I. Am. So. Stylin.

How much would you pay for this?

How much would you pay for this?

I always suspected that somewhere, deep down, I was a stylish woman.  I mean, you might not realize it the first time you meet me, and I’m wearing worn out LL Bean jeans and an “I Love History” Tshirt.

And just because I couldn’t name a single fashion designer to save my life….Well. Does that really matter?

OK, so my idea of “dressing up” means wearing either black jeans or blue corduroys. So what?  I am a regular fashion maven.

You see, way back in about 1971, I realized that denim was my friend. It never wrinkles, the older it gets, the cooler it looks, and it was (at the time) totally in style. So I made the one and only fashion decision of my life. I bought denim.

And I kept buying it.  For the past 44 or so years, every time I have shopped, I seem to have come home with more denim.

I have jeans, denim shorts, denim shirts.  I have two….um, three denim jackets, a denim vest.  I have a denim sun hat. I even have a beautiful embroidered denim blouse with silk panels.

I like denim.  Have I made that clear?

So you can imagine my delight when I saw an article in the Boston Sunday Globe entitled, “That 70’s Skirt”.  It had a bunch of photos of denim skirts.  One of them looked, I am not kidding, exactly like my long jeans skirt, pictured above.  It was labelled as “Cool” and it came with a price tag of $245 dollars!!!!!


I am, like, a total fashionista!   I knew it all along!!!

I now know two things.

#1.  If you wait long enough, all your old clothes come back into fashion. So every 45 years, I’ll be totally in style.  The next time around, I’ll be the coolest, most fashionable 110 year old woman in the country.

#2. I could clean out my closets and make enough money to pay off my mortgage and car loans all at once.

I do so love denim!

My misanthropic dreams

I love words. I love how they feel on my tongue and how they hiss on their way past my lips.

I love their meanings, their symbolism, their ability to grab an emotion and wrap it in luscious sound so that it brings pleasure just to say it out loud.

“I am”, I pause, “a misanthrope.”

Right now, I am.  I am, truly, an old curmudgeon who loves no human company.   I walk into the darkness of my bedroom, the TV noise fading behind me. I cross into the shadowy bathroom, closing the door so that I feel alone.  I don’t turn on the light.

I lean on edge of the sink, my palms holding me upright as I gaze at my shadowed face in the mirror.

“I am a misanthrope.”, I say.  I nod to myself in response, gray hair lifting in the breeze of the open window.

“I don’t like anyone.”, I tell the frowning face who looks back at me from the dark mirror.  “Not. Anyone.”


I don’t want to talk to anyone, please anyone, feed anyone, hug anyone, give to anyone any more.

I want to buy a tiny house on the beach, where I will spend my days collecting shells on the waterline, and my nights gazing at the stars in the silence of my living room.


I don’t want to smile or chat or agree or coddle or suck up or reassure or support or argue.

I want to be the only human in my world.


What a word.  What a wonderfully awful word.

  1. a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society.

What? A fat THUMB?!

1310261210I swear to God, I am not one of those women who obsesses over my looks.

I’m not.

If I was one of those women, would I really be letting my hair go totally gray before my daughter’s wedding?  Would I be sitting here right now eating all of the leftover Jordan almonds from her shower?

No.  I would not.

I am not vain.

I am a realist.

I understand perfectly well that even though I used to be pretty and svelte and curvy I have now degraded into lumpy but loveable.

The world is far too fixated on physical beauty.  In such a shallow environment, I pride myself on the fact that I am spiritually beautiful.

(Please don’t ask what that means: just work with me here, OK?)

Still, there is a certain level of personal pride that one must maintain.   I remember a long, long, long, long time ago, when I had my first boyfriend.  I drove him home from a drama club rehearsal, and he asked me out on a date.  I was thrilled; at 17, he was an older man, and I almost swooned at the compliment of being asked out by an upperclassman.  Later, after our first dinner and a movie, he told me that he first noticed me when he looked at my “graceful hands” holding the steering wheel of my 1968 Dodge Dart (with the pushbutton transmission).  Holy romance, what a compliment!

