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POST 41 The Past Is Gone But Something Might Be Found….

gin blossoms… to take its place.

Gin Blossoms, 1989

We started writing this blog about three months ago. The decision to build a new home, to almost downsize, was fresh in our minds and we were looking forward to the building process. Here we are forty posts, almost 3,500 page views, countless song and other pop cultural references later–but still no hole in the ground! We are getting closer (we hope), still enjoying the process (we think), and I am still enjoying writing (I know.) So with this entry I want to let you know that the blog will also be moving. This will be my last post at this site. Beginning with my next full post I will be joining the blogging crew at ChicagoNow.

ChicagoNow is managed by Tribune Media Group and is populated by writers with a wide variety of interests, but mostly with a Chicagoland point of view. The site will be a little more splashy, and a little better publicized than the current site, but I don’t anticipate too much change to the blog contents. Still a mix of construction news, family life in the suburbs, and anything else that interests me, and hopefully you.

Why did I decide to make the change? A few reasons. First, with the exception of Emily Dickinson, any one who writes hopes to be read. If I do my part well, I think ChicagoNow will help to increase readership.

Second, anyone who writes hopes to write better. I have read a book or two on writing, but I can use additional resources. ChicagoNow has a community of bloggers, as well as a “community manager” who are there to give advice and help as needed. I hope to benefit from these assets.

Third, anyone who writes hopes to make some money from it, and since a few of the ChicagoNow bloggers actually make a buck or two from Tribune Media,  that may exist for me down the road. But as Barb has warned me, we are building a house and I better not forget that I have a day job!

What is the address for the new site? The URL for the main page is:

I expect that each new post will have a unique address. It will be at least a day or two before anything appears there, and when it does I will be sure to get word out to all my Facebook, LinkedIn and email followers. If you are a subscriber  to the current site, check the above link in a few days and subscribe there.

Thanks for following us thus far, and hope to see you all at ChicagoNow.

POST 40 Here We Are Now,,,,,,

nirvana…entertain us.


Did you read the scientific report, based on analytical data, that named Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as the most iconic song of all time?  Now I have nothing against the song. In fact, it is the ringtone for our son Michael on my cellphone, even though he hasn’t been a teenager for a dozen years. But I looked up the definition of an icon, and church images not withstanding, it means “a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something.” So this is the most representative symbol of music ever? Because of “analytical data”? As any SABREmatrician loving baseball fan will tell you, sometimes you just have to watch the game.

In the arts, agreeing on an icon of just about anything is a near impossible task. While it may be achievable for some one hit wonder novelty band (for example, the “Archies” will always be known for “Sugar, Sugar”)  I would think that the more successful a a particular artist is, the harder it would be to pick out the one piece that defines them. Take Frank Sinatra or the Beatles, Meryl Streep or Picasso. There is no way to agree on a single work that these artists will be eternally remembered for. Each evolved in their calling, tried on different shoes, never allowing one pair to get too comfortable. I thought  Bob Dylan might be an exception, that despite his lengthy career and varying styles, everyone would agree that “Like a Rolling Stone” was his masterpiece. But a quick Internet search turned up 10 “Best of Dylan” lists, with 10 different songs at number one.  And no mathematical formula to tell us which list is best!

So what does any of this have to do with building our house? Well, we drove through the sub-division last night, and discovered that Thorngate does have an icon. And it is…..the muntin. I can already hear some of you asking “What is a muntin?” Muntins, for the architecturally naive among you*, are the wood strips that separate the glass in a window into several smaller panes. They have been around since the 16th century, and if you live in Thorngate, you gotta have ’em on your windows. They are, and there is no other way to say it, iconic! So with the concordance of the holy trinity (Barb, our architect, and the Homeowners Review Committee), have ’em we will!

So a year from now, when I look out at a gray and rainy day like today, I will be looking past our muntins. And probably humming “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Have a good weekend, all.

*don’t worry, before we started this project that included me.

POST 39 IF Barb were to Write a Blog Post….

barb….it might go like this.

(Note–Barb did NOT write this!)

