A few months ago, my 11-year-old grandson Ben and I were in the kitchen. He was sitting at the table, patiently waiting for lunch. I was preparing to serve him the world’s greatest grilled cheese sandwich ever.
Out of the blue he looked up and said, “Nana, I hope you live a long time.”
“I hope so too,” I said, moved. I thought all he was interested in was his X-box, play station, texting, and winning at Monopoly.
At the time, I was 80. Now, I’m 81. I’ve already lived a long time. I don’t know what living a long time means to an 11-year-old. I didn’t probe or ask questions, but I’ve been thinking about this question off and on since then.
So what does living a long life mean to me? Is it the fullness of years or just another number to strive for? So I’m 81. Will I reach 82 and, if so, what difference will it make? What difference will I make? Is being here enough? Or am I just existing? Does my continued existence matter? Of course, my family and friends would say yes. And I say yes too!
But is my yes important? Will I live to see my oldest grandchild—and also my youngest grandchild who is 7—graduate 6th grade, 8th grade, high school, college. Will I see them have careers, get married, make me a great-grandmother? Unlikely. Very unlikely. Impossible. Do the math!
For me, it’s important to not only live well into a “ripe old age” but also to live a meaningful old age. Yet, a very wise person once said to me that all God wants us to do is to “be.” I ask myself, “How can I ‘be’ as I do?” A conundrum that gets me into, may I say the word, spiritual stuff.
Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be. Really?
So, how about a conversation?
Years ago, when we were in our 40’s, my husband and I bought a sundial with the saying “grow old along with me–the best is yet to be.” I’m not sure whether or not I believed it then, and I’m wondering whether I believe it now. Stay tuned!
I really don’t know how Lisa Scottoline keeps writing one excellent mystery after another, but she does. Her latest had me completely fooled until the author revealed the secret she’d kept for more than a third of the book.
One Perfect Lie opens with Chris Brennan interviewing for a position at the high school in Central Valley, Pennsylvania. He’s made it his business to know exactly the type of substitute teacher the school administration wants, and he presents himself accordingly. He’s observed the male high school staff and is dressed the way they are in what might be termed “school casual;” he’s even had his hair cut locally so that nothing about him will stand out or seem unusual.
His resumé is perfect, and the reasons he gives for the many moves he’s made in his life ring true. It also helps that the school needs a substitute Government teacher at once, as the regular teacher left suddenly due to a family emergency. Chris gives the principal, the only member of the school’s administration he hasn’t met previously, all the answers she wants and needs to hear, and so, he gets the job. Then he thinks to himself, “It was time to set (the) plan in motion, commencing with step one.”
Step one is finding out about renting a truck from a local man who’s not too fussy about legalities. The man assumes the vehicle is needed for a move, but Chris knows that the available twelve footer is the perfect size for transporting an ANFO bomb, an explosive with ingredients that are easy and safe to assemble.
During his first class Chris sets out to win over all the students, especially the boys. He’s already deciding who the leaders and who the followers are, and he’s narrowed down the ones he’s interested in to just a handful. He plans to cull the handful even more until he finds the perfect boy. Between his teaching assignment and agreeing to be the assistant coach of the school’s baseball team, he expects to find just the right one; he’s in a hurry because the bombing is only six days away.
Lisa Scottoline is a master storyteller. She brings to life the three teenagers in whom Chris shows the most interest. There’s Evan Kostis, the handsome, smart student from a wealthy but unhappy family; there’s Raz Samatov, bereft over the recent death of his father; there’s Jordan Larkin, whose single mother is guilty over how much time she needs to work in order to provide for the two of them. So what exactly does Chris want from the boy he decides to choose?
All of these characters, and many more equally well done and believable, inhabit the pages of One Perfect Lie. Ms. Scottoline has written one more thriller that will keep you guessing until the end.
I’ve always been a reader and, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course), I became a mystery fan. I think I find mysteries so satisfying because there’s a definite plot to follow, a storyline that has to make sense to be successful. And, of course, there’s always the fun of trying to guess the ending!
