Saturday, December 31, 2016

Fast Away

It's only a matter of hours now for 2016, this crazy leap year with so many changes (new job and wedding; show-stopping election) that we needed an extra day to pack 'em in.

One thing about years now: They pass so quickly that it almost seems pointless to make a big fuss over their arrivals and departures.

But still, a year change is a moment, and so I will mark it now in this quiet living room with the tree still in full holiday regalia, books and journal by my side, three loads of laundry, a tidied freezer and vacuumed floor under my belt. The price I pay for writing time, a price I may have to stop paying if I'm ever to write more than these blog posts. And if there's a hint of a resolution in there, so much the better!

Fast away the old year passes ... whether marked by sundial or computer clock ... it passes ...

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Time Travel

Here I am, back from the 18th century and (despite yesterday's snarky post) feeling a little bereft, truth be told. It was nice back there. It was quiet. A world without cars and sirens and power tools and amplified music.

It was inspiring, too, with talk about the republic and the founders' ideas and ideals. In fact, there was so much to see and do (and so much exercise running and walking around the place), that I happily gave up Pilates fusion.

This morning's organ concert in the Wren Chapel featured an instrument as old as the carols being played. To sit there with the music swirling around, natural light pouring in the high windows, was to feel as far away from my suburban life as I could possibly feel three hours from home.

It was more than space travel; it was time travel, too.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


A trip to the 18th-century today. To a time without cars and television and gender-bathroom issues.

This would be Williamsburg, Virginia. Only three hours down the road.

You can stay in historic houses there (we will) and have a hot buttered rum and a rasher of whatever it is they have rashers of.

You can also (and I have my eye on this) take a morning abs or Pilates fusion class at a decidedly 21st-century spa. Oh, and did I mention that there's now a Williamsburg app?

Let's just call it 18th-century'ish.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Holiday House

Yesterday I met my brother for lunch at the local mega-mall. It was wonderful to see him — but I made quick work of the venue, got in and out as quickly as I could. More shopping? I don't think so.

Instead,  I made my way quickly back here, where I could bounce on the trampoline and do a little yard work in the suddenly 60-degree temps. As the day darkened, I came inside to bask in the tree and the bowl of red glass apples that catch the light and transform it.

These holiday sights soothe the soul; the holiday occupations do, too. I spent a couple of hours last night turning the last of the cookie dough into crispy, sugared wreaths, bells and angels.

It's all part of the holiday house. I want to keep it here as long as possible.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Here I'm enjoying the Great Pause, which in part has meant a blog pause, though not for long because, well, writing here is what I do.

I love the disorientation this time of year brings. Is it Monday? Tuesday? Should I start watching a movie at 10 p.m.? Why not?

The trick is to balance the vegging with small, discrete tasks. Tidy up the area under the bathroom sink. Look through one of the boxes from Lexington, Mom's things, an activity that must be reserved for moments of lightness and strength. (Come to think of it, that may have to wait.)

Most of all, time for reading, writing, talking and walking. Four of my favorite things.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

The Cards: An Appreciation

I'll admit I punted this year. Because our Christmas card features a family wedding, I figured the biggest news needed no explanation. Of course it wasn't the only news, but I've been too busy working a new job to write much about it (or anything else).

But the incoming cards, ah, they're a different matter. They come with doves and angels and Currier and Ives-like prints of snow-covered barns. They come with messages heartfelt and funny, with invocations of peace and joy. Prayers not just for us but for our country.

And then there are the messages. "Rage against the machine in 2017." "When they go low we go Facebook." "We live in interesting times." "Wishing you a better 2017." One friend said it had been such a tough year she was just sending cat pictures.

And then there was the story one friend told about his fishing trip off the Florida Panhandle. Once the captain and guide learned that he and his family were supporters of the "Nasty Woman," he wrote, this news ignited "random guffaws among anglers and guides alike. ... We were surely at the bottom of the Gulf Coast food chain. Fish bait. Yet with their friendly advice, counsel and live minnows we reeled in some edibles."

The cards this year made me laugh and smile. They were comforting and encouraging. They were proof, I think, that we'll all be better off if can laugh at ourselves and admit that we need each other.

