Previous month:
July 2017
Next month:
September 2017

August 2017

Downsizing, Part 1

The greatest challenge of downsizing is letting go of “stuff”. So this subject is going to take more than one blog post. Stay tuned.

On Sunday, in a box from our attic eaves marked “Travel”, I found a pile of well-thumbed maps, including maps of Alsace, Santiago, Cape Town, Berlin, Rome, Sydney, and Delhi. More important, I found thirty years of travel journals. I agree with Peter (my husband) that writing about an experience, makes you notice more. So, at the end of each travel day, I wrote. Often those journals became sources for newspaper travel articles that I published, but that’s not why I wrote them. I wrote them to process my experiences.

There were too many journals to read them all. But I did notice a couple of things, like the summer that you could get a Euro for only 95 cents. I was reminded of the time that Peter bought only one ticket for a flight to take us from Harstad, Norway to Oslo to catch a flight home the next day. I was able to get a ticket for a flight three hours later and meet him in Oslo.

That was only the beginning. We didn’t know that there are two international airports in Oslo and that our flight from Harstad took us to the wrong one. So we missed our flight home the next morning and had to spend an unwanted extra day in Oslo. That was only five years ago, but somehow I had forgotten.

Then from a journal that I wrote in 2001, I learned that we owed our friends Harvey and Tina $80 after staying with them in their rented villa in Italy. I hope I paid it.

Writing in my journals at the end of our many biking vacations I had often expressed gratitude, appreciating the fact that we wouldn’t be able to bike forever.

And now forever is here.


The Big Transition

Eight weeks ago, as I was picking up a book in my local library, my cell phone rang. I stepped outside to take a call that turned our lives upside down.

It was a call we hadn’t expected to get for at least two years, telling us there was an available apartment in a continuing care retirement community. Getting on their long waiting list had been one thing. Knowing that we had a week to make a decision that would produce a huge upheaval in our lives was another.

When we got the call, we were about to go away for the long 4th of July weekend, and I asked if we could talk the following Wednesday. Two weeks later, we signed the contract that will change our lives irretrievably.

We will be moving near to our son Jeremy and his family in Maryland, four hundred miles from the life we have lived for almost fifty years, far from friends, neighbors and former colleagues.

It is the right thing to do.

We have a house to sell (currently under agreement, but not yet sold), stuff to get rid of (though I am not a big saver), doctors’ appointments (they always come this time of the year) and more. Moving is one of the biggest stressors on any stressor list. Moving at our age is harder. Leaving loving friends and a city you’ve known and loved is the hardest. Still, in the end, it is your children who are there for you.

It is the right thing to do.

Music in the Mountains

As classical-music-lovers, visiting our grandchildren at camp gave us an excuse to take in a concert at Tanglewood, the nearby summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We have been attending concerts there for years, but this one was extra-special.

The program included Mozart’s Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Schubert’s Great Symphony.

A few things made it memorable. First, the 28-year-old guest conductor, Lahav Shani, inspired an already great orchestra. Second, 49-year old Joshua Bell’s dazzling performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto brought 5,100 people to their feet shouting for more.

And finally, Schubert’s Great Symphony, a classic that I never tire of.

One more plus. When I took my seat, my first boss ever was completely coincidentally seated next to me, still going strong at 89 years old.


Just a couple of weeks left for summer reading.  70-Someting: Life, Love and Limits in the Bonus Years is now available at your local bookstore (or the store can order it from Ingram Books) and at


Last week, we vacationed near Camp Becket in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts.  Because our grandchildren go to Becket (as did our sons Seth and Jeremy more than 35 years ago), we planned our trip to coincide with the camp’s Dad’s Weekend.   Both of our sons were there, Jeremy as the dad of two campers, Seth as a surrogate dad.

As we drove into camp on Sunday, when grandparents were allowed to visit, it could have been thirty-five years ago. Nothing seemed to have changed.

We had just met up with our two generations of boys when we heard, “It’s the Kugels!!!” A handsome middle-aged man approached us. He introduced himself as Michael, a former neighbor of ours who is a bit older than our sons and whose mother had recommended Becket to us long ago.

We remembered Michael as a handsome young boy with a full head of curly dark hair. Now a closely-cropped gray-haired law professor, he still has the same huge smile. He and his wife were at camp visiting their junior- counselor son. He said he recognized me because I hadn’t changed. (Thank you Michael!)

We talked about the many Thanksgiving dinners our families had shared before his family moved away. (His mother and I always held our Thanksgiving menu-planning meeting as soon as the November issue of Gourmet Magazine landed in our mailboxes.) We also caught up on his brothers and sister.

It was great to see our grandchildren and re-visit our kids’ camp. But somehow, seeing Michael, a member of the next generation, now in his 50’s, is what I will remember.

