Summer Reading Recap

Here it finally is – my long-awaited recap of my summer reading plans. In my original post of July 2, I outlined 5-6 books that I wanted to read this summer. Part of my motivation was to participate in the Jones Library Summer Reading Program. I turned in my log on Aug. 27. At that time, I had read five books; three of them were books I mentioned in that original post.

Since summer doesn’t actually end until Sept. 21, I am counting two more books that I read after I turned my log in as part of my summer reading achievement. Seven books in three months is not bad. I am currently reading Alison Lurie’s Love and Friendship. If i finish that in the next 5d days, I will have read eight books for the summer.

Books I Read this Summer

Maggie Doherty, The Equivalents 

Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Sara Fitzgerald, Conquering Heroines: How Women Fought Sex Bias at Michigan and Paved the Way for Title IX

Molly Greeley, The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh

Amanda Cross, Death in A Tenured Position

Amanda Cross, The Collected Stories of Amanda Cross.

Talia Herbert, Act Your Age, Eve Brown

I liked all the books but Greeley’s second book, imagining the life of Anne de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice was not as good as her first book, The Clergyman’s Wife about Charlotte Lucas. I will have a separate review of Herbert’s book next week.

I didn’t read the book about training your cat, Wayward Lives or Butler’s Parable of the Talents.  I hope to read them all, but it will have to be part of my ongoing reading schedule.

 

 

 

 

September 11, Twenty Years Later

I am sorry that I am a day late with my weekly post. We are still dealing with the consequences of our flooded basement. On Labor Day, I discovered that my paper files were all wet. Three file drawers got soaked. One had much of my research for my current project. This has been a traumatic event.

Because today is September 11, I do realize that many things have happened in the past twenty years that are far worse and much more devastating than my flooded basement. In memory of all the lives lost on that terrible day, I am reposting something from September 11, 2009.

September 11 – Eight Years Later

Today is the eighth anniversary of the terrible events of September 11 2001. This is a particularly poignant day because we are in New York. Eight years ago, I had been in New York the day before, September 10, and woke up, at home, on the morning of the 11th to hear my husband’s voice on the answering machine, ” I don’t know if you have heard what happened in New York but my parents are okay.” As everyone knows, September 11 2001 was a picture perfect New York fall day and the 10th was as well. I felt very steeped in my New York roots because I had spent the evening of the 9th reading about the  pending city elections while I waited for my friend who I was visiting to come home.

Today, September 11, 2009, is not a beautiful day. The weather is  very bad, with high winds and heavy downpours. Because of these bad conditions, we have been unable to attend any commemorative event. Many of them were outdoors.

Despite that, since 2001, I have felt that this day should not be like every other day.  Apparently President  Obama and Congress agree with me. In March the federal government designated September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.  I really hope that this takes root and becomes how  people commemorate September 11th in future years.

My thoughts are with all the people who suffered a loss on that fateful day and it is my sincerest wish that nothing like that will ever happen to any person or country again.

More Bad Luck

On Tuesday, while visiting my son and daughter-in-law in Philadelphia, I tripped over their puppy and injured my ankle. We came home the same day and on Wednesday I went to the doctor. It is not broken but soft tissue injuries can take as long to heal as a fracture. As a result I can not skate for four weeks.

Thursday morning we woke up to the worst basement flood we have ever had. The water was in every part of the basement, reaching the bottom shelves of bookcases. On Thursday we worked for eight hours, cleaning and moving things and  there was still more to do.

Today we got up the soaking wet rug and went through all the other wet boxes. Nothing smells’ worse than wet paper. It will be several more days of work to sort through all the stuff, throwing out a lot, I hope. Also, there will probably be things to donate.

 

My run of bad luck has continued since April but will have to break at some point. My original plan for today’s post was to  bring you up to date about my summer reading program. Of course, like everything else in my life, it didn’t go the way I had originally anticipated. Hopefully, I can tell you about it next week.

Computer Trouble, Again

Last week, I had planned on not having my computer for Wednesday into Thursday. The back cover of my laptop needed to be replaced. When the shop started the repair, my screen cracked. This meant I had no computer until Saturday.

This put a big dent in my work schedule and made posting on this blog very difficult. I couldn’t figure out how to post something from my phone. If any of you know how to do that, please let me know.

This unforeseen problem is why I didn’t post last week. Because I am so far behind on working on my book, I have decided not to post this coming Friday either. I plan to resume my regular schedule on Friday September 3.

There have been many times in 2021 that I have felt akin to the biblical Job. Maybe I am cursed or living under a bad sign. The Jewish New York begins September 6th. Hopefully thing will begin looking up.

Citibank

As part of the responsibilities I have had taking care of my aunt following her accident, I have been trying to exercise the power of attorney so I can use her funds to pay her bills.

She banks at Citibank. When we were still in Florida, I took the documentation to her local branch and tried to activate the power of attorney. The person I spoke to acted like he had never seen a POA before and told me he would have to send it to legal; it could take up to 48 hours to receive an answer.

This was Monday afternoon. I informed the bank clerk that I was leaving Florida early Thursday morning. I requested that they try to rush the proceedings so I could get this completed before I left. Late Wednesday, the person from the Florida branch called and said legal had okayed the POA. He then informed me that I had to tell him the name of the nearest Citibank to where I live. It turns that is Bridgeport Ct. which is two hours away.

Once I returned home there were several back-and-forth calls to Citibank. Eventually I spoke to a manager who said she would be sending me checks. I asked if there was anything else I had to do. She advised me to go to a Citibank branch and fill out paperwork, essentially a signature card, so I could be added to the account.

I had to be in New York on Wednesday May 19 for something else so I picked a branch near Grand Central Station and asked if I could go there. She said she would email the manager of that branch all the information.

I arrived at the branch, spoke to someone who asked repeatedly if I had the original document, took my identifying information, and then disappeared. An hour later, I looked for her and she was in the manager’s office. He informed me that they couldn’t do anything without the original document. I told him Citibank’s legal department had already approved the POA and that my aunt’s lawyer had the original.

I got the lawyer on the phone, but the bank manager refused to talk to him, saying “I won’t talk to someone I dont’ know”. I angrily took back my papers and left in a huff.

The next day the lawyer sent a demand letter to the branch in Boca Raton and gave them 10 days to respond. Today, in the mail, I got the checks. The lawyer tells me this means we are all set; there is nothing else to do.

From the beginning of this saga, Citibank has been completely unhelpful, and very incompetent, wasting a lot of my time.  I am going to advise my aunt to change banks. Citibank is too large and  has terrible customer service.

Ideas

One of the assignments for this month from my Pioneer Valley Writer’s Workshop Year Long class, was to read three essays to look at the craft tools used in presenting ideas.

First, I read “The Futurist Manifesto by Flippo Tommaso Marinetti. For the class assignment, we were not supposed to say whether we like a piece or not but rather, look at the craft elements used in the writing and determine if they would be valuable for our own writing.  However, this is is my blog, so I will  say that I hated this essay. The language  was over wrought, hyperbolic and flowery. I would not want to write in that style. The piece felt dated with racist and misogynistic elements and I had a strong suspicion that the author was a fascist. When I Googled him, I found out I was right.

Our teacher implied that Verlyn Klinkenborg’s, “Our Vanishing Light”, had  lyrical tone, and visual and sensory imagery.  The writing was okay but it seemed a fairly standard journalistic article. Written in 2008, it might have been startling then but felt like nothing new thirteen years later.

In “Sick Women Theory”, Johanna Hedva uses her personal story to make her point. I thought that was a good strategy or tool to use. By personalizing her ideas, it made thinking about those ideas more accessible. Hedva weaves her story of chronic illness into a compelling critique of western medicine. She explores how disability interacts with political participation, seeking a redefinition of both public and private.  I found her writing the most compelling of the three essays and I enjoyed reading it.

Overdue Quarterly Report

I had planned to give some updates on how 2021 is going in April, but, if you read my last post, you know life intervened. We have just returned from spending two more weeks in Florida caring for my aunt. She  has been at home for eleven days and is making a lot of progress.

