Early morning beach

Every year the turtle patroller team has an all night party.  We meet at Margi’s brother’s house around 11:00pm…he lives on the beach…and walk the beach half the night looking for sea turtles who’ve come ashore to lay their eggs.  If we find one, we sit in silence and watch, hoping the moon will give us enough light to see her because flashlights can disturb her. It’s like praying. There’s deep stillness and a quiet beauty that I’ll never be able to describe.  She finishes, covers the eggs, throws a lot of sand around and then heads straight for the Gulf and disappears beneath the waves.

Morning on Venice by Elin Larsen

We were out last night and then, after doing our regular patrol work, we all headed home to bed.

But I didn’t sleep this morning.  I listened to a couple podcasts and then checked my email.  An email from my sister Kim had me sitting bolt upright.  My nephew, Jason, had stepped on a  bottle last night and cut his foot badly..badly enough that when they brought him to the closest ER, they transported him to Beth Israel in Boston. He’s undergoing surgery right now.

I couldn’t stop crying.  I completely lost it.  I think it was partly because surgery is always scary but mostly because, as I told Erin, I could manage losing my mom and dad but  I’m just not ready for anything really bad to happen to anyone else.  Dad and Mom were in their 90s.  Hard as it was, it was time. But it isn’t time for anyone else, especially not the kids.

Jason with my Dad and Annette

And what’s happening to Jason might be rough; he might be laid up all summer and most likely will have some (minor, the doc says) permanent nerve damage but it isn’t life threatening.  But it could have been and that’s what knocked me for a loop today.  That in the blink of an eye, something catastrophic that comes out of nowhere could turn our family’s world upside-down .

This afternoon my sister, Eileen, emailed to say that her Jason (another cousin) has a terrible spider bite that isn’t responding to antibiotics and this beautiful young father of two has been on shaky ground today.  They just decided not to admit him…good sign.  Scary

Eileen’s Jason

day for that family, too.  Good thing I didn’t name either of my kids Jason, huh?

So I count my blessings…again.  Everyone is doing okay, except maybe the two Jasons.  And we loved being in Los Angeles with Sean and Carly.  I cried when he walked down the aisle but then, as Erin said, I cry for everything.

I was going to write about some books I’ve read.  Will do that another time.  And I was going to write more about California.  Will do that later too. I was going to tell you more about our night on the beach.  That will wait for another time.  Right now, I need to think about getting dinner on the table and going to bed early.  And hoping that both our Jasons are doing well in the morning.

Love to all…Hope all of you are having the best summer of your lives.


Graduation Day


Oh the Places You’ll Go

Flying over the Rockies on the way to LAX

Sean’s graduation day…and I’m so glad we’re here to celebrate with him. He’s done with school (for awhile anyway) with an MBA from UCLA.  And we couldn’t be prouder of what he’s accomplished with his beautiful wife cheering him on.

So we’re here for graduation doing what we always do when we come to California. Sean and Carly go to work and we play tourist.  Yesterday was our day to explore  we started at the OUE Skyspace which reminded us of Sky Garden in London.  Up on the top of a 69 story building, it’s the perfect place to see all of Los Angeles and beyond. They say you can see the Pacific on a really clear day. It was clear but not quite that clear. We could see the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign (through binoculars) and the mountains in the distance.  Gorgeous.

We headed to the Japanese American National Museum next and we’re there for almost the rest of the day. It wasn’t until I was almost 30 that I heard about the Japanese internment during World War II.  There was a made for TV movie…Farewell to Manzanar…and I remember being stunned and horrified.  The museum does a beautiful job of showing people exactly what can happen when Americans allow themselves to get caught up in the hysteria and fear of people who might be “the enemy”, who certainly don’t look like “us”, who could possibly be working for “the other side.”

What struck me was how easily this mass uprooting of families was done…for their “own protection.” And when it was over and they went home…to vandalized houses when their possessions had been destroyed, to no jobs and much distrust and prejudice.  Can’t you see it happening here now?

We took a break midway through the day and had lunch in a Japanese cafe near the museum.  Then we went back to see one last section…a great display of George Takei Memorabilia.  He went to one of the concentration camps when he was five, left when he was eight.

