True stories with a twist!


“I’m leaving his practice.”

“But why? You’ve been a patient of his for years.”

“Yes, but a new doctor in his specialty opened a new office in town a few months ago, and I hear nothing but rave reviews about him. He’s got a great personality and is a terrific joke teller.”

I understand your enjoying being entertained while getting a physical examination, but having a few good laughs over jokes told by my physician is not my way of determining a good doctor. In fact I would be suspicious of someone I went to see about a sharp pain somewhere who examines me while laughing about a good line he or she just heard from a favorite performer in a hit movie.

Just let me find a good diagnostician who is conservative about treatment options, and moderate in dispensing medications, and I will be a happy patient. I’ll even give that doctor a “thumbs up,” a “like”, or a five star review on any  sites that rate satisfaction levels.

Happy New Year, and good wishes for modest needs for Medical intervention or consultation in 2002. In other words, Good Health to you!


Some people enjoy going to the same place over and over: the joys of being greeted by familiar staff, the comfort of knowing that the food is good and won’t make you sick, and the feeling of being at home in a familiar spot.

Others enjoy trying new places; new adventures, new discoveries and new preparations of familiar dishes.Unknown-1.jpeg

The problem comes when those two opposite types are married to each other!

“Oh no: not that place again again; we were just there!. Let’s try the new one that just opened in Mendham last week.”

My victory. Of sorts. Yes, I won the argument about where to go for dinner, but lost the one about discovering a new favorite restaurant.

We found parking right across the street from the New Place ( names protected to save embarrassment!). It looked clean. It looked well lit . It looked practically empty. 

The almost empty factor was because this new restaurant had the only three tables! No wonder when people called for reservations they were told that there were none available.

If MacDonald’s never had a table available, word might get around that MacDonald’s was a desirable, hard-to get into restaurant, so popular that it rarely had a free table. “That must be quite a special place,” people would think, and keep trying to get reservations.

When we called it was early and we were able to reserve a table, but when we were seated we heard the phone ring several times and the caller being told, “Sorry, but we have no openings tonight!” Word had gotten around that there was a new restaurant in Mendham. Exciting news in peaceful, bucolic Mendham!

This was a family affair. The waitress told us that “My Dad owns the restaurant, my mom cooks the food, and my sister and I wait tables.” 

How charming; home-cooked dinners with loving family members involved in the success of this restaurant. 

But then an uncomfortable memory appeared in my mind from many years ago, and the question “Does “home made” always mean “wonderful?” re-emerged.

One of the funniest memories I have was the one of my husband’s and my reunion with his brother-at their parents’ house in Passaic, New Jersey. We were both visiting from different places where we had settled. Brother In Law from Massachusetts and we from Baltimore. Mother-In-Law said,”I’ll make dinner for you tonight,” and spontaneously, without planning it, the three of us screeched out in a high pitched, panicky choir, as if our lives were on the line,“NO!” 

So here we were, years later, seated at one of the three tables, waited on by one of the two sister wait staff. 

I could never be a restaurant reviewer, because I would hesitate to make negative comments about  someone’s hard working, family venture. But when friends ask what we thought of the new restaurant, I will recall the advice of Thumper the rabbit in Walt Disney’s “Bambi” film. Thumper said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

And so I remain silent.

A New Shop

Grocer shopping can be deadly dull. So predictable. So ordinary. So uninspiring.

Sometimes it’s fun to shop at a new grocery store: one in which you’ve never been. Perhaps a shop in a new neighborhood; one you discover while taking a different route home. A new store will probably carry items that are unusual  from the ones you’re used to seeing back in your neighborhood. Different brands, different ethnic foods, different prepared meals.

So on my way home from the Randolph YMCA, famished from my workout in their warm water pool (temperature a theraputic 91 degrees) I pulled off Route 10, into the driveway of Stop and Shop. I walked inside and immediately got lost. The layout was completely different from Kings’ Supermarket, my neighborhood store. Since I was not in a hurry, an unusual situation for me, I was prepared to browse leisurely and select some unusual foods for dinner that night.

Yes, there were some different sights in Stop and Shop.  I saw the first female fishmonger behind the seafood counter: the first I had ever seen working in a supermarket. She was knowledgeable and helpful about seafood of all kinds. In the prepared foods section I saw huge hot vats of various soups, like broccoli-cheddar, cream of mushroom, and chicken tortilla. In the dairy section I found many more brands of yogurt than I’m accustomed to seeing, most of which were new to me.

Rounding the next corner I received an unexpected and scary shock. It was a moving, very very tall robot-looking machine that seemed to be following me! It was frightening looking, coming out of nowhere and going wherever I was going.IMG_0720I moved to the right, and it moved to the right. It could have been a creature from outer space invading this humble grocery store. I didn’t know what it was, had never seen one before, and didn’t know how to avoid crashing into it with my shopping cart. A woman shopper approached me, paying attention to her shopping list. Her eyes were focused on  tins of nutmeg, curry powder, and bay leaves lined up on the spice shelf at the left side of the aisle.

“Excuse me,” I said, awakening her from her stuporous dreams of spicy dishes resulting from today’s purchases. “Can you please tell me what THAT is? It scared me half to death!”