Hi. Les has asked me a few times if I wanted to write a post, and even did a reader survey about it a few weeks ago. But I have been comfortable letting Les do the blogging while I keeps my tasks in the background. And by the way, that “interview” of me way back when was totally a fabrication of my dear husband’s mind.

Most people assume that the decision to build the new house is mine, but actually Les has been more of the driving force. I love our home, especially the kitchen we updated last year. I treasure the marble counter top on the island, even if my heart skips a beat every time something spills on it. Instead of being able to show it off when we entertain, I keep it covered with a double layer of table cloths. But nothing has the wonderful feel of marble, and Les admits it makes the perfect surface for folding laundry. It will be hard to give up, but even if we duplicate the kitchen in the new house, I have pledged that we will be marble free.

Besides the house, I love the land we are on. I have cultivated the landscaping through the years to get it just right, and every spring I welcome the challenge of picking the colors for the annual beds and flower pots. And with the last few years as a member of the sub-division’s Board and Landscaping Committee I have been able to work on some lovely enhancements for the neighborhood.

So no, it has not been me pushing for a change. But looking to the future, a first floor master bedroom makes sense for us and for Max (my biggest and best), even if the kitten (who is just so cute) seems fine scurrying up and down the stairs at the speed of sound. And I understand Les’s interest in shortening his commute. If he is going to work another ten years or so, he should make the travel as comfortable as he can.

So we have had our tasks cut out for us for the past few months making sure the old house shines, setting up the financing, planning and negotiating. And now we move ahead to the future. The new house, being a modified ranch, will be a unique design for the neighborhood, but I won’t let it look shabby or as if it doesn’t belong. That is why the exterior is so important. The right roof, the right stone and the right windows will go a long way.

I am hard at work on the interior too. Les had his desires and opinions on the layout, but he trusts me with the furnishing and decorating. I am being prudent, and we will be repurposing quite a bit of our current furniture. A little fabric makeover can go a long way! So between the new house, working at two different clinics, baby sitting, tennis and mahjong, you can see why blogging has not been at the top of my list! This will be the last you hear from me for a while. But I am sure Les will keep you filled in. And if you ask,  he may even let the cat and dog scribble here now and then 🙂



POST 38 Old Friends….

s and g…sat on their park bench like bookends.

Simon and Garfunkel–1968

Two old friends stepped into my life recently. First, someone I had not seen since I changed schools after third grade stopped by my office. At first, and second, glance I had no idea who he was, though as I have said, I have a hard time recognizing faces that I have seen twenty minutes ago, much less 50 years ago. When he gave me his name though, I immediately recognized it.  There were memories of playing in his living room while his mother listened to “Sunrise, Sunset” in the kitchen. But the re-connection with him was odd, and as I later told Barb, slightly unsettling. It was hard to tell why he had really stopped by. In the end I realized he was just peddling nutritional supplements. A fiddler on the roof.

My other old friend did not need to introduce himself, though he may turn out to be unsettling too. For the first time in years I am wrapped up in a novel by Stephen King. I still list The Stand and The Shining among my all-time faves, but somewhere around the time of Misery and Gerald’s Game my interest in King’s stories disappeared. Yet hunting for an audio book at the library last week I picked up a relatively new King novel, Finders Keepers. So far no shivers down my spine, and no elements of horror or the supernatural. I hope at least a few tingles lay  ahead.

King is one of many authors that I used to enjoy but I have since “let go.” James Patterson, Stuart Woods, Nelson DeMille —  I used to eagerly await their new works, now my eyes pass over them on the library shelves without stopping. It becomes a constant challenge to find new authors to listen to during my long (but soon to be shortened!) commute and to read before I drift off to sleep. I have discovered a new friend or two,  but there is always room for more.

Speaking of friends, just read a blog entry from my friend and mentor who is standing up to cancer. His amazing outlook and perspective always inspire me.

Nothing new on the home building front. Plumbing and electrical drawings in progress. Not sure how much later in the year we will be able to pour concrete, so we need things to get moving.

Two questions before I sign off. Who inspires you? And who should I be reading? All answers appreciated.

POST 37 Hey, Hey, Mama….

max…said the way you move.

