Puzzling musings


Whenever I have some “down” time I feel guilty, like I have to fill the minutes with
some important chore. Even as a child, I felt compelled to always be doing something
productive. I remember once (I was a pre-teen) my parents had a party and they had
about 40 guests. When the party was over, it was late. My mother took one look at
the kitchen, with its dozens of dirty plates and glasses, sighed and said she would
clean up in the morning. I don’t know if I imagined it or if it was true, but when the
morning arrived, Mom was pretty upset by being confronted by the mess! We did
not have a dishwasher yet and although she never said it, I suppose part of the reason
she was cranky was that she might have been suffering from a hangover!

My parents enjoyed entertaining so that parties and social gatherings at our house
were common. Mom’s reaction after guests left was always the same: she would take
care of the mess in the morning. I don’t remember when I actually began to clean up
the kitchen so that when she woke up the next morning, all was in order. I do remember,
however, that my life was always that much more pleasant as I didn’t have to deal with
her “whine” which was worse than any yelling she did. I’m not sure where my Dad was
in all this, though I do recall that before the parties, he would be the one vacuuming the

In those early teenage years, I established a personal habit that requires my kitchen
sink to be clear of dishes and the kitchen itself to be clean. Since my parents both worked
outside the home, we had our “chores” to make sure the home was functional. I don’t know
when it became my self-appointed responsibility but as long as I lived at home, no one had
to deal with dirty dishes or greasy counters or tables full of crumbs. I remember my older
sister referring to me as “Cinderella” more than once in her inimitable sarcastic manner.
My parents purchased our first dishwasher during the days that I found myself recovering
in the hospital after an operation. I have never believed in coincidences!

As I write these musings down, I am filled with frustration and confusion. When and why
did I decide to take over management of the house? Was the fact that I was such an affable
take-charge individual the reason for my elder sibling’s jealousy? I learned early on that my
sister was not on my side, so I did everything I could to keep her from physically harming
me. I would do my chores and hers. I would give up my “leisure” time in order to get her
out of the many scrapes she got into. I would save my allowance to have it taken away from
me by her because she spent hers quickly. I would not refuse my mother’s requests that my
older sister go with me places because my mom convinced me that I was the lucky one who
made friends easily and had to be the “good” sister. It took getting to age 60 before I accepted
that my sister and I have no real bond. It was a sad realization, one that I still have trouble
coming to terms with, after all, aren’t sisters supposed to be friends and have each other’s
best interest at heart?

Going off into these stream of consciousness reveries have become very cathartic. I feel I
can only heal by writing and more importantly by writing publicly. My sister and I have been
estranged on and off several times over the years. The estrangements have always been a
source of great peace and tranquility for me and have lasted as long as she has had no need of
something only I can provide. I feel in my heart that there won’t be a next time, that she can
now enlist the help of one of our two younger siblings and I don’t know why I didn’t think of
that years ago. It feels good to get it out and down on paper…and out into the ether to see
where it lands. I am sure I am not the only one in the universe who has a less-than-stellar
relationship with an older sister, but I can bet it didn’t take others as long as it did me to
finally give up and move on!

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St. Patrick’s Day


My middle name is Patricia and my mom always celebrated
the day by calling me or sending me a card. When her Alzheimer’s
took over, that was the end of that but now that she is up in heaven
I feel she is probably looking down on me and wishing me a good day.

I just spoke with my Dad and remembered with him. I am nostalgic for Mom today and I can only imagine what it must be like for him to have been married to her for so many years (65) and now being alone. Of course, he has his health and lots of great memories but still

What I have learned in this life is that time really does fly; that family can be or might not be everything to one but that those we hold dear should know we love them. We never know when the day will come that we will not have the chance to do it for one reason or another.

Live, love, laugh and let those you care for do likewise.


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Unabashed places of gossip…


I went to the hairdresser yesterday. My visits there are every 6 weeks to get rid of the gray
and sometimes also include a minuscule trim on my very thick and curly hair. The salon
is modest in size and decoration and not located on any trendy street in our small town.
It is wildly popular nonetheless. My time there is heightened by the socializing that is not
restricted to topics like the weather and activities in town.  The owner/hairdresser gets to
glean gossip from her many clients but to her credit, vicious character assassination is not
one of her objectives and the conversation is always pleasant.

