Category Archives: BOLLI Members

BOLLI Members

Get to know other BOLLI members and their interests. Here, we regularly post not only profiles of BOLLI members but also provide a forum for members’ art work and writing!

For a list of members who have been profiled or whose art work and/or writing has been showcased on this portion of the blog, click here.

MEET MEMBER MARTHA BERARDINO: STITCHING IN TIME

MARTHA BERARDINO:  STITCHING IN TIME

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.”

Martha certainly samples it all!

 

 

 

 

 

WOMEN WARRIORS by Liz David

WOMEN WARRIORS

by Liz David

The soil of the feminine soul runs rich and deep,

Watered by undercurrents invisible to those dwelling only on the surface,

Women who face the challenge of the softening of their soul soil,

Who allow themselves to become vulnerable,

Who invite the surface streams down into their depths,

Who expose their roots to the fructifying moisture from above              and below.

They are the warriors of today – the catalysts of transformation.

They risk death of psyche, body, and soul

in order to experience fully the transforming powers present

in the domains of their deepest fears.

They emerge as does the phoenix —

Motivated, activated, determined to find the courage to create their lives,

To choose to live as individuals committed to self-awareness,

Self-centered women, centered in themselves,

Committed to voicing and acting upon their ideals in the world–

A world that does not ask for change, to be turned inside out,

A world that silently and loudly cries for nurturance, for                              sustenance,

A world that cries for those beings with the strength of heart                 and the will

to carry out the tasks of transformation.

They are the Women Warriors.

MEET MEMBER MARTY KAFKA (and All That Jazz)

MEET MEMBER MARTY KAFKA (and All That Jazz)

BOLLI Member and contemporary jazz pianist Marty Kafka “at play”

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!

BOLL Matters editor Sue Wurster

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Writing Inspiration: Try Creative Nonfiction!

So, what is Creative Nonfiction?  The simplest, clearest, and probably most “apt” answer is this:  true stories, well told.     Recently, Steve Goldfinger shared a piece about Henry and Claire Booth Luce, and now, Lydia Bogar provides her thoughts about her local childhood library and the woman for whom it was renamed.

A FAVORITE HAUNT AND THE OLD LADY IN THE PAINTING

by Lydia Bogar

The Greendale Branch, Worcester Public Library

Even as her vision failed, my maternal grandmother always had her Bible, The Morning Telegram, or The Evening Gazette) in hand.  As she grew older and needed both a magnifying glass and a bright lamp to help her, she continued to read, every day, until her death at the age of 94.  She passed her love of reading on to me, and it wasn’t long before the library became a favorite haunt.

The Greendale Branch of the Worcester Public Library was built in 1913 with a grant from Andrew Carnegie.  The children’s section of the library was on the left, divided from the adult books by an enormous, heavy, oak desk where you showed your card to the librarian and were then able to borrow books to read at home.

I started with the Little Golden books and got hooked.  Years later, I decided to turn a sharp right inside the front door and, over the course of that summer, read everything in the fiction section.  That was when I met Mary, Queen of Scots and Ernest Hemingway.  Eventually, I would drive my mother’s car there to “study” with friends.   In my family, women passed on not only our love of reading but books as well. I have been hooked on mysteries since an elderly aunt left me her collection of Perry Mason paperbacks in 1968.  My mother helped me to grow by passing on The Power of Positive Thinking, Silent Spring, and The Quiet American.

In the library, there was an enormous marble fireplace along the back wall.  A portrait of Frances Perkins, for whom the library was renamed in 1944, rested above it.  When I was a child, I had no idea who Frances Perkins was.  To me, she was just an old lady in an old painting.

Frances Perkins

Eventually, though, I learned just who this remarkable woman was.  Born and educated in Worcester, she started learning Greek from her father as a child, took classes in physics and chemistry at Mount Holyoke College as a young woman, and worked with poor, undereducated women in Illinois as an adult.  After her graduation, Frances devoted herself to mentoring working women, black and white, especially those in factories who were trying to support their families on miniscule paychecks.  She later earned a Masters Degree at Columbia University, writing her thesis on malnutrition among public school children. It is difficult to imagine how many glass ceilings she shattered just in her own educational efforts.

