Monday, August 31, 2009

A Balancing Act

Balance seemed to be the common thread through today’s conversations. It’s the thing that most keeps us from falling.

We made lunch today for a couple just a few years older than we are who recently lost their 40-year-old son. As we sat there eating grilled salmon and discussing an elderly Temple Micah congregant who had recently fallen and broken her hip, the man shared that he had been working hard to improve his balance to avoid just such an accident. He has progressed from not being able to stand on one foot to being able to walk tight-rope style while maintaining his balance. We talked about how important core strength is to balance. As I ate another goat-cheese-stuffed fig, I thought about all the balance work I have done in the past few months. No one wants to fall.

My yoga class tonight had the usual balancing challenges. I remind myself that I’m fairly low to the ground even if I lost my balance and toppled over, but I still don’t like the thought of it. The instructor had us partner for the revolving triangle pose, a pose that usually requires the ultimate in balance from me. It was so nice to be able to drape my top arm over my partner’s shoulder and know that I could relax into the pose with no fear of falling. My tree pose had hardly a wobble tonight; I reached for the sky as I balanced on one foot and then the other.

The instructor urged us to take our yoga off the mat and into our daily lives. I vowed to be grounded and try not to let life’s twists and turns disrupt my balance. Sometimes maintaining a mental balance is as challenging as staying physically erect.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Historic Moment by Chance

Sometimes you find yourself in the wrong place at the right time. Yesterday was just one of those moments.

As my son Dan and I followed Joe Biden’s motorcade on Rock Creek Parkway late yesterday afternoon, I wondered where he was going. As we passed the Kennedy Center and headed toward Memorial Bridge on our way home via Whole Foods, it occurred to me that he was headed to Arlington Cemetery for Ted Kennedy’s funeral.

Approaching the Lincoln Memorial we saw crowds of people lining the street and then we were stuck as the third car behind a cop on a motorcycle. We quickly decided to make the most of the occasion. I handed Dan my camera and told him to snap pictures while I waited with the car.

After a few minutes, a guy with a good camera who had been perched up on the wall behind my car approached and said, “I have a perfect view of the Memorial, those people holding the flag, and the duct tape on the side of your car. Could you back up about 15 feet?”

I could have reminded him that my car is a one-of-a-kind that would lend interest to his shot, but instead I dutifully backed up into the space left by someone who had made an illegal U-turn on a one-way street and somehow escaped waiting.

People were friendly, sharing their thoughts about the Kennedy’s as though they were everyone’s nextdoor neighbors. Here’s Dan watching for the funeral motorcade, which would make its way from the Capitol to the Cemetery.

Finally the entourage rolled past. There was the hearse containing the casket. There were cops and emergency vehicles of all sorts.

There were people like John Kerry, who looked straight at us as he said, “Thank you for coming out to honor Senator Kennedy.” Little did he know our visit was unplanned.

There were buses from Massachusetts carrying the extended Kennedy family, people of all ages. We saw Caroline in the first such bus.

It made the whole Camelot setting of decades all that much more tangible as they passed by while we waited on the curb, waving and snapping pictures. They represented the end of an American era that had captured the hearts of people on both sides of the aisle for so many years.

Farewell, Ted! I’m so glad we happened by to pay our final respects.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


“What is it that you really love to do? What is the first thing you remember loving to do?” my friend M asked as we talked about my quest for something new in my life. She has this way of asking good questions that help people see thing logically. As it turns out, these questions probably have different answers.

As a child I loved to sew. From the time I was given free use of the sewing machine at age 6, I designed and made doll clothes, and then my clothes, making virtually every thing I wore by the time I was in high school.

But sewing for the most part was a fairly isolated activity that took place at home with the radio for my companion. Occasionally I would get together with a friend to sew, but that meant that we had to keep re-threading the machine and changing the bobbin every time we took a turn. So I was mostly on my own.

My mother was a good cook, one who followed the recipe explicitly and specialized in desserts. But she never taught me to cook. I’ve often wondered why that was. Did she worry that I would compete with her in the one place where she reigned supreme? Whatever the reason, it was not until I went away to school and had an older roommate that I learned to cook.

Through the years, I have enjoyed cooking, often making up recipes to fit whatever we had on hand. My measuring spoons have often remained in the drawer in favor of pinches and handfuls of ingredients.

Although we have always tried to buy fresh, wholesome food, we have increasingly gravitated to organic food. But it was our entry into a CSA last year that really piqued my interest in fresh and local, offering me things to cook that I had never even seen before.

In the process, cooking has become one of the most enjoyable parts of my life. Instead of eating to live, I am living to cook, living to eat. There’s a weekly challenge to use what we receive in our CSA delivery, supplementing as necessary from the local farmer’s market and from Whole Foods. But the results have taken us to a new level of eating enjoyment.

So the answer to M’s question is simply “I love to cook.” And I love it when people like the things I make. I share cooked food with M as a part of our CSA partnership and she tells me I should be a personal chef.

I don’t think I’m up to hiring myself out for catering, but I do think I would like to teach people what I have learned about cooking. I have no diploma from a renowned cooking school. I have actually taken very few formal classes myself. But I have discovered a lot on my own that I could share.

My husband, who has always been my biggest supporter, was quick to come up with a name for my new business: Cooking2live. He also offered his help in building a website for me.

Assuming “if you build it, they will come”, what do I do when people show up for class? Assuming these classes would be given in my house, do they sit on high stools around my kitchen counter and watch me do things or do I give everyone a knife and a cutting board? Do I charge money for more than the ingredients and if so, how much? Does everyone need to sign a waver up front so that I can avoid being sued if there were a problem? So many questions.

My initial thought is to focus on things that aren’t too difficult, but things that people might not have learned in Home Ec or in their mothers’ kitchens. The emphasis will definitely be on food for good health, food that both looks good and tastes good. I want to sing the praises of foods like beets and fresh figs. I want to teach people how to grind their own curry for Indian flavors. Maybe we will make fresh pasta. And definitely marinara sauce with lots of fresh herbs. I want to explore how to use the more bizarre CSA offerings, like kohlrabi and okra. I want to teach dog-lovers how to make “Jake’s food,” which our new vet totally supports.

