Snow and Surgery and Daughters and Move and Books…

Strange… Big, fat snowflakes have been falling for hours. They accumulate on the grassy spots, but the rest is somewhat clear. The temps have gone up to 33 degrees, so that may be the cause. I am not complaining. On the contrary. I am happy to see those snowflakes falling, but even happier that they are not clinging too much to the surfaces! Still, many places are closed. Even the doctor’s office announced it would close at 1:30… Sissies!!! 😉


At least it is happening now and not next week. Rosana will be here on Sunday, and then she has to be chauffeur and nurse to Guido twice. He will have cataract surgery on the 12th for one eye and then on the 26th for the other one. Good thing we only have two eyes… 😉  And since I can’t take care of him, I am fortunate that our daughters are willing to help. We depend on their help,  but it is not easy for them.  They have work and family obligations too. Besides, getting here takes a long time!

Fortunately. we are getting closer to our dream of moving to California, but I don’t want to say much yet.  Please don’t ask, as I won’t tell.  My whole family has submitted to a vow of silence, so do not tempt them, please!  All in good time – I’ll let everyone know the day before we move, not sooner. I don’t want teary goodbyes…

And Rosana continues her crusade for solar energy, as she posted on Facebook:

My photo is in the New York times! Well, the online Opinion section (look for me in the middle of the photo!). More important, though, is the trend in crowdfunding solar this article talks about:
Crowdfunding Clean Energy
There are plenty of recent signs that we may be witnessing the coming of age of solar power.
We still have power, so I should try to do as much as possible now (have to make the focaccia soon, in case we lose power – it is very windy!)
Great day to curl up and read, too!!!  I am also extremely grateful for the trust some writers bestow on me by allowing me to help them with their manuscripts. Not that they need much help – they are all excellent, but another “eye” is always welcome to catch all those tiny typos.  It makes my life seem worthwhile, really. I am not being melodramatic- simply stating a fact. That is how I feel, and I want them and the whole world to know!
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Interview on Nightwatch about Octavio Paz winning the Nobel Prize 1990

May I toot my own horn? Thanks to Valerie, I now have an interview on YouTube.
It was done in 1990, on the occasion of the Nobel prize in literature to Mexican writer Octavio Paz.  Here it goes:

Night Watch Interview 1990

Interview on Nightwatch about Octavio Paz winning the Nobel Prize 1990
Background information: I was at the university that day, as usual, and they called me from the TV station to ask if I could go there right away for an interview regarding Octavio Paz. I went “as I was” – no different clothes, and no makeup. They looked at me and said I didn’t need it…  That’s why I look the way I do!
I was not prepared at all, but I guess it doesn’t show -fortunately! Why now, some ask. Because Valerie is transferring my VHS tapes to DVD. This is the only reason we could upload it to YouTube! But she didn’t get rid of the ads!
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Optimism, Happiness, and the Pursuit of … What?

What a wistful mode I am in these days… My daughters keep urging me to be optimistic and happy, bombarding me with posts that show how much better I’d be if I followed their advice:

** “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”- Maya Angelou

**Listening to Complainers Is Bad for Your Brain
Exposure to nonstop negativity actually impairs brain function. Here’s how to defend yourself.

** 12 Things Happy People Do Differently

And so on and on and on… 😦

I understand all this and realize I’d be much better off if I could follow the advice so sagely given. However, it’s part of my nature (and to a great extent my culture) to dwell on the negative.  In my case, now, even though I do try to be optimistic and happy, it is quite difficult (an understatement, really.)  After having consulted with six doctors (and have a new one lined up for a visit next week), I feel that I will not recover soon. I do not say “never” but I know it will take long, more than the almost four years I have been suffering after surgery.

But I do understand why they care.  It is mainly because they want to see me well, and it is not easy for them to see me so different from when I was well – all 75 years of it.  I’ll be 79 in September, and my wish is to be able to celebrate my 80th birthday feeling better and in new surroundings.  It may happen (see? I am being “cautiously” optimistic!)…

I also understand what they say because I just realized I know one person who is what I call a “whiner” and she irritates me all the time.  I wonder if I also irritate others with my complaining… Maybe that’s one reason for some – many, actually –  to have “disappeared”… But these days I am feeling a bit better, as it is wonderful to have Valeria here, and to see her carrying all those bags and boxes down the stairs, full of books (mostly), clothes (a lot) and miscellaneous (documents that need shredding and cannot be done at home), among other, many other, items!  It is almost impossible to believe how much junk we have accumulated in the 32 years we have been living in this house. That’s the problem of having a large house, and since we won’t have that in San Francisco, it is imperative we close our eyes and give away everything to charities, whenever possible.

