Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back to Fall after Heating up with Summer

Well we are back into fall with hectic school schedules and streets. The students are back and my daughter is engaged in her senior year. (That means I am engaged as well, both at work and at home).

and yes Amherst has gone back to its usual concerns:
town meetings, school budgets, and UMASS issues

which have kept the pages of the Amherst Bulletin full (well not really full- but the slots have been taken) -

so my piece on a lighter and more social note was not published.

Here it is for those who want a peak at the activity on the dance, singles, and dating scene.

Over the summer I actually stayed clear of the Iron Horse as the heat-weather wise increased and I was busy engaging more heatedly in my relationship and with dance and school tours with my daughter.

So the cycle goes.

Heating up with summer

Jim Oldham recently wrote
"It's summer, mid-July, a quiet time for politics and town government. Or is it?”

Well, in Amherst and the Valley, summer may or may not be a time for heated political controversy – but it does seem to heat up on the social scene. And this begins in the late spring.

As the snow cover melts and the ground warms, many seem to shed their timidity along with their cold New England covers and venture out to find their mates or re-engage with them. Yes the Rites of spring begin anew.

What do we notice? Well first of all the bars and cafes fill up, especially during the weeks before graduation.

Heading into the Iron Horse on a Tuesday night in mid-May for salsa - of the movement kind - one could hardly find room on the multi-ethnic dance floor. Bodies beginning to sweat were still shifting ever more close, syncopating their rhythms, while the minds set on the hunt were sensing the smells and interpreting the signals of the pheromones released. Some nights seemed to get quite steamy.

Late night, when the Regaton began, a few young females backed their butts into their as yet un-introduced male partners. Even for older dancers, and by that I mean the over 40 crowd, the engagement intensified and the warmth continued to help break down barriers between generations and cultures.

With summer, and more space on the floor, the dances provide an inviting place to make connections and expand one’s repertoire, movement or other. A follower might rest her head intimately in the crook of her leader’s neck during a slower, more sensual and cooler, Bolero.

While activity in the local gyms may also quiet down after the initial spring rush to get in shape, the local ponds, hike, and bike paths fill up. These places provide a chance to cool off, burn off stress and pounds, and allow cruisers to meet. Dropping by Puffers, one is almost always able to dip and quip with some current, former, or future friend or lover.

The elements of earth, water, and air nurture our awareness of our sensual selves. If you add a little fire - of the elemental or personal kind - well passions may ignite, and they flare more evidently in summer.

Perusing the local and national online dating sites one can also see an increase in activity with old and new profiles. It is a yearly phenomenon. How do I know? Well I have observed and participated as one of the many almost hidden, older, singles in the Valley.

For many middle age persons during the school year the focus is on children, work, and home. One sees people engaged as couples, or in groups, at school and family events. By the late spring and summer, some of these couplings seem to fall apart as the children enter a new phase of schooling, or as the semester of undergrad, grad school, and teaching ends. One friend revealed to me that her husband of 20-something years just left with no warning indications, the day after her youngest graduated high school.

Those tired of the same old same-old seem to strike out anew, either publicly or clandestinely. On pages with 16 profiles each, local males ages 42-55, increase from about 10 to between 25 and 30. Approximately 200 out of 450 of these men are often ‘active’ within 24 hours. These are ones with photos, including updated pics with happier smiling faces in a natural setting, often along with dogs and motorcycles. The drab, disappointed looks of frustration and winter dreariness disappear, though some never seem to age as they resurface, year after year, seeking the ‘right’ one.

On the adult sites more men directly seek ‘discreet’ connections. These are ones not ready or willing to leave convenient or caring, professed 'loving', marriages for the seduction of sex that spring and summer sparks.

So are these searches successful? Well on the more erotic sites it seems the number of ladies looking is about 1 for every 17-20 men. Do the math. But in terms of ‘relationship’ seekers, more women are out in droves. On Match, about 140 out of about 385 local women ages 42 to 55 within 25 miles of Amherst are ‘active’ within 24 hours.

What I witness in the summer is greetings by numerous new couples on the streets and at places like Amherst coffee, Raos, Amherst Brewery, Fitzwillies, and La Cazuela. They hold hands on the way into Amherst Cinema, the Yiddish book Center, the Calvin, and Bishop’s Lounge.

Late spring, I glanced up over my weight training machine to notice a new face at the gym, and found a matching photo and profile online later that week. With the school year coming to a close, this academic family man, new to divorce and the dating scene, decided to emerge from his cocoon and check out the other butterflies. Luckily for me he also liked to dance and was willing to try out a new partner. I knew that I had to move quickly to invite him for wine and tango before the early summer rush.

With new romances budding like flowers, Amherst and the Valley are quite active in the spring and summer months. By fall these new relationships may be seasoned, and then solidified more privately over the long winter, or they may have bloomed and burned up with the intense heat. Either way the activity will likely wane and Amherst will go back to its usual concerns; town meetings, school budgets, and UMASS issues.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Are Mom's lost? An Answer from a Mom

An answer to John Robison who posed the question in his blog entry.

"When I follow the links from your comments, and read your own blogs, in many cases I read almost exclusively about kid raising. And it leads me to wonder.

You must have several lives going on all at once . . not just kid-raising. Where are they? "


First of all I do hope to address concerns and reveal some of the 'lives' I live, and thoughts I have, that extend beyond my family.

