The 70-Something Blog is now The 80-Something Blog. Stay tuned in ten years for The 90-Something Blog!

Back-to-School,Part II

One of the joys of our life is that we can still be students either as auditors in undergraduate classes or as regular students of all ages in online courses or in learning in retirement classes with our fellow retirees.

Now we are back in classes, not actually, but virtually. 

My learning-in-retirement course on Philip Roth held its first meeting last Friday.  When I logged in, I saw my classmates faces all lined up on my computer screen like the class pictures of my grammar school days. I knew the study group leader who lives on my floor in our apartment building, and there he was along with a friend from my high school days in Pittsburgh and my much-loved internist from a half-century ago in Massachusetts.

September and back-to-school will always be my New Year.

Doctors, Doctors, Doctors

It’s September, the start of the new school year, the first falling leaves, and the noticeably shorter days.  I looked at our calendar for the next month, and it seems we have only two activities—classes, which we love and appointments with doctors which we’d prefer not to have. 

We each have dentist appointments and annual “wellness” appointments.  Ophthalmologist appointments, physical therapy appointments, and visits to the endocrinologist, the neurologist, the cardiologist and the dermatologist are all scheduled.  

Wasn’t it just yesterday when it was only a bunch of visits to the pediatrician?


For more than a dozen years now, our son Jeremy and his family have lined up in the same position on their front porch for a photograph on  the first day of school. This year, the first day of school wasn’t at school.  But a tradition is a tradition, so they lined up for the picture anyway and texted it to their grandparents.

When we saw it, we were surprised that, Grady, our younger grandson, who was a regular-sized kid in last year’s photo now towers over his mother. We haven’t seen him since last Thanksgiving.

At the start of the pandemic, I was sure it would be over by summer and we could go to see them in person.   Then I was sure it would be over by the start of school.  Now, I worry that there is no safe way for us to be together for Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.

In the meantime, September in New England will be gorgeous.  We will take it one day at a time.  Or for Peter and me, one step at a time.

A Hard Lesson to Learn

One of the things that people with Parkinson’s Disease lose is the ability to remember what they were thinking when someone interrupts them.  Even before he had Parkinson’s, Peter didn’t like to be interrupted, particularly when he was grading exams.  I recall a sign on his office door that said something like “Please don’t interrupt me unless the building is burning down.”

Although I have been an almost perfect wife all these years, I have failed at not interrupting.  When I have something “important” to say, I tend to interrupt him even though I know it annoys him.  You see, in this pandemic, there are not a lot of people around to listen to me. And when I ask Peter, “Are you interruptible?” I have already done so.

Peter thinks before he speaks, and self-censors, whereas I speak and sometimes regret it.

Knowing when to keep quiet is not one of my greatest strengths. 

I’m  working on it.

The Yellow Dinner

Long, long ago Peter and I had dinner at the home of a friend (whom we’ll call Jane). She was a great cook, who had started her own cooking school.  We expected a beautiful meal. 

But the meal she served was all of one color—a white fish, rice and cauliflower followed by a dessert of poached pears.  Ever since, we’ve called one-color meals “Jane dinners”.

Recently, I made a butternut squash soup for dinner that I served with some local corn.  And, just because it was in the refrigerator, I added a side dish of left-over macaroni and cheese.

The “Janishness” of the meal didn’t seem to bother Peter who had lemon sorbet for dessert. 

I had a big scoop of coffee ice cream.

A Clan of Cousins

I love all of my cousins on my mother’s side of the family.  In the good old days, we would meet in New York for an occasional theater weekend. Last August, we were all in Medellin, Colombia for a wedding.  

So I was delighted when we figured out that everyone was in New England at the same time this August.  We made a plan to meet in the garden in back of our apartment building for a bring-your-own-lunch reunion.  Everyone was under three hours away from Cambridge—they came from Connecticut, Rhode Island and nearby Marblehead, Massachusetts.

It was probably the most beautiful day of the summer.  An occasional cloud, but a reasonable temperature, low humidity and a perfect breeze.  We gathered in a big circle.  Lots of catching up, and lots of laughing. Almost no politics

And for three hours, life was pre-pandemic..

An Advertising First for 80-Something

I have been writing this blog for more than twelve years. In that time, I’ve turned down many requests to carry advertisements.  I’ve turned them down because writing 80-Something is my pleasure, not my job.  But I am so excited about a new organization, Live College Tours by Nylie, that I have to tell you about it. is a website that makes it possible for high school students thinking about which colleges to apply to, to “visit” the campuses they are considering without incurring the costs of having to go there.  (It also makes it possible for students attending those colleges to earn some money by giving live one-on-one tours of their campus via smartphone.) College-bound kids can sit on their sofas at home and have a customized tour of any schools they might apply to.

If you know a child trying to choose colleges or the parent or grandparent of such a child or anyone with children or grandchildren in college who would like to be a (paid) guide please send them to Live Campus Tours. Our sons, Seth and Jeremy, are two of the founders.

Be sure to tell them that Judy Kugel sent you.

A Family of Entrepreneurs

Fifty years ago, I was going to stay home with our first baby (Seth)and I wanted something to do when I wasn’t busy taking care of him.

Peter had developed some educational games as a consultant for the Department of Defense, one of which was intended to explain to players how computers work.  After the military rejected it, we decide to manufacture and market it ourselves.  We eventually managed to sell about 10% of our inventory.   We had enough unsold scoring pads for thirty years of grocery lists.

Upon the birth of our second child (Jeremy), I started a non-profit called The Boston Project for Careers with two friends.  Its purpose was to make it easier for people (mostly women) who had stayed home with their children get back into work by developing part-time positions.  We spoke with employers to develop jobs and counseled clients about the job hunt.  It was fun, but its time came and went.  Not sure why.

More than ten years ago, Jeremy created a company called “Jasmere” that had a daily item on sale and the buyer who agreed to pay a certain price might pay less at the end of the day if there were enough additional buyers.  Great idea, lots of work and eventually sold.

Last week our grandson (Leo) joined his father (Jeremy) and his uncle (Seth) to announce the debut of a startup called Nylie.

Stay tuned.

The Joy of Lying

For decades, our alarm woke me up at 6:10 on weekday mornings.  And although we rarely set our alarm now-a-days, I am usually awake by 6:10 anyway. Peter is often out of bed even earlier. 

Recently, I discovered the joy of staying in bed for a while. As I lie there, I think about last night’s dreams or what I want to accomplish on the day ahead. Sometimes, I just watch the room become brighter.  Sometimes I think about what I will share on 80-something.

What I can’t understand is why I waited for seven years after retiring to adopt this great habit.

Modern Entertaining

Modern Entertaining

Back in the seventies, we did a lot of entertaining.  We didn’t start dinner parties until after 8:00 so the kids would be asleep.  And we also dressed up.  We have a photo a baby sitter took of Peter and me holding a baby (not sure which one) in front of our fireplace before we went out, Peter in jacket and tie and me in a plaid-floor-length, scoop-necked dress, taken by the baby-sitter right before we headed off to friends for dinner.

Things changed long before Covid-19.  Working mothers (and fathers) didn’t have time to simmer coq au vin so dinner parties were less “Julia Child” and more “Rachel Ray”.

Enter Covid-19.  We started by inviting friends to the garden behind our apartment building, offering them water in paper cups.  Lately, we’ve upgraded to take-out pizza. 

Who knows what the future of entertaining will be?