Black Dog

Led Zeppelin – 1971

Sunday brought a quick visit from our builder, an alternative to watching the end of the Bears game. Stone, roof and windows are still the topic of debate, or at least the subject of conversation. Since the new house is a modified ranch we will have a very large, highly visible, roof. The Homeowners Association Architectural Review Committee is suggesting an upgraded roofing material. We may go down that road, though it will put a dent in the “discretionary” costs fund. The builder just keeps on telling Barb, “Anything you pick out will look great.” (Of course, he is right!)

Didn’t we have lovely weather this weekend! While the Cubs wore their balaclavas in New York City, we were basking under sunny blue skies and moderate temperatures. Saturday was a perfect afternoon to take Max for a walk. Max seemed to think so too, running to the back door when I suggested the mile and a quarter turn around the Heron’s Landing loop, and sitting patiently while I put on his collar and leash.

Max was never a runner, but he used to be a decent walker. Four or five mile walks with a water stop at Dominick’s were part of his regular routine. But that was a few years ago. Now the Dominick’s is a Mariano’s and spry young Max is  eleven, and as we all know, that is 77 in dog years. Much of his black coat has turned grey and he is sleeping more and more. He is getting a little more cranky, and a lot more jealous of the kitten. But he was freshly groomed last week, looked like a cool young dude, and had a bit of bounce in his step.

So we set out on our walk, me listening to my tunes on Pandora, Max leaving his  liquid greeting card at almost every house to let the ladies know he had stopped by.  About two-thirds of the way around the loop we came to our fork in the road. At that point there is an offshoot that leads to the front entrance of the subdivision. I had a little blue bag I needed to drop off in the garbage can by the mail boxes there, so I gave Max’s collar a little tug to let him know that I needed us to take the little side trip.

Max didn’t exactly crumple, but it soon became clear  the loyal old trail horse was barely up to walking the extra quarter of a mile. Eleven years of climbing the stairs has taken its toll. Every joint must be aching. I can see his eyes telling us “No more stairs. Build the damn ranch already!” You got it boy! Just be sure you hang around to enjoy it.

Have a great day, and give your dog a hug.

POST 36 Sir or Madam….

beatles…..will you read my book.

Paperback Writer

The Beatles — 1966

If you are a young boy growing up in the 60’s in Chicago and you want to be a hockey player you idolize Hull and Mikita. If you dream of becoming a baseball All Star you either go to Wrigley to watch Ernie slug,  or you go to Comiskey to watch Little Luis field. Want to be in the movies?  You imitate cool Paul Newman or deadly Sean Connery. See a future as a newspaper columnist? You religiously read Holtzman and Bombeck. Wait, did he just say “Bombeck? Erma Bombeck??”

Anyone remember Erma? If you do, it is probably as a contributor to Good Morning America palling around with Joan Lunden and David Hartman. I never caught the show, being a loyal Today Show viewer, but Erma and I go way, way, back. In the 60’s Erma was a syndicated columnist whose “At Wit’s End” column appeared 3 or 4 times a week in the Chicago Sun-Times.  She was documenting the life of a suburban mom, a “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,”  but with a little more bite. And this is what a city kid from Rogers Park wanted to read about? I must have been having visions of what my life would eventually become. Well not a suburban MOM exactly, but you know what I mean.

Certainly there were other columnists I could choose from. Jerome Holtzman was a sports writing legend. Art Buchwald pointed his finger at the odd doings in pre-Watergate Washington, D.C.  Mike Royko did the same for Chicago and the first Mayor Daley. And in contrast to Erma, Royko was always so ^&#$%^ angry. So I settled in with Mrs. Bombeck and learned about suburbia.

Instant karma’s going to get you. Barb and I, suburban parents and grandparents,  building our third home and hoping to keep a sense of humor about it. This week we are dealing with windows; picture windows are nice, but we want real windows that we can open to let a spring breeze in. We are hunting for  an exterior stone that won’t break the budget, either ours or the U.S. Treasury’s. The architect has sent a drawing entitled “Down spout other info.” If I post it here, maybe someone can tell me what all the “other info” is.

