Previous month:
February 2008
Next month:
April 2008

March 2008

Rehearsing Retirement

Yesterday I tried out retirement. I didn't plan the day with that in mind. I just needed to get my non-working life in order. Things pile up (literally), and I needed some time at home.


I accomplished the following: I finished an article with an approaching deadline and wrote a query letter proposing another. (Writing for pleasure, not for work.) I cleaned out some over-stuffed files and desk drawers, making difficult decisions, such as whether or not to throw out every Mother's Day card I ever received. (I didn't.) I ate a leisurely lunch at a real table, rather than inhaling lunch at my desk. I argued with Peter over disposing of our collection of a dozen cans of paint that don't match anything, but sit in a corner of our basement in a shroud of dust. (I lost.) And mirabile dictu, I didn't check my work email once.


It rained all day, and I never left the house.


Is this what retirement would be like? I don't think I'm ready to find out.



A friend just returned from a safari in South Africa. She told me that although she had heard wonderful reports of similar trips from others, she never appreciated their stories until she experienced it herself. I feel the same way about sciatica. Until you experience the debilitating pain it brings, you can't imagine how it feels.

I'm usually pretty tolerant of pain, coming off pain killers after surgery sooner than most, for example. But sciatica was only a word to me until yesterday when I felt pain unlike any I'd had before. Gnawing deep pain, radiating from my lower back down the back of my leg. Unstoppable with Ibruprofen or Tylenol, waking me in the middle of the night several times.

Today I tried denial, my usual tactic when I'm not feeling well, but I was not able to tame this monster. So tomorrow I'm going to start dealing with the health care system.

What a pain.

Knee Birthday

For years, I watched hemlines go up and down and more or less tried to keep up with the trend, despite my belief that fashion designers were out to get me to replace my wardrobe every season.

Recently, however, I have become less concerned with where my skirts end than I am about the knees they cover.  Let's just say that I no longer take my knees for granted.  I used to run, play tennis, and hike. That is until my knees started to hurt.  In my late fifties, I had two arthroscopies to clean up torn cartilage, and substituted aerobic walking for tennis and running.  Occasional short-term physical therapy kept me going until fourteen months ago when the situation had deteriorated enough that my orthopedist recommended a knee replacement.

Next week my new knee will be one year old. I've pretty much forgotten the brutal rehabilitation and the swelling that kept me in sweatpants for two weeks.  I no longer hate the physical therapist and the woman who came to take my blood.  I do take pride in a speedy recovery that allowed me to bike to work five weeks after surgery, much to everyone's surprise and my glee.

But it is only now, one year later that my new knee is down to the size of my old one.  And although I hear a click with each step and am subjected to a body search every time I fly, I am grateful for the surgery. 

I don't pay much attention to hemlines these days.  My closet is full of pants.

Memo to Hallmark

Dear Hallmark Folks,

Among the many cards I received last month on my 70th birthday, three were about turning 70. And guess what? All three were identical. My baby boomer friends are not far behind me, and they will want more card choices. It may be time to give your creative department a heads up.

Yours truly,


Being Happy

I’m not big on “how-to” books. I find that most are nothing but stories about how individuals managed to do whatever the book is about how to do. Authors interview a bunch of people, and write a book that is a compilation of their stories. Period.

However, I am always up for self-improvement. This week, in my latest foray into how-to, I read (OK, I only skimmed) a book by Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor at U.C. Riverside, called “The How of Happiness,” and I think I actually learned a thing or two. For example, there are some scientific studies that back the author’s finding that the same circumstances can affect people’s happiness level very differently.

Take my friend Christa, for example. She is upbeat about 99% of the time. She’s upset like the rest of us when something bad happens, but she gets back to her happy self in record time. Whereas, when something is bothering me, it’s always been hard for me to let it go. When I was a teenager moping around the house, my mother was likely to encourage me to get over it, proclaiming “Nobody loves a sourpuss!” Easy for her to say.

