Say What You Think!

zumba_dancing_and_traningSo I’ll get to the meaning of THIS picture in a second. I was at the office of this bone guy, whose waiting room as I walked in held just one elderly couple. The husband of the pair was filling out his wife’s health history on a clipboard.

 “Knee problems,” he told me cheerily, nodding toward his spouse, who within the space of 30 seconds had thrown back her head, closed her eyes and begun performing an aria of happy snores.

Just as suddenly, she snapped awake and shot me an assessing look.“Nice you clothes,” she told to me in a heavy, Slavic-sounding accent.

I glanced down to see what I was wearing, because you know how it is: you’re not always sure just what you’ve ended up putting on in the morning. “Well, thanks!” I said.

I knew I would miss my visit to the Y that day, so instead of donning my usual crummy workout gear, I had on a forest green boot-length corduroy skirt very wide at the hem and a fur jacket that I have owned since the impenitent, over-the-top 80s when I found it for 60 bucks in an antique store down the road.

“All my life I work in clothes,” she said. “I am knowing good clothes.”

I would have asked more about that, but just then I was called into one of the examination rooms of this new-to-me doctor, who scrutinized my bent toy kite of a spine and asked about my daily life.

I mentioned the Zumba classes I take thrice-weekly at the local Y.

“Zumba?!” he repeated. “Zumba’s all wrong for you. You can’t be sending your thoracic region in one direction and your hips in the other! No more Zumba!”

“No more Zumba? “ I squeaked. “It’s the only thing I do that makes my back pain stop!’

“It’s CAUSING your back pain.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I think so.”

“What happened to ‘Movement is life’?” I said.

“What happened to ‘Listen to your doctor’?” he said.

 We looked at each other for a beat. Then, “Is this our first fight?” I said. “Listen the dancing is mostly salsa, where you keep your chest fairly still and just send your hips out to the right and the left.”

 He shook his head.

 We talked a little more, then he wrote me a prescription for physical therapy and suggested I also see a back surgeon.

 Fat chance I’m having back surgery, I thought to myself.

“He’s a surgeon, you know, and a prominent one,” he said. “He’ll hurry into the room surrounded by younger doctors. Don’t be afraid to slow him down. Make him answer your questions. Stand your ground.”

“I’m thinking that won’t be a problem for you,” he added, smiling.

 I smiled too, thanked him, and after we shook hands I returned to the waiting room, where the woman and her husband still sat in their chairs.

 The woman got right back to work examining me.

 “Good clothes,” she nodded as much to herself as to me.

 I looked down at myself more self-consciously this time, and picked up the end of the dark-green, tan and cream-colored scarf I had thrown around the neck of my jacket.

“The scarf isn’t right though, is it? I tried to find a better scarf but I don’t seem to have one.”

“No,” she said. “Scarf no good. The rest OK. Nice you clothes,” she said again.

 “Happy to meet you!” exclaimed her husband and with that we all bowed to one another and said our farewells – but not before I thought to myself how much I do appreciate frankness, wherever I chance to encounter it.


Posted by on December 15, 2014 in health, humor


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Kids, Darn ‘em


Our boy Mike was here for supper last night. I made Moroccan Lamb Stew and a nutty rice and Roasted Beet and Apricot Salad for both him and his sister Annie, who came over with her five-pounds-of-sugar-brand-new baby.

 Your kids don’t like it when you change your house around, especially if they no longer live with you and yes I remember feeling that way too, about my mother and aunt’s house where I lived in from age nine on. I went back there as a young adult and was horrified by what they had done: What was this awful new wallpaper in the front bedroom where our mom always installed  us kids when we were sick? What I loved was the OLD paper, the pink roses on that lurid yellow background that made me feel like my fevers were tipping into pleasant hallucination.

So I saw that son of mine; I knew just what he was doing patrolling the downstairs, his hands in the pockets and smiling faintly. 

He passed through the kitchen, whose wallpaper we took off two years ago. Here is the old kitchen and the son in question, working in it a couple of Christmases ago.

mpm cleans up on xmas

The other night he cruised slowly past the two newly upholstered chairs in the living room, chairs that lived in the garage and smelled like two sour washcloths for the 36 months prior to their recent makeover. They’re gorgeous now, to my eyes anyway, both of them done over in a kind of pussy-willow grey. 

They’re as gorgeous as the newly reupholstered mini-sofa at that far end of the kitchen that I put up with for the whole ten years it spent worn bald by the fannies of the cats. It too is beauteous now. Beauteous!

But not to him. 

“I GUESS I’m getting used to all the changes you’ve made,” he finally said, “only it’s all so kind of …monochromatic now. No more whimsy, no more riot of patterns. The yard is like that too since you guys cut down all those shrubs this past fall.” He said it all looks like the mind of the Ellen Burstyn character after she goes crazy in Requiem for a Dream.

These kid we all  have: they’re tough customers – not that my girl Annie said anything. We women stick together.

I do remember asking him  back in October about the material I liked for the Lincoln-era love seat in the living room which I have loved ever since I found it in a second-hand furniture shop, bought for $80 and reupholstered it myself. (Horse hair! it was stuffed with! Actual Horse hair!) Now I had my eye on a kind of pale Caribbean blue for it, slightly patterned and textured. I showed Mike the two yard sample I had.

