Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Our hearts are broken.

From one end of our beloved Jersey shore to the other, the places we played, frolicked in the surf, strolled the boardwalks and just laid back and enjoyed the serenity of the ocean are gone.


We’ve worried for years about the consequences of a huge storm. We’ve ridden down the boulevard on Long Beach Island and noted with dismay the proximity of the homes to both bay and ocean, just mere blocks apart. We’ve oohed and aahed over the summer beach mansions in Ocean City, on Loveladies and Beach Haven and fretted over the fates of those places should “the big one” hit.

I am not a huge fan of our current governor’s policies on just about everything. But I actually felt as if he and I shared a bond on Tuesday, Oct. 30 when I watched him struggling for the right words to describe his emotions as he toured the shoreline by helicopter and looked down on the part of our state that held such warm, wonderful memories. He was nearly in tears and, when we can finally be permitted to see that devastation for ourselves, we will be as well.

Sandy did to the Jersey shore something no other power could. She simultaneously humbled us and taught us a lesson we’ve not heeded for decades.

Not since the so-called “Ash Wednesday Storm” in March of 1962 has our shore experienced such a pounding. I remember it well, since I was in college in Trenton and so many of my friends hailed from shore places… Seaside Heights, Lavalette, Seabright. But in the intervening 50 years, it seems we haven’t heeded the warning of what monster storms can do. We rebuilt, sure, but without the safeguards we should have put in place in such fragile areas. The barrier islands are, after all, simply sand bars… things that shift and move with the tides.

Sandy slammed ashore like a maniacal schoolmarm, her ruler ready to strike recalcitrant pupils into submission. Didn’t I warn you? she seemed to be chanting, as pieces of affluence floated out to sea. Am I not as powerful as you remembered? she remonstrated those of us who disregarded her destructive capabilities.
We can only stand back, hang our heads and grieve. Grieve for the damage to the peaceful refuge our Jersey shore has been for many of us since babyhood. Grieve for the souls who have lost so much, particularly those whose livelihoods and year ‘round homes are irreparably damaged. Grieve for the suffering and the sadness we all are experiencing.

Maybe as we rebuild, and rebuild we will, we will finally heed the warnings. Storms like this are, as someone pronounced recently, the “new normal.” Climate change and the increasingly fragile ecosystem will continue to remind us of that reality.
If Sandy taught us nothing, she should have at least reminded us who is boss and who controls the destiny of this little planet on which we live.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Glimpsing the future?

It was time to get my toenails fixed and pretty again.

Sitting in the chair next to mine, I saw a sweet-looking woman, perhaps in her early eighties. She seemed a bit agitated, but she was calmed by two women, obviously her daughters, who took turns in the little cubicle, chatting with her and reassuring her it wouldn't be much longer.

I learned from their conversation she'd already had her hair done, was undergoing the pedicure and then still had a manicure ahead. Daunting for anyone, let alone an elderly woman. Each process takes at least thirty minutes or more... a long day in the salon. Occasionally, she would remark about some aspect of her experience, usually saying she wanted to go home.

It didn't take much to figure out she was confused... perhaps in some stage of dementia. But after a few minutes, it wasn't she I was watching. I was paying close attention to her daughters. Two women, probably with busy lives, children, households to manage, problems of their own to solve, were taking turns with the loving care of their mother.

I saw my girls in those women. Although I am but 71 and still of reasonably sound mind and body, Father Time keeps on pushing me toward advanced age. And in those years ahead, I have no idea what life will be like. Will I be able to drive myself to the salon for an occasional haircut, manicure or pedicure? I certainly see myself in the car, doing exactly that.

Or will my daughters, both busy, competent women, have to abandon their daily responsibilities to see that I am driven to the salon for those services? Will they need to stand by my chair, touch my hand every now and then to reassure me they are there and then step aside to let the other sibling have a go at keeping me calm?

I didn't enjoy my usually relaxing pedicure that day. I had seen a glimpse of my own possible future as I sat there, close enough to touch the lady in the next chair, unable to avoid hearing the comments she made and the comforting responses from her children.

How I hope I will not be she one day.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I read another good book yesterday. Couldn't put it down until the very end. Loved the story, hated the story-teller.


She is a true writer, and with each page I read, I realized again and again I will never be one.

Oh sure, I know the technical aspects of good writing... I'm an editor, for heaven's sake! I know when a comma is misplaced or needed instead of a semi-colon. I know about subjunctive mood and all the other tenses and quirks of our wonderful language.

I just can't tell a story with the rich use of those rules and words I love. I'm like Salieri, who yearned to compose great music but couldn't and who despised Mozart because he could.

After my two novels were published, I tried over and over to write another. I have several files on my computer that are first pages or parts of first chapters of stories I'd love to tell. The words just don't come and the ideas evaporate into nothingness, leaving me wishing I could have figured out how to finish my tales.

So I edit and I blog and I write first lines and first chapters. Perhaps someday, my Muse will open her eyes, stretch her long, made-for-typing fingers and just write... a real book, a real novel, something someone somewhere will want to read.

I can dream, can't I?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Who Am I?

The calendar diesn't lie, even though my brain refuses to acknowledge the truth.

Ever look in the mirror and say, "who the hell is that?" Every day, my friend, every day.

In my delusional mind, I still have wrinkle-free skin, flat abs and perky, sexy breasts. I can eat anything I like without worrying about losing my size 4 figure. I can party all night and still function flawlessly in the morning. I have nearly limitless energy.

Oh, stop it!!! That real person in the mirror, wrinkled face, thinning hair and baggy eyes, goes along with a thickened waist, afternoon naps and not just shortened parties, but few parties at all.

This is 71. Seventy was bad enough, but tomorrow the calendar flips again and another year marks new surprises for the fictional young me.

But hey, on the upside, and it is a huge upside, my health is still good, I have wonderful friends (though I have lost more than I ever imagined) and a loving family (also missing crucial members like my dear Mom, Dad and step-father), so I ask myself:

What's a few wrinkles and 71 candles?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Feeling good feels good

The Italian bug, which morphed into a stubborn American bug, has finally passed on, leaving me feeling well at last! My voice still fades or disappears now and then, but all the other nasty symptoms are gone.

So I'm back to what I didn't do for a month. Fun stuff, like housecleaning, floor scrubbing and cooking. Really fun stuff like editing manuscripts, organizing my department at Wings Press (Mainstream, Cozy Mystery, Crime, Thriller, Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal) and getting back into the swing of reading some really good writing and some really not-so-good attempts at writing.

Some of the authors needed to have Sister Rose Albert Abbott as their 6th grade teacher. And before her, Sister Mary Raphaela, who taught me in third, fourth and fifth grade (yes, it was a tiny parochial school with limited numbers of nuns, so the class sizes often exceeded 60 - and still we all learned!). These two women were grammar fanatics. And I fell in love with the subject, too.

Sheer bliss -- standing at the blackboard in front of an entire class of bored, restless and totally disinterested kids, diagramming compound sentences that filled the board... and the one next to it. I was fascinated by the structure of sentences, eager to learn what modified what and why. Things like the past perfect tense or the subjunctive mood fed right into my voracious appetite for the rules of good writing. By the time I was in high school, I was writing on a college level and in college, knocking out papers on just about any subject I was studying was a breeze.

So imagine my frustration with today's writers, who can't keep the use of their, they're and there straight. I am appalled at the punctuation, or lack thereof, and the total disregard for tense agreement, number agreement and, oh yes, subjunctive mood. I'm sure my authors dread seeing my name as their editor. One posted on her Facebook page a while back that her edit had been "bru-tal." Only because her editor had thorough, yes, brutal instruction in what constitutes good writing technique, dear author, and you will be better for having gone through my blue-pencil wringer.

Time to wrench myself away from writing about something I love. Time to venture back into the world of the writing of others, where surprises lurk, both good and not-so-good. More to come, probably on the same topic another day.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Still stuck with the blahs

Blog posts are supposed to be short.

I have a hard time writing "short," but I will make an exception this time.

The bug I brought home with me from Italy is still here... morphed into a host of American bugs that refuse to be killed. Sore throat, congestion and now a UTI to add to the fun.

Another visit with the doctor today. Crossing my fingers he has a new piece of magic in his bag of tricks.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Trip of a Lifetime

Of all the countries in the world, Italy has been the one I've longed to visit.

As a child, I read about the ruins, the grandeur of the Forum and the horrors of the Colosseum. I saw Ben Hur nearly 20 times, not because of the story, but because I could see how the Romans lived, feel the atmosphere in their surroundings. I have been fascinated by Roman history as long as I can remember.

So to be there, to be in Rome, was a dream I never thought to realize. Then I turned 70.

My daughters, determined to make my special year even more so, arranged a trip of a lifetime for me. The three of us would spend six days, eight with travel, in Italy, wherever I wanted to go. I chose Naples because of its proximity to Pompeii and the Amalfi coast, and, of course, Rome. Terri, my firstborn, did the arranging and generously funded my portion of the trip. She found a travel agent, booked the excursions, the flights, train trips and hotel rooms. When we met Erica, Daughter #2, for the ride to the airport, everything was settled and in good order. I was going to Italy!!!

Our flight left Philadelphia at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 23rd. Never having flown for eight hours straight, I was unprepared for the experience. I could not sleep, although it was obviously a wise thing to do. So, when we arrived in Naples at 8:40 a.m. on Sunday, the 24th, I was already tired. We got lost several times trying to find our way out of the airport and into the train station in Rome and then again trying to find our train. Did I mention it was very hot?

By about 4 p.m., we had arrived in Naples and caught a cab to the Hotel Mediterraneo. It was a beautiful old structure just a few blocks from the harbor, with spectacular views of Mt. Vesuvius. I had a slightly scratchy throat, but didn't pay it any mind as we had a gorgeous meal in the hotel dining room and then spent a few hours on the rooftop terrace before calling it a night.

Monday morning, we were picked up by a tour company for a trip to Pompeii. My throat was quite sore by then, so I popped a lot of Tylenol and scarfed down one Ricola after another. Pompeii was not to be missed. It was everything I always dreamed it would be... a glimpse into a way of life brought to a sudden, catastrophic end by a violent eruption of Vesuvius, which buried the entire population beneath ash. Our tour guide, Loretta, kept everyone moving, but stopped appropriately to point out things we needed to see and to explain the history behind them. Our tour lasted three hours and then we went to lunch. At lunch, we met two young women whom we immediately took for Americans. Their English was colloquial and flawless. Turned out they were students and lived in Paris. Both spoke several languages and it struck us how woefully inadequate Americans are in their study of the rest of the world’s ways. Did I mention it was very, very hot?

After lunch, we met our tour guide, Mario, for an air-conditioned mini-bus ride along the Amalfi coast. It was breathtakingly beautiful, and one of the few times in my life I can honestly say I envied someone with extreme wealth. The homes perched perilously high on the mountainsides, the cascading orchards of flowering trees, the terraced fruit groves, the ancient churches and the black beaches were more than I had ever anticipated. Mario kept up a steady stream of information, jokes and chatter as he negotiated the 194 s-curves along the route, leaving us white-knuckled and breathless. We stopped frequently for picture-taking and once in the ceramic factory so we could use their restroom and make purchases.Unfortunately, the constant motion of the bus didn’t sit well with Terri, who had bouts of motion sickness and wasn’t able to enjoy the trip 100%. Our day ended when he delivered us to our hotel at about 5.

Taking the recommendation of one of the desk clerks, we walked a short distance to Alberto's for some genuine Neapolitan pizza and found far more to enjoy. The tiny restaurant served a low-cost bounty of Italian dishes. By then, my throat protested any intrusion by food or otherwise, but I managed a bit of dinner and immediate bedtime when we got back.

On Tuesday, we walked to the harbor and boarded a ferry for the island of Capri, about a twenty-five minute ride across the Bay of Naples. The picturesque homes on hills, open air markets and cafes were just as I’d always imagined. There was a slight breeze off the water, and the girls were anxious to see the rest of the island, so we boarded a tour boat and sped off on the azure water. Mountains of limestone rocks rose from the ocean floor to dizzying heights and individual homes perched in crevasses along the shoreline. Here and there, a grotto cut into the limestone boasted swimmers from nearby yachts who dove in and out of the nearly green water. Although we had hoped to go into the Blue Grotto, by the time we arrived and joined at least ten other tour boats waiting for the same thing, the tide was too high and we were unable to go inside. We arrived back in the harbor at about 4. Erica and Terri dipped their toes into the sea, collected some beautiful stones from the rocky beach and we returned to Naples. By then, I had a slight fever and a very, very sore throat, not to mention a generous sunburn from my time on the water, sunscreen notwithstanding.

We ended up back at Alberto’s for dinner. The staff remembered us from the previous evening and brought our choices of beverage. It was a bit cooler when we walked back to the hotel, a breeze drifting from the Bay.

Wednesday was a travel day. The girls were up early, ready to go out and explore one last site. There was a beautiful museum we could see from our hotel, so they took the opportunity to visit. When they came back, we had lunch and took a cab to the train station for our ride back to Rome. The accommodations weren’t as luxurious as the ride down, but the train was comfortable and fast and we were in Rome by 5:30. We took a cab to our next destination, the Ambasciatori Palazzo, situated in the heart of Rome within walking distance of many famous sites, including the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. Our first night in Rome, the girls ate in a lovely, quiet restaurant on our street, Via Veneto. I was hot ,tired and feeling terrible, so I hit the sack while the girls went out.

We had a tour of the Vatican scheduled for Thursday morning, but I was simply not in any shape to go anywhere. So the girls arranged to move it to Saturday and they struck out on their own while I rested in the hotel. They came back with lunch and vivid descriptions of the places they’d found on their journey. In the afternoon, after being sure I was safely tucked into our room, they visited the Borghese Museum and brought back what photos they could take (no cameras allowed inside the museum) and glowing descriptions of the place. That evening, we walked down our street (literally, since the Via Veneto is a hill) to a beautiful restaurant which the girls had spotted on their walks. The food was beautifully presented and very, very good.

There were a great many things I still wanted to see, some of which the girls had already experienced, so we decided to use the hotel’s concierge service and hire a car and driver to take us around the city to see the items on my list. Friday morning at 9, Dino arrived at the hotel in his air conditioned Mercedes and we began our tour. He was knowledgable and found ways to allow us to leave the car and see the insides of some of the churches and monuments while he waited at the curb. Without this arrangement, I would have missed the Pantheon, the Church of St. Ignazio, the Spanish Steps (from both top and bottom), the pyramid, the oldest residence in Rome and a host of other things. While it was still blisteringly hot, being in an air-conditioned car made the experience enjoyable.

At noon, we were back at the hotel and had lunch next door at the Hard Rock Café. I enjoyed my grilled chicken salad in spite of the difficulty swallowing it, but we had to rush through the lunch in order to meet our bus for the tour of the ancient ruins. The bus was not air conditioned, but the ride was short and soon we were at the gates of The Forum, so remarkably well preserved I could imagine the activities carried on there. About a quarter of the way into the tour, we came upon a lovely shaded area where a slight breeze blew, so I sent the girls on with the tour group and sat on a flat rock to wait for them. I couldn’t imagine climbing stairs and doing all the walking our guide had in mind. When the tour came back through the area, I rejoined the girls and we headed for the Colosseum. There was no way I could skip one second of that tour. It was extraordinary! We were permitted access into all areas, including the seats where the nobles watched the gladiators and slaves fight each other or the lions and tigers that were released from cages below the floor. Designed to be airy and to keep spectators comfortable, the Colosseum was downright breezy. We walked a short distance from there to the bus to return to our hotel. Once there, we showered and rested, then walked down the hill to a restaurant Dino had recommended. Despite the raw throat I had to swallow over, the food was delicious. Before we left, the maitre d gave us a complimentary bottle of sweet dessert wine and a bag of biscotti made on the premises. After we got back to the hotel, the girls headed out again, this time to the Piazza Navona where they took in the sights. Seems Rome really comes alive after nine p.m. and they wanted to get a taste of it. I was too wiped out to go with them and barely heard them when they got back.

Saturday was the undoing of my trip, in spite of how much I’d anticipated the day. We were picked up at 7:45 for a short ride in a bumpy, rickety bus to Vatican City. When we arrived, we stood in a piazza in the sun while the tour guide arranged us, counted us and handed out audio sets with earbuds. We crossed the street, all 47 of us with one guide, and fell into a line of hundreds of people slowly snaking their way around the Vatican wall. There was little shade and soon many were wondering why we had purchased tickets that promised to bypass lines when we were clearly not bypassing anything. After about a hour, Terri went off by herself to see if there was any shade to be had and came back to report she’d found some… a set of steps around the corner from our line, from which we could rejoin the tour as it neared the entrance to the Vatican Museum. My paper parasol helped somewhat in keeping the direct sun away but it was still very, very hot. Finally, at about 11:45, we reached the entrance to the museum. We went through security and gathered with our guide to begin the trek through the various rooms that make up the museum. The crowd was huge; our guide’s narrative was often lost to static or the narrative of another guide on the same frequency, so much of what we saw was left to us to discover. The group was moving at a snail’s pace, shuffling along shoulder to shoulder in the non-air conditioned spaces. The girls suggested we leave the tour and go ahead to the Sistine Chapel where we could catch up with the group when they arrived there. So we tried to make our way a bit faster, edging along the sides of the crowds, trying to see some of the tapestries, mosaics and frescoes that filled the various rooms. Without a guide and being in such a press, we weren’t able to get a good sense of what we were viewing.

Finally, the Sistine Chapel was in sight. We were herded with everyone else into the room, where we were urged to keep moving and indeed couldn’t do much else, since the crush of the crowd made it impossible to pause for a good view of the famed ceiling. I was struck by the size of the Chapel… only 45 feet wide by 190 feet long! In my imagination, the Chapel should have been a huge room, akin to a cathedral sanctuary, and the smallness of it was a true disappointment. Still, even that wasn’t to be examined thoroughly as the security guards kept us pushing onward toward the exit doors. At that point, I was hot, claustrophobic and exhausted. Wanting only to find some air and a tiny space free of people, the girls and I begged a guard to allow us to break free of the group and just sit for a few minutes. While the guard could see how ill I was, he wouldn’t let the girls cross into the area to which he led me and as he said he had to be careful about what he did for people who claimed to be ill because of the skepticism of other tourists who might also want to break free of the crowd. Finally, after about ten minutes, I felt well enough and really wanted to move on and out. We followed the guard’s directions and found ourselves lost in the gift shop and far removed from our trour group. We couldn’t find another tour group from the same company to notify our guide where we were, so we had to retrace our entire journey through the museum to a place where we could finally exit. When we finally stumbled into St. Peter’s Square, it was four o’clock and our tour bus was long gone. I was actually standing in St. Peter’s Square, which was a place I’d always wanted to see, but the cumulative effect of the entire horrible day took all the joy from the experience. We had missed the Basilica but were so exhausted and angry we really didn’t care. The girls pooled our last Euros and we took a cab back to the hotel. Too exhausted to do anything else, I asked the girls if we could just go next door to the Hard Rock Café again for dinner. I enjoyed the chicken salad, cold Coke and air-conditioned surroundings. When we got back to the room, we began packing for our trip home.

I can’t say whether I was more disappointed or angrier over the Vatican visit. It seemed so thoughtless and mean-spirited for the guards to keep pushing everyone toward the exit of the Chapel. The fact that our tour guide didn’t take the route she said she was going to take and the fact that we took a wrong turn and totally missed any chance of hooking up with our group again contributed to my sense of having been cheated of something I had so hoped to enjoy. If ever I get the privilege of going back to Rome, I will skip the Vatican and fill my time with more enjoyable pursuits.

The girls were up early Sunday morning (at 6 a.m.) to revisit the special places near the hotel and take photos without the crush of people in the way. When they got back, I was up and packing. We went to breakfast and rushed to meet our taxi when it arrived to take us to the airport. Again it was very hot. We were scheduled for an 11:50 flight home, so we planned to arrive at the airport by 9. Security was easy; lines were short. Our flight was on time and uneventful. My ears clogged up about ten minutes into the flight, giving me a headache, but I watched two very good movies to help speed the journey (The Iron Lady and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) and rested.

We landed in Philadelphia at 3:40 p.m. local time, about ten minutes early. I don’t know how many time zones we crossed, but the flight seemed to last forever. Again, security and customs were quick so we were able to go directly for our bags and to the terminal where Howard was waiting. Although we had e-mailed several times during the week, I had not told him how sick I really was so he wouldn’t worry. One look at me told him all he needed to know. We drove to Erica’s where we dropped the girls and came home. He’d planned a simple dinner, but I had no appetite and ended up going right to sleep.

On Monday, I went to our family doctor and learned I’d been nourishing a sinus and throat infection all week. I was given an antibiotic and told it would take anywhere from a week to two for me to totally shake what I’d carried around. As I write this, it is a week later, Monday, July 9 and I am still not up to par. Lesson from all of this: 1. Travel to Italy in October; 2. Take an antibiotic along just in case; 3. Trust local medical people enough to consult a doctor abroad instead of suffering for a week.

I’ve reflected on the trip a lot. Aside from my sheer gratitude to Terri for her generosity in funding it, I am very grateful to have had an opportunity I always dreamed of but never believed would actually come my way. I can close my eyes and see all the wonders we experienced while we were away and I know the images will always stay with me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pieces from the past

After 21 years at work on the newspapers I'd helped found and finally totally owned, a big, bad recession hit and poof! it was all gone, sold for just enough to pay the bills.

I moved on. Working in education took my mind off those wonderful years at the paper. Well almost, and I only occasionally pined for what I had lost.

When I left "my office" for the last time in 1995, the only vestiges of my long career there were about 25 boxes of back issues... one of each publication for each week they came out. As soon as each edition was safely on its way to the post office or the stores where they were available, either I or one of the office staff would count out five copies, add a sheet of paper with the date and put them into a cardboard file box. When the box threatened to burst at the seams, I would cull out the copies, leaving one per edition, until even then not one more issue would fit. It took 21 years to fill those boxes, which were piled high in a back room of the office building.

The new owners agreed to retain custody of the boxes since I had nowhere to store them. I put them out of my mind as I ran away as fast as I could from the painful knowledge I'd poured 21 years of my life into those newspapers and didn't have the business acumen to keep them alive. As far as I knew, the boxes were being safeguarded for posterity and I left it at that... until last week.

A faithful reader and friend, now heading up the Winslow Township Historical Society, sent an e-mail inquiring after the back issues of what he thought would be a great archive of local history. I contacted one of the buyers of my paper, who put me in touch with one of the buyers of the buyers of his company, who would have known where the boxes had been stored. It took about four hours yesterday to get the phone call. He was sorry, the stranger said, but about a year and a half ago, the boxes had been removed from storage and recycled. Every last one.

At first, I accepted the news almost calmly. After all, it had been 14 years since I walked out of the office for the last time... out the front door, not the back where I would have seen my work stacked high in the back room. But in just a few minutes, the impact of knowing the concrete evidence of all that work had been destroyed without so much as a call to inquire about its possible importance made me want to cry. Indeed, the tears lurked near the surface, threatening, for most of the day.

I didn't sleep well last night thinking of all those back issues. Finally, my psyche came to my rescue, as it usually does. I imagined someone opening the storage facility and finding 25 sagging, moldy boxes of yellowed, crumbling newsprint. Not wanting to pay for continued storage of the useless collection, they did the correct thing and summoned a recycling truck to haul it all away.

Even that rationalization hasn't helped a lot. It was my own lack of good stewardship toward all those newspapers that brought about this final result. Now there remain only a handful of important back issues... the very first and the very last... to remind me of the joy of publishing those newspapers every week.

One less tie to the glory days.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Water works

I used to be an easy cryer.

When I was a teenager, the slightest little blip in my boyfriend status brought floods of tears. In fact, high school was so miserable, I think I cried my way through it and don't for the life of me know how any academic work was accomplished.

College was a little easier, but a major crisis in my junior and senior years turned on the spigot again. I cried... a lot!

But then it seemed crying didn't fit into the crises that followed. Financial problems, a failed marriage, the loss of the business I'd loved and nourished for 21 years... none of that brought a lot of weeping. I saved that for people, like my mother, although I don't remember doing a lot of crying when she died... I was too numb, and encouraged not to show my emotions lest they embarrass my then-husband.

I can still well up just thinking of the loss of my dear friend Marie. My emotional attachment to her was akin to that of a sister/sister, sometimes mother/daughter or daughter/mother (depending on who needed whom the most at any given moment). I guess the easy release of tears whenever I think of her should clue me in to the fact that I never got over her death and the sadness is just an eye-blink away.

When my younger daughter was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous thyroid, I cried. When my grandchildren were born, I cried, but those were tears of pure joy.

But every now and then, just for emotional release, something cathartic to purge the pent-up sadness that lurks just below the surface, the tears come uninvited. My darling little cat hates it when I do that. She will hiss to show her displeasure. This, after all, isn't the Mommy she knows.

They don't last long, these little bouts of weeping. And I always feel good when they vanish. So this morning, as I scanned the tv listings to find something to watch while I ate breakfast, I watched the last fifteen minutes of The Bridges of Madison County. Uh-huh, my favorite tear-jerker and the one guaranteed to turn on the tears. It worked as it always does.

Now I can get on with my day.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Where did 2011 go?

We were in the crush of people on the Palm Court at Tropicana in Atlantic City. It was so crowded we could barely move. It was so noisy we couldn't hear each other speak.

For the past 20 years or so, we've rung in the New Year at Trop. We've enjoyed a great dinner, shows that were both just okay and absolutely fabulous and the company of friends we've met there. So this year wasn't any different. Or was it?

As we listened to the roar of the crowd when the bewitching hour struck, it occurred to us that we'd just done this... we'd just rung in another new year. Could it possibly have been 12 months prior? Hardly.

After all, we had just endured a long, snowy winter and greeted the arrival of spring with all the rain Mother Nature showered on us. In spite of the wet weather, we managed to spend a week in Wildwood with the kids and enjoyed a lovely few days on the beach in Atlantic City, taking in the sun and sand. We had gone to a show at the Ocean City Music Pier and seen another Chicago concert at Caesar's. We'd marveled at the changing colors of the trees along the country roads we enjoy traveling, and we'd talked about the Halloween costumes our grandchildren were planning to wear. Thanksgiving was only yesterday. We spent it with our family, traveling up to Branchburg shortly afterward for grandson Nate's middle school 6th grade band concert. We'd gotten our Christmas shopping done early, figuring it would be great to have a couple of free weeks without the stress of holiday prep. But we didn't get those weeks... regardless of how ready we were.

What we got were mere minutes, flashes of time that zipped by almost unnoticed. Just like the rest of the year we'd just bid farewell.

They say time goes faster the older we get. I used to scoff at that notion, not imagining how true it would be. I resent the speedy passage of days, weeks and months and want to hold onto them, clasp them tight and refuse to let them fly past so quickly it's like they were hardly ever here.

I can't, of course, but as 2012 came in, loudly and with great fanfare, I promised myself to remember each day and try to make it last, find something noteworthy in every single one. That way, when 2013 knocks, I won't feel like I've missed out on what was probably a terrific year!