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November 2013


When we pass our Grateful Jar around the Thanksgiving table today, someone will read aloud the entry I wrote last Saturday. “ I am grateful to Gramps for his never-ending attempts to bake me the best gluten-free bread that is humanly possible.”

Before I had to give up gluten, Peter loved to bake bread. The family favorite was James Beard’s potato bread—chewy, with real personality, probably from the mashed potato and caraway seeds.  That is the bread he has tried so hard to duplicate gluten-free.  His efforts have produced edible bread, but his attempt last Saturday was still not a substitute for the original.  He already knows what he will change next time.

For that don’t-give-up attitude plus so many other things about him, I am grateful.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

The Subject We All Avoid

The other night we joined our next-door neighbors for a glass of wine and to witness the signing of their wills and health proxies.  Their lawyer is a jolly man, and the whole scene in their living room was much more pleasant than the stodgy, wood paneled conference room of the law firm where our dour-faced lawyer had us sign similar documents about a year ago.

To me, end-of-life conversations rank right up there with colonoscopy preparation. But we all need to deal with them in the way that works best for us.  And since many of us are with our far-flung families for the holidays, this might be a good time to do so (although, discussing the contents of your Grateful Jar, if you have one, might be better suited for your Thanksgiving dinner conversation).

In any event, there were some thought-provoking and helpful articles on this subject in the Your Money section of the November 20th New York Times that are worth a look.  Here are the links: 

Thanksgiving Prep

November, with its dark days and falling temperatures, is hard for me.  Its saving grace is Thanksgiving--my favorite holiday.  We’ve already put some entries into our 2013 Grateful Jar and done the first round of grocery shopping.  Family no-shows are not permitted at Thanksgiving, so the usual middle-of-the-night departure by the family in Maryland with a stop for breakfast and Seth-pick up in New York City is set in stone.  They should be here for Wednesday lunch.

Although Peter and I love good food and enjoy cooking, we find that we don’t eat as much as we used to.  Add to that my gluten-intolerance, which limits the variety of junk (and good, but has gluten) food we have in the house, and our cupboards are relatively bare by the kids’ standards.

My daughter-in-law Katrina has given me the updated list of what the grandchildren can’t live without:  juice, including something non-alcoholic, but sparkling so they too have a wine bottle, a dozen and a half cups of yogurt,  granola bars,  cereals with names like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, assorted chips, a life-time supply of pretzels, bagels and enough fruit to start a produce market.  Of course that's without the last minute stuff—like three different kinds of milk, fresh veggies and the turkey.

This is the time of year when I wish an extra refrigerator and oven would miraculously appear. But somehow we manage to make it all work.

I can’t wait.



I used to change into my comfy clothes within moments of coming home from work.  I might have stopped on the way upstairs to plant a kiss on Peter’s cheek, but nothing else could stand in the way of my journey to comfort.

My standard at-home apparel was a pair of jean-like Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt in the summer and LLBean’s elastic-waisted black-cotton-and-lycra slacks and a turtleneck the rest of the year.  My feet preferred my Birkenstocks at home no matter what the season.

On weekend days I would upgrade to a good pair of jeans and a top that was appropriate for wherever our errands might take us.  I loved the switch to my non-work-day wardrobe just because it was so easy.  No standing in front of the closet trying to choose which outfit I hadn’t worn for a while. 

Things are different now that I am retired.  I can (and do) wear jeans almost every day.  My work outfits (with the exception of my navy blazer and maybe one or two other things) remain in their cleaning bags in the guest room closet.  I plan to take most of them to Dress for Success, an organization that helps disadvantaged women enter or re-enter the job market.

But not quite yet…

Google Maps

Peter and I are lucky to live a short walk from our country’s first garden cemetery.  Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Cemetery was founded in 1831 and is now a National Historic Landmark.  Its seventy-five acres attract residents of Greater Boston and visitors from around the world for bird and plant watching.

Wandering its winding pathways, we discover new monuments and plants each time we visit.  In the spring and summer the flowering trees and shrubs are beautiful.  In the fall, the foliage is breathtaking.  Even in winter, Mount Auburn’s 5,5000 varieties of trees, shrubs and other plants covered with snow are a photographer’s dream.

During our walk there on a crystal clear Veteran’s Day, Peter was taking pictures for his photography class.  I pulled my phone out of my pocket and took a picture of him taking pictures.

Just for the fun of it, I opened Google Maps on the phone, wondering if it could find us on Acacia, the tiny path we were walking.  Sure enough, we were spotted.  We decided to let Google Maps guide us home, and as the time to our destination kept changing, we realized that we didn’t walk as fast as it expected us to.  But when we got to our house, sure enough the phone announced that we were there.  And immediately, a picture of our house appeared on the screen.

Amazing, but a little scary…



I suspect that many readers of the 70-something blog remember what they were doing when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas fifty years ago this month.  I don’t remember where I was when I heard the news, but I do know that my then-boyfriend and I were looking for a distraction to take our minds off that horrendous event.  We ended up going to a dog show, probably not a decision I would make again.

Wednesday, a friend asked me to join her that evening for a preview of a TV documentary about JFK's life that will air November 11th on Public Broadcasting stations in the U.S.   The event included about thirty minutes of the documentary followed by a panel discussion with the documentary’s filmmaker, the director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and a historian who has just completed a book on Kennedy’s father.

The audience was enthusiastic, and so was I.  However, what struck me was that if I were not retired, there was no way I would have come home from work at six o’clock, grabbed a bite to eat and rushed to an event that began at seven. And my friend told me that she would never have invited me if I were still working.

So maybe retirement isn’t going to be so bad…

Talking Down

In fourth grade, my friend June and I were the two shortest girls in the by-height gym line-up. (I can picture those one-pieced blue gym outfits with our names embroidered on the pockets that were a nightmare to wear back then and, thankfully, no longer exist.)

By seventh grade, I had jumped to the tallest end of the line-up, no longer June-sized.  For my generation, I was a very tall 5’ 10”.

My closest friends throughout school were shorter than average, and my mother (erroneously) attributed my poor posture to my leaning down to hear what they were saying. Even in college, my good friends were short, and in my grown-up life, two of my closest friends are way below average height (and getting shorter, but so am I).

I never gave a thought to the height of the woman who has been our next-door neighbor these past eighteen years.  We try to have a drink with her and her husband at one of our homes every few weeks, but those are sitting-down events. 

Now that I have joined her in retirement, she and I decided to become walking buddies.  She picked me up this morning for a two-mile walk.  It was great fun to be just the girls and we had a lot to say to each another.

But, no surprise, I had to lean way down to hear her.   


Routine Problem

The 50-hour workweek of the job I just retired from required me to be super-organized when I wasn’t at work.  Saturdays were devoted to laundry, plant watering, grocery shopping and other errands.  Sundays were my real break from the frenzy of the rest of the week.  I loved Sundays.

I haven’t developed my retirement routine yet.  So I don’t even know what day of the week it is.  For example, I watch the evening news on TV.  (Yes, I do read breaking news online, but just as I still like the rustle of the newspaper in my hand, I like my news on a big screen.)  When I commented to Peter last weekend that I thought it was unusual for the weekday news anchor to be on the air on a Saturday rather than his regular weekend replacement, Peter reminded me that it was Friday.

And then there are our plants, always watered before breakfast on Saturdays.  For the last two weeks, it took me until late afternoon to realize that it was Saturday and I had forgotten them.

I have decided that I need to pay more attention to what day of the week it is, and I have found an easy solution.  It’s my bright red pill container.  It is divided into seven sections, each marked with a letter.

M, T, W, T, F, S, S.