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August 2012

July 2012

Auld Lang Syne

Periodically, I try to get rid of stuff.  Last week, I decided to throw away my DayRunner six-ring calendar.   It’s been gathering dust ever since I got my Blackberry five years ago.

Tucked into a pocket of the calendar was a small tattered green address book, and I couldn’t resist a look at it before tossing. 

First there was Adele, my staff assistant thirty years ago.  I have no idea where she is now, but once she came to our house for a short visit when she was in town for Thanksgiving. We left Peter and the kids watching a Boston College Football game in the den to chat in the living room.  A minute later, Doug Flutie threw his famous Hail Mary pass, and we missed it.

Then there was the number for Becket—the summer camp that the kids attended for so long.  I doubt that we called very often, but the number was always with me.

Europeds—the company we took our first bike trip with in 1985-- brought back memories of more than twenty years of bike vacations. 

Muriel—almost like a sister, but not well for years, and now passed away. 

Sue, a close colleague.  She died six years ago and I still miss her every day.

I always keep addresses in pencil because people move around a lot.  But for a moment, time was frozen in place in my tattered green address book.


Happy? Birthday

One of my colleagues had her thirty-eighth birthday last week. When I asked her how she felt about it, she said it wasn’t such a great birthday.  For some reason, it bothered her. To her, thirty-eight means not necessarily old, but no longer young.

She has three beautiful children under eight.  She has a challenging job that means a lot to her.  She’s married to her high school sweetheart.  Sounds ideal. 

Of course, compared to me, I told her, she is barely out of her crib.  We laughed about that. 

Would I change places with her? I don’t think I want to be thirty-eight again.

But thirty-nine might be nice.

How Can It Be the 22nd of July?

The years go quickly, but the summer goes by in the blink of an eye. 

The days are already noticeably shorter, and our September calendar is filling up.  Peter is about to order the books for his fall classes, and I am wondering how I can finish all the projects that are still on my summer to-do list.

It’s been a great summer so far. A trip to Norway with Seth.  Time with friends at the beach.  Long walks.  And we still have a week with our grandchildren and their parents on our August calendar.  Sure, Peter’s back has been acting up, and I have had my own challenges. That’s life.

Every day cannot be great, but I hope to find some great in every day.

Brattle Street

Every weekday, I hop on my bicycle for my two-mile ride to work.  I have been doing that for over seventeen years, except in downpours, when the temperature is below 26 degrees or when there is so much snow on the streets that there isn’t room for me and the cars.

In the summer, my ride is less transportation-to-work and more  pleasure.  For one thing, I don’t have to dress like the Michelin man to keep warm.  Because the days are long, I get to bike home while it is still light.  More important, especially in July and August, the traffic is very light, and I enjoy a more relaxed trip.

The past two weeks have been especially beautiful, perhaps a bit hot, but bright sun and often a gentle breeze.  I have been more “in the moment” on my ride.  I am reminded daily that my trip takes me down Brattle Street, one of the most historic and beautiful streets in the United States.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived on Brattle Street.  And George Washington.  And others whose names are well-known to American history buffs.   Back then, the street was called Tory Row, reflecting the politics of its pre-revolutionary homeowners.  There are more historic houses than you can shake a stick at, noted by the small tasteful blue and white signs indicating their famous former occupants. 

During the summer, I can pay more attention to the beautiful gardens and the gracious trees that shade the street. 

I’m working hard at not taking things for granted.



It’s been twenty years since I wandered into the Galleries Lafayette on the Boulevard Haussmann in Paris and walked out with a very short and very different haircut.  That summer, Peter and I were in an intensive French class in Paris prior to going off on a bike trip in France’s Alsace region.  I remember thinking that it was insane to pay $100 for some random hairstylist to do a makeover, in French no-less.

But "Pierre" did a fabulous job, and I remember that when our vacation was over, I ran to see Kelly, my haircutter then (and now) to show her and to ask if she could keep it looking that way.  She said she could. And she has.

I’ve been very happy with my hair ever since, but there comes a time...

My time came in May when I met Christine Lagarde at a lunch.  (Ms. Lagarde is the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and French).  She looked great.  She also looks a lot like me (although she is eighteen years younger).  Members of my staff told me we look like sisters, and an absolute stranger came up to me that afternoon and said, “Excuse me Mme. Lagarde” so I guess I do resemble her.

A few days after the lunch, I arrived at Kelly’s with a picture from a website devoted to Christine Lagarde’s hair (, and we decided to go for it. Obviously, it was going to take some time for my hair to grow in.

When I saw Kelly yesterday, seven weeks later, she gave my hair the thumbs up.  We’re not quite there yet, but it’s kind of nice to look into the mirror and see me with a new look that has nothing to do with wrinkles.

P.S.  Peter likes it too.

The Endocrinologist

For the past six weeks, I have been struggling with (or rather against) my primary care doctor’s recommendation that I take Fosamax for my osteoporosis.

I do everything I can to keep my bones strong—I take calcium and vitamin D, lift weights and exercise vigorously, but I still have osteoporosis.  My primary care doctor did not buy my argument that I don’t need to worry about my bones because when I was hit by a car and thrown from my bike in December, nothing broke.

