Friday, July 30, 2010

Rediscovering Fresh Figs

The first fig of the season is always such a delicious surprise.  It’s fig season and I am ready.
About a decade ago our neighbors asked if they could plant a tiny fig tree on the boundary of our property.  I wasn’t even sure the little tree could survive a season, let alone grow into the gorgeous, prolific tree that it is today.  Of course I said yes.

After several years and despite some really bad winters, the fig tree began to produce.  By the end of the season each year, we are almost a little tired of figs because there are so many.
I just popped the last one from the cherry tomato box in my mouth.  Now I can look forward to tomorrow’s harvest.
I will need to dig out my fresh figs with fennel recipe once again.

A Target Convert

I seem to have become somewhat crazed about finding the perfect suitcase to take to Thailand.  I’ve now bought and returned two to Marshall’s.  But tonight I discovered the world of Target, a lot more than suitcases.
I’ve promised myself that I will travel light this time.  After all I’m going to Thailand, a place that is the ultimate in heat.  I will mostly be living in shorts and tee shirts.  The only thing I will need long pants for is keeping off the mosquitos.  So after talking to a good friend today, I decided to take only a carry-on suitcase.  
She recommended one made by SwissGear, the same people who make Swiss Army Knives.  I found a 21” version at Target.  It weighs a mere 7.6 pounds, has wheels, and will probably hold everything I need to take.  
While there I wandered into the Juniors Department and fell in love with the Mossimo clothes.  I ended up buying a pair of soft cotton long pants and a lightweight cotton long-sleeve shirt.  The clothes were all stylish and were in colors that I like to wear.  How many years has Target been 5 minutes away and I am just now realizing I could do all my clothes shopping there!
The suitcase may be destined to be returned since my husband pulled two of similar size out of the attic.  But I will be back to shop at Target in the future for sure.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No Harm in Asking


About a month ago we ordered a wool-sisal rug that was supposed to go with our new family room furniture.  The above picture is how it was advertised on Amazon, with Natural Area Rugs as the vendor.
I had commented to my husband as we contemplated ordering it that the fine print said something to the effect of “This rug is being especially made for you and it is not returnable.”  But how could a sisal rug go wrong, really?
When it arrived we found out just how far off the mark it could be.  It was a shade of pink, not the natural fiber look we had wanted at all.  

We just accepted our bad luck and decided to try to sell it on Craig’s List, figuring a lot of people would want a brand new rug at a discounted price.  When it was at 50% of the price we paid, we had exactly one interested party.
A really nice woman Marion drove over from Georgetown to see the rug, having exclaimed by e-mail “I want your sisal rug.”  But Marion took one look at the rug and said, “It’s pink.  And pink won’t work for me.”  She was very apologetic.  
The rug seemed destined for Value Village, written off as a total loss to us.  But then Marion sent us a message, suggesting we try to return it to the manufacturer since it really wasn’t what was advertised.
To our utter amazement, despite their policy of no returns, they are sending a UPS guy out tomorrow to pick it up.  The woman at Natural Area Rugs told me to roll it up and put garbage bags around it and then add the return number on one of the bags.

It’s rolled, tagged, and waiting and we owe Marion a big thank you for suggesting that we be persistent in asking for a refund.  You never know until you ask.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gait Yet Again