As to work: computer progamming in a development office at a University is less than fascinating to me...Do you really want me to BLOG about it?

This is some of my longer answer to John:

Hey John,

I am happy we got to touch base in person at least for a short while before your leap further into the media spotlights.

Time- is an issue and focus. (Ah the mom excuse ...)

Have been caught up in being a mom this past week, mostly trying to negotiate college funding with men who see things almost exclusively from their perspective and desires and are NOT concerned with other family/children issues nor MY being able to turn my assets and time towards developing myself.

Trying to engage towards a 'cooperative' agreement with a bright, determined, uni-focused son who has been ill, preferred to sleep most of the days, does and did not plan well ahead, does not wish to look at facts or take time to analyse and understandably has difficulty being in the middle of two parents who differ, along with trying to enagage a provocative and uncommunicative ex-who is always the victim, witholds documentation and details to support decision making- and who seems to think one day and 2 weeks out of the year with his son, and a few weekends with his daughter, is enough time for his commitment to his children... (Other than HE works- as if I don't) .... has left little time (or energy ) for ME.

On top of this I did manage to carve out some time for working, teaching, swimming, dancing tango, a bit of writing, love-making, paying bills, tending a sick cat, and ah yes- sleep. (and a phone call or two to you)

But the main focus was the children and concerns around them; financing, feeding, driving, attention to THEIR interests and concerns, etc.

I think it is a matter of biology , society, values, and the reality of survival- in the interest of the success of the next generation.

As to writing and talking about it. That too is partly biology, socialization and values.

I hear an implicit judgment that 'Moms are lost', or will be, if they focus so much on children - that they become boring, and lack diversity.

I think that is what MEN mainly see, think, feel and judge. Women sharing these concerns and topics with each other can be endlessly engaged and find meaning and direction from each other, besides support.

Our society does not VALUE this.

Damned if we do and damned if we don't.

A career focused female like Hillary Clinton is seen as a cold calculating bitch...not feminine...

We all talk (and write) about what concerns us most at the time and what we have partly been raised and encouraged to do.

What about men that talk about cars, motorcylces, sports, and audio equipment as their obssesions? What is so damn diverse and interesting about that? What is so meaningful?

One might say it is selfish,childish, about power and mastery, competition, and 'typical', vs. nurturing, caring, and community building.

Where does it leave the men if they don't have women to love, have sex with, and keep the family web working? The women who queston them and provide a key to their understanding and accepting themselves and the world?

What happens when kids leave, is similar to what happened before women had them. Women can return to some of the interests and activities that they were excited about as young girls, or develop new passions, careers, hobbies, and friends.

They can maybe sleep again more peacefully.

We all may start talking and writing more about aging as that takes more attention and becomes a strong personal (and societal) concern.

You write about your life-

I am your friend and so find it fascinating from that perspective alone. It is an opportunity for me to know you better - and connect. It provides context and allows for compassion.

These are typical female interests, concerns, perspectives.

As I have also have a niece with Autism/Aspergers it is interesting though frankly not as informative as some research articles and experts who work with this would be, or talking with my sister directly about her child.

(Ah mothers with children again)

And then - on top- you have some strange and funny stories to tell and do it with style.

an aside

Just wondering how much of this post has been provoked by my discussions, complaints, and questions about male/female relationships, and the different struggles we have shared with each other about our lives and seeking balance - with a little time to express our souls.

Your focus on Asperger's became an obssession
One - because you are blessed with that kind of mind

Two - because you found out about it and were encouraged to write about it.

Three- your writing and experience is marketable.

Your ability to write and do the book thing is partly possible because you do have a mate to help on the home front. Jack is older- and needs less attention and both allows for time, and your brother paved the way.

Besides you also get lots of encouragement from female friends (and readers) :) .

There is SOOOO much more to this topic.

And yes males may be both more shy, more private, and also less eager to reveal their ideas to a group.... perhaps more direct and detailed?

As to blogging about diverse thing etc.

What IS appropriate to blog about? Is mine diverse? Will it be if I get the time to write about ALL that concerns me?

It could be more so- Would anyone read it except if they were pointed to it or interested in the particular topic?

And what is NOT appropriate to blog about? I've gotten feedback that I'm too revealing... both personally and about ideas I may wish to market.

Safer if I just talked about the kids?


Saturday, August 18, 2007

What Midlife Women May Need From A Man Before Having Sex

Again- reading and responding to a post:
What Women May Need from a Man before Having Sex, as posted by the Dating Goddess

I have many thoughts on this topic and hopefully will compile and compose them at some time for consumption (umm). Here are some.

Please read her summary of basic points from Laws of the Jungle-Dating for Women Over 40:

It seems that there are 4 basic areas that may need to exist for a woman to feel 'chemistry' and agree to sex-

Positive personal traits and acceptability

The possibility and potential of an ongoing relationship

Willingness for a man to 'invest' in her emotionally and materially

That there is at least some physical attraction on both sides, or at least that there are no physical turn-offs.

For a man simply

He must find her physically attractive.

She is willing.

It seems that if all or many of the criteria are not met, the women find sex is unfulfilling and pointless.

Here is MY response:

On an important note.
What women and men say may reflect more on their own awareness of their motivations than actuality.

Men’s quick and gut reactions ARE as they say-
A woman should be attractive and willing-

But they too may have other desires and qualifications especially as they mature.

