About Me

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Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in English, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with MA from R.I. School of Design. Barking Cat Books published my first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. My 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. In 2018 Barking Cat Books published my SURVIVING YOUR DREAM VACATION: 75 RULES TO KEEP YOUR COMPANION TALKING TO YOU ON THE ROAD. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Contradictions of 2020

    *A silent viral killer named COVID 19 claimed over 322,000 victims in the U.S. from January, '20, until this post on December 22, '20.

    *Health-care institutions, our educational system, businesses, and the emotional/psychological well-being of our nation were ravaged by the Virus.

    *Food lines stretched for blocks, even miles, in the richest country in the world.

    *The U.S. became deeply divided politically during the 2020 presidential election.

    *African-Americans Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were killed by white civilians or police without provocation.

    *A Cyber breach, likely initiated by Russia, went undetected for nine months, possibly jeopardizing several government agencies, banking systems, electric grids, transportation, etc.

    *Around 20% of Americans recently polled said they would be reluctant to take a Corona Virus vaccine.

                                                     AND YET...

    *Over 155,000,000 U.S. citizens voted in our November presidential election during a pandemic.

    *Our democratic institutions remained intact during protests and judicial appeals.

    *At least four private U.S. companies developed a Corona Virus vaccine in warp-speed time.

    *A body of expert scientists approved the safety of two of the vaccines before distribution to health-care workers in December, 2020, and the general public thereafter.

    *Americans demonstrated limitless devotion, generosity, and empathy toward those in need. For example, health-care workers struggled to the point of exhaustion and self-sacrifice. Handicapped kids organized toy drives. A national group of women baked lasagna for distribution. Food pantries and church groups served thousands every day. National organizations such as Feeding America and Meals on Wheels became lifelines.

    *On December 20, 2020, Congress passed a $900-billion relief package for direct payments and jobless aid to the needy.

    *American citizens and corporations experienced a social awakening by taking action in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

                                                       
                                                                   And so,
                                                 2020 LEAVES US WITH A BANG...
                                                 and a whimper.
                                                 MAY 2021 BRING HEALTH AND
                                                 HEALING TO OUR NATION.



                                                     

    

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Christmas Music in Early November

On November 8, 2020, I tuned into our favorite radio station in south Florida and Christmas music popped on. I began to reach for the dial, in disgust at the early commercialism, but instead began singing. That's right - I was singing to Christmas music in early November. 

I needed to feel good again, to exhale, to take the stress off my sleep-deprived brain, to erase the relentless, rabid, targeted tweets of 2020 and SING about the time of year that cocoons me like a warm, fuzzy comforter. 


The U.S. had reached a total of 10,000,000 Covid infections. Nearly 240,000 had died. One hundred thousand small businesses had closed since the start of the pandemic. President Trump wasn't conceding the election so that President-elect Biden could begin the transition process, despite Biden's winning enough popular votes (discounting those still being counted) to give him more than the necessary 270 in the electoral college and no evidence of fraud in any state.

I'd barely written anything new in the spring and summer of 2020...I just wasn't motivated. We weren't socializing, we certainly weren't traveling, and we hardly left the house except to exercise. I managed a few humorous blogs and posted some friends' travel stories, while diving into books, cooking, and gardening.

In late October we drove 1500 miles from Massachusetts to Florida to vote in the Presidential election, aware that Florida traditionally went to the Republicans. It did again. We paid $109 each for Covid tests (both negative) so that we could unpack. Our air-conditioning went out in 85-degree temperatures the first night we arrived. Two plumbing items had to be replaced and an outdoor electric storm shutter was stuck. A week later, Tropical Storm Eta hit with 55 mph winds and slashing rains. 

Of all the tragedies emerging, a generation of children teaching themselves on sofas and mattresses had the potential to become the most devastating. Researchers at Brown University projected in May, 2020, that students would return in the fall, 2020, with approximately two-thirds of the reading gains relative to a regular school year and about one-third to one-half of the learning gains in math.  (NY Times, Nov. 8, 2020, Ginia Bellafante, "The Pandemic Widens the Learning Gap," p. 29.)

Still, I sang! I sang off-tune and hummed the words I'd forgotten because I was blessed to have a husband of 55 years who still loved me; because our family enjoyed good health and wasn't devastated by the Covid virus, as so many hundreds of thousands had been; because we had retirement funds and weren't stressed about our living quarters or our food supply; because we had a support system of relatives and friends who enriched us in innumerable ways; because our family had never been forcefully separated or racially attacked.

And I wasn't the only one singing. On November 8th, multitudes in protective masks poured from their doors to chant, to sing, to pop champagne. Our nation would need time to accept, to lessen the rancor, to coalesce, to change the systemic ills, to heal. Meanwhile, I listened to Christmas music and sang. I wondered how many others were singing, too.




 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Aging Hands and Other Mishaps

They say you can tell a woman’s age by looking at her hands. Which puts me at about one hundred!  Let’s just say that my hands will never be models for a sculpture, unless it’s outside a skilled nursing facility.

Earthworm

One of my granddaughters once asked me why I had blue worms on the backs of my hands.  The veins are raised and twisted, in-between the now protruding knuckles. I gave her a lengthy explanation of what veins do, and told her she had them in her hands, too. The only problem was, we couldn't find them!



When I go for blood work, the lab nurse never fails to exclaim, “Oh, these are beautiful!” I look at her like she’s not playing with a full deck. Then she explains that I’ll never be traumatized by having a succession of needles poked into my hands (or forearms) trying to find a vein. And that if one collapses, I’ll have plenty of others to choose from. That’s supposed to make me feel better?  

There are operations where plastic surgeons inject YOUR OWN fat into your hands to plump them up.  The operation is a mere $5,000/hand. But then, I do have some rolls I’d like to get rid of! 

Almost as offensive as the veins are the small round bruises. I’m not even aware of doing it, but if either hand bumps against something, a small purple mushroom appears. My mother used to call them “age” or “liver” spots. She had to take Coumadin to thin her blood, then an aspirin regimen to replace the Coumadin. I don’t know if the blood thinners were related to the spots, but I take neither and my hands always look like a Jackson Pollock painting.  

Tonight my right hand sports a new wound across the thumb. That’s from cutting it on the door latch of my locker, while storing my golf bag. So in addition to the blue worms and purple mushrooms, I have a red badge of courage. The courage was just for going out on the golf course!


Then there’s the lump and blue/black bruise on my shin. I know I’m digressing from the hands, but it’s the same beat-up body. In a tennis match I whacked myself with my racket as I followed through during my serve. An ugly hematoma appeared instantly, and my opponents were gracious enough to let me sit with an ice pack for ten minutes so I could elevate the leg. The lump is gone, but the blue-black three-inch bruise remains. You can actually see the indentation of my racket against my shin. 

 I guess I could sit at the computer all day, or on the sofa. But my blue worms need exercise!

 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Over the Hill


So now I’ve reached the age where people expect I won’t be able to do certain things myself. I went over the hill maybe seventeen birthdays ago but I don’t acknowledge I’ve even hit the upgrade yet. I can certainly take care of myself and I don’t plan to give up activities like tennis or travel. However, there are things I used to be able to do that don’t come so easily anymore.

For example, I used to be able to open any kind of lid or wrapper. My unladylike biceps are a result of years of work-outs at fitness centers, and I still play a sport at least four times a week. However, three out of four times I cannot open the top of an iced tea bottle. I usually hand it to Charley, who struggles a bit and may tap it with a utensil, but succeeds. Is it because the arthritis in my wrist is getting worse or is it because the brand I buy uses tightening machines designed to frustrate me? I have now switched to iced tea cans.

Then there are the liners inside cereal boxes. I can never pull the glued tops apart to open a new one. “Do they use Gorilla Glue on these things?” I lament. Finally, I give up and use scissors.

The other day it took two of us to open a clear plastic Q-Tip container. Adhesive labeling covered both ends. Once I had ripped all that off, I tried to pry open two small protrusions on one side which I thought were tabs. Negative. I checked the other side. It was perfectly smooth with an indentation half-way around. I pushed on the indentation. No luck. “Can you open this thing?” I said, handing it to Charley. Negative. That’s when I pressed as hard as I could on the top. Magically it flipped backward!

I sometimes walk into a room and forget why I’m there. No-one can help me with that. I walk out and remember and walk back in again.

Dare I mention the hearing problem…both mine and Charley’s? I have to repeat almost everything  and ask him to turn the television down when he says it’s already down. If he’s got it on and shouts to me in the kitchen, I usually can’t hear him. “See? You can’t hear, either,” he says.


When someone comes to clean our house, the beds are made, the dishwasher emptied, and Charley has put dirty laundry in the washing machine. There might be a chore I need to do like change a light bulb on a one-step stool or gather up the scatter rugs to shake on the deck. “You shouldn’t be on that stool!” the housekeeper admonishes. “You might lose your balance. And scatter rugs are dangerous. You might trip.” I replay the refrain in my head and realize I have now become my parents.
Pam's parents, Ev and Walt


At least I know I’m not alone. I see other signs of aging among those around me – on the tennis court, for example. After a few games, one of the ladies might suddenly drop her racket and run in the direction of the bathroom. Or one of the men might suddenly head toward the tennis shop. “I forgot my drink,” he’ll say, holding up a bottle and stopping to talk to someone through the fence upon his return, while the rest of the men wait on the court. Despite an on-line schedule, we might have seven ladies show up instead of eight. Or nine. Or one might begin to play in reading glasses that have to be switched to the distance glasses left in the car.

And then there’s the matter of keeping score. In tennis, the server is supposed to yell the score before each point. Some women are perfectly silent. I’m never sure whether it’s because they don’t want to be bothered or because they haven’t been able to keep track. Three out of four on the court aren’t paying attention, anyway.


I’ve purchased little beads on a string to keep track of my strokes in golf. That way my partner will still be talking to me when we finish. But first I have to remember if I moved a bead.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

From the Sidelines

July 28, 2020


     For the last four months, life has been slipping in and out of focus. The joy stick that I control is no longer reliable. But that’s OK. I’ve never really been in charge, anyway.

     Charley and I were in Florida at our condo in March when the pandemic hit. Life as we knew it shut down: beaches had yellow tape at the entrances and sheriff’s helicopters flew overhead, looking for violators.


     Tennis courts and golf courses were off-limits. All commercial establishments closed, except for take-out dining. I ordered 100 masks on the internet so we could venture out one day a week, clad in gloves, to pick up our groceries.  Placing the grocery bags outside the front door when we returned, we carried the items to the kitchen fully clad and bathed each item in a disinfecting cloth.  Isolating and remaining six feet from anyone we encountered, we brooded feverishly over news videos, press conferences, and data graphs. Our neighbors invited us to gather in the evening in masks outside (three feet apart) for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, supplied for personal use. Instead, we waved and began three-mile walks. When we returned, we retreated to seats above the ocean, where the rhythmic pounding of waves and whosh of dive-bombing pelicans lulled us into a hypnosis.


     We counted thirty-five tractor-size treads on the beach in front of us, left by Leatherback turtles during their nighttime deposit of eggs. Fellowship came on the internet or over the phone.



     I need routine. I like to be in control. My new routine consisted of letting go: sleeping later; foregoing my usual Kashi twigs and blueberries to splurge on a “Big Breakfast” with pancakes at the McDonald’s drive-thru twice a week; performing exercises on the dining room floor instead of rushing to the tennis courts or the fitness center; watching Governor Cuomo’s press conferences, whenever they came on; reading in a lounge chair; preparing dinner at 4:30 p.m.; walking three miles at 6:00, when the temperature dropped to 80 degrees; rediscovering old favorites on television like “Out of Africa” and “City Slickers,” or new ones like “Ray” and “Million Dollar Baby.”

     Shortly after we started our isolation in March, I developed a scratchy throat. I attributed it to the allergy season in Florida. The glands beneath my jaws popped like miniature flower bulbs, and my sinuses sounded like pipes in need of Draino. There was no way I could write anything new, although I had endless days to write. I was totally uninspired and lethargic. “We’re in this together,” we kept hearing on television. Yet we felt like aliens. I began sleeping in the guest room, hoping Charley wouldn’t catch whatever I’d developed. My imagination ran wild. I Googled symptoms on the internet. I discovered others were experiencing similar problems, a sign of the times.  Virtually I had an appointment with our primary care doctor, although I had no temperature. He called a prescription to the pharmacy for my sinuses, which we picked up at the drive-through. I stayed in the guest room till early May. Neither of us had developed antibodies, meaning neither of us had contracted the virus.

     We headed north to our home in Massachusetts in mid-June, just before the pandemic began to spike in Florida, a result of Memorial Day festivities. We spent two nights on the road at Hampton Inns I’d contacted. They assured me of their cleansing policies following each guest’s departure and the availability of baggie-only breakfasts. In South Carolina restaurants had reopened inside, but we were the only ones for dinner in a Ruby Tuesday. Our waitress wore no mask and seated a group of young people without masks directly behind us. We departed as quickly as possible. In Virginia, where everyone wore masks, we ate outdoors.

     The kaleidoscope of tragedies began to spin out of control. Deaths resulting from the Corona Virus, racist inhumanity, violent protests, unemployment and business failures, lies from leaders we were supposed to trust, and our brother-in-law’s struggle with cancer, created an unbearable edginess while we isolated at our home in Massachusetts. In Florida we had taken stock and resolved to eliminate the fluff, creating a tight knot of two. We’d resolved to try to control only what we could change and refocus on our relationships, our attitudes, our healthy habits, and everything that inspired us. Inevitably, the outside world crept back in.

     Thankfully, we remained healthy, as did our sons and their families. We had income in retirement and places to call "home." Restaurants began to reopen outdoors in Massachusetts. Masks were mandatory to enter any commercial establishment, which made us feel safer.


     In late July, after two members of our local community tested positive, the golf course, tennis courts, and all restaurant facilities were immediately closed at the club next door.


     Meanwhile, we watched wild turkeys cross the yard, a wren nest in the wreath on our front door, deer eat my hosta plants, and

an osprey adolescent venture from the nest its parents had remodeled last year. Roses overwhelmed our hillside in the heat, mimicking the hair that grew down over my ears. In a rear-view mirror I noticed the blond highlights on the back of my head had transformed into a cap of gray. I let go of lip liner and lipsticks. What was the point, under a mask? Simpler things became easier. I became gentler on myself and more forgiving, while around me I heard, "What a mess! What a mess!"


Friday, July 10, 2020

A Bus Trip in the Canadian Rockies



Our bus departed Whistler to go to Sun Peaks in the Canadian Rockies. After a couple of hours travelling, the bus was positioned vertically up the side of the mountain on a two-lane road when it pulled partly off onto a shoulder. All of us passengers assumed it was for a photo-op, so we stood to take photos. We looked all around but could only see blue sky ahead of us and blue sky below us. Then we noticed our tour guide was crossing the road with his cell phone at his ear.

We watched as he walked down the road, up the road, crossed the street to our side, and then climbed the mountain.  At that point we decided he probably wanted some privacy to squat, but that didn’t make sense because there was a toilet in the bus. Meanwhile, the driver crossed the street, walked down the road, walked up the road, crossed the street back to our side, and then climbed the mountain. Maybe they were having a rendez-vous?

Finally, our guide returned. “The bus has stopped by itself!” he informed us. “It won’t restart!” There were shouts from some of the older men and hysterics from their spouses. Needless to say, we weren’t near any town and our guide didn’t know how long we’d have to wait. Unfortunately, the bus had given out in a spot that partly obstructed one lane around a curve.

Some of the younger passengers were Australian, and their attitude was, “S__t happens.” A few of them disembarked and found a tiny clearing to play “pitch penny.” One man found a soft limb (a “switch”) and began to weed-whack the area for the game.  Another man put on his earphones and entertained us dancing up the aisle.

The rest of us laughed (at the beginning), talked, and read.

Since there was a hillside path, the men could mountain-climb when they needed to pee.  Not so for the women!

With my luck, I was seated in the last row on the aisle in front of the bathroom.  The driver informed us that he couldn’t start the engine, so we couldn’t flush.  But some of the females began to get desperate.  The door knob to the toilet wouldn’t turn properly and kept getting stuck, so I used a piece of paper towel to keep the knob from turning and told the women I’d guard the door.  Since there was no power from the engine, I used my cell phone flashlight to usher them in and show them where the necessities were located, although there was no flushing, of course. After a bit, it began to get “ripe” in the bus, especially for those of us seated near the toilet.

“Could you put on the emergency lights?” I asked the driver, hoping that would provide enough power to flush. 

“I don’t really want to use up whatever power’s left,” he said. We ended up compromising with every third woman flushing. My job was to open the door, usher the ladies in with my flashlight, and designate every third person for a flush.

It was an interesting way to meet women! I was offered tips and written recommendations, should I wish to pursue this as a new career.

.........................by Eileen Watson

Friday, June 19, 2020

A Poet Laureate's Thoughts

Although Danusha Lameris, poet laureate of Santa Cruz County, California, posted these thoughts over eight months ago, they seem fitting today.  This was printed in the NY Times Magazine section on 9-22-19.


                           Small Kindnesses

I've been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say "bless you"
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. "Don't die," we are saying,
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don't want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, "Here,
have my seat," "Go ahead - you first," "I like your hat."

Cuba, 2018