Monday, February 28, 2011

Not Looking For Alligators, But...

After a few postponements - one to illness, the rest to storms - we finally met with our attorney to sign our wills and attendant documents. It took longer than we had hoped. (Life has a way of intruding when one is planning for death!) But it’s finally all done. Well, almost all done. There are a couple of details left, but they really are minor compared to the big picture. As we drove away from today’s meeting with our wonderful attorney, I realized that if we were to be eaten by alligators on the way home, the new wills were officially in force. While it’s true that alligators are not common in this area and they don’t like snow and ice, they do have a way of sneaking up on you.

I know that wills are an aversive topic and task for many people. Cuz, you know, it deals with death and all that. Trust me, it pushes all of my buttons and does so doubly hard for Chuck. But it really does bring peace of mind. Not about death. I mean death still sucks. But knowing that you’ve made your wishes clear; knowing you’ve taken steps to make life a little easier on your loved ones after your death, well, that’s a very good thing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


My father’s yahrzeit began at sundown this evening. Dad passed away twenty-three years ago tomorrow, at the age of 68. This photograph was taken in 1942. Dad survived the army, World War II and raising three daughters only to be felled by Alzheimer’s Disease. He was funny and proud and complicated and handsome. He was an excellent storyteller and a terrific singer. He loved the heck out of his family. We, not he, were the center of his universe. He would have adored Isabella Rose.

Zichrono liveracha
His memory is a blessing...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Different Weather Reference

I am officially under the weather - and this time I am not referring to the snow. I have a cold. On the up side, the symptoms - of which I have them ALL - are progressing rapidly. But in the throes of an overwhelming coughing jag this morning, when Chuck commented on said speed, I quipped/hacked back “Yeah, at this rate I’ll be dead by Thursday.” It’s not that bad, not really. But it does suck pond water. Before I tip over into whining (Oh? I already went there?) I will say that WebMD has some nifty cold vs. flu vs. bronchitis vs. pneumonia pages which you might enjoy perusing. I know I did.

In other news...

: : A month ago, I asked if anyone had suggestions for a good personal health record or medical record template for Apple’s Numbers. I’ve come up empty on that front. But I did find an interesting resource on the web called MyPHR. I haven’t found exactly what I was looking for, but there is a wealth of useful information on the website.

: : After a protracted period of frustration over a challenging situation with an ER (elderly relative), things seem to have taken a turn for the better. It involves independence, choices, and safety. We hope that this recent trend continues. But even if it all evaporates, we have learned another batch of lessons which we can make every effort to apply to our own futures.

: : Turner Classic Movies is good almost all of the time. But during its annual “31 Days Of Oscar” it is especially great. Add in my cold and TCM serves as a perfect distraction.

: : Isabella’s parents got the green light to give the 10 pound, 11 ounce / 4.85 kilogram baby her first taste of cereal. Oh my! According to her Mom, Izzy mooshed the teaspoon of rice cereal about in her mouth and then dribbled it down her chin. But the little spoon was a big hit!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Folks Who Brought You The Weekend

My mother reaped the benefits of a union without being a member. How? The company she worked for had employees who were unionized. Those employees worked hard, paid dues to their union and went out on strike as a last resort when management refused to negotiate with them or bargained in bad faith. Much of what my mother enjoyed in good working conditions and generous benefits were as a direct result of the corporation wishing to maintain parity and labor peace throughout the organization. They also wanted to keep the other branches of the company from unionizing.

When I was around eleven or twelve, one of the unions in my mother’s company had to go out on strike. Mom and her officemates had permission not to cross the picket line. But they were encouraged to come in after hours and work, after the union members had left their picket line. Because the work was backing up, Mom had me come with her. I was happy to participate in these Take Your Daughter To Work evenings. I sorted papers and filed things. It wasn’t until I was older and asked my mother a lot of questions that I understood I had unwittingly been a scab.

I made up for my childhood transgression when I joined the union at my workplace. As soon as I was eligible, I happily signed up and began paying my dues. I also contributed to a separate political fund. In short order I stood for election and became a steward. I never regretted it. To the contrary I was proud of my role in my union. I always understood that unions didn’t just benefit me and my fellow brothers and sisters in my union, but all other workers.

Until this week I had not known the vital role Wisconsin played in the history of unions and workers’ rights in this country. Rachel Maddow did a thorough, excellent and entertaining summary on her show the other evening. (You can watch the video below.) And if you work Monday through Friday and have today and tomorrow off, please tip your hat to the unions and all the members of unions who came before you. Don’t forget to think about the union members in Wisconsin - and across this nation - who are being targeted by the right wingers and the devilishly deep pocketed corporations. Remember, if the right manages to break the backs of the unions and eliminate the right to bargain collectively, we will all lose; we will all suffer. And if unions are diminished or destroyed it will only further erode the middle class, leading to a deepening of the chasm between the very rich and the working poor.

