Remembering Mom and Dad

This Mother's Day weekend I remember both my mother and my dad. My dad was born on May 7, 1903 in Poland (the first location in my historical fiction work). He died at age 72 from cancer of the bile duct system. My mother, born on February 12, 2008 in Lithuania, died at age 94 from old age.  Lucky for me, they met and married in Chicago Illinois, making me and my brother and sister first generation Americans. Here are a few photos of them.     … [Read more...]

Renewed hope for 2014

For our belated holiday lunch our writing group leader asked us to provide each other with the  "GIFT OF WORDS!!! - give everyone a gift of a short essay less than 1000 words that reads to the theme of New - as in Newness, New Year, new promises, memories of new years past, debauchery of new years past, hopes for the new year, new cars, new loves, anything that evokes the freshness & hope of something new!" Here's mine. About how my hope was renewed even in the face of deep sorrow. 2013 was a year with too much traveling, too many surgeries for my husband, and the deaths of two long-time cherished friends. Because those deaths happened in December  – one funeral was on New Year’s Eve day, and Shiva took place in the first few days of the New Year – I haven’t had much enthusiasm for writing about “newness” and “the freshness and hope of something new.” However, while thinking about writing this piece I’ve realized how much children – babies all the way up to … [Read more...]

2013 reflections

I like to reflect a bit at the beginning of a new year, so here goes. 2013 for me and my family was a mixed bag. My husband Bob and I traveled a lot – I think more than any other year in our lives together (to Denver three times to visit family; to London, Kenya, Tanzania, Dubai and Paris with dear friends; to Oakland to spend a weekend with another friend, and this month to Savannah, Charleston, Miami Beach on our own, and then on a Caribbean cruise – again with our family – all sixteen of us). We also hosted several rounds of visitors – cousins and friends – who stayed in the guest room of our home. Bob had two surgeries in 2013 – a complete hip replacement in early January (that made the bells and whistles go off every time he went through an airline security check) and carpel tunnel in late November. And even though the timing was very soon before we left on our Africa plus trip, I drove up to Big Sur California on my own to take a poetry workshop at the Esa … [Read more...]

New traditions for our 2011 holidays

Now that I’ve ordered our Thanksgiving turkey, I’ve started to think about the holidays. They are always hard for me since we don’t have Paul with us, but this year’s Thanksgiving will be different and I suspect very wonderful. We’re sharing it with our daughter-in-law Marissa’s family. Everyone will come to our house and bring their Thanksgiving specialty dish to share. I’m the turkey, gravy, stuffing, and cranberries person. The rest is up to our ten guests. I can’t wait to try some new foods, get to know my new family better, and perhaps start a new Thanksgiving tradition. A friend of mine recently sent me this piece about ways to change our holiday gift giving traditions. I think there are a lot of good ideas here. If you agree, please share them with your family and friends. Maybe we can show we care about each other in a whole new way this year. The Holidays 2011 -- Birth of a New Tradition As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking … [Read more...]

It’s not always about me

It’s time to get out of the funk. It’s time to concentrate on my writing work – the thing I always turn to get me out of the deep mud. Last week I began working on my novel again and I’m fulfilling my goal of writing about 300 words a day. That’s just about enough since I still am writing my own blog plus pieces for other sites. I just love having so much writing work to do. I can’t think of a better way for me to spend my time. But my life isn’t all about work. Last weekend we saw Mozart’s “Cos Fan Tutte” (Women Are All Alike). It is categorized as opera buppa – comical opera. And it fits that definition perfectly. The most comical parts for me were the five characters singing all at once but singing different words with Mozart’s brilliant score keeping up with them. The plot is hysterical though at times uncomfortable. The two main male characters are convinced that they must test their lover’s fidelity, but in finding out that the women, who are “all … [Read more...]

Happy Holidays to all

Choices will be off the air until Monday, December 27. In the meantime I want to share one of my "winter solstice" gifts. A nice addition to my Buddha collection. Ganesh - the Hindu god of success Here's wishing you all a happy, healthy, and successful new year. … [Read more...]

A big confront – holiday cards

Madeline, Ben, Marissa, Bob - August 14, 2010 Holiday cards and greeting cards in general have been difficult since Paul died. Before it was always easy to sign them with all our family names: Madeline, Bob, Paul, and Ben. And for a very long time after he died, I just couldn’t sign Madeline, Bob, and Ben – if I sent out cards at all. It just didn’t seem right. Also I certainly wasn’t up for sending a family photo with our holiday cards like the many cards we receive every year. I think the last time I sent out a holiday photo card was in 1993, six years before Paul died. That is until this year. I bit the bullet this year and sent out a holiday photo card that shows our new family of four: Madeline, Ben, Marissa, and Bob. And I sent it out with joy. Marissa joined our family in August, and we couldn’t be happier. … [Read more...]