Importantly for midlife daters (and others):

A woman and a man may want to know that the prospective partner is STD free - and to determine that and whether to trust your partner may take time.

Women may have better impulse control and so choose to take more time to ‘investigate’.

Women may be concerned with attractiveness and certainly also need to test a man’s ‘willingness’.

They may want sex as much as men, but understand the implications of ACTING too quickly on this.

Yes, much may be the same for a younger woman, or younger and older men. And Age may not be as relevant as objective and experience with dating and relationship building.

Objectives change over the course of one’s life.

Many women DO want sex and not necessarily ‘committed’ or ‘exclusive’ relationships, especially when working on their careers or coming out of a divorce or sexless/loveless marriage.

Many women may be judged more harshly for admitting this or acting on this. It is more acceptable if in a ‘relationship’.

Being open to sex, does not mean not ALSO wanting affection, caring or consideration, and attention.

This also goes for men.

Defining commitment is important. One can be ‘commited’ to an ongoing relationship and yet not present in the moments you are sharing with a partner.

Ability to be committed and attentive in the moment, whether it is one date or more, may be more important for a woman in determining if she wishes to have sex.

Many maturer men and women may find that disconnected, inattentive, slam-bang, eyes tight shut sex becomes more and more unfufilling and unmeaningful over time.

Ones perception of ‘boredom’ may have as much to do with the openess and creativity in one’s own mind as to do with the behavior of another.

Women may wish to test the prospective creativity of the mind of the man she may choose to have sex with, to assess the quality of the sex they might have together.

A wise and maturer man may choose to do the same even if he feels that immediate tug of chemistry.

Again much depends on objectives, stage of life, skill set and experience.


What Makes a Man Attractive?

Was reading Evan Katz's blog and comments on What Makes a Man attractive, and added my own.

After reading his entry and the responses, including my own, I would love to hear directly from you - men and women.

What do you particularly find attractive?

Is it in the particulars of a person - or are there general areas that appeal regardless of the individual?

Can you identify patterns or similarities in the men you are attracted to?

If you are a man- what do YOU think the women in your life find attractive about you?

If you are a woman- what do you agree or disagree with in terms of this post?

You can respond to the statements, mostly emphasized in bold or block quoted.

My response to Evan-

Ok- agreed with Marc, and still feel that it is all unclear or way too simplistic.

Maybe the point is that a man (or woman) who confronts his/her fears, challenges, and blocks to forge ahead with a passion (and what about vision?), is more likely to succeed and gain competency, and so be attractive.

This does seem to be true. Competency and Skills often equate to power. And Power is a powerful aphrodesiac.

However I also hear the woman who found her husband, striving to learn the piano, very ’sexy’.

Maybe there is an attractive quality that comes from dedication, focus, and ability to follow through and grow, regardless of whether it leads to mastery?

Maybe if the partner is not at all interested in the particular arena of mastery of the man - there would be NO appeal.

Maybe it is the attention and care a man demonstrates in managing his business, art, or other, that appeals to a woman who might feel he could then attend to her as well?

Looking further back to this prescription for ‘attractive’:
“You have to be cocky. You have to have a sense of humor. You have to keep her off-balance by putting her down and showing her you’re in control. ”

These are also too simplistic and the last statement disturbs me.

I do not think it is necessarily true. I wonder about the value of these advisors and the interpretations of men listening.

Cocky in a way that exudes confidence - yes
Cocky in a way that is arrogant and self-centered- not to a mature woman

Humor in a way that is teasing, fun, and enlightening- yes
Humor that shows negativity and comes from a hurt place, that tends to sarcasm and may be mean and hurtful- No to a healthy listener

Off-balance in a way that she is surprised and cannot put the man in a category to shelve and forget,so she wishes to know and experience more- yes

Off-balance in a way that is so unpredictable and unaccountable, or indicates possibilities of mental illness (or results from the man being a liar-gambler-cheat)- No

Putting her down or showing you are in control- NO
I do not think putting ANYONE down is positive or really necessary to enhance one’s appeal.

To challenge someone to grow, to take charge and lead in an adventure (sexual or other) can be VERY appealing.

(and this can go both ways)

The NEED to control and demean (or put down) comes from insecurity and often a lack of SELF-CONTROL, awareness, and compassion.

This is NOT appealing to a mature woman (or man)

Curious to hear responses-

I think it is important for Evan and readers to realize that the ideas here are presented as observations, some with research to back, and some really coming out of the writer’s own preferences.

We are not all the same and these preferences vary, even for the same person, with time/age/experience. That is the beauty.


P.S. Passion is good of course.

I think most would assume that someone exuding passion in one area is capable of being passionate in others (like in bed...)

What's not to like about that?

Dating and Relationship Discussions


Many of my friends know of my interest in the subject of male/female relationships and gender differences. This comes from both my own struggles within marriage, post-divorce, as a mother of both a son and daughter, and as a woman who has been dating in mid-life. It also comes from trying to understand the confusing dynamics of my own family, as well as my friend's families, that I witnessed growing up. It even comes from observations of office gender politics.

As I work on computers and have access to the internet I have read many advice columns, research articles, and done my own investigation via internet dating services. I was a psychology major in college, have read numerous books, participated in therapy, and had many discussions with both men and women on this topic.

