Thursday, February 25, 2010


Most of us revere the wisdom and perspicacity of our parents. Parents fill the first twenty or so years of our lives with what they think is good for us: broccoli, reading lists, curfews, chores, and aphorisms. Parents look for those “teachable moments” and try to cram as much as they can into them. My parents were no different from any others. But now that I am old enough to really evaluate my life, I recognize that much of what Mom and Dad preached IS ENTIRELY BOGUS.

The first thing that springs to mind is my long suffering Mother, who felt it was her duty to keep both her daughters virtuous and chaste. “Nice girls don’t wear pins” was drummed into both of us from an early age. I wonder that the safety pin industry didn’t feel the need for a huge media blitz to counteract this slam on their reputation. I think Mom had a picture in her mind of a slatternly teen, with body odor, dirt behind her ears, and clothes, soiled and barely held together. My sister and I, however, didn’t get that picture, and just couldn’t understand why using a safety pin to fix a broken bra during school hours made us slutty.

Another rule in our house concerned bed linens. According to my mother, only peasants slept in the same set of sheets for longer than a week. To this day, I feel a little guilty that I don’t change the beds that frequently. As a matter of fact, I don’t change the beds ANYWHERE NEAR that frequently. But, in my mind, there aren’t any peasants any more. At least I haven’t seen any in my neighborhood, and so I am not as worried about being compared to them as my Mother was. There must have been a lot of peasants in the town where I grew up.

My Mom was a firm believer in spring housecleaning. She admonished us that “A dirty home breeds harmful bacteria.” She thought this was a very effective scare tactic that would make dutiful housekeepers out of both of us. My mother had THE WALLS IN THE HOUSE WASHED every spring! My sister and I are both relatively clean and healthy people, and yet neither of us has vacuumed behind the refrigerator for years, and so far, none of the people in either of our families has developed typhus or any kind of weeping sores.

Watching the Olympics has brought to mind advice which my Father gave me, and which I unfortunately followed for years. He always maintained that “if you can’t do something well, then don’t do it.” As a result of that, I never learned how to swim, because I felt a little silly in the water. I have never even TRIED arts and crafts, because I am all thumbs. I don’t enjoy dancing, because I feel a little geeky out there on the dance floor. My husband, on the other hand, has led a very joyful life doing things that he loves, badly. He plays the accordion with much gusto but little talent. He loves to cook, even though he doesn’t know a bain marie from a baguette. He sings along with the radio, OUT OF TUNE. Boy, oh, boy, have I realized all that I have missed by being COMPETENT! Yes, those Olympic athletes are the best in the world at what they do.

But really, I feel that there should be an Olympic category called “Dabbling.” This would be for people who are experts at nothing but are willing to try anything.


Friday, February 19, 2010


From all that I can gather from reading the news, following other people’s blogs and tweets, and watching television shows (ok, I know “The Golden Girls” is LONG GONE), sixty is the new forty. This makes me happy, and I am looking forward to experiencing the best years of my life, coming right up.

However, I am also starting to discover some of the glitches of aging. I knew this was coming, because I have been looking at my Mom’s hands get more gnarled as the years pass, and the joints on my own hands seem to be clamoring for attention these days. But I was not prepared for some of the other indications of my own rapidly approaching dotage that have made themselves most unwelcome in my life as of late.

I have a CORN on my foot. My God, I remember my grandmother complaining that her corns hurt! I have always been very particular about the fit of my shoes, and I don’t wear stilettos, so I am baffled about where this little devil came from. The good news is that it is the rationale for the pedicures that I now have to get regularly to keep it under control, and my husband seems to feel that these foot ministrations come under the heading of medical expenses, and so I have no guilt in that department!

Food that in the past was benign is now malevolent. Yes, we all know about beans. BUT NOW, EVEN GREEN BEANS? I find that I cannot predict what foods will bring on embarrassment, and so as an insurance policy, I now take Beano before every meal. I have to lie about it in restaurants with friends, telling them that I have Lactose Intolerance. Really, who wants to admit that these days, eating in general causes flatulence?

