Tuesday, May 24, 2016


At gatherings when I notice a person not drinking, or perhaps they say something that rings a bell with me, I ask, “Are you, by any chance, a ‘Friend of Bill W' ?” Bill Wilson was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and that is the universal phrase that we in AA use to identify ourselves to fellow members. My license plate, “FRNDOFBW” is a shortened version of this and I’ve had many interesting encounters over the years with people who understand what it means.  It's usually horn honks and lots of upraised thumbs but I’ve also had a few unforgettable adventures and this is my favorite.

I was at a Stop sign waiting for a large vehicle on the main road to turn into the street I was on. He didn't have enough maneuvering room so (without looking in my rear view mirror) I backed up. BAM ! I hit something and when I got out to look I was aghast to see that it was a Sheriff’s car. The Sheriff’s deputy turned out to be a really nice guy and he'd seen that I was trying to give the other driver a little more room so he didn’t charge me with anything. “Just be sure to look in your mirror next time”, he said.

I was getting back in to my car when he added, “By the way I’m curious. What does your license plate mean?” When I told him he said that he was a great fan of AA. “I’ve seen many of the driver’s that I’ve stopped turn their lives around with the aid of that organization,” he said. Then he proceeded to chuckle and he asked me if I’d been aware of what I hit when I backed into his car? I guess I looked bewildered because he pointed to the front grille and to the sign that was affixed to it. The placard read, “BOOZE IT & LOSE IT”
“Now you’ll have a good story to tell the next time that you go to one of those meetings”, said the deputy and I agreed. I’ve told it often and it never fails to get a big laugh.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"Yeah ...

Have you seen the funny Geico Commercial where the first thing you see is a group of exhausted elderly explorers trudging their way through the snow?  

The narrator explains, in a hushed and laudatory voice, that these are intrepid explorers who are finally about to make it to the South Pole when suddenly:

they find that someone else has beat them to it – it's Dora the Explorer! The men walk away in defeat as Dora and Boots do a dance and call out “Yeah ! You did it!”

Every time I see that it reminds me of an incident with my husband Dick. We were living in NY City and had only been married about a month. He was notorious for being late to everything and I was worried because we were meeting a bunch of my work mates and I wanted everything to be perfect. We had reservations at a well known restaurant and everyone was there except Dick. We were still in line because it was a few minutes before our table would be ready and suddenly I saw him rushing to get there on time.  

Without thinking how it would sound I called out to him … “Oh, yeah, you made it. I'm so PROUD of you!” and then turned all shades of red as my friends and some of the people I didn't even know parodied me with comments like “Dickie, you're such a good boy” and “there's hope for you yet” and even “mama will show you how proud she is later !”, etc., etc. Luckily one of Dick's strong points was a great sense of humor and it didn't faze him a bit. He'd even refer to it years later as the one and only time he was ever on time !

Saturday, May 14, 2016

...to 100 and beyond !

I know, I know, there are days you can hardly make it out of bed and here I am writing about living to be over 100 !! But, wouldn’t it be neat if we could do that...and do it gracefully? (unlike the gal pictured here !!)

My info comes from a five year study of 40 seniors who had arrived at the age of 100. Two doctors followed people who were active, mentally alert, living on their own and able to care for themselves … all from the United States but from widely varied economic backgrounds. The doctors made an extensive documentation of: daily habits, lifestyles, ethnicity, weight, eating preferences, race and genetic backgrounds, as well as spiritual and religious leanings.

At the end of the five years these two doctors did a comparative study of their findings and came up with some fascinating conclusions. They found that it mattered little what the people ate or if they were prone to exercise…although they did point out that all their participants were moderate in these areas.

The exciting thing about their study is that ALL of the 40 people had four things in common and, remember, these were all people active and alert at the age of 100. The four areas of commonality are:

1. A sense of humor.

2. A positive outlook on life.

3. The ability to bear loss.

4. A total dedication to something outside of their daily life.
I would add that it helps to stay healthy too, although I know a lot of seniors who have no major illnesses and are still miserable. I'd rather follow these four easy suggestions than be like them so get ready … you might be reading this little blog for the next 17 years !!!

Monday, May 09, 2016

What money can't buy ...

Some of my friends and I were discussing life's lessons and how we came to learn them. It was a fun discussion but Ted's story won hands down for tugging at heartstrings. It was when he was in his twenties and his wife had left him in charge of their very active three year old daughter, advising him to be sure to use the harness if they went out.

Since it was close to Christmas my friend thought it would be great fun to go shopping for presents with his daughter. He could just imagine the joy that she would experience when she saw the dolls and other things that he planned to buy. He said he was sure he'd spend much more money than they could afford but, after all, it was for his little girl ! So he attached the harness and off they went.

But, sadly, the venture wasn’t turning out like he’d imagined. She barely smiled and didn’t seem particularly interested in any of the toys that he chose. She actually looked more bored than happy. He persevered, however, and his cart was overflowing with goodies when he checked out. With great care he maneuvered his little girl and the packages out to the car.