Speaking of eyes, Guido had not gone to see the ophthalmologist who specializes in cataracts until recently.  Naturally, he cannot have the much needed surgery until next month. Valeria is leaving on the 25th, but fortunately Rosana can make it and help.  Since I am not allowed to drive, she’ll be able to take him to his cataract surgery twice (one for each eye) and the next day for checking it. Why is it that guys don’t do things when they should???  Valeria is staying here for almost two months…  It was not easy for Rosana to handle the timing, but she managed to do it.  For something like this we cannot ask anybody else’s help!

And I do have help from another quarter – several writers who delight me with their books, and others who help me get busy by allowing me to look over their manuscripts.  Such confidence humbles me.  They don’t realize how much they are helping me, as I rejoice being able to do something productive, even in my retirement. And it is something I relish – books!!!  Together with music, they keep me going … and relatively happy! 😉

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Monday Musings…


Why do people make resolutions at the beginning of what is arbitrarily called a “new” year?  Who decides when a year starts? Or a week?  Or a day?  As if from one minute to the next everything will change…  Why not set goals every day, regardless of the time frame?  It still baffles me.  I am sure there will be many explanations for this, but I still don’t get, and will not, for sure.

And since some are asking, I will now give a brief statement of my health problems and our current “state of affairs” .

In case you have forgotten, I had a thyroidectomy and removal of two parathyroid glands on 30 July 2009.  Since then, I have never been able to feel as before the surgery. I measure my life in terms of B.S. (not what you think, but it could be applied) and A.S. – Before and After Surgery.  Until that fateful day I had never been in a hospital nor sick in bed.  Now I can hardly get up. And please don’t tell me to take vitamins. If that were all I needed, I’d be dancing now!

I had made a list of all the thyroid medications I took all along, since the very beginning.  It always amounts to the same: I have blood tests.  They show my thyroid levels are off – always, so far.  They are either too low or too high.  Every time I have to adjust the medication, wait six or nine weeks, and then have another test.  Now you can also see why it is taking so long for me to get well or even better.  The time between the tests and the new medication dosage and the new tests is by itself long, and in a way accounts for the length of my “ill-being”… 😦

Last week we went to Baltimore again to see the endocrinologist (ugh), and he was surprised that I am now hyperthyroid rather than hypo.  But it happens all the time, as in a seesaw.  And that is also why I have started to be a recluse.  I don’t feel like seeing people, even friends.  I am ill tempered, angry, frustrated, and I take it out on Guido and my daughters.  They are the only ones who can take it.  No matter how much some try to draw me out of my shell, it is not working, and the more they try the more it makes me feel worse.  It is very difficult to explain, but I am trying and hoping this time many will understand…

And now we have started the slow process of our move to San Francisco, where we’ll be near our daughters.  Being in a city may also help, as I may be able to walk to places or just walk, unlike the suburbs here!  And I may also find better doctors. Valeria has a cold and a cough, and her doctor from San Francisco has helped her at once!  It will not be an easy process, as housing in SF is very tight, but eventually we’ll be able to find the right place.  When we do, we’ll be ready, as our finances are already taken care of there, and what Valeria is doing here at home is unbelievable.  She has managed to get rid of tons of junk so far, and she has been here for only a week.  She’ll be staying until the end of February, so by then we will have this house ready for the market!

In the process of “cleaning” she has managed to find two DVDs with Cortazar’s letters and the interview I did with him, transcribed by Rosana. I had been looking for both for a very long time!!!!  I am not even going to go into what else she found and threw away because it is embarrassing. True, we have been in this house for 32 years, and the fact that it is big has contributed to the “collection” of so much, but it has really been hoarding. Since the place we’ll be moving to will be necessarily much smaller, this “cleaning” is absolutely essential.  Actually, the hoarding should never have happened, but obviously, I am to blame for it.

It makes me feel better having written all this, as it needed to be stated.  All I ask now is that if you respond, you do it after having carefully read what I have written.  And please do not ask too many questions, which I can’t answer or I am not willing to answer. This is all I can tell you now. Thanks for listening!


