Favorite TV Series Reflect My LIfe Choices

Favorite TV Series Reflect My LIfe Choices

Favorite TV Series Reflect My LIfe Choices

I was 23 and I saw myself in the new teacher’s struggles.

What’s amazing is that 2 of the 4 popular television series in this post appeared on the screen AFTER I had made major life choices. Yes, the two careers I chose were more common than being an astronaut or an architect–to name a few. But it was pretty darn cool to become a teacher at Bloom Township High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois in 1969, only to discover that Room 222 began a few weeks after I did. It aired on September 17, 1969 and ran until January, 1974–pretty close to the time I spent as a high school English teacher. In her role as the new teacher who had trouble even getting off her bus, Karen Valentine echoed the same joys and pains that I experienced. Bloom helped me learn about diversity, waking me from a simpler life to plunge into the complexity and challenges my students faced every day. I wrote about it in my post What Do Teacher’s Really Do?

Favorite TV Series Reflect My Life Choices

The late 70s and the 80s were devoted to raising our two daughters and enjoying every aspect of family life. Yes, I wrote and published short stories and plotted a novel, but being a mom was my vocation and Family Ties the show that we all looked forward to. Laughter filled the family room as Michael J. Fox (Alex P. Keaton) worked his way through high school, the dating game and adjusted to the arrival of his baby brother, Andrew. There’s a scene when Alex realizes that Andrew just might mirror his proclivities and he turns to his parents saying, “Thank you for having him.” Like the Keatons, my husband and I decided to have one more. Our Andrew arrived in 1989 and we often heard the same Thank You line, but the name, Andrew, was mine, chosen for that hoped-for-son when I was in high school. But I must confess the show’s theme song, though dated, still makes me smile. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7H3JuQUQTLQ

Favorite TV Series Reflect My LIfe Choices

I would watch the taped show at midnight, after my own 3-11 shift.

I went back to school in 1991 and graduated with an RN in 1993. My first job was working as a labor and delivery nurse in a tertiary care center in downtown Chicago. Wow! And then in 1994 ER began, a medical drama taking place at a fictional hospital (like Cook Country) in Chicago. I was hooked. If I worked on a Thursday night, I would tape the show, drive the Dan Ryan home and stay up to watch. It was hard to sleep anyway, especially if you knew your friends Kerry and Carol, Doug and John Carter were waiting for you. Thanks to an amazing writer, Michael Crichton, for the show and other medical writing ie Five Patients.       

Favorite TV Series Reflect My LIfe Choices

Parenthood deals with family issues: sorrows, joys, moving, changing.

Recently my husband retired and we left the Midwest. It’s amazing in California and we are now close to my brother and our daughter and her family. But dear friends are still back in Chicago and Iowa, our son in Chicago, our daughter in Boston, and once in a while I wouldn’t mind seeing some snow–like on Christmas. And I would change driving the 405 for the Dan Ryan any day. But wherever we live, family will always be our first concern and the show Parenthood is now my go-to series. It could never replace ER, and yet ironically reflects present concerns: how to downsize, where to live, how a couple can share the remaining years in a fruitful and fulfilling way. That’s what Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) and Camille Braverman (Bonnie Bedelia) are immersed in after 46 years of marriage to our 44.

So much has changed in TV viewing. We like The Goodwife, but the networks are jammed with reality television that will never reflect my life choices. There is definitely great dialogue and fascinating characters in works like Mad Men, The Newsroom and Turnour current go-to shows. And Cosmos should not be missed. But when there’s a lack of good television, there’s always reading, which is the best choice. You can always find a book that takes you away from your own life, helps you understand your life or reflects some of the choices you have made. Readers, If you have a suggestion for either a television program or a book, please share. And thanks for reading. 

Favorite TV Series Reflect My LIfe Choices
My Room 222 was in Bloom Township High School, built in 1930, art deco style.
Favorite TV Series Reflect My LIfe Choices
ER was the first medical drama to really show how it is.






Do You Need an Adult Security Blanket ?

Do You Need an Adult Security Blanket ?


Midlife, aging, dealing with change. All can be stressful and cause periods of sleeplessness. You get into bed exhausted, only to wake up hours later–your mind suddenly dealing with an argument, your recent bank balance or a future doctor appointment. Such concerns can run the gamut from serious to silly–but no matter what, we have to deal with them.


Charlie Brown was plagued with self-doubt. Linus dragged his blanket around realizing that a little security is a good thing. Our midnight worries are symptomatic of feelings of incompleteness, indecisiveness; and they reflect our insecurities. Yes, we are adults, but we have moments when all our experience, degrees, honors, and achievements can’t convince us that we are okay. So where’s that security blanket from childhood? If I had that would I sleep better? No. It’s way too late for that. So what can I do?

Christine Curran, in a piece for the Ignatian Volunteer Core, writes:  I’ve been unable to eradicate these feelings (insecurities) and I’m starting to think it may be impossible to do so…these feeling may have been built into human nature through eons of evolution…being able to easily find and hang onto contentment would have been a decided disadvantage to our ancestors. From where else would the impulse have come to explore the next horizon or to sharpen the edge of a rock and fasten it to a pole? Perhaps our very success as a species is owed in part to our abiding restlessness.


Curran’s theory is intriguing. And I’ll accept it, if I can make myself wonder, be restless, insecure and therefore possibly creative like my ancestors–BUT ONLY for part of each day. Because for the other part, I would like to turn off news that is often troubling, escape unnecessary text and email–and not be restless. Instead I want to find comfort and peace in myself and for myself. If I can do that, I can be a better person for my loved ones and for others. 


