Monthly Archives: May 2015

Day 871: What’s taking up space in your head?

What’s taking up space in your head?

… is the question that was taking up space in my head, when I woke up earlier this morning.

Why was that question taking up space in my head?

Here’s why: Some negative people and difficult situations are taking up too much friggin’ space in my head, right now. And, I do NOT want to be renting them so much — if any — of my valuable mental space.

Why do negative people and difficult situations take up so much space? I mean it’s my head, dammit! Why, on earth, am I NOT renting more space to positive people and things, including

  • my ongoing recovery from my recent cardiac-related surgery,
  • my extremely good chances, according to my trusted cardiologists, of avoiding dreaded major heart surgery in the near future,
  • people and animals I love,
  • my wonderful experiences here in the blog-o-sphere,
  • the therapy groups I get to do every week at work,
  • my upcoming presentation on these groups, at a group therapy conference the first weekend of June, and
  • my upcoming chance to sing a song I love — Sondheim’s “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” — and KILL it at an audition (if I’m not too nervous)?

I would prefer to be giving ALL my mental space to those and other positive things in my life, today. So why am I spacey enough to give any head-space, at all, to:

  • negative people and
  • disappointing situations?

Here’s a possible answer to that, which is taking up space in my head:

Perhaps we spend a lot of time and energy on difficult people and situations because our mind is doing its best to solve “the problem.”

Well, giving those things too much head space can be a problem, too.

So how can I start giving negative people and difficult situations less space, right now?

I could:

  • recognize that those negative people and situations do NOT have as much power as I fear,
  • rent space to those negative people and situations only during times when I am able to take some helpful action in response,
  • serve them an eviction notice, over and over again,
  •  deliberately make space for other things (for example, these pictures I took yesterday, in chronological time and space):


  • and, finally, focus my head on interesting puzzles, like …. what was the word on that sign, above, before it got damaged?

Is there space in your head, right now, for some music? How about renting some space to something from the musical Rent?

In my head, the song “Santa Fe” is about people renting new space,  in their heads,  for hope and for change.

If your head has space to leave a comment in the space below, my head will become less spacey and more happy, I’m sure.

Finally, I shall now take up more space in your head with my space-filling gratitude for all the positive situations and people in my life …. including you!

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Day 870: What are you taking a picture of?

Yesterday, I took this picture of a trash barrel being rolled —  by a guy, pictured on the left — near Boston’s Fenway Park.

Immediately after I took a picture of that, the guy asked me the question du jour.

What are you taking a picture of?

My immediate response, as I pointed at the trash barrel, was this:


… which was an interesting communication, when you think about it.

Imagine what might happen, if somebody were to point toward a stranger and say:


Here’s what happened to me, yesterday. I asked him if I could also take a picture of his t-shirt.

While I think my answer left something to be desired, I believe his question

What are you taking a picture of?

… is a very good one.  So, I am going to invite all my readers, today, to similarly question the other pictures I took yesterday.

Ask yourself, what WAS I taking a picture of?


What was I taking a picture of, right there? That’s Fanon — from my workplace garage — showing his reaction to how I look to him, after my recent cardiac-related surgery.

What else was I taking a picture of, after I took a picture of Fanon?



If, while you were reading this post, you wondered

What ARE you taking a picture of?

… or you thought


… or there was anything else you’d like to share,  I hope I have the option of taking a picture of any comment you make, below.

Hey! What’s Deborah Harry —  from the group Blondie —  taking a picture of, in this 1978 performance of “Picture This”?

What might you take a picture of, now?

As we used to say when I was a kid:

Take a picture, it’ll last longer.

Can you picture me now, thanking (1) everybody who helped me create this post and (2) you?

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , | 28 Comments

Day 869: Jerks

At my appointment yesterday morning, with Dr. Estes at the Cardiac Arrhythmia Center of Boston’s Tufts Medical Center,  it became obvious that today’s post should be called “Jerks.”

