Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018

Planet B?

I was fortunate to be able to take a small break from this year’s bitter cold upstate New York weather and go to sunny Florida to visit some old friends.  I  took leisurely morning beach walks with the sea gulls, took bike rides along a jetty with pelicans, went to see manatees (my friend’s granddaughter calls them chubby mermaids), and marvelled at all the different flora and fauna one thousand miles in distance can make.

I also had the opportunity to sit on the beach to witness the Elon Musk space launch. It was incredible to watch the rocket go up and even more amazing to watch the rockets come back slowly and return to their launch pads. And then the sonic booms.  The whole experience was goose bump producing.

Before going on this trip I had no idea what this launch was all about or that it was such a big deal. Literally over a hundred thousand people came to watch, we saw license plates from all over the country and many folks from other countries. And because of all the media attention I learned that it is Elon Musk’s  dream to establish a human colony of Mars of one million people by 2040.  This launch was just a precursor to the soon-to-come BFR (big fucking rocket) that he hopes will carry as many as 200 people at a time to their new home on Mars.

Then I read blogger Tim Urban’s Wait But Why blog comment that “all our eggs are currently on one planet. If we can build a self-sustaining civilization on Mars, it’s much harder for humanity to go extinct.” WTF? Personally I feel that we deserve to go extinct and I imagine all the remaining plants and animals standing up and cheering when we do.

I recently read that over 20,000 species have gone extinct directly attributable to human impacts on the planet. Why shouldn’t we be next?  In fact, we deserve to be next.  Americans generate about 4 and a half pounds of trash per person, per day, or 254.1 million tons total per year.  Where does it all go?  

Even dogs know not to shit their own beds.

This is our home. Why aren’t we talking about the necessary changes we have to make in order to continue the human project here?  Personally I think we are just too greedy, too lazy, too selfish to make any of the sacrifices needed because they might inconvenience us or impact our pocketbook.

So rather than clean up our act here we will look to migrate to another planet?!

Based on our performance on this big blue marble, we will only infect and pollute other parts of the solar system. And then where do we go? Until we learn to clean up our act, there really is no Planet B. Just more places to ruin.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Glory Days

My partner Martha is a basketball fanatic. She runs a basketball league for girls and has always coached at some level, these days our school’s junior varsity team. When our daughters were born they got infant basketballs and as soon as they could walk they had hoops.

Needless to say that when our oldest daughter, Beaner, was the tallest kid in her third grade class Martha was thrilled. “You can’t teach height” is what she always said. And Beaner loved basketball. She started playing competitively when she was 8 and played through high school.  She almost always played up a level and was always the captain of her teams. She made varsity when she was in 9th grade and started developing a following.  By the time she was a junior she had her own cheering section and guys in the front row would hold up signs that said “Marry Me Beaner”,  parents would all wish her luck and young players would follow her around like ducklings.

She would say she was not that popular in high school, a designation apparently reserved for cheerleaders, but in the gym, she ruled.

By her senior year college scouts were coming to watch her play but she decided not to play in college, a decision that broke Martha’s heart. Still even a couple of years after graduating people still came up to her when she went to games and treated her like a celebrity.

It has now been 8 years since she’s played and we just went to a high school game together. One parent recognized her and waved. Other than that she was as unknown as I was. She watched the game giving constant critique of the players - “this generation is so lazy”.  This generation??? They’re only 8 years younger!

At one point I asked her if she missed it and she said “I miss playing and I miss being part of a team. I do not miss Saturday morning practices and running suicides.  But my glory days are over “.

Glory days?  She is 26 and her glory days are behind her? That seemed rather sad. Then I realized that I never had any ‘glory days’.  I never played competitive sports, never performed in any way, was never recognized, applauded or cheered.  As an introvert I am okay with that. It was more than enough to be the mom of two daughters who for brief moments were stars - Peachie having also excelled in her sport and went on to play in college.  