Kittery. Kittery Maine is a beach town, rocky and cold but very peaceful. With lobsters, lots of lots of L-O-B-S-T-A-S . It is also a destination for those in need of retail therapy in the form of outlet store bargains. Lots of B-AH-G-U-N-S.
Bargain shopping is in my blood. You see, I grew up in Worcester—where we had Spag’s. Founded in 1934 by Anthony “Spag” Borgatti, it was the most wonderful store. At Spag’s, “where cash buys more,” you could by a can of paint, a wrench, or a 5-lb. jar of peanut butter. You could visit with friends and neighbors who were buying everything from grass seed to work gloves to vacuum cleaner bags—with no plastic. In fact, at Spag’s, there were no bags or shopping carts. You put your stuff in your own bags or in empty cardboard boxes found around the store. And every part of the store had its own smells. Bread. Shoe leather. Fertilizer. But always the fragrance of paper dust and just-cut cardboard. Spag’s may have closed a dozen years ago, but the retail lessons learned there will never fade. For me, the name of the game was—and still is—“the best deal for the best price.” We learned that from our parents and from Spag himself before the missiles were photographed in Cuba. And then, we taught our children “Spag’s Mentality.”
So, for me, when Kittery became an outlet store mecca, the leap from Spag’s to Maine was not a painful one. At Spag’s, Wrangler jeans, piled by size on shelves, had cost less than $10 a pair. Now, the Lee Outlet in Kittery offers a dozen different colors and cuts for prices ranging from $39 to $100, a definite bargain in today’s market.
During my years as the mother-of-the-bride, treks to Kittery became marathon. The drive north on New Year’s weekend was one of the favorites. Sets of handcrafted holiday ornaments in really nice boxes made great gifts for my daughters but also served as bridal shower gifts for their friends. Serving pieces from Lenox China likewise. Pyrex casseroles and OXO utensils were legion.
At about that time, I turned a walk-in closet into a storage space that my girls referred to as “The Store.” With four long shelves and six feet of closet rod, it became the resting place for good bargains. Fancy candles. Blankets and throws. Mirrors and holiday items. When my mother’s health impeded traveling to stores, she would do her birthday and holiday shopping in “The Store.”
My mother and I never shopped together in Kittery, but she had taught me well during the Spag’s years. No, my most diligent shopping partner was Betty, who loved a bargain every bit as much as I did. On one trip, she managed to score one of her greatest finds ever—an entire set of dishes to match the blue walls and red ceiling border of her newly renovated kitchen. Her very favorite trip, though, was our first venture to the When Pigs Fly bakery. Talk about aroma. Forty dollars later, we returned to the car where the “coup de gras” rested in my trunk—a tray, napkins, a knife, and a pound of butter. It was the most perfect January day–the sun was shining, there was no dirty snow in the parking lot, and the temperature was hovering in the mid 50’s. We sat on the tailgate and relished the baked goods and the moment. Her freckled smile is preserved in my memory.
With the arrivals of the boys, my grandsons Brady and Henry, my addiction to cute pajamas and overalls propelled me to the Carter Outlet where I would spend $30 on tiny tee shirts and rubber pants, and then take away a free umbrella stroller. The boys have outgrown Carter’s, and their new shirts–complete with dinosaur and sport themes–now come from full-price sporting goods stores, and of course, the vendors near Fenway.
So, here are a couple of tips for shopping at the Kittery Outlets. Use your VISA card as you drive north and your MasterCard when you head south, going home, to avoid straining either one. During the month of August, avoid the crowds of frantic mothers and unhappy kids altogether. Go to the beach. Eat lobsta and whole belly clams by day, and drive home at sunset. The crazy shoppers don’t tend to hit the road until the outlets close at 9 p.m.
Shopping at other beaches? The Outer Banks? Monterey? Key West? Sure, but it’s just not the same. You can’t find lobstas or whole belly clams, and if they have coupons, I have yet to see one.
