LOST & FOUND IRONY…

AN APOLOGY FROM YOUR EDITOR, SUE WURSTER…

In yesterday’s What’s On Your Mind? post,  I blithely imported Steve Goldfinger’s “Lost & Found” piece.  I included Steve’s name in the title.  Used his name in the introduction.  Attributed the piece to him by name.  All using the misnomer Steve Goldberg.   The only place I got it right was with the picture!  How embarrassing–for both of us…

My only excuse is that I was thinking about my friend Amanda Goldberg yesterday…and that I have fallen prey to that Lost & Found thing myself!

So sorry, Steve!

 

AUGUST’S CHEF’S CORNER WITH JOHN RUDY: STUFFED CABBAGE

STUFFED CABBAGE – GERMAN STYLE

There are many recipes for stuffed cabbage.  This is the Rudy-version.  This recipe came from my mother-in-law, Lillian Weil, and probably came from a previous generation.  The details of the recipe were never written down and so what is here is “best recollection” plus the result of some experimentation.  Since everyone likes it, apparently the experimentation worked!  It makes enough for at least 10 servings and I usually split it up into ½ gallon plastic containers and freeze the ones that will not be immediately eaten.

No quantity in this recipe is exact; all should be played with to get the taste that you like.  More rice?  More meat?  More sauce? Go for it!

1               Cabbage (medium size)

1½ lbs    85% Hamburger.  Don’t use too lean, it loses taste

1             Large onion, diced

¾ cup     Spaghetti sauce (has more flavor than plain tomato  sauce)

¾ cup     Rice.  Not Minute Rice. Measure after cooking.

¾ cup     Spaghetti sauce (this is not an error)

24 oz      Stewed tomatoes, diced (could use more; like 2 large cans)

2 cans     Sauerkraut, large cans or 4 medium cans.  DO NOT DRAIN.

1 cup      Spaghetti sauce  (this is not an error either)

1½ Tbs   Brown sugar

1½ Tbs   Granulated sugar

Cut the center out of the cabbage and pull off some of the outer leaves if they are not crisp. Boil the cabbage at least 60 minutes (longer if really large) until the leaves pull off fairly easily.  But don’t cook so long that it is mushy.  Let it cool by soaking in cold water. Note:  if it is not cooked enough, the leaves break when you try to wrap the meat.

  1. Cook the rice.
  2. Sauté the onions. Slightly under-cook.
  3. Mix the raw hamburger, rice, onions and ¾ cup of the sauce. This will become the filling of the cabbage
  4. Gently remove the leaves from the cabbage. It will not be easy to do, and some of the leaves are very large.  You may have to recut the hole in the cabbage.
  5. Combine the sauerkraut, another ¾ cup of the sauce, sugars, and stewed tomatoes in the bottom of a large pot. Mix together.  This will provide the base to the stuffed leaves.
  6. Put the meat mix into the leaves, fold over, and place on top of the sauerkraut mixture, open side down. The amount you use depends on the size of the leaf.  As you make them, lay them on top of the sauerkraut base.
  7. Pour the last cup of sauce on top of the filled leaves, along with leftover cabbage.
  8. Here is where you have two options, and my preference is to use the oven. (1) Bring the pot SLOWLY to a boil (be careful; you may have to add some water so that it doesn’t burn), and then let it simmer for 45 minutes.  (2) Alternatively, it can be put in the oven, covered, at 350o to 375o for about an hour.  The problem with the first option is that it is really easy to burn the bottom of the pan.
  9. This makes a lot. It can be separated and frozen, even in plastic bags.
  10. OPTIONAL: cook up another pound of hamburger and add sauce. This can be added to the top of the cabbage mixture to give it even more protein.
  11. NOTE: everything is cooked before being put in the oven, so the baking period is really for everything to mix together.

Enjoy!

“Chef’s Corner” feature writer, John Rudy

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)

WHAT’S ON MY MIND? LOST & FOUND by Steve Goldfinger

Our Writers’ Guild prompt for this week was this “Keep Calm and Look in Lost & Found” image.  As always, some chose to use the prompt while others did not.  We all thoroughly enjoyed Steve Goldfinger’s approach, and  we felt that many BOLLI members might be able to relate!  

LOST & FOUND

By Steve Goldfinger

For a moment, my wandering brain lost the prompt, but now I remember.  Ah, yes.  “Lost and Found.”