So this year, instead of my usual appreciation, I'm sending this one, full of gratitude for what matters most: friendship and love. I'll end it with a quotation from the same movie I wrote about before: "Remember, no man is a failure who has friends."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Ancient Music

"Joy to the World": 1719.

"Hark, the Herald Angels Sing": 1739.

"O Come, All Ye Faithful": 1751.

"The First Noel": 1823.

"We Three Kings": 1857.

The music we sing at Christmas has been around for a while. I think of this especially with Advent carols like "O Come, O Come Emmanuel, which traces its origins back to the 12th century or earlier.

These are ancient chants, tunes that link us to generations of worshippers and carolers.

It's one part of the season that never changes, the words and melodies we learned before we could read, ribbons of song that tie us to the past, that carry with them the promise of hope fulfilled.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Every year I'm more touched by our neighborhood's light displays. The tiny fist they shake at the night — and their individual ways of doing so.

Some are fairy-tale-like — white pin lights dripping from overhangs and eaves. Others are almost garish — bright colors strung from limb to pole, like a carnival or fiesta.

There are spotlit wreaths and a blow-up nativity scene.

The key thing is that today, almost at this very instant, we turn from the darkness to the light.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Balancing Act

Here at the office, a holiday frenzy: Let's see how much work we can do before the end of the year.

For me, just the opposite impulse.

It's almost Solstice. The nights are long and the mornings are cold. Inside, only the tree lights and a little holiday lamp are illuminated. It's dim and comfy and inviting.

These are days to savor: baking, writing cards, making and wrapping gifts. These are the days leading up to the Great Pause.

I'm trying to let the hurry flow over me. It will get where it's going — but I won't be with it.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Oldest Living Albatross Lays Egg

It's been hard lately to make my way through the national and political news sections of the newspaper. Which is why I've been open to other, more offbeat stories. Like Wisdom, the 66-year-old albatross who is still laying an egg every year. Just laid one a few days ago, in fact.

Wisdom was banded on the Midway Atoll in 1956, so scientists are pretty sure that she's truly a (late) middle-aged gal.

What an inspiration! Here she is at a time when many human females might be slowing down. Instead, she's adding to her brood.

Is she worrying about her children? Heck no, she's too busy having 'em.

And as for her appearance, she's smooth of feather and sleek of bill. No tummy tuck or chin lifts for her.

(Photo: courtesy

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

South Wind

From yesterday's ice storm to this morning's fog. Air filled with the promise of robins. A warm breeze, a freshet, a stowaway on the south wind. 

Inside, the tree has gained gravitas. Its low branches have settled and the ornaments are on. 

Outside, the trees are bare and bending. There is so much still they have to tell us. 

What will it be?

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Happy Birthday, Copper!

Ten years ago today we threw caution to the winds and bought a puppy. He was a whirling dervish of an animal, full of life, completely unhinged.  One of his first antics was to jump over the back of the couch and land on my mother's lap when she was visiting for Christmas. Mom, who was a little shy of dogs, was holding a glass of red wine at the time.

Copper was Claire's Christmas present in 2006. Claire had been dreaming of dogs and pestering us for one for years — but she would be off to college in two-and-a-half years.

Yes, I know. What were we thinking? Here we were, almost in the clear — and then ... not.

The child gate went up at the bottom of the stairs. The doors to bathrooms were kept closed so he couldn't rifle through the trash. Shoes, socks and anything else chewable had to be stowed away.

Of course, you know how this story ends. It's the oldest cliche in the books: Dog arrives, steals hearts, never lets them go.

And that's exactly what happened — so much so that no one really wants to talk about his birthday or how many years we've had him because, well, we can't imagine life without him now.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Winter Lite

This morning, a brisk wind rattled the Christmas lights and banged them against the side of the house. Their rat-a-tat-tat was an errant percussion to the howling west wind. "Haven't you heard?" they seemed to be saying, "it's winter."

Yeah, we've heard. It's a little early, though, don't you think? We're not supposed to be this cold till January.

I liked yesterday's upper 40s. A seasonable tang in the air, but still warm enough to bounce on the trampoline after dark.

In other words, I prefer winter lite. Just right for caroling, shopping and running holiday errands — but no single-digit wind chills, thank you very much!