I stopped my treks to Kittery when I retired, had lost forty pounds, and was shopping in good consignment shops that could accommodate my changing sizes and tight budget. In my heart, though, Kittery shopping ended five years ago when my dear Betty died. How could those trips bring me happiness when my faithful shopping partner was no longer there to ride shotgun? She is in my heart always, as is my mother who trained me at Spag’s.
Shopping with family and friends can be a distraction during times of stress or unhappiness. From big box stores to outlets to coastal gift shops, finding the perfect item for someone special and giving it with love is key. The warm smile delivered in return is the best kind of retail therapy there is.
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.
In June of 2014, Martha saw an advertisement for BOLLI’s “Scholar for a Day” in the Newton Tab. Having recently retired, she was intrigued with the idea of taking classes and signed up for the program. When she arrived, she found herself in a current events class that she did not think she would enjoy, “but I was so impressed with the SGL who gave us a map and spoke so knowledgeably about ISIS that I even talked during the session.” She says the Lunch & Learn program that day was also excellent, and, consequently, she signed up for the 2014 fall term.
“Since then, I have enjoyed all the classes I have taken–with only one exception. And since I have taken 17 courses so far, that strikes me as a great ‘batting’ average. I enjoy listening to the SGLs and my fellow classmates—everyone has so much to offer on the many subjects. I have been especially impressed with the great selection of speakers at Lunch & Learn, and I also love the seminars during the winter and summer terms.”
In addition to her course load at BOLLI, Martha has become a “part-time” member of the Photo Club, attending some of the group’s meetings as well as their outings which she has found particularly fun to do. She has also been taking part in the Book Group. “The books chosen have broadened my reading selections, and the discussions are very interesting,” she says.
One of Martha’s interests outside BOLLI is doing cross-stitch samplers, a tradition in which, for centuries, stitchers have created pieces to demonstrate their skills and commemorate significant events. “In 1976, I wanted to make something for my first child,” she says. “I first tried crewel and then needlepoint but then realized that I liked counted cross-stitch the best. It takes concentration, but I also find it relaxing.” She has enjoyed making birth samplers for the babies in her life which she says some receive shortly after birth while others come along later. “I just recently finished a birth sampler for my great niece who lives in Pennsylvania—she’ll be four in April! And now, I am working on one for my honorary great-niece who arrived twelve days early on March 5th.”
Martha majored in chemistry in college, and after she graduated as an analytical chemist, she worked in three different arenas. After two years in the chemistry lab at Mass General, she spent eighteen years in a Boston City Hospital research lab which then moved to Beth Israel Hospital. Her last job was a twenty-two year stint at Biogen, the well-known biotech company. “Working in biotech is fascinating and very rewarding,” she says. With a note of pride, she adds that “during my time at Biogen, we had seven drugs approved by the FDA.”
Martha is married to Bob, a retired high school guidance director, and the couple have two children. Son Michael is working on his Ph.D. in public policy at UMass Boston where he concentrates on English language learners. Daughter Jennifer, who works as a corporate recruiter, is married to Watertown Chef Mike Fucci who was recently the winner on an episode of Cuttroat Kitchen on the Food Network!
Apparently, Martha Berardino’s friends have dubbed her their “Culture Meister” because of her talent for organizing trips to drama, dance, and music performances. At the moment, she recommends the play Topdog/Underdog at the Huntington Theatre, the Matisse exhibit at the MFA, and Charlotte’s Web at Wheelock Family Theatre. “Right now, I am planning a five-day trip to the Berkshires in July which will include performances at Tanglewood, Williamstown Theatre, and Jacob’s Pillow as well as art museums and, of course, good eating at area restaurants.”
The simple answer is NO, but, as usual, nothing is simple. There are three circumstances I can think of (and there are probably more) when this should be fine and actually even beneficial.
I have a yearly contract with The Geek Squad, an organization that is part of Best Buy, for support of my computer. For a reasonable rate, they will support up to 3 computers for me and take as many calls as necessary. Sometimes a call to them is sufficient to get an answer to your question, but at other times, you might have a complex question that requires someone to log onto your machine in order to fix it. Of course, you can take the computer to a store, but it is more convenient when, given permission, they can log in to fix whatever ails the machine. I have received similar service from Comcast.
