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City mouse moves to suburbs, survives freshly mowed lawns and morning songs of wrens and sparrows.

Ten months ago we moved out of the city into a small and utterly charming house in a nearby suburb.   We were safe from the pandemic, digitally Nest alarmed, healthfully air-conditioned, feeling near hermetically sealed from the world, never mind the virus. Warm weather brought out the Hammacher Schlemmer​ deck furniture, a hammock, a birdbath in the flower beds and a hummingbird feeder shared on a pole with birdseed and suet. I take walks on a well maintained hike and bike trail built on the track bed left behind by the North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad. Recently, a first, I ate a bratwurst grilled on my own weapons grade propane powered Char-Broil Performance 4B 4 burners Stainless Steel grill. I’m becoming gentrified.  I can feel my city skin peeling off.  How will I e...
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Ten years ago, I was not the man I used to be. Now I’m not the man I was ten years ago!

My body is getting older.  Not so the brain.  Which often finishes the New York Times Crossword puzzle and is still sharp and alert. Which can be a problem, lest I’m at a rousing party and get an impulse to try that jitterbug move I’m famous for and land up in the drummer’s lap. Case in point.  I’m watching my ten year old granddaughter play softball when the batter hits a slow roller down the third base foul line.  Mind you, in my lifetime I have fielded thousands of ground balls as a kid playing baseball on up through Sundays at the park with the old guys playing slow pitch softball.  So I think nothing about scooping down, gracefully fielding the ball and snapping off a throw to the pitcher. Only problem, I can’t bend down, the ball skips through my legs...
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I can listen to you. I can guide you. I can nurture you. I cannot heal you.

Perhaps you have heard me tell this story before.  It is one of my favorites, in that it taught me a valuable lesson that continues to serve me well. Years ago, when my husband and I were closer to the start of our spiritual journeys, we traveled to an ashram for a workshop led by a well known guru. We were thrilled to be sitting at the feet of ‘an enlightened soul,’ eager to absorb her wisdom.  And secretly, to hope beyond hope, that she would reach out and touch us with the peacock feather that would instantly deliver shatipat, a lightning bolt of divine wisdom, transforming us from human to transcendent.  Peacock feather?  Lightning bold of wisdom?  Transcendent!  Arlene, c’mon! Seems silly now.  And of course it didn’t happen.  Truth be...
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The bargain we make with death

Five years ago I had a conversation with death.  It had been in the offing for a long time but I just couldn’t bring myself to meet the apparition in the spooky black robe; he scared me.  It took the sudden demise of a dear friend to broker the meeting. I was never a stranger to death.  A tragic car accident took my brother when I was fourteen; I was orphaned well before mid-life and my sister – entwined forever in my heart and soul – passed from finite to infinite long before the actuary’s prescribed time.  But for all the grieving and sadness accompanying these difficult losses, I was the third party to the event. This time it was undeniably, excruciatingly personal. My friend’s death was a precursor of what was to come.  I had buried my head in the san...
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The inestimable value of friends

Friends have always played a hugely important role in my life.  Never more so than during the pre-teens years when I was in the middle of a growth spurt with pants two inches above the ankle and a voice box vibrating between alto and baritone.  I ran with street kids and trust fund heirs alike.  Together we shared acne and raging hormones and the faux courage we gave each as we took the first, tentative steps on the path to the frightening concept called adulthood. We went to high school together and conspired and confided without a trace of snobbery. For more than half my friends, college was not an option. I hung out with future stenographers, carpenters and mechanics without condescension.  Tuning the motor on my 1935 Ford was no less important than my score on the Coll...
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I decide not to have an argument with my wife

Ah yes, the occasional squabble between husband and wife over some issue so unimportant it’s too embarrassing to admit, as in “You left the light on in the kitchen” or “Why didn’t you pick up the mail when I asked you to?”  In reply, I have two options. Option one: “So I forgot… “followed by a pugnacious “What’s the big deal?”   (Dumb! Don’t even think it! Pandora’s Box will open wide!). Option two: “Sorry, hon, I wasn’t thinking…” followed by “My bad, I’ll do it now.”  (Smart!  Realize wife worked all day.  Quickly conclude a smidgeon of humble pie is zillion times preferable to pie thrown in face). Life is short, my friend!  And I have learned time and time again that taking a stand over a petty issue is like swallowing poison and expecting the oth...
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Covers over my head or get out of bed?

There are days when I wake up feeling hopelessly despondent and about as relevant as a party-line, wall-mounted, rotary telephone.  That’s my daily challenge, to resist the self-deprecating tendency to think I have nothing left to live for; no value to contribute; no purpose whatsoever for still hanging around. I have to remind myself that when the sports teams I root for get shellacked that is not cause for leaving cremation instructions for the coroner and a note under the pillow, ‘goodbye world, I’ve had enough.  More importantly, I am not suffering from the creeping hell of something like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or living under a viaduct trying to survive by begging for quarters with a crumbling Starbucks cup. I take a shower instead of a pity bath.  And as the d...
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One country has become two societies. It is us against them and no in-between.

I am beset with childhood memories of living in a similar time: before the Civil Rights Bill; before Roe v Wade; before the Americans with Disabilities Act. I remember how bleak and uninviting my neighborhood was, the paint peeling off the porches and heartbreak and tragedy behind every doorway.  A kid from a rival high school basketball team got in a fight after a game and died from a stab wound to his windpipe.  A young, innocent girl down the block blossomed into a woman and was shunned as a pariah as the responsibilities of motherhood arrived before the good judgment of adulthood.  The strongest, toughest kid in the class couldn’t beat the scourge of polio and left school never to be heard from again. It was a gritty existence that rubbed off on me and left me raw...
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Tools to dig out of an unexpected sinkhole

Ordinarily I get out of bed with an attitude of gratitude, thinking positive thoughts and planning a day that includes more than becoming a lump on the sofa.  And then there are the occasional days when my inner spirit and higher purpose simply do not show up! What do I do then, when my Better Self is stuck in the toilet and sitting on my meditation pillow feels like a method of execution favored by Vlad the Impaler! I use the practical tools that a disengaged, disinterested and disagreeable old man can use without a single ‘deep’ thought. First, I breathe, taking full advantage of my pot belly. I inhale, watching that Pillsbury Doughboy fill up like a big red balloon, then slowly exhaling until the tire is flat. I do it five times, consciously, fully focused on each breath.&...
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When old age hits you can either fall down or hit back

My head is not in the sand; I recognize the steady downward slide of the dumbbell weight and fewer number of reps during my occasional visits to the condo’s health club. But I refuse to classify locker room vanity as a measure of who I am.  Scrawny pectoral muscles are not indicative of a protracted slide into dotage. To the contrary, by recognizing the changes as normal variants rather than measurements of loss, accepting the aging process can be the catalyst for living a life more fulfilling and joyous than when you were in your prime. I stopped struggling to hold on to the traditional approach for determining self-esteem.  In its place, I surrendered.  I realized that giving in to the pressures of maintaining a lifestyle that no longer came easy to me kept m...