Category Archives: Sitting on a Juice Crate

What I am thinking, what I am reading, watching and listening to.


For a decade, I served as sole, unpaid caregiver to my mother who suffered from dementia. She died in April 2012 at 97.

At the inception, I had moved out of my Southern California apartment, put all my belongings in storage, and embarked on a vacation to visit family in Delaware before returning to California and moving into a new apartment.

As soon as I arrived in Delaware, in October 2001, and saw my mother, I realized she needed help. There was no one but me, no other family. I would have to stay in Delaware. My lifestyle and the self I knew ceased to exist thenceforth. Ultimately, my mother was diagnosed with dementia. I researched all her care options and determined the best was to keep her at home.

I arrived in Delaware with few clothes and no winter coat. I was given a hand-me-down coat, and I cobbled together part-time jobs – the only jobs available to me at age 60 – with writing freelance feature stories for the city newspaper and local magazines. Eventually my mother’s condition required my attending her 24/7. I had to quit my jobs. By then, I had turned 65 and begun receiving Social Security benefits.

During these years, our car quit running and I couldn’t afford to replace it.

When my mother died, most of the income needed to pay the mortgage and otherwise support our home went with her.

In the 18 months following her death, I went in circles with the mortgage bank desperate to prevent their foreclosing on my home. A few months ago, I received outside help temporarily. Since then, heating oil expenses, amounting to $100 a week during the winter months, render my remaining income insufficient to get me through the month. This is unsettling, need I say.

I have written and published two books, under my pen name, Samantha Mozart, describing my mother’s and my journey through her dementia. I need the time to find ways to market and promote my books, thus to increase their sales and my royalties. I hope to publish more books.

In May 2011, I began writing this blog, under this same pen name, telling my mother’s and my story and have now evolved the blog to focus on literary essays and storytelling. I intend to expand this blog into a nonprofit foundation advocating storytelling and the humanities. In our current society, there is a perceived need for raising awareness and education of the humanities.

My nonprofit will qualify me to receive grants to give presentations and talks on my written works, on caregiving and dementia, and to establish venues supporting and promoting storytelling and education in the humanities. I have first to lift myself out of my hole and then many steps to take to realize my intended goals.

Meanwhile, I walk to the store. I need a car. A car will allow me to go out and make presentations on my books and caregiving, to lead writers workshops.

Additionally, I must bring my belongings out of storage in California. Doing so will enable me to apply these monthly payments towards other requirements. My writing files, including research materials, and my library of books are in storage. Clearly, as a writer I need these.

I have always been able to take care of myself. So I find it humiliating to have to ask for help. I should be helping others. But this hole is too deep to climb out of by myself. I am at the end of my rope.

Consequently, if you wish to help me dig out of my hole and go forward to educate others in storytelling,  literacy and the humanities, please donate through the PayPal button in the right sidebar of this page.

I am not requesting these funds directly from my close friends. Were that my intention, I would have done so long ago. Therefore, I ask that you share my request with others in a position to help.

I am grateful for any assistance granted me, including your thoughts and prayers.

–Samantha Mozart


What Am I Reading? II. An Unwitting Journey

An Unwitting Journey Through the Dark Night of the Soul

I stumbled into my dark night of the soul journey, so I thought, but I suspect my subconscious was directing my interests, and so the authors of the series of books I read at the time led me gently and actually enjoyably into this dank cave of night and out, reinvigorated, into the fresh lilies of morning via their own dark night experiences.

Years ago, I read Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz), the 16th century Spanish Carmelite priest and mystic. Then, a year or so ago, my daughter sent me Water for Elephants. These two books set me up for my reading to follow.

Water for Elephants made me think about what I stated in my previous “What Am I Reading?” entry – that you are born, grow up, get married, have children, lead a vibrant life, have grandchildren, become decrepit, watch everybody else lead their lives, and die.

This sounds perfunctory, as rendering human life meaningless. But I believe that while we are here, with thought we can perform deeds to elevate ourselves and help humanity. After I wrote this sentence, I searched online for Leo Tolstoy’s exact quote saying that if you help one other person, you are helping the world. I couldn’t find it; what I stumbled upon, however, was his short story “The Three Questions.” Here Tolstoy relates how the hermit sage shows the emperor that the right and immediate thing to do is to help the person in front of him. So, I find that my seemingly inadvertent journey led by the hand by each author through this series of books enabled me to accept this same conclusion, one I knew but had been stepping around.

Of course I reread Tolstoy – two novellas: “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” and “The Kreutzer Sonata.” In conjunction, I watched the movie The Last Station and then watched an episode in George Lucas’s superb The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series, where young Indy visiting Russia, runs away from his parents and in so doing runs into Tolstoy running away from his family.

After those, I read Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone, John Updike’s In the Beauty of the Lilies, Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, James Joyce’sPortrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and followed the latter with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and I watched the movie.

Then I took a little side trip to Provence reading Peter Mayle’s delightful Encore Provence where I enjoyed the locals’ tales and boule playing, toured an olive grove, ate baguettes warm out of the oven and washed it all down with bottles of fine wine, both red and white, to be specific.

