Once upon a time.

For my fortieth birthday 40 years ago my then-significant other, now husband Peter, surprised me with a trip to England. He’d planned the trip in minute detail. All I had to do was get a passport and bring my own spending money. A lifelong Anglophile, it was a dream come true.

This year, for my eightieth birthday, daughters Carolynn and Leslie planned a special weekend in Washington, D.C.  Granddaughter Samantha, who lives there, was tour guide, arrangement-maker, Uber-getter, personal chauffeur and laugh-inspirer. The three of them planned everything perfectly. All I had to do was pack my bag. I wasn’t even allowed to spend my spending money for anything!

From Friday check-in at a pretty boutique hotel to check-out Sunday afternoon the weekend was perfection. While my daughters got the room keys at the desk, I made friends with a miniature golden doodle named Bronx on the opposite side of the lobby. Suddenly, Look at our mom. She’s eighty today! echoed across the marble clad lobby. My raised left eyebrow didn’t shush them, but they are now 57 and 55. My evil eye hasn’t worked in years.

Our room, indeed the entire hotel, was sleek, sophisticated and so comfortable. I felt like a princess sleeping in a bed so soft. The bathroom mirror even seemed to have similar properties to Snow White’s magic one. Such luxury was a far cry from the motels we stayed in years ago where we shared towels and took our own soap.

Our early dinner, at the Kennedy Center’s Rooftop Restaurant, prior to seeing the New York City Ballet, was golden. No, really, I swear, the light was liquid gold infused with pink. Helped that Carolynn and Leslie, unbeknownst to each other, both wore shocking pink. They glowed. Our waiter, a sweet little man with an eastern European accent, took special care of me, probably cued by Samantha. Not only did we get an extra bottle of champagne, but he brought me a chocolate confection with a candle.

The curtain-up lights were blinking as we dashed through the crowds to the Opera House and our third row orchestra seats. The performance was an eclectic program that featured music from Bernstein to Chopin to Kanye West and Jay-Z. I loved “The Night” danced to Chopin. Though I am a traditionalist balletomane, I shocked myself, my daughters and granddaughter when I actually enjoyed “The Runaway,” featuring the two rappers’ music!

Saturday morning during a walking tour of the D.C. neighborhood near our hotel, we ogled beautifully refurbished old houses, strolled quickly across Meridian Park, then zipped off to a tasting and tour at the Guinness brewery in Halethorpe, Maryland.

Nearly ten years ago, I developed a taste for Guinness when Peter and I were in Dingle, Ireland. Samantha, who loves Guinness too, organized the trip to the brewery. That creamy delight, stored and poured the way it should be, was the perfect accompaniment to my brunch entree, avocado toast with a poached egg. Carolynn enjoyed the same entree, but with a tiny glass of Guinness Garnet, an experimental brew.

That evening the four of us, plus four of Sam’s good friends,Lydia, Clare, Hannah and Bridget, met for an earthy Ethiopian meal in Georgetown. Carolynn and I opted not to join the others for after dinner drinks at a nearby wine bar. It was already after eight, nearly my bedtime!

A cherry blossom pink Sunday.  After brunch and books at one of my favorite places in the D.C. area, Kramerbooks & Afterwords, we “Ubered” to the National Mall to bask in warm pinkness. The cherry blossoms did not disappoint, nor did seeing the Martin Luther King monument for the first time or one of our favorites, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial,again. Goosebump-making! We were four among thousands enjoying the perfect April spring day.

That once-upon-a-time fairy tale April weekend had a happily ever after vibe. Turning 80 wasn’t so bad after all.

Thanks to Carolynn and Samantha for the photos. For a woman who has always taken hundreds of photos on trips, I was too agog, and possibly too old, to take many on this adventure. Thanks, too, to grandson Miah who called, as he’s done for years, to sing “Tommy Turtle” to me. Maybe you’d need to be there, but he makes my day.

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

High on adjectives!