Well, it’s easy to lose things.  Car keys, cell phones, shopping lists, hearing aids.  Names of people whose faces are imprinted in my skull, faces of people whose names are as secure in my mind as swallows in cliff dwellings.

I cannot find the treasured score card that documented the best round of golf I ever played.  I was 21 year old, knew I would never have so low a score again, and promised I would keep it to show my grandchildren.  But where is it now?  Hiding somewhere in my attic or moldering at the bottom of some forsaken garbage dump?

When I lost my virginity, I knew I had also found something.  But when I lost my wallet yesterday, the only thing I found was an empty back pocket.  My only consolation was that my credit card was not longer in it.  Once again, the piece of plastic was undoubtedly sitting next to the cash register of the last restaurant I ate at.  Again, I neglected to retrieve it after I signed the check.  Damn it.  I want it back.  Now, what was the name of that restaurant?

After driving to the MFA to see the new exhibit that so excited me when I read the review in The Globe, I forgot which one it was.  When a large sign reminded me and told me where it was, I had to ask a guard to direct me to the stairway I had marched to directly so many times in the past.  It was a great exhibit…fine paintings and etchings by…oh, shit!

And what have I found?

Perhaps a new internal tempo that allows me to drive more slowly, aware as I am that, in front of me, the lane seems to have narrowed, and too many dents and scrapes have appeared on my car.

Or the magic of the remote, being able to put a ball game on a 40 minute delay so I can then zip through the commercials to get to the action.

Or the ability to justify my lifestyle–couch potato, bacon and eggs, steaks, morning croissants, and evening ice cream–by “Hey, I’m 82 and just back from Alaska where I survived a strenuous hike.  Good genes.  Thanks, Mom and Dad.”

Or how easy it has been to depart from the world of medicine.  A satisfying six decades, but in the end, too many directives separating me from patients, too many memory lapses, too many teaching moments falling short of my expectations, threatening my pride.

Or my ability to respond to writing prompts in perhaps a better way than I have responded to social ones over the years.

Writers Guild member, Steve Goldfinger

Since joining BOLLI nearly two years ago, Steve has been exploring new ventures.  He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre).  

Interested in joining either one yourself? During the fall term, the Guild will meet on Wednesday mornings from 9:45-11.  And CAST will meet on Fridays from 12:30-2.  All are welcome!

CAST UPDATE: Self-Discovery in a Supportive Environment

CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) IN ACTION

Veteran Player Sandy Clifford

“It gets the creative juices flowing!”  Sandy Clifford says of CAST activity at BOLLI.   “It’s great fun making new friends and begging part of a  creative team.  It’s also challenging and educational kind of self-discovery–in an environment where taking chances is supported.”

It’s a typical CAST adventure.  The group gathers for a “Warm-Up Walk” around the Gathering Space.  They are instructed to focus on the space itself, the intersection between themselves and their environment, and then, the nature of their movement.

The instruction to “Walk like an Egyptian” brings the expected laughter as actors try to move as if they are one or two-dimensional beings. Then, they take on the characters of individuals with unique walks: clown, deep sea diver, tightrope walker, toddler, ballerina.  “How has the environment and years of this activity affected the way you walk–on the sidewalk?  Across a room?”  They move throughout the room, finally coming to a stop to see what might be coming next.

Mimed activity–jumping rope, playing tennis or volleyball–might lead to creating tableaux or “Photo Album” in which one member turns the pages of an imaginary album, narrating a memorable family outing  or celebration.  “Oh, here we all are at Uncle Elbert’s barbecue,” the narrator indicates, for example, as the group quickly compose themselves in a frozen scene.

Next might be an exercise in improvisation.   In “Job Interview,” an employer engages a potential employee in conversation about the position for which he or she is applying.  The catch?  The potential employee doesn’t know what the job is and must rely on the other player to guide her or him to that conclusion with well-constructed clues.   In “Congratulations on Your Retirement!” a group of party-goers try to determine what each other’s 50-year careers entailed.

Phyllis Walt and Steve Goldfinger in “You Did WHAT?!”

An exercise in dialogue might follow.  “The Ten-Line Trip,”  for example, provides players, in pairs, with a generic ten-line dialogue which each pair particularizes by creating a unique environment in which it takes place,  As in…

UP IN THE AIR with Judy Blatt and Eileen Mitchell

On occasion, a rousing rendition of “Chopped Props” ensues.  The players are divided into two groups, and each is given a picnic basket or grocery bag which has been filled with identical prop items.   The groups then have a prescribed bit of time in which to create a scene in which all of the props become essential elements.  As in…

THE BANK HEIST with Bette Winer, Joan Halperin, and Sandy Clifford

and…

MY AGING DENTIST with Steve Goldfinger, Judy Blatt, and Monique Frank

 

Props can be used to inspire solo storytelling as well–as Marty Ross demonstrates.