So here’s the lesson I took from the book. We are born with a pre-set level of happiness. It’s in our genes. That accounts for about 50% of our happiness response. Another 10% is based on our circumstances, meaning that some of us are just plain luckier than others. But the final 40% is in our hands and the author offers many strategies to make that a happier 40%. My favorite two are “make gratitude lists regularly”, and “don’t ruminate”. The former is easier for me than the latter.

My friend Christa probably doesn’t need this book. As for me, although I’m usually happy, there’s always room for improvement.

Peter’s Birthday



Today is my husband Peter's birthday. This is not a birthday that is divisible by five or ten. Yet it seems to be very important, and I am asking myself why. At 78, he is still handsome and smart and my best friend and more.

I think this birthday is important because in spite of his good health and our good luck, we only have so many years left together, and we are both becoming more aware of that. When I married an "older" man (although only by eight years), I never considered that eventually, our age difference might become important. And even if I had considered that, I would have reminded myself that I would be grateful for any years that we might have together.

Or maybe it has something to do with my being 70 now. Because even though Peter thinks I am beautiful, smart and his best friend, I'm not the woman I used to be. However, in some ways, I think I'm better. And in some ways, together we are better than ever.

So happy birthday Honey, and here's to many more.

Haydn’s Symphony #88

Several bars from Haydn's 88th Symphony are engraved on the inside of my wedding band. There's no "to my darling on our wedding day," no set of our initials, no date of our marriage. Just the first several bars of the last movement of Haydn's 88th symphony.

When we were dating, Peter had found it amusing that I learned to identify pieces of music for exams in music classes by putting words to the tunes. "Eat pretzels, drink beer cause Haydn is here" comes to mind as does "Mozart's in the closet—let him out, let him out, let him out".

So when we were contemplating getting engaged, (actually I was contemplating it more than he was) we put some words to the theme of the last movement of Haydn's 88th symphony. "I am going to Mr. Gusil's, I am going to Mr. Gusil's," Mr. Gusil being a jewelry designer whose shop we frequently passed and who I hoped would be the supplier of an engagement ring, sooner or later.

We did, of course, get engaged and the engagement ring which was a complete surprise came from Mr. Gusil's. But it was only on our wedding day that I found out about the engraved music inside the wedding ring.

Last night, almost 40 years later, we attended a concert of the Handel and Haydn Society. The program included Haydn's 88th Symphony. I don't think we had ever heard it live before. When the theme of the fourth movement filled the hall, I grabbed Peter's hand, and my eyes filled with tears.

They were playing our song.



In 1989, my friend Valerie and her family moved away after 13 years as our across-the-street-neighbor. I was on vacation on the day they left, so I didn't have to watch their departure. I do remember their arrival on our street, with their tiny infant twins fitting into a baby carriage normally meant for one, and the twins' older sister, about four, with a ton of bouncy blonde curls. Who knew then that 19 years after they moved away, Valerie and I would still be talking on the phone every Sunday at 10:00 a.m.?

Val and I spent a lot of time together during those 13 years. We exercised in her basement twice a week to a Jane Fonda tape. Husbands and children swore we exercised only our mouths, but that wasn't true, although I did learn whom our son was taking to a prom during a Jane Fonda session long before he told me. We always had dessert at Val's at Christmas. At one Christmas, we decided that since they had only girls and we had only boys, we should exchange a child for a week. (I think this stemmed from a conversation about which father was funnier.) I loved having another female in the house, and they welcomed our son as one of theirs.

Just last week, we learned that the bouncy-curls daughter may be joining the faculty of a college near one of our children. And might even live in his town. I don't know who was more excited, the children or the parents, as we envisioned another generation of neighbors.

Val and I plan to visit a spa together on the 20th anniversary of our Sunday morning phone calls. By then we would have talked on Sunday 1,040 times, give or take a few. Is that a record, or what?