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February 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

When I was a child, I had long thick pigtails for many years.  Then one summer, when we were visiting my cousins in Buffalo, my mother and aunt decided I had outgrown them.  Still braided, they cut them off.  Just like that.  My mother kept them in a manila envelope in the dining room buffet for years, I guess trying to keep a piece of her little girl.

Mother had her own beautiful prematurely gray hair cut by Phil, the owner of Phil’s Beauty Salon in Pittsburgh where I grew up.  She took me there for haircuts too.  Phil had to use thinning shears on my very thick dark hair, and I recall heaps of my hair being swept away by his assistant.

Years later, on vacation with Peter, and having just learned that I was pregnant, I was astonished and alarmed by the amount of hair I left in the sink when I combed it  in our bathroom in the Hotel Miyako in San Francisco.  Hormonal change in pregnancy can cause hair loss, explained my obstetrician.  But although my hair never reached its previous volume after Seth was born, I still had more than enough.

Until recently.

Now, when I blow my hair dry, it seems to take less time.  When I asked Kelly, who has been cutting my hair for twenty years, if she noticed any change, she said my hair is becoming finer i.e., thinner.

Another trauma at 70-something!

How Many More Times?

Peter has a big birthday next month. He is going to be eighty. Although we celebrated with our trip to the Galapagos Islands in January, we will celebrate again by going out to dinner with a few close friends on the Saturday following his mid-week birthday.

When I asked him if he would like to go to a particularly special restaurant we've been meaning to try—just the two of us—on his actual birthday, he wasn't particularly interested. So, I said, "OK, we'll save that for our wedding anniversary."

That started me thinking. We've been married almost forty-two years. He's going to be eighty. How many more anniversaries can we expect? If our luck holds, maybe we'll get to fifty years together. But fifty-five seems like it would be a bit of a stretch. I decided then and there that he and I should have anniversary dinners more than once year, say once a month.

Isn't that a cool idea?

If Last Week Were a Fish…

If last week were a fish, I'd have thrown it back. I had too much work to do and too little time to do it. My new boss started, and although I was fine with that, there was a lot of "change" in the air, and some folks seemed worried. . Taking Peter to hospital for eye surgery, picking him up later in the middle of a busy work day, and having to take him to the doctor's the next morning further complicated my routine. Not to mention that I had my 72nd birthday in the middle of all that.

But there was one very special thing. On Thursday, a lot of people at work asked me how Peter's operation went. Some of these were people I don't even know by name. I wondered how they knew about his surgery.

Here's what happened.

A long-postponed farewell reception for my former boss, Joe, was held the evening of Peter's surgery. Joe's former boss was distressed that I couldn't attend, and persuaded me to videotape some remarks for the reception. Although I can handle speaking in front of people, a videotaped appearance was something new for me. You have to understand that there are two huge screens on which I would appear, each more than life-size. None of the 150 people in the room could miss my words. So I was a bit anxious about the whole thing.

It turns out that the introduction to my appearance on-screen included the following: "Judy couldn't be here tonight because her husband had surgery today."

So that's how people knew. Several individuals, after asking about Peter's health, added that my presentation was the most moving moment of the evening.

On balance, I guess it's OK that last week was not a fish.


I had my 72nd birthday yesterday. That means that I am one-fifth of the way to having to change the name of this blog to And if the other eight years go as fast as the past two…

Birthdays make me think of other birthdays—like the one I had in college when my friends gave me a scavenger hunt with a gift certificate for a pint of ice cream from my favorite ice cream parlor at each site. I was in seventh heaven. Or the time we were out to dinner for my birthday with our good friends Gordon and Christa. I was reading the menu when the waiter appeared to take our order. I looked up and it was our son Seth who had driven home for the weekend to surprise me. When we arrived at the restaurant, I had asked the maitre d' to take away the fifth chair because there were only four of us.

But yesterday's was a birthday I could easily forget. It started extra early when I drove Peter to the hospital to get a cataract removed. I dropped him there and rushed to work. I had an hour-long conference call I couldn't miss with people from Nigeria, Pakistan, and San Francisco—that's a lot of time zones to coordinate. I rushed back to the hospital to pick up Peter, took him home, and went back to work. Then I cooked my own birthday dinner.

Not the perfect birthday, but lots of cards and calls, and having Peter here with me—that all made it fine.

I am a lucky 72-year-old.

