Friday, July 31, 2009

Last Days

It was the last day in the office except that one patient and then another could not make it today and are coming tomorrow. I try to be calm and supportive but inside I am agitated and find it painful to say goodbye, to firmly end the relationships, at least for now. I have to fight the urge to offer an appointment next week, a final visit when I am no longer here. I have to terminate, say my final goodbye, let go.

The office is spare, some of the plants are at Daphne's house. There are pesky gnats that appear and one of my patients informs me that I need to use a non toxic pesticide, but I don't remember the name. She has been unemployed for a year and I do not have the heart to ask her to pay for her session. She has not paid her mortgage for a year and may lose her house and she is almost the last person I see today, in my practice, in this chapter of my career, my life.

I avoid sending people to collections. Most patients pay their bills regularly. I add up the $6825 of unpaid bills and look at the contract for the collections company and I hesitate to sign. They get 40% of what they collect. It feels hostile to send people to collections. I have one patient who has oodles of money but has not paid his bill. He avoids his appt today and I see his boss, and I want to mention that his employee whom he referred to me has not paid his bill, but that is not ethical and I wait to sign the collections contract. Perhaps tomorrow.

I meet with Rina, who will be taking care of my practice while I am gone, and I am so relieved to have someone who is warm and attentive and competent.

It rains furiously outside my office window after a hot muggy morning and I wonder how Maya is doing at the swimming pool with her friend. It is her last violin lesson today but her teacher is late getting t0 Baltimore from New York and the lesson is a short 20 minutes during which Maya's teacher gets upset because Maya's bowhold has changed in the past two weeks and Maya cries and I realize that it is my fault because I have been lazy and have not practiced regularly with Maya and she has taken on new habits. It is her concert tomorrow and if she is this upset it will not work out and she may not be able to change her bowhold by then. When she plays for my parents on Skype, she is frustrated with her performance and cries again.

Tara is angry because I wake her up at 7 to get me to the office and then she has to drive and pick up Maya to and from her friend's house and then pick me up from work. She complains that she has to drive three hours just for us today and I remind her of all the driving I have done for her in her lifetime and that the point was for her to have a car today to see her therapist. She tells me I have abandoned and neglected her all of her life and when I tell her that she hurts me, she responds that I hurt her all the time and that she hates Baltimore and hates being here. I cry and then later when I cry again when Maya is brushing her teeth, Maya stops to comfort me and explains that Tara is just being a 'teenager'.

Maya is happy when we meet her friends at Loco Hombre for a going away party. What fun to watch five pre adolescent girls I have known for years communing and carousing. When I first told Maya we would be meeting her friends for a get together, she objected, insisting that we have a party at our house, our rented house that is no longer ours. After the party tonight she thanked me and told me she had a great time.

I cannot say goodbye, I cannot manage more tears. It is just a year, it is not good bye anyway. Sarah cries and her mother Sandi and I just push our children to the car and go.

I talk at length with my parents on Skype and my mother cries when she remembers that we will be gone for a year. I reassure her that we will talk regularly over the internet and that we plan to join them to celebrate Christmas. We are also trying to arrange a 90th birthday party in Cuba. Canadians go to Cuba regularly, and the flights from Ecuador are reasonable. And I have always wanted to go to Cuba. I hope it happens.

I had planned to finally pack with my new suitcases. Eric ordered rolling duffel bags online and I must fit everything that is scattered and in random piles all over my room in four rather small bags. I think I can make it but I move the piles on the bed so that I have a fort of clothing along the side of the room and I crawl into bed next to Maya's mattress on the floor and I cannot cry anymore except that inside I am crying and it hurts.

Eric drove my car to Woods Hole last night after arriving early in the morning yesterday and driving to DC to get the visas. He taught today and is exhausted tonight. The renters want us to move all our stuff out of the garage so they have more room (will cost more for the storage unit and will be too much work for Eric) and have added two cats to the household despite the lease agreement specifying no pets. Eric is distraught and spent and at the edge of tears and I tell him to take an Ambien and sleep and we'll decide what to do in the morning. I am not accustomed to Eric being so distressed; that is usually my role.

It has been a tough day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Eric picked Tara up in Manhattan on his way from Woods Hole to Baltimore, arrived early in the morning, and when we woke up, we all drove to DC to visit the Ecuadorian embassy and get our visas. It took only a few hours, and there was little time to detour to K street for Thai food and smoothies and get back on the road in time for violin and ballet lessons and dinner and a movie for Daphne, Tara and myself. Eric napped to prepare for his drive back to Woods Hole. Our lives are complicated by another glitch. Eric's 1998 Subaru Forrester has been failing, and after a short visit this morning to the mechanic, it is undriveable without significant and expensive repairs, which we cannot afford at this time. We have to decide what to do with a terminally ill car. Eric will drive my car to Woods Hole and back, which is not good for my car. I love my Prius for its great gas mileage and I take care of it and keep it clean; with Eric driving, it will be as if a tornado whirled around inside, a dry run for its trip to Florida.

The good news of course is the visa, which means we can go to Ecuador anytime! Eric's worries and caution about Maya and I leaving Saturday for Florida (our original plans) are for naught. Instead we will stay four more days. Of course I have every day packed with activity already . Tara will be with us for the next few days. I know that both Tara and Maya have missed each other and need some time to reconnect. We will not see Tara for a year! That hardly feels real. Both girls will be entirely new people in a year, hardly recognizable. Although Tara seems very much herself after two months in Europe.

With Eric I have the opportunity to be the calm one this time. He is super stressed and irritable and not warm and fuzzy as per usual. He was like this when packing up the house as well. Perhaps he has been hiding away too much in science heaven in Woods Hole this summer, and coming home brings the harsh reality alive; we have packed up our lives and are moving to Ecuador in a few days.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More Tears

More tears today. They started before I arrived at the opthalmologist for an eye exam. My pupils were as big as my iris for the rest of the day, which made me feel whoozy and unsettled. I was afraid to drive, and spent more time in my office finishing up paperwork. It appears that I am having huge difficulties letting go. I want to leave my office in absolutely perfect shape!

When I picked Maya up after a day of swimming, her eyes were red and tearful too. Perhaps it was the chlorine, but she too has been overly sensitive these past few days. We said goodbye to the Benichous this morning. Daphne drove Julien and the children to Newark to catch a plane to Stockholm for an eight hour layover and then on to Barcelona, which is only three hours from their place in Provence, or actually it is Languedoc, which Julien makes a point of. We had planned to visit them when we were in Paris last summer, but could not drag ourselves from the City of Light and the train fares were frightfully expensive. Next time we travel to France, we are committed not to miss a trip to the south.

I remember how painful it was for my sisters and I to leave our lives in Rome and move to Edmonton, so I keep reminding myself when I see Maya and her sad eyes. Children do not like change and neither do adults. I want desperately for Ecuador to be an absolutely stunning experience for Maya and for Eric and me. I want the positive experience to be at least equal in magnitude to the agony of the preparation of the past four months. It has to be worth the pain and the work and the losses., except I do not know how to measure such things. I am fearful that I have given up so much (everything, almost) and that nothing can make up for the losses.

I kick myself, because I want to be the kind of person that enjoys the journey. Why could these past months not have been fun and adventuresome? I feel that I have failed already because I have felt burdened and frustrated and angry and anxious and overwhelmed and there have not been an equal and opposite set of positive emotions. The bursts of enthusiasm simply do not last very long.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No More Fun

I wonder if the stress of the last few months will truly translate into something positive. So much anxiety, so little sleep, not much fun. I am feeling defeated today. I never imagined that my life would be on hold for four months, that so much energy would be devoted to packing and organizing and leaving, and that I would feel so deprived. Whenever I have felt overwhelmed, Eric has reassured me, encouraged me to look forward, that our year away would make it all worth it, but I am not always convinced. I have had to work so hard, give up so much, stress so much, hurt so much. I want a vacation! And I am not sure that Ecuador will be a vacation. It will be an interesting experience, and adventure some of the time, but not a vacation. I am not sure what to expect from our year away.

I fought tears today. Driving the car brings me to tears, watching Maya participate in my ballet class makes me tearful, learning from my doctor that my LDL cholesterol necessitated medication treatment put me over the top and I have been miserable all day. That was the final straw. I had wanted to be in Boston and Woods Hole these three days and really have a few days of vacation, now that I have accomplished so much and am almost ready to go, but I am in Baltimore unexpectedly, and being in Baltimore means working on my 'to do' list. I cannot just relax and enjoy the three days that I have here.

On the other hand, Maya is enjoying her friends. Belina and Marius leave for France in the morning, and after saying all our goodbyes Sunday, they have appreciated two extra play days. Maya has been sad these weeks since school ended. A year away is a long time, and she is very attached to her life here, her friends, her ballet, her violin, her school. She has me promise her daily that she will return to the same school and the same activities and the same life that she has known.