Articles, interviews, opinions abound on the necessity of unplugging. We are becoming a civilization that: walks and interacts with our children while talking on a cell phone; sits at dinner with our spouses while reading email; ignores our real neighbors because our faces are in Facebook. Really? Human connection needs more flesh and blood, more eye to eye. And finding things that act like a security blanket and bring an old-fashioned kind of comfort and serenity when needed, just might be the ability to be with yourself.  YES! You become your own security blanket–you feel secure, good, even calm and happy just being yourself with yourself.


When I am restless, insecure or reacting to disappointment or sorrow, I go to the choices below to get back that IT’S GOOD TO BE ME feeling. These act like security blankets:

  • ORGANIZATION: Maybe an odd choice, but I feel calmer, better able to deal with world news, a bad cold, nonfunctioning water heater or disappointing trip cancellation if I am organized, if I have my list of to-dos and a calendar that eliminates surprises.
  • A MEANINGFUL PHONE CALL: And not some FB message or a 140 character tweet, but a real, live phone call with a friend or family member–someone I love.
  • MUSIC: Soft, pleasant, maybe memory-filled. The right choice of music helps blot out the cares of the world, displaces noise and confusion and soothes the soul. It’s great company if you need it. 
  • A WARM SWEATER OR THROW: And it should be lovingly worn, (now that’s close to a security blanket) to ward off any chill, to cuddle in with a book, a good film or worthy television show like Downton Abbey or Cosmos. 
  • A SCENTED CANDLE: (getting in all the senses here) and not those battery-operated ones. Those aren’t candles!
  • A LIBATION OF CHOICE: A great glass of vino or a warming, soothing tea. And I like to add a small piece of dark chocolate. Now we’re talking.


And finally–I think occasionally we all need to cultivate a little chutzpah. Definition?  Personal confidence or courage that allows someone to do or say things that may seem shocking to others.

Because chutzpah can mean letting those we love KNOW WHAT WE NEED. Because we will always need someone’s hand to hold, someone to listen to a problem, share a worry. A security blanket in this fickle world where change is bold and frightening requires that someone KNOWS WHAT WE NEED. And we all need love.

Christine Curran ends her piece on insecurity with the following: Though obviously a nonbeliever, Prof. Louis Levy in Woody Allen’s film, Crimes and Misdemeanors, may…have glimpsed a partial reality when he observed: “Human happiness does not seem to have been included in the design of creation. It is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe.”    

Be secure in yourself and love yourself. And love others in your life. Love dispels the midnight worries. It’s the best security blanket known to humankind.



What’s Time Got To Do With It?

What's Time Got To Do WIth It?

Think of time as a landscape or ocean-scape spread out before you.

I’ve written about time on Boomer Highway before. Boomers Is Time Working for You and How to Fight Aging, Deepak Chopra Says Make Time Your Friend. Certainly, the way our generation thinks about time has changed. During our childhoods time was endless. Christmas or a birthday was just too far away. We chafed at waiting. We wasted hours wanting something else than what was right in front of us.

Age Changes Our Perception of Time

Wasting hours now? I think as we age we do that less and less. We might look forward to a vacation or a visit from our grandchildren, but often each hour of the day preceding those events is full, and so anticipation takes a back seat. We need the time BEFORE the trip or the visit to accomplish something. Maybe packing, maybe preparing meals, maybe purchasing things for these events. These examples are general, but you get the idea. Because if you are a writer or an artist, a gardener or a photographer, an entrepreneur or working in a profession, or just hanging our with your children and grandchildren–your days are full. Why?

Busyness Provides Distraction ETC

  • We might feel better about ourselves if we pack our days with busyness so we are totally tired when the day ends.
  • We might need to blot out the idea of passing time and so filling up the calendar gives us a false sense of an endless future.
  • We might need to feel needed and so lining up experiences (and they are often thoughtful and wonderful ones) keeps us involved with people and provides that salve to neediness.
  • Or possibly as we age, it might take us longer to accomplish tasks and so we are losing time trying to maintain everything we did in our thirties and forties.

Are Too Many Things Claiming Your Attention?

In a recent article, Arianna Huffington wrote about the “life audit” she created in her forties. She made a list of everything she still wanted to accomplish: on the list–learning to speak German, becoming a good skier and learning to cook. In the end, her life was already so full that the thought of adding these things to her to-do list felt like baggage. She finally eliminated all of them and felt much better as they no longer claimed her attention.

Time Famine Versus Time Affluence

Leslie Perlow from Harvard Business School refers to the rushed and frenzied “I’ve got no time” feeling as time famine. When you feel relaxed because you have surplus time, that’s “time affluence.” Living in the present moment can help you achieve the latter. It’s not dissimilar to Chopra stating that: an ageless body depends on a timeless mind. What is timeless in you? Your soul, your consciousness, your mind freed from memory during meditation? Yes! Free yourself. Your immortality is that timeless part of you that you’ll find through meditation.

Achieving Time Affluence

But even if meditation isn’t for you, the old adage of stopping and smelling the roses just might work. It slows things down, changes the perception of time rushing by and leaving you behind. BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT BEHIND. You are in the forefront of your life: smelling the roses, reading a great book, watching an amazing film, listening to your favorite music, taking a walk. Every moment you indulge in something that calms your heart rate and eases tension is adding hours to your life. That’s true time affluence.

