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July 2015

The Barnes Foundation

On our recent road trip, we stopped in Philadelphia to visit what The Economist calls “The greatest private collection of post-impressionist and early modern art in America.” Amassed by Dr. Albert C. Barnes who made his fortune by developing an antiseptic that prevents blindness in newborns, the collection had long been on our “bucket list.”

The facts:  181 works by Renoir, 69 by Cezanne, 59 by Matisse, 7 by van Gogh, 46 by Picasso, 18 by Rousseau, and dozens more by El Greco, Veronese, Tintoretto, Dürer, Rubens and others. The collection also includes 125 African sculptures, masks, and tools. It is estimated to be worth more than twenty-five billion dollars.

That all of this art is crammed into twenty-four rooms is only out-amazinged by the fact that it once hung in one person’s home, arranged exactly as it is now, displaying art of different periods and places together.

My normal museum-attending capacity:  two hours.  Our stay at The Barnes Foundation:  five hours


It's All Relative(s)

My mother’s five siblings all lived in Buffalo, New York where she was born.  When I was little, we visited there from Pittsburgh every summer.  I was the only female in my generation, but I loved hanging out with my male cousins.  I still do.

One of them, cousin Gerry, was unlucky in love until he met a beautiful widow named Kathryn at a college alumni gathering two years ago.  She made her family debut at Gerry’s son’s wedding shortly thereafter, to rave reviews.

Kathryn has a cottage on tiny Clam Island, a five-minute motorboat ride from Branford, Connecticut. She and Gerry invited us to stop there for lunch on our way home from last week’s road trip.

Talk about paradise.  The island has no electricity so evenings are early to bed or by candlelight after watching extraordinary sunsets. There are only seven houses on the island, and everybody seems to like everyone else.  There is no 7-11 store so everything has to be carried in.  Butane gas runs the refrigerator and the stove.  The huge porch looks out over the rocks at Long Island Sound.  My favorite part was the four-person swing—I had to be pried out of it.

Kathryn made a stunning feast for a late lunch al fresco at a table set out on the rocks overlooking the water.  Our cousins Joannie and Arnie joined us from Rhode Island.  It was a scene straight out of La Dolce Vita.

Good news for Gerry—and the rest of the family.


Road Trip

Peter and I have been on a road trip.  Not common for us. In fact, except for a seemingly endless drive to Nova Scotia twenty-five years ago, I don’t remember ever having taken a long car trip.  But we wanted to use our own car to drive our grandchildren to their summer activities during the six days that we were in Maryland while their mom was away.

To play it safe, we took our car in for a pre-trip checkup.  After our mechanic installed new brake pads, he pronounced our nine-year-old car road-worthy, and off we went.

Eleven hundred and sixty miles later, we were home, none the worse for wear.  We had stopped overnight in New York on the way to Maryland and in Gettysburg, Philadelphia and Branford, Connecticut on the way back. 

As Peter prefers not to drive these days, I drove every mile.  Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed it.

As we pulled into our driveway, I suggested that a cross-country road trip might be in our future.  Peter suggested that it might not.

Maryland Saturday

When Katrina, our daughter-in-law, went to visit her mom for five days, Peter and I took over her day job, consisting pretty much of driving our grandchildren, eight-year old Grady and eleven-year-old Leo, to their week-day summer activities.  The kids were great and they made it easy.  But there was never a moment that I wasn’t aware of the precious cargo I was driving around an area I didn’t know.  I couldn’t have done it without Google Maps.

On Saturday, I joined our son Jeremy and his son Leo for their errands to get haircuts and go shopping at Costco.  When we got in the car, Jeremy remembered that it was July 11 and that meant free Slurpees at any 7-Eleven store.  (Why a child of mine would know about this annual event beats me!)  So the haircuts were delayed while we stopped for their free Sour Patch Watermelon Slurpees, a slushy carbonated beverage that I wouldn’t drink for a million dollars.

Later, while they got haircuts, I struck up a conversation with a lady waiting for her haircut.  She told me that she had broken her arm in five places and was just back at work after five months.  She managed to get her full pay because her fellow government employees donated their paid leave time to her.  She is on her own and thinks she will have to work forever.  She was lovely and I understood why her fellow workers would give up their leave time for her.

