Previous month:
April 2015
Next month:
June 2015

May 2015

Just a Subway Ride Away

Peter and I went to Virginia in March to visit the homes of three great American presidents, inspired by the class we took on Thomas Jefferson last fall.  As people who have been lucky enough to travel in many countries, a trip to Virginia was not a big deal. 

What is a big deal is that we live a 30-minute subway ride away from the birthplace of our second and sixth presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and had never been there.  To remedy that, we found a clear day on our calendars and penciled in a subway trip to Quincy, Massachusetts.

The birthplaces of the two presidents are just 75 feet apart and less than a mile from the ocean.  They are old, by any standards, the first built around 1650.

We have come to expect excellent guides from the National Park Service, and we were not disappointed.  After a quick visit to the original homes, we were “trolleyed” to the home that John and Abigail Adams purchased in 1788 after his years abroad as a diplomat.

Peace Field, set on 75 acres of former farmland is a “very Genteel Dwelling House”.  Everything in the home is original, including John Adams’ standup desk, and his library of 10,000 books. The living room chairs that Adams bought for the White House and took with him when he returned to Massachusetts prompted a question from a visitor.  “Why are some of the seat cushions so tall and others “normal”?  Turns out, according to our guide, Krystal, that the thick-cushioned chairs were for the women.  The taller pillows prevented the arms of their chairs from lifting their full skirts and revealing anything immodest.

It is pretty embarrassing to admit that we have lived in Massachusetts for over fifty years and had never visited the Adamses’ homes.  But when, a woman from Texas on our tour admitted that she’d never visited the Alamo, I felt better.

Snow Angels

We hadn’t seen Kathy, our trainer, since early February when she gave me an exercise that I hate. But I do what Kathy tells me to do.  So, despite the pain, I stand against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart, arms at a 90-degree angle against the wall, chin down and do what was so easy as a kid—make snow angels on the wall.

Kathy told me to do fifteen repetitions a day, and now, three months later, I can barely do five.  It hurts.

On this visit, seeing how poorly I was doing with my angels, she suggested that I put a pillow behind my head.  I told her that I felt ridiculous, although it did help.  She offered to take a picture of me—to quote her—“for your blog”.  If you saw me, you would understand my response.

“No way.”

One Step at a Time

When people learn that Peter’s Parkinson’s disease was diagnosed eight years ago, they can’t believe that we still live in a house with three flights of stairs.  We too thought the stairs would force us to move, but so far, they haven’t been a problem. 

The other day, he brought home a book, 300 Tips for Making Life Easier with Parkinson’s Disease, given to him by one of his health-care providers. It suggests ways to cope with everyday challenges of Parkinson’s such as deteriorating handwriting, impaired mobility, and difficulty swallowing.

I know that it could be a helpful book, but I couldn’t get through it because the picture it paints is so bleak.  I put it on the shelf for future reference, in the hope that we won’t need it.


End-of-life issues are in the news.  Not surprising. As boomers age and healthcare costs skyrocket, they’ve moved to the front burner.

We all know we are going to die. But we have trouble talking about it.  That’s why I believe The Conversation Project (TCP), is right-on in urging us to communicate our end-of-life wishes (whatever they may be) to our physicians and loved ones.  It’s not just the right thing to do—most people feel better once they’ve done it.

Recently, a group of people gathered at the Islamic Center of Boston to learn about TCP.  I know almost nothing about Islamic traditions, but what I have learned from those who attended the session is that the questions and concerns voiced were the same as in every other group, religious or otherwise.

What was different was the break in the middle for a call to prayer.

What was surprising was the bagels and cream cheese served at the end.


Moving On

Although it now seems like ancient history, my transition from the job I loved for so many years wasn’t an easy one.  At first, I avoided most of my former colleagues.  I needed time to separate. Once I found my new rhythm, it was easier to be with them. 

