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September 2012
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November 2012

October 2012

Aunt Ruth Re-Visited

It’s been a year since I visited Aunt Ruth when she was almost 100.  And I have just come home after visiting her at almost 101. 

I expected her to have changed over the last twelve months. (Don’t we all?).  For the first time, I didn’t stay with her, not because she didn’t want me to, but because my cousins knew she would want to do more for me than she could or should.

She was using a walker when she opened the door.  But her hair was perfectly coiffed, her makeup expertly applied, her smile broad and her eyes sparkling. Her home, still impeccable, the dish with cashew nuts on the coffee table, as always.  The only sign that an older person lived there was her walker and the stair lift in the back hallway.

She settled into her favorite chair in the den and made sure I was  comfortable.  And then we talked.  And talked.  She wanted to know everything about my family, my work and what I thought of the world.  We talked politics and she proudly announced that she had mailed her absentee ballot.  Her charm was intact, but I couldn’t deny that she had aged significantly over the past year. 

After an hour of non-stop chatting, she seemed to tire, and needed a nap so she could take us all out to dinner.  We (three cousins and I) had a wonderful evening with her.  The hardest part was the difficulty she has getting in and out of the car, but once we were seated, she was truly engaged.

Yesterday, we brought lunch to her before I had to leave for the airport.  We got her to talk a bit about the old days and we had a lot of belly laughs. There was so much love around that table, yet a sense that this could be the last time we were laughing together.

When I was alone with her for a few minutes before we left, she let down her guard and told me, “It’s hard to be so old.”

Aunt Ruth is very tired, and I think she would welcome not waking up some morning.  I wish that for her also.

Last year when I left, her eyes filled with tears, and I promised to come back. 

This year we both cried.

It's All About Expectations

So much of life is about expectations. Expect too much?  A sure road to disappointment.   Expect too little?  You achieve too little.  The trick is to get it just right.

There is some physiological evidence that expectations that are met or exceeded cause our brains to release dopamine.  According to David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, when that happens, we feel good.  Expectations that are not met have the opposite effect. Just missing a green light can result in a slight drop in dopamine.

Alina Tugend wrote about Rock’s work in in The New York Times and added her own thoughts about managing expectations.  Tugend advises us to have low expectations of what we can’t control and realistic expectations of things over which we have some control.  Her conclusion: “Always expect the unexpected.”

Easier said then done.

Still Working?

It’s not just friends and acquaintances.  It’s anybody of my generation that I meet.  If I say that I have a full-time job, people are surprised.  (And maybe a bit jealous?)

They ask me if I am thinking of retiring.  “From time to time, I think about it,” I reply.  That’s a truthful answer.  I do think about it from time to time. Just about every day. 

On Friday, my department had an off-site planning session.  Ideas about how we could do better were flying through the air.  I was excited about new challenges and possibilities, new ways to serve the institution I love.  I can’t imagine jumping ship when the sailing is so much fun.

But at 70-something, I’ll still think about it every day.

Grandmother of the Goalie

For fourteen years, I played the most difficult position on the soccer field, i.e., mother of the goalie.  Since both Seth and Jeremy were goalies, I often had to worry through two games a week.  Most of the time, all ended well and very muddy soccer uniforms were the only bad aftereffects. 

There was the time, however, when Seth’s head collided with the goal post while he was trying to make a save. He left the field in an ambulance with his anxious parents following him to the hospital. In the end, he was OK, but it was a stressful few hours.

So you can imagine my emotions watching my almost-nine year old grandson Leo take his place in the goal last weekend. This is the first year that Leo’s team played real games with referees and strict rules (although not all off-sides were called) and the first year that they looked like a team and not eleven individuals kicking a ball around a field.

It was a beautiful fall afternoon on the soccer field in Maryland. Leo played well, and although he let in a goal that maybe he should have stopped, the game ended in a tie.  I had a great time. Grandmother of the goalie is not the same. 

Thank goodness.


The scene:  Logan Airport, Boston, MA; Gate B-18 prior to the departure of our 10:00 a.m. flight to visit the grandchildren

Stage center:  Me engrossed in the newspaper while waiting for our row to be called

Passing by:  Two attractive, well-dressed women “of a certain age” heading to the jetway, unnoticed by me until one of them yelled out, “Hey, we like your shoes.”  I couldn’t help but notice that their shoes were identical to mine. 

My standard airplane shoes are Merrells.  They don’t lace, buckle or Velcro shut. My feet slip in and out.  I toss them in the gray plastic tray to go through security.  Easy as pie.  They are a little clunky, but they work.

For me and at least two other ladies of a certain age on the 10:00 a.m. flight.

My Tree Revisited



This was the view from my office window last week.  It’s been four years since I blogged about “my” maple tree.  I’ve watched it through the seasons for fifteen years now, and it never fails to be breathtakingly beautiful as it greets the fall, hauntingly bare and grim in the winter, hopeful in the spring and a protection from the sun in the summer. 

Like some, I don’t grab my phone every time there is a photo op. But this was different.  I couldn't resist.  I didn't plan to share my picture on Facebook.  I took it just for me.

I love this tree.  It always gives me pleasure.  It looks solidly and reliably the same as it was four years ago when first I wrote about it.

Unlike me.


Small Change

We had trouble scheduling our most recent appointment with Kathy, our personal trainer. She usually comes to our house every two months, but this time it had been five months due to various commitments on both sides. We were thrilled to see her.

As usual, she revised our routines to keep us growing stronger (or prevent us from growing weaker).  In her sweet and gentle way, she gets us to work harder.  “Do those crunches on the foam roller,” she might say.  “Or try crossing your legs for a better stretch.”

This time she urged me to change my morning routine from twenty-five minutes on the exercise bicycle and five on the elliptical trainer to twenty minutes on the bike and ten minutes on the trainer.  When she saw the crestfallen look on my face (the bike is much easier for me), she said, “OK, do ten minutes just once a week.”

It’s been a week now since Kathy was here.  I haven’t done ten minutes on the elliptical trainer yet.  But I have sweated through six minutes every day which is better than five.

Change is hard.

"Live Free or Die"

“Live Free or Die” shouts every New Hampshire license plate.  New Hampshire citizens (or at least those who approve license plate messages) seem to believe that if they want to ride their motorcycles on major highways without helmets (against the law in most states) they can do it because they are citizens of New Hampshire.

I thought about this the other evening when I felt a welcome gentle fall breeze blowing through my hair about halfway through my bike ride home from work.  I suddenly realized that I felt the breeze because I wasn’t wearing my bicycle helmet.

I never ride without my helmet.  Never.  What was I thinking?  How could I have left it in the office.  Is this the official onset of forgetfulness?  I was extra careful on the rest of my ride home.  And into work the next morning.

But for a few blissful moments of no helmet, breeze flowing through my hair, I could understand why New Hampshire’s license plate says

“Live Free or Die.”