After the initial visit when she had first fallen we were home for six days. I prioritized writing, skating including off-ice work with my coach, Kiara,  and a meeting of my Jane Austen book club. I was able to finish the chapter I had been writing on for almost a year, which felt good. 

Once we  went back to  Florida, I tried to maintain some semblance of my “real” life and continue to have my book on faculty wives as my priority. I attended Nerissa’s writing group twice  and participated in the monthly meeting of the Pioneer Valley Writers’ year long class for  creative non-fiction. Because of this focus, I was able to get some writing done.

I am really glad I signed up for the PVWW class. Each month we get accountability buddies. It has been great to have different people read my work and to read their work as well. I had hoped the structure of the class would be enough to get me writing on a regular basis. So far, despite the disruption to my regular routine, it has worked.

When 2021 started I needed to lose three more pounds to get to my goal of 140 pounds. Last week I achieved it.  It feels like a big accomplishment and I am very grateful to Noom for helping me get to that weight. The program is probably not for everyone but I found it a very constructive experience.

As far as  tweeting and blogging, I obviously had a dip in posts over the last four weeks. So far, I have posted sixteen times in 2021. I hope, beginning with this post, I will now be on a regularly schedule.  I tweeted  twenty-seven times in April and only one time, so far, this month. I plan to resume tweeting daily.

Going forward, I will still need to do things for and with my aunt. We will probably go back to Florida the end of June. Because of that, I need to stay focused and continue to prioritize writing and skating. I am streamlining my life; putting some things on hold so I can make real progress on my book while continuing to care for my aunt.

 

Life

As you may have noticed, I have not posted anything the last two weeks. I have been dealing, almost twenty-four/seven, with a family crisis. On April 14th, my ninety year old Aunt Ruth fell, fracturing her wrist and hip. She never had children; I am her closest relative. Ruth is my mother’s younger sister. When my mother received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1989, my aunt and I were really the people who took care of her. That brought us a lot closer.

Both my Aunt Ruth and her husband, my Uncle Norm, functioned as surrogate grandparents for my two sons since my father died before I ever had children and my mother, who died in 1999, had Alzheimer’s. My uncle died in 2009.

When I read over what I have just written, there is a lot of loss reflected. That is probably why I am determined to help my aunt make as full a recovery as possible. I am not ready to let her go yet.

April has turned out to contain the circle of life – from birth to old age to death. Luckily no one has died but my cat who is anywhere from 20 to 25 years old has lung cancer and may not live much longer.

Bella is a rescue cat; friends of ours found her running back and forth on a major highway near where I live. We named her after my mother, Beatrice. Bella is a calico and has always been very pretty. Even now when her coat does not have the same shine, she is still good looking. Bella is a diva, somewhat clumsy and often mischievous. We haven’t always gotten along. As long as my oldest son, Louis was at home, she was his cat. Once he left Bella switched her allegiance to my husband, Aaron, probably because he feeds her.

Because we had to fly to Florida suddenly, we boarded the cat at the vet. While there, Bella stopped eating, so the doctor put in a catheter, took an x-ray which showed her tumor has calcified and put her on prednisone. This, obviously, resulted in a huge bill, which is not really the point.

When the vet first told us about Bella’s cancer, I though we had all agreed on letting her die peacefully, providing only comfort measures. As a nurse, who has watched many people die, I think it is important for any individual and their family to be clear about what they want to have happen as death nears.

With my aunt, both the hospital and the rehabilitation facility inquired about whether or not she had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order. My aunt doesn’t have a DNR, but she does have a Living Will which specifies what her wishes are. As far as Bella goes, she can’t tell us what she wants so we have to decide for her.

I have had so much stress that Bella must have decided I needed some more. When Aaron brought her home from the vet she urinated in the carrier and it leaked onto the seat. This happened Friday; the smell has finally faded today. At first, I was tempted to buy a new car, but I realized that was an over reaction Since I don’t want to cry, I will have to laugh about this.

Amidst all the crises and illness, there has also been joy. On April 8, Nina, who is my cousin and like a daughter to me, gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Judah. On Saturday we drove to Beverly and met Judah which gave me so much pleasure. I got to hold him and feed the baby a bottle. I couldn’t have asked for a better antidote to my stress. Judah is a gift to the whole family.