I am working with yet another “expert” on my peculiar gait issues that make walking such a challenge for me.  I’m really hopeful that I might see some improvement over time if I do what she asks me to do.
I have written many times about my search for explanations and solutions to my walking challenges.  I’ve heard about as many explanations as the dozens of specialists I’ve seen over my 6 decades.  Everything from leg length discrepancy to CP to polio to congenital hip problem.  Until now no one has offered any real curative path and breaking my hip last year was a definite complication.
But recently I started seeing a physical therapist who has turned around my husband’s elusive foot problems.  She is one of those people who delights in treating difficult problems.  She is also the owner of Body Dynamics, a multi-purpose health and wellness center in Arlington.
I must admit I came to Jennifer somewhat of a skeptic after the last expert had pronounced my right hip hung at the wrong angle since birth with no possibilities of improvement.
But from the get-go she has said repeatedly that it’s a soft-tissue problem and that bodes well for treatment.   Her theory is that the motor development part of my brain was affected during my very traumatic breach birth, impeding my ability to walk  normally from the start.  For all these years my brain and body have walked that way with no real effort to correct my gait.  
Because my stomach muscles are not doing their job, my back gets too involved in my effort to walk.  Because my right hip muscle (the one that was cut) is weak and my adductor muscle is too tight, my right knee is pulled in.  But it’s muscles, not bones and joints, that are causing the problems.  Muscles can be strengthened and stretched.
So that’s what we are doing.  Each of the three times I have seen her, she has done some manual adjustment and given me “homework.”   Eventually it will take me about 90 minutes a day to do the homework.  I’m assuming that once my body develops sufficient strength and learns to move differently, this time commitment will at least be reduced.
My feeling is that if this really has a chance of working, I am more than happy to do my part in the process.  I really hope Jennifer is onto something that no one else has tried and that her efforts combined with mine will be successful.

Monday, July 26, 2010

One More Traveler

My trip to Thailand is fast approaching.  I’m delighted to say my husband is now joining my daughter and me on this culinary tour of Thailand.
His persistent foot problems seem to be improving to the point where he can comfortably travel once again.  I’m sure this is a liberating feeling for him and welcome news for me, too.
The initial plan for this trip was a mother-daughter excursion to join a group of other people learning about Thai cooking.  Then no one else signed up for the trip, so it was just the two of us.  I’m glad Brock didn’t cancel the trip since we had already purchased our airline tickets.
I had suddenly realized how much I was going to miss all of the logistical and otherwise supportive help my husband has always provided when we travel.  In addition, there were so many things on the itinerary that would simply be nice to share with a significant other.
So we will now be a family group of 3 having a privately guided cooking trip through Thailand.  It will be nice to be able to be somewhat spontaneous if we all agree to deviate from the planned itinerary.  
My husband has already figured out what we must to do make our iPhones and iPads work in Thailand, something I will appreciate but was not looking forward to researching.  He will undoubtedly take on issues of electrical adapters and other technical things.  
I will continue to make my way through the suggested reading list provided by Brock.  I just finished “Sightseeing” by Rattawut Lapcharoensap, an intriguing collection of short stories set in Thailand.  
It’s exciting to look forward to traveling once again, even more so now that my husband can go along.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Marimekko Take 2

Remember those big red flowers that I proclaimed my love for? Even I was finally persuaded that they were too big for the room. So the big flower cover was returned and for the past month I have been ordering more free samples from Bemz (the company that must make all of Ikea's slipcovers) and rejecting most of them.

The decorator we consulted had liked the print "Spinning Multi", but until this week when we got swatches that reflected all the many colors, we were unsure.

This morning I spread them out on the naked futon. Then I looked up to see the framed artwork from my son's bar mitzvah tee shirts and I realized how perfect Spinning Multi will be for the light yellow room.

We have finally reached consensus and the order has been placed. Now I must sit back and wait for the package to arrive from Lithuania.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Dawes Ave,Alexandria,United States

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hot Hot Hot

After spending a week in western New York, it was a shock to get out of the car back home and experience the current heat wave.  
I had packed a long sleeve shirt, a sweat shirt, and a jacket, none of which had been necessary all week at Chautauqua.  But the temperatures were delightfully in the 80’s for the most part with a breeze off the lake and an occasional cool shower.
Those 15-20 additional degrees make this place feel like a blast furnace.  Even Jake slowly walked to the car when I picked him up this afternoon.  His energy seems gone.
I’m glad I have no reason to be outside tomorrow.  The air here seems hot and unhealthy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Last Day

Today we awoke to a downpour that seemed like it would last forever. I suppose it was only fair since we had had almost perfect weather all week.

I trudged off to the farmer's market in the rain, only to find it was finally stopping as I got back home.

We were still left with wet roads and the mugginess of a Washington summer. But I hopped on my bike and rode over to cabin #59 to use the remainder of my practice hour. Deborah joined me after a while and we played to the very end of the piece we had been working on all week.