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Flash Mob Playing ‘Here Comes the Sun’ In a Spanish Unemployment Office

I’m not sure if this video is more heartbreaking or heartwarming, but it pretty well captures what’s going on in Europe’s economy right now. While the day-to-day drama of the continent’s debt crisis has subsided, painful austerity measures have helped leave huge swaths of the population jobless. In Spain, unemployment is at 25 percent.

To cheer up the crowd at a one of the country’s very full unemployment offices, Spanish radio program Carne Cruda 2.0 organized a flash mob of musicians to come and play a version a version of the Beatles classic “Here Comes the Sun.” Just try not to feel moved.

Copy this link to your browser to watch it:

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Help Is On the Way!!!

Guido has gone to the airport to get Valerie, who is arriving today.  It makes me uneasy, as he can’t see too well at night. In fact, whenever he has had to go to concerts, Tere and Dick have come here to drive him there and back!  He needs to have his cataracts removed, and we were waiting to have Valerie around to help.  She will indeed help in many, many ways!  I can’t drive – not allowed – and anyway I no longer have my faithful car… and as you know, I have stopped relying on others to drive me. It’s too much of a hassle, and quite often I have to cancel doctors’ appointments at the last minute.

It all makes me feel somewhat “lost”, not being able to drive and relying on Guido for everything when he himself is not in great shape either.  All I hope for now is to finally find the house in San Francisco so that we can get out of here and be with our daughters. We know we’ll have lots of help there!

And in case some wonder – I am still not well at all.  Actually, I feel somewhat worse, and doctors are giving up on me or suggesting some exotic tests rather than saying “I don’t know”.  I keep reminding them I was perfectly well before my surgery, so what else could it be? They don’t know, so they feel better making up whatever comes to their minds.

I also feel that with a change of scenery, being in the city rather than the suburbs, and close to our daughters, their husband and significant other respectively, friends we already know about and have become close to in Facebook, things will change. I am sure my wellbeing is tied to my emotions, and since I feel alienated here, I am bound to feel better there. There will be walking to the stores, but most of all – good will and love!

Speaking about love, thanks to Deborah Crombie for having mentioned a film I had already seen but forgotten – Love Actually. I loved it! I had really forgotten so much about it…  And I also liked Hugo a lot.  Others have disappointed me – Hope Springs, Moonrise Kingdom, among others I probably have chosen to forget…

Writers keep me busy, and I love reading their manuscripts and sharing ideas. It keeps me “alive” and makes me feel useful – a very important point when you are retired! I am also reading a lot, and Guido gave me a Kindle paperwhite, so now I have two Kindles with over 700 books!

Guess I should be going now and taking care of dinner, but I wanted to write something, as I have not done it in some time now!

Good night!  The image should have been here, not separately, but I am still not good at these things… 😉



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Tribute to a Friend

This is a Facebook post from Rosana. I want everyone who is not there to  read it.  I happened to see it today, as I went to her friend’s Wall (Eric Loeb) to wish him a happy birthday. Rosana had posted it in February, but rereading it feels like a good start of the year!

Mary Grace Williams, 7-21-61 – 2-29-2000
by Rosana Francescato on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 6:07pm ·

I didn’t know till now that you could lose a friend and still think of her so often 12 years later. That’s a testament to how important Mary Grace Williams was in my life, and how big a part of my life she was.

Mary and I grew up and went to school together starting when we were about 6. It wasn’t till 6th grade, though, that we became really close friends. She was back from 3 years in India, where her father (who’s still around at age 100!) had been doing agricultural work. Not that long after, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and underwent chemo and radiation. That didn’t help in junior high, that free-for-all of cruelty toward anyone who seems at all different. Mary and I were different to begin with, and that probably formed a lot of our bond. What do I mean by that? Who knows — we just weren’t the most conventional people, and junior high is all about conforming. So neither of us did well there. But those years brought us closer, and that’s when she really became my best friend.

