Tag Archives: BOLLI Monthly Features

FEBRUARY SENIOR MOMENT with Eleanor Jaffe: My Aunt Sally

MY AUNT SALLY

by Eleanor Jaffe

     My Aunt Sally died a few days ago.  Today was her funeral.  She was 95 years old.

      I am not sure if she really is my aunt any more because, you see, my “real” Uncle Sam, my mother’s kid brother,  divorced her about 5 years ago.  They had been separated for 20 or 30 years by that time, but Aunt Sally would never let him go.  She refused to divorce him.  They lived separately.  He supported her.  He dated other women and began living with Jane at least 20 years ago, and Jane finally became his second wife about 5 years ago. Still, Sally took her rightful place at all family functions, luncheons, Thanksgiving Day dinners, birthday parties.  I even invited her to my son’s wedding 18 years ago in New Orleans along with Sid and Jane.  After all, she was still my aunt, and she and my Mom had fun together, despite the fact that Mom always considered her an airhead.

     Sally and Sam were a gorgeous couple when they first met in their early 20’s.  Sam was a decorated war hero.  He’d been shot out of the sky with his crew and was one of the two out of twelve who survived.  Ronnie was curly haired, pretty, and very curvey.  I was about 8 or 9 years old when they were engaged and came to visit my family.  I was enthralled by their movie star gorgeousness and glamour.  They married and lived together in Florida for about 30 years — far from our home in Brooklyn.  They had 3 children together.  My cousin Sarah, their oldest child, died from cancer a long time ago.  Sam searched everywhere with her for a cure–all over the U.S. and Mexico to Germany–and was broken by her death.  He still seems broken.

     I understood, I thought, why Uncle Sam no longer wanted to live with Sally.  He was a complex man–intelligent, well traveled, well read, an athlete, interested in Chinese art.  Sally was simple.  She liked buying $2 and $3 “tschochkes,” according to some who eulogized her today, and then giving them away.  She never recognized a rebuff, so she went through life perpetually cheerful and resilient.  Most people, it seems, went out of their way to help her, and they liked her.  Was she insensitive?  obtuse? or loyal and forever loving?  She lived with her son and his wife, both of whom adored her.  Her daughter-in-law wept from the pulpit as did her son, her grandson, and two other grandchildren.  Clearly, Sally lavished her love on them, and they cherished her.

     People are complicated.  We can’t know what is in their hearts and minds.  We guess.  We tell ourselves stories that we believe.  Some of us are quick to judge others.  We become locked into our own opinions (or are they the opinions of others?).  We overlook, we simplify, and we think we know.  We take sides.  And yet, we can never know the whole story.  How can we?

     I felt very sorry for my Uncle Sam today.  I love him and respect him.  He sat next to Jane, his second wife, and listened to almost everyone in his family speak of their love and praise for their adorable and adored mother and grandmother—without a word about the father and grandfather who sat two rows behind his first wife’s coffin, which was blanketed by an abundance of roses. 

“Senior Moment” feature writers Eleanor Jaffe (left) and Liz David

As I grow older, I am more interested in the conditions, changes, services, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of 53 years, my friends, and my 102 year old mother.  To satisfy my ever growing curiosity about what it means to grow older in our society, I created and taught three BOLLI courses on this topic.  My experiences as a high school English teacher and social worker plus a lot of reading about aging and loss (and, of course, living, so far, to 80) have                                               prepared me to write this blog.

Please share your own thoughts and feelings by commenting below–

FEBRUARY TECH TALK with John Rudy: MAKING TRAVEL PLANS

THE NEW WORLD OF ONLINE TRAVEL PLANNING

It used to be that, whenever I wanted to take a trip, I drove into Lexington and visited Colpitt’s Travel where Marilyn would help us make reservations.  Unfortunately, she often had to deal with airlines that didn’t answer the phone and hotels in places she hadn’t visited.  The situation today is very different, and most of the readers of this blog already probably take advantage of some of the tools out there.  The purpose of this entry is to provide you with some ideas you might not be familiar with—and, of course, what I provide here is just a small piece of what is available.  Be sure to use the comment box at the end to add your ideas and/or ask questions!