I am still formulating insights and finding where they resonate with others in the field (both as consultants or participants). As I test some of the 'theories' out and try some suggestions I may choose to share the thoughts and results here, in newspapers, books, and with others via their blogs.

Following this post will be others pointing to some of my comments and reflections on particular topics.

I hope to bring some of these ideas and insights to this site for further dialogue and comments.

Sidebar - so far I seem to be successfully engaging with a new potential partner and have developed deeper satisfying friendships with men. This may indicate I have learned something useful :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Are You Zippy?

In honor of John Robison's 50th birthday, the upcoming publishing of his first book and memoir Look Me in the Eye, our long term friendship, and survival of adversity (and kids) - I wrote this piece.

Are you Zippy?

photo by Ian Adams

The value of having a really good ‘Aspergian’ friend when clinically depressed

I barely could get up each day, let alone smile, for about 3 years. Needless to say these were three years of living hell. Why John remained my friend was somewhat beyond me, yet he wasn’t affected, as others were, by my lingering depression.

He was steadfast and a bit curious.

When he would call up, as he did regularly, he would ask, “Are you Zippy today?”

Mostly I’d have to honestly answer,“No.”

Yet John would ask me out to dine at a casual or fancy local restaurant, offer me an opportunity to ride in one of his favorite luxury vehicles, or take me on a river jaunt in his boat.

I was grateful for these invitations as they at least got me out and gave me a break from having to make decisions for myself, my family, or home. I could feel cared for and protected. I never felt obligated to have to be other than whom I was, or emotionally where I was. I could hope that one of these outings might suddenly shift my neuro-chemical imbalance so I could again be ‘Zippy’.

John and I first met when he offered to take my daughter Mariel to the Big E with her best friend Danielle, who was also a good friend to his son Jack. I think they were about 8 or 9. I did not know of Jack’s more descriptive nickname- ‘Cubby’ - yet he seemed like a cool young kid and the three children had fun on the roller coasters and Ferris wheels of the fair. Danielle’s dad Mike and I got to go along too, and act like big kids.

I welcomed anything that might bring joy back into my life such as wind blowing my hair along with the wild screams and laughter of kids on the coaster. It didn’t work for the longer term, but did in the immediate moment. John eagerly captured this with his camera, so at least I could have a chance to enjoy it as a memory sparked by his clear and crisp images.

John was the official photographer for the fair and able to get us in free. Free was good as I was anxious with an extraordinary fear of financial devastation. When one can hardly make it into work, or out of bed, one doesn’t feel confident of making it to retirement. I believed I would not make it to age 50, and I feared for the future of my family.

Over several days we returned to West Springfield to eat, to ride, and hear music. John arranged it so that the kids could see the featured acts, and my daughter was drawn up on stage to delight in being serenaded in the spotlight.

I found myself growing more appreciative of John. Mike had been my friend for many years, and though we shared numerous close moments with our daughters, he was not nearly so accepting, generous, nor as easy and reliable to be around.

One thing I did notice, however, was that when Mike and I attempted to be funny - to crack jokes and share ironic insights - John seemed pretty deadpan in response. For me, humor, even attempts at it, seemed essential to my survival. Though I could not smile easily, I knew I should. My intellect told me so. And I wondered why John seemed so serious. He was not, after all, depressed, and he was not at all stupid.

“What was he?”

It was not until years later that we first talked about Asperger’s. I just accepted that John was a bit odd. But compared to the multitude of uncompassionate people I met, who avoided and were mean to me in my days of desperation (the ones who were insecure, weak, careless, self-centered, liars, or afraid), John was amazing. He was perfect. A perfect friend.

I found out about John and Asperger’s after he visited me at home to tell me about the best seller “Running with Scissors”. I had heard some buzz about the book on the radio and was curious as I knew that my less than fully functional background and, of course, present, seemed to pale against the early life of the author, Augustan Burroughs.

I wanted to hear stories of anyone that managed to survive adversity. I wanted to hear that maybe I could. I wanted to see if I could ‘feel’ anything in empathy.

I listened to John, realizing he was more animated and personal than I had ever experienced him, and that increased my curiosity. When he told me Augustan was his brother I knew I had to read the book, and as soon as possible I did.

I recall my jaw dropping as I tore through the text. I had had no clue about the strange scenario that surrounded the development of my friend. The John I had known seemed relatively ‘normal’, although he was somewhat affectless.

I wondered, “Did this book truthfully describe his background and family life?”

Though John was barely mentioned, the book referred to his travels on the road in the music scene, and that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s. A light bulb went on. (Still no smiles). I could not wait to talk more with him.

Maris, my sister’s daughter, my daughter’s cousin, was originally diagnosed with Asperger’s and eventually considered a high-functioning autistic child. I had learned a bit about Asperger’s and autism from my sister, research and reading, and from my direct experience. As a former psychology major I had a framework of developmental and abnormal psychology to strengthen my understanding.

I told John about Maris, who was an extremely sensitive child since birth, and also did not ‘get’ affect. She did at times laugh, often tickled by her own weird sense of humor expressed through bizarre sequences of words, imagery, or actions. She was very musical and extremely brilliant. Anything that caught her interest she would hyper-focus on and learn all there was to know about it; clarinets, water spouts, prop planes.

