Unnecessary (Silly!) Things

I was raised in a serious household. We worked hard, got things done, met our goals via the quickest route possible. There was no stopping to smell the roses, shooting the breeze with neighbors or getting in the car with no destination in mind. Something was wrong with a day if you had nothing to show for it.

I do not take issue with people being industrious and productive. Money doesn’t grow on trees, as they say, and generally you get money when you work. Then, not only do you get the things you need (and a few things that you just plain want), you develop a sense of accomplishment, of contributing to the world around you in a positive way, of earning your keep. Walking downtown the other day, I heard some people hanging out in the park (same people who hang out in the park every day), complaining, yelling, insulting one another. I hurried on, thinking they have nothing to do! If only they had something valuable or interesting or important to do!

A classical statue depicting Diligence, the (one of seven) heavenly virtue that represents the “drive to steadfastly move forward with one’s means,” shows a woman holding a whip and spurs. (The fact that a woman is holding them, not a man, is an interesting point all by itself, but outside my scope for today. We might come back to that…) I am all for people showing up for work, keeping the lights on and the wheels of community turning.

But anything taken to an extreme is no good. I even heard (though bear in mind that this could be one of those things you hear that has zero validity) that you can even take the “Drink lots of water” advice too far, that you can kill yourself drinking too much water. Fact check required here, but point here being, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Isn’t that how it goes?

I don’t remember laughter at the dinner table when I was a kid. Or anywhere at home for that matter. There was a time when I remember thinking I had never seen my father’s teeth – as in he didn’t smile or laugh enough for us to see his teeth! If something funny happened, his expression moved in the direction of chuckling, no doubt about that, but actual, audible laughing-out-loud, no. I don’t mean this as a criticism of my father – he was ultra-industrious, as was his prerogative, and surely laughed sometimes. I just didn’t see it.

But laughter, silliness, childishness – these thongs (oops, things!) came along later for me, and I am so glad they did! They came along for my mom too, who could hardly do anything more out of character than pretending to be a lobster while wearing a plastic bib in (this is the kicker) a dining room filled with lots of people!

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Can’t you just hear some old marm saying Barbara, that’s unnecessary! Stop being so silly! I’m sure she heard those words in her head, but silliness won the day! Granted, she had a good model. Jerry did not need any encouragement, in fact he started the whole thing.

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On the heels of this, my tennis buddy Scott did a most unnecessary thing on his paddleboard on Labor Day – a headstand!

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None of us needs to do a headstand on a paddleboard (!) or insert lobster antennae in our mouths like whiskers,

or be tomato-heads


or go face-to-face with ridiculous chickens!

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But we should! We should do all kinds of silly stuff!

My mom with lobster whiskers! My mom laughing so hard she can hardly stand it! Not in my wildest dreams did I envision this moment. I am still giggling just to think of it.  But little makes me happier than seeing that smile on her face 😊

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Eye Patch Giggles

I’ve been watching my mom sporting her eye patches for over a month now. She was initially (and understandably) distressed about her eye occlusion – you would be too if a main blood vessel in your eye burst. But having the option to look hilarious and stylish at the same time overruled her inhibitions, and she jumped right on the Eye Patch Wagon. Some of you will remember this photo:day one (2).jpg

That first day she was just trying them on – and having loads of fun with her partner in crime I may add. After that she got serious about it, requesting a few adjustments such as thinner elastic on all of them and better sizing so they did not slip off. How nice to have custom-made eye patches and then be able to tweak them besides! It appears there are some benefits to being 83!

Unsurprisingly, she then began to do some serious coordinating with them. I mean, how about this for an outfit?

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Personally I think the mini watermelons were a most perfect choice for this hot July day.

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Friends and family had great fun posing with her. Clearly she was entirely comfortable embracing her disability. Rock on, Mom!

And have fun playing pirate with your great-granddaughters!

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The blue and white combo below works well and maybe doesn’t call quite as much attention to itself as the watermelons, I’ll grant. Some days you want to be striking, and some days you don’t.

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The orange and yellow flowered patch with the solid yellow shirt, lovely again. It’s hard to see but the orangey earrings go with the orange in the patch. Of course.

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I’m so happy Mom is not letting the eye situation get the better of her. She’s always been a take-the-bull-by-the-horns kind of person. It seems that she looks at it this way: If I’m going to have to wear an eye patch, I’m going to have fun with it! 

This teeny yellow plaid patch picks up the yellow flowers in the shirt in this next combination, all bright and cheery for summertime, and playing with delightfully dueling patterns. Unfortunately I was not present for the piece de resistance when she wore the purple star patch to dinner one night with a perfectly matching purple top. Downright elegant she was, so I am told.

