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January 2015
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March 2015

February 2015

The Good and the Bad

I have been struck by both acts of meanness and acts of kindness shown during our snow-filled winter.

In Boston, where parking spaces on the street are at a premium, if you dig out a parking space and put a chair or other object in that space, you’ve reserved it, and people know to look elsewhere or shovel out their own space.  But when someone parked in one chair-held space, the original digger-outer replaced the snow burying the car that had taken “his” spot. 

An apparently angrier person stole the license plates from the car that parked in a space he believed was his even though there was no “chair” marking the spot.

When I was in a crowded grocery store parking lot on the day a storm was fast approaching, I waited patiently while a woman pulled out of a space.  When she did, someone else came around the corner and grabbed the spot I was waiting for.  And that happened twice.  Talk about lack of civility!

Contrast that to friends who insisted on driving us to a concert on a bitterly cold evening last week.  When they dropped us at home, our across-the-street young neighbor was shoveling out the drain on the street in front of his house so that the expected thaw wouldn’t flood the street forcing water into his basement.  When he finished his own drain, he insisted on shoveling out our drain that was covered by five feet of snowplow-compacted snow…at ten o’clock at night when the wind-chilled temperature was below zero. 

Like I said, the storm brings out the good and the bad in people.

Birthday Report

Tuesday was my birthday.  I wasn’t especially looking forward to it.  But I wasn’t not looking forward to it either.  It’s not like  “Whoopie, now I can drive or drink or vote.”  Those were the birthdays that really mattered. 

What I can do at seventy-seven is be grateful that I made it to here in good health and that I have a life full of family and friends. 

On Tuesday, I heard from everybody.  The grandchildren and their parents sang Happy Birthday over the phone.  Seth called while rushing around to leave on assignment to Georgia and Armenia. A former roommate that I hadn’t heard from in more than a year called.  My brother called.  Aunt Ruth, age 103, called.

Of course, Peter treated me like queen-for-a-day.

After all that excitement, I am relieved that it's twelve months ’til the next one.


Report from the Igloo

My cousin Gerry emailed me from San Diego where it was 80 degrees and sunny. He reported seeing a sign on a chalkboard outside a souvenir shop.  “Stop complaining,” it said.  “You could be in Boston.”

It’s odd to be the first story on the national news day after day as the non-stop storms, well, don’t stop.  But it’s nice to hear from friends in warmer places who are checking in to be sure we are OK. 

Our back yard looks like a desert with sweeping sand dunes, made of snow.  The icicles hanging ominously from our front roof are six-inches in diameter and several feet long and are likely to cause ice dams and water damage in the house if it ever warms up enough for them to melt.

Those who are out there clearing our streets and seeing to emergencies are heroes.  We are lucky to be warm and safe.  Others are not so lucky.

Twenty years ago, or even five years ago, we would have ignored the warnings to stay inside.  But things are different now.  We go out cautiously and seldom.  Public transport is hit or miss.   Our busy lives are on hold.  The bitter cold is going to stay around for a while.

Just like us, this is getting old.


On Being Mortal

Is it because I’ll be seventy-seven in two days and that somehow sounds much older than seventy-six? Or is it that a lot more attention is being paid to the need to think and talk about the end-of-life?

Atul Gawande, surgeon and gifted writer, (who once operated on me) has written a thoughtful new book exploring how we talk  (or don’t talk) about dying, and just this past week, he was featured on an excellent PBS’ Frontline documentary on that subject.

Studies have shown that most of us want to die at home, that hospice care   offers an easier death than heroic measures in intensive care units and that help in accepting the inevitable allows “better” deaths.  End-of-life conversations are not easy for doctors because they have been trained to save us.  Nor are they easy for their patients.  But they are essential.

Peter and I have made our wishes clear.  As we watched the interviews on Frontline with those who were willing to share their last days with us, we were impressed by their courage and grace in accepting that nothing further could be done.

And we were reminded once again that each day is precious.



