WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? THE MICRO-STORM

THE MICRO-STORM

by Dennis Greene

Safe inside our well-constructed home sand surrounded by an amazing network of electronic communication systems, we generally feel protected from those forces of nature that threatened and terrified our forbears.  Even when we hear about earthquakes, cyclones, or tidal waves somewhere else, and we feel some level of concern and sympathy, we don’t feel the gut-wrenching fear of those who came before us and knew nature better than we do.  But every once in a while, Mother Nature gives us a little nudge to remind us that she is watching us and can, with a gesture, wipe out our secure little nests at any time.

About six weeks ago, I got such a nudge.  After leaving BOLLI at noon, I rushed to the golf course to get in a quick nine.  The weather was sunny and warm, but there was a chance of some thunderstorm activity in late afternoon.  I spent a pleasant two hours strolling the fairways at Nehoiden and then headed home for a nap.  By 4:30, I was fast asleep next to an open window, oblivious to the world. I had given no thought to the approach of a violent “micro storm.”

At 5:15, I was startled into consciousness by a soaking wall of water driven through my window by violent wind.  I was in bed, facing the window, and as my eyes popped open, I heard an explosion and saw a bright flash of white light surrounded by a red penumbra. It looked like a bomb exploding right outside my window, and there was no interval between the boom and the flash.

The house shook, but since I saw no other damage, and our lights remained on, I rolled over to the dry side of the bed and tried to continue my nap.  It didn’t last long. Eileen yelled from downstairs that we had no internet or television service, all our phones were dead, and a message on her cell phone indicated that some isolated areas were experiencing severe micro-storms. I guess we were one of those isolated areas.

Hours later, I learned from a message on my cell phone that the “outage” in our neighborhood lasted for forty minutes, but service had been restored.  Many hours after that, at 3:15 a.m., I reached Comcast to let them know that the outage continued at my house. They confirmed that our house had no service and offered to send a technician, but since they had numerous other calls, the earliest available service would be no sooner than Thursday afternoon. For the next two days, our household was barely functional.  I couldn’t use the internet or read emails, and I missed the Celtics playoff game. On Thursday evening, after a very responsive young technician worked at our house for almost two hours, we learned from him that our modem, three tv control boxes, and all our telephones had been rendered inoperable.  When he returned on Friday morning to replace the modem and control boxes, we discovered that our new 55” smart TV and our Apple Airport router had also been fried. The next day, we began the daunting task of replacing the five telephones, beginning the warrantee process with Costco for our TV, and trying to reconnect all our devices and printers to our home network. The disruption seemed interminable, but after four frustrating weeks we were finally reconnected and back to normal.  But we are now much more aware of how subject we are to nature’s whims.

This is a warning to all of you to retain some of that primeval fear you were born with and to respect Mother Nature. She has her eyes on each of us and can hurl devastation upon you before you can blink.

BOLLI Matters feature writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He’s been writing blog articles for BOLLI Matters in quite a variety of genres:  science fiction, movie and video picks, creative nonfiction, and memoir.  And now, he’s even taken on the weather!

 

 

WHAT’S YOUR STORY? THE BODY SHOP

THE BODY SHOP

by Maxine Weintraub

Not another trip to the body shop.  Well, in my social circle, to call it a body shop is a bit pretentious.  It’s just a local garage, and I seem to be there more and more often.

It all started a few years ago when I began to notice little things I had never seen before–the scratch along the driver’s side door, the small crack in the windshield.  Where did that small dent in the bumper come from, and what was that peculiar lump in the floor carpet?

Last winter, the handle froze after an ice storm, and I couldn’t open the door.  That was frightening.  It seemed to me that it was time to start taking better care,  paying more attention.  I bought one of those coveralls that keeps the sap and the bird poop off and might keep ice from forming inside the door handles.

Now what?  A large stain on the front seat.  Purple.  And a funny rattle somewhere.   Not enough to keep me home but enough to make me very nervous.  Should I be out and about?

A flat tire in the supermarket parking lot.  The garage sent the large tow truck–the one with the flashing lights–so that everyone could see my distress.  Humiliation.  And over nothing!