“You realize this is green,” he said when I spread it on the loveseat.

 “Green?? This isn’t green!”

 “Mum: It’s green.”

I knew he was wrong so I paid no attention . I had the loveseat done over in it – and the minute the fellas from Rudy’s Upholstery walked in the door with it three weeks later I saw my mistake: It didn’t go even a little bit with anything else in the living room,  but LUCKY FOR US ALL our bedroom has green in the wallpaper, so that now, instead of having a tidy little table under the window up in that room, we have this giant-seeming piece of furniture, a real, old time I feel-a-faint-coming-on settee upon which I now artfully recline watching episodes of The Knick and Penny Dreadful and pretending I too am a Victorian lady about to get bled, or vivisected, or covered in leeches.

this is our room

Sigh. I hated it when my mother and aunt were right and I was wrong, And now I have it all over again with my youngest child. but it is what it is.  I’m starting to think painting the kitchen was a mistake myself. anyway.  Paint has a tendency to chip and nick and get so .. marred

Another ten years and your dad and I will go back to wallpaper, Mike and you, son, of ours, will be proven right once again, darn ya. :-)


Posted by on December 10, 2014 in humor


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Blog Interrupted


So this is me today, trying to look properly angelic for the season. And please note the patched together quality of my appearance. Sometimes even gorilla glue won’t hold a person together come December.

I’m actually here today to explain why this blog has been interrupted. It’s the steady advent of DECEMBER 25 which has yanked me out of my cozy thoughts of fall and the seasonal fun that is fall, the cannibalization of my pumpkins by their cousins the ants, the thoughts of those high school reunions all held over Thanksgiving weekend..  Oh and didn’t I myself once go to my reunion with my dress on backwards by mistake, a thing I didn’t realize I’d done so until six months had passed. (“Oh wait!” I thought trying it on again the following summer. “The plunging V doesn’t go in the front?  It isn’t the shoulder blades that those two pointy pockets in the back were designed to make room for?”)

I’m yanked away from these pleasant reveries by the need to start pushing uphill the rock that is Christmas, so that our family won’t once again be the only family on the street trying to string up holiday lights 24 hours before the big night, when Santa harnesses those tony rain-DEER and starts making his rounds.  (And please note that that’s how you say it:  “When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-DEER. “)

Anyway here’s the second casualty in our house: the angel who normally occupies that proctological seat atop the Christmas tree. She had too much grog at the holiday party and fell and broke her ankle. As you can see I have run an IV and put her in the little hospital bed I keep especially around for small accident victims.  There’s a little blood from the fall and as you can tell she’s been crying, mostly because she knows very well that that tiny Angel We Have Heard on High beside her is totally mocking her plight with the violin playing.

Those angels: no sympathy.

Catch you in a day or two we hope – if my gorilla glue doesn’t seep so much it gums up my keyboard.

IV angel last rites


Posted by on December 8, 2014 in humor


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In the Waiting Rooms of Life

imagesYou can play it one of two ways in the waiting rooms of your doctor and dentist: You can act as put-out and grouchy as you may feel, having to take time out of your crucial job running the galaxy.Or, you can smile and take things easy.

I saw the reactions both good and grouchy at the appointment I had the other morning at the dermatologist’s, where – I counted – 14 of us had brought our sorry leotards of skin to be poked and peered at.

The young woman behind the glass window greeted me cheerfully as I approached her at the registration desk.

“How ARE you?” she asked in such a warm human way it was easy for me to give an equally warm and human answer.

“Great! And how are you?”

“Good, good. You know: life with young kids – and isn’t the time change still making them crazy!” she said, and we chatted a bit then: About that turning-back of the clocks and the havoc it wreaks on us all.

She checked me in and invited me to take a seat on one of the molded plastic chairs.

From a television mounted high in one corner, the morning news anchors beamed down a steady stream of stories both grave and cheerful, summoning up the proper facial expression for each. I would say some 70% of the people in the chairs watched, their eyes drawn like iron filings to a magnet, jaws relaxing into slackness.

The other 30%, that is the ones not instantly magnetized by the TV set, did the kinds of things most people while waiting for what’s next:

Person Number One pulled out her planner and took a good long look at her life. Person Number Two read the newspaper he had brought in with him. And Persons Number Three through Thirteen prodded the flat little bellies of their  phones with such exquisite precision you’d have thought they were checking them for appendicitis.

All these people I would put in the category of those who know how to take things easy.

It was the 14th person in this waiting room who didn’t know, who felt grouchy, who in fact felt entirely put out just to be sitting there. He shifted in his seat and sighed. He consulted his watch and harrumphed . Then, with a kind of raspy growl, he leaped from his chair and roared up to the desk.

“What kind of a way is THIS to run a business?” he wanted to know.

 “I had an appointment for 45 minutes ago! 45 minutes ago, do you understand? Do you people think your time is more valuable than mine?” he shouted.  And on and on he went until the woman behind the glass partition, with that same human quality she had shown to me, looked up at him until he was finished and said the kind of neutral and pacifying things that those who wait on the public learn to say.

