What Number, Please?

I took a little day trip into Philadelphia on August 9. I spent my time in Center City down to the historical area – from about 18th and Market to 5th and Market, and then over a block or two, and back up Walnut Street. A round trip of 3 or 4 miles.

On the way I took pictures of various sights. Now here is one that’s come up recently in my life: telephone booths.

I am of the age to remember and to have used pay phones. I remember when they still cost a dime. Enough said.

Pay phones are not too common these days. On east Market Street I saw one, though:

and I saw where one had been.

On my way, I stopped in the Curtis Center building to see the Dream Garden mosaic. I worked in a nearby building for some time and the mosaic was a favorite spot of mine to visit. And I remembered another landmark in my personal life. Past those stained glass windows, see that little alcove area with the stairs?

Here’s what is in there. The sign on the door says: Bell Telephone Pay Station.

Phone booths! I remember these two from way back when. They had a phone, phone book on a shelf, and a little wooden bench seat inside. You went in, closed the door, and it was…QUIET. I remember stopping in, not to call anybody, but to get a moment of QUIET.

I was puzzled, though, as to why the windows were so…white. My memory told me they should be dark; the booths had a light that went on when you closed the door, but it was not so bright as this was. On closer examination, I realized that the windows had white paper over them; through a tear, I saw that the booths no longer existed. The area behind had been torn out, enveloped into a larger space, and the whole thing immersed in mid-construction for offices.

Well, what do you know.

I’ll show you a quick look at another feature of this building, right around the corner from the phone booth remains. Curtis Center is actually built as a hollow square, with a huge atrium in the middle. I do not know what the space looked like when the building was put up in about 1914; I do know this format was used in the pre-air conditioning days as a way to get light and air into all the floors and all the areas of the building.

As a note, this building was the home of the Curtis magazine publishers, and all operations were done here, including the printing and binding. So, in summertime, air circulation would have been important.

The atrium now looks like this:

Nice, isn’t it? My husband tells me the building does a good business in hosting weddings and other events.

All right. More Philadelphia visit information later on!

Seeds of the Present

My husband and I took a walk in the Morris Arboretum on Saturday, August 12, a muggy, gray day. We didn’t spend a lot of time, about an hour; we wanted to walk around the wetlands area and see what things looked like.

We visited the arboretum about two weeks ago, and the wetlands section really caught our attention.

We circled this pond and then ventured out to the creek – a walk of about one and a half miles.

Two themes emerged: seeds/nuts, and insects. Let me start with the first category. I’m going to show what I saw. I don’t know the names of any of them, except for the walnuts and milkweed. I just liked looking at the seeds in their various incarnations. See what you think.

I think this tree may be called “button ball” but I am not sure. From our observations, the balls start off green, turn red-orange, explode into white, and then fade away in brown. Obviously they are attractive to bees.

I do not know what tree this is, but I have seen these brilliant red leaves on the ground later in the fall. Here are berries and one early-turning leaf.

Dangling seed pods. I LOVE the look of these.

These grasses were near the creek. I love the woven look of the seedheads.

I don’t know what these are. Are they related? I photographed two different trees and didn’t pay enough attention as I was doing it.

These look like they should come from a maple tree, but they don’t. Look at the leaf.

Walnuts! Walnuts! I love walnut season. I love kicking them with my toe as I go along the trails. Walnuts!

Now that I recognize milkweed, I see it everywhere in the wetlands. The broad leaves stand out almost horizontally; I liked how they captured the rain. And those seedpods…

What is this? I don’t know. I saw it next to the parking lot.

I am intrigued by the variety of seedpods and nuts and I am interested to see how these plants progress through the autumn. The shapes and forms are beautiful and functional. Plenty to look at here, isn’t there?

Now, how about a few insects I met along the way:

I would love to have shown some of the many dragonflies I saw, with their electric blue features, but they were too quick for me…


I am intrigued by the variety of seedpods and nuts and I am interested to see how these plants progress through the autumn. The shapes and forms are beautiful and functional. Plenty to look at here, isn’t there?

Swim in the City

I made a trip to Center City Philadelphia on August 9 – my husband was going to a meeting and I took the opportunity for a chauffeured ride in.

I worked in the city for quite some time, but those days are in the distant past – 25 years ago I left office work. Still, those days at work here were some of the most important of my life. The memories are vivid and the streets of the city are full of places I have known for a long time.

