Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pages From the Pets Book

Crystal requested pics of some of the Pets Book (see below) pages.

I'll start with one of my favorite pages. This is toward the back of the book. All the animals here were written about earlier in the book. I like this page because it shows how much affectionate interaction we had with them. On the left are Jill with Houdini and Liz (my granddaughter) with Grimmy. In the center is Jill & Joey with Music, Liz with Caroline, and me with Thistle; on the right are Liz with Caroline and Joey with Wolfy.

This is Thunder's page.

With a wide choice of layouts, you can have one picture on a page, or many. This page shows Thistle and Thor at upper left, brother and sister German Shepherds. Thor is in the center, and Thistle is pictured with Joe at upper right. Holly is at lower right, and Suzanne is shown with Music at lower left.

This is Music's page.

You can fill the page with one photo and put the text on top of it. Here's Liz (Suzanne's daughter) with Holly.

On the facing page, Liz—older now—is pictured with Caroline.

Here's Morgan's page.

This is the first page in the book. Suzanne is pictured with Barni.

And this is the last page. A picture of our house serves as a background. Clockwise from upper left: Joey with young Wolfy, older Angel, Angel as a puppy (with Jill), and older Wolfy. The book covers 39 wonderful animals.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Pets Book

I undertook a Christmas project that turned out to be a big success: I created a book for my kids and granddaughter about all the dogs and cats my family has had since just before my children were born. Pictured are the front and back covers.

I spent a lot of time researching online photo book publishers, and found the Photo Book Roundup Review particularly valuable. Photo Book Girl is another good resource. After doing my research, I chose Inkubook. I'm very happy with my choice.

My book has 40 pages (20 sheets, both sides) and is an 8.5 x 11" in landscape orientation. It contains 103 photos (almost all of which were prints that I scanned) and 4,500 words. I mention these details for those who might like to do a similar project. For some time I've wanted to create a record of all these pets so that they wouldn't be forgotten. The book works beautifully for that. But because my children and granddaughter are with the animals in so many of the photos, the book is like a family album, too.

The process was time consuming (I told my kids the book was the most labor-intensive gift they would receive), but fun. Once I learned the software (Microsoft's Silverlight) and got some experience choosing layouts and backgrounds, etc., I had a great time with it. In fact, I can't wait to do another one! I have an idea, and I figure it will take me till July to execute it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The First Dog

I will always think of Poppy as The First Dog. My husband and I found her in Pennsylvania in 1968. We were living in midtown Manhattan and had just bought a weekend house in the country. Our first visitors were Shep, a handsome black collie-shepherd belonging to someone down the road, and his mate, a stray called Puppy. When Puppy had puppies, we took them to the shelter (where they assured us the pups were supremely adoptable) and adopted her and changed her name to Poppy. What a shock it must have been for a country dog to find herself in the concrete canyons of New York City!

She adapted well, though (other than chewing a big hole in the arm of our new sofa). She occasionally accompanied me to work at Lincoln Center, where she became the mascot of the Philharmonic's softball team. Later she moved with us to suburban New Jersey, and again to rural PA. She flew down to Florida with me many times to visit my parents. Poppy was a thoroughly nice dog who paved the way for many more dogs.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A Villanelle for Barbara Joan

Questions I Wish I’d Asked My Father

The pictures now are neatly filed
The only way I know her
My cousin Joan, who never smiled

I’m guessing she was kind of wild
I have no chance to show her
The pictures now are neatly filed

Nowhere near her mother’s style
Who liked to lace-and-bow her
My cousin Joan, who never smiled

Sullen, sad, unreconciled
Only a flashbulb glows her
The pictures now are neatly filed

She died at twenty, sick, defiled
Time’s river overflows her
My cousin Joan, who never smiled

My father’s sister’s only child
I feel this much I owe her
The pictures now are neatly filed
My cousin Joan, who never smiled

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Every Picture Tells (part of) a Story


Scanning the many hundreds of my dad's negatives has raised many questions in my mind. I was surprised at first, because he and I were close and often talked about his life before I was born. I thought I at least knew the names of most of his cast of characters, but if I did at one point, I've forgotten many of them now. I'm curious about the names, but only slightly. There are other questions, however.....

In the photo above, my mom has her arm around my cousin Barbara Joan. I wrote about Barbara Joan a couple of years ago. She was the only child of my father's sister, Babe. I didn't know Barbara Joan except through pictures, and I've never seen her smile. It seems safe to say she was an unhappy child. In photographs, my mother is often affectionate with her. No doubt she was aware that Barbara Joan's childhood was lacking. It certainly was in my mother's nature to do what she could to make the girl feel loved.

I don't know why I never asked my dad about Barbara Joan. Maybe I did and he finessed it. I know the circumstances of her death at age 20 were rather hush-hush. One thing I do know is that after her daughter died Babe started drinking heavily, and died not long after from cirrhosis of the liver. After my daughter Gillian died, I found myself craving alcohol for the first time in my life. I remembered what happened to Babe, and made a rule for myself: No drinking alone. Since I was alone most of the time, that saved me. Eventually the craving subsided, but I'll always be grateful for my beautiful Aunt Babe's lesson.

My mother's other hand is linked through Barbara Joan's father's arm. I didn't think we liked him, but maybe that came later. Or maybe we're just seeing a manifestation of my mother's kind heart. Questions, questions.....

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Virtual Painter

I've been studying watercolor. I haven't taken a class; in fact, I haven't painted anything. But I've read four books on the subject, and now I've moved on to YouTube videos. This may sound strange to you, but to me it's progress. When you consider that I used to consider my job done once I'd simply bought the book, the fact that I'm reading them is a giant leap forward. I never intended to paint. I still don't want to paint with anything but watercolors. It all started like this:

In between appointments for physical therapy and the chiropractor, I stopped at a coffee house for lunch and discovered a lovely wall full of used books for sale. I was drawn to the cover of Painting With Water-Soluble Color Pencils. I'd never heard of water-soluble color pencils, and had no desire to paint. So the book jacket must have been pretty seductive. I bought it, and started reading immediately.

A week later I found myself back at the coffee house, this time looking for a Jeffrey Deaver mystery novel. Instead, I came home with Painting Greeting Cards in Watercolor. Another pretty book.

I realized both books were rather advanced (for me, almost anything on the subject would be), so I hit Amazon and found two books on watercolors for beginners. I learned about sable brushes and 140-lb. paper, flat washes and graduated washes, palettes and paints. I'm now reading the most beautiful book yet on the subject: The Watercolorist's Essential Notebook.

This week I added YouTube videos to my art education. YouTube has tons of watercolor videos, so it's fun to pick and choose. Some are remarkably unhelpful, but most are fascinating. I have a few favorite artist/instructors . . . the southern lady who sits at a table, the young man who works at an easel in his charming UK studio, the glamour puss with the French manicure who paints undeniably gorgeous flowers. And then there's the New Yorker I enjoy listening to because he sounds like home, although in my opinion he needs to learn to leave well enough alone. I've been known to say out loud, "You just ruined it!" The more I watch, the more I learn, the harder it looks.

I probably know enough now to talk a reasonable ball game. It would not be beyond my sense of mischief to try out this theory at social gathering one of these days. If someone politely asks, "What do you do?" I'll say, "I'm a watercolorist," and see what happens. Probably nothing. But whatever happens, it's sure to be safer than putting brush to paper.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Update on that mama cat and her kittens

In June I wrote about the stray cat who gave birth to a litter of three kittens in my ice house. A lot has happened since then.