Yesterday the talk turned to politics since we are heading to a second round of voting due
to the fact that neither of our presidential candidates received the required 40% that would
have made him our leader for the next four years. There are so many people undecided and
admittedly neither candidate has won over the entire population but if we are to continue to
enjoy our reputation as a democratic (3rd world) nation, it is imperative we turn out in high
numbers and make the best decision possible for our country.

I made my decision months ago. It wasn’t easy because my original choice was involved in a
scandal, my second choice did not impress me when the debates began, and my third choice
(and current choice) did not win. Matters were not helped by the fact that we had 13 (yes, 13!)
aspiring candidates. Just too many. Our systems needs to be revamped but that is not likely
to happen any time soon.

It has been interesting to read comments on FB from people (relatives and friends) who I
respect, admire and love. I say interesting although I might actually mean “shocking”…some
of the comments have brought to light how people really think despite what their words or
education or traditions have been. To say I am disappointed is to touch on things just lightly.
I have been mortified by the extent to which stupidity runs in my own family. I suppose it
happens to everyone: someone you used to admire says or does something so unwarranted
as to lose your respect going forward. It has happened to me many times over the years and
yet I continue to be so naive. At my age, it is no longer excusable.

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Welcome Monday


Yup! It’s Monday, laundry day and YAY, I’m all done. Now I am sitting at my desk
and trying to dash off a few sentences to this blog before I need to get dinner started.

Unbelievably, I actually lost another pound! I say unbelievably because though I
have not been “bad” (as they used to say in WW), I did consume chocolate cake,
cognac and popcorn last week. I tracked everything and tried to stay within reason
by not using all my points but I expected to find that my weight had stayed the same.
To my great delight, the scale registered a tiny loss. It’s not really a tiny loss for me,
one lb. after the week I had is actually very, very good. So I started the week off in a
good manner, feeling positive about the discipline and motivated to make this week
even better. My husband is doing his best to support me and I can see that he is also
considering moderating his own eating habits for the good of his health. I wish I could
do something to help him but everyone must work their program their own way.

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Behind the spyglass…


Understanding the motivation behind a person’s behavior is something that has always
been of interest to me. Rather than just accepting that so and so did this and that and
is now facing the consequences of the action, I spend some time reflecting on what made
them do it. I used to ponder these things out loud but realized that many people in my
circle were impatient and really not interested so I have become a “closet” thinker. I
believe that in order for me to invent a character (protagonist) that is multidimensional,
I need to invest energy in finding out just exactly what makes him/her tick. It has not
been easy or perhaps I should just say I have not had the discipline or courage to let my
mind simply focus on a subject long enough to grasp their very essence and then turn it
into narratives that will work in a novel.

I live in a really small town. It is in a developing country where recent years have found
it attracting all sorts of people who come here to do tourism and go back home, or those
who find it so laid back and beautiful that they actually commit to living here despite all
the obstacles. Some people are wonderful, bringing with them the enthusiasm they feel
for nature and living in peace. They contribute their time, their ideas, their resources so
that the community can benefit. Other people come with the intention of establishing
communities that they would not be able to have in their country of origin.

In the recent past, I have encountered people whose communities can only be described
as “cultish”, and this is scary. The leaders look pretty “normal”; their message is anything
but. It boggles my mind to see how many reasonably intelligent people are taken in by
these reckless individuals whose motivation can only be financial gain or fame. In the past
I would have exposed them at once but that was not beneficial to me so after turning 60 a
couple of years ago, I turned to the pen as my collaborator in unmasking these creatures.

They make interesting subjects for my narratives and provide much entertainment to me,
and I am hoping to capture their essence to develop my villains. Life is often so much more
satisfactory from the point of view of the observer, sitting a distance away in a comfortable

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Losing weight, losing sight


It’s been a very busy week, still lots of documentation to gather before my father can
claim some of his benefits after my mom’s passing. It has been a lesson to me about
having everything set up and in an orderly fashion so that our beneficiaries do not have
to go through so much red tape when we go.

