Monday, March 30, 2009

Drawing To A Close

Hi All -

Tomorrow is our last day here in Greater Seattle, Washington. It has been a wonderful trip as well as an emotional one. A few weeks ago, I referred to the "business of death" - not the commerce of the funeral industry, but all the paperwork and details which need to be attended to after a loved one dies. There has been so much to do and now it feels as if time is slipping away from us. But we believe that before we fly out tomorrow night, we will have done all we can practically do out here. Thank heavens for land lines, cell phones, e-mails, fax machines and all the other modern technology which makes long distance communication so effortless. I fear I would not have fared well in an era without at least a telephone system. Thank you Mr. Bell!

Chuck and I have both so appreciated your comments of support and good cheer. I've missed visiting the blogs, but the other day, George ( reminded me to try to be patient. He wrote: "Take your time, the internet and its netizens aren't going anywhere soon!" Netizens - what a great word!

In a break with tradition, while we haven't used the camera much, Chuck has taken nearly all the photographs on the trip. Hopefully, by the end of the week, I'll be able to locate and upload a couple of pics of a Great Blue Heron Chuck had the presence of mind to snap.

More soon...
- Lee

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Beloved Best Friends

I don’t know where to begin.

All is well.

That seems the best place to start.

The memorial celebration of Chuck’s father’s life last Sunday afternoon went just the way Dad wanted it. Actually, it was precisely the way Dad wanted it. Ten years ago, when Chuck’s Mom passed away, Dad asked us all to prepare a funeral ceremony as well as a memorial celebration for Mom. We did and after it was all over, Dad said: “When my time comes please do it exactly the same way for me”. We were happy to honor his wishes. About twenty people who had known Dad gathered together; we visited, we had refreshments. Folks took one of the memorial cards we had created. Chuck read the eulogy he had written for his Dad. Then we sat around and shared stories about Dad (and of course, Mom - it's hard to reminisce about the one and not include the other, and no-one tried).  We laughed; there were tears shed and we know everyone left glad to have been there.  

Monday morning ten of us convened at the Tahoma National Veterans Cemetery under early spring sun and mostly clear skies. The ceremony took place in a lovely open, roofed-shelter.  Dad's urn was at the front along with a lit candle in glass.  There were two parts to the ceremony.  The first part was provided and was a complete surprise to us. It was organized and presented by a Veterans of Foreign Wars chaplain, and a five-person VFW honor guard with rifles, all volunteers, and two active duty soldiers.  The chaplain welcomed us and said some appropriate words, then Dad received a salute of three five-gun volleys from the honor guard.  The two active duty soldiers performed the military flag ceremony, crisply folding a nine-foot American flag into a triangle with five stars showing on the field.  One of the soldiers knelt in front of Chuck where he was sitting to present him with the folded flag telling him of the "thanks of a grateful nation" for Dad's Army service.  A bugler played taps. It was profoundly moving and brought us to tears.

The bugler and the honor guard quietly evaporated, the chaplain excused himself and we proceeded with the second part of the ceremony, the part which we had pre-planned.   Our part included a variety of readings delivered by the immediate family.  Together, all present recited the Mourner's Kaddish and another prayer, El Moleh Rachamim.  We then caravanned to the gravesite and all gathered around the grave which had been pre-excavated in front of Mom's stone marker.  The cemetery staff lowered Dad's urn into the hole then moved off to a corner of that section of the cemetery.  Chuck’s sister read aloud a letter she had written to Dad, then added the letter next to the urn.  One of us placed a small stone, the kind you leave when you visit a family grave, in on top of the urn, then we all followed suit. In keeping with another Jewish tradition, Chuck shoveled some soil over the urn and passed the shovel to each person present, each of whom added some soil on top of the urn.  We spoke some more of Dad, placed flowers either side of Mom's marker, then withdrew to allow the cemetery staff to complete their duties.

In a few weeks, a new marker will be placed which will have both Mom and Dad’s dates and a new inscription: Beloved Best Friends.