Okay.  It was time for preventive medicine.  High test instead of regular.  But the cost was high, and, sometimes when I filled the tank, I forgot.

Then, the final straw.  A stain on the driveway.  A leak.  Wasn’t my garage doing its job?  They didn’t see these things when I got my sticker?  Did I need a specialist?

My friends laughed and told me to relax as I rattled down the local streets.  They said that this aging process could not be avoided.  But I raged.  I found a real body shop.  An expensive body shop.  I had a major paint job.  A valve job.  Flushed those pipes and relined whatever could be relined.  Was I losing control?

And at night, as I lay, fearful, in my bed, those old words from childhood rang in my head:  now I lay me down to sleep…

Oh! What if I just didn’t start in the morning?

 

Maxine Weintraub reading
BOLLI Member Maxine Weintraub

Maxine has been taking writing classes with both Betsy Campbell and Marjorie Roemer since joining BOLLI three years ago.  She has been an active participant in the Writers Guild and was the editor of the 2018 BOLLI Journal. As Maxi Blue Cabot, she is the proud author of the recently published “Grammie Lives at the Mall” and “The Round Happy Smiling Lady” now available on Amazon.

 

 

JULY CHEF’S CORNER: BARBECUED SHORT RIBS

BARBECUED SHORT RIBS

from John Rudy

This recipe came from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, and we have been making it since we were married in 1968.  A Slo-Cooker   is a fine alternative.  Buy pieces that are mostly meat, not bone, preferably with lots of speckles of fat.  This recipe creates a lot of gravy.  That is intentional.  I prefer short ribs with noodles; others like potatoes.

 

 

 

 

3 lbs    Short ribs (best if they are marbled)

1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

½ cup  Onions, minced

1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

½ cup  Catsup

1 tsp    Paprika

½ cup  Water

1 tsp    Mustard (preferably dry)

¼ cup  Wine Vinegar

  1. (optional) Braise the ribs briefly, searing the edges to keep the juices in.  Drain off fat
  2. Combine onions and all other ingredients and pour over the meat.
  3. Cook at 275° for about 3 hours (or 6 hours on low in the Slo Cooker)
  4. Check with a fork to see if the ribs are ready. The meat should be falling off the bone.
  5. Remove the bones (optional) and refrigerate the meat/gravy until the fat comes to the top and hardens.
  6. Remove fat to use some of it to make roux, and thicken gravy.

===================

To make roux

Melt a few tablespoons of fat

Whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour and cook over medium heat until the flour is totally incorporated and the mixtures turns brown.  If you stop too early there will be a floury taste.  If you don’t whisk enough there will be lumps.

Slowly add the de-fatted gravy whisking constantly and let it come to a boil, at which point the gravy will be thickened.  If you used too much flour and the gravy is too thick just whisk in some water or bullion.

BOLLI Matters “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.)

JULY LINES FROM LYDIA: MY HEROES

MY HEROES

by Lydia Bogar

Two weeks ago, the media  reminded us of our history–particularly our veterans, living and dead, who gave this country their courage and strength.  Among them, my father who joined the American Army in 1939, a year after his arrival from Budapest.  I have bronzed in my mind the image of him in uniform holding his DD214,  the honorable discharge certificate that entitled him to his prized citizenship.

But I am also thinking about the everyday heroes around us.  The ones we need to take notice of and silently appreciate as they weave in and out of our lives.  Truly hometown heroes.

The mechanic down the street who replaces a burned-out brake light at no charge, on a Saturday, in the rain.

The nice old guy at the hardware store who laughs with me when I tell a blonde joke.  He then easily threads the new line into the weed whacker and thanks me for coming in.

The young couple across the street who brush the snow and ice off the top of my car because I have lost another inch of height since last winter.

The  neighbor with the lilting Irish brogue who cuts my lawn and brings in the mail while I am burying my mother.

Heroes like these help to keep our small town  safe even as the population doubles and the dump is no longer open for Saturday morning chats.  I’ll never be a Townie, not even after 46 years, but I won’t be at home anywhere else either.