I headed back for the rest of the morning lecture by yet another expert on nuclear energy/terrorism. It has been a sobering week from that standpoint. There is so much at stake and so many ways things could go wrong.

After lunch Aunt Martha and I returned to the practice cabin for a last round of Brahms four-hand pieces. And that was the end of this year's music. No recital or performance to be nervous about.

Then it was time to clean out the refrigerator and start packing. It's raining again as we prepare to head home tomorrow. Another Chautauqua visit has come to an end.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Wythe Ave,Mayville,United States

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Tonight's cultural experience combined the symphony and the opera company for a production of Amadeus. It clearly brought back the story so well told by the movie in 1984.

Poor Mozart! None of the music we have come to love was appreciated during his lifetime. Instead he was constantly pitted against Antonio Salieri, the current court musician. His wife ended up begging because they were so impoverished.

By the time of his death at age 35 from Bright's Disease, Mozart had seemingly lost his mind and Salieri vocally blamed himself for Mozart's deterioration.

Both the music and the vocal rendition of it were superb in the Chautauqua amphitheater. It was a delightful evening.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Wythe Ave,Mayville,United States

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Scrabble at a new level

This is Miller, our Chautauqua street. I walk two blocks in this direction every afternoon to go to Scrabble class.

Each of the three classes so far has gone play-by-play through a game, where we are first playing from one rack and then from the opponent's rack. These are high-scoring games with scores approaching 500.

The emphasis is on parallel and overlapping play and knowing what to keep in your rack. We have also been introduced to some very obscure 2- and 3-letter words and a list of Q words that don't require a U. Have you ever heard of XI or AGA? What about QAT or QIS?

Here are the words played in today's game:

Smokier (an anagrams of "irksome" the instructor told us as an aside)

Of course many of these contributed to make multiple words. Quite a few of these words were not previously in my vocabulary. Will I ever be able to come up with them again?

The interesting and somewhat maddening thing is that you are not required to know how to pronounce or define any word you play. But it must be in the Official Scrabble Dictionary.

I may not be a better Scrabble player after this week, but it is fun playing a very different game during class.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Waugh Ave,Mayville,United States

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


For those of you who stepped up to the Scrabble challenge, the third word EIINRTM was indeed MINTIER, but Cyndy still wins the Chautauqua mug because I checked today at class and TERMINI is acceptable.

We were on duty to cook tonight for our house of 7 people. Since we had brought zucchini from last week's CSA delivery, I put sauteed matchstick zucchini on the menu. A key I ingredient in our recipe, which we learned on our Amalfi Coast visit, is fresh mint.

I sent my husband off to the farmer's market to buy 2 quiches, fruit for a crisp, and mint. He came back with everything except the mint, but he had learned of a hidden patch of mint on the Chautauqua grounds. So after the morning lecture on "Nuclear Terrorism", we headed over to Bliss Street to search for the mint.

Seek and ye shall find! The mint made all the difference in the zucchini sauté.

I spent my practice hour after today's Scrabble class playing 4-hand Brahms Liebeslieder with 85-year-old Martha, the aunt of one of my housemates. Martha has difficulty remembering most everything, but she is a musical whiz who can sight-read anything and is infinitely patient with those of us who are less talented. She will ask me tomorrow if I know how to play the piano and I will invite her to play with me again.

We are soon off the the evening symphony concert with a talented young Russian pianist as the guest artist.

Maybe tomorrow I will finally get around to telling you about the incredible Scrabble class.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Wythe Ave,Mayville,United States

Monday, July 19, 2010

Deluxe Accommodations and a Jumble Challenge

Welcome to cabin #59, my practice home away from home. It is pure luxury compared to my first experience at Chautauqua.

Four years ago when I first came to participate in the adult chamber music program, there was a heat wave and I had an unair-conditioned cabin whose window could only be propped open by using a large stick or a tree branch. I always came out of a practice session dripping in sweat.

But this year I have an air-conditioned cabin which houses a lovely Steinway piano. Although a couple of keys in the lower register seem a little affected by the humidity, it is a tremendous improvement.