I have felt that with all the preparations and time and effort that has been devoted to our move to Ecuador, it will be impossible to return. Leaving my work, my patients, my lifestyle, has been remarkably difficult. I cannot imagine coming back to our lives here.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I was ready to take a plane to Providence today to meet Eric and spend a few last days in Woods Hole, but Eric is driving down Wednesday to procure THE VISA. His criminal background check came back negative (no surprise!) as did his HIV test (ditto). We all have passport photos (I rushed Maya to the UPS store to get hers this morning), and I have to talk to my doctor tomorrow to get the results of the HIV test and my letter attesting to my good health. Presumably my criminal background check will arrive in a day or two, but I am not sure that is necessary for the visa. Eric will drive to the Ecuadorian Embassy with papers in hand and my understanding is that he will have our visa in his hands within a few hours and drive immediately back to Woods Hole to finish up his course, pack up and return to Baltimore. He is far more calm about driving the long distances; I am beginning to feel relieved that I will not be driving all the way to Florida. We have tickets to Miami for next Wednesday morning; Maya and I will spend our day at South Beach and catch our plane to Quito that evening.

So today felt like my first day of freedom. There was nothing on my agenda, since I was expecting to be in Woods Hole and not in Baltimore. Maya spent the day with Belina and Marius bowling. I chose to go shopping, not a familiar experience at all. Usually, I am very focussed when I shop and get only what is absolutely necessary; shopping is never fun or entertaining, I do it because I must, and I am quick and efficient. I was looking for suitcases that are large and light. Because of my tight budget, I chose three stores; Marshalls, Target, and Tuesday Morning. I did not find the luggage I was looking for, but I managed to spend money quite easily, mostly because there were so many wonderful sales and good deals. I learned that shopping is a dangerous pastime and can get me into trouble. I liked that I had time to wander, that I was not rushed or stressed. When I dashed into Macy's to buy an item I could not purchase in a discount store, I found myself listening politely to a sales clerk recounting her difficulties with her son and reassured her about the wilderness camp she planned to send him to. I have to be careful about telling people I am a psychiatrist, partly because I am no longer practicing, but also because the questions I am asked cannot properly be answered in a sentence or two, and once I begin listening, whole lives pour out and I cannot put people together in a sentence or two.

I wandered back to my office when I got more anxious about spending too much money, and plugged away at the never ending pile of paperwork I carry in a box in the trunk of my car. It is shrinking, but requires far more attention and having a couple extra days will make a big difference. No day is complete without my power yoga class, which Daphne and Julien participated in. Dinner and conversation completed the evening.

So this is what life is like without work and children and obligations. Quiet, reflective, slow, uneventful. I wonder how long I will last.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wasting Time and Money

It is so much more difficult to leave. We were planning to drive to Woods Hole this afternoon, but it will be the last time we see Belina, Marius and Julien, who are all flying to France on Wednesday, and we expect to be back from Cape Cod after they leave. Maya spent the night with her friend Sarah, and when I came to pick her up she was furious that she did not have enough time to play. This could just be the usual kind of reaction from her, except that everything is different now, and these are the last moments she has with what is familiar. I asked Maya where she wanted to have a going away party with her friends, and she insisted that it had to be at her house, our home that is no longer ours, that belongs to our renters, that is not possible to visit. I asked again and got the same answer and the third time was no different. I am trying to organize a 'good-bye' event next Friday for Maya, but most of her friends are out of town. We are halfway gone anyway, having spent so much of the summer away, in Canada and Woods Hole and Boston and in between.

After French patisseries and a game of Wizardology (just the beginning of a game), we said our goodbyes with the Benichous and dropped by my office for a short visit and were on our way. We did well until an hour out of New York where we slowed to a crawl and continued to crawl for the next three hours. When I could not creep forward anymore (Maya was fine, watched 'Star Wars' IV and V and fell asleep by 9), I turned around and drove back to Baltimore. Eight hours later (the plan was to arrive in Woods Hole at 2 AM according to my Mapquest directions), I am back in Belina's bed ( poor Benichous, guests that do not leave!!!!!) and Maya is still sleeping and will wake up back in Baltimore. Eight hours, lots of frustration, $40 in tolls and $20 in gas and $10 in food and we are back where we started. I wonder what the significance may be.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Living With Less

I am still trying to figure out how to live without income and how to make decisions that are reasonable and make sense. I tell myself I cannot spend money because I am not making any money, and I had better get accustomed to living with less. I believe I have been working toward this for months, but I am not very good at it. I have been using my debit card exclusively, so I know where my money is going day to day. When patients pay me cash, I do not deposit the money and try to keep track about where it disappears to.

I went shopping at Marshalls today. I am looking for three large duffel bags that roll, but have yet to find what I envision will work for us and may have to modify my expectations. I found all sorts of clothes for Maya and myself, but as I approached the cashier, I realized that I did not need everything I had chosen and, feeling guilty, I brought the buggy to the service desk and informed the clerk that I had changed my mind and would not buy anything. I scooted out of the store, relieved that I had not spent money, but curious about this novel behaviour of mine. What do I need? How sparely shall we live?

I scheduled patients at my office today, but the second patient was also expected to pay a huge bill, and he did not show up for his appointment. I had planned to deposit his cheque and then get online and pay for a flight to Providence on Southwest, rather than driving up to Woods Hole tomorrow to see Eric for a few days. I made the decision not to buy the tickets because I did not get the money I expected, so I will drive the nine hours tomorrow with Maya in the care watching Star Wars. I would rather fly, but I could not justify the expense.

Living with such limitations is new to me. In the past, if I needed more cash, I would simply work harder and cover whatever was needed. My means are finite now, and there is no option to work longer hours to make up for any excesses. I am already feeling cramped by this new lifestyle. Normally time is money, and driving nine hours would never make sense. But perhaps time is freer now, and I can enjoy the view from the highway. I was actually looking forward to the planned drive to Florida. I had not been on a long road trip on my own for years and years, and I thought Maya and I would enjoy seeing different states and staying at roadside motels. I had planned to organize the route to explore new and interesting towns. Now that ERic is worried that we will not get our visas in time, he would like me to stay in Baltimore until the day of y flight from Miami to Quito. He will drive the car to St Pete later in the month. I had hoped that Maya would see her grandparents in Florida before our year away, but that is no longer possible. I am more optimistic about the visa, so I was ready to plan the drive anyway. Now I have scheduled the doctor's appointments, but I would cancel them in a heartbeat. I am very eager to get moving on this adventure and be in Ecuador.

Maya on the other hand prefers to stay longer in Baltimore. She is sad and irritable and pushing to stay until the end of August. Change is so difficult, and our lives are so unsettled and irregular. There is a ballet camp in Carlisle PA (or Pennsyltucky as she calls it) that she has her heart set on. I believe that with all the preparation, it is best to move on and start our lives in Ecuador, rather than holding off any more. I am so very eager to start our adventure.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Crazy Days

Most days, I am not scared of my patients. I understand they are troubled or struggling or suffering and 'there but for the grace of God go I', so I try not to be judgmental, and to find a way to be helpful, or at least not hurtful. I have been challenged this past year by a patient who has been unable to follow the usual and customary rules of engagement between therapist and patient. I have consistently set boundaries which she has ignored and transgressed. I respond to her pleas for attention and concern, and because of her make-up, I have tried not to abandon her, but to stay steady and supportive and relevant. I have answered her phone calls at all hours of the night and day, I have given her more time and attention and focus than all of my other patients combined and whatever I give is never enough or even adequate. She wants to be my whole world, and I cannot give her what she wants or needs.

She showed up at my front porch one day last month, which is unquestionably unacceptable. My husband was shocked and worried and focused on protecting the children from potential harm. She left after a short discussion, but I was rattled and unable to sleep that night. I realized that there had been many sleepless nights worrying about this person, who regularly could not find a reason to live. A few days later, the patient called to tell me she was in the parking lot ready to kill herself. This was not the first time this had happened, and I knew that I would be unable to pick up Maya form school. I called Eric to do the pick up and meet me with ice cream before we went to the mall to look for eyeglasses for Maya. When I met my patient in the parking lot she was drinking, impaired and cutting herself and ultimately I called the police and had her escorted to the hospital for a higher level of care. The police were perfectly reasonable, but she resisted the transfer and fought them physically to avoid entering the police car. It was ugly and I was shaking and distraught watching the process.

I did not want to see her again, but I steeled myself to engage in three 'termination' sessions to say good bye and arrange transfer of care. She was off on a vacation and I believed I had done what I needed to do to ensure that she pursued treatment.

She has been emailing and calling since I returned home this week, begging for a meeting and threatening to hurt herself if I did not see her. Yesterday I finally arranged for a visit with her therapist, the patient and myself today at 4:30. I found that I was frightened. I worried that I would not survive this meeting today. Although the patient had never displayed any violence, I was convinced that I would be hurt. When I am nervous I talk too much and I overexplain and over convince. So Mimi, Teri, the patient and myself presented ourselves to the patient today. I was careful with my words and said what I felt I had to say. In the end she was cooperative and appropriate and I survived the session, not feeling great, but feeling relieved.