Step1:

Where/when do I want to go?                                                                                 Do I want to arrange for airfare or a package with car and/or hotel?     Do I have flexibility for travel dates, times of day, locations?         What am I willing to give up for the lowest price out there?                 Do I want trip cancellation insurance?

Step 2:

Pick one of the travel tools that are available online.  Various review sites contrast the different tools, but there is some consensus that www.booking.com is the best overall site and www.Priceline.com is the best for last-minute deals.

Other popular sites include: Expedia, Cheap Air, Travelocity, Trip Advisor, and Kayak.

These sites allow you to 1) search across many different airline or select specific ones; 2) deal with specific or flexible travel dates; 3) sort information by date, price, time, and number of stops.

Be sure to look carefully at car rental information, especially at drop-off fees.  Also be sure to note whether or not the site will alert you if there are price changes and if you will be able to take advantage of that information.  Be aware, too, of the busiest airports.  Smaller airports (like Providence) may be available near your destination—prices, though, might be higher, and they might have less availability.

Get Money for Change Flights

Airlines overbook assuming that they will have no-shows.  Many times, they provide offers for volunteers willing to take different flights.  Offers go up when there are no takers.  But be sure to ask questions.

Sometimes, the offer provided can only be used with a full-fare ticket.  The offer may not apply to your whole group.  What if the next flight is also fully booked?  Ask for a flight guarantee within X hours.  If the delay to a substitute flight turns out to be X hours long, will they reimburse an overnight hotel bill?

Many years ago, I met someone who located the busiest American Airlines flight to LA and booked it to visit the grandchildren.   He always got bumped.

When Should I Fly?

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the least expensive days on which to fly; then Saturday.  Fridays and Sundays are the most expensive.  Very early morning, late night, red-eye, and mealtime flights are cheaper than other flights.

When Should I Book?

According to FareCompare.com data, the best time for booking in the U.S. is on Tuesday at 3 p.m.  Many airlines release their weekly sales late on Mondays or early on Tuesdays.  By mid-afternoon on Tuesdays, then, the competing airlines have matched the lower prices.

U.S. domestic tickets: Shop between 3 months and 30 days before departure. International fares: Shop between 5 ½ months and 1 ½ months before departure. Peak travel: During peak seasons such as June, July and August or the December holidays, purchase tickets two months in advance.

The large companies from whom we used to buy travel books now have elaborate, comprehensive web sites.  These are particularly useful when trying to get detailed data on a location.  Browse them and see what is available.  These include, but are not limited to:  http://www.fodors.com/  and https://www.viamichelin.com  as well as https://www.lonelyplanet.com

One last item:  Google is pretty good.  If you type in, say, “American Airlines 145,” you will get the status of that flight.  If it is already airborne, you will get its ETA and the arriving Gate Number–some airlines even make it possible for you to track their in-air flights!

BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy

John, a long time computer expert and guide, provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions on this month’s or any other computer/tech topic that you’d like to know more about in future Tech Talk articles.

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402

JANUARY “SENIOR MOMENT”: The Superagers!

“Use It or Lose It—-THE SUPERAGERS”

by Eleanor Jaffe

“How to Become a Superager,” (a recent NY Times article) gives added credence to the well-known phrase, “Use it or lose it.”  The author, Lisa Feldman Barrett, recommends that we elders work HARD at intellectual and physical challenges.  She writes, “If people consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain,” since, “all brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. If you don’t use it, you lose it….so work that brain.” What is more, she says, “The discomfort of exertion means you’re building muscle and discipline….superagers excel at pushing past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort.”   (To access this article, click here)

This is great advice that we BOLLI members follow in our course work—right?  But we are, after all, “seasonal learners” with long  interruptions between semesters.   When I started to think about how to keep building brain muscle during BOLLI’s course breaks, I discovered that even vacation can keep us superagers going.