It was all just the way Dad wanted it to be.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

One Foot, Followed By The Other

Hi All -

Tomorrow is the Memorial/Celebration of Dad's life. We've been going through old photographs and reminiscing as we create a photo collage. We've also put together memorial cards and Chuck is finishing the eulogy.

Monday is the service at the cemetery followed by the witnessed interment. I'm sitting at Chuck's sister's computer desk, printing off the readings for that ceremony, as I type this post.

You're collective ears should have been burning last night as Chuck and I tried to explain how people we've never met in person are really, truly part of our community of friends. Ah, the non-blogging folk are sometimes a wee bit like Muggles!

Thank you again for everything...
- Lee

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Safe & Sound & Busy

Hi All -
We arrived safely and are settled in at our hotel (which still has the buggy internet connection). We've had a chance to visit with family. The weather is mild, drizzly and sunny - all typical and a good change from deeper winter at home. So all is well. We're working on the arrangements for this weekend's memorial service/celebration of Chuck's Dad's life as well as the interment on Monday. I'm guessing that my posting will be understandably light until next week.

Thank you for all your good wishes and most especially for the wonderful, enthusiastic birthday greetings for Chuck! He and I both got a huge charge out of all your comments! You guys are super and if I may be a little mushy, it's like having this great big hug coming at us from many points around the globe. Thanks!
- Lee

Monday, March 16, 2009

Saol Fada Chugat!

As I understand it, “Saol Fada Chugat!” means “Long life to you!” That greeting may be a day ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, but is heartfelt.

The cats are at the Kitty Hotel. Most of the “must do” items are crossed off the “to do” list. Tomorrow we’re headed off to greater Seattle, Washington for Chuck’s Dad’s memorial service and interment. So there may be a gap in my posting until we get settled out there. Also, a heads up in advance to my fellow bloggers; if last trip is any guide, the internet connection at the hotel freaks out when I try to leave a comment on a blog. I’m hoping that is not the case this time, but I won’t know until I get there. In the apology department, I’ve been so busy the last week or so, I’ve missed stopping by and keeping up with everyone’s news. I sure wish JetBlue had internet access on the plane. Man, could I catch up then!

Happy Birthday Chuck!

”Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Chuck
Happy Birthday to you -
and many more!

He's 66 today and still Rocking!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


A few years ago, after moving to Washington State, Chuck’s Dad met a woman named Ruth, who was around his age. They became good friends and even moved to the same Adult Family Home. One of the many things they had in common was their New England roots. It turned out they had lived within just a few miles of each other while growing up. One day, while we were visiting with Dad, Ruth was drinking some tea out of a white mug with a drawing of a house on it. She said: “I used to live in this house.” That house was a Colonial home in Massachusetts called the Loring- Greenough House.

Last Thursday was a beautiful late winter day. While we were out and about, we drove to Jamaica Plain in Boston. We wanted to find the Loring-Greenough House and take some photographs of it to bring out to Ruth. This afternoon I put these 11” x 8.5” layouts together for her. The panoramic views on the top one were “stitched” together in Photoshop. It took just a few steps: File > Automate > Photomerge.

Layout, photos and text by LMR/Pink Granite. Software: Apple iPhoto ’09 & Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Mac. Font: Hypatia Sans Pro.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


in just spring
when the world is mud-luscious...
when the world
is puddle-wonderful...

- e.e. cummings ( 1894 - 1962)

The snow is receding and our front lawn is emerging - replete with lumpy, bumpy mole trails. First time we’ve seen that green/brown grass since last December. The track at the high school is now completely free of snow and ice. Calendar Spring will officially be here in just a few days. While we haven’t quite reached mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful, I think I’m ready.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Where Are My Virtual Push Pins?

Do you remember “my quest”? About nine months before my 50th birthday I began looking for contemporaries. Because I have very few people in my life who are close to my age, I wanted to find some role models in the wider world, who were born between 1953 and 1963. I was specifically trying to find folks with qualities or personality traits or actions I admired. At the time, I mentioned Keith Olbermann, Kathy Griffin and Rickey Henderson.