A Revolutionary Way To Look At Time

Maybe the viewpoint of physicist Paul Davies will help: “Physicists prefer to think of time as laid out in its entirety–a timescape, analogous to a landscape–with all past and future events located there together. It is a notion sometimes referred to as block time.” Viewing this block time is like looking at the ocean or your favorite beach or meadow–your life is spread out before you–certainly not receding behind you. Claim life and time and enjoy, because how you perceive time has got so much to do with it.


Thanks to Google Images





Dive Into Nature This Spring

Dive into nature.









Spring brings new life to nature–and thus to the rest of us. After a series of tough winter storms that have blanketed the midwest and east coast, lashed the south with ice storms and caused mudslides in the northwest, everyone is searching for spring. Everyone is eager to dive right in.

But a confession: I have been living in California for almost a year now and therefore did not experience the snow shoveling, frigid temperatures, near car collisions and exhausting commutes that many of you have. But for those of you who did, something is about to come upon you that I will miss–true, amazing, poking then blasting from the earth–spring!

I know many of you are waiting, and you know who you are–so get ready!

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” Mark Twain. And you can’t wait to get outdoors and breathe it in–a perfume that no one can bottle, because it’s in the air and it’s inside you. Funny, I keep thinking of a patch of dirt by my driveway back in Iowa–and I’m picturing these green shoots pushing up from the earth–first crocus, then daffodils, then after a while, beebalm and bluebells.

Dive Into Nature This Spring

Bluebells are native wildflowers.

And by the back deck the hydrangeas will slowly begin to flower and there will be sticks to rake up and leaves to remove, but if I were there, the sun would fall on my shoulders so that I really wouldn’t care.

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Margaret Atwood from the Bluebeard’s Egg

 And as the earth warms and the grass begins to green-up, the redbuds bloom and then the magnolias–spring rains will begin and the cycle of the seasons proceed like a well-remembered friend who has finally returned.

Dive Into Nature This Spring

I will miss the hydrangeas by the back deck.

But even though spring might bring weather relief, other life issues might still be there, hanging around, causing pain. In fact the aching beauty of spring might make facing some family problem or an illness or a change in lifestyle even harder to bear. But here is another way to think about it:

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” Anne Bradstreet, Meditations Divine and Moral 

And to share a little bit of advice and/or philosophy Deepak Chopra writes: There is a simple spiritual truth that I believe in deeply: the level of the solution is never found at the level of the problem. Knowing this, you can escape many traps that people fall into. What exists at the level of the problem? Repetitive thinking that gets nowhere. Old conditioning that keeps applying yesterday’s outworn choices. Lots of obsessive thinking and stalled action…But the relevant insight is that you have more than one level of awareness, and at a deeper level there is untapped creativity and insight.  

I read those words and think about digging in the garden or taking a walk in a spring rain as a release. Insight and understanding will be born from a new vision, a new way of looking at and dealing with the problems you still face–whether it’s glorious spring or not. For more help read Chopra’s: The 3 Questions to Ask Yourself When Things Go Wrong,

And as nature must tolerate freezing temperatures to spring once again into glorious new life, consider practicing David Schnarch PhD‘s Differentiation–the 4th maxim of which is: Tolerate discomfort for growth. It’s not easy, but over time, it works. Here are the other maxims on the list:

1. Clear sense of self in close proximity to important partner.

2. Self-regulate anxiety and self-soothe hurts.

3. Non-reactivity to partner’s anxieties. 

Spring can be a time for rebirth, not only in nature, but in one’s intimate and personal life. So dive right in–I am wishing you warm winds and great peace. 

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” AA Milne 

Do you have a spring ritual to share, something that you can count on to lift your spirits?


Writing that Last Letter Brings Serenity

Writing that Last Letter Brings Serenity

Death challenges serenity. The closest a loved one’s death can come to some form of calm and peace is if everything is said–especially by those who will go on living. Communication is of great necessity, whatever that might entail: saying we are sorry for something, or professing love, or professing that those left behind will be cared for. If there is a chance to say it–please say it.

How I Began to Write These Letters

Once, when a busy wife and mother of three young children, my older cousin, George, was dying. I had babysat his children and we’d formed a bond. Now he was dying in his fifties. I felt the pain of his imminent death, and yet I didn’t know what I could possibly do to ease his suffering. So I sat down and wrote him a letter–a long letter. I touched on the things we shared, the laughs we had. I praised his life as a friend, father to his children and incredible spouse to his wife. He died a few days after receiving my letter. I always hoped it gave him some comfort. Ironically, I know it comforted me.

Going For Forgiveness

We had no problems between us, but I began to see that even a letter might provide healing in families and relationships where grudges or anger had blocked communication. During the time my mother was dying, I learned of several families who could not sign a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) for their parent, because one sibling was saying no. When I gently asked some questions, I learned that sibling often had a quarrel, a guilt with the parent that had not been resolved. They preferred to keep the parent alive, unable to face the task of finding serenity and healing.

In the discussion, Forgiving Your Parents, the point is made that hurts shared by a parent and a child are the hardest to forgive. If we experience pain from our mother, we still hold out hope, maybe unconsciously, that she will be the one to come forward and plea for forgiveness. Why? Because at some time we put her on a pedestal–we made her the better of the two–she’s the adult, the mother. We might even have imagined a scene where she praises us and underlines that we are good children and have always been in her eyes and she is just so sorry.