My mother was an incredible human being with lots and lots of faults but with qualities
so excellent that the negatives pale in comparison. I am proud of the parents I was born
to and I hope that she knew how much I loved and admired her. I faulted her for not
saying “I love you” to me very often (if ever), I now think that I am guilty of the same
thing with her.

The first time I joined Weight Watchers, I was 15 years old. I did it at my mother’s prodding
because I was about 20 lbs. overweight at the time and she was fat also and decided that we
should do it together. That was in 1970! WW was just a few years old at that point and I do
remember that our “leader” was male. That has always stayed with me. I lost my 20 lbs. and
became a lifetime member which meant that I could attend meetings for free for the rest of
my life unless I went over the 2 lb. limit in my goal weight. Then you had to pay for attending.
I don’t remember why I stopped going but within 6 months, I had gained the weight back and
then some. It was not the first time I was on a “diet”, mom was always so concerned with my
weight, she was constantly looking for ways for me to lose it. I don’t remember every being
held back by my excess pounds. I was not athletic but that had nothing to do with my weight.
I was very sociable and rarely looked in the mirror except for my face and hair so I really had
no idea what my body looked like. I also made my own clothing so that it was not important
to me whether there were clothes to fit me in the store.

Back in those days, Weight Watchers terminology was less politically correct than today. For
example, if one ate a “forbidden” food (and there were many) one was “cheating”…or “bad”.
Today’s plans allow for eating whatever you like using a point system to keep track of things.
No food is bad or forbidden and no one is cheating. You simply track your points and move
on. Each day is a new beginning and that is how I have come to look at it this final time. In
the last 3 1/2 months, I have only lost 13 lbs. (slow metabolism as a result of years of dieting)
but rather than despair, I simply remind myself that this is a lifestyle change, not simply a
few weeks sacrificing to get down to a specific weight. At least the numbers are going in the
right direction.

There are so many choices and “hacks” available to us these days. I feel frustrated sometimes
because I allowed the weight to creep back on my small frame after so many years of maintaining
a healthy and comfortable weight. But I will be there again and hopefully some of my beautiful
clothes will still be in good enough condition to wear them.

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The occasional straphanger…



My dad had an operation a couple of weeks ago and today was the day we needed to go
to have his stitches removed. He is in great condition and fortunately it didn’t take long for
the nurse on duty to take care of him. I watched with some apprehension, relieved that even
at his advanced age of 89, he is healing quickly and without complications.

In Costa Rica, we have license plate restrictions which prohibit us from entering the “city”
of San Jose on one weekday determined by the last digit on the license plate. My particular
restriction falls on Monday. It is not my favorite mode of transportation but the bus system in
our country really is quite reliable and covers most areas.  Although it takes longer to complete
errands, it is very nice not to have to worry about getting around town. That said, public
transportation comes with its own set of problems.

Since I am not that savvy about the schedules and routes (and I place blame for that on myself),
I decided that taking the “express” or “local” bus would not make much of a difference. I was
very wrong in my assumption, something that will not happen to me in the future. Naturally, I
took an 8 a.m. bus. If you live and work normal hours in Costa Rica, then obviously you are not
going to be taking an 8 o’clock bus because by that time you should already be working. So I sat
back and relaxed because I knew that I had plenty of time to get to my father’s and then we could
call for a taxi to get us to the doctor. Fate would direct the most polite bus driver to be the driver
of the bus I was on. He let everyone go ahead of him in that horrendous traffic and nothing
seemed to faze him. I looked on admiringly, until I realized what would normally take tops one
hour was almost taking us two hours! I will be checking schedules and routes a little closer.

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I missed a day!


I mean (a common way to start a sentence these days, I notice), I can’t believe after
making a real concerted effort to write every day in this blog, I simply forgot to sit
at the computer long enough yesterday to actually do so! The night before I was so
tired I just wrote a few sentences so as not to break the rhythm.

