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August 2009
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October 2009

September 2009


At dinner with friends last night, the subject of energy (ours) came up. I've known our hostess since high school. She is a professor of social work, a therapist, and a skilled writer. At seventy-two, she is actively involved in all three roles.

But last night she mentioned that she doesn't have as much energy as she used to have. Of course, there are people twenty years younger than she is who couldn't do half as much. But everything is relative.

Loss of energy is a reality as we grow older. Even if we are lucky enough to be in good health, young folks pass us on our bicycles or fly up the stairs in seconds while we trudge up gripping the banister. Not to mention how grandchildren run circles around us (and usually their parents too).

As I was leaving work the other day, I stopped to say goodbye to a forty-year-old colleague. We've both been working very hard, and he said he was beat. He added, "I wish I had the energy you have." "Did you mean to say that you wish that you will have the energy I have when you are my age?" I asked. "No," he said, I wish I had your energy right now."

I grinned all the way to my bicycle.

Weekend Dialogue

The cast: Jeremy, Grammy, Gramps, Leo (5) and Grady (2)

The scene: Son Jeremy and daughter-in-law Katrina's living room.

Props: Two plastic indoor kid-sized soccer goals.

Grady wants both soccer goals. He got them first. Leo wants to play with one. Grady does not want to share with Leo, and is having a meltdown. Jeremy calls Leo to come talk to him.

Leo: I know what you are going to say to me.

Jeremy: What I am going to say to you?

Leo: "Grady is only two years old. Even though he should share with you, is it worth having him scream and yell? Can't you just wait?"

Jeremy: You are right. That is exactly what I was going to say. You are going to be a good daddy some day.

Watching your children be parents. Does it get any better?

Ten Memorable Days

I decided to make a list of the ten best days of my life.  I chose the first ten that came to mind.  I didn’t want to think about it very much because I’ve probably had hundreds of “best days.”  And I expect that if my good luck continues, I’ll have a lot more. So here are the “first” top ten. 

1.     The birth of my son Seth

2.     The birth of my son Jeremy

3.     Biking to the top of Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island (four miles and eighty      hairpin switchbacks) without stopping

4.    Seth at twenty-one, presiding over “assembly” with all his counselors and campers as Village Director at Camp Becket.

5.    Peter’s 65th birthday when Seth’s “gift” was a surprise scavenger hunt leading us to places from Peter’s childhood years in New York City

6.    Jeremy as the hilarious emcee at our twenty-fifth anniversary party

7.    Seth teaching his 3rd grade bi-lingual class in the South Bronx about immigration and having Peter talk about his experience as an immigrant

8.    Our day with Jeremy in Cerro Navio, a poor district in Santiago, Chile, where he was doing micro-lending

9.    Seth and Jeremy attempting to scare us by roaring like hippopotamuses in the bushes below our open cabin as we were trying to fall asleep in a camp on Lake Kenai in Zimbabwe in 2000.

10. Publishing my first (and only) op-ed in The New York Times


Looks like eighty per cent of my best days were because I’m a mother.


A Tough Day at the Health Plan

The last twelve months have brought me some health disappointments, none of which was catastrophic, all of which I would prefer not to have happened. I am finding out that such is life in the seventies.

Today's experience at my health care provider was also not catastrophic, but it was disturbing enough that I will vent about it. It was my annual mammogram, an event that no woman looks forward to. And because I have had a couple of bad medical diagnoses already this year, I was expecting the worst. Fortunately, that didn't happen.

But here's what did happen. Mammograms are especially hard for me because I am very thin and the mammogram machine presses into my chest painfully. I'm used to that. But today the machine malfunctioned three times, and instead of the usual four pictures, I had to endure the intense pain seven times. I asked the technician why they did not cancel my appointment until they fixed the problem, and she said that the machine had done this only rarely until I got there.

After the exam, I waited for the radiologist to look at my x-rays because I wanted to know if they were OK. She asked for an additional picture. In the end, she was satisfied that there was nothing to worry about. That was a relief, but tonight I can barely touch my chest—it is still bruised and swollen from an exam that happened eight hours ago.

I plan to write an angry letter to the radiology department. That will make me feel better. And maybe even save a few women some pain.


Yellow Jacket

I have an iridescent yellow biking jacket that I bought a few years ago. It is a terrific windbreaker. and it makes me more visible to motorists, especially at night. It is even fairly effective as a rain protector. It is always with me in my backpack when I ride to work.