But even a mother is human, not perfect, and often the only way to arrive at peace before that person dies is to extend the love and concern first–to be the strong one and forgive–let someone you have been angry with back into your heart.

Seinfeld’s “Serenity Now”

Do you remember the classic Seinfeld episode when high-strung Frank Costanza tries to lower his blood pressure by yelling SERENITY NOW? It’s truly comedic because the effort he makes is blatantly self-defeating. It’s a great illustration of how elusive peace of mind can be. But is it really that hard for us to find some contentment and then make it our own? Yes, when it comes to death. But again, communication–if at all possible–helps both the dying person and the one left behind. So how do we get there?

After George’s death, I found myself continuing to write to people I loved if they were dying; I wrote to my mother-in-law, as we were not in the same city. I thanked her for her love of me, for sharing her son with me and I let her know the things in my life that would always keep her alive in my heart. Very early on we had a few adjustments, but we loved each other and I just needed to say it in black and white.

Don’t Like to Write? Other Choices 

Once I wrote a poem for a friend dying of bone cancer. But it doesn’t have to be writing–it can be a card you carefully choose and sign; food you drop off. If you are far apart send a gift that speaks to something you both share like wine, music, a favorite joke, or a favorite photograph, artwork or literature. Unsure as to what might work, you can check with your loved one’s caregiver. Again, communication is the key.

Another wonderful idea is paying a visit to your loved one and gently asking them questions about their life. Often being able to relive wonderful moments is a calming experience for a person who is dying, and you will benefit so much from what you learn. Then there are no regrets that you forgot to ask your parent or grandparent the family history. 

Losing Luke 

When my friend Luke was diagnosed with lung cancer I began writing him letters. After the first one, I saw him and he told me he enjoyed the letter, so I kept it up. I wrote about ten letters over the months he was in and out of the hospital, fighting for his life. Luke was a big guy, warm and friendly and he extended that warmth when we first moved to Iowa. Though we were on opposite sides of the political fence (Iowa can be very political because of it’s First in the Nation status), it never mattered. He asked our son to become a Cub Scout and that helped us meet people in the community and feel welcome.

Weeks before his death, our church “roasted” him at his request. It was part of a fund raiser. But he was so ill he left the festivities early, so I sent him a copy of my words: Luke’s got a son he calls Little Luke. That’s in juxtaposition to Big Luke, Gigantic Luke–Luke the big lover, the big eater (he orders double and dessert too) the big dancer–but truly, the guy with the great big heart. I looked it up, the name Luke means light. Luke, you are a light in all of our lives, no, I take that back, a bright, powerful flashbulb–you just dazzle us.  

And later I wrote: And Luke, this letter thing that we’ve had going has been good for me. I’ve learned about you and you’ve learned about me, which is what friendship is all about. Thanks for helping me become a fairly decent Iowan. Thanks for the help you gave my son. Thanks for just being you.   

Luke read this an hour before he died. That was a gift to me. That was serenity of the highest kind.

Thanks to Google Images

Writing that Last Letter Brings Serenity

Sharing your thoughts brings serenity.


That Job Is Totally Stressful–But the Best!

That Job Is Totally Stressful--But the Best!


Can stress be a good thing? Can it heighten experience, help bring individual creativity to our work?  “Stress illuminates our values,” says Dr. Larina Kase psychologist and author. “If we didn’t care about something, we wouldn’t worry about it.” And Daniela Kaufer, doctor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley states: ”You always think about stress as a really bad thing, but it’s not. Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance.” These researchers provide a logical explanation as to why the most stressful job I ever had—was also the best. You might feel the same way.

My Work In Labor and Delivery 

In my forties I became an RN. My first position was in labor and delivery in a tertiary care hospital in downtown Chicago. I worked with the experts, true nursing professionals who could insert an IV on a writhing woman, access fetal health in minutes, and if no doctor showed, deliver the baby calmly and always safely. We are talking stress.

L&D can be like the ER—a place I did not want to work. They are similar because of pace. Women can arrive on the unit pushing or near to delivery. Prioritizing is a needed skill—you get vitals, fetal heart tones, blood draws, start an IV—if there’s time. (And this doesn’t even begin to address what you need to do if there are medical complications.) But if the baby is crowning, it’s all about preparing for the birth. There might be another nurse to help with those less immediate needs, but there might not be. And when the baby arrives, though you might be racing to complete everything after that, great satisfaction fills you. It’s that optimal alertness, that cognitive performance that Dr. Kaufer refers to.

Studies About Bursts of Stress

Kaufer and her associate Elizabeth Kirby found in their studies with rats, that brief stressful events caused stem cells in the rats’ brains to proliferate into new nerve cells that, when mature two weeks later, improved mental performance. They concluded: acute stress – short-lived, not chronic – primes the brain for improved performance. “I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert,” Dr. Kaufer states. That would certainly apply to nursing skills in L&D.

So Why Did I Add Skills to My Already Stressful Position?  

L&D required that I be alert, use my mental and technical skills. Clientele were often teens delivering a first or even a second child. They needed medical care but also a lot of teaching, encouragement and support. It’s hard to deliver a baby if the mother can’t focus on the work required. After delivery, if I had any time, I quietly encouraged these clients to focus on their child and postpone future pregnancies. I presented the wisdom of finishing high school, providing a better future for themselves and their child. Often, I GOT NOWHERE. I even joined a not-for-profit organization called Rising Star so that I could meet with groups of pregnant teens. We discussed everything, focussing on nutrition and how to have a positive pregnancy, deliver a healthy baby. And we toured the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NIC-U) so they would be aware of the additional stress a sick baby and all that entails can bring to their lives.