The neighbor who offered to help get the mama cat spayed hasn't been heard from since. As the kittens approached weaning age, I worried that the mother could become pregnant again at any time—and worried more when a large male cat began hanging around the property. The three kittens were orange, dark calico, and black (with a little white). I posted their pictures on Facebook, and also emailed other friends in hopes of finding good homes for them.

A friend saw the pictures, and asked me to save the orange kitten for his mother. Another friend forwarded the pictures to a friend of hers, who fell in love with the calico. I delivered the calico (now named Sugar) to her new owner, and took the others to the vet to have their genders revealed. (Yes, I still haven't learned to do this reliably.) We were surprised to learn the orange kitten was a female. (Most are male.) The black was a male.

My friend's mother decided she didn't want a female, and asked for the male. By this time I thought I'd be keeping the black one myself because they are hardest to place (black dogs, too). But now I was left with the orange—the smallest and bravest of the litter. I brought her into the house, and took her mother—by now named Bones . . . or Bonz . . . or Bonzy by my son and daughter-in-law—to be spayed. We couldn't risk the baby nursing or grooming her mother while the latter recovered from her surgery, so they hung out separately in the house.

When Bonzy recovered, I put her back outside and kept her supplied with food and water. She was furious with me for taking away her kittens. She was such a good mother, and I sympathized completely. I couldn't consider making her a house cat because she had so thoroughly alienated Annie the Mean, my adult calico. The two of them managed to be at war through the glass of the living room windows. Because Bonzy is such a fierce hunter, I figured she'd have plenty to amuse her outdoors. We recently installed a dog house on the porch in anticipation of the coming cold weather. I made a fleece bed for her, and will use something like this to keep her warm at night.

Meanwhile, I named the kitten Peachy and kept her sequestered in my bedroom until I had the time and energy to begin introducing her to Annie and Pogo. I knew the longer she stayed hidden, where they could get used to her smell, the better the introductions would go. And they've gone very well. Annie tries to avoid her for the most part, and Pogo still shows some signs of being jealous. But he actually plays with her now. Major progress!

Peachy is a smart, affectionate kitten with a great purr. She is slowly getting resigned to the fact that I won't let her nurse from my earlobes. I'd forgotten how unbelievably agile and fast kittens are! She makes me laugh every day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Two-Week Career

I just finished two weeks of working as a reporter/photographer for the newspaper I left nine years ago, filling in until a new reporter could be hired. The first week was exhausting, coming as it did on top of my granddaughter's accident and a period of daily trips to the hospital. But even tired as I was, I realized on some levels I was enjoying myself. By the second week, I was able to analyze why.

I felt competent. I'm a decent writer, a good newspaper photographer, and an ace at fielding calls from the crazy public. The staff made it clear that I saved the day by agreeing to come in for two weeks, and they were grateful. At home I save no one's day. At home I'm surrounded by jobs undone, and proof that I'm not a very good housekeeper. At the newspaper I met my daily deadlines and didn't need editing.

I had a field. One reason why I loved being a reporter years ago was that I could call myself one. Over the decades I've gotten paid for being a writer and an editor, but I've also gotten paid for being a secretary, a lab tech, a symphony telemarketer (that one didn't last long), and an administrator of census tests. Probably because I never graduated from college, I never felt as though I had a field. I always wanted one.

I experienced community. At a daily paper, we all strive toward a common goal. We're all in it together. I have sought community on one level or other my entire life. I'm convinced a feeling of community is one of the biggest benefits of belonging to a church. But I don't go to church. At home these days, most of my community is felt online. It was nice to experience it with audio.

And speaking of audio.....
I had such fun bantering with my old friend Kevin and others on the staff. The newsroom gets quiet around four o'clock in the afternoon every day as everyone starts writing in earnest, but earlier in the day the atmosphere is light. Laughter is often triggered by our interaction with people outside the office. As I said to Kevin a few days ago, "So many funny things happen here, and we all share them. When I'm at home again next week, nothing funny is likely to happen—and if it does, I have no one to tell."

So now you're probably wondering why I didn't take the job myself. I was never seriously tempted. In addition to all of the above, the job also entails covering interminable night meetings, getting to work in all kinds of weather (the paper must get out no matter what), overtime on a regular basis, driving all over the countryside to get stories, and expending more energy than I possess. As a retired editor said to me recently, "Reporting is for the young."

The paper hired a young woman just out of college. I wish her the best. Now I have to figure out how to incorporate some of the above into my retirement. It was a good career while it lasted.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Split Second

This is not a poem; it's just the easiest way for me to think tonight.

One car, four young people, two nights ago.
An on-ramp to the interstate. A sharp curve. A heavy foot on the accelerator.
"We're going too fast," a girl in the backseat said.
And then the hatchback, never built for speed, rolled. Rolled so hard and fast that it took down a highway light pole.
Two young men in the front seat, neither wearing a seat belt.
The driver was ejected through the windshield. He lives, paralyzed and still comatose.
The passenger, known for his moves on the football field and his good humor, ends up in the back seat.
Except there is no back seat. There is no car—just a flattened, inverted, compressed mass of mangled metal and glass. He was killed instantly.
A stranger, an angel, appears and calls 911.
Rescue crews arrive.
In what was once the back seat, the girls wore their seat belts. It takes 30 minutes to cut the first girl out of the car. She has a broken tibia and other, hopefully minor, injuries.
It takes more than two hours to extricate my granddaughter. She has two broken legs (femurs), four broken ribs, a shoulder injury, and many cuts and bruises.
An EMT said it was the worst accident he'd ever seen.

All in a split second.
All in a reckless, irreversible, life-altering split second.

When Princess Diana died, someone wrote an essay I wish I'd saved. It was about women in vehicles driven by men, and how we seem to be hard-wired to relinquish control in that situation. It talked about how Diana, one of the most powerful women in the world, sat unbelted in the Mercedes that killed her, and how even though they traveled at seriously excessive speed, she never spoke up, never demanded that the driver slow down, never ordered him to stop. Do we trust men to take care of us? Is that it? Do we see automobiles as male territory, a place for us to recede into the background (literally)?

I can remember feeling that way. I can remember being incapable of speaking up, of criticizing the driver, of not wanting to risk......I don't know what I thought I risked, or why I didn't know what I risked by remaining silent. But that was a long time ago.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Miss Margaret Cobb


If you're on Facebook with me, you know that most mornings I post one of my dad's photos from the 1940s. Some of them were taken at various work-related functions. Today I scanned one of his negatives and and found a picture of Miss Cobb, the geologist who was so kind to me after my mother died (I was nine). She's the woman on the left, in sensible shoes. No fancy hair, no glamour, but a highly educated woman of great warmth.

I wrote about Miss Cobb here. I don't ever remember seeing a picture of her. When I saw this one today, I instantly remembered the softness of her hands and the softness of her voice.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Versed (midazolam): Avoid This Drug!

I was first given Versed (Ver sed') years ago in New York, for an extremely painful GYN procedure for which the physician needed me to be awake. Versed doesn't relieve pain; it erases the memory of pain. I awoke to find my shins scraped and bleeding. I asked the doctor about it, and he said, "That's from when you tried to get away." I was left with nightmares in which I screamed curses. Versed erases the memory of pain, but only on a superficial level.

