Friday, April 27, 2012


The tennis racquet that I have been using, a Head Liquidmetal, is 15 years old.

I bought it shortly after I signed my divorce papers. It was a gift to myself in celebration that the drawn-out and confrontational divorce process was over.

Over the years I watched other players get new racquets, but I kept my metallic blue racquet. There was really nothing wrong with it, and I couldn't see spending the money to replace it.

Then a couple of weeks ago it hit me that 15 years is a long time. I was ready to upgrade.

George brought me four demos last Wednesday at practice. I liked the Prince red 105 ex03, and George said I played best with it. Wouldn't you know, it was the most expensive of the batch.

Michael (the owner of the club) said it is the  Cadillac of the line. What the heck, I'll probably keep it for another 15 years. It has a bigger sweet spot than my old racquet and is supposed to give you more power, which I could use.

It was waiting for me Wednesday, and I have to say it is beautiful. It's black and red... really bright red, like it could glow in the dark. When I played with it that night, George kept exclaiming over its "pop." And, he said, "It really knows what to do."

"You mean I could just close my eyes and the ball would go where it needs to?" I asked.

Well, not exactly.

It does feel really good to play with, though. After we finished our hour and a half practice, I went over to the next court and talked for a few minutes with the women from my team who were waiting for their fourth. She never showed, so I played about an hour with them. That night my legs and feet ached, but I had to play the next morning with another group in which I was subbing. Actually, I wanted to play, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. I joked with my partner that if the racquet is so good, maybe I can program it to do all the right things.

This morning I skipped my usual Friday round robin and went to yoga, figuring I needed it to stretch and balance out. At times my mind drifted to tennis and how I'd much rather be playing. But I think it was a good idea to take a break, plus I saw how stiff I was. I can make up for skipping tennis by keeping the racquet on the table and just looking at it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What I learned in Boston and on the way home

These stem from my visit Monday to the opthamologist who repaired the area under my eye after surgery to remove a squamous cell cancer.

1: The area is healing nicely.

2: Despite the opinion of another eye doctor who I saw recently, my bottom eyelid is not drooping from the surgery. (Good news because my upper eyelids are droopy enough.

3: I go back in November (six months).

4. The medical assistant who checked my vision is a Mount Holyoke graduate whose husband is in the Air Force. They met after she and her friends had a midnight radio show that was popular among a group of guys at Westover Airforce Base in Chicopee. Ultimately the bunch of them got together. The medical assistant and one of servicemen started going out, and now they are happily married.

5: A bagel with cream cheese from the Finagle-A-Bagel near Government Center hits the spot after two hours in the doctors' office.

6. The Starbucks at Government Center is too hectic.

7. Jeffrey Eugenides' book "The Marriage Plot," which I read on the T going into and of downtown from Diane's house, gets better near the end.

8. Driving home on the Mass Pike, I still get tired right around Worcester.

9. Despite my snobby suspicions, the coffee at the McCafe on the turnpike isn't bad. (It's Newman's Own.)

10. It's nice to get home and find your son is cooking dinner.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Back in Boston for a day

My time between Dana-Farber appointments is now a big two months, but I'm actually in Boston more than that when you take into account seeing my various doctors.

 I have an appointment tomorrow with the surgeon who did the repair under my eye after the Mohs procedure in which another specialist removed a squamous cell carcinoma. I usually try to combine appointments into one or two days, but it wasn't possible to connect this one with anything.

I was just in Boston a couple of weeks ago, and here I am again. I am at Diane and David's spending the night because that's easier than driving both ways in one day, except that it poured when I drove here this afternoon.

My eye looks fine. There was a bubble of skin on the spot for a while, but it has flattened out. I thought maybe I should just take a picture and send it in rather than taking myself in. For some reason I don't think that would go over too well. I'll probably have a wait in the doctor's office tomorrow, and then she'll look at it for about two seconds. Maybe she'll tell me she doesn't need to see me anymore.

That's OK. I like coming to Newton. The conversation and the food are excellent. Tomorrow I'll see a little bit of Boston and drink in that city feel (like traffic), and then I'll head back to the hills.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

To New York and back, in a day

I know people from Western Massachusetts who go down to New York for a show, shopping and dinner, but I don't know anyone, except my cousin, who drives down just for dinner.

He goes to see his mother (my Aunt Marge) for dinner, and then he turns around and goes back. It's about a four-hour drive from his house in New Hampshire to the city, but it's probably quicker the way he drives, kind of like a New York City cabdriver darting in and out of lanes.

I hitched a ride with him on Sunday because Marge is not doing well, and I wanted to see her. He picked me up in Holyoke and then we headed down. It's funny, we had been trying to arrange lunch in Northampton for months, but it kept falling through. This was last-minute, the way these things often work out. I had heard the night before that he was going, called him, and that was that. It was nice to catch up with him.