Decompressing After a Stressful Night

I worked the 3-11 shift. Some nights racing along the Dan Ryan Expressway to home, I could do nothing but go over my charting–did I remember to do this? Did I remember to do that? Once off that roadway, I often pulled out my phone and called the unit to check with the night staff. Then, when I finally got into bed, I could feel my body vibrating, like a string on an instrument that refuses to settle.

But I was fortunate to work part time. Yes, there were Monday mornings after a working weekend when I could hardly get out of bed. But days off gave me time to care for my family, plan babysitting and meals and spend more time with my daughter and son–one in high school and one in grade school. I wanted to “have it all” — family, home, amazing career. And I did. But I also learned about the stress of it all. The glamour of working and parenting–well, it isn’t always that glamourous.

So How Much Stress Is Too Much?

Dr. Kaufer: “I think the ultimate message is an optimistic one. Stress can be something that makes you better, but it is a question of how much, how long and how you interpret or perceive it.”  Paul J. Rosch MD, president of the American Institute of Stress compares stress to the tension in a violin string. “Not enough produces a dull, raspy noise and too much results in an annoying shrill or snaps the string. However, just the right amount of stress creates pleasing sounds.”  

Being addicted to stress isn’t good for overall health, but used correctly, it can help you achieve a goal—as long as you train your body to relax in the achievement of that goal and give yourself some downtime. “Stress is a burst of energy,” says psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Tan of Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “It’s our body telling us what we need to do.”

So Do You Love a Job With Stress?

You probably do if it encompasses moderate amounts of stress, that sudden burst described above. You get the cascade of hormones that helps your mind and body rise to the occasion, perform the needed task efficiently. And your brain remembers. During this stress you are emotionally challenged, but you are also mostly in control–and when it’s over, you have a sense of accomplishment. Some experts even say that this kind of stress improves heart function and makes the body resistant to infection. And of course it stimulates us–in a good way, not like a street drug. “Focus the energy like a laser beam on what you need to do,” says Dr. Tan. “Very successful people, rather than feeling disempowered, take the extra stress energy … and make it into a high-energy, positive situation.” I think that’s why many ER doctors and nurses, firefighters and other people employed in stressful jobs stay healthy and love the work they do.

Healthy Take-Away

Constant exposure from stress hormones, the fight or flight response, can cause high blood pressure, depression, mental fogginess, frequent colds, autoimmune diseases like arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. It’s necessary to be aware of stressful periods and to learn from them. What are your symptoms, your stress telling you?

Dr. Kase reminds us of the importance of balance in life: “Research shows that we tend to be happiest when we go with our gut. It’s hard to hear your intuition when you’re in a cycle of worry and stress, so give yourself a break—take a long walk, get a good night’s sleep or go out for a bite to eat.” Great advice. And though your job might have periods of total stress, you handle them, you learn from them, you love your job–it’s the best.

Thanks to Google Images

That Job Is Totally Stressful--But the Best!

Downsizing to a New Home? Think Delightful, Not Depressing


Downsizing to a New Home? Think Delightful, Not Depressing

Culling and sorting are the first steps in downsizing.

As a Boomer, one of these days you might face an inevitable event: downsizing. Will it be depressing? No, if from the get-go there are positive thoughts connected with the decision and it’s done at a good time–like when all the signs point to leaving the big house. Because it’s liberating when family members clear out high school keepsakes and memorabilia and that ugly college futon that even your adult children refuse to sleep on. Freedom from clutter and the lightness and openness of the space you eventually occupy (no matter what size it is ) can be delightful. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote: The bare beauty of the channeled whelk tells me that one answer, and perhaps a first step, is in simplification of life, in cutting out some of the distractions…I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm…

Consider: it’s good to be ahead of the game. What if a health issue arises that limits movement or requires hospitalization. Then this major life-project is either indefinitely postponed or put in the hands of someone else. We begged my 90-year-old aunt to move when she was relatively healthily; predictably, she said no. After a broken hip, the cleaning and downsizing was a painful event–all she could do was agree as I asked “Should we give this away?” “Should we throw this away?” Her life! And I had to dispose of it.

