“Some Assembly Required”


The one thing I hadn’t figured into my timeline for gym construction was the assembly of the incline bench. I spent half an hour on it so far, then realized that I would need Charlie’s help to fasten one large piece to another. He is working at home, so he wasn’t immediately available.

Unlike many things I have put together, this one actually taped the various hardware to a piece of cardboard and labeled each piece. Sadly I misunderstood that the label referred  to the piece over, not under the label. I figured that out when a set of bolts was clearly too small to hold the pieces together. Fortunately I realized as I started to pull the tape off the parts that the labels were coming off also. So now I am just poking little holes to pull out the necessary items. The instructions are clear, just very lengthy.

I went back to read the description of the bench on the website. Frequently buyers touted the “ease of assembly.” Perhaps they were speaking comparatively. It is easier than IKEA projects, but that isn’t saying much! When the bench is ready, the weights await. Of course they came in a 50 pound package, and I had to carry the plates downstairs to the “gym” a few at a time.

At least I am getting a workout preparing a space to have a workout.

“Harry’s Room”


This morning I listened to the liturgical readings and heard about the prophet Elisha who stayed over at a couple’s house so often that they built him his own little house on their roof. It reminded me of “Harry’s Room,” a cherished place in my childhood home pictured above.

The house had been built in 1909 for a family of three, parents and one child, and  several servants. The parents had a suite, the child had a suite and the servants lived in two rooms on the third floor. There were front stairs and back stairs, a full pantry and a small room off the kitchen by the back stairs. We never determined the intended use for this room since by the time we moved in the house had been used as a group home. Perhaps it was a cloak room, perhaps the cook slept there. At any rate it was always called “Harry’s Room.” It held a twin bed, a lamp, a desk and a chair and had a pocket door installed for privacy.

Harry was the district attorney for a rural Oregon county and had to come into Portland regularly. He always stayed at our home. Even after he moved to a position in Washington, D.C., he still came West fairly regularly and stayed in “his” room.

I smiled this morning when I realized that giving him his own room connected me with ancient readings. Harry wasn’t a prophet, but we welcomed him all the same.


“Under Construction”


While my gym has reopened, it is in a very limited manner with everyone wearing masks, maintaining social distances, wiping equipment regularly and doing other safety measures. I finally acknowledged to myself that I would not be going back to the gym for a long time, if ever. Faced with a choice of continuing to work out in my office or stopping altogether, I came up with a third choice. We have a large area in our basement which is carpeted and basically empty. I decided to build my own home gym.

Buying exercise equipment during the pandemic has been challenging since every gym user stuck at home was doing the same. But eventually everything has arrived and is ready to be set up. I thought I would share a photo of all the items in the heap on the floor where they presently rest. I hope that by tomorrow or Monday I will have a working gym to photograph.

I will continue to work with my personal trainer, receiving new workouts every four to six weeks as I have done in the past. He can check out my form by viewing any videos Charlie takes of me doing the exercises I am new to. Eventually he may be able to do live sessions over the computer. I would enjoy seeing him and interacting in a way text messaging and phone calls don’t allow.

I didn’t buy any fancy machines. My goal is to maintain functional fitness for everyday life. Weights, resistance bands, and a step will ensure that I can do just that.


Share Of The Farm”


In late winter it was increasingly difficult, because of the disruptions of the virus, to buy fresh produce. I was concerned that it might remain challenging and decided to buy a share of a farm down the road from us. CSA(consumer supported agriculture), lets you buy a share before planting  thus allowing a farm to use the capital to purchase seeds, hire necessary workers, and share the potential loss from unpredictable weather or crop yield. I bought a full share of Killam and Bassette and picked up our first bag last Thursday. Now every Thursday until late November, I will return to the farm stand and exchange my empty canvas bag for a full one.

Above is a picture of yesterday’s haul, although we didn’t get jam and our beets were exchanged for kohlrabi. Fortunately the owners supply a recipe card for people like me who previously couldn’t have told a kohlrabi from a rutabaga. Each day’s bag is filled with vegetables and fruits picked that morning. Nothing could compete this week with the strawberries, pesticide and herbicide free, and perfect right out of the box.

They also have chickens running around the farm now tagged “free range.” I once had “free range” chickens of my own, but they ranged so far afield I never found their eggs! Fortunately the farm houses the hens overnight, collects their eggs and gives us a dozen with our share. In the winter they will butcher the chickens and the pigs who are currently getting fat on extra crops and roughage. Then the frozen meats will be for sale. The owners will make jam and jelly from extra fruit and sell that at their “honor system” farm stand all winter.

While much of the lush farmland to our south has been replaced with huge houses, fortunately some family farms remain. I am grateful that I can help one of them continue to prosper by buying a share of their bounty.

“A Major Adjustment!”


Our church requested that we not live together before we got married. Our church community also pledged(as part of the ceremony) to support our marriage. So while we had talked through everything under the sun, we had not learned how to live with one another. In retrospect, I think the church was  wise to ensure that we had made a solemn commitment to one another before we cohabited. The first year of marriage, it turned out, and every available couple in our church family concurred, was challenging.(Challenging is a polite word!)

Snoring was really the least of it. It was getting used to living with another adult after each of us had only been living with children. Who does what? I started out with my ocd list of chores to divide. Agh! I am astonished at my cluelessness about negotiating. But as time went on we found a way to share the newspaper, the bathroom, the kitchen, the yard and the television. We even found ways to be alone, though it sometimes meant leaving the house!

The only thing worse than figuring everything out would have been to be simultaneously deciding if we were in it for the long haul. Thanks to our fairly conservative church, that question had been settled. For better or worse. And better has always far outweighed the worse.

“It’s Not The Heat…”


Until I moved to a new part of the United States, I had no idea how my body had adapted to the weather cycle of Western Oregon where I lived for fifty years. It rains a great deal there, in lots of drizzly days rather than in thunderstorms. It rarely snows; in fact an inch or two brings the city to a halt until it melts. The summers are idyllic, with low humidity and temperatures usually in the high 70’s or 80’s. Several times each summer the temperature soars, but it is almost always cool at night. We never owned an air conditioner either in our home or in our car for most of my life. Open windows and fans always cooled things off.

After nineteen years, my body still seems not to have absorbed the reality of weather in New England. While I have become used to the winter snow, I have yet to internalize the reality of summer. Two phenomena throw me every time. First, throughout the summer there are “rain dates” in case thunderstorms occur during scheduled events. I had never experienced those drenching summer storms and am still startled by them. And humidity and I are never likely to get along. I still seem to experience it as a personal affront!

My husband, on the other hand, grew up in Mobile, Alabama and happily works outdoors in this heat and humidity. He doesn’t stop his long daily walks. It appears his body expects summers to feel like this. To my ever lasting gratitude, he installs window air conditioners throughout our home. Whenever I go into a room, I can turn on that appliance and cool off. The rest of the house can heat up again once I leave that spot.

Every night he throws open the windows and gets fans running. For him getting the temperature down from 85 to 65 is a real achievement. As for me, it still feels hot! To my body, mornings are supposed to be cool. And don’t get me started about towels never drying!

“32 and Counting!”

In 1988 we completed a year of pre-marital counseling. Our church required the process before a marriage. We brought so much history from our lives and previous marriages(one each) that what would have taken twelve weeks took us much longer. The good news was that we had discussed every issue that would ever come up in the subsequent years. We have yet to hit a stumbling block that we hadn’t already talked through with the minister.

We seem to have gained some weight and lost some hair, but we are spending days together in covid isolation and enjoying the sequester. I can’t imagine having to do this with anyone else. We celebrated this year with a trip to pick up our share of the CSA(consumer supported agriculture) farm down the road. We stopped in at a friend’s stand for strawberries and picked up a delicious dinner from our favorite place, 2 Hopewell. More used to takeout now, we set the table, popped open all the containers, uncapped our nonalcoholic beer and toasted our years together.

Thank goodness for the sanity and safety our marriage provides. In these times of division and chaos across the country, we have our own quiet corner of life.

“Nursing Homes and Farm Workers?”


Although I rarely make political comments on this blog, something I heard yesterday from the Governor of the state of Florida deeply pained me. He said that the virus was only affecting “nursing homes and farm workers.” That he was saying this to defend his refusing to impose any restrictions was the clearest statement I had seen to date as to which people some authorities think don’t count.

Throughout much of the United States a false dichotomy is being presented as truth. Either we have a booming economy or we prevent people dying. Even my 13 year old granddaughter recognizes the logical fallacy of all or nothing thinking. But Florida’s governor seems to believe it and has overtly stated that some citizens are disposable. Forget for a moment that 25% of Florida citizens are over the age of 65 and that Florida has a booming agricultural economy provided by farm workers. And remember that even if that weren’t the case, no human being doesn’t count.

Testing only reveals illness. Testing doesn’t produce illness. And people aren’t dying in Florida because they had a test!

Tomorrow I will try to return to my less outraged self.

“East Coast Ethnic Education”


I was just as surprised by first hearing “Boston Irish” used in a derogatory way as I had been by the foul language. It made no sense to me, nor did slurs against Catholics, or the Portuguese. I quickly learned that national origins seemed to play an outsized role in Cambridge in the 1960’s. And everyone seemed to have an opinion about which national origin was superior.

This whole ongoing identification with Europe was unknown to me growing up in the Pacific Northwest. I knew some people whose forebears had come from China or Japan, a source for immigrants since the early nineteenth century. But many others were just lumped together. If there were any bragging rights, they belonged to people who had been “pioneers” to Oregon, back in the 1850’s. I never heard anyone described as Italian or Irish or Polish, for example.

Now that I have lived back in New England for nearly twenty years, I find that this close identification with Europe continues. St. Patrick’s Day parades and Columbus Day parades teem with people still claiming connections to Europe.  Living here I have heard stereotypes over the years still relating to Europe. Apparently the idea of the European Union hasn’t caught on with many.

While there were and are many other stereotypes and ways of pigeon holing people both in the West and the East, it was the European distinctions that really made an impression on me when I first came East.

“I Am Saved By Words!”


I titled my blog “saved by words” because I really do feel that at certain points in my life I was rescued by either things I read or things I heard. In the case of my first year in college, it was a combination of both. I registered for English 150, a survey of American poetry my first semester. It was the only elective I had, since the other three courses(we only took four at a time) were general required surveys in humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. A girl from my floor walked to the same class and we became fast friends. She remained my friend for many years.

My first experience in a large lecture hall with over a hundred students startled me. Somehow I knew so little about the university that I didn’t even realize that most of my courses would be large lecture based! But Albert Gelpi gave well constructed, fascinating talks and I was riveted.

The course began with Anne Bradstreet, a Boston Puritan writer. Her poem on the burning of her house was easy to understand. It was Gelpi’s discussion of it that grabbed my attention. He pointed out that on its surface the poem spoke of not being attached to wordly things, but in its execution it clearly lamented their loss. The idea that she could tell the truth but “tell it slant”(from Dickinson who we also studied) was exciting. I began to read more deeply and with more satisfaction.

Koestler may have put me off, but my American poetry class assured me that I was in the right place. It had “saved me.”