My Bi-Polar Travel Issues


1953: Dashing off on our honeymoon, beloved in tow. “Dashing” is no longer my travel speed.

I LOVE TO TRAVEL. I hate to travel. I love having traveled. I hate having no planned travel. If I were to conjugate my travel issues, it would sound like that. Looney!

I LOVE planning trips. I’ve planned many for others, not just for me. My most ambitious was a trip for twenty-one to visit the museums of Dallas and Fort Worth. Inspired by the opening of an exciting sculpture museum containing the collection of a favorite Smith classmate and her husband, we were all Smith classmates with a few brave husbands. Finding buses to move us and choice restaurants for refueling us plus enlisting guides and alerting the museums kept me busy for months!

My history teacher daughter and I made three weeklong trips to Civil War battlefields with a few famous old houses and Revolutionary War sites thrown in when they were too near to our route to comfortably ignore and I was the trip planner and shared the driving on these, too. I also put together three exhausting but satisfying trips to the British Isles for small groups of six or eight. Our focus was spectacular and famous gardens and historic houses and I planned what we would see while British guides drove us and found lodgings. These trips included England, Scotland, Wales and two flavors of Ireland although not on a single adventure. Even Macbeth’s Castle and Culloden.

However, I am widely, possibly internationally, known for my over-whelming pre-trip panic. Age has exacerbated this as my agility, speed, strength and self-assurance not to mention eyesight have decreased while my arthritis and stress levels have increased. Knowing that the betting odds on my going anywhere are hugely in favor of my “chickening out” doesn’t help. Back in May I was due to fly solo from Portland, Maine to LaGuardia and back for a festive Manhattan weekend with my youngest son’s family, my Christmas gift to them. I would, of course, speed through airports by wheelchair but I would be hauling my rollator walker, an amazingly lightweight spinner carry-on and a shockingly heavy “lightweight” personal tote packed with my purse, my meds and, as loved ones who hefted it guessed, either an elephant or my weight in bricks. Because of massive construction at LaGuardia, I was told no one could easily meet the plane so I should just hail a taxi to the mid-town hotel.

I was taking about $500 cash to pay for incidentals and had been lent an around the neck safety pouch to stow it in because of “the rampant crime in urban areas”. This was the proverbial straw that while not back-breaking was ruinous to my sleep and peace of mind. While I didn’t quite believe in that, how to tip and pay without exposing my unaccustomed wealth, roughly at least $492 more than I have usually in my wallet, worried me. (I am also well known as inept with cash.) I attribute the entire comfort and success of the trip to this next brilliant move! I threw money at the problem!

I ordered from Eileen Fisher a smashingly becoming Hot Red pull-on windbreaker I had been bravely resisting for three months. It features a dashing stiff high funnel neck collar and deep twin front pockets, one on each hip with fold down flaps. I carefully figured out probable cash needed and in what denominations, allowing for some unexpected contingencies. The right hip pocket was for departure needs: boarding pass, picture I.D., reservation confirmation and expenses in Portland, mostly tips for baggage handlers and wheelchair driver. My left pocket housed arrival costs for New York including the wheelchair and a taxi into our mid-town New York hotel. Like a nervous Santa, I checked and revised my pocket packing roughly ten times. Incidentally I flew to Florida and back a week later, Hot Red jacket garbed and secure about how to deal with cash en route. A Travel Problem Solver on sale for $99! What a steal of a deal!

There’s one teeny little insignificant travel component I haven’t touched on so I will do so briefly, an adverb that could never be applied to my actual packing process. Despite detailed intelligent, well thought out lists of what to take, opening my suitcase triggers a cessation of intelligent thought in me. I love every stitch I own and know that items not worn in months, even years are the sure ticket to a joyous trip. They rarely are but I do not always come to this conclusion in time. Sometimes they no longer even manage to button or zip, which can be a devastating post arrival blow if I have not brought alternate choices which, luckily, I try always to do. So I “travel heavy” in extremely lightweight bags that I intentionally selected knowing my packing past.

Travel has benefits which I will focus on some other time so stick with me. See you soon? p


Here’s to a brighter Outlook!


Youthful photo of Tom Hanks, my latest film idol, joining longtime loves Clark Gable and Paul Newman.

Ye gods! I am officially 90 and 1/2 as of June 12 and very late in welcoming umpteen new followers with remarkably optimistic outlooks as most have not yet read a current post! Talk about being hopeful!

Back when I came home from rehab, newly assigned to a walker, and with a slowly healing crushed vertebra (T 12 to those in the know), due to be healed by mid-April, I thought blogging might need to wait on my ability to sit comfortably at the computer. WRONG! I’ve been lolling back in my comfy Aeron chair since early March but I’m not only useless at reading anything on the screen but also ridiculously dangerous to the safety of years of data as I stab vigorously at keys that are not where I think they are. This has caused multitudinous emergencies that my nearest already burdened offspring must identify and rectify when possible. Crushed bones apparently accelerate going blind!