Versed is an incredibly popular drug among doctors and hospitals. It's not hard to see why......we can't complain about what we can't remember. They call it a sedative, and it does sedate some people. But it has quite the opposite effect on others. Although I hated what happened to me in that New York hospital, and had a deep distrust of the drug as a result, I was given it several times in the ensuing years for surgical procedures (they administer it prior to the anesthesia) and once for an endoscopy. I've known people (including my gastroenterologist) who underwent their endoscopies without medication. I asked one man what it was like, and he said, "Your experience was the same as mine. The only difference is you can't remember it."

I discovered there was a lot I couldn't remember. The older I got, the more Versed affected my short-term memory. It eventually came back, but it took longer each time. When I had minor surgery in January, I told the anesthesiologist I didn't need to be sedated before the anesthesia. He made a note on my chart and left. Seconds later, a nurse shot something into my IV. I asked her what it was, and she said "Versed."

Four months later, I was scheduled for two cataract operations. I was told I needed to be awake but immobilized for the surgery, so they would use Versed. We discussed this, and they said Versed was the only option. They would use the absolute smallest amount, and assured me it would not cause problems. I'm a proactive (read "annoying") patient, but in this case I didn't know of an alternative to the highly-recommended eye surgeon, and I thought they'd probably use much less Versed than I'd had previously.

I think they did use less, because I can remember both procedures. But in the week between them my memory was impaired, and after the second one it got dramatically worse. On the fifth day after the second surgery, I went to a party. The next day, I could remember the gist of a number of conversations, but not the people I spoke with. My word retrieval wasn't very good, and my thought retrieval was worse. And scarier.

That's not all that was scary. My mental state underwent a dramatic change. I became depressed in the morning and anxious at night. My heart would pound, and I had trouble breathing. This was not at all like me. It was terribly frightening. I wondered if it had anything to do with whatever tick-borne infection I've been fighting.

It lasted about a month, and then gradually improved and disappeared. I was doing the dishes one night when I remembered that some time back I'd seen "agitation" given as a possible side effect of Versed. I dried my hands and went to the computer. There I found every symptom I'd experienced during that awful month—all described by people telling Versed horror stories.

And these stories were truly horrifying. I got off easy, it turns out. Some people talked about side effects that never went away. One woman wrote about her husband, perfectly normal and well-grounded when he went to the hospital for minor surgery, now committed to a locked psych ward.

Ask A Patient has page after page of these stories. Other sites are dedicated to warning people about the dangers of Versed. Just Google Versed horror stories, Versed side effects, or Versedbusters and see what you get. There's a lot of first-person accounts out there, and I can only imagine how many others go unreported. If a side effect (especially this kind of side effect) occurs more than a week after a drug is given, a great many people will never make the connection.

I found several comments suggesting that many medical professionals won't allow the drug to be used on themselves. They're not the only ones. I will never allow it to be used on me again. Actually, I hope I can steer clear of all procedures, surgical and otherwise. I read of people being given Versed despite their orders to the contrary. Remembering that nurse shooting it into my IV, I believe it. Consider this to be my public service announcement. Maybe we need a catchy slogan. How about "Keep Versed Out of Your Head"?

Thursday, July 28, 2011


He used to walk the property at dusk;
now I do, too—not because he did,

but because I understand why. He
walked around the barnyard, observing,

checking things that mattered: his horses
in their stalls, a piece of siding missing

from the barn, the size of the hay supply,
water levels in the horses’ tanks, old tractor

in its bay, the horse trailer, the trucks.
I walk the front yard, seeing what is there:

the rose transplanted yesterday, another
planted days before, progress of the weeds,

soil softened by chipmunks, entrance
of the first iris buds, a bumblebee at rest,

the youngest cat stalking blades of grass
in the last light, unwilling to let the day go.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

STiMuLaTioN: WHaT's iT DoiNg to US?

Every once in awhile one of the Top 40 hits of the 1950s or early 60s runs through my head, and the same thought always comes to me: The songs that we sang and danced to back then would never make it on the current charts. How would today's teens react to lyrics as benign as these?

If you're fond of sand dunes and salty air,
quaint little villages here and there.....

For that matter, how would they react to "The Singing Rage, Miss Patti Page"? Compared to Patti Page, Susan Boyle practically approaches Lady Gaga status.

Okay, if you're significantly younger than I you probably have no idea who or what I'm talking about (except for the Lady Gaga part). But that's okay; you'll get my point in a minute.

The thing is, either humans have come to (inexplicably?) crave constant stimulation, or the marketing gods have decided that we do. "Special effects" aren't special anymore; it's hard to imagine any kind of action film without them. In a good movie, something has to explode, someone has to disrobe, and/or 50 F-bombs must be dropped. Don't get me wrong.....I enjoy those movies (except for the violent ones). But I wonder why we as a society are no longer able to enjoy Deanna Durbin.

Oh, and about violence....Back when my kids were little, violence in film was relatively new. Children were studied as they watched what passed for violence in those days. Those who were used to it watched without reaction. But those who hadn't been exposed to violence cringed and twitched as people on the screen were mown down, etc. Who is cringing and twitching today (besides me)?

Winding roads that seem to beckon you,
miles of green beneath a sky of blue.
Church bells chimin' on a Sunday morn
remind you of the town where you were born.

I won't even get started on TV, especially "reality" TV.

But let's talk about lipstick. Those marketing gods control consumer products to a large degree. Ever since I acquired pen pals from Russia in the 1980s, the "Buy me! Buy me!" culture has bothered me somewhat. Advertising is everywhere, and our shelves are so packed with products. The ability to choose is a wonderful thing, but do we really need so many choices? Or do their sheer numbers eventually reach a saturation point and become a negative factor?

I admit to being fond of lipstick. When I get home I can't wait to take it off, but when I'm out I love to wear it—and yes, I love choices. I have a little white wicker basket filled with lipsticks. But I would say only three or four are my top favorites. The cosmetic companies don't seem to care about favorites, especially old favorites. They care about New!! and Exciting!!! and Hot!!!! I hear women complain about it all the time......cosmetic lines change regularly, and their favorite lipsticks, eye shadows, and even shampoos simply disappear so the company can bring out something with a hotter sounding name.

I know. All this makes me sound old. But not nearly as old as that Patti Page song:

If you like the taste of a lobster stew
served by a window with an ocean view,
you're sure to fall in love with Old Cape Cod.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Oh, BABY!!!

I'm so happy to announce that last Wednesday (July 6) my son and his wife welcomed their baby boy to the world. His name is Joseph (Joey?), and he weighed 7 lbs., 8 oz. (same as his Aunt Gillian) and looked instantly beautiful. I took these pictures when he was 10 hours old.

I had a talk with him today, and promised him lots of birds (I believe I said "bordies") to look at with me and ham radio lessons from his daddy. He promised me to be a limitless source of joy.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mama Gato y La Leche

A few weeks ago a very thin female cat showed up on the property looking for food and love. My son and daughter-in-law noticed right away that she was a nursing mother, and began feeding her. ("Nursing mothers need food and water!") I was happy to see my teachings from when I was a La Leche League Leader come around again like this. So we've been feeding the cat, who weighs so little that I've been calling her Feather. (My son and DIL call her Bones, which doesn't quite do it for me.)