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pentagon Mornings

Some wear fatigues, others dress uniforms, and I could say good morning to many of them by name, since they wear their names on their sleeves — or close to them.

If I keep at my new walking route long enough I'll know some of these Pentagon workers by heart.  The hordes who pour out of my standing-room-only bus, the others who stroll in from satellite parking lots and from the apartments off Army-Navy Drive.

Almost all of them are walking to the Pentagon — while I'm walking away from it.

The reason, of course, is simple. I work a mile or more away from the place. I just jump off the bus early to stretch my legs.

But I have to confess that it gives me a thrill to walk against this particular traffic.

My mornings at the Pentagon ... are brief.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016


It's not exactly to the break-even point yet, but I'm definitely ordering more holiday gifts online this year, and my sister is, too. So based on this highly unscientific sampling of two, I think there's a trend here.

(I'm not so far off on this trend definition. When I wrote pieces for women's magazines, a "trend" was something that you and a couple of your close friends were noticing — after which you dug up enough evidence to convince your editors it was really happening.)

But, back to this year's shopping stats, I do have real, tangible proof: the piles of boxes in front of the houses in my neighborhood.

Usually you see lots of boxes after the holidays, not before. But no more.

'Tis the season for FedEx and UPS and even the lowly ole US Post Office — and the containers they leave behind. They're making the Yuletide jolly. And easier, too.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

The Get-Well Project

It's been a while since I spent a day in bed, but that's what I did yesterday. Not a relaxing, lolling-about day, but an oh-so-sick day. In fact, a lost day, 24 hours sucked from the calendar with little to show for it other than survival.

The experience, what I want to relive of it (not much!), was disorienting.  Time was telescoped. Dreams bled from sleep into waking. There was an in-and-out wooziness to it all that was unsettling and unnerving.

Today I managed to make my way downstairs. I tried sitting up but found that lying down feels much, much better. So this will be a halfway day: some work and some resting.

But I'm doing it in a living room transformed. The family tree outing happened yesterday as planned, so while I was incapacitated, Santa and his elves found the tree, chopped it down, transported it here and set it up in its usual corner. All it needs now are lights and ornaments. It's my get-well project!


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Shopping at Night

A window of time opened up, a confluence of hour and place. I understood what I had to do and when I had to do it. So I followed vague directions to the outlet shops I knew were there in theory but had never reached from that starting point.

And when I got there the sun was setting, a disc on fire slipping behind the faux roofs. I watched it slide away, assembled my list, had a bite to eat and gathered my courage.

It was a quiet evening. Who shops on Friday night? People like me, I realized. Women with determination in their eyes and lists in their hands. As the evening wore on, not just lists but shopping bags, too.

There comes a point in the season when you are finally into it. You have gone too far not to be. From here there will be tree-cutting, hauling and decorating. There will be more shopping (I hope not too much more!),  There will be baking and card-writing and stocking-hanging and all of it, right up to the cacophony of Christmas morning.

'Tis the season, you know.

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Friday, December 9, 2016


Should we coin a word for the way it feels to run to a bus stop only to find no one there and the next bus not due for  30 minutes?  Shall we add in early darkness and a brisk north wind? Shall we also include the uncertainty of whether there even is a next bus?

Lonely doesn't do it. Bereft ... maybe. Some combination of tired and cold and anxious and angry. Bustopia? Like the gloomy imaginings of a dystopian novel only it's actually happening.

Let's add a ray of hope, though. The other commuters, when they finally show up, are proof that there will be another bus. They bring gallows humor and crazy stories.

The bus stop is no longer a cold, lonely, windswept place. Now it's just cold and windswept. Brave New Bustopia.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Roses in December

I remember the moment but little about its context, so for that reason it has the contours of a dream. I was walking along Hart Road in Lexington, and I came across a walled backyard. "Miranda," the plaque read. "Roses in December."

Were there roses? I don't remember. But I do recall the gray stones of the solid wall and the magic of the place, as if snow wouldn't stick there, as if I could walk from the cold, gray winter of my life into some warm, enchanted place — just by strolling through the wrought iron gate.

I thought of Miranda today when I passed a still-blooming knockout rose on my walk to the office. It brought me back to "Roses  in December" and that long-ago amble. It was, I realize now, one of the first times I realized the fantasies I could spin while moving through space. Now I have a much better idea.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Messiah Singalong

I feel like I should be writing about the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, but am filled to the brim with the music we made last night at the Reston Chorale Messiah Singalong.

