Two grandmothers, a mom and dad, a younger brother — and a seemingly composed Bat Mitzvah girl

Before 9 a.m. this morning, I watched a family cadre happily entering Temple E-Manuel, the synagogue down the street from our house. All smiling, they made me wonder. Would I have had a more serene life if I had been a Bat Mitzvah more than 50 years ago, if I were currently more spiritual, more Jewish?

Would a modicum of faith have contained years of anxiety and self-doubt?

Where would this Bat Mitzvah have taken place? I was raised hypocritical-Orthodox. Reform synagogues have always felt like churches, which I immediately slough off.

Would I have more readily found my place in the world with a few spiritual underpinnings? Religion. Who needs it, is what I’ve always surmised.

Yet, I can’t erase this morning’s family’s image from my mind.

Instead of praying or supporting goodness, today I did a few bad things.

Cooked a sirloin steak for dinner, stove-top according to the internet instructions, using lots of olive oil and butter. “This isn’t the healthy way to cook a steak [is there one?] but it’s the best way,” the chef-guy wrote. I can’t remember the last time I had a steak. It was so good I ate the whole thing, along with a salad to make me feel less like a horrible human being.

I’ve eaten breakfast out two days in a row. This morning crisp bacon with blueberry pancakes, before eating the best blueberry pancakes (with real maple syrup) next week at Cafe This Way in Bar Harbor.

Okay, so I’m going to before-I-leave-Tucson-for-Maine places. I’ll only eat fresh seafood there.

Last night I had a cookie with my skinny friend Lori, who’s a lot younger than me, and apparently can eat anything without gaining an ounce.

Not me. What’s with this food thing? Do I not care that I’ve gained 20 lbs. since Brook and Gian’s wedding four years ago? Lost my estrogen. I’m old, I tell myself.

Back to this morning…so what did I do after breakfast? Went to Barrio Bread for a small crackling loaf.

I’m going out to breakfast again tomorrow. I’ve gotten a few mosquito bites in the last few minutes. A Bat Mitzvah wouldn’t have made any difference.










Posted in Baby Boomers, Family Matters, Food/happy hours | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Listening to dumb rules…

Or not. We go to the Reid Park zoo once a year. It’s a fun spring outing. Ride a bike, wear a helmet and you get in free. You also get a free ice cream cone. A win-win!

Plus we get to see magnificent creatures in the confined wild, even if I felt sorry for the tiger who growled, traipsing around in circles (I’ve never heard a tiger growl, so that was cool). I didn’t complain!


The Andean mama bear and her cub had each other for company. And a lovely turquoise pool to play in. I felt better about their plight.

IMG_0280 (1)

Let them be, I figured. No time for me to take on animal rights.

Although I think of myself as a rebel. I take full responsibility for quashing dumb rules.

Here’s what happened as we were leaving the zoo:

Two exit doors were open. Two women were sitting at a table. In the past we’ve noticed how heavy the closed exit doors are to drag bikes through. No one lurked behind us. One  family of four was entering through the open-door exit.

As we started through one of the women pointed to the closed doors, which didn’t make any sense. We continued to walk through. The two women started to carry on:

“This is an entrance to a private party. You can’t come through this way!”

“Well, we’re just about through,” I replied. “I don’t see any signs, and there’s no one else waiting to get in or out.”

“If anyone sees you going through, everyone else will follow,” one of the women said.

Emerging onto the street, I thought to myself, Ta-da, we’re already through.

WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE? Feel free to reply to the following questions!

Are we lemmings?

Why follow a rule if it doesn’t make sense?

Would you do the sensible thing even if those in charge told you not to?

Or was I just being a bad-ass?




Posted in Bopping Around Tucson, Fight wimpiness | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A few flowery days

I’ve been searching out flowers. Thinking about luck and aging and history…

My father was a florist in Waterbury, Connecticut, where I grew up in the 1950s. Most early mornings he headed to the wholesale market. Schmoozing while selecting fresh flowers that had arrived overnight from Hawaii or some distant sunny place.

I had no way of knowing that 60 years later I would be living in the sunny Sonoran desert around 50 miles from the Mexican border.


Glorious ocotillo

As a kid my job at my father’s store, Cherry Hill Gardens, was to unwrap the protective newspaper around hundreds of poinsettias, hydrangeas, or tulips, depending on which holiday a shipment honored. The plants were unloaded in a dank gray garage, formerly a livery stable at the end of the driveway.

An elderly black man, whom my brother and I called Ike the Pike, helped out during busy times. I liked him. He was funny.


See the bunny ears on the Santa Rita prickly pear?

Later I learned that Ike drank a lot, which I may not have understood back then.

My mother didn’t want me to be alone with Ike.

