Sunday, November 20, 2016

Who Knows Where the Fat Goes?

I lost 40 pounds this year.  "Lost" is a misnomer.   Fat doesn't just disappear.  Some theorize it is follows the Buddhist allegory of the soul as being tea in a teacup.  The teacup may break apart, but the tea still exists. Some think your loss is another's gain.  It sure as hell doesn't go away on a radio flyer red wagon, as Oprah learned the hard way.

I believe that fat exists in two states, solid and gaseous.  You may remove the blubber physically, but it is never far away.  Its vapors lurk, waiting to pounce.  The scientific news about maintaining weight loss is not good.   To stay at your new weight, you have to consume 500 calories less a day, and exercise an hour more than a person who is normally that weight.  Face it, your metabolism has doomed you.

Fat is confident.  Anxiety, Depression or Boredom are its tickets back.  I am facing a confinement that features all three.  Tomorrow I go into the hospital to have a total ankle replacement.  Six to eight weeks of bedrest.  And bonbons.....

Monday, October 31, 2016

Were There But Meds Enough...

  Like most of America, I'm having a rough go of it lately. 

  My husband discovered a suspicious growth on my back last night.  I can't think about that now  because in three weeks my ankle will be replaced.  Unlike my three knee replacements, this is an uncommon surgery.  Oddly, there's not much written by successful patients online.
   It's the aftermath that worries me.  My right foot cannot touch the ground for 6 weeks.  Sadly, I have no balance on my left foot as spinal surgery in the 90's left it atrophied and the bottom of the foot numb. 
  The first hurdle is to reach the second floor as we have no shower or bathtub on the first floor. And though my husband has graciously offered to hose me down on the porch this December and January, I'd rather not.
   His next idea was to drape me around his neck while he scaled the stairs.  Sort of like one of those moving men who strap a refrigerator to their back.  We tried it for one stair and both realized the folly.  
   Did I mention that it is a circular staircase?  My husband looked into temporary stair lifts.  Those for a curved wall start at $7000.  Short of hiring someone in front of Home Depot to carry me upstairs (and don't think we haven't thought about it), I will have to butt-hop my way up.  I have been practicing.  The only problem is once I get to the top stair I will have to pivot and hop with the aforementioned atrophied leg.  We are now looking into freight dollies.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Damned Wasps


September 18, 2016

Why do wasps ruin all the fun?  Not Muffy and Biff, but those dreaded hornets and yellow jackets that spend September slowly circling me like I'm a slice of juicy melon. They land on me, crawl up my arms, sneak under my shirt sleeves.   My teeth all but chatter as I try to stay still.  ( I may have wasps confused with bears.)  My husband likes to bat at them.  An act of provocation that will end with me stung  six ways from Sunday.
    I should pity the wasps.  They are essentially looking for their coffins.  Over the winter, all but the queen will die.  But I have no empathy as their mortuary is smack in the middle my favorite spot to sit in all the world  And wasps mean summer is over.
    My 50th high school reunion was last weekend.  I didn't go as I was two ferry rides and fifty years away. But the lead-up to the reunion brought lots of memories posted online.  I couldn't get over how many of my classmates were dead, especially the athletic ones.
   I ran into a girl from my freshman college dorm in the Edgartown Stop and Shop.  I wouldn't have recognized her without the Facebook connection.  Unbeknownst to me, she had once dated my husband.  Stranger and stranger, this whorl of memories.
  Later that week I met up with a girl from my Chappy days of horseback riding.  We had a long, lovely afternoon speaking of the past
   All these memories swarmed.
   But the wasps were louder.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Not my first rodeo....

I am no stranger to hurricanes.  I have ridden out many a storm in this very house, an 111-year old Victorian on a small island.  As a child, my fears were allayed by the fact that the diamond pane windows in the house were explicitly made to withstand gale force winds.  I was too naive to realize the large pieces of glass below the diamond panes were not protected.  Thus, when my brother, Vance, suggested I play dolls beneath the 8 foot square picture window during Hurricane Carol, I complied.
Currently, Hurricane Hermine which had headed out to sea decided to change course and thrash us.  We have just lost power.  Nothing makes me edgier than a loss of electricity.  Last night I couldn't sleep for all the noise: windows juddering against their weakened frames, doors trying to break loose.  The wind seems to be coming from all directions at the same time.

