Dear Mage

You are so nice to keep looking for me. I am fine; better than I’ve been all year. I’ve just been lazy about writing. Spent much of the last eight months doing leg exercises to counteract my arthritis. I have also lost 27 pounds and am working on losing 10 or 20 more. I am no longer in pain, I can walk normally, and haven’t opened the Tylenol bottle for the last couple of months. I had a wonderful birthday celebration last month. Instead of giving me gifts, I asked my guests to make a donation to the Israeli volunteer organization, Road to Recovery, that helps West Bank Arab children get to hospitals in Israel. Here is a video that tells all about it.

You can learn more about them at

I’ll tell more about my celebration in my next post, which I promise will be soon. I have to get pictures from Robin and she’s out of town this weekend.

Last night in Jerusalem

Breakfast in this hotel has been wonderful. There is fresh squeezed joice, cold cereal, fruit, salad items, good coffee, expresso or cappuchino, sweet pastries, yesterday an assortment of pizzas, today a salmon fillet, and a cheese board. I don’t eat most of it but it was fun to look. Coffee is wonderful here and I’ve been drinking too much of it. One cup only, tomorrow.

Today I went to Moshav Yishii, near Bet Shemesh, to visit the cousin whose grandchild’s picture, playing in the sun, inspired me to come here. I had not seen Davida for 30 years. We had a great time reminiscing and looking at old pictures and new ones of her children and grandchildren who were not at home. Davida keeps animals: horses, dogs, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, pheasants and a camel and a peacock. School groups come here to learn about the animals and play with some of them in her petting zoo.

Monday morning I will see my friend Janette then return to Yona in Hofit.

How old is old?

After my 79th birthday last May I started to think about becoming 80 and what it might mean. First, let me say I know a number of people in their 80’s, and older, who are doing just fine. But, in the past, I knew many who weren’t fine, or were already dead, and the prevailing stereotype is 80 is old old. Should I stop traveling? Should I stop driving? What does it mean to be 80?
Added to that my knees have been bothering me for months and the pain makes me feel very old. I had cortisone shots in July that helped enormously–no pain for months. But while I was walking around in the bitter cold in New York City something happened to my right knee and I’m suffering again. I have been going for physical therapy and doing exercises religiously. I joined Weight Watchers just before Christmas and lost 11 pounds, so far. Still suffering. Finally I decided that 80 was just the day after 79 and my real problem was the terrible cold weather and snow and ice in Pittsburgh.
I am writing this from Israel where it is warm and sunny and I’m feeling better–not great, but better. And my friends, Yona and Arik, are treating me like a queen, so this my not count as traveling alone.
I’ve been to Israel many times in the distant past, but this is the first time in, probably 30 years. I am amazed at how the country has grown and changed. The roads and highways are wonderful and there are cities replacing the sand, shrubs and a few shanties from before.
Yona picked me up at the airport on Monday and I saw only the view from the road, but that was amazing enough. I postponed my collapse from jet lag long enough to play with Yona’s three grandchildren. The youngest seemed to be fascinated with me until I told her, in Hebrew, that I spoke only English. That was the end of our relationship. Actually, I am amazed at how much of my very scant Hebrew has come back to me.
Today we went to Ceaserea where there has been extensive excavation of the port city built by Herod during Roman times and a large, newly constructed, modern city.
From there, we went to Atlit to see the prison camp built by the British to incarcerate the Jewish refugees who had survived the Holocaust and were trying to enter what was then Palestine. These people, who had no place to go and were welcomed nowhere, went from Nazi concentration camps to remarkably similar British concentration camps. Imagine the terror. Once the state of Israel was proclaimed by the UN, all of the Jewish refugees from Europe were welcomed along with a huge number of Jews from Arab countries who were forced to leave their homes.
We had a late, excellent lunch in a restaurant in the Arab village of Ein Hud and that was the end of my day. Wiped out and jetlagged.
I am taking pictures but I don’t think I will be able to post them until I get home. I replaced the cursed Asus with an iPad mini and I haven’t figured out how to get the photos onto the mini. Nothing like new technology.

Happy New Year


Snow in front of Steve’s house.

