Category Archives: Uncategorized

Trips Around the Sun


Today I applied for Medicare, and yesterday the world lost the Queen of Soul.  Two completely different events, one extremely less relevant, but necessary, and the other so relevant and sad, and so seemingly, unnecessary.  Here’s the bridge…we age, but we think about that fact in a context that explains how things happen in time, our time.  Aretha Franklin’s death makes us stop in our tracks, and remember how old we were when we heard her and fell in love with her and her music, and her grasp on telling the story of loss and love and hardship and becoming powerful, when folks were trying to silence the voices of the oppressed.  We, the baby boomers, have lived through a lot, and the music of our generation still defines us, and  the history of change.  Every generation has those power houses of music who brought us along with them.  Aretha was one of those transcendent beings.  She was on my bucket list of musicians  who I wanted to see in a live  performance.  My FHB and I had tickets for a show in Boston that she was scheduled to perform, this past June.  It was cancelled at the last minute, and now we have a clearer understanding of how illness takes the best laid plans.

The clock is ticking much louder today.  The mundane mandate that suggests (or be penalized) that three months or less prior to my 65th birthday, I must apply for Medicare, even if retirement is not in the forefront of my thinking.  It is a reminder that, at some point, in the future, it will be.  In my head, I remain a teenager at times, a 34 year old mother of two, a newlywed twice, a mother-in-law twice, and a grandmother twice, all in the same head.  It gets busy in there.  Hard to fathom, but yet, reality bellows…” YOU ARE GETTING OLDER”.  We go through a lot of gains in life and then there are the losses.  We consider the people who aren’t with us, and they then remain fixed at the age they died, in our memories.  We are grateful to have those memories, and then we hope that we grow older to make new memories.

Our loft  was filled with music today.  We watched and listened to hold those sounds in our hearts.  I teared up and remembered.  She was a force of nature, that Queen of Soul.  Thank you Aretha for who you are and for showing us the way.  Your voice and music are immortal.  Peace to you and love to your family for allowing us to  sharing you, and your fierce musical passion  with the world.  It is a big deal and so are you.   .



My Frienemy


This afternoon, I made the aquaintance of Walter the caterpillar.  He is a year long resident of Maine, who arrives sometime during July through October and then winters over and like all caterpillars, transform themselves into a moth the following spring.  It’s one of those pretty amazing magical events.  I saw him just kind of moseying along the railing near our room and we caught one another’s glance and there we were, just hanging out, getting to know one another.  It’s good when a local and a tourist communicate.  I actually think he was the one to tell me his name first, and I’m not actually sure if I told him my name.  We didn’t actually speak out loud, because that just causes others to question one’s sanity, but somehow I knew that Walter was his name.  I was off and running to catch up to my FHB because we were on our way to see the town of Belfast so I couldn’t really exchange too much information.  So, I said to Walter “see you later!” and headed off, but not before I took his picture.

I didn’t think much about Walter as our day progressed, but I did take a moment to find out a little more about him.  So, nowadays, as we all know, finding out information about someone is not that difficult anymore.  Just google “Maine caterpillar” and you can find out much more than you expect and sometimes, things turn dark and destructive.  Yes, Walter is not all he seems.  Looked kind of cute and furry with these black and white hairs sticking out.  Turns out he can create havoc and an allergic reaction and itching and I am just not even going to give you more information, because I am itching already and didn’t even touch him.  His real name is Walter the Hickory Tussock Moth.  He hangs around trees and eats leaves and give people a rash.

I’ve always been a bit naive about things that appear to be nice and cute, and I like finding out (or imagining) their names.  Makes you less scared of bugs, spiders, snakes and the like.

But cute critter status aside, there’s a reason why the Swiss German word for caterpillar (teufelskatz) translates to “devil’s cat.” Caterpillars have a dark side, one that justifies entomophobia, the fear of caterpillars.