We (my busy life and I) are slowing down this year. I and my walker are purposefully speediest when, chaperoned, I cross streets, or, unchaperoned, head toward plumbing facilities. In these activities and daily life I am both aided and impeded by one of my small fleet of “mobility enhancing” vehicles. In addition to three canes now gathering dust, I own a nifty folding wheelchair used for such things as museums and galleries and bought for college graduations which seem to require miles of walking. I got my first walker in 2007 (broken pelvis) which is a “rollator”, folds, has big wheels but is great for lacrosse games, has great brakes and a decent seat which can lift up and let you get up against counters or sinks for domestic chores. My friends who drive me out to dinner or events find it heavy and resistant to car travel, where it folds and declines to open again so I have a traveling version. Its seat is bigger, padded and more comfortable, and when lifted, reveals a baskety place for my purse and it loves to fold and open too. The medical world thinks I am and ought to be on it for life. I am gunning for freedom. Like most walker users I know, I frequently absent-mindedly walk off from mine and have to track where I left it. I also tend to park it mid-kitchen and scuttle around on my own.

I have made a happy discovery by accident. Do you know about Movie Clips? Movie Clips is a YouTube channel, fantastic for seeing what is magic about special scenes or dialogue, and just plain fun! I wanted to see clips from Sleepless in Seattle, then moved on to You’ve Got Mail, Big, When Harry Met Sally and Pretty Woman. I specialize in watching final scenes, over and over again.

See you next time? Have a great end of summer! p


Bits and Pieces

Maine Winters demand SOMETHING to smile or laugh about!

Maine Winters demand SOMETHING to smile or laugh about!

“Penelope has a tendency to be verbose which we are working to correct,” Some things take years and years to correct.  I found this first English class comment in my boarding school Bio file in the archives and swiped it.

Longtime readers may recall a post on Charles Bonnet syndrome and the useless spectacular wallpapers it enables me to wrap my world in.  I now see moving figures, too. Last Sunday dozing over The New York Times, I “saw” a huge, 12 foot scantily clad basketball player outside my bedroom window,  bare armed and legged, dribbling a basketball in the snow. Last seen stark naked soaring skyward! Am I better or…?

To all who sent me cards, emails and responses to the explanatory post Wonderful Barbara Stroud wrote about my silence, Bless you!  You made me feel surrounded by loving, well wishing friends. What a healing gift!

Enough! See you soon?    p

Personal Public Service Warning!

From Twenty Nine Palms, to the shores of the sunny Saco to You!

In the wake of Friday’s Government shutdown and in the absence of careful thought and planning for the well-being of visitors to the still open National Parks –  Please Note Well!  If visiting a national park, bring a private stash of toilet paper. Law enforcement, the only park staff permitted on property during the Shutdown has no access to Sanitation supplies.

When the thousands of Park Restrooms left open for the comfort of visitors run out of toilet paper, my daughter, the Park Ranger, thinks the cost and need for recovery could  move to a whole new level!

Update! Just heard the government has re-opened – so you may want to save this information for future use! 😉 

Due to unforeseen circumstances…


Hello everyone!

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Penny is unable to write her blog at this moment. She is recovering and rest assured she will be back soon! – Thoughts and prayers are always welcome!

I know we all miss her stories and her quick wit – she will continue as soon as possible – and I’m sure the stories will be as amazing as she is!


Barbara (friend of Penny’s)

*Note: Thank you to those who have commented/are commenting. Your comments will be replied to once Penny returns – if this is your first time commenting the comment has to be approved before it will appear – Please DO comment, your comment will appear once Penny has seen it 😊 – Thank you!

New Year’s Eve ’62 – A Grand Party


Howdy and Penny anxiously await any sign of a party guest coming through the snow.

An ongoing project at my house has two opposite (sort of) sides, both aimed at long term gratification and simplicity, each resulting in what seems to be an everlasting state of clutter, disorder and confusion. The two goals are finding missing objects that Must Be Here Somewhere. The other is De-Accessioning Things, lovingly acquired by me over a lifetime of appreciation, greed and acquisition, and apparently of no appeal to my next of kin. Happy and fortuitous finds occasionally spice or brighten the somewhat negative feel of life while this goes on. Today’s blog is based on a yellowed and faded sheet of three ringed notebook paper neatly labeled New Year’s Eve ’62. Covering both sides of the sheet, it clearly reflects a different stage of my life but possibly of middle-class suburban American life in the sixties as well.