Still, I do wonder what it must be like to experience that kind of adulation, even if only in a very small high school pond. And how it must feel when it is over. I guess I will just have to be content to know that I was once on the fringe of their spotlight and can say “I knew them when”.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Full of Grace


It has been a harsh winter in my neck of the woods.  We’ve had some beautiful snow falls but they were quickly followed by long periods of sub zero temperatures making it impossible to enjoy any extended time outdoors.  

But hope springs eternal and I am eternally hopeful for Spring. I have spent a good deal of time pouring over seed catalogues and planning my vegetable garden layout.  Each year I try for  some new foods to grow. Last year I finished adding fruit trees to my small orchard and had very successful peaches, plums and cherries - the apples and pears not so much.  I may remove one of those and try apricots instead.  I tried beets which I will increase this year and carrots which I didn’t think were worth the effort.  I also planted some garlic in a container in the fall which I am very excited about hopefully harvesting come June.

This year I am going to up my herb game.  I have always planted a pot of basil to use for cooking and caprese salads.  And then I tried making my own pesto and freezing it in ice cube trays.  That was a big success but it was not enough so this year I will be planting a ton of basil along with many other herbs to dry.  

Generally I start all the flowers for the 24 flower boxes and the majority of my veggies from seeds I collect in the fall.  Not only does this guarantee fresh, non-treated seeds but it also saves me hundreds of dollars.  And I love that it is complete and never ending life cycle. My only cost is buying a couple bags of potting soil every year.

I’ve already started petunias under the basement grow lights because for some reason they take a long time to germinate and flower. Most other flowers will wait until March.

And I have started 7 pots of herbs which is probably way too early but I wanted to make sure the seeds would germinate under grow lights.    This morning I spotted this tiny bit of tarragon making its way into the world.  

My goal is always to have the flowers and veggies ready for a May 1st planting even though that is still a little early for a possible frost date where I live.  Still I get so excited by the whole process that I can’t wait and often wind up having to cover all the plants when we get a particularly cold May night.

In these days of extreme political upheaval, toxic government fear mongering, and the shit storm they call a news cycle, I am so very grateful for the opportunity to collect and plant seeds, to nurture the seedlings and encourage the plants, to eat the fruits of their labors and again collect their seeds. The steady rhythm of the life cycle keeps me well grounded and connected and I am thankful for it.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

The weekend from hell

It started with the news of an impending snowstorm.  They called it a ‘snow hurricane’ to hit the east coast last Friday.  We were concerned for our youngest daughter, Peachie, who was due to close on her new house and start the move that day but at least our oldest daughter, Beaner, who was in Africa, was not due to fly back until early Sunday morning. Martha and I were going to visit my sister on Saturday and then leave early to pick Beaner up at Kennedy airport before driving the 3 hours back home. Surely the roads would be cleared by then and all would go well.

Thursday the phone rang with a very irritated Peachie complaining that their house sellers were asking for a postponement due to the weather. But because of other things happening in her and her boyfriend's lives, that would be near impossible.  They refused and wound up picking up the buyers and their attorney in their 4 wheel drive vehicle and the closing went on Friday morning as scheduled, in a blizzard.

Afterward she called, very agitated, that the U-Haul they had reserved was snowed in and the only accessible vehicle was a tiny box van. They would now have to make at least 8 trips, back and forth, in the blizzard.  There was lots of cursing on her end.  Lots of worry on ours.

Saturday morning the skies and roads had cleared and Martha and I made the 4 hour trek to my sister’s.  My nephew and his family also came and I got to meet my new grand nephew for the first time.  He had just gotten his new helmet and his mother did nothing but cry about how she wondered if he was in pain and how she will miss these months of cradling his head. Understandable emotions but it made for a rather stressful get together.