Occasionally, you might call a friend and ask how to do something, like work on a Word document. They say that they’ll be over next week. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to collaborate in real time?
You want to share something, maybe pictures, with someone, and the file is too large to easily send. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just see them on your machine? There are a number of software products that accomplish this. You can check with the Geek Squad and Comcast or your own service provider to see what they deem to be safe.
When using Teamviewer, you provide a code to the person to whom you are allowing access and then either they or you can move the cursor on your screen. At the end of the session, they log out and cannot get in again until a future session is initiated by you. So it is safe. They have full documentation available on their site.
Having said all this, be very selective about allowing others onto your machine. They would then have access to material that you might rather keep private.
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 .
Last spring, Marty Kafka took a five-week “trial membership” course at BOLLI, found it to be very interesting, liked the people in the class, and decided to dive right into a full membership this past September. “I feel like I’m back in college,” he says, “but without the grades.”
Marty appreciates BOLLI’s community spirit of cooperative learning and says he is benefitting from the broad knowledge base of our members. “We help each other, and I am developing friendships associated with the courses and activities.”
An amateur digital photographer, Marty soon joined the Photo Club, particularly enjoying the group’s trips to the de Cordova Museum and Walden Pond. He’s also taken part in as many current events sessions as he’s been able to attend.
Prior to his retirement a year ago, Marty worked as a psychiatrist and still supervises psychiatric residents. As a clinician-researcher for over thirty years, he developed a specialty interest in sexual behavior disorders. He was awarded a Distinguished Life Fellowship by the American Psychiatric Association and was selected to collaborate on the revision and publication of the 5th Edition of the APA Diagnostic Manual.
While Marty enjoys a variety of interests, he is passionate about jazz piano and loves playing contemporary jazz. He says, as he was growing up, there was always music in his family.
“My father played the piano, the trumpet, the violin, and the ukulele. Before and after WWII (and before I was born), he spent summers as a small band leader, playing at various Catskill Mountain resorts. That, in fact, was how he met my mother. So, when I was six, Dad encouraged me to try the piano. I took to it naturally. He would accompany me on the violin for simple classical pieces and on the trumpet for popular music. Mom was our appreciative audience. When my younger brother Ken started playing the accordion and then the guitar, we were a trio—with our own built-in audience.
“I think I gravitated away from classical music toward jazz when I started listening to the music of Ray Charles during my teenage years. Listening to Charles as well as Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, I learned the blues scales and chords and gradually evolved my own style. My favorite contemporary jazz pianists were all classically trained—Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Stefano Bollani, and Gonzalo Rubalcava.
“For, me, music is meditative. That is one of the great things about improvisational music—your mind must remain in the moment and cannot wander. You try to hear something in your mind and then play what you hear. It’s a lifelong challenge to improve what you create internally and then work to be able to produce it accurately.”
Last summer, Marty played in a quintet that performed at an outdoor festival in Salem, but he says that his favorite place to play is in his living room. Currently, he enjoys playing at home with a saxophonist and a bass player–and he’d love to hear from BOLLI members who might also be interested in playing contemporary jazz!”
Finally, Marty says that “I have been blessed with my wonderful wife of 32 years, Karen, as well as two loving ‘children’ who are now both accomplished young adults. Although I am not a religious person, I am deeply grateful, every day, for having led such a fortunate life.”
To hear some of Marty’s music, here are audio cuts with the saxophone player. Just click on the little triangle on the left end of the bar to enjoy the music!
And, PLEASE–be sure to register your “applause” in the box below!
There’s nothing I love more than talking to people and finding out about their interests, ideas, backgrounds, families, plans, and more which makes it such a complete pleasure to focus on “Meeting Our Members” here on our BOLLI Matters blog. Be sure to send your ideas to: susanlwurster@gmail. com
This recipe was developed from a Chinese Cuisine site on the web, though I have made a lot of alterations. When buying the spareribs try to find those with a meaty back side (unlike what is typically found in a Chinese Restaurant where they remove that part to be used in other dishes).