Today I had some personal practice time, followed by some time with Deborah. We're still plugging away on the Misek sonata, movement 3, which has the feel of a dance, or at least will when we learn to play it up to speed.

This afternoon I went to my first Scrabble class. I had solved the problem of the forgotten Scrabble board by buying a game at the bookstore, which we will contribute to the stash at our rental house.

More about Scrabble tomorrow, but I will leave you with 3 sets of tiles, each of which contains a Bingo:

The first person to correctly identify all 3 7-letter words gets a lovely large Chautauqua mug!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Miller Ave,Mayville,United States

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Young Artist

After hanging out at a practice cabin this morning, I came back to 31 Miller on my bike. Just down the street on Bestor Plaza, a violinist was giving an impromptu concert.

I wandered down there to find it was a talented 11-year-old, the son of someone I had played chamber music with 4 summers ago.

Today this young artist was raking in the tips. I jokingly told his mother he should take them out to dinner.

What was amazing about this young violinist was the ease and fluidity with which he played. It was clear that he loved playing classical music.

This is the sort of thing that makes this place so enjoyable. Children can ride their bikes or hang out on the mall playing for tips with no parental worries. There is an overarching feeling here.

Enjoy the video (courtesy of my husband's new iPhone4 which loads easily to BlogPress).
YouTube Video
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Miller Ave,Mayville,United States

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer Camp Again

We're in nirvana in Western NY once again. Chautauqua is just as lovely as ever. Our house at 31 Miller is the perfect place to watch the world go by. I'm out on the porch under our waving flag.

We did the trip in about 7 hours, with some serious road work frustrations along the way. But when we drove through the main gate, all those frustrations slipped away.

One of our first tasks was to rent bikes. As I got on my Giant bike with a woman's frame, I remembered I hadn't been on a bike since breaking my hip. Would I even still know how to ride? But I'm happy to say it all came back and it felt so good to just coast along.

Some of my housemates went to see the opera Norma at the amphitheater. My husband and I decided to forgo the opera and just hang out on the porch. Later tonight we'll watch a movie to get him ready for his screenplay class.

I'm signed up for 8 hours of practice time in cabin #59, now air-conditioned. I'll also be taking Scrabble every afternoon. My only homework was to bring a Scrabble board, which I managed to forget. Hopefully instructor Edley will have a few extras.

Part of the charm of Chautauqua is the sounds. You can hear the birds. You can hear children laughing on the big central green. You can even hear the bugs, lots of them, rubbing their wings or making their bug noises.

I'm so glad to be back for a week in this special place.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Wythe Ave,Mayville,United States

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer Fun Was Had by All

Last night was “Summer Fun” at the homeless shelter. We had told them to wear clothes that could get wet. But as usual my idea of how the evening would unfold was a little different than actuality.

I had spent about a half hour that afternoon re-learning how to make water balloons. Instead of thinking of them as ammunition, I had hoped the children would take up my challenge to pick a partner and see how long they could keep their balloons unbroken as they tossed them back and forth. That was supposed to be the main activity.

On the way over to the shelter, big drops of rain suddenly started to pelt my car. When I had told them to plan to get wet, I didn’t really want a thunderstorm. But by the time I arrived the rain had stopped.

A half dozen kids ranging in age from 3 to 10 sat around the picnic table out back behind the shelter as we read about the heat of summer, the lure of the beach, eating hotdogs, and drinking lemonade. The Todd Parr book “Otto Goes to the Beach” was a big hit.

By the time we were ready to move on the the activities, more children had drifted in. One of the other volunteers gave them the water balloon toss challenge, but they had other ideas. They didn’t throw them at each other, but rather at the side of the brick building where they all live, squealing with delight at each SPLAT. Unfortunately all the balloons I made in a half hour were forcefully exploded in about 90 seconds. One very sweet 10-year-old boy did agree to toss with me, but after about 10 catches, our balloon too was gone.

Then they moved on to a choice of bubble soap or sand play. Each child had a small bottle of bubbles and a wand. I showed them how to catch bubbles they had blown and how to combine them to make larger bubbles.

