Small Town Love

Our family is like a little solar system.  At our center is our sun, my sister Sue, radiating warmth and love that sustains her six siblings, who, like planets, revolve around her.  Although she never had children of her own, she is a second mom (and now grand-mom) to satellite nieces, nephews, cousins’ and friends’ children.

Although four of the seven “kids”  have moved away, Sue, our sister Sandy and brother Tom have all  lived in the same area their entire lives, accumulating a glorious galaxy of friends.  (See how you think after being married to an astronomer for four decades?)

Recently, Tom’s daughter gave birth to premature twins.  Sadly, one died shortly after birth, but thanks to the wonderful medical team in Providence, his twin has grown from 1 pound 6 ounces to just under 4 pounds.

Modern medicine is truly amazing; it is also really, really expensive.  Even with insurance, the high deductible, coinsurance, and uncovered expenses all equate to huge bills, as any parent with a sick child can attest.  So, Sue decided to gather the troops to create a benefit dinner– “Pasta with a Purpose”.

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Fortunately, Sue has a talent for choosing loyal and giving friends, that are just like her.  Sheila, an elementary school buddy, has worked in the restaurant business for years, and like our brother Tom, is an amazing chef.  Who expects benefit food to be good?  It was at THIS benefit, thanks to a team of cooks.

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But the real stroke of genius was making friends with Debbie, who like other elementary school teachers, is a force to be reckoned with.   Teachers know how to create something out of nothing, how to get the unruly to behave and how to keep calm in the midst of chaos, and how to make great displays.   Let’s hear it for the teachers!

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Within three weeks, family and friends had secured the Knights of Columbus hall,

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The “elves” worked hard to get this all set up and orgnized

gotten food and raffle donations,

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As the evening progressed, donations kept coming in– we were running out of space!

found a DJ,

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sold hundreds of tickets, enlisted student volunteers to serve food,

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These kids were “on it”, serving, clearing, and setting up for the next round of diners

and taken care of the hundreds of tiny details necessary to make the event a success.

And what a success it was!  All to help this little guy and his loving parents.

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With so much negativity and violence these days, it is heartening to see how people can come together to support each other in time of need.

Our family includes the normal mix of in-laws, out-laws, and sheep of all colors.  If you were to chart us — along economic, political, and religious lines, you’d find someone on just about any point in the spectrum.  But when it comes to things that really matter, that all gets put aside.  It is family and friends,  all the way.

So in addition to paying tribute to my amazing sister, Sue, this is a huge thank you to all you small town inhabitants with big hearts, who came out on November 5th to show the love for Haylie, Greg and Baby Spencer.  Forgive me for not mentioning or photographing all of you who did so much to make the day so special.   You know who you are, and so do we.

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Could this be the start of another lifelong friendship?  

 

 

Cure Whatever Ails You

I know that you are all on the edge of your loungers (please don’t tip over) just DYING to hear all about Queretaro and our work assignments. I promise you will.  But first, breaking news.

My dear friend Sally came down with a killer cold a few days ago.  Not to be outdone, I decided I wanted one of those too.  So, here we be, dos Amigas in need of a cure.   

Ginny from Worcester (pronounced Woos-TAH) heard me coughing and sneezing.  She insisted that we IMMEDIATELY adopt her fool proof cure.  She guaranteed that a hot toddy would get Sally and me on the road to recovery.  (Or was that alcoholism?  I forget.  One of those.  Or both.) So what if it is only 10 AM?  

Being an obedient Catholic school girl, and wanting to protect the rest of the group from our germs, I immediately sprang into action.  Despite being somewhat competitive, even I had to admit Sally won the sickness award.  So off I went to the market.  My sweet young fruit seller was glad to see me, despite my tiny order of only two lemons.  I normally am good for a couple of kilos of bananas.  He pointed me in the right direction for miel (Spanish for honey.)


Past the CDs and stuffed animals, beyond the floral displays, beyond the fruit and boots.

NUMEROUS Mexicans stopped what they were doing to help me.  What a gracious, welcoming culture!  
I left with lemons, honey and a bottle of what my Grammy would call medicine, except she pronounced it “med-SIN”).   My black medical bag was now complete.

Take a look.  The white plastic bag contained a cup half full of honey, scooped  from a huge barrel.  The big cup was from Woolworths.  (They are getting to know me there. The cashier that kissed me last time asked me in English “you sick”?) 

Did our “med-SIN” work?  Well, take a look at Sally and you tell me

We are feelin’ no pain!  

“Get On Your Feet” Gloria Estefan

No, this post isn’t about Gloria Estefan’s Broadway musical, although that may be a future post, if I make my way into NYC to see it.  Nope, this  is about that second essential ingredient for a happy retirement:  Good Health.

Yes, we all SAY we want good health, but what do we DO?  We overeat, and what we are stuffing into our mouths is usually the worst possible choice.  We smoke (well, I never did, but I am related to people that still do.  Yeesh.)  We act like The Cat in the Hat children.  “All we could do was sit, sit, sit, sit”.  We keep on electing NRA sponsored candidates that refuse to do anything about crazy people owning weapons of mass destruction, also known as assault weapons.  (Whoops, got carried away by current events–that too belongs in a different, possibly future, post.)

Yes, it helps to be born with the right genes, but research continues to uncover the very strong link between lifestyle and good health, which is something that we “lifestyle managers” believe and preach enthusiastically to anyone that will listen.

About those genes: If our parents’ lifespans are any indication, there is a strong probability that Mike and I have inherited “longevity genes”.  His made it into their ’90s.  Mine are close to that milestone.  But what about the quality of those later years?   I’ve seen first-hand what lack of exercise can do to a person–both mentally and physically, and it isn’t pretty.

So, why wait for the calendar to flip to do something wonderful for yourself?   Who says resolutions can only be made on New Year’s?

Full disclosure.  I hate the thought of exercising.  During my college years, I cut more of the required gym classes than I attended.  Lucky for me the gym teacher sucked at taking attendance.  So, when even an external requirement couldn’t get me into the gym in my younger days, how do I now get my sagging butt out the door?  Major psych up.  I tell myself I’m doing my part to keep Medicare costs down.  (You’re welcome, Gen X,  Y, and Millenniums).  I remind myself of the places that I want to visit and the things I want to do once I get there.  (Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet in the spring.  Yeah baby).   I look at what the total absence of exercise has done to my mother, and realize that I wouldn’t want my one child to have the responsibilities for care that are currently being shared by me and my siblings.

During my work years, I had a community of co-workers and a structured week.  By joining the YMCA, I discovered the retirement equivalent of both.  The variety of classes offered provides structure, and the friendly and welcoming  attendees (mostly women) have become part of my community.

Notice I didn’t mention six pack abs in my reasons for exercising.  Truth be told, if those three words appeared in a sentence about me, it would be this one.   “Check out her abs–looks like she drank a whole six pack in one sitting”.  No,  at my age, exercise isn’t about looking better.  It’s about staying the same.  And that’s a great goal for someone who will be 70 in 4 years!

How about you?  Wanna join me?  I’m off to zumba right after I push the publish button.