Recently by Miriam N. Kotzin:

As I’d been saying, it’s always something else. Take roofs, for instance. You can go months, even years without thinking much about them. They’re in jokes like, “Just because there’s snow on the roof doesn’t mean there’s no fire in the furnace,” which considering my recent experience with a broken furnace, would be a low blow.

   

Actually, if there’s snow on the roof, it’s a good thing. That means the insulation is working and heat isn’t escaping. Or it could mean that the snow on the roof will leak, stain, peel paint — or worse.

When that starts, the first hope is that it’s just the flashing. I used to listen to a lot of home-repair programs on the radio — amazing, the trivia I store away in the file cabinet of the mind, stuffing it so that… More…

One advantage of having younger friends used to be that they were more cheerful and optimistic than I was.  It seemed then that the decade between us had insulated them from all the bad news I heard, both in the media and from my older friends.  But now that 20 years or so have passed, these friends just about caught up to me.

   

When I said I planned to write about this topic, one of my friends — perky still, though more pessimistic than she used to be — asked me to change her name. She had also told me (whenever I asked) that she doesn’t read what I write because she’s too stressed, so she’ll never know whether or not I’ve changed her name. I’ll honor her wishes anyway and call her Susie. Besides, she might… More…

Unlike Thoreau, I could not be removed from the ruckus of civilization. No, I could escape for an hour or two at the most, taking advantage of an unexpected return of warm weather to spend some time in a tidal salt marsh. I write this to return to a place where the most regular sounds are the rustle and whisper of the dry reeds and grasses in the late afternoon breeze.

   

And then birds. Circling, the gulls cry. In this slant of light their white sides glow golden before they plunge out of sight to settle in a hidden channel of water flowing through the high grass of the meadows. Unseen, a sparrow chips at the afternoon.  A loud croak announces the presence of a nearby great blue heron, disturbed. Snow geese will winter here and… More…

Driving alone on a highway through the desert of the Southwest, I passed a sign announcing the “Last Services for 100 Miles.” I asked myself, “How did they get a minyan way out here?” And then I came to a gas station. In the desert, “Last Gas” signs were powerful magnets, pulling my car off the road.  A “Last Chance” sign on a roadside farm market has the same effect.

   

“Last Peaches of the Season”? I’m pulling over. “First Asparagus”? I’m there, too.

It’s no wonder that I consider first fruits of the season to be significant. I grew up saying — and continue to say — the Shecheheyahu on the occasion of eating a seasonal fruit or vegetable for the first time in a year. The Shecheheyahu gives thanks to G-d “who has granted us… More…

Should Michelle Obama be angry because she was declared the world’s most powerful woman? Or, if not angry, maybe, at the very least, a little bit annoyed? I hope that she is. I was — not because I find her lacking in power, but for the same reason that I scrunched my nose at the presence of Maria Shriver, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, and Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned: first ladies all. They are accomplished, to be sure, but Forbes’ list gave only a nod towards their professional lives and philanthropic activities: In this list their power derives from their husbands’.

For Michelle Obama, that’s the man she called “sweet and pathetic” while she was a guest on The View (June 18, 2008), almost five months before Barack Obama was elected to be our POTUS.

Pathetic is how I’d describe the rush of the… More…

When I was a kid my parents would drive to Atlantic City, and I’d be in the back of our blue Nash on one of the two jump seats, looking out the open window. We knew we were getting close when we could smell the marshes, which we could do even before we could see them. The good stuff was on the other side. Even now when I should know better, it still often seems that the good stuff is always on the other side.

   

On the other side of what? Of whatever seems to be in my way between here and where I want to be — or, more accurately, where I want to go.

Lately I’ve wanted to see what lies at the end of little roads that run toward the water. Some of… More…

Living in the Mid-Atlantic states gives me an advantage when I look for seasonal bloom or fruit.  I can turn back calendar pages or flip them forward simply by driving a couple hours north or south.  Each year I try to spot bluets in the spring and migrating monarch butterflies at summer’s last breath.

   

Bluets are also known as Quaker Ladies (Houstonia caerulea) because they’re not showy; they’re low-growing, small flowers, pale blue to white with a yellow center.  Sometimes from a distance, it’s as though a shard of pale sky or a shred of cloud has settled on the grass.

My friend Naomi showed me a few scattered bluets one July in Worthington, Massachusetts. Their delicacy charmed me. The next spring I was delighted when I discovered them growing in the grass at a wildflower… More…

My birthday cake sat on the dining room table. Fluffy, Linda’s elderly tabby, made an unhurried entrance to join the more-energetic Sam, who’d claimed a close place as soon as we put the cake box on the table. Sam’s full cat-name is “Sammy-get-down from-there.”

   

I’ve never seen Sam leap from the floor to the table. He favors a stealthy approach. He jumps onto a chair and sits like an attentive, polite guest waiting for the platter to come around. Sometimes he even lies down on the seat as though indifferent to the conversation that flows over him. He doesn’t fool me.

If he’s occupying someone’s chair, Sammy-get-down-from-there gives up his seat, but not before giving a reproachful look to indicate his displeasure.

I’ve been told that the cake is going on the traditional family cake plate,… More…

I’ve never found a reason to cry at a wedding, which gives me an advantage when I’m wearing mascara for the occasion. As a wedding guest or as a member of the wedding party, I want to look my best — if not a natural beauty, then “beautified,” an “ill phrase” — even though nobody looks at any woman other than the bride. Nonetheless, the last time I was invited to a wedding, the couple recited their vows as I watched barefaced and barefoot.

   

I’d been prepped by tuning in to a multitude of wedding programs on TV, on which brides choose gowns and submit to the alternating blandishments and bullying of wedding planners in all aspects of the wedding (except the choice of mate). I’ve delighted in the construction of fondant-covered multi-tiered extravaganzas of cakes… More…

I’m counting the weekends between now and Labor Day, crossing them off as they pass.  Even though I love the summer’s long days, the glimmer of fireflies rising from the grass as evening settles in, I’ll be glad when I no longer have to find new excuses for why I don’t want to go to the beach.

Every year in May I realize that I ought to look for my bathing suits, if only to remind myself of what size I used to wear. More than any other single clothing item, a woman’s bathing suit tells her where she is in her life cycle. And the consequences of what have been euphemistically dubbed “lifestyle choices.” I am everywoman.

When I was 20 years younger, I had physical therapy for a bad back. The young male physical therapist demonstrated what he wanted me to do. “Do this,” he said just before… More…