Previous month:
December 2015
Next month:
February 2016

January 2016

Trivia Night

There are several hundred units in the condo complex in Florida where we are escaping Boston’s winter. And we knew zero people who live here. So we decided to spend an evening at Trivia Night in the “clubhouse” to meet some folks.

We were assigned to one of six teams of eight with team-chosen-names like Wizards, Newbies, Trivia Titans, etc. competing for the most right answers to twenty tough questions. No smartphones allowed.

Questions included “Name the last five losing vice-presidential candidates” or “Which five states have no cities with populations over 100,000?” There were lots of sports questions (bad for me), movie questions (OK for me) and general questions like “Which continent has no land below sea level?”

People got really into it, and the good-natured Canadians at our table forgave us for the U.S.-centricity of the questions. We had a lot of laughs and made some friends

Escaping Winter

Even while I was still working, we managed to get away for part of the short, frigid winter in New England. Last year, after being away most of January, we returned to an unprecedented series of February snowstorms. Just ask anyone from Boston about the winter from hell, aka 2015.

So this year we are staying in Florida through February. New England could still be cold and snowy in March, but at least the days will be longer. Of course, I am fully aware that we are very lucky to be able to drop everything and head south, but we still had mixed feelings when we made this commitment.

And it didn’t help when things got off to a bad start.

In no particular order, our rental car was defective, and we had to wait in our condo until they picked it up and brought us another one. We couldn’t turn on the TV. Our assigned parking space was blocked by a cement barrier, our cell phones didn’t work in the building, we had a hard time figuring out which of the six unidentified keys got us into the building, the elevator, and our condo and to cap it off, our credit card was hacked during our first week, and we had to stay home all day to sign for the delivery of its replacement. The way you let guests into the building had changed, but the instructions in our condo hadn’t. So friends who were picking us up for the theater that first Saturday tried for ten minutes, before calling our (working-at-last) cell phone numbers. Oh, and most important, we spent five hours in the emergency room of the local hospital 48 hours after arriving in Florida.

But the ocean is beautiful, there is a good gym here, and nice people. Worth it?

We’ll see.


I hate our cable provider (who will remain nameless).

We pay it a fortune for a package of TV channels we would never dream of watching and for a landline we shouldn’t need. IF we arranged for a house alarm that doesn’t require a phone, and IF Peter could have his pacemaker checked without a landline, we could just pay for wifi. Both are do-able.

On a recent visit home, the phone drove our son Seth crazy with its endless ringing and announcements of callers, most of whom were robots. When the caller was someone we knew, we had to rush to get it before it went to voice mail. Often we were too late.

When I’ve asked about ditching our landline, our cable company tells me we’d no longer qualify for the “package price” and we’d end up paying the same, or more, for less service.

So our plan is to give up cable altogether, streaming TV through our computer, or using an indoor antenna, that is once we solve the pacemaker/alarm problem.

Once again, technology is a challenge and once again we shall overcome.

What! Me Procrastinate?

Believe it or not, I never pulled an all-nighter in college. While my friends were loading up on caffeine in the library, I was in the Land of Nod. I’ve never had a penalty for late payment of a bill. I buy birthday cards for those I love, way in advance. Worst of all, I answer emails, usually within hours of when they appear in my Inbox.

It’s pretty pathetic.

In general, I was/am pretty much of a goody-goody. I am sure that therefore, I have missed a lot of fun.

Now, along comes Adam Grant, a popular professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School with an op-ed piece that tells me that not only have I missed a lot of fun, but I have also missed the chance to be creative. An actual study has shown that procrastinators had significantly higher creativity scores than people like me who toe the deadline line.

You can read more in his piece Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate.

No rush.

My Old (in Two Senses) Boss

My boss at the first job I had after college turns eighty-eight this week. How could that be? Especially when I am ten years and one month younger than he is which makes me almost seventy-eight.

I moved to Boston with my roommate after college because she was chasing a guy she had had a summer fling with. She never got him, but she’s been married to a different guy for well over fifty years and we are both still here.

But back to my first job. As I have noted here before, a woman not being married by the time she graduated from college was quite a failure back then. So wearing my new red and green plaid suit with a hat (!!!!)--like my mother would have worn--I managed to convince this now-almost-nonagenarian that I would become indispensable. And I did--for five years.

We’ve remained sort-of friends over the years, but after he got divorced, I saw his wife and her new husband much more often than I saw him.

Although he looks very grandfatherly on Google Images, I can remember him as a young, pipe-smoking, smart lawyer and I can remember how many laughs we had. I’m still close to my then office-mate who has lived in California for years.