Many of us have been in the home or apartment of a person who for many reasons didn’t downsize when they left that house with all the bedrooms. Things are jammed into a smaller space that doesn’t allow easy movement. The home feels uncomfortable, like you can’t breathe. With forethought and good advice Boomers today are likely NOT to do this.
1. Condos are usually on one level, like apartments; accessing a condo on an upper floor requires using stairs or an elevator. Negatives: The ability to get outside is limited; you might have a tiny porch or deck with little to no privacy. Positives: Usually condos provide living space on one level.
2. Townhomes offer the opposite choices, often providing that garden or space to get outside, but usually composed of two stories with stairs.
3. When thinking about choosing a future space, cost will probably be a major consideration–but while crunching numbers, consider comfort too. This might be the last home you occupy and there is nothing better for one’s future than comfort–I don’t need to emphasize why.
4. Once you have found that new home, make a floor plan or template, whether it’s one room or something larger. Have your measurements indicate placement of doors, windows, appliances, built-in shelves, linen storage, heater vents, etc. This will allow you to know exactly the space you will have for furniture placement.
5. Give yourself time, like 2-3 months, to go through every drawer and closet in your home. As you do, make a list of those things that hold wonderful memories and you just can’t live without. Those will go with you. The rest will be sold or given away: things you never use, books you’ll never read, items too big or too old, pillows, linens that are stained or torn, uncomfortable chairs, magazines, and any papers you won’t ever need again.
6. Edit every furniture piece in your home. Measurements will help you to decide what will fit in a pleasing way in your new space. Get excited and have fun doing this. Often your pieces can be used in creative and different ways: a dining table loses leaves and becomes a desk; a couch goes into a den; bookshelves are used for china, glassware and art objects. A table’s legs are shortened and voila, a coffee table.
7. Edit the kitchen, basement and garage with gusto! Kitchen items can often be pared down to 2-4 of each utensil and 2 or 3 pans and bowls. Have you used those four jello molds or that Bundt pan? It’s smart to bring tools for minor house repairs, but condo living and often townhouse living probably won’t require mowers, blowers and shovels. Be green and responsible and donate–don’t throw things in the garbage.
8. Lauri Ward’s Downsizing Your Home With Style offers a list of furniture pieces that you should always bring with you ( though the rule, will they fit, needs to be considered): sofa and matching chairs, armless chairs, chairs that swivel, and items with storage. This last is so important as the newer space might have limited shelving and cabinets and you don’t want to overload and clutter this fresh new home. So bring those treasured items (framed photos, your McCoy pottery, your husband’s rock collection)–but  be prepared to only display some of it while storing the rest. And after you have moved and might be looking for a project, digitize the pictures in your photo albums or buy digital frames that display a series of photos.
9. When placing your furniture in your new home, DO utilize storage in plain sight. End tables, coffee tables, storage benches can all be part of your living experience, yet hold various treasures and necessities at the same time. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases and entertainment units can hold your television and stereo systems as well as books, objects of art and photos.
10. Using a similar color pallet on walls and furniture can stretch your smaller space as can a flowing hardwood floor or wall to wall carpeting. Area rugs chop up a space.
11. Stores today advertise smaller scale pieces that fit tight to the wall and thus again increase the space.
12. Tall furniture can emphasize low ceilings as can wainscotting or chair rails. Paint everything in the same shade to stretch the wall upwards. Other clever ways to increase space is to use furniture with legs not skirts and side tables rather than chests of drawers. Glass tables and mirrors bounce light and a low bookcase can become a divider between the living and dining areas.
The bottom line to all of this is personal choice and making those choices can be exciting. Now is the time to fulfill dreams you had to set aside because of children and work situations. Maybe now you are freed from having to live near the train or owning a home with lots of bedrooms. Great! Look around. Dream and dream some more before you take that next step.
Don’t be down about downsizing. And don’t think small. Maybe your new home won’t have as much square footage, but it can be “big” no matter what: big art on the walls; a big table for family when they gather. Measure and measure again. Make a list of things you absolutely have to have. I had to be able to walk outside and dig in a garden. That helped determine what our new adventure would look like.

And it’s still an adventure–requiring me to be creative and think outside the box. And though once in a while, I wonder about some item–whether I gave it away and why and to whom or if it isn’t in the garage in some box!  But truly, our new home is clean and uncluttered, provides us with what we need–books, music, some art on the walls, pottery and photos that I dearly love, pieces of furniture that are keepers –why I guess this new home is just plain delightful.

So when it’s time, go for it!

PS. For more thoughts on downsizing and reducing clutter read this article in the LA TIMES  A quote from that piece:

“I am impressed by the degree to which outer order controls inner calm,” says Rubin. She recalls the friend who told her, “‘I cleaned out my fridge, and now I can change careers.’”

Thanks to Google Images

Downsizing to a New Home? Think Delightful, Not Depressing

For more ideas visit http://mitzibeach.com
Downsizing to a New Home? Think Delightful, Not Depressing

You’ll find creative ways to display your pottery.

A Love Story About Libraries

A Love Story About Libraries

My first love, the Walker Branch Library, Chicago

I was small when I first climbed the steep steps to the Walker Branch Library on the south side of Chicago. I can still hear the creak of the wooden floors as we entered and turned right into the Children’s Library. My mother guided me to the corner shelves, and there my relationship with books took root–they were numerous, colorful, their paper and bindings tactilely pleasing. They held magic and they held me. I fell in love.

I can still remember the eager tingling of my fingers as I pulled books about Cinderella, Snow White, English and Spanish queens, and numerous fairy tales from the shelves and clutched them to my chest. I could take these home. Yes, we had books at home, but not these particular books whose spines I memorized so that I could easily find them again on a future trip. For as a child it wasn’t always about finding something new, but finding again something cherished and loved. (Every autumn through my high school years, I went to the library and checked out Jan Struthers MRS. MINIVER. It had a tangerine-colord spine and I was always happy to find it on the shelf waiting for me.) The books, the smells, the quiet. My love story began.

A Love Story About Libraries

The Chicago Public Library at Washington and Michigan.

In high school I discovered research and the card catalogue. Given a difficult assignment by my sophomore biology teacher, I took the train downtown to the Chicago Public Library at Washington and Michigan. With a little help from a research librarian (love those people) I found articles on ATP, DNA, RNA and mitochondrion. It was the age of Watson and Crick; the infinitesimal workings of our bodies was the hottest info out there. I got an A on the paper and marveled that I was able to find within that huge library the exact information that I needed. A mini-miracle that was.