I am obviously doing a lot of brainstorming. I will need to develop “lesson plans.” I will need to do some trial runs; my friend M has volunteered to be a guinea pig. I will need to decide whether this is going to be a totally social activity or whether I want to make a profit. I need to think about whether I want to do this with another person or by myself. I need to consider “guest teachers,” people who could impart knowledge and experience I don’t have.

I’m glad I don’t have a timetable for this project. But I do feel excited about this idea and hope something comes of it.

If you were to take a cooking class, what would you most want to learn?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Continuing Education

I went away to college with the idea that I had to study something practical that would land me a job. This meant I could enjoy those foreign language and English lit classes as electives, but the majority of my credits would be earned in the math department. (I remember being somewhat intrigued with the older woman -- probably all of 45 -- in my honors French class.)

After graduation my math degree and my four years of experience working in the FSU Computer Center did land me a good government job. I moved to DC with the idea that I would work for a couple of years and then go to graduate school.

But those years wore on as I was never sufficiently enamored with math or computer science to throw myself into a degree program. My one grad course in CS at the U of MD was enough to convince me that I really didn’t want to spend years earning more credentials, at least not in that field.

So I decided to postpone going back to school until after I retired, when I could take advantage of all those programs for seniors that offered low-cost college courses. I figured at that point I would be motivated by the love of learning rather than getting a grade or earning a degree.

But in the three years I have been retired, the most enjoyable classes I have taken have been cooking classes (file this away). I loved the new ideas I took away from each of them and felt motivated to go home and try the recipes I had seen demonstrated.

Thanks to a friend’s suggestion, I am now signed up for a 3-session course at the NVJCC entitled “What Happens Next? Jewish Perspectives on the Afterlife.” I have yet to make a commitment to a semester course or a curriculum, much to my surprise.

Maybe those courses will come. Maybe I will take art, philosophy, comparative religion, sociology, Spanish lit, and that whole host of courses that never made it into my college schedule because I was bent on getting a job. Maybe I will take craft courses, like quilting.

But for now it will probably continue to be a short course here and there as something appeals to me or as a friend or my husband wants company.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A second lick

I can’t tell you how many people I know who have retired only to show up again in the workplace more or less doing their old jobs. These are the rehired annuitants, the “double-dippers” as we called them. While collecting their generous government annuity, they can continue to earn a somewhat diminished salary.

I always thought these were the people who had nothing else but work in their lives, not necessarily even needing the money, but rather whatever the job did for them in terms of providing structure and recognition for their work.

When I retired 3 years ago on not the best of terms with the powers-that-be, I was so sure I was never coming back that I threw away all versions of my resume. I had loved my job, but it was a closed chapter in my life, or so I thought. To anyone who suggested differently, I offered that I would show up for parties, but that would be about the limit of my involvement.

Then my good friend and colleague D, who has plenty of outside interests, recently retired and much to my surprise said he was going back to work just 3 months later doing some very interesting research, basically serving as a consultant with no real production deadlines. Something in my lethargic brain said “You too could be doing that on a part-time basis and you might really enjoy it.”

So I made what I thought was a reasonable offer to come back and mentor someone new to a position that I could have done with my eyes closed. It seemed like such a perfect way to dangle my toes back in the working world with no permanent commitment on either side.

I was somewhat dismayed when I talked with the old office about this and they didn’t really see that they needed my help in this way. There was the vague suggestion of something else in 6 months or more, something that would be self-contained and would probably not give me the exposure to my old staff and other colleagues that I would enjoy.

There is still so much uncertainty around this possibility that I haven’t started to recreate a resume. If indeed something that I find attractive comes to fruition, I can probably reconstruct my 35 years of working life in a form that’s good enough for government work. Did I really say that?

Anyway, I’m likely not destined to resume my life as a government worker, at least not right now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The reality of volunteering

I’ve learned a lot about volunteering from my experience in reading to shelter kids. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that the exchange of money is often what makes people accountable.

On at least two occasions, my team of volunteers has showed up at the shelter to read, only to find that the read-aloud for that night had been cancelled and no one had bothered to let us know.

On the flip side, when I first started volunteering, there were several nights when no one on a team showed up to read and the children (who in many cases had already experienced rejection) were left abandoned in the reading room waiting for someone to read to them.

I have come to realize that if money were exchanging hands, probably neither of these things would have happened. But in both cases there was no penalty for the failure.

I’ve also come to see that it’s often the shit work that’s given to volunteers in an organization -- stuffing envelopes, making routine phone calls, fairly menial things.

These thoughts somewhat temper my enthusiasm to throw myself into a volunteer situation that involves a greater chunk of my time. Although one thing that appeals to me is the idea of volunteering in an animal shelter. It would have to be one that did not euthanize the animals (and I hear there is such a place in DC), or otherwise I just couldn’t stand to say goodbye and would probably end up bringing home every stray dog and cat destined to be killed.

If I could find the right volunteer job that showed me the respect and consideration I think I deserve and allowed me to make a contribution to society, I would sign up. But for now my monthly read-aloud at the shelter may be the extent of my volunteering efforts.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What about retail?

I’m actually formulating some interesting ideas thanks to comments and e-mails from yesterday’s readers and to a long conversation with my friend M this morning over a latte at Peregrine. But as promised, I will logically explore some options as I continue this thought process.

I’m probably one of the few people my age who can say I never worked in a clothing store, a grocery store, a bank, or a real restaurant. I don't even know what it would feel like to work on commission. The closest thing I ever did in the way of retail to the public was making Barbie Doll clothes when I was about 14. I offered 10 outfits for 10 dollars, which took at least 10 hours to make. So I was making just a little more than I could have as a babysitter. But I loved designing those doll clothes and it took next to nothing in the way of materials to cover all those plastic curves. I also did a limited amount of sewing for humans, but was less intrigued when it involved following a pattern as opposed to creating something original.

I should mention my 3-month stint in college working in a bar, where I worked practically under slave labor for crusty old Dick, who was more concerned about the fact that I was not putting a big enough head on the beer than paying me a decent hourly rate that might make me want to stay on. The thing I hated most was the disappointment when I had waited on a large party only to find that they had left no tip -- NADA! Or dealing with an irate customer who didn’t like the sandwich he received.

Some retired people (who have been highly paid professionals) gravitate toward jobs in retail, where they can simply walk away with no thought about anything other than the hours they just clocked up. I love reading about the escapades of Merle Sneed, a fellow retiree of a comparable age who now works at Ace Hardware and who ponders things like the guy who didn’t lock up properly or the other guy who chased down a shoplifter.