I reflected that John seemed to have great expertise in many areas, an encyclopedic knowledge of cars, audio effects, pyrotechnics, and was adept at working many machines. He seemed fairly confident and competent in business. He was analytical and matter-of-fact. But John’s comfort level in personal relationships was less. He had a few strange mannerisms, difficulty focusing on people’s faces and eyes, often a monotone vocal delivery, and habitual expressions.

Yes, the profile seemed to fit.

Our friendship shifted. We began to talk of the mind, its mysteries, and Asperger’s, autism, and depression. We began to share more about our backgrounds and find ways to compare the scenes and experiences of each other’s past and present toward clarifying our own states of mind or emotions to each other.

I still called on John to help me if my basement flooded or if my lawn needed a rescue raking or mowing. He and Jack, now known as ‘Cubby’, would come over with their machines and I would offer comradeship and conversation to my officially labeled ‘Aspergian’ friend. John would listen long to my tales of depression and drugs, and later men and dating, and ask many direct and innocent questions to try to gain a clue about a world – a web of people and emotions - that mostly eluded him.

I suppose I may have entertained him.

Jack and my daughter Mariel also continued a casual friendship, especially when Cubby transferred into her school.

But the bond between John and I grew stronger as we both learned more about what made us ‘odd’, outsiders to society because our behavior did not fit the norm or the preferred. He saw me through many trials of medication that made me ill, nauseous, anxious, and even suicidal. Although he did not seem to have the capacity to really ‘feel’ what I might be experiencing, John was indeed concerned.

He’d call, “Are you zippy today…yet?”

One day I finally got a boost from some medication I was prescribed. I had been about to give up, worn down by the hit-and-miss practice of psychiatrists. They threw scripts at me, with a few warnings of side effects, and could only make tentative guesses at what was wrong based on other patients and standard case studies. They had little data about my particular body/mind make-up to guide them.

Though better than the ‘Santa Claus’ Augustan wrote about, my last doctor was as ineffective in bringing me back to normalcy as ‘Santa’ was with John’s mother. Luckily I was a bit less ‘crazy’. With a strong will and lots of research I persevered in my own healing. I was able to consider professional suggestions and had a few friends who stood by me, gave me perspective, solace, and helped me practically - especially John.

Still after a short hospital stay resulting from a suicidal state triggered by a trial of Paxil, I was at my wits end. A doctor there suggested electro-convulsive therapy- shock therapy or Effexor XR, a slow release form. The SSRIs like Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac, made me ill to the point of nausea and dehydration from vomiting. I’d get overwhelmed with anxiety, and had intense thoughts that death would be a relief, though I would not take my own.

There was no way I wished to undergo ECT and perhaps lose the little memory I seemed to retain throughout the depression. I did not want to tamper with my brain or have my body restrained, shocked, exhausted any more than it already was.

I had been looking into the possibility of a brain scan to try to get a deeper picture of the neuro-chemical workings of my mind, which was suggested by my sister in California. I was preparing to fund my own trip to a clinic near her. Armed with this knowledge, the thought (and hope) was that we could more carefully target medication and minimize the long trials and severe side effects.

But I decided to give meds one last shot. I did my research and knew Effexor also worked on norepinephrine as well as serotonin receptors.

Finally, on Effexor XR, even with an as-yet-to be-adjusted dose, I was able to once again feel……yes, ‘Zippy’.

In fact at first I was so ‘Zippy’ I could not sleep much. My mind raced with creative thoughts. Yet I was able to focus and function, once again, without feeling that an underwater monster was pulling at my feet and trying to drown me – at every moment.

John was there when I began to smile and laugh again, almost 3 years since my descent into depression. He may not have gotten the humor which provoked the smile or laugh, but he noted it and accepted me still.

As more years passed, we still went to dinner, rode in his cars (Mariel particularly liked the Mini-Cooper), and hung with Jack.

I helped him now with decisions during the building and decorating of his new Amherst home and writing drafts of his book. I answered questions he had about relating to his wife and Jack (his ‘Subjects’) and others. Now that I understood his social challenges I felt more comfortable accepting his help with any of my own issues.

We have remained friends. One day when Mari, John, and I were dining at the Amherst Brewery, one of our favorite quick hangs, he told us about his Southern heritage. During a moment of reflection over some strange recollection he burst into a broad grin and sort of a laugh.

“Woof,” he said.

John often said “Woof” when he seemed to run out of words or did not know what to say, but it was the smile and laugh that we noticed.

I realized how unique this moment was. Smiling and laughing myself, I reveled in the fact that we both could express and feel ‘Zippy’.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

My Trip to Portugal

Bom Dia,

I am finally recovering from jet lag from our return from Portugal on July 27. I know it is a long time time to take to recover, and maybe it is more that I am still lingering in the memories of one of the most amazing vacations of my life.

Carlos invited me to visit with him in his country, and though it was high season and I only had one week to spare, I jumped on the invitation ( and him ).

We left from Newark after a mad rush to see Ian and family at his opening in Chelsea. every moment was an adventure. I am working on recalling and recreating the exact itinerary.

As Carlos planned this from start to finish, I got to go along and just ENJOY! What a treat, and so special from the first day on. We briefly stopped in Lisbon to see his street of origin after driving under the amazing aqueduct, dropped off stuff in his parent's apt, and then headed up past Peniche to Baleal,a fishing village on the ocean. There were flowers waiting for me in the room in the quaint bed and breakfast he had booked with views of rocks, ocean, a Spanish style- well actually - an old Portuguese church, boats and beach.

