Previous month:
March 2008
Next month:
May 2008

April 2008


On Monday my colleague and friend Kathleen told me she hadn't been feeling well over the weekend, some kind of stomach thing. On Tuesday, she still didn't feel great, but friends had told her of others who had been dealing with a similar lingering bug. On Wednesday, she saw a doctor who did some tests, and everything seemed fine. On Thursday, she felt lousy and stayed home. By Thursday night she was hospitalized with acute lymphoma. From nowhere.

Kathleen and I have been colleagues for 27 years. She has been a trusted and close friend from the beginning. Our friendship is strong. Her contribution to our organization has been invaluable. She hasn't been as fortunate as I with her family life, but she loves her garden, she loves challenging projects; she reads biographies. She has a generous spirit and a good life.

So imagine how surprised I was when she told me that this cancer diagnosis was alright with her. She is a bit of a fatalist, and since there is nothing she can do about this event, which most would find catastrophic, she accepts it. She is in a top-ranked hospital with excellent physicians, and she feels safe and cared for-- in a way, safer and more cared for than she did in her daily life. She says that she is now different than the rest of us and in a separate "zone."

Her future includes a hospital stay of uncertain-length, including aggressive chemotherapy. And who knows what after that? But nothing is expected of her right now, all pressure is off. Her friends and colleagues are hovering with offers of help and declarations of love.

We're worried. Kathleen is not.

My Bicycle

I don't think I've liked any of my material possessions better than my bicycles. Whether it was riding around with my pals on Bartlett Street where I grew up, peddling to class in college, the daily four-mile ride into town for the newspaper when we were on vacation on Cape Cod with our children, or the many bike vacations we've taken over the past 23 years. I've had one-speeds, three-speeds, ten-speeds and twenty-one speeds. I've had fat tires, thin tires (and plenty of flat tires), but I have always loved being on my bicycle.

Two of my best memories of cycling are completing a four-mile uphill road to the top of Mt Constitution in the San Juan Islands off the coast of the State of Washington in 1993 and another really tough climb out of Rocamadour in the Dordogne Valley in France in 1989. Actually, they're not just biking best memories, they are just plain best memories. To this day, I pedal to work any day that it's above 30 degrees and not pouring.

Many of those cycling vacations were with our close friends Gordon and Christa. In the beginning we went with groups. Then we figured out we could save a bunch of money by reading the brochures of expensive biking tours and imitating their trips. We biked in at least a dozen countries over the years, and in some several times. It's true we don't do 50 miles a day any more, but we easily do 35 or so. And it's true that although we're slower than we used to be, we're not ready to quit yet.

Gordon and Christa have been waiting for me to retire so we could go to Holland during tulip season. This year, they gave up on us, and on Sunday they went off to Holland without us. I have thought of them every day this week, wishing that we were there too.

The choice to remain working has been the right one for me. But on days when I know my good friends are biking through tulip fields, I feel a little regretful.

I'll get over it.

Lookin’ Cute

The Scene: A weekly graduate student gathering to welcome the weekend

The Cast: A bunch of young men and women less than half my age and me

The Costumes: Everyone but me, typical grad-student casual. Me, somewhat uncharacteristically dressed in pencil-slim-camel-colored skirt, midriff-hugging dark-brown silk sweater, low-slung belt with a lot of metal, dark brown tights and boots.

I approach a group of four young women who are smiling at me. They tell me I am looking "really cute".

Me, cute? At my age?

Gotta love it!

Dad, Baseball and Me

I love listening to major league baseball. That's right—listening. On a radio.

Pretty strange, you might say. How can you not watch on TV? Well, for one, we didn't have cable until yesterday, so except for various championship games, I could only listen. And that was fine with me.

I think I prefer listening because that was one of my favorite activities with my father. When I lived in Cincinnati, I loved the Reds. When I was nine, we moved to Pittsburgh, and the first game I attended with Dad, I cheered for the Reds rather than the Pirates. But eventually, I became a huge Pirate fan. In those years, players stayed on teams much longer than they do today, so we got to think of people like Ralph Kiner, Danny Murtaugh, Vernon Law and Gus Bell as extended family.

Dad was the Western Pennsylvania manager of a national life insurance company, and he had four season tickets for the Pirates three or four rows above the visitors' dugout, ostensibly to entertain his clients. But, as far as I can recall, he mostly entertained his family.

When the team was away, however, listening to the radio was what we did. I can picture us sitting in our tiny sunroom, bonding. The Pirates' announcer then was a man named Rosey Roswell, and he was a legend, perhaps best known for "Open the window, Aunt Minnie, here she comes." We loved him, we loved the Pirates, and we loved watching together.