We have another two days to spend in Maine.  It has been a good trip, albeit hot and humid (two of my least favorite weather experiences).  We read, drove around and ate some good food and talked to few people, which is pretty much what we like.  We are somewhat ninja tourists.  We like the quiet and solitude of our own company and try to stay out of sight.  Vacations are interesting pathways to recognizing that the longer you stay somewhere, the likelihood is that you will find a routine that makes you feel like you are in a temporary home till it’s time to go back to where you came from.  The locals like it that way, as do the tourists, and probably even the caterpillars.  Well, Walter, no need to keep in touch.  If I see a moth close by next spring, I won’t even remember your name.

T minus and counting

siamese cat

So, Paka the cat actually refused to pose for the suitcase picture, so this is her understudy.  For those who are owned by cats (and we know that is a correct statement, don’t we?), packing and leaving becomes challenging.  I have made arrangements for her care, bought her favorite (as of recently) food, treats, litter and catnip, and before we leave, my FHB will put her favorite video channel, which shows hours and hours of birds landing and feeding at feeders.  We will quietly sneak out of the loft and hope that when return, she will allow us re-entry and that our couch will be intact.

Beyond, that, I have spent the better part of the day, preparing for our vacation.  Laundry is done, refrigerator is cleaned out, dishes are washed and put away and I have packed some food for the road trip.  That probably sounds pretty straightforward, and yet, I always ruminate about whether where we travel to has supermarkets, restaurants and drug stores.  I pack, just in case, Maine has closed all of the above and we will be in the wilderness, hungry and itchy.  It is completely ridiculous but I was a girl scout a long, long, time ago and the motto was “Be Prepared” which I have interpreted to mean, bring most of your household items because you just never know.

I have made a sincere effort to be a minimalist, which really means one large and one small suitcase, whereas normally it would be two large suitcases.  That is, in addition, to the cooler and insulated bag with oatmeal, crackers, peanut butter and some cooking utensils.  I just realized that I  had better put the can opener in.  You never know.   We will forage for fruit on the roadsides. Blueberries are big in Maine.  Actually they are small in Maine and taste so sweet.  That will sustain us and I have brought wipes when our fingers get all blue.

Map, check!  Compass, check!  Flashlight, check!  And off we go.  Wish us luck….and have a good week.

The Maine Road


So, in about 168 hours,  we will be sitting in a little cottage on a lake.  There will be mosquitos and no wifi.  Last year we saw the fjords of Norway.  This summer, we will see the sights of Skowhegan, Maine.  We will visit places with names like The Broken Hag and the Good Karma Farm.  We might see Bruce the llama.  We will take a tour of the Stanley Museum to be wowed by the inventions that the Stanley brothers created.  We will visit the towns of Unity, Freedom and Liberty.  We will be on vacation. We will do a lot of nothing which is something we don’t usually get to do.  We will eat vegan in Skowhegan.  We will buy the best bagels in Maine in L.A. (the other L.A., Lewiston-Auburn).  We will have time to hear our thoughts.

Do I seem pumped to hit the road?  You betcha.  I want to travel the back roads and country roads.  I want to stop and greet cows….I alway stop and say “Hi Ladies” when I see cows.  My FHB will be on the lookout for moose, which is not dissimilar to Waiting for Godot.  No Godot, no moose.  The meaning of life, and yet we meander on and on.  My FHB has fond memories of childhood trips to Skowhegan.  It was inhabited by the Akanaki indiginous people who named it for “watching the fish”. He will be hoping for a few bites on his fishing pole, and maybe there will be a couple of teases or tugs and maybe this time, a fish and not just a fish story.

Skowhegan has a history much like many of the towns of New England, battles and conflict, forts and more battles, the industrial revolution and a town that was and probably still is a place where people worked hard to make a living.  One of my FHB’s memories was going to “Shirley and Walter’s” which was a restaurant that served “very American food”.  Apparently, according to my sources, Shirley and Walter divorced and there went the restaurant.  I think it will be nice to see where it used to be….or not.  Seems like at this point in our travels, we see or try to see a lot of places that used to be, that we remember from travels with our families.  Nostalgia will be sitting in the backseat, reminding us of “remember when and where”.

