Gandhi and Mother Theresa? Maybe Not Yet

St. Franicis 2I sometimes think I want to be the kind of old lady my mother was, breezily calling them as she saw them, as with the docile babies in the TV commercials. “That child is drugged!” she was always yelling at the television.

Most times though, I want to ​be an old person like my kindly Uncle Rob whose eyes would fill with tears watching those same babies, and who loved everything in sight: the supper you made him, the squirrels outside, even the two stiff high school photos of my sister and me smiling eternally away there on the living room table. 

I guess I​’ve hoped in general that both David and I would grow sweeter with age in this way. And I thought this was actually happening, to David anyway, the day he felt a little spider land on his nose and begin rappelling down toward his chin like a climber descending a cliff-face.  When I saw him unhook the delicate rope of web, go to the door and set the whole thing down outside, all I could think was, “What a Gandhi of a guy! What an out-and-out saint!”

Well, I don’t know what happened to THAT man, but he sure was among the missing on the day we discovered a huge hornets’ nest peeking out from the ivy that crawls across the garage roof. 

“We have hornets!” I yelled over to the neighboring family as we stood watching a zillion bees zooming back toward the hive and squirming wiggle-hipped inside it.

 “It’s nothing,” said David. “Who’s afraid of bees?” “I am!” said the next-door mom from her porch. “What will we DO?” I yipped, panicky.

“Take ‘em out,” David said, with that exact smile Jay Gatsby smiles when Tom Buchanan reveals his bootlegging past.

He trotted inside and emerged almost immediately with an aerosol can of bee killer bought in the 1990s.

“YOU can’t do this!” the next-door-dad called over. “Get the professionals!”

“At least go put on gloves!” called his wife.  “And a hat and jacket!” she added.

“At least long sleeves!” I said. “DAVE,” I added in my meanest wifely voice.

But no, he said. He had it covered, he said. He would wait and spray them when they were all back in the nest for the night.  In an hour, he said, just before he went out for his weekly card game.

And so it happened that in an hour he went back out to do the deed.

He stood three feet from the nest.

The rest of us watched from the safety of our houses as, within four seconds of the spraying, he came barreling across the grass, thundered up the back steps and slammed into our house.

It seems that the first burst of insecticide had no sooner left the can than the bees swarmed furiously out, one to find Mr. Gandhi-No-More and sting him – zzzt! – right in the ear.

Was I nice to him in his pain?

Well, sure. Sort of. 
After I got through delivering the small I-told-you-so smile of the longtime married.

And what about him? Was he chastened at all? 

Not a bit. He even boasted about the incident to our kids the following day.

“In the first round it was Bees 1, Dad Nothing. But when I got back from cards at midnight, I had another go at them and Boom! Bees Zip, Dad 250.”

Boasting! About all those bee corpses!                 

Maybe neither ​one of us is ready for sainthood yet. 


Posted by on November 14, 2014 in Uncategorized


Raking is Better?

raking leaves 2

Raking is so much better than leaf blowing with those powerful hoses you hear people say – but they’re mostly NOT the ones stuck with the rake.

Here’s a poem  on the subject called Gathering Leaves, by Robert Frost. It’s about raking but also about much more. (You know Frost!)

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who’s to say where
The harvest shall stop?

Maybe you hear some people waxing nostalgic about the joys of raking but I’m more with Frost: gathering these husks, these shells , these vegetal corpses just reminds ME, as he is suggesting in spite of the pink bow he ties it up with at the end, of how hard it is to harvest anything in this life.

If they must fall and die then let them. But bear them away quickly, as the men did in my yard yesterday morning. Strangely cheering to watch this brisk householder’s task .


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Posted by on November 9, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Guyways and Byways

man driverI’ve been away for a while, dreaming up semi-curmudgeonly tales. I call this one …WHAT I LEARNED FROM MEN.. So much of value have I learned from the women in my life! – but if I’m honest I’ll admit I have learned quite a bit from the men as well. Anyway I have learned how they navigate the world, which can be quite different from the way we ladies do that.

I should probably admit that having grown up a house of females, I didn’t actually KNOW any men close up until I met the man I married. Not until I was in my 20th year did I see a man shave his face or shine those big tie shoes. Never until that year did I see how a man might knot a necktie or tuck in a dress shirt.

But let’s move along now to the lessons themselves, which are offered in fun, I’ll say up front, lest an angry mob with torches starts marching toward my house. Also I will say that of these following ten items, only one item might possibly, sometimes, be a rule of of my own sweet spouse.  And so without further ado – Ahem! –  Rules to Live By, Guy-Style:

  • One, if people ask you questions you don’t know the answer to, feel free to make something up. If they’re asking, it’s clear that they don’t know the answer either, so you’re safe. Improvise!


