Friday, July 24, 2009

Sleeping Beauty

As I write this blog post from Ari’s coffee table on Saul’s laptop, I will not immediately have photos to go along with this story. I will post them later when I return home. Some of the photos will not be posted for a month… and that is part of the story. This has been a week of dramatic ups and downs, which only serves to remind me that I really should continue to live my life as much in the moment as I can and not stress about the little annoyances and downers that take away from the great moments of joy and satisfaction. Izzy developed a horrendous dry croupy cough and a fever of 102.4 after our wonderful trip to Hersheypark. After Debbie, who is taking care of Mom at night, awoke us at 4:00 a.m. to warn us that Izzy had been coughing a lot and was feverish, we began monitoring the kids room at night and did not sleep very well all week. I began getting up at night when the coughing awoke me to give her liquids and occasionally, children’s Motrin. The real fever only lasted a day and she was up and around in no time, but we had to be careful all week not to overtax her energy. In addition, we wound up with a gap in Mom’s caretaking one night because Debbie developed a high fever and Stacey could not fill in for her. That night, Saul stayed up with Mom until 2:30 a.m. when she needed to use the commode, while I slept. Then I stayed up with her until Stacey arrived at 10 a.m. the next morning. By the next shift, Debbie was feeling better and was able to fill in so that we only had one really horrendous night of no sleep. Only Larry and Faith joined us for dinner on Friday. Debbie was already sick and did not want to be at the table with us at dinner. I took a chance keeping her on duty that night because I had been up the previous night with Izzy and did not think I could do it two nights in a row. Luckily, Mom did not catch either virus. Debbie is really fanatic about sanitation. For Shabbat dinner we had homemade challah, homemade baba ganoush with chips, cream of cauliflower soup, seared sesame-crusted tuna, potatoes au gratin, and delicious sweet, white, corn-on-the-cob that Faith brought. For dessert, we had chocolate and raspberry-nut rugelach from Costco, and chocolate-chip cookie ice cream sandwiches also from Costco that were a brand called “600-lb. Gorilla.” Saul took Sami to services with him on Saturday while I stayed home with Izzy and we watched children’s movies that I had TiVo’d curled up under the covers in my bed. Saul was extremely proud of Sami who was a star with her singing voice and knowledge of the Hebrew prayers on the bimah accompanying Cantor Josh Gordon. At 1:00 p.m., after a quick lunch, we all walked with Adele and Brenna, who had come for a play date, across the street to the Roth Living Museum Farm where they had a program about farm animals and butter-making. The girls were very taken with the small bunnies they were allowed to hold and caress. Luckily, there were three. We also met the two “teen-aged” draft horses, a maiden cow, sheep, lambs, goats, and chickens. I learned more about chickens than I ever knew, and I know quite a bit about chickens. We then went into the old farmhouse where the farmer was seated at a table, churning butter in a large glass jar with a cranking attachment in front of the antique fireplace hearth. He let the girls crank the butter and then taught them how to paddle the results with wooden paddles to remove more of the buttermilk. He was kind enough to provide us with small plastic bowls of the butter we had made to take home, which we thoroughly enjoyed on warm bagels during the week. We had a lovely afternoon. In the evening, we took the girls to dinner at Moe’s for veggie burritos and cheese quesadillas, topping it all off with ice cream from Maggie Moo’s next door. Sunday afternoon, there was a “Thomas the Tank Engine” program at Morris Arboretum. Extra trains had been added to their outdoor miniature train exhibit with lots of the characters from the t.v. show. Although the weather was not unusually hot on Sunday, walking around in the sun took its toll and we were not able to stay very long with Izzy a bit under the weather. Early Monday morning, Saul took the girls to the big playground, which they call “the castle playground” at the Upper Gwynedd Township municipal park as it was supposed to begin raining in the afternoon. It did. We began baking the cakes for Haley’s wedding in August on Tuesday and Wednesday. The girls, especially Izzy, are really into cooking and baking and were a great help. The first largest layers of cakes came out beautiful. We leveled them and