My family spent a lot of time traversing the roads of Maine.  We crossed the border from Canada (when it was easier) at Jackman.  We rode through the 45th parallel in Rangeley.  My father would point out the Echo satellite as it moved across the sky.  Then we would head to the coast, to Acadia National Park and to Blue Hill and stand on the jagged rocks and look across to Paris.  Then I found out that Maine was filled with places named Norway, Peru, Paris, Carthage and Bath as an homage to places I hadn’t yet travelled to but hoped to see one day.

When we travel to Maine, we often talk about our respective summer vacations with our families.  Sweet memories and we wonder, in our conversations of past moments in the remote and touristy places, whether a dark haired boy ever saw a short dirty blonde haired  girl and maybe even held a door, or got in a car and  perhaps looked through the window at one another.  Maine is our destination, but maybe it was our destiny, long, long ago.

A Musical Note


In the words of Stevie Wonder “Isn’t she lovely, isn’t she wonderful..”.  I would like to introduce the newest member of our family…Portia Amalia.  Portia means work  and Amalia means an offering.  She came to us on Monday and like any new member of a family…I just like to sit and admire her and wonder how she will enhance our lives.

I know I might have mentioned in a previous post that for my last birthday, almost nine months ago, my FHB told me that he wanted to give me something that he believed I  wanted.  He wanted to get me a piano.  I thought it was a perfect idea.   I was very patient.  We got a refrigerator.  I continued to be very patient.  Pianos take a while to arrive, like all things.  And then, through a conversation with a friend, and a very serendipitous event (another neighbor was moving and had a piano that needed adopting), the arrangements were made for Portia to travel down five steps, about a couple of hundred feet, carried by four burly gentlemen and a supervisor, and she arrived, none the worse for wear.

My playing skills are quite rusty. I sat down last night, with a book of “Memorable Standards” (quite an easy quick learner type)  and gently pressed the keys and Paka the cat yowled.  Everyone’s a critic.  I tried again, and my FHB, with his lovely baritone voice accompanied my version of As Time Goes By, and Paka yowled.

This wasn’t our first piano, but that other one was one of our kid’s piano,  and we just enjoyed it till it left. You would think that pianos were just a come and go kind of item in our lives.  The moving men have enjoyed the fruits of their labor as they kept moving that piano and this newer piano between homes.  It’s a living in this transient world of ours.

This morning, one of our sons asked if we were going to stay in the lofts for a long time….translated into “till you die?”.  I asked why would you ask that question and his response was “well, now that you have a piano…”.  Portia hasn’t been with us for long enough for me to see past the novelty.  We are surrounded by things, which I personify with names reminiscent of where/who they came from.  We have a piece of furniture that was custom built for my maternal grandparents when they married in 1911.  It came from their house, to my aunt’s house in New York City, to several of the houses we have moved to and from.  We call the piece “Tante Lisel”.  Another piece was in an apartment that I rented between houses. The owners asked if I minded if they kept a curio cabinet they owned in my apartment, because it was very heavy and they didn’t want to move it.  When we moved out, I asked, having grown fond of it, if we could buy it and we now call that one “John and Nina”.  I’m very sentimental about my possessions and like to imagine the people who are connected to them with the names I give them.  I feel a song coming on and as I sit looking at Portia, the words to “I’ve Got a Crush on You” are floating through my head.  Excuse me while a play a few notes…

Home is a Who

I met him on a Monday, and my heart stood still…. and so the song goes (for those of you who are purists… the song is actually “I met him on a Sunday” by the Shirelles).  We had our first cup of coffee and then he asked if he could take me to dinner.  I told him that I had to walk the dog.  He asked if he could meet the dog.  I acquiesed, because Charley, who was my roommate at that time and my beloved border collie mix pooch, was  a very good judge of character.  And so it began…we went to dinner and I found out that he was not a fan of Frank Sinatra, he wore very nice clothing and he was very creative and had a lot to say and I was in the mood to listen to every word.  He also took his mother out which I thought was a nice trait, especially when he would bring her back.  Thoughtful, I thought.  We spoke every day back then even though he said he was not a phone person. We progressed to spending time together every day which turned into weeks and months and marriage and life.  And there we were and here we are.