But as hard as I try, I can’t picture myself working in a spice store, a fabric store, a pet store, or a bank. I would probably get an ulcer from having to smile while dealing with incompetent or otherwise difficult people. I would probably chafe under the supervision of someone half my age. I would like the aspect of not having to take my work home, but I’m afraid I would draw little pleasure from the hours on the job.

As we explored my talents and interests this morning over coffee, my friend M suggested I could make tailored clothes for professionals. My limited experience with sewing for people would suggest that sewing for profit usually results in not much profit and sewing as a job is not the same as sewing as a hobby.

I am actually thinking of an idea that involves serving the public and doing something I love to do that leaves unlimited room for creativity. So retail may not be totally out of the question, but we’ll see. Later in the week I’ll share my plan with you, my faithful readers who never seem to tire of all this wheel-spinning in an effort to find happiness and fulfillment!

(Photos are from last night, picnicking outside the Botanical Garden while waiting to attend a free concert of the Navy Commodores on the Capitol Steps.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

What next?

For 3 years I have luxuriated in the ultimate of free time, many days not even needing to know what day it was when I got up. When people ask “How do you like retirement?” I immediately reply “I love it. What’s not to like?”

But I have recently come to see that free time is not a nirvana, that I’ve finally reached that point where I want more from life than another day of ease. My husband noted my lethargy on days when nothing is scheduled, when all I have plans for is exercise, reading, and playing the piano.

So I’m going to try over the course of the next few posts to figure out what I might do to change this situation. I welcome the input of anyone reading this, whether you have gone through retirement yourself or whether you just have an idea or two.

Here are some givens:

(1) I don’t really need additional income beyond my government annuity. But it would be nice to have so that we could do things like have the house painted without feeling guilty about spending all that money.
(2) I would like to do something that leaves someone or the world in a better state.
(3) My strengths are in planning, organizing, researching, making things, and at one point I was a good (computer) system designer.
(4) I love children, but don’t know that I would love teaching.
(5) I love animals even more.
(6) I love to write, but never saw myself as a professional writer.
(7) I don’t want to work alone, preferring a lot of interaction with well-intentioned or competent people (or both).
(8) I have a pretty high tolerance for most annoyances, including annoying people.
(9) I have a low tolerance for unnecessary bureaucracy.
(10) I (selfishly) want people to notice what I do and tell me I did a good job.

Put on your thinking cap. I hope you come up with something better than the result of my 8th grade multiple-choice career exploration that determined I should be a tree surgeon.

Stay tuned to more thoughts in the next few days as I think on these things.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I am quick to delete most of the mass mailings that end up in my inbox, but this one was definitely worth reading. I'm sharing it with you unedited with thanks to the person who wrote the story.

Meet Molly. She's a gray speckled pony who was abandoned by her owners when Hurricane Katrina hit southern Louisiana. She spent weeks on her own before finally being rescued and taken to a farm where abandoned animals were stockpiled. While there, she was attacked by a pit bull terrier and almost died. Her gnawed right front leg became infected, and her vet went to LSU for help, but LSU was overwhelmed, and this pony was a welfare case. You know how that goes.

But after surgeon Rustin Moore met Molly, he changed his mind.He saw how the pony was careful to lie down on different sides so she didn't seem to get sores, and how she allowed people to handle her. She protected her injured leg. She constantly shifted her weight and didn't overload her good leg. She was a smart pony with a serious survival ethic.

Moore agreed to remove her leg below the knee, and a temporary artificial limb was built. Molly walked out of the clinic and her story really begins there.

'This was the right horse and the right owner,' Moore insists. Molly happened to be a one-in-a-million patient. She's tough as nails, but sweet, and she was willing to cope with pain. She made it obvious she understood that she was in trouble. The other important factor, according to Moore, is having a truly committed and compliant owner who is dedicated to providing the daily care required over the lifetime of the horse.

Molly's story turns into a parable for life in post-Katrina Louisiana...

The little pony gained weight, and her mane finally felt a comb.

A human prosthesis designer built her a leg. The prosthetic has given Molly a whole new life, Allison Barca DVM, Molly's regular vet, reports. And she asks for it. She will put her little limb out, and come to you and let you know that she wants you to put it on. Sometimes she wants you to take it off, too. And sometimes, Molly gets away from Barca. 'It can be pretty bad when you can't catch a three-legged horse,' she laughs.

Most important of all, Molly has a job now. Kay, the rescue farm owner, started taking Molly to shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers. Anywhere she thought that people needed hope. Wherever Molly went, she showed people her pluck. She inspired people, and she had a good time doing it.

'It's obvious to me that Molly had a bigger role to play in life, Moore said. She survived the hurricane, she survived a horrible injury, and now she is giving hope to others.'

Barca concluded, 'She's not back to normal, but she's going to be better. To me, she could be a symbol for New Orleans itself.'

This is Molly's most recent prosthesis. The bottom photo shows the ground surface that she stands on, which has a smiley face embossed in it. Wherever Molly goes, she leaves a smiley hoof print behind.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Out of the Blues and into the Pink

Yesterday I woke up in the foulest of moods. Maybe it was because my hip was stiff and a little achy. Maybe it was because I was reliving events of a year ago that left me profoundly sad for a while. Whatever the cause, those around me wisely kept their distance.

As I came out of the allergist’s K Street office, I watched a black man in a wheel chair being loaded into a van for transport. He was smiling and chatting with the van operator. I felt guilty for my funk over my hip, realizing I can walk unassisted and even drive myself around.

After lunch I did my PT exercises in earnest, stretching to my limits. Then I trudged downstairs and got on the elliptical machine, something I should be doing regularly but had not happened lately. As I clocked up the minutes, I began to sweat profusely and realized how out of shape I was.

After exercising I made myself some green tea and added a spoonful of honey before pouring it over ice. As I sipped my tea, I realized my heart had stopped racing and my hip had stopped hurting.

We decided to go to services at TM last night, as the beautiful new rabbi Esther was officiating (and we hadn’t been in weeks). I traded in my sneakers for my new black Mary Janes that make me feel dressed up. As I sang those familiar songs and listened to her profound thoughts on this week’s Torah portion, I realized I was suddenly at peace with the world, with those around me, and with myself.

