A New Chapter!

In my memoir, I’ve saId “Never say Never” and now I’ve done it again. In my last chapter I remarked how I hoped this would be the last place I’ve lived in, as I finally felt “home.” And, my husband and I love our home very much.
However, our thinking has changed since I penned those words. And now, unbelievably, I am anticipating – even looking forward to – MOVING AGAIN. Here’s why.
First, Charles has been saying for a couple of years now that we should leave Connecticut for fiscal reasons. It’s one of the highest taxed states in the country, and its estate taxes are burdensome too. He shudders at the thought of sharing his estate with the state taxman at the expense of his heirs.
Second, our children are grown and live far away. They very rarely come to visit us in Madison. They claim it’s easier for us to visit them where they are. And so, our house has grown too big for us and we want to downsize.
Third, we both hit 70 this year and even though we are thankfully in good health now, the maintenance of our grounds becomes more problematic. Of course, we could hire others to maintain our property, and little by little we have farmed out bigger chores to landscape crews. But, the future is clear: sooner, rather than later, we won’t be able to do most of it ourselves.
Fourth, I mind the winters more and more. This past winter, we spent the month of January in Naples, FL. We had such a good time, we started to ask ourselves: why don’t we move there permanently – for a number of reasons? It took us less than a month to decide to proceed. No one has been more shocked at this change of heart than me. But, since my mind has been made up, I’m anxious to begin this new journey.
We haven’t found a condo in Naples yet, but we do hope to be ensconced there by next winter, either in a condo we purchase or a rental waiting for a condo that we love and meets our needs to come on the market. Stay tuned!
We decided against becoming “snow birds” as we don’t want to own more than one home.

Stardust Can be Sprinkled on Anyone

I have always been a little bit star-struck, and have in fact, inadvertently, bumped into quite a few of them in my life. John Travolta at the Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel in the ’80’s; Robert Redford at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the ’90’s, Tom Cruise and Glenn Close in the late ’80’s in Bedford,NY, where I lived at the time, and quite a few others. Each time, I felt a little twinge of excitement. I am a movie buff; nothing more.

When we told our friends about our trip to Lake Como this past September, the first thing almost everyone said, jokingly, was “Oh, you’re going to The Wedding?” Meaning, of course, George Clooney’s. We laughed and said, of course! We could only wish. We knew he had a place on Lake Como, but that was about it.

Well, we arrived at our hotel on Lake Como, the Villa Flori, as planned. It’s just up the road from the City of Como, on the way to Cernobbia, a small village, best known for the Villa D’Este. Typically, after our overnight flight from New York, we arrive tired and just want to crash for a nap. Then, we have a light supper, go to bed, and get up the next morning, refreshed and ready to go. No jet lag. Such was the case this time.

We asked the concierge at our hotel where we could go for a light supper, not too far away. She suggested a little place in Cernobbia. She said it was closer than driving into Como itself. She gave us directions and we were off. We couldn’t find the place she suggested, but after we had parked the car, we noticed another place that was teeming with people and looked festive. We walked in and got a table immediately. The place was called Harry’s Bar. We had a wonderful meal there and so our introduction to Lake Como was set.

The next night, we found the place that we had missed the night before. It was just a few steps away from Harry’s Bar. We ate there, but agreed, Harry’s Bar was much better. And so, after that meal, we walked over to Harry’s Bar and told the maitre d’hi we’d like to come back the next night around 8:00pm – but we wanted to eat inside, as I’m always cold.

We arrived at Harry’s Bar on September 5 at 8 as planned. The outside terrace was filled with people, as there was an international economic conference at the Villa D’Este right up the road, and apparently many of the attendees were dining at Harry’s Bar. We were graciously ushered inside to a small room, where we were the only guests. The room had only 4 tables, as well as the bar. The tables were 2 banquettes along the outside wall, separated by a hallway leading to the restrooms. We were seated on the left side of the room. The other side had a wall divider blocking the other banquette.