That’s NOT because I think Dr. Estes is a jerk — quite the contrary. Dr. Estes is the opposite of a jerk. (Am I a jerk for not knowing the right word for opposite-of-jerk? Would you be a jerk if you knew that word and didn’t share it here with the rest of us?)

No, I realized that today’s  post should be titled “Jerks” because:

  1. I could have felt like a jerk for jerking a little with anxiety over the weekend about how swollen my new pacemaker/ defibrillator was, after my implantation surgery two weeks ago.
  2.  Dr. Estes reassured me that my knee-jerk, worst-case fear — that the implantation site was infected — was not true.
  3. I wasn’t being a complete jerk asking to be seen by him yesterday, since the site really was quite swollen.
  4. The swelling is due to the increased jerking of my arm (as I am returning to normal movements), combined with my need to be on anticoagulants because the upper part of my heart is constantly jerking with atrial fibrillation.
  5. I can feel like a jerk if (a) I bother a doctor for no reason AND (b) I don’t bother a doctor when I need to, which doesn’t leave me a lot of room to feel non-jerky.
  6. When Dr. Estes asked me to assess my return to work  (full-time, starting just one week after the surgery), I replied, “Work is great, except for the jerks.”
  7. Dr. Estes jerked a little with suppressed laughter as he gave me this medical advice in response:  “Maybe when the jerks are giving you a hard time, you can …” and he mimed grabbing the shoulder location of an implanted device and jerking with cardiac distress.
  8. When I told Dr. Estes that — ever since the May 4th surgery — my heart beating can cause  a strong jerk in my rib cage, depending upon my position, he said, “Avoid those positions.”
  9. Dr. Estes didn’t jerk with surprise or treat me like a jerk  when I  reminded him about this old joke:

Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this.
Doctor: Then don’t do that. 

The whole time that Dr. Estes and I  were taking about jerks, I was thinking about this Gary Larson cartoon, which I told my friend Maxine about, two days ago: 


Do you see any jerks (who make life interesting, according to that Gary Larson cartoon) in the photos I jerkily took yesterday, after my morning appointment with Dr. Estes?


Actually, I am the one being the jerk in that last photo, calling out, “Hey, Jerks!” to the supremely non-jerky Jan and Arvetta at Starbucks, just to get a good “Jerk” photo for today’s post.

Any evidence of jerks in these photos, also from yesterday?


I have a question about those last two photos. Do you think my boyfriend Michael was a jerk for leaving me a yummy meal of bluefish to microwave for supper, because he was working last night helping his brother John?

The final three “Jerk” photos from yesterday show my son Aaron rehearsing his dramatic monologue for a play audition tonight:


Aaron (right) is playing Biff Loman to Oscar’s Willy Loman, and his reading got better after he used the method of saying out loud  to himself before the monologue, “Oscar’s a jerk!”

Speaking of Aaron’s audition, he’ll be performing a punk classic about a famous jerk:

“Psycho Killer” by Talking Heads is a great try-out song for Green Day’s musical, American Idiot, don’t you think?

I’d obviously be a jerk at this point if I didn’t thank Dr. Estes, Gary Larson, Maxine,  Jan, Arvetta, Aaron, Oscar, Michael, Arthur Miller (for the play Death of a Salesman), Talking Heads, and everybody else who helped me create this jerky post, today.*

* What a jerk! I forgot to thank YOU.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 60 Comments

Day 868: Tragedies

Two nights ago, my son Aaron and I attended a local production of Shakespeare’s tragedy Richard III:

Aaron’s cousin Victoria did a great job acting in that tragedy, as did the young man playing Richard III.

Every tragedy is relative, isn’t it? Do you think the mistake Aaron and I noticed on the tickets is a tragedy?

The people who installed new insulation at our home in March have made several mistakes, including cutting into our TV cable, and destroying some of our shingles.

Is that a tragedy? Or just a hassle?