I came hope to make a rather late, but delicious, dinner of garlicky chicken wings, fennel and fresh figs with Balsamic vinegar, and my husband’s superb mashed baby potatoes.

Then we capped off the evening with a family viewing of The Dreamer, a sappy movie about a horse that comes back from a serious injury to race and win again, thereby saving a family as well.

I went to bed in a totally different frame of mind than the one I had had upon awakening. Happiness is such a delicious feeling after a bout with more negative feelings. I wondered if it was the exercise, the honey, the Shabbat service, the tastes of good food, the movie with a happy ending, or some combination of those that had dismissed my blues and left me in the pink of life once again.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What to Play

One of the advantages of taking things like piano lessons as an adult is how much power you have. You can quit if you don’t like the teacher without pissing off your parents. And instead of playing whatever the teacher chooses for you, you have the right to say, “No, I really don’t like that piece.”

My 75-year-old teacher and I are still working the music thing out. When I started, she had it in her mind that I would gradually work my way through what she considers to be the standard classical repertory. But I keep hearing things on the radio that I want to play, which are sometimes far afield from those old warhorses.

Like the Bolcom rags, for example. Although they are devilishly hard to play, she keeps tossing them off as though Joplin and Bolcom and those guys who wrote this kind of music were somewhat off the beaten track. And they probably were, but something about those chords warms my heart.

I spent most of yesterday’s lesson sight-reading her suggestions for my next piece or two, mostly rejecting pieces by Liszt, Schumann, Schubert, von Weber, and probably several others, not because they weren’t lovely, but simply because they didn’t do anything for me. I obviously want something that I can’t just sight-read. And if I’m going to spend the time to learn it, I want to love it, not just like it.

I came home and ordered some new music. But I also resolved to tell my teacher I want to keep working on the pieces I’m currently playing until I feel I have gone as far as I can with them. If she wants to be a part of that process, I will welcome her help, but if not I may take a little break and finish them myself.

I have finally learned the lesson that if I take on too much music at once, I don’t enjoy sitting down to practice and I don’t learn any of it well.

I do like this aspect of being an adult student. I rather enjoy knowing I have a say in things.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Something You Don't Want

Wilson’s Disease. Ever heard of it? You’d better hope that if you are the one out of 30,000 people who contract it that your doctor can diagnose and treat it quickly or you may end up dead or needing a new liver or with permanent brain damage.

Wilson’s Disease results in a deficiency of ceruloplasmin, a protein that carries copper in the blood. Without enough of this protein, copper slowly collects in the liver and eventually destroys the organ by causing cirrhosis. Copper deposited in the brain, kidneys, eyes, and other organs can also cause irreversible damage. A tell-tale sign of the disease is copper-colored rings around the pupils of the eyes.

If detected in time, Wilson’s Disease can be treated with penicillamine, a drug that helps the body excrete excess amounts of copper.

Rare diseases like this one are often difficult to diagnose. Someone calculated that a doctor seeing 3 patients a day would probably encounter only one case of Wilson’s Disease in 40 years. You hear horror stories of children being subjected to years of behavioral therapy because they have not been successfully diagnosed.

I was talking about this with my friend, an acupuncturist who for several years worked part-time at Walter Reed. She was almost certain one of her patients who was somewhat brain-damaged was also suffering from Wilson’s Disease because of the rings in his eyes. She even consulted her brother, an ophthalmologist, to confirm. And yet his doctors did not actively pursue the diagnosis. This was clearly a case where the veteran was at a disadvantage because he could not advocate for himself.

Just this week there was an article in the New York Times about an American teenager who while traveling in Israel became seriously ill. She was diagnosed with an advanced case of Wilson’s Disease that was shutting down her liver. She was medivac-ed back to New York, where heroic measures were taken to assure her an immediate liver transplant. She is one of the fortunate to survive this devastating disease.

The next time you find yourself suffering mysterious symptoms that can’t be explained, make sure your doctor considers Wilson’s Disease, Lyme Disease, and other such rare ailments that can cause such serious damage to the body if left untreated. And take a good look at your eyes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pondering Love

I’ve been thinking a lot about something one of my favorite Bloggers recently wrote concerning love gone wrong: “Was it love at all if it was only doled out in fragments? If it was held out, like a piece of too-sugary candy, as a reward for good behavior and snatched away so easily when mistakes were made?”

In thinking back over past and present relationships, I’ll bet many of us know someone about whom we could ask those questions. It was probably a relationship filled with highs and lows. With starts and sudden stops. But a relationship of which it could always be said that it enriched your life, regardless of the outcome.

That begs the question of whether legitimate love is constant and unwavering. Whether extended breaks are acceptable in a loving relationship. Or whether true love always brings with it the capacity to forgive and begin again, to work through the difficulty in the interest of love.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rising Above

Last night’s trip into DC to hear Michael Rosen at Politics and Prose was inspired by our daughter in San Francisco, who had heard him interviewed yesterday on the Diane Rehm Show. She urged us to go hear him talk about his new book “What Else but Home: Seven Boys and an American Journey between the Projects and the Penthouse.”

What a fascinating story he had to tell about his “experiment” in raising 7 boys in a penthouse on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In addition to his own two children, five of the boys were from the neighboring projects and were clearly not of his race or class.

How did they get there? They were initially attracted by his 7-year-old son who had picked them up at the neighborhood ballpark with the promise of Nintendo and milk in the refrigerator, two luxuries those boys had never known.

Evenings playing Nintendo turned into weekend slumber parties, which eventually turned into more permanent residence at the home of “YoMike” as they called the author, their adoptive father figure.

The author read a section about their first trip out to a restaurant with their extended family, who clearly hadn’t learned restaurant etiquette in their tenement upbringing. But as he and his wife opened their fortune, it said “Love is like paint, it makes things beautiful when you spread it, but it will dry up if you don’t use it.”

I quickly concluded that the book is not about race and class as much as it is about family. It’s about teaching children the benefits of education and how to access and direct the love they are all born with. I haven’t read the book, but the audience comments lead me to believe I’m in for a treat.

This morning as I shared a latte with my friend M, we pondered the odds of children emerging from the kind of poverty those 5 boys and so many other children know so well. She wished Malcolm Gladwell would apply his outlier theory to this situation and come up with the perfect formula for success. I wondered if any of my young shelter kids would rise above their current status and find a corner of the world in which to shine.

