Monday, May 25, 2015



      It happened again today. 

     Once more, the breast care doctor with whom I’m writing a book sent me a message I couldn’t open. His one paragraph was buried in password perdition--deep enough to require a second email with permission to create a password so I could open the first one. Somebody out there must think we're worth hacking into . . . like we're ginning up Time Travel potions. Or recruiting for ISIS. 

     The password plague has spread like the cancer we’re writing about. Once it was kind of casual—you picked something easy, and once every six months you might have to use it. Now the malignancy is everywhere, taking over our lives. To use the bathroom at CVS pharmacy, you have to type in a code. Which is galling . . . that here, and I suppose soon everywhere, you need a password to pee.

      My aversion to inane secrecy goes way back—I mean, way, way back. As a teenager I unwittingly became a member of what was called Rainbow Girls, a desperately clandestine organization, whose secrets were so tightly held we were forbidden to share them with anyone under . . . well, under penalty of expulsion. Most of what they talked about was dull—not something I could recall for even a few hours. I remember thinking, These secrets are so boring you’d have to hog tie your victim just to get him to listen.

           For my doctor son, the password disease has turned into a scourge—the written version of Ebola. To satisfy the requirements of the hospital, he and his colleagues are forced to change their passwords EVERY MONTH. Of course nobody short of Einstein could keep track, mentally, of twelve password changes in twelve months, so the doctors are forced to maintain written records which begin to look like the Encyclopedia Britannica. Once down on paper, of course, the information is “out there”--subject to misplacement, spying, or outright pilferage, thus defeating the whole purpose.  

          Our society is reaching some kind of tipping point, where you’ll eventually need a password to speak to your mother. But in one American household, at least, there’s a level of secrecy none of us can quite believe. But trust me, it’s true. In at least one home belonging to Elon Musk, you can’t go from one room to another without providing a scan of your fingerprints. I’ve often wondered—what if you have a bathroom emergency?   

       I dare not reveal the name, but one of our relatives actually worked there. Another relative, who ought to know, commented, “This is what you’d expect from a drug dealer!”

Treasure Trove of books: Maralys.com

Monday, May 18, 2015


         TOO DAMN BUSY . . . OH, YES!

Our kitchen floor is dirty again.   

Papers are piled on my upstairs chairs.

The dry laundry is still in the dryer.

And here I am, upstairs writing. 

In a few years, I muse, nobody will care that on a certain Monday the linoleum should have been swept . . . by then it will be dirty again.

The important news is, I’m a grandmother with too much to do.  

Too much to do  is the mantra of my current life -- meaning I’m luckier than I deserve, luckier than grandmothers of the last century. There’s this medical book I’m writing with a doctor . . .  manuscripts to read and a class to teach . . . four speeches coming up soon. And friends, kids, grandkids, and even great grandkids with fascinating lives, all of them sending tidbits our way—photos of a son’s first wobbly steps, videos of a tiny girl’s first hesitant words read from a book--details that are vivid, never boring.

What could be better, when you’re my age, than a hundred reasons to get out of bed?   

Each morning I briefly rationalize: If I write this story, I’ll have something to keep.
Something tangible. But so will others—meaning whoever cares to read it. All these scenes committed to paper . . . well hey, paper lasts, it’s permanent. Short of a house fire, alive forever. 

Along with Too Damn Busy comes Too Many Interruptions. But what’s not to like?
What’s more valuable than a lively pause to chat with someone you care about? However much time it consumes, it’s worth those non-writing minutes.

Meanwhile, some mundane chores are still waiting, grumpy but silent. Eventually I’ll sweep the kitchen floor—but does anybody really care? 


Autographed books available--Maralys.com.   E-books and others--Amazon.

Sunday, May 10, 2015



            Over the years I’ve tried to explain this to my kids—or worse, to my lawyer husband. “I hate to tell you this, but your sock is nowhere. It’s gone.”   

            “You’re in charge here,” says my husband. “Socks don’t just evaporate. So where is it?”

“If I knew, Rob, I’d give it to you. But I don’t have the slightest idea. It went into the laundry . . . and it never came out.”     

I get this shaking of the head and this look--like I’m crazy.  But if I’m nuts, so is every other woman I’ve known. Socks disappear. It’s a rule of American households. You start with a pair, and before long you’ve got only one. And if the missing sock ever turns up (like maybe it’s been hiding under a tee-shirt nobody ever wears),  by then you’ve thrown away its mate. So you’ve still got only one.            

Inexplicably, the subject came up last week in my writing class--how socks enter the washing cycle and are never seen again. When you finally get around to pairing them up, about a fourth are missing. And how men can’t accept it, so it must be something their wives are doing. And how any guy smarter than a pinhead knows an object as tangible as a piece of footwear doesn’t just vanish.    

            As my student Marcia told us, “My husband was dumbfounded. ‘You just lost them, that’s all.  They have to be somewhere.’” 

            She said, “Then you do the laundry,” so for a year, he did.  After a while his manly common sense reared up.  “They must be in the dryer vent. They’ve gotta be piled up there in one big lump.”  With that he painstakingly took the vent apart . . . and nothing. 

Next he went outside.  “They must have blown right through.”  He examined the ground around the external opening, but all he found was traces of lint clinging to a bush.

After a year he said, “I give up. You take over the laundry.” The mysterious issue was never raised again.

For years we had this discussion in our house. Five boys here, lots of laundry. No lawyer would ever accept a fact not in evidence—that our dryer, in particular, harbored a sock-eating demon. Clearly the fault was mine. Over a decade, I dutifully  spent some thousand hours trying to pair up socks that didn’t match, ending with several dozen that didn’t belong to each other, or any close relative.

I kept those orphans all through my Thirties, literally hanging on to a thread of hope. Next I bought blue for Bobby, red for Chris, and so on—meaning the leftovers were all in different colors. Finally, in desperation, I splurged—on three dozen pair, all alike. The boys no longer had a choice. From then on, no matter what happened, I was only off by one.

            Other mothers did it differently. Dorsey labeled her daughter’s socks to match her daughter’s names. “A” for Audra, and so on.  The “C” child invariably cried out, “This sock has “B.” 

            The problem was never solved—not for me, not for anyone. It only goes away when the children move out.

            In the Wills household, however, the sock problem has become immortalized. This may seem hard to believe, but on the cover of my book, “A Circus Without Elephants,” the whole family is sitting on our roof. Even after the book was published, one detail totally escaped me—until my son, Kenny, pointed it out. “Did you ever notice, Mom, that I’m wearing two different socks?” 

"A Circus Without Elephants" is available on my website: Maralys.com