At the end of the 1950’s, most girls my age swooned over Elvis Presley. I was goggly-eyed over Pat Boone. “Love me tender” versus “Speedy Gonzales.” The popular girls were cheerleaders and majorettes. I played string bass in the orchestra.

Woodstock? Beatles? I scoffed throughout that era. The very idea. I came to love the Beatles, though I never could have endured Woodstock. All that mud! Yech.

Years before we knew each other, my husband went to see Bette Midler in concert. I saw Neil Diamond. Neither of those events were anything like a recent Friday night in our little town.

Roget doesn’t have enough adjectives in his thesaurus to describe the evening: loud, steamy, laugh-filled, hilarious, sweet, joyous, sultry, ribald, brilliant. sparkling, cacophonous, delirious, silly, energetic, sweaty, boisterous, entertaining, and crazy were the words I jotted down.

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-9-48-23-amNearly twenty years ago, daughter Leslie gave Peter a Squirrel Nut Zippers “Perennial Favorites” CD. He loved it. Even stuffy ol’ me got into it. I turned into a teeny-bopper fifty years too late. Leslie loved SNZ too, but she was a mere thirty-something at the time. This year, as her October birthday approached, I saw that SNZippers were coming to town. Did she and Martin want to go?

Yes they did.


Squirrel Nut Zippers reborn and on tour!

There we four were, orchestra seats, eight rows back, and there they were, blasting the theater with frolicsome, earsplitting, eyeball-popping, sweat-streaming musical madness.

Many from the audience crammed in front of the stage, dancing, hopping, jiving, singing. It was ninety-plus minutes of laugh-inducing, foot-stomping, hand-clapping hilarity. My tapping foot wanted to dance, but the rest of me played possum.

When I was as young as most of the crowd, I would have sniffed at the music and the antics. But all these decades later, I got the groove…if that’s how one would say it.


Rock on, Grandma.


We don’t play with a full deck.

Wherever a bevy of women of a certain age gather there’s sure to be laughter. A group of dames I consort with, thirty-three if we’re all present, has had some uproarious times over the fourteen years we’ve been together.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 8.52.52 AMA splinter group of us play canasta one Wednesday a month at O’Charley’s. This card-playing arm of the bunch has been “melding” for eight or ten years. Naturally, we’ve, um, matured and some, or maybe all, of us have become forgetful or addled or maybe even doolally.

Many can’t shuffle the cards any more thanks to arthritis and other problems, but we do have several battery-operated card-shufflers amongst us. They make the most annoying sound and seldom work properly. When we use them people in the adjacent bar look our way.

Everyone in our foursome this past Wednesday — AJ, JoJo, Leanne, me — forgot some rule: deal thirteen cards or eleven? is an eight worth five or ten? what’s wrong with two wild cards and two naturals in one meld?

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 11.15.24 AMOur silly mistakes kept us laughing, but then we veered to a discussion about memory loss. Because my husband has dementia I’m considered the “expert.” Someone asked how you would know if forgetting was just old age or a sign of dementia?

I told them that counting backwards by sevens was a test Peter’s doctor always does. Several years ago, he could count backwards so quickly that she would stop him when he got to 51 saying “Well done, good enough.”

“Why I could never do that,” AJ huffed. JoJo agreed, and I knew I wouldn’t get below 93 without pencil and paper. Leanne, the best of us at numbers, started counting, and soon we all helped by “air writing” the figures. We laughed hysterically at ourselves, four women on the shady side of seventy who couldn’t do simple subtraction. We managed to count as far as 65. “We did pretty well, didn’t we?” Joanne said.

“Yeah, but it took all four of us to do it,” Leanne said.

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I love it when stars align, four-leaf clovers stand taller, and blog post ideas spring from unexpected sources. The bit of trivia below came from the widower of a dear friend who always had a joke and who I long ago dubbed the group’s “Raconteur Royale.”