Last night I was particularly intrigued with an audience question from the only black man in attendance. He professed to have emerged from the ghetto, not far from where the author lives. He was well spoken and well dressed. I so wanted to know his story, to know how he had managed what seems so impossible. I spoke to him after the book talk and mentioned reading to the kids at the shelter. He smiled and said, “Just keep reading to them.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sharing Food with Strangers

On three occasions over the past week, I have found myself entertaining strangers and enjoying their company. The only thing in common among these three social interactions was the grilled salmon we served.

Last week my sister-in-law was in town as a tourist with 5 friends from Detroit. We invited all 6 of them over to dinner. The biggest challenge was actually talking them through how to get here from Capitol Heights, Maryland. After days of cafeteria food and dragging through museums, they were more than ready for a home-cooked meal. I was just as comfortable talking to the people I had met for the first time as I was talking to my relative.

Last night my friend Deborah and her husband came over for dinner prior to our book club meeting. They brought with them an old friend who was the widow of someone Deborah had gone to med school with. Within a short time, I felt as if I had known her for years. If I ever go to LA, I will definitely try to see her.

Today was the most unusual get-together. I had met Sabine, a young German woman, at meditation on Wednesday night. She was staying with a fellow meditator while she pursued all aspects of the Holocaust during her several-week visit. She is not Jewish, but as a student of German history, she has dedicated her current life to working at Holocaust memorials and educating children about this grim part of Germany’s past.

She expressed an interest in meeting Jews who had lived in Germany before or during WWII and managed to survive. I arranged a lunch-time get-together with two extremely interesting women from Temple Micah. We were all transformed as we listened to the stories of how their families had managed to escape and the problems they faced when they started their lives over in this country. The conversation was a mix of German and English, as Sabine spoke in her almost flawless English, but encouraged the older women to draw upon their German from so long ago.

I was struck by how even a brief encounter can leave such a lasting impression. I also wondered what the chances were that I would actually ever see any of these persons again.

In all three meals, there was no disagreement with the fact that my husband really knows how to grill fish! Even the cold leftover salmon served at today’s luncheon was delicious.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Well-kept Secret

Where are you James Herriott when I need you? I have been trying unsuccessfully to do something that sounds so easy: to verify that Jake’s dog food recipe is not lacking in anything he needs.

I have a couple of reasons for wanting to do this. If I am to possibly give a class in making homemade dog food, the owner of Hill’s Kitchen asked that I get the recipe “certified” by a vet, a very good idea I thought. In addition, when Jake was in for his expensive check-up that resulted in the Cadillac of an ultrasound recently, the vet took a look at it but urged us to contact the Tufts Veterinary School or a place that should know about canine nutrition -- as if every vet shouldn’t know about animal nutrition.

When I called Tufts, they referred me to Rebecca Remillard at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. I spoke to a very understanding receptionist who suggested I make an appointment and come in. I explained that I lived 8 hours away and asked if she could simply show the recipe to Dr. Remillard if I sent it to her in e-mail.

This is the message I got in response:

Hi Barbara,

This is the advice from our nutritionist:

Please tell her it is not complete or balanced.

She can feed a home made diet but it should be guaranteed complete or checked by a nutritionist.

When I called her back, I was told I could pay $90 for a phone consultation with Dr. Remillard and then (on top of that) purchase a recipe for Jake's food.

Can dog food really be so complicated? Don’t wild dogs feed themselves whatever they can find?

It would appear Dr. Remillard is a recognized authority when it comes to canine nutrition, but it also seems she exacts a high price for her advice.

Jake is getting his teeth cleaned toward the end of the month by a new vet, who is much less expensive. She comes highly recommended and was actually the White House vet for many years, so apparently she knows her stuff. We will ask her opinion of the dog food recipe.

Meanwhile, Jake seems to look forward to every meal. He has slimmed down to the perfect weight. He has enough stamina to fetch his Kong as long as someone is willing to throw it. So I’m wondering how lacking that recipe can possibly be?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Playing with Foam

When I took on the job of making cushions for my son’s new chairs, I didn’t realize how hard it is to find foam these days. It used to be that every fabric store sold it and would cut it to your specification. But no longer.

I took him to G Street Fabrics to choose fabric. He found a black and white modern print that goes so perfectly with the floor-length black table covering. (He got the 2 chairs and table for $20 on Craig’s List.)

Then I remembered the one place that specialized in foam, the American Foam Center which had sometime during the past few years moved to Merrifield. I was surprised when I Googled to find the address to also find a scathing review of the place among several more positive reviews. The employees had alway seemed a little eccentric, but they had often come through with whatever I needed for a project.

Just to be sure, I took my son with me when I went to check out their foam. There are still piles of foam everywhere.

They found a sheet of 1-1/2” foam that seemed perfect for the cushions.

So I left my patterns, asking them to cut out the pieces I needed and then apply glue to the edge to create a “knife-edge” finish. That’s the pointy part where the cording around the edge lies.

While we were there, I caught a glimpse of the old man, who had once been so helpful to me, but who apparently was now a menace to customers if left unattended. He looked perfectly harmless as he sat there talking to the woman who manages the books.

It was fun to have a sewing project to do last night. The first bottom cushion was a little slow, but the next 3 rolled right out.

Today I went over to “install” them on the chairs, adding black grossgrain ribbon ties. My son sat in one and pronounced it greatly improved in comfort.

His apartment still seems to be a work in progress, so photos of the rest of it will have to wait until the boxes are unpacked.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Random Friday Thoughts

I don’t have enough to say about any one topic, so instead I offer you random Friday thoughts.

Earlier today I was feeling somewhat down and out, a little depressed. It’s nothing that requires heavy-duty treatment or meds. I noticed I felt somewhat better after taking a decent walk with my son and Jake. I felt even better when I tackled a project to make cushions for my son’s “new” $20 Craig’s List table and chairs. In fact, now that the cushions are finished, my mood has completely shifted. So can I conclude from this that physical exercise and having a purpose are two important components of feeling happy and fulfilled?