A Love Story About Libraries

This elegant old house was the college library and often “my home” for those college years.

But the library that truly became my home sat on a splendid green lawn that sloped to the shore of Lake Michigan. This was Ms. Carrie Wheeler’s dream castle, a house built in 1909 at 6300 Sheridan Road on the north side of Chicago. It was renamed Piper Hall in 1934 and repurposed as a library for Mundelein College. Accessible from my dorm, I spent almost every night of my college life sitting at various desks in the library or searching the stacks which were on the 3rd floor. There I found amazing resources for papers on John Keats or Shakespeare.

A Love Story About Libraries

The first floor reading room in Piper Hall. They should have a plaque there for me!










As a high school English teacher I spent many hours in the library familiarizing my students with the card catalogue and the importance of research papers. As a mother, the library was a short walk, one we took often to find picture books to take home or even to read there; story hour was a treat for my son who wore his pjs and brought a favorite stuffed animal. And later there were medical libraries where I researched articles for Nursing Spectrum/Nurseweek.

Of course the entire process of researching has been revolutionized by the internet. Incredibly, I can sit here and type in Piper Hall and up comes a photo. Card catalogues have gone the way of computers. My friend Joan, a librarian, has one in her home which she now uses to store lots of things!

I still cherish libraries and though I could download a book on a device for the book clubs I belong to, I’d far rather hold the work in my hands and read it–and I get to go to the library.

My love story about libraries is shared by many. At a recent talk David McCullough, renowned author of biographies of John Adams and Harry Truman stated: Books are the furniture of the mind.  Yes and they are also the important furniture of those buildings that house them. Barbara Kingsolver, fiction author of works like The Poisonwood Bible states: I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library, believing every crack in my soul could be chinked with a book.” And Cicero wrote: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”  I would add–it doesn’t have to be a big library, but a shelf of ten books or so that you love, that you want to dip into now and again. And there’s nothing better than having a book on your bedside table–just waiting there for you like a treasure before you sleep. It’s all part of the love story of reading and libraries. Enjoy.

Thanks to Google Images


A Love Story About Libraries

The card catalogue has given way to tables filled with computers.


A Love Story About Libraries

My brother Bill sent me this photo of his library, Altgeld Hall, at the Un of Illinois Champagne Urbana.


Raising Kane: How Parenthood Changes!

Raising Kane: How Parenthood Changes!

This is what I pushed my first child in when we walked to the park.

Some parents today are raising children named Kane, Egypt, Dragos, Cadence, Rocket (boys) and Huxley, Pippin, Kelby, Zona, Azza (girls). A change, right? But it’s just a glimpse of how parenting varies from one generation to the next. And I didn’t realize it when I first stepped into the grandparent role.

Piece of cake, I thought. I’ve been here before, raised three children. No problem. Wrong! There had been a minor revolution since my last child: closures on disposable diapers had changed, formula bottles now came in five uneasy pieces, and car seats?? After you learn how to attach all the moving parts, just hope the baby or toddler isn’t moving too. And forget the stroller–five different lessons, though weeks apart, never allowed my brain to go from step one through to YEAH, it’s up and running. I needed a class with a ceritficate to collapse and uncollapse that machine. CHANGES!

So even though the film, Parental Guidance, received mediocre reviews, when Billy Crystal and Bette Midler struggled with a grandchild whose different colored foods couldn’t touch or the one who could hit the T-ball over and over and never strike out, or the fact that sugar had never crossed the lips of their grandkids and “use your words” was not in their parenting vocabulary, I laughed–at myself.

I also began to wonder how my parents’ generation felt when they stepped into the grand- parenting role. Name selection had not changed dramatically. I went to school with Kathys, Carolyns, Marys, Jills, Jims and Steves and those same names were still being used when my children arrived. Did my mother berate me because I sometimes put my first child in a playpen so I could use the bathroom? No. Car seats? We had them, but they certainly weren’t as safe as the ones today and my children road bikes without helmets until I had a Millennial child.

Impassioned parental food choices didn’t hit my radar, until I developed low blood sugar and had to avoid the white stuff. I even went so far as to slap a WHITE POISON label on the sugar canister. But that didn’t stop my mother and my mother-in-law from presenting sweets to my children whenever possible.

Changes in how we parent and care for our children are definitely connected to the speed of technology–we build something new and then we must learn about the consequences of what we have built. Cars go faster, speed limits increase–so car seats have to protect better. The bikes I rode had no gears; the scooter we owned could hardly get down a city block. But today? Kids whiz along on skateboards, roller blades, high-tech bikes and they need head protection. Research about concussions confirms that.

As for helicopter parents who hover too much–it’s a symptom of the decade. News bombards us from every device we own (phone, computer, tablet). Even if parents wanted to, they could not be blind to the scary, negative things that affect our present society. It’s why some children are required to go from school bus to home; there they stay inside and snack, play computer games and get fat. Other children connect the day of the week with some organized activity that doesn’t allow them to dig in the dirt in their own backyard. Complicated?? Very. Easy to change. No.

There are always books written by experts and though I read Drs. Spock and William Sears, it was often my mother who had the answers when my child was sick, injured or crying uncontrollably. And it was Rita, a close friend, a mother and a nurse. Most of us don’t raise our children in a vacuum. But my husband and I did have to evaluate advice and discover what would work best for our nuclear family.