Common entertainment [in the good ol’ days] included playing cards. However, there was a tax levied when purchasing playing cards…applicable [only] to the Ace of Spades. To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren’t ‘playing with a full deck.'”

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Rock. Hard place.

If your age is north of seventy and south of eighty, let’s say, and you decide to go tubing on a rocky river, you might want consider the saying, “Caught between a rock and a hard place.” I did not and I wish I had.

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This is how we looked when we went tubing in my day.

On Sunday, Leslie, Martin, and Samantha convinced me to go tubing, something I hadn’t done for, oh, sixty years! Back then, I was a flexible teenager who wore a bathing suit and cap instead of baggy water shorts and tee-shirt, and I tubed in a slow-moving central-Ohio river with no rapids, while drifting lazily in the noonday sun.

When Leslie rolled the tubes out the shed door the memories flooded back — the faint sweet smell of talc, the satiny black tube, the comfy bounce that would cushion me. Ah-h!

Sam’s tube veered left out of the shed and, though she gave chase, it picked up speed and bounded down through the woods like a cat with a firecracker you-know-where. My granddaughter inherited her fear of snakes from me and wasn’t about to go after it. Leslie and Martin found the tube and saved the day.

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I’d been led to believe the Smith River’s gentle rapids were Class I, but I’ve since learned they’re likely Class II. The trip was a bit like a kiddie roller-coaster. Getting situated in aslippery inner tube was laughable; getting back into it, after I’d impaled myself on rocks and ditched, was painfully hilarious. Harder still was keeping my bum elevated so the jutting rocks wouldn’t become weapons, ahem, of ass destruction

On Monday, I remembered every rock and hard place I’d met the day before.



‘Tippy tappy’ isn’t the real deal.

Up until a couple of years ago, husband Peter played badminton once a week with a bunch of retirees. In his younger days he’d played competitively, so he complained that the group played a “tippy tappy” game, not the fierce, killer contests he loved.

When he started playing again he went all out to get kitted up, as he does. Special shoes, new racquet, supply of shuttlecocks. In the end he decided he liked his old racquet better, and he always wore the same white shorts from fifty years ago.

Now true shuttlecocks, “birdies” to casual players, are made from sixteen feathers and a cork tip covered with goat skin. Modern versions are made of plastic, but my fella likes the old fashioned kind, even though they last for only two, maybe three, matches.

For several years most of the seniors went to the state Senior Olympics, and some, including Peter, came home with gold and silver medals. Not to put too fine a point on it, but they were the only ones competing in the seventy-and-older age group, but still, they were out there!

Each year there were the usual schlocky gifts contributed by local businesses. This morning I was cleaning out the kitchen drawer where I keep our prescription medications, and assorted other important things — three plastic grapefruit spoons, stickum to secure candles in holders, mints, sprinkle tops for salad dressing bottles — when I found the rubber grip Peter brought home from an olympics. A grip is the thing you wrap around a stubborn lid so you can get the jar open. It was lurking in the corner of the drawer under a stash of corkscrews. They’re also called “rubber husbands.” I love that.

As my hands and wrists get creakier I use my rubber husband rather often, but until this morning I hadn’t noticed the advertising legend on one side. This handy helper was contributed to the Senior Olympics’ goodie bag by a funeral home and crematory!  What, were they hoping for business from over-exerted seniors, I wonder?

In a badminton match, seems to me it’s the cock and the goat who get the wrong end of the deal.


Won’t be long ’til frost.

Never does a June 21 roll around that I don’t think of my dad intoning, deep-voiced and ponderous, “Longest day of the year…won’t be long until frost.”

This year his prediction, if he were here to make it, would be even more true than usual. Our long winter, shortened spring, and confused bloom times have made it seem as if it should be autumn already.  Local schools closed for summer vacation just yesterday! They’ll reopen August 18, a mere eight weeks away. School buses will be rumbling past our house again before long.