I guess I’ve somehow kept those lovely words in mind for the past 40 years, because right now I am in the depths of depression, and its all because of a pair of yellow rubber gloves.

You see, my nails are all split and peeling, and my cuticles are a mess. I like to garden and I really like to shove my hands right straight into the dirt to pull up weeds and to plant the flowers that I just bought.  I love the feel of the earth under my nails.  I love the smell of grass on my hands when I fall asleep.

But I know that gardening with my bare hands makes the whole “graceful hands” thing seem impossible.  So last week I wrote the words “rubber gloves” on my shopping list, and sent my darling husband off to get the groceries.

He came home with every single item that I had requested, so there was no room for even the slightest complaint.

Until I looked at the package of rubber gloves and saw the word “medium” on the box.

Ruh, roh.

I am used to seeing “Large”, “X-large” and even “Jumbo-you-freakin’-whale” on my clothes.  I even have wicked big shoes.  I didn’t think that “medium” would make the grade.  But I didn’t want to complain!

So we ate our dinner and we cleaned up together in companionable silence.  Then I pulled on the “medium gloves”.  Phew! They seemed to fit! Granted, they were more cozy than my old pair had been, but they let me wash the dishes and pans, scrub the broiler and clean the sink, all without exposing my peeling old nails to the hot water.  I was feeling pretty good about life when I finished.  Pretty slim and trim, in my bright yellow latex medium gloves.

Then I turned off the water and tried to take off those cozy gloves.  Nuh, uh.  I couldn’t do it!  My pointer finger slipped out just fine, as did the ring finger, the nasty old middle finger and mister tiny pinky.

It was my thumb that was held hostage to the “medium” rubber coating.  I pulled, I slid, I coaxed. Nothing doing.  My thumb was firmly trapped in the glove.  After trying every trick I could summon, I finally pulled the gloves inside out to free my thumbs.

My obviously way-too-fat thumbs.  My porkie thumbs.


I have come to terms with my jowls, my thighs, my waistline and my prow-of-an-icebreaker-bosom.  Now I have to deal with a wicked fat thumb?


I sort of regret that first compliment from that first boyfriend.

And I really regret not doing the shopping myself last week!

What bucket?

This is the bucket where I keep my list.

This is the bucket where I keep my list.


Apparently, everybody is now supposed to have a “bucket list”.  I constantly hear people talking about theirs, and asking me about mine.

Let me just see if I understand this correctly.  As a happy, well-adjusted adult in the prime of life, I am supposed to create a list of things I’d like to accomplish and enjoy before I (ahem) “kick the bucket”.   Right?

OK.  I get the general idea.  Don’t just sit back and wait for adventure, blah-blah.  Grab for all the gusto, yada-yada.

I’m on board with all that.  Really!  I absolutely believe that we make our own happiness, and that we all need to live our lives fully and richly.  We need to pursue our dreams.

I get it!

But here’s what I just don’t get.

Why does everybody seem to think that every item on my “bucket list” is supposed to scare the hell out of me?  Why do all the lists I see involve things like ziplining in the Amazon forest, or jumping out of an airplane?  I’ve read some of those “bucket list” blogs and articles!

People are doing things like riding every roller coaster in the country!   Or break dancing in the middle of Central Park!

That kind of thing is not exactly me. You know? In fact, that kind of thing is the kind of thing that makes me run screaming into the night.

Sometimes an opportunity to do something dangerous exciting comes up in my life, and friends start chirping “bucket list”!  And I start shaking my head and backing out the door, saying “nope, uh-uh, no way, not me”.

And then I feel like a wimp.  Or worse, I feel like someone who doesn’t fully appreciate the richness of life.

But I do!

And I do have my own little “bucket list”. Its just that mine is….well…on the tame side.

Some time in my life, before I die, I want to live right on the beach. I want to walk the shore at dawn, when everything is silent and calm.  I want to sit on my deck and watch a full moon rise over the open sea.

Before I leave this life, I want to take my grandchildren to Disney. I want to ride on Dumbo the Elephant again, and spin in the teacups and eat ice cream at Epcot.  I want to watch the neon lights of the Main Street Parade while holding the hand of a toddler.

On my bucket list I have items like swimming in a lake with my dogs, off of any leashes. Things like growing a successful eggplant or singing the Hallelujah Chorus without looking at the music.

I know.  These things are a little simple, a little dull.

But my bucket list is peaceful.  And it is mine.

People may shake their heads and shrug their shoulders at me, but I don’t care.  My bucket is filled with activities that won’t cause me to kick it, and that’s what really counts!

Universal motherhood.



I love history.  I do.  I love gazing at old photos, imagining the experiences of those who lived their lives so many years before my own.

I love thinking about what they felt, what they thought, what they dreamed. I can imagine them growing up, marrying, working, aging. I can picture them falling in love and dreaming and laughing and planning their futures.

But it seems beyond my wildest imagining to think that the ladies in the pictures above were ever young mothers, like I was. It seems impossible to think of them cradling their precious new babies, the way I did once.

All of these women lived in the very same town where I live. All of them had children. All of them were once new moms.

Somehow, though, it seems beyond belief to picture them rocking a crying child in the darkest part of the night, thinking, “I don’t know how to make him feel better!  I need my mother!”

I look at their faces, frozen in the black and white images of history. They look solid, assured, secure in themselves.  Their clothes are just right, there hair is orderly, neat, stylish.

They are no-nonsense.  They are confident.  They are adults.

When I was the same age as these women, perhaps a hundred years after they walked the streets of our town, I was muddled, insecure, unkempt.  My hair stood up in messy tufts. My clothes were wrinkled and stained.  It took all of my strength to keep my babies fed; I could spare no effort toward making a good impression.

I hold these old photos in my hand. I gaze intently at the faces of the women in them.  I wonder, “Did you cry when your firstborn went to school?”  It seems unlikely, somehow.   I ask them, softly, “Did you think about how quiet your life would be when they grew up?”   They look so resolute, so determined.  Surely these were women who gave birth with the intention of creating solid adults.  Surely they were too grounded in life’s realities to think about such silly whimsies.

I rub a finger over the face of the lady with the stern uplifted bun.  I squint my eyes, and suddenly I see it.  Her face lights up with joy and laughter; her grown up children have come home.  I see her holding each one to her heart, kissing each one softly and sweetly and pushing him back to look into his face.  I see her embracing her daughter, newly wed, sharing the joy of life unfolding.

I see these women, all three long gone, long buried, long forgotten.  I see the face of motherhood shared.

I wonder suddenly, “Who will look at my picture a hundred years from now?”

Jeez, technology scares me.

I am 57 years old.

That’s getting up there, you know?

I remember when new technology meant that TV had more than three channels.  The cool kids were able to watch those awesome UHF channels!  Wow……

I remember when new technology meant 8 Track tapes.

Please stop laughing. I am not kidding.

I am old.

So very, very old.

I’ve done my best, though, to stay up to date and in the know.  I have a laptop (thank you school!) and I know how to use it (thank you, professional development program!)

I use Facebook. (How else can I track my kids’ every move?)

I have used Skype.  (OK, it was 5 years ago, but still….)

I have a Twitter account. (Well, I got it when Twitter was new and I was curious. It doesn’t really work without a smart phone, so……..)

And….as you know doubt know by now…..I have a BLOG!!  On WORDPRESS!  This no doubt makes me so tech savvy that I am just about ready to get myself an IT job.

At school, I am considered to be one of the more technologically adept teachers. I use Google Drive, Wikis, Educreations, Evernote, iBooks, Collaborize Classroom and Glogster.

I rock.

The thing about technology, though, is that no matter what you learn, no matter what you master, you will continuously be reminded that you are, at heart, an idiot.

Case in point:

As a very hip, up to date, cutting edge technology user, I follow a lot of blogs these days.  One of them is written by a guy named Alexey, at Inside My Glitching Mind.  This blog features incredible photos of all manner of interesting things from around the world.  One of the cool features is a collection of photos of fences.  Fences from all over the world.