Many sweet memories, but oh, so long ago. And such a different time…

The Older Women in My Life

It’s been two years since I wrote about three amazing older women in my life. Here’s an update:

Aunt Ruth will be 104 next month. Sadly, she is now bedridden, and I keep in touch with her via old-fashioned letters, because I don’t want to telephone her and reach her at a bad time. But she dictates answers through her sons, and she still remembers our birthdays and anniversaries.

My half-sister Florence, whom I met for the first time seventeen years ago, turned 99 in December. She has sold her apartment in Queens, N.Y. where she raised her family and is in Florida for the winter. In the spring, she will move to be near her daughter, but will still have her own apartment.

And Esther, my friend Tina’s mom, who is now 94 continues to amaze everyone. She had more shopping energy than her daughter during Tina’s visit to her last month. When I saw her last summer, she was gracious and funny and sharp. She never complains and offers good advice only when asked. She is my role model.

I love having these extraordinary women in my life.


Today is eight years old. Normally, I use its anniversary to check on whether I’ve done what I’ve set out to do in my blog. But this year, I want to note two ways that I have gained from writing it.

First, I can see how I’ve changed over the past eight years. Writing is a gift to myself, a gift of reflection and self-understanding. For example, my retirement two years ago was a watershed, and I see its effects in my blog posts. More and more, as I grow older, I seem to focus on how to enrich my life and the lives of those I love. In a way, this blog is a legacy.

Second, even though I don’t know most of my readers, they have become my friends through their comments, and I am grateful that they stick with me. Recently, when I bemoaned my unsuccessful search for gray flannel pants with waistbands—a staple of my wardrobe that needed replacing--I was delighted that eight readers wrote me with suggestions.

In late fall, I wrote an article, I Blog, Therefore I Am, for the literary journal Pangyrus. In it I wrote about how and why everyone can benefit from blogging. Although I write 70-something to help others process aging, no doubt, the biggest beneficiary has been me.

The Snow Man

Between Christmas and New Year’s, we had an unexpected visit from our son Seth. Although his main purpose was to see a good friend of his who was in town from California, the fact that he came was our good luck.

The first morning he was here, he was a special guest on Minnesota Public Radio News for a one-hour discussion on travel “bucket lists” via Skype. How odd it was to be sitting in our dining room streaming Minnesota Public Radio live on my computer and listening to Seth who was on the air chatting with the host in Minnesota, but talking from his bedroom in Cambridge just above us. The wonders of technology…

Boston had its first snow of the unseasonably warm winter the night he arrived. More good luck, he shoveled for us in the afternoon, no technology involved…

Peter's Annual Update

As she has in past years, Judy has invited me to report on how things are going.   The bottom line: They’re going well, but not as well as they used to.

In my eighties, life is becoming a bit more difficult. Probably my biggest problem is my balance. I can’t go down a flight of stairs without holding onto a banister. I’ve fallen a few times recently and, as a result, I’m much more cautious when I walk.  One of these days, I’ll probably start using a cane.

I have a hearing aid.  I use reading glasses.  I’m losing my sense of smell.  I don’t see well at night, and I can’t drive after dark.   I find it hard to park the car and, when I talked with my doctor recently, she suggested that it might be time to have Judy watch my driving to see if I should stop.

It all sounds rather grim, but it’s not.

Although my mind is not what it used to be, it’s still working reasonably well and that’s a big plus.  My remarkable young wife has taken over a lot of my tasks and that helps me (but not her).

But it’s hard for me to ignore the fact that I’m going downhill. When you’re young, you gain new capabilities as you age. You get old enough to drive, to have your own phone, and buy a beer.  When you’re in your eighties, you lose capabilities as you age.  Fortunately, the losses aren’t so noticeable as long as they’re gradual.  I feel like the proverbial frog that jumps out of the pot if it’s full of hot water but sits there if the water starts off cold and is gradually brought to a boil. 

Like frogs, we humans are designed to notice differences rather than absolute amounts.   So, when you walk into a house in which somebody has been frying onions, you notice the smell because it’s change from what you’ve been smelling outside.  But after you’ve been in the house for a while, you no longer notice the smell because it hasn’t changed.

So I may have woken up this morning a little stiffer than I was yesterday, but it was a small change. So I didn’t notice it.  What I did notice was the taste of my breakfast. That was a big change from the empty mouth I woke up with.  So I noticed it and I enjoyed it. 

Luckily my life still has lots of noticeable sudden improvements that I enjoy.  And the worsenings have been gradual.  But I’m not a frog.  I need more than good breakfasts to keep me happy and luckily, I’m getting those things.  Some of them I’m making for myself.  Lots of them are provided by friends and family (particularly my wife, who I won’t name for fear of embarrassing her).

I know that I’m lucky that the good times have lasted as long as they have and I know that they won’t last forever.   The changes for the worse may become more noticeable as they become more abrupt.  And, one day, the water will come to a boil.

But today, I’m happy as a frog.  Actually, happier.