Sometimes it seems painful, but the house will get built. In the meantime, I will just keep posting to ease the pain. And wonder what Erma would have had to say about all this.

Have a great weekend.

POST 35 Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes….

bowie1…turn and face the strange.

David Bowie  — 1971

We all have to change, whether we want to or not. Tomorrow won’t be the same as yesterday. So right now, before I lose my courage, I will admit to the world, I have changed. I have become (at least a little bit) a fan of the Chicago National League Baseball Club, also know as “The Chicago Cubs.” Now I know, some of you will hate me for this, call me names, a traitor, a bandwagon jumper. But it really  has been fun, watching these guys play the last few days.  I have struggled so much with this spiritual transformation that I  watched Monday’s Game 3 wearing a White Sox Tee shirt, and Tuesday’s clincher wearing a Blackhawks one. So far I don’t own any Cubs paraphernalia but by World Series time I may feel the urge to go and buy a Kris Bryant bobble head doll.

Of course this is not the only time I have changed my mind. I don’t like to think of myself as a flip-flopper, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” (For those of you keeping score, this is my first and probably last RWE quotation.) Other times I have done a full 180, remote or recent, include:

  • “I love living in the city.” I love my wife, suburbs here we come.
  • “I will never have a dog.” First 12 years of Murphy, now about the same with Max.  At least we still have cat #5, even if I can’t remember her name.
  • “WDRV is the best radio station around.” I was a big fan of this classic rocker until the “AC/DC,Van Halen, Aerosmith” sound took over the playlist. Too much macho. Now I settle in with ‘XRT.  They even play some new music!
  • “Golf is a great way to spend a summer day.” The worst day of my golf career? The day the heads snapped off of two of my clubs on the driving range. The best day of my golf career? The day after I broke those clubs and gave up the game forever. One day later my passion for tennis was born. Not even a broken racket has stopped that one… yet.
  • Game of Thrones? I don’t like fantasy shows.” Can’t wait for next season to begin.
  • Walking Dead? I don’t like zombie shows.” OK, I was wrong about this one too. Same for Breaking Bad.
  • “Woody Allen makes great movies.” Irrational Man. End of subject.
  • And finally,  “Moving now and building a new house is the most insane thing we could possibly do.”  Oops.

May all your changes be for the best.

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POST 34 and Rhythm and Rhyme and Harmony…..

dobie…you’ve helped me along, makin’ me strong.

“Drift Away”, Dobie Gray, 1973

If you ask me, it is all about the rhythm. That doesn’t mean that I have a lot of it or that it comes naturally. A few years ago Barb and I took months of dance lessons from a very good dance instructor. I learned the mechanics well enough, right foot here, left foot there, give a little twirl. But when it came to Barb and I dancing the night away at Mike and Becca’s wedding, it took a drink or two before I felt the rhythm, making those steps feel natural.

Got to get the rhythm in sports too. I watched a few football games this weekend. Northwestern, trounced by Michigan, never had any rhythm at all. Every player seemed a step slow. In contrast,  the Bears played in sync on Sunday, even when trailing. They made some mistakes and had to fight hard to win the game, but they had a rhythmic flow about them, and even commented about it in post-game interviews.

In tennis, got to get that beat going. When I don’t have it, I  miss shot after shot, I am in the wrong place every time, I watch every  ground stroke whiz past me. But then, if it is one of the good days, the rhythm starts to flow. It starts with a song bouncing around in my head.  It might be a new song that I have just heard on the radio. Or maybe it is an old favorite from Bruce, or from Bono and the boys.  I start to hum along, and my game starts humming too. The play slows down for me. I feel like every incoming shot is guided to my racket, every lob I hit just kisses the edge of the base line. I gain  confidence at the net. My partner and I sync up, just like Torvill & Dean winning the gold. The feeling doesn’t last for long, and it doesn’t make up for my lack of skill, but it does remind me why I keep playing tennis.