Very romantic. We glowed probably as much as the sand, rocks, and homes in the bright coastal light of late afternoon.

From there we visited Peniche for seafood dinner and Obidos for a night of medieval festivities in a medieval walled town. Carlos had chosen my clothes to match his for this surprise trip. ( I knew nothing until we arrived). We had Ginjinha, a cherry liquor, in chocolate cups, and other treats with cappucinos for desert. Having had dinner we had to pass on the roasted grilled boar and rabbits that were prepared old style. Celtic music was played by period actors and musicians. Ghosts and ghouls jumped out to surprise us as we walked among the castle walls. We returned the next day to enjoy more streets, crafts, and colors of Obidos.

Then we headed to visit and stay with Carlos' parents in their beautiful well appointed home overlooking the ocean, in Praia Azul, closer to Lisbon. Carlos was so excited he jumped out of the car to run to the back patio and entrance to greet his folks. We had rushed to make it for 7 PM and dinner. I tried to stop him, to bring our bags and gifts in, but then followed and was immediately hugged and led by his mother, Carmina, to tour the home. From the upstairs bedroom I looked onto the street only to see Moises, Carlos' dad, gesturing and pointing. Where was the car? Carlos had forgotten to put the brake on! The standard cars had an unusual brake and not something Carlos was used to. I guess the excitement also played a part, and maybe I was a bit of a distraction....

The car had rolled into a neighbor's entrance wall and door with some damage to both the bumper and the wall. We cringed as we had not taken insurance, hoping the credit card would cover any accidents (which we hoped not to have). I was worried that this would become very costly for Carlos who was being so generous. Carlos' aunt and uncle were also over for dinner and all agreed that we should not let it interfere with what started out to be so beautiful. And so, after a shower in the beautiful tiled bathroom, we quickly put it aside over an amazing meal of grilled grouper and vegetables with special homemade deserts. We then enjoyed the sunset and a good sleep (or some sleep and lots of good). Breakfast the next day included Carlos' other aunt (both Moises' sisters) and his cousin, who had brought pastais de natas (little custard tarts)- so incredibly delicious. Here is a family portrait.

As the week unfolded we went to Tomar - another medieval town (History includes many more centuries than the four or so we focus on in the US. Here there are remnants from centuries of Moorish rule, the Jewish presence in the 1400s, the takeover by the Templars, and then the numerous Portuguese kings and Christian influences. The architecture reveals layers, Moorish, Manueline style (16th century), and including Roman influence as well.

We visited the towns and beach , Santa Rita, where Carlos spent time with his grandfather, we went to Sintra - another amazing medieval town with wonderful winding cobblestone streets and homes and with numerous palaces -both of the Moors and Medieval fantasy, quintas, and gardens.

To top that day off Carlos took me to a seaside restaurant in Azenhas, nestled in the cliffs and overlooking a wild and brilliant sea. 10 foot waves crashed against rocky cliffs. We dined with the finest smooth white wine of the Colares region perfectly accompanying our seafood and sunset. Need I say more?

Back in Lisbon on Thursday we then tried to find a tango dance in a building by the seaport. It seemed the place was closed and so we resorted to some food in a hip bar restaurant with a Brazilian waitress. The place was lively, one amongst the strip of clubs and hangs by the port. The lights of the bridges and boats (and even the Electric statue of Christ) added to the romance and picturesque evening, though we would have loved to dance too.

Finally we then headed South towards the Algarve, where the Atlantic meets the Mediteranean. We passed by typcial homes of the Alentejo region, ranches, Eucalyptus and cork, and windmills, and stopped in another fishing village for lunch with Octopus salad and steak - I think in Vila Nova De Milfontes. Then we went on past Aljezur and safari sites,to the town, Arrifana, where Carlos has land.

Coming up on on his property, Carlos mentioned that he feared the homes next door had dumped their debris on the land, and sure enough as we approached we saw tons of construction waste spread all over. There was a bulldozer and a man sleepily hanging in it. Carlos harshly approached to question him as to what he was doing on his land. The man called over a builder from the nearby apartment complex that was being put up and which would block some of the view. After some back and forth - this is my land / this is not your land - in Portuguese it became evident that indeed it was NOT Carlos' land! Laughing and relieved, we then scouted a few homes up the road and found his site. The view was unobstructed and the two lovely homes nearby were inspiring me to imagine one that could eventually be built. I fantasized that I might be one to help design and decorate it.

We then relaxed on the beautiful surfing beach below, Carlos diving like a dolphin in the waves. I too went in to be refreshed by the waters which were not quite warm, but wonderful. The views from a lookout up above the beach also were spectacular and the ecology, archeology of the area was explained.

Driving on to Lagos area, we arived at the Romantik Hotel at Porto do Mos. Ths was quite upscale with mostly Swiss German clientele and staff. Carlos, as a true native Portuguese, felt quite proud and privileged to be there and we proceeded to make oursleves at home, much more relaxed than the stiff and stuffy guests who mostly stayed by the pool and restaurant. The foliage was fantastic,as were the bathrooms, and views.