Over the years, it has acquired a few black grease stains and it is looking a bit scruffy. I have occasionally tossed it into the sink with some soap, afraid of the damage a washing machine might do to it. Even though it still looked a bit grungy, I comforted myself with the thought that at least it was clean dirt. Until Friday.

My colleague Suzanne hadn't worn a jacket to work. It was a gray, damp and windy day. When we had to walk to a meeting a block away, I offered her my bike jacket. As I walked next to her, I couldn't help but notice that it was disgustingly dirty in places I hadn't even noticed. I was embarrassed, and I apologized. (It did, however, keep her warm.)

I decided I would either put it into the washing machine or spring for a new jacket. So into the washing machine it went this morning. And it came out looking like new. I was all smiles.

Isn't it funny how such small "victories" can make your day?


It is said (especially by mattress salesmen) that we spend a third of our life sleeping. Say what? For me, it's more like I spend a good third of my life trying to sleep.

It wasn't always that way. My mother claims that as a baby, I slept like a baby. And as a teenager and through college, like my peers, I needed a lot of sleep. I had a clock radio as an undergraduate, and the commercial I always woke up to is still in my head.

At three in the morning/when you're in bed
The Holsum bakers/are baking bread
And that is the reason/it tastes so good
Like oven-fresh Holsum bread should."

There was a period of interrupted sleep during my nursing mother years, and later, a lack of sleep when I was worried about our teenagers getting home safely.

My serious sleep deficit is pretty recent. It snuck up on me. Now I sleep lightly and wake in the middle of the night trying to problem solve about work or deal with some other issue. Alternatively, I wake up too early. But a solid night's sleep seems to elude me.

That's why when people asked me about my Labor Day weekend, I said it was terrific. We were visiting friends in the Berkshires, and we had perfect weather.

But most important, I slept ten hours on Saturday night.


I still cannot contain my anger about an accident that occurred in Utah three years ago.  It seems that after exchanging eleven text messages with his girlfriend, a young driver drifted across the yellow dividing line of a two-lane road into oncoming traffic. He caused an accident that killed two people on their way to work. My heart aches for those people and their families who I am sure are still grieving three years later.

The accident made the news a week ago because, according to the newspaper article I was reading, Utah has passed a law that punishes a fatality caused by a texting driver as harshly as one caused by a drunk driver.   

But what about the other states?  Fortunately, many of them are considering similar laws.

I am the last person to oppose electronic progress.  I love my Blackberry.  I understand the convenience of texting—no need to waste time saying “Hi, How are you?” on a phone call.  It’s easier to text “Be 5 min. late.”   

Last Monday while biking  home from work, I was stopped at a red light..  I tried to catch the eye of the woman in the car next to me to be sure she wouldn’t cut me off by turning right in front of me.  She was completely involved in texting—not looking up once.  True, she was stopped at a red light, but I didn’t want to depend on her seeing me.

Instead of going when the light turned green, I waited until she was completely past the intersection.

I did not want to be a texting statistic.

Our 1938 LaSalle Adventure

Pictured above is a 1938 LaSalle convertible on a warm New Hampshire Sunday in late August. The car is my age, give or take a month or two, but appears to be in somewhat better shape than I am.

The LaSalle, according to my friend Gordon who owns it, was built by General Motors and was considered a poor man's Cadillac back then. I personally thought it was quite elegant with its shiny leather seats and white-walled tires.

Riding in it last Sunday was exhilarating. The car is only taken for a spin a few times a year, so we were lucky to be there at the right time. There I am in the rumble seat, the wind racing through my hair, and feeling like a silent movie star except for the lack of a long silky scarf blowing in the breeze.

We drove about five miles from Gordon's house, and parked on the town green in Hebron while we took a walk into the hills overlooking Newfound Lake. An hour later, hungry and hot, we climbed into the car for the trip home only to find that it wouldn't start. Remember when cars had chokes? Well this car had one and it didn't help. Normally, Gordon said, they park on a slight downhill so a rolling start is an option. But we were on an ever-so-slight uphill, so Peter steered while Gordon and Christa and I tried to push. We did move the car a bit, but not fast enough to start it. The next thing we knew a hulk of a young man spotted us, parked his car, and offered to add his muscles to ours. In minutes, we were on our way.

It's now four days later, and I am remembering that wonderful ride. I am remembering it because pushing the car uphill used some unused muscles in the back of my calf, and I still feel them with every step.