BOLLI Matters co-editor and feature writer Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta–educated at BOLLI.”

JULY’S BOLLI AFTER DARK: Road Trips!

SUMMER ROAD TRIPS!

by Donna Johns

Ah, the call of the open road on a sunny summer day! Nothing is more enticing than the great American road trip. Of course, the ultimate road trip is cross-country but with high gas prices, you may want to think smaller. And if you love the arts, nothing could be better than a road trip to the Berkshires. Museums, music, dance and theater abound during the summer season.

Put the app TodayTix on your phone or tablet to help plan your trip. The app has a Berkshires button which will list multiple weekends and highlight some of the productions you might miss by just looking at Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow and Shakespeare and Company websites. Choose your weekend and then scroll through. Not only is TodayTix convenient but it is also a great venue to snag deeply discounted tickets.

That said, don’t miss the chance to see Shakespeare & Company’s production of  As You Like It (August 9 to September 2). Performed in the outdoor Roman Garden Theater, you will be transported to the forest of Arden for a magical night.  Bring your bug spray and prepare to be enchanted.

Up for a road trip but not too keen about driving? Stroll down Turner St. to the commuter rail, travel to North Station, and grab the Amtrak Downeaster train to Portland ME. This is a bargain at $58 round trip, and the scenery along the way is special. In under 3 hours, you will be in Portland with enough time to enjoy the lobster stew at DiMillo’s on the Water, a boat tour of Casco Bay, and a bit of shopping or bar hopping before catching the train home.

*

If your bunions are barking or you threw your back out weeding the garden or your old jalopy has 200,000 miles on the odometer or it’s just too darn hot to leave the house, you can take an armchair road trip. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Leisure Seeker, coming soon to rent/buy. Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland play a  couple taking one last road trip in their old RV. A bittersweet comedy meticulously played for  laughs, not pathos.

On the Road, available on DVD and Sundance Channel. Based on the Jack Kerouac novel.  A young would-be writer encounters some interesting characters during his road trip. The result is a little uneven but captures the spirit of the 1950’s.

Little Miss Sunshine, available on DVD and rental. A delightfully eccentric family hitS the road   to enter their little girl in a beauty pageant.

National Lampoon’s Vacation, available on DVD and rental. The Griswalds’ trip to a theme  park doesn’t go as planned. Wonderful physical humor by Chevy Chase makes this a classic.

I could go on, but I bet you have your own favorite road trip movies. Share them in comments!

*

Whatever road trip you choose–be safe, use sun screen, don’t forget to hydrate, and have a wonderful time.  Bolli After Dark will be back in August to preview the fall season.

BOLLI Matters “After Dark” feature writer Donna Johns

Donna Johns is a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, sometime director of community theater, and new BOLLI member. She now has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.

 

 

 

JULY WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? LEGACIES

WHAT WILL I LEAVE MY CHILDREN?

by Eleanor Jaffe

As we age, we consider what we will leave behind for our children and grandchildren that has lasting significance and meaning. Undoubtedly, we have all thought about finances and what estate will be left for our children to share. Perhaps you have thought of treasured antiques–your mother-in-law’s fine china or sterling silver,  your father’s World War II medals, perhaps.  Maybe you will leave your children property.  Maybe you have thought of leaving some writings that you have put together, your memoirs of successes and failures, family joys and sorrows.  All of these have significance to you and me and to our children.  But, lately, a new legacy, one I have heretofore taken for granted, seems of utmost importance: the legacy of a functioning democracy.

We belong to the same “cohort.”  That is, we grew up at the same time, lived through the same U.S. history (give or take twenty years). I can recall the end of World War II.  I can recall the formation of the United Nations, the promise of Israel, and NATO.   We were filled with the idealism of our age.  We would help to build a better, wiser world following the cataclysm of World War II with its millions of victims and its death camps. “Never again!” We believed in these ideals, and, as a cohort, we profited from the expansive, booming economic times that ensued. The U.S. was a benevolent victor and helped to rebuild conquered territories—for the good of us all.  Here in the U.S., laws were passed equalizing opportunities for minorities and women.  Incrementally, the U.S. expanded the rights of all citizens.