had intended to make trifle with the trimmings, but most of the trimmings disappeared when Haley came on Wednesday evening. I had been dreading Tuesday. After Mom had fallen last week and was becoming too weak to support herself, I had discussed with her hospice nurse, Kathy, ways to keep her from getting out of bed without assistance. We decided to replace her queen-size bed with an adjustable hospital bed with side rails. Monday, Kathy and I spent a half hour discussing the change with her and she was not happy. Monday evening, Beth came over and helped remove all the extraneous boxes from the sitting area of her bedroom along with a leather sofa that had been covered with clothes, towels, and bedding. We brought down a queen-size futon that I had in the attic so that the aides could sleep right in her room if necessary. Tuesday morning, Saul and Beth disassembled her bed and moved it up to the attic to make room for the hospital bed. Ken and Adele both came to ease the process and provide moral support. We set her up temporarily in another room until the bed arrived. Although she is comfortable with the mattress and the adjustability makes life easier for both her and her aides, she constantly complains about her “jail.” She is sleeping more soundly now and for longer hours. Her food intake has really dwindled and she chokes easily on anything other than liquid these days, but she is still consuming enough to subsist. Kathy weighed her about two weeks ago and I was surprised to find that she still weighs 126 lbs. without any swelling of her legs or feet. Randi’s sister, Sherrie, gave her a beautiful short haircut a few weeks ago. No longer having patience for having it dyed her usual dark brown, she has, for the first time in her life, begun showing white hair and it is striking with her naturally pale skin. Most of the time, she has a dreamy and relaxed countenance. Everyone that sees her comments on how incredibly smooth and unwrinkled she is for someone 87 years of age. Her face has an elegant, high-cheekboned structure. Gazing on her face in repose, it is hard to believe how weak and ill she truly is. Wednesday evening, Haley came from her final fitting of her wedding gown to take photos with Mom in her gown so that Mom will be in the wedding album. All of us were around Mom’s bed trying to awaken her for the photos—Haley, Stacey, Randi, Sami, Izzy and me. She just was not waking up. Izzy asked me to pick her up so that she could try to wake G.G. and as I lifted her over the bedrail, she bent and gave G.G. a kiss on her forehead. Even that kiss of love did not waken her. As we were about to give up in defeat and disappointment and leave, Saul joined us, and with his deep, authoritative voice and gentle touch brought her around. For the first few minutes, as Haley donned her wedding gown in another room, Stacey and I had an awful time trying to dress Mom for the photos in a pretty pink blouse and suit jacket. She was so weak that she could not even sit up or move her arms into place. Eventually she rallied and we were able to get her into the wheelchair and set her up in front of the hearth with Haley. She thoroughly enjoyed seeing Haley in her gown and complimented her lavishly. She mustered smiles while Saul and Randi snapped photos and while Izzy was placed upon her lap and Sami posed behind her. The photos are truly exceptional, but cannot be shown until after the wedding. Haley exacted a promise that no photos of her gown would be leaked before the wedding. Mom will be there in Haley’s wedding album to be remembered in her beauty for years to come and perhaps that is the reason she is still here with us at this time and going through this long ordeal.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I suppose I should have had lots of time to write another blog post during the week that Camp Bubbie and Saba was suspended and the girls were enjoying the week with their other grandparents, but that week turned out to be hectic. Knowing that we only had a week to catch up with everything before the girls returned, I had planned to get a million errands done, but each day, we found ourselves buried in computer work for a number of hours and only able to rest and play for short periods of time. Wednesday evening we had dinner out with our friend, Faith, at a tiny Indian restaurant in Blue Bell with only four tables for four and one table for two that we found through In our usual karmic fashion, we started a rush and every empty table filled between 8 and 9 p.m. Haley and Erik came earlier that evening to visit Mom on their way to a family garden wedding in Harleysville.

Thursday, Adele, Saul and I met Roxy for a late lunch in New Hope where we spent a pleasant few hours at Havana, on another coupon purchased from Each day last week presented the possibility of rain, and some days, we had some thundershowers with torrential downpours as thick as I have ever seen. With so much rain, everything planted outdoors has been thriving with very little effort, while at the same time, there has been enough hours of warm sunshine to prevent waterlogging and rotting of roots.

Friday, Saul and I took the Prius to be serviced, had breakfast out while we waited for the car, and spent the afternoon preparing dinner for 10. Jamie and Andy with Presley, Beth and Paul, Larry, Faith and Stacey joined us. We had homemade challah; black bean soup; guacamole made with herbs from the garden and chips; grilled barbecued hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, and Moroccan sausage; homemade potato salad; wilted spinach salad with eggs, avocado, mushrooms, cucumber, tomato and onion with hot dressing; and for dessert, strawberry-rhubarb pie and jumbo oatmeal, peanut butter and raisin cookies. We had been expecting to have dinner late to give Jamie and Andy a chance to get here from Delaware, but they arrived on time and dinner took longer than expected to grill, so we did not sit down to eat until almost 7:45 p.m. Presley, beautiful and full of smiles, has become quite mobile by rolling around on the floor and was beginning to get into the crawling position, so Jamie will be very busy in the near future keeping up with her. Mom joined us for dinner for only a few minutes, but seemed to enjoy the company very much.

Saturday, we went to services. Rabbi Addison was away and the excellent sermon was presented by our Baal Koreh, David Reif. This particular part of the Torah is troublesome to interpret and makes many people uncomfortable because it deals with God’s approval and rewarding of Pinchas’ vigilante act of violence, his murder of an Israelite man and Midianite woman who were embracing in the Temple. David related the broken Hebrew letter “vav,” which the scribes used to diminish the name of Pinchas for this act, to the breaking of a rod, as in “spare the rod and spoil the child.” The broken rod represents our desire to pass the knowledge of Torah on to the next generation in love and without violence. Sometimes peace can only be achieved through violent actions, but peace achieved by violence is always broken and imperfect. The cantor, Josh Gordon, had us reading the last verse of the National Anthem, which I don’t believe I have ever read before, but which is in our prayerbooks, and relates to this theme as well.

After services, we met a Jamaican woman named Angela, who had advertised as an aide in The Jewish Exponent, and brought her home to meet Mom. We all liked her immediately and her references were excellent. She doesn’t drive, however, so we would need to arrange for transportation for her were we to hire her to fill in the gaps for Stacey and Debbie. Mom has become even weaker and fell this week trying to get out of bed herself while Debbie was in the bathroom. Luckily, she did not break anything and was only somewhat bruised.

Sunday was a gorgeous day and more gorgeous days were promised for the beginning of the week because the rainy weather pattern had finally moved on. On the spur of the moment, Saul and I decided to plan an overnight trip to Hersheypark because Izzy had asked about the origins of chocolate a few weeks ago. After researching hotels for hours on the Net, we called Jessica, who was due to arrive here in the afternoon with the girls from a family party in Scranton, to make sure the girls were up to such a trip before we booked the hotel. By coincidence, the cousins with whom they had been partying were going to be in Hershey also on Monday and Tuesday before going home. We booked ourselves into the same hotel, which turned out to be much cheaper and better than the Sheraton we had been about to book. It was a MainStay Suites about seven miles from Hersheypark that had rooms with kitchenettes and double queen beds that were quite comfortable. The room was very clean and secure. The hotel had an indoor pool with a two story water slide that the girls adored as well as small indoor miniature golf course and basketball area. Continental breakfast was included in a small dining area near the lobby.

Sunday afternoon and evening, I washed all our clothes and tucked the girls into bed early. Monday morning, we rushed around to clean up the house in case it needed to be shown while we were away and pack for our trip. We left around 10:30 a.m. and drove to the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Factory in Lititz for a short tour. Last summer, when we arrived there, the facility was closed for renovations. The girls learned to roll pretzels made from Play-Doh and we bought them pretzel jibbetz for their Crocs. Then we drove to an Amish family restaurant in Bird-in-Hand for a buffet lunch. The separate kids buffet was built to look like Noah’s Ark. We drove behind some farm families out in horse and buggy and surrey-type horse-drawn carriages.

We arrived at our hotel in Hershey about 5 p.m. and, after depositing our bags and checking out the facilities, went to the Giant Supermarket near the park to purchase greatly discounted tickets. In the end, they cost $28.00 each. The park has a deal where you can use the tickets to visit the park three hours before closing time on the previous evening. They don’t even charge twice for parking, but validate your stub so that you can return the next day free of charge. We took the girls to take the chocolate factory tour, which is an amusement-type ride. They liked it so much, and the lines were so short, that we did it twice.

As we entered Hersheypark at 7:30 p.m., we encountered the cousins who were just leaving. We spent two wonderful hours riding the amusements near the entry to the park and having dinner at a kosher stand there that has chicken fingers and curly fries, a rare treat for girls who can never eat fast food out. We tucked two tired girls into bed by 10 p.m.

