life in some significant way.

            Mom had a much better way of distracting herself. For Mother’s Day, before the surgery, when I was searching through Amazon for something Mom might like, I found a butterfly kit. I’d never heard of such a thing, but Mom loved the idea, and then spent half a day looking for the right one (not the one I’d found), and it arrived a few days before the surgery. She set it up in her room, and read diligently through the instructions for how to take care of the caterpillars, and their habitat. Luckily, there wasn’t anything I needed to do for them while Mom was in the hospital, because I was too busy cooking and cleaning and freaking out, to have made sense of more instructions.

            And when Mom came home and was dealing with all of the pain and discomfort of recovery, she watched the caterpillars creating their chrysalises, and she fed them and cared for them, and when the butterflies started to emerge, Mom was starting to feel better, and by the time Mom was ready to start walking outside with the physical therapist, it was time to hang the butterfly habitat outside on a tree, and open the zipper, and let the new butterflies find their way out into the world.

            The metaphor of the whole thing really resonated, for both of us (though Mom was disappointed that the butterflies flew away so quickly after their transformation). The presence of these creatures, transforming in her room, gave her something hopeful to look at every day. Even if she never intended the butterflies to be such a clear metaphor, some unconscious part of her brain knew what she would need and sought it out.

            And, for whatever reason, my mind sought out the Sisyphean task of trying to win a Duolingo tournament I could never win.

            There was such relief when the tournament was finally over, even though I’d ended up right outside of the winner’s circle in sixteenth place. I was able to look away from my phone again and realize that Mom really was feeling better, and moving better, and ready to make her own tea again, the way she actually liked it. And I was finally able to go back to my other obsession: watching endless episodes of Murder, She Wrote, and basking in Jessica Fletcher’s ability to decipher clues and solve murders and believe in herself despite constant criticism. In a way, Jessica Fletcher is the butterfly version of my caterpillar self, and watching her gives me hope that someday I might come out of my chrysalis and really be able to fly.

            At the same time, Cricket started to realize that her Grandma wasn’t in as much danger anymore, and decided to resume her regular habits: including her insistence on sitting on her Grandma’s lap and barking her demands as persistently and loudly as possible. She made it clear, in her own way, that there was more to life than winning a Duolingo tournament, or even watching episodes of Murder, She Wrote, and it would require me to get up and take her and her sister outside to look for the butterflies.

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

The Importance of Teeth

            About two months ago I went to see an oral surgeon, sent by my regular dentist, to see what my options might be in treating my Lichen Planus (an autoimmune disorder that impacts the tissues of my mouth, causing gum recession and bone loss and resulting in loose teeth). I had expected my old dentist to have a plan to help me, because he’d said he had one, but then he retired, without telling me his plan, and his replacement suddenly wanted me to go to an outside expert for advice, without saying what that advice might be.

            I had no idea what to expect at the appointment, but my new dentist had praised the oral surgeon for his ability to deal with autoimmune patients like me, and she seemed to believe that he’d have better treatment options than what she could think of herself, or what my previous dentist had left behind in his notes. She made it sound like there could be a way to slow the tooth loss, and to treat the Lichen Planus more effectively than the oral pathologist had been able to manage for years now.

“Who me, skeptical?”

            So when I walked into the oral surgeon’s exam room, after a full x-ray of my mouth, and he immediately began his spiel about how he would remove all of my upper teeth and replace them with an implant that would be anchored into my cheek bones, because I don’t have enough bone for regular implants, and he doesn’t think bone grafts are stable enough, and a partial implant would be a waste of time and money, and the whole thing would cost $40,000, and none of it would be covered by my health insurance.

            I had no idea what to say, or do. I couldn’t talk to anyone in the aftermath. Even talking to my Mom just turned into hysterical crying. Mom called the dentist for an explanation of what the oral surgeon was proposing, and the dentist said that my situation was much worse than my now retired, dentist had told me, though he had noted it down in my chart. The dentist said that she would consult with the oral surgeon, and with the oral pathologist, and get back to me with an explanation of the options available.

            She didn’t call back though, and I didn’t have the courage to call her myself. I didn’t want to be on the phone with a relative stranger, crying and feeling helpless and inarticulate, especially when I couldn’t even figure out why it was all so overwhelming. I just couldn’t think at all.

“I know the feeling.”

            My therapist wasn’t really concerned. She said I should just get a denture instead, because it would cost less and be just as good. I was wearing my face mask at the time so she couldn’t see the look of horror on my face at the idea of dentures. She also expected me to be able to call the dentist and talk through the options, even though I kept trying to tell her that I couldn’t do it; that I couldn’t even pick up the phone, let alone dial the phone number or, god forbid, talk.

            But then Mom got the news that she’d have to have hip surgery (first on one hip and then, three months or so later, on the other), and I found out about two possible diagnoses that might explain my various medical issues, and I got distracted with going for more tests and making appointments with new doctors, and Mom and my therapist got excited about the possibility of my finally getting a diagnosis, and the whole question of my teeth was forgotten. Except that I kept looking in the mirror at the two precariously loose teeth, close to the front of my mouth, that could become infected or even fall out at any time, leaving me feeling like a hobo, unable to go out in public or show my face on Zoom, and with no plan for what to do.

“I make missing teeth look cute.”

I wrote down my questions for the dentist, and a long list of questions for myself about why I was getting so stuck, but then I put my notebook aside, because not only couldn’t I think of any answers, I couldn’t even stand to look at the questions.

            But now I’m getting closer to my next regularly scheduled appointment with the dentist, and I know I need to prepare myself, but it’s still too freaking hard.

            I know that the money issue overwhelms me. I feel selfish even considering this zygomatic (cheek bone-anchored) implant, which would require a student loan-sized debt, on top of my existing debt, instead of accepting the idea of a denture. I don’t even know if there is a way to borrow the money for such a thing.

            And I’m angry that this is happening, given how much effort I’ve put into taking care of my teeth, and how much effort I’ve put into trying to deal with the medical issues that caused all of this, and I am angry that my health insurance doesn’t cover dental issues even when they are directly caused by medical issues. And I am so angry that my previous dentist, who was my dentist for more than twenty years, didn’t prepare me for this in some way; didn’t even tell me to put money aside, just in case. He just kept telling me to trust him, that he’d take care of things, and that we’d make a plan when the time came. But when he announced his upcoming retirement, and I asked him about that plan, he didn’t make time for me, just sent me on to his replacement.

            And I’m angry that basics like dental care, hearing aids, and even glasses, aren’t covered by health insurance. They’ll cover the eye exam, but not the glasses that are prescribed. They’ll cover the audiologist, but not the hearing aids. And they’ll pay for my visits to the oral pathologist to treat the Lichen Planus, but they won’t cover the damage the Lichen Planus does to my teeth, or more accurately, to my gums and bone, which hold my teeth in place.

            I’m afraid of how a denture or an implant will change the way I look, or eat, or talk, or sing. And I’m afraid of being in even more debt. I’ve already paid off two masters’ degrees in writing, and I’m about halfway through paying for my third, very expensive, master’s degree in social work. And I’m afraid of losing the two loosest teeth, the ones that are visible in the front of my mouth, before I figure out what to do.

            I don’t know how to make a decision while I’m still feeling too humiliated to even ask the dentist the most basic questions.

            I guess the humiliation is at the core of all of this, as usual. But knowing that doesn’t change how overwhelming it feels. I feel guilty and worthless and small and unimportant, again and again. But it’s possible that being able to write all of this down is a sign that I’m getting somewhere. I hope.

“I believe in you, Mommy.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?