EXERCISING MY SUPERAGER BRAIN WHILE ON VACATION!

I’d like to think that the luxury of being able to purchase and outfit a new vacation condo in Florida has given me and my husband a multitude of opportunities to exercise our superager brain muscles. The challenges of setting up a new apartment are multiple, even to experienced hands like us.  Here’s what I mean:

Let’s see.  First of all, how shall I equip my now empty condo?

I start by making a floorplan and a color chart.  Next, I decide what furnishings we need and make a master list. It doesn’t take long before I have to look for the often misplaced list, but when I find it,  I tend to revise it.  Then, I take it with us when we go shopping.  Back home in Boston, I dig up unbreakable furnishings (linens, trays, small rugs, etc.) that we could use in Florida. I pack them up and ship them down.  (I should have made a list of them…)

Next, I explore the resources my new surroundings have to offer.  What stores carry the things I will need?  How do I find those stores and websites that reliably provide “stuff”?  I consider the advice of the other newcomers we meet about how they achieved the same goals.  I learn about “consignment shops” where “lightly used” used items of often good quality are sold.  Sarasota has about 35.  And this kind of shopping offers adventure!  You never know what you may find—or how quickly someone else will spot that terrific bargain.  I’ve learned to be prepared to purchase on the spot.  I’ve also learned to schedule deliveries so that I will be at home when these purchases arrive.

But furnishing a new space isn’t all that this kind of relocating involves.  Our superaging brains get lots of exercise as we memorize lots of new code numbers: beach locker number, house entrance number, security number, cell phone number, etc., etc., etc.   I have to write them down. (And then look for this list later, too.)  We also have to learn directions: east, west, north, and south–especially difficult for me since I am–and always have been–“directionally challenged.”  We have to learn the names and locations of new streets, highways, restaurants, movie houses, parks, beaches, etc.

And, of course, probably most important of all, we need to think about how to create a new social life.

We make lists of activities that seem like they will be fun or worthwhile.  We locate the best lifelong learning center in the area so we can continue to do classroom learning.  And all along the way, we make new friends.  (The challenge, of course, is to remember their names.)  And, of course, we make sure that we stay in touch with old friends—they are the best.

We also need to schedule visitors.  And that takes special planning—how many and how often is too much?  Of all my tasks, this one seems to be the most challenging to me.

I am reminded of a hint from the renowned psychologist, B.F. Skinner.  He said that as we age, we forget a lot, and we ought to routinely equip ourselves with a pad that we wear around our necks that contain our “lists.”

Do you think pads around the neck could become the new fashion accessory for us “superagers”?

 

Eleanor and Liz
“Senior Moment” feature writers Eleanor Jaffe and Liz David

Eleanor says that, “As I grow older, I am more interested in the conditions, changes, services, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of 53 years, my friends — and my 102 year old mother.  What does it mean to be growing older in today’s society?  To satisfy my growing curiosity, I created and taught three different classes about aging issues over the past several years at BOLLI.  My experiences as a social worker and as a high school teacher of English–plus a lot of reading about aging and loss—and, of course, living to 80 (so far)–have prepared me to write this blog.

LINES FROM LYDIA: My Post-Traumatic Growth

This month, our most eclectic feature writer, Lydia Bogar, walks us through quite a host of recommended books, articles, and even opera focused on civil rights.  But perhaps the most powerful of all, Kander and Ebb’s musical, The Scottsboro Boys, at Speakeasy.

Speakeasy’s production of “The Scottsboro Boys”

MY POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH

By Lydia Bogar

If I hadn’t been so impressed by the book and then the film, The Help, I might not have read The Warmth of Other Suns which I read, ingested, and then donated to my neighborhood library for others to take in as well.  A resurgence of civil rights issues in 2011. That reminds me of a journal article that I wrote about the young black lady who was my uncle’s housekeeper when he retired to Florida in 1956.

