Patsy Porco

Archive for January, 2015|Monthly archive page

Amelia Bedelia, Crack Open A Book

In Books, Children, Humor on January 25, 2015 at 4:44 pm

I’m so excited! Next Saturday, my husband and I are going to an Amelia Bedelia birthday party, at a local branch of our library,* with the three children I used to nanny for. I enjoyed Peggy Parish’s Amelia Bedelia books back in the 1960s and early 1970s, and I think it’s wonderful that kids of this generation love them, too. (In my continuing effort to coin a phrase that will outlive me, here goes: “If you want to build a bridge to span generations, construct it from books.”)

I’ve always loved libraries. They were a place of wonder and awe. There were so many books and so little time to read them all (I think this phrase has already been coined). And, as I got older, the library became an even more integral part of my life, and the lives of all students. Libraries were the only place to do research, so we all had to visit them fairly regularly.

When the Internet took over the world, I used to scoff when people said that all of their research was done online. How could you do real research without entering a library? Well, it turns out that you can, but I still don’t think it counts as much as getting dressed and then walking, biking, or driving to a building where you would spend hours first locating your research materials (via a card catalog, librarian suggestions, or huge books that functioned as indexes to magazine/newspaper articles). Only then were you able to go on a physical search for your needed books, microfilm, magazines, and newspapers, which you would either check out—if they weren’t labeled “For Reference Only,” which meant that they weren’t to leave the library—photocopy, or take notes from. That was research.

Today I read a blog post from one of my favorite bloggers, Nancy Roman, about her love of libraries  (, and my memories of libraries-past came flooding back to me (albeit in bits and pieces. I do have brain atrophy, after all.**) I remembered being taken there, going myself, and then taking my son when he was a child. My favorite memory of taking my son was the day that, when he was about four or five, he raced by the main desk on the first floor and yelled hello to neighbors who were at the other end of the library. The librarian, Maddie—who knew Luke well from his frequent visits—turned to me and said, over the long desk, “Luke’s mother, why is Luke running and yelling in the library?” I don’t think I laughed then, but I laugh every time I remember it now.

Anyway, after reading Nancy’s post, I commented:

Libraries were always a magical place for me, too. Public libraries spawned a love of reading for so many who would ordinarily not have access to unlimited books of every genre. I have to congratulate modern librarians for keeping up with the times, though. Their dedication to obtaining Internet access, the latest print books, electronic books, audio books, music, etc., has kept libraries relevant. And their creative, entertaining, educational, and interactive children’s programs never fail to attract large audiences. Three cheers to librarians for ensuring the continuation of this wonderful institution! Because of them, children will continue to have cherished memories of visiting the library.

Which brings us back to the Amelia Bedelia party. What am I going to wear? Whatever it is, it has to give a subtle nod to Amelia’s inability to understand idioms. Maybe I should wear one of the outfits she put on the chickens that she was told to dress? I’ll think about it as I’m dusting the house. Now where did I put the talcum powder?


Saturday, January 31, 2015
2:00 – 4:00 pm
All Ages

Peggy Parish’s beloved book character “Amelia Bedelia” is turning 52! Children are invited to celebrate her birthday and enjoy a piece of her birthday cake. Activities will include puppet and magic shows and face painting with Sunny the Clown. Registration is required and available online or by calling 203.899.2790 ext. 15903.

SoNo Branch Library 10 Washington St. South Norwalk, CT  06854 203.899.2790

Illustration by Barbara Siebel Thomas

‘Til Death Do Us Part

In Humor, Marriage on January 20, 2015 at 12:47 am

I was sick all weekend, including today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day—a paid vacation day at my company. No Marty Party for me (credit my husband for that fun phrase). All of my ailments were in my head and face, which I’m being treated for, so I dutifully took my handful of pills and lazed around the house. Then I got a burning sensation in the center of my chest. My husband said that I had heartburn, but I knew better. I told him that I was dying and that we’d better get our will written—stat. He told me to lie down (code for “knock it off and be quiet”).

He then surprised me. “Hey, do me a favor,” he said. “When you die, will you give me a sign from the next life so that I know there is one?” I wasn’t surprised at his request for me to contact him. But, I was surprised that he needed proof that there was a next life; Catholics are supposed to know this for a fact.

“What kind of sign?” I asked.

“How about flicking the lights in the house three times, when I’m home, the day after you die?”

“I guess I could do that,” I said. “But what if there’s an electrical storm that day and everyone’s lights are flickering?”

He gave that some thought. “You’re right. We need a backup plan.”

We pondered for a while and then he said, “Play our wedding song on the station I’m listening to in the car the day after you die.”

“You want me to play Summer Wind, sung by Frank Sinatra, on the classic-rock station you listen to?”

“Yeah, that’s a good plan. Then I’ll know you’re contacting me from beyond.”

“But, how am I going to get a rock DJ to play Frank Sinatra? Or, what if you’re listening to that 24-hour sports-talk station?”

“You’ll figure something out,” he said.

Suddenly, my heartburn was worse than ever.

Pick Up The Phone!

In Humor, Phones, Technology on January 18, 2015 at 5:16 pm

My best friend from childhood won’t take my emails. But she will take my calls. I had gotten into the habit of emailing her, but she wouldn’t stand for it. She returned my emails by telephone. I had to get re-familiarized with talking on the phone (which I had done for at least 45 years before electronic communication became the norm), but you know, it was much more gratifying than reading typed words. Plus, I got to hear her husband shouting comments over her shoulder. You don’t get that from an email.