He was putting the gifts into the trunk when he felt a tug on the harness cord. He turned to see his tiny daughter squatting on the pavement and, with his heart in his mouth, he rushed to see what was wrong. Imagine his surprise when she turned to him with a radiant smile and pointed to the thing that was of such interest to her.
It was a single flower pushing it’s way up through a small crack in the pavement... a gift more precious to her than all the ones that he had bought...and a great lesson learned for my friend.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Another New York Memory...1957

Once again "Jeopardy" has tweaked my memory. The final question was in reference to a picture that hangs in a NY City hotel. The contestants saw this picture and were asked to name the Hotel.

I was struggling to get the answer when the bell rang and Alex said “It's the same hotel that hosted the famous Round Table” and I knew immediately that it had to be the Algonquin.

It also transported me back to a summer day in 1957 when I was living in NY City. I had always been interested in anything to do with writing (I graduated from Boston University in 1954 with a degree in Journalism) and was fascinated with the stories I read about the famous luncheons at the Algonquin that were attended daily by a group of celebrated writers, critics and actors. 

The group dubbed themselves “The Vicious Circle” (also the name of the picture, above, by Natalie Ascencios) and they met each day at the Algonquin for 10 years starting in 1919. They would try to outdo each other with witty remarks and practical jokes so you can imagine what a challenge it would be to be part of that group.

On the day that I found myself in front of the Algonquin I decided to make it a memorable event. I geared up my courage and, hoping I looked like I knew where I was going, I strolled right past the doorman and took a seat in the elaborate lobby. It wasn't long before the manager appeared and asked “if there was someway that he could help Madam (me !)” I put on my most indulgent smile and thanked him for his concern but advised him that my “date” should be arriving soon.  

After about an hour of people watching and just plain loving the atmosphere I made a big show of looking at my watch and rising in disgust. Obviously my friend had stood me up and, hoping I'd fooled the manager, I stormed out. He may have been fooled but the big wink that the doorman gave me as I left made it pretty obvious that he wasn't !

Friday, April 29, 2016

THE POWER of SMELL... My first memory...1936 (?)

I have tried very hard to recall my early days but I honestly don't know what I actually can remember as opposed to those things that were retold so many times in my family that they seem to be MY memories. I am not able to go back much further than when I was 6 or 7 years old. The years before that seem to be lost to me...except for this amazing experience.

I have heard that the primary sense is that of smell...and I can attest to that. When I was very young my family and I went to Brattleboro, Vt. to visit my mother's family. I know this is true because we have pictures to prove it and it is also recorded in my Aunt Emma's diaries. I must have been 3 or 4 at the time and I have no conscious memory of that visit.

HOWEVER...many years later I became aware of a very strange smell...it seemed to be a combination of three odors...the pungent smell of new sawn lumber, the slightly gamey smell of lamb being roasted in the oven and the almost sickly sweet smell of maple syrup bubbling on the stove. I was immediately transported to the kitchen of my grandparents in Brattleboro. The sensation was so strong that I felt like I could reach out and touch them...and I actually remembered being there. It was a swift but powerful memory and then it receded almost as quickly as it came..

The interesting thing is that Grandpa was a carpenter and had a shop and wood lathe in a large room off of the kitchen. They also had a "sugaring-off" business and would tap the maple trees and boil the sap into syrup on the wood stove in the kitchen.. The smell of lamb being roasted?? Perhaps that was the special meal being prepared for our visit.

Whatever it was, I have only smelled that combination two times in my 83 years and each time it has pulled me back to that warm and loving kitchen of my childhood.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A compassionate man …

This is a picture of Judge Lou Olivera of the Cumberland County Veterans Treatment court in Fayetteville, NC. Ft. Bragg is in this district and it is also very close to where I live. It is seldom that I hear anything heartwarming about this area but this is the exception and I can't wait to relate it to you.

It happened last week when a veteran who had served three tours of duty in Afghanistan came before the judge for violating the terms of his probation. The man was shaking and appeared to the judge to be suffering from PTSD. He knew that he had to sentence him but, as he studied him he was reminded of a story that he had read. 

It was about a soldier with PTSD who had fallen into a deep hole. His family and a therapist had thrown a rope down to him but the vet was too upset to understand what to do. Finally a fellow veteran jumps into the hole with him. The suffering soldier asks, “why are you down here?” and the fellow vet replies “I am here to climb out with you.”

Judge Olivera decided to sentence the man to an overnight stay in the local jail, and then, to the surprise of everyone, he joined him there. They sat side by side on the cot in the cell and talked all night. After spending that time with the judge the suffering vet had this to say: “I cannot even put into words how I feel about him. I look at him as a father. I've seen a lot of things and this is by far the most compassionate thing I've ever seen anyone give to anybody. I will never let him down again.”