Nice to be Back

Is there anything nicer than being back in your own bed and your own regular wardrobe, never mind all those travel clothes you take on vacation?

After a full day’s flying home from, we both slept like the dead Sunday night and opened our eyes yesterday to a cool,  cool sun and the popcorn of cherry blossoms strung along the branches of the little tree under our window. 

I felt good all day, in part because I had not only unpacked everything as soon as we got in Sunday but also washed and ironed it all, catching up on episodes of Veep, Silicon Valley and the frightening outrageously R-rated Game of Thrones, a show that makes me want to run into the bathroom and peek only a tiny bit through the crack in the door. (And yes we DO have a TV in our bedroom, so sue me . We brought it in when I was heavy with child in 1976 and only got through the early months of that first baby’s life thanks to All in The Family, Cheers and that groundbreaking serialized drama Alex Haley’s Roots.)

I worked like crazy on my work-work and didn’t get to the Y where I do need to go since soon I’ll be doing even MORE ironing as I dig our my fashionable summer wardrobe.

school gym suits

I’m going out to that YMCA even IF the sun is not supposed to come out at all tomorrow and the temperatures are going to feel more like March than the brink of May. I learned early in life, if you want fun in your life you’d best learn how to make it yourself.



 Plus I always have fun at the Y. Hot Hula? You bet. I do it every week (love that sarong!) See it here.








IMG_3091I’ll call this one We Got Too Greedy, or else maybe Tub o’ Sludge. Here’s why:

We went on vacation, all ten family members, thinking, OK we’ll stay for the FIRST part of the week in the cool old inn with the 1940s bathrooms. Sure, the other guests there are mostly ancient, but we figured that even if one or two did chance to visit the pool, they wouldn’t mind us with our goggles and our floaties and our young ones with their fat baby limbs – and they didn’t.

And I loved that inn in Tucson and felt so sad when, on Thursday, we bid it goodbye to go to another, 21st century joint, named for the two brothers whose portrait hangs in every lobby, founders of this giant hotel chain.

There, at the J.W. Starr Pass Marriott, were ten times the number of guests, including a Medical Records Convention, a Transit Conference, and a charming gaggle of pre-teen females here with their folks (or mostly mums, really) for some sort of Trapeze Convention.

At this hotel, there are pools within pools, and a water slide, and a Lazy River, with the usual giant inflatable tubes in which you can float serenely around the perimeter of the aquatic  acreage, propelled by just enough water pressure to make a girl feel like Katherine Hepburn on the African Queen, before the part where she and ‘captain’ Humphrey Bogart get a little storm-tossed.

That first night, when we came back from dinner, however, our tub looked like this. While we were gone it had vomited up this black sludge that would not wipe away with mere towels. I called Maintenance, who came instantly and poured what looked like Muriatic Acid down the drain and strongly suggested we wait until  Housekeeping could come in the morning to truly sanitize the thing. No baths for us!

Then two of us humans began also vomiting up stuff, such that I got to spend five hours in a dark hotel room next door watching inane pre-teen programming on the Disney Channel while rubbing the back of my favorite six-year-old as he did residual gagging and spitting for 90 minutes into the room’s wastebasket, carefully lined with the plastic bag from the ice bucket – all this  while everyone else had the world’s most festive time with our brother-in-law/brother/uncle team, the ones we had come out west to see and here they are:

toby & rusty

Then, the same night it happened again with our tub. And the baby broke out in hives. And on our last full day yesterday the temperatures plunged from 90 degrees to 60 degrees and a day-long wind blew that practically sanded our faces off.

Still it was wonderful to be there and now, in two hours, we will fly the five hours home.

I will remember the clear dry air but not the sludge, and how we cherish these brothers who live here. Also I bet I will remember always how lovely it was to watch, at the pool, as 11-year-old trapeze girl, as slender as a young stalk of celery, executed an amazingly long hand stands while sipping at her lemonade upside down, through a straw – and don’t I wish I had captured an image of THAT  wondrous feat!

And also I love caring for any sick child which in any case helped me take my mind off my own sickness.