Marty Ross in Mega-Magnifiers recounts a tale–fiction? Or NOT…?

 

At times,  too, the group deals with scripted material–as we will do starting next month when we begin to prepare CARRYING ON, the world premiere of a collection of short plays for senior players.  The production will be presented at a Lunch & Learn session during the last week of the fall term.

Newcomers are always welcome.  Margie Nesson tried her hand at the acting game this summer, reporting that she enjoyed “yet another new experience for me at BOLLI!”   New BOLLI member Mark Seliber says that, during the first session he attended,  he was intrigued by how just movement itself can set up a scene.  And Jan Burres, who dropped in recently, says, “It was fun! We laughed.  We played.  We even learned how people in theatre can cry, night after night, when necessary. I felt welcomed and delighted in the real sense of camaraderie in the group. And I’ll be back.”

And it just doesn’t get better than THAT, now, does it?

CAST Facilitator Sue Wurster

For over 40 years, Sue taught drama to students  in kindergarten  through college (but mostly in middle and high school).  Working with BOLLI players has been “absolutely the best,” she says.  “Unlike adolescents, this group isn’t worried about looking silly in front of their friends–they just go for it!  And, as a result, their growth as actors is exponential in nature.”  

NEW FEATURE: BOLLI VOLUNTEERS!

Recently, we’ve been thinking about the wide range of volunteerism in which BOLLI members engage and would like to highlight them in this venue.  Are you involved in a program that you find particularly rewarding, especially one that would benefit from additional volunteers? Share your volunteer experience with us!  Here’s Lydia to start us off–

THINKING ABOUT VOLUNTEERING SOME TIME AND ENERGY?

Two Suggestions from Lydia Bogar

The storm warnings came across the bottom of the TV screen before the 5:00 news. I checked the radar on my computer and went back to washing the kitchen floor.

Within minutes, my old memory stem woke up as I put the mop on the porch. Tomorrow would be the anniversary of the Springfield/Brimfield tornado.  The video of that tornado as it crossed Memorial Bridge in Springfield remains as vivid today as it was then…

That old memory stem also brings back the first responders from across the state, and, most especially, the contributions made by two groups of volunteers:  first, SKYWARN, severe weather spotters, all trained volunteers connected to the National Weather Service in Taunton (www.weather.gov/box/skywarn) and second, the Worcester area CISM team (www.centralmasscism.org).

My first SKYWARN training was in October of 1999 when I was a disaster services volunteer with the Worcester Chapter of the American Red Cross. It was a very interesting training–especially good for campers and boaters.  Glenn Field from NWS Taunton gave us a lot of information about clouds, reading radar, and thermal convections. As a civilian, retired from the Red Cross, I have continued SKYWARN training and strongly recommend it to the BOLLI community. You can contact Rob Macedo at rmacedo@rcn.com to schedule SKYWARN training for any community group with a membership of 15 or more. It is very much worth three hours of your time.

I’ve also spent 16 years training and volunteering in CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management), a peer support network for first responders. There are 15 teams in Massachusetts, covering all police, fire, and EMS personnel from North Adams to Provincetown.  Our teams consist of trained peers as well as fire department, clergy, and mental health professionals.  It is an amazing global system that includes volunteers who served in New York in the fall of 2001, Boston after the Marathon bombing, southern Louisiana and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, and the western part of Massachusetts after the tornado in 2006. If you are a retired mental health professional or retired member of the clergy who is interested in volunteering, please contact me at Toehead8@verizon.net, and I will refer you to the Team Leader in your residential area.

BOLLI Matters Co-Editor, Lydia Bogar

Former English teacher and health care professional Lydia Bogar provides BOLLI Matters with a wealth of material on a variety of subjects including her own regular feature “Lines from Lydia.”  

 

 

YOU HEARD US!

YOU HEARD US!

There’s something wonderful about opening up the BOLLI Matters “dashboard” to find the Comments box full of flags!   Your comments are so welcome, and we can’t thank you enough.  We just hope you’ll keep them coming–every one takes us another step toward our blog becoming a truly interactive vehicle…BOLLI’s voice!