I’ll give you a little tour of something new and old, all at once. Let’s start at 18th and Market, where my husband’s office was until his fall in December, 2016, and where he was going to his meeting today.

I started walking east toward City Hall along Market Street. City Hall is set in the very middle of the original plan of Philadelphia. Its location was originally the center square of five (the other five are still open space).

In the 1870’s construction began on City Hall and it took about 30 years to finish the building. It is monumental, to say the least, and a really interesting place. Courts and other functions are now handled in other more modern buildings around the square, but it is still full of offices, including the mayor’s.

In the early 80’s I used to cut through the building on the way to my office in the winter, coming from the train. That way I got to walk about a block in the nice overheated halls before I went back outside for the quick sprint to my office.

Anyway, I went east. Took a little detour through the Penn Center complex, but always there is City Hall in view.

But…things have changed here, too, at least outside the building. What used to be a grim granite plaza of varying levels, punctuated by non-fountaining fountains, desperate trees, and a lot of trash, is now a welcoming space. I’d been here last fall for the holiday events:

But I had no idea that in the summer – the plaza is a splash park! Fantastic!

There were tourists, locals, adults, kids…and one park policeman on lifeguard duty. I wondered if he wished he could take his shoes off and stand in the cool water.

There were “paths” through the jets to drain the water – I walked through the site for a while. This version of Dilworth Plaza, as it is known, is much better than the one I remembered from those years back.

OK, I’ll stop now. More later on.

twenty years

As they say, a lot can happen in twenty years.

Getting the Hurt Leg Fixed, Chapter 10

On June 7, we visited the surgeon. It was time for a checkup on my husband’s left knee.

To remind you, this story started on Christmas, 2016, when he fell down the stairs and completely severed his left quadriceps tendon. This serious injury cannot heal by itself and required surgery, done on January 6, 2017. He went home in a brace, unable to bend his leg for weeks or even touch it to the floor. He required assistance with every detail of living, and so I was fully occupied for months. Remember this scene from Chapter One – in the hospital awaiting surgery?

 

January 6, 2017.

 

As he healed, things got easier – first he could touch his foot to the floor, put weight on it, bend his leg in the brace, walk without crutches, and finally say goodbye to the brace itself. He has faithfully attended physical therapy and regained full flexibility in the knee.

Other changes have come about. This experience forced us to think about how we manage daily life, and some changes were made. For one thing, my husband moved his office to a suburban location for a variety of reasons, one being that it made his schedule easier for PT, but also added to our quality of life by making work more accessible and convenient. He also was able to work from home during his recovery and found that it could be done with good results. These changes are permanent and I like the new schedule – we have more time together. That means a lot to me.

We also were reminded how much we value being able to run, to hike, to take walks, to exercise. The recovery process for his knee will take about a year. Though it has healed now, it is weakened, as is the right leg, and it will take another six months or so for that strength to come back, as much as it will. Still, my husband last week ran about 100 yards on the track at the high school – a milestone. We do not know the final outcome, but we do know that with this doctor visit, we are ending one phase and beginning the next one.

But I’ve gotten ahead of the story. The doctor was pleased with the knee’s status. He said, “I could torture you with asking for another visit in three months, but I don’t think you need it.” We were very happy to agree and left the medical office building for the last time. I had a bit of superstitious worry about making such a statement, but I have decided to be firm with the fates and let them know we’ll do our part if they will do theirs!

So, take a look, as we wave goodbye. And end the story of the hurt leg here, with our characters driving off in the car toward home.

Doctor's office 6-7-17 small

Walking in Circles

Today is the last day of the Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) Senior Games, and that means it is time to walk.

This year, my plan was to accompany my husband on the course and go at his speed. We are celebrating his continuing recovery from his accident and knee surgery.

We arrived at Montgomery County Community College nice and early, about 8:15 AM. The day was cool but sunny, with clouds coming in for the rain tomorrow, but no precipitation today at all.

Montco, as it is nicknamed, is maybe 20 minutes from home and set on a spacious campus. I remember when the school was way out in the middle of nowhere, but 35+ years since I first saw it, it is now surrounded by houses and apartments. The event was taking place at the health sciences building, AKA the gym/fitness center. It’s recently been updated and it is beautiful.

We went inside for a few minutes, where the vendors for the expo were setting up.

Then we went back outside and got our names in for the event. The way things work, a group of contestants assembles at the start.