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Mom’s patches are coordinated, yes, but most of all they are fun! They reflect the little girl inside the grown woman, the choice to giggle rather than grumble. How she looks is not about her coordinated outfits — it’s about her spirit, her heart, her joy.

All this eye patch business has made me think about how we present ourselves, what we do to hide or not hide our disabilities, our imperfections, our flaws, and where, overall, how we look fits into and reflects the scheme of things. Think about what you do to make yourself look the way you want to both at home and in public. How much do you care about and think about how you look? Do you look in the mirror and say things like:

That shirt makes me look dumpy… this one is better. 

Those pants fit better than they used to … they are not so bad now.

This coat is dated and I look like an old fart….

Just going to pick up a coffee – I’m not changing for that…

Does everyone even look in the mirror? Sometimes I wonder.

The fact is – despite the bombardment of advertising that would have us think otherwise – how we look is only a small part of who we are. My sister Lisa got Hodgkin’s disease in her early 20s. Three weeks before she died, she jokingly said to me, “Finally I’ve grown my nails and lost some weight and now I’m going to croak.” We laughed, but we both knew it’s not about what you look like. It’s about who you are inside that’s so beautiful. It’s about precious time with people you love.

I hate that Lisa died so young, I hate that I missed so many years with her. But I have never forgotten those moments we had together. Over the years the conversation morphed for me into a little voice in my head that says: Make sure you’re paying attention to what’s really important. Don’t take the good things for granted. Let the stupid stuff go. Tell the people you love that you love them – in words when words are all you have and in actions as often as possible. Make the world a better place.

Clueless Yoga

The first time I saw my son Samuel do yoga on the back deck, I was both surprised and highly impressed. That was yoga? It did not look like glorified stretching. It did not look like deep thinking. He was doing moves requiring strength, flexibility and balance. I was nuts about gymnastics back in the day, so I appreciated both the time he had clearly invested to reach this stage of proficiency and the level of difficulty he had achieved.

Subsequently he mostly went to the gym or a class, so I didn’t see him in action much more. And come to find out, I had seen him doing a sub-category of yoga called acro-yoga. Half a year ago, I convinced him to show me how his handstands were coming along. It was winter, so the living room had to do.

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Now I’m not saying he’s ready for Cirque du Soleil, but that’s a darn good handstand (which he held for about 30 seconds, by the way). Straight body, strong wrists, weight balanced over his shoulders – not at all bad. My first gymnastics teacher, when I was 12, would have approved. He was a former Chinese acrobat who made us do handstands for the first ten minutes of a one-hour class, so central, so important were they in the sport.

My second gymnastics teacher was a man named Leo who had a gym in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts, on the third floor of an old building with no air conditioning. There, during high school, after a lot of ill-timed flailing and splatting, I finally perfected a side aerial (a cartwheel without hands) – the pinnacle of my gymnastics career. It felt like flying and I will never forget it.

Though I was not destined for greatness in gymnastics, I know a thing or two about pointed toes and body positioning and timing. Some of it is like riding a bike – you don’t forget it. The muscle memory is amazing. Also amazing is the difference between what your mind wants to do and what your body allows you to do, but anyone over 30 knows this.

So I sorta, kinda know something about gymnastics, and I had a spattering of ballet training as well, but yoga (aside from Samuel’s example) was always rather a mystery. Frankly it looked boring. (And you know how I feel about boring.) Don’t those people want to move more? I always want to move. (Therefore everyone does, right?) Over time I watched people doing yoga here and there, and am older and hopefully wiser now, and I see its virtues. And yoga mats are cool.

Rise and Eppie, my darling granddaughters, are here. August is warm, and there is space outdoors. August by 10am is almost too warm and the space beckons. So why not make first thing in the morning Yoga Time?

I know: These girls would do better with a real yoga teacher. I know: I should set up the laptop and play an online yoga session for kids for them. I tried, really I did. I know how to open a YouTube video. I just couldn’t get one to open. I took it as a sign: Get out there and do something with them, amateurish as it is.

That’s when Yoga Time became Clueless Yoga Time!


Do I have a clue what I am doing? Uh…


You keep your weight balanced in the center, shoulders back.


You stretch until your body says that’s far enough. You will notice in the next photo that the girls can touch their toes. They can easily touch their toes. I used to be able to do that.

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You keep straight arms and straight legs except when you mean to bend them.


You lift up your butt and wiggle for fun!


You point your toes whenever you remember.

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You tolerate your mat buddy.

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What do you mean? she says. It’s the only soft place out here!

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Once in a while, you lie back and enjoy the view above you.


You say “Ta-Da!” at the end!