What an intriguing idea!

I happen to have two very interesting fence photos myself!  Both were taken in Newport, Rhode Island, along the famous Cliff Walk.  We were on the outside (poor people) side of the fences, looking in at the glamorous (rich people) side.

“I like these photos”, I though to myself. “I will send them on to Alexey!”


In order for my photos to be used on his blog, they have to be a certain size.  Um.   OK?  I looked at my photos on iPhoto, but couldn’t figure out how to change the size.  I asked my friend, the IT person at school, and she sent me the directions.

I was SO proud of myself when I made my photos nice and small!  Yay!!  I couldn’t wait to see MY pictures on that great site!  I wrote a nice email to Alexey and hit “send”.

Very quickly, I got a reply.  “You forgot to attach your photos”, it said.    Hehehe……

I attached and resent.

Another quick reply. “Your pics are too small. They need to be 680 pixels to fit the blog theme.”

Oh, right.


I prepared to give up.

“You could upload them to your blog”, came the ever patient Alexey’s reply, “And I can get them from there.”

So, here they are.  What do you think?

God only knows if they have enough pixels in them.

This kind of shows the greed, and bad grammar, of the very rich.

This kind of shows the greed, and bad grammar, of the very rich.

This shows a lovely, welcoming gazebo, just beyond the "Keep out" fence.

This shows a lovely, welcoming gazebo, just beyond the “Keep out” fence.


I am not a particularly athletic person.

Let me clarify.  When I was 14, I was in love with baseball. I watched the Red Sox with passion, followed their statistics like it was my religion, and practiced throwing a fastball into a target for endless hours.  I tried out for my school’s softball team, where I was placed in right field. It was a “no cut” team, so they had to put me somewhere.  My two greatest accomplishments that season?  Number one: I swung hard at a pitch and managed to smash myself in the nose with my own bat.  (I know, right? How is that even possible?) Number two: I went deep for a fly ball, put up my glove, and missed so completely that the ball bounced off my head and into the woods behind me.

That is the sum of my “team sports” experience.

When I grew up, I found out that people expected me to do certain unpleasant things like “run” and “work out” in order to stay “in shape”. I tried, I really did. My husband is athletic and reasonably fit.  He enjoys that whole sweating thing.  So we tried racketball in our 20’s; I kept hitting one or the other of us in the head and face with my racket, so we stopped.  We tried jogging together, but I complained so much about the pain in my legs and feet that he stopped wanting me to go along with him.  So I took an aerobics class with some other women, and promptly got pregnant, forcing me to quit. (H’mmm, just realized that the cause and effect in that sentence makes it sound like I had more fun at the aerobics class than I did: the pregnancy was not actually started at the class!)

Anyway, we used to hike a bit, because it is a passion of Paul’s to carry a heavy pack up a steep incline and then stand on shaky legs to admire the view.  I gave all that up as soon as the kids became old enough to become his hiking buddies.

So at the age of 56, I am a slightly chubby, slightly soft matronly type woman.  I’m OK with that, for the most part!  I want to be in “shape”, its just that the shape I choose is a circle.  I eat well (mostly…..), I have a very active job where I am on my feet and walking every day.  I have no major illnesses (knocking on wood here) and take only allergy medication.  So all is good, right? No need to strap on those sneakers and hit the pavement, correct?

Well.  I think I have finally found some motivation to get myself stronger and more physically resilient.  Dammit.

First of all, I want to be one of those cool, fun Grandmothers.  The ones who take the Grandkids to the park, and sledding and to Disney.  I want to go to all their games and jump up and down in the bleachers.  Given the fact that my kids are still several years away from parenthood (some more wood knocking here), I better make sure that I am still spry when the next generation gets here.

Second of all, for the most part, when the adults keep their noses out of my classroom, I really love my job. I most definitely want to keep teaching for as long as I can physically keep up with the kids.  Ergo: I need to take more vitamins, get more sleep, and work on improving my stamina!