At the time of this party, Howdy was a partner in a New York City law firm practicing corporate law, working long hours and often working at home on weekends. I was an “at home” mother of four and an active volunteer for the Junior League, my boarding school, and my college. Our sons were seven and five, our daughters three and 9 months. I had a trustworthy cleaning woman who worked one day a week from about 8:30 to about 4:15.  She made things look as “If real people lived there” but, according to others who hired her, was not a good cleaner. She always did some ironing and if asked, would polish silver and brass. I had no help for these Christmas parties either to serve, cook,  set the scene or clean on party day. I look back in mixed horror and pride when I remember this. Scarcely imaginable to this slow moving old gal!

We gave an annual Christmas holiday dinner party. It could be anytime between December 18 and January 2. The basic menu was always the same, the regulars “our crowd “ occasionally had additions if some regulars were unable to come.  I kept meticulous notes on who actually came and ate so as to get my planning as perfect as possible. Our congressman queried his wife after perhaps the third party. “Why does Penny always serve the same food?” “Oh Peter, darling,” she told me she replied “Don’t you understand? It’s a traditional party, the sameness is part of the fun and it’s always different!” The year one of our guests challenged all the other men to see how many could take my good inherited damask napkins, fold them diagonally, and tie them around their waists, our Sally, ironing the napkins later, asked what on earth had happened to make the napkins so out of shape? Fortunately the instigator’s wife gave him hell in the car going home so that happened only once! In later years, other men, hoping to do better because of lost weight, were told firmly by all wives they were not to do that to” Penny’s  beautiful napkins” Their “Damask be damned” feelings were clear but being kind to the hostess took precedence!

The picture above was an annual guest at all our winter/ holiday parties after its appearance Feb. 20, 1960. After we moved off our hill in Irvington and away from our long private drive which shared the steep uphill entrance to the high school – rarely plowed on weekends! I framed the cover. It lives where I can enjoy it daily, in my bathroom gallery. In Irvington it moved into the frame that normally featured my 11×14 picture in my wedding gown.  The above picture is of it framed, so not the greatest image. Despite the hill and annual parties for about 37 years, we never had the disaster the poor pictured couple seem to be suffering. Our crowd was game and loved a party. The one night we had a serious snowfall in progress, the party star was Connie, born, bred and taught to drive in Toronto. After several useless attempts with her Dutch husband at the wheel, she took over. Backing the car carefully across Broadway and into the entrance to the lane opposite our road, she waited for a clear shot, stepped on the gas and virtually flew up the slippery hill which, she reported in triumph at the party, “scared the bejesus out of my flatland bred husband!”

Guests brought nibbles but I served the following: Baked West Virginia ham, sent to me unbaked by mother, biscuits, a canned green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup, mushrooms, and canned French fried onion rings, and a jellied black cherry and grapefruit slices molded salad with a special homemade salad dressing, rolls or biscuits. Coffee was served with a choice of home made bourbon balls and/or, in the years when she was alive because the recipe died with her, a fantastically yummy chocolate prune cake from a Wheeling, WV caterer Mother knew.

The guest list had 39 regulars who were always asked although a few moved away and others moved in. In 1962 the list had 53 possibles but 10 were never asked because 53 was really too many. According to my notes that year, only 28 really ate dinner and as 11 of the 39 refused, that seems accurate. Fun was had by all, even the host and hostess and while occasionally a pajama clad child showed up briefly in later years, our kids mostly slept through the happy din. That very hostess was in bed reading by 9:30, New Year’s Eve 2017 and asleep over her book before ten. Wakened by a stiff neck, I was off and so were the light a few minutes later. Gone are the days when we kissed everyone at eleven and rushed off to see the ball drop in Times Square with our sleepy children.

See you soon. Happy 2018! Hope your year is a great one!   p



Christmas dinner 2017: Full of yummy dinner and ice cream melon mold, I am wearing the contents of my Christmas popper. Crown is worn correctly bandit mustache was applied upside down.

Becky took the above photo with her iPhone from her end of the Christmas dinner table past six on each side to where I sat next to my son, the host, at the other end. I am festively adorned in the crown and bandit mustache from my Christmas popper and chock full of roast beast, Yorkshire pudding, potatoes with yummy host-made gravy, hollandaise sauce on broccoli and ice cream melon mold. I do not look properly sinister in part because my moustache was on upside down but who could look dangerous so soporifically stuffed with good food, prosecco and camaraderie as I was?

Its’ purpose for this post is to accentuate my feeling of  being blessed by the “new” (34 years) relatives in my life, Becky’s family. Inheriting so welcoming a family of in-laws you really like, admire and have fun with, is a HUGE blessing. (Thanks, Clint!)