Yesterday I finally found her kittens—in the ice house. I found two dark tabbies yesterday, and an orange one today. I have two cats, Annie and Pogo, and that's enough for now. I can't afford more vet bills. But a neighbor offered to help get the mother spayed, and if that happens my only reservation about bringing her inside is her dangerous habit of walking under my feet. I can just see myself falling down the stairs.......

Anyway, here we go again. Animals have been finding us for decades, and while I can no longer afford to rescue them all, I'll do what I can. And if I'm lucky I'll find some others who have room for a kitten in their lives. Crystal.....? :-)

PS: Spanish-speaking readers, please forgive my casually translated post title. I remember way too little Spanish from high school.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This gravestone had me in tears.

After posting more than 700 pictures on FindAGrave, you'd think I'd be used to cemetery things. But this gravestone for twins, photographed yesterday, really got to me.

Born in 1849, Charles Trowbridge Pierson and his twin sister, Mary Ann.....the boy dying at age 7 weeks, and then his sister one month later. One hundred and fifty-plus years later, we grieve with their parents.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

From my journals.......1979 (November and December)

November 1: A nice, unusually quiet LLL meeting. The next series will be rather a circus—during the daytime at my house. We have three single mothers in our group now.

November 7: I'm reading The Mother's Almanac, and getting inspired to let the girls do more in the kitchen with me. It's one of the things I very much looked forward to, but found little fun in actual practice. I hate to admit it about myself, but the mess that kids make in cooking, the patience required while they take so long about it, and the sometimes less-than-perfect results were enough to make it a nerve-wracking experience for me. However, in my constant efforts to change my ways, I am trying again—this time with a conscious effort to develop a more patient and accepting attitude.

December contains only entries about Joey's nursing strike. He was 14 months old, and went from being a wonderfully enthusiastic nurser to adamantly refusing to have any part of it, even in his sleep. He cried all the time, but refused to be comforted. It was a hard time for everyone in the family, and was never resolved. I don't want to revisit it, so this will wind up 1979. I hope I developed that "more patient and accepting attitude" about my daughters in the kitchen......

Friday, May 20, 2011

From my journals.......1979 (October)

October 4: Today I learned that Suzanne somehow thought "cutting a tooth" meant breaking a tooth. I obtained a new sitter to stay here with the girls while Joey and I went to my L3 meeting. Diane is a very religious girl, appearing super straight. She was visibly shocked when she asked how many teeth our baby had, and Suzanne replied, "They're all broken."

October 6: A wonderful day! We all drove down to Ambler (2.5 hours), where I gave my workshop on vegetarian cooking and using tofu at LLL's Area Conference. It went so perfectly, and was so enjoyable, that all my previous fears seem silly. The 30 people who attended were very enthusiastic and receptive to the foods I brought (soybean sandwich spread, tofu eggless salad and tofu cheesecake) and said they couldn't wait to get home to try them out on their families. The evaluations they fill out were so good I could have written them myself!

October 8: This must be my week! First my success at Ambler, and now the best possible visit to Suzanne's school. Her teacher couldn't say enough about how well Zannie is doing in school. She spoke of how Suzanne "zipped through" all the reading levels (1-5) and how she's doing the math beautifully, too. Naturally, I was thrilled to find that Suzanne's teacher fully appreciates my brilliant little daughter.

October 25: Joey is one year old today! We were prepared for the speed with which his first year would fly by, but it was still a shock. Joe is in NJ as usual today, so we will all celebrate on Saturday. He offered to drive home tonight, but I urged him not to. Such a very long drive, and Joey doesn't know when his actual birth date is.

October 27: Joey's birthday celebration. I made a honey cake ("Natural Baby Food Cookbook") with broiled peanut butter icing ("Mother's in the Kitchen"), and we took a movie of Joey climbing onto the dining table to get it. Joe brought home a giant sneaker ride-around toy.

October 31: At 8:00 a.m., Suzanne was on the school bus, and Gillian watching Captain Kangaroo. I picked Joey up and we got in bed to nurse. For me, a cozy, delicious feeling to be snuggled under the covers with my baby on a grey morning. But for Joey, what a pleasure it must be to drift in and out of sleep, doing one of the things he loves best. The smile he gave me when we switched sides was one of sheer delight and contentment—half-closed eyes, milky mouth and all.

Monday, May 16, 2011

From my journals........1979 (September)

September 19: Joey fell out of my bed in the middle of the ight. He's had a stuffy nose and has had trouble sleeping, so I took him into my bed. I think what happened was that I fell asleep but he didn't, and he scooted over to the other side of the bed and fell of. His head hit the bare wood floor, and we both cried.

September 20: Joey recovered from his fall out of bed sufficiently to fall out of his feeding table—again!

September 22: Joe home for another two days. We are all hugely looking forward to mid-December, when he will leave NJ and stay home full time, working on his tofu project. Being alone here with the kids five days a week is especially hard in the winter months. The snowstorms lose a lot of their charm when I worry about being able to get out of the house in an emergency—such as one of the girls' ear infections.

September 24: Suzanne (who just turned six) came home from school today and announced she is in love with a schoolmate named Brian. "I ran after him at recess and caught him and kissed him!" (On the shoulder, she says.) She says she's going to marry him when she grows up, but she hasn't told him yet (and she doesn't know his last name).

I asked he why she fell in love with Brian—is he smaft? "Yes, he's almost as smart as I am." Is he a nice person? "Yes......also, he was wearing a yellow jacket, and yellow's my favorite color!"

Suzanne is utterly beautiful, and I hope whomever she does marry deserves her.

(See Suzanne's wedding picture, above, taken February 5, 2011.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

From my journals........1979 (August)

August 3: A depressing day at the dentist. First, there was my appointment. The dentist spent quite a bit of time discussing my attitude—whether or not I was fully prepared for the work ahead. Not a good sign. Then came the pedodontist, and the shocking news that Suzanne has 5 cavities! Gillian has none as yet, fortunately.

August 5: Sometimes I think I must be manic-depressive. I go through (brief) periods of feeling like I can handle anything and everything, then find myself completely overwhelmed and in a real panic about all my undone chores, feeling inadequate about the messy house, my weight problem, the demanding garden, you name it.

August 6: When I finished feeding Joey some cottage cheese and wheat germ, we looked at each other and he smiled and I smiled . . . and smiled and smiled . . . then I began to laugh and then he laughed his beautiful baby laugh, so full of delight—and we shared yet another happy moment to remember.

August 15: My parents arrived today for a one-week visit. They're staying at a motel five miles away. I haven't seen my father in two years, and he looks terrific. The kids were so thrilled to see their grandparents. Joey took one look at his Grandma and held out his arms. Gillian couldn't have remembered her"Pop-Pops" but gave him her best hug immediately, as did Suzanne.

August 24: Took the kids to a drive-in movie last night . . . an experience! We saw "Star Wars," and it was a treat mainly for Zannie. Gillian couldn't get absorbed in it, and Joey alternately cried from sleepiness and climbed all over me and whatever else I let him get to.

August 26: Nora in town for the weekend, and she stopped to spend the afternoon here. Tian came ovoer, too. We did one of our famous "fill-ins" and had our usual laughs. Very much like old times, except for once I didn't make anything exotic to eat.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Taking a short break from diaries......

........because I've been thinking about something.