What really surprised me was their love of playing in the sand. My idea had been to make sand castles like you would at the beach. (Only two kids had ever been to the beach.) I had about 10 pounds of white sand left over from making sand bags for yoga. I added water to make it slosh and gave them a couple of shovels and some little paper plates. They made pretend food on the plates. They were mesmerized by the feel of the wet sand and were delighted that no adult was telling them not to get dirty.

(This picture was taken back home as I was cleaning up.)

Several of the children continued to play with the sand as the evening’s snack was brought out. My husband had grilled Hebrew National hotdogs so we could have one of summer’s best treats. Some of the kids put way too much catsup and mustard on them, but we were outside so it didn’t matter. We had a big bowl full of chips and plenty of lemonade to drink. One 8-year-old managed to eat 3 hotdogs, while others took a bite and then ran off to play. I dubbed a 5-year-old twin “Chief Lemonade Pourer.”

At the end of the evening everyone got to pick a piece of colored sidewalk chalk. Some managed to get two, claiming an older sibling would love one too. As we loaded up the car to go home, the children were happily decorating the sidewalk.

They seemed to love the freedom of being outside. I heard a lot of PLEASE and THANK YOU’s, something rare in the usual inside basement reading room. I think everyone had a good time, including the 3 volunteers!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I recently read a very sad story in the Washington Post about the obesity epidemic that has claimed over half the residents of Manchester, Kentucky.  Manchester is a town that is booming with fast food and overweight people of all ages.
I thought about that as I was shopping at Costco today.  My husband had asked me to buy him some khakis (34-29) and polo shirts (M).  There were lots of khakis and polo shirts, but very few in his size.  I’m convinced it was not because people of similar size had bought them all, but rather because most of the people shopping there these days wear L, XL, and 2XL.  They are the same ones who come at lunchtime to snarf down the calorie-laden samples.  They stand in line with carts overflowing with fat and calories in all sorts of packaging.  They stop by the “food court” on the way out for pizza and a supersize soda.
Some of them ride scooters, as my Blogger friend Merle recently pointed out.  When was the last time you saw a thin person on an electric cart?
I really feel sorry for these people who are not only shortening their lives, but suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes while they are here.  
It’s not all about food, although food plays a big role in obesity.  Our reliance on cars and public transportation instead of walking is also a contributor.
The sad truth is many children today are growing up thinking “large” is the norm and not realizing they have the power to choose another size.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Our reading after meditation tonight made me realize how very little I know about Buddhism.  In the current chapter of “Ending the Pursuit of Happiness”, Barry Magid compares the Buddhist view of self to the self of psychoanalysis.
The first startling revelation to me was that for Buddhists the concept of “self” is empty.  Instead of a soul or self existing in a being, nothing that is permanent or stable can exist in something that is always subject to change, death, and decay.
That’s a lot to process.  I had always thought of my self as something as defined at birth as my dog Jake’s smell.  I had a stack of words to describe my self, including my name, my race, my ancestry, etc.  But since I am told I am “becoming continuously”, I can have no self.  
I’m sure it’s just a matter of semantics, but sometimes those Buddhists do make things difficult in their interpretation of life in the present moment.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

(Another) Top Ten/Hundred

I wonder how many people actually use Money Magazine’s list of the top cities when they decide where to live?  What always surprises me is the fact that every time such a list is published, it’s a DIFFERENT set of cities than the last time.  This year’s winner was Eden Prairie, Minnesota.  (I ask myself what it’s like in the middle of winter.)
I thought I had read recently that Arlington, VA, was the top-rated spot for raising a family.  And yet the only local city listed in the new top ten list is Columbia/Ellicott City, MD.
Granted you can look at statistics -- crime, student test scores, temperature extremes -- but it’s still very subjective, especially when you consider how many cities there are in the US.
I actually love where I live.  I don’t even live in a city, but rather I live in a very diverse Northern Virginia county.  I can find most every kind of ethnic food within a few miles of my house.  I can be in downtown DC in 15 minutes.  I can be on a major bike path in 5 minutes.
Sometimes I wish I could walk to everything I need like the people on Capitol Hill can. Sometimes I wish I could make better use of public transportation.
But we have neighborhood friends who have lived here for 30+ years as we have and we are all accustomed to the quirks of the area.  We can easily afford to live in our house, which cost $80K in 1977.
The bottom line for me is it would take a lot more than a survey of top cities to entice me to move.  

