Thursday, June 30, 2011

1963...The DR’s ORDERS I should have ignored

In 1963 our family moved to upstate New York. We needed a family doctor ... primarily for Dick, my husband, who was a Type 1, very brittle, diabetic. Endocrinologists were unknown then and we settled on a sweet and kindly country doctor.

Our “getting-to-know-each-other” visit went well and he gave us two recommendations that he felt would ease our lives;

#1 was addressed to me. He said that diabetics react adversely to stress and that I could make Dick’s life much easier if I were to always keep a calm house-hold and try not to argue or do anything that would upset him…i.e.: ‘keep the peace at any cost”.

#2 was in answer to his question about our lifestyle. Did we smoke or drink? “No” to the smoking and “yes” to the drinking, but only on weekends or when we were out socializing. His advice was to either quit drinking completely or to have just one drink a day but do it every day. He felt that keeping the same daily pattern would help Dick regulate his insulin intake.

“Not drinking” was never an option since we’d never had a problem with it. So … now we were daily drinkers, seldom adhering to the “one drink”, and our house-hold was as calm as I could possibly make it with three small children and a brand new Real Estate business that we were trying to make work.

I guess you can see where I’m heading with this. I convinced myself that I could never express my feelings for fear that it would “upset the apple cart” and, as the years passed I regressed further and further into myself. We were like many couples who find themselves not side by side, sharing a household but little else.

The children were a great diversion and we kept our energies concentrated on them. We never lost our love for each other or for the family unit but I found myself relying more and more on our nightly “one drink” to keep everything under control .

The handwriting was on the wall. The slow and insidious trek toward addiction had begun and it would be 26 years before I could no longer deny it. In 1989 I went into rehab and, with the help of the amazing program of AA, I’ve had 22 years of sober living. It’s been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done but it’s also been the most rewarding.

If any of you who read this can identify PLEASE get help now. Don’t waste year after year like I did and, be assured …

If I can do it anyone can !

Sunday, June 26, 2011

“To the conqueror …” 1964

In 1964 my husband, myself and our three children made the big transition from an apartment in New York City to a lakeside home in "small town, USA". It was a culture shock, to say the least, but we loved the sounds and sights of the lake. In many ways it seemed to be noisier than the city, especially at night when the night critters kept up a constant din.

We thought we were attuned to these sounds until one Spring morning when we were awakened before dawn by a strange noise. It was difficult to place where it came from, but it sounded very much like the rustling of many newspapers.

As the dawn brightened we were able to discern three ducks in the water very close to shore. Two of the ducks were fighting...the thrashing of their wings producing the strange rustling sounds. The other duck was at a discreet distance...aloof to the whole sordid affair and we finally figured out what was happening.

Obviously these were two male ducks fighting for the attention of the fair, feathery maiden. We watched in amazement as the battle played out and finally one of the ducks gave up and skulked off. The duck-duel was over and the winner could claim his prize.

I don't know what we expected at this point...perhaps a tender touching of bills or a graceful encircling of two ducks in ecstasy. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

The male duck swam behind the female and proceeded to prod and nudge her on her feathered rump. He was anything but gentle as he pushed her along toward the middle of the lake for one and all to see.

"After all", he seemed to be saying, "I am the conqueror and to the conqueror go the spoils........"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE … a senior’s thought process.

My mother and the American flag ... why do I pair them here? Because they conjure up a fond memory and one that I’d like to share with you.

This picture of my mother is when she was in her early 80’s. I wish I had one when she was 92 (when my story takes place) but this will have to do.

She was really a wonderful mother and you can see that she had a sweet demeanor. She outlived my father by many years and was quite independent until inevitably she had to move to an assisted living area and finally, in her 90’s to a nursing home.

It was at this time that she completely lost her memory. Of course this saddened us but she was quite content so we’d hide our sense of loss when we visited and she was always happy to see us, although she had no idea that we were her daughters.

I remember so clearly the lovely Spring day that I took her for a short wheelchair ride outside. We stopped near a bench where I could sit and, although I tried to keep up a happy dialogue, I could tell that Mother was agitated about something. “It’s wrong...all wrong...” she kept muttering and I had no idea what she meant.

Finally she pointed to the flagpole and it became clear. There was our beloved American flag UPSIDE DOWN on the pole. The interesting part is that the flag was in full view for everyone coming and going from the rest home but it was my mother who caught the flaw. She may have lost her memories but she knew when something wasn’t right!

They never could figure out how the flag was hoisted up that way but they soon put it to right and thanked my mother mightily for her keen eyesight.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

SMALL SPACE LIVING … and a solution.

I live in a small house with no useable attic or cellar area so storage has always been a problem. I do have a pantry and an area where I have my washer and dryer and lots of shelves for things like paints, household items, etc, but, other than that I only have two medium sized closets. (Plenty of space for me now but a challenge when the whole family was here.)

The house didn’t have an indoor bathroom when it was built in 1902 and the one it had when we bought it in 1978 was very rudimentary. It was wedged at the end of the wide central hallway and actually had a door in it that opened to a small porch.

It was my husband who came up with the idea of enclosing the porch and using that area for storage. That was a great idea but after remodeling the existing bathroom I didn’t want an ugly old door on the INSIDE of that room. We tossed ideas around and I think it was my oldest son who came up with the idea of the “hidden door”... and here it is:

This is my shelf door and it’s held many different displays over the years…(especially nice at Christmas time). Right now the bathroom theme is Mexican. And here you see that it is, indeed, a door and opens right into the storage area.