Also in the summer of 2011, I watched the incredible performances of Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at the ART.  This was my first visit to the ART, and sitting in the fourth row intensified the experience. The minimalist stage setting, the lyrics, and the performers’ facial expressions remain clear and vibrant in my memory.

If I hadn’t been in Emily and Beth’s New Yorker Non-Fiction discussion course this past term, I might have missed the significance of “Justice Delayed” a very intense article with reference to Bryan Stevenson’s book  Just Mercy, which so impressed me that I read the library’s copy and then bought my own.

More intense discussions both, in class and in the Gathering Place, have helped in my post-election survival.  There are so many educated activists that our country can and will grow.  Emotionally, this phase is referred to as post-traumatic growth.

The New Yorker always returns me to the style and substance of Calvin Trillin.  Calvin may be best known for his foodie rants and raves (and tours which I hope to take one day), but most recently, I have read Jackson, 1964, his intense reflection on the Civil Rights movement and the journalists who worked very hard to deliver that message.  Jackson, 1964 reminded me of the long silent walk from Worcester State College to downtown Worcester on Friday, April 5, 1968.  Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated the day before; classes were cancelled; our student body stopped protesting the war in Vietnam and mourned the life of Dr. King.

The road that we are on now, including the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue that will soon host an inaugural parade, has included two powerful lessons that will sustain us going forward: Fences, a powerful August Wilson play about discrimination in Philadelphia in volatile 1950’s, and The Scottsboro Boys which has come alive on the Speakeasy Stage at the Calderwood Pavilion.

If you know the story, you still need to see the play. If you have seen the play, I suggest reading it and seeing it again. The Speakeasy artists and their technical staff have given a great gift to the City of Boston. The venue itself is perfect– sparse and small, ideal for the re-creation of 1930’s vaudeville. To tell the story of nine black boys and ten trials–plus a vase presented to The Supreme Court–is a courageous and inspiring pledge.  Including cameo-like appearances by people like George Wallace and Rosa Parks is artful.

Whether you avail yourself of the BOLLI discount or not, you must see The Scottsboro Boys before it closes on January 22.   It will contribute to your overall knowledge and sustain you on the political road ahead.  The show was extended from its original run scheduled to end in November–perhaps because it is such a valuable part of our post-traumatic growth.

 

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“Lines from Lydia” feature writer Lydia Bogar

Former English teacher, health care professional, and quintessential Renaissance woman of all trades, 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.  “It’s good to be here!” she exclaims.  (And it’s good to have her.) 

JANUARY “BOOK NOOK”: Two BIG Novels

As the winter cold sets in,  Abby offers ideas for some good long-term reading time.   Here are two items you may have either missed along the way or might simply want to re-read.

THE FORSYTE SAGA

John Galsworthy, 1921

“He had long forgotten the small house in the purlieus of Mayfair, where he had spent the early days of his married life, or rather, he had long forgotten the early days, not the small house, – a Forsyte never forgot a house – he had afterwards sold it at a clear profit of four hundred pounds.”

There you have it. Nine hundred pages of delicious soap opera wrapped around sly commentary on the acquisitiveness and striving of the British upper-middle classes around the turn of the twentieth century. The Forsytes aren’t landed aristocracy like Lord Grantham of “Downton Abbey.” They’re only a couple of generations removed from farmers. But they’ve been successful in trade, in publishing, at the bar, and they live in ongepotchket Victorian splendor, faithfully served by retainers and housemaids, in London and its environs.

Galsworthy was himself the product of a wealthy family and trained as a barrister before traveling abroad, meeting Joseph Conrad and envisioning a different life. He fell in love with the wife of his cousin, an army major, and married her after a ten-year affair and her eventual divorce. He was among the first writers to deal with social class in his work and to challenge the mores and ideals reinforced by the Victorian writers who preceded him. Notably, but not surprisingly given his personal life, he defied the standard view of women as property and defended their right to leave unhappy marriages.