But the real test came the other night at a reception and dinner to honor the dean who was going back to teaching after eleven years of exemplary leadership.  People came from near and far to pay tribute.  Prominent invitees who couldn’t make it delivered their words of appreciation by video on two huge screens.  The dean’s daughters spoke. His colleagues spoke.  Big donors spoke. 

I chatted with alumni, faculty, administrative colleagues and friends.  Former deans hugged me, current faculty hugged me.  The whole event was joyful, and I had a wonderful time.

More important, it was a “been there, done that” moment.  I have moved on.

Coda to Mother's Day

I’ve been a mother for forty-five Mother's Days.  I’ve received Mother’s Day cards from “in utero” signed by the future father (aka Peter), cards made under the careful eyes of kindergarten teachers, cards in Spanish or French, depending on which country a son was living in.  All great.  I know because I still have them.

But there was something special about this year.  It might have been because I was so touched by Scott Simon’s writing about mothers (see ).  It might have been because it was a beautiful spring day with all the trees in bloom after our dreadful winter, and we spent the afternoon listening to a wonderful Beethoven concert at the Museum of Fine Arts.

I received great cards from the kids, including one from my daughter-in-law Katrina that would delight any mother-in-law.  Everyone called, including Seth, just off a plane in Sardinia.  Even Peter who always said, “But you’re not my mother,” when asked where my Mother’s Day card was, came through with a card, candy and flowers.

I know I am not a perfect mother, but at least one day a year, my family makes me feel like one.

For Mother's Day

Scott Simon, the award-winning host of Weekend Edition Saturday is a legend on National Public Radio. His new book, Unforgettable, a Son, a Mother and the Lessons of a Lifetime, was inspired by his days at his dying mother’s bedside in intensive care in the summer of 2013.  An inveterate tweeter, Simon shared his mother’s last days with his 1.25 million followers.  Those tweets led to his memoir about an “unforgettable” woman. 

Simon says:

“…a mother’s death is an irreplaceable loss.  Spouses and friends may nag us in a friendly (or not so) way.  No one else can tell us with the matchless mandate of a mother that we have worn the wrong shirt, done the wrong thing, worked too many hours or been unfair to someone who deserves better.

A mother’s death also makes us realize that we’re next.  It resets the clock we keep on our own lives.  It reminds us not to let our best loves, dreams, vows and promises dry up and die. 

It is necessary to lose our mothers to finally grow up There is no need to hurry this along.  It happens too soon in any case.  But there is some wisdom we can’t learn until our mothers have let go.  There are lessons that only loss, grief and responsibility can give us.  Our mothers know this too, and the thought even gives them comfort.  They will take a seat and watch us as they once watched our first steps or school plays until that day (which also comes too soon) that we let go of the hands of our children and join our mothers.  They pour everything they are into us and then stand us on our own."

Happy Mother’s Day



I was the tallest girl in my high school class.  My mother was always reminding me to stand up straight.  “SB,” she would whisper in my ear, her not-so-so gentle reminder to hold my Shoulders Back. 

Now, years later, I have figured out that my rounded shoulders are partly genetic, but also partly the result of my trying to hide the fact that I was taller than most of the boys in my high school class.

 But I’m still trying to improve my posture.  I think it’s good for my health among other things. So the other day I asked Peter if he would gently remind me to correct my posture when he sees me slumping. 

He responded by saying he doesn’t nag.  Wonder what that implied?


We don’t give many dinner parties these days.  "Company" for dinner usually means one couple.  We like it that way.

But we made an exception recently, thanks to a great idea of Peter’s.  We have close friends who live in Concord, about thirty minutes away.  Recently, we met two other couples that also live in Concord.  We met one when vacationing in Florida, and the other because they are the parents of our son Seth’s Frugal Traveler predecessor. We thought it was a shame that neither of our newer acquaintances knew the other or our “old” friends.

So we invited them all to dinner. 

At first they talked with each about their backgrounds (and at our age there was a lot of ground to cover), but by the time we sat down to eat, the conversation broadened.  We were still going strong three hours later.

We think we did a nice thing for six people in Concord.  But even better, we had a great time doing it.