Monday, July 12, 2010

Looking Forward to Chautauqua

This Saturday we head up to Chautauqua once again.  Instead of intensive chamber music, I will be playing some each day with my friend Deborah and others, but I will also be enjoying some of the many things I have missed in other years.
I signed up today for a class in their “Special Studies” catalog:
1111  Scrabble:  Play by Play
Laura Klein and Joe Edley
How does a champion think?  We’ll take you into the mind of an expert and teach you play-by-play how to become a winner.  We’ll discuss a variety of skills while enjoying the f un of actual game play.  Geared toward beginners, intermediates and experts alike.  Please bring a Scrabble set.
Maximum enrollment: 20.  Minimum age: 12.
Week 4, July 19-22 / M - Th / 1:30-3:30 p.m. / Hultquist 201B
My husband has taken two classes from national champion Joe Edley, so this course comes highly recommended.
I will also be attending the morning lectures on the theme of week 4:  Nuclear Energy.  Experts from around the country will give us something to think about.  This time during dinner discussions I will be able to weigh in more effectively since I will have heard what everyone else did.
I will still enjoy all the music offered throughout the week by chamber groups and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra.
I’m planning to rent an old-fashioned woman’s bike for the week.  Since I haven’t been on a bicycle since breaking my hip, this seems like the right way to resume something I’ve missed so much.
Over the next few days I need to make a run to Costco and communicate with my fellow housemates as we determine who’s bringing what.  As Deborah reminded me, we never starve.
I’m really looking forward to this week of relaxation and stimulation and camaraderie.  Chautauqua never fails to enrich my life. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Eternally Grateful

I sometimes take it for granted that I live with someone who makes my computer life so easy.  It’s like having customer service 24x7.
My electronic life has gotten increasingly complicated now that I own an old (G4) Apple laptop, an iPhone, and an iPad.  It’s important that they talk to each other so when I delete a mail message on one the other ones know about it.  
On our recent trip I was having an annoying problem with not being able to send e-mail messages from my iPad.  I could read books to my heart’s content, but mail was definitely not right.  I was also having trouble transferring photos from my phone to the iPad.
My Apple expert had reconfigured my iPad within an hour of our getting home so that mail worked properly.  He also let me know that you have to take the iPad cover off for the camera cable to go in properly.  I give him credit for telling me that without including “you idiot” under his breath.
The problem du jour was the fact that my phone continued to show yesterday’s inbox despite the fact that I had deleted or moved all of those messages elsewhere.  He spent some time reading up on this and it is now fixed as well.
The downside is that I have become increasingly dependent on my free accessible tech support to the point where I know very little about how all this stuff is configured and how it really works.  
As long as I don’t stray too far from my current set of apps, I’m fine.  But I’m already wondering who is going to do my troubleshooting when I go to Thailand with my daughter in August.  I seriously doubt Apple support is in Brock’s tour guide job description.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Filling up the family room

At 8:00 am this morning our family room was once again furnished.  In the pouring rain, the Hardwood Artisan delivery guys brought in the pieces we had purchased 3 months ago, which had been carefully crafted in their Woodbridge workshop.
Over a month ago our black leather furniture of 10 years ago had gone north in the UHaul with our daughter to be shared between her boyfriend’s NJ house and her Manhattan apartment.  Since then a single chair has allowed my husband to watch TV.  I have mostly hung out elsewhere waiting for our furniture to arrive.

The new furniture is both attractive and comfortable.  Jake immediately jumped up on the loveseat to join me, giving his full approval.
A modification may be necessary to level out my husband’s chair.  For now putting books under the rear legs has the same effect.

The rocking chair is the most comfortable thing I have ever sat in.  It will be perfect for reading.

It was all well worth waiting for.