“’I don’t know what makes you think I have any influence,’ said Jolyon; ‘but if I have I’m bound to use it in the direction of what I think is her happiness. I am what they call a “feminist,” I believe…I’m against any woman living with any man whom she definitely dislikes. It appears to me rotten.’”

It is the unhappily married woman referred to here around whom much of The Forsyte Saga revolves. Irene (I-reen-ee), disastrously married to a “man of property,” is the antithesis of a Forsyte. She represents beauty and art and passion and free will. Before reluctantly marrying Soames Forsyte, she extracted a promise that he would let her go if it didn’t work out. His failure to do so drives the story and a multi-generational family estrangement. While Galsworthy thoroughly develops the other primary characters, Irene is a beautiful cipher at the center of the novel. We never get her point of view; we see her through the eyes of others and can only infer her thoughts and feelings.

The Forsyte Saga features a huge cast of characters but the family tree that accompanies most editions is needed only at the beginning. To Galsworthy’s credit, we quickly get to know the main characters and the chorus of peripheral relatives that swirl around them. There are births, deaths, betrayals, couplings, uncouplings, recouplings, and generational upheaval, all conveyed in deft, eminently readable prose, a short 900 pages. This is a sumptuous wallow of a book with redeeming social value.

EARTHLY POWERS

Anthony Burgess, 1980

A monumental novel that stuck in my mind for thirty years as an all-time favorite but needed to be reread to remind me why. An octogenarian British writer, said to be loosely based on W. Somerset Maugham, is tasked to attest to a miracle that will support the canonization of a Pope and writes his memoirs, giving us a personal tour of the 20th-century through his life as a homosexual, lapsed Catholic, successful but mediocre writer, and exile. Examines morality, the nature of evil, the role of religious belief and more. Linguistically playful and full of historical inaccuracies courtesy of its unreliable narrator, the novel features one of the best opening lines in literature* (sure to send you to the dictionary), and is funny, painful, thought-provoking, entertaining, challenging and rewarding. Shortlisted for the Booker prize in 1980, it often appears high on lists of best British fiction of the late 20th century.

*”It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.”

 

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“Book Nook” feature writer and Book Group co-leader, Abby Pinard

Abby is a lifelong book nut who retired from a forty-year computer software career in 2007 and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore. She is a native New Yorker who moved to Boston recently to be among her people:  family and Red Sox fans.  She is a music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie who flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.

 

 

 

 

JANUARY TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: PHISHING

DON’T FEED THE PHISH!

By John Rudy

Many of you have heard the term Phishing.  And phishing works like this.  You receive an email that looks like it came from a company you trust.  Typically, it indicates that there is a problem with your account and asks you to click on a link to resolve it.  Sometimes, it indicates that you have a gift waiting for you and asks you to click to receive it.  Any time you receive an unsolicited email like this, you should be suspicious.  Is it really from a site you can trust?  Once you click on one of its links, it is too late.  So, Message #1 is Do Not Click.

Then, look at the email address it came from.  In many cases, the words after the @ do not look  like those from the website you know.  Let’s take a simple example.  If you use PAYPAL, you know that their site is www.paypal.com.  I recently received a message, purportedly from PayPal, which came from noreply@gator4248.hostgator.com.  I think we can all agree that this doesn’t look as if it came from PayPal.  Recently, there have been a lot of phishing attacks purportedly from Amazon and PayPal.  Kim Komando has written an excellent article which should be required reading:   http://www.komando.com/happening-now/382417/top-story-paypal-and-amazon-phishing-scams-spreading-now/all

Kim Komando’s newsletter is free, and I recommend signing up to receive it.

BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy
BOLLI Tech Talker John Rudy

John Rudy, a long time computer expert and guide, provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions on this month’s or any other computer/tech topic that you’d like to know more about in future Tech Talk articles.

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402