When an emergency occurred it was sometimes learning on a wing and a prayer. We made decisions; crossed the proverbial fingers and went. That’s why parents like to say children are resilient. If it is true, the truth is only to a point. Because it’s a statement parents make to cover themselves.

Then there’s the awful phrase children are like pancakes, the first one… I can’t even finish the phrase. Parents are to do their best with the first, middle and last–but as we went along, parenting habits did change right within our family. And I think ACKNOWLEDGING that some things just don’t work should be a major part of good parenting.

Like deciding not to tell our first child about Santa Claus, the worry being the awful disappointment when the child finally learns the truth. But on Christmas morning after our daughter had enjoyed all the gifts under the tree, my husband asked her who had given her such wonderful presents. “Santa give it,” our two-year-old said brightly. Okay. Experiment over.

Now that we are blessed with grandchildren and can claim the awesome title of grandparent, we are in love. (Despite the changes!) The three of them are our legacy and there are times when we find our children and ourselves in their inclinations, habits and joyful acceptance of life. Yes, there are funny T-shirts that proclaim What happens at Grandma’s Stays at Grandma’s–but we do our best to honor the parenting decisions of their parents. We are just joyful to have them.

There were a few times when I slipped and used some babyisms from my own parenting. Initially these were frowned upon, but ever so often I now hear them used and it just underlines that even though a book or a baby expert might tell you NOT to do a thing, like using baby talk, what is done with love and used responsibility and properly cannot hurt a family. On the contrary, it binds them closer together. That’s what lullabies do and books and poetry and prayers and of course favorite blankets and stuffed animals. It’s a world created for the new child who uses it for comfort. Soon enough that child grows and discards it for the bigger, more engaging world. Grandparents are right there watching the progression–armed with love, experience and wisdom. Raising Kane? Who knows. Two of our children could still think Kane or Zona is a good name choice. After all, parenthood changes!

Thanks to Google Images

Raising Kane: How Parenthood Changes!

Raising Kane: How Parenthood Changes!


We Kept Up the Beat with the Beatles

We Kept Up the Beat with the Beatles

They captured us and wouldn’t let go until the band broke up.

The music had a beat, it had harmony, it had catchy lyrics. We were sixteen, seventeen and we danced to the music at sock hops and mixers. But then photos of the singers, The Beatles, made their way across the pond. The photos ignited a firestorm of worship among teen girls. If many of us had once loved Elvis, we now were dying to see the four British mop-heads and the fan numbers eclipsed anything ever known before. From October of 1962 to October of 1969 the band sold over 150 million albums and 450 million records worldwide.

Paul and John, George and Ringo. They were not just an ordinary British band–they were singer-songwriters who broke into new territory with every album they released. Fans waited in anticipation, knowing that they would be blow away by something totally new, downright lyrical, inventive and sometimes even jocular and funny.

Who can forget The Magical Mystery Tour (Fool on the Hill, Penny Lane, All You Need Is Love) and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, A Little Help from My Friends)? This creativity proclaimed a whole new way of thinking about an album. The songs held up as amazing single hits, but also blended together to tell a story, create an atmosphere, and deliver one wonderful message after another.

At our house, we waited eagerly for each new album to be issued. When that happened, in a matter of days we could sing every song, had partaken of long discussions about the musical arrangement and outlined what new ground had been broken. We talked about the meaning of the lyrics, feeling that some of the songs were tone poems and we argued and discussed the multiple messages in Fixing a Hole, Carry That Weight, Eleanor Rigby, Lady Madonna, I Am The Walrus and Savoy Truffle. 

And while they were creating one amazing album after another the Beatles had great fun with their music. On Abbey Road they created a medley that sometimes promised a story line and sometimes brought the music and lyrics to comical heights:  Mean Mr. Mustard, Polythene Pam, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window, Golden Slumbers, Carry that Weight and Her Majesty. 

Sadly, the Beatles broke up in 1970. John Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono has always been labeled as a major cause of the band’s disintegration. Brilliant and edgy, Lennon could write a song, but for reasons many critics could not comprehend, he thought Yoko to be terribly talented in many areas–music and art among them. Lennon continued to compose until he was shot on Dec. 8, 1980 by Mark David Chapman in front of the Dakota building in New York City where he was living. He died later that evening.

Paul McCartney went on to make solo albums with a new band Wings and his first wife, Linda Eastman. Through the years he has collaborated with other artists like Stevie Wonder and has continued to write in the pop, rock and classical genres. His song Yesterday has been covered by more than 2, 200 artists. He is still writing and composing today.

George Harrison also had his solo career writing songs that topped the charts like My Sweet Lord, Give Me Love, Give Me Peace and albums All Things Must Pass and Living in the Material World. He developed brain and lung cancer and at the end of his life enjoyed gardening at his home outside London. He died in LA in 2001.

Ringo Starr had a hit album Ringo in 1973. His incredible skill on the drums has influenced many other musicians. He has traveled with Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band and played the Conductor on PBS’s Shining Time Station. 

The Beatles created so many melodic songs, incredible medleys and memorable lyrics that it would take pages for me to list my favorites. But I will mention one and post a You Tube of it here. It was the last song McCartney worked on for the final Beatle album LET IT BE. In the end, he didn’t like the way it was produced, but its lyric, melody and overall creative blend has to be at the top of my list. Such Beatle contributions will live on, as we keep up the beat with the Beatles.

Thanks to Google Images

We Kept Up the Beat with the Beatles

We Kept Up the Beat with the Beatles