If you lead a full life, you will encounter both great happiness and immense sorrow. The past few weeks has taught me that lesson, again.

 

 

 

Cancer, Revisited

Earlier this week,  I attended the first annual Kay Johnson Memorial Lecture. Kay was a Hampshire faculty member who died in 2019. I knew her really well because our sons were best friends from birth to the age of 5.

Kay died from metastatic breast cancer. In honor of Kay, I am reposting a piece from 2009.  At that time, my Uncle Norm had a diagnosis of lung cancer. He died a few weeks later. 12 years later, we have still not made enough progress in the fight against cancer. Hopefully once President Biden gets COVID and the economy under control, he can turn his attention to defeating cancer.

Cancer  12/16/2009

As part of my research for my new book, I have been reading short stories from various eras of Harper’s Magazine. One written in 1949, “The Lady Walks,” by Jean Powell, deals with a faculty wife who has breast cancer. Although my original interest in the story was because of the faculty wife character, Ravita, as a nurse I found the description of the cancer treatment clinic she goes to unsettling. The description did not seem that different from clinics I have worked at various times in the past fifteen years.

After reading the story, I have concluded that things have not changed as much as we might think or like in the area of treatment of cancer. Today I participated in a Cancer Care teleconference, “The Latest Developments Reported at the 32nd Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.”  It was very interesting; there are new drugs that might prevent bone loss in cancer patients as well possibly prevent the re-ocurrence of cancer.  However, treatment for certain kinds of breast cancer is a five-year process, which seems extraordinary long.

Around Thanksgiving, I read a story in the New York Times about a recreational lounge for cancer patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, a hospital in New York City. One of the patients is Seun Adebiyi, a young Nigerian immigrant and a Yale Law School graduate. He has lymphoblastic lymphoma and stem-cell leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. He is also trying to be the first Nigerian to compete in the Winter Olympics in skeleton. His goal is 2014. I have participated in a bone marrow drive but I have never received a call to donate.

I have had friends who have died from ovarian cancer and relatives who have experienced lung cancer. Although we may not have made as much progress in the last sixty years as we would have liked, let us hope that we can make significant progress against cancer in the coming days.

 

Busy Week

This past week I was very busy. As I wrote last week, Saturday was the first night of Passover. We had  a great time with my sons and daughter-in-law. Next year I hope we can have even more family attend our seder.

Passover is one of my favorite holidays ,but eating just matzah for a week is tough. The change in diet gave me some minor health issues, primarily the stomach kind. Regularity begets regularity, if you get what I mean.

Because at the end of last week, I was getting ready for Passover, I fell behind on some routine tasks, such as mail, email (the bane of my existence) and bills. This week I had to play catch up.

As a result, I spent most of the week not actually writing anything. I did finish reading and taking notes on two books that had to go back to the library.  Although I didn’t write much, I had writing experiences due to the two groups I am involved with.

This was week was the first meeting of a new ten week session from Nerissa Nields’ Writing It Up in the Garden. I switched from her group that meets Wednesday evenings back to the group I was in last year, Tuesday midday. I like the people and I got good feedback on some pages I read from the chapter I am currently working on.

One of the people in the group read something about ALS, which was hard for me to listen to. I have known several people, including my brother Fred, who have died from that terrible disease and my first cousin, Lowell, is living with it.

The other writing  experience involved the year long Pioneer Valley Writers Workshop Creative Nonfiction Group that I am participating in. The first meeting was at the beginning of last month. One part of the program is having a different accountability buddy each month. I really enjoyed my first buddy, Jennifer. We have a lot in common and are working on similar topics. It was great to talk about my book to a fellow historian.

Although the week had hard parts and was busy, I did do some enjoyable things. Last week  was the World Figure Skating Championships. I couldn’t watch them in real time so, starting this past Monday, I watched repeats of all the events. It ended last night with the ice dancing. It was a pleasure to watch the superb skating of all the athletes. I love skating and, in fact, I am going skating today. The week is ending on a good note.