Termination of patients can bring out the craziness for people. We all hate being abandoned, left behind. My life has taken on another dimension and I have left so many people behind as I move to Ecuador and take on my new life. My patients stay in their lives and keep repeating their patterns and want to keep me in the same place in the same life in the same familiar spaces of before. I feel a little guilty, but not too much. I lived through the day, and my plans for Ecuador are intact.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Modern Medicine

My internist Dr. Anjaria, is very unusual for a doctor today. He is the only physician I have known who truly wants to talk about and learn everything about his patients, and tell them as much about himself and his life (except for psychiatrists of course!). I had an appointment at 11 AM today, and I had waited four months for the appointment, but today's visit was necessary for the Visa to Ecuador. I want to tell Dr. Anjaria to hurry up and finish, but he is not one to be rushed; everything in its own time. He struggles with entering everything on the computer for the electronic medical record and complains that it is a pain and requires an inordinate amount of time. Except that prescriptions are easily documented and ordered. I watched him carefully enter into the computer with one index finger all my answers to his questions. I wanted to stop saying anything so he would just get on with it. And this went on for an hour, despite there being very little that was of concern. I needed a letter from him saying I was in good health so I could get the visa, but he wanted me to do bloodwork before he wrote the letter. I wanted to go on a statin but he did not agree with my reasoning. I appreciated his time and his efforts, but he was too thorough and too considerate; of course most patients would feel so well taken care of and indulged. I tried not to show my impatience with such rare attention and focus from a physician. Usually they want to get through the visit as quickly as possible and do not listen. Dr. Anjaria listens closely and asks for more information, and them goes further.

So I did not get my letter. I have to go early in the morning tomorrow for an HIV test and other bloodwork, then talk to him next week and make sure he will write the letter. And perhaps prescribe the statin I feel that I need. I could prescribe it for myself, but that does not seem right. I ordered and picked up Tamiflu for Eric and Maya, along with several prescriptions of antibiotics just in case, and flouride, since the water is not flouridated. I made an appointment with my OBGYN August 3 ( I cannot do it before July 30 because the insurance won't pay for it until after then) and then went ahead and booked the colonoscopy on August 4, the day before I leave for Ecuador. These are all things I ought to have arranged some time ago, but doctor's appts and procedures are never a priority for me. I ought to see the eye doctor and the dermatologist, but there is inadequate time, and perhaps while in Ecuador I will check out the medical system. Better yet, I can try to participate in the medical system.

I am confused as to what to bring with me. I know that anything that I need can be purchased in Ecuador, so if I forget anything, I can simply get it there. It is entirely modern in so many ways. I have packed and piled up everything I thought I wanted to bring in a corner of this room I am in, but I am already revising; I truly believe we can manage with less. I realize that I have been preparing for months to live and function with less. I am amazed at how little I need, how simple my life can be, but I have chosen to make it exactly the way it is, and I have been entirely satisfied with the choices I have made. I am neither enamored of nor horrified by this spare life. So I will go through what I have chosen to bring and reduce by a significant amount and plan to live our lives even more simply.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Making It

My heart continues to pound, I am aware that my stress level keeps rising. I am plugging away at my 'to do'list, and I believe I am moving forward, but the more I accomplish, the longer the list appears.

There are so many ways that I am incredibly lucky. I had dinner with Rina and her family. She is the psychiatrist who is taking over my patients at one of my offices. She has three lovely daughters and an entertaining husband. I met her and her husband at Petit Louis a few weeks ago, and this time Maya came to meet two of her daughters, Chrysalis, 16 and Caroline, 8. Maya immediately connected with Chris, who came in her dance clothes after a day at dance camp at Towson University. Caroline and Maya shared a steak together, I talked shop with Rina and her husband, who is also a psychiatrist, and Sharon sat between the children, entertained by their chatter. We celebrated the smooth transition of my practice. Rina is kind and capable and I trust her to take good care fo my patients, which relieves me!

I am pleased with Teri too. She is a nurse practitioner who is taking care of many of my patients as well. I have been meeting with her these past months, because I am her physician collaborator, and because she is just starting her practice and adjusting to her private office. Again I feel lucky that I can trust her with my patients, whom I care deeply for. I can close my practices and leave knowing that my patients are in good hands.

And it is warm and wonderful and generous to be in Daphne's and Julien's household. It took a few days to accustom myself to the pace, but I am doing better now, and although Emily's house is spacious and comfortable and I wish I had not tripped the alarm and scared myself to smithereens, I survived that experience without an arrest, and am recovering now. I feel silly about the adventure, but it is past me, and I am none the worse for it all.

Maya is quiet or irritable. Her stress level reflects my own.Our lives are so unusual, and we have no real home, and all is in chaos, and it is tough for her. She did not want to come to dinner tonight, but once with Rina's family, she was giddy and over the top. She thanked me later for pushing her to join me.

I finally started getting my bags organized for Ecuador. How do I decide what to bring for a whole year? What does one need? It is spring all year in Quito, but that means variable weather, with rain and sun and fog and wind and warmth and cold all in one day. I packed at least fourteen pairs of underwear for Maya, and dozens of Tshirts. How many Tshirts does she really need? Will I have access to a washing machine and a dryer? Eric stresses that we will not have enough money to purchase more than food and the basics. What are the basics? Most importantly, what books do I bring? The bags I have are small, so I will have to purchase some large suitcases to accommodate all that I plan to bring. I consolidated and coordinated and am feeling confident that I will manage to put it all together. The original plan was to spread all the stuff all over Emily's living room and take my time deciding. I am in a small space ( I have Belina' bedroom, the three children sleep in Marius's room) but I believe I can do it here, and progress is happening.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Small Packages

We are waiting for our visas to come through. I woke up early yesterday to get to the crime lab and stand in line for fingerprints and my criminal background check, I had my visa photos, which were horrible but not intolerable, and on Thursday I do the physical exam and HIV testing. When the criminal background check/fingerprints come through, Eric will fly from Woods Hole, pick up the materials, and visit the Ecuadorian embassy is DC. Assuming that there will not be any glitches, we will make it for our flight on August 5. We will not longer be moving to Ecuador, we will be LIVING in Ecuador. I am surrounded by piles of clothes and suitcases, but this time, the challenge is how to pack for a year away, being sure I have all I need, that I do not forget any vital items, that each of us carry just two times 50 pounds.

I met with Kai to transfer all my belongings from Emily's house to Daphne and Julien's. I could not imagine living in the house with the alarm. Kai and his girlfriend were surprised that I did not change my mind and stay in Emily's lovely, spacious, empty house. I am so incredibly lucky to have such generous friends. The challenge at Daphne's house is to get moving and actually accomplish what must be taken care of. It is not an overwhelming task, I just have to start and stay with it. I am too tired tonight however, having slept only a few hours and still trying to calm down my racing heart.

I returned to the bank to check on my safety deposit box that is not really mine, according to the bank. The manager agreed to check with me to see what was in the box. I described having left just one particular thing in the box and he called another bank employee to watch us and monitor the grand opening.HE took my key and turned it in the lock along with his key. When I opened the box, I was in fact stunned to a beautiful clear clean shiny diamond ring on a Tiffany setting, the only item in the box and exactly as I remember it. But again I was told that the box was not mine and that the contents of the box were not mine. There is no record in the bank that I signed for a safety deposit box. There is a record of me coming to the bank almost yearly and asking about the box and being told that there was no box in my name. Amazing that I persisted and returned every year, hoping to convince someone to open the box. I had the keys this time, so I thought that was convincing, but I did not have the paperwork, and was unlikely to find it.

I laughed I cried, I prayed, I kissed the ring, I wanted to kiss the bank manager for believing me. Again I was told that there was no proof that the box and its contents were mine. He told me that he still had to research what happened with the box, but when I called him again, he told me I could rent the box for free for a year and put whatever I want in the box, and all the correct paper work would be signed and my ownership of the box and the contents of the box confirmed. What an incredible relief. For so many years, I have doubted my memory and wondered if I had done something quite different with the ring, and each time I insisted it was my box and I would find the key. I am so thankful that I went through those piles of papers and did not just throw all that junk away. I still have six bags of rejected papers which were to be shredded but I kept in Woods Hole with the plan to go through them and look for he safe deposit box paper work. That is no longer necessary.

So I have my very valuable ring in my possession again. I was so sad to have lost it and am stunned that I have it again. I feel so very lucky. I regret that I suffered so much thinking I had lost it. I worked so hard to let go of material possessions, and tried to convince myself that it was just a thing and not as important as the people that I love and am close to.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Crime Does Not Pay

I am sure that one day I will joke about today, but for hours now, my heart is racing, I cannot sleep, and I am acutely aware of the sound of the crickets, and the cars driving by, and the air moving gently.

I went to my friend Emily's house today. Emily is in Australia and generously offered her house to stay in whlie she is gone. I had dropped off my suitcases and a large box of paperwork Sunday, and planned to stay there and wade through the momentous project of finishing up my billing from the office and filing everything else, interspersed with the onerous task of packing and organizing our suitcases for the year long sojourn in Ecuador. Staying with Daphne and Julien is wonderful, but there is too much going on there to get much accomplished. I thought I had found the perfect solution. Maya could stay with her friends or come with me. I was very thankful that she decided to stay and play with Belina for the evening.