Dad would agree with Al Gore (even if he is a Democrat) that we have caused global warming. He knew for certain-sure that sending men to the moon would cause the oceans to rise, hurricanes to increase, tornadoes to rip across the land.  Good thing women didn’t go on those moon missions because he’d have had a whole lot more to say about that!

Come the winter solstice, he always announced, “Won’t be long until time to cut the grass.” And he was right.  No sooner did the snow fall than the mower came out of the garage. Time zipped by faster’n’ a speeding bullet.

Nowadays time goes faster still!  All my friends of similar age — past “middle” but not yet “elderly” — agree that time has a mind of its own and it ain’t gonna hang around long enough for us to catch up.  Recently I’ve been shocked to hear young people say they think time flies too.  When I was young, time didn’t even move.

This phenomenon must be related to the many ways people “stay connected.” Cell phones weren’t enough, no-o, now we have twitter, tweets, instant infamy on YouTube, and SnapChats. No wonder time zooms! Everyone is so busy communicating there aren’t enough hours leftover to sit on the porch and swing while the days wrap around us like molasses in January, slowly, sweetly.

What new car smell?

I’m not a car person, but I do become very attached to my vehicles and quite weepy when I hand over the keys. A few months ago I decided it was time to replace my eleven-year-old Subaru Forester.  It was a less stressful parting than usual because our grandson Miah bought it.

In years past, husband Peter did extensive research to scope car options for me, but dementia has him in a vice-grip. I did my own research and felt confident, thanks to encouragement from  our son-in-law.  When the day came to pick the car up, my friend Joanne, who is a car person, was more excited than I was.

My Dad’s car-loving genes didn’t jump into my pool.  He bought a new car every two years except during WWII when he rode a bike to work.  Automobiles weren’t readily available and gas was rationed anyway.

Dad was a car-washer too — it was nothing short of a sin to drive a dirty car. Every Sunday, religiously, he washed his “machine” in the heated garage tucked beneath our little house. He even hooked the hose to the hot water tap in the basement. “You can’t get a car clean using cold water,” he preached. I didn’t get car-cleaning genes either.

On the other hand, a car-maintainer he was not.  He once drove the 500 miles to visit us with a “little red light blinking” on the dash.  The car was gasping for oil.  Another time, a loud, repetitive flap-smack-flap-smack announced his arrival. Two tires had worn through to the steel belts. He grumbled about having to buy new tires. “Dad, do you ever check the oil, or have your tires rotated?” I ranted.

“Nope,” he said, “cars are supposed to last.”  Since he traded every two years, it was a moot point. His vehicles still had their new car smell when he was ready for another.

When I picked up my new Forester it didn’t smell “new,” but my old nose probably needed a tune-up.  Joanne’s nose worked and she was giddy on Essence of New Car. She sat in the backseat while I got nearly a ninety-minute instruction, not that I remembered it sixty minutes later! If I choose, the car will tell me its lifetime fuel consumption, accelerator opening ratio, journey time and distance, average vehicle speed for entire drive time, and mundane things I actually understand like engine oil status, tire pressure, and maintenance schedule.

My car is way smarter than I ever was or ever will be. If I keep it as long as I’ve kept my others, I’ll be too old to drive anything except a three-wheeled scooter.

I’ve had it nearly two months and still haven’t been able to reset the clock to daylight savings time. The manual directed me to section 3, page 35, then 3-39, 3-45, 3-47, and 3-55 before I found “DST select.” It takes time to absorb all that information, so it still shows EST. That’s OK. I hate DST. I do not like to be outsmarted by a car though!

The clock/calendar feature, if I could use it, would let me add birthday and anniversary reminders, but I already remember those dates without assistance.  This would help Peter — he doesn’t remember his own birthday, much less mine or our anniversary — but he doesn’t drive!