Reading and thinking with mystics such as St. John of the Cross, Leo Tolstoy, and those Liz Gilbert encountered, I engaged in listening to the music of mystics – one such is the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. It blew me away when I found a “Scriabin plays Scriabin” recording on This is a recording of a 1910 piano roll he made of some of his compositions. It’s like he’s right in the room with me playing these pieces. As it is, of course, when you’re reading the works of an author who passed on many years ago.

Two movies I have watched related to the Russians are: one – The Duel, based on Anton Chekhov’s novella and evocative of Tolstoy; and two – The Return, a recent and intriguing Russian work.

Currently I am reading, besides Orhan Pamuk’s The Naïve and the Sentimental Novelist, which I mentioned in my previous entry, Susan Jacoby’s Never Say Die: The Myths and Marketing of the New Old Age. I highly recommend this book to caregivers, young old-age people (over 60) and you who think you’ll never age. Trust me, it happens. My favorite t-shirt is the one I saw worn by a geezer in Florida: it read “How did I get this old?” Frankly, I remain mystified by this, my current state of affairs.

Somehow, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure plays a bass line through all of these works. To me, all of Thomas Hardy’s novels do. I cannot explain the reason fully and lucidly, so I’ll leave it to you to fumble around with. And, then, there’s Thomas Wolfe – Look Homeward, Angel– …a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces…, and Wolfe’s succeeding novels.

Finally, my friend, the Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche, mentioned how we must walk the razor’s edge – I have read the book and seen the movie, The Razor’s Edge.

This is all sort of self-serving, I guess, enumerating and thinking on stories I’ve read, movies I’ve watched and music I’ve listened to. But these works and train of thought have supported me through my caregiving for Emma.

Maybe you happen to be riding on the same train and might want to share your thoughts or works you have come upon which have helped you. I put these out here, therefore.

The Orient Express, this train is not; but one can only hope that some day—



What Am I Reading?

I think this round started in the spring of 2010 with my wanting to create a website combining my recipes and my stories and essays. So, I re-read Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Cross Creek Cookery. She bought a citrus grove in rural Florida, moved there, and wrote. She loved to cook as much as she loved to write. Me, too. Every time I envision Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, I see her as Mary Steenburgen, who played her in the movie, Cross Creek. I saw the movie and I read that book, too. I thought Rawlings’ Cross Creek life, which I read about in the ‘90s when I lived in Florida, was ideal – writing and cooking and camaraderie – not, however, the raising and killing of pigs and other animals.

Then there was something about Cinema Paradiso – I always liked that movie; it had some kind of an impact on me, I’ve never understood what. I like the music, too; I bought the soundtrack. And then there was Murder on the Orient Express – the David Suchet as Hercule Poirot version in the PBS Masterpiece Mysterymovie, and the book – I read Agatha Christie’s story. I have been writing a novel for years, three, in fact, and I was looking to the best authors for plot and character development: What are the red herrings? What creates the twists and turns and makes you want to keep reading or watching? Why do I like this character so much, why do I relate, what makes him or her so real? And the settings, the sensuality – the pictures the author portrays, so that while you are reading, you have a movie running through your mind and then you forget you are reading; you believe you are there.

This latter analysis comes from Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish, 2006 Nobel prizing winning author, in his new book, his 2009 Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard, titled The Naïve and the Sentimental Novelist. I am reading this book now.

Around this time of reading Cross Creek Cookery, I was thinking of Like Water for Chocolate, which I had read in the late 1990s and had watched the movie, and I read Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul: Memories and the City. I had just read two of his novels, Snow and My Name is Red. But Istanbul impacted me profoundly. The feeling adheres to me to this day – the huzun (melancholy), yes, but more, a whole sense of being. Most likely Orhan Pamuk’s masterful writing drew from my own deep well my feelings and my personal memories of growing up and my family. I could relate to his childhood and his feelings, to the place where he grew up: “Hey, that’s me, too.” Certainly I did not grow up in Istanbul, rather in Philadelphia, another big city, but in ways our families were similar – his were civil engineers, mine bankers, but generational, close and secure until our parents’ divorce. We each grew up with one sibling, a brother. We rode ferryboats, we stayed with our families at summer beach houses – well, a lot of similar memories and memorabilia.

I just received a treasure of old family photos from my aunt, who was married to my father’s brother and who is 97 and just entered a nursing facility. She can’t keep all the family memorabilia there – her room is like a college dorm room and she has a roommate; there’s no space, and the nursing center will just throw them away: these are the nostalgic items you see at auction, insensitively discarded. Among these are my grandmother’s photos I had never seen of young girls in Gibson hairdos and posing on the beach wearing striped bathing costumes. I spent two afternoons going through these photos, looking at pictures of my family members when they were babies, then when they were young and vibrant and got married and had children; then their children had children and they served in World War II and I came along and then I had a child and grandchildren. Here were my family, all around me, once again. They had come back, if only for a day or two. And here I am, nearly 70. They were born, they lived their lives, engaged in meaningful activities, they laughed, they taught me and took me places, and then they died. That’s it.

Orhan Pamuk is completing his Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, a physical representation, essentially, of his most recent novel, The Museum of Innocence. In the physical version, Pamuk is collecting memories of the city, Istanbul, and of Turkey and his lifetime experience there.

Well, here is my trolley stop. I must get off. Thus far I have described the platform onto which I unwittingly stepped to arrive in my protracted “Dark Night of the Soul.” I will write about my journey through this land in my next installment.