Here he is playing on my phone once he felt up to such pleasures. And here I am bidding you all Good Day as we drive to Phoenix to begin the long journey home.

gametime on the iphone



desert day of the dead manThinkin’ about bones today. It must be this desert around me that’s doing it. 

I just love bones, the way one nudges so nicely into another; the way the fat round head of the femur nestles into the deep bowl-shaped part of the pelvis fashioned to hug it tight.

I used to keep a little dancing man of a skeleton on display in my office in the years when I practiced massage. 

He stood a good three feet tall there where he perched atop my file cabinet. You couldn’t miss him when someone opened my office door and I guess that’s why that little brother-and-sister team knocked shortly after I had arrived that one time. When I had passed them in the hallway where they were playing, they must have looked in and seen my clattery man, grinning down in that dapper little ​Mr. Bones way.

“We want to see your skeleton!” is how I remember the little boy saying breathlessly, while his sister hid herself behind him.

“Hmmm Well, I’m actually wearing my skeleton at the moment,” I replied, pretending to misunderstand.

​ “I mean it’s under my skin.”

He brushed past me and my silly joke and together with his sister entered my office.

“THAT skeleton,” he said, pointing upward.

“He’s scary,” he added gravely.

“Scary? No!“ I said back​. “These are just his bones, just like we all have.” Then I went on. I can never help going on when it comes to this topic.

“Bones do so much for us, holding us up, helping us move, providing a platform for our muscles…”

“Look at his FEET!” squealed his younger sister.

“I know​, aren’t they great, with all those tiny parts? And look at his ribs, like a perfect little birdcage, just right for protecting his heart.”

The boy swallowed hard. “Show me his skull,” he said dramatically.

“Let me see if I can lift him down then,” I answered and did so, causing the figure’s limbs to caper and sway.

The children squealed, and squeezed back toward the wall.

“And you know what the skull protects, don’t you?” I said. “The most important thing you have, which is….”

“Your BRAIN!” they both yelled together laughing, then piled back out to the hallway.

The boy dashed off then, but the girl stopped before following him, shot out one arm and waved a merry goodbye.

“My name is Terry,” I told her because we had not introduced ourselves exactly. “What’s yours?”

“Vanessa!” she shouted gleefully.

“Well then Vanessa, goodbye for now. We’ll see each other again soon, I’m sure.”

“Goodbye!” she yelled and danced away down the hallway.

And that was ​that. It was an exchange that lasted maybe five minutes, but even all this time later I still cannot think of a nicer way to have started my day. For the whole rest of the week in fact, I felt cheered and buoyed up by it, and newly conscious of all the small people present among us.

For if humanity is a forest, then we adults are its stiffly standing old trees, while they are the new ones. Self-important lot that we are, we imagine that we rule the forest. We even imagine we hold up the sky, with our barky old arms, hurrying the very clouds along to their next assignment.

But the future of any forest lies in its new growth. And the whole time we elders go on looking upward for meaning, the meaning lies below us in these tender saplings – like the ones I met that day, so bright, and limber, and trembling with that fresh young life.

Such Peace

You fly all day inside a fuselage that looks like the inside of a lobster carcass. Hour one: slow. Hour two: even slower. Hour three: are we there yet? Hour four: not yet. Hour five: and the clouds give way and the tarmac rises to meet you and at long last  you are sq-u-ee-e-e-ezed on out of the plane, slowly though, as the other passengers gather up their bags and belongings, like so much cake batter inside a pastry cone.

Then you hobble to baggage claim, find what’s yours, board a bus to the rental car center, get the vehicle and drive for another forever as the children get restless and the baby gets hives but at last  AT LAST!  the following morning you wake in this new place and its peace fills you so full you forget all but the beauty of this moment.

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First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Here we are again with another First Day of the Rest of Your Life.

Time for that lovely poem by Red Saner called Green Feathers. It’s about moss, like the kind that grows on old headstones, but it’s all about hope, this springy green stuff, not the end of hope. Listen:

Five minutes till dawn and a moist breath of pine resin comes to me as from across a lake. It smells of wet lumber, naked and fragrant. In the early air

We keep trying to catch sight of something lost up ahead, A moment when the light seems to have seen us Exactly as we wish we were.