And I am finding that I lose things all the time. My car keys, which used to be very obvious in their location, have now taken to lurking in the strangest places: by the sink in the bathroom, in the pocket of my sweater, and most interesting of all, and this mystery has yet to be solved: IN THE REFRIGERATOR. All I can think of in that case is that I had them in my hand when putting the groceries away, and just set them down in there “for a second.”

Things ache now. My neck, my knees, my sacrum. I have a very lively relationship with my chiropractor, who is very cheerful, and says things like “Well, you have to remember that you aren’t as young as you used to be, and moderation is the key.” I HATE MODERATION. Evidently, this is obvious, because even my yoga teacher has had to impose restrictions, telling me that I am not allowed to practice at home until I have been a yoga student for long enough to have some sense. That is not how she put it, but the meaning was clear!

My husband and I have slowed down in the romance department. This is none of anyone’s business. But when he looks at me with a gleam in his eye, sometimes I look back at him witheringly. There is just so much energy allotted to us each day, and I have to prioritize mine…

All of this being said, I do find retirement to be the best of times. Each day holds great potential, I have no one else to consider when making plans, duty is a thing of the past, and money is no longer the issue that it once was. I can come and go as I please, and adventure is always just around the corner. Nothing can hold me back!

Standard equipment these days? Beano in my purse, liniment in the medicine cabinet, lots of glucosamine and chondroitin, and a positive attitude. Today’s plan? The Honda dealership, for


Friday, February 12, 2010


As I was watching “Frontline” the other evening, as it revealed just how “wired” our children are, with their iphones, blackberries, and laptops, busy multitasking and staying in touch with every other individual on the planet at all times, I thought about my childhood. I grew up in the fifties, when life was a lot simpler, and most people went through their lives doing things sequentially. Things were uncomplicated and we led linear lives. Connections between people were intermittent, not constant.

For instance, if you felt a sudden urge to talk to somebody, you had three options: You could walk into the room where that person was and have a conversation. You could call that person on the phone. Or you could go on foot or in a car to where that person was located, and then start talking. If that person was not immediately accessible, you would just have to write a letter.

Modern conveniences? A matter of definition. I lived in a normal to small house, and my Mother had all the modern conveniences. That meant that she had to wash dishes herself (or make her daughters do it) after every meal. She had to heat up leftovers IN THE OVEN, for Pete’s sake, and that meant that we had to wait at least FIFTEEN MINUTES for them to get hot so that we could eat them! We did not have anything resembling a Swiffer or Dyson, and so dusting and vacuuming took awhile. We had a little triangular thing in the corner of the sink to put peelings and things in. We then had to take out the GARBAGE every night, because if we didn’t, the kitchen would get stinky.

My Mother was very busy. She had to run a lot of errands. You see, back in the old days, people got food at one store, clothing at another store, medicine at yet another store. I remember at the start of every school year, we would drive from our town in northern West Virginia to PITTSBURGH, where there were really nice department stores, to get my school clothes. In our small town, there weren’t a lot of clothing stores, and not a lot of selection. And my Mother was a big believer in the axiom that if you bought your clothes in town, you would “See yourself coming and going.” That was a BAD THING. And by the way, back in the day, we paid RETAIL prices for everything.

And let’s talk about school. I had to wear A DRESS every day. As a child in winter, I was allowed to wear pants under my dress on the way to school and back, but DURING SCHOOL HOURS, I had to have the bare legs. What a pain it was. Go in the homeroom. Go in the cloakroom (a term no longer in use, I am sure). Take off coat, hat, mittens, and boots. Take off pants. Hang everything up. Take shoes out of grocery bag and put them on. Repeat process at the end of the day. Boys just got to come in, take off their outerwear and get on with things. Plus, those bare legs we girls had were chilly.

In high school, we still wore dresses. Back then, pantyhose were on the verge of invention, and so we had to wear OLD FASHIONED STOCKINGS. How did we hold them up? WITH GIRDLES. Imagine this. I and most of my friends were built like twigs in those days, but we still writhed our way into girdles five days a week. And then we had to TAKE ALL OF IT OFF in order to put on our GYM CLOTHES for Phys. Ed., and then struggle back into it all.