 

AUGUST TECH TALK: NET NEUTRALITY

NET NEUTRALITY

by John Rudy

For a few years, there has been a fair amount of coverage regarding what is called “net neutrality.”  Unless you tend to pay close attention to the computer world, you may be unaware of what this is or how it matters to you.  The Obama administration took a position on NN two years ago, and the Trump Administration has already announced that they are going to reverse it (presumably after the community has an opportunity to provide comments).  But this is something that is important to you, so here is some information that should enable you to follow net neutrality issues in the press.

What is Net Neutrality?  The principle that Internet Service Providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.  Some governments regulate Internet services in the same ways that their public utilities (electricity, gas, and water) are regulated.  This also involves limiting providers and regulating the options they can offer.

The Issues: Can a service provider slow down or speed up your service because it is better for them or because you pay them to do it?

Some Examples:

  • Could Netflix pay Verizon to provide more bandwidth to their movies?
  • Could Verizon give more bandwidth to a service they provide compared to what is being made available to a competitor?
  • A widely-cited example of a violation of net neutrality principles was when Comcastwas secretly slowing (“throttling”) certain uploads. Comcast didn’t stop blocking these protocols until the FCC ordered them to do so.

2014 Obama decision

For three months, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received 3.7 million comments to change the Internet to a telecommunications service, which would allow the FCC to uphold net neutrality.  In February of 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality by reclassifying broadband access as a telecommunications service applying Title II (common carrier) of the Communications Act of 1934 as well as section 706 of the Telecommunications act of 1996 to Internet service providers.  In April of 2015, the FCC published the final rule on its new regulations which took effect on June 12, 2015.   

What is the FCC Doing Now?

FCC Chairman Pai claims he wants to end the “utility-style regulatory approach” to the Internet and “re-establish” the power of market forces in regulating the Internet. Details of his proposal include the reclassification of broadband access as an information service and a decrease in legal regulations on Internet service providers.

Pai says the reversal will increase infrastructure investment and innovation among broadband companies. In his proposal, he also suggests redirecting authority from the FCC to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to oversee privacy practices. Pai advocates ending the broad Internet conduct standard that allows the FCC to intervene if they deem that a broadband provider either acts in a harmful fashion or is anticipated to do so.

In a 2-1 decision on May 18th, the current FCC voted to proceed with the motion to scale back the net neutrality protections put in place in 2015.

Bottom Line

  • In April 2017, an attempt to compromise net neutrality in the United Statesis being considered by the newly appointed FCC chairman, Ajit Varadaraj Pai. In  May, a process began to roll back Open Internet rules that had been in place since 2015.
  • A decision will be made soon and whether or not the FCC takes the millions of comments seriously will be known in time.
  • See https://www.aclu.org/feature/what-net-neutrality for a lot of information favoring net neutrality.
  • Who wants net neutrality? Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix
  • Who is opposed to net neutrality? National Cable and Telecomm Association, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast

My opinion

I don’t trust the cable providers.  If they think that they can make more money by selectively providing better service to someone who will pay them more, they will.  The FCC can’t wait until there is a violation and then spend months, or years, to address it.  Then if Comcast, say, takes money from Netflix to move their movies faster than, say, Hulu, will you switch your service to Netflix?  Netflix doesn’t want to be put in the position where they have to pay off the many service providers.  See the names above for who is pro and who is against the change.

Our “Tech Talker” John Rudy

A long-time computer expert and guide,  John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .

 

 

 

AUGUST SENIOR MOMENT WITH ELEANOR JAFFE: Do You Plan on Growing Old?

This month, Eleanor muses on the recent “skinny repeal” Senate vote, and her thoughts remind all of us, regardless of our politics, to be extremely mindful–even vigilant–in terms of how our health care might be affected by changes to our current system.  Thank you, Eleanor!

DO YOU PLAN ON GROWING OLD?

Information about Medicaid and what it provides to so many of our citizens emerged in recent weeks as the revisions to Obamacare or its potential cancellation bubbled to the surface in the Senate.  In a July 1st NY Times article by Ron Lieber, I read that:  “One in three people who turn 65 end up in a nursing home at some time.”  And, “62% of those people cannot pay the bill on their own.”

We cannot predict our own futures.  We cannot know whether we will need nursing care over a longer period than we can afford to pay.  Even when we have planned for a financially solvent old age, unexpected illnesses and costs may develop.  Even long term care insurance may be insufficient.  We cannot know how long we will live (my mother, for example, is now 104 years old) nor who will be there to care for us.  Family members often live great distances from one another and cannot disrupt their lives to sufficiently care for their elders. This creates a lot of uncertainty, many “unknowns.”  We like to think that we will be healthy and self-sufficient until our deaths, but that is often not the case – as we know, as we can see around us.