I don’t make resolutions any more. I figure if I haven’t gotten it nailed by now, it’s too late. The week between Christmas and New Year’s was more than a little disorganized, with house guests and such. I’m trying to get back on schedule. Yesterday I actually got to the club to exercise. Now I just have to stop eating all the sweets.

I am planning my next trip to Japan, which will begin in the middle of March and go on for six weeks. My previous visits were in Autumn; now I want to see Spring. I will spend three weeks traveling and most of the remaining three weeks in Kyoto. I have plane tickets and reservations in a hotel in Tokyo and in my favorite place in Kyoto. I will post my plans as they take shape and use this blog for my posts from Japan instead of going back to the other one.

Since my frequent flier account grew as I purchased things for my new apartment I will be flying business class both ways. I don’t think my old bones would tolerate another long trip in coach. I will spend the first five nights in Tokyo looking at gardens and making a day-trip to Ibaraki where there is a garden that is listed in the “top three.” I’ve seen the other two and will return to one of them that I probably did not properly appreciate.

I am reading about one of the gardens I visited in Kyoto: Tenryu-ji. The book is an appreciation of the spirit of the garden, the pond and its rocky landscape. I missed it when I was there in 2008; there were too many people and I looked for less crowded spaces.

By this time the crowds had gathered and my experience at Tenryuji Temple was not so profound. It’s a very large garden with the main temple building in the center. It’s also on different levels; there was a lot of climbing involved, which I am proud to report I did. As I began climbing the crowds diminished, inspiring me to continue climbing so I could sit and enjoy the view without too much interruption.

Pond with lotus plants

Pond with lotus plants


View from above, where I sat and contemplated. The angle of view makes it almost look like a Japanese print

Another week, another activity postponed

Next year better come, even though my poster says it won't. I'm beginning to think that poster was a curse. I was supposed to go to Chicago last Monday, October 24. Our trek up to Door County was postponed this year because of the illness of our host, so several of us were going to get together in Chicago. It's a place I always like to return to; I guess it will always be home. I was having second thoughts because of the driving, which had been very difficult last spring. So when my friend, in whose apartment I planned to stay, called and said there was a problem, I decided not to go. I regarded it as an omen. I should have just found another place to stay.

Then last Sunday, which was a beautiful day, unlike yesterday, I went out for a walk and I fell. This time I only banged up one side of my face, so only the right side looked like a raccoon, but the swelling was fierce all week. Fortunately only my glasses broke, no bones. MyPicture-2I feel like I've been vegetating all week. Each morning when I woke up the eye seemed sealed shut and took about an hour before it would stay open. I stayed in most of the week, nasty weather anyhow, and Friday night was my first public appearance. I used lots of makeup and kept my glasses on (older ones) and mostly no one seemed to notice–or they didn't want to ask me about it. Today I went to my Osher class and everyone asked. We're not shy about these things.

I'm planning to observe nojomo and write a new post every day in November. I'm not sure I have that much to say, but there's always pictures.


I went to a real (printing) paper distributor, bought a good card stock and made another book. I made the sides out of single sheets and only laminated the seven bridge sheets. It's much better–not perfect by any means, but much better. Now I'm back to work on the Japanese garden book.

We've had wonderful weather the last few weeks so I've spent a lot of time walking. I like it much better than the health club. I don't know which is better exercise.

I looked at two apartments that just came on the market. One of them has wonderful space but I really can't afford it. So, we'll just forget it. The other would be OK. I'm not in love with it and I really don't want to buy anything for another month or two, so we'll just wait and see what happens.

At the beginning of the month, when the weather became so nice, I met up with another Pittsburgh blogger and we went walking in Frick Park. Nice walk, and I really prefer having company when I walk there, but going alone allows me to take pictures and spend more time just looking.

Here are a few pictures from my second walk in Frick Park.





The tree below is on the next block when I walk to Frick Park. I don't know anything about it, not even its species or why it grew these great bumps/burls. I'm just pleased no one has cut it down.


I have no excuse

I just didn't feel like writing.

My infection seems to have gone, although I won't be convinced for another week or so. My Osher classes began this week. I wasn't taking anything for the last month because I expected to be away; I'm glad the new term has begun. Tuesday morning I'm in a class called "Representing the Devil." Last week we looked at readings from both the old and new testaments. This week we are reading Christopher Marlowe's, "Dr. Faustus." We will also read "The Master and Margarita" and "No Country for Old Men." I started reading M & M and it's excellent. So is the professor; I'm very pleased.