We immediately headed down to the beach to swim and spent a wonderful two days exploring the beaches, rocks,lagoons, at places like Ponte de Piedade. Lagos at night was also lively and Carlos met up with his friend doing tatoos on the cobblestone streets for tourists. He pointed us to a street with good restaurants and we again had an amazing meal- fish stew of some sort and good wine (of course).

In fact most of our meals were fabulous and it was good that we got to work them off during the day time walks, swims, and at night :).

Our final day we spent time doing video on the beach- my beach dance, and enjoying the rocks, sand, and half naked selves. Then we began traveling towards Faro, and took a ferry to the island of Armona for a lazy few hours on a soft and sandy beach with quieter and warmer waters. It would have been nice to stay a few days and just chill here in some small cozy beach cottage. Unfortunately we had to head back to Lisbon.

Finally, about to turn off the road to head north on the highway, Carlos suddenly asked if I could find his envelope with some Euros. After a few tense moments while I looked, we then panicked as Carlos realized he had left it in the safe of the hotel. Beginning to think I maybe had hooked up with a true absent minded professor, or that I was a way too distracting influence, I too had to breathe and then help think out the situation. It was yet another challenge to remain calm and caring. I had to ask Carlos to slow down as we headed back to the hotel, but we made it.

Luck was with us however and the envelope was there! We then had a drink on the veranda, taking in the view at dusk once more and laughed and laughed. Making it through the week with a few upsets and lots of humor, we were still liking and loving each other.

We made it back to Lisbon around 10:30 to quickly shower and then meet Carlos' friend to give him some computer equipment from the states (Apple). Better late than never- and set off to enjoy one more night in town. Climbing the cobblestone streets in a bohemian section, past tables of evening diners spread right across the street, turning down offers of various drugs by various ethnic visitors and residents, and past more young revelers, we made it to a restaurant to hear Fado music, at my request.

The food was not the best but the music was amazing, very soulful, with 2 male singers and one gypsy like female accompanied by acoustic string instruments, a Portuguese guitar, and even a bass. High on the green wine (verde) we shared, we then headed down the hill, past unique elevators that bring people up and down. Passing a group of men with instruments, dressed in black shirts with sashes, we asked where they were from. They said Salamanca, which is in Spain. Carlos then asked them to play for us and they did! . Serenaded with sweet sounds of these wandering minstrels, half high, and very happy, Carlos and I moved into a slow tango and close embrace. One commented- Ah tango, and then another said in Spanish that it was wonderful to celebrate such love.

Indeed it was. Straight out of a movie it all seemed. A perfectly magical way to end our trip.

And the bonus was, in the morning when we returned the car to the rental place, they missed seeing the dents which were all together hidden under the mud and bug splatter!

Blessed with this good fortune and each other we shopped a bit in the airport (with strange ceilings), boarded, and headed home exhausted after long lines passing through various levels of security and a 7 hour flight.

Home at last- and we still like each other, though I snipped at Carlos as we lost our way trying to get over the Hudson on Bear Mt Bridge (I did not want to take a ferry). Making it over, we did cool out and get to enjoy more views

Finally we landed up at Hunn's Lake to visit with Susan, Richard, and family, and avoid traveling through the thunderstorms.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Summer Storm July 2007

what a Storm!
Came home today to dismantle Ian's old shed that he put together with scrap material when he was about 8 1/2 (summer of 1994) when we built an addition on our home.

As I approached the skies were darkening and a storm seemed imminent. Bruce came over to take down a canopy we had on my deck to provide cover during Mariel's 17th birthday party. It rained then too but nothing major.

Just got the canopy wrapped up when the clouds let loose with dramatic lightening and thunder. We stood by the living room window as watched the sidways gusts of wind and rain when we heard a huge crack. I thought it was lightening that stuck in the yard, but then soon after we witnessed the Willow in Daphne's yard split apart and fall in 2 main pieces across my yard.

Photos are here.

One large limb stripped the side of the ornamental Cherry and covered my newly cleared and orderly flowerbed. The other limb with two large branches spread around the blue spruce toward the back of the yard and covered the old garden area.

We were awe-struck and stared at the destruction while hail and rain continued to pour down.

During the lull before the next line of storms passed through Bruce, I, Scott, and Daphne went out to survey the damage.

Later Bruce did finally demolish Ian's old shed and we sprayed the last remaining carpenter ants who were actively feeding their larvae (ugh) -

We never could get to clearing away some of the Willow- a big project now for Bruce.

A dramatic summer day - and it reminded me of the major rain that came in July 1994 while our roof was off and a only a tarp covered the home. That day a hole in the tarp did allow for some leaks all the way through the wood living room floor. We had to get the water out as quickly as possible so the oak floor would not warp too much.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mariel is on a Whirl

Well, just thought I'd post a bit of news about my budding young daughter:

Also check out the Amherst Bulletin

Mariel and I spent about 10 days in Canada - dancing, touring colleges, and hanging at the Montreal jazz festival.

We went to the Canada Day Lindy Exchange in Ottawa and you can see some photos here. There were 150 dancers mostly from Canada and many were friends we have grown from swing camps like Swing Out New Hampshire, Beantown and from other dance national /international dance events. We worked on our French accents and adding 'Eh' to our sentences.

Back in Montreal we stayed in my friend Susan's apartment that she bought for her daughter Ali who is going to McGill. They rent to students, but between summer subletters we were able to find some bed and couch space to crash. The location was fantastic in the McGill 'ghetto' area and near my favorite area 'The Plateau' and close to the Jazz fest. It also was close to Concordia which we checked out.