It was cold and rainy but the church was almost filled. I found the altos, sitting on the left in the back, and struck up a conversation with Annette. "We're doing Beethoven's 9th in the spring," she said. "You should audition."

It was a warm and welcoming thing to say — especially since I'd yet to sing a note — and it made me feel instantly at home. And "at home" is the way I continued to feel as we made our way through the familiar choruses: "Glory to God," "His Yoke is Easy," "For Unto Us a Child is Born" and, finally, "Hallelujah."

It wasn't just the words and melodies, so ancient and true, it was being an alto, part of a group and a section. It was fudging the runs of  "And he will purify" with 20 other voices to fudge along with me. It was belting out "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" with the fervor of a community chorus, knowing that this scene was being enacted in church basements and concert halls around the country.

It was singing "And he shall reign forever and ever" — and wanting more than anything for the music to go on that long, too.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

All to Pieces

On Sunday, when I was doing a spot of shopping (a spot seems to be all I can do these days), I happened upon a manikin in a state of dishabille. Worse than dishabille, actually: The poor thing was in pieces. Head over here. Legs over there. An errant arm on top of a pile of sweaters I was pawing through in search of a size M.

It was not unlike what I was feeling. 

Because as we grow (ahem) older, isn't bewilderment a prime emotion? We lose people we love and the world shifts on its axis. We change jobs or switch commutes.  One card shop closes and another takes its place. What used to be appears in ever-more-sepia tones.

From small to large the changes mount, until one day we look up and the world just isn't the same anymore.

This is not to say it's always worse. Sometimes it's better. It's just different, that's all. 


Monday, December 5, 2016

The Regular

It was the wave that did it. A simple, familiar wave from a man I've watched for years, an "older man" (older than me!), who mows his lawn in a circle around a central clump of bushes.

I've noticed this man and his wife for years, shoveling snow, planting annuals, vacuuming up leaves (this weekend's project). He is, for lack of a better term, a regular. One of the folks I see on my walks through Folkstone, one of the ones who (because I've never gotten to know him) is known more by the color of his shutters (green) and the method of his leaf removal (tractor) than anything else.

But it was the way he waved to me — familiar, off-handed — that made me realize that, just as I see him as a regular, so he sees me.

I'm the woman in the worn white running jacket, a little worse for the wear, slowing down as the years pass — still at it, though. I'm "the woman who walks" (sometimes runs). A fixture of sorts.

In other words, I'm a regular, too.

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Power Walking

About a mile from the White House in northwest D.C., a small set of kinetic paving "stones" is harvesting the power of footfall and giving a whole new meaning to the term "power walking."

These triangular-shaped pavers are made of glass-reinforced plastic that are loose at the corners. A footstep jiggles them just enough to depress the corners and move a flywheel that generates the power to illuminate LED lights on park benches nearby.

This is amazing to me, that the footstep, one of the greatest sources of untapped energy the planet has ever known, could be transferred into power. It seems like an idea whose time has come.

Imagine the applications: treadmills and ellipticals on the grid, a home powered by people running up and down the stairs inside it, sidewalks that move you — because you move them.

There is the slight issue of cost — these little pavers are expensive — but their founder says so were Teslas, too, in the beginning. (I thought Teslas were still expensive, but hey, I'll give the guy a break.) Still, the company, Pavegen, has similar projects in London's Heathrow Airport and elsewhere around the world.

So, walkers everywhere, vote with your feet. Make your way to these springy, resilient paving stones, give us your best fast walk and light up the world!


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Leaving the Bus Behind

The sky was brightening. The day was clear. I had already been sitting too long. So when the bus stopped, I bolted.

And there was the ground again, the pavement stones, the slanting corners, the walkways littered with thin brown leaves. There was the rhythm of footfall, the comfort of moving briskly into the day.

A woman with two small dogs ambled along, coffee mug in hand. A few briefcase-toting commuters ran to cross before the light changed. Some early morning joggers zoomed by. Only these few guardians of the morning.

But mostly it was just me and the way ahead. Not a bad way to start the day.


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