Some people in my high school class will not be able to attend our 45th reunion, which I am helping to plan. Is that a tragedy, that I won’t get to see them in September at this beautiful location?

Yesterday, I wrote about some difficult times and criticisms I’ve experienced.  I’ll tell you what greatly reduced the tragedy of those memories, for me: people’s responses here on WordPress, plus words from my cousin Lani (from an email she sent me):

 As you advise, deal with the positive, great things in your life and the hell with insensitive people and difficult situations.

It would be a great tragedy for me if I did not have the support of my readers and my wonderful cousin Lani.

This morning, I am going in to Tufts Medical Center to see Dr. Mark Estes, in order to prevent potential tragedies (like infection) from the recent pacemaker/defibrillator implantation surgery I had. As I wrote to Dr. Estes earlier this morning:

Better safe than sorry.

I don’t want to be tragically late for that early appointment, but I can show you some photos from yesterday, when I

  • relaxed at my home,
  • went for a walk with my long-time friend Barbara,
  • met — over lunch — with my colleague and friend Maxine,  to help prevent  any possible tragedies when we both present workshops at a group therapy conference in June,
  • drove my son to the last performance of Richard III,
  • went food shopping with my boyfriend Michael, and
  • watched the finale of Mad Men, with Aaron and Michael.

What tragedies, if any, do you see in these images?


Please consider it a compliment that I did my best to make this post coherent, this morning.

Before I go help my son get to school on time this Monday morning (which he very well may consider a tragedy), I need to decide what music to include in this Tragedy post.

How about this, which I heard yesterday?

That’s not so tragic, is it?

It would be a tragedy, to me, if I did not express gratitude to Aaron, Victoria, Brennan Miller (who played Richard III), Shakespeare, Matt Lundeen and the Arlington Children’s Theater, my wonderful WordPress readers, my cousin Lani, Barbara, Maxine, Michael, my high school class, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Mad Men, Dr. Estes, and everybody else who has made my life less of a tragedy, in so many ways.

Categories: gratitude, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Day 867: Difficult

I try not to be difficult; honestly, I do.

However, it’s difficult for me to recover from cardiac surgery AND put in a full week at work  AND be a good-enough mother and girlfriend, all at the same time. As a result, I’ve been more difficult than usual lately.

So, I had this difficult thought:

Because of my recent surgery, I now have a terrific excuse to be difficult. So why not seize the moment and write a  difficult post?

Look,  I get a lot of praise at WordPress for my positive attitude. But, I can be as difficult and negative as anybody else, sometimes.

Here’s the most difficult thing that has ever happened to me:

When I was 10 years old, medical treaters of my congenital heart condition suddenly decided that — in order to save my life — they needed to implant a cardiac pacemaker. To make this more difficult, nobody prepared me for how difficult the surgery was going to be or for how much the pacemaker was going to stick out of my body. To make this more difficult, the first person to change my surgical dressing lied to me about the pacemaker sticking out when I asked her about it (she said, “That’s just your hip, swollen from the surgery.”)  To make things more difficult, nobody dealt with that lie, for several days. To make things more difficult, my family and friends could not visit me in the hospital — outside of the difficultly limited visiting hours — during the many long days I stayed in the hospital after the surgery. To make things even more difficult, that surgery took place on November 22 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was killed, and nobody told me about that, either.

One reason I am so focused on this most difficult memory from my past, right now: as I am healing from the surgery where I got a pacemaker/defibrillator 13 days ago, I am finally realizing how BIG this device is. At this point, I’m thinking it might be even larger than that first pacemaker I got, more than 50 years ago. 

Here’s what makes it MUCH less difficult for me to deal  with getting a large medical device today (compared to when I was a child of 10):

  • I was warned it would be large.
  • Because of my access to the Internet, I can find out, after I post this, the exact dimensions of my new device.
  • If the actual size of the device is smaller than it seems to be in my body, I  can let my doctors know about the amount of post-operative swelling I’m experiencing, and
  • I am an adult now, with adult coping strategies, not a small, vulnerable, scared, and hurting 10 year old, dealing with all of this alone.