Back then we spent a lot of time after school at Lincoln Square — one of the nation’s first fully enclosed malls, according to their website ( — shopping, looking at dress patterns, or having tea in that restuarant up some steps in a corner of the mall that is no longer there (anyone remember what it was called? It wasn’t good, but fun to go to). Mary had a lot more shopping stamina than I, which is not hard to achieve, and sometimes I wondered what we were doing there. But Mary had a way of setting the agenda, so I went along. I write about it now simply because when I think of those years, that’s one of the main places where I picture us

When we both got into Uni for our sophomore year of high school, our lives changed drastically. Suddenly it was okay not to fit in, and we had a ready-made group of friends who did things together on weekends. Though our class of 21 had a couple distinct factions for a while, we became close with a number of people there and in other classes, and formed lasting friendships. And here’s the thing that really stands out about Mary. She was always the one to draw people into our circle, and if it weren’t for her I might not be as close now to some of my friends from then. That makes her influence in my life all the greater.

Apart from the details of those years, what really sticks with me is the feeling of the time. At that age, life is so full of promise, and that makes it somehow more poetic and exciting. That’s the feeling I get when I think of sleeping over at Mary’s house outside on a balcony in the summer, under their 100-year-old oak tree, talking about — well, people, most likely. Or walking home together late at night from a party, which seemed a bit scary and exciting but was probably pretty safe. We also spent a lot of time in Mary’s room listening to music I wasn’t familiar with. There were some odd ones, like Harper’s Bizarre, and some kind of sappy ones, like Helen Reddy, but I was also left with a lasting love for Ella Fitzgerald singing Cole Porter songs. Those songs still make me think of Mary. And the feeling of being that age is very much associated with Mary. She somehow brought romance and excitement into our lives, just by being herself.

She could also drive me crazy. She said shortly before she died that she didn’t want to be remembered as a saint, and I’m glad to say I don’t think of her that way. That would detract from remembering her as a person. Mary could seem uptight in some ways, which was annoying and also at odds with her extreme openness. In fact, she was so open about her thoughts and emotions that she could often make herself very vulnerable. No details come to mind about this, just the feeling that one of the things that was so wonderful about Mary was that she didn’t hold back in this way, and also thinking that I would not be able to make myself as vulnerable as she did. I probably should have been less withdrawn myself, but apparently I didn’t learn from her.

Our last year of high school, as some of you know, my parents moved away and I was stubborn about staying in Urbana for that year, so an arrangement was made for me to live with Mary’s family. That definitely taxed our friendship. Her parents were a lot more strict and less trusting than mine, which struck me as funny since Mary was the last kid on earth who would have done anything troublesome. She got her driver’s license before a lot of us and was sort of the desginated chauffeur — something her mother let her do, but not without suggesting we were going on joy rides. I wasn’t even sure what that meant! When we had parties that went till 4:00 am, they were with a few friends and all we did was talk. Anyway, it caused a strain that while her parents were strict with her they weren’t my parents and didn’t have the same authority over me. Also I wasn’t open with her when I started going out with someone I thought she didn’t approve of, and there was a lot I didn’t tell her. I wasn’t always smart about these things or the best friend I could be. Yet through all that, we remained close friends.

Over the years we both moved around. She visited me in San Francisco, I visited her in Boston, or we’d meet up in New York or DC. We went through major Virginia Woolf phases at the same time and always had a lot to talk about. That was the hardest thing when she died. I was used to talking with her on the phone every 2  – 3 weeks, and naturally I kept thinking of things I wanted to tell her, only to realize I couldn’t.

I wish I had talked to her more about death. She wanted to, and I was too bent on being hopeful and not going there. But at least I was able to see her a few weeks before she died, and to say at least some of what I wanted to say. And she was able to be at her home with friends and family till the very end.

A life like Mary’s, though it was cut short, is not wasted. She left such a lasting impression on so many of us. One of our friends named a daughter after her — something I would for sure have done too, had I had a daughter. And I know I’m not the only one who still thinks of her often. I just don’t generally take the time to stop and write down thoughts about her, so I thought it would be fitting to do that on this 12th anniversary of her death, which came on such an odd day. And it’s interesting that she chose the day, though she may not have been aware of the date. She was on a ventilator and had to be sedated to handle it, as it was hard on her. One day she was more alert and asked to be taken off the ventilator, and that’s when we knew it would be a matter of hours. I’m glad she had this control, and that she was lucid till the end and surrounded by friends and family. She is still with us in so many ways.

There’s so much more I could say about Mary, but this is already too long! I’d love to hear others’ reminiscences about her. (I know some of you knew her better than others, some maybe very little at all. Feel free to add others to this, too.) And thanks for reading!


I didn’t include all the comments. This is more than enough!

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