What We Take for Granted

My friend Valerie is on the board of directors of a New York City nonprofit that sends high school students, all living below the poverty line, to private high schools that prepare them for higher education. This year, 97% of their 233 graduates were accepted to college.

At a restaurant dinner honoring college scholarship recipients, Valerie sat next to a member of this year’s class who will attend NYU. When the waitress asked the young graduate how she would like her burger, she was befuddled. So the waitress asked again. Valerie explained that the waitress wanted to know if she wanted the burger “red in the middle, pink in the middle or brown.”

“Oh,” replied the NYU-almost-freshman, “In my house, my mother just cooks the burger.”

Worry Revisited

The famous New Zealand cricket player, Glenn Turner, once said, “Worry is like a rocking chair—it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.”   I know he’s right, but I still worry.

It’s not a new problem for me.  More than thirty years ago, I read Herbert Benson’s helpful book, The Relaxation Response, but it didn’t cure my worrying. Recently, I found something that seems to help me-- deep-breathing-relaxation exercises—that I’d like to share with my fellow worriers.  They come from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. You can do them anywhere.  Some doctors say that they are as effective as pharmaceutical sleep aids in dealing with insomnia.

Here are two that I have found helpful:

Exercise1: Count very slowly to yourself from 10 down to 0, one number on each outbreath. Breathe in, and on your first outbreath, say "10" to yourself. With the next outbreath, say "9", working your way down to "0." When you get to "0," notice how you feel. 

Exercise 2: As you breathe in, count slowly up to "4;" as you breathe out, count slowly back down to "1." Thus, as you breathe in, you say quietly to yourself, "1.. 2.. 3.. 4,) and as you breathe out, you say quietly to yourself, "4.. 3.. 2.. 1." Do this several times.

You can find more here .


My Mother's Horseradish Mold Recipe

Although I was never able to equal my mother’s apple pie, her hand-written directions remained in my recipe box for years. But when my celiac disease was diagnosed and I could no longer eat gluten, I realized that  piecrust was out. So I tossed the card in the trash. I should have kept it as a memento, but alas, I didn’t.

Recently, I sent my childhood neighbor playmate a birthday card for her 80th birthday. (I’ve known her for seventy years!)  In her thank-you-email, she wrote that she had enjoyed an earlier blog post about my mother’s meatloaf dinner, a childhood favorite of mine. She remembered what a good cook my mom was, and said that she still had a handwritten index card with my mother’s recipe for horseradish mold. She offered to send it to me.

Sure enough, a few days later I received a letter with DO NOT BEND written on both sides of the envelope. In it was a pristine blue index card with my mother’s handwritten recipe. I probably won’t ever make horseradish mold, but I’m keeping the card.

The Sister I Should Have Known

My half-sister Florence found me eighteen years ago when she was eighty-two. I hadn’t known that my father had a family before he married my mother. And, as I related elsewhere, when my parents got married, having been divorced was not to be talked about.  

When Florence died this June, six months after her 100th birthday, I was sad, but more for her daughter Amy and family who have become my good friends. At a small memorial gathering in their home, Amy’s husband Ken ran a slide show of Florence’s life on their TV. The seventy pictures, playing and replaying on a big TV screen, included one of Florence and me at her grandson’s wedding several years ago.

I watched the slide show several times. It included photos of Florence as a child, as a good-looking, movie-star-like-young woman, as a mom and as a professional--Florence as I had never known her.

But it’s the two pictures of Amy’s grandmother, my father’s ex-wife, that I can’t get out of my head. Dad died forty-five years ago, thinking his “secret” was secure. It wasn’t.


Recently, we had dinner with our friends Barbara and Fred. I first met Barbara the same day I first met Peter because she had the office next door to mine at my new job.   She and Fred, then newlyweds, have now been our good friends for fifty-two years. At dinner, we reminisced about those early months when I was pursuing the nice man who had given me a ride to work for two weeks while I was waiting for my new car to arrive.

I had determined that Peter had a sweet tooth and I would periodically wander by the candy machine at work so that I might “bump” into him. I was extra-careful to look my best in case we might meet.

Barbara reminded me of the time I took care of their Scottish terrier, Missy, while they were away for a weekend. I had just moved into a new apartment and needed the sorts of things you go to a hardware store for. I was afraid to leave Missy alone in my apartment so I walked her to a nearby Sears. I was not extra-careful to look my best just to walk a dog to Sears to pick up some hardware.

I vividly remember that was I carrying Missy in my arms while juggling packages as I rode down the escalator when, lo and behold, I spotted Peter riding up the escalator. There was no way I could hide my sloppily-groomed-self, arms full of a Scottish terrier and hardware from this man I so desperately wanted to impress.

Still, it all worked out.