I have no excuse for yesterday except that I was watching Werner Herzog’s docu-
mentary “Lo and Behold” and there was a segment in it about addictions to the
internet (not worried since I am not really an addictive personality [so, why am
I fat?]) which prompted me to ignore my phone, tablet and computer for a few
hours. Then life got in the way and here it is March 4th and I am almost running
out the door to attend the local Bingo activity which I promised to work at.

My luck at Bingo has never been very good. I fluctuate between actually paying
attention and marking the card or being so entertained by people’s behaviours that
I simply sit back and enjoy the show.

Whatever happens today, I know that I will be very entertained. Right now, I need to
dash off and start getting ready to go.

A great Sunday awaits us all.


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A long day


I am writing tonight just to keep the momentum going for writing in this blog every day.
My day was wonderful, filled with activities but I am now so exhausted that rather than
the glass of wine I was planning to have, I am going to make myself some tea, get ready
for bed and then get into bed and see how long I can read before I fall asleep. Tomorrow
will be a day of leisure mostly as I have nothing planned for the day. Sunday, I get to
attend and work at a fundraiser!


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Stream of consciousness writing


Wow, I just re-read yesterday’s post. I sound angry. It was an honest post though and although
I will be the first to agree that some sentences could have been better constructed, I’ve decided
to just leave it alone.

I am working with a lot of things right now. The first priority in my life is to make sure that my
Dad (two months a widower today) is okay and that all documentation allowing him to secure the
benefits he is entitled to after my Mom’s passing are taken care of. In this country of very slow
bureaucracy, there is not much to do after requesting a document than to sit and wait for it to
be ready. We are good at waiting; we know our part is done.

These last few weeks have found me in good health and in good spirits but every so often I do
feel that my days are lived in a bit of a haze. I feel like I know where I’m going and what I have
to do to get there but I am sometimes frozen in a thought…or worse, beginning a thought and
losing its thread in the middle and not being able to remember what the original thought was.
There is tremendous temptation in me sometimes to believe myself headed toward the forget-
fulness of the Alzheimer’s that diminished our lives when it gripped my mother. It was not all
negative though. The last 6 or 7 years have allowed me to get to know my father in a completely
new manner. I don’t really think I will or want to be another Alzheimer’s statistic. It was sad to
watch my brave and tenacious mom succumb to the illness. She is now resting in peace; I am
fortunate to have been able to spend so many years of good time with her.

My Weight Watchers journey continues positively. With my husband being away for a week or
so, I am able to eat some foods that he does not care for (tofu, brown rice, some exotic fruits,
some lovely Indian fare, etc.) and can keep a better handle on the “treats”. I will never blame
him (or anyone) for the extra 40 lbs. (it was 50 when I started!!) that I carry. No one forced me
to consume the extra food. The program works, any program works really, your mind has to be
in the game, however, for the success to be lasting. I think I shared that this time, I am pretending
to be getting ready for my television debut! It is a lovely fantasy. Last weekend, I spent a couple
of hours with my father going over some clothing of mine in a closet. I was shocked to see the tiny
clothing I fit into 20 years ago! I know I fit into the clothes because I have pictures of me in them!
I will never go back to a size 6…but I am still having trouble getting rid of clothing that I know is
not going to be loved as I once loved it.

All this decluttering has also sent me into the boxes and boxes of pictures and letters that have
accumulated in my drawers and shelves. I ran across a picture of me taken in 1967 just before
I turned 12. In the picture were my three siblings and our paternal grandmother. I examined
our faces closely. My oldest sister’s expression held a slight sneer as she turned to face the
photographer, who I suppose was our mother. My own expression is one of worry although it
could also have been caused by sun in my eyes. My younger siblings have neutral expressions.
The only one who looks like she was talking or about to smile was grandma. I think I will always
remember that about her: talking or smiling!

By the time the picture was taken, I had already decided that upon return to New York after that
summer’s vacation, I would devote all my energies to relearning Spanish. I find it hard to believe
(after all, I was only 11) that I had the discipline or pride to make that decision. A better one could
not have been made and I am glad I did it. Being fully bilingual has served me well.

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