My situation is complicated by the fact that because of my celiac disease, I may not absorb medications when I take them.  In addition, I worry about  possible side effects of Fosamax, including heartburn, necrosis of the jaw, and/or a broken femur.

When I asked the doctor who had diagnosed my celiac disease for advice, she recommended that I see an endocrinologist.  He asked me to get a new bone density test and some blood tests before our appointment.   

When I saw the endocrinologist Tuesday, the blood tests showed that I had adequate calcium and vitamin D in my system.  Good news.  But the bone density results had not arrived.  He asked his assistant to get them faxed over from the testing center.  While we waited, we discussed my options.

If my bone density had improved (as a result of parathyroid surgery I had three years ago), or if it stayed the same, we would do nothing.  But if it was worse, we probably needed to consider medication. 

I sat outside his office anxiously waiting for the results.

When they arrived, we looked at them together.  My numbers were not worse.  They were not the same.  They were a teeny bit better, although I still have osteoporosis.

So we’ll repeat the tests next year.  In the meantime, I get a year’s reprieve from worrying about heartburn, necrosis of the jaw, or a broken femur.

A July Fourth Lesson

Here’s a lesson we could all profit from. In our eagerness to see the rest of the world, we can lose sight of the treasures in our own back yard. 

I was reminded of this when we joined friends at the waterfront for Boston’s July Fourth celebration on Wednesday.  This year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, and Boston’s annual Harborfest was celebrating with a visit of the tall ships, a spectacular air show by the Blue Angels and the Navy Seals, and the semiannual turning around of Boston’s most famous elderly resident, the USS Constitution, lovingly known as “Old Ironsides.”

When we got up, it was raining, but by 10:00 the sun was out.  We hopped on our bicycles and rode to the subway. We met our friends in front of the Boston Aquarium and joined the large crowd meandering along Boston’s Harborwalk, pausing to look up at the Blue Angels in perfect formation overhead, or to ooh and aah at a fireboat spouting water like a great fountain as it sailed down the harbor.  But nothing beat the Constitution. We reassured some very excited Asian tourists that they were indeed looking at the historic (1797) vessel under sail.

The cost of participating in this world-class event, senior subway fare $1.00 each way.  No passports, no overnight flight.


Living on the Fumes

We’ve been home from our vacation with Seth in Norway for a week now. The lack-of-stress and the living-fully-in-each-moment have faded.  Despite our efforts to hold on to the way we felt on vacation, work, bills, laundry and scorching-hot temperatures have intruded on our ability to live on the fumes.

Peter and I recapture special moments of our trip by talking about them, by reading each others’ journals, and by watching a slide show of our photos. But our copies of passports and credit cards, our suitcase locks and our neck-support pillows are back in the “travel drawer”.  We’ve caught up on the mail and the magazines. 

Our vacation in Norway is history.

However, on Tuesday,  when Seth published his Frugal Traveler blog about our trip, giving us another chance to relive our experience through his eyes  (see, we got some magic back.

Norway Seth's Way


When The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler (aka our son Seth) invited us to Norway for a week as part of his frugal summer in Scandinavia, we were thrilled.  Although we joined him the last two summers, first in Nicaragua and then in Croatia, we would never take another invitation for granted. 

Our trip started when we met Seth in Oslo and left on an eight-hour bus trip to Fjaerland where we spent two nights at a campground at the end of Norway’s longest fjord.  My book lay unread on my lap as we traveled through a countryside dotted with farming villages, snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, deep green hills, and grazing sheep, all under a cloudless sky. 

Our trip ended with two nights on a sturdy old cruise ship sailing along the western Norwegian coast.   It was the season of the midnight sun, and at midnight we joked that we couldn’t tell if the sun was rising or setting.  Peter and I had a cabin, but Seth slept in the lounge in true Frugal Traveler fashion. 

In between, we visited Brønnøysund, Bergen, and Balestrand. We biked on the island of Vega, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the friendly locals invited us to share in a festival marking the summer solstice, and a young woman named Ina opened the eider duck museum just for us because we arrived there after it closed.  People were kind to us everywhere, partly because they were charmed by Seth, but mostly because they were just nice.

There were many unforgettable moments.   One, in Brønnøysund when we were killing time waiting for the ferry to visit Vega, we came upon a choral competition in the center of town.  We sat on benches and listened to  groups from all over the area singing their hearts out.  We had no idea what was going on, but we loved it. 

At the campground where we stayed for our first two nights, Peter and I went for a walk after dinner while Seth wrote.  It was about 9:00 p.m.  The sun was shining on two houses high in the mountain, one a deep red and the other a dark mustard color, typical of the region.  We went back to get Seth because it was such a beautiful scene. The three of us walked together, taking pictures of the mountain and of each other, a family without a care in the world.

Over coffee on our last morning together, we looked at the hundreds of photos of our week that Seth had downloaded to his computer and tears flowed (mine).

The trip itself was a dream come true, but what really mattered was the chance to watch Seth work, to laugh at his jokes, to have him laugh at some of ours, and just to share a piece of his life.

At our age, we realize that our best days may be behind us, but as our trip with Seth suggests, there can be some very good ones to come.