Well, I can happily add another: Jon Stewart. I’ll gladly pin him up on my virtual bulletin board under “Intelligence”, “Courage”, “Humor” and after his recent call out of CNBC, “Chutzpah”! Did you see it? Sweet Mother it was a thing of beauty! Here’s the link to the entire March 12th episode where he went one on one with Jim Cramer. (You can view the episodes which led up to this by heading to The Daily Show.) I loved how well prepared Jon was. I loved how he spoke for all the investors who have been battered and bruised and worse by the financial crisis. And despite admitting at the end that it was uncomfortable for him, he never faltered, never backed down and never resorted to the childish tantrums and red faced sputterings we see on some networks which shall remain nameless here.

Thanks to Morgan I was able to find the correct page to get the embed code for the above video!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Just a Smidge Shy of a Miracle

Today’s “To Do” list involved lots of out and about errands. That included a stop at Trader Joe’s in Framingham. Grocery shopping in advance of a trip involves a lot of higher math. One head of romaine lettuce at home, plus one tomato, minus the number of meals until we head for the airport, divided by the square root of pre-existing leftovers equals - - - Aw heck, the romaine only comes in three head packs! But bless their hearts, TJ’s in Framingham was awarded one of the chain’s precious few Massachusetts liquor licenses. One reason that matters is because after the cheerful staff person hands you your taste of Indian Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice (yum), you mosey over to try the Merlot and cheese. All worries of grocery algebra just fade away.

But that wasn’t the miracle. We were in search of the apparently discontinued TJ’s Mojito sauce. (Yes, we are the kiss of death. Yes, Trader Joe’s does help us to learn to deal with change and loss!) So as we continued west along Route 9 we stopped at TJ’s in Shrewsbury. I wanted to check in with my Mom via cell phone, so Chuck ran in. He emerged just a few minutes later with something in our reusable TJ’s bag. Because he was beaming, I assumed he had scored some Mojito sauce. Nope. He had Trader Joe’s Pomegranate Glaze!!! Yes, thE, fabled in story and song, TJ’s pomegranate glaze. Chuck was sufficiently excited, he headed over to the manager’s desk. They told him that the hue and cry had been so great over TJ’s discontinuing the glaze, they actually brought it back! I know many of you live a continent or two away from here, so all my glee over Trader Joe’s lies somewhere between boring and cruel, but this is an extremely rare occurrence.

And it’s the little things that mean so much!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So Much To Do

My “To Do” list grows long and the time grows short. We’re leaving for Seattle next week. We’re headed out for Chuck’s Dad’s memorial service and interment. It feels as if as soon as we cross a couple of things off the list, three or four more pop up to be added. But, we’ll just keep chipping away at everything. What doesn’t get wrapped up and crossed off the list will surely be waiting for us when we return.

Over the weekend we did get the new kitchen storm door installed and it looks super. The old one was so tired, tinny and battered that this sleeker, heavier and quieter door feels downright luxurious. Of course, after we got it all tweaked and leveled - well, as level as any new thing can be attached to a house this old - Chuck said he wished the rest of the house was as well built as the new door! Poor house, I’m certain I felt it sigh just a bit. There really is very little which is straight or true or plumb about our old home. My Mom, who has had some balance issues in recent years, walks through our living room as if she is on the deck of ship being tossed about in stormy seas. To her it feels as if our floors were reclaimed from a funhouse!

Yes, I just sighed along with the house...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What’s The Frequency?

We spent the afternoon in Rhode Island with my Mom. We swung by Water Street in Worcester to pick up three lean, double corned beef sandwiches from Weintraub’s to bring with us - extra pickles (crispy, fresh and oh so very garlicky) please! It was good to spend time together with Mom. One of our biggest challenges - even with just the three of us - is managing to stay on one topic from start to finish. We are always going off on multiple tangents and then laughing as one of us tries to drag us all back to the original starting point of that particular topic. It becomes exponentially more challenging the more family members we have in attendance!