I had met with Kai, the young man who was taking care of the house for Emilly and Robert, and he had reviewed with me all the steps for managing the alarm for the house. It seemed easy and straightforward. Kai gave me a piece of paper with the code to get in and to arm the house when we left it. So I thought I was all set.

The key worked for the top lock and the bottom lock and I had thirty seconds to disarm the alarm. But it was dark and I could not find the light and I could not quite see the alarm panel numbers. I was too rushed to look for the light switch, and I realized that I really could not see the numbers on the panel because I had my contacts on, which are for far vision and not bifocals but I pressed the numbers where I thought they might be; later I realized that the numbers were not where I thought they ought to be, and I may not have read the correct sequence of numbers, but I tried them again and again and loud alarms started going off and I tried to check my iphone and look for the intructions and make sure I had the right numbers and then find the light switch to make sure I could see the panel, and I was getting more and more anxious and finally it seemed that I had the combination and the alarms stopped. The phone was ringing, but I was in the bathroom taking off my contacts so I could see the panel and I got to the phone too late. Next was a knock on the door, and a very irritated woman informed me that the police were on their way and that the alarm had been loud and that I should have answered the phone. She clearly knew I was no threat, I think she knew I was to be staying at the house. One police car with plainclothes policemen arrived; they were nice and polite, but then another police car with uniformed policemen arrived to check too. I over-talked and over-explained and repeated myself and apologized profusely and they all went away, including the very disapproving neighbour, and I sat down to work.

I used my iphone to email Emily in Australia, and she emailed me back immediately with reassurance. Shirley the neighbour had insisted that there would be a significant charge for the false alarm, which was fine with me, I can certainly understand that.

I shuffled paper for four hours. Julien called to ask me to check on Elmer who appeared to be unable to move, so I packed up my computer nad my briefcase and armed the house. But I did not hear the noise I was supposed to hear after I locked the door. What if I had done it wrong again? I waited outside, uncertain as to what to do. I emailed the student to see what he would say, but it was 1:30 in the morning and I kept emailing myslef instead of him, and it was too late to call. I became more and more distraught, too scared to try to re-enter the house, fearful that I would set off the alarm again and upset the neighbourhood.

I drove across town to check on Elmer and decided that he did not need to go to the vet. What do I do now? I don't think I can go back, but what if something happens tonight?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Witches and Criminals

It is time for the homestretch. Every day this week is devoted to details regarding our move to Ecuador. I drop Maya off at ballet early in the morning and then drive to the east side of Baltimore for fingerprints and my criminal record. Not that I expect to have a criminal record, but for my visa I must prove that I am not dangerous. Later in the week I will have a physical exam and an HIV test to prove that I am not going to transport a communicable disease to Ecuador. Passport photos for Maya and me are also required. Once Eric get his information, he will have to fly to Baltimore to collect the materials and apply for his visa in DC. If there are any glitches, we do not get our visa and will have to delay our departure. We are doing everything last minute, which is the way that Eric likes to operate. No reason to do anything in a timely manner. Of course, it was my passport that was the problem, but it arrived two weeks ago, and the house preparation took precedence until this week.

Having this visa will make life simpler in Ecuador. If we do not have the visa, we will have to travel every 90 days to Columbia or Peru to reapply for a visa and the process gets complicated from there. So this is important, and is my number one priority this week. Of course, being that I am stepping into the background and being the supportive part of the family team, I am not required in DC to get this visa. It is Eric's visa and I am the dependent. So many adjustments for me; being a subordinate is a new way of being.

I find myself slipping into work again, more than I had anticipated. I have patients that I just have not finished with, and will try to terminate with each of them this week. Somehow I have found myself with a few on each day of the week. Paperwork will occupy huge chunks of time and I absolutely must finish the piles on my desk. Unfinished work will just gnaw on me and I will feel unaccomplished if I do not complete necessary tasks. Thursday is my visit to my doctor; he is the rare physician who wants to spend as much time as possible with each of his patients. I wait for hours to see him and then he takes exquisite moments to question me and tell me about his life too. After hours and hours, I find myself getting antsy and agitated, but this time I want to just be in the moment and appreciate a doctor who cares enough to focus on me.

I am compiling lists of what I must do, and I am wondering if I have planned well enough to do it all. Staying with our friends makes it a challenge, because there is so much going on in their lives, that I have difficulty focusing on my own space. Today there was a 'witch tea party'. Seven girls dressed up in witch costumes, decorated cookies, concocted potions, and cast spells. Maya was hesitant to join the group without a costume, but Daphne put together a great combo for her and with some coaxing, she became more enthusiastic and poured herself into the role.

I am concerned about Maya. She clearly is struggling with the move. She does not want to leave Baltimore and expects to miss her friends and her life here. We are staying with Elmer, who has entirely adjusted to his new surroundings and his new family. I cannot imagine that he will want to leave in a year, he will have become so accustomed to the family here. That is difficult for Maya, since Elmer is her dog and she adores him. Elmer adores Julien and follows him around with love in his eyes. Julien is his new master now. Maya has lost her dog and her house. I find that if I am positive and excited about the move, so is she, and I cannot express doubts of worries, because that negates all the enthusiasm Maya has. It is tricky, because this move has defined our lives for months now. There is so much we do not do because we are preparing for our move. The buildup to the move keeps ramping up, and at several moments along the way, I have expressed a wish just to go and do it, get out of here, and I have heard that from Maya too.

So it was fun to watch Maya stress about not having the right witch clothes (we would have had several witch costumes at home if we were still there) and gradually transform and get into the moment and tell me that she did not want to leave the party to go to her accompanist session, that making potions and planning spells was too much fun. She stopped worrying like an adult and began to play and embrace the moment. She is truly a 'tween', between childhood and the next phase, when everything gets to be more complicated. I like the child part and the teen parts makes me nervous.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Art and Time

I am trying to figure out how to live without an agenda. I need plans and places to go and deadlines to meet. How is it possible to live day to day without obligations? I am not doing well so far, in that I have an internal sense of not being where I should be or doing what I ought to be doing.

I am staying with Daphne and Julien and their children Belina and Marius. Julien is a conductor and Daphne is a musician, and both have projects and 'gigs' and children to take care of. Today, I had errands and office obligations and a yoga class to get to, but when I rushed to the house to participate in an outing for the afternoon, time stood still for a while, and the children played while Julien sat and talked and had a cigarette and I showered and changed and waited. We left after a few hours and Julien went to the gym while the children and I wandered through Artscape, an annual three day art fair in downtown Baltimore. The place was incredibly crowded. I believe that the economy has encouraged many Baltimoreans to stay home this summer, so more than the usual amount of visitors came to the fair. I was worried about losing the children, and hung on tightly to hands. We waited another 90 minutes for Julien after his two hour stint at the gym. Time is elastic for some, but not yet for me.

I stressed about getting Maya to bed on time. At home, or as part of the home life I once had, Maya was in bed by 8:30 or we are lucky if they are asleep by 10:30. I worry about Maya being tired and irritable tomorrow without enough sleep. But I have no control over the schedule here and remind myself that I have to let go of control, be easy with the moment and find my peace. I hear the same message in yoga classes: being in the moment, being peaceful, letting go, surrendering.

Eric reminds me that this is good preparation for our year in Ecuador. Time is an entirely different dimension there. We cannot expect anything to start when it is supposed to, or that an activity set for a particular time will happen as planned. We must be ready to wait, to be tolerant of changes in schedules and everything starting late, later, and latest. Evenings start late and go to early in the morning. I must learn to take naps, siestas, ease into the morning and rev up for the evening. So time with Julien and Daphne will be a great introduction to time in Ecuador. I must learn to manage my anxiety and expectations.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bellydance Anyone?

Not working for a year means doing all the things I have wanted to do but have not had the time for. But perhaps I am also too old to do so many things I have held off on. Belly dancing for one. Maya and I arrived in Baltimore in time to watch Daphne and her bellydance troupe perform. Although I would love to learn to bellydance, I truly cannot imagine that I can. I was surprised to see the women in all their shapes and sizes being so unselfconscious. Or perhaps they were but were working hard to overcome shyness or discomfort. I love the music and the moves. I wonder if Maya or Tara will one day learn to dance this way. It is remarkably sensuous and daring, particularly considering that it originated in the Middle East. There is no doubt that women in Islamic culture have significant behavioural constraints; bellydancing doesn't quite fit.

It is more likely that next year I will dance the salsa and the merengue and the cumbia. I will focus on the culture I am going to be living in. Ecuadorians like to dance, and thankfully, Eric does a version of the salsa. We took lessons together, and he did learn some moves. Dance is probably the only activity that women and men engage in together where the men lead and the women follow. Absolutely.

I am trying to figure out how to be together with Eric and maintain my sense of self. Looking back at the years as a couple; we have lived parallel lives, each moving along on different planes, taking care of the family by concentrating on alternative tasks. Even when our focus is on the same goal, we have divided up the work and have made contact along the way. I anticipate that our year in Ecuador will be different in that being away from all that is familiar, we will gravitate toward each other, but perhaps not.

What is entirely different is that I am no longer working or contributing financially, and that is particularly unsettling for me. I am consciously letting go of control and letting Eric make most of the financial decisions, now that he is 'the breadwinner'. Of course, I always have an opinion, and I cannot help but express it, but the ultimate decision rests with Eric. He leads and I follow. I am trying to get used to the balance of power.

I am following Eric. I am finishing my life here and moving to Ecuador. It feels as if for the first time since childhood, I am not leading the way. I wonder how long I will be comfortable with this new way of being.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Birthday Celebration

Provincetown is at the very end of the cape, about two hours from Woods Hole. We drove through small town after small town, each with the characteristic architecture of Cape Cod, picturesque and charming. The area is quite populated, but I imagine this is the summer crowd, and that in the dead of winter, there are far fewer people. There are no parts that feel overbuilt; the building codes must be particularly strict.

The sky was ominous, and when we arrived at the 'Flying'dock, we were warned about 30 mile an hour winds and possible raining and storms. We went sailing anyway, and it was wonderful! The sun only occasionally peeked out, but the wind was perfect, not too much, and with both sails out, we were booking! I do not want to think of getting older, so with the sound of the wind in my ears drowning out the awareness of all my mistakes and misteps of five decades, I could tolerate the day. Maya stood out front, hanging on to a rope, ready to slip into the waves. Eric is comfortable in a boat, and sailing does not appear to be work for him. I dream of one day living on a boat and traveling around the world. Now that I no longer have a home and am living out of a suitcase, living on a boat does not seem impossible.

Provincetown is delightful.Shops and restaurants and inns and ice cream establishments line the main road through town. Throngs of tourists are shopping, going for coffee, eating, drinking, riding their bikes and enjoying this shady day. There are several theatres with nightly entertainment, much of it burlesque and vaudeville in style. For whatever reason, Provincetown attracts a decidedly gay crowd. The uniform du jour appears to be long Bermuda shorts, T-shirts or muscle shirts, bald head and mustaches/beards. I was surprised by the widespread facial hair in particular, and by how many fat men there were there! Eric fits right in.

I am off to Baltimore tomorrow. Maya has another week of ballet camp, and I wanted to go the Artscape, the yearly art fair, to see Daphne belly dance, but now that I am here, I would rather stay in Woods Hole and enjoy a few quiet days. Bike rides, yoga, beach, Eric. I have seen little of Eric. He arrived early Tuesday morning, surprised to see every spot on the floor covered with sleeping bags and legs and arms and bodies of all shapes and sizes. I was in Boston with Maya Tuesday, took the ferry to Martha's Vineyard yesterday, and we had our day together today. This move has not been an experience that has brought us together. We have both been working to make it happen, but on different tracks, different planets. I organized lots of time in Woods Hole this summer, but somehow life has not happened as expected, and we are apart again next week. Eric keeps reassuring me that when we are in Ecuador, we will finally have time together as a family.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Martha's Vineyard

We took the ferry across to Martha's vineyard today. It is a lovely place to visit, but I wonder sometimes, how it is that this particular spot has become such a tourist mecca, and that the real estate is so much more valuable than other places on the Cape. I now know what 'Cape Cod' style is, which is a perfect fit for the geography of the place. I always am curious when I see a 'Cape Cod' style in California or Salt Lake; here the style is prevalent, and suits the landscape. Yesterday I took a 22 mile bikeride from Woods Hole through Falmouth and beyond, passing cranberry fields, marshland with much bird-life (and bird-watchers), and more and more ocean and other bodies of water. The charm of Cape Cod is that it is not at all over developed, that at least around Falmouth and Woods Hole, the houses are modest and I like that there are no street lamps and that the vegetation appears to have taken over everywhere. It feels rural even if it is not. Woods Hole is full of scientific institutions, so it has its own character. Falmouth is a real town, with school and hospital and shopping. Tonight Daphne and I drove to 'Mashpee' to see the newest Harry Potter movie, where we encountered a huge outdoor mall with the usual stores. It was s surprise, since in Woods Hole there is not even a grocery store or a garage, and Falmouth has limited shopping too.

Martha's Vineyard is clearly oriented toward tourists, but of course has alot of expensive real estate. We will drive to Provincetown tomorrow to take a sailboat out for my birthday. I am not one to enjoy celebrating my birthday, but if I do something I absolutely love, I can be in the moment and not think of getting one year older. Sailing is appropriate for summer birthdays, and since I have lived on the Chesapeake or spent summers in Cape Cod, it has made sense to sail. Whenever I sail, I am always surprised that I do not sail more often, I enjoy it so thoroughly.

My house has been full of people for these past four days. I had expected only a few, and have been overwhelmed by all the activity and worried about having to feed such a crowd. Somehow it has all worked and everyone seems content. I am eager to have some peace and quiet, and sailing will be the perfect choice for that.

I have been too busy these past few days to reflect on the incredibly difficult task that Eric and I have accomplished. We have moved every bit of the household into storage. Most of the 'moving to Ecuador' work has been completed. It appears that we have much more to do regarding the visa, and that the extra few days we have given ourselves are absolutely necessary to get more photos, fingerprints, HIV and other testing, and fill out more and more paperwork. It may be that we will not get our visas until the very last minute. I am so eager to get moving, Maya too suggested that we leave immediately for Quito, but we do need more time.

I will be in Ecuador in three weeks. How many days and weeks and months has it been since we began planning and organizing (not much planning or organizing in fact) and dreaming! Life has happened all along: we have traveled and worked and the children have attended school, we have been on vacation and had family reunions, I have seen patients, Eric has continued with his research, Maya has been in concerts and ballet performances, we have had dinner parties and friends over. Lately our lives have been hijacked by the packing nightmare, but we have continued living too. So often I feel that my life these past months has been on hold and that I have not been living, just preparing for this move.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Apple Heaven

Eric knocked on the side door of the cabin a little after 6 AM, and Maya and I were on the road to Boston before 7. I wasn't sure Maya would want to leave her friends, but she was happy to watch the rest of 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' and hardly noticed the intense traffic the last half of the trip. Eric had thankfully printed out instructions for me, so that we arrived at the Apple store just a few minutes late. I dropped Maya off at the entrance ('I am a big girl now, you can trust me!) with trepidation and found a parking spot a half block away. I was surprised that I was required to stay throughout the workshop, but was delighted to have my laptop and catch up with work and emails.

And be introduced to Apple Heaven. I believe most Apple stores are designed in the same fashion. The front of the store is composed of three tall panes of glass reaching up to the sky (three stories). The inside of the store is bright with sunshine streaming in. The atmosphere is calm and efficient with attentive employees and happy customers. There are computers on the first floor, iphones and accessories on the second, and the tutorials and lectures occur on the third. I am so impressed with the design of the store, so very conducive to wanting to buy every item available and more. The colours of blue and white; I wonder if research has demonstrated that those shades are effective in bringing in customers.Thankfully the product is excellent, and if the device has a glitch, it is replaced or repaired without hesitation. I think Eric has had several iterations of his iphone, each time returning to the store for a replacement. Mine has unfortunately worked perfectly all along and has not required replacement. I would love to have a new iphone, shiny and untouched. And I love visiting the Apple store; I have no problem spending the three hours there, checking out my email, my iphone, watching the children at their work.

Maya took a three hour music (garageband) workshop. I am expecting her to teach me all she has learned. I also discovered that there are free workshops daily for adults to learn about the iphone, iphoto, imovies, and everything else one can possibly need to know to use the iMac or Macbook. I would like to sign up for a workshop today but Maya wants desperately to join her friends on the beach in Woods Hole.

I finally heard from my daughter Tara, who has been having a wonderful summer in Italy and France, and asserting her independence by avoiding contact.. She is supposed to be working, but is really having a glorious vacation and loving it. She informed me that she has decided to work in Italy next year with a theatre troupe which travels throughout the country performing plays for children. Sounds perfect for her. She was never truly interested in Ecuador, and although she had explored some volunteer positions there, I was convinced that Ecuador was simply her choice because we were there, and Tara did not want to return to college next year. Her gig in Italy suits her better. It was more my fantasy that she would volunteer while she was in Ecuador and therein discover herself and grow from that. But theatre is her great love, and Italy is such a generous and vital place to be. The year will be exciting and nourishing and that not only will she have a wonderful year, she will also grow from the experience.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I am feeling sorry for Eric. My impression was that I had left the house in reasonably good shape on Saturday morning, that it would take a couple of hours to finish, the house cleaners would do their work and Eric would be back in Woods Hole in no time. Instead, he has been suffering and struggling, and has only just completed removing the last of our belongings, the renters are not happy with the state of the house, and Eric is exhausted and finally on his way.

I am working to let go of my expectation (need?) to control all aspects of my life. I am here in Woods Hole, I cannot make anything happen in Baltimore, I cannot fix things for Eric, I have no choice but to trust him to manage there and let go. I certainly can question my decision to leave Saturday ( it would have been eminently more helpful for me to stay and help him finish up the house, and that was my inclination), but once I made the decision ( based on the data I had available, ie., that most of the work was done and Eric would have an easy time finishing up), there was no choice but to be fine with where I am. Whew!

But every phonecall from Eric suggests that he is in pain, anxious, panicking, drowning. I expected him to leave this morning and arrive this afternoon, but he did not leave Baltimore until 10:00 PM, and will arrive early in the morning, in time for me to take the car to Boston. Maya is signed up for a workshop on making music at the Apple store. I am not sure she is that interested, and may rather stay with Belina and her cousins and go to the beach, so I will wake her up early and see if she wants to venture into Boston traffic. The Apple store is a marvelous place and sucks up hours and hours when we enter the glass entrance on Boylston Street.

For our first day on vacation, Maya and I have slept in, gone grocery shopping for what turned out to be eleven people, relaxed on the beach all day, and ate dinner with three of Daphne's siblings, her nieces and nephew, Belina and Marius. Since I had not expected so many guests, I did not have enough food, but stretched what we had for a simple pasta meal.

I am confused about life without an agenda. I am with people today who do not work regularly. Daphne and her sisters teach Suzuki violin and have children to care for. Their brother is taking a year off to live in Argentina and Thailand with his significant other, and is visiting his sister in Boston for the weekend. None of them are on a tight schedule, and are spontaneous with their daily decisions. I am part of that world now, of course it is only two days now, so I am hardly experienced, but have decided to enjoy the freedom of being able to choose how to conduct my day, not to miss the order and predictability of my job, to be easy with my choices and of those of Maya and Eric and Tara.

Yet I am not entirely comfortable. I feel uneasy, as if I am missing something, am supposed to be somewhere else, have forgotten where I am or where I ought to be. I wonder if this is what it feels like with dementia, knowing that all is not quite right, that life is happening around me and somehow I missed my stop and am wandering in the wilderness. I have lost my place, I am not sure who I am or if I belong here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


This is my first day of freedom. I can to do whatever I want to (within reason). I slept well on the couch of my sister's apartment on Marlborough Street in Boston. I went to bed later than planned because American Express called to inform me that my card had been used fraudulently. I kept trying to get through and was put on hold for 30 minutes three times and finally gave up. When I called this morning, I learned that someone had used the card online and the fraud department had been alerted. I am not sure how that works. It turned out that someone had tried to buy teen clothes online for $150.00. My card was canceled automatically and I will get a new one next week. I wonder how they figured out that it was not me using it. I guess that is what is good about Amex. I told them I was moving to Ecuador for a year and they said that they did not need to know that.

It rained all night, but the sound was soothing. The couch was super comfortable, and after we all watched the Tour de France, Thierry, Maya and I started a walk down the Charles River to the Liberty Hotel (where we had stayed last time we were in Boston--- there is a big Bastille Day party at the hotel in a few days) and further to the tall ships we had seen yesterday. We stopped in Little Italy for cannoli for lunch. I guess on my first day of freedom, I had to eat dessert first, or dessert only for lunch. Maya did not like the cannoli and had a hot dog instead. We stopped at Paul Revere's house for a dose of history, and moved on to Boston Harbour filled with tall ships and boats of all kinds and it was fun to imagine the Boston Tea Party. We wanted to take the 'duck tour' but the tours were booked all day. The harbour was full of people, crowds of locals and tourists taking in the sights. Last year on my birthday, I had flown to Boston (after a week at 'Body and Soul' Adventures in Brazil) and met Eric and Maya and Tara at the Hyatt after a harrowing 36 hour journey. We celebrated the day sailing in Boston harbour and then eating dinner and dancing on a barge at the Boston Harbour Hotel. The area around the hotel was packed with people eating, walking and sitting listening to two musicians playing and singing the blues.

Boston is a compact city and eminently walkable, and we walked the length and breadth of it. It was sunny and warm and other than Maya finding it long (0nly five hours of walking!) and asking repeatedly when we would get home, it was a wonderful way to learn about the city. So much to see and do and come back to! Most of the city has been extensively renovated and looks great, except for the downtown shopping area which is grungy and that extends to Boston Common, which could look much better. There is a part of the common closer to Commonwealth which is beautiful, with flowers and gardens and statues. I wondered why the rest of the park was not as well kept, and a young couple overheard me and explained that because the Common was the sight of hangings and other horrible acts, it was believed to be unseemly to prettify it, so it was left looking sad and tired and unkempt.

We were all dragging by the fifth hour of our walking marathon, and only a promise of ice cream at JPLicks was effective in keeping Maya going. We stopped at the Apple store for repairs on Thierry's iphone, and I asked about changing the sim card of my iphone for Ecuador, but was told that the proprietary laws make it impossible to alter the phone. I will buy another phone for Ecuador, but use the iphone for WiFi. Thierry is insistent that I can get an account at Amazon and download books onto my iphone and that a kindle first of all won't work in Ecuador, and the iphone and computer will be just as effective with downloading of books. I will have to check that out.

How wonderful to have no major tasks on tap. I loved our day in Boston, and before we caught our bus to Woods Hole, we watched a Frenchman win today's stage of the Tour de France, which made Thierry very happy and excited. I am not sure how the race is measured and why it is scored as it is, but it was interesting to watch the riders whiz through the Pyrenees. I have been in Paris a couple of times when the Tour finishes in the city and rides down the Champs Elysees. The crowds are amazing and the fans rabid. Lance Armstorng is trying again this year to win and is doing well. I have read that he has used alot of performance enhancing drugs, so I am not sure he won his seven tours honestly, but perhaps they all use drugs of one sort or another and I ought to be less judgemental. Better living through chemistry.

I was concerned that we would have to walk from the bustop to the cabin with our luggage, and when I saw taxis lined up waiting for fares from the ferry passengers, I was relieved. The first two cabs refuses to take me five minutes away, but the woman at the end was fine with driving us. We came home to a smelly dirty mess, but I opened all the windows, washed the sink full of dishes with Johnson's Baby Shampoo ( it is soap, no?) and vacuumed the floors and it looks much better. I found quarters and biked with Maya to the laundry facility to wash every sheet and towel and when we were ready to pick it up, it was too dark to drive the bikes, so I will drive over when Daphne arrives with her car and hopefully will find the dryer full of sheets and towels. I had Maya use a pillow case to dry herself off. We did manage to bike to 'Pie in the Sky' for a soup and sandwich between washer and dryer cycles, so we are well fed and showered and ready for our guests.

Eric has been struggling all day. I thought I had left him with most of the major work behind him, and he agreed, but somehow he has not accomplished what he had planned and is scrambling around trying to get everything completed before the renters arrive tomorrow. He sounds panicky when I call, and I second guess myself. Should I have blown off this ticket and stayed and helped keep him on track? I had an easy day yesterday and today. I felt silly being in Woods Hole without Eric. The point of these tickets was to be with him, but we bought them long before we had solidified any plans. We did not know we would be so stressed about the house. We started boxing and organizing the house many months ago, doing bit by bit, so as to prevent this mad rush to finish last minute. I like planning ahead and limiting stress, but despite my efforts to go room and room and section by section, in the end the final days were crazy, with sleepless nights, sore feet and back pain, and still more and more to pack. Perhaps it was inevitable that the last part of the process would be overwhelming and agonizing and almost impossible.

I am feeling relaxed and recovered after my easy day and nine hour sleep last night. Maya too, appears calmer and happier. We were so stressed at the house, and I cannot underestimate how difficult this has been for Maya to see her home dismantled room by room and with all her belongings disappearing, perhaps never to be seen again. Maya certainly has been irritable and challenging for the past three weeks. I have to remember that she needs more love and more reassurance and as much stability as we can offer her. So many changes in her life are ahead of her. For now, she is excited to be in Woods Hole with her friends on their way.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Moving Out

I am out of my house for a year. It feels fine, ordinary, natural, right. I was up most of the night finishing up, and felt energized and focused until about 4:30AM. Eric's alarm woke me at 6:42. Of course, he had no problem sleeping longer, but I was up and had no choice but to get moving. I had no desire to do anything more in the house, and it looked as if it was fine for me to leave for Woods Hole. I had packed six suitcases, two small bags for Woods Hole and four larger ones for Ecuador. One of the Ecuador bags was full of books, so I will have to at least half that before we leave for Quito. I piled everything into the car and went to pick Maya up at Belina's.

The best part of our move was getting rid of the bed. Eric has had this bed since college, and it is uncomfortable and has all sort of corners to damage oneself on. I have wanted a new bed for years, and a new bed has never been a priority. It has gradually lost several parts and is more and more dangerous. When we return from our sojourn in Ecuador, we will have to go bed shopping!

My packing skills have deteriorated the longer I am at it. Finally, I just threw things in boxes, not really caring much about what went in which box. I will have to look forward to being more selective when we unpack the boxes. Eric and I did finally get into a pattern: I packed and he moved the boxes. I had to work hard to keep him on task; I'd find him wandering off and getting distracted. He finally became too tired and fell asleep in a heap on the floor in the living room. He was unaware that I joined him early in the morning. It did not seem fair that he kept sleeping after I was awoken, so I urged him to get moving.

Eric and I have done well together with this move. We are so different in how we approach things, but that worked for us. I found myself swearing at him with affection last night, and tried to say the most foul things I could about him, and he laughed at me, perhaps because I do not usually speak that way, and the words don't suit me at all. I kept upping the ante and came up with more and more offensive language, which made him laugh even more.

We had a ceremony to say good-bye to the bed before I left. I felt a twinge of guilt for leaving Eric with the final tasks of getting the house ready. On the other hand, I have been home alone for weeks packing nightly, so it was hardly agonizingly difficult to leave. The cleaners were coming at noon, so Eric had a deadline, which is good for him. I was off with Maya to Woods Hole. This was not convenient at all. The expectation was that Eric would be in Woods Hole this week and that we would spend the time together. We did not expect the packing to take so long; Eric was to drive to Boston and meet us there. We debated just driving up together on Monday (Eric has some other tasks to accomplish Monday) or changing our flight to another day, but the cost was deemed too high. It is not possible to be in Woods Hole without a car, so I had reserved a rental at Boston Logan, but when I arrived at Dollar Rent a Car, I was told that in MA I had to pay an extra $21 daily for insurance, so I decided not to rent, and called my brother-in-law Thierry to pick us up. We were starving, so we ate in an outside cafe near Newbury Street, and then went for ice-dream at JPLicks,w here the line for ice-cream snaked down the block. Thierry brought us to the harbour to look at the tall ships, which were open to visitors, but the lines to enter the boats were too long, so we admired them from the dock. Thierry drove us around Boston, from Back Bay to South Boston, to the Italian neighbourhood in the north, to Charlestown, around MIT, and Beacon Hill. The city has great energy, especially in the sunshine. The women look wonderful in their summer dresses, and everyone appears to be enjoying the lovely weather. We are staying in Boston for the night and perhaps even into tomorrow, I am not sure I want to be in Woods Hole alone without Eric, and I have no car, which is necessary to buy groceries and get to the laundry. The Benichous come for a four day visit late Sunday night.

I like not having anything pressing on me to get moving or accomplish anything. I am feeling free and untethered. The house holds onto me, demands my time, demands my efforts. I have let go of the house, we are both free of each other. I have moved on , moved out. Yeah!

Friday, July 10, 2009


This is it! My last night in this house of mine. I will be up all night packing. I will make it, I think. What have I learned from this experience? NEVER pack up my house again. Hire a moving service. It is worth it. This was not the right choice. I have been using the most foul words I can remember to rage at my husband. What a nightmare. NEVER NEVER NEVER again.

It is almost over, perhaps another ten hours or so! I expect to catch a flight to Cape Cod tomorrow. I had originally planned to spend the week of my birthday with Eric and relax before I return to Baltimore to complete all the last minute stuff that has to be done. But Eric will stay another couple of days in Baltimore to finish up details. Most of what I can do is done. We have cleaners (actually he is called the 'househusband-- how appropriate!) who arrive tomorrow at noon and everything will look wonderful for our renters who arrive Monday. Whew!

The number of hours devoted to emptying out our house has been horrendous. I have learned to think carefully before buying ANYTHING. I need nothing. I have a storage unit full of stuff I don't miss or need or even remember. I am almost feeling free of my belongings, and that is a good feeling. I moved into my first apartment at 19, and all that I owned fit in the back of my red Mazda GLC. Would that I could own so little now. The house looks lovely with all the wide open spaces.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

False Memory

I could hardly sleep last night, in anticipation of the possibility of a wonderful discovery today. I had been slogging through boxes and bags of paper for weeks now. My closet had been full of every piece of paper that had come in the mail or from the office in the past fourteen years. I had not let go of anything, who knows why. These papers had accumulated and expanded and grown, until most of my walk in closet was packed and inaccessible ( the mice in the closet had kept me out of there for years, or so I said, or believed). I refused to throw anything out without looking through all the papers. While Eric was gone these past weeks, I sifted through almost a box a night and these past few days I have checked each of the remaining boxes. And finished last night. And found something that I may have been looking for. I had not specifically been looking for anything, I just knew that I did not want to throw anything out without checking first, just in case I found something that I may or may not have lost.

I had been doubting myself for years. Whenever I told Eric the story, he did not appear to believe the details, so I gave up on ever finding what I lost, grieved the loss, but kept hoping I would be lucky someday.

I have one item in my possession that is of great value. Very small and precious. I kept it in a safety deposit box in Salt Lake City until June of 2002, when I moved it and remember putting it in a safe deposit box at the local First Union branch. And forgot about it and believed it to be safe. I checked on it in 2003 and was told that I never had a safe deposit box at the bank, that there was no record of it and if I did not have the paperwork or the key. I insisted, to no avail, and decided not to think about it for a while. I checked again a couple of times over the years and the answer was the same. There was no record of the box. Of course I had no idea where the key was.

I began to doubt my memory. Perhaps it was a false memory. I have a photographic memory, which places me in the vault and putting the item in a brown envelope and in the safe. Did I make up the story, did it happen in the past? Was this dementia?

After a while I decided that what I had lost was just a material possession and did not have intrinsic value and I had to simply let it go. That was extremely difficult and I felt horribly sad and disappointed for a long time. How could I have lost something so precious? Did someone steal it in my house? Did the bank steal it? Nothing else was stolen or lost. Was it misplaced? Did I hide it somewhere 'safe' in the house, to be discovered joyously one day?

I have another memory of asking my mother to save it for me. But did that happen before we came to Baltimore? I called her today and asked her to look in her safety deposit box, perhaps it will surprise us and she will find it.

Meanwhile, late yesterday afternoon, I was sifting through small bits of paper and coins and junk (mixed up with mouse waste too!) and found a small envelope with two safe deposit box keys and the number 818 on the front. This had to be the keys to my safe deposit box at the bank which was now Wachovia. My heart raced and I could not sit still and although I went through many other boxes and packed up until midnight, my heart did not slow down. And when I tried to sleep, I could not stop anticipating going to the bank and finally feeling some satisfaction. I had agonized about this for years. Finally an answer!

I was at my office at 8 AM and only after meeting with my friend Daphne and starting to organize my files at the office and seeing a patient and waiting and keeping busy with other tasks for fear of not succeeding in this venture, I finally dashed off to the bank, presented my keys and asked to get into my safety deposit box. Same answer; no record of me having a box at the bank. No bills for the box, no signature or card for the box. I asked the manager of the bank to check to see if it was the right key and he examined the two carefully and claimed they looked like the right keys except they were of different colours and usually the keys are exactly the same. He tried one key on the lock and it fit. The box will only open if both the bank master key and mine turn the lock at the same time. The rules of the bank are that I cannot open the box without evidence that it was in fact my box. When I asked years ago, I was told that if I found the key, I could get into the box. Today I was told that if I found the contract for the safety deposit box, that would prove it was mine. Having the keys did not mean anything because I could have stolen them. I told him that he could open the box and check for the item and then know it was mine, but apparently there are rules for such things and this circumstance was so out of the ordinary that until he researched it and found out what happened with the box or the contract for the box, I would not be able to get into it.

And so I am doubting myself again. Perhaps I took the item out of the box and put it somewhere else, but where? What if we open the box and it is empty? I guess that proves that my excellent photographic memory is not what it was. The best outcome is for us to open the box and find that it is in fact mine and does have my very precious item. I think that I would just leave it where it is and feel incredibly relieved that my story and my memory are intact.

I am reminded again of human attachment to material things. Why do I care so much about something small, which I have not seen in years and have not really needed or appreciated. I wanted to believe it was just 'there', that it was still 'mine'. I liked owning something valuable and beautiful, even though I do not see it daily. I have convinced myself that it is not significant, that I have been perfectly capable of living without it and that it has no real impact on my life, positive or negative. I still want it desperately and my heart still races in anticipation of the phone call from the bank manager and a chance to see it again and know it is there.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I am making progress, trying to focus on one small area at a time and avert my gaze from the devastation that is my house, no longer my home, just a shell filled with boxes and extraneous junk, more like a huge dumpster filled with detritus. I try to imagine what an archeologist will find in three thousand years, and what he will conclude when he sifts through the remains. I believe we will be living a simpler life in the future and will not value consumption or accumulation or collection in the way that we have.

Eric moves boxes. I pack them and they disappear. I do not want to know where they go or stress about their safety. I don't know if I will ever see what I have packed again, or if the boxes will survive their journey to the garage or the storage unit. I am trying not to control every part of the move, in fact I control nothing but what goes in the box. I am very aware that I must trust more, and let go of the hold these things have on me. I am holding onto the most valuable stuff, which remains in my bedroom in an ever growing pile.

I try to console myself. I could be out and about and engaging in interesting activities, I could be at a yoga class or eating with friends or reading a good book, or seeing the latest movie. Instead I am getting exercise by packing and lifting boxes, I am engaging my memory and my mind in sorting through belongings, challenging myself to make decisions about what to keep and what to discard. Do I sound convincing enough?

I have three more days!!!! My next ticket to Boston is on Saturday. I plan to make that plane, but Eric may stay longer to finish up. As of Monday, we have no home, or we will make our home wherever we are. We have the cabin in Woods Hole until the end of the month, so that will be home for now, and I will be back and forth between Boston and Baltimore making my home at various friends' houses. I will be a gypsy, traipsing about with a bag; what a sight!