Like a heap of green feathers poised on the rim of a cliff?

Like a sure thing that hasn’t quite happened? Like a marvelous idea that won’t work? Routinely amazing – How moist tufts, half mud, keep supposing

Almost nothing is hopeless. How the bluest potato Grew eyes on faith the light would be there. And it was.

And it was: the light was there.  Welcome new life! Alleluia!



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Cause of Death

angel-tombstoneAs my good friend and fellow blogger Ann Aikens posted just now on The Upper Valley Girl, “If holy weekend Passover on about death and mayhem and baffled onlookers I don’t know what is.”

I do hear that. The topic of death has me thinking today, the quiet day when the Christians world waits to see if the miracle will occur tomorrow. And I guess death is also on my mind because of a fantastic article I recently read in The New Yorker about the history of death certificates, which seem to have first originated after the huge loss of life during the Black Death in the 14th century.

Here are some of the things you could die of according to the old documents which in 17th and 18th century England were called Bills of Mortality. Back then you could be carried off by: 

  • Bleach – I almost did that once. Stuff tastes na-a-a-a-asty.
  • Cramps – had those – nasty again.
  • Itch – what torture to die of an itch!
  • Cut of the stone (hmmm)
  • Or something called Rising of the Lights. (And who doesn’t understand how daylight might affect you if you’d been to a real Rager the night before?)

According to Kathryn Schulz, the article’s author, you could also die of something called Kings Evil. (Is that Anything like droit de seigneur?)

I’ll let her tell the rest: In 17th and 18th century England

“You could succumb to Overjoy, which sounds like a decent way to go, or Be Devoured By Lice which does not. You could die of Stopping Of The Stomach, or Head Ach, or Chin Cough. You could die of Horseshoe Head but don’t ask me how.  You could die of being a Lunatick. You could die of, basically death: “Suddenly”; “Killed by Several Accidents”; “Found Dead in the Streets.”

You could also die of “Frighted” and of “Grief.”

The story in my family is that a long-ago relative died of fright in the 1870s some time after a bunch of boys dressed as ghosts dangled themselves outside her bedroom window. She was 13. 

Another ancestor died of ‘Dropsy’. I know that because it says so right on her death certificate though I can’t say I know what Dropsy is.

What we really need to know is WHY someone died. As the author writes “we want to know if a loved one suffered or was at peace, or if her death was meaningful, or whether we could have prevented it, or how the universe could have permitted it at all. ” On these questions, she goes on to say, “the death certificate is mute. “instead it provides the pathological basis of death, determined by some combination of fact, convention and guesswork, and described in terms that most non-doctors struggled to understand.”

My Uncle Ed’s death certificate lists a heart condition. Because the circumstances were so painful I know that they were only guessing about that, but there it is. They were wrong about the time of death too. They wrote down the date when I found him but I could tell because I knew him so well and knew his patterns that he had died someplace between 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock the evening before.

The author concludes this article by underlining the fact that all a death certificate does is try to explain WHY we die. “But when we are in the pitch of grief – or for that matter in the full sunshine of joy – what form, what blank, what cause, final, immediate, or underlying could possibly answer that question to anyone’s satisfaction. Why do we die? We die because we were born; because we are mortal….”

But on a day as glorious as this just ending do we rely believe WE will ever die? Are we not the stable central cast of characters around whom other characters briefly flit and visit? No, alas, we are not. And one day our names too will be placed on a form and filed with the state.


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I’m Goin’ With It

Yesterday saw such a tropical wind-driven rain around here that people’s hairdos were all over the place.

My own hair, curly by nature anyway, was practically in the next county – EVEN THOUGH I had duly blown it dry and flat-ironed the daylights out of it, as is my custom.