The power came back within three hours, which is a downright miracle.  Many was the hurricane that left us without electricity or water (electric pump) for a week.  We had to go to the fire station to retrieve buckets of water.
We are silly enough to think that the endless hours and dollars we spend to keep the house upright will be enough to see her through.  I hope to God it does.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Jitterbugging Down Memory Lane

I have two big brothers. This is the eldest, Vance.  I used to describe him as barbed wire wrapped around cotton candy.  Most would just describe him as cantankerous.  When I was little he sprinkled Tabasco sauce over random jelly beans in my Easter basket.  If he'd sauced them all, it would have been better.  I would have thrown them all away.  This way I was in constant suspense as I picked my way through candy landmine.  He shares a birthday with Hitler, which I've always thought explained a good deal.  He had a tender side but few people other than his wife saw it.

Vance was an Industrial Archaeologist in Pennsylvania.  The man can fix anything and solve just about any problem.  We would not have been able to keep the family house on the Vineyard if not for him.  He is also a wiz with woodwork, building dining room tables, cabinets, cradles, castles and doll houses.
He traveled the world and and sent me gorgeous photographs from which I paint.

But fate has been unkind to Vance.  Nine years ago his short term memory left him.  I don't know if it's from Lyme Disease or Alzheimers'.  He no longer barks commands, but asks for help.  Those of us he once 'supervised' are uneasy.

I spent a few days with him this week.  He still has a sense of humor which, like mine, is fairly mordant.   His long term memory is active.  The two of us spent 8 hours one day going back in time.  Over that span of hours, he repeated one story seventeen times.  His wife later told me the story wasn't true.  Vance now conflates the truth with imagination.

We are more alike than I thought.  I wrote two novels that reflected my family in a comedic vein.   Problem is, I no longer know what is true and what I made up.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


I am bereft.   No grandchildren to enjoy, no dogs to walk.

One dog, Rosie,  of the Quentin Tarrantino Christmas saga, has been banned from the house.  She is a sweet pit bull that was once a bait dog for fights.  It is small wonder that she has anxieties.  Her parents went to Seattle for nine days.  We were held hostage for the same duration.  If left alone she tried to chew her way out.
Last Christmas there was no blood shed, but when we went out to dinner, she tried to tunnel out the front door.  She gave the back door a half-hearted go.  She was more earnest this time.  She passed on the marrow bone in favor of the trim (which was liberally doused with the chewing deterrent, bitter apple)  My husband went to the grocery store and came back to a shredded door frame.  After that, one of us had to be where she could see us.  After six days, I thought she was settled in.  Lots of licks and kisses.  I ventured out.  My board meeting ran long.  She re-attacked the above spot and then started a new hole two feet away.

My other granddog, Sam, used to be a lunatic but age has calmed him.  He still talks or rather grumbles with dispiriting regularity.  But a good dog.

Which brings me to the hardest bit.  My son, his wife and two children (seven weeks and 17 months) and Sam, left for TWO years in Korea today.  
This will be a bold, new adventure. 
Eventually, I will be happy for them.  But not just yet.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Alpha and Omega

You get all sorts if you open your house to strangers.  Not everyone is a happy camper.   Every season has its highs and lows.  But this year we had, in rapid succession, the alpha and omega of tenants.

My mother loathed being a summer rental landlady.  My thirty year tenure cemented my antipathy. When I first took over managing the house in 1985, my Sunday mornings were a nightmare of cranky tenant calls.  (We advertise house as being eclectic.  Maybe some folks took that to mean we had electricity.)

 Some complaints were legitimate but most were not.  I love this house.  The complaints felt like scurrilous attacks on my child.  The house is 111 years old.  Something is always going south.  Try as we might to anticipate every problem, it is not possible.

My husband, the new landlord, was determined to get a five star rating with our very first Home Away rental.  He really went the extra mile with new sofas, new games for teenagers, new life jackets, new cooktop and a very nice bottle of wine.

We waited anxiously for their response.  Bless them, they loved the house.  It reminded them of their childhood summer home in Rhode Island.  They remade all the beds with clean sheets (which the cleaner assumed were dirty and removed).  Two of the guests wrote lovely notes.  My husband was flying high.  A grateful shout out to the Maron/Ryland family reunion.

The next tenants had rented from us before, so we weren't worried.  Upon leaving, the tenant wrote an email saying they had had a great time.  They reported they had taken the garbage out. (This seemed odd to me as what else would you do with garbage?  We have a special shed for the garbage cans.)

As an afterthought, she noted the upstairs toilet appeared to be backed up.

Decorum prevents me from showing the toilet as my brother found it the next day.  It was beyond putrid.  The plumber required a special tool.  The garbage which they "took out", was scattered on the lawn.  Not even near the appropriate garbage shed.  Many woodland creatures treated it as a pop-up Old Country Buffet.

