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February 2008

January 2008


I’ve never been a huge TV fan.  Sure, I watched plenty of sports with my boys I’ve never been a huge TV fan.  Sure, I watched plenty of sports with my boys when they were growing up.  Peter and I never missed Upstairs/Downstairs on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre in the 70’s, and I still watch figure skating at the Winter Olympics every four years.  Like the rest of the world, I watched Seinfield,  and when I stayed up late enough, Saturday Night Live.

But compared to most folks, I’m pretty much a non-watcher.  I always seem to have something else I’d rather do.

That was until, on the strong recommendation of our son Seth, we added the first season of Lost to our Netflix list.  (Watching movies on our TV screen does not count as watching TV, by the way.)  For some reason. that opening episode with the plane crash got me completely hooked.  Hooked on a completely impossible story line that gets less believable with each episode.  It’s masterfully produced so that each episode leaves one in complete suspense, and I've been known to give in and watch more than one in an evening.

It turns out that some of my work colleagues are also fans, and one offered to lend me all of Season 1.  And now, I am a complete slave to my TV.  My good-natured husband makes fun of the unreal events that unfold, but I notice he always manages to join me, and I don’t think it’s just because of the peanut M&M’s that have become part of our ritual.

Of course, we raced through Season 1, and the same friend, anticipating our need brought us Season 2 without being asked.  She and her family are now watching Season 3, and they will probably catch up in time for the Season 4 debut three days from now.

Alas, we will remain in catch-up mode.  Can’t reach us?  We’re lost in Lost.


In the middle of the night, the slightest headache is an incipient brain tumor, a child not-heard-from has been abducted, a work concern is a full-blown crisis, and I'll never have an idea for another blog entry.

In the morning...all is well.


Call it squabbling; call it minor arguments, call it what you will.  My husband Peter and I bicker.  Actually, we bicker often.  And inevitably, we bicker about something ridiculous.

For example, this morning I asked Peter why he was mailing a letter to a person in a place he was actually going to be within the next two hours.  If he carried it by hand, a) it would get there sooner, and b) it would save a stamp.  "Oh," he replied, "I'm going to the gym first, and I don't want to carry the letter with me."  I retorted, (something like) "That is really stupid!"

This "conversation" took place between two people who totally love each other and have for more than 40 years.  Two people who have a great marriage.  Two people who hardly ever argue about anything important,  at least not since the kids left home.  So I wonder, does every couple bicker?

I think one of our sons first called attention to our bickering from the back seat of our car one time when we were lost.  It wasn't all that long ago.  We were stunned.  We had never noticed before.  But, of course, he was right.

Cars are a great location for bickering, especially if one member of the couple has no sense of direction, and the other won't ask for directions.  Sound familiar?  (By the way, the one with no sense of direction is far superior at getting back, once we get where we are going.)  Or for a car parