About Me

My photo
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.

Friday, April 2, 2021

In Retrospect

Looking at photos I took during a walk in Florida in March, 2020, I hardly recognize the street where we walk every day. A year ago, yellow tape roped off beaches and pools; stores and restaurants had "Closed" signs across their doors; masked figures patrolled the streets.

Today, masks still prevail...except on beaches where mobs of spring breakers sway shoulder to shoulder, while police push, spray, arrest, and declare a curfew. Covid 19 will have its way, with a fourth spike threatening.


We haven't been ill, though family members have been. Recently, we lost a brother-in-law to cancer. We have shelter without multiple generations living under one roof. We have food. We aren't sending our children or grandchildren on a forced march across thousands of miles to safety. We haven't been forcibly or unjustly detained or killed.

The horror of the spring and chaos of the summer have given way to a new "normal." This "normal" means I'm not scurrying through the grocery store like a mouse in a maze, although I still wipe every item with a disinfecting square when I get home. We can now sit outside at restaurants. We explore our narrow world inside four walls and our environs within a drive of several hours. We take advantage of the weather to exercise outdoors as much as possible. We no longer run to meetings and appointments throughout the day and have found we enjoy the new pace. We have rekindled our relationships with family and friends on Zoom or Facetime or over the phone. 

As of April 1, 2021, 29% of the U.S. population had been vaccinated with at least one dose of a Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson serum. Citizens numbering 534,387 had perished, alone and unable to breathe. Charley and I were fortunate to receive two doses of the Pfizer vaccine in February in Florida. The future looked brighter. 

Our relationship to our home has altered. We have "nested." A refuge, a prison at times, it has become our space for work, experimental cooking, rest, recreation, and physical activity. Zoom has brought our homes into public view. I look around, tired of the same walls, the same furnishings, the same spaces that have become filled. At least we have walls to look at! We have windows to keep out the elements. We have a bed and light that comes on with a switch, and if the plumbing stops working, we can get it fixed. Our mail comes regularly (slowly); there is water and it's hot.

Domestic harmony has become a priority, as we spend almost twenty hours together each day. Fortunately, we each have private spaces within our home and since we're in Florida, we can always retreat outdoors for isolation!

And yet, it feels like a lost, numb year, particularly for our grandkids, struggling to maintain a flow of learning between a physical classroom and a screen. Distance from our loved ones has made hugs a gift we dream of. Spinning in a tight circle and reading piles of books, I stalled out, unable to start another manuscript. I waited for motivation or inspiration. Spontaneity and joy were missing.


And yet, creativity must remain our salvation - at work, at school, in decompression. I re-energize with my surroundings - the wildlife, the beauty of nature, the love - and look forward to when "normal" isn't an exhausting state of emergency.




Saturday, January 30, 2021

Words Matter, Even the Ambiguous Ones

My parents were fond of maxims. One of my dad's favorites was, "Actions speak louder than words."

Mom would counter with, "Think before you speak. Your actions have to match your words."

I learned early, as we all do, that words can shout; they can whisper or sing, bring tears, intimidate, condemn, celebrate, incite, or lift. 

On January 6, 2021, Americans witnessed right-wing groups of extremists attack and breach the security perimeter of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., forcing a lockdown and halting a ceremonial vote to confirm Joseph Biden's victory over Donald Trump as President of the U.S. While lawmakers hid in locked rooms, Capitol police attempted to hold off the protestors from further ransacking of offices, stealing of Congressional property, and threatened lynching or killing those inside. Defying the Electoral College vote following affirmation by numerous state courts and attorneys-general, the takeover resulted in the death of five Americans.

That morning, former President Trump had spoken to his supporters in a park nearby. "...You'll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing, and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated - lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your votes heard today."

Later, he said, "We're going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue - I love Pennsylvania Avenue - and we're going to the Capitol. And we're going to try and give - the Democrats - are hopeless, they never vote for anything, not even one vote - but we're going to try to give our Republicans, the weak ones because the strong ones don't need any of our help, we're going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. So let's walk down Pennsylvania Avenue." (Transcript by FACTBA.SE)

Trump never used the words "storm" or "breach" or "break into" the Capitol. It was a subjective call whether "you have to show strength" and "take back our country" were actually messages condoning crimes of violence. His supporters interpreted his words as a call to action.

Fourteen days later, on January 20, 2021, a 22-year-old Harvard-educated African-American National Youth Poet Laureate named Amanda Gorman wove her words into our collective consciousness at the inauguration of President Biden. Resplendent in a bright yellow coat, her flawless skin glistening and her red velvet headband holding piled plaits, we watched her bubble ring with a caged bird (loaned by Oprah Winfrey as a tribute to Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) lift and descend, riding imaginary waves as she recited her poem, "The Hill We Climb." In a lilting performance she called upon us to unite with her words:

"...We've seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it/Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy/and this effort very nearly succeeded/But while democracy can be periodically delayed/It can never be permanently defeated.

..."The new dawn blooms as we free it/For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it - if only we are brave enough to be it."

 (Excerpts from NPR as quoted in "Amanda Gorman Reads Poem 'The Hill We Climb' at Biden Inauguration" by Amy B. Wang and Stephanie Merry, The Washington Post, 1/20/21)

Yes, words do matter.




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!"