The moisture in the air, driven by strong spring winds, was so extreme the TV reporters on scene all over the area were apologizing for their coifs. They looked like the utterly bedraggled news anchors in the first Batman movie, remember? After Jack Nicholson’s Joker poisons the makeup supply to give people that same frozen smirk he has? I don’t have a still image of the funny cameo when you see a pair in the days afterward, on camera without their usual buffing up, but let’s say they – and all of us yesterday – looked like Sofia Vergera on one of those mean ‘Celebrities WIth No Makeup’ sites:

sofia vergara w & w out makeup

(Hard to believe that even IS the hot Latin wife from Modern Family, huh? “Mahnny! Dj’you loook so haaaandsome!” )

When I got home last night my hair was so wildly tentacled I decided to do something new: I decided to stop fighting it. I put it in a few small rollers and 20 minutes later it looked like  this. 

curly again

I’m thinking of going with it. All these years I’ve had this curly hair, why NOT set it free at long last? I’m no Sofia Vergara to begin with and thank the good Lord for that.



Fun for the Four-Eyed (and more)

Two days ago I picked up a pair of glare-canceling nonprescription glasses (for night driving) and also a pair of prescription glasses, for the dreaded unforeseen circumstances under which my contacts pop clear out of my head.

When you’re at the optician’s, they clamp all these gadgets to your face and then take a picture.

Soooo, documentarian that I am, I took a picture OF that picture.

It’s me all right – same dumb little nose – but my eyes look strangely un-brown. 

at lenscrafters

I knew I had better get some of those glare-killing glasses because I often have precious cargo aboard in my car: seven talented young scholars, entrusted  for four years  to my town’s local chapter of the A Better Chance Program by their awesome families. 

Here they all are last fall, on a fun outing in Boston that Resident Academic Coordinator Penny took them on.



It was also last fall, while bringing them to see an amazing performance of Romeo & Juliet at the Strand Theatre in  Dorchester,  that I glanced down at my navigator for half a second and rolled into the car in front of us.

At 5 mph, but still.

 The woman driving that car yelled “That really hurt!” and grabbed her neck when I jumped out to apologize. She also called the Staties. Those guys arrived, lights flashing, together with three guys in a fire truck, all of whom quickly assessed the situation and declared it a non-event.

The boys, meanwhile, had hopped out of my car right when I did, some of them to comfort me (she was really yelling) and some to take pictures of her completely unblemished rear bumper.

But then, when we all climbed back in to resume out pilgrimage, they were, to a man, quietly texting their mums:

“Terry just rear-ended someone.”

Humbling! AND scary!

Now I take so many precautions behind the wheel it’s a wonder I ever get out of my own driveway, where peace reigns and even the field mouse feel safe.

vacationing in my 021


Who Needs a Shrink?

just plain nutsIf it weren’t for your subconscious, you wouldn’t have a CLUE about what your real issues are.  I dreamed that I woke one morning to find our house filled with many different families. I began tearing around to make sure we had enough provisions for all these strangers and only noticed after what seemed like days that I hadn’t seen the cats. 

“WHERE ARE THE CATS?” I cried in this dream, dashing about yet more frantically – until I found them at last in our dank unfinished basement, as skinnied-out with neglect a pair of empty gloves. 

Then, two nights later, I had a dream that was no dream at all but an actual memory, of something my hail and vital mother said halfway through a party we threw for her 80th birthday. At the celebration’s start, just before the guests began arriving, she heard some of us squabbling about who was supposed to have laid the fire. 

“That was always the trouble in our family,” she sighed sadly about a time 60 years in the past: “No one was ever in charge.” Then, an hour later, still sitting there by the fire, she closed her eyes and died, her small plate of dessert pastries falling from her lap.

Unearthing that memory sure explains why I’ve held myself responsible for the very wheeling of the stars ever since that fateful day. SOMEONE’S got to be in charge!

…And more messages from my subconscious came just last night, when I dreamed I was trying to run a meeting of volunteers in my community but somehow could not speak commandingly enough to hold their attention.

I started out in the classroom and so I know: this is every teacher’s worst fear.  

In this dream that was more of a nightmare, one of the whisperers actually turned her chair around so that her back was to me.

 In this dream that was more of a nightmare I say again, I went over to her and in a pathetic begging tone said, “Don’t you care about the mission of this organization?” 

“Not since YOU took over as president!” she sneered.  

Then, “When is this going to be over? somebody groaned. “Yeah,” whined someone else. “I want to watch the game!”

I threw out the most intransigent talkers, something that in real life you can’t actually DO in an all-volunteer organization, and finally gave up and gavel things to a close.

On her way out, the sneering one shot me a sidelong look. “Nothing personal,” she smirked. 

“It hurt, what you said before,” I began, again with that pathetic wheedling tone, but “Hey!” she barked back. “It is what it is! Plus, you know you’ve really let yourself go lately.”

So there it is: a trifecta of Bulletins From My Subconscious, which would appear to be suggesting the things I am evidently worried about, which are:

  • A. That I’m a poor caregiver and have done little to keep the home fires burning; 
  • B. That I really am letting myself go. (Didn’t I just the other day wear a pair of pants I’ve had since the 1970s?)
  • C. that I’m less than stellar at running the actual meeting I do actually have to run in my waking life.

I worry about these things, evidently, but maybe I shouldn’t, overmuch. God didn’t make me a manager anyway. He made me a teacher I’m pretty sure, and maybe I’m a teacher still, on the inside, because really I just want to affirm everybody and make it a good class. And clothes from the 70s are cool!  

And as for the cats, well the cats died some time ago. Maybe they’re sitting in Heaven right now, together with my mom, all three this very minute enjoying a nice little plate of pastries.

baby abe & baby charlotte

What’s the Deal with the Docs?

Watch what you say to your doctor, jeez. This new doc I talked about seeing last week took the records from my old doc and just copied  a bunch of stuff without going over it with me – and the stuff was wildly inaccurate. Unbeknownst to me the first doc had written this about me:

big fat lie

None of which is true. None of it!

Take syncope, which means fainting. Sure, I fainted some in my school days but the roots of that were theological. The minute I joined the Congregational Church the fainting stopped.

And sure I may have mentioned the time I fainted one midnight in a lovely old Vermont farmhouse where I was a guest but that was only because I had spent 8 hours on my feet that day, then driven three hours to get there. At midnight, in my little bed, I suddenly got a cramp in the leg of that accelerator foot that was so painful it lifted me like Lazarus from out-flat to upright in less than half a second. You can’t zoom the elevator to the top that fast without losing a little blood to the head, naturally and so I fainted. Got up too fast from that spectacular slump, and lurched toward the bathroom – where I fainted again, hitting my head on sharp corner of the bathroom vanity en route to the floor.

That’s where the ‘neck pain’ came from: ten days after the episode when the finally did an X-ray to see about things my neck muscles were still in spasm. 

So yes I had neck pain, FOR A WHILE, yes.

 And I had fainted that night one night; I did.  But I haven’t fainted more than twice in 40 years. The only other time I remember fainting was at the Harvard Coop when I was shopping for a nice wide necktie for David’s birthday. It was the 70s and ties were wonderfully wide, and colorful. I went down in the aisle and the floor manager dragged me behind the counter to get me out of the way. (Fainting is like, that, trust me: the people around the fainter just want to haul off the body.)

As for Osteoporosis I don’t know here the first doc got that one, unless it was from the little joke I made about Osteopenia, which I called the other osteo’s waiting room.

I look now at this sheet with my ‘conditions’ on it as I exited he new doc’s office last week and it makes my blood boil. To make matters worse there’s this disclaimer that says if anything is in error tell your PCP. Like, ‘Don’t tell us! We don’t care!’

I found that strange too.

When I first sat down with the new doc  I asked the guy Should I write down every procedure I ever had? Meaning should I write that I had my tubes tied back in ‘84?

“Nah,” he said at his desk without even looking over his shoulder at me. “We just care about eye stuff. ”

So there you are: if the first doc wrote down too much and wrote it down inaccurately then this second doc was willing to write down too little.

So maybe the sipping straws that are a person’s fallopian tubes really aren’t that interesting to anyone 30 years down the line but something about the whole thing griped me. I should have told him I’d had my head replaced, like they did with old Jeremy Bentham when they staffed him and put him on display in that British museum. (You see his fake head on top, see, as his actual, somewhat worse-for-the-wear head rests under the chair on which he sits.) I wonder what either one of them would have written down then? 

Here’s dead and stuffed Mr. Bentham now, providing some good perspective on many levels for us all .bentham-and-his-two-heads