Previous month:
December 2016
Next month:
February 2017

January 2017

Step Back...Doors Closing

If you have ever traveled on the Metro (Washington, DC’s subway), you’ve heard “Step Back…Doors Closing” cheerily announced as the train prepares to leave each station. And when you’ve taken the Metro as often as we have these past few weeks, you hear it even before it’s announced. It reminds me of the London Tubes’s repetitive warning to “Mind the Gap”.

All that is to say that we have been on the Metro’s Red Line a lot during our “southern” vacation in Maryland--so often that our decision to spend $2 each to get a senior discount (which cuts the fare in half) has really paid off.

We went to the National Gallery by Metro. We went to the Phillips Gallery by Metro. We went to the Supreme Court and Library of Congress by Metro. And on Wednesday we went to the Hirshhorn Museum by Metro.

The temperature was in the 50’s with a cloudless sky, so welcome after several days of rain. On the way to the Hirshhorn, we crossed the National Mall and stopped to eat our lunch in the National Gallery’s sculpture garden where we enjoyed the art and watched ice-skaters—an odd, but happy sight in the warm weather.

Our guidebook had encouraged us to see the Hirshhorn’s outdoor sculpture exhibit that many visitors miss because it is down some steps before the museum entrance. There were great works by sculptors we know and great works by sculptors we don’t. Our worry that we’d be disappointed in the museum itself, was unfounded. Wonderful art, most of it collected by the Museum’s founding donor, plus a sweeping view of the Mall from the third floor balcony. For lovers of sculpture, it is extraordinary. For art and, currently, for its live orchid display, it’s worth a trip to Washington.

And as a bonus, the crowds from the Inauguration and the Women’s March had left and the spring tourists hadn’t arrived.

#Love DC, #Love being with our grandchildren, #Love 50-degree weather in January

It's Not Florida, But...

For years, I traveled to Washington DC on business, sometimes doing the round trip from Boston in a day. Occasionally, I managed to duck into one of the Smithsonian museums for twenty minutes between meetings. My view of the cherry blossoms tended to be through a cab window on the way to the airport.

But now, we are in the DC area for a month with no work on my agenda. After going to Florida to escape the New England winter for the last three Januarys, we were ready for a change. So this month we are in a small rental house in Bethesda, MD just minutes away from our grandchildren. Although it’s not Florida, the temperature is ten or more degrees higher than in Boston, and more important for me, the days are longer.

Not to sound like the District of Columbia tourist bureau, but the choices of things to do, mostly free, are endless. So far we’ve visited the newly re-opened East Wing of the National Gallery (stunning), the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and perhaps most moving, the new National Museum of African-American History.

Spending time with our kids and grandkids is a huge bonus. Our little house is stretched to the max when everyone comes to dinner, but after Grady brings up chairs from the basement, Jeremy and Leo pull out the small table in the dining room and add an end table to it, and Katrina has brought us the extra cutlery and plates we need, we are good to go. I’ve promised to make the French Silk pie that everyone loves at Thanksgiving before we go back to Boston.

It’s going way too fast.

On the March

I’ve never been the marching type.  I was born a few years too early for the Woodstock generation, and I prefer to keep my politics private.

But although I want our new president to succeed, I felt compelled to protest his attitude toward women.   That’s why this 70-something-year-old put on her walking shoes and joined the Women’s March on Washington’s National Mall on Saturday.

My daughter-in-law Katrina signed us up for a chartered bus because the Washington Metro was going to be impossible.  Her neighbor provided “RESPECT” balloons and banners.  We had a detailed plan to keep our group of thirty together, but it was doomed by the size of the crowd which far exceeded expectations.  Katrina and I barely managed to keep the two of us together.

Many of the marchers' signs were respectful in calling for women not to lose their hard-fought-for rights.  Some were amusing, some clever, but a fair number were disrespectful.  Some of the signs were not PG-13 (which this blog tries to be) so click here if you want to see them for yourself. You’ve probably read about the star-studded program.  We couldn’t even get close enough to watch it on one of the jumbotron screens, let alone on the stage itself.

At 1:00 (just before the march was supposed to start), they changed the route for “safety reasons”.  At 2:00, they cancelled the march because no one could move. The event became just a rally.

We were packed like sardines, making it impossible for emergency vehicles to get through. It began to feel a bit scary, and we finally decided that we’d better head for our bus, parked a 30-minute walk away.

Did I have fun?  No.  Am I glad I went? Absolutely.  There was something very powerful and gratifying about being part of a crowd of half-a-million, mostly women, using their right of freedom of speech to gather peacefully for a cause they cherish.

Will this movement make a difference?  Or save the rights we were “marching” for?  It’s too soon to tell, but an exhausted me, happy to make it home without incident, is really glad she was there.


Take Your Parents to Work Day

Our son Jeremy is the chief financial officer of a private boys school. We’ve seen the school and its beautiful campus (overseeing it is one of his responsibilities) when there were no students on campus, but last Friday, school was in full swing on “Take Your Parents to Work Day”. We were the sole participants.

As we walked up the stairs to his office, we saw lots of flyers on the wall:

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 8.15.05 PM


  Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 8.09.58 PM

Warning: If you see the two characters above here on campus, call security immediately!!

After that great welcome, Jeremy introduced us to his colleagues, and we all headed to the cafeteria for a bountiful lunch with hundreds of jacket-and-tie-clad noisy boys and their teachers.