  • Two, in classroom settings: If you’re that guy who hasn’t done the reading and the teacher calls on you, try denouncing the biases of the author, maybe just based on his name. Or, if you’re feeling frisky, call into question the whole syllabus. Wasn’t there always that teacher in your early days who liked to be steered away from the lesson? Maybe this teacher/lecturer/workshop leader is secretly like that too. 
  • Three, never, ever, ask for directions. Who knows better than you do the best way to get from point A to point B? You’re a human compass! 
  • Four, don’t stop the car. Even if you end up driving to Florida by way of California, red lights and traffic jams are for chumps. Go around. 
  • Five, if a woman is crying, act like you don’t notice. If the person comes over and starts tugging on your sleeve while crying, tell a joke.

woamn weeping

  • Six, let others, more ordinary mortals, answer the phone. 
  • Seven, don’t feel you have to jump right in and reply to an email. If the email is directed to several people at once, you can really feel free in this regard, as someone else will surely take the lead and reply in your place. 
  • Eight, since most health problems resolve without any intervention, steer clear of doctors because really, what do doctors know? 
  • Nine, most “issues” are just in people’s heads. Never visit the inside of another person’s head. 
  •  And finally, Ten, steer clear of the inside of your own head especially.

Cleave to these rules and you will live a happy, carefree life – at least until you see that mob with torches coming in your direction – sometimes from inside your very own house.











Posted by on November 7, 2014 in humor


SCARIER Than Halloween

DSC_0154So this is my spine.
You might have to look closely to see it.
David took the picture for me in our bathroom Thursday night.
I had him take it because,  earlier that day, at our weekly session,  I had asked the very gifted woman who works with such care on helping strengthen the muscles that hold me upright to do something:
I had asked her to draw…
in white chalk on my brown shirt…
where the ‘buttons’ of my backbone were.
This she did and here are the results. This picture below is a close-up.
The lateral line is my braline.

If she had kept going and drawn the ribs too, we could all see that I’m listing sharply, like the Titanic, 30 minutes after impact. 

In the last few days I’ve been fixing to blog light-heartedly about this scoliosis that has so recently expressed itself in my body, even though one is apparently born with the condition. But then, just now,  when our ridiculously late Saturday mail finally came and I saw that Mass General had sent me  the images on CD of the MRI they did of my lower back, my comic impulse kind of drained away.

The hospital failed to include any narrative about my case  - I will have to ask my PCP for that on Monday – but the images are pretty horrifying if I’m reading them right.

The timing is funny because just yesterday Dr. Scott Fuller, the wonderful chiropractor I see every other week, took a notion all on his own to draw a sketch of my back,  based on his X-rays, and mail it to me.

2014-11-01 09.06.18
I consider it such a kindness that he would do this for me. I have wanted so much to be able to really picture what was happening in there in there, so I could understand where the pain was coming from and maybe help alleviate it. 
Now I have these official images and I’m feeling more alarmed. It’s what behind the little beaded curtain that’s significant. And the curve looks different because this ‘picture’ is taken from the back and Dr. Fuller’s was looking at me from the front.
2014-11-01 16.32.57

My lumbar spine looks like the tail of a lobster! Now I just want to SEE Dr. Fuller, I just want to SEE Dr. Bennett and get somebody to explain what I’m looking at. It’s hard to be alone with pain at night, but in the daytime at least it’s nice to have some other kind humans willing to help shed some light on what’s going on in your little insides. I don’t feel hurt or mad; I don’t feel like my body betrayed me – nothing like that. I just want to befriend this faithful servant who has done my bidding so uncomplainingly all these years..


Posted by on November 1, 2014 in Uncategorized



Changing Skyline

IMG_3975It could be May as you look at this tree, couldn’t it? I took this picture yesterday outside my local YMCA where I spend an hour or more four times a week.

It looks like May but it’s sure enough October, and October’s last week in case we’re forgetting. 

The hour was noon as I snapped it, and I had just finished Active Stretch Class which involves abs work and balance balls. I thought I’d feel so good after the class but instead everything hurt.

I have pain every day now. They did an MRI on me last week because their theory was that I had sciatica but I knew it wasn’t sciatica. When my doc saw the images she told me what I already knew: it’s the scoliosis I was born with, because people with scoliois are indeed all born with it. It has grown “severe” in the estimation of the medical people only over time. The truth is I didn’t know I even had it until a yoga teacher touched my shoulder in class 8 years ago and said not to worry that I wasn’t symmetrical in Child’s Pose; that it was just my scoliosis.

My what? I have what? Then I began to notice that the zippers on my slacks were all off plumb. Then I could no longer wear vertical stripes. Then as a young person in my life said to me one day, “Wow yeah! Your pants are here (gesturing) and your shirt is over here (gesturing a few inches to the right.)