I always asked her, “Why not?”

She replied, “Because I said so.”

My mother, a Russian immigrant, was always afraid. In the early 20th century she arrived as a toddler with her mother and brother at Ellis Island.

That was more than 100 years ago. It must have taken tremendous courage and perseverance for my grandparents to leave Russia in search of a better life. They were lucky. My grandfather arrived first, followed a few years later by his family.


I don’t get it. We’re all descendants of immigrants. Luckily, a majority of Americans support refugee resettlement. (Here’s a long but illuminating conservative take on our current political mess, including the immigration battle).

I remember, as a kid, not getting the big deal about having plants for holiday celebrations.

Dazzling prickly pear blooms amaze me year after year. Lilacs swaying on branches behind my Maine house, their fragrance wafting through the air, intoxicate me. Now I get the necessity of plants and flowers. It’s about the passing of time. And still being here…and being lucky.


*In memory of Julie Russell and her magnificent smile, her unwavering kindness to all, and her sweet backyard garden.



























Posted in Baby Boomers, Bopping Around Tucson, For Love of History, Nature Girl, Old friends | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

‘Better to have our crazy straight up,’ says Maureen Dowd

“I love your hair!” That’s how Maureen Dowd began the conversation. I was surprised to see her sitting at the Mostly Books autograph table at the Tucson Festival of Books on Sunday, with only a few people hanging around. I stopped. I did a double take.

Maven of the New York Times Opinion Page for 20 years, Dowd was down-to-earth. I would definitely be friends with her if I lived in New York. Hell, I gave her my card. She thanked me.

I asked her how she liked Tucson. ” I like it but I’m so hot, and not in a good way,” she replied.

IMG_0149 (1)dowd

Ms. Purple and Maureen Dowd at the Tucson Festival of Books, March 12, 2017

She admitted her nervousness the day before while speaking at the University of Arizona Student Union ballroom. I managed to get a ticket for her discussion of the 2016 election. No way could I miss that! Hundreds of people were turned away.

Writing about the current White House is, “in a weird way, like a bizarro civics lesson,” she told the audience of around 600 people.  The president’s Russian connection is the strangest thing “we’ve ever seen in [American] politics.”

Trump is probably a psychopath with no empathy, but “I like my crazy straight up,” she said.  Everyone is now “more awake and involved than I’ve seen since the ’60s.”

Comparing Trump to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who lied and disregarded checks and balances behind the scenes, Trump “does it in real time. We can fight back in real time.”

Trump was the most shocked of anyone that he won the election, noted Dowd. Replying to a question about forcing him out of office, she doesn’t think it will happen.

“Trump has reduced all politics to his ego. He will be there unless he’s [led out] in handcuffs.”

Why did the 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner think Hillary lost the election? Partly, it was Politics 101. Hillary didn’t go to Wisconsin and barely went to Michigan, she pointed out (and she’s not a fan of the “Clinton machine”).

“There was an intense hunger for change,” which Dowd said she learned from her  very own “deplorables” (conservative family members), and others.

In two presidential elections — Democratic candidates Al Gore in 2000, and Hillary Clinton in 2016 — Bill Clinton could have saved the day, she opined. Gore didn’t allow Bill to campaign for him following the impeachment debacle. Hillary’s young campaign manager thwarted Bill from campaigning for his wife, despite his desire to reach Southern white males.

Yeah, who holds back possibly the best Democratic campaigner of all time? In hindsight, a big mistake.

Maybe Trumps’s narcissistic cluelessness will contribute to the U.S. finally electing a woman president? (Dowd doesn’t think Hillary lost because she’s a woman.)

And his denigration of the news media?

“Trump has completely rejuvenated the newspaper business,” she said, adding that the New York Times has developed an investigative unit to scrutinize possible conflicts of interest: “We’re all over that.”

Maybe she’ll return to Tucson when her next book is published.

“I love cacti,” Dowd quipped. “I identify with them.”










Posted in Journalism/Writing, Politics, Tucson Festival of Books/good books | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The next chapter…’Say yes to opportunities’

Who knew that people 82 to 85 score higher on happiness scales than millennials?

I’m not there yet, but I am happy. My super adorable grandson Foss was born on Jan. 21 in Minneapolis. I’m in good health, as is the rest of my family.

IMG_0137Foss As much as I love my house on Mt. Desert Island, Maine, as I get older I’m feeling itchy for new experiences — while I can. I’ve been lucky to return to Southwest Harbor every summer since moving to Tucson, nearly 15 years ago.

This year, I’m putting my Maine house on the market. It’s the practical decision. Maybe the relief of not worrying about renters, or repairs I can’t afford, and having a decent stash for retirement will help to alleviate the emotional loss.

Now is the time.