She’s right, though. So much is lost in the translation when communication is done with your fingers. You miss the laughter, the sighs, the happiness, the joy, the sadness (and family members’ comments from the background). You can guess at the other person’s mood by the words you’re reading, but you can also easily miss the nuances of a conversation—or even take offense at a comment, when no offense was intended. It’s all about the tone.

Texting/inboxing/IMing/emailing comes in handy for quick chats, but when you don’t see a friend or relative regularly, as my BFF says, “pick up the phone!” If you’re spending time going back and forth texting with a person, it’s obvious that you’re interested in the conversation, so why not hear his or her voice while you’re at it?

Electronic communication has its place, but it also eliminates the old-school, relaxing, sip-your-coffee-while-chatting element. Talking on the phone to a good friend is like taking a free vacation. Who would pass up a free vacation?

A Gray Matter

In Aging, Humor on January 14, 2015 at 5:13 pm

“Where ignorance is bliss,/ Tis folly to be wise.”

— Thomas Gray

Ever since I read my MRI report* and discovered that I had mild brain atrophy—which my doctor had neglected to mention during my visit—I’ve been determined to stop any more atrophying and, if possible, reverse the damage. The jury is out on whether this is possible, but some doctors—or people posing as doctors on the Internet—claim that it can be done, so that’s good enough for me.

I also learned, from my Googling, that a deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to brain atrophy, so I started eating those supplements like candy. I then attempted to join the brain-training website, Lumosity, but I was too dumb. Before Lumosity hits you up for a lot of money to play games to train your brain, they give you a “fit test” to assess your baseline scores. I played three sets of games that tested three different abilities (speed, train of thought, and memory). At the end of the test, I got my results. According to Lumosity, I scored higher than 19% of everyone in the world in speed, 14% in train of thought, and 3% in memory. Three percent. That means that 97% of the world has a better memory than I have. This worked to my advantage, though; by the time they asked me for my choice of payment to join, I had forgotten what I was signing up for, and left the site without cracking my wallet.

My boss told me that her neurologist husband believes that doing puzzles can improve brain atrophy so, right after work today, I’m heading over to Toys”R”Us. I hope he was referring to those wooden puzzles, or even the 100-piece scenic ones. If he meant crosswords or Sudoku, I’m out of luck. I’m no good at all at crossword puzzles, and I can’t even fathom how to work a Sudoku. Wish me luck.

* Read about it here at

My New Excuse for Everything

In Humor, Medicine on January 12, 2015 at 1:14 pm

A few days before Christmas, I developed a horrendous pain in the right side of my face that waxed and waned in rapid cycles. Each time that it waxed, it did so harder than it had in the preceding cycle. I initially thought that the pain was caused by a sinus infection–the kind that makes you think that you have a toothache when you don’t. After 24 hours, the pain had become excruciating–an exquisite pain, as some writers describe it. This exquisite pain landed me in the emergency room. It didn’t actually propel me there (my son drove me), but it was the catalyst.

I was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, a facial nerve condition, and was given drugs and told to make an appointment with my regular doctor the next day. My regular doctor was on vacation so I saw his substitute. She ordered a battery of blood tests and told me to get an MRI on my brain. She suspected that I had had a stroke. She gave me in-office stroke tests and I passed them, but she still wanted verification because I was slurring my words. I blame the oxycodone (prescribed) I was taking at the time, but I’m not a doctor, so I scheduled the test.

The MRI was uneventful, once the nurses covered my eyes with a washcloth to ease my claustrophobia. The MRI machine was open-ended, which didn’t matter at all because my head was in a vise and I couldn’t see the opening. In my mind, my head was in an enclosed tube. However, the washcloth and closing my eyes calmed my initial hysteria. I was in there for almost an hour and I think I entered a trance-like state. In the last five-minute photo session (the brain scans were done in groups with a brief break between each one), I fell asleep and jerked awake, which ruined those images. I had to have those pictures taken again. But, all in all, it wasn’t so bad, only loud. When I got off the table, I was told that the images and report would be sent to my regular doctor.

When I saw my regular doctor, who was back from vacation, he was unaware that I had even had an MRI. He left the examination room to search for it in the hospital database. In a matter of minutes he returned with the report, which he must have read on the walk back from the computer. He acted, however, as if he were fully caught up on my status. His cursory glance at what was going on in my brain worried me, until I persuaded myself that he was a speed reader. He told me that the scan was fine and that I hadn’t had a stroke (which was a relief) and I didn’t have a tumor (which would have been good news, if I had even considered that possibility).

I received a copy of the MRI and the report. I will now give you the best advice you will ever be given: Unless you are a doctor, do not read your MRI report. I read mine and, among other conditions that sounded scandalous, the worst was mild atrophy in several areas of my brain. Brain atrophy. My doctor might not have been concerned, but I sure was. Since I had planned to work from home that day (after my appointment), I emailed my boss that I had brain atrophy and needed the rest of the day off. Wouldn’t you think that that was the best excuse ever for not being able to work? Well, my boss was totally unfazed, and not because she had already suspected this outcome. She was unmoved because she immediately texted her husband, a neurologist, who told her that all MRIs mention brain atrophy and that I shouldn’t be concerned. There went my request for sick time.

I don’t believe that all MRIs show dead areas of the brain, but mine does, and I was told not to worry, so I guess I won’t. I’ll probably forget about it anyway, like I forget everything else, but now I can blame my forgetfulness on my brain atrophy. None of my friends are neurologists, so I expect them to be very impressed.

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