Almost every time that I've gone to the city, I've had dinner out with Marge and Bill and the usual group: Serena, Jeanne, Bruce, Amanda and, often, Katie or Ben. She hasn't been able to walk for a while, so she gets gussied up (my mother's words) and then Bill wheels her to a nearby restaurant. We remain "the kids."

When my mother died six years ago, it was hard to imagine how Marge would go on. They were incredibly close, and even called each other the same name, "Bren." This came from the comedy duo Brenda and Cobina.

My mother or my aunt would get the other's attention, mimicking the comediennes' voices, by saying, "Brenda," and the other one would answer, "What is it, Cobina?"

Eventually they forgot which was Bren and which was Cobina, and they both became Bren.

My aunt talks constantly about how much she misses her sister, but, surrounded by love, she has done well without her other half. She and Bill go to opera and many of the other treasures New York has to offer. Her strength has diminished, but she continues to go out to dinner.

On Sunday, she was lying in a hospital bed in their bedroom with its incredible view of the United Nations and the East River. At 93, she has gotten increasingly weak and was unable to get up. She said she wanted to get dressed and go out, but we (the usual group) said we'd bring the party to her. Bill ordered delicious Chinese food, and we ate around the bed. It was a nice little party, with chocolate and strawberries for dessert. We took turns holding her hand.

It was difficult to see her in bed, bringing back memories of my mother like that. But I heard that yesterday she was up in a chair and ate meals at the table. That is a better picture.

On Sunday after dinner, Bob and I got back in the car. I said goodbye to the city lights and to my relatives, used my coat as a blanket and dozed on and off. We got back to my car around midnight. Very surreal. One minute I was "home" in New York, and the next I was "home" in South Hadley. But I was glad I went.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

Me, baby Ben...and the stereo system
Some people may be afraid of bad luck on Friday the 13th, but not me.

I always tell people it's my lucky day.

Flash back to early September of 1985. It was hot and humid and I was very pregnant with my first child. My feet swelled up. After I passed my due date, which just happened to fall on Labor Day, some couldn't resist saying, "Haven't you had that baby yet?" And if they didn't say it, they looked at me that way.

I changed my mind. I didn't want to do this anymore.

Jim and I ate Chinese food, having heard that this could make labor start. Nothing.

Finally, when I was two weeks late, my doctor induced me. I went into labor but failed to progress. Of course for years and years, I could tell you how many hours this went on. I could regale the best of them with all the details if I was with a group of women trying to outdo each other with our horrible labor stories (which we loved to replay).

Now, I can't even remember how long it went on, but I do remember it was very long.

My parents, who had been unable to reach us, got in their car, drove from New York and arrived at the hospital during the night.

I squeezed Jim's had through most of it, not wanting him to leave my hospital room. He read the peaks and valleys of the contractions on the monitor, telling me when a peak was coming and then letting me know when I could relax.

Finally, I had an emergency Caesarian section.

Ben was born at 11:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13. I was really happy to see him.

For 26 years, I've been telling people that Friday the 13th is my lucky day.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The dog ate my homework

One of my fourth-graders sauntered into tutoring 20 minutes late yesterday. That's a lot to miss in an hour-long session.

I asked him why he was late, and he said, "My cousin is living with us and he was lying to top of something I needed."

For 20 minutes?

Teachers must hear these things all the time. I hope they write them down.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Weekend update

Diane and David had a beautiful seder Saturday, with Diane using plates and silver of our mothers to set the table.

On Saturday before I left South Hadley, Diane told me that she had said to David, "Our mothers are smiling down at us."

I had gone for a run and was still lollygagging in my running clothes. "And I can hear Mom saying, 'Ronni, get a move on'," I said. Which she often said at holidays when there was a lot to do but I had gone running first and needed a reminder to get my act together. That said, I did get a move on and got to Newton on time. My three children came, as did Meghan – her first seder. I love seeing them all together.

Katie has the week off, and we slept over Saturday and Sunday night because I had two appoingments at Dana-Farber Monday.

Everything went well. Here are the numbers:

White count, 6 (normal=3.8-9.2)
Hematocrit, 34.5 (normal=34.8-43.6)
Platelet, 88 (normal=155-410)

The platelets are fine for me, but I bruise very easily, sometimes in unexpected circumstances, reminding me that they are low. I have been going to yoga in a carpeted studio, but last week I went to a place with a hard floor. We were up and down, often on our stomachs. That night I looked down and saw a huge black and blue mark under my hip bones. At first I was surprised, but I realized it was from yoga. Next time, two mats.

Ferritin (the storage of iron) is still way high, at 5119 (normal is 10-170). I think the last time it was 8,000. This is from receiving so many blood transfusions. Melissa said not to worry because it's going in the right direction. I continue to take Exjade, the nauseating pill that lowers the level. You put five pills in water, dissolve and chug, then wait 30 minutes before eating. When I even look at the bottle, I start to feel sick.

