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February 2014
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April 2014

March 2014

Travel Buddies

Twenty-five years ago we asked our good friends Gordon and Christa to join us on a bicycle trip in France’s Dordogne Valley. It was easy to convince them that you see more from a bicycle than a car. You go more slowly and because you get lost, you are destined to meet the natives. We still laugh about the time we got completely different answers when Peter asked a French farmer for directions and Christa asked his wife.  Although we managed to get to our destination, we rode many more miles than we had anticipated.

The four of us have bicycled together in Italy, France, Switzerland, Ireland, Spain, Denmark, Canada and the San Juan Islands.  Now that we are older, we no longer bike, but we have traveled together to Argentina, Russia and, just now, to Sicily.  And we still meet the natives.  

It was easy in Buenos Aires where we figured out the local buses with the help of our B&B hosts. (It was there also that we had our worst interaction with the natives when a pickpocket got both Peter’s and Christa’s cameras on a crowded subway.)

When we travel with a group as we did in Russia and Sicily, we choose a trip with lots of free time to explore on our own.  We go to restaurants where English isn’t spoken.  We wander off the main streets and spend some time away from the churches and museums.  We travel to discover what’s different.

At our age, each trip is a gift. It is all the more so when we are with our friends.


Short Subjects/Not to be Missed

I count on hearing from friends about things they think I would enjoy. I look to them for advice on books, movies, recipes and more.  So here are a few things that I recommend:

  1. “This Old Man”—I’m probably not the first to recommend to the world “This Old Man,” Roger Angell’s marvelous musings on life in his nineties that appeared in The New Yorker in February. You will love it.
  2. “Blue is the Warmest Color”—This 2013 movie about the sexual awakening of a French teenager got a lot of attention, largely because of its long lesbian sex scenes.  But the movie is so much more than that, and the acting of 19-year old, Adèle Exarchopoulos is extraordinary.  It’s available now on DVD.
  3. Amy Cuddy—Spend twenty-one minutes watching one of the most viewed TED talks ever in which Amy Cuddy, a professor at Harvard Business School, shares her research on body language.  It’s never too late to become powerful.

# Best Trip Ever

There are only a handful of joyous events in a lifetime that you hold in your heart and relive over and over again. I’ve lost my list of the ten happiest events of my life, but I am sure it included marrying Peter, giving birth to one and then another son, and a trip to Africa with our grownup sons to celebrate Peter’s seventieth birthday.

If I were writing it now, I would add the birth of our grandchildren and accompanying our elder son Seth on his Frugal Traveler assignments to Nicaragua, Croatia and Norway. Watching him connect with utter strangers in the foreign countries he writes about is thrilling.  But so is watching our younger son Jeremy being a better parent than his own parents were.

Recently, when Jeremy titled a Facebook posting about his brother, Uncle Seth, taking his nephews to spring training in Florida #Best Trip Ever, I decided that this will be on the best-things-ever list of all its participants.  It was well-planned and well-executed.  Seth made his nephews live frugally with fewer sodas, a budget for meals, cheapest tickets for the games, etc.  They got up close to the players, got autographs from stars such as David Ortiz and several baseballs.  It was simply “awesome.”

For me, reading about it was almost as good as being there.  Take a look.


So Much to Learn

I’m finding that the time I spend volunteering with my inner-city charter school kids is an education for me.  I’m there to help them, but they are helping me.

I am learning about what it’s like to be taunted by the kids in your neighborhood because you like school.  I’m learning about how distracting it is when your parents fight all the time.  I’m hearing about their long commutes and the effort they put in to attend a school that they believe will offer them more opportunities.

I’m hearing that they’re worried about leaving home this summer to attend a three-week enrichment program at a college a few hundred miles away.  “But, I’ve never been away from my mother,” said one.  And how one family can’t come up with the $100 deposit even though they will get it refunded.

The students tell me they will not apply to schools in Florida because they’ve heard Florida is racist.  One described feeling uncomfortable at Disneyworld, not because of staff, but because of the other visitors’ behavior toward them.

I am learning about struggles that neither I nor my children had to face.  And I am loving these kids who find the energy and determination to succeed when the odds are not in their favor.


Last Monday, the handsome thirty-five-year-old who swept me off my feet on July 13, 1965 turned eighty-four.  To this day, my heart beats faster when I hear his key turning in the lock.  His sandy-colored hair is now white and there is (a lot) less of it.  He has a hearing aid (that he wears occasionally).  His Parkinson’s Disease has slowed his walk and made his fingers less nimble.  But his quick wit, his sharp mind and his willingness to put up with me make me grateful for every minute that I have him. 

