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January 2009

My Favorite Doctor

I saw my GI doctor this week. She is the one who discovered I was gluten-intolerant nine years ago this month, thereby condemning me to a diet that excluded any real bread products, pasta, beer and much more for the rest of my life. This was my annual visit to test for gluten in my system to make sure that I am complying with the diet. The long-term consequences of not doing so are pretty grim, so I don't cheat. But still, we check.

Although I hate being gluten-intolerant, I love my doctor. For one thing, most people suffer for years with my disease before it is diagnosed, and she decided to test me for it at my first appointment.

My doctor has three boys thirteen or younger. We talk about her children, and she always asks to see photos of my grandkids. Once we even fixed up her husband's sister with one of my sons. So I guess you could say we are friends as well as doctor/patient.

This week she was thrilled to hear that I had my first decent gluten-free restaurant pizza last weekend.

So was I.


January is always too cold for me, but this year, it is especially frigid. So I have the January blues. Remind me, why I do I live in New England?


Every January I declare that I will be somewhere warmer next year. And then, like childbirth, I forget how painful it was, and end up right here when January rolls around again.


This year it is an even greater burden for some reason. Part of it could be because I am now seventy. More than ever, I want to want to appreciate every day, so wishing for more daylight or the appearance of the first crocus has a downside.


Today on my forced (by me) walk around the reservoir, I was passed by several runners, and I yearned for the time before my knees gave out when I ran all winter too.

I watched their flying feet as I walked eyes glued to the ground looking out for the next patch of ice.


I need to make some reservations for next January. Right now.


January 20th

On Tuesday, I watched the inauguration ceremony on a movie-sized screen with about 800 people around me. When Aretha Franklin sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee," my eyes filled with tears. There she was with her outlandishly wonderful gray hat. I could feel the joy in her heart as she sang for our first African-American president.


When Barak Obama spoke, I felt that he was speaking only to me. For those eighteen minutes, it seemed possible that our country could meet any challenge it faced. I went back to my desk with a lighter step.


At home in the evening, I heard snippets of his speech over and over again, never tiring of the message. I watched TV on and off for much of the evening. I saw the President and First Lady dancing at one of the balls, and decided that if Michele's mom ever needed an assistant first-baby sitter, I would apply.


I think Peter was a little astonished to hear me launch into My Country "Tis of Thee" once we had turned out the lights.


So was I.


Sleep was in the national news this week.


In a recent study, volunteers tracked their hours of sleep for two weeks. They were then quarantined and given nasal drops containing a cold-causing virus. It seems that those who got less than seven hours of sleep nightly over the previous two weeks were three times more likely to catch colds.


Sleep is always in the news in our house.


When the alarm goes off "Morning honey" is typically followed by "How'd you sleep?" Pretty reliably one of us has slept less than they wanted to.


I was talking about this with my friend Susie the other night. She said she doesn't know anyone our age that sleeps through the night. It's either that they can't fall asleep, they get up to pee and can't go back to sleep, or they wake up way before the alarm goes off. Sounds like our house.


Last night I slept eight hours. When I woke up, even though it's January, it wasn't dark out. I felt great, and I don't think I'm going to catch a cold today.


But I'm still holding on to my Kleenex supply.


In the last couple of years our neighbor Sue has lost her husband, her eyesight and her esophagus. That would be enough to make most people say "uncle". But Sue isn't most people


When she and her husband moved to our neighborhood a little over a decade ago, she found a way to meet everyone in our 75-home enclave. She had formerly held local office in another state so knocking on doors came naturally. She organized us into a spreadsheet that, with the help of a techno-savvy neighbor, became a list-serve before neighborhood list-serves were the thing. Through it, we share solutions for everything from how to get rid of bats in the attic to how to find house sitters. Sue also organized us to get the city to repave our street. And she is always the one brings nametags to our twice-yearly block parties.


We visited Sue the other day, six weeks after her cancerous esophagus had been removed. She's doing "great," a relief to all of her neighbors. There was a large hand-made cardboard sign on the window seat in her living room. It said, "Welcome Home Wonder Woman."


Sue may have endured many losses, but she has not lost her spirit. At "almost eighty," she is an inspiration to us all.

End-of-Year Inventory

The 70-Something Blog had its first birthday yesterday. Since January 10, 2008, I have posted 104 entries amounting to a total of 1,909 kilobytes or, more meaningfully, 30,017 words.


In my first entry I invited you to join me on a journey into my 70's. I wrote that I would share "my triumphs and my low-points." I expected that I would "write about my parents and being a parent." About "the role of exercise in my life" and "ageing in the workplace." Finally, I announced that I would use the blog to catalog my new wrinkles.


Surprisingly to me, I've blogged on each of those subjects. And I probably will again. But I'll stop predicting while I am ahead. Life is anything but predictable.


Thanks for reading. I hope you will stay with me to see what Year Two brings.

Ending a Cycle

Peter and I took our first cycling vacation in 1985. We had been looking for a vacation

that would entertain our 13-year-old while his older brother was working in a tiny village in Kenya. That summer, we realized that biking is a wonderful way to see a country. As a result, we biked on vacation in a dozen countries for 19 of the next 21 years.


In 1986, on our second biking vacation, there was a 72-year old named Johnny. He raced up the hills of France like a man half his age. We were amazed that someone so "old" could be so strong. Yet 20 years later in 2006 when we were cycling in the southwest of France, Peter led our foursome up the mountains at age 76.


We knew that one day we would have to give up biking trips, but still it wasn't easy to learn yesterday that Peter's doctor said no more. Time to let it go.


Compared to all the bad news we could get, this was no big deal. And I quickly assured Peter that if I had to choose between giving up him or giving up biking, it was an easy decision


Our usual foursome will continue to talk about our great biking adventures.

But it will be all talk and no action for us.





My Crate and Barrel

My Crate and Barrel is closing in two weeks. I learned this just before Christmas when I stopped in to pick up a last minute gift, and saw the sign that said "Good-bye Cambridge."


"How could this be?" I asked the nearest salesperson. "Aren't you doing well?" She assured me that sales were fine, but the rent had become prohibitive.


Other Crate and Barrels are not closing. But this particular one is close to where I work, and I can dash over there at a moment's notice. I've probably spent the equivalent of a couple of years of college tuition there since it opened 30 years ago.


I must admit, I couldn't believe it when its predecessor, Design Research, went out of business either. The original building opened in 1969, and its architects later won the American Institute of Architects' prestigious 25-Year Award. I spent a fair amount at Design Research as well, especially on their Marimekko fabric.


Yesterday Peter and I made our farewell visit to my Crate and Barrel. We bought nothing. When we left, I told him I was very sad to see it go. He responded that he knew that since this was the third time I had mentioned it.


I hope this is my biggest disappointment in 2009. Still, I feel sad.



End-of-Year Clean-up


Here are three major things I do to prepare for a New Year.


1. Clean the refrigerator.

Our refrigerator is tucked into an alcove and its door can't be opened wide enough

to routinely clean it to my satisfaction. During the holiday break, I have the time to drag the refrigerator out into the middle of the kitchen, remove all the shelves and drawers and clean it with gusto. (And with Peter too, if he will help)


2. Clear my head.

The year-end is also a time to try to clean out my mind—to get rid of some of the year's clutter. To wipe the slate clean, so-to-speak. (Sometimes I can do 1 and 2 at the same time.)


3. Get a head start on next year.

I meet with my staff before the holiday break, and we talk about what worked and didn't work during the year, and what we want to accomplish in the coming year.


This seems to work well for my staff and my refrigerator. I'm not so sure about me.


Happy New Year.