This was a clever and easy way to solve our problem.

Almost no one realizes that it’s actually a door and I’ve had fun with that over the years. I even have a friend who brought her grandchildren over to see if they could find my “secret room” ...

... which they didn’t, by the way !

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


If you’re ever in Moore County, North Carolina, on a Tuesday night you might want to check this out. Blue Grass, Country, Gospel and just plain pickin’ and singin’ are all jumbled up in this amazing venue.

It’s in the heart of Pottery Country ... just six miles West of Carthage. The first thing you’ll see when you approach the barn are the haphazardly parked cars lining the street and people of all ages streaming into the large barn. Many of them carry violins, banjos and other musical instruments and the click, click of some shoes indicates that there are cloggers among them.

There’s no admission charge and no formal program for the evening. The people arriving with instruments are the ones who will provide the entertainment. Each group gets approximately ½ hour. It all starts around 5 pm and goes on until all have had a chance to play.

The quality of the local talent is pretty impressive. The night we were there I heard a cello rendition of “The House of the Rising Sun” that was outstanding. It’s actually considered a great honor to play at the Clyde Maness’ barn and it‘s not unusual for a well known Country or Blue Grass star to show up unannounced.

The audience is made up of country folk who know their music and they’re not shy about it either. The aisles fill up with people of all ages dancing and clapping to their heart’s content. At some point a basket is passed for donations and people pay what they can afford.

It’s a far cry from Broadway ... but for good clean “down home” entertainment it can’t be beat.

Friday, June 10, 2011

HALCYON DAYS … before the fall

This is a poignant poster advertising the 1962 award winning movie “Days of Wine and Roses”. All these many years later I still think that it’s one of the most powerful movies ever to address the problems of alcoholism and the family involvement.

Jack Lemmon plays a public relations man, Joe, whose work life revolves around wining and dining his clients. His ability to consume alcohol seems boundless and he‘s sure that it makes him a vibrant and top notch ad man. When he meets Kirsten (Lee Remick) she prefers chocolate to alcohol but he quickly convinces her that Brandy Alexanders (made up of brandy and creme de cocoa) are just as delicious and much more “fun”.

They eventually marry but their love is insufficient to prevent them from the downward spiral that alcohol brings to them. After a near-death escapade Joe is visited by a man from AA and he starts the long journey to put his life back on a sober path. Unfortunately Kirsten has sunk too far into addiction and is incapable of this. It is truly heartbreaking to watch her demise.

In 1994 Jack Lemmon was the guest star on the Bravo TV show “Inside the Actors Studio”. The host, James Lipton, asked him if he had a favorite role and he said it was the role of Joe in “Days of Wine and Roses” and especially the part where he stood up in the AA meeting and he said “my name is Joe and I’m an alcoholic.”

“Which I am, incidentally”, he went on to say and when Mr. Lipton asked “Are you talking as Joe or as Jack Lemmon?” he replied, “No, as Jack Lemmon. I’m an alcoholic.” James Lipton was taken completely unaware and says that Mr. Lemmon's quiet admission was one of the most powerful moments that he’s ever had on his show.

The movie and it’s stars were nominees for Oscars in 1963 and, though the stars didn’t win, the song “Days of Wine and Roses” (written by Henry Mancini and words by Johnny Mercer) was a winner. The film may be old but the message is timeless and the song will always be one of my very favorites.

Monday, June 06, 2011


Here are some of the winners of this year’s Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational. The readers were asked to pick a word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or changing ONE letter and then supplying a new definition:

Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating

The Washington Post also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words. Here are some of them:

Coffee, n. …The person upon whom one coughs.

Flabbergasted, adj. … Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained..

Abdicate, v. … To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

Esplanade, v. … To attempt an explanation while drunk..

Willy-nilly, adj. … Impotent.

Pokemon, n. … A Rastafarian proctologist

Thursday, June 02, 2011

“FUR FLYERS” New York City, 1963

This could be a sketch of my good friend Jimmi G. back in the 60’s. She passed away 3 years ago and my world is a little dimmer because of that.

Jimmi was an imposing character. We met in NY City shortly after I was married and as I went on to have three babies she went on to accrue a tidy nest egg in the antique business. The disparity in our lives mattered little to us and we remained close friends.

Jimmie was forever looking for new outlets for her creativity and in the early ’60’s she hit on an idea that took off like wildfire. She took her accumulated cash and traveled through New England and the East Coast buying up vintage fur hats and coats. Many of them were missing buttons and some had even come apart at the seams. None of this discouraged her. She had an idea and to watch it come to fruition was exciting.

She came back to New York driving her old wooden-sided station wagon packed to the brim with fur items. She was a savvy buyer and had paid little to nothing for her purchases. Most people were happy to get rid of their musty, old outer wear and were thrilled to have made a dollar or two on the exchange.

The next thing on Jimmi’s agenda was a store front and she found the perfect one on 8th St, near Greenwich Village. She named her store “Fur Flyers” and opened for business on a windy, Fall day. A good friend of ours was a writer for “The Village Voice” and he gave her a great send-off. Within days it was apparent that Jimmi’s store was the “talk of the town” and it became the “in” thing to be seen in a vintage item from “Fur Flyers”.

It is interesting to note that a store of this sort in New York City could never be successful in today’s climate. Anti-fur Societies would be in an uproar. But it is just as interesting to note that Jimmi (who loved animals) would have found this ludicrous. To her mind she was not advocating the killing of animals to make clothing...

...she was merely practicing the age old art of re-cycling.