And then Beaner called.  It was Saturday night in Africa, she had checked her luggage in at the airport, but was now being told that their 15 hour,non-stop flight was cancelled.  Nothing was flying into New York. She was panicky that she had to be at her new job, she didn’t know how to get her luggage back (although why an airline would take the luggage knowing that the flight was cancelled is beyond me)  and didn’t know what she was going to do.  She said the airport was pandemonium and was feeling both intimidated and frightened.

Meanwhile Kennedy airport was a clusterf*ck, first being hit by the superstorm cancelling flights both in and out, two planes collided on a runway, baggage claim carousels were frozen and pipes burst flooding an entire terminal.  It would be a long time getting that back to normal and she was told that they had no idea when they could fly her out.

Fortunately her host family had not left the airport yet and she was able to meet back up with them, get her luggage back and drive back to their home, an hour away.  We got on the phone to try to arrange new flights.  Feigning a family emergency, $2600 later we got her on a flight to Paris the next day, with a 4 hour layover, and then on to Boston.

Sunday morning Martha and I left to make the drive home from my sister’s.   We were in a car she had just leased days ago and hadn’t had time to learn where all the buttons and gadgets were.  But it had a shining new GPS and were following it’s directions home - although it was a much different than the route I would normally take - when Beaner called again, close to hysterical.  Her hosts had kindly driven her back to the airport, she had checked in, but was now being told that the flight to Paris was overbooked by 50 people and she was being bumped.   Meanwhile, answering her call had turned off the GPS screen and I missed a turned and we were lost in the Bronx. Martha was screaming at me to pull over, not knowing that we were in not in the safest of areas to do that while Beaner was still crying on the phone. Her host had left because they were making a flight to Hong Kong, and she was alone at a foreign airport with hundreds of screaming, angry people.  

I finally found a place, just barely out of speeding traffic to pull over and tell Beaner to tell the ticket agent that she had a family member who was dying and had already had one flight cancelled.  To add to the stress, this actually took about 4 calls because the calls kept dropping.  Meanwhile while 18 wheelers were speeding past us,Martha called the airline directly to say that we had told the ticket agent when we bought the ticket that it was an emergency which is why we paid the ridiculously priced gouged ticket.  Between Beaner creating quite a crying scene at the airport and Martha screaming at them on the phone, they finally agreed to give her a seat.  Another couple of hours waiting to board and she was off to Paris.

After an 11 hour sleepless flight (us, not her) she landed in France in the wee hours. Nothing was open and she just had to sit for four hours so I stayed awake and shared texts with her. Once again they made an announcement that the flight to Boston was overbooked and were looking for volunteers to get bumped. And once again she called me exhausted and crying. But fortunately enough people volunteered and she got a seat assignment.  And as a bonus some stores opened before she boarded and she got me some amazing chocolate and macaroons.  

Now just an 8 hour flight away from the states her boyfriend offered to make the 4 hour drive to Boston to pick her up. And by 4:00 on Monday, after 28 hours of travelling through 7 time zones and 2 seasons, she was finally home. She had wanted to make the one hour drive back to her apartment but we said “no”.  She could barely lift her eyelids.

Now a few days have past and we are all where we are supposed to be.  Peachie is in her new house and is decorating.  Beaner is back to work regaling in her summer tan, showing off pictures of holding an orphan lion cub, and sharing the many treats she brought back including this cool, hand carved bowl she brought me.

It is now Thursday and Martha’s blood pressure, after swallowing a bottle of meds, has returned to a non-life threatening lvel.  My FitBit tells me that my normal resting heartbeat of 61 has come down from the 76 it recorded throughout the weekend.  We have finally been able to sleep through a night without worry.

And Beaner is thinking up ways to re-pay me for getting her Out of Africa.  I believe, among other things, she will be painting the lake house this summer. And staying stateside for a while.

Monday, January 1, 2018


My first year of being fully retired.

It was the year we adopted two rescue kittens.
They are the most affectionate, cuddly kittens I’ve ever lived with. They have brought us many laughs and much joy.