They awakened us at 7 a.m. by opening the curtains. We had breakfast in the hotel and went to the swimming pool for two hours where the girls must have climbed up and gone down the slide about four dozen times. The cousins came to say hello at the pool and were on their way early to the new water park feature at the park called “The Boardwalk.” We showered, checked out, and went to the park. This time, we walked all the way to the far end of the park checking out all the different areas. The park has expanded and is huge compared to the park I remember from many years ago. After a few hours of “dry” rides, we bought the girls some pizza for lunch and I helped them change into bathing suits in a changing and locker area for “The Boardwalk.” A few hours of wet fun later, they changed back to street clothes for a few more rides as we walked back to the entry. We had chicken fingers again for dinner and left the park for home about 5 p.m. We took a meandering ride home through a number of tiny Pennsylvania towns arriving back shortly before 8 p.m. On the long rides, the girls were entertained by a new DVD player we had purchased at Costco on Sunday.

This morning, we arrived at Costco as it opened, returning home just in time to prepare lunch for Ken and Randi’s sister-in-law’s sister, Diane. Then, we left for Beachcombers. The weather was beautiful again today and Sami found a number of friends with whom to play in the pool. I went with Izzy to clay and helped her make a whimsical smiling fish. Unfortunately, Izzy was developing a cough and kept complaining she was cold. I made a bed for her on the beach blanket and covered her with a towel, but she did not sleep and was very restless. After dinner, we took her temperature and she was 100.4. Jess advised children’s Motrin, and Saul went out to purchase some. Both girls were asleep by 8:30 p.m., but we have been spoiled by years of not having to worry about a sick child. I was up at 1:30 a.m. to check on Izzy and have been blogging ever since. I feel guilty, now, that we have probably overtaxed the girls in an effort to have fun and take advantage of all the good weather.

Water has been the thread running throughout this week, motivating us to get out and enjoy the sunshine. The fields throughout the farmlands in Lancaster and Hershey are lush from the abundant rain in ways I have never before witnessed and are reminiscent of the words in America The Beautiful, “amber waves of grain.” The corn, planted as far as the eye can see, is as green and dewy as one could ever imagine. The pools and water parks we have enjoyed were inventive and engaging. I think we are so detached from nature sometimes that we forget how much having a natural and abundant supply of water (but not too much) adds to our well-being.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An Ordinary Life

I missed two wonderful days with Saul and the girls while I attempted to catch up with my work. Two beautiful summer days went by while I stared at my computer screen, cooked, straightened up, and did laundry, and while Saul took the girls to Beachcombers for morning swimming lessons and afternoon art sessions. Tuesday evening, Saul grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and Izzy helped me make a concoction with different types of beans which she chose from my shelf—red kidney, black, and cannellini beans cooked with roasted garlic tomato sauce, some brown sugar and worcestershire sauce. Very early Wednesday morning, the girls and I made taro pancakes together and I taught them how to make the bread pudding that G.G. has been enjoying every morning for almost a year, now. Also on Wednesday morning, we went to Redner’s right after breakfast to pick up odds and ends to refill the refrigerator, especially Pink Lady apples. We then arrived at Costco shortly after it opened at 10:00 a.m. to replenish our supply of giant fresh strawberries and enjoy their free continental breakfast of croissants, apple cake, orange juice and coffee. We arrived back home in time to make lunch for Ken and his partner’s son, Josh. We had potato leek soup, croissants, macaroni and cheese, tuna salad, leftover homemade potato salad, Manchego and membrillo, smoked gouda, gorgonzola crackers with Betts cheese spreads, ice cream and warm bread pudding. Josh said it was the best lunch he has had since coming to work with his father and my brother.

My friend and colleague, Laura, arrived at 2:00 p.m. to go over the work being done for her school district’s calendar, and Saul took the girls again for yet another glorious day of swimming and clay. Sami has been waiting impatiently for the Wednesday clay sessions since last summer. They raised the age requirement to six this year from five last year, but Izzy was able to persuade the teacher to let her work with the clay, as she, too, had been waiting a whole year to be old enough. According to Saul, both girls were reveling in being covered with clay and needed showers before getting back in the pool. Their mother, who has a degree from Columbia University in archaeology, also used to revel in being covered with dirt and clay as she worked during her junior year in Israel to piece together ancient broken pottery from the digs. It must be in the genes!

Thursday, we planned a very full day together and I was finally free. I told the girls that they would have to completely cooperate with no bickering if we were to accomplish all the fun things we had planned, and they did. We completely cleaned their rooms and packed their clothes for the week with their other grandparents that was beginning with their being picked up by their parents the following morning. We had them at Beachcombers for their swimming lessons by 11:15 a.m. At 12:45 p.m., we went back home and I prepared a quick lunch of grilled cheese on whole grain bread while the girls helped each other shower and dress. By 2:15, we were at the AMC theater in King of Prussia for a 3D showing of the new Ice Age movie, Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which was hilarious on many levels from 5 years old to adult. After the movie, we went next door to Nordstrum Rack, where we hunted for a light blue shirt for Sami to wear in a color-coordinated formal family portrait scheduled for the next day in honor of Alex’s parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. We wound up buying a butterfly-patterned tee with a sequined boa that Sami loved, although because it wasn’t solid, I think she wore a different turquoise-y one for the photo. We also bought them shoes there, pink and white sandals for Izzy, and blue and orange sandals that light up for Sami. Shoes have been an obsession for both girls since birth, another trait that must somehow be in the genes, although in the case of their mother, it seems to have skipped a generation. While Saul paid for our purchases, we walked across the parking lot for our pre-arranged, 5 p.m. call-ahead dinner at Bahama Breeze, where we were to meet old friends from 25 years ago, who had worked at Cooke Jr. High with Saul and Larry.

A few days earlier, we had received a call from Tony (a.k.a. Antoine the Magnificent) who, like Saul and Larry, retired from the Philadelphia public school system and was now adjuncting at three different colleges. He teaches history and was having a terrible time learning the software, “Blackboard,” that he needed professionally for his jobs. Saul and Larry agreed to spend Thursday evening back at our house bringing Tony up to date on the software, hence, the meeting at dinner. Also meeting us at the restaurant was another teacher, Jules, and his wife Maria with whom Tony and his wife, Mary, had stayed in touch. All the timing had gone perfectly, except that Tony and Mary were almost an hour late for dinner, usually a nightmare when one has a five-year-old and eight-year-old at a restaurant without an attached playground. The girls were wonderful, however, and eventually, I left early with them to put them to bed while Saul wrapped up and came back home with Larry. Jules and his wife, Maria, had just returned from a 4-month-long cruise around the world and had very interesting stories during dinner. I spent the evening conversing with Mary and Larry as Saul worked with Tony for a few hours.

Friday morning was pandemonium. A couple of weeks ago, we signed papers to put our house up for sale. Since then, beginning with the garage sale, I have been decluttering little by little. A photographer was coming at noon to take photos of the house for the website, including a panoramic virtual tour. I knew that Jess and Alex would be picking the girls up in the morning, so I figured I would have an hour or two to run around and do last minute rearranging and cleaning. Unfortunately, Jess could not get here before 11:30 a.m. Then, my sister decided to bring her granddaughter, Brenna, to play with the girls. Then, Ken and Randi called to say they were on their way over to visit Mom. Then, Erica and Dan showed up with Ava. Jess and Alex showed up with Yona and Alex’s sister, Naomi. Pandemonium is the only way to describe what I was trying to manage on Friday morning. Fortunately, my sister and sister-in-law pitched in and helped get things done. Everyone was still here when the photographer and realtor arrived to take the pictures. Seeing all the cars outside, they must have thought we forgot and were having a party. Saul stood in the foyer and, in his booming voice, announced that it was time for everyone to skedaddle. They did. I don’t remember if he was quite that quaint in his announcement, but no one was offended. We managed to remove everything that needed to be removed, and the session went really well. Both photographer and realtor were pleasant and cooperative and were finished within an hour. I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders when they finished. We grabbed Adele who had been sitting with mom in her room during all the commotion and went out for a leisurely lunch. She told mom that morning that we had put the house up for sale and assured her, as we had instructed, that we would be arranging for her to be with us no matter what was in the future, that she would never be in a nursing home. We are asking a high price for our house and are really in no hurry to move right now. Should someone pay the asking price, we have viable alternatives in Baltimore, including for nursing care. I would have waited a while longer, but it was necessary to get the ball rolling towards the move while Saul is off for the summer.

After lunch, we dropped Adele off at her car and continued on to Costco to purchase dinner. I was too pooped to prepare much. Only Larry and Stacey were joining us and we needed to take a nap after the morning’s frenetic activity. For Shabbat dinner we had homemade challah from the freezer, strawberry soup, Boston lettuce with homemade Russian dressing, baked salmon burgers, homemade spanakopitakia from the freezer, ice cream and assorted chocolate and raspberry nut rugelach from Costco. Mom joined us for dinner for a little while, and Larry left early knowing how tired we were.

Saturday, we slept in. I finished two New York Times Sunday Crossword puzzles because I had not had a chance all week to finish the previous Sunday’s. This was fourth of July weekend and Ari was dog-sitting for Jess and Alex’s new puppy, Inky, who has been known to chew up furniture when left to her own devices. As a last minute impulse, we decided to meet Ari on the Eastern Shore of Maryland at a dockside restaurant where you can eat while watching the yachts float past. Larry decided to join us and we passed a pleasant few hours together on a beautiful, leisurely drive down Rt. 301 and a lazy and delicious afternoon. We left for home about 7:15 p.m. after ice cream on the dock because Ari needed to get back to let Inky out of her crate. Along the way, I got my fix of fireworks without the mosquitoes and standstill traffic.

Sunday became an amazing confluence of coincidences. We had discussed with Larry taking a reduced-price boat ride to Bartram’s Garden downtown, but had not made definite plans. Larry had an extra G.P.S. system which he had given to Jess and Alex some time ago. Jess and Alex had purchased a newer one and were no longer using it. Debbie, who had come to work for us caring for Mom, had gotten lost several times in the few weeks she has been here and was looking forward to borrowing it and perhaps purchasing it from Larry. Last week, when we were in Baltimore, we brought the box home with us and gave it to Debbie. Debbie was extremely disappointed when she was about to take a trip and it turned out that everything was in the box but the G.P.S. itself. Three times this week, I called Jessica to remind her to bring it on Friday when she picked up the kids to take them to their other grandparents. Saturday, I realized that she had not given it to us on Friday. We thought we could get it from Ari if she had forgotten it, but it turned out that she had brought it, but forgot to leave it in all the pandemonium on Friday. I told her that if she did not stop back at our house on her way home on Sunday, she would have to overnight it to us, so she decided to stop in on Sunday, but she did not arrive until noon. The boat ride was set to leave at 1 p.m. and we decided we would never make it there in time. When we called Larry to tell him our decision, he said that he had been cleaning his house all morning and had decided not to go anyway. I looked out the window at the absolutely perfect weather on Sunday and told Larry that he had cleaned enough and that it was time to go outside and play. He showered while Saul and I checked the Net to see how we could salvage the rest of our day. I mentioned Longwood Gardens to Larry, but he countered that a few days earlier we had been discussing Morris Arboretum, which none of us had ever visited, even though we have lived within a half-hour’s drive almost all of our lives. It also happens to be right next to Chestnut Hill College where Saul and Larry teach computer science.

So within an hour, we were on our way to visit Morris Arboretum for the first time on a gorgeous day. When we arrived, it looked unusually busy and we were told that many people were there for the opening of their newly-constructed feature, “Out on a Limb.” Immediately, as we entered this treetop construction, we met Larry’s sister’s husband’s children and grandchildren, who were having a family outing with brothers from Vancouver and elsewhere in this country, along with their mother. All I can say about Morris Arboretum is that I can’t believe what I have been missing all these years! What a magnificent afternoon! We became members and are planning to take the girls there next week when they return.

We finished up our afternoon with an early dinner of satisfying Mexican food and drink (Dos Equis and Margaritas) at a neighborhood restaurant in Oreland called Tequila Joe’s. I was sound asleep by 8:00 p.m. on Sunday night. Around 3:00 a.m. I awoke and switched on the television. TiVo had recorded a program called “American Masters,” which I love. Each program is an in-depth look at the life of a famous American. This particular episode featured Garrison Keillor. There were many profound and inspiring insights expressed by this man. One that particularly touched me was that, as a child, he had aspired to live the exciting life of a writer, thinking that the work of his carpenter father and farm-wife mother was menial and boring. Then, he said that as he became successful at his writing, he realized how much b.s. abounds in his chosen profession and how satisfying it must have been for his parents to have been creating things that were actually necessary and useful. He had aspired to live an exceptional life, but in the quest, he realized that the life stories of ordinary people are exceptional, that trying to live an exceptional life is uniquely unsatisfying and shallow, and that for him, an ordinary life is good enough.