Back in those days, most families had one car. Some had two. Teenagers had none. I know—HOW ON EARTH DID KIDS GET TO SCHOOL BACK THEN? Our Moms took us. We had carpools. And on weekends, we all asked for a car, and drove WHAT OUR PARENTS DROVE. No cute convertibles for teens back then. We drove station wagons, our fathers' sedans, or nothing!

In the fifties, when kids had free time, we had a number of options: books, “American Bandstand,” homework, and talking on the phone with friends. Homework involved reading assignments and GOING TO THE LIBRARY. Research involved little index cards and bibliographies. Footnotes had to be written in a particular format. I know! How archaic! And while doing our homework, we could play records or listen to the radio, but TV was too distracting!

I grew up playing games on boards or with cards. I spent a lot of time by myself, thinking. If I wanted to get away from it all, I just walked out the door. I wonder if my life those many years ago was better or worse than the lives of the plugged in generation. I admit that I like being able to connect with others via technology. I like living in the fast lane. But I know what solitude is like.

I guess we never stop evolving. Societies change, people grow and develop, and technology just keeps insinuating itself into our lives. They say that soon, virtual worlds will exist right alongside reality, and we may lead lives in multiple universes. Micro chips will allow us to read one another’s minds. We will be able to work with people from other countries without leaving our laptops. Communication will be ubiquitous. But here is the thing:

Who will walk all the dogs?

Friday, February 5, 2010


I have finally reached a time in my life that I can say suits me very well. I have what I need and what I want. I do what I want to do. I have an excellent companion, and friends of the highest water. So what does all this mean?

I am no longer a full time parent. My house looks just the way I want it to, with no dirty shoes, backpacks, or school books around. There are no plates with half eaten food in unsuspected locations, found only after the smell gave them away. The arrangements of magazines and books are as I have made them.

All the pets that live here have been fallen in love with and chosen by me. They hold no allegiances to any college students, school teachers, or talent agents who USED to live here. As a matter of fact, they FLEE in surprise and fear from those girls. The pets think that the universe revolves around ME. The dog is a faithful follower, and the cats deem me a worthwhile person to hang with occasionally. I can inhale cat fur to my heart’s content. I find that medium haired white cats smell like comfort and the little sleek coats of Siamese cats are redolent of something a little spicy. Inhaling my cats takes up a considerable amount of my free time.

In winter, the fireplace is a hub. My husband and I sit on facing sofas, with cups of coffee, tea, and laptops. He communicates with thousands on his; I blog to a few hundred on mine. We both find great stimulation and comfort from our many friends in cyberspace. As I get older, I get more curious about my friends in England, Vancouver, Prince Edward Island, New York, and in the northern woody regions of the U.S. Some of them have cats that I have come to admire almost as much as my own!

And then there is the bed. For my sixtieth birthday, I bought myself linen sheets. The real thing. I can’t tell you how LUXURIOUS that is! It takes up a little time maintaining them, for they are much more labor intensive when it comes to laundering, but sleeping on linen makes me feel like a Jane Austen heroine.

In winter, I love tea with milk, scones that have way too many calories, sunsets that are just too gorgeous against the black branches, chats with friends, and having suppers in the kitchen with candles. Chili is good, turkey soup is better. I like to cook casseroles with noodles. Winter necessitates such comfort foods, and without mashed potatoes once a week, my life would be just a little less comfortable!

Finally, at my age, friendship is just too precious to stop cultivating. Technology has brought new friends out of my laptop like magic! Whoever said that the age of letters is past? Granted, Facebook postings aren’t letters—but I have developed a very good writing relationship with quite a few new friends that I simply would have missed meeting without blogs, tweets, and the like.

Is this growing old GRACEFULLY? If by definition, growing old gracefully means aging without falling down, or without getting muscle spasms during yoga class, or looking like a sylph while walking on the stairmaster, I am NOT growing old gracefully. But if an alternative definition means still enjoying your darling husband who is also old, having giggle fits with friends you have known for years, emailing an old beau to find out what he had for dinner, Facebooking about favorite books, or having five cats and a dog, then I am growing old very gracefully, thank you. And by George,


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