Medicaid is our safety net.  It is the same Medicaid that cares for the young, the poor and sick, and those with disabilities.   Medicaid still supports the elderly in nursing homes who need assistance.  I read that, on average, the annual cost of a semiprivate room in a nursing home is $82,128.  Medicaid also currently pays for home and community based care for older adults.  Most people cannot afford the high nursing home costs, especially if their retirement funds have already been reduced by the protracted illness of one of the partners in a marriage, leaving the widowed (usually woman) with insufficient capital for their own care.

This fact (and the multitude of safeguards provided by The Affordable Care Act for most of us in the U.S.) is why we all probably breathed a great sign of relief when the Republican Senate plan to wipe it off the books was defeated.  People all over the country had rallied to support the admittedly imperfect Obamacare, but most Republican Senators turned deaf ears to their activist constituents.  Only three: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and John McCain were able to hold the line against the attackers.  Good thing for us!  Great thing for us — to date!

I learned that each state has its own requirements to determine qualifications for Medicaid.  Lieber recommends a “plain-spoken guide,” How to Protect Your Family’s Assets from Devastating Nursing Home Costs. He also writes that many people hire elder-law attorneys to help them navigate state Medicaid rules.

The proposed Republican changes to health care legislation that would have affected us directly as we age and possibly become infirm are real and very, very significant.  This recently defeated plan to eradicate Obamacare would have directly affected all of us seniors, some in devastating ways.  We need to stay alert to possible/probable further actions which could significantly alter health care benefits.  We all need to be vigilant.  We need protect our self interests by advocating for universal health care in whatever forms appeals to us–but certainly not by eliminating it.  Become an advocate!  Your health care–and mine–may depend on it.

BOLLI Matters “Senior Moments” writers Eleanor Jaffe (left) and Liz David (right).

As I grow older, I am more interested in the conditions, changes, services, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of over 50 years, my friends — and my 104 year old mother.  What does it mean to be growing older in today’s society?  Please share your thoughts below!

LINES FROM LYDIA: My First Girdle

Lately, Lydia has been focusing on memoir writing–and, here, she gives us all a little inspiration for memoir writing of our own.  We hope you’ll think about sharing some of your memories with other BOLLI members on  our BOLLI Matters blog!  

MY FIRST GIRDLE

By Lydia Bogar

Me and Daddy

Daddy was sitting at the dining table, back to the thermostat wall.  He was doing paperwork – shop stuff – not painting.  I had been shopping with Mom, maybe at R.H. White’s, and we had bought my first girdle.  It was a pink and white striped thing with garters that was not purchased for a look-thinner purpose but, rather, to hold up my first pair of nylons. I believe it was 1957 or 58, at least one year before he died.

Daddy was a brave and determined man.  In 1938, he had come from Europe to America from Europe to live with Papa, Mimi, and Paul–to have a better life.  To be a soldier.  To fall in love and raise a family.  To be an artist and a hairdresser.  To be an American.   He was suave, sophisticated, very conscious of his appearance–hair, mustache, posture.  Was that a generational thing?  A European thing?  A proud new American thing?  He was tall, thin, beautiful—with tanned skin that never hardened.  His hair never turned grey.  He never turned 50…or 60…or more.

Daddy was not only an immigrant, an artist, a husband, and a father. He was also a son, brother, uncle, Catholic, a craftsman, a golfer, a Main Street businessman, fisherman, and gardener.  He was then a photographer, patriot, and anti-Communist.  Finally, he was a patient and a survivor.

I look back now at the black and white photos of him–in uniform, on his passport, on his citizenship papers, with his fedora, with the puppy named Bobo, with me.  Golfing with Papa and Paul.  Fishing with Uncle Fred and Uncle Eddie.  Lots of images saved from the house that wasn’t sold until Mom entered a nursing home.

It seems a little strange to me that one of my more vivid memories of Daddy was him sitting at the dining room table the day I came home with my first girdle.  And yet, for us girls in the 50s, that first was a big one.  Having him there for it was just as important.  How I wish that my other memories of him were clearer and more abundant.

Maybe they are just deeper–and writing will bring them to the surface.