You take off down the walk, go out a bit (past the guy in the blue jacket to that lady in the green shirt, you’ll see her, just keep going), turn at the orange cone, come back, pass the start, go some more, follow that loop in the back of the building, and come back. Do that three times and the race is done. You went 1.5 miles. Oh, and to get your time, listen as you pass the finish line – the timer will call out the time. Remember that number and tell the scorer.

It’s all pretty casual, but it works. Here is my husband (left) waiting to start as a volunteer explains the deal to a latecomer.

Well, we got started on our way. I took this picture pretty near the beginning.

I am so happy and proud of my husband. All the hard work he has been putting in in therapy and in exercising on his own really shows. He was able to walk at a 17 or 18-minute mile pace, which I think is great. It is hard for me to believe that less than five months ago he was getting around with crutches and a brace, if he was able to move at all. Determination pays off.

Well, we finished. And then…you knew this story did not end here, didn’t you?

I had no intention of doing this, but I got to Montco and my competitive instincts kicked in. I can’t pass up a race. So before we went out on our joint tour of the course, I asked the officials if I could go around with my husband and then do one on my own. Sure, they said.

All right. My husband took these pictures. Here’s a quick commentary.

I went out with Group #2. Right from the start I identified my competition. And I don’t mean, for medals – there is no telling if these ladies are even in my age group. I just mean, right here, on this course. Let’s go. Here at the start it’s Pink Shirt, Blue Shorts, and me, in the black, behind them.

We zipped around the course. In Lap 2 Pink Shirt and I lost Blue Shorts. Here we are in Lap 3.

Well, I felt I could take this race and I planned my strategy. Soon as we came out of the loop, I put on some speed.

The drama builds. I’m ahead, but can I hold on? So much is at stake! The crowd is on its feet (there are only a few benches and they are filled up) and paying rapt attention (to the football throw going on in the next field, to the registration table, to the free shopping bags they picked up at the expo…you get the atmosphere). All right, my husband was paying rapt attention, and really, that’s all I needed.

At the finish, I prevailed. I have to tell you, I felt happy about it out of all proportion to the importance of the event.

Now, last year I practiced for this race. I had done none of that this year. Well, so what? It’s just walking. Now think about that and what a different context “just walking” is for me and for my husband. I have a lot of gratitude for what each of us can do in our individual ways.

Well, that’s the end of this year’s games. I have a lot of enthusiasm for next year, already!

(Take a look here for my other event in 2017, orienteering.)

 

Re-Orienting Myself

It’s early May, and that means that the Montgomery County Senior Games have rolled around again.

You may remember that last year I competed in several days of this week-long event. I did orienteering, running, and speed-walking. I wrote a whole series of posts about my experiences:

Let the Games Begin

Orienteering Myself

I Run as Fast as I Can on a Track

Walk This Way

In my introductory post for last year, I wrote about how I had set the goal of competing to help me start back into regaining my former fitness levels – I was a good runner and swimmer and loved doing those things, but my various illness, surgeries, bad antibiotic reactions, stress fracture in my foot – all of these had slowly stripped away my strength and almost all of my ability to pick myself up and try.

I wrote about how I hoped the event would be the beginning of returning to my old ways. Well, it wasn’t. I experienced more eye issues later in the year and then, when my husband had his accident in December, 2016, for the next four months I pretty much gave up – exercise came near the end of the list.

All right. Here we are today and I am saying the same thing – I hope that the Senior Games mark the beginning of returning to normality as far as my athletic activities.

This year, I decided to do just the orienteering and walking events. My motto was to be: Complete, not compete, meaning – finish the event, not try to bust a gut winning it.

With that in mind, I arrived at the Norristown Farm Park this morning, site of the orienteering event. My husband accompanied me – his new office is very close, and so this year he was able to attend. That was nice, to have his support. We had an absolutely gorgeous sunny day, a bit chilly, but just perfect for this event. Compare it to last year’s day and you’ll see why all of us at the event were thrilled. Here is 2016:

And now, 2017:

Last year I was a green newbie at orienteering, but I liked what I had experienced of it. If you don’t know much about it, you run around the countryside from point to point (called “controls”) following a detailed map, and you are timed. I am not really able to do trail running anymore because of my eyesight, so this sport really appealed to me as a substitute.

This year I am a slightly less green newbie, and I am game. Let’s go, I said. We got signed up at the pavilion and received the all-important T-shirt.

After some explanatory remarks, we headed over to the start. Now, how this works is simple. You get the map when you start, you take off looking for your controls, and you just keep going to the end. You have to go in order, but you can get from place to place any way you want to. You have a small device that you insert into a reader at each control – it keeps your time. The race starts for you when you click in at the start control.