In 1911, when Perkins was in New York, she witnessed dozens of factory workers leap to their deaths in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire—a turning point in her life.  From that point on, she dedicated her life to seeing labor conditions improve for workers.  She worked with a legislative committee after the disaster and became a consultant to Governor Al Smith.  Eventually, her lobbying efforts caught the attention of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who appointed her to serve as his Secretary of Labor, the first woman to serve in a U.S. Government Cabinet position.  Serving in that position for over 12 years, she championed such causes as the Civilian Conservation Corps, Federal Emergency Relief, Fair Labor Standards, and Social Security.

Years before Rosa Parks or Gloria Steinem made their marks on our culture, Frances Perkins said:

                                  “I promise to use what brains I have                                         to meet problems with intelligence and courage.”

Quite a resume for a woman from Worcester whose portrait still inspires young visitors to the Greendale Branch of the Worcester Public Library.

 

Frequent BOLLI blogger, Lydia Bogar

Lydia has become a frequent BOLLI Matters contributor, even creating her own monthly feature, “Lines from Lydia.”

 

 

THE BOLLI JOURNAL: Need Inspiration? An Idea? Some Confidence? Consider This…

HOW ABOUT  HISTORICAL FICTION?

                    An Interview with Larry Schwirian by Sue Wurster                     (and Larry’s short selection, OH, WHAT A PARTY!)

Recently, Journal committee member Larry Schwirian provided the participants in our BOLLI Writers Guild with a piece of historical fiction that he had written in response to the prompt, “The Best Party EVER.”  We thoroughly enjoyed the piece and spent some time talking about this fact that this has been a somewhat under-represented genre in our BOLLI Journal.

SUE:  So, Larry, have you written a lot of historical fiction?

LARRY:  No, but I do read a great deal of historical fiction.  For me, it’s a much more enjoyable way of learning about the past than just reading textbook history.

SUE:  What sparked your imagination and led you to do this particular piece?

LARRY:  Well, the prompt for the week was about a great party, so I googled “Great Parties in History” and discovered that the Great London Beer Flood took place toward the end of the War of 1812.  I thought about what it might be like to be almost drowned in beer and created a character to get swept up in it.  Then, I wanted to related it, somehow, to the war.

SUE:  Has writing always been an interest?  Have you been published or thought about submitting your work for publication?

LARRY:  I have attempted to write poetry, on and off again, over the past 25 years  My first attempt was a poem I wrote for my father’s 80th birthday.  I have also tried, on a couple of occasions, to write children’s stories using alliteration (with a preponderance of “P” words), but I’ve never tried to get anything published because I never thought anything I wrote was worthy of publication.

SUE:  Do you have a favorite form or genre?

LARRY:  I am somewhat of a history buff and have read the biographies of many of the founding fathers.  I also enjoy architectural history and have been involved on a local level with historical preservation.

SUE:  You’ve been active in the Writers Guild and have taken some BOLLI writing courses as well, haven’t you?  How have they helped you with your writing?

LARRY:  The discipline of writing every week is certainly helpful to making improvements.  Also, the critiques from others in the Writers Guild have taught me to be a more vigorous editor of my own writing  I also thought that, as someone who has tried to trace my ancestry,  it would be a great idea to improve my writing skills so that, someday, one of my descendants might know not just my name but also something about how I thought.   Plus, meeting every week with the same small group of people and listening to their stories or their poetry is a great way to get to know people and make new friends.

SUE:  And that led you to joining the Journal committee?

LARRY:  Maxine asked me if I was interested, so I thought about it for a while and then accepted.  I didn’t know I was going to be the only male!

Here’s Larry’s story…

OH WHAT A PARTY

It looked like it was going to be another bright sunny day on the morning of Monday October 17, 1814 on Tottenham Court Road in the parish of St. Giles in London. Alfie Appleton, a young working class laborer, was just starting his trek to the docks for another physically arduous day loading munitions onto warships headed for America; those uppity colonials ought to know better than to start a war with the heralded British Navy. To some extent his sympathies were with the Americans as they were decided underdogs in this war and had legitimate grievances with the arrogance and imperiousness of the British Crown and Parliament. Alfie had his own issues with the British aristocracy and propertied class as those of his social standing had virtually no say in the proceedings of the British government and were generally considered with contempt and loathing by those higher in social class.

It was a time when London’s population was growing rapidly due to the beginnings of the industrial revolution and men-of-means were investing heavily in new business opportunities. Industrial processes had led to a rapid rise in beer production and one new “Beer Baron” by the name of Sir Henry Meux had recently completed a large new brewing vat that was 60 feet in diameter and 20 feet tall. This vat, like smaller ones nearby, was constructed much like large wooden beer barrels with steel hoops to keep it from collapsing.  Upon completion Henry invited 200 guests to dine with him inside the vat and subsequently had it filled with porter liquor.