But new car smell?  Um, no. What I smell is a faint Eau de Dog Vomit. I’d had the car less than a week when Nobby went on a short road trip with us. I thought he’d outgrown his carsickness. Wrong!  When he started his telltale gulping, I couldn’t pull over quickly enough. He deposited his stomach contents down the opening in the seat cover where the seatbelts come through.  Usually- prepared me didn’t have anything to clean up with except three tissues. I improvised with plastic bags and a sheet of newspaper.


That same day I had a backing-up incident, first time ever.  I realized I’d missed a turn-off and backed into the parking lot of a country church. A shrill, ear-shattering crunch came from the car’s nether region. I didn’t know what was wrong because I was slighly rear-end down in a shallow ditch. All-wheel drive hauled me out easily and I pulled forward into the lot. I’d flattened a mailbox that had already been knocked down, but there wasn’t even a scratch on the car. Whew!

Now, a rear-view camera connects to the multi-function display, but with polarized sunglasses the screen has a big brown smudge. I’m a good backer-upper, and side mirrors have always worked for me. Later I realized, even if I’d used the rear-view feature, the mailbox wouldn’t have been visible.  A search in the owner’s manual warned, “…you should always check the rear view…with your eyes and mirror…. Moving backward only by checking the rear-view [screen] could cause an accident.”

I rest my case.

In addition to being a mailbox flattener, I was still lost, my phone was dead, and I couldn’t make the #!*^ GPS work either. Help came from a man working down the road.

We were an hour late.

The dog was fine.

The car was unscathed.

But my self-confidence was wrecked — State Farm Insurance doesn’t cover that.








Bark barkbark bark BARK!

This is the shortest, quickest blog post I’ve written in the now nine-month history of “Wherever you go, there you are.”  I haven’t gone anywhere — well, actually, I have, but that’s another post.

This quote from Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life sums up my days perfectly:

April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot wrote, by which I think he meant (among other things) that springtime makes people crazy. We expect too much, the world burgeons with promises it can’t keep, all passion is really a setup, and we’re doomed to get our hearts broken yet again. I agree, and would further add: Who cares? Every spring I go out there anyway, around the bend, unconditionally. … Come the end of the dark days, I am more than joyful. I’m nuts. ” 

Except for my April 5 birthday this month, and some of March, has been cruel.  A New Yorker cartoon by Alex Gregory was on the front of one of my birthday cards. Two dogs are chatting and one says to the other:

I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking.”

Just so you’ll know, I still have my own blog, and I’ll be bark back.





Something to sneeze at.

You probably already know — maybe not in so many words — that a sneeze is a “semi-autonomous, convulsive expulsion of air from the lungs through the nose and mouth, usually caused by foreign particles irritating the nasal mucosa.”  Well, that’s Wikipedia’s definition anyway.

I’ll tell you what irritates my nasal musosa: Is it just me, or do all women suffer menfolk who have disgusting habits?

Not long ago husband Peter and I had bad colds with deep choking coughs that lingered on and on like guests who stay past bedtime — one more sneeze, another funny story, a couple more bone rattling coughs, kiss miss hug ugh — will they never go?

I’m contagious!

I doctored myself with aspirin, Clementines, and tea, but the tickle turned into a scratch, followed by a bark, then volcanic explosive sneezes.  Full. Blown. Cold.  Aching, itching, coughing, Nyquil moments, although no Nyquil passed my lips.

Peter’s symptoms started a few days after mine. But would he eat a Clementine, take a spoonful of yummy orange-flavored cough syrup, or swallow an aspirin?  No-o.  He is English though, so he willingly drinks tea. Lots of tea. At least six cups a day when he’s well, eight or ten cups when he’s under the weather. Plus, he’s very good at resting and doing nothing. Excellent, in fact.

Meanwhile, I dragged myself through daily chores — opened cans of soup, kept the teapot topped up, changed sheets and towels, disposed of used tissues.  As soon as I was sure I would live, I returned to my routine which, by then, included piles of laundry. Sorting. Washing. Drying. Sorting again. Folding. And folding.