As we were the only people in the room besides the bartender and other staff members, we got excellent service and were bantering with the maitre d’hi occasionally. As we were nearing the end of our meal, the maitre d’hi came over to us and winked, “Good choice, eating inside tonite!” With that, immediately behind him, in walked none other than… GEORGE and AMAL!!!! I was so excited and nonplussed I could hardly finish my dessert!

They were immediately whisked to the other banquette behind the wall divider, so I’m sure they didn’t see us, and we didn’t see them except for that one brief moment as they quietly were ushered to their table. But suddenly, the music over the sound system got louder and more romantic. And just as suddenly, first one woman, and then another, and then another had to use the restrooms. I wonder why! They stopped and got glimpses of the beautiful couple, but I didn’t have the heart to gawk.

The maitre d’hi told us the famous couple came there often, and he even told us when they were getting married in Venice, even though he got the date wrong. But you could tell, the staff treated the couple with tact and discretion. I wanted to send George and Amal a glass of champagne in honor of their upcoming wedding, but Charles discouraged me. Nevertheless, as we were leaving, I asked the maitre d’hi to wish the couple well for us, and he said he would.

What are the odds of seeing George Clooney and his fiancee up close and personal right before their highly anticipated and impossibly glamorous wedding? It was so serendipitous, and it set the tone for the rest of our trip. Which, by the way, was fantastic. But never more so, than seeing George Clooney and Amal at Lake Como before their wedding.

The Joys of Gardening

Of all the places I’ve lived, and the homes I’ve inhabited, this one, in Madison, CT, is the first one where I have actually established and worked the gardens. In my previous homes, I would have been considered a “checkbook gardener.” I hired others to do the work. We didn’t even own a lawn mower until now.
As a child, my father occasionally gave me the chore of weeding a flower bed. I hated it. Once, as I was weeding, I had the pleasure of receiving bird droppings on my back. That was the end of my gardening chores. Until recently.
With this house in Madison, we had the good fortune to be given a tabula rasa, so to speak, as there was no landscaping at all when we moved in.
After establishing a lawn, we had to tackle the broader picture. We knew when we were purchasing the house, that we would need to build a stone wall at the edge of one of our terraced levels. Otherwise, the land dropped off precariously. We lived in the house a year before we had the stonework done. The next area to design was the foundation plantings. I use the term “design” loosely.
I did lots of reading and research about plants and plantings, but partly due to my lack of experience, coupled with my determination to have everything done immediately, I made the all-too common mistake of just going to a nursery and purchasing whatever caught my fancy at the time. I gave little thought to planning, placement, and predators. Those three “p’s” were costly errors. But, that’s part of the joy of gardening. Learning by trial and error. Another is the joy of serendipity. By that I mean, that with all the planning one may do, to see what Mother Nature has in store is to experience the miracles of nature. Here a “volunteer,” there a plant creeping out of an unusual place.
The last joy I will describe here is the joy of watching the garden grow. Just like watching our children, we observe every day the plants growing, changing, and adding to the enhancement of our living space. I can now honestly say I love gardening and reaping what I have sown.

Home for the Holidays

It’s holiday time again. Thanksgiving will soon be upon us, with Christmas in another month. Traditionally, or, perhaps I should say, in the past, these two holidays were spent with our immediate families.
But times have changed. Families lose some members and add new ones. They move away from the family home. And those two dynamics make it harder and more complicated to spend these holidays with our families.
In my own family, both of my daughters live far away: one in Chicago, the other in Miami Beach. “Over the hill and to the woods…” they do not come to Grandma’s house. And so, Grandma goes to one of them. And Grandma’s husband remains at home with his family.
At Christmas, one daughter and her family will join her husband’s family for a skiing vacation. The other will remain at her home, again, near her husband’s family. Grandma will spend Christmas with her husband and his family. This is beginning to sound like a puzzle or a riddle.
How do you cope with family holidays? Do you spend them at the family homestead? Do you even have a family homestead? One of our couple friends, who have lived in this vicinity all their lives (over 70 years!) just took the plunge and moved out west to be with one of their sons and his growing family. My hat is off to them, and others, who adapt to the new realities of family life and holidays. I’m working on it myself.