Except for the sunny skies it was a day much like any other workday. Alfie would labor six days a week from sunup to sundown on the docks with only minimal time for lunch or “loo” breaks. Suddenly, and without warning, he was knocked off his feet by a surging wave of colorful liquid. It caught him completely by surprise as he found himself with many others swept haphazardly toward buildings and other fixed objects. After what seemed like hours but was probably only a few minutes he was able to right himself in this growing pond of what he now realized was actually “beer.” After the initial shock wore off he decided, with others around him, to take advantage of this wondrous opportunity to partake of “free alcohol.” Soon, other blokes and even women folk were pouring out of adjacent buildings to enjoy this “gift from heaven.” As other nearby parishes learned of this blessed event even more people poured into the area. By the time the liquid had nearly dissipated the entire parish was intoxicated.

In the end the equivalent of over 100,200 kegs of beer (1,470,000 liters) were released with the collapse of the new vat as well as several of the nearby smaller vats. At least seven people were drowned (ah but what better way to go) and many rescue attempts to help the injured were thwarted by the chaos created by thousands of people swarming to the area. When the injured did manage to make it to the hospital “reeking of beer” hospital employees and even patients fled to join the melee. The reason this event wasn’t recorded in the annals of history as a “disaster” is because a British court ruled that the beer flood was an “act of God.” Alfie, however, preferred to believe that the incident was an act of sabotage by an American spy and that the American victory at New Orleans, by Andrew Jackson, in January of 1815 was, at least in part, due to the British fleet being delayed by THE GREAT LONDON BEER FLOOD. 

Larry Schwirian

Note:   While “The Great London Beer Flood” was a real event, it had nothing to do with the delaying of the British Fleet on its way to New Orleans. Alfie is, of course, a fictional character but the rest of the story is true…at least according to Wikopedia. A little more than a century later, in January of 1915, Boston suffered “The Great Molasses Flood” in the North End. This time the vat was 90 feet in diameter and 50 feet high, and twenty-one people died. The incident was declared a “disaster” and in a class-action lawsuit against the subsequent owner of The Purity Distilling Company, more than $600,000 in damages were awarded.  

 

MEET MEMBER STEVE GOLDFINGER: BEST FRIENDS FOR LIFE

MEET MEMBER STEVE GOLDFINGER:  BEST FRIENDS FOR LIFE
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Steve Goldfinger enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a doctor and professor of medicine at MGH and Harvard Medical School.  His wife, a modern dancer and educational administrator, died ten years ago.  His four sons inherited both of their parents’ genes and have varied careers–Hollywood script writer, radiologist, psychotherapist, and business executive–coupled with creative musical talents they display in their respective bands and bluegrass group.  He has nine grandchildren.   In addition to writing, Steve’s interests include classical music and theatre.  He was also an ardent golfer “before skill deserted me.”
 
Steve joined BOLLI in 2016 and says that he has found it to be “a huge resource in my retirement which has fulfilled my desire to return to the humanities in my later years.”  The fine and varied program has also brought new friends.
As a member of  the Writers Guild,  Steve has treated the group to everything from poetry to memoir, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. This piece, an example of the latter, was written in response to the prompt:  “Best Friends Forever.” 

BEST FRIENDS FOR LIFE

by Steve Goldfinger

He was born in China in 1898, the son of Presbyterian missionary parents.  He died 69 years later, leaving behind an estate worth a hundred million dollars.  Along the way, he was voted the most brilliant member of his Yale graduating class.  An ardent anti-communist, he urged Kennedy to attack Cuba, even saying to him, “If you don’t, I’ll be like Hearst,” meaning he’d use his magazines to push him to it.  He was a strong proponent (and rare user) of LSD.  His physical awkwardness, lack of humor, and discomfort with any conversation that was not strictly factual was starkly at odds with his glamorous wife’s social poise, wit, and fertile imagination.

Henry Luce embarked on a career in journalism, and before he bought Life magazine in 1936, he and a partner had already taken on both Time and Fortune.  His yen to own Life was based purely on its name and how well it would couple with that of Time.  His wife Clare saw a grand opportunity to found an entirely new media genre: photojournalism.  Before they purchased it, Life magazine had been a declining vehicle for the kid of light-hearted, sophisticated, clean humor that it’s readers had outgrown.  Under the Luces, its new mission statement opened with “To see life, to see the world…”  How it succeeded!