In my husband’s pile there was one shirt, two pair of knickers, and thirty-two (32!) handkerchiefs. (Peter will not use tissues which I argue are more sanitary, but that’s a battle I’ll never win.)

So that many hankies I could understand, but why, for the same period, did he wear only two pair of skivies and one shirt?  The man showered every day, yet didn’t change his underwear?  I checked to make sure his drawer was full of “drawers.”  It was, all in good condition too, a surprise in itself.

Are all men like this or just my man?

Now I have a lot of handkerchiefs, delicate, lacy, embroidered ones, but would I desecrate them by using them when I have a cold! Heavens, no! I always carry one in my purse in case I happen to swoon and need to dab my forehead daintily.  Or I make curtains with them. Yes, I do.

I use tissues for colds, sweat and tears.

My mother never allowed a box of Kleenex to cross her threshold.  “Wasteful,” she said.  “You have perfectly good hankies to use, Judy,” she’d say. “You can blot your lipstick on a square of toilet paper, one square, mind you.”  I still do the latter, but tissues, especially the aloe-impregnated ones, are my friends when I have a cold.  I’m sure I went through at least two 124-count boxes of “Dematologist tested” Puffs during my illness.

At a recent luncheon, friend Nancy said she’d looked everywhere for men’s handkerchiefs. Finally she asked a clerk at J.C. Penney’s where they were.  The young woman was blank, so Nancy described a white sixteen-inch cotton square with rolled edges. The woman said, “I’m sorry, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

She probably uses the crook of her elbow when she sneezes. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a well-placed tissue to encapsulate those millions of germs, followed by well-washed hands is more effective, and certainly more ladylike.



Hand and foot.

Even my daughters don’t know my secret: I’m hooked on the nail polish and other full-of-promise cosmetics from the drugstore, any drugstore.  Oh! the glossy, glamorous nail colors, the soothing powder puffs and special sponges, the blushers that promote a comely glow, luxurient crèmes that pledge smooth-toned glimmering skin — all alluring, addictive.

For years I’ve hidden my secret behind a facade of expensive Clinique potions, but it’s the gaudy, slightly tacky things crammed on drugstore shelves I crave. (Oddly enough, I’m not tempted by lipsticks. I use whatever Clinique provides each time I fall for their “free gift” promotions.)

I’m too artless, too left-handed to be able to polish my own nails though. Besides, I love to go to a salon for mani/pedicures.  Love the hot, bubbly water soaks and that someone will cradle my ugly feet as if they were beautiful. My toes end up looking almost human instead of simian. And to have someone massage my hands and arms, make my cracked, split nails look like a 1940s movie star’s, ah-h, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

But even better is browsing the drug store aisles and imagining what my nails might look like if they were long, strong, and beautifully shaped.  This orangy-brown — “A-piers [sic] almost tan” — would work, wouldn’t it? Um, no. The color makes my fingers look as if I’ve been kneading gingersnap dough and forgot to wash my hands.

Or pale “Seashell?” Surely my hands will look as if they were painted by Botticelli, won’t they? Well, not really. On me, “Seashell” looks more like something slimy that crawled out from under a dead hermit crab above the high tide line.

“Mindful Mocha?” “Stoney Crème?”  Maybe “Glass Slipper?”  Would my nails glitter like Cinderella’s dancing shoes, or look more like a Russian figure skater’s over-sequined costume?

Who am I trying to fool?

My hands and feet have always been my torment.  The inked prints on my birth certificate look like a two-year-old’s hands and feet. People used to tell my mother, “She should be a pianist with those hands.”  That’s as stupid a remark as those who tell my very tall grandson Miah, “You should be a basketball player.”  Big hands and towering height neither a pianist nor a basketball player make.

I did take piano lessons for twelve years.  Hated the lessons, hated the peony-filled parlors where our recitals were staged —their scent still makes me queasy — but at least I came out of that period with a love of classical music.  Miah’s height didn’t make him love basketball, but his theater/lighting design major seems perfect for him on so many levels and, I must admit, he’s really nice to have around when “tall” things need doing. Well, he’s really nice to have around, period.