And last of all, I met with the administrator in charge of retirement in our school district.  I went over the figures and calculated what my pension will be if I retire at various ages.  I work in a great, very generous district, and I have been there for quite a while!  The good news? I probably won’t have to be teaching fractions in my 70’s.

But I damn well better start working out now and then, and it’s definitely time to skip the oreos and grab a grapefruit.

Motivation at last.  Dammit.



I had a wonderful day today.  I spent most of the day with my middle child, my Matty.  He came to our house from where he lives about an hour away, responding to my request for help in cleaning up our yard for the spring.  We have a lot of yard and a lot of garden beds, and my aging and arthritic arms and shoulders were hoping for some assistance in getting it all ready for the growing season.  Matt did not disappoint; he came early and joined me with a rake in hand.

We got a lot accomplished, but more than that, we talked to each other.

When he was a little one, my Matt was quiet and reserved; it took a lot of extra time and quiet for him to speak up and say whatever was on his mind.

With two gregarious siblings, it was important for Matt to find a way to express himself.  I used to take him off on his own to be sure that I could hear his voice and give him a chance to share his thoughts. Throughout his childhood, Matt was my “strong, silent” child.   He was the one I most often worried and wondered about.  “What is he thinking?  How does he feel?”.  I sometimes felt that he was the one I was failing; the one I couldn’t quite decode.

Today, Matt came in and greeted me with a huge hug and big kiss on the cheek.  I stood back to look at him, taking in his height, his strength, his shining green eyes and his broad smile.  I snapped into Momma mode and made him a big breakfast, then we headed out to walk the dogs, then to work in the garden.

From the first moment today, Matt and I just talked and listened and shared. He is a thoughtful, mindful, intellectually curious young man, and it was enormously fun to spend a day with him.  Through the course of the afternoon, while we walked, raked, shopped and cleaned up, we talked and talked and talked.  Matt has been reading everything that he can get his hands on, covering a range of topics from international politics to religious philosophy to comparative mythology.  I had to stretch my intellectual powers to keep up, but it was incredibly exciting and interesting to listen to what my boy had to say.  We debated, we argued, we shared our observations.

We finished our chores, relaxed in the hot tub, and shared a delicious meal (oven braised beef brisket….YUM).  Then we cleaned the kitchen and off he went, back to his real life.

And so I sit here now, thinking back on a lovely and reassuring day.  And I have come to a funny realization.

In a strange moment of synchronicity, Matt and I find ourself in very much the same spot.

This “empty nest” Momma and her 21 year old son are both standing on the brink of something new.  We are both working hard to stay calm and settled as we look into the future and try with all our might to see what lies in wait for us.

We are both struggling with fear and insecurity, but we are both hopeful about creating our own “next steps”.  Like every young adult who is unsure of what lies ahead, Matt is trying find a meaningful role for himself in the world.  He wants to contribute, to make life better by his actions.  He wants to find a way to change the world and to make a difference that will let him feel proud of himself.

I find myself wrestling with the very same questions as I leave my mothering days behind me and head into the great unknown.

Like Matt, I wonder, “What is my role?”  and “Who am I in the grand scheme of things?”   I struggle to keep control of my emotions and my reactions to the events in my life; I try to stay focused and to always look forward.  I try to be positive, but its a battle.  I’m not so good at any of that, but Matt is my example.

Here’s to young people who keep life interesting, who ask good questions, who help us all to believe that the future can be brighter because of our actions.   Here’s to my boy, who has grown into a fascinating and talented man.



It was my birthday last weekend.  I know, I have made way too much of this annual event. I know.  I have written about my birthday angst, my birthday plans and my birthday celebration.  Overkill, perhaps.

But, see, this birthday is really, really making me think and reevaluate. This is the first “true” empty nest birthday, because last year I was unwilling to admit that the kids were grown and gone.  This is my first “post mommy” birthday.  What am I to make of this milestone?