Mom has been wrestling with the mandatory transition here in the U.S. from analog to digital television. She’s never had cable television; never needed it, never wanted it. She’s always gotten by just fine with a hook up to the condominium’s roof antenna and a set of rabbit ears. Last summer, she dutifully got her government coupons as instructed. She used the coupons to defray the cost of the converter boxes. Then, just before Christmas, she decided to buy a new digital ready television. Chuck and I spent time on previous visits trying to help her get everything set up. Some things we were successful with. Others required the assistance of another family member with a degree in electronics. He spent many hours over three or four days and moved Mom close to completion. But the brand new digital TV can’t receive Channel 10, the local NBC affiliate. However 10 does come in on the little set in her bedroom via the converter box. That technical challenge prompted a genuine Geek Gal from Best Buy to make a house call. Mom reports that she was very nice, but she’ll be making her second visit later this week! To further complicate matters, for the last few weeks Mom hasn’t been able to use either one of her VCRs - even though they were both working fine prior to the digital transition on February 17th. Today, Chuck managed to get both of her VCRs up and running. Yes, once again, Chuck achieved hero status!

This whole digital transition has been a royal pain in the neck for Mom. There was great hue and cry in punditland when the government voted to delay the complete transition until June. I think what has effectively become a rolling transition to digital has turned out to be a good thing. Mom, age 85, is not the only elderly person struggling with all of this. Because the need is so great, in some parts of the country, Meals On Wheels volunteers have been including digital converter box set up and service calls as an adjunct to their food delivery. One of Mom’s friends went through comparable challenges, but ultimately had to throw in the towel and purchase basic cable. We’re hoping that within the week, all of the kinks will finally be ironed out and Mom will once again be able to satisfy the need she has for lots of news, some cooking shows on PBS and a few riveting mysteries. That’s not too much to ask.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fish Pie, II

Tonight, I made a Fish Pie, inspired by the Jamie Oliver Fish Pie, from last Friday’s Fish Pie Post. (Did I mention it was a Fish Pie?) I was missing the smoked fish, which I will definitely add next time. Yet even without that, it tasted great. I say inspired, because, well, by now, you know how I cook! But Jamie’s recipe is very forgiving and flexible. Heavens to Murgatroyd, it was delicious!

P.S. I totally layered it!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Proposition 8 In The Courts

California’s dreadful Proposition 8 was approved by voters back on November 4, 2008. It restricted the definition of marriage to opposite sex couples and overturned the right of same sex couples’ to marry in civil ceremonies in California.

Today, the California Supreme Court heard opposing arguments on Proposition 8. The court has 90 days to rule. Rachel Maddow has a very clear explanation of those arguments and the implications of the eventual ruling.

If, like me, you care about the restoration of the rights of nearly 18,000 legally married same sex couples in California which were overturned by Proposition 8, as well as the desirability of all same sex couples to have the right to a legal, civil marriage, you can go to this previous post and follow the links to The Courage Campaign.

A New Trend?

My favorite home decorating magazine is the British Edition of “25 Beautiful Homes”. I don’t understand how they do it, but they seem to have far fewer advertisements than any other comparable magazine. They provide many photographs of each featured home. And, perhaps best of all, they don’t focus on any one decorating style. Here in the U.S. I can find it pretty easily (yet expensively) at Barnes & Noble Bookstores. If you dream of a deliciously renovated kitchen, the sister publication “25 Beautiful Kitchens” is well, beautiful. And, once again, it’s not limited to any one style.

What prompted me to mention this is that in the February 2009 issue I noticed something. Nearly all the walls were painted in light, bright colors. There were hardly any deep toned or even mid-toned walls. Did I miss something? I know I don’t spring for every issue of “25 Beautiful Homes”, but this felt as if an interior design memo went out announcing the “new trend” and my memo was lost in the mail. Barring that less than likely explanation, I did find myself wondering if the light and bright walls are some sort of response to the worldwide recession/looming depression deeper recession.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Chuck’s Mom passed away ten years ago today. Like my Dad, it was Alzheimer’s that took Betty. Mom was graceful and gracious, lovely and loving. She was a graduate of Radcliffe College, a tireless volunteer, a devoted wife and mom. And she loved to laugh.