I must admit my son has done a terrific job of furnishing his efficiency apartment using Craig’s List. But the $25 TV syndrome may have struck again. When I first moved here, I talked our group house (of 5 girls) into buying a TV for $25 since none of us came with one. It worked for exactly 3 days then went black forever. I still have the sewing stool it came on, but that TV is long gone. Similarly my son recently bought a used TV for $25. (I marveled at the fact that although inflation has increased by at least several hundred percent, there was a 25” TV for that price today.) After my experience, I urged him to make sure the TV worked before making the purchase. He said the girl seemed honest enough. But now there is a line through the picture. Buying used electronics is always a crap shoot.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to go with Blogging. A lot of the people on my link list write very infrequently and seldom comment any longer. I seem to be struggling many days to come up with something even remotely interesting to say and I’m spending a lot less time reading other people’s Blogs. Do I need to take a break? Do I need to cultivate new readers? Will I know when it is time to quit? I often wonder who all those people are who come to visit every day and leave no calling card. Maybe I’ll eventually just go full circle and end up writing for my own edification, just as my Blog began 5 years ago. I don’t have to determine my Blogging future tonight. Maybe things will look different in the morning.

There, how’s that for minutiae? Maybe I’ll take you on a photo tour of my son’s new apartment with its wonderful blend of gently used furnishings tomorrow. I’m sure you just can’t wait!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Early Piano Memories

I remembered Mr. Lightburn (did he have a first name?) when my 76-year-old piano teacher asked about my first teacher. I learned much later he was an alcoholic who also taught piano, who also worked in a night club.

She told me about her first teacher who seemed to have this penchant for putting his hand under her bottom as they sat on the bench together. After she mentioned it to her mother, he was quickly dismissed.

My thoughts went back to Mr. Lightburn, who rolled up at 8:30 am in his big Cadillac every Saturday morning. Can you believe my parents did this to me?! They probably got a discounted rate of $5 a lesson for taking that time slot.

He always smelled like he had just splashed on after-shave. I suppose that was to camouflage the stale alcohol on his breath. But I never suspected anything.

He definitely did not know how to talk to kids. So he would say things like “How’s school?” and I would say “Fine.”

I played mostly classical music, moving through the John Thompson series from “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” through Grade 4 or so. I also supplemented this with some music I inherited from a distant relative, like Chopin’s Military Polannaise, which I played for a full year.

Mr. Lightburn once told me that if I had a really good lesson, he would write a piece of music for me (like he did for Nan Youngblood). Either he forgot or I never had a “really good lesson.”

He once played St. Louis Blues for me. I realized how much I like jazz, how much I liked that feeling of syncopation.

Maybe that’s why I love playing the Graceful Ghost Rag by William Bolcom. Maybe that’s why I ordered a book of all the rags he ever wrote.

I felt happy as I played the rag today and my teacher offered some suggestions for fingering and rhythm. It was not anything like the lessons I had on Saturday mornings with old Mr. Lightburn, who must not have had a first name.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eating Mindfully

How much do you actually think about your food as you eat it? For most of us eating is often a means to an end, not a mindful activity.

Tonight we had our annual potluck dinner after meditation. It was difficult to sit for 30 minutes prior to eating without letting my mind wander to food.

This was one of those dinners where everyone just brings whatever comes to mind and it all works out. We had Israeli couscous salad, chickpeas and spinach over orzo, Thai curry over rice, fruit of all sorts, hummous, blueberry cobbler, and brownies.

Instead of just plunging into dinner conversation after our sit, we decided to eat in silence for the first 5 minutes. Maybe it was because I was really hungry. But for whatever reason, I tasted the individual flavors of each dish in a way that is impossible when I am engrossed in conversation.

The food continued to be delicious after we broke our silence, but it was such a good reminder to savor our food and to be appreciative of the fact that we have so much bounty on our plates.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sanguinely Reluctant

I knew I was in trouble when the (so I thought) lab tech asked if I had good veins. Because I do not. Today my blood was not anxious to be drawn.

When I was 10 and had mononucleosis, I discovered to my dismay that it’s difficult for the inexperienced lab tech to find my veins. On more than one occasion, they made a false start and ended up prodding and poking me mercilessly.

In my adult years, usually making a fist will cause enough of a vein to pop up. But sometimes it needs more encouragement. My low blood pressure may be a contributing factor.

Today when I went in for my pre-physical lab work at 8:15 am, clutching my small glass of OJ (since I couldn’t eat anything this morning), I noticed that the lab area was totally dark. When someone finally showed up in that area, I overheard them say none of the lab people had come to work today. Instead a nurse would be taking blood.

When it was finally my turn, I was a little intimidated by her initial question about my veins, but hoped for the best. I always close my eyes as I wait for that jab and listen for the little vials to be filled and capped. She started with my right arm, but after a couple of minutes and a lot of digging around with the needle, announced that nothing much was coming out. When she asked if I wanted to look, I wondered what in the world she thought I could do about the situation other than faint.

So she switched to the left arm and eventually had much better success. She must have been a little worried that I might pass out, because she reminded me to drink my OJ after filling up the requisite little vials.

Some lab techs just exude confidence that they will be able to take what they need quickly and with little pain or discomfort. As grateful as I was to get the lab work over today, I really hope the next time around I get someone who is so skilled.

Monday, August 10, 2009

J & J

For someone who loves to cook and loves to Blog, Julie and Julia is the perfect movie. We saw it last night and I identified with so many scenes and emotions.

The story involves a frustrated young writer who decides to start a Blog to chronicle her way through cooking every one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s famous book over the course of one year.

My first reactions included: The ingredients for all those recipes would cost a fortune. A year of that much butter would have to be balanced by many additional gym hours. Who really wants to cook that much gourmet food every day?

But it’s not a movie about practicality, so the story goes on and Julie’s Blog debuts as she begins to work her way through the cook book. She mentions that initial period of 0 comments every day that every Blogger experiences. I just looked back to see much of my first year of Blogging where it appeared I was talking to myself.

Then her Blog takes off as she is gradually discovered by other cooking afficionados. That’s the point at which the narcissism creeps in as you realize you actually have fans. It compels you to want to write something regularly (every day) so they will have something to react to. It sometimes makes you too tired to notice your husband, who is trying to understand this thing that now consumes his wife’s attention. It puts a fear in your boss, friends, and family that you will write something about them that they don’t want to read. I know all too well about all those things that are the natural consequences of the Blogging phenomenon.

The story of Julia’s odyssey to become a great cook is cleverly woven into Julie’s story. When Julia Child entered the cooking scene, it was a man’s world. Even though she was a big woman, there was a certain glass ceiling that had to be broken. She was unrelenting in her pursuit of cooking legitimacy.

