Previous month:
August 2016
Next month:
October 2016

September 2016

To Be One's Best Self

For the last six months, I have been coaching a young woman who works for a non-profit. Its CEO recognized her leadership potential and thought that outside coaching might be helpful.

I accepted the assignment as a volunteer.

We met every three weeks and stayed in touch by email in between. Our “office” was a quiet coffee shop in Harvard Square or, when the weather was good, a park bench. One time we met at her workplace because I wanted to see it.

We worked on her ability to manage up and manage down. We discussed her career trajectory. We strategized about whatever was on her mind.

Last week, our six months were up. At our last meeting, we talked about the progress she had made. I was delighted to hear that she is getting a big promotion and that they have asked for her help in defining the job they are creating for her.

I don’t take credit for making that happen. I do take credit for helping her become more planful about her future. In the note she handed me as we parted, she thanked me for helping her to reflect on what she can do to become her best self.

The funny thing is that I think I gained as much or from our time together as she did. Maybe more…

Us Versus Them

Are you ready for the latest chapter in the technology-versus-us saga?

A couple of months ago, we got a new counter-sized TV for our kitchen. It was a great improvement over the bulky set it replaced, and we wondered why it had taken us so long to replace our old one.

Then one day, with no warning, it stopped getting our favorite news channel. We no longer have cable, so we use a low-cost indoor antenna to get TV. We bought a better antenna, but that didn’t solve the problem.

So Peter emailed the local station asking for suggestions. They replied with a few ideas. The first (and easiest) worked like a charm.

It seems there is a computer in our new TV. (Who knew?) So, as they suggested, we did what you do when your computer doesn’t work properly. We unplugged the TV and plugged it in again. Voilà! Our news channel was back.

That same morning I tried to unsubscribe from Hyundai Automobile emails. We have never owned a Hyundai vehicle, but I was hearing from them weekly. The “unsubscribe” link at the end of their email didn’t work, but it said I could unsubscribe by calling their toll-free number.

The poor woman who took my call didn’t know what to do since I don’t own one of their cars and shouldn’t be in their system in the first place.

When fifteen minutes on the phone with her didn’t solve the problem, I told her that I didn’t blame her, but that I’d rather stay on their list forever than stay on the phone another minute.

I’ll spare you my interaction with Comcast last week.

Breaking Up with Kelly

I am divorcing my hairdresser.

At least it feels like a divorce. When Kelly cut my hair the first time, she was eighteen. As her name implies, she’s Irish with red hair and a fiery personality. When she changed hair salons I followed her. When her son Finn was born, she decided to set up a one-person salon in her home. Her home is thirty-five minutes from my home on a major highway. It was a serious commitment, but I wanted to stick with Kelly.

Until recently.

When I went to her house in July, I got into traffic jams going in both directions, and the trip took forever. In the New England winter, it can be a harrowing drive.   And I’m not the youngster I used to be.

So I finally decided that after thirty-some years, I needed to find a salon closer to home. It was hard to tell Kelly, but she understood.

As usual, when I need something, I consulted my neighborhood list-serve. I got plenty of recommendations. But I’ll never have another thirty-year relationship with my hairdresser.


Annual Checkup Part II

Several very good friends, over the years have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully, (sometimes after very difficult treatments) they are fine for now.

So I remained calm when my doctor told me, during my annual physical last week, that she wanted me to have a diagnostic mammogram because she felt a suspicious thickness in my left breast. A “diagnostic” mammogram consists of the usual exam with extra pictures of the area in question plus a sonogram.

I went on with my life as usual, but began to feel anxious on the day of the exam. The technician promised me that I would get the results immediately either way. The mammogram itself was long and painful. The technician showed no reaction to the pictures, which is the right thing for her to do.

The sonogram seemed to take forever. Back and forth and back and forth over the same spot. No emotion on the technician’s face. After what seemed like forever, she finished and left me to get the radiologist. During her long absence, I was thinking about how I would deal with a breast cancer diagnosis.

The radiologist wanted to look for himself. So, more gloop, more back and forth with the sonogram transducer.

Finally, the result.

“You have very dense tissue, but we see no malignancy,” said the radiologist.