Today, another yahrzeit candle is flickering. Next year, and every year after that, three yahrzeit candles will be lit within the span of about three weeks. We miss them all.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Greed vs. Gumption

Greed = Bernie Madoff

Bernard Madoff is the gonnif (thief), excuse me, alleged gonnif who structured an enormous Ponzi scheme defrauding investors out of billions of dollars. He is now trying to hang on to the 7 million dollar penthouse, where he currently resides under “house arrest”, along with an additional 62 million dollars in other assets - both of which are apparently in Madoff’s wife Ruth’s name. The Madoffs have been married for around a half a century so the idea that she did not benefit from his fraud stretches credulity. While Ruth Madoff has not been arrested, it is possible that she served as her husband’s bookkeeper, which could put her right in the heart of the criminal activities.

Gumption = Mark Rembert and Taylor Stuckert

The small town of Wilmington, Ohio, in Clinton County, was dealt a crushing economic blow last summer when DHL announced it was closing its air freight business hub in the town. Close to 10,000 folks would be losing their jobs. It was devastating. Enter two young guys: Mark Rembert and Taylor Stuckert. They each had training in the Peace Corps and decided that the best place to put those practices to work, would be in their own home town of Wilmington. They started a blog. They wrote a letter to the editor. They got people talking. Now they have a website called Energize Clinton County. They declared Clinton County a “Green Enterprise Zone” and then they came up with a plan. They are requesting funding under the federal stimulus package for the “largest weatherization campaign in history”. It will lead to employment as well as savings on energy costs for homeowners and businesses.You can read/listen to their story by visiting the NPR website. And you can get a better understanding of the enormity of the economic impact on Wilmington by reading/listening to part one of the NPR story.

Bernard & Ruth Madoff vs. Mark Rembert & Taylor Stuckert
a couple of schmucks vs. a couple of mensches

May the mensches of this world always triumph!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Like A Freakin’ Rug II

R*sh L*mb**gh claims that liberals wanted George Bush to fail. This is a key part of his justification for broadcasting loudly and repeatedly that he wants President Obama to fail. (I won’t link to him. You can Google it.) R. L. has caused me to reprise the song I sang through the last presidential campaign.

To be clear: I never wanted former President George Bush to fail.

I wanted him to come to his senses. I wanted him to change his policies. I wanted him to reverse course on many issues. I wanted him to lose the 2000 and 2004 elections. I criticized former President Bush. I was grateful for the rights afforded me under the Constitution of the United States of America that I could criticize him. But I never wanted him to fail. The presidency and our nation are profoundly and inextricably linked. To wish for the failure of a president is to wish for the failure of our country.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

In Like A Lion...

Our day around here:

~ Light snow from the first storm lasted all day long.
~ We watched another Red Sox spring training game.
~ The Red Sox won the game.
~ We worked on our 2008 tax returns.
~ I tweeted that all was going well with the taxes, which apparently jinxed it!
~ Taxes will be continued tomorrow.
~ I made my second version of a Moussaka crossed with a Shepherd’s Pie.
~ It tasted even better than the first one; there were no complaints.
~ After dinner, Chuck took the accumulated fruit and vegetable contributions from the compost bucket down to our compost pile.
~ He wanted to beat the heaviest snow.
~ Chuck slipped on pre-existing snow and ice while going down the little hill, which leads to the compost pile and fell pretty darn hard.
~ Thankfully, despite a clunk on the head, he’s fine.
~ Swift application of some Band Aids and triple antibiotic ointment staunched the bleeding from his left hand and right forearm.
~ Really, he’s fine!
~ The heavy snow of the predicted nor’easter began promptly, on schedule, just after 10:00 p.m.
~ We're ready for a good night’s rest...