Not to be too difficult, but my writing about those most difficult memories from my past was not  my original difficult intention for today’s Difficult post.

Instead, my difficult plan was to share with you difficult things people have said directly to my face — without too much apparent difficulty — over the years.

Yes, at some point in my long and sometimes difficult life, some actual human being has said to me, “Ann, you are:

  • messy
  • clumsy
  • stinky
  • not smart enough
  • too smart
  • too skinny
  • not skinny enough
  • selfish
  • clumsy
  • disrespectful
  • too shy
  • too much of a bother
  • foolish
  • disappointing
  • too much of a show-off
  • not funny enough to be a stand-up comic
  • disorganized
  • too quiet
  • too loud
  • too outspoken
  • too sensitive
  • not humble enough
  • not athletic enough
  • too competitive
  • not a good hugger
  • too indiscriminately loving
  • not loving enough
  • too sexy
  • not sexy enough
  • inappropriate
  • too much to handle
  • not good looking enough to reject ME
  • too spontaneous
  • provincial
  • not supportive enough
  • too fucking supportive
  • crazy
  • thoughtless
  • too concerned about other people’s feelings
  • unsophisticated
  • impatient
  • too warm
  • too cold
  • insecure
  • pushy
  • too cautious
  • not cautious enough
  • not worth my time
  • spacey
  • not a good enough singer
  • not a good enough writer
  • not a good enough photographer
  • too focused on yourself
  • too focused on others, and
  • weird.”*

Hmmmmm.  That wasn’t difficult, at all,  for me to create that difficult  list today, probably because I carry those negative words around with me.

As I’ve often written in this difficult daily blog, the negative can stick with people, drowning out the positive.

Imagine how less difficult all our lives could be, if we let go of difficult and unhelpful messages from others!

To promote that in myself, I will now present all the difficult and non-difficult photographs I took yesterday, as I spent some time with my amazingly non-difficult 17-year-old son:




I took those last three photos, above, because that was a particularly difficult parking meter, for everybody.

After my second difficult encounter with that difficult Arlington Massachusetts parking meter yesterday, I did the difficult thing of striking up a conversation with a total stranger, simply because I liked his t-shirt and his cap:

That’s Mike, who told me he saw the band Cake in Chicago, even though he doesn’t live there. When Mike asked me, “Did you want to take my picture because you like cake or the band Cake?” it wasn’t difficult for me to admit the truth.

Would it be difficult for you to guess what my truth was, about that?

Speaking of difficult guessing, the next photo shows the movie I have found the most difficult to watch, of all the difficult movies I’ve ever seen:

Any difficult guesses about that?

I hope I’m not being too difficult if I ask one more difficult question: What difficult music did I choose for this difficult post?

That’s Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, well known as perhaps the most difficult piano piece ever written. I assume it might be difficult for you to take the time to listen to the whole difficult thing.

So, what did YOU find most difficult about this post?

Easy and difficult thanks to all those who contributed to my creating today’s difficult post. Also,  special thanks to you, for experiencing whatever personal difficulties you did, to read it.

* In case understanding that giant list is difficult, I want to be clear about this: Those difficult things were said directly to my face by many different people, over the course of my life. Honestly, I don’t think any one person I’ve met could actually be THAT difficult.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , | 56 Comments

Day 866: Looking up

Since my heart-related surgery 12 days ago, many things have been looking up, including me.

Almost every time I looked up where I  work last week, I saw people looking up to each other in group and individual therapy. Looking up at them, as they worked on looking up in their lives, I heard language like

“Staying above it all”

The language of looking up affects how we look at things, I believe.

Yesterday, I saw the following images, as I was looking up:




Looking up at those photos, I see the familiar and the unexpected. What do you see, when you are looking up?