Friday, July 09, 2010


It was 11 am when I realized I was supposed to be someplace downtown right then.  I was scheduled for a much-needed 90-minute massage and here I was still in my pajamas.  It was actually on my e-calendar, but the demands of the week had caused me to overlook it.
I called my massage therapist Dan to confirm that I was indeed missing my appointment.  As I offered to mail in payment for the time he had set aside for me, I regretted that I would simply have to wait for some other day to have the travel kinks eased out of my body.
I was getting a shower and had a head full of shampoo when Dan called back to say he had rearranged his appointments for the day and could now see me mid-afternoon if I wanted to come in.  Of course I did!
So thanks to some other client who was willing to switch appointments with me, I was able to experience 90 minutes of a very unique style of massage that is sort of a cross between traditional massage and physical therapy.  My hips, legs, and back especially were grateful for today’s session. 
How embarrassing to miss a scheduled appointment with no real excuse but stupidity.  But how nice of Dan to make up for my mistake.  Some things just have a way of working out.
What was the last big thing you forgot to do?


I am back in the mode of reviewing resumes once again, something I rather enjoyed in my government job of many years.  I had forgotten just how varied they can be.
This time I’m helping recruit an executive director for my synagogue.  It’s a critical role, so it’s really important to find the right person.
We have had dozens of applicants for the position, including several rabbis and several other people who never mention the word Jewish in their application.
What is interesting first of all is that everything is done electronically, contrary to the above picture that shows someone filling out an application.  People who seem to know what they are doing include a cover letter and a resume with an electronic signature.
My first pass through the applicants divided them into 3 groups:
-- A small number of those who are obviously not interested in Judaism, but are simply interested in a job.  Several of these were poorly written or difficult to read.
-- About half that seemed overqualified for the job, undoubtedly wanting a higher salary than we can pay.
-- The remaining group that seemed like they might be a good fit and not want an unreasonably high salary.  In many of them there was a phrase that caught my eye and my interest.
I’ll make another pass through them tomorrow.  For now my eyes are bleary from a long drive and too many hours staring at applications.  Oddly enough, this is one of the parts of my old job that I miss.  I was good at hiring people.  

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Final goodbyes

My son, who has never been to a funeral, asked how his grandmother's funeral was. How do you describe a funeral?

As funerals go, I suppose it was just fine. No one fell apart uncontrollably. The only possible source of conflict was over which brother should speak first, which the rabbi settled by the toss of a coin. The rabbi, although he had never met the deceased, made very appropriate remarks.

The remarks were heartfelt and not too long. David read his from his iPad, since he was editing until the last minute.

Interesting things noted about my mother-in-law included her ability to give a superb hair wash (trained as a hairdresser), her love of making and cooking with schmaltz, her predictable weekly food menu (Monday veal cutlets, Tuesday lamb chops, etc.), her penchant to lie about her age (making herself 15 years younger than she really was).

I probably learned the most from our niece, who had spent a lot of time with her grandmother when she was growing up. They had a special bond that I don't think she even shared with her children.

No one mentioned my mother-in-law's preoccupation with the weather. It was invariably too hot, too cold, too rainy, too icy. There was rarely a perfect day. The weather number was perhaps the most frequently dialed in her household.

She would have found it entirely too hot today, as the temperature climbed to the high nineties. As we ceremoniously shoveled in the dirt and recited the kaddish, we were glad most of the service had been indoors in an air-conditioned chapel.

Diane lived a rich, full life, dedicating most of her efforts to her family. It will be interesting to see how they continue to relate without their matriarch. May she rest in peace.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

On the road to Motown

This is my first iPad post. I can already tell you it's going to take a bit of getting used to the keypad, which is like a bigger version of a phone keypad.

I find myself wondering if this trip to bury my mother-in-law might possibly be my last visit to Motown. I don't know anyone who goes to Detroit to play tourist. Family is usually the magnet and ours is thinning out.

I felt somewhat the same way when I left Panama City after my father's funeral, since he was the last of my immediate family. In those 10 years I have been back only once to attend my high school reunion. Now I don't think I could stand to see the oil-stained beaches.

