So many of you have asked about my family in Houston, well aware that Jerry and I spent nearly a year there while I was being treated at MD Anderson.  Yes, we have family in Houston.  Some of you do, too.  And, yes, it’s scary.  But, as of this morning, my family is fine.  My sister, Anne, and her husband were on Padre Island when Harvey started making its way toward Texas.  They left their condo on the beach (and have no idea how it’s doing) and headed home to Houston (out of the frying pan, into the fire!)

They’re fine.  Still have power.  Still have water in the right places…sinks, showers NOT floors!  They spent all day yesterday moving things of value to their second floor and trying to get as much of the first floor furniture raised up on bricks.  And then they, themselves, moved upstairs to ride the rest of this out.  They can’t evacuate.  No one can.  The roads are flooded and closed.

My niece, Jill, who lives across town and just moved into a new house, is also doing fine.  And my nephew, Chris and his family, out in Katy are also fine…looking out at “lake-front property” as Chris’s wife puts it. And insisting that their cabin-fevered teens stay put.

And Erin and her gang are fine in Flower Mound (near Dallas).  The little ones are heading out for their first day of school as I write this.

But so many people are NOT fine.  All you have to do is turn on the TV to know that.  It’s absolutely horrific…reminds me of Katrina. And I know things are going to get worse in the next few days.  I don’t know how to help, other than send money to the Red Cross.  And pray.



Five Texans, One Dog, Three Weeks

Awesome waves!

When Erin decided to bring the kids (and dog) here for almost three weeks, I was thrilled but just a bit apprehensive.  I mean, three weeks is a long time when you’re used to the slow, easy rhythm of two retired people who have full but not necessarily busy lives.  Brave woman, my daughter, driving from Texas to Florida with three kids and a dog.  And we were pretty brave, too.

And she did it!  And she did it with no problem.  Poor Misty almost had a nervous breakdown when they left her in the motel to go to Panera for supper the first night but other than that, everyone traveled just fine.

Turtle Patrol

And we loved having them.  They each have their “thing”.  Lana is a turtle patroller and even though all of them got up for turtle patrol once, she was pretty faithful while she was here.  Calli was my yoga partner and Declan was my rock painter.  The activity of the summer in Venice has been a rock project.  Paint rocks, hide them in plain sight in public places, find rocks and rehide them after posting on Facebook.  The night they arrived, they started painting.  I had a big bag of smooth rocks and plenty of acrylic paints and set up the table on the lanai as a permanent painting place.  Declan painted monsters, at least twenty of them and loved hiding them.  He was so disappointed,though, when none of his rock ever showed up on Facebook.  Still, all of them had a great time and it seemed as if every time we went out in Venice or Sarasota, we’d find rocks.  The kids brought a bunch back to Flower Mound to hide.  Haven’t seen them on Facebook yet but who knows. They may appear some day. Who can tell?

Venice Rocks!

Anyway, it was great.  The kids went to camp for a week…8:30-12:30 at Mote Marine every day learning about sea life, taking the boat out and snorkeling, kayaking, watching the staff care for injured sea mammals, playing games and doing crafts…It’s a great camp and they loved it.  We’d drop them off every morning, lathered up with sunscreen and every day when we picked them up they would take turns telling us what they had seen and what they had done.  They saw a lot…dolphins leaping in the bay, manatees hanging out near the docks, hatchlings ready to be released, puffer fish, crabs…and of course all the creatures in the aquarium at Mote (the jellyfish are my favorite)

Brent arrived at the end of the second week, about the time when we were getting tired of lugging all the equipment to the beach each day…umbrella, chairs, blanket, boogie boards, sand toys, Florida shovel.  The kids are getting more helpful but let’s face it, Erin, Jerry and I looked like sherpas heading onto the beach. So when Brent arrived, we all had lighter loads.

Calli with Brent

The days acquired their own kind of rhythm.  I was always up early …to yoga or turtle patrol. Toward the end, all the kids were getting up with me every day, aware that their Florida days were coming to an end and they didn’t want to miss anything.  There were lots of times when it was actually quiet here…everyone reading or napping or watching a video or floating in the pool.  Declan created his own little hiding place in a closet with pillows and blankets. And there were times when we were all at the table playing cards and groaning if we were losing or cheering if we were winning.  They loved the huge waves that were here when they arrived and learned to catch them just right on their boogie boards to ride them to shore.  They kayaked and joined the local swim team for practice.

Quiet moments

We went to the beach at night to see the meteor shower.  Declan was so cute.  On the way down to the beach, he asked me how many falling stars we were going to see.

I have no idea, I told him.  Maybe none.  Maybe a hundred.

Oh no.  Not a hundred.

Why?  I asked.

I don’t have a hundred wishes lined up.

He didn’t see a hundred but he did see some and he did make some wishes.

Yes, it was a good three weeks and we just loved it. And if I had wished on one of those falling stars it would be that the gang would continue to come EVERY August for three weeks.

So now it’s quiet.  And we’re back to our slow moving days. And they’re good too.

Lana at yoga

Calli at yoga










Declan at yoga

We’re in for some rain…not the kind of rain Texas is getting, though.  We have family in Houston and Katy…my sister and brother in law, Anne and Clark.  And our niece, Jill and her husband, Mike.  And our nephew, Chris and his family.  They are in for a wicked ride, I’m afraid. Anne and Clark were in Corpus Christi when Harvey started heading for them…went home to Houston where it might be just as bad!  At least Houston won’t have a storm surge!

Be well, dear friends and if you’re starting school, take good care of yourselves.  September has to be the most exhausting month of the year for teachers!  And if you’re in Harvey’s path, please stay safe.  Love to you all.

Lana at turtle patrol

Kayaking with Lana

Calli at our favorite French cafe

Declan and Brent at cards


Connect Four Tournament

Calli found a rock in Sarasota

Out to lunch

Two Jasons

Two Jasons with family

A quick update on my two Jasons.  Jason #1, father of two in Vergennes, Vermont, (middle guy in picture to the right) was bit by a brown recluse spider. Honestly, this doesn’t happen in Vermont.  In Florida, yes.  In Texas, yes.  But not in Vermont.  While he was in the ER, every doctor in the area stopped by to see his bite.  They’d never seen one for real unless they were from the south.  Anyway, Jason is doing okay, not fabulous….still in pain, still not really on the mend but hanging in there.

And Jason #2,(on the left, red shirt)college kid living in Andover, Massachusetts, home for the summer, working hard at Firehouse Subs, socking away money for next year, is home too.  He’s in terrible pain and it’s going to be a long road back but the kid is tough.  It just won’t be the summer he planned on.  He needs to be able to get back to the things he loves like hiking in New Hampshire.

Yep, you blink and everything you planned on disappears and life suddenly lurches off in a different direction.  Keep both of them in your prayers.  They are some of the best, most beautiful people I know.

Books…I read a couple lately that I have to share. The first was Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I’m not in love with Jodi Picoult.  Every now and then I give one a try and get impatient with her “cheap shots”, weird twists at the end that you can count on.  Still, you’ve got to hand it to her. She isn’t afraid to tackle tough subjects and she researches her topics well.  This was no exception.  And she got some things so right…at least I think she did.  And I think that she’s done a good thing for all of us.  We all can’t help but “get” white privilege after reading this book.  She lays it out perfectly.  And she helped me understand how someone could belong to one of those far right, racist, neo-Nazi hate groups and still be human.  Yes, for all its flaws, this book was a good one and I’m glad I read it.

The other one…The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs was one I probably should have saved for a time when I wasn’t feeling so fragile.  I had read a couple reviews on it…”This year’s When Breath Becomes Air” and I immediately put it on reserve at the library.  Nina Riggs was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 37.  It was just a little spot.  Except that it grew instead of going away.  And metastasized and she died at 39, leaving behind a husband and two little boys.  This book was her memoir and honestly, I loved it.  The woman can write and write beautifully.  The book reads like poetry, like music.  She figured out how to live when it was very clear she didn’t have much time left.  And she was so honest about what she thought and felt and did.  Yes, I loved this book….even more than When Breath Becomes Air.

So now I’m reading A Nun on the Bus about Sister Simone Campbell who was one of those nuns that Pope Benedict was talking about when he came down hard on American nuns and whose endorsement of the ACA helped get it through Congress and who is lobbying still for decent health care for everyone.  Amazing woman…still going strong.

Happy Fourth of July to all of you. Enjoy every minute of the day (and night if you’re heading out for fireworks!)

Love to all




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 Beach..photo 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