Family Portrait

My parents both died in 1989. As I approach the anniversary of their deaths, I am re-posting this blog post about my family.

Family 001

This is a portrait of my family, my entire family–all three of us. It is my favorite photograph.

My mother hated having her photograph taken. I inherited that from her. So, we don’t have many pictures of the three of us together.

My mother took this photo. If you are going to take only a handful of photographs in your lifetime, I hope you have one as good as this.

There is a lot of irony in this photograph.

My father was very handsome and I never saw a bad photo of him. Yet in this photo, you don’t see his face. You only see his arms, which I loved.

My mother, a lovely woman who ran from the camera, is in this photo, too. That is her shadow and, I have to say, Mom, your composition is perfect, but then you were the seamstress and quilter and could decorate the house like a pro. You always had the she artist’s eye.

She took this photo in the living room of the house where they lived for four decades. the light coming through the picture window (extra charge for that window when the house was being built).

I still have that chair. It will be reupholstered soon and reunited with your bedroom furniture, which I have kept.

I still have the watch my father was wearing in that photograph. I took it to New York last year to be restored; it spent a few months in Switzerland, back at the factory where it was made. (Who knew?)

I have cherished this photograph for decades, but it is especially poignant this week because my father, my strong, handsome father now long gone, would be 100 years old on July 11th.

My father, a centenarian. Fancy that.

Business traveler

This is another previous post from an earlier blog. A favorite of mine that I wrote at two airports on my way home during a very long day of travel.

Forty years. Half a lifetime.

Forty years looking for,  going to, work.

Employed on Thursday; fired on Friday. Not because you are bad at what you do. Just because.

Because you make too much money now. Because you didn’t want to truncate your life and move your family to the other side of the country. Because the new owners want to cut expenses to the bone so they can find new owners in a year, or two. Everyone is expendable. None of it really matters.

Forty years. Fifteen jobs.

For your father, it was thirty years with the same company. Then retirement. A pension.

For you, it’s Monday mornings in the airport, waiting for the first flight to Dallas, or Chicago, or wherever it is this week. Through security, shoes off, liquids and gels in a zip-lock bag. You wheel your bag towards a good seat in the waiting area, one on the end and not in the path of traffic. Not back-to-back with another row of seats because they always move whenever someone sits down. A good seat, out of the sunlight, close to an electrical outlet for your laptop.

Priorities change when you are a business traveler. You leave behind the family you love and now try to avoid families who dare to travel for pleasure on your flight. You avoid them at check-in, avoid their eight bags of matched luggage, avoid their children. You especially avoid them at the security check-in because things will not go smoothly for them.

You love your children but not children who travel, except children who travel alone. Those children are perfect travel companions. They are pros, just like you. No whining or fidgeting. No running up and down the aisles. No kicking the back of your seat. Those children are compatriots, younger business travelers on their way to see the non-custodial parent, or their grandparents. You like children who travel alone. Many years ago you learned that you can pull the tray table closer to you by watching a child traveling alone. (more…)

I apologize to the world

That's me in the back!
That’s me in the back!

To whom it may concern:

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I don’t even know who you are. If we haven’t met yet, I’ll just apologize in advance for whatever I’ll do that bothers you.

It seems I annoy countless people without even trying.

On working at my job:

I’m in my cubicle, composing an e-mail on the company-issued computer. A co-worker pops her head in and asks: “Would you mind not typing so loudly? It’s very annoying.”

To you, madam, I’m sorry the sound of the keyboard bothers you but it’s the only keyboard I have.

On watching a parade:

I walked to town to watch the 4th of July parade. Because I’m tall, I make a point of not standing in front of people, especially children, if I can avoid it. Instead, I stood further back on the sidewalk. The woman next to me turns and says, “I’m sorry, but you can’t stand there. This place is saved for my husband. He’s parking the car.”

To you, madam, I’m sorry for standing on a public sidewalk.

On a walk with my dog in the cemetery:

It’s a beautiful old cemetery where you can walk your dog on leash. I’m there with the puppy, trying to get him used to walking past people without jumping on them. People walking towards us often smile and comment on how cute he is. I thank them and then ask them to ignore him as we pass by because I’m training him to have good manners.
Most people understand and let us pass but occasionally you meet the Dog Lover Who Knows Everything About Dogs.

I see a couple approaching, so I have the puppy sit at the side of the drive.

“My, what a handsome boy he is,” the man says, “and so alert.”

“Thank you,” I say. “I’m training him to have good manners on our walks. I’d appreciate it if you would just ignore him and walk on so he can learn not to try to greet everyone he sees.”

“Oh, I love dogs,” the man says as he approaches the puppy. “Hi there, fella!”

At this point, the puppy greets the man by jumping up on him, leaving muddy paw prints on his slacks.