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Please click on “comments” to read the contributions from Andrew and Jim.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It Only Took Eight And A Half Years

The last movie we saw in an actual movie theater was “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Yes, it was way back in 2002. We used to go to the movies every weekend. We had the theater’s movie times phone number memorized. Part of our weekly ritual - before the age of easy internet access and cell phone apps - was to get our pen and big lined pad ready. Then we would dial the number and write down titles and times as fast as we could. We rarely got it all on the first try. So we would quickly eliminate the irrelevant films and call back to listen again; this time focusing on what we were interested in seeing.

Once we settled on a movie we would drive to the theater, park the car and wait in line to buy tickets. We would try to get there early enough to get a good seat - not too close to the screen, not too far away. But as the years went by, the crowds became less polite. We were used the occasional “senior citizen” leaning over and stage whispering “What did he say?” for the whole theater to hear. No problem, all part of the experience.
Nor do I mean the crackling of cellophane candy wrappers or the slurping of sodas. I mean full fledged and amazingly full throated conversations, cell phones ringing followed by one sided dialogues and arguments erupting between patrons.

At the risk of sounding like the cranky old neighbor who yells “You kids get off my lawn!”, I will admit that even though we were then only in our 40s and 50s we did find ourselves muttering “Kids these days!”. When we had to leave a theater because it was completely out of control and negotiate with management for our money back, we knew we were at a tipping point. Gradually our movie theater days dwindled and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” became our last in-theater cinema experience.

That is, until this afternoon. We went to a matinee showing of “The King’s Speech”. Nothing else in the last eight plus years has pulled us as powerfully to darken the door of a movie theater. We Googled, found Fandango, entered a zip code and poof we had theaters and times. (Kids these days have it easy!) We arrived to find no lines and the $5.75 ticket price had us feeling like we were in a very fiscally pleasant time warp.

Resisting the popcorn, we headed into the designated theater and found that they had improved the seating during our long absence. They reminded me of bucket seats and they could sort of rock and be repositioned. The floors weren’t sticky and littered with popcorn and wrappers. It wasn’t elegant but it was really very nice. There was only one other patron, a woman, seated in the theater. We greeted each other and she admitted as how she was glad we had arrived. She found the idea of sitting all alone in the theater a bit daunting.

“The King’s Speech” was absolutely marvelous! We loved every single minute of it. We applauded at the end! Our theater companion chose not to join in our applause. To each her own. We’re late to this party so you’ve likely seen the trailers, the reviews, the accolades - most recently its tremendous success at the 2011 BAFTAs - and, if you were smart and lucky, the film itself. Wasn’t it fabulous?

I will confess that at first I wanted my DVR or DVD player so I could rewind, pause and, heaven help me, pop on subtitles! But I settled in, as did Chuck and for two hours we were transported back to the first half of the last century. That doesn’t happen in the same intensely immersive way in one’s living room - no matter how nifty the surround sound.

Will we go back? Maybe. If another film as exceptional as “The King’s Speech” is released, we will be there in a heartbeat.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Two Years

My father-in-law’s yahrzeit began at sundown this evening. Dad passed away two years ago tomorrow, at the age of 94. This photograph was taken in the 1950s, on a trip from Missouri to Colorado. He looks like the king of the mountain in it. What I love is that even through the grainy, haziness of the image, Dad’s smile shines through. Milton could be tough, serious and sometimes more than a little intimidating. But he and I found our way via humor. I took great pride in making Dad laugh. He would first give me a look which said : “O.K., that was pretty good.” If I could keep going, being both smart and funny, my reward would come as he lost it and gave into the laughter. It was a lot like watching Harvey Korman lose his composure on the Carol Burnett show.

Zichrono liveracha
His memory is a blessing...

Friday, February 11, 2011


V is for virtual vacation.
I look at this photo and it calms me.

V is for victory.
I wish the people of Egypt democracy, prosperity and peace.

The view from Schoodic looking across Frenchman Bay toward Cadillac Mountain in Maine.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

4 or 5

Just four or five inches of medium weight, wettish snow arrived this morning. Pretty good snowball snow - if I had ever been into that sort of thing. I hated snowball fights. The feeling of snow stinging your face or landing on your neck and sliding down icily under your layers of winter clothes. No thank you.

But this was pretty. And it was warm enough to be able to quickly scrape the walk clear and little enough to just drive the car out over it - no snowblower required.