As dated as many of the recipes are (who eats aspic these days?), recipes such a boeff bourgignon are timeless. However, for most of us the days of excessive butter and heavy cream are in the past. Cooking has evolved considerably in the last few decades.

What cook couldn’t identify with the failures in the movie? The burned boeff bourgignon? The stuffed chicken that falls on the floor? I remembered similar meltdowns over too much salt, forgetting an ingredient, waffles that stuck, you name it. Part of cooking is being willing to take chances and accepting the fact that sometimes you screw up. The trick is to always have a contingency plan or an escape route.

By the end of the movie Julie’s Blog had quite a following and she had book offers. However, it would appear that she never got Julia’s blessing of her accomplishment. That would have been the happiest ending that we all were waiting for.

Meanwhile, most of us aspiring cooks who also Blog will continue cranking out tales of our kitchen escapades from time to time. But for me 524 major recipes in 365 days will never happen!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Blogging Nostalgia

We looked around the crowd of perhaps 25 DC Bloggers who had come out for the happy hour at Evolve1817. I asked Malnurtured Snay how many he thought would still be writing in 5 years and he said, “5". I agreed with him.

I thought about my first happy hour over 4 years ago. I had entered Eyebar somewhat reluctantly, knowing full well I wouldn’t know even one of those 20- and 30-somethings throwing down the drinks and talking about Blogging. The first face I met was DC Cookie, who quickly introduced me to Kathryn and Rhinestone Cowgirl. I had a long talk with Direct Current about Statcounters. I met Pat, the guy who had started DC Blogs and the gaggle of girls talking to him, whom I later learned included Velvet in Dupont.

I realized that not many of the people I met back then are still writing regularly. I can think of only Kristin, Jamy, and Reya. That’s not entirely true. Jessica (who was anonymously DC Cookie) moved to Stream of Jessica and now writes Sweet Baby Jack, chronicling the life of her new baby boy.

I have mixed feelings about the Blogger happy hours I have attended over the years, never because people weren’t extremely friendly, but rather because I usually have such a hard time hearing to make conversation in a bar. But it usually happens that I take home one new link to add to my list and it’s usually a keeper. Like Media Concepts, whom I met shortly before he moved to LA.

So for the most part the crowd at Evolve was about the same age as those I met at my first happy hour, but almost entirely different people. I was warmly greeted by Lemmonex, a “sponsor” and someone I had met prior to the happy hour. I finally got to meet LiLu and Restaurant Refugee. Unfortunately I just missed Lacochran, but instead got to meet Gilahi, someone who knows her quite well. I met Malnurtured Snay, after reading his snarky comments for years. On the way out I discovered KassyK sitting just outside the fray of Bloggers. She had a big hug for me as we quickly covered the time since we had last met, vowing to get together with Jessica to meet Sweet Baby Jack.

I felt a bit like Cinderella as I suddenly dashed out, almost sprinting to get to my car before I added another hour onto the already hefty parking lot fee.

I wonder if I will be one of the 5 still writing in 5 years. Will you?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A Cause for Celebration

Break out the doggy champagne! Jake is alive and WELL. The ultrasound showed no tumors in his liver or any other organ. He’s taking a natural supplement to remedy his liver enzyme problem. We’re also making an appointment to get his teeth cleaned, since that can contribute to this problem... and he’s never in 11 years had them cleaned.

I must say when I took him in today at 8:00 AM, I was a little taken aback by two things that seemed consistent with the national health care crisis. Paperwork -- pages and pages of it to sign, date, initial. At one point asking me to choose a level of care from these three:

FULL CODE: Instructs us to use all means available to us to resuscitate your pet. Including CPR, emergency medications, surgical intervention, and defibrillation. Additional Estimated Cost: $350 - $750

PARTIAL CODE: Instructs us to perform CPR, use emergency medications and defibrillation, but to proceed no further. Additional Estimated Cost: $350 - $450

NO CODE AND HUMANE INTERVENTION: Instructs us that no effort be made and further, that we use our best judgment to determine whether humane euthanasia is in the best interest of the patient.

That’s a load to process as you contemplate an exploratory procedure on your beloved animal. It struck me just how far we’ve come from the days of James Herriott, who performed whatever treatment was in the best interest of the animal.

After I initialed the box for NO CODE AND HUMANE INTERVENTION, I was then presented with the bill up front for today’s procedure. I hadn’t even brought my charge card in, figuring they had my animal -- what better collateral. But they steadfastly refused to treat him unless I PRE-paid the bill. So of course I did.

Poor Jake hadn’t eaten since his breakfast yesterday morning. I’m sure he was wondering why he had come in at 8:00 AM to sit and wait and wait and wait for a procedure that took place closer to noon.

But I didn’t have the nerve to complain about any of the above when the very pretty vet came out to give me the results. She said he was so well behaved he didn’t even have to be sedated. She also said he had the best-looking organs of any dog she had seen today.

So we came home with Marin, a daily supplement that includes Vitamin E, zinc, and milk thistle. This is supposed to cleanse his liver over the next month. That in combination with cleaning his teeth will probably eliminate the problem.

It would be nice if we had pet insurance to cover the nearly $500 bill for today’s visit and the upcoming $500 to clean his teeth. But the truth is, Jake is worth every penny of it.

Friday, August 07, 2009

I Love My Dog

I realize my Jake is an old dog at 11, but I was not prepared for the news from his recent blood work at the vet’s this week. This was the check-up that was supposed to focus on his decreasing vision.

My husband took him in to see a vet in our practice who specializes in veterinary ophthalmology. The good news is he doesn’t have cataracts but instead a condition that many older dog get where they get a build-up of fluid that makes their eyes look somewhat opaque. While he was in, she also drew blood for some routine tests. But overall she said he looked good and was exactly the right weight.

So I was somewhat shocked yesterday when she called to give us the results of the blood test, which showed an abnormal liver enzyme count. There are several possible reasons for the liver enzyme to be elevated, but the one to be most concerned about would be a malignant tumor in his liver. He’s scheduled for a scan tomorrow to find out.

But meanwhile, he’s enjoying the company of “his boy” who has finally returned from Europe for good. He’s wolfing down his homemade food twice a day. He’s fetching his Kong every time he can find a sucker to throw it. If he’s so sick, he doesn’t yet seem to know it.

I have to hope this problem is not the worst case scenario, but rather one that can be corrected or controlled by some means.