But that was just the beginning.  My brother found bed pads reeking of urine with sandy beach towels lumped underneath, ripped chairs and broken shades.

 If a tenant had arrived instead of my brother, we would have had to put them up in a hotel (as we did two years ago when a bat was spotted).   This family had rented from us before.  Now I wonder if they were the crew whose teenagers stuffed empty airline-size bottles of liquor in the toilet, necessitating another plumber bill.

My home had suffered a frat party. The Omega House.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Waiting for the Honey Wagon

   Stress has been wailing at my door.  Uncertainty about the future of the art center at the Torpedo Factory, has caused me to resume meditation.
   Life circles back on itself.  Four years ago  my acupuncturist encouraged me to resume the meditation practice that I had abandoned in my 30's.  I had problems getting into it again.  She said to imagine a place where I felt completely myself.  I thought of the view from the summer house porch.
   (From a post from 2012 )
   "I recall of the angle of the sunlight, the smell of the sea and the bayberry, the drone of the mosquitoes.  Happy place!
 But it's a short jump from that porch to unhappy thoughts.  My mind is on the porch, feeling the breeze, and the next instant I'm thinking about the septic tank.  We have been stewards of the house for 27 years and I don't think we've ever had it pumped.  I remember vaguely that my parents had it done.  I believe it is under the yard in back.  No telling where the opening is.  Probably six feet into the brambles. My mother told me as a child not to play in a certain corner of the yard, but was that the septic tank or the underground root cellar?"
    I stopped meditating several months after I wrote that post.
   We owners  (three kin and their spouses) rent the house most of the summer to help defray the taxes, insurance and unending maintenance of a 111-year old house. For years we have talked about getting the septic drained.  But neither brother knew where it was.  My guess was instantly dismissed as it was uphill from the house.  No idiot would ever put a septic tank uphill.
    The search became imperative last year when tenants complained of a sewage smell. The tenants insisted we drain the septic  tank if they were to lease again...
    Fast forward to early May when the plumber came to turn on the water.  He discovered that the waste pipe in the crawl space under the house had ruptured.  For a tidy sum, the cast iron line was repaired.  My husband, now the one in charge of bills, maintenance and general  hysteria, called several septic companies on the island.  We live on an island off of an island.  The little ferry that shuttles between islands cannot accommodate most honey wagons.  Finally, he found one that did.  Their metal detector stopped beeping 15 feet from the house.  They began digging only to discover the cast iron pipe was joined to a PVC pipe that ran uphill (to the very spot I had identified). The tank was only half full, leaving one to wonder where the rest of 30 years of flushes had gone.  The bad news was that the PVC pipe was blocked.
    This is what I love about renting out the family house.  Tenants.  The first blockage was formed by baby wipes.  The second from bricks.  The third from liquor bottles.  I do remember some years ago paying the plumber $300 to unblock a toilet.  The culprit? Dozens of empty airline bottles of liquor.  Apparently, the family's teenagers had flushed the evidence.
    So, I understand the baby wipes and even the liquor bottles, but why the bricks?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Whole FamDamily

                                            Vineyard, 2004

Well, here's a strange admission for Mother's Day.    This is the only photo I could find of me with both of my children.   I remember being with them for years. ( I couldn't have made that up, could I?)   But I lack the photographic evidence.  Where's "Big Brother" and video surveillance when you need it?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Speed Demon

          Photo by Susan Makara

   To look at me, you wouldn't think Speed Demon, maybe Manatee.  But my body shape has little to do with my internal timing.  I have noted before on this blog about my propensity to paint without properly seeing.  Art teachers told me to slow down and look before applying paint.  I paint what I think I see, which is apparently wrong.  Just recently two artist friends also told me to put on the brakes.
   My mother had a stroke at 72.  When I started painting fifteen years ago, I remember thinking I had a lot of lost ground to cover, to paint all I could before I stroked out.   But, in truth, it started long before that.
  My father often cautioned me not to rush to judgement.
   I embrace delayed gratification daily but it is a struggle.
   I walk with urgency, as if the fate of the nation rested on my ability to reach the corner.
   I like to edit, cutting out chunks to get to a quicker resolution.
   Wounded by my artist friends comments,  I told another friend knows me well.  She laughed, confirming that I rushed through everything.  Not in my novels, I countered.   Judy demurred, adding that sex scenes in my novels were terse.  Over in less than a paragraph.
    That reminded me of another friend who said, after reading my book, 'if sex was like that, I'd never have it again.'

