Sandwich Party!

Before surgery I read up on painkillers. Bottom line, I was grateful that options existed and realistic about accepting possible reactions. Jimmy John’s sandwiches were never mentioned in that patient information.

My first night post-operative I looked around my room, stared into what I thought was a giant security television screen (aka a dark window), pulled together all the visual clues available, and determined that there was a sizeable Jimmy John’s sandwich party happening across the hall. Giant carts of food appeared to be going into a room with people following. I thought I saw, or heard, that the party was in honor of my surgeon. 

Not eating in the prior thirty hours made a sandwich appealing. I think I’ve only eaten a Jimmy John’s tuna salad special at a corporate lunch meeting. I remember because I was the last person choosing a box. Tuna salad, tuna salad, tuna salad. Three boxes of the same choice. The only decision was if I was hungry enough to eat a Jimmy John’s tuna salad sandwich.

According to hospital people watching me that night, I decided I needed to freshen up before heading to the party and attempted to get out of bed dragging tubes and lines and monitors. I asked for a clean gown, something less revealing, and my personal bag so I could brush my hair, wash my face, and find my undies. I was ready to socialize. Maybe celebrate that surgery was over, chat about the joy of warm blankets, or share escape plans.

What’s fascinating is how in a somewhat dark situation, something deep in my mind took stock of what it could observe and found the potential for a few minutes of joy as well as the possibility of grabbing a sandwich, maybe a cold soda, and a little time to chit chat with absolute strangers. I am an introvert, and not fond of fast foot sandwiches on small loaves of bread. In normal times I would need a serious reason to head into a room of strangers, especially if wearing a lousy hospital gown. But that night a party sounded awesome.

Physicians have known since Plato that there is a direct correlation between the mind, body and health. The psychological and physical are not separate but are vitally linked in healing the body. When the painkillers were not taking care of what my body was experiencing, my simple belief is that my mind accepted responsibility for creating a happier framework. In the absence of other stimuli to distract focus from what was hurting, I planned that party room. I made decisions about whether I was ready to have chips (not), if a diet cola or a lemon-lime soft drink would taste better (lemon-lime), how to blend in with all the people in uniforms or street clothes (unresolved). My problem solving and creativity pulled me through a night that could have been worse. 

This is the power of human vitality. We can live, grow, develop in many situations, not only on sunny days but also during threatening storms. Be gentle with your expectations if this is not a time to go for the stars. Share a Jimmy John’s with a friend. Enjoy a mini party, if only in your mind. Wear a robe if your gown hangs open in the back.


I don’t know the women who crocheted this lace doily and antimacassar, but I think I understand something about them.

A century ago, maybe she saw a doily pattern with a wheat motif in a magazine and made it on a lark—the same impulse that has led me to make a quilted pin cushion, add a mosaic to a small box, decorate a shirt with reverse embroidery, and so many other projects. I was curious about the process and making stuff is fun. Most of the time I’m only trying to please myself, so it doesn’t matter if my creative ventures are one-and-done. 

Whoever made the antimacassar might have been more invested. Perhaps she spent weeks one winter, creating the elaborate design, a piece she’d be proud of. She could have spread a towel across the back of a chair to keep off her husband’s macassar hair oil when he leaned back for a snooze. Instead, she made something pretty. I understand the impulse—if you’re going to see it every day, why not have something pleasing? Maybe detailed crochet was her art form, like pottery and quilting are mine. 

When I told a friend about a minor project to machine embroider some muslin towels, she said, “You’re so creative.” I balked, “There are so many people who are wildly creative and talented. I’m a dabbler.” She insisted, “Say yes. And thank you.” My friend is right about me, but sometimes it’s hard to own this urge. Easy to downplay or dismiss creativity that’s expressed everyday things. 

I squint into the future and imagine someone picking up a quilt or ceramic bowl I’ve made. She or he might find a different purpose for it—cut the quilt into placemats, hammer the bowl into bits for a mosaic, or some other project I can’t even imagine. If my things get repurposed, I won’t feel disrespected at all. They were fun to make. They pleased me. They don’t have to last or be cherished like museum pieces. Maybe like me, this future creator will wonder about the person who originated it.