There’s no cure for scoliosis in adults. No Surgery. They can shoot you with steroids or give you physical therapy. My doctor gave me a scrip for Neurontin. We’ll see how THAT goes; I don’t like the look of it. She says if your back looks like this, and the disks are ‘extravagating’ (great word!)  even a little, then some of those delicate little facet joints are going to start  tap-tap-tapping against each other and pinch some poor nerve pretty good.

This is what I look like generally,  although my big curve is lumbar rather than thoracic…

imgres(the violet hue is nice though isn’t it?)

I guess I’ve felt a little down since confirmation of my oh-so-severe scoliosis came in, but being in Boston on a beautiful day was lovely. It was lovely to sit in the courtyard at Mass General Hospital and see that famous Ether Domel where the first person was successfully anesthetized in the 1840s


And then there was this lovely sculpture of a mother and child, so tender you did just want to go up to it.




So now, on  good days, I try to embody this spirit:

scoliosis bent but not broken

But there can be no doubt about one thing: It’s October, not May, in my body, and it’s time for me to adjust an altered skyline.


Posted by on October 28, 2014 in Uncategorized


Bus Ride on a Rainy Day

It was pouring rain as the eight-year-old moved uncertainly toward the back of the bus. He and his mom had boarded partway into this hour-long trip, and there weren’t many seats left.

 “Grab that one!” she said, pointing to the seat next to me near the back of the bus. He hesitated. “Just sit! You sit there and I’ll sit here!” she said and settled into the seat across the aisle.

She seemed slightly annoyed with him and I could tell he didn’t want to annoy her more. 

In the seat beside me, he shrugged his way out of his backpack, which seemed much too large for his narrow shoulders. Then he looked quickly over at me and away again.  

“Hi!” I whispered, inclining my head slightly toward him.  

“Hi,” he whispered back.

Then I turned back to what I had been doing before the pair boarded, namely toting up a column of figures to see if I could afford new letterhead.

 “Are you a Math teacher?” he asked, studying my paper.

 “Nope,” I smiled. “I’m just somebody trying to remember where the decimal point goes!”

 “I think it goes right…. THERE,” he said, pointing to my bottom line. 

I didn’t want him to feel he had to make small talk, so once I got done with my calculations; I tucked the paper into my own backpack and pulled out the column I was working on for the following week. 

I find I can never tell where I’ve gone wrong in my writing just by looking at it on the screen. I have to print it out, and then come back to it later.

They call this process ‘letting the manuscript cool’, and it’s an important step. Why? Because if, having let something ‘cool’ in this way, you then come back to it and find that even after reading several of its beginning sentences you have no clue where you were going with it, you have to begin again. Because really if you yourself can’t tell what you’re trying to say, how can anyone NOT living inside your little diving-bell of a head possibly figure that out?

 I was on Paragraph One of the manuscript and already I had altered three words and chopped a phrase.

“Is that your homework?” the boy then asked.

“In a way,” I said.

“Uh huh,” he replied, and looked longingly over at his mother who was fixedly studying the screen of her smartphone.

His shoulders sank a little and it came to me that sitting next to a stranger on a long bus ride probably wasn’t what he had hoped to be doing on this day.

I leaned across to his mum. “Can he play Ninja Fishing on my phone?” I asked, showing her the app. “Sure,” she shrugged and went back to her own screen.

The boy played expertly for a few minutes.

But Ninja Fishing is pretty old news, even for an 8-year-old, and he soon handed me back my device. Then he sighed a small sigh, pulled what looked like a spelling paper out of his backpack and got busy on his own assignment.

I hope he was happy enough to be doing his own work in the world on this stormy afternoon. I hoped so. I really did. Because in that moment as I watched the rain streaming down the bus windows I know how happy I was to be doing mine.



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Posted by on October 26, 2014 in Uncategorized


This Lovely Day

IMG_3793It’s all changing now.

Even a whole 12 days before we turn the clocks back, things feel different.

The milkweed is even rosy. I found this ‘bouquet’ today in the field behind the YMCA.

And of course the leaves are contemplating cashing it in.

I think of what Emily Dickinson wrote to her brother Austin one morning:

“We are having such lovely weather,” she wrote. “The air is a sweet and still – now and then a gay leaf falling – high in the crimson tree a belated bird is singing – a thousand little painters are tingeing hill and dale…” 

It was like that today with the thousand little painters.

It was also like what Robert Frost described.  In his poem October, he addresses the month directly saying,

Beguile us in the way you know.

Release one leaf at break of day;

 At noon release another leaf;

 One from our trees, one far away.

Retard the sun with gentle mist;

Enchant the land with amethyst.

That last line kills me every time, ‘enchant the land with amethyst.’

I sat on the stone steps in my yard for a while today and watched as the sprinklers swept the lawn for the last time this year.

The effect seemed to me magical when the water from two sprinkler heads on either side of the path crossed each other and made a faint rainbow. Can you see it? Look.

Now look again. It’s a very short video and it’s just s flash. But how much we miss when we hurry along instead of just standing still (!)


Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Uncategorized


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