A whirlwind trip through Costco followed.  Not my usual Saturday, but no complaints. 


Fifty years and three days ago, a nice man gave a perfect stranger a ride to his office.  The perfect stranger needed transportation to her new job because her red Volkswagen Beetle hadn’t arrived at the dealer on time and there was no available public transportation. Human resources at the firm arranged the pickup at the subway station in Harvard Square.

It must have been a “sign” when that nice man picked her up in his red Volkswagen Beetle.  He and I have had fifty amazing years together (albeit only forty-seven of them as man and wife).

When I reminded Peter of our milestone, he gave me a big smile.  I climbed onto his lap and shed tears of joy.


The New Museum

Two years ago, we celebrated my seventy-fifth birthday at a much-too-expensive-and-we-didn’t-even-like-it-that-much boutique hotel in the gentrifying meatpacking district of Manhattan.

From our hotel room, we could see a new building rising at the side of the Hudson River a couple of blocks away.  But on that bitter cold winter weekend, we didn’t give it a second thought.

That building is now the new home of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The building has the shape of a huge vessel docked on the river, a reflection of its shipping neighborhood. Terraces at every level offer gorgeous views of Manhattan.  Even the internal stairways have full windows overlooking the waterfront.

The nearby High Line, New York’s one-and-a-half-mile-long park built on an old section of an elevated railway already brings traffic to this part of Manhattan where remnants of the meatpacking plants now sit side-by-side with new high-end boutique stores.  It’s a rapidly changing and very appealing neighborhood.

Although the new museum gets mixed reviews from others, we thought our two hours there (limited by the amount of time on our parking meter and my limited tolerance for museum visits) were not enough.



On June 24th, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured 264 more. At his sentencing, some of his victims publicly forgave him.

A week earlier, Dylann Roof murdered nine parishioners at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina after they had welcomed him to their bible study group.

The relatives of some of his victims forgave him too.

What does it mean to forgive? 

It means “to stop feeling anger toward someone who has done something wrong; to give up resentment or revengeful feelings whether or not it is deserved”.

It does not mean forgetting or condoning what was done or saying that the perpetrator should not be held legally responsible.

There are some who say that staying angry and unforgiving can be harder on the done-to than on the doer and that forgiving frees you from your anger and allows you to move on.

There are many transgressions that I could forgive.  But not these.


Getting to Know Boston Part II--The Greenway

What!  We’ve lived in Boston for over fifty years and we’ve never been to (fill-in-the-blank)

Peter and I decided to make up for lost time. So this spring we paid a visit to the homes of the two Adams presidents in nearby Quincy, spent a beautiful Sunday afternoon doing the Beacon Hill Art and Garden Walk and, most recently, joined a guided horticultural tour of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, built on top of Boston’s infamous Big Dig.

Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel Project, aka “The Big Dig” was the most expensive highway project in U.S. history, costing approximately $24.3 billion.  With the help of your tax dollars, Boston buried the elevated highway that stood between the city and its harbor.

The Greenway covers 15-acres, and has six distinct parks, each with its own personality.  It has a series of beautiful organic gardens, lots of public art, a carousel and even food trucks.   A Greenway Conservancy horticulturist, who shared his love for every plant and tree, led our walk.

The tour was free, but we came home and wrote a check to the Conservancy, in thanks for a wonderful morning. 

Our "See Our Own City Initiative" is paying off.

The Diaper Pail

On Saturday, I threw away the tall white plastic container that sat in the basement next to our clothes dryer.  Forty-five years ago it was a shiny new diaper pail.  But because plastic never dies, it has stayed with us.  Once we stopped using it for its original purpose, it became the default receptacle for dryer lint, fabric softener paper and other basement-generated garbage. 

Because we upgraded our bedroom wicker laundry basket on Saturday, we replaced the diaper pail with our old one. Between our two boys, that pail probably held around 50,000 dirty diapers, give or take a few thousand.

When I dropped it into our recycling bin, I didn’t think about those dirty diapers. 

I wondered how two baby boys became grown ups so fast.