Surprisingly, rhythm is part of writing too. Barb says she always recognizes anything that I have written, and I think that is because everyone writes with a rhythm as individual as a fingerprint.  It’s more than the word choices or the subject matter.  It’s the way the puzzle pieces fit together, different from how anyone else would have placed them. It is why a dialogue written by Aaron Sorkin or a song by Neil Diamond is so recognizable. When I write, I always try to be true to that rhythm in my head. Just as in tennis or dancing,  I don’t always hear or feel it easily. I have learned that it can take a lot of rewrites to say what I want to say in the way that I want to say it. Back in the pre-computer age when I was typing term papers on my manual typewriter, I would really grumble about those rewrites. Good thing I wasn’t trying to write blogs then too!

On the house front (didn’t think I would get to that, did you) we have gotten the go ahead from the Homeowners Association! A few changes required, some costly, some not, but nothing that will slow us down. Now it is the hands of the Village to get us permits before the first frost hits. Pick up the rhythm; pick up the pace.

A good week to all of you.

Oh give me the beat boy and free my soul..gotta get lost in your rock’n’roll

And drift away

POST 33 You Must Remember This….

bogie…A Kiss is Still a Kiss

As Time Goes By — Herman Hupfeld, 1931

Immortalized by Dooley Wilson, Casablanca, 1942

Barb and I love going to the movies, and “Still Alice” is the best one we have seen this year. Julianne Moore’s portrayal of a university professor suffering as her memory fades away, a consequence of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, is haunting. A terrific award winning performance.

Memory is such a tricky thing. Who understands what we remember and what we forget. Barb and I are constantly saying to each other “Don’t forget to remind me to buy toilet paper next time we are at shopping.” And sure enough, there we are wondering down the supermarket aisle, and both of us will totally forget about buying the toilet paper, or peanut butter,  or walnuts, or seltzer water. It is amazing how much money we can spend at the grocery store considering we can barely remember why we went there in the first place. And then there was the time we couldn’t remember how to get out of a Walmart; we just couldn’t find the door! I still have nightmares about that one. Barb also tells me we had a knock down drag out fight with the builder of our current house 25 years ago. I have conveniently blocked that memory out for good, or I don’t know if I would be so eager to be building now.

On the plus side, my ability to remember music is pretty uncanny. I can name that tune in one note, and I don’t need any clues. A wailing sax note  (Baker Street, Gerry Rafferty) or a suspended in the ether guitar chord (A Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles) is enough to set all my synapses flickering and before you even know there is a song on the radio my brain can dump out a Wikipedia’s worth of information.

Remembering names and faces, now that is my real downfall. Vendors pass through my office almost daily . I have pleasant conversations, learn something new, and send them on their way. I could meet the same rep on the street the next day and not know who they are. Sadly, the same is true for people I meet at parties, weddings, funerals and bat-mitzvahs. So no, I am not being rude, stuck up or intentionally ignoring you, I just can’t place the face. Want me to remember you? Sing me a song, Mr. Piano Man!

I know there are all sorts of memory tips out there. Say the name of a person when you meet them and again at the end of the conversation. Associate the name with an obvious physical trait. Maybe that works for some of you, it doesn’t work for me. But here is my list of things that do help me remember.

  1. Write myself a note. Useful if I can find paper and a pen with ink or a sharpened pencil before I forget what I wanted to write down. The usefulness is also inversely proportional to how tiny my handwriting is on any given day.
  2. Write myself a note on my hand. I don’t actually do this, but someone in my lab does. I just can’t remember who it is.
  3. Stick a Post-It Note on my computer. Helpful, but I wind up ripping them off when they block everything on the screen.
  4. Put a Sticky Note in my computer. This is one I really like.  A program called “Stickies” puts images of sticky notes in my monitor that can be made to disappear and then reappear at a later time. The problem is that when the notes reappear I can never remember what they are referring to.
  5. In tennis matches, I say the score loudly before every point. This also has the added benefit of annoying your opponent, but aren’t mind games worth a point or two?
  6. Tattoo the important information onto my body. Not something I have ever done, but “Prison Break”, “Memento” and “Blindspot” all use this as plot devices, and see how well I remembered those. Ok, I will admit it. I did a Google search to remember that last one.
  7. And that leads to the last helpful tip: Google.  ‘Nuff said.

Barb is out of town for a few days. Hope she remembers me when she gets back. That kiss is still I kiss.