Our next stop was the Kyoto Garden at the Doubletree Hilton…a beautiful oasis with waterfalls and flowers, trees and plants.  We found a table in the shade and played a few hands of gin rummy which is our new addiction.  It’s a rare day that we don’t play cards for a bit. Jerry is better than I am but I give him a run for his money.

Anyway the garden was a perfect place to rest before we started up the hill to The Broad, an art museum next door to the Disney Performing arts Center.  Sean and Carly met us to tour the Broad and then go dinner downtown. Modern art always makes me feel inadequate and not so smart.  I so rarely “get it”.  I mean I enjoy Jackson Pollack and Andy Warhol, I like pieces that have some color and form but this stuff was, for the most part, so unappealing.  I don’t need to go back to this museum again.

Dinner was  at a wonderful French restaurant downtown…Sean and I split this amazing pasta dish that started with setting fire to cognac in a Parmesan cheese wheel and then tossing it with penne and some kind of creamy cheese sauce (very non fattening)

Perfect day and perfect weather for all that walking. How lucky could we get?

I’ll send pictures of the graduate tomorrow!


June Already?

Tracks from turtle patrol this morning

This week I went to my cardiologist.  I have to go once a year because chemo and radiation can do a number on your heart.  It’s just a precaution but I always hold my breath (figuratively, not literally) until it’s over.  I tell people that I call that days with doctor’s or dentist’s appointments the “days of potential bad news.”  Positive thinking, huh. I can’t help it.  No matter how well you feel, you just never know what you might hear when they take a good look at you.

So I headed for Sarasota after yoga, got there really early so I took a walk around the block…and then took a deep breath and went in.

Everything is fine.  I’m fine. My numbers are fine. My EKG was fine.  I look fine.  My lungs sound fine.  Whew…the day of potential bad news is turning out just fine.  I walked out of there floating.  And if I wasn’t afraid of looking like a lunatic, I would probably have been skipping and singing.

And the day stayed fine.  Went to Tervis Tumbler with my stained and scratched glasses and got seven new ones for free.  The rain held off and I had time to exercise in the pool and read before I headed for the library for my usual Wednesday night volunteer hours.  Yes, it was a good day.

They’re ALL good days.  Jerry is doing well…eating what he wants for the most part, golfing, keeping busy with cardiac rehab sessions three times a week.  I have turtle patrol and yoga and breakfast with my sister, Eileen,  and breakfast and lunches with friends and book club.  I’m trying to get up really early and walk before yoga while it’s still cool.  It’s not a bad idea except that, even when it’s cool, you end up a sweaty mess and then during yoga there are tiny flying insects that just love you and so by the time yoga is over all you can think about is how fast you can get home and into the shower before you go nuts.  But I feel so healthy…I mean walking, yoga, exercising in the pool…not bad for an old lady.

Anne and Clark were here last week.  That’s my sister and her husband..the ones who put up with us for seven months in Houston a few years ago.  We just hung out…gabbed, played cards, ate, drank, relaxed…I loved having them here.  And I went out on Eileen and Jim’s sailboat …such beauty and peace out on the water watching dolphins. And friends were here….Marie and Joe…we went to their condo for dinner one night; they came to our another.  And they went to Trivia with us.

Speaking of Trivia, here is one of the questions.  Name five Presidents who have only four letters in their last name.

We did get it eventually but it took time.   Let me know if you get it and which ones were the last ones you thought of.

Books:  A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer.  I liked it a lot.  Yes, I know it had major weaknesses which I won’t enumerate.  But I liked it a lot.  It was set in NYC in the 1940s when we were just entering World War II.  The main character is a photographer for Life Magazine and it opens with her covering a story on penicillin.  I didn’t realize that, even though Lister did major work with penicillin in the 1920s, it wasn’t mass produced until much, much later.  That meant that people were still dying of infections from a scraped knee in the 40s.  Good book. I learned a lot.

And she also wrote And After the Fire…(thanks Maria for the recommendation)  It was another good one, this time about a Bach manuscript discovered at the end of World War II.

And I just finished The Leavers by Lisa Ko. Timely novel.  The two main characters…a Chinese mom and her son.  The mom is deported after a raid on the nail salon where she was working.  She has no way of getting in touch with anyone for years.  The ten year old son believes she took off without him.  He’s adopted by a couple in upstate New York but always wonders why his mom abandoned him and where she is now.

And News of the World by Paulette Jiles.  Loved it!  It’s about a little girl who had been taken by Indians when she was six and is being brought back  to her relatives (parents were killed) when she’s ten. She is not a happy camper.  Beautiful book.

And Beartown by Frederick Backman (A Man Called Ove)  Very different from Ove but I liked it.

Whew…Guess I’ve been reading a lot.  Well, reading and listening.  All that early morning walking means lots of listening time!

Two trips in June.  I’m heading to Massachusetts on Friday for a graduation celebration.  My niece Jenna-the youngest grandchild-will be heading for the University of New Hampshire  in the fall.  Her older sister, Jessica, just graduated from William and Mary and has a job waiting for her in DC.  How did they grow up so fast.

Then Jerry and I are going to Los Angeles. Sean is graduating from UCLA with an MBA on June 16.  Can’t wait to see him and to see Carly.  And so proud of all he’s done.

For my teacher friends who are NOT retired…hurray for all you who are DONE this coming week and hang in there for all my friends up north who still have a way to go.  Summer is here!  Enjoy every minute of it!

Funny story about the picture below.  Every year, before we took our second graders to the Rockwell Museum, we’d take a close look at some of the more famous pictures.  We look at them in terms of story structure.  What happened before this picture?  What is happening in the picture?  What will happen next?  And they’d always talk about how she was fighting on the playground and is in big trouble.

So, I’d ask, why is she smiling?

And the first answer was always “for the picture!”

A Rockwell Favorite


Happy Mother’s Day

I just checked…the apostrophe is where it belongs.  Not sure which mom gets to celebrate but that’s the way it is.  Wouldn’t you think it would be Mothers’ Day?  I mean all of us are in this together, right?  Anyway, here’s hoping all the moms out there have a lovely day.

Jerry and I are doing fine.  Lots of quirky house problems (our ice maker won’t make ice this week and we can’t figure out how to set up our new landline phone) but let’s face it, these are first world problems if I ever saw some.  So all in all, life has been pretty good these days.  Besides, the snowbirds are all almost gone which means there are parking spaces at the grocery store, no waits in restaurants and you can get from Point A to Point B in record time with no traffic.

There is a downside, though, to the end of snowbird season.  Some of my best friends are snowbirds.  It’s hard to say goodbye and I miss them…miss them at yoga, at book club, at library volunteers, at Trivia night, at Dining for Women.  I always get sad this time of year as they all pack up and leave to go back to their other lives. Good thing there are lots of “year rounders” who are still here.  We’ll hold down the fort till the snowbirds start coming back in October or November.

Jerry and I went to Gainesville on Saturday to renew library cards.  Don’t ask…it’s a crazy story and I honestly don’t know anyone else weird enough to drive three hours to renew a library card.  But we turned it into a beautiful day.   It actually was a beautiful day…warm but not hot with a gorgeous breeze.  We went home the coastal route and stopped in a town called Tarpon Springs.  Tarpon Springs is home to a big Greek population drawn to the area by the abundance of sponge beds just off the coast. Sponge divers from Greece and their families came over in the 20s and 30s and in the 30s, sponges were one of the biggest industries in Florida.  The town is delightful…cute shops (tourist heaven) downtown with great Greek restaurants.  We had lunch at one…Mykonos…and wandered around, saw a movie about the sponge divers, checked out the shops and finally got home around dinner time.  Nice day.  There’s lots more to explore in Florida.  Maybe we’ll do a little more while the snowbirds are away.

It’s that time of year again…graduation day.  My niece, Jessica, is graduating from William and Mary this weekend.  Jessica was one of our “practice grandchildren”, who one time came to my house and when it was time to go to bed, said she wouldn’t be able to sleep because she had left “cat blankie” at home.  I’m not sure she EVER did sleep that night.  She really did love that blankie…still does, I think…even as she moves on to a great job in Washington, DC.

I love Facebook…I’ve been seeing photos of former second and fifth graders who are graduating from college.  When I sent a congratulations to one of them, she wrote back, “My goal is to be “that teacher” for at least one student, and you are most definitely mine.”  Oh Gwen, you can’t imagine how good that made me feel.

And when I went into Venice High where I’m mentoring a sophomore, I bumped into a former fifth grader from Cranberry who is graduating from Venice High later in the month.

I need your email, he said, ’cause I’m going to college and then when I graduate, I’m going to get that “rolling chair.” Absolutely, I said, I’ll plan on it…in four years, TJ.  (Back story…the kids in my fifth grade LOVED my rolling chairs.  I had two and they’d fight to sit in them.  So nobody got to sit in them except me.  But I told them that if they graduated from college and let me know, I’d deliver their own personal rolling chair to their door. I think a lot may have forgotten or  lost my email address or just are too shy…Not TJ. He’ll collect!)

Jerry is going golfing tomorrow for the first time since before his surgery.  It’s going to be hot but he’s looking forward to it.  And I’ve got turtle patrol.  We had our first nest of the season this week.  First of 500?  I doubt it.  Last year we had 500 nests but the beach has changed.  We lost a lot of beach over the winter.  Hopefully the girls will find enough beach to make their nests.

I’ve read some good books in the past few months.  Days without End by Sebastian Barry was heartbreakingly gorgeous.  The language, the story, the voice…incredible book.  Once We Were Brothers and Karolina’s Twins were good….not literary masterpieces but great stories well researched on the Holocaust in Poland.  And I don’t know if I ever mentioned Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher but it’s terrific.  I listened to it and loved it.  And now I’m listening to Peter Heller’s Celine, about a 78 year old detective and reading McCullogh’s The Wright Brothers.

Be well, my friends.  And teacher friends…it’s almost over, especially those of you here in Florida.  Up north….well, that’s another story!

Two of my favorite snowbirds working out a knitting problem



First World Problems and Turtle Patrol

Photo by Kathy Brunt

Slowly but surely, I’m getting back to normal (whatever that is).  Turtle patrol has begun.  We had our first false crawl today which means the girls are out there and will be coming in soon.  Evidently one came in last night, didn’t go far before she changed her mind and headed out again.   Not sure why she was so particular.  She came out of the water at one of the best nesting places on the zone.  Go figure.  Parts of the zone are gone…beach has washed away and at high tide on a rough day, it looks like the photo above.  Should make life interesting this year. Still, no matter what it’s like on the beach, there is something so very special about being on the beach at dawn with good friends.  I just love it.

No rest for the wicked, though.  One of our solar panels was leaking.  We turned off the solar to the pool and called but then we headed north. Came home and it was STILL leaking.  Turns out it wasn’t for the pool, it was for the hot water heater.  Called again…they said they had come but couldn’t get in to the garage…Honestly, I wish they had called us.  We could have had someone let them in.  At any rate, it’s fixed.

The good news of the week is that Jerry’s feeding tube is out.  He’s eating almost everything and doing just fine.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure it would happen.  I thought maybe the poor guy would have it for the rest of his life.  But he’s back to normal (or as normal as he can be..ha ha) almost…anyway.  He went to the driving range today so he really is getting back to normal.  There are still some things that are problematic but considering how far we’ve come in a couple months, we’re pretty happy.

And the bad news of the week is that I have some kind of weird “bug bites”.  Thought they were bed bugs and tore the bed apart, washed everything, sprayed the mattress and spring, never saw a bug.  So I went to the doctor to have her take a look at my five red “things”…Maybe impetigo, maybe MRSA (spent enough time in nursing homes and hospitals lately) No results from culture yet but I’m on antibiotics and, because it’s contagious until you’ve been on meds for at least 24 hours, I’ve stuck pretty close to home.  Went for a walk on the beach rather than yoga, missed breakfast with friends, missed volunteer work at the library last night, missing a Dining for Women meeting tonight.  But I did get the house clean and cleaned out a lot of our files. (have to make lemonade out of lemons, right?)

And I turned 70 last week.  My birthday (week) was delightful…breakfast with friends, lunch with Eileen who told the waitress whose name was also Mary Catherine (check out the birthday dessert), dinner and a play with friends and then

At Gulf View Grill

dinner and another play with Jerry who did just fine on his baked potato and filet mignon.  Cards (mixed in with sympathy cards) and emails and Facebook messages…Honestly, it was lovely.  I was supposed to be on Padre Island with my siblings for a seventieth celebration but we cancelled…The week was supposed to begin last Friday and we were busy with a wake and funeral last Friday and Saturday and by Sunday I think all any of us wanted to do was go home and sleep.

So life is good, no matter what.  The beach is spectacular early in the morning…warm with a cool breeze.  It’s hot in the afternoon but I’m in the pool exercising and reading (at the same time).  When I call Annette to check on her, she’s usually not there which is good because it means she’s out and about AND I get to hear my dad’s voice on the answering machine.

Love to all…And my friends up north…hang in there. It’s will get warm one of these days.


Sunshine State Skyway Bridge



Turtle Patrol…getting hard to make it all the way down the beach

Dad and Annette with my niece, Jill

Dad and Annette on Easter Sunday


Just a quick note since several people have asked about arrangements for the funeral. The wake is on Friday from 4-7 at Dery Funeral Home on Bradford Street in Pittsfield.  Mass is at 9:00 on Saturday at Sacred Heart on Elm Street on Pittsfield.

Memorial donations may be given to the Snapdragon Book Foundation, a cause very dear to our hearts because it is run by my sister, Anne, and her husband.  The money is used to provide books to schools that need them because of dwindling funds to school libraries. Checks may be sent to Snapdragon  c/o Dery Funeral Home, 54 Bradford St, Pittsfield, MA.

The obituary should be in the Berkshire Eagle and on the Dery Funeral Home website tomorrow.  Dad’s name is Frank Thoubboron.

Saying Goodbye

T.S. Elliot called April the “cruelest month”.  And I guess it has been cruel.  But another way of looking at it would be to call it the kindest. Dad has been slowly slipping away since his stroke about eighteen months ago. And it’s been hard to watch a guy who was interested in everyone and everything and would try anything begin to sleep his days away.

He enjoyed every day whether it included cross country skiing, driving dialysis patients for the Red Cross, volunteering at Tanglewood, teaching his grandchildren how to play “oh Hell”, taking his great grandchildren trick or treating, having a morning cup of coffee and doing the crossword puzzle with Annette in bed or simply sipping a Manhattan at the end of a busy day.  The man never stopped and Annette, nine years younger, had trouble keeping up with him.

Yesterday was hard.  Dad had been brought to the hospital on Saturday morning.  He was unresponsive and seemed to be working hard with every breath.  Saturday and a Sunday were long days, especially for Kim and Paula and Annette. I was there by late Sunday afternoon. The medical team was working hard to get his sodium levels down, telling us if they could get them regulated, dad would wake up and begin to get well.

By Monday morning, I think we all knew it wasn’t going to happen. The doctor wanted to do an MRI to determine whether dad had had a stroke. I asked what they’d do differently if they found out that was so.  The answer was “nothing”…so we said no to the MRI.  Shortly after that we talked to the doctor again.  We all knew it was time to stop working so hard to keep him alive and just make him as comfortable as possible.

Dad was moved to a pretty room in their hospice section. A cart was brought in with coffee, tea and water and snacks for the family. We sat with dad, telling stories, playing music on my iphone ( first my church music and then Neil Diamond).  The room was big and that was good.  Five of his seven kids were there, Annette’s nieces came.  Annette sat by his side, stroking his head, massaging his hands with cream. We worried about how hard he was working to breathe and the nursing staff increased the morphine.

I left with Annette about 7:15.  Kim and John were going to take shifts during the night but that wasn’t needed.  Dad died about 8:15. Annette and I went back and sat with him along with Kim and Karen. Annette’s nephew, George, arrived. Finally, about 10:00 Annette and I left the hospital.

Dad would have been 95 next month and even though we’ll miss him terribly, I know it was time and I know, as Paula said, he was probably very happy to get rid of his old, frail body. The next few days will be hard ones for all of us. And harder still will be the days after that when Annette, who until recently never  went grocery shopping without him, has to get used to living alone.

Yes, April is the crudest month…and the kindest  and yesterday was the saddest day but i am so very glad I was here to see a good, good man slip the bonds of earth and fly.

Last week with some of the gang