Jeremy’s staff had a few question for us. Among other things, they wanted to know what kind of a child he was (great) and how he got to be so funny (inherited from his father).

A trip to the school store to buy his father a sweatshirt and we were on our way.  


Hanging Out

It isn’t that I don’t want to be with old folks. After all, I am one. But kids are just more fun.

Recently, we and our kids and grandkids were invited to dinner at their neighbors. Tess, the neighbors' junior in high school daughter, was leaving for Costa Rica for three months and this was her goodbye dinner. Her sister Emily is a freshman in college. Since we have only boys--sons and grandsons--we love hanging out with Tess, Emily and their parents when we go to Maryland.

That evening their mother had to make a meal that fit the needs of her vegan husband, a vegetarian daughter, two gluten-free guests and our son Jeremy who during the month of January isn’t eating anything beginning with the letter “e”. (Don’t ask.)

Not that I am trying to brag, but when you hang out with kids, you learn some cool stuff.

Before dinner got going, we set up a group on WhatsApp to keep up with Tess in Costa Rica. Next, they helped me make a set of personalized emojis. For those as clueless as I was, those are avatars that you customize to look like yourself. You can choose from hundreds of possibilities to enhance whatever you are saying in a text or email.

Below is one of mine. Note the silver hair, brown eyes and striped T-shirt. A perfect likeness.


After a feast of a dinner that (miraculously) had something for everyone, the ten of us played a card game called "Pig". It is probably the silliest game I’ve ever played. We laughed all the way through it.

Nobody mentioned aches and pains.

Living Too Long

Recently The Economist magazine reported that scientists are getting close to developing an anti-aging drug that would not only allow us to live longer, but would also slow down the arrival of diseases such as cancer and dementia.

Is that a good idea?

The article talks about a time when organ replacements will be as common as knee and hip replacements are now. When a body part wears out, you just replace it. At age fifty, you could have more than fifty years left, enough for a whole new life. The article asks us whether if we got married at twenty, would we want to spend the next eighty years with the same partner? Or would serial partners be the norm? Would our brain be able to store a hundred years of memory? And what about the economics of it all? Could our fragile planet sustain the growing population?

I don’t have any answers, but I have trouble imagining how I would keep up with four or five generations of my own family. How many people would that be at Thanksgiving dinner?

If they happen, these changes will be too late for me. Thank goodness.


The Clanging of the Mailbox Door

Although it is a difficult subject, we have been talking about where we want to live when we are old-old, or in Peter’s case, very-old-old. We love our home and if everything stayed the same, we’d never leave. But everything won’t stay the same.

So we are considering our options. Last month we visited a nearby continuing care place. It has an excellent reputation—from quality of the facility to the food to the administrators who have been there since it began, almost thirty years ago. We had lunch with friends who live there. They have a lovely apartment and are very happy there.

But everyone there is old—like us. A diverse community in age and other dimensions has always been important to me, and a continuing care community is not diverse. I felt very down when we left.

That particular place has a two-year wait list. So putting in an application would allow us to stay right where we are for another couple of years. And who knows what our situation will be then. (We hardly know what it will be tomorrow morning.) We will also have time to consider other options.

When I closed the mailbox door after depositing the envelope with the application and deposit that will put us on their wait list, it made a loud clanging sound. It felt ominous.

Bye to Bill

For the first eighteen years that we lived in our house, I was working and not usually at home when our mailman, Bill, came by. But in the last three years, I’ve seen much more of him and gotten used to his warm greeting and helpfulness. We missed him during his recent long grand jury duty and once or twice when he had health issues.

But now, he is retiring. We chatted in my front hall last week. He knows everyone in our neighborhood and talked about watching the kids grow up. He’s especially fond of Sonja and Christian who live across the street from us, and has offered to babysit for them once he has retired.

He said some postal delivery employees like to get paid for eight hours while working about three. Bill says he works ten hours and is paid for eight.

He’s worried about missing us all and finding the right thing to do in retirement. Sounds familiar to me.


Our favorite guest blogger (Peter Kugel) kicks off 2017 for…                                                       

At 86, I’ve reached the age at which, as the lyrics of September Song put it, “the days dwindle down to a precious few.” And the days aren’t the only things that are dwindling down.  

Judy recently asked me if I was enjoying the aroma her cooking was producing in the kitchen and I reminded her that I have pretty much lost my sense of smell.  She asked me if I missed it.  Somewhat to my surprise, I realized that I didn’t and I wondered why.

Smells are important.  I remember what may have been the best breakfast I ever had.  It was at a non-descript hotel in Oslo, Norway.  It featured a variety of breads that had just come out of the oven and they had a smell that only fresh-baked bread has.  The cheese and butter that were served with them also had memorable smells that the cheese and butter we get from the supermarket don’t, with subtle overtones like those that summer tomatoes used to have until they discovered how to make tomatoes out of cardboard.

Those smells, and many others, are lost to me now. But I realize that they were mostly lost to me when I was younger because I didn’t pay them much attention.  Now that I don’t have all that many breakfasts left, I pay more attention. Although my breakfasts feature ordinary toast and ordinary butter, that I couldn’t smell even if they were special, I enjoy them more.

Gold isn’t precious because it’s wonderful.  Iron is stronger.  Aluminum is lighter.  It’s precious because there isn’t much of it.

Perhaps that’s why they call them “the golden years".