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August 2011

Energy Infusion

I had a busier-than-usual week at work.  I had to be “on” just about every second.  By the time I got home on Thursday evening, I needed the weekend.  Badly.

However, I had committed to being a site leader for a “Day of Service” on Friday.  That required being at work at 7:30 a.m. for a day that would end at 8:00 p.m.  Not to mention that I would be painting or cleaning or weeding the garden of a community center leading a team of students for whom the Vietnam War is ancient history.

I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m.  I did only fifty percent of my exercise regime.  I grabbed a (gluten-free) bagel.  I gave a quick hug to a sleepy Peter at 7:00 a.m. as I rushed out the door.

He wished me good luck.  I said that I was fine, now that the weekend was almost here.

“You are fantastic,” he replied.

That gave me all the energy I needed.  

My Friend Susie


I met Susie (on the left) when my family moved to Pittsburgh in 1947. She was in my fifth grade class at Colfax Elementary School. We've been friends ever since.


Susie was probably the most popular girl in our high school class. Her house was the then-equivalent of the mall. Everybody hung out there.


We didn't go to the same college, but shortly after we graduated, Susie came to visit me in Boston, met her husband on a blind date and has lived in my area code ever since.


She and her husband Howard worked together for many years, but retired relatively early. Although they have their separate activities, they spend A LOT OF TIME together. I have asked Susie how they manage to do it, (probably because I'm worried that when I retire, I will drive Peter crazy). She doesn't know, but I think it's because they both have a great sense of humor and, like Susie in high school, they have a very active social life.


Susie has a bad case of scoliosis. When we had dinner with them recently, she was quite bent over and in pain. There is no cure for her, but they try to control her pain. Exercise helps. She swims every day and plays tennis. She laughs a lot. She doesn't complain.


In my book she is a super star.


Wrinkled Like A Skeleton

When I began the 70-something blog about 400 posts ago, I told you that I would write about parents and children, about exercise and work and about my views on just about anything during my journey through the 70's.  I have done that and more.


But I also promised that I would write about the inevitable physical changes that accompany aging, and I have failed to do that.  I am about to make up for that omission, and this won't be pretty.


Younger readers (and I love that you read my blog) might want to skip this part so they can deny the inevitable a little longer.


I guess what prompted me to face this is my face.  Until recently, people I met took me for five to ten years younger than I am.  But just last week, I noticed that the "bags" under my eyes that I thought were due to a night of insomnia hadn't gone away after a good night's sleep. 


My four-and-a- half year old grandson informed me on a recent visit that my neck "looked wrinkled like a skeleton," whatever that means, but it doesn't mean good.  On an earlier trip, his older brother had told me that a new face cream made my face look "less wrinkly." 


I'm fortunate that my genes (thanks Mom) keep me thin, but lately I noticed that the skin around my waist is a little, shall we say, "loose"?


Someone recently wrote about tucking her breasts into her waistband.  I'm doing a little better in that department, but the trend is downward.


On the bright side, my smile is still genuine, my energy level is still high, and things are better than they will be later.


OK, I did it.


Curtin Call

Last weekend we went to Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We love the Berkshires, and listening to classical music at Tanglewood is one of the great pleasures of my life. Except for vocal music.

However, over the years, we have enjoyed watching Phyllis Curtin, a world-renown soprano, teach her Monday morning master classes at Tanglewood. On Sunday, we went to a three-hour concert of vocal pieces sung by her students in honor of her 90th birthday.

It was a long concert, and I dislike many of the composers whose songs they sang. But twenty or so of Phyllis' students participated in the concert, individually or in small groups, and every piece was perfect. Phyllis sat in a box near the stage, so small at age 90, her walker next to her, her arthritic hands clapping enthusiastically and throwing kisses. It was as if each song was sung only to her.

All of her students came on the stage together for the final song on the program, Aaron Copeland's "The Promise of Living". Their encore was "Happy Birthday".

It was a magnificent moment, and I wasn't the only one in tears.


What Is Your Narrative?

What is your personal story?  What are your core values and how have you turned them into actions? Have you reflected on the choices you made in life and the values that motivated you to make them?   I hadn’t. 

Until a week ago. 

That was when I heard a 20-something, a 30-something, a 40-something and a 50-something tell their stories to an engrossed audience.  All the speakers engage in public service in their professional lives.  They all define public service somewhat differently, but they all got to be who they are by living their values.

I was describing this experience to Peter, and the next thing I knew, I was telling him my story.  (Which is kind of funny since we’ve known each other for forty-six years—you would think he “knew” my story.)

 As I told it, I could feel the threads of my life become woven together in a new and meaningful way. I told Peter that I had never put it all together like this before. 

 What is your narrative?

Kissin’ Cousins

My mother was one of six children. One never married and two married late. So my brother Don and I have only six first cousins on that side of the family. I was the only girl and so the favorite niece by definition. Since none of my cousins lives near me, we rarely see each other except for weddings. We've been talking about getting together around Aunt Ruth's 100th birthday in February, but we can't count on that.


However, my cousin Arnie and his wife Joanie, who live in Buffalo, recently bought a house in Jamestown, Rhode Island to be near a child and a grandchild in the summer. And that's where we had a mini-reunion last weekend.


It was a great cast of characters including my cousin Gerry who, after being out of touch while he went through a couple of tough years, drove in from Connecticut. Joanie and Arnie's son Andy came up from New York City. And even Seth, less than twenty-four hours home from eleven weeks spent along the Mediterranean, arrived via Amtrak.


How often, at our age, do we get to be with folks who knew us in when we were young? And knew our parents? And how often do we see members of the next generation together?


I can't remember the last time I laughed so much.


There's nothing like family.




Pictured above is a laundry hook, a possession of mine since 1957. I know it is from that year because I bought three of them to hang laundry in hotel bathrooms on my first trip to Europe.


Recently, after fifty-four years of service, two of them broke, and I went on a mission to replace them. I tried big box stores (Target and Bed and Bath) with no luck. Salespeople looked at me as though I had taken leave of my senses when I tried to describe what I was looking for. Next I tried Mom and Pop hardware stores. Still no luck.


I thought of one more possibility. Just a few miles from where I live is a wonderfully old-fashioned store called Ben Franklin's. It is a combination of Woolworth's and what department stores used to call the "notions department". They sell spools of thread in a rainbow of colors. They stock buttons of all sizes and shapes. They have miniatures of games and all kinds of gadgets. It is a perfect place to buy party favors for kids. It's a gem of a store, one I am always expecting to go out of business.


I just couldn't find the time to go there. But as luck would have it, Peter had a meeting the other day that required him to drive by Ben Franklin's, and I asked him if he would have a look. I gave him my remaining laundry hook because an example is worth a thousand words. Besides, I thought he couldn't possibly explain what he was looking for.




Made my day.


Date Night

Although we often go out to dinner with friends, we don't usually go out to dinner by ourselves. We like to cook, and since we must choose restaurants carefully when we do go out because of my gluten intolerance, eating at home makes a lot of sense for us.


But our wedding anniversary is different. Last week we celebrated our forty-third. And we did it in style. I left work on time. We got dressed up. We went to one of our favorite restaurants. The waiter was great, the food was delicious. But the best was how much fun we had together.


I wish we could have forty-three more