In larger events, there are courses laid out for different difficulty levels over the same plot of ground. Competitors choose the level desired and get the map for that course. So, the people you see as you traverse your course may be doing a different course altogether – you don’t assume their control is one you want for your course.

This event, though, has only one course. So it’s possible to follow another competitor and get to the controls without orienting yourself on your own. Remember this point – it matters in my story!

Here I am at the start point:

And looking over my map, having just clicked the start. You can’t review it beforehand.

And, running off down the path.

The trick to this sport is to stay focused and continue to adjust and re-orient yourself as you go along. Watch your map closely. I try to plan out what next landmark or location I need to hit in a series of moves to get to a control point. A straight line is not always the best route!

Well, I was zipping along. And very quickly I realized that another woman near me was, well, she was watching my moves. Plain and simple. And given how the course was set up, I could do nothing about it. Several times it was clear to me that she would not have found the control if I had not led her there.

Well, complete, not compete, went out the window. I guess I wasn’t surprised. I’m pretty competitive. Yes. So I got a little aggravated and that put some speed into my feet. Down paved roads, dirt trails, crawling up a trackless hill – we did it all. She was ahead of me at the last control but just a little; that cranked up the aggravation level and I took off for the finish. Hard. And I got there first.

I’m the tiny black speck. I don’t know who that man is who was caught up in our drama.

Well, I’ll tell you, it’s a small thing, but I felt as if I had done something big. I didn’t give up and I didn’t back down. Makes me feel that I am really on my way in this new start.

Thanks for reading. And Happy Orienteering, if you try it.

Secret Ambition Handwriting Update – April 29, 2017

I’m working toward realizing a secret ambition: to have better handwriting. Read about the plan here to get some background…

Well, I’ve been working on my penmanship for several weeks now and I think I am making progress. My handwriting is legible and it is becoming more natural to me to write in this way. I can see my old handwriting in the new – I like this idea, that I am combining my lifetime habits with new ones and coming up with something that is neither one.

I’ve invested in another color of ink – blue, such a blue! Sapphire is its color and sapphire is its name. It even has a little picture of the gem on the label.

I am childishly excited about the exotic international nature of my penmanship project. The pens and inks come from everywhere. This ink is from Paris. The bottle tells me itself, on its bottom.

I don’t usually want to talk about a site where I have shopped, but I will tell you that I have bought my supplies at Jet Pens. I mention them because I have learned everything I know about pens and ink from their thorough and extensive entries on every product they sell. Thank you, I say to them.

All right. I continue my practice. Sometimes I sit at the table and work in the correct handwriting posture as my book has taught me. I have written a letter to a friend in my new handwriting; sitting and writing in this manner really focused me on what I was doing and what I was saying as well.

I also continue my exercise of taking down dialogue (and if there is no dialogue to keep me writing steadily, I describe the action. I favor Star Trek, all series, and I can mention Leverage, White Collar, and Travelers for right now). I have pages and pages of words now. Here are some examples.

I’ve used these pages of writing for something else – if you follow me as a poetry writer, I have used printed matter to create poems – snippets. Now I’ve tried the same thing, with some variation, with these phrases and words I’ve written out. If you are interested, take a look here.

I am learning to use the fountain pens with more ease. They handle so differently from the ballpoints and rollerballs I have always used. I like having some versatility not only in how I write but what I write with. Somehow that seems exciting to me!

Sometimes I stop writing and I draw. Both on the same page. Here is a picture of my husband sitting in his chair watching TV. You may notice he no longer has the brace on his leg – the hurt leg is gaining strength every day.

On that note, I’ll end. My goal is to achieve consistency now with my penmanship. Happy writing, everyone.

Secret Ambition Handwriting Update – April 2, 2017

I’m working toward realizing a secret ambition: to have better handwriting. Read about the plan here to get some background…

I’ve been working on my penmanship for two weeks now. I’ve finished the exercises in the workbook – now I know all the print and cursive letters. It’s up to me to practice the new skills. I spend some time sitting at the table, writing, using good posture and so on. And I also have been putting in time while watching TV with exercises of my own devising. I have a pad of paper, a pen, and I watch (or mostly listen) to the TV show while jotting down bits of dialogue. I end up with pages that look like this:

You can actually read this text, even though it doesn’t make any sense.