I got to see Cate live on Broadway and her amazing Manifesto installation.

I shared a trip to NYC with Beaner to see her heart throb Jake Gyllenhaal in
Sunday in the Park with George.

I managed to get my entire family to Las Vegas to see Celine Dion and then went on an incredible hiking adventure with Peachie to Sedona and Page, Arizona.

We all went to Yankee Stadium on Mother’s Day to see the retirement ceremony for Derek Jeter.

I cried as I watched my favorite bonus daughter get married, with Beaner standing by her side.

Spent the lazy days of summer rebuilding the camp deck (still not finished) and enjoying sunsets at the lake.  

And hammock snoozing

Did a lot of gardening and canning the first fruits of my young orchard.

Peachie invited me to go kayaking on the Charles river in Boston.

Martha and I went to DisneyWorld without kids
and got to be kids ourselves.

I had one of my healthiest years in a while with only one trip to the hospital for a procedure to figure out why I was having esophageal pain. The procedure was unsuccessful but the symptoms subsided as mysteriously as they had appeared.

Mentally I had only a few stumbles into PTSD and quickly recovered. They were just enough of a reminder of where I’ve been, but more importantly, how far I’ve come.

After a year of having a Fitbit constantly tell me to move, hitting the gym 3 times a week, and upping my fruits and veggies, I weigh exacting 1 pound less than I did last year.  At this rate it will take me another 7 years to make my goal weight.

As for my family -

My great nephew came through some seriously scary cranial surgery with flying colors. This is him in his new helmet.

My 40 year old niece was diagnosed with breast cancer. She just had a lumpectomy and is facing 6 weeks of radiation.  Like mine, it was an aggressive tumor. Like me, early detection probably saved her life.

Beaner landed a new job with a great raise and amazing benefits, including summers off.  Come May she will be moving closer to the job and to us.  

Peachie and her boyfriend bought a new house, two blocks from the ocean. (I can’t wait to visit) They will keep the 2 family house they live in now as rental property.  And she is being courted for a new job that will require more travel but also more money and benefits.

I think they will finally be out of my wallet!!!

With all the crazy happening in the world today (it still amazes me how one man can create so much havoc) my world has been relatively calm, restorative and fun.

My resolutions for 2018 are to further reduce my environmental impact,
work harder against crazy politics, up my volunteers hours,
and most especially to challenge myself to step outside my comfort zone.

And to lose at least 1 more pound.

Here's to seeing lots of squirrels in 2018

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Full of Grace

This week I am so grateful that my 3 month old grand nephew came through his surgery with flying colors.  He was born in August and it soon became apparent that something was wrong as his head became very misshapen.  He was soon diagnosed with Craniosynostosis, a condition where the skull bones fuse together and the brain has nowhere to grow and starts popping out in weird places. As you can imagine, it has been a scary time.

But his surgery went well and his head returned to an almost normal shape after just 24 hours. He will have to wear a helmet for the next six months and may need additional surgeries but for now we are all breathing easier.

In other medical gratefulness -

  • I received a letter from my former employer stating that once again my medical insurance will be fully paid and in fact, some of my benefits have increased.  I have never paid a dime for my health insurance. Ever.  One of the best benefits of my job was that after 20 years of service, individual coverage is paid for life.

  • A letter from my insurance company stating that I used $5,600 in benefits this year. That included one procedure in the hospital, three year long prescriptions, and visits to specialists such as my oncologist, gastroenterologist and eye doctor.  My total out-of-pocket cost in co-pays and prescriptions was $344.  

I can’t even imagine the stress of people who are held hostage by insurance companies or who are facing large increases to their premiums or don’t even know if they will have insurance in the coming years.  My nephew pays over $1200 a month for family coverage!  Although I’m sure he’s glad to have it knowing he is facing years of medical intervention just for his son, it is the biggest stressor in their budget.  The growing inequities in our society, and in our world, have me deeply concerned for our future.