We all know women who clean up their houses before the cleaning lady comes, right? I don’t have a cleaning lady, but I do give myself a hack-job pedicure before I go to the salon.  I don’t want the sweet little clinician with the tiny porcelain hands to see my feet in their usual state.

It could well be that my foot “phobia” was passed on from my mother.  She had a habit of sticking her foot in her mouth:  We were shopping for my first pair of high heels.  This, back in the day when a salesman fitted a shoe to your foot using a measuring stick while sitting on a low mirrored stool. The young man said I needed a half-size larger.  Mom fussed because I already wore an eight. She had big feet and hated that mine were destined to be like hers.

“Half an inch isn’t really much difference,” he said.

“Well,” Mom huffed, “it’d be a lot on the end of your nose!”  There was an awkward silence.  He fussed with the shoe boxes. When she looked up she noticed his exceptionally long, beaked nose.

She bought me the larger size and we left silently, never to return to that store.

Words count. Socks, too.

Have I missed a January blog?  [Become! Believe!] seems to have been the last of the last, or have you problems you’ve not told me about which are holding up the flow? No secrets, please — we need each other, my friend.” This, yesterday in an email from my dear “pen pal” Jean in Australia.

Yes, I’ve problems I’ve not told her about, and the reverse is probably true for her too.

My days fly by so quickly that I didn’t realize it’s almost mid-January and I haven’t written one blogging word. I’ve been fogged in, but to paraphrase myself, “Wherever I went, here I am now.”

Jean and I, and husbands Steve and Peter, met on an Alaskan trip in 2006. We bonded at once. Though Jean and Steve have lived in Australia for forty-some years, they’re still English subjects, as is Peter who has lived in this country fifty years.

DSC08077_2Jean and I decided we would be “pen pals.” But when I returned  from Alaska I started sending emails to Steve’s computer, knowing Jean didn’t have one. She hated the idea of typed letters, snail or email. Wasn’t too long before she was a convert. She even got a laptop — “machine,” she calls it —  for Christmas.  

We’ve had a spirited correspondence ever since, all of which I’ve saved to Word files, some 1132 pages, 654,648 words. That’s two to three John Grisham novels’ worth! We think we’re going to collaborate on an epistolary book one day, though neither of us  likes reading them!

We share funny stories, talk about our travels, favorite books and movies, and our love of ballet and gardening.  We often bemoan the fact that we don’t even live in the same hemispheres, much less the same country, state, or neighborhood!

My friend is a woman who knows her mind. She’s a gourmet cook, a stitchery whiz, a master of beautiful wrappings and card-making, a gardener, a creative soul with a wicked sense of humor.  We’re a lot alike, except, well, I just put food on the table, avoid even sewing on a button, and can’t wrap a package prettily to save myself.  I can type really fast though, while she hunts and pecks.

While on a trip to New York City a few years ago, Jean and daughter Karen traveled out of their way to visit us, and I’d hoped Peter and I could’ve gone to Australia to visit them by now.  But Steve has had health issues for several years, and Peter’s failing memory is pushing him downhill like an avalanche shoving a snowman. Steve has soldiered on, stiff upper-lipped through all, but these days Peter is only occasionally his former self.

Jean and I prop each other up remotely, more than ten thousand miles and sixteen hours apart. We rant, we moan, we cry, we laugh, we feel better, we get on with our lives. So her questioning me about “the flow of my blogs” and her warning, “no secrets, please,” prompted a 4000-word, eleven-page email.  I’d hardly been in touch at all since well before Christmas.

With that email sent, I resolved to write a new blog post…after I made the bed and did a tidy-up. It was 11:15 Friday morning. I neatened my underwear drawer too — yeah, I know — and considered my socks before returning to my desk.