Now, we are experiencing the loss of our idealism, the loss of the sense of U.S. “rightness,” the faith in our democracy that we once shared.  We believed that our democracy could be shared among the nations of the world.  The U.S. could be open-hearted and open-handed. Yes, there were military clashes along the way: Korea and Vietnam (where we almost lost our way). But nothing in our memory, not even the McCarthy era, has decimated the American Dream like the current Trump Administration.  It is this American Dream and its almost 250 year old reality that is the most significant legacy we could possibly leave our children and grandchildren.

Many of our grandparents suffered in steerage and then in poverty so long ago when they emigrated to the United States. The United States was a dream, hard fought for, but worth the struggle for our parents and then for us. We now have an obligation, a sacred trust, to struggle to maintain these democratic principles of fairness, the rule of law, equal opportunities, a place where people–even would-be immigrants and asylum seekers–are treated with respect and fairness.

Nothing has so tarnished the reputation of the United States in the eyes of the world—and in our own eyes—as the systematic, deliberate cruelty of this Administration in separating children from their parents, in keeping children in cages, even of losing track of where the children have been sent!  What has happened to our American Dream? And how can we salvage the tattered remnants of our honor as a country? (And this is just the latest – but surely not the last – of Trump’s outrageous attacks on our democratic, hard fought for ideals and laws.)

The legacy of a proud, just, and fair United States is one I desperately hope to leave to my children and grandchildren. I will work to help these helpless immigrants most of whom are seeking asylum.  Were we not all once “strangers in a strange land?”—no matter when our family members emigrated to the U.S.?  I will work to overturn this Administration so that we can once again have a fair and just system of government, a government that responds to the loud cries of protests from its citizenry.  I strongly encourage all of you to do the same.  This remains the bedrock and foundational legacy for all our children.

BOLLI Matters feature writer Eleanor Jaffe

One of BOLLI Matters’  “Senior Moments” feature writers, Eleanor has become increasingly focused on “Making a Difference” in our current climate.  She and Elaine Dohan, in fact, have founded a new BOLLI Special Interest Group to explore how we might all be “Making a Difference” today.

 

JULY SENIOR MOMENT WITH DENNIS GREENE: MIND LAPSES

MIND LAPSES

by Dennis Greene

When I call on my fragile mind to multi-task, things often end badly.

For instance, in 1967, I attended Stu Lasky’s wedding in Scarsdale with my college roommate Kenny Fox and his parents, my “second family.”

As we sat in the synagogue waiting for the ceremony to begin, I noticed a beautiful Asian girl sitting alone a few rows away.  It looked like she knew no one. This was during that wonderful interim between the disappearance of my acne and the appearance of my receding hairline, so I was flushed with a modicum of confidence.  I forced myself into action and found myself inviting her to come and join us.  She told me her name was Noella Luke, happily accepted the invitation, and smiled.  I was enchanted.  As we walked back to join the Foxes, my brain was churning. I was listening to Noella tell me how she knew the bride; I was imagining what our children might look like; and I was complimenting myself on this very mature, thoughtful, and cool move.  Before I had time to prepare myself, we arrived at our seats, and I began to introduce Noella to the Foxes, but after “Noella, I’d like you to meet Mr. and Mrs….” I drew a blank. I could not recall their name.  I became speechless and froze, the temperature went up to about 110 degrees, sweat began to pour down my brow, and there was about thirty seconds of awkward silence before the Foxes introduced themselves. I knew that my overloaded brain’s failure to come up with the name “Fox” had managed to turn a major victory into a humiliating defeat. I have to learn to focus more on what I am doing.