Jake is by far the best dog I have ever had. I’m not ready to lose him!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Thinking of you's working up an appetite

I don’t know if it was the fact that I was swimming at noon or the fact that my husband was swimming in the next lane over, but for some reason I was building the most elaborate salade nicoise in my head for our lunch as I swam lap after lap today.

I had gone to the farmers’ market earlier this morning, so I had beautiful ripe tomatoes and fragrant basil, as well as baby new potatoes.

Here’s what went into the salad we ate for lunch:

Baby lettuces
Dark red tomatoes sliced
Small orange tomatoes
Marinated roasted beets and carrots
Shaved raw carrots
Snipped basil
Cubed roasted potatoes
Sliced hard-boiled egg sprinkled with paprika
Vinaigrette dressing made with fresh dill

Slice of cantaloupe melon on the side

It looked like a lot of salad, but salad never leaves you with that feeling of being overly full.

“Thinking of you’s working up an appetite,
Gonna have a little afternoon delight.”

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Health Care Demise

Yesterday I had first-hand evidence of the sorry state of health care in this country. A visit to my allergist made it all too clear.

I have been taking shots to control my many allergies for decades. As much as I detest all medicines, they work so I keep taking them.

For many years my serum would be automatically refilled each time I was out with no need to see the doctor since I was experiencing no problems.

Then about 5 years ago, they instituted a yearly exam, not because it altered my allergy serum in the least, but I suspect because it provided another source of income for the doctor. It was usually perfunctory, involving listening to my lungs, a breathing test, a few questions, etc.

Recently as my serum ran out, they said I had to sign a consent form of some sort to get it refilled AND I had to schedule a visit with the doctor. I did both of those things, thinking I would show up yesterday, have my little exam, and get my shots.

But that wasn’t the way it worked. They put me in a room and said the doctor would be in to see me. No gown, no blood pressure reading, no nothing.

He came in and beckoned me to come into his office for “a chat”, offering me tea or coffee. I declined both, since I was not there for a caffeine fix, but rather to get my shots and be done with it.

This year’s “exam” consisted of 3 questions about the state of my allergies that could just as easily have been asked over the phone. The only physical contact with the doctor was a handshake upon entering and leaving after my maybe 2 minutes of “chat”. If he were to conduct even 12 such conversations an hour, I calculate his hourly income at over $1200 an hour at $105 a pop.

The real kicker was I couldn’t even get my shots because they had not made new serum since they had to wait for the doctor’s recommendation after my visit. Upon hearing this, I said out loud in the waiting room, “Are you kidding me? That “exam” was a joke!” I’m sure someone probably made a note in my chart as they labeled me a heretic.

And then it hit me that this whole experience was why we need healthcare reform. Instead of so much ass covering, doctors should be taking their lead from patients who have real symptoms.

It also occurred to me that being an allergist would be by far the cushiest job in the medical profession. He never has to see any blood, seldom gets midnight calls, and gets richer and richer as he collects all that money for serum and yearly visits from those of us who are addicted to shots.

Health care reform -- bring it on! It can only go up from here. (What do you bet my allergist is opposed to changes in the current system?!)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


As he hung up my laundry last night, my husband commented that I was in bad need of some new underwear. (That could be because I haven’t bought any in 5 years.) He suggested with a little laugh that I might get something SEXY.

For as long as I can remember I have worn Jockey cotton hipsters in colors like white, gray, peach, even black. I also have a few pairs of Wacoal nylon briefs, also in nondescript solid colors. I am positive that nothing in my underwear drawer would qualify as sexy.

I will probably go order some of the same non-sexy functional underwear. But I thought it might be fun to surprise him with a pair or two of something a little more interesting.

So here’s where you can make yourself useful. Find a link to a pair of briefs that you think are sexy and leave the URL in your comment OR simply describe your idea of what makes underwear sexy. I welcome all comments except those like "You are too old to be thinking about sexy underwear."

Both boys and girls can play. But remember, your suggestion obviously says something about you!

Monday, August 03, 2009

A breakfast surprise

When we travel, my husband and I both look forward to eating breakfast out. And especially on a trip to Detroit, where we are likely to end up at the assisted living place around lunch time, a substantial breakfast is a good idea.

But I must admit I was skeptical when he suggested The Original Pancake House. I never even eat pancakes. And the name sounded reminiscent of Stuckey’s or some other such chain.

We had to drive quite a ways to even get to this restaurant on our second morning there. And one look at the decor confirmed this would be an “I told you so” restaurant.

But then I saw bacon pancakes on the menu and our waitress Kenya said I could order the junior portion, which came with 3 pancakes and an egg of my choice for $5. As a real sucker for bacon, how could I resist?

Imagine buttermilk pancakes embedded with crispy crumbled bacon pieces. The fresh squeezed OJ was equally affordable and delicious.

It was so good, in fact, that we went there again today before starting the 9-hour drive home. That kind of breakfast sticks with you for hours, making a salad for lunch quite enough.

Tomorrow it’s back to healthy food for breakfast, but I will be returning to The Original Pancake House if and when I next visit Detroit.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


I have been reminded once again what a special person a caregiver is. And I have also been reminded that’s not my calling.

My mother-in-law is fortunate to have a very special Jamaican woman Lena to take care of her when family can’t be there. She is paid to do a job, but it’s not easy and not something everyone could handle day in and day out. She is patient and loving, vacillating between reminding her that she’s hot because of menopausal hot flashes (from some 40 years ago) and wiping her face after she eats.

Lena makes sure she gets outside to walk (be pushed) and sit in the sun on a beautiful day like today. She tells her she’s sexy with the new clip-on sunglasses we bought at Walgreens.

And most importantly Lena is there to prod her memory cells to fire just one more time when she forgets that her granddaughter is married, by showing her photos of the wedding. She suggested that we send current pictures of our family for the same purpose.

I’m so glad there are people like Lena willing to do this job. I’m also glad I didn’t have to see my parents suffer long in old age or lose their memory. I really fail miserably at knowing what to say or how to act with people whose minds are slipping.

My mother-in-law, who is the consummate consumer of weather information, is still keen enough to remark that we must have brought the good weather with us. I hope for her sake the blue skies continue for a while, but the most she will ever remember is the color of the sky just as she observes it. The skies of yesterday are mixed up in that blur of 94 years of memories that are just beyond her reach.