This photo …

… which I took looking up in the cafeteria at work, reminds me that when we look up, we often see birds (and, sometimes, gluten-free food).

Speaking of birds, as I’m looking up ahead to my June audition for the  musical Follies (with music by Stephen Sondheim, whom I greatly look up to),  I’m looking up at this bird-related Sondheim song as a possible audition piece:

Looking up at that video, I wonder if I’m setting my sights (and my voice) too high with “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” from Sweeney Todd.  Things will probably look up if I imagine my audience looking up at me, while I’m singing,  with appreciation and approval.

If more upbeat music and lyrics help you look up, I just heard Los Lobos, in “A Matter of Time,”  sing

It will be all right

As I’m looking up at this post I’ve just written, I want to express something else about “looking up.”

After dealing with scary uncertainties and difficult decisions (especially about my health) — as I have the last six months — it can be difficult to put all that aside and  focus on looking up.

Things are definitely looking up today, in that regard. I suppose it was only a matter of time. 

I’m looking up, with thanks, to people I work with, to all those who help us find our way, to my fellow social worker Lauren, to worms and bots, to Fenway Park, to Wild Willie’s in Watertown Massachusetts, to Stephen Sondheim, to cast members of Sweeney Todd, to finches of all colors, to linnet and ceramic birds, to Los Lobos,  and to you — of course! — for looking up, here and now.

Categories: gratitude, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Day 865: I should know

I should know, by now, that I’ll have plenty of blogging topics to choose from on a Friday, because I do two therapy groups on Thursdays.

In last night’s group, somebody said this:

If you read my blog regularly, you should know that I think “should” statements are not particularly helpful.

You should also know, if you read my blog, that I have a very thorough medical team.

Yesterday morning, I went for an appointment with some pulmonary specialists.

You may think you should know what “pulmonary” means, but you should know I think that’s just a fancy term for lungs and breathing.

You shouldn’t know  — because I haven’t told you yet — that in January a pulmonary test indicated I had two types of “abnormalities” in my lungs.  I should know the terms my Primary Care Physician used about that, but I’m not sure what they were. I think one was mild “restriction” and the other was mild “obstruction.”

You should know that, to be safe, my doctor made an appointment for me with a pulmonary specialist she liked, for last week.You should also know that I had to postpone that appointment to yesterday at 8 AM, because I had cardiac surgery last week.

I should know that if my doctor likes other doctors, I am going to like them, too.

Here’s Dr. Kari Roberts:

You should know that I thought her glasses were the coolest.

You should know I like to make goofy jokes, so when Dr. Roberts asked if it was okay that her medical fellow talk to me first, I replied

Is he a jolly good fellow?

I don’t know if I would call Dr. Manley

jolly, but he was definitely good. He explained the results of my pulmonary tests, very helpfully and clearly.

I should know, by now, that good doctors often draw things on whatever paper is around, when they’re explaining things to you.

You should know, if you read my blog, that I like to collaborate with medical people. So yesterday, Dr. Roberts, Dr. Manley, and I together came up with the conclusion that the slight abnormalities in my pulmonary tests were probably due to my heart becoming somewhat enlarged recently, allowing less room in the chest cavity for my lungs. I don’t assume  you should or shouldn’t know this, but nobody seems particularly worried about my lungs.

You should know that besides Dr. Manley and Dr. Roberts, Dr. Bains

was also there at my appointment yesterday, but I don’t know why.

You should know I like to include photos in every blog post, from the day before.


You should know  I love comments on this blog, so feel free to ask a question and/or make a statement below.

You should know I’m going to leave some music behind, right now. Did you know I’d think of this Beatle tune

… and this one, also?

(Although we all should know that “Dr. Robert” is not a perfect match.)