Too Much

Monday, just past sunset, Chuck and I were driving on West Boylston Street in Worcester. As we drove south from Mountain Street toward Quinsigamond Community College, we saw a woman on the northbound side with a babe in arms and another young child, little more than a toddler, clinging to the woman’s leg. They were standing in the road, pressed up against the enormous pile of snow lining the street, filling the sidewalk. A bus stop sign was hanging on a nearby post. Cars and trucks were driving by, headlights glaring; slush and spray flying up from their tires. The scene was frightening. A bus was driving up West Boylston toward them. I hope it was the bus they were waiting for.

This winter, this snow, has been too much.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Five Items

I’m an enormous fan of and believer in Democracy. I want the people of Egypt to participate in their government and to thrive economically. I want that for them now.

Maria Schneider:
Actress Maria Schneider passed away this week at the age of 58. Upon hearing the news, director Bernardo Bertolucci said he regrets that "he never got the chance" to apologize to Ms. Schneider who, at the age of 19, starred in his “Last Tango In Paris”. Yeah, when you only have 39 years it's hard to find the time. May Ms. Schneider rest in peace.

Super Bowl:
My Dad was a football fan. One of the teams he liked was the Green Bay Packers. I rooted for them tonight during what turned out to be a surprisingly good and exciting Super Bowl XLV. Oh, the Packers won!

Super Bowl Halftime Show:
Wow. But not in a good way. I like the Black Eyed Peas just fine. But the sound engineers or technicians at Fox dropped the ball - pun intended. The light show aspects were pretty cool, especially the red heart. But I kept waiting for the wowee-zowee big moment. Perhaps I am jaded. I will say I am delighted that there were no wardrobe malfunctions. Heaven knows I couldn’t suffer through another kerfuffle like the Jackson-Timberlake incident of 2004.

We live with three cats. Yet it was Chuck who spotted the mouse strolling along the edge of the room and pausing to watch the Super Bowl on TV. Chuck had to capture the mouse in a jar and externalize it. The cats seemed wildly disinterested. Not that I like what happens when the cats are interested in or are successful in catching a mouse. But they could have at least twitched an ear or lolled their heads in the general direction of the dang mouse!

P.S. I didn’t mention snow! Not even once! Well, except for just now... ;o)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Deja Vu, Baby

It’s hard not to let the weather dominate our lives right now. We’re in a relentless pattern of a couple of storms a week, each with shovelable snowfall. We’ve had to cancel and reschedule appointments and get togethers; rethink plans, activities and errands. We believe it has been about ten years since we had a winter as intense as this one.

We drove down to Rhode Island yesterday to visit with my Mom, Carrie and Isabella. Knowing some school districts had delayed openings we wanted to get an early start. That was impeded by a dead battery in our only car. Luckily Chuck has a battery charger-booster gizmo which plugs into an electrical outlet and acts like a good samaritan with jumper cables. So much for the early start but we were soon out and rolling. State highways were good. Town and city roads were mixed to miserable. Worcester was a major challenge and a big delay. The two lane roads we drove on were down to one lane. Some of the side roads were nearly impassable due to snow which had fallen the day before.

In terms of impact, this last storm feels as if it is the final straw. There is just nowhere for urban dwellers to put the new snow. Heck, it is becoming a serious challenge and concern for those of us living in the country. And whenever the DPWs do what they must do and push back the snow to the curbs, residents’ arduous shoveling is undone and the cycle begins again - only with much, much taller piles of snow.

Had we not been running so late, I would have been a better blogger on several occasions. The first was on Goddard Memorial Drive. One of the flat roofed industrial companies had cranes in place next to the building. A swarm of workers was up on the roof shoveling snow into what appeared to be large tarpaulin bags. Then the bags were lifted by crane down to the ground. Similarly, down on Route 146, the new WalMart also had cranes lifting sacks of snow off their expansive roof. These efforts may seem extreme, but one look at this video would send any business owner in search of relief from the snow load on their own roof. It certainly had us out with the roof rake again today.

Our visit with family in Rhode Island started late but was great. Isabella now weighs 9 pounds, 15 ounces / 4.5 kilograms! She is strong and lovely and a pleasure to be with. Carrie has started back to work half-time and is adjusting quite well to that transition. From Sutton, Massachusetts to Johnston, Rhode Island we could see the evidence of the band of weather which brought more ice than snow. Every twig was glistening with a coating of ice. Thankfully, it did not appear to be anywhere near as thick as the ice storm of 2008. Even much farther south at Al and Carrie’s home, the ice had locked Carrie’s car in place in their driveway. With a bit of shoveling, some rocking back and forth of the car and a judicious placement of a metal AAA mesh strip, Uncle Chuck and Auntie Lee soon had her car free.

See what I mean about how hard it is to not let the weather be the dominate topic? One minute I’m talking about Izzy’s awesome progress and the next I’m shoveling snow again!