Within four months, Life’s circulation rose from 380,000 to over a million, and it eventually exceeded eight million.  It became the most popular magazine of its time.  Renowned photographers captured riveting images for the eyes of the nation: the D-Day landings, aerial views of the remains of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, faces of the Nazis at the Nuremberg tribunal, and, most famous of all, the iconic kiss the sailor planted on that nurse in Times Square to celebrate the end of World War II.  And as more print invaded the magazine in the form of essays and memoirs, viewers became readers.  Life’s continued popularity brought great acclaim and great profits for more than three decades before it began its gradual fade in the 1970s.  Issues became less frequent and staggered to total cessation in 2000.  Rising costs were one reason.  Television was undoubtedly another.

In contrast to Henry’s somewhat colorless persona, Clare Boothe Luce led a stunning public life.  She was an early feminist, an actress, a successful  playwright, and then a war reporter, journalist, politician, congresswoman, and ambassador.  Attending opening night of one of her plays were Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann.  Among the quips attributed to her are, “No good deed goes unpunished” and “Widowhood is a fringe benefit of marriage.”  While ambassador to Italy, she was poisoned with arsenic.  Initially suspected to be Russian espionage retaliation for her outspoken anti-communism, the cause was eventually found to be arsenate in the paint flaking off her bedroom ceiling.  “Broadway’s New Faces, 1952” famously portrayed her illness at Toothloose in Rome.  Clare Boothe Luce died in 1987.  By the end of her life, she had become a fervent supporter of Barry Goldwater and a Nixon appointee to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Arguably the most influential and envied power couple of their time, Henry and Clare Boothe Luce made numerous friends for life.  They were also the best friends for  ,

The BOLLI Journal’s First Annual Literary and Artistic “Salon”

KICKING OFF THE 2018 BOLLI JOURNAL

by Maxine Weintraub, Editor 

The BOLLI Journal committee hosted its first lunchtime program on Monday. November 14th—a literary and artistic “salon” in the spirit of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.  We drank alcohol-free bubbly and indulged in cheese and crackers, brownies and grapes as we explored the creative process and its place in the BOLLI Program.  Steve Goldfinger’s poetry (below left), Barbara Jordan’s photos and paintings (middle with Marjorie Roemer), and Jane Kay’s (right with Margie Arons-Barron) tale of a lovingly remembered childhood icon, a blue glass slipper, delighted the audience.  Listening to each of these creative BOLLI members answer questions from Marjorie Roemer, Sue Wurster, and Margie Arons-Barron brought into focus the way in which BOLLI members change and grow as they explore and develop new talents within the BOLLI environment.

Thanks to all who came and participated.  We look forward to many more such programs and invite all of our BOLLI members to become involved with the next Journal issue.  Please submit your poetry, fiction, non-fiction, photos, and art to the Journal – submissions open from now until June of 2017.  In the spirit of sharing, we include the brownie recipe–not from the Toklas’ cookbook and with no hidden ingredients.  In fact, the recipe includes no leavening agents at all!

For specifics on the submissions process, please click here for the BOLLI Journal flyer.

brownies

MAXINE’S (Not Alice’s) BROWNIE RECIPE

Grease and flour a 9 x 12” pan                                                                     preheat oven to 350                                                                                                        in saucepan, melt two sticks of butter and one 4 oz package                            unsweetened chocolate                                                                             remove from heat                                                                                                         beat in two cups of sugar and one teaspoon vanilla                               beat in four eggs                                                                                                             mix in one cup of all-purpose flour                                                                       fold in one package semi-sweet chocolate bits                                           pour into prepared pan                                                                                            bake until done (about 25 minutes, depending upon your oven)     cool on rack and try not to eat them all at one sitting.

Possible variations on this recipe are endless.  Any kind of chocolate chips will do.  Try adding a fruit cup mix at holiday time.  Nuts. Almond flavoring.

Maxine Weintraub reading
BOLLI Journal Editor, Maxine Weintraub

Maxine Weintraub, who heads the 2018 BOLLI Journal committee as editor, is no stranger to arts and letters magazines.  She is a regular contributor to The Goose River Anthology and has produced two volumes of her short stories.