We have some possibilities in Quito as well. I will be wandering around town checking out apartment possibilities. I have not lived in an apartment since my early twenties. Maya's school is far from Eric's university, which is fine, since Maya will take a bus to school daily and public transportation is perfectly adequate. Eric forwarded an email from a contact in Quito proposing an affordable place halfway between the two locations, but it is in an area where another friend lives and experienced a brutal home invasion last year. We will have to prepare ourselves for the possibility of such an experience and be ready to let all our belongings go without resistance and preserve our lives rather than hold on to anything. We cannot really ensure that it will not happen, it does not matter where we live in Quito. Eric proposes that we plan for it and be ready to avert injury or loss of life. Whew! I sound so relaxed about such a horror, and of course I am not at all comfortable with any sort of violence or violation, but I have heard about the possibility enough times to be anticipating it.

I hope that caution and awareness will save us from any such experience. I have no idea why I have been thinking about it. When I received the email about the apartment, I found myself enthusiastic until I was reminded about the home invasion, whereupon my stomach took a few turns and I started to worry. I have a patient who has spent time in South and Central America, most often on the wrong side of the law, and when I told him about my move, he cautioned me and urged me to learn to use a gun, and if not a gun, at least learn how to disable an attacker with various defensive techniques. He offered to teach me how to defend myself, and expressed grave concern.

I have never thought of myself as excessively anxious until I began writing about our move to Ecuador. It seems now that whenever I think about the move, there is more to worry about. Of course not enough to cancel the sabbatical and choose a 'safer' place to live. It is Ecuador in less than a month, and that is that.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Human Attachment

My living room is huge without any furniture. I like it this way. Maya and her friend Sarah are using it as a ballet studio, reliving their day in dance camp (I hear Maya barking at her student!). Maya is now playing Bach on her violin while Sarah is dancing to the music. Perhaps we will make it into a music room/dance studio when we return from our year in Ecuador.

It is astonishing that we can live with so little. Most rooms are empty except for boxes. We have one bed for Eric, Maya and I, but for tonight's sleepover, Sarah and Maya will sleep on a mattress in the empty living room. It will be the last sleepover in the house until we return next summer. I gave most of the food away, and packed up most of the dishes, so food is provided as finger food only.

We will live a simple life in Ecuador, and I like having less around me. I have not been missing all my 'stuff'. I worry about not having books to read, but I find myself quite comfortable without the contents of a massive storage unit full of what felt absolutely necessary in my former life. I wonder what would happen if I never returned to my 'stuff'. Would I miss it or would I simply acummulate more and more and more? I have thrown out bags and bags of papers, given away clothes and toys and books and food, and I am not missing any of it.

Eric is home to help pack up the house. He is driving me crazy because his way of organizing is to mess it up first. Whereas I tried to finish off room by room, Eric's style is to attack all rooms at once, so the whole house is a disaster! He is much better than I am at cleaning, partly because he has no difficulty throwing out things. I find myself checking through the piles he plans to discard to be sure none of our treasures disappear. When we moved from Salt Lake City to Baltimore, most of my Oriental rugs disappeared. I was so distraught and whined at Eric about it for months . I contacted United Movers trying to track down the rugs and wanting compensation from them. The rugs were significant, not because they were that valuable or even that beautiful, but I had bought most of them in Turkey in 1985, where my sister Karen and I had traveled for several weeks before Monica's wedding. It was an incredible trip, and part of the fun was shopping for carpets. We spend hours drinking tea and examining rug after rug after rug. During the several weeks in the country, we managed to accumulate so many rugs we were obliged to get rid of our clothes and fill our small suitcases with rugs. When we arrived at Orly airport in our Turkish attire, our luggage was searched and we were accused of smuggling rugs. It did look suspicious that there were no clothes in our suitcases. They were packed with carpets from as far away as Iran and representing most of the styles found in Turkey. Those carpets have been part of my life for almost 25 years! Anyway, when my rugs did not show up in our house in Baltimore, I was horrified and gave Eric such a hard time because of it. After a year or so, Eric found the rugs on the floor of the offices of the construction company. He was told that they had found the rugs in the garbage. Eric came home so happy and threw the rugs all over the floors, eager for a positive reaction from me, and instead of being happy with him I was horrified that he had thrown them out!

So while Eric is clearing out the basement, I have to hold myself back from running downstairs to check and be sure he is not throwing anything out. Of course, part of me wants him to get rid of everything, but even more powerful is the part of me that wants to keep it all. I ran downstairs to tell him to keep all the National Geographic magazines. Will I ever read them? What is there about the attachment we have to 'things'? Humans throughout history have created, stored, valued 'things'.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Return to Reality

Back to my reality, back in Baltimore, cleaning, organizing, packing. Eric drove home from Woods Hole with his fish tanks and fish in his car. We all woke up early to drive to Boston to catch an early flight (Maya and I were lucky to get on standby at 8:30 and arrive at ballet camp only two hours late); Eric drove back to get the fish and pump their tanks full of oxygen so they would survive the journey back to the lab at Johns Hopkins.

I started packing up the kitchen, and made progress, but then had friends over for dinner and by the time Eric arrived everything was topsy turvy and it was hardly noticeable that I had been working daily for weeks. I am not sure what planet I was on or why I chose to be so impractical. Why in the world would I have friends over and children tearing through my house when I am supposed to be getting ready for our renters? My silliness quotient increased dramatically when I prepared a fresh cherry pie and two key lime pies and the oven did not work so none of the pies were cooked. We ate the uncooked cherry pie with the tapioca unmelted. Daphne and Julien were polite, but the children clearly found the pie inedible. Again, what was I doing baking pies when the plan was to be packing up my kitchen?

Eric arrived after nine hours of driving, exhausted, cranky and feeling ill. We have both had flu symptoms these past few days. Many of the scientists I ran into at Woods Hole had been ill, so Eric decided that we were fighting swine flu and that was a good thing because we would develop immunity. I have my doubts, but if it is the swine flu, better now in preparation for our move to Ecuador. If we have a mild case of swine flu, we will have developed some immunity to the virus and will be unlikely to succumb when we are in Ecuador. Apparently the Ecuadorian government is quite worried about the disease and will quarantine visitors if they appear infected. The hysteria about the swine flu has abated in North America, but perhaps that is because it is summer and the swine flu is focusing on winter climates in the southern hemisphere and will return to the north in the winter. My friend Emily is moving to Melbourne, Australia, where the incidence of swine flu is much higher than in any other community. She asked for prescriptions of Tamilflu for her and her family. I will be writing presecriptions for Eric and Maya and Tara as well.

My impression about the medical system in Ecuador is quite positive. It is affordable and accessible, especially for those who have means. I am sure that for ordinary medical issues, the standard of care is more than adequate. However if there are complicated and challenging procedures, it makes most sense to return to the States. Eric, as an employee of Hopkins, has insurance that will fly him out of Ecuador if medically necessary, but the benefit does not extend to Maya or Tara or I. I believe we can use the services, but will have to pay for them. Perhaps family and dependents are more expendable. We will have to make efforts to remain as healthy as possible. I will put together a first aid kit and medications to cover most ordinary health needs. It is accidents and unusual illnesses which concern me. but if I start worrying, I will be overwhelmed and paralyzed. So I plan not to be anxious about becoming ill and struggling to find medical care.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


I always expect July 4 to be a bigger event than it is. The parade in Woods Hole was small and silly and fun to watch, but not particularly impressive. We drove to Falmouth to watch fireworks on the beach and when they were over we went to bed. I am always disappointed because I want to feel that the day is meaningful.

I look forward to the festivals and celebrations in Ecuador. I want to stay as long into December as possible so as not to miss anything. Apparently, in Quito, all of December is a celebration. Carnival happens in February and is not to be missed. Throngs of people fill the streets throwing water balloons, flour, eggs, and more at each other. There are events every month, in most major cities, most of them tied to religious rituals, primarily Catholic, but many older indigenous ceremonies. Political holidays are celebrated as well. Every month has at least one long weekend with a ceremony or fiesta attached, but often the precise date is not certain until the last minute. Different cities are known for particular celebrations, so I will have to organize our weekends to make it to the various events.

I found out that July 16, which happens to be my birthday, is a special celebration for a 'Virgen de Carmen'. We will miss it this year, but will plan to be there in 2010. I a still debating about our departure date. I will try to get my visa next week, which will make it possible to leave anytime after that, but there are so may other considerations. Why not just leave and start my year in Ecuador sooner? I have been preparing in so many ways for so many months, it almost feels redundant to stay in the United States any longer. I have a few more days of work, more days of paperwork to finalize things, the house will no longer be mine in ten days!!!

On the other hand, changing our dates will be costly, and having a few extra weeks gives us time to finish up many details and leave less undone. My daughter arrives home from her sojourn in Italy and France on July 29, so I may have a chance to see her before I go. Maya will be a happy to see more of her friends before we go, I will have a chance to celebrate my departure over an over again. I am going back and forth with the decision; it is rather wonderful to have the freedom to make such choices.