This past weekend, I bought a $20 sheet of coupons from a kid raising money for the Wellesley High baseball team, and I decided to use one of the coupons as an excuse to get a forbidden pizza. I drove to Wellesley Center and found a parking place not far from the Upper Crust. As I was unbuckling my seatbelt, I remembered that I had a parking meter app on my phone.  I activated my iPhone, got out of the car, and paid the fee.  Then, I went into a nearby bookstore.  After a half hour chat with the owner, I strolled over to the Upper Crust, ordered a small pepperoni and mushroom pizza, and ate it while reading Ringworld. Forty-five minutes later, I emerged from the restaurant and headed back to my car, patting my pockets quickly, looking for my keys.  I didn’t find them.  I repeated the search, more slowly.  I didn’t have them.   I considered whether I might have left them in the Upper Crust or in the bookstore.  Then it occurred to me that they might be in the ignition.  After a brief moment of panic, I spotted my car, so I knew it hadn’t been stolen, and I was soon close enough to see that the keys actually were in the ignition.  No harm done, luckily.   And with a sigh of relief, I slid into the driver’s seat, buckled my seatbelt, and reached to turn on the ignition.   It was already on!  The car engine had been running for the past hour and a half.  Another brain malfunction.  These have recently been occurring  more frequently.

How does one tell the difference between normal “aging brain” malfunctions and the onset of more serious dementia?  Is my undependable old brain even capable of distinguishing the difference?  I worry about myself, and all of us.

It is clear that the magnitude of the distraction required to trigger a brain lapse has been reduced significantly for me over the years. In 1967 the smile and attention of the young woman of my fantasies, while I was taking an unprecedented social risk, reduced me to a catatonic state.  That is easily understandable. It was an important moment for me.

But, last week, my brain short-circuited because I got excited about using a new parking fee app.  That’s just sad.

BOLLI Matters feature writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He’s been writing blog articles for BOLLI Matters in quite a variety of genres:  science fiction, movie and video picks, creative nonfiction, and memoir.  This month, he provides us with this “Senior Moment” as feature writer Eleanor Jaffe addresses a concern “On Her Mind.”

 

 

 

JULY TECH TALK: WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET?

WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET?

by John Rudy

Summer tends to be peak travel time, so here’s a tip about safeguarding your wallet–at home or abroad.

I suspect that few of you know exactly what is in your wallet, so if it is stolen or lost, you might have a problem.  But even if you know what cards you have there, do you know the card numbers and you how to contact the organizations so that they can be frozen?

The solution is a small spreadsheet:

Card Description Card Number Contact email Contact Phone
       
       

Then, put it in a place so that, if the wallet is stolen (even in Europe), you can get to the data.  I will leave that part up to you!

BOLLI Matters “Tech Talk” feature writer John Rudy

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

How I Learned to be a Racist by Lois Biener

HOW I LEARNED TO BE A RACIST

By Lois Biener

I parked my car with my dog inside in the small lot behind Peet’s Coffee to run in for some beans.  Leaving the car, I noticed three black men hanging out, probably on a smoke break from their work in the attached building.  I double-checked to make sure my car was locked.  As I walked around to the front door, I chastised myself for my automatic response.  I rarely lock my car.  Why did I do that?

Lessons in racism started early.  I grew up in a neighborhood that was not only racially segregated, it was 60 to 70% Jewish.  I could tell my mother was much happier when I played with the Jewish kids than with the few non-Jews.  No explicit reason was given, but the subtle message of invidious group distinctions was delivered.

The only black person I knew in my early years was Willie Mae who cleaned our house and took care of me after school.  I was very fond of her, as she was of me.  My parents referred to her as “the schvartze,” but not in her presence.  Her daughter, Gweny, was my age, and Willie Mae brought her to our house now and then.  Being invited to Gweny’s 5th birthday party caused my parents great consternation.  I really wanted to go, although I can’t remember if I actually did.  They told me that her home was in a dirty and dangerous neighborhood and that I wouldn’t be comfortable there.  I recall Willie Mae expressing resentment to me about the attitudes white people had toward her.  I felt torn in my loyalties to her and to my parents.

My father, a small-time criminal lawyer, dealt primarily with “colored” people who got in trouble for numbers running and other petty crimes.  Although he was proud to have their respect and appreciation, I had many opportunities to hear about their terrible living conditions and people referred to as “dumb shines,” but at least not “niggers.”