A baby shower for my daughter-in-law was held last week, and one of my gifts to my expected grandchild was this small hooked rug—actually, a wall hanging. I belong to an active rug hooking group online, but I don't know even one other rug hooker in real life. I learned how to do it from a book 30 years ago, and I'm still learning from books and the Internet.

When I tell people other than my friends that these mats are made from recycled wool (old clothing I find at the Salvation Army), the reaction isn't always positive. Some think it's great that one can make "something from nothing," but I've caught a flicker of what might be distaste on a couple of faces. (For the record, everything goes into the washing machine first.) And when I add that I like to dye the wool myself, I can tell more than a few wonder why anyone would want to spend their time in this way. (After all, I could be watching reality TV.)

Compared to the women (and men) who began this craft, my efforts take little time. I order my hooks, linen backing, and dyes from online vendors, and for this rug I bought the bright colored wool for the turtle online, too. When I decided to treat myself to a lap frame this year, I did the transaction via email. My rug binding tape comes to me through eBay. This rug was my original design except for the turtle, which was a free online quilt pattern.

The first hooked rugs, made in the early 19th century, often used burlap feed bags for backing. But even much later, the process was primitive for some. I recently read about a woman who described hooking rugs in the first decades of the 20th century. She gathered her best woolens (mostly from underwear) for two years before she had enough to start a rug. She set up a big floor frame in her farmhouse kitchen and sewed the burlap to it. Beside her at the frame was a wooden cradle; she rocked her infant daughter as she hooked her rugs by the light of a kerosene lamp. She dyed some of her wool with onion skins and goldenrod.

Lately I've been posting some of my journal entries here. Most of them were written with ball-point pens in red, hardbound Daily Reminder books. Later I started a computer journal, plus many of the letters I've written over the years—journal entries of sorts—are saved on my hard drive. Consider these entries from diaries kept by women on the Oregon and California trails in the mid-1800's:

I didn't write in my diary yesterday. I hate to miss a day, but I just couldn't do it yesterday. It was dark by the time we found a place to camp and both George (her husband) and I were too tired to build a fire to melt the ink.


The color of the ink in my journal will be changing all the time from now on. I thought I brought enough ink for the entire journey, but have completely run out. From now on I''m going to pick berries and squeeze the juice out of them and use it for ink. The color of my writing will depend on the kind of berries I'm able to find.

When some early diarists ran out of paper, they wrote vertically over the same sheet they'd already covered horizontally. All these women, most of whom were raising children, went to such lengths to tell us about our country's past.

So this is what I've been thinking about: the resourcefulness of women and the documented history of their passion to create something beautiful and to leave something of themselves behind. They inspire me to write more regularly in my current journal. And to keep hooking, rug after rug.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

From my journals.......1979 (July)

I thought it would be fun to illustrate some of these entries. I think this picture of Suzanne and Gillian might be a little older than 1979, but it's close enough. I also think I may have posted it before, but I don't know how to do a blog search for photos.

July 2: Nora and I said tearful goodbyes today. I will miss her a great deal; we talk to each other a lot and see each other at least once a week.

(I must have been busy in the garden for the next few weeks.)

July 21: For several months Joe and I have been thinking seriously about starting a soy dairy, producing tofu, as a new business for Joe to operate close to home. Today an exciting thing happened: We received in the mail notice of a four-day conference on tofu and soyfoods production, to take place next week in Massachusetts! What perfect timing. I wish I could go, too, but the dogs must be fed and the kids aren't the right ages for a conference. I hope we can make this new business a reality.

July 23:
Today I gave the girls a stern speech about not playing with their clothing in their dresser drawers—no throwing clothing on the floor, no rummaging around in the clothing drawers, etc. "Do you understand?" I finished. "Yes," said the girls—Gillian piping, "I understand!" Later, I overheard her asking Suzanne, "What's clothing?"

July 30: Joe came home from the soyfoods conference loaded down with books, paper, and ideas—and full of enthusiasm. We are ready to GO!!

Monday, May 02, 2011

From my journals.......1979 (June)

June 8: Dinner at R's house. Met her boyfriend. Still in shock over the fact that she is having a relationship with this kid. Gross lack of sophistication, not the slightest bit mature for his age (23). I can't relate.

June 12: Nora over for dinner. She really loves my cooking—I call her the Locust. Tonight I made an Oriental style dish with hamburger, tofu, and vegetables (featuring our fabulous fresh spinach). For dessert, strawberries from the garden, along with oatmeal-walnut bars. After dinner we sang and sang—Nora playing the guitar and me the Autoharp and piano. We all got to bed late, but had much fun. Not many weeks until Nora leaves.

June 13: Did another radio show on breastfeeding, my third, this time with Peggy. It was great fun, and we got across lots of good information.

June 22: Made an appointment to get my hair layered (!!) next week. I am convinced I'm in need of a change—the long, long hair I've had since my teens is no longer flattering—but my hair has always been my security blanket, and I'll probably go into a depression!

June 30: Loulee's wedding day. We left the house at 5:30 a.m. and got home 22 hours later, exhausted. I enjoyed myself, though—the kids received such an enormous amount of approval that it was marvelous fun just being their mother. I got a fair amount of approval myself, and felt really loved.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

From my journals.......1979 (May)

With several explanations.......

May 1: Took breakfast over to the Jacksons this morning—my waffle iron, a pitcher of waffle batter, butter, and syrup. They're moving back to Oklahoma (Zannie says "Uncle Homa")* tomorrow. We said sad goobyes; it is unlikely that we will see each other again. We've become so close, and I will miss them greatly.

* Zannie actually said it with an o at the end, not an a, but I don't want to attract any more spam to this blog than it already gets.

May 2: Joey's six-month checkup. Nora tried to give me a hard time about his slow weight gain, but I am not concerned. He is beautiful—healthy and happy. At least he was happy until he got his shot.

May 9: A hot day in town. Had Joey's picture taken at K-Mart—a free offer—our first experience with that sort of photography. Stood on line with "Dr. D's mothers" for 45 minutes. A lesson in learning to keep my mouth shut.*

*Dr. D. delivered many of the babies in town at that time. He dispensed some really wretched advice to new mothers, among other things.

May 10: Spent most of the day preparing for Tian and Nora's afternoon visit. They were supposed to pick up my grain mill, but Nora's dogs ran away so she didn't go shopping. I made lots of raw vegetables with curry dip, cold asparagus soup, and zucchini bread. We drank white wine. Fun seeing my friends as usual, particular fun singing with them, but strangely glad to see them leave. Missing Joe.....glad he's coming home tomorrow.*

*He worked out of state during the week.

May 14: A bat came down the chimney again. I hate these experiences.

May 18: I spread out a blanket on the grass for Joey and the girls, thinking he might be amused by his sisters while I gardened nearby. And I guess he was, until Zannie rubbed perfume on his face.

May 31: Comforting a baby can be a lovely thing. While I nursed Joey in the tub, I let the girls soap my back and pour water on us.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

From my journals........1979 (the rest of April)

April 15: Read an article about the tofu business, and thinking it might be ideal as a venture for Joe and me.

April 16: The Jacksons are getting married on Wednesday. (Joe said, "To whom?")

April 18: Peggy and Lisa gave a talk on breastfeeding at the CEA film night this evening. Joey and I were supposed to be the "model" nursing couple, sitting in front of the room to shoe the audience how it's done. Joey was not what you'd call cooperative—he bit me, turned away, and cried!