 

MEET MEMBER MARILYN BROOKS: MYSTERY MAVEN

At BOLLI, we seem to have a host of members who enjoy good mysteries. So, when I discovered that Marilyn Brooks writes a blog in which she reviews mysteries old and new, I went right for it–and it is, of course, terrific…as is Marilyn herself!

MEET MEMBER MARILYN BROOKS

img_0630

I’ve always been a reader, starting with Nancy Drew (my favorite, of course) and going on to Cherry Ames and Sue Barton.  The last two are nurses, but there were always mysteries in the novels.  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!

I don’t collect in that I don’t buy first editions or valuable books, but I do have a couple of hundred mysteries in my house.  Since I started writing my blog more than six years ago, publishers have even been sending me books to review, so I’ve been gratefully adding those to my bookshelves.

My husband Bob and I, both originally from Brooklyn, have been living in Needham for forty-six years.  We have two grown sons, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren.  I was the academic administrator for the Latin American and Latino Program at Brandeis for seventeen years, retiring in 2010.

Our older son Rich, who owns a web site design and social media company in Portland, Maine, kept saying I should start a blog because I read non-stop.  I countered by saying that I could not imagine why anyone would care what I thought.  He countered by saying that I knew more about mysteries than anyone he knew.  Eventually, he convinced me, and I reluctantly started blogging.  Turns out I love doing it.

I should add that, after a couple of years of blogging, my husband suggested contacting the author of each book I covered, letting him/her know about the review.  I started doing that, and I’ve been amazed by the positive responses I’ve had from authors, ranging from first-time writers to those who’ve been writing for decades.  Some have even linked to my blog from their Facebook pages or Twitter accounts.  Those letters, plus the excitement of getting new books from various publishers, add to the pleasure I get from writing a weekly blog.

I joined BOLLI in 2010, shortly after I retired from Brandeis.  Since then, I’ve taken two courses each semester and have also taken several winter/summer seminars–they’ve all been stimulating and enjoyable; I’ve learned so much on so many topics.  The SGLs have been uniformly excellent, and I’m always impressed by the knowledge that my classmates have on a wide variety of subjects.

My blog, published every Saturday, is www.marilynsmysteryreads.com.

A “SWEEPING” MEMOIR by Margie Arons-Barron

A member of Marjorie Roemer’s current Memoir Writing course, Margie Arons-Barron recently shared this gem.  The group’s task was to write about a saying (or sayings) that was (or were) common in our families or communities.  Margie’s charmed all of us–and will do the same for you!

BURIED WITH HER BISSELL

By Margie Arons-Barron

bissell

Great-aunt Rose was a bookkeeper at Flah’s Department Store in Syracuse, NY and a spinster.  I understood neither term. What I did know was that she had a pinched face and lived by the credo that “you clean up as you go along.”  I learned that that meant you didn’t wait for people to finish their meals in a leisurely way.  If their forks paused mid-air for conversation, she swooped in, scooped up their plates, and removed them to the kitchen.

Her sister, my nana, apparently inherited the Klein girls’ clean gene.  Nana had a big nose, ample bosom, and ear lobes like a cocker spaniel’s. She smoked Pall Mall cigarettes, especially when talking on the phone. When the call ended, she’d put out her smoke, dump the ashes, and wash the ash tray.  As soon as visiting friends started to leave, she’d appear with her Bissell carpet sweeper, methodically removing every piece of lint from the grey/green broadloom. She asked to be buried with the Bissell.

Nana taught me the rudiments of cooking, but it was really cook, clean, cook, clean. Wash and dry measuring cups halfway through the recipe. Wipe counter immediately when flour spilled. “Clean up as you go along,” she’d repeat.  “It will be so much easier.”  Her compulsion came from the shame she’d experienced long ago.  After a party she and Grandpa had given, they went to bed without cleaning up. Grandpa took sick during the night. When the doctor arrived at the house, he saw ashtrays overflowing, pots and pans in the sink, gold-edged dinner plates covered with congealed gravy, and high-ball glasses with Scotch diluted by melted ice cubes. Nana never got over the mortification.

Though doctors no longer make house calls, the obsession survives with me.  I still wash, dry, and put away the measuring spoons before the pan is in the oven. No matter how late guests depart, when I go to bed, the crystal is hand-washed and replaced in the cabinet. The serving pieces are dried and put away, the dishwasher is loaded and running. The table cloth and napkins are in the washing machine. It, too, is running. It’s a wonder I still entertain.