Lost and found

Here's the Lost part: On one of the first days of our trip and coincidentally on my birthday I carelessly left my laptop behind at the security checkpoint as we were getting ready to board a flight to Washington DC from Chicago. Seconds later, as shown on the surveillance tape, a large African American man dressed in Army fatigues with sunglasses perched upon his bald head, took it. So, of course when I realized I didn’t have it about 20 minutes later and went back to the checkpoint to see if I could find it there, it was gone. Unfortunately, the TSA folks and the Chicago police began to help much too late to find the man still in the airport. Before its theft became a cause célèbre he was long gone. First, the TSA guy at the security checkpoint gave me a number to call for the security folks upstairs. When I called they said they would look at the tapes and call me back. That took about a half hour. They then called the Chicago police and asked me to meet an officer back at … [Read more...]

Trip pix

Some of my readers have been asking for photos from our recent trip. Here are a few of the things I found most interesting: The Starn Banboo installation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (now I said interesting, not that I particularly liked it) The London Eye -- this was our second trip on it. The dragon spire in Copenhagen (for some reason I got caught up with spires, ceilings, and roofs) The Absolut Ice Bar in Stockholm -- and the vodka was almost non-existent The amphitheater in Tallin Estonia where tens of thousands gather to sing The paper mache chandelier at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg The monument to Sebelius in Helsinki -- a favorite composer during my college days The regatta in Oslo (through the rain drops on the ship's window) The Prince Albert Memorial in the Kensington Gardens The sea of trees of Central Park as seen from our hotel room in NYC Notice anything? Yes, most of the photos show dark … [Read more...]

The sad tale of the travelling dress

Pretty dress even though it's a little wrinkly, right? Well, it should be a little wrinkly and worn out by now. After all, it travelled half way across the world. And, unfortunately it never came off the hanger. Why is that, you might ask. Well, see that little white thing on the left side, just under the bust line. That's a security tag. Yep, that's right. I bought it at Nordstorm especially for one of the formal occasions on our recent cruise. The Nordstrom seamstress shortened and took it in a bit, and the salesperson packed it up for me in a garment bag, and all the while neither noticed the tag was still on. Sure, I should have checked as well or least gotten a warning alarm as I took it out of the store with that pesky thing still attached. And, I never noticed it was there until I was ready to put it on somewhere in the Gulf of Finland. And then it was too late. My husband immediately went to the dress store on the ship and asked for help, but the salesperson's reaction … [Read more...]

Towel art

My husband and I just returned from a cruise to Northern Europe, visiting Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallin, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Oslo. We were pampered royally on Cunard's newest ship, the Queen Victoria. One of the people who helped make us feel like royalty was the young woman, named Santa, who took care of our room. Santa, from Latvia, worked about 12 hours a day or more with most of her days starting out on the balcony scrubbing away any precipitation that accumulated during the night. And, no matter when I saw her, she always had a smile and a happy greeting for me. One day late morning we came back to our state room and found an adorable towel scupture on our freshly made up bed -- hand made by Santa. Not only is this young woman a hard worker she has a wonderful artistic touch. We were indeed enthralled by her on all counts. … [Read more...]

Save the elephants

One of our first stops across the Atlantic during our 40th anniversary celebratory trip was in London. Throughout the city were large fiberglass elegantly painted elephants that will be auctioned off later this year. All proceeds will go to saving the elephants. Here are a couple of examples. … [Read more...]

Happy New Year!

Some end of year thoughts, prayers, wishes: that we visit my brother-in-law very soon that my next door neighbor has an easy journey that Annie’s neck heals properly and quickly that Jason continues on the road to recovery that Tony is all well by now that Lizzie and Zach bring a baby into their family – by adoption or ??? that we spend most of the month of May on vacation and, that Ben and Marissa live happily ever after. We have a wedding coming up this summer. We all have that wonderful event to look forward to. Bring in the LIGHT in 2010. … [Read more...]

Back from Denver — there’s no place like home

I was expecting cold, and what I got was COLD. And today, my last day to be there, it was so snowy, that I decided I had to get out FAST. After a few quick calls to the airline and family members, I changed my flight to the 1:00 instead of the 4:30. But until we were in in the air -- after an hour and a half wait to take off -- I really had my doubts that I'd make it out of town in time to take Bob to his date for knee surgery tomorrow. Even so, the visit with family was wonderful. It's just their choice of a place to live that I find a problem. As I've said before, we all make our choices. And, it's very clear, some folks make choices that are not necessarily in sync with our own. But, that's a story for another time. Right now I'm relaxing on my family room couch, blogging, reading the Sunday paper, and glad that I won't wake up tomorrow to a snowy landscape yet again. Sure, the snow is beautiful, but not in my backyard. … [Read more...]