I lose some in perfect letter formation but it fits my routine, and I’m ending up with a lot of interesting pages of surreal conversation. Could be some poetry inspiration there, I think…? Seriously, I figure I will be using my handwriting in all sorts of situations, not just ones where I can get set up in the proper writing mode. And, I just can’t sit and watch TV…

 

*************************************************************

I’ve gotten myself some fountain pens as a treat, and I’ve learned a few things.

1. I bought these two very nice pens, Pilot Metropolitans, they are, and well-recommended. They cost about $15 each and can use an ink cartridge or an ink  converter, which comes with each pen. The latter means I can use bottled inks.

I have one with a fine nib and the other one is a medium nib. I liked the way these pens wrote very much – the ink flow is reliable and not a blob or missed section of lettering. In the end, though, these pens don’t totally suit me. I find them top-heavy, even writing with the cap off, and the thicker shape is hard for me to grip. I also learned that Japanese-made pens feature smaller nibs (for instance, a medium in this pen is like a fine in other brands). The small nibs made for scratchy, less flowing writing, I thought.

But, I liked drawing with these pens a lot and I think they can be very good for when I might need small precise lettering.

2.
I then tried these other two pens. The first, the Platinum Preppy, costs $3, uses cartridges (you can also buy a converter), and comes in a lot of colors. I tried a medium nib. Loved it. The pen glides over the paper very easily. Plus, it’s light, and it is weighted more like the ballpoints I am used to, toward the tip. Easier for my hands to manage.

3.
I also bought a Lamy Safari, medium nib, plus its converter (separate) – the pen also uses cartridges. It cost about $35 altogether. Loved this pen, too. It zipped across the paper, no scratching, no skipping. A very soft feel, if I can describe it.

The Preppy is the clear one and the Lamy Safari is the black one.

 

4. Ink. Each pen came with a cartridge of ink, and I could use that, and replace it when I ran out with another cartridge. But…those inks in bottles! Now, I have learned that I could buy a lot of inks. So many colors!

But changing inks is not that easy – you need to clean your pen if you want to switch from black to blue, for instance. I contented myself for now with one bottle of black ink.

 

This is where the converter comes in. There are different types, and you have to make sure your converter matches your pen. And they do not always come with the pen – it’s a separate purchase. None of this is difficult, including using the converter instead of a cartridge. It is money-saving in the long run, and you get to have these beautiful bottles around, too. I have noticed that many inks come in lovely containers, which is not the point of improving penmanship, but is a nice little side benefit, right?

OK, I’m continuing to learn and practice. I have to say that I love doing this handwriting thing.  Who would have thought I would say that?

More later!

Secret Ambition Handwriting Update – March 25, 2017

I’m working toward realizing a secret ambition: to have better handwriting. Read about the plan here to get some background…

All right, a week has passed, and I’ve been working away in my handwriting workbook. I have progressed through the print alphabet and learned cursive letters; now I’m working on letter combinations and practicing writing sentences and paragraphs full of…words!

For this endeavor, my idea was to come up with handwriting that was legible and attractive-looking. I was tired of people asking me to decipher the very notes I was hoping to convey information through – meaning that I had to read to them what I had written. Could have just said it and saved time – right? I knew legibility would really mean something to me.

I also wanted my handwriting to portray the person I try to be, communications-wise and in life – organized, ordered, and in control of her thoughts.

I think I am making progress. My revised handwriting meets these goals so far. Looking very school-girlish and uncertain at times, yes – but I am a student again, so I welcome that. Let me show you a couple of samples.

Learning this new skill, I’ve realized some things I hadn’t expected. Here are a couple that strike me right now:

1. As I have been practicing, I’ve focused on each letter of the alphabet, how it’s shaped, how the sequence of curves and lines goes, in a way I never have done before. When I learned to write as a child, I was trying to learn what the alphabet meant as well as to write, and my attention was divided. Now, I pay attention to what I am doing with the benefit of just one focus. I KNOW these letters now and I am interested in taking the effort to make each one look well.

2. I have spent 50 years scrawling out words and letters and it never occurred to me to pay attention to the act of writing, just what I wanted to say. I sped along as fast as I could. Now I have to write slowly, thinking hard about each stroke. It is relaxing and satisfying to do this.

3. Each word is a challenge – the letters arrive in their order and I have to figure out how to manage them. There is more than one way to write each word. I am thinking hard about that as I write. Total focus.

OK, that brings you up to date. Maybe more later on. Thanks for reading.

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