Until high school, I had few opportunities to see or relate to black people.  My high-school was about 50% black and 50% Jewish.  Most of the black kids were tracked into vocational courses, so I didn’t become friendly with many of them.  The one area where race seemed irrelevant was choir.  This was a 3-day a week commitment with frequent concerts in and out of school, often at churches during Christmas, much to my parents’ dismay.  I loved being in the choir, and I had the experience of participating with excellent African-American singers.  I remember anticipating with pleasure the place in the program where a wonderful soprano would perform a solo aria from Handel’s Messiah.

I can’t remember when I first started to actively reject the notion that black people were inherently “less than.”  The civil rights movement of the 60’s occurred when I was an undergraduate, and all the media attention to the injustice in the south was certainly an important factor.  Graduate school in the late 60’s and 70’s and all the political movements of that time led me to intellectually reject racism.   Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, and other writers of the black experience were important contributors to my growing understanding and empathy.  The more recent sickening repetition of the killing of black men by white policeman has been a tipping point in sparking my motivation to be more proactive.

Now I’m trying to deal with the unconscious reactions that led me to go back and lock my car door in the Peet’s parking lot or the avoidance of eye-contact when passing black men on the street.   Rooting out this behavior takes conscious effort.  It is important to bring into awareness the subtle perceptual biases that many of us white people have internalized over our lifetimes so that the source of those biases can be examined.

Riding the train from NYC last week, friends and I were looking for facing seats.  I found one six-seater occupied by a young black man.  I looked at him, smiled, and sat down.  I’m trying.  We all must do much more.

BOLLI Member Lois Biener

A social scientist by “trade,” Lois enjoys her time at BOLLI, sings with two different groups, throws pots,  spends quality time with her daughter and grandson, and  relishes planning the next trip with her husband.

JULY “BOOK NOOK” : A LITERARY MEMORY FROM ABBY PINARD

THE BOOK THAT MATTERED

Brooklyn Public Library

by Abby Pinard

When I turned 13, in the mid-1950s, having long since exhausted the children’s section of the Brooklyn Public Library, I was finally granted an adult card. Oh, the wonders that were now available to me! Not just the books but the soaring, sunlit space, the hush, and the certainty that important grown-up people were doing important grown-up reading there.

Early on, I read a book called (I thought) A Small Rain. I remember no other single book from that time, but that one stuck with me. There was a scene in which a young girl who plays the piano is asked if she plays well. “Yes,” she says. I was thrilled and appalled! Who could be so immodest? I played the piano, pretty well for 13, but I would never have said so! I was a gawky, nerdy, shy kid, and boasting — or even believing I had anything to boast about — just wasn’t in my repertoire.

Over the years, the book would periodically penetrate my consciousness, and I would think that I should re-read it to figure out why it had been important to me. Was it just that one scene? I had a vague sense that the girl was growing up in New York City but that her city was very unlike mine, and I didn’t remember anything else about her. I couldn’t remember the author’s name, but I clearly remembered that the physical space in which I’d found the book was in the section for authors from J-M. We were a long way from the Internet, and although any librarian could’ve helped me, life intervened; there were lots more books to read, and I never tried to identify the book.

Until twenty or so years ago when I read an article about Madeleine L’Engle that mentioned her first book. The title varied from my recollection only by the difference between “a” and “the,” and her name fit alphabetically. When I read a synopsis, I was certain I had found it, and I bought the book. I re-read it closely but had no clear insight as to why it was meaningful to the 13-year-old me. It’s a coming-of-age story, originally published in 1945, featuring the lonely daughter of mostly absent parents. Maybe I was as shocked by the sixteen-year-old’s relationships with grown men as I was by her immodesty, or perhaps I was fascinated by the glamorous bohemianism of her life in Greenwich Village and Paris. Or maybe it was just that one scene that was so startling that I never forgot it.

The Small Rain sits on a shelf where I can see it from where I now sit. I no longer think it has anything to tell me about who I was at 13, but I may read it once more just to be sure.

BOLLI Matters “Book Nook” Feature Writer, Abby Pinard

A lifelong book nut, Abby retired from a forty-year computer software career and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore.  A native New Yorker, she moved to Boston to be among her people:  family and Red Sox fans.  A music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie, she flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.