Previous month:
August 2018
Next month:
October 2018

September 2018

Keeping Up

In all my years of working with graduate students, I tried to stay on top of new technology to know what the students were up to. I remember when the students first got email. I remember a student in the computer lab showing me the amazing Mosaic web browser, pretty much the beginning of the Internet.

Of course Facebook and other social media have touched my life, and yours too. I even have WhatsApp on my phone. And Instagram.

But now I feel I am falling behind. When I recently read that the latest “Alexa” can tell me that I left a light on and then offer to turn it off for me, that was a bit much. And although I still read the technology page in the newspaper every Thursday, I no longer want everything I see. I don’t have an Apple watch so I actually have to look at my phone to see a text and that’s OK with me.

If I really need to know the latest, I can always check in with the grandkids. Isn’t that what all 80-somethings do?

Appointments, Appointments, Appointments

Before we moved to Washington DC last year, we had appointments with all of our doctors in Boston, partly because we wanted to thank them for taking care of us and partly because we were worried that we wouldn’t find such good doctors where we were going.

One of the plusses of our return to Cambridge is that all our doctors are still here and they have welcomed us back.

But each doctor seems to find something to worry about that’s not in their area of expertise. And that leads to more appointments.

I am convinced that going to doctors is what we eighty-somethings do for a living.

That’s why it was such a pleasure to visit our financial advisor the other day. Our financial condition looked healthy, we caught up on each other’s children, and in thirty minutes, we were on our way.

Nothing added to our calendar.

Weekend in New Hampshire

Every September we are one of two lucky couples invited to spend a weekend with close friends at their vacation home on Newfound Lake. We have spent sunny weekends and rainy weekends, cool weekends and warm weekends. They have all been wonderful because when friends have been friends for more than fifty years, the weather doesn’t matter.

Some of us (not me) swam in the still-warm lake. We all walked along the beautiful lakefront. We went for a hike on the Sculptured Rocks Trail on the other side of the lake. On Sunday, we picked apples from the same Cadillac Mountain orchard we’ve gone to for years.

But this year was a little different. As we drove along the lake, I felt nostalgic for the many years that we biked the sixteen miles around it. We didn’t hike as far on the Sculptured Rocks Trail as we used to and this time there was some serious after-lunch napping.

Still, these are our bonus years and that continues to be something to celebrate.

Re-visiting the Forum

During my career at the Harvard Kennedy School, I spent countless evenings attending programs in the school’s Forum. International dignitaries, politicians, outstanding academics, even actors, spoke to enthusiastic audiences almost nightly during the school year. It was the site of student and faculty talent shows, fund-raising auctions and receptions. The Forum was a happening place.

It felt a bit strange to return there one night last week after more than a year’s absence. But we wanted to hear Jill Lepore, Harvard history professor and New Yorker writer talk about her new book, These Truths.

Of course, I knew none of the current students in the audience, but a Forum staff member recognized me and rushed to find seating for us. And I spotted a professor or two I knew and a former Dean of the school who used to introduce events in the Forum and was now just a member of the audience.

I, too, am now “just a member of the audience.”   And that’s okay.

Let There Be Light

As the days grow shorter, we are beginning to realize that we don’t have enough electric lighting in our new apartment. Particularly challenging is our dining area because there is no ceiling light over our dining room table. And no way to hang one.

We started searching for lamps online, but soon realized we needed to see the actual lamps. That’s why we found ourselves in a highly-recommended lamp store in downtown Concord, MA last Saturday.

Within minutes of our arrival, dreadful childhood memories of lamp shopping with my mother intruded on my morning. I pictured myself in one of Pittsburgh’s big department stores, trailing Mother down the endless aisles of the lamp department. Every second was torture.

But those expeditions always ended with a chicken à la king lunch elegantly served in the department store’s tearoom, me feeling very grown up in my best shopping outfit, complete with the white gloves all well-dressed women (and their daughters) wore “back in the day”.

Our ladies lunch almost made lamp shopping bearable. Not completely bearable then—or now when it doesn’t even include lunch.

The Summer That Wasn't

It was hot. And it was humid. But somehow we seem to have missed the summer of 2018.

Although the calendar tells us that there is still a week of summer to go, I’ve spent too many years in education. I know there is no summer after Labor Day.

For many years, summer meant bicycling vacations. More recently we have spent summer vacations traveling to new destinations abroad or spending long weekends in our favorite New England towns.

But we spent this summer moving from Washington, DC to Cambridge. So our summer was bookended by boxes. Packing up boxes in July. Unpacking boxes in August.

When our friends regale us with stories of their amazing summer trips, we feel a little envious. On the other hand, we’re back at home where we want to be.

Update on Peter's Parkinson's

Alan Alda, and Michael J. Fox have both been in the news for the gracious ways they have been dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. My husband Peter has been living with Parkinson’s for more than ten years and he, too, has handled it with grace.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s. Although symptoms differ from individual to individual, the disease eventually causes limitations, especially with mobility, and Peter is feeling those limitations more. On top of that we’ve had a challenging year that included Peter’s broken femur and moving twice. But mostly it is just the clock ticking.

Peter’s ongoing optimism is infectious most of the time. But then there are days that it isn’t.

Fortunately, not many.


In the 1960’s, Marimekko, a Finnish textile company that featured brightly colored fabrics and clothing, became a household word, sweeping the country, or at least Cambridge, Massachusetts. Architect Benjamin Thompson featured Marimekko in his iconic Design Research store, and it is said that Jackie Kennedy owned eight Marimekko dresses that she wore during the 1960 presidential campaign.

I hadn’t thought about Marimekko for years until, at a Cambridge cocktail party last weekend, I met a retired architect who had worked with Ben Thompson. We talked about how we missed the Design Research store that graced Harvard Square for many years and is now occupied by the chain store Anthropologie.

Our conversation reminded me of how perfectly Marimekko’s tent-like dresses worked as maternity clothing. (Back then you covered up your pregnant belly.) And how well a large piece of Marimekko fabric had served as a wall hanging in our Cape Cod summer house. I wish I hadn’t lost a photo taken of me in front of that wall-hanging wearing my full-length similarly-colored Marimekko dress.

Then on Sunday, a reader commenting on my 80-Something blog post about accessing and de-accessing mentioned that she too had trouble de-accessing. She said she was still holding on to two Marimekko dresses from the 1960’s that she had bought at the Design Research store in Cambridge.

The store is gone. The photograph is lost. But the memories remain.


They say that downsizing is the hardest part of a late-in-life move. Everything you own becomes a treasure, and it’s hard to let go. That’s exactly how we felt last fall when we left Cambridge and moved to a retirement community in Washington, DC.

We especially missed the big sofa in our sunroom where our whole family collapsed after eating too much Thanksgiving turkey. I had trouble giving up our Charles Webb planter full of “Christmas” cacti that bloomed on and off all year long.

In spite of all the things we left behind, we spent a lot of our time during the first weeks in our new apartment at the hardware store or on Amazon buying things like a wall mount for our TV, closet accessories, and a tiny stool for reaching cabinets high above the sink.

And now we’ve moved again. This time, we left a beautiful Vermont cherry-wood bedroom set and a custom-made desk in some happy new owners’ hands because we have fewer square feet in our Cambridge apartment.

But we have had to buy a smaller TV and a microwave oven, and over the weekend, we bought a new table and chairs for our balcony (having sold chairs and a table we could use now when we moved to DC last fall). It seems we are now up-sizing.

Will we ever be “right-sized”?