“Oh, That! It frightened me the first time I saw it too. Nobody warns you to expect to see it or explain what it is. It’s a floor washer. It rolls around and keeps the floors clean. It sweeps up fallen squished vegetables, spilled beverages and whatever else winds up on the floor. It has saved the store from complaints of slippery, dangerous spots, and probably from lawsuits too. And after school, neighborhood children like to come in and chase it around the aisles! It does make quite the first impression, doesn’t it?”

So my sightseeing venture to a new store turned out to be a lesson in technology and ingenuity. IMG_0721.jpeg

As I recall the experience and try to remember what I bought at “Robot Buddy Store” to prepare for dinner that night, I think that I was so upset by the experience of practically being kidnapped and taken off to a neighboring planet, that we ordered Carry-out dinners that night. Next time I run out of milk, bread or any other staples I will hop down to the safety and predictability of Kings. Why take the chance of being assaulted by robots, new fangled floor washers or children chasing mechanical monsters through the aisles of the supermarket?


Another cold, wet dark evening in the Northeast. Too miserable an evening to go out for pleasures that might otherwise be special. 

What to do as the snow falls and makes leaving the house hazardous? 

How about a night of slightly educational, slightly soap operery watching of happenings and doings in the lives of English royalty? The TV series, “The Crown.”

Tonight’s episode takes place in the exciting days of early space travel. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins make history as the whole world watched, fascinated and unbelieving as they landed on the moon. 

TC3_304_RC-9c81150.jpgPrince Philip watches too, transfixed to his television screen. Something transformative was clearly going on in his mind, and he was excited, thrilled and anxious. He would, as his royal station decreed, have the once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the three heroes in person. 

The prince took great care composing the questions he hoped to ask the astronauts in the fifteen minutes he was allotted to be alone with them.

The three men entered to royal pomp and circumstance, and were shown into the Prince’s private chamber. 

And here is where the fantasy ends. These men, although they achieved greatness through their heroic willingness to put their lives at risk to achieve this great feat, were simply human beings after all. 

They started the interview with the Prince by sneezing, coughing, and otherwise being humans. They were subject to the same problems and dangers that plague every day, ordinary people. 

When Philip asked them for special observances while in space, he was disappointed with their answer. Much of their time was spent managing protocols that any pilot must deal with when on a mission. As the prince looked at the questions that he had so carefully composed, he realized that the astronauts were not able to give him the insights about the world and of life’s meaning that he sought. The achievements of the astronauts were not gong to clarify any deep understanding of the universe or its wonders. 

Turning next to church leaders, who were likewise questioning their faith and the meaning of life, he established meaningful relationships with them and developed lifelong friends.

So what is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of faith? Long will pondering minds question these issues.

As for me, I will to go into the kitchen and make a lovely, soothing cup of steaming hot chocolate.  That is the extent of my brilliant philosophical ideas and conclusions for the day.




Who would have thought, after all the years of giggling at and making fun of opera singers, that I would become an opera fan?

My younger brother, Jerry, used to imitate the sound, as he heard it, of an operatic tenor. In his most sincerely serious mock voice, the eleven year old made up a heartbreaking aria, using self-invented words that sounded somewhat in the area of Italian to him. In his self-written masterpiece of operatic music, he put on his most painful facial expression and sang his famous leading aria, 

“Ah cha pa TAT-IO!” As he belted out his big performance to his audience of one: me. I pretended to emit a sad, soulful sob at the start of the song.

How odd that I would remember that song after all these years, but I do remember it with great clarity. Today, over fifty years later, I anticipate with great excitement, my husband and my opportunity to see the opera “La Boehme, ” in New York City, at the Metropolitan Opera House. What a thrill!MET_OPERA_-resized-1szdeuaz950w56rc8iql1g0q71hkp7lkzis4lut5aokk

The theater is imposing: five balconies high. Tickets in the 4th or 5th balcony, since they are so far from the stage, are referred to as the “nosebleed section.” 

As in many large arts institutions the attraction on the first floor is the gift shop. It is stocked with clever, if overpriced items like long rectangular note paper to leave at our telephone to jot down phone messages. The notepaper’s heading is, ”Chopin Liszt.” And if you would like a special pen with which to write your phone messages (on the Shopping list), try the ball point pen styled to resemble William Shakespeare. 

The restaurant in the theater, The Grand Tier, offers a unique treat; enjoy your lunch and head back to the theater. But first you may order and pre-pay for dessert. At intermission simply return to your table to miraculously find your dessert and coffee (or tea) awaiting your return.

We reached our seats. The curtain rose to the stage setting of a Parisian garret, home of a young, poor artist. I was surprised that there was no overture; the conductor advanced immediately to the scene of young artists preparing their work while suffering from the cold and from very little food. The voices of the performers filled the auditorium with the beautiful, melodic sounds of Puccini’s opera. The music is glorious, the acoustics superb, the stage setting spectacular. La Boehme was staged by the film director, Franco Zaffirelli, and is as dramatic and beautiful as the music.

So, on many levels, this  afternoon at the opera was a memorable experience.

