If all you have is a hammer.

March 2, 2018 § 4 Comments

As the physical therapist was teaching me an exercise to relieve the weird pains in my upper back I mentioned that years ago a surgeon had offered to fuse three vertebrae.

“Of course you won’t be able to raise and lower your head,” he’d said. “And you could be paralyzed from the neck down, but the chance is very slim.”

I thanked him and got out of his office fast.

“You know why he recommended surgery?” asked the physical therapist.

“Why?”

“Because he’s a surgeon.”

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The physical therapist, a man who wielded a different hammer, offered me a simple stretching exercise to fix the same problem. And it has.

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One word for the New Year.

December 30, 2017 § 7 Comments

 

Growing up, New Year’s Eve meant eating chili on the couch, watching the ball drop, and each of us declaring to my mother (the family scribe) our New Year’s resolutions.

All were recorded in an innocuous notebook with a cover the color of dried peas.

If we didn’t make them for ourselves, she did. My father’s made-for-him resolution every year? Lose ten pounds.

Mine was usually to be less scatter-brained.

Looking at that book I see one made in high school, definitely by me: to sing as well as Judy Collins.

No one in the family lived up to those vows, no matter who had made them. From the get-go I knew this was a system that broke down somewhere between plan and execution.

But after leaving home I still made resolutions in a notebook of my own:

Write 25 songs, paint the living room, finish the novel.

The resolutions are numbered and everything.

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The Great Christmas Dispensation.

December 21, 2017 § Leave a comment

Welcome to the blessed season of the universal excuse:

“I won’t be able to ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­__________ because it’s Christmas.”

We fabricate and tender excuses all year long. I won’t be able to _________ because I am getting married.

I have the flu.

My car broke down.

My kid is sick.

Even when our excuse is legitimate, we feel as if we are shirking, because all around us the hum of busy people doing busy things reminds us that we are not keeping up!

Except at Christmas.

If we can resist the urge to wrap everything in sight in shiny paper, resist the premise that love requires lavish gift giving.  If we can recognize the act of kindness on the part of the calendar and a long ago birth, we can, all of us together…

take a deep breath…

and look around as if we have just awakened from a relentless, whirring dream.

Because we have. « Read the rest of this entry »

What you wish for.

December 2, 2017 § 4 Comments

Be careful what you wish for is the familiar saying.

It is a pessimist’s warning, delivered with a frown.

Getting what you wish for is sure to disappoint!

Or bite you on the butt.

You’re better off with the known, the as-is, the just-okay.

But that doesn’t stop us from wishing for the long shot, the impossible, the rainbow. It is why we buy a lottery ticket.

We spend hours imagining what isn’t, and often what can never be.

But why?

Perhaps we are testing the boundary between the possible and the impossible. Maybe that line is chalk, and maybe it can be scuffed out with the sole of a sneaker, a new one drawn in. Who knows?

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Respect for the small.

November 4, 2017 § 2 Comments

rubber bandsA single paper clip.

A sheet of paper, one side clean.

The heel of a loaf of bread.

A handful of rubber bands.

What are they worth?

They’re not worth the trouble of storing them until needed.

Not worth the effort or ingenuity required to put them to use right now.

So, without thought, we default to the easiest solution. We toss them in the trash.

This cavalier treatment of the small-but-useful object is not a constant when it comes to human behavior, but it has held steady for quite a while in this period of prolonged bounty.

Here is an adage that expressed our relationship with small but useful objects during the Great Depression:

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

If there were a saying that summed up our treatment of the objects in our lives today, it would surely end with, “throw it out.” « Read the rest of this entry »

Age before beauty.

October 21, 2017 § 9 Comments

My husband, Ray, says there are no ugly young people, an exaggeration, but not a whopping big one.

Consider what the young have going for them. Smooth skin, and if it is tan, their skin has not yet begun to pay the price for that glow. Wide eyes, the lids fully open. Straight backs. Limber joints. The young body exhibits an appealing ease.

But old is beautiful too.

What I write next is mostly for women, the sex afflicted with the expectation of beauty.

This post will come as no surprise, but sometimes we only question the things we take for granted when we say them out loud or state them in print.

Physical attractiveness is not an absolute requirement for guys. Funny is just as good. Athleticism or smarts; those work too.

And for those with young-buck good looks, with age these attributes are seamlessly replaced by a growth in stature and authority, a good job.

I don’t know whether this is because women are more broad-minded than men, more willing to judge worth based on a range of positive qualities, or because men, as members of the dominant sex, have used their power to write the terms of their own attractiveness.

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John Dillinger’s Dick.

October 9, 2017 § 1 Comment

*

Some seventy years ago

Ray was a Catholic kid at Holy Redeemer,

a DC school with nuns in black and white,

girls who flashed bare chapped knees

below navy blue pleats,

and boys who, in defiance

of their mandatory neckties,

were as wondering and

irreverent as any.

*

In addition to the rote round of

genuflection, catechism,

burnt offerings,

the squeal of chalk on board,

was the annual field trip.

Even then DC was rich

with museums.

*

But the Holy Redeemers went to just one.

Not the Smithsonian,

not The National Gallery,

not the Renwick.

No, the band of Catholics single-filed

onto the street car

(the tracks ran right by the school)

and rode to

The Medical Museum,

to ogle its two-headed baby,

its anatomical anomalies in murky jars.

But every year the same rumor

was passed around,

boy to boy,

elbow to ribs.

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