The last time I straightened my closet, seven years ago, I’d told Jean about it.  We were still getting acquainted electronically when I wrote: “I think you’ll identify with this. I’m a really tidy, organized person for the most part, and I know you are too.  Even the junk drawer in my kitchen gets cleared out often, the bits, segmented into trays.  Well, recently I decided to tackle my dresser drawers.  I started with the one filled with pantyhose. I culled ruthlessly and found some I hadn’t worn since I “dressed for success” in suits more than nineteen years ago — navy, which I no longer wear at all, dark thick ones for upstate New York winters, frog belly-pale sheers that have been out of style for how long?  Eight packages had never even been opened!  In all, I had seventy-nine pair of pantyhose, only twenty-four of which I kept.  Most of those I’ll never wear since I hardly ever get dressed up enough anymore to need them.”

OK, whew, just seventy-two more words and I’ll have fulfilled my resolution to bring my blog into the new year.

Now I can go upstairs to introduce my new “Happy Socks” to my boring socks. I bought four pair recently. Their vivid polka dots and stripes are brilliant, ecstatic, deliriously joy-making!  My feet needed the fun and so did the rest of me.

I hope your new year is as bright as my new socks.


Deck my halls…please!

There’s not as much “la” in my “fa lala la” as there used to be. I feel a bit like the grandma who got run over by a reindeer.  Flattened.

For one thing, the Christmas season starts way too early, you know what I’m sayin’?  I like to eat all the leftover Halloween candy and Thanksgiving turkey before I get the candy canes out.


By the time my halls need decking I’m over holly-ed and all out of sorts.

An artificial tree would make life easier, but I’m still a tree purist, OK, a snob. However, this year for the first time ever, we bought a pre-cut tree instead of bagging our own at Joe’s.  It’s as pretty as any we’ve ever had — a nicely-shaped, skinny Fraser fir that’s not so tall that I needed the stepladder.

Our tiny incandescent lights sputtered out for good last year.  I had no choice but to buy energy saving LED strings to replace them. I bought the so-called “warm white” ones, but they don’t even come close to evoking mellow candlelight.  They’re tinged with that cold glow that belongs on the dashboard of a car.

Obviously, I’d have to enlist my towering grandson Miah to do the higher elevations, if I had an elf!

I might be in a better mood if I’d had an elf to do my Christmas decorating, though I do enjoy the memories that engulf me when I open each carton. I could unwrap the ornaments and tell my elfin friend the story behind each, while she hangs them on the tree.  Hm, maybe an elf to wrap presents too?  I’ve never liked wrapping, and my lumpy corners and messy bows are proof that I’m supremely unsuited for the job.

I do most of my shopping on-line these days — what could be easier? — but an elf to do the research would be nice.  I’d give her my list, let her sit at the computer for hours, then I would magically appear to click on the virtual shopping cart.

Besides brown paper packages tied up with string, my search for stocking stuffers, special books, and the perfect ornament for the family member whose name I drew, still number among my favorite things.  My elf could have a cup of tea and a sit-down while I’m off on these errands.

Now I do like to bake. My reputation for whiskey cake and Hungarian pozynyi precedes me.  But I am just about the messiest baker ever was.  Flour drifts, sugar grits, eggs splatter, warming milk boils over, softening butter puddles. I use every bowl, scraper, measuring cup and spoon I own.  My kitchen is frightful when I’m done. Oh, I’d still do the actual mixing and stirring and putting into the oven, but an elf to clean up after me?  Delightful.

“See the blazing Yule before us…” Remember that phrase from “Deck the halls”?  That’s no Yule log, that’s my oven burning off charred baking spills, probably the apple pie from Thanksgiving.

I know my “bah humbugging” must stop. I need to get over myself, change my blue mood to bright red and green.  ‘Tis, after all, “…the season to be jolly…

“Fa lala la la lala la la…

         la la la la lala-a-a-a-a-a-a-a!

       Fa lala la la, lala la la…

                                  la lala lalala la-a.

                   Oh-h-h, fa lala lala la la-a-a-a-a-