In the pottery studio, when I spread the doily and antimacassar onto clay and transfer the lacy patterns with a rolling pin, I’ll admire the craftsmanship, patience, and skill needed to make them. Those women and their work will be acknowledged and celebrated in mine. Immortalized.

A dish I made with another doily

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Normally I look forward, eagerly anticipating what’s next: a walk with a friend, spending time with my sisters, a trip to someplace new, even the writing-related work I do for clients.

But during this past year, spent mostly at home and unplugged, even from family and friends, I’ve found myself looking back at my life, often with regret for missteps and mistakes that include not wearing sunscreen, tolerating an abusive high school boyfriend before I knew any better, hosting a 40th birthday dinner for a friend instead of going to the hospital to visit my dying dad, accidentally sharing information about a cousin’s health when I’d been asked not to, not standing up for myself when I sold my business and not getting married and moving to DC when I had the chance.

My regrets also include missed opportunities: dropping out of high school track despite being told I had potential, giving up on watercolor painting before I’d gotten the hang of it and not saying yes the first three times a friend offered me her Paris apartment for as long as I wanted to stay.

At first I thought I’d have a long list. But I don’t. At least not yet. I also thought that reviewing my regrets would make me sad. It has…but it’s also empowered me to make amends and to think more seriously about what I want from my life moving forward.

And while I haven’t yet finished reading The Midnight Library, I am journaling about what my life would be like if I, like the book’s protagonist, had made different choices. Sure, some things would be better, but I’d still have plenty of wouldas, couldas and shouldas to contend with. That’s life!

But I also know that, moving forward, I will do better…at trusting my gut, taking risks, leaping at opportunities and, most importantly, being true to myself.

Reflections: January 20, 2021

Before 2016, I had never understood how fragile our democracy is or how much it relies on norms, assumptions, conventions, and goodwill.

Today, I’m choosing to be hopeful.

Tomorrow, all of our country’s problems will still be here, but I want to believe that because most Americans deeply love this wonderful but flawed country, we’ll keep working to improve it. 

Barbie, Midge, Robin and Me

The father of my best friend Robin owned a tool business franchise which provided two young girls with opportunities to fill bins in his wonderful red truck, to bake cookies he could share with customers, and access to dozens of interesting empty boxes.

Robin attended 95thStreet School and I went to parochial school, but we had matching pencil boxes in our desks. Most kids found a source for cigar boxes, but we had decorated paper boxes not needed in his truck into unique containers with compartments for pencils, color pencils, scissors and such. We didn’t know each other’s school friends, but we shared something deeper: hours of playing with Barbie, Midge, Skipper and Ken in wonderful houses, stores, airplanes and schools constructed out of even more empty boxes.

When the weather was cold, Robin’s basement became a town for an afternoon of play. Her Barbie had a flight attendant outfit, mine had a tailored suit. We shared a plastic pseudo-Barbie car that took one to the airport and the other to an imaginary office. Neither of us knew anyone who worked in an office or flew on planes so eventually the story turned back to all the dolls sitting at little box desks with one Barbie, attired in a skirt and sweater, called teacher.

Robin had an older sister and we both had moms so we knew real women weren’t built like our Barbie crew, but we didn’t know flight attendants, nurses, doctors, brides, or girls who wore wonderful ballgowns. Our parents didn’t buy us Barbie’s plastic house or bedroom furniture, but Robin’s dad shared tape and scissors and boxes to build furniture and a variety of workshop towels to make blankets. We stood next to him in his wood working shop as he made small frames and blocks that could extend our Barbie furniture building. We learned how to sand.

Our Barbie phase lasted less than a year, a simple time when we creatively explored, built and did what kids are supposed to do. Parents helped feed our play then stepped back. And we did okay. And I wish I could say thanks to Robin’s father and all the other parents who stepped out over the years with camping trips or garden planting or an evening at the opera to expand the world beyond the girl toys of Barbie and her crew. And those who do that today as  they parent another generation of kids.