I’m not as bad as my Aunt Ethel. Once, when Uncle Mitch awoke at three a.m., she made his bed.  Grumbling, he took a pillow and went to sleep in the bathtub.

My husband grew up in a household where a trip to the refrigerator was an archeological dig. Chaos was called creativity. He has yet to learn that his cereal bowl gets dried and put away, not left to drain; that the knife from his banana will clean more easily if it doesn’t sit on the counter all day; that overnight soaking of casseroles is just an excuse for leaving the scrubbing to someone else.  He’d like to cook more, but he needs more clean-up practice to make that work.

“Clean up as you go along” is why I take care of the finances, not putting off paying bills on a monthly or even weekly schedule. It’s why my kids learned they could outwait me when it came to straightening their room, making their beds, or putting dirty jeans in the washer.

A clinician might accuse me of being anal. I say it’s efficiency and high executive skills.  Besides, it’s easier to clean up as you go along.

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Margie Arons-Barron

After a long and successful career as an editorial and political news director, Margie shifted her focus to writing memoir and even fiction when arriving at BOLLI this past year. In addition to Marjorie’s memoir course, she has taken Betsy Campbell’s fiction writing courses and has been an active member of the BOLLI Writers Guild.  She is now a member of 2018 BOLLI Journal staff as well.  She still keeps her hand in politics and issues of the day on her blog which you can reach by clicking here.

 

 

LEAVE IT TO LYDIA: Escaping Our Electronics

ESCAPING OUR ELECTRONICS

MEANING OF LIFE
Hmm…somebody needs a BOLLI Moment…

“Escaping our electronics” is a secondary benefit of the whole BOLLI experience.   In our BOLLI courses, we  seem to be reviving the art of conversation among many of us who became dependent on electronic devices during our career.  How wonderful that we discuss such an amazing variety of issues–global, political, emotional, and personal.   From my standpoint as a relative BOLLI newcomer,  I believe that we are actually raising the art of conversation to a higher level!

My first BOLLI class was The New Yorker Non-Fiction seminar in which a dynamic group discussed issues ranging from (of course) the election to medical ethics.  I found the first couple of classes to be a little intimidating, as I hadn’t participated in such a group for a long time.   But I loved the chosen readings and eventually spoke up–and I found that my voice was heard.  It didn’t matter where I had gone to college or even what my career had been.   I also felt quickly embraced by the BOLLI community and began to get to know some of my classmates.

Classmate Diane Winkleman, for example,  retired last December and wanted to try BOLLI as soon as she saw the ad in the paper.  “I was very excited to find a place that offers so much potential for interesting discussions, people, and new experiences.”  She especially likes the lunch time series and the variety in the classes. Recently,  she’s joined the CAST special interest group and is re-energizing her acting skills.

Suzanne Art’s Three Giants of the Northern Renaissance, an art history course, was Sue Wurster’s first BOLLI class in the Spring of 2015.  At the same time, she dived into 20th Century Women Poets, a five-week science fiction course, and even a five-week course in fiction writing.  “I really want to be a writer when I grow up,”  she says.  “I’ve been writing my whole life–but I had never actually finished anything.  So this was a big step for me.”   As for fellow BOLLI students, she says:  “These are some awesomely smart characters!”

Longtime  member Sandy Harris Traiger, a Brandeis alum, feels that BOLLI has changed her perspective on the world and nurtured her acceptance of different opinions and attitudes. She has been part of BOLLI since 2004 when she took a class taught by Sophie Freud about violence in World War II through literature.  Sandy’s husband joined the following year and, during one class, was reunited with some old friends from elementary school.  Sandy joined the International Friends group and enjoyed getting to know students from the Heller School.   She is very glad that the lunch programs have expanded to include such a diverse collection of timely speakers and issues, “I’m still here and still loving it.”

My first year at BOLLI has been fabulous! I have taken short stories classes, a fascinating literature course with Sophie Freud about adult daughters and their aging mothers, and an exciting memoir writing course with Marjorie Roemer.  I especially appreciated Sophie’s insightful analytical approach to literature as well as Marjorie’s writing.

BOLLI has given me the chance to turn off my devices and let me discover and hear my own voice.

BOLLI Matters Copy Editor and Writer, Lydia Bogar
BOLLI Matters writer Lydia Bogar