Thinking about this over coffee in bed this morning, I found myself thinking how kind people can be and of various times when busy people blessed me with gifts of time and help when I really needed both.  Joan Lord drove me fast to the hospital in White Plains when I thought my 4th child was staging an early arrival. Thankfully “it” Joanie, who was president of the Junior League which was having a rare night meeting at 7:30 that night, never revealed a sign of concern about timing. I would have been a nervous wreck in her shoes. As I was recording secretary, Joanie was pleased I was new-baby-less and we both made the meeting easily.

For the on-time arrival of this same baby, I had three different baby sitters lined up. Each knew well not only my two sons and very young daughter but also our house and routines to come if needed to stay with the children when we rushed off to the hospital. Neither of us had family nearby. Labor pains started at five something a.m. on a chill St. Patrick’s Day Saturday and none of the three could come. Taking a deep breath I called our congressman (and close friend) who had volunteered if all else failed, he could come. While Howdy stared, stunned at my 5:55 call, Peter Peys answered and cheerily said “All else failed, eh?” He said he’d be there in five minutes as he didn’t need to find a girdle or matching stockings, and he arrived in about eight. Reviews on his performance were outstanding. He organized laundry folding for the mountain on the dining room table, served pancakes and sausage for breakfast having grabbed the sausage from their refrigerator on his way through their kitchen. After breakfast, he took the three to Becker’s to pick out presents which “the new baby had asked him to buy for them”. No other child of ours got the same warm welcome from her new siblings as Peter engineered for Margaret.

This next rescue is a bit mortifying to share as I was behaving like an over-tired, over-stressed idiot but the fact that all involved knew it and they still bailed me out I find marvelously kind and impressive. Our family, Howdy and I, our sons, five and three, and 21 month old daughter plus the dog, were leaving next morning for a ten hour trip to visit my parents at the Muskoka cottage for two weeks. It was July and oppressively hot and humid. The children were napping or amusing themselves, packing would be finished after they were in bed at nightfall. Meanwhile, I was trying to finish making matching Madras jackets for the two boys. (Idiots was more apt than you expected, wasn’t it?)  We had bought our Maine cottage the year before and would go from the lake to the seashore. My family were cross about this as they felt it was a dumb purchase. Mother was also cross because I was newly pregnant with number four and she felt I was stressed, tired, overworked and was angry with Howdy about all this, too. By arriving at ther cottage with 3 beautiful, well dressed children with some snappy homemade clothes, I intended to prove how on top of my game I was! So there!  However, when Joanie called to see how I was doing and wish us a lovely vacation I burst into tears. I’m not even very good on my little Singer featherweight and matching madras was well beyond my skill level, quite possibly impossible which terrified me! Joanie quickly got the picture and asked could she come and take the boys to the Country Club pool with her kids? “Don’t worry about finding towels and their suits- they’ll help me,“ she said. I couldn’t believe my good luck but I realized that when Julia awoke from her nap, she would want to help me sew. How would I ever manage to finish my ridiculous project?

I should have known better. When Joanie arrived in 15 minutes she was followed by Marguerite Peyser. Peter, our baby’s god-father, was just home from the city –“too hot to think!” and craved the honor of entertaining Julia in their little rubber backyard pool with their youngest. 

Kindness makes the world go round. My assessment of blessings did not include any outstanding gifts of time and effort such as these on my part, sadly. I say thank you even to the dog and cat and to my double lights by my bathroom mirror which I adore but which have four bulbs and are a bit prickly about how many will turn on together. I think that saying thank you is working wonders with them. I apologize freely as needed and much too often according to good friends but I don’t think I have ever dropped my life to help someone handle a crisis in theirs. I hope to God I am wrong but think I am not. An uncomfortable realization but I’m lazy, very old and extremely short on agility and energy. It may be too late for me to be anyone’s savior.

New Year’s Resolution season is  upon us. If more of us put qualities of character at the top of our lists and we had some success in our follow through, we could make our personal worlds nicer ones. I’m considering giving up my useless striving to be neat and leaving the kitchen clean before I leave it after a meal as just hopeless. Eating gives me new bees in my bonnet to attack! Too many of my resolutions mimic a “to do” list. While I’d like to suggest all politicians put HONESTY at number one of their resolutions, it has been suggested I, myself, may lean too far that way. Thoughtfulness is my top goal for 2018 with a sub category of a more practical iteration: PAY ATTENTION! Generosity, humility, helpfulness, courage, kindness and  patience should all find places on my list as should frugality –my latest electric bill is an absolute doozy! Perhaps striving in so many directions will magically thin me down?! Fat chance! Perfection is not the goal, liking who I am better is. See you soon? Next year, for sure! Happy New Year!  p