I realize that all of this is glorified stretching with some giggles thrown in. But when I ask Wanna do some yoga? the girls get excited and put on their leotards. They unroll those mats and head outside. They move and stretch and balance those little bodies right along with me. We do the pencil and the whoosh and the wiggle and the up and the down. I will get some more info and we will do the dog and the cat and the table and the tree next time maybe. In the meantime, we’re having a blast even if we are clueless.

Funky Eye Patch Makes the Day

There are distinct advantages to growing older. For one thing, you become wise and can dispense your wisdom at will. More so than when you were younger, you can say what you want to say (regardless of how wise it is), you can wear what you want to wear, butter your bread any way you want, disregard consequences, abandon caution, go for broke. As you wish. Let the world think what it wants.

Of course there are downsides to aging as well. Last week while making a bench in the basement with my 80-year-old Uncle Ernie, he said several times (usually after trying to move without the full cooperation of his body), “Don’t get old.”

“What is the alternative?” I said.

Nevertheless he didn’t stay in this chair very long.


It’s true that in later years the body stops cooperating as well (if it ever did! some would argue). Ernie’s legs don’t necessarily go in the direction he intends. Older people will sometimes tell you about other non-cooperative bodily functions that are best not discussed at the dinner table. (Feel free to tell them when they cross this line.) Sometimes the non-cooperation is gradual as in, “This pan seems heavier than it used to be.” Sometimes the shift is a little more sudden, as in, “Whoa, where did the subtitles go?”

That’s what happened to my mom last week. On Tuesday her vision seemed a little off. She thought maybe her glasses were smudged. She cleaned them and carried on, but felt her vision was still a little off. So she cleaned her glasses again. She played the ignore-it-and-maybe-it-will-go-away game. The next day she was watching a movie and noticed that if she covered her right eye, the subtitles were there as they should be. When she covered her left, they disappeared.

This is a problem. Need to call the eye doctor pronto. The tech to whom she described the situation on Thursday morning advised that she come to the office to be checked. A few hours later the doctor said the words “ophthalmic vein occlusion” in practically the same breath as “I hate it when I see this.” Basically, an important vein in Mom’s eye burst. Then further hemorrhaging happened, and some swelling. Vision was 20/200 in that eye.

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The image on the right is what the wall of the retina should look like (Mom’s left eye). The mountain on the left is the swelling that resulted from this event (right eye).

Not pleasant or comfortable. Definitely scary. We appreciate having good eyes. We want our eyes healthy. The good news is that this is not a disease nor anything degenerative. Sometimes the veins can heal themselves, the doctor said. Sometimes not. In a year your vision could be back to what it was. Or not. Best to see a retina specialist. An appointment was made for Monday morning.

The time between Thursday and Monday was long. Mom experienced disorientation, fatigue, and no small measure of anxiety about the long term prognosis, as would anyone. She slept a lot and mostly stayed in. To help combat the challenge of seeing normally with one eye and very weirdly with the other, her dear friend Jerry got her an eye patch at the local drug store. He got the kind you get at a drug store, black and somewhat conical, presumably to allow you to blink more easily. Mom described it as a falsie. A what? You know, the thing that in other settings has another one next to it and tassels hanging from the points…

The falsie idea sounds good except when you want to wear your glasses. The point sticks out too far. (Some women would kill for this problem, I mean, uh, when the falsie is in its usual place….) After Mom mentioned this problem to me on the phone, I pawed through my scrap fabric boxes and got to work. A few hours later I texted her and asked if I could stop by quickly. I’m sure she was not expecting what I brought, but in the middle of a tough day, it had exactly the effect I hoped for: She laughed and laughed.

I want the world to see how genuine her smile is, how bravely and positively she faced this challenge, how game she was! I tell you, when my mom gets out of the box, she gets out of the box!

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She tried on one after the next and kept on laughing. Jerry got into the act and played right along. They are quite the duo!

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Those are little watermelons on Mom’s – perfect for July, right?

The specialist on Monday was as encouraging as the situation allowed him to be. He gave her a shot to reduce the swelling so the veins can more easily regrow, and explained what she can expect.

On Tuesday we went to Sam’s Club together. Mom wore a patch with no qualms, finding one-eyed navigation easier than the disorientation of using both eyes. Her glasses fit easily over it. She sported the orange flower-power patch on the right. It went with her outfit the best.


When we returned to her apartment building, we ran into some of her friends in the hallway. They got the story, expressed concern very kindly (“Why do these things have to happen to the good people?”) and then said, “Leave it to you to be so stylish with your patch!” Leave it to Mom to face a difficult situation with humor, grace and determination.

Go, Mom!