“Whoa!” the man says. “He’s really out of control, isn’t he?”

His wife looks at me sympathetically and rolls her eyes.

To you, sir: I’m sorry I didn’t ask you to ignore the puppy as I was in the process of training him. (Oh wait…)

Why I travel alone


(Note: I’ll admit it. This is a post from a previous blog I had. I decided it needed to be re-published, as it’s a favorite of mine. And so true.)

It’s hard to find anyone in the office lately. No sooner does one person come back from vacation than another one is heading off on his or her vacation. I’ve had other single women invite me to travel with them on tours or cruises, but I always decline.

It’s not that I’m anti-social, it’s just that I’ve learned my lesson. Sadly, I’m not a fast learner, so I’ve taken enough bad vacations that I could write a book.

(Hey! Wait a minute! i have an idea for a book!)

I have three favorite kinds of vacations:

  1. I say at home and visit local shops and museums.
  2. I visit friends for no more than 3 nights, usually 2.
  3. I pick a place I’d like to visit and travel alone or with my faithful dog.

Solo travel is my preferred way to vacation. I’ve traveled with people before and had an absolutely terrible time. Sadly, I’m a slow learner so I’ve had too many terrible vacations. Even sadder, all these stories are true.

1. Hold the Ice

I and a (former) friend and our two dogs are on vacation right after Christmas. We check into a pet-friendly hotel and she immediately fills the ice bucket with water and sets it down on the floor for her dog to use as a water bowl.

I’m horrified. “What in the world are you doing?” I asked.

“Oh, they just throw these out when they clean the rooms,” she said.

“No, they don’t! Why do you think they leave a little plastic bag to use as a liner? Gawd! I’ll never use an ice bucket again.”

“Oh, chill out.”

2. Upon Seeing One of the Seven Wonders of the World

“I didn’t care for the Grand Canyon.”

3. As We are Seated at a Lovely Paris Restaurant for a Pre-Paid 5-Course Dinner:

“I don’t know what any of these items on the menu are. Would you like to share a salad?”

4. After Being Dragged All Over Austin, Texas to See Old Missions I’d Never Heard Of:

Me: “These were all very interesting. I hope we’re going to see the Alamo, too.

He: “Oh, no. That one is too touristy.”

Me: But we’re tourists and I’d like to see it.”

He: There’s a more interesting mission about two miles from here.”

5. On Being Offered a Free Round-Trip Ticket to San Francisco for the Weekend

“What would we do in San Francisco?”

6. After Being Told it is Customary to Tip the Tour Guides in Europe

“Well, I’m not tipping her.”

7. After Checking Into the Hotel Following a Long Flight

“I sure hope I brought enough enemas with me.”

8. On Being Told the Price of Admission to See the Coliseum in Rome

“I’m not paying all that money just to see some old stuff.”

9. After Being Told That I Managed to Add a Weekend in London for Less Money Than the Direct Flight to Nice

“What would we do in London?”

10. After Learning That the Snow Storm Had Canceled All Flights Out of New York for a Day and She Might Have to Actually Pay for a Night in the Hotel by Herself

“Gosh, until this happened to me, I never fully realized what those poor people in New Orleans went through after Hurricane Katrina.”

I Can Hear You!

Cell phone on bus

The first time I realized how hearing one-sided conversations on a city street was the new normal, I was walking down Madison Avenue in New York City. There was a young man keeping pace with me but too engrossed in a conversation to pay any attention to me.

“You always do that!” he said as we waited for the cross walk sign to change. “You tell me you’ll meet me at a certain time and then you don’t show up. Why should I believe you now?”

Why indeed? I have friends who do that to me, so found myself rooting for him. “You go, guy,” I thought. “Don’t let that person take advantage of you!” And then I thought: What person? (more…)

So I buy these energy saving light bulbs….


..and the puppy, who is in the “All Life is a Chew Toy” stage, manages to get the carton from the counter while I’m making coffee.

I was enjoying a rare moment of Saturday morning calm and really should have known better. One quiet minute…two quiet minutes…

“Hey, Pup, where are you?”

I go upstairs and see the cardboard container on the floor. Not a good sign. Then I see a light bulb in the hallway with the metal base missing.

Another bad sign.

He’s in the office, happy as a pig in poo. (Although, are pigs really happy in poo? Maybe/maybe not. I shouldn’t use these expressions without fact-checking them.)

He’s up on the ottoman with  the remnants of a light bulb between his paws. He’s definitely quite pleased with himself. This is my 5th dog, so I don’t panic. I scoop up the glass and put it in the waste basket, then I return to the movie.

After a few minutes, it occurs to me that I did not scoop up enough glass to make a lightbulb. (more…)