Ordinary and Interesting

When thinking about writing a memoir, I feel very strongly that every life is interesting and worth recording, as you can see from my blog below.
What I’ve been encountering in the media – in so many books, magazines, and the social media of FaceBook, Twitter, and the like – is an emphasis or even a predilection towards the outrageous, the outlandish, and the bizarre. It’s as though people have to appear to be flamboyant to feel validated or interesting.
I think that’s hogwash! While most of us think of ourselves as individuals and unique, do we really have to do something or act outrageous to be worthy of attention or respect? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s the individuals who do not call attention to themselves, but merely live their lives in accordance to their own personal beliefs, that merit respect, attention, and interest. And it is those lives which can actually be more interesting than, say a Snooki or some other media attention-grabber.
How one handles one’s life – whatever the circumstances – can be informative and even inspiring. Few of us have been dealt a totally winning hand in the game of life. It’s how we play the cards we’re dealt that makes the difference in the game.
In so many cases, it’s the people who are the quiet, unassuming ones, who have some very interesting, if unheralded, lives. And we all can learn a lot from many of them.

5 Reasons Why You Should Write a Memoir

5 Reasons Why You Should Write a Memoir

Before I give you my 5 reasons why you should write a memoir( and why I wrote one), I’d like to explore briefly just what a memoir is and why it’s become one of the most popular reading genres of our time.
What is a memoir? First off, it’s a story. It’s a story about a life, usually written by the writer about her life. But, it could be written about someone close to you, a family member or friend. It’s not a biography or autobiography, which is more or less a comprehensive history of a person’s life, starting with birth or childhood and ending with – who knows?
No, a memoir is a story about a life, but framed within a particular viewpoint or perspective. It’s not the whole story. It’s the story of a life that shines a light or perhaps exposes a particular aspect or a common thread throughout a person’s life.
In my case, I chose to tell the story of my life through the homes I’ve lived in. You might choose another perspective with which to weave your life: your partners, your illnesses, your travels, your work.

Why are memoirs so popular, especially now? Well, for one thing, we’re all curious. I’d venture to say many of us are voyeurs at heart. I know I am. I’ve always loved reading about other people, starting with, when I was a child, famous people, like presidents or kings and queens. Those were mostly biographies. But then I discovered reading books written by people about their own lives. It’s often fun or illuminating to read about the rich and the famous, or the desperate and the depraved. But even if a story is about someone you might never have heard of, if it’s well-written, it can be fascinating, but at the very least, it will be interesting.
And that’s my main point – for reading and then writing a memoir. I believe every life is interesting. And I believe there is great value in not only reading memoirs, but writing your own.
Here are my 5 reasons for writing a memoir.
Number One: It causes you to record certain events or dramas in your life that can be of value to others.

Maybe you actually walked under a ladder when you were a child and a bucket of paint fell on you and scarred you for life. That could explain your anxiety and superstitions to your children, whenever they went out to play, that you were always warning them to “be careful” instead of saying, “have a good time!”
You are a witness to history. You can tell your children or grandchildren what it was like when Hurricane Sandy flooded your basement.
I wrote, ever so briefly, about the Great Black-Out of 1965 and how I experienced it.
Number Two: it causes you to pause and reflect on your own life, or that of the person you’re writing about. In doing so, you become aware of new things or ideas – of cause and effect, of new relationships.
In my own case, I became aware of patterns in my life – of certain values I had. I had always lived in traditionally-styled homes. One time, I lived in a non-traditional styled house, an A-frame. I kept trying to change it into something I was more comfortable with, but I never was able to. I was very unhappy in that place.
Number Three: You are providing evidence of aspects of your life that individually will be useful and interesting to your readers, but collectively, will be useful to history.
Architects take note: even having separate bedrooms or bathrooms cannot always save a troubled marriage.
Number Four: You are leaving a legacy for your heirs and colleagues.
More and more, we want to know about our ancestors’ personal lives, especially their medical histories.
I want my children and grandchildren to know what it was like when I was their age and how I lived my life.
Number Five: You are describing – or perhaps explaining – things the way you want them to be recorded. You may or may not be giving the whole truth, the only truth, so help you God, but it’s your truth and your take on what you’ve chosen to write about.