Sharing a home is often an experiment in compromise, collaboration and sorting out the conflict.  It is also a marriage of creativity, a cultural exchange and contentment.  A home is more than a space but is a metaphor for feeling safe when the world is fraught with inexplicable and insurmountable madness.  We found each other, my FHB and me, later in life.  There didn’t need to be a lot of time to figure out that we were walking in the same direction, didn’t want drama, and wanted harmony.  We started out as adults and then began to remember what it was to like someone and then know that it was bigger and deeper and very personal.   Having been alone for a while without a partner re-established my understanding of my own strengths, subborn determination to do it on my own and to know that I was capable and smart.  It took a while to allow myself to lean on and into someone who was gentle and generous and very helpful.  I don’t ask for help…that’s the stubborn. I’m working on it.

We do projects…my Lucy moments to his Ricky minutes.  I can feel the eyes roll even if I am not in the same room.  He is metered in his thinking and creating.  I am impulsive and pushy to get things done.  We’re not getting any younger so let’s take only a minute not an hour and let’s do it!  It’s not easy, for either of us.  We are in the coordinating doctor’s appointment years and the “Talk louder” moments.  But we still inately can read each other’s minds at times which saves a lot of wear and tear and brings a lot of laughter and smiles.  My FHB has made our space our home, not only in the furniture and design elements he has created, but every time he walks in the door, I feel the “homing signal”.

Happy Anniversary, my FHB….thanks for all the days ahead of us and for all the ones we filled already.

Better Together

4 T UMAX     PL-II            V1.5 [6]There is an old expression or quote or riff on a saying that true love is falling in love with the same person over and over again.  This weekend, my FHB and I, along with a group of music lovers, enjoyed an annual jazz performance on a hot and sultry Sunday morning with some hot and cool jazz which made the listeners sway and shut their eyes and feel the music in their souls.  The church was the backdrop for the experience and it was filled with many of the same locals you seen at similar events.  The  filtered sunlight came through the stained glass windows as we sat and fanned ourselves with the paper fans we were given as we entered the space.  Then there was that moment, like a firecracker’s sizzle, which made me swell with love, for this place, this moment, this city.

The theme of the concert was on inclusion.  The singer, who was the M.C. stated that we are all better together in moments of crisis and in joy.  I couldn’t agree more.  New Bedford is my long time city and it has managed to pull me back when I strayed to nearby towns for several years in the forty-two years I’ve lived in Southcoast.  A city is a complex living organism.  It grows and stagnates at moments.  It thrives on care and positive interaction.  It withers with neglect and indifference.  The city I discovered in 1976 was losing some of its leaves, it’s vibrancy and it’s businesses.  There was some movement to more suburban/rural communities and yet now there is a flurry of growth, revitalization and so much energy.

I tried to figure out what the love I felt was made of. As in all relationships, there are days that are hard, filled with anger and disappointment and frustration during which you question, what am I doing here, does it matter?  It’s people who make a city be and become.  It is that sense of hope and challenge to make it strong and vital and better for the residents and for the future residents.  New Bedford has history, and cultural dynamics that appear in the different elements of food, cultural diversity and a willingness to problem solve as a collective.  It is a social consciousness that shows up in the music heard at all the venues around town and in the art, both gallery and public, and the food that is served inside homes, shared with friends and neighbors as well as in the restaurant scene, available and abundant.

Drove through some nearby communities, some with a lot more opulance, more visible affluence.  Drove by houses with manicured lawns and grand driveways and property.  Didn’t see any people.  Couldn’t connect with the energy because it was like a Hollywood set, between scenes.  Drove back to my city, my home and sure, there were pockets of poverty, dirt, loud noises and disarray, but when you come back to your own safe zone, and it isn’t picture perfect everywhere, you know people are really living there, living their lives, doing their best, together.  You could feel the pulse and all that jazz.  Cha cha cha.

Take a listen…