I should know I can’t create these posts on my own, so knowledgable thanks to my groups, my PCP Dr. Laura Snydman, Dr. Roberts, Dr. Manley, Dr. Bains, the Beatles, make-your-own Sundaes, flowers, Michael (for cleaning every Thursday), my co-workers for the Get Well card, Paul Nagano (for the rabbit fan) and you — of course! — because I should know I blog everyday for me and for you, too.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Day 864: Just Talk

Yesterday started off with a demonstration of how just talk does NOT bother a cat as much as it might bother human beings.

Here’s Oscar’s response to Michael talking trash by saying, ” Who’s a BAD Kitty?”

And here’s Oscar’s response to Michael’s complimentary talk, “Who’s a GOOD kitty?”

Finally,  here’s Oscar’s response to no talk at all:

With just talk after that demonstration, I told Michael I wished I could be more like our cat Oscar — caring less about just talk (or lack of talk).

A short time  later, on my way into work yesterday,  I heard much more than just talk, composed by two of my favorite musicians:

It’s not just talk, from me,  to say that listening to a favorite tune by guitarist Pat Metheny and keyboardist Lyle Mays has kept me going through challenging times —  when just talk has not been enough.  Therefore, here‘s another, live version of “(It’s Just) Talk,” by the Pat Metheny Group:

It’s not just talk when I tell you that I saw all these things, yesterday,  while not talking and  listening to “(It’s Just) Talk”:

It’s not just talk when I tell you, now, that I can’t identify just artwork in the  window of The Pavement Coffeehouse in Boston, as shown above. If you know what that image is supposed to be, just talk about it in a comment, below.

It’s not just talk when I tell you I got a free sample of Frozen Hot Chocolate at work yesterday:

… or that my therapy group did more than just talk about “People Who Are Good For Me” :

It’s not just talk to tell you that whenever I disclose something here from one of my therapy groups, it’s totally in keeping with the pledge of confidentiality that we all talk about. Therefore, all the talk from yesterday’s group, shown above,  is just mine.

It’s not just talk that I saw all these other things, last night:


I don’t know “who nearly destroyed the English language” — according to just talk on that magazine cover, shown above  — but I’m assuming  it’s not me, with this blog.

In the highly unlikely chance it IS me described in that nagazine, I’ll just try to be more like Oscar ….

… in my responses to criticism, praise, and/or silence.

It’s NOT just talk for me to thank Michael, Oscar, Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, the Pat Metheny Group, my therapy groups, frozen hot chocolate,  The Moth radio show (which I’d like to appear on some day and which is much more than just talk), TV binge watchers, bunnies, shelter cats, posing hamsters, Whole Foods, and you — of course! — for exactly the talk you bring here today.

Categories: gratitude, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Day 862: Don’t know why

Don’t know why:

  • I spend any time at all worrying about the future, because life is too short for worry AND I work so hard at inviting other people to let go of worry.
  • I’ve stayed in the Boston area for my entire 62-year life, despite my discomfort with the snowy, cold, and way-too-long winters.

  • I forgot to bring my Identification and access card with me to work yesterday,  on my first day back after corrective surgery for my very unusual heart.

  • Sometimes, people express gratitude easily and, at other times, it’s a struggle to find the words.

  • Tulips are so beautiful, but last for such a short amount of time.

  •  I never noticed — until my friend Peggy pointed this out to me last week — that some pansies have faces and others don’t.

  •  I see faces in many other places.

  •  People seem so interested in actual sizes.


  • I made the decision, last night, to distract myself from worry about the 3-hour presentation I’m giving on my psychotherapy groups on  June 6  by signing up to audition on June 9 for a local production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, even though I haven’t tried out for a musical in over 30 years.  
  • I keep doing things that scare the living daylights out of me (except it sure does make life a whole lot more interesting).
  • Trash day around here reminds me of what I’d like to permanently throw away, including fears, past hurts,  disappointments, regrets,  worries, shame, and other things that do not serve me well. 


  • These trees need this kind of protection.


Do know why I want to thank Pat Metheny, Stephen Sondheim, Peggy, flowers, trees, and you, today: for making my life better.

Categories: inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , | 42 Comments

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