As we roll down the Ohio Turnpike, I am reminded that this is one of the a most boring stretches of road anywhere. But we definitely had the most gourmet lunch at the Ohio service plaza where we stopped, as we ate our salad with CSA beets, garbanzos, and flank steak.

More live from Motown.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Excess Dog Hair

For much of the year Jake doesn’t shed his beautiful golden hair.  But when the summer reaches its hottest point, it’s as though he molts and big tufts of his fur fall out.
Today I got out the Furminator to see if I could move the process along.  As I combed through his coat with this little thing, handfuls of hair came out.  He contentedly lay on either side and let me Furminate away on his coat.
The end result was a big pile of dog hair.  I always wonder if it could ever be spun and woven into something to forever remind us of our golden lab Jake, one of the best dogs ever.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

July 4th back in time

Some things never change.  Like July 4th in my sleepy suburban neighborhood, which always has an afternoon parade followed by water games and a potluck dinner at the community pool.  

When our children were younger, we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  We thought about patriotic costumes and even dressed our dogs up to walk in the parade.  It was always pushing 100 degrees so the popsicles at the bottom of the hill were a treat.

Here’s a page of July 4th from 25 years ago.  My nurse-to-be and lawyer-looking-for-a-job were so young and innocent as they sported their red, white, and blue.  I had bangs and big glasses, but otherwise was much the same as I am now as I pushed the stroller along in the neighborhood parade.

Those costumes were recycled through the neighborhood in other years, but I always have to smile when I see these pictures of my children wearing them in that bygone era.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Waiting for Death

Today at Temple Micah, a congregant talked about his mother’s life as he recognized her yahrzeit.  He said that she had devoted her life to thinking of her family.  When it was apparent that she was dying, his wheelchair-bound father was brought in to wait with her.  He got agitated when it became dinnertime and insisted on leaving to eat.  She waited for him to come back before dying.  
I’m thinking a lot about death and dying just now as my mother-in-law lingers in a hospice situation in Detroit.  I was just talking to a friend who asked what the status was, to which I replied, “She’s definitely dying, but very slowly.”  After I said it, I realized how uncaring it sounded, as if death had a timetable.
But I have been wondering what actually happens between that time when someone is said to be dying and the event actually occurs.  I wonder how much is controlled by the dying person and how much is just fate or the body winding down.  
In my mother-in-law’s case, it’s unclear as to whether she knows who is around her.  But maybe she senses more than she can express.  Maybe she is so ecstatic to have her immediate family around her (minus one son) that she is trying to postpone the inevitable.
As I said the mourner’s kaddish toward the end of today’s service, I realized that the next time I would probably say it would be at her funeral, that is if she chooses to die between now and next Shabbat.
She may not have welcomed me into the family with open arms initially (in the Protestant era of my life), but she has treated me with respect and love ever since she realized I was going to be a permanent fixture in the family.  I hope death will come easy for her when it does happen.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Running from the Law

I just had a close call that should have socked me with an expensive ticket.  To make matters worse the cause was clearly the fact that I was talking on the phone while driving.  
I was heading home from downtown DC with a great new hair cut when I decided to multi-task and return a friend’s phone call.  As I concluded the conversation, I suddenly noticed a police car parked on the shoulder and dutifully started to slow down.  Then I realized I was in the car pool lanes and it was RUSH HOUR!  I was clearly the only occupant of the old Volvo, which tends to call attention to itself anyway with its duck-taped trim.
HOLY SHIT I said to myself as I drove past the cop, looking in my rear view mirror for the ominous red flashing light.  But no such light appeared and the Shirlington Exit did, so I quickly exited and took a deep breath.
I am always so careful to respect those HOV rules, never having chosen to break the law or accidentally gotten into the restricted lanes before.  And to be honest, I had no recollection whatsoever about getting on today.
Which proves your mind is only minimally on the road when you are on your phone.  Maybe this will be enough of a wake-up call to put a stop to my nasty habit of talking while driving.  The next time I may not be so lucky as to duck the $500 ticket.
I do wonder why that cop didn’t get me, but I’m glad I escaped.