The keys are to cook slowly, with the oven moist, to keep the meat tender. Then at the end cook them under the broiler to make them crisp.
6 Spareribs (meaty) ¼ cup Soy Sauce ½ cup red Chinese sauce (Ah So) 1½ Tbs Catsup 1½ tsp Mustard (I use powdered) 1½ Tbs Red Wine Vinegar (or other vinegar) 1 Tbs Brown Sugar 5 Garlic Cloves, well chopped 1/3 cup Honey (dissolved in some water)
Marinate the spareribs (turning occasionally) in everything but the honey. Best if marinated for a full day (or even 36 hours). A 10×14” pan works particularly well. You will probably have to cut the rack of ribs into 6” sections to fit, but don’t cut individual ribs.
Bake at 335◦ for about an hour, with the meat side up on a rack over a cookie tray. Put aluminum foil in the pan to catch the fat drippings.
Place a tray of water a few inches under the cooking tray. This generates steam and keeps the ribs moist. (Make sure that it doesn’t evaporate.)
Baste the ribs with honey every 15 minutes
Remove the ribs from the oven, get rid of the foil and the fat.
Put the ribs back in, under the broiler, about 6” from the element. Baste heavily with the honey and broil for 5-7 minutes to crisp the ribs. Turn over, baste the back side, and cook the back under the broiler for 5-7 minutes. A lot more fat may come off during the broiling process.
Individually cut apart the ribs.
Serve with Duck Sauce and lots of napkins.
John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age. (She cooked exclusively vegetables in boil-able packages.)
I write to you from Florida, the state where a lot of people have moved when they retire. Why not? After all, the Gulf of Mexico and Sarasota Bay are beautiful, the weather is terrific, and here in Sarasota, cultural pleasures are sophisticated and plentiful. Even life-long learning programs abound. The easy path is for retirees to sit back, read the papers, watch TV news, critique the world from their armchairs, and then share those critiques only with those whose politics agree with their own. After all, retirement has its rewards, and some might believe that inaction and armchair “jawing” are among them.
A certain caution is discernible here in Florida when people meet one another for the first time. Is it “safe” to discuss politics? (And what other subject is so front and center these days?) We don’t, after all, want to offend and argue. Who among these strangers voted for Trump and who voted for Hillary? Who didn’t vote at all? Who watches with complacency and agreement as liberal institutions in government and in society are attacked and dismantled? Communication across the great political divide not only grows more limited but is increasingly full of disbelief and rage. What are we to do with our passionately held beliefs and accompanying angst?
My beliefs and personality dictate action, constructive action. The question for me is, what kinds of action will be the most constructive? In other words, what will help to defang our present administration and re-establish a more liberal democracy that reflects our values as a welcoming, fair minded, constructive, and positive force in the world—- a Marshall Plan kind of world. Of course, some of you who read this will not agree with me, and so, I urge you to respond. Let’s communicate!
Two events that I attended here were heartening. The first was the Women’s March in January. Here in Sarasota, police estimated that 10,000 people marched! We women and men carried signs, wore pink hats, and shouted slogans as we marched along the beautiful Marina Bay and across the bridge connecting Sarasota to Bird Key. It was peaceful, and it was wonderful to be among so many like minded demonstrators. Clearly, they were not “retired” from politics and life.
This past Saturday (3/18), we attended a “town hall” where the local Congressman, Representative Vern Buchanan, held his 75th meeting of constituents since taking office five terms earlier. The Sarasota Herald Tribune said that this 75th town hall meeting (attended by more than 1,300 who packed Van Wezel Auditorium and an estimated additional 800 who couldn’t fit into the room) was unlike all his previous town hall meetings and would not soon be forgotten. We have seen television news reports of other town meetings with Republican congressional representatives and senators—full of people with strong opinions becoming raucous, erupting in chants, and even booing. That’s what this meeting was like. Retirees do not want their health benefits messed with, want veterans and people with disabilities cared for, want fair immigration policies, and more. And this meeting occurred in Florida, a state that voted for Trump.