Weekend diversions

Last night we saw "Farragut North" at the Geffen. Chris Noth, who plays Mr. Big in the Sex and the City TV series and films, and Chris Pine, who recently played Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek movie, starred. It’s a political satire about a press secretary aspiring to be a successful campaign manager like his boss. It is quite fast paced and smart, but I thought the second act and the Pine character’s temper tantrum dragged on much too long. The playwright is working on it as a screen play, and I think he has a lot of work to do. Plus, I was very disappointed in Noth as a stage actor. This is a big beautiful guy who comes off very well on screen, but his voice just isn’t strong enough for theater. We were in the fifth row, and he hardly projected to there. Even so he still looked beautiful. And, today while Bob played golf I went to see "My Sister’s Keeper" – a film I could never interest him in seeing. It is definitely a tearjerker. I believe the script was taken from a … [Read more...]

Esalen one more time

For those of you who don't know anything about Esalen, here's what the brochure says: Esalen - a convergence of mountains and sea, mind, and body, East and West, meditation and action Esalen - a center for alternative education, a forum for transformational practices, a restorative retreat, a worldwide community of seekers Dedicated to exploring work in the humanities and sciences that furthers the full realization of the human potential, Esalen offers public workshops, residential work-study programs, invitational conferences, and independent projects that support its mission As a center designed to foster personal and social transformation, Esalen offers those who join the chance to explore more deeply the world and themselves. For me it's all of those things and more. … [Read more...]

After Esalen

Esalen Garden Since 1999 I had been going to Esalen in Big Sur at least once a year and sometimes twice. And, for some unknown reason I broke that habit in 2008. Thankfully I went back this past week after skipping a year and found all that I love about Esalen still there: a breathtakingly beautiful location on a cliff overlooking the ocean, soothing sulfur hot springs, a writing workshop led by generous leaders – Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, and Joseph Millar – and fellow writers whose excellent work was both inspiring and courageous. I started each day of my stay there with a long walk through the Esalen grounds to the back entrance, onto the highway for another mile and a half, back the way I came, and my reward for all that hard exercise work, a relaxing soak in a hot outdoor stone tub. After breakfast, all 34 of us in the workshop gathered together to hear a craft talk – this year they were on list poems, truth and beauty, and writing with a personal voice – got our … [Read more...]

People watching

Traveling provides a wonderful opportunity for people watching and wondering what their lives are like. I just got home from a weeklong business trip, and I must say I'm glad to be home. In fact, home never looked so good. I usually find an opportunity to write poems when I'm traveling. (Though not this time.) Here's one I wrote during one of my last vacation trips while sitting in a bar in Bilbau, Spain. I did a lot of wondering about the man sitting in the corner. I could barely take my eyes off of him. The Man in the Bar He sits at the corner table He doesn’t drink He looks straight ahead Or at his lap as he smokes His hand goes To his mouth Away from his mouth Tick-tock To his mouth Away from his mouth Tick-tock A puff and then away Then back Tick-tock A puff and then away Then back. Tick-tock He gets up, pulls his shoulder bag Across his body He looks down, mutters to himself His eyes rimmed with dark circles Looks down, His hand clutches … [Read more...]

Movie marathon weekend

We saw three films this past weekend in an effort to see as many Oscar nominated performances as possible before the awards show on Sunday night. We didn't see them all, but came pretty close. Here's the run-down: “Doubt” on Friday night -- I loved it – even though we saw the play. The script was very much fleshed out for the movie – the playwright did the screenplay so the story was consistent. And the acting was phenomenal – all the nominated actors – Meryl Streep for best actress, Amy Adams and Viola Davis each for best supporting actress, and Philip Seymour Hoffman for best supporting actor – all deserved their nominations. However, none of them won. Meryl and Amy showed their versatility because earlier in the year they each appeared in very different kinds of roles. And Hoffman is like a chameleon – he can be anyone he wants. Yes, Streep is a cameleon too. “Frozen River” on Saturday afternoon -- This is a small independent film that I rented from Block … [Read more...]

Curiously satisfying

We saw another one of the films nominated for an Academy Award yesterday – “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” I really wasn’t all that anxious to see this film until it was nominated for 13 Academy Awards. With those many awards there has to be some good things about it. And actually, there are a lot of good things. Even though the story line is very weird – living a life backwards – the way it was portrayed was very beautiful. Plus a lot of the acting was superb – Cate Blanchett, Julia Ormond, Tarajii P. Henson, Jared Harris. However, I didn’t think Brad Pitt deserved an Academy Award nomination for his performance. He was really just being Brad Pitt kind of sleep walking through his lines whether he was portraying Benjamin as an old man or young. What deserves an Academy Award is the person who did the makeup. Not only did some of the characters need aging they needed to look younger than their years. And, that was pulled off brilliantly. I also think Blanche … [Read more...]