“Say yes to opportunities,” says Marilyn Heins, one of my elder role models.

Maybe this fall I’ll go to Greece on a Smithsonian tour led by a local professor acquaintance. I’ll definitely want to visit Foss as often as possible.

Anticipation is probably more difficult than taking an action itself. I swore to myself that I would never pick up dog poop, carrying it around like some sort of treasure.  In Minneapolis last month with my son and his family, I picked up my grandpuppy Rappy’s poop at least 10 times! I counted because I couldn’t believe I was doing it. It wasn’t so bad.

I’m hoping that selling my house won’t be as hard as I’ve thought. MDI will always feel like my original home. Both of my children grew up and were married there. We’ll still spend time on the island, and I like to think we’ll always be part of the most supportive, loving community I know.

Let the next chapter begin!  IMG_0142





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From citizen journalism to fake news…

I knew it wouldn’t end well. From my first blog post six years ago to the current reality of 1984, where lies become truth, science is suspect, and a blowhard president sits in the White House.


I’m obsessed with George Orwell’s 1984. At our little Southwest Harbor Library that year I led a discussion on the book, which around 100 people attended.

“That could never happen here,” people said. The government wouldn’t be able to spy on us, and we can say whatever we want. I optimistically insisted that the Constitution would reign supreme. I didn’t know there would be a bunch of empty political hacks in Congress.

I’m still hoping.

Yes to the Separation of Powers. Yes to my beloved 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Under the Law. Yes to the First Amendment. Yes to our system of Checks and Balances.

Yes, yes, yes.

Thirty years later, I’ve realized that Fox News, Internet rants, and 24/7 Cable/radio talk shows have made Americans more stupid than I ever could have imagined. Progressives may also believe whatever they hear and want to believe, but OK, we’re smarter.  My bias.

Still, most of us know that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing.

It’s human nature to identify with certain groups. “Oh yeah, I’m a progressive” or “I’m a conservative,” or “I don’t like labels,” we say.

Ask why.  Don’t let up if someone tells you that’s just the way it is. Persist.

Down with “fake news!”

Fake news isn’t news; it’s a bunch of lies. Why is the polar ice cap melting so quickly? It’s not just happening.

If a presidential candidate repeatedly says Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to enter the United States, how can he issue travel restrictions targeting predominately Muslim countries, claiming that’s not a ban? That’s doublespeak. 

“If  you have a pulse, you have a bias,” says a Seattle school librarian, who’s teaching her students how to reconcile bias. I applaud her.

Evidence, evidence, evidence. Education, starting at a young age, is our only hope.



Posted in Fight wimpiness, Journalism/Writing, The inconvenient truth about education | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Make new friends and keep the old…

One is silver and the other’s gold.” Little did I know at age 6 that belting out rounds of “Make New Friends…,”while on the school bus to girl scout camp, would foretell how essential dear friends would be 60 years later.


Maurice Sendak

Take Claire and Jay. When our kids were little they lived up the street from us in Bass Harbor, Maine. In the ninth month of my second pregnancy, we had already decided a girl would be named Sarah after my grandmother (we didn’t know a baby’s sex 36 years ago). But we were flummoxed about a boy’s name.

“Hmm”…said Claire, as we sat around the table eating latkes. “How about Ethan?”

We liked the sound of it. Ethan means “steadfast, strong, firm and safe,” which turned out to be the perfect name for our newborn son, now grown man.

Claire and Jay moved away from Mt. Desert Island nearly 30 years ago. For years, we occasionally ran into them during a summer visit to the island. Luckily, that changed after they saw my Southwest Harbor home for rent online and got in touch. That was seven or eight years ago.

Since then, their home in Southern Maine is a must-stop as we cross the Maine state line every summer.

Last week, they visited us in Tucson: We laughed. We talk, talk, talked. We ate breakfast one day at Tumerico and the next day at Five Points. We hiked in Saguaro National Park West after driving over Gates Pass marveling at the view.

I knew that Claire would figure out how to prepare giant Baja shrimp that I bought at the Tohono O’odam swap meet. She did. Along with Barrio Bread and a yummy salad, it was the BEST MEAL EVER.


Don Guerra of Barrio Bread

Sharing a delicious meal is one thing. It’s so comforting being around dear friends whom I’ve known for nearly 40 years, who knew my kids when they were small. Who know Me. 

Jay and I taught together at MT. Desert Island High School. He was right to call last week’s visit “a unique experience.”


Claire and Jay in the desert

It wasn’t just the laughing, hiking, or sharing meals. There was something more, which to me makes life worthwhile, plus we agree that it’s hard to believe how old we are now!

Posted in Baby Boomers, Bopping Around Tucson, Mount Desert Island/Maine, Old friends | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments