About Me

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Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kids' Christmas Thank-you's

Dear Santa,
     Thank you for the new red wagon with two seats.  Did you mean I have to share with my little brudder?
     Love, Doug

Dear Santa,
     I guess you didn't get the Xmas letter I wrote.  I asked for a fire truck but I got a garbage truck by mistake.  Please put my name down for a fire truck next time.
                          Love, James

Dear Aunt Rose,
     Thanks for the red sweatr you maid.  My favorit color is really purble.  Maybe you could make that next yr.
                           Love, Sally

Dear Grandma Ann,
     Thank you for the Lalaloopsy doll.  I'm saving in my piggy bank for an American Girl but I'll use yours til I have enough.
                           Love, Molly

Dear Grandma Joan,
     Thanks for the pretty bracelet.  We didn't do much after you went home except open our Xmas presents.  It was more fun when you were here.
                         Love, Becky
P.S. - I hope you get the cast off your ankle soon.  I put my toys away every day since you left.

Dear Papa Jack,
     Thanks for the race car for Xmas.  It goes fast on the kitchen floor, but Mom doesn't want me under her feets.  Maybe you could send me a racetrack.
                         Love, Tim

Dear Aunt Beth and Uncle Will,
     I finished the puzzle you sent me and it was easy.  Mom and Dad took me to the mall to find a harder one.  They didn't have any.  I haven't done anything else but the food court was good.
                        Love, Jeffrey

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pay Christmas Forward

     I can't seem to get past the nightmare of Sandy Hook Elementary.  I cry talking about it; I cry watching interviews or clips of the heartbreaking funerals; I cry thinking of the abyss if one of our five grandchildren were taken under similar circumstances.

     Millions of us have been traumatized by this mass shooting, unlike any other.  The reason?  We can picture ages five to ten.  We hold them in our arms.  We smell their hair.  We wipe their noses and laugh with their silliness.  Our stomachs seize when they are bullied or their temperatures reach 104.  My daughter-in-law forwarded a link to a wonderful blog by Jennifer Rowe Walters, who explains all this.  It's called, "What Six Looks Like" (www.huffingtonpost.com).

     Yet it's the season of Hanukkah and Christmas.  If Ann Curry's idea (NBC News) for 26 random acts of kindness (one for each victim) seems overwhelming, I'll start with one simple thing with someone right in front of me.

     I'll hug and kiss and hold on longer than usual.  I'll make a point of telling a little one, especially, he will always be loved.  I'll say "Thank you" to whoever is making possible another beautiful holiday together.  I'll tell someone who serves me how much he is appreciated.  Above all else, I'll respect the person in front of me.

     I'll pay the season forward. 

     I'll perform a random act of kindness without expecting anything in return.  I'll give a child passing by a big smile and a wave.  I'll wish people I'll never see again "Merry Christmas."  I'll say "Thank you" for even the smallest act of kindness (holding a door open, for example), and then return the favor for someone else.  I'll give something away that I'm are no longer using.  I'll share a story, a photo, a coffee break, a lunch.  I'll be a good listener, even if a child of six is talking.

     As Jennifer Walters wrote, "We know how sturdy and strong six is...and yet how frail and fragile."   Just like the rest of us.

     There'll come a day when Christmas will be returned to me.  As it is every time I hear those five little voices.

     Merry Christmas, everyone, and a healthy, safe 2013!




Monday, December 17, 2012

Where's the Body?

     This is a true story.  Only the names have been changed.

     Father Paul had sprinkled holy water over the waxy form that displayed Army medals across the chest.  A phone rang as Father Paul addressed the mourners.  It was not a ring; it was bells ringing in wild syncopation. 
     The phone opened and closed with a slap.  Father glanced in the direction of the offender, then continued with renewed gusto.  "Sophie and Jim were the perfect example of a love affair that continued into old age.  They held each other's hand and fininshed each other's sentences.  They --"
     The cell phone started its wild cacophony again.  The offender slapped the phone shut again.
     " -- took their vows seriously to be there in sickness and in health.  Sophie didn't miss a day at the nursing --"
     When the music began for the third time, I turned in my seat.  The offender was in his nineties and obviously didn't know how to turn the device off. 
     "Where are you?" he whispered.
     I could hear the response.  "We're at the cemetery, where you told us to go.  We're driving round and round but can't find anyone.  Where are you?"
     (Whisper)  "The Memorial Chapel on Boynton Beach Boulevard.  Come over here!  How did you get this number?"
     "I called your sister-in-law in Connecticut."  The phone slapped shut again.
     "It seems someone is missing," Father Paul said.  "Have you been able to direct them here?"
     "Yes, Father.  My apologies."
     "Now tell me.  Do you think our Jim would mind if you interrupted my remarks?  Or would he say, 'The more the merrier, and let the bells ring me on my way?'"
     "I think he'd tell them not to rush, Father, since he has all the time in the world."

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Spoof on Xmas Newsletters

     Dear friends and relatives,

    Happy Holidays, everyone!  Hope your year was better than ours.

     Last Christmas we planned to meet our two sons and their families half-way between them.  The hotel lost our reservation, but they were nice enough to call around to find us some rooms (four).   The only place that had a vacancy was in downtown Newark.  The pawn shops closed at five on Christmas Eve, which was a blessing, but with the pubs and sports bars rocking on either side of us, we decided to order Chinese in.  We exchanged gifts on Christmas morning in front of the little tree that stood on the counter in the office, then spent the rest of the day at Chucky Cheese.

     Charley and I travelled north from Florida twice last winter.  Once was when granddaughter Hannah swallowed a barette in the backseat of their car.  The other was when granddaughter Olivia got smacked with a lacrosse stick that severed her front tooth.  Most of you know that Charley insists on wearing a mask if he has to fly.  I flew on the same plane but five rows behind him (too embarassed), and the kid next to me threw up the whole flight.  When we changed planes in Atlanta, an ice storm closed the airport, so we spent the night on the benches in Terminal C.  Just when we finally got to sleep around 4 a.m., the cleaning crew reported to work and began vacuuming under us. 

     Going home after the other trip, the police dog smelled something in my luggage.  They couldn't find anything (no surprise there!), but the police dog kept yapping, so we ended up in the back of a van with a couple of tattooed gang members in handcuffs.  Inside the detention room they discovered it was the nail glue I'd packed.  By the way, the hospital suctioned the barrette out of Hannah and Olivia has a new cap on her tooth.

     We babysat the twins during the summer, while their parents went to a college reunion.  Unfortunately, one of the twins climbed up on a chair while we weren't looking and let our pet bird, Petey, out of its cage.  The bird flew directly up into the ceililng fan and dropped like a stone.  Naturally our cat, Fluffy, pounced on the poor dazed bird and carted it off to a hiding place.  When we heard the choking, we knew we could find Fluffy, but it was too late for both of them.  A part of Petey got stuck and we lost both of them.

     With two pets gone so suddenly, Charley and I were too depressed to take our annual trip to Niagara Falls.  We postponed it till this year, when I'll celebrate a BIG ONE.  The thought that I am going to be that old may keep me from going anywhere, but the kids say they'll have a cake and ice cream, anyway. 

     Have a very Merry Christmas and stay well!                  Love, Pam and Charley

P.S. - We are fortunate to be in good health, except for the dislocated shoulder that Charley suffered when he was skimboarding with the grandchildren and the Achilles I tore in a shuffleboard match. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Little People

     After spending a week with three grandchildren under age five, I am still reeling.  Not from making mac and cheese at least once a day or losing fifteen games of Zingo (on purpose) or getting up when the little ones coughed through the night.  I am reeling at the wonder of it all.

     The two-year-olds motored their cars across the tile, then jumped off to tackle us behind the knees with unexpected hugs.   They squealed at the butterflies that flew around their heads at Butterfly World, at the misty waterfall they could run through, and at the birds that stayed on their hands drinking a sugar syrup.  They clung to the pole of the carousel horse, begging for another ride in their abbreviated, "NO GO, more please!" 

     Their four-year-old sister insisted on seeing every live show at Dreher Park Zoo, from the wild birds to the croc she could touch.  With bright sapphire eyes, pig tails, and an ever-ready smile, she stood to recite the pledge of allegiance at a Christmas concert and yelled good-bye to us at the airport, "I'll miss you, grandma and grandpa!" 

     It's not just innocence adults lose (and why wouldn't we?).  It's the resilency.  Kids bounce back - in minutes, if not seconds.  Scrapes on two knees hurt, but getting back in the pool was more important.  Aging makes the consequences of our actions more life-altering.  The lesson I learned from the kids:  get back to basics.
     Chelsea Cain's essay in the N.Y. TIMES BOOK REVIEW section December 2, 2012, talks about belonging to two writers' groups - one for distinguished authors and one for seven-year-olds.  She describes the process of writing (stories for the seven-year-olds) and then reading before the group.  In the case of the adult group, I can relate to the gut-wrenching that takes place before reading my piece.  In fact, more than once it has crossed my mind to leave before the leader called my name.

     Chelsea points out that the seven-year-olds, on the other hand, can't wait to read their stories aloud.  "They instinctively offer praise before going in for the kill."   Writing can be frustrating and demeaning.  Try bringing a memoir into a writer's group!  Kids don't know yet that everything they write is part memoir.  According to Chelsea, they cry "because they lost their pencil...or because someone wants to sit next to someone else."  About the important things - certainly not about their writing.

     Innocence, resilency, and perspective - I lost them somewhere along the way.  Spent a few days with the grandkids and found them again!





Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Smart Gate

     First there was Global Entry.  Now there's Smart Gate.  Not to be confused with Watergate, but if I thought about it for a few seconds, I'm sure I could come up with some similarities.

     After interviews and background checks, Charley and I were accepted for the Global Entry program.  It's supposed to eliminate our wait in lines at Immigration and Customs when we re-enter the U.S.  But when Charley inserted his hands in the fingerprint machine at Logan Airport, nothing registered.  His fingertips were too dry.  An ICE agent escorted us to a detention room, where we waited forty-five minutes with drug smugglers and black marketers until a central data bank gave assurances that we were do-gooders, not no-gooders.  "Put saliva on your fingertips next time," the agent told Charley.

     This week I got an email from DoNotReply@departmenthumanservices/usgovernment.  There is another quick-entry program Charley and I can apply for.  To Australia.   It's called Smart Gate.
     We've never been to Australia, and although it's highly appealing as a destination, we'll probably never make it.  Our days of being encased in a metal tube for twenty-four hours are over.

     The Smart Gate program is authorized by Australian Customs and Border Protection to allow TRUSTED U.S. citizens to use the Australian automated processing system.  Only under these conditions:
you've been accepted for the Global Entry Program, you travel on a valid U.S. passport, you're sixteen years or older.
       Is Charley with the dry fingertips trustworthy?

     The notification warns that this program is by no means an ENTITLEMENT!  What do the Aussies think Americans feel entitled to over there?   A brewery?   

     The email warns, however, that the eight cities in Australia that employ Smart Gate have limited gates and kiosks operational.  Others are under construction.   Australian Customs and Border Protection apologizes for delays this may cause.






Monday, November 12, 2012

Global Entry to What?

     Charley and I looked straight ahead.  The only peripheral peeks we'd gotten were as we entered.   To our right were guys with "hoodies" pulled low over their brows and tattoos all over their forearms.  To our left were burly guys speaking Russian through gold teeth, their necks wadded with gold chains.  None of them bothered to look at us.  We were misfits.

     "Wait here, please."  The agent pointed to the first row of chairs lined up like a classroom.  No-one sat in the next seven rows.  Could that many people really be detained at once?

     Charley was seething.  A Vietnam vet and former banker, he was brought in with thugs?  I slithered my watch and wedding bands off and heard them clink inside my purse.

     "Do you believe this?  We applied for that stupid thing so we'd have NO wait getting back into this country!"

     "I don't care about the wait right now," I said.  "I just want to get out of here with my limbs attached."

     Months before, the two of us had filed Global Entry applications so we could by-pass Customs and Immigration lines after travelling abroad.  We'd sent in  $100 each and passed background checks.  No arrests, no outstanding speeding tickets.  No problem!

     We'd  gotten a notice that we were OK'ed for the next step - an interview with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent at the nearest office, a terminal in the port of Ft. Lauderdale.  Down Interstate 95 we went.

     Easy questions, easy answers - always first responses.  If only the security questions for my online accounts were that easy!  I can't ever remember the passwords or pins and created a folder on the computer to help me.  I have to "minimize" the website I'm working on to open the folder, retrieve the necessary number of letters or numbers or combination (with or without capitals), then "optimize" again to enter my account.  By then I wish I'd  just made a phone call.

     The agent disappeared in Ft. Lauderdale, then came back and told us to stand in front of the camera.  We didn't know if that was a good or bad sign.  The photos weren't half bad, actually - nothing like our drivers'  photos.  Technology sure had improved!

     The next step was a hands-on tutorial with a duplicate of the machine that would grant us re-entry in airports.  We inserted our hands into slots like the blower in public rest rooms.  The machine read and recorded our fingerprints and stamped our passports.  We'd been cleared for landing!

     So why did we end up in a detention room at Logan Airport, while the rest of our plane went through the lines and retrieved their luggage?  Because my dear husband's fingers were TOO DRY!  Yup - the machine couldn't read his fingerprints to get a match with the database.  We'd by-passed a long line to be held up by an electronic wizard.  After forty-five minutes we were released with special instructions for Charley.  "Before you use the machine next time, you'd better put some saliva on your fingertips.  Or your wife could carry a little tube of oil.  Of course, she'll have to put it in a baggie to get through security."

     "What a waste of money," Charley kept saying.  Now we stand in line like everyone else.

     Let me hear your worst airport stories!  Write in the comment box and post. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Humor from the Headlines

It has been a devastating week with unthinkable catastrophe along the east coast of the U.S.  Among the photographic and video horrors, I found some items that might provide brief distractions.

First, Paula Simonds (aka Lacey Wildd ) is getting more cleavage.  Not that she doesn't already have enough.  The single mom from MTV's "True Life" series has decided to increase her implant size from triple L to triple M.  Proud to be plastic, Lacey is charging $1500-$2000 per TV and event appearance (no porn or topless, though).  Her website sells sexy Lacey bobble heads (with bobbling boobs, too?).  In-between having her six children, she had six surgeries.  Then six more.  She hopes to put her children through college on the bobbling proceeds.

When Lacey sleeps, "it's like having two bowling balls in my chest," she said.  She has two torn vertebrae and can't have routine sonograms or mammograms.  An internal bra implanted in her torso is made of pigskin and her own muscle.  The implants can shift at any time and end up in her armpits or abdomen.  If that happened, would gawkers still shout "How big are they?"

Fans donate through PayPal for her surgeries.  While under the knife last time, Lacey added butt and tummy lifts. 


Let's get it right!  Since the third and final presidential debate, residents of Boca Raton, Florida, want their hometown pronounced correctly.  It's "Rah-tone."  The city actually passed an ordinance in 1982 to put an end to mispronunciations.

What could they do?  Jail people who make it rhyme with "baton?"

The name actually comes from an archaic nautical term meaning, "rocky inlet."  Contemporary Spanish  translates the name into something like "mouth of the rat."  Well, that's possible, too, depending on the people you know from Boca.

Newspapers reported on November 4, 2012, that billions in aid meant to help Japan recover from its 2011 earthquake and tsunami actually got diverted to other government projects.  Among those receiving the aid were a factory that produces contact lenses, prisons for job training, and activists who are opposed to the activists opposed to whaling.  More than half of the $148 billion has not been allocated at all. 

Meanwhile, Japanese art director and designer Kenya Hara announced a top-secret new project for fall.  Would it provide temporary housing for the inhabitants still homeless from the tsunami?  No, but it does provide construction for man's best friend, dogs.  Perhaps the easy-to-assemble structures, called "Architecture for Dogs," could be modified for humans.  I wonder if Mr. Hara received any of the $148 billion for his project?

Finally, some levity from Senator Joe Lieberman, when interviewed by Mark Leibovich in The New York Times Magazine, Sunday, November 4, 2012:

"There's an older guy on the park bench, crying...Finally a jogger stops, sees the guy sobbing.  'What's wrong?'

"'My wife of 48 years died, and I was very lonely.  I went on JDate and met a younger Russian woman.  We liked each other.  So she's moved in with me, and she's wonderful.  She's attractive, she cooks well, she takes care of me and almost every night we have fabulous sex.'

"So the jogger says:  'Well that's a wonderful story.  Why are you crying?'

"The old guy says, 'I'm crying because I can't remember where I live.'"

Senator Lieberman added, "It will get funnier as you get older."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Airedale Mixup

     Our sons grew up with a docile female Airedale named Sandy.  She was small, so they'd often wrestle on the floor together till Sandy fell asleep with her head in one of their laps.  Airedales were bred for hunting, and she chased Canadian geese, among other things.  One winter she fell through the ice and had to be rescued in a rowboat.  After that we confined her to a very large area in the backyard, where she dug up every inch of the flower beds while chasing rodents and vermin.

     When we travelled, we took her to a boarding kennel closeby.  For a reason we couldn't fathom, she couldn't wait to get there.  She would actually wedge herself in the cracked car window when we pulled into the driveway.  The owner of the kennel was always there to greet us, and she practically jumped into his arms.

     This guy was W-E-I-R-D.  With long shaggy hair pulled into a pony tail, he was a throwback to the 60's.  In fact, he often left his sentences undone and our questions unanswered.  But he loved our Sandy, and she loved him.

     We joked that the owner's pupils weren't focusing and wondered what kind of brownies he'd been munching.  Or whether he'd made doggie treats for his boarders, which might explain why Sandy was always so excited to get there.

     She was certainly well cared for and never came home sick.  When she came home to us, that is!   After one trip we talked to a neighbor who also had a small female Airedale.  He told us that both dogs had been boarding at the kennel at the same time.  When he picked up his dog and took her home, she didn't respond to her name.  "I thought that was strange, and she certainly was playful," he said.  "Then I looked at her tag.  I'd been given your dog."

     We found another kennel after that.  Sandy hid on the floor of the car all the way over.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Yoko Ono Envy

     I wish I could be more like her sometimes.  She's had to deal with kidnapping, deportation, assassination, yet she absorbs it all and still says what she believes is true, not what will make her look good to the public.  She gave up the search to find her daughter after many years, believing that her daughter would come to her if she needed a mother.  "Mothers are not supposed to give guidance," she said in 1998.  "Children should do their own thing."  Seriously??  She let John "do his own thing" when he strayed, but he did come back.
     She believes in art for art's sake, without caring what anyone thinks of her as a woman and an artist.  Her work is disturbing and yet comforting.  It can't be figured out.  She makes us look at the empty space in her paintings and go outside just to study the sky.
     I have trouble following her path to inner peace.  I guess I am too "Type A."  I rest only when work is done.  I need to know where I am going on any given day, what phone calls I need to make, and how much writing I need to do.  I have been told that in getting my manuscripts published, I "dot every i and cross every t."  Is that a bad thing?  Only when I become so manic that I drive myself and Charley crazy.
     I just attended the Florida Writers Conference for three days.  I have a manuscript ready to be sold - A Survival Guide for Grown Children with Elderly Parents (Who Still Have Their Marbles).  I rewrote it twice over the summer and then three editors read it, each from a different perspective.  I tweaked it each time I got their suggestions.  In preparation to pitch to an agent at the conference, I prepared a bio, a query letter, a synopsis, a proposal, a flash drive of the manuscript, and a hard copy of the manuscript.  I practiced my five-minute pitch twenty times, assuming the other five minutes with the agent would be her questions.
     An agent takes an average of five new clients a year.  That's from among the 80-100 query letters he receives EVERY WEEK.  If he likes a writer's query letter, the agent will ask for a proposal for the manuscript or a partial manuscript.  If he likes the partial, he'll ask for a full manuscript.  Which doesn't guarantee representation.  But at least his request saved the writer on round two from becoming "slush."  This process can take many weeks.
     Experience made me choose a skirt, jacket, and low heels to wear to the interview.  I wanted to look professional, since I'd had a television interview in 2009 when Minor League Mom was released, and I'd taught back in the dark ages, when teachers couldn't stand in front of the classroom in shorts and sandals.  Outside the interview room I saw young writers going in to pitch in jeans and flip flops.  Why can't I be more like Yoko Ono? I asked myself.  It's my work that will speak, not my clothes.
     I stayed fifteen minutes with the agent I'd chosen, and we talked about a lot in common - sports in the family, teaching - as well as about my manuscript.  When it was over, I shook her hand and thanked her for her time.  Her other hand held my proposal and a completed manuscript.  Maybe it's better to be me.


Monday, October 15, 2012

The Kids Next Door

     Charley and I recently visited three of our five grandchildren.  Half a dozen kids came into the cul-de-sac to shoot baskets or draw with chalk on the asphalt.

     Older brother Sam admonished a younger sister for not retrieving the ball he was pitching to her.  "Jesus Christ, go get it!"
     "Where is he?" younger sister Nancy wanted to know.
     "Jesus Christ.  I want to meet him when he gets the ball!"

     One of the mothers answered questions from her daughter. 
     "Mommy, how long have you been married to Daddy?"
     "For ten years."
     "Did you get me before you married him?"
     "No, I got Daddy first."
     "Did I cost a lot?"
     "Yes, and you still do!"

     One of our granddaughters pointed to the ball protruding from my right foot.  "What's that?" she said.
     "It's called a bunion.  A bone grew that way because I wore pointy shoes teaching for many years."
     "Will I get one?"
     "Not if you don't wear pointy shoes."
     "My mom wears them.  I think I'd better clean out her closet."

     Older brother Jack told his younger brother that classmate Aidan was no longer his friend.  "He said something bad about you," Jack told his brother.
     "What did he say?"
     "He said you were a sissy."
     "I'm going to kill him," younger brother said.  "But don't worry!  It won't be on school grounds."



Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Joys of Living in Spaghettiland

I am writing this post in memory of Vicki Lange, our hostess extraordinaire in Baldissero.  The following are some Do's and Don't's for living in Italy, based on her experiences.

-  Register to live there.    This means getting a document from the town offices where you
   reside.  Bring electric, gas, or water bills you have paid or an affadavit from your landlord (notarized and
   stamped with a wax seal) that you are in good standing with your rent.  The landlord can be bribed, if
   necessary, with a cash gift.

-  Find out first which town offices are "chiusi" (closed) on which days for which surnames. 

-  Get in the right line early on the right day.  If your name is Burgess and you wait for an hour on the correct
   day for A-L's but in the wrong line, when you finally reach the clerk's counter, she will
    explain, "You are in the wrong line.  Move to your right for residency documents."  You look at the
    twenty people in that line and realize that you will never make it to THAT clerk before the mandatory
    four-hour lunch break from 1-5 p.m.
    Repeat:  go early.

-  Register for an EZ pass for your car only if you are the owner of that car or the primary driver of that
   car.  Appear at appropriate office on the designated day for your surname (see above).  Get in the
   right line for EZ passes as opposed to residency documents or school registration (see above).  Provide
   proof of car ownership or an affadavit  (notarized and stamped with a wax seal) that you are the primary
   driver of the rental/lease. An employer can swear to this if you provide him with a cash gift.

-  Register your children for school on the correct day for A-L or M-Z.  Show up with proof that the
   children are truly yours.  Footnote:  an American mother who has taken her husband's last name must also
   provide a marriage license, since Italian women keep their maiden names and the school will assume you
   are no blood relation (different last name) and have stolen the children from a hospital nursery or

-  Understand that a first-grader in Italy need not report till 10:30 a.m. on the first day of school so
    he can "adjust" to the idea of first grade.  He will parade past former teachers from the 3-5-year-old
    rooms (who are clasping their hands together and wiping tears as their proteges file to their new
    classroom upstairs).

-  Get your 3-to-5-year-old up at 7:00 a.m. so he can be at school by 8:30 a.m. on the first day of class.

-  Rush out to purchase the list of color-coded supplies (a different color for each subject)
   by the NEXT DAY.  Question:  Do the lines on the pages have to match the outside notebook color? 

-  MOST importantly, TAKE ITALIAN LESSONS.  You will learn that in Italian "later" means three hours
   later, "domani" means
   next week, and "next week" means next month.


-  Neglect to put out your recycling bins on the appropriate day.  Your neighbor will report you and you
    will be fined.

-  Assume workers will show up from Monday to Friday any given week.  Offices close at random and
   workers strike at random.  If you need to catch a plane and there's an imminent rail (or taxi) strike, sleep
   at the airport the night before. 

-  Conclude the Pope is visiting your town because there is a crowd of thousands gathered on the first
   day of school.  They are merely relatives of first graders who are there to weep and wish the first
   graders luck.

-  Think you will have a brief parent-teacher conference.  Conferences start at 4:30 p.m. and last till
   7:00.  Students must accompany their parents.  Is there really that much to talk about in first grade?
   Little Emma's teacher told Vicki (Emma's mother) that she was sorry Emma had an allergy to paint and
   eraser dust.  "What allergy?" Vicki wanted to know. 


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Inexplicable Italy

Why is it Italy casts such a spell? 

Sidewalks buckle under ancient portals and gutters are lined with plastic.  Back roads bloom with last night's dinners.  We hopscotch across dog poop on broken cobblestones.  In Naples during the Mafia-controlled garbage strike, the only good thing one could say was, "Isn't that two-story formation of stinking debris interesting?"

We have found a place we love there, the island of Ischia.  Capri is across the water.  Small fishing villages have become tourist towns, but the volcanic mountains remain green and lush and vineyards climb the sides.  Every hotel has a thermal spa.  Fishermen still sputter along in moonlight next to highspeed ferries that jump from harbor to harbor on their nocturnal return to Naples.  We watch from our al fresco perch under the stars.

Even in this idyllic setting, we overlook what we wouldn't tolerate at home.  The road to the hotel up the hillside is under construction.  It has been under construction for eighteen months.  The hotel owner is in dispute with the neighbor as to who should pay what to fix the road.  Meanwhile, we can either walk up the tortuous road (which we choose to do) or wait at a turnaround area for a golf cart to retrieve us.

The roads in the Amalfi region often have landslides that block one lane of traffic.  Instead of removing the boulders, Italians install a fence around the obstacle as well as a traffic light, creating a single lane and backup for half a mile.  The traffic light might still be there when we return next spring.

It's not that they don't care.  They do.  They just don't stress over what they can't control.  Which is why it is so refreshing to vacation there (living there will be the subject of another blog).  If a sudden rainstorm forces too many tourists into a restaurant at lunch hour, the owner simply shrugs his shoulders.  "It's raining.  Wait for a table if you want."

Their priorities are different.  They love to eat.  They love to talk and will try desperately to speak English.  They love to argue and can spend an hour using sign language to make the same point over and over.  They love people who help them, and they have long memories.  They have ruled and been ruled, so they are both humble and proud. Given the opportunity, most Italian men will explain the derivation of their first name at the slightest opportunity. 

"Ambrosio" - means "nectar of the gods" or in his translation, "eternal youth."
"Fausto" - means "giving joy."  Be careful, he warned us, not to use "enfausto," meaning "no
"Toni" - his father and grandfather were both "Antonio," so it would have been too
confusing for his mother to have another "Anonio."  He ended up with "Toni."

"Ciro" - the popular piano player on Ischia proudly explained that his name is "Cyrus,"
but "Ciro" will be remembered!    

Monday, September 24, 2012

Directions, Italian Style Part II

Another scam?
It's a scam as old as Rome itself.  Unsuspecting visitors to the city (aka Pam and Charley) are walking along the Tiber when a car pulls up.  The driver is dressed in a white shirt with rolled up sleeves, a tie, and long pants.  Pointing to a city map, he asks for directions in broken English. 

He explains he is Italian but unfamiliar with the city, becauses he works for a well-known clothing designer in Paris.  At this point he pulls out a catalogue of clothing by the afore-named designer.

I actually know where we are and where he wants to go.  Being a do-gooder, I give instructions in a couple of  English sentences mixed with Italian.  On the sidewalk Charley is tugging at my sleeve to get going.

"Grazie, grazie," the man says.  "Here, a leather bag from my designer with thanks.  No charge!"  With this, he thrusts a bag into Charley's arms.   Red lights are flashing in my brain and Charley's.  Charley thrusts the bag back into the man's lap.

"Non, non, per favore, please take."  The bag passes back into Charley's arms.  "In return, a little money for gas?"   Charley heaves the bag through the car window onto the passenger seat and yanks me along the sidewalk.

It must have been the same con artist our friends met along the Tiber.  There was an added twist to their story.  After the guy thrust a "freebie" into their hands and asked for gas money, a second official-looking black Mercedes pulled up behind.  The crook took off and a burly 6'5" agent-type jumped out of the Mercedes.  "Documentazione, per favore," he said, asking our friends for their identification.  They produced drivers' licenses and were instructed not to pay anyone who stopped in a car.  Including him?  After all, he was the one holding their drivers' licenses.  Was he part of the scam?  Moral of story:  keep walking.

One last story about Italians and their directions.  On a trip to Lake Como, we inquired in our hotel if there were a walking trail around the Lake. 

"Certo, signora!  Follow the garden path behind the hotel.  There are stone steps up the hillside and they will lead you along the top with beautiful views."

We found the gardens and the path.  We even found the stone steps.  They should have been our first clue.  They were crumbling and in many areas there were no steps at all.  Just like the nonexistent guard rails along hairpin turns on the Amalfi Drive. 

We continued climbing vertically in our trusty cross-trainers, intent on getting some exercise after all the pasta.  At the top, we walked several hundred yards and had magnificent views.  We had left any trace of a trail behind. 

"Let's turn back,"  Charley said.

Since he has absolutely no sense of direction, I'm usually the navigator.  "I think if we continue along we'll see the next little town below us," I said.

An hour more and we had no clue where we were.  In desperation we took the first steps downward and hoped for the best.  There was no "good" or "better," let alone "best."  There were no steps after the first ten.  I slid in mud down the hillside on my butt.  We ended up in someone's backyard garden and crept back to our hotel along the road.  Within twenty-four hours I was covered in poison ivy.



Friday, September 14, 2012

Directions, Italian Style Part I

     It's not the Italians' fault.  Their DNA is missing the gene.  Here's a quote from The Rise of Rome by Anthony Everitt, page 291:  "Go uphill past the arcade by the market, straight along the road.  Rattle your way down that.  Next there's a little shrine on this side, and there's an alleyway thereabouts...there's also a big fig tree.  But you can't get through that alleyway..."  From sometime in the middle of the second century!

     Take this trip, for example.  We began in Rome and spent one morning walking through Trastevere.  Then decided we wanted to cross the Tiber to walk through the Roman Portico of Octavia and the Jewish ghetto before lunch in Campo dei Fiori.  We knew the trolley tracks crossed the Tiber, and approached a uniformed poliziatype for directions to the bridge.  (Note:  there are different kinds of "polizia" en Italia, so you have to know that "carbinieri" are a notch above the "polizia" and won't answer if you ask for directions.  The "constabulari" fit in there somewhere, so consult your guidebook before asking directions in Italy.)

     "Dove (where is) il Ponte Cestio?" I asked.  I was always complimented for my pronunciation in the Italian classes I took. 

     Expecting him to say, "Diretto," meaning "straight along the trolley line," I was surprised when he said, "Come?" ( "What?").

     I tried again.  And got the same response.  "Come?"

     I repeated "Ponte Cestio" again.  This time I added "Dove?" at the end and changed the accent.

    That made all the difference.  "Diretto," I heard.

     The hotel made a dinner reservation for us at a local trattoria.  The splintered-toothed concierge told us, "Just ten meters down this street, then left at La Fontana Barberini.  Very easy!"  We walked as we were told but at the Fountain, five roads collided.  In the center on a pedestal stood a polizio?, carbiniero?, beekeeper? directing traffic.  From the back with his white gloves moving rapidly, his white jacket, and his white helmet flapping down his back, he looked as though he were swatting bees away.  Of course he was unapproachable.  We took a hard left.  Wrong!  Back to the la fontana to try the middle left.  Wrong again!  Last try down the soft left.  Finally, ecco la!  Thirty minutes late for a reservation en Italia means nothing.  Your friends will still be waiting for you, after their first bottle of wine.

     At our hotel in Trieste I asked to use the guests' computer.  "Certo, signora," I heard.  "Behind the marble columns next to the bar is a hall.  Go down the hall, take the second left, and the computer will be there.  You will not need a password,  it is free."

     I found the bar ok, and the columns.  There were two closed doors behind, and in front of the doors was a sign that read, "Non Ingresso"  ("no entrance"). I was always good at following orders (Charley would not confirm that!), so turned around and looked for another hall.  Nothing.  Back to the front desk.  "It's the hall where there are two doors," I heard.

     I opened the doors marked, "No Entrance," and found the computer room down on the left side.  The computer was sleeping.  I did what I do at home to wake my laptop up.  This Italian was stubborn. Back to the front desk.

     The bellhop came and reached down to the floor to switch on a button someone never mentioned.  Non problema!

     All of this probably explains why the ANTIMAFIA DEPARTMENT in a blocklong building on the Tiber can't rid the country of its gangsters!




Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Ladies' Luncheon

Ladies over age fifty should hire an event planner if they want to "do" lunch.  This was my latest experience.

     Two days before the luncheon, I called three other women to carpool with me.  They weren't home, so I left messages.  I emailed two of the three who actually check their emails.  The next day, I heard from those two that they'd like to ride with me.  My SUV holds seven and I still had empty seats, so I decided to call another woman who lives close by.

     Again, I left a message.  I heard from her that night.  "I called someone else for a ride but I don't remember who it was.  I might need a ride with you, Pam."  Meanwhile, I still hadn't heard from one of my original invitees, so I left another message.

     The morning of the luncheon, I had no idea who would show up in my driveway.  Six ladies appeared.  We pulled down the jump-seats in the back that accommodated five-year-old rumps and were on our way. 

     There were the usual drinks in the lounge, where fourteen different floral scents mixed to form one giant cloud of nausea.  The wine loosened everyone up, and someone asked about the recent demise of a family pet, which led to more stories about the loss of family dogs, hamsters, and parakeets.  Eventually a waitress led us to a long table for fourteen. 

     One of the women seated across from me didn't respond to any of my inquiries.  I figured she was blowing me off.  "She's deaf in her right ear," the companion on my right said.  After that I shouted diagonally across the table at her left ear.  Each time I did, the conversation on both sides of the table stopped.

     Then the woman at the head of the table rose and clinked her wine glass with her spoon.  "I want to thank all of you for your support while I was going through treatments," she said with tears in her eyes.  More than one of us reached for a Kleenex. 

     She finished and sat down, swiping her nose with her napkin and rearranging the napkin on her lap.  "Do you remember, Janet, when you were teaching and my daughter hated your class?" she asked.

     "No, I don't remember that," Janet said.

     "Do you remember when you lived next to me, Sue, and your son was such a willful child that the other kids used to spray him with the hose?" the speechmaker said.

     "Actually, he was the easiest of my three children to raise."

     The plated meals arrived at that moment.  "Is that tuna?  I can't eat tuna," the speechmaker told the waitress.

     "No, it's chicken," the waitress said.

     "I don't eat chicken," my companion on one side said.  "Please may I have just a green salad?"

     It came time for the bill-paying and per usual, those who had not had a glass of wine didn't want to pay for those who had.  Judy, who'd organized the luncheon, had a calculator and declared that she was splitting the bill equally among us.   End of discussion.

     We each passed the appropriate money down the table to Judy.  But Judy counted twice and she was missing fifty.  That was because Cynthia, with dementia, sat in the middle and thought we were paying her for something.  The missing dollars were in her wallet.

     When we got outside.  I unlocked my car and sat waiting for the rest to come out of the ladies' room.  One of them appeared and kept going right through the parking lot and out onto the street.  "I can't find my car," she kept saying.  "Where did I park?"

     "Betty, you didn't drive," I yelled.  "You came with me!"



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Packing for a Trip

I must confess:  I do not pack lightly.  For forty-seven years dear Charley has complained that I bring my entire closet when we travel.  Suitcases with wheels saved our marriage.

     As "snowbirds," we transfer residences from Florida to Massachusetts and back twice a year.  One year I shipped five cartons of shoes, sweaters, purses, shorts, tees, and tennis clothes.  Oh yes, I threw assorted paperbacks among the boxes as ballast.  In the car are the ESSENTIAL items - computer, cameras, tennis rackets, golf clubs, jewelry, pants, blouses, outerwear, dresses, medical and personal files, and, of course, the manuscript I'm working on.

     It's not that my outfits are complicated.  It's just that if I don't pack everything, I'll be missing something - probably a belt (forgot to mention those in the list of boxed items above) or shoes or a purse to go with a favorite outfit.  My personal style could hardly be called "backwoods flannel" or "minimalist." 

     I do not brag about the fact that I pack too much.  However, if I wore two pairs of black pants and one tee for a two-week stay in European capitals, I wouldn't brag about that, either.  There's nothing enchanting-looking about a Pashmina tied twelve different ways over the same black outfit.

     When we go overseas, I begin packing two weeks ahead.  First I put essential medical supplies into the big suitcase that I will check - creams, ointments, sprays, gauze (with tape), Band-Aids, drops, and pills in case we come down with poison ivy, bronchitis, diarrhea, pink eye, asthma, altitude sickness, sore throat, sun poisoning, or swimmer's ear.  In fact, these items stay in their own cosmetic bag and never leave my suitcase.  The clothes, underwear, nightclothes, jackets, and belts have to fit around the medical supplies and small makeup kit.  Shoes go in the side pouches, along with Woolite in a baggie.  One time we ended up paying an extra $50 just for my suitcase to get on the plane with us.  That did not make for a pleasant ride.

     My overnight bag contains other essentials, in case my big bag never arrives.   That's what happened in Hong Kong, and Hong Kongers' feet were not my size when I had to shop for walking shoes!  In fact, nothing on Hong Kongers' bodies was the same size as mine.  Since then I started carrying an extra set of underwear, an extra shirt, as well as travel jewelry, meds, travel-sized Woolite, deoderant, toothbrush and paste, hairbrush, and a pocket-size Canon with battery charger in my overnight bag.  Also walking shoes and socks. I don't bother with makeup in the overnight bag, since there are liquids involved and I usually don't know anyone at 7 a.m. in a foreign city, anyway.  There is no fee for this bag, but sometimes I can't lift it into the overhead compartment and have to wait for a nice person to offer, unless Charley is right behind me.

     I attended a demonstration once to see how a stewardess packed.  She carefully rolled the flimsy stuff, like underwear, nightclothes, and tee shirts, then stuffed them in the corners of her suitcase.  She put all socks into the shoes and only brought three pairs - how could she survive?  Then she hung half the long pants, jackets, dresses (does anyone travel with dresses anymore?) out one edge of the suitcase, and the remaining half out the opposite edge of the suitcase.  She began folding each group into the suitcase, alternating so there would be a cushion in the middle of the fold, where a crease might appear.  Very clever!  But when I do it, some of the fabrics still get creased.  She forgot to tell us she buys only wrinkle-free.






Monday, August 20, 2012

The Spy in the Sky

Photo reproduced with the permission of Don Mullaney.
      I don't understand how it works.  A GPS is built into my car.  I program a state, then a town,
       then a street and number.  The lady inside my screen tells me I must turn around and get 
going in the right direction. 

    Somehow, a beam is being transmitted from my GPS device to a spy in the sky.  The spy is telling the lady that I must get turned around NOW.

     I don't want to.  I happen to know a shortcut to the area I'm going.  So I ignore the pleasant lady.  I keep going straight.

     The lady tells me to turn around at the next road and go back, since I've missed my turn.  I keep going.

     The lady is still listening to the spy in the sky.  She tells me again to turn around.  I ignore her and sail past the next turn-off.

     The lady gets insistent.  "Turn around in three more miles at the next right and head in the opposite direction."  The spy in the sky is whispering in her ear that I'm not a good listener.  I keep going, for four miles.  "Shut up!"  I tell her.  "I don't need you till later."

     The lady gives up.  She knows I'm a stubborn fool, so she redirects me from that point along another route.  "Finally!  Good riddance," I say.

     But she's only laughing at me.  She knows the mileage may be shorter, but the road is slower.  The spy in the sky is rolling his eyes, while a thunderstorm breaks over my car.  The road is two-lane and circuitous and I can hardly see.  Lady knew best!

     There's something else I don't understand.  How does my e-reader tell its mama where I stopped reading?  And how can mama know whether I've finished the book or decided to abandon it?  Also, how fast I read it?

     Is this something the spy in the sky (Amazon and Barnes and Noble) needs to know?  Will it affect how many books are published in that genre and by which authors?  It seems the spy in the sky and its puppet ladies are interested not only in how I get to my destination, but in whether they'll make a profit by pigeonholing authors.  I need to yell at someone, but unlike the lady in my car, my e-reader mama doesn't speak.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

What's That??

     I have previously written about parts of my body that are no longer where they should be or have gone missing (click on blog post for April 10, 2011).  Having been married for forty-seven years, I have learned that men have similar problems.  They just don't discuss them the way women do.

     However, Charley recently told me this story from the golf course. The four men were all in their sixties and beyond.

     Larry:  I  haven't had a homecooked meal in a week.

     Steve:  I haven't seen my wife in two weeks!

     Al:       I haven't seen my wife naked in a month.

     Jeff:     I haven't had sex in six months.

     Steve:  Sex - what's that?

     Jeff:      Google it!

     Steve:  I already did, and it said, "No known match."

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Humor of Caregiving

Here are a couple of the caregiving stories I've collected while writing A Survival Guide for Grown Children with Elderly Parents.  They are reprinted with permission of the storytellers.  If you have any that are humorous to share, I'd love to read them.  Just write them in the "Comment" box under this blog. The photo on the right is my Mom, Evelyn, at her 90th birthday party, before the dancing started!

Leslie Borghini (Hospital Administrator, former trauma and ICU nurse, writing under pseudonym "Angel of Horror"):

     I followed a nurse around, taking vitals, transporting, and answering call bells on my first day of clinical in the hospital.  I had to deliver lunch trays and helped Miss Grayson open her packets and placed everything within reach.  Then I left.
     About fifteen minutes later, the call bell rang.  I raced into the room and found Miss Grayson reclining on her pillow.  Her sheets lay in clumps at her feet and her knees were pulled up.  Cucumbers had moved from her plate to her eyes and dripped Thousand Island dressing.  Chocolate pudding covered her cheeks.  Stripes of whipped cream ran through the pudding and mingled with the dressing.
     Then I noticed that the crumpled sheets were strewn with green beans, and Miss G's fingers were smothered in butter.  Her rump was a smooth dome of yellow. "I'm ready for my foot massage now," she said, handing me the container of ice cream she was holding.

Ruth Berge, paralegal and author of The Florida You Don't Know, The True Story of a Brave Bobblehead Cat, and The Ghost of Sir Harry Oakes:

     I was sitting in the back seat, while my Mom and her sister, Ella, drove me home from work.  One would start a story, the other would say a sentence or two, then both of them would look at each other and burst into laughter.   "I don't remember anything else about that, do you?" Mom asked her sister.
     "Not a thing," Ella replied, between shrieks.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Overheard at the Fitness Center

     I force myself to go to the fitness center.  Once I'm there, I like to get right into my workout and get out as soon as possible.  It's not my idea of a good time. Which is what the guy on the sit-up bench was thinking, I'm sure.  I was working on the machine next to the bench.

John: (standing in a UMass teeshirt, dripping sweat that barely missed the
          gray-haired professor-type in white socks halfway up his shins, trying to do
         "You've never had a colonoscopy?  How old are you?"

Professor-type:  "I'm sixty-five."

John:   "Your doctor let you get away with that?"

Professor-type:  "I just didn't bother."

John:  "So this will be your first?"

Professor-type:  "That's right, and I'm not looking forward to it."        

John:  "Well, the actual procedure isn't so bad, unless you've had a problem with anesthesia.
           They put you under, you know."

Professor-type:  "I only had anesthesia once, and I was real groggy after."

John:  "Then, you'd better be sure to bring someone to drive you home.  You won't know where
           you are,  but you have to be there so early in the morning that by the time you're finished,
           it's only 10:30.  You can still go back to bed.  Anyway, it's the day before that's brutal."

Professor-type (still in halfhearted sit-up routine):  "That's what I hear."

John:  "Well, the liquid you drink is a lot better than when I first started.  That stuff was like
            brake fluid.  Now you can get these little bottles of Citrate of Magnesium.  Unless you  
            have a problem taking magnesium."

Professor-type:  "No."

John:  "That's lucky.  You have to make sure the Citrate of Magnesium is clear.  There's
            a lemon flavor, I think.  Absolutely no cherry.  You have to finish the whole bottle
            around 2 in the afternoon.  So you'd better plan to take off work the day before,
            because it reacts on some people fast."

Professor-type:  No response.  Still doing half-speed sit-ups.

John:   "And the rest of the afternoon, you have to drink four glasses of water.  That's the most
            important part.  The water flushes your kidneys. So like I said, you could react fast or  

Professor-type:  "Got it."

John:  "Then at 7 p.m., you have to drink a second bottle of Citrate of Magnesium.  That's when
           things start to get interesting.  I'd suggest a portable t.v. in the bathroom, or a magazine."

Professor-type:  "Thanks for the tip."

John:   "Of course, you can't eat anything all day, so you begin to get hungry the more you sit on
            the can.  But you can't drink anything after midnight, either."

Professor-type:  "I'm sure I won't be thinking about eating."

John:   "Well, for me, I had to run every half-hour all night.  You might be different.  When it got
            clear,  that's when I knew I was about done."

Professor-type:  No longer doing sit-ups.

Pam:     Trying not to burst out laughing, jumps off the machine and runs for the mats.  Stretches in
P.S. -    I've had two colonoscopies and would not skip one for the life of me (and for
             the lives of two friends who were lost).




Monday, July 16, 2012

Two Minutes Ago

     David Morrell (First Blood, The Brotherhood of the Rose) said in an interview, "Writers need to be tough.  This (writing) is not for the weak of will.  And we have to realize that yeah, it's never good enough."

     I know, pressure is often self-induced.  I live a "It's a Wonderful Life" reality.  Florida to Massachusetts, we split the year.  I have a husband of forty-seven years I adore, who adores me.  We are fortunate to enjoy good health and we stay active. We don't need to worry about our shelter, our food, or our kids.

     So what's my problem?  I write.  It's self-induced pressure, till you sign a publishing contract.  Till then, you have to finish the manuscript.  Then you have to rewrite it.  Then you have to rewrite it again.  Then you send it to a professional editor.  Then you rewrite again - portions (I hope) or all.  My second manuscript is at an editor now.

     I am really excited about this book called, A Survival Guide for Grown Children with Elderly Parents (Who Have All Their Marbles).  It consists of lighthearted rules for grown children to survive the care-giving days, based on humorous anecdotes about my parents, Ev and Walt, who lived into their nineties.

     It's also a practical guide.  The rules in the last half of the book are based on my experiences dealing with hospitals, rehab units, and skilled nursing facilities in Florida.  There's even an addendum for easy reference called, "Useful Notes, Definitions, Websites, and Phone Numbers." 

     The first email I got from my editor said the title was "clunky."  I probably agree with her - after all, I hired her to make suggestions like this.  So right from the get-go, we have to brainstorm.

     The same email showed suggested changes for the first three pages.  The changes were marked in dotted lines and arrows that go up, down, right, and left.  I don't know what triangles or circles mean either, since my first editor and I made changes to Minor League Mom the old-fashioned way.  We sat down with hard copies in our hands.  Before I make changes on the new manuscript, I must watch a tutorial video.

     Then there are the query letters to agents that will follow or proposals to publishers.  And the ongoing weekly blog or emails and newsletters and mail from others who write or mail to writers who may end up writing blurbs for my book.   Not to mention the marketing...which has already begun!

     Of course, I could self-publish and skip the last two paragraphs.  However, even self-published authors have to spend a year marketing, once their books appear.

     After the release of Minor League Mom, a friend asked me why I would want to go through the process again. Answer:  a writer wants to write!  Especially if there is potentially an enormous market for the manuscript.  I love this quote from Caitlin Moran, whose How to Be a Woman is part memoir, part rant, part manifesto:  "...if you're complaining about something for more than three minutes, two minutes ago you should have done something about it."


Monday, July 9, 2012

A Taste of Freedom

     Hope everyone enjoyed a memorable July 4th!  The heat didn't deter hundreds of thousands from viewing the fireworks around the country, although in Boston the Esplanade had to be evacuated for a thunder and lightning storm that was its own spectacle.
     When the boys were young, we used to housesit at my parents' place in Riverside, Connecticut.  On the 4th we had a ritual of morning tennis, afternoon beach, and fireworks at Binney Park from a blanket.  It was the same park where I'd watched, growing up.

     When the boys got older and we had a summer place on the coast of Massachusetts, we began a new ritual with all of Charley's family.  We went to the beach, then came back for a cookout at our house.  Charley was the oldest of seven children, so some years there'd be fifrty of the Carey clan.  The numbers began to dwindle when our sons were playing for the Red Sox and their cousins were working elsewhere around the country.  Some years Charley and I took off to view the boys' professional games and the celebrations, wherever they were.

     As our kids began to have their own families, we only hoped that the 4th fell on a day that would allow them some time off to stay with us.  When that happened, we decorated the bikes and wagons and the kids put on special red, white, and blue outfits with hats or headbands to join in the parade along the beach.  Boats became floats and family clans marched together in costume ("Yankee Doodle" band or fishermen or farm animals, of which there are many here).  They still do.

     This year, because the holiday fell in the middle of the week, Charley and I enjoyed the sights and sounds of the parade and a picnic at the beach by ourselves.  Which was ok, since my definition of Independence Day changed on July 3rd.

     That day I went to a Panera Bread restaurant for lunch.  The table next to me was no more than twelve inches away and was occupied by two men in their thirties, both with food in front of them and one with an open laptop.  I'd taken about two bites of my grilled chicken and a sip of iced tea when the man with the laptop began to invoke a blessing.

     What to do?  I stopped munching out of respect, since I could hear every word and figured it would be over in a jiffy.  But it wasn't!  The fellow went on and on in a monotone.  Since I was the only other person in the restaurant who could hear him, I began munching again.

     When he finally finished, he began reading to his companion from his laptop and took an occasional bite of sandwich.  From what I could gather, it seemed like a sermon and his companion gave responses.

     I hadn't been to church in a long, long time, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to finish my salad while I kept one ear tuned next door.  Let's face it...I had some choices.  I could move to another table, I could get a "to-go" box for my salad, or I could stay.

     The men had made some choices, too.  They were quietly observing their beliefs and not disturbing anyone, given my decision to sit in my seat and eat.

     I had witnessed a perfect example of the meaning of July 4th.  It wasn't in the fireworks or the family gathering or the parade.  It was in our freedom of choice.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

An Anniversary Celebration

     Have you ever gone in a bar as a couple and discovered it was a singles' hook-up joint?  Or worn a strapless gown to a function, when everyone else was in jeans?
     I thought it would be fun to celebrate our anniversary at some of our old haunts.  Got a reservation at The Old Canteen, a favorite Italian restaurant in Providence, R.I., about forty-five minutes from our summer home.  We started going to The Old Canteen to celebrate our kids' victories (academic and athletic), and continued through college graduations and engagements.  Although the owner, Joe Marzilli, and Sammy the busboy are no longer alive, the menu and decor haven't changed.  Glowing pink paint on the walls reflected off our cheeks, or was it the bottle of Prosecco we finished?  The garlic bread was still crusty and hot and "Veal a la Mike" with eggplant and prosuitto was still on the menu.  A perfect anniversary dinner!
     Trinity Square Repertory Company is a training ground for Broadway.  One of the stars that moved on after we had seen him at Trinity for decades was Richard Jenkins.  Knowing Charley has a good sense of humor and went through natural childbirth with me (twice), changed diapers, chauffered to practices and took over the laundry while I went back for another M.A., I bought tickets to the musical  "Motherhood." 
     The producers of "Motherhood" are the same team who produced the musical "Menopause."  Although Charley went through menopause with me, he suggested I attend that show with a girlfriend.  Which I should have done for "Motherhood!"
     As soon as we entered the lobby of Trinity Square after our perfect dinner, I knew I was in trouble.  We were surrounded by hundreds of women.  ONLY women.  Not a man in sight...except Charley.  Who dutifully waited by the rest rooms while I got in line.
     We found our seats.  He hadn't bolted yet!  "Look honey," I said.  "There's another man over there."
I was pointing directly across the theater to the far side.  It was the only other man I could see.  Eventually I found one other.
     "Oh look, there's Babs," I said.  Three rows up to our right sat one of our son and daughter-in-law's best friends.  In jeans (not a dress, like me).  With two girlfriends.  Charley immediately began waving at her. 
     "You realize this is going to come back at you?"  Just wanted to make sure he knew he could still bolt.
     Big hugs and kisses for Babs.  "So what are you doing here?" she asked Charley.
     "We just had a wonderful anniversary dinner," I explained, "and thought we'd see a show.  We used to have season tickets here for twenty years."
     "Congratulations!" Babs said, with more hugs and kisses.  The lights went down and the music came up.  Saved!  Babs scurried to her seat.
     I thought the show was hilarious.  Motherhood = changes to a woman's body, priorities, lifestyle.  Right up to grannyhood!  But Charley didn't laugh.  At least not for the first forty-five minutes.
     There was no intermission.  If there had been, I knew we would have been out of there.
     The second forty-five minutes, he was smiling.  I even caught him laughing once.   As the four stars were doing their encore, we dwarfed ourselves down the aisle in the dark. The woman behind us pointed and laughed. We made it through the lobby with the crowd still cheering.
     We got to the street.  "I was really worried they'd come up in the audience and grab any guy they could find for an audience participation thing," was Charley's only comment.
      I was just grateful he'd stayed. 
     For forty-seven years!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Granddaughters' Wit

     The following occurred during a recent visit from Emma, her sister, and cousin Olivia.    

     While feeding goats near a fence, Emma noticed there were still a few in the wooden shed.  "Those," she announced, "are getting a time-out!"

     When we asked Emma which position she enjoyed playing on her baseball team, she said, "First base."
     "Why is that?" Papa asked.
     "Because I get to talk to everyone when they get there!"

     After watching her grandmother (me) play a tennis match, Emma wanted to know, "Gran, why do you always grunt when you bend down to hit the ball?"

     We went to the Longhorn Steak House for dinner, where a pail of peanuts sat on our table.  "What do we do with the shells?" Emma asked the waitress.
     "In this restaurant, you can throw them on the floor.  It's ok, because the workers clean them up later."
     "I feel bad for you!" Emma said.

     A conversation follows between Olivia and her mother when Olivia did not get her way.
     Olivia:  "I think there should be three adults in this family!"
     Her mother:  "That would be pretty confusing.  Who would they be?"
     Olivia:  "You, Dad, and me!"