Tuesday afternoon is a film class. We watched "Sunset Boulevard," which I saw back in 1950 or 51. I remembered absolutely nothing except the shooting scene. Amazing how completely these things disappear.

Wednesday afternoon is a journaling class. You're probably laughing. How can I keep a journal when I can't even keep up with the blog. We are supposed to write three pages a day. I wrote something yesterday, but not three pages. There are many things I don't want to put in the blog. Keeping a journal would be a good thing if I wasn't so lazy.

Thursday afternoon's class is called "Behind the scenes at the Carnegie Museum." I don't think this will be the best class. We only get behind the scenes once, the rest of the time we're in lectures. I've spent lots of time volunteering at the Field Museum in Chicago and often got behind the scenes. It was fascinating. I'm sure the Carnegie would be also. Maybe I'll look into volunteering there.

I got back to the health club. I've been walking (even did the 5k Race for the Cure last weekend) but avoided other exercise because of taking Cipro. I don't know if I'm happier with or without all the exercise. I'm certainly happier without the Cipro.

Sunday stroll

The sun was shining when I left home, although they promised rain or snow for tonight. Even though I wasn't going to do it, I walked more than four miles today. I'm not as tired as last week, so we'll see what happens tonight. This time I walked to East Liberty and the Waffle Shop. They have a live feed broadcast where they interview people. I decided I wanted to be interviewed: never done that before. The live feed is only on until 2 pm, (they keep strange hours) but I was assured they would edit the video, eventually, and it will appear online. This is a student enterprise (CMU) so don't expect to see anything very quickly. I should be able to post it here after it appears. 

This walk took me past the soon-to-be Target, and something that will replace the bus station. This area has been under construction for several years with no apparent change or improvement. Now they've made it almost impossible to walk.

In order to get off the pavement you have to cross that fairly high block of concrete or else walk in the street, a scary business. I was able to haul myself up on the pavement by hanging on to the fence. I was actually afraid I would knock it down. My legs don't want to do this kind of climbing anymore.

There is a new sculpture in Mellon Park. It's pretty nice.

They don't tell you anything about it, who did it, or why it was placed there, but just in case you want to get a concrete slab, there is an informative label.

I also thought the placement of this bench was interesting. It was there before they placed the sculpture, but they could have turned it around. There's nothing very interesting looking the other way.

I'll tell you about the subject of my interview soon. The host started to ask me about my favorite song, or my favorite artist; she wouldn't know who I was talking about if I told her. I stopped her and took over the conversation: serious, but she got into it. More to come. Here she is with her previous guest.


Spring? update

It was 21 degrees when I got up this morning. The sun is shining, which is nice, but it hasn't warmed up very much. The groundhog lied, lied I tell you.

Otherwise things are OK. Robin's lab work was all negative, so we are very relieved. I do not have the BRCA mutation, for whatever that's worth. I still come from a family with lots of cancer. They just haven't found the proper label for us. The mutation is dominant, meaning you just need one copy of it. So it came from Robin's father's side of the family, which had lots of boys, so no one thought about it. Now they have to give it some thought–there are girls in my grandchildren's generation.

On Sunday I walked down to Forbes and Murray and back–almost four miles. Had a terrible night with lots of leg cramps. I want to get more exercise, but I guess I have to take it slower–three miles next time.

I would have been in Kyushu today if I had gone to Japan, far away from the radiation and other devastation. I think about it every day. I'm not sorry I didn't go. They don't need another old woman to evacuate, or to use up food and power. I hope next year will be better. I am so sad for all of those people who were unfailingly wonderful to me.


The groundhog did not see his shadow this year, meaning we would have an early spring. I've never understood what any of this had anything to do with weather, or why having no sunshine on Feb 2 could be a good thing. My friend Ivetta has been taking this seriously and I keep kidding her. If the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, there will be a month and a half of winter. So, maybe I'm wrong. The forecast is for 60 degrees by the end of the week. Of course, I don't think much of those long range forecasts, either. But today was a beautiful day; I didn't need my winter jacket, and I went out and took a long walk. Maybe we'll get lucky and I'll be able to keep taking those long walks.