On Saturday morning, I went to the grocery store to buy ingredients for my birthday bash.   I bought sockeye salmon, and huge, succulent sea scallops.  I bought brie and puff pastry, prosecco and imported olives. I bought smoked mussels and sweet rye bread.

And….I bought a little glass jar of black caviar.  Not the upscale, rare, to-die-for caviar.  Just the grocery store version.  I learned to love this stuff back in about 1978, when I was a Russian major looking for affordable luxuries.  Back then, those shiny black beads of salty flavor represented a world of sophistication that I could only imagine.  They were served at gatherings where professors of Russian literature reminisced about life in Leningrad while sipping icy vodka.  Those tiny pearls were heaped on black bread with sour cream at celebrations of Slavic heritage, back when I sang in a Russian choir.  I ate this caviar on Orthodox Easters and at Russian dinners, surrounded by immigrants from the Soviet Union.  The taste of caviar was a huge part of my most formative years. 

That familiar caviar taste brings me back to a time in my life when the world seemed to be dancing just beyond my outstretched fingers. When I thought that I would one day study language in Moscow.  When I believed that poetry and music and philosophy were the only real topics of conversation that were fit for evening gatherings.  I ate it when I turned 21, and when I turned 35.  And I ate it last Saturday, with my grown children around me, as I turned 56.

And as I sit here tonight, wondering what it means to be middle aged, I have come to a simple yet momentous decision.

Tomorrow I will be taking my class on a Field Trip to Boston.  Along with two other fifth grade classes, we will attempt to relive the famous town meeting of 1773, in which the citizens of Boston met to decide what to do about all that British tea sitting in the harbor.  I will organize chaperones, double check medications, keep the bus ride somewhat calm, meet with the Park Ranger and museum docent, facilitate the meeting, keep the kids together,  guide them through the busy city streets, chaperone lunch, march everyone back to the bus and oversee the ride back to school. Phew.

So in honor of my past, and with a nod to affordable luxury, I will start my day tomorrow with a cup of good strong coffee and a large dollop of black caviar on my toast.

Sometimes you just have to get a little wild.

Who, me? Immature?

I was talking today with one of my colleagues.  She is the mommy of two beautiful children, aged five and three.  I was asking her about her three year old daughter, who I haven’t seen for a couple of weeks.

“Oh, she’s great!”, my friend enthused. “She is sleeping all night in her own bed now!”   I knew that this was a big step, as I remembered my friend talking about how tired she was after her little girl woke up several nights in a row wanting to “sleep with Mommy”.

“But she’s so manipulative!”, my friend went on with a smile. “Every night when I tuck her in she tells me ‘I woke up in the night, Mommy, and I was lonely.  I wanted to see you, but you were so far away!”  We laughed at the story of the little drama queen, but I felt a pang of guilt at the same time.

You see, I am trying very very hard not to do to my sons what that little girl is doing to her Momma.   I miss my boys more than I can say.  I haven’t seen my youngest, my “baby” for eight long weeks.  I  feel his absence like a toothache every single day.  I dream of him.  I hear his voice when I am all alone.

So when I send him an email, or a text, I have to be incredibly careful.  It’s OK for me to say, “Can’t wait to see you!  Hope you’re having fun!”  It would be acceptable to say, “I’m so looking forward to having dinner with you!” or “I can’t wait to hear about school.”

What I can’t say is what I am thinking.  I can’t say, “I wake up in the night, but you aren’t home any more.  I am sad and I want to see you, but you are so far away!”  I can’t say, “Come home!” or “I want you and your brother to sleep here and wake up to have waffles with me!”

Little Caroline is acting like a proper three year old girl when she tells her Mommy that she isn’t sure she wants to be big enough to sleep all alone at night.

I would be acting like a neurotic, overbearing crazy woman if I told my youngest child that I am not sure I want to be old enough to be the mother of three adults who live out on their own.


Katie, Matt and Tim!  I can’t wait to see you!  I’m so happy that you’re having fun and enjoying life! I’m looking forward to having dinner with you all this weekend.

And if I wake up and miss you tonight, I plan to settle down on the couch and hug a big dog.