It is said that the higher you fly, the harder you fall.  That may explain why I haven’t smiled before noon yet this week.  I was so high during the long sunny days of our January vacation in Florida that this never-ending snow and cold has sent me to a new low of grumpiness.

And I’m not alone.  Everyone is out of sorts.  It’s not just that we have fifty-plus inches of snow and bitter cold.  There’s nowhere to put the snow.  It’s piled so high on the sides of the road that we can’t see to back out of our driveway.  Our street is barely one-lane wide.  Anyway, there is no place to go because we have been asked to stay off the roads.  Our classes—cancelled.  Our library books—unreturned.  

And, you may ask, why not take advantage of being stuck at home?  Do some badly- needed projects.  Bake that batch of brownies.  Read a great book.

But then what could I complain about?


Feedback, 45 Years Later

In 1970, when I was pregnant with Seth, two friends and I started a non-profit organization to promote professional part-time jobs and job-sharing. 

My dining room was “corporate” headquarters, and our only asset was a printer-sized answering machine.  Its message said, “You’ve reached 969-2339.  Please leave a message for the Boston Project for Careers or the Kugels after the beep.”  A little unprofessional, but there weren’t a lot of angel investors who wanted to give us a zillion dollars back then.

In spite of appearances on local TV, newspaper articles about us and some (but not enough) happy clients, the Boston Project for Careers eventually died and the three of us went on to other things. 

The other day, while we were waiting for a delayed flight in the Sarasota Airport, a woman came up to me and said she thought she knew me.  We determined that we had been at the same restaurant ten days earlier and had been introduced by mutual friends.

She told me that later that evening, she realized that she had known me long ago because she had been a client of the Boston Project for Careers and I had referred her to a job that led to her long and rewarding career. 

She thanked me.

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a Mozart.

If you don’t love Mozart, you might not want to read this blog post.

But if you do, and especially if you know who Joseph Silverstein is (a former concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), you will probably understand why visiting his class on Mozart was a highlight of our time in Sarasota.

I can still picture Silverstein in his tuxedo on the stage of Boston’s renowned Symphony Hall where he was concertmaster for twenty-two years.  But here he was, at age 82, in a room with 40 mostly-gray-haired people, some CD’s, and his violin to talk about Mozart.  He charmed the class with his unassuming presence, his knowledge of Mozart (and everything musical), and, of course, some fiddle-playing.

Silverstein mentioned that his wife (sitting in on the class) had used some lyrics to remember the movements of two great Mozart symphonies in preparation for an exam in her Music 101 class at the University of Michigan. 

I introduced myself to her at the end of class and thanked her because I had used those same words (It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a Mozart) in Music 101 at the University of Michigan.

Eight years later.

Ping Pong P.S.

For those curious about the Sarasota Ping Pong tournament outcome, Peter won the best of three.  So we expanded it to best of seven.  Peter won that too. However, I had a stunning victory in a final “extra” game 24-22. 

Our conclusion:  The game is easy. Picking up the ball is the challenge.

On Not Being Grumpy

It took the absence of grumpiness to make me realize that I am grumpy a lot. 

During our last week in Sarasota, it occurred to me that I hadn’t been grumpy since we arrived in Florida.  Not once in almost four weeks.  Unheard of.

So, I tried to figure out why.

For one thing, I didn’t do one thing I didn’t want to do.  There was no pressure to get somewhere, no deadlines, not even any mail.  We got up when we wanted to.  We only had a small condo to keep picked up.  We did not have to bundle up to go walking.  At the gym, if the news blaring on the TV did not suit me, I plugged in my earphones.  I listened to all the episodes of Serial on my phone.

We ate relatively healthy food in or out, although I decided that because I was on vacation, I could have ice cream every single night.

I partially attribute my non-stop good mood to Peter’s good nature, but he’s that way at home too.  Mostly it was just being with someone I love, in a beautiful warm and sunny place with an endless choice of things to do—or not to do.

We need to spend more time on vacation.