Of course, it only took a short time in Boston to switch my allegiance to my wonderful Red Sox. True, I have to learn a few new names every year, and I don't get to go to many games, but I consider myself a bona fide citizen of Red Sox Nation.

So last night I watched the game in our TV room. We have a new TV set with HDTV and cable that includes the Red Sox games. I watched about five innings. I wasn't crazy about all the dazzle, and missed the constant banter of the announcers. So I went upstairs and turned on the radio. The Sox won in the ninth. And I was very happy.

Dad would have been happy too.


In New England, April teases us. It should be spring, but mostly it isn't. Instead the sky is gray and rainy, and it seems that winter will never end. But this week a couple of balmy days, brought our daffodils to full bloom. Our freshly painted walls made everything look bright and clean as the sun shone in. The sweet/sour smell of new mulch appeared around the neighborhood, and the heaviest of our winter sweaters were cleaned and packed away with cedar chips. (Why do we have so many sweaters?)

Baseball is back. People seem less grumpy. It's no longer dark when I get up or when I come home from work. Yesterday, I grabbed a short-sleeved T-shirt, and was outside with no jacket for the first time in 2008.

I love spring, but now that I am 70, I can't help but think that I have to appreciate it more than ever. I am realizing that the springs remaining for me are far fewer than the ones that have passed.

Facing Facebook

Sure I've read about the guy who invented Facebook, the amazingly successful social network, in his Harvard dormitory room.

And I have watched Facebook's membership grow and grow to 69 million, according to The New York Times on April 8th. I have been concerned about so much information being "out there," and worried that people will take advantage of the personal information that members so readily post. I have heard that potential employers use Facebook to obtain information not usually revealed in a resume.

I have also been struck by how with so little capital investment, so much money can be made by such young people, even if they do attend Harvard.

But one thing I never considered was actually joining Facebook. Yes, I've had a few invitations to be a friend, but never considered accepting them. Then about a week ago, my husband Peter became a member. I think one of our kids persuaded him to join. Peter tells me that now he can see videos posted by our kids through Facebook. He also reports that he is amassing friends at a rate greater than he ever did in his life. His Facebook page is now bookmarked on our home computer, and he reports every update to me, the latest being that one of my young work colleagues has "friended" him.

How much longer can I hold out?

My Latest Crush

Who would believe that I, at 5' 9" inches in stocking feet (or 5'9½" when I really stand up straight) would have a crush on an 84-year old very short man who happens to be a world-renowned pianist.  The closest I have been to this man is about the 10th row center of a concert hall, but his irresistible smile, the devilish glint in his eye as he peers at his cellist and violinist during their performances, his boundless energy and his magnificent talent have won my heart. 

Menahem Pressler is a founding member and the pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio which is celebrating fifty years of performance this summer and which will play its last concert at the Tanglewood Music Festival in western Massachusetts in July.  With his (much) younger colleagues, Daniel Hope, violinist, and Antonio Meneses, cellist, the Trio produces chamber music that I can only describe as celestial.  At least it makes me feel like I am in heaven. 

Last night I attended one of their last performances as a group, after attending perhaps ten Beaux Arts Trio concerts over the years, not-to-mention listening to my stack of their CD's many, many times.

The audience leapt to their feet at the concert's "end."  They cheered again after each of three encores.  I was exhilarated and exhausted. I think Menahem Pressler could have kept on going.

And I hope he does.

Happiness U


U-turns have been around forever; U-Haul almost as long. U-Tube is here to stay.  But U-Happiness is a whole new U.

According to Professors David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald (of Dartmouth and University of Warwick respectively) in their paper "Is Well-Being U-shaped over the Life Cycle?," happiness is a U-shaped curve with the tops of the "U" (the happiest times) being ages 20 and 70.  Middle age falls at the bottom of the "U," meaning that middle age is when people seem pretty unhappy.  The authors asked 500,000 people in the U.S. and Europe about their well-being at that moment and the results were quite similar, no matter where the question was asked.

So I am pondering this.  Was I happy at 20?  I sure laughed a lot more then, if that means anything. In my 40's?  Honestly, my 40's were a blur of carpools and soccer games and Rice-Krispy-chicken dinners.  In hindsight, I'd do my 40's again, but maybe only because hindsight is blind to the bad parts.


Now that I am 70 and am thinking a lot about how I am feeling about life, I have to admit that "happy" is a good description of my current state of well-being.


As is very, very "lucky".