April 19: My birthday, and I planned a nice celebration. Left the girls with Patty at her house and met Tian at Nora's house at 4:30. We drank a hot wine punch, ate dinner, and laughed and laughed. We also cried a little—when Nora read aloud a letter I had written her, listing the things I'd miss when she moved away. Nora gave us lovely birthday presents: a poncho for Tian and a painted tray for me, both from Mexico. Tian and I gave each other "appropriate handmade birthday cards." We all had lots of fun.

April 20: Joe and I are excited about the possibility of going into the tofu manufacturing business. I have great enthusiasm for the product!

April 22: Attended a party this afternoon for the Jacksons, who will be moving at the end of the month. At first I felt slightly out of place with all that counterculture, but a wide variety of people came, and we all had fun.

April 24: Started work on cleaning our bedroom. What a lousy housekeeper I am.

April 25: Jill, making believe she is Nora: "Dr. Nora will fix your foot as soon as she goes to the potty."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

From my journals.......1979 (early April)

April 6: I can't believe how long it's been since I wrote in this diary. So much for my good intentions! The star of the show around here these days is Joey (almost 6 months old). He is such a wonderful smiler—he makes everyone feel special. I think he's been ready for solids for a couple of weeks now.....he's reached the point where he opens his mouth at the approach of just about anything.

April 7:
Joey's first taste of solid food: a dab of mashed banana. I think Joe and I were more excited than the baby. Joey didn't exactly reject the banana, but he looked totally confused and not terribly thrilled.

April 9: An ice/snow storm, just when we thought spring was here to stay.

April 10: Jill (age 3) likes to make believe she is Nora (our friend and pediatrician). "I am Nora. I am going to give you a shot. There will be great pain. And, it is going to hurt!" Later, she looks in my ear and announces it is a little red. I tell her it doesn't hurt, and wonder why it is red. Jill replies, "There is a dead animal in it."

April 11:
(A friend) tells me her past has caught up with her, and her life is in ruins. I have no idea what she means, but it's upsetting.

April 14: 10:30 p.m. I just finished putting together tomorrow's Easter baskets: art gum eraser, glue stick, and notepad for Suzanne; green eraser, notepad, and package of rubber bands for Gillian. Plus they both got peanut butter/sesame butter dandies that I made tonight. We colored 21 eggs this afternoon, and the girls are looking forward to hunting for them in the morning. Joe and I can't hide the eggs tonight for fear that Poppy (the dog) will eat them.

April will be continued.........

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

From my journals.......1979 (February-March)

February 2: Today Suzanne (age 5) brought home two little Valentine heart candies—the kind with writing on them. She said they were from Brian at Kindergarten, and breathlessly asked me to read them to her. One said, "no use" and the other said, "goodbye." Obviously, Brian can't read.

February 3:
Zannie: "A girl at school today she she was ugly, but I told her she was pretty."
Me: "That was nice of you. I wonder why she thought she was ugly."
Zannie: "Maybe she doesn't like her hair."
Jill (3): "Maybe she doesn't like dog food."

February 28: Suzanne gets her expletives mixed up. The other day she said to Joey (4 months old), "You're such a beautiful little brother.........for crissake!"

Apparently nothing happened in March.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

From my journals.........1979 (January)

January 1: It is clear my housebound period is beginning. Ice is thick on our road.

January 4: LLL meeting at my house today, at 10:00 a.m. Eight women attended, along with three babies, five toddlers, and my three. Afterward, Tian and Nora stayed for lunch. Nora brought black beans, Tian brought salad, and I made rice and dessert. We had a happy afternoon.

January 11: Gillian, irrelevant as ever......
Zannie: "Mommy, how do you spell telephone? How do you spell Grandma? How do you spell lamp?"
Jill: "How do you spell rolling man?"

January 13: Suzanne turned on Joey's musical Winnie-the-Poo toy, his musical mobile, his musical cradle gym, and their musical "radio," and said to me, "Now Joey has a band!"

January 15: A nice thing happened today. My mother-in-law decided I worked so hard taking care of the kids that I deserved a television set better than the 12" black & white I've always had. She told me to pick out any model I wanted, so I chose a 17" Sony color with push-button tuning. I'm really excited—just what I needed on these dismal winter days!

January 18: Our new television set is here! The color is fabulous, and such a sharp contrast to the non-colors of winter outside. A golf program from Phoenix showed bright blue sky, green grass, and waving palm trees. The window right next to the set showed snow, snow, and more snow.

January 25: A call today from a Latvian woman who lost her dog. I mistook her for Nancy, who often calls me from Harvard with a phony accent to ask crazy breastfeeding questions. Oh, dear......

January 30: I made a special heart-shaped molded salad for their lunch, and then they stuffed most of a roll of toilet paper down the toilet.

Monday, April 04, 2011

From my journals........1952 (age 8 to 9)

January 1: Yesterday we went to a New Years Eve house party at Ronnie's house. We left at 9:30 in the night time. But I didn't stay long. I was the only "kid" there. I played the piano there. We had refreshments. I took some home when I went home to bed. I didn't get up on 12 o'clock to ring the bells. Happy New Year!

January 4: Today My Mother took down the tree. I was sad when we threw it out the window. I broke off a little branch for me. Then I went back to school. I fell asleep so fast. I went to the doctor's with my Father in the night.

(I have no idea what that means. I'm envisioning my father and me sneaking out in the dead of night to rendezvous with the doctor. Oh, and in the city everyone threw their Christmas tree out the window for disposal.)

January 5: I played with sick Carolyn today. We played Monopoly. I went to the store with my Father. We spent $16.00.

January 11: Well, today is Friday. I love Friday. I watch "Mama" a T.V. program. And "Man Against Crime."

January 14: Nothing wonderful happened.

January 20: I thought

February 20: Today the doctor is coming. For I have an ear abses. And I have to go to the hospital to get my adnoyds out.

October 18: Carolyn had her party today because it was Saturday. My Mother and father went to Lucky's and got lost on the way home. They drove 150 miles and my mother got carsick. I went to Carolyn's party. When they came back we (the girls at the party) thought that my mother was with my father and when he came in to Carolyn's house we all started to sing "Happy Birthday" because it was my Mother's birthday today. My Father said, "It's not my birthday!" We all laughed. But later my mother came down and then we sang "Happy Birthday" all over again but this time to the right person. "Happy Birthday" Mommy!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

From my journals.........1976

March 17: Suzanne and I sing "Close to You" at bedtime, our heads together.

May 25: B and T arrived yesterday and had planned to stay through at least this morning, but left as quickly as they could at 7:00 a.m., refusing even to eat breakfast here. Their sudden departure had to do with a bat that appeared in the house last evening.

July 24: N and J arrived at 1:00 a.m. to spend the following day with us. We had fun water skiing. J was very quiet....hard to tell if she had a good time or not. I got the giggles when Joe kept sinking me on skis.

October 4: Flew to Arizona today for a visit with Mom and Harold. I have lost 36 lbs. so far,and will try not to gain on vacation.

October 18: Flew from Phoenix to Daytona with the kids. Florida feels beyond damp. I could swear the walls are dripping.

November 4: Home yesterday from our month's trip: two weeks in Arizona with Mom and Harold and two weeks in Florida with my parents. Gained 2 lbs. in Carefree, and 5 in Florida.