We have been away from Massachusetts now for three months. I read The New York Times and watch MSNBC, which, of course, indicates the nature of my own political bent. I admit that I am not current with politics in Massachusetts where our citizens are overwhelmingly “democratic” and liberal, despite having a Republican Governor, Perhaps you don’t feel the need to watch your words or wonder who supported whom in the election. Perhaps you haven’t felt the need to become an activist, armchair or otherwise. Some of my friends, including BOLLI friends, are becoming active and have been eager to tell me about their involvement in church and immigration groups, grandmothers’ groups, civil liberties groups, and more.
I wonder if it is time to create a BOLLI clearinghouse for organizations and actions in this perilous time for democracy, a place where actions and activism can be discussed, and information shared. I know that beliefs and actions supported by like-minded others are more likely to be effective and succeed. Perhaps in my absence from BOLLI, a group has been formed and is already active? If so, count me in. If not, let’s do it!
In case you haven’t met her already, allow me to introduce Flavia de Luce. The third daughter of an impoverished British former army officer, she’s a delightful character who appeared fully formed in the first book of Alan Bradley’s series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Now she’s back in Speaking from Among the Bones.
The de Luce family traces its roots back hundreds of years in England, but they have fallen on hard times. The estate of Buckshaw, the ancestral home of Harriet de Luce, the girls’ late mother, is in arrears for back taxes that Colonel de Luce is unable to pay. Harriet went missing, as the British expression goes, on a trek in the Himalayas shortly after Flavia was born twelve years ago. Although Buckshaw is no longer the elegant country estate it once was, it’s the only home that Flavia and her two sisters, Daphne (Daffy) and Ophelia (Feely) have ever known, and the thought of having it taken away by Inland Revenue is casting a dark shadow over the family.
The village of Bishop’s Lacy, home to the de Luces, is preparing for the five-hundredth anniversary of the death of its patron holy man, St. Tancred. Exactly why this should necessitate digging up his coffin and removing his bones is unclear, unless it is, as Daffy says to Flavia, to see if his body remains uncorrupted, if he has “the odor of sanctity.” Whatever the reason, the Church of England authorities gave the vicar of St. Tancred permission to remove his coffin, but now they want to revoke that. The vicar protests that plans have gone too far, but when the crypt is entered (and Flavia, of course, is present) to unearth the casket, the group finds the much more recent remains of the church’s organist, Chrispin Collicutt, who has been missing for several weeks.
Flavia, of course, wants to be in the midst of everything, reflecting that her past successes with local crimes should entitle her to assist the local police whether they want her help or not. And her vast knowledge of poisons will come in handy, she is sure, in solving any and all crimes in the village, including that of the murder of Mr. Collicutt. Astride her trusty bike, Gladys, there’s no stopping her.
Bishop’s Lacey is filled with fascinating characters. There’s the church’s vicar and his wife; Miss Tanty, a middle-aged member of the choir who suddenly fancies herself as a detective; Adam Sowerby, a friend of the colonel’s with a business card that identifies him as a horticulturist, flora-archaeologist, and investigator (the last under the somewhat misleading wording of “inquiries”); and the two remaining members of the once-grand Buckshaw staff: Mrs. Mullet, cook and housekeeper; and Dogger, gardener and general handyman, formerly in the service with Colonel de Luce.
Alan Bradley has written the fifth novel in this delightful series with the same wit and verve as he did with the previous four. You can read more about him at this web site: alanbradleyauthor.com
My son Rich told me the world needed a mystery review blog written by me. Next, my husband Bob suggested that, after writing the reviews, I write to the authors to alert them to these posts. I was sure none would respond to my emails, but much to my surprise, more than half do, sending short notes of thanks or longer items about themselves and their work.
Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site: marilynsmysteryreads.com When there, you can subscribe to Marilyn’s blog so that you are notified whenever she adds a new post.
A blog devoted to the interests of BOLLI members and potential members