The message came by e mail.

Betsy, one of the women in my writing group asked me if I would do her a favor.

I emailed back, saying, “Sure; I’d be happy to.”

That was my first mistake. I learned from this experience to never agree to do a favor for someone unless you had an idea of what that favor was.

Unknown-1The return email from her was, “I need a birthday gift for my nephew. His birthday is in a couple of days and we are traveling right now. Will you please send him a gift from us by going to any pharmacy and buying him a “Steam Wallet? It’s important to get the money to him as soon as possible.”

I had never heard of a “Steam Wallet.”

Betsy wrote back that a “Steam Wallet” was an account in a someone’s name that kept money in a safe place until the recipient took the money out of the wallet for a purchase of his choosing. 

She requested that I deposit $200.00 in his account, and she would repay me when she returned.

That took me a bit by surprise. Although I know Betsy, I am not a close friend, and see her only at writers’ meetings. We have never socialized, spoken on the phone or served on a committee together. Why would she choose me to ask to do this favor?

And when would she pay me back? We live about forty minutes from each other, and see each other only at the occasional joint meeting. This request was an odd one, I thought. And asking me to pay out $200.00 was quite an imposition.

I was uncomfortable with her request, and annoyed with myself for agreeing to do a favor before asking what the favor entailed. 

I didn’t know where she was traveling, but why was it so easy for me to reach her by email? If she was accessible my email, why couldn’t she buy the card herself? 

I tried to get out of my obligation to do her a favor by writing back to her, telling her that me husband and I were leaving shortly for a drive to the Delaware Canal for a hike along the Delaware Canal. Therefore, I said, “I will be unable to go out and buy your nephew’s gift.”

But that didn’t stop her. She answered “It’s fine if you buy the card and deposit the money after the weekend.”

But she originally said that it was important to make this transaction quickly so the boy would have the gift in time for his birthday. Now she suddenly changed the story, telling me that it would be fine if I didn’t get it today, or even this weekend.

So I replied again that we were in an area that makes it impossible for me to buy the gift.

She wrote back immediately, saying, “Oh, please. I will wait until you buy it. You can get it on i-tunes or google.Just make the payments in $100.00 denominations..” And she added “I owe you a lot.”

This woman had the most nerve of anyone I had ever met. I will no longer give her petty excuses for being unable to honor her request. 

So I wrote back,” Betsy, I am sorry but I cannot do this favor for you.”

And that was that. I felt better for finally being off the hook.

Then Betsy wrote back, “Sorry to say, I’ve been hacked! Hope I’ve ironed things out by now, but favors for someone on email seldom are real, just so you know.”




“I’ve heard so much about it but have never tried it.” And that was the feeling we had when we encountered a class in mediation while on vacation.

So we signed up and prepared to experience a new technique in living.

We entered a simple, unadorned room with chairs set up in a circle for the 20 participants to occupy.

The instructor started by explaining the importance of clearing the mind. And that is one of the most difficult things to do. “But,” she explained, “ You can’t see your reflection in running water: only in still water!” 

“Hmm; interesting analogy,” I thought. Unknown

We must try to clear out our “judging minds,” and be open to new ideas and thoughts. Most of us keep our minds in the past or wondering about the future. She said it was difficult to stay in the present. I was reminded of a saying I had heard years ago: “The past is gone, the future is unknown. We only have right now, which is a gift. That is why we call it the present.”

She described different kinds of people” the Mr. Fix-it, who always looks for solutions to problems, the Snow-baller, who makes all problems larger than they are the longer they go forward; just like a snowball rolling down a hill. 

“Our minds are like tofu;” they are blank and open. The mind takes on any flavor that is added to it, just as tofu has no flavor of its own, but takes on whatever it is served with”

And with that, we were prepared to clear our minds and be open to meditation.

In clearing our minds we would experience life in a different way. Starting with the sense of taste. This was her cue to pass around a platter of dates. “Take one but don’t eat it yet,” she told us. And she passed around the platter of dates.

“Now we are ready to enhance our sense of taste. Put the date in your mouth, but don’t chew it. First be aware of the sense of the date being in your mouth. Notice its weight, its shape and its texture. Explore it with your tongue”

After noticing the characteristics of a date, we finally were permitted to bite into it and be aware of its taste. 

It’s sweetness filled my mouth in a way that I had never felt before. Although this was not the first time I had eaten a date, this awareness created a new sensation. I was really aware of the taste of a date.

I was being mindful of taste.

We went from the taste experience to focusing our attention on our breath. 

“If you concentrate on your breath, breathing in and out, you will find your whole body slowing down. If thoughts break into your consciousness, just acknowledge them, push them away, and return to concentrating on your breathing.”

At the end of this first meditation class, about an hour,  most of us felt more relaxed. We thought that with practice we could achieve the goal of slowing down, being more aware of our surroundings and less likely to allow ourselves to be swept into the chaos that every day life has become. IF we practice!

This was an enlightening and interesting class, and I would like very much to carry this slower version of myself through my days. But just to fact check with reality, ask me at holiday time. Let’s see whether I am dealing with that stressful time of year more successfully than I usually do.Unknown

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