But somehow this birthday, this age, feels different.  This is his last year to be “young-old.”  At eighty-five, according to the medical literature, one becomes “old-old”. Individuals age differently, but we are both more aware than ever that we have to make each day count.

So I make plans to ensure that we always are looking forward to something wonderful. For example, we buy tickets for visits to our children months in advance.  And we just re-subscribed to a music series that has its last concert in May, 2015.  When you stop planning, you are giving up on your future.

With that in mind, I told Peter it was time to plan for a great birthday celebration twelve months from now.  Knowing our kids, we need to get on their calendar way in advance. I asked him how he would like to celebrate his eighty-fifth.  His reply, “By not celebrating.”  Often Peter’s “no” response can be turned into a “yes.” 

I’m working on it.

Saturday Morning Conversation

We are pretty much creatures of habit, and one of our habits is to mark Saturday mornings by adding a four-minute soft boiled egg to our usual juice, toast and coffee breakfast.  Last Saturday was no different.

Peter boiled the eggs as I scurried around watering plants and throwing laundry into the washing machine.  When we sat down for breakfast, our conversation went like this:

Me:  “My egg has a huge crack in it.”

Peter:  “Oh, I didn’t see it.”

Me: “ I know you didn’t see it because you would have taken that egg.  You always give me the better thing.”

Peter:  That’s because you deserve it.”

Me:  “And that’s why I got you?”

Peter: “Touché.”

Lessons Learned: 40's vs. 70's

In The New York Times recently, Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing up Bébé, shared some lessons she has learned in her 40’s.   Here's what it looks  like at 70-something.

In your 40’s:  Eight hours of continuous unmedicated sleep is one of life’s great pleasures.

In your 70’s:  Never going to happen.

In your 40’s:  Worry less about what people think of you; learn more about them.

In your 70’s:  Worry zero about it; learn even more. 

In your 40’s:  You and your partner know your ritual arguments so well, you can have them in a tenth of the time.

In your 70’s:  You know them so well that you don’t have to have them at all.

In your 40’s:  You know that “nice” isn’t a sufficient quality for a friendship, but it’s a necessary one.

In your 70’s: Now, it’s sufficient.

In your 40’s:  You don’t want to be with the cool people; you want to be with your people

In your 70’s: You are willing to be with anyone who is still breathing.

In your 40’s: Never accept a lunch invitation from people you don’t want to have lunch with.  They will be much less disappointed than you think.

In your 70’s:  Never do anything you don’t want to do.

In your 40’s:  What’s adorable at twenty can be worrisome at thirty and dangerous at forty.

In your 70’s:  It’s forgiven.

In your 40’s:  There are no grownups

In your 70’s:  There still aren’t.

And to the 40-something from a 70-something:  You’ll be writing “What You Learn in Your 70s” sooner than you think.  Enjoy the voyage.


Back to High School

Khadisha, Isaiah, Valentine, Claudlyne, Yacer, all new in my life, are some of the high school juniors who are talking to me about their challenges and their dreams as they contemplate college preparation and choice. 

I don’t look anything like them.  They are young, and I am old.  They are people of color and I am not.  Some live with parents, and some don’t.  I doubt that many have parents that went to college.

The time I spent with them last week was about the best use of my time this winter.  They had to write an essay to apply for a summer enrichment program that would help them compete in college admissions.  They had to write about a time when they refused to give up and achieved something that they never thought they could.  They had to explain what they learned about themselves in the process.  Several said they had no idea about what to write.  I asked them a few questions.  What do you like to do?  What are you proud of?  What challenges have you overcome?

Of course, they have something to write about.  And my questions were all they needed to get started.  They were on a short deadline.  Not all of them will finish on time.  But some of them will.  And I am so happy to have been of help.


The Oldest Thing I Never Got Rid Of

On Thursday, I pulled my chocolate brown wool slacks and brown and white tweed jacket from the depths of my closet. This was my go-to work outfit on the coldest-of-the cold days for years, and it’s been a losing candidate for the give-away bag every spring.

I wanted to look sharp for my Thursday session with the high school juniors I was helping with their applications for summer enrichment programs. And to be warm.

At breakfast, Peter didn’t comment about what I was wearing. He almost never does, I think because he approves of my taste. I was trying to remember how long I have had that jacket. Forever, I thought. I interrupted Peter’s paper reading to say, “I think the jacket I am wearing is the oldest thing I never got rid of.”

We looked at each other. I waited for his response. But I was the one who said what we both were thinking “except for…”