Fading Memory

Conducting workshops to help people write the story of their lives through the places they’ve lived is fascinating. Helping people place their homes in chronological order is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle.
But, I’m learning in the process that the fading of memory is a devastating and frustrating issue. Many of the people I have worked with are 85 years of age or older. And their memories are very fuzzy. It’s heart-breaking to watch a person struggle to remember the places they’ve lived over their lifetimes. I must add, that one person I’m working with is 96 and her memory is still
very sharp. But that is the exception, rather than the rule.
And so, I admonish people to write down names, places, dates, and addresses while they still can remember them.
An ideal age group to participate in these workshops would be recently retired boomers, or even younger adults. At this point, one can remember, or even contact family members or colleagues to help refresh memories. By the time one reaches one’s 80’s and beyond, many of those resources no longer exist. And those struggling to remember feel so alone.
And so, I urge you to jot down for posterity simple facts like dates of birth, graduations, marriages, deaths and addresses – for yourself and for your loved ones who will come after you. Do it now, while you can still remember and while you can search through family, friends and media.
Your heirs, not to mention yourself, will be so glad you did.

Memoirs are a Window

Recently, a man who had read my book, My Address Book: A Way of Remembering, said to me,
“When I was reading your book, I felt as though I were a Peeping Tom!”
I smiled at him and said not to worry. Inwardly, I was pleased that he expressed that viewpoint because that kind of intimacy between author and reader is exactly what most authors hope for.
We want to draw you in to our inner thoughts, and who doesn’t – secretly, if not overtly – love to peer into others’ lives? That’s the whole point of memoir-writing, isn’t it?
Memoirs are different from autobiographies or biographies. They are a particular prism on an aspect of a person’s life, rather than a merely factual recounting of that life.
The man confirmed that he was drawn in to the narrative because he could relate to some of the events and episodes he found in the book. And, he was intrigued by the houses I described, and he revealed that he himself remembered some of the wallpapers I described in some of those houses I had lived in.
We started a nostalgic conversation and laughed and reminisced. This outcome was exactly what I had been hoping would happen. Two people, a writer and a reader, brought together by some common experiences in a book.

The House You Grew Up In

Did you grow up in one house or several? Moving for a child can have profound consequences.
I grew up in two houses that I can remember. (I was born in a third, but moved when I was three, so have very vague recollections of it.)
The first house I remember was an English Tudor-styled house. It was old but elegant. But, it was in a city that was mostly working-class, and the school system was mediocre.
We moved into a brand-new house when I was 10. It was much smaller than the Tudor, but it was in a more affluent community and I noticed the difference immediately in where I went to school, as well as the neighborhood. I was quite pleased to make this move, even though I had to make new friends in a new community. That didn’t bother me at all.
Some children have to move frequently because of their parents’ jobs. That could be more emotionally challenging than what I experienced.
Do you remember your childhood home with fondness? Have you had the urge to revisit it as an adult? If you did, did it surprise you or take you back in time? I would answer yes to all of those questions.


I’ve always considered moving to be one of life’s most unpleasant tasks. Even when the move is “a move up.” By that I mean, moving for positive reasons, including a beneficial change in one’s life, personal or professional, or financial.
I’ve had professional movers who’ve done everything from packing to unpacking, and that was the worst experience of all. I felt a total loss of control.
But, doing all the physical work myself wasn’t exactly a picnic either. I’m thinking chipped nails, paper cuts, sore shoulders and more. But at least, in doing all my own packing, I labelled cartons and knew what was in them and where they would go in the new place. I had control.
If I detest moving so much, you might ask, how come I’ve moved 17 times in my life? Ah ha! Sometimes we have to move due to the changing circumstances in our lives.
I envy those people who have been able to live in one place, one dwelling, for all or most of their lives. That implies a stability and a sense of satisfaction that is, in my mind, admirable.
Of the 17 places I’ve lived in, four of them started out being my “forever” homes. One, my all-time favorite, no longer exists. Such are the vagaries of life.