November 27: Cooked a small turkey, had dinner, and went out to accompany Joe while he posted the property. While we were out, Thistle—one week post-surgery—pulled the turkey off the counter and ate the whole thing!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From my journals.........1975

January 3: I long to hear a conversation that is over my head. Joe is great to talk with, but he isn't here all that often. I get so tired of talking about the demise of Blue Stamps, the weather, and what's on sale at the Banner Market. I'd love a good food talk! This area seems saturated with Hamburger Helper users.

February 7: Today we went to look at an old farm. Joe had seen the ad while I was in Florida, and call the realtor to inquire about seeing it. Then when I got home I saw another ad for the same property, was intrigued by it, and called the realtor myself.

We wanted to fall in love with the place, and at first that appeared doubtful; the siding is truly tacky, and the paint needs freshening. Joe, especially, was put off by our first view of the outside. But we started smiling once inside, and our hearts really warmed when we toured the property: 30 acres, wooded and open, all rolling, all beautiful.

February 8:
We are buying the old farm!!

May 8: Lunch at Nino's with Mom and Harold. I told Mom I was scheduled for a pregnancy test on Monday, and was pleased with her happy reaction.

June 11:
The baby is a nice firm round mound, fun to feel each morning.

August 15: A newspaper item pasted on the page......Thunder was a beautiful German Shepherd who loved his family with all his heart. Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Jaffer treasured the relationship they had with him during his three years of life. Thunder cared deeply for his humans, so when he was killed recently his family remembered the many dogs and puppies being sheltered at the Humane Society and sent a generous contribution. The Society makes good use of memorials such as this . . . and we think Thunder must be pleased.

November 24:
Our first Lamaze class. We are the only repeaters in a group of seven couples, and the beginners hung on our every word. Joe asked me later how I liked being a star.

November 27: A nice Thanksgiving, as usual. Despite my misgivings, I managed to put together a respectable holiday dinner, complete with 19 lb. turkey. We had cornbread-sausage stuffing, our own homegrown buttercup squash, and Joe's favorite creamed celery. Also Heavenly Pumpkin Pie with ice cream.

December 25: Merry "Crimpas!" as (2-year-old) Suzanne calls it. Her face was full of wonderment as she spied the Christmas tree this morning, and she breathed "Wow!"—and then said, "Very nice!"

December 26: Gillian Campbell Jaffer was born today!!

(The last two entries are the condensed versions.) :-)

Monday, March 21, 2011

From my journals.........1956-58

January 1956: You know, when I'm 17 years old, and I look back and read this, I'll think I was silly when I was 13, but right now I'm very serious.

March 1957: Today a funny thing happened. Ingi came home from the store at about 5 o'clock. She told me that Paul had just left the A&P.

April 1957: Nothing fascinates me like the boy I can fascinate.

June 1957: I have a lovely crush on Charlie. I probably wrote about how I met him, but I love to tell it, so I'll review.

July 1957: Boys I have had fun with at Sag Harbor, July: Bobby & Dick, Bob, John, Dave, also another John (B.) & Richie & Jim. And Gail.

September 1957: Teddy kissed me for the 6th time.

December 1957: I have the strangest feeling that I'm in love, but I don't know with whom.

October 1958: Gave my father my report card, and I'm not allowed out.....ever!!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Blessing of Journaling

Thanks to journals I've kept over the years, I know much more than I ever could have remembered without them. As you can probably tell from my blog, I haven't been the most faithful journaler—and I wish I'd done better. It got worse with the advent of email, online forums, and social networking, and now it's to the point where the majority of my journal entries are copied and pasted from emails to close friends. But those entries will still be able to jog my memory someday.

This weekend I ran across my gardening journal from 1982-84. Like a lot of journals started by a lot of people, this one petered out after a while. But I was interested to read several of the entries.

In 1983 I put the following in the freezer: 14 quarts of spinach, 53 quarts of broccoli, 11 heads of cauliflower, 10 pints of peas, 30 quarts of green beans, 2 quarts of cherries, 6 quarts of peaches, 5 quarts of corn, 25 quarts of tomatoes, 1 quart of Swiss chard, and 33 quarts of applesauce.

That same year, I planted 10 different Asiatic lilies. I also wrote at length about my nicotiana, poppies, day lilies, veronica, statice, balsam, delphiniums, monardas, strawflowers (I said the strawflowers looked "troubled"), tall dahlias, dwarf dahlias, zinnias, hollyhocks, herbs, coreopsis, anchusa, Futura impatiens (whatever happened to that variety, anyway?), gaillardia, tithonia, and wallflowers. The following year I got much more heavily into perennials.

Oh, and I mention that my children were 10, 8, and 5 years old? And that I sewed a lot of their clothes? And cooked three meals a day (from scratch) every day? I'm exhausted just reading this.

But the best thing I learned from reading the journal concerned a good deed I did for an elderly flower gardener. Here's the entry:

Last year I planted a few of my leftovers for Mrs. Reynolds, whose heart condition had prevented her from growing any new flowers. I brought over nicotiana, marigolds, and delphiniums, and planted them in her garden. This year I started some seeds especially for her: "Inca" marigolds, "Kablouna" calendulas, and "Domino" dwarf nicotianas.

I didn't know much about Mrs. Reynolds' family back then. I didn't know, for instance, that she had a one-year-old great-granddaughter who would grow up to marry my son.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

From my dad's camera(s)

I've been scanning a lot of my father's negatives, and thought I'd share some of the results with you. I've said it before: Thank heavens for my dad and his fine cameras. Most people my age don't have family photographs like this.

My cousin Terry (the wonderful gardener who died in 2008) and her handsome father, Eddie.

Me, learning to walk (with a little help and cheering on from my parents). The woman facing away from the camera is our lovely cousin Ruth. The picture was taken at her home.

My mom. I've posted more glamorous shots of her on this blog, but she loved to laugh and could be very funny.

I've also mentioned my uber-creative cousin Barbara, who paints, sews, and has designed toys. Here she is being creative with her mother's clothespins. Her dad was overseas, fighting WWII, and those are diapers on the line, folks.

My mom and I are on the right, with her sister Elsie and Elsie's daughter Barbara on the left.

Like I said, most people don't have family photographs like this.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Baby, Baby.......

He had been at Hershey Medical Center for a week, transfused and under lights, getting his bilirubin count down. We had visited, but he had been out of my arms for a week. And although at 8 lbs., 6 oz. he was by far the largest baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit, it is torture to see your child blindfolded, with electrodes pasted all over him. And heartbreaking to know it was torture for him, too. This was the baby who cried in his cradle but quieted instantly when he was laid beside me. The one who matched his breathing to mine as we slept.

So when he was discharged and we picked him up, I, who gave talks on the importance of seat belts and child safety, removed him from his car seat to nurse. I should tell you now that I lucked out; the drive was without incident. The sun set on our long drive home. The sky filled with gold and purple, Neil Diamond sang, "I Am, I Said" on the radio, and my baby nursed on.

That's always been a vivid memory, the baby so real when I think about it. How long do babies last? Everyone advises us to savor the first year because it goes by so quickly. It's true, and after the first baby we know all too well how true it is, and yet the second one's first year flies by just as quickly as the first. Our infants disappear, just as our two-year-olds will turn three, and our eight-year-olds will turn nine, and our twelve-year-olds will become teenagers.