The next thing I wasn't even going to mention because I found it embarrassing, but I talked to some people who had done it themselves and said it's not uncommon. So...I also had to do a 24-hour urine collection to get a closer reading on how my kidneys are doing. They give you a jug and a kind of bowl to put on the toilet, then you pee and pour. The jug has to stay on ice, so I brought a cooler and Diane provided the ice.

I thought it was going to be worse than it was, especially since I was at someone else's house. But I got a system going, and it wasn't too bad. They wanted you to drink lots of water. I complied but overdid it and thought I was going to float away. I don't know the results yet.

I was finished with Melissa around 11:30. My next appointment, with the "tongue doctor" Laura Goguen, wasn't until 2. I went upstairs to Head and Neck Oncology to ask if she could see me a little earlier. The nurse said maybe, but not any earlier than 1. I had gotten up early and was up half the night going to the bathroom after drinking all that water, so I curled up on a couch, using my coat for a pillow, and fell fast asleep.

I got in at 1:15. My mouth checked out fine.

Then I went out for a salad and toodled around (one of my mother's words.) I spent some time in a cafe on Lincoln Street, near Diane's house in Newton Highlands, and drank good coffee and read my book, "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Katie had some things to do in Boston, so we didn't leave until after 6.

It was a long weekend, but a good one.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter and Passover

The past few days, I sometimes wished I was back in the Old Country, doing my Passover shopping in New York and replying in kind when people said "Happy Passover."

We live in an area of Western Massachusetts where Jews are few in number. If you go 15 minutes in either direction, to Northampton and Amherst or parts of Springfield and Longmeadow, there are more of us. I am not especially religious, but I do feel that Jewish traditions and culture are important, so I sometimes feel like a stranger in a strange land around the major holidays. Let's not even get started on Christmas.

Every cashier said, "Happy Easter." Our local supermarket chain, Big Y, had a billboard that wished its customers Happy Easter. They have a small table of Passover goods, so you'd think they would know they have some Jewish customers.

Once during the week, when a cashier said "Happy Easter, " I said, "I celebrate Passover, but Happy Easter to you." I usually just say "you too" to the Easter greeting, but occasionally it doesn't hurt to point out that there is another major holiday. Some people don't seem to know when Passover is, which is odd because the last supper was a seder.

You can feel like a stranger in a strange land, which isn't all bad, because that's what the Jews were when they were slaves in Egypt. The level of our disconnection can't even be compared to what it must have been like for Jews persecuted then or other times, or to what it's like for any persecuted people. But since it's the time for remembering the suffering of our ancestors, our small experience of separateness can maybe give us an entrance into the reading of the Haggadah.

Don't get me wrong: I always liked Easter.

We decorated Easter eggs that my mother put in the window of her Lexington Avenue jewelry store. She got us new pastel-colored dresses that we wore while walking on Fifth Avenue in the "Easter Parade." We had Easter baskets and went on egg hunts in the apartment. That part ended when my parents found out that when the Easter bunny came at night, I lay trembling in my bed due to fear of that large animal bouncing around the apartment.

Anyway, back to the present, after a week of Happy Easters, I felt so good when Springfield's own Gwen Ifill signed off her program "Washington Week" on Friday this way: "Have a blessed Passover and a Happy Easter."

I hope everyone's Easter and Passover celebrations were indeed happy, with many more to come.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fur flies at birthday celebration

Deb made this invitation to the party.

On Sunday when I was making a cake, Joe asked me what it was for, and I replied, "For the dogs' birthday party."

"Is this what people do when they get old?" he asked, as if I was very, very pathetic.

Well, first of all, it wasn't for the dogs, it was for the people to eat with their coffee while the dogs played. Second, I'm not that old, and third, I do other things.

But I have to admit that the party was the highlight of my weekend. It was a triple celebration. Maddie's birthday was in January, but she never got to have her party. Mary Margaret's and Sue Ellen's are in March. We figured that since Maddie wouldn't know the difference, it was a good idea to do them all together.

We invited some special guests, including Theo, a beautiful Golden Retriever (who came with his people). We had the party at Deb's so the dogs could run around in her fenced-in backyard.

I guess there is some truth to Joe's perception that now that we are "old," we treat our dogs like kids. The real kids have moved on, so we transfer our need to nurture young things onto the dogs.

You should hear some of our conversations about potty training, how long they slept through the night and which toys they like best, and about behavior problems and how to solve them, or about the cute things they did. We watch them through the window while they run around in the back yard, and we have coffee and a snack and talk. Just like some of us did when the kids were toddlers.

Theo left the party early with his toy, so the three labs got theirs yesterday. At first they were mostly  interested in the wrapping paper. Then each one wanted the other's toy. Just like our kids used to be.

Soooooo cute.