Valentine’s Day

On Thursday, I took a break from work to run to the card store.  I bought, addressed and mailed Valentines to our young grandchildren and was back at my desk in moments. When my assistant, Margaret, asked me what I got for Peter, I just shrugged my shoulders. Did I buy a card for the man I've loved for 45 years?  Nope. It didn't even occur to me.  Margaret is 27 and in a committed relationship.  Looking back, I'm sure Peter and I celebrated Valentine's Day when I was 27.  But somehow we got out of the habit. 

Of course, we are still each other's Valentines.  I confirmed that this morning.  And we do say "I love you" pretty much every day.  But no romantic candle-lit dinners for Valentine's Day. And that's OK with me. 

Margaret and I had another conversation about important issues last week.  I told her Peter was about to celebrate a milestone birthday. She knows that I am working way beyond the time when most of my peers go somewhere warm for the winter, and she asked if I was thinking of retiring.  I told her that I had no plans to do so.  She added, "But don't you want to spend more time with Peter?" (Implied but not said "…since he's so old.")

She seemed shocked by my reply.


Down to One Job

Since June 30th, I have been doing the job of my former boss Joe along with my own because he took early retirement, and the search for his successor was long. During this time, I have worked harder than an almost-72-year old should. A few things (mostly in my regular job) haven't gotten the attention they deserved, but in general, things have been going well.

Next week, my new boss arrives.

So how do I feel about this? It's the end of something; it's the start of something. I liked the somewhat loftier title I've had these past seven and a half months, even though it has an "Acting" in front of it. I didn't want to be a candidate for his job, but I have to admit I have enjoyed doing it. I have liked being the decider. When I first took over I would often think, "What would Joe do?" But that didn't last long as I grew increasingly confident that I had the right answers.

I have had a more important "seat" at the "table" these months, participating in some high-level meetings that I have enjoyed, and I may miss that. On the other hand, my new boss has a lot to learn, and I see my role as one of helping him to succeed.

I just need to get over the fact that he's young enough to be my son.

A Foodie in Peru

I was disappointed to find a McDonald's in Cusco a couple of weeks ago. To me travel is about eating differently, and Peru is a great place to do that. I don't go all out native like my husband Peter, who ate guinea pig and alpaca on our trip, but I am willing to try almost anything.

Because I have celiac disease and have to stay away from even a morsel of gluten, I have to be very careful when I travel. So imagine my surprise and delight when I found three different kinds of gluten-free bread at the bounteous buffet breakfast in our hotel next to Machu Picchu. The rolls made with sweet potato flour would fool any gluten-eater, even Peter.

When I asked about a tiny white grain offered at the breakfast buffet in our hotel in the Sacred Valley, I learned that it was kiwicha, a protein-rich staple that dates back to the Incas. The chef suggested trying it with yogurt, honey and almonds. Delicious, and now part of my breakfast rotation at home, at least until I run out of the kiwicha supply I bought in the grocery store in Cusco. (To be fair, I should admit that the ground maca root, also on the breakfast buffet, which is said to be great for energy AND an aphrodisiac didn't do much for me in either dimension.)

Even though I had heard of quinoa, another gluten-free grain, I had never cooked with it. When our Peruvian guide suggested I try quinoa soup for a light dinner, it seemed like a good idea, and it was delicious. So I asked the chef for the recipe, and although what I produced yesterday for lunch wasn't quite as spectacular (things taste better when someone else makes them) it was pretty tasty and very healthy.

Sightseeing is important in any new country. But for me, the food is right up there.

Proud, but Worried

The father of my two young grandchildren quit his (very good) job. Despite today's very insecure economy, he quit.

One day last fall he had an idea. We always knew that he had an entrepreneurial streak, but his idea became reality in record time. So with no guarantee of anything, but with a good and creative head on his shoulder and a very smart neighbor who is an expert on the Internet, launched on December 7.

Jasmere is a website that offers an amazing daily bargain from well-vetted web boutiques at a huge discount. Clothing, food, gifts and more. Each day, a new surprise. These are not products that have stayed on "shelves" too long. Rather they are fine products that need a broader audience. What's different about Jasmere is that the more people who buy the daily item, the cheaper it gets, and everyone gets it for the lowest price when their credit cards are charged at midnight.

Jeremy and his partner are putting in unbelievable hours to make this happen. People are buying, and although he is far from retiring to a villa on the Riviera, is getting some buzz.

In my generation, you got a good job, you built your career and in the end, you got a gold watch.

Things have changed