Our photos are here.

We met up with Carlos, his parents from Portugal, and his 10 year old son. We all would meet for dinner, or crepes and ice cream, some music, and entertainment at the festival, some bagels at the famous place on St. Viateur, and a visit to St. Joseph's Oratorio.

This was a highlight with an exhibit of over 200 nativity scenes, Crèches , made from materials that even ranged from dried fruit, chocolate, abalone shells, shells, various stones, wood, grass, and that encompassed many styles from numerous cultures around the world. If we could focus on creating and sharing more art (and music and dance) I think we would have peace and a richer heritage that all humans could share.

It was wonderful to play so much and take in the joy of the festival. I also got to tango at Mocha Jo's and Studio Tango in Old Montreal. We met up with my friend Phillip from Vt who is living there for the summer. It was good to dance again, including some hot salsa. Montréal est merveilleux!

I will also try to post and link to our videos soon.

The other wonderful part was enjoying a sense of being part of an extended family. Nurturing and joyful.

Now Mariel is off at a fabulous modern dance program - Summer Stages Dance - where she studied and performed last summer.

This year Mariel has a work/study scholarship and last evening I shot out to Concord to see the first performance of their summer series (and drop off misc items such as heating pads, ice packs, laundry detergent, room deoderizer, ace bandages, etc.) We both enjoyed the innovative and impressive dancing of Chris Elam and his company.

I got to hob nob with an old dance colleague Teri Weksler whom I hadn't seen in 30+ years. It was great to name drop and gossip- and feel warmer and less competitive in comparing our family experiences. There just wasn't enough time to catch up (or complain about our teens - and brag!)

Mariel will perform on Saturday July 28th as part of the young choreographers showcase.

I will be coming back from Portugal with Carlos on the 27th and will shoot out to see this of course and the final Summer Stages event.

Hope some will join us!

Love and warmth (ok- not too much) Stay cool!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Online Dating and Midlife Misc


After so many years of varied wonderful and strange experiences, and personal research on the dating scene (much of it via online sites as I work on computers daily), I have met an amazing soul that seems suitably matched.

And yes, partly we were able to make contact via an online dating site, though I had first sighted him at the gym, and we would have met via dancing and musical interests sooner or later.

I may write more about this lovely budding story, but meanwhile am enjoying it's creation.

Still I do want to say I continue to be fascinated by male/female relationships, dating challenges, and gender differences and communication, and I am working on my own story/book to build on the articles I have already published that have generated encouraging responses, such as:

Single women over 50 face challenges, Dating Boomers can be unrealistic,
and Why Women don't want 'Nice' men

(none of which are my original titles by the way...)

Meanwhile I enjoy reading other 'Expert' advice - some which may not be so expert or experienced- some very perceptive and supportive of my own ideas and insights.

You can follow Evan Katz's blog entry on the question Why Does He Put Me On His Favorites List And Never Write To Me? which include my and other readers' responses.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Son's Photo of Me in NY Gallery Show in July

My son Ian wrote
oh it appears a picture of you will be in a new york gallery, by the way!

My First Print in a Manhatten Gallery Show! July 19th

The exhibit for Image 07 will take place Thursday, July 19th 2007

from 6pm-9pm at: Gallery FCB
16 West 23rd Street, 3rd Floor New York, NY 10016

I hope you will come and say hi to me there, especially since I'll have just arrived in new york the week before.

View the winner gallery online

Let's have a long beautiful summer together, new york city!

Note: This is not my favorite photo- but the lighting and mood is interesting-

...."OK, I'm standing here- so come on Ian- take the photo already!"

Friday, May 18, 2007

More Writings

My Hunter High School reunion piece was finally printed with some typos/edit issues -see page 11 of the PDF.

Also - I started an intro for one possible book on 'mating' in middle age- May post more soon with survey questions for my 'research' and to check out my assumptions and presumptions.

How well can we (men and women) match- is it different in middle-age? (This is not a history project- not a focus on the Middle Ages)

Anyway got the bulk of my web site up for an Educational Web development class. I will propose a Dance Hub for real to the schools, or town - or just host it myself-

My UMASS personal web site.

Enjoy- Spring is here

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I Was A Little Chicken


Mother’s Day has come and gone- and spring certainly seems like it has established a steady stance. Looking towards Father’s Day…
This weekend I received this announcement:

My contribution of a ‘letter’ to my own father - a birth reflection- will appear in a book to be released in June:

Letters to Fathers from Daughters (Paperback)by Sharon Alworth (Author), Bonnie Birnam (Author) - You can order it via Amazon:

Book Description: A touching, inspiring, and ultimately healing book of writings from real people. Composed of letters and poems that depict brief snapshots of women’s relationships with their fathers with an overall tone of gratitude, or of valuable lessons learned, often despite difficult circumstances.

I am excited- and pleased-

My Piece, “I Was a Little Chicken”, is a reflection and reworking of a birth memory. Still emerging as a person, creator, and writer - I welcome this opportunity to share myself and thoughts with a larger world.

I always found it fascinating that my last name is Ozer. It can mean ‘healer/helper’ in Hebrew. Ozersky is ‘of the lake’ in Russian.

I do hope my work/contributions in the world will have some depth and facilitate healing and growth.