 He hadn’t ruined her day. He certainly hadn’t ruined any of ours. In a way he was our entertainment.

But he just may have ruined his own day, starting it off like that first thing in the morning. He was, as they say, in a hell of his own making. 

Thus does it appear that life lessons are everywhere present, even in the smallest waiting rooms of life.


Posted by on December 2, 2014 in humor


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Together at the Table

norman-rockwell-thanksgivingNowadays families eat in their cars, eat standing up, eat in the shower practically but once: things were different.

Once what times we had in the great days of the family meal!

In the house I grew up in, we talked so much at the table it was a wonder anybody got any food down at all. Weeknight meals, Sunday dinners, holiday feasts: each took a full hour as we kids sat and listened to our five (count ‘em) grownups hold forth.

On and on our grandfather would go: about President Wilson’s and the League of Nations, about the assassination of President McKinley, about Lindbergh’s flight talking of these events as if they had happened just yesterday. (We all know about the Lindbergh flight but how many little kids learned know about the two French aviators how went down trying to match Lindy’s triumph?) And these meals took an hour ONLY IF our grandfather didn’t then decide we should get down on our knees and recite the Rosary, right there at the table, each of us crouching with heads bent and forearms resting on the the seats of our chairs.

We moved from that happy house when I was nine but I can still see the shadowy old dining room with its oak paneling and its heavy velvet drapes that separated it from the front parlor. Our grownups drew them when the nights were cold and an East wind off the Atlantic rattled those big front window. To my sister and me they were like the curtains at a theatre and the room itself was like a stage set, where any dramatic thing might happen -even beyond the falling-to-our-knees part after the meal. 

Forty years before at that table, our pretty aunt Grace was only eight, her elders stifled laughter as she read aloud her book report in those same French aviators who, poor things, had gas for 40 hours.  

I knew that story and I wanted to make my older people laugh too, so in the show-off-y way of the family baby, I stood up next to my chair and did imitations of a girdle ad showing how little constrained this one housewife felt by what was basically a straitjacket without the arms.  

I also did the prologue to the old Superman show at warp speed, which turns out to be the only way you CAN do it; “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane it’s SUPerman!” it began. I can recite the whole thing to this day. And I killed ‘em in that house off Blue Hill Ave.

But most dramatic time came when our tiny great aunt, was born a scant year after Lincoln’ death, fell sound asleep during dinner and fell right over onto the rug. Didn’t she jump right up though, dust herself off and scoot back to the pantry to fetch the pie she had baked.From the apples she had peeled. And quartered.And even picked herself.

I see her now in her baggy dress and her little blue Keds and her falling-down hose that wound like the red banner on a barbershop pole around her skinny legs. 

I see her and I miss her.

I guess thought my sister and I could stay forever at that family table and be looking at those same dear faces, but no. The faces are different now if no less dear. And the times are different too, God knows God knows.

I hope that you all  find a table to gather round this weekend, as you eat, and laugh and tell stories. Let’s all send up a prayer too, even if we’re not kneeling by our chairs when we do it.



Posted by on November 27, 2014 in family life


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Safe to Port

happy annie david ocean course

This is a picture of our girl Annie with her little nephew David, on vacation on Kiawah Island a few years ago.

  And this is from a poem called “To a Newborn Baby Girl” that I found when  Annie was born:

Now from the coast of morning pale
Comes safe to port thy tiny sail.
Now have we seen by early son
The miracle of life begun.

She looked like this at the time of her birth, seen here with her mom:

baby anne two days old

She was so little when she was born! – and the pregnancy had its complications, so we worried.

Here she was a few days later, still in the first week of life, with her Grandma Ruth:

ruth w infant baby anne

But in time she grew. Here she is with her Dad at age five:

annie & her dad 1984

And here she is, on the left, with her first best friend sister Carrie.annie-carrie-84

This was Annie is at age 15 with our ABC host son Dodson who was halfway through RPI here.)

annie dodson 1994

Was it just two years later that she and John fell in love? I think so.

Time passed.

And passed.

annie & john & a map of the world

Until, last December, when they got married.

And, after ten years of being everyone’s favorite auntie (seen here with little Edward in 2006)…

Christmas 2005 061


Annie and John had a baby of thie own, just a couple of days ago, and named her for their paternal grandmothers.This explains my being away for a while, not that I did any work. (What do women say about a grandbaby? The best work they never did? 

Anyway here is little Ruth Alice now, to be called Ruthie Magee.

Seen here with her proud dad.IMG_4088

 And again with him and a madly ecstatic looking grandma. 

delighted parents of the mom


Well done you two! So can we come over later today? ;-) 



Posted by on November 22, 2014 in Uncategorized


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

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The Freelance Retort

Because one minute you're a baby and the next you're getting the senior discount - and there's no reversing direction!


Another Good Day in Rural America . . . . . . . © 2012, 2013, 2014 Ann Aikens ~ all rights reserved

Eating The Week

Week-size morsels of the stuff we eat


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