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


                        by    Bruce Eric Kaplan, in The New Yorker 2015

This is for my friends, the artists of the Torpedo Factory Artist Association.  We do "amazing work" but sadly the powers that be want the artists of the TFAA to cede to their superior judgement.  They would like us to 'dissolve' but luckily there are laws against that.  Instead, they will mute us.  They will decide who juries in and how long they can stay. The public is not alarmed because The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Va will remain an art center.  Possibly as a performing arts space with some visual art as well.  As one power said of our future, "oh, there will be artists there.  Maybe not these artists, but artists."
It is difficult to pursue your passion when powers that be believe you to be interchangeable.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Grace Happens

                                         "Contemplation" ©2014 cindypackardrichmond

I am not a Pollyanna by nature, but I do like the bumper sticker, "Grace Happens."  On the bottom there is a quote from Albert Einstein, "How I wish somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of good will."

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Say What?

                                                 Traffic sign, Halifax, Nova Scotia

   Traffic signs are designed to convey information in a single image.  I've seen signs warning of  moose attacks, runaway trucks, and one in Scotland of two bent people with canes.  The last, I assume, is to warn that there are elderly people about who may want to cross the road.  Maybe it's more sinister than that, a sort of 'death awaits us all'.
   My favorite is the one above of a question mark.  We saw this one  on entering Halifax, Nova Scotia.  At first I thought I had imagined it, but the question marks popped up  everywhere.  My husband found it odd.  I found it disturbing, as if I were being randomly challenged, "What is the meaning of life?"  "Why are you here?"  "Did you really need that second piece of bacon?"
  I fretted about it for several days.  Finally, I asked a chambermaid.  She thought me daft,  "It points towards the tourist bureau, of course."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Rental Rant

I feel a rant coming on.

In 1953, My father bought this house on Martha's Vineyard.  The sellers wanted $16,000 for the house, several vermin infested out buildings, 25 acres and 1000 feet of beach front.  My father was married to an artist, had three children and wrote freelance.  (Verily, not a pot to piss in.)

 Negotiations were protracted as both owners suffered from narcolepsy and thus fell asleep at inopportune times.  We children waited in a rental house over the bluff.  Given the fractious nature of my brothers, I was probably lashed to a newel post with poison vines.  It was dark by the time my parents negotiated the price down to $8,500.

Summers were spent there.  My brothers and I  have always thought of it as home.
(We were a sentimental lot before my parents deeded it to us in 1985.  Before we had to pay for upkeep, repair and taxes. ) My father didn't just deed the house to his kids, he included their spouses.  I suspect he thought joint ownership would preclude divorce.

For the most part, we get on.  The six of us share the decision making, a process I liken to moving a 14 foot cube of jello with a spoon.

The taxes, repairs and upkeep amount to a sum so tidy we cannot keep the house without renting it through the summer.  Early on, it was decided, (as  I "didn't work,"), I would handle the rentals and keep the accounts.   I am the official fiduciary, which means if there is anything hinky with the taxes, I go to  jail.

For twenty-nine years, I did the paper work, fielded the complaints, cajoled plumbers, begged for service calls and kept the balance pennies above overdraft.  Eventually my sister-in-law took over the tenant complaints.  For years, if anything went awry, tenants were directed to call Cindy.

When my husband retired, I dumped it all on him with glee.  The other four owners are well pleased with his organized approach to finances.  I find this patently unfair.  So he knows how to use spreadsheets, big deal.  He has also secured new tenants through HomeAway and VRBO.

It hasn't been all smiles and kisses.  He has dealt with problem tenants.  But he is too damned nice and reasoned to be effective.  Sometimes you have to be a hard ass, or maybe just an ass.  Luckily, I am in-house counsel.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Christmas Post

Canine drama this Christmas was mild, no thousand dollar vet bills.  Sweet Rosie, my daughter's rescue pit bull, has been at our house many times.  The first time, when left alone, she clawed her way into the room where her mom would be sleeping.  She later spent 9 days with us, wallowing in our affection and abundant treats.
This year Rosie arrived Christmas Eve with her parents.  We waited an hour before going out to dinner  to settle her.

Ninety minutes later, I unlocked the door and saw a shredded mess on the floor.  I assumed she had ravaged the christmas presents. But, no, the shards were wooden.  Rosie had tried to chew  her way through the front door.  Another hour and she might have made it.  The trim had been chewed down to the dry wall.  She also attempted a back door escape.

I understand the urge.

No, actually, I don't.