Wrong Answer/Right Answer

Like an elephant, I never forget. And that means I still haven’t forgiven Peter for not being able to identify the moment that he realized he was in love with me.

It was over last Thanksgiving that I gave our children a detailed description of the moment when I realized that I loved their father. I suggested that Peter tell the kids about when he knew he was in love with me. “I have no idea,” he said.

Wrong answer.

I thought of that exchange on Sunday when Peter was, as usual, deeply immersed in the crossword puzzle. I asked him which of the follow activities he preferred: The New York Times crossword puzzle or cuddling with me.

“Cuddling with you,” he replied.

Got that one right.

Annual Checkup

Oh for the days of short annual checkups that ended with my doctor telling me: “You’re healthy as a horse.” Not sure exactly what that meant, but since there were no referrals or follow-up appointments, I could assume that all was well.

No longer. My checkup on Thursday lasted more than an hour, partly because my doctor is thorough, but also because there seem to be more things to check these days. And as usual lately, there is follow up—“Let’s do an X-ray to see if your hip pain is arthritis, bursitis or something else”, she said.

She also suggested a blood test for vitamin B-12, not included in my pre-appointment blood tests just ten days ago. That blood test had left me with a huge black-and-blue bruise. So this time I asked the technician to be extra careful. She offered to use a “butterfly needle”—thinner and less likely to produce a bruise, she promised.

Ten minutes later, I took a peek. Alas, there was another big bruise. And to add to the fun, this time my bandage was soaked with blood.

It’s good that annual checkups happen only once a year.

The End of Summer

Summer 2016 is history.   It flew by as summer always does. And although I don’t like its shorter days and falling temperatures, the start of fall has always been my “new” year.

My calendar is filling up with activities. Our learning in retirement classes begin next week and I’m excited about my courses (although perhaps in a little over my head). I’m excited about my coaching work and my writing projects.

Our son Jeremy has sent us his annual first-day-of-school family picture. As usual, they pose on their front porch, our grandsons with their backpacks.

“This looks like the last year that I’m the tallest in our family,” Jeremy writes.

Even for our children, time is flying by.

"Toto, We're Not in Kansas Anymore"

Judy Garland’s famous line from The Wizard of Oz came to mind the other day. I was still fatigued from an over-busy August. I didn’t like that it took me so long to bounce back.

Shortly thereafter, I heard two stories from friends that convinced me that I am not the only one who feels that I can’t push myself the way I used to.

One friend told me that she and her husband have had to cut short a lovely walk along the ocean that they had no trouble completing in past summers.  Another, a seasoned traveler who had just returned from an anniversary celebration in Hawaii complained of her first jet lag ever.

So if “Kansas” was our time of unbounded energy, like Dorothy, we’re not there anymore.

However, our state is still pretty good.


Eight months ago our wonderful friend Harvey was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. His doctors told him not to look it up on the Internet because people with this disease don’t survive. For the next few months, his life was a living hell of hospital treatments, infections, and middle-of-the-night visits to the emergency room. He could eat no food not cooked in his home. He could have no visitors for fear of more infections. It was grim.

On Sunday, Harvey and his wife Tina came by for a short visit, and stayed for more than two hours. No, he isn’t cured. And yes, there have been setbacks along the way. But he has survived the harshest of treatments and his cancer is in remission. His blood cells have been harvested so that when he is strong enough he can have a stem cell transplant, his only chance for a real cure. He walks, he exercises strenuously and he has gained back the weight (and the hair) he lost. He is the Harvey we know and love.

Eight months ago, he thought he would never step into the ocean again. Last week, he and Tina went to the beach and did just that. In January, he thought he’d never see their vacation home again, and he will be there for the Labor Day weekend.

The stem cell transplant hasn’t been scheduled yet—his doctors need him to be in even better shape than he is. There is always the fear that his cancer will return and he won’t be able to have the transplant at all. And, of course, if he has it, it may fail.

But that doesn’t stop Harvey. He has made a reservation to spend two weeks at their favorite winter get-a-way next February.

Harvey and Tina and Peter and I have spent New Year’s Eve together for as long as I can remember. We take turns cooking elegant dinners for each other. This year it’s my turn.

I’m planning the menu.