BOLLI Matters Co-editor Lydia Bogar

Former English teacher and health care professional Lydia Bogar joined BOLLI in the spring of 2016 after returning home from a stint in South Carolina where she dipped into another OLLI program.   (We’re glad she decided to join this one!)

 

 

WHAT’S ON MY MIND? ERMA BOMBECK

Recently, our Writers Guild prompt consisted of a line from Erma Bombeck about house guests.   I made one false start after another on the house guest theme and finally gave up.   Eventually, I realized that what I really wanted to write about was Bombeck herself.  So,  this is what I ended up with–and I thought that some of you might be able to relate.

ERMA BOMBECK:  CHOICE WORDS

When LBJ was signing the Civil Rights Act in Washington in 1964, Erma Bombeck was signing a contract with the Kettering-Oakwood Times to write two columns per week for a sum of $3 each.  Five years later, in 1969, that column, “At Wit’s End,” was being nationally syndicated, appearing in over 900 newspapers across the country and lifting the spirits of suburban moms everywhere.

But in 1969, we suburban kids mostly didn’t get Bombeck’s “homespun” wit.   At breakfast, Mom would turn to Erma’s column in Cleveland’s Plain Dealer and chuckle over whatever the humorist was skewering that day—carpooling, one drive-through-something or another, meat loaf.  Reading bits and pieces aloud, Mom would attach her current favorite to the refrigerator door, and we would provide obligatory smiles in response.  For us, though, lost socks, dirty ovens, and teenage zombies drifting through the house opening cabinets and never closing them just weren’t particularly funny.   Didn’t cabinets, after all, just close themselves?

I guess we didn’t really think all that much about how our parents spent their days.  Our dads mostly “went to the office,”  but what they did there, if we thought about it at all, was something of a mystery.   Our moms mostly stayed home and took care of the house. (Apparently, in those days, even Erma’s kids didn’t really quite get it.  When he was asked what his mother did, her young son Matt indicated with a clueless sort of grimace, that “she’s a syndicated communist.”)

In the 60s and 70s, it just didn’t seem to occur to most of us kids that our moms might have found their seemingly perfect, Leave-it-to-Beaver style suburbans lives to be boring or, worse, depressing.   But Bombeck knew that life welll—and she was able to find humor in all of it.  In The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, for example, she wrote about “Loneliness,” saying:  “No one talked about it much, but everyone knew what it was.  It was when you alphabetized the spices on your spice rack and talked to your plants, who fell asleep on you.  It was a condition, and it came with the territory.”

It was territory that Erma, my mom, and my friends’ moms knew all too well.  It consisted of their homes, their appliances, their husbands, children, neighbors, and friends…their lives.  Motherhood in suburban America.   Fertile ground for humor with an edge.

By 1978, Erma Bombeck’s unique ability to find humor in what so many of us thought of as simply trivial or mundane, if we thought about it at all,  had taken her from earning $3 per column to garnering million-dollar book advances.  Every single one of her fifteen books was an instant best-seller.

So, it came as something of a surprise to me when Bombeck said that the initial inspiration for her column had come from none other than the early feminist Betty Friedan.  As the story goes, in the 50s, Bombeck heard Friedan give a speech about the dull and dreary chaos of the life that women like Erma and her friends were leading.  Bombeck said that she kept waiting for the story to shift into humor and was horrified when it didn’t.  What Friedan had detailed, Bombeck said, “just had to be funny.  Without humor, after all, how could it be endured?”

In 1969, my friends and I were protesting an ugly war and watching television news reports of civil unrest in our cities.  We were too busy to give a Dayton, Ohio housewife any more attention than the obligatory smiles we managed when our moms read us bits and pieces from her columns or attached them to our refrigerator doors.

But now, it’s time for us now Medicare card carrying kids to give her credit for the role she played in the women’s movement.  She was a champion of women’s rights, working tirelessly for the passing of the ultimately doomed Equal Rights Amendment.  But her greatest form of feminist activism was her humor.  By providing women like my mom the opportunity to laugh at the details of suburban family life in the 60s and 70s—including the boredom, loneliness, and depression that came with it for many—she showed them that they were not alone.  In so doing, she helped a generation of women discover that they had choices—and not just when it came to floor wax or what to pack for their kids’ lunches.

I think we owe Erma significantly more than an obligatory smile.  And what might be the most fitting of tributes for her?  A  permanent spot on the refrigerator door.

BOLL Matters editor Sue Wurster

 

Like the late Bombeck, Sue is an Ohio native–whose respect for good humor runs deep…