Most of the time we're not aware of the loss. We're too busy trying to keep up with the changes, for one thing. We just naturally accept each metamorphosis. And I'm happy to be able to report that it does even out after a while; thirty-seven is just not that much different from thirty-six. :-)

But I recalled that sunset tonight, and Neil Diamond's song, and that gorgeous baby snuggled into me, and I wondered if perhaps the baby felt more real today than he should, considering that his own baby will be born this year. It's time for another metamorphosis of sorts, a time to welcome the new. And believe me, the new will be most welcome.

I just realized that almost exactly a year ago I wrote this. What is it about late February and nursing baby memories? Perhaps I have had enough of the cold.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Art and Soul

A close friend is running a series of independent art films at the local library, and thought I might be interested. That's a reasonable assumption; I'm active in the arts community, and I'm originally from New York. You'd be amazed (or maybe you wouldn't) at how many people assume all city dwellers have intellectual leanings. My friend knows me better than that, but apparently not as well as she thought. I have no interest in independent art films, especially ones that require me to read subtitles.

It wasn't always this way. Growing up, I was drawn to foreign film festivals. New York is a great place for film, including Lincoln Center, where I worked. I read some pretty heavy stuff, too, including a lot of plays. Camus' "Caligula" was a favorite—don't ask me why. I read it on the subway. But somewhere along the line, things changed. Today, instead of Sartre I'd rather read Robert B. Parker. (The rhyme is unintentional. Sort of.) And my taste in movies is, well, light.

So at the library a group of about a dozen watches a movie and then discusses it. This week's movie is said to be "fraught with love, passion, despair and religious animosity." Somehow, this doesn't sound light. The word "fraught" alone gives it away.

No doubt the group will spend some time on symbolism. Even back in my Lincoln Center days, I wasn't crazy about symbols. I rarely seemed to get them right. In college, symbols could put me in a bad mood. I remember giving an oral interpretation of a poem by Emily Dickinson, a poet who—at least according to the experts—made liberal use of symbols. When I finished my presentation, the professor told me I was wrong. "How do you know?" I said to her. "Emily's dead. It's possible that I'm wrong, but it's also possible the 'experts' are wrong."

If I'm going to sit in a group and talk about something, I'd rather discuss firewood. Firewood is relevant to my life, especially right now, when I've gone through my stash of the perfectly dry stuff and am dipping in to the pile that can best be described as "seasoned but somewhat wet." I could share what I know about firewood, which isn't much, but could possibly help someone less experienced than I. And undoubtedly I would find others in the group who could give me advice to improve my woodstove and my heating bill.

Sure, I'd like to talk about movies. But my contributions would go something like this: "Didn't you love the line where Steve Carell goes, 'All of this may be premature. We don't even know if you can bowl.'"? And, "My favorite scene was where they all get trapped in the blues club, and aren't allowed to leave until they sing the blues." That would be a fun discussion. We would laugh a lot. It's hard to laugh when you're discussing despair.

Maybe the difference between the youthful, intellectual me and the mature, silly me is that in between the two I lived through love, passion, and despair. Not religious animosity, though. There are advantages to not attaching oneself to a particular religion. And thank God for that.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

College Students (way back) Then and Now

I remember the first college literary journal I ever saw. One of my friends brought it to me from Kenyon College. I was in high school. I opened it up to a poem about being drunk and thinking you were Jesus Christ. It was one of the milder poems.

I thought about that journal today when I opened up The Poets of the Future, a college literary anthology from 1917-1918.

"The stars are close tonight,/ Thoughts in the book of time; / Yet veiled unto my sight / The page sublime," a Dartmouth student wrote.

An Amherst gentleman said what he had to say in six lines: "Philosophy! A game, no more; yet such / As dwarfs all other games to nothingness, / That plays with aeons in its daring touch, / With stars for pawns, infinity to span. / Philosophy! A game for gods, no less, / That leaves man beaten, but a greater man."

Women were represented, of course, too. Here are a few lines from a somewhat self-absorbed Connecticut College student: "When clouds pass over the moon, / A thousand lurking shadows leer, / A thousand black-faced shadows peer, / From behind the trees and beside the wall and across the snow, / At me."

How did we change so much in 100 years? These poems are presumably what the students wanted to write. They were deservedly proud of them. I can't imagine one of these poems being accepted in one of today's college-sponsored literary journals. The language, the subjects........and I'm not even getting into the poems in this book that are so wildly politically incorrect that my eyes just skimmed the words in discomfort.

Well, that change--the change involving political correctness--I can understand. I witnessed the evolution of that sort of thing. But how did flowery, romantic language, once held in high esteem, reach a point of such disfavor? We don't have to go back 100 years, actually. Consider the lyrics of the hit songs of the 1950s. Could today's teens possibly embrace "Love is a Many Splendored's the April rose that only grows in the early spring" (1955)?

Or "Love and Marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage" (1955)? Or how about "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, That's Amore" (1953)? There are better examples—I know this because the thought occurs to me often when I hear music from this period. It just doesn't seem within the realm of possibility that today's kids could find anything to relate to in those songs. Why is that? We're still human beings, with the same feelings, aren't we? Or are we evolving as a species more rapidly than I can comprehend?

I used to observe car-crazy young males and wonder what boys their age did in all those generations before the automobile was invented. I suppose the answer to that is they all lusted after bigger and faster horses.

By the way, guess which Yale University student is on p. 82.......Stephen Vincent Benet. "Poets of the Future" indeed.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Another of My Medical Rants

I had a minor surgical procedure done on an outpatient basis yesterday. I had discussed anesthesia with my doctor, and agreed that they would use propofol. I've responded well to this in the past. I've been given Valium as a sedative before hospital procedures, but asked that they not administer it this time. I said I was fine, not anxious, and didn't need a sedative. I told him "I don't like altered states." The anesthesiologist said, "Okay, no Valium."

A few minutes later the nurse shot something into the port in my hand. "What's that?" I asked, and she said, "Versed." If there's one drug I have very strong feelings about, it's Versed. I hate it!! It's primarily a memory eraser, which I suppose explains why so many doctors and hospitals love it. The nurse said it's also a sedative, which is true. But I had already explained that I didn't need a sedative. Should I have said instead, "I don't want Valium, Versed, or any other benzodiazepine or tranquilizer"? Maybe I should have added, "I don't even want a martini!"

I was calm before the Versed, but seriously pissed off after. I didn't take it out on the nurses, who were all friendly and chatty, but I felt like a trapped animal. I knew I was going to remember what was happening only up to a certain point, after which it would be as though it never happened. Sure enough, when they wheeled me into the operating room and the nurses started asking me about the best position for my arthritic knees, I could feel myself slowly disappearing. I have a garbled memory of the beginning of that conversation, and then it's as though a black curtain descended on everything.

I've had Versed before. The first time it was given to me for a very painful procedure, and I woke up to find my shins skinned. "That's from when you tried to get away," the doctor said. I have no memory of the procedure, but my subconscious remembered: I had dreams where I was screaming.

The last time I had Versed, it took an uncomfortably long time for my memory to get back to normal. I've read that the older you are, the tougher it is to shake off the effects. I absolutely did not want to take it again.

Propofol is already a memory eraser. How much of my memory did they want erased, for heaven's sake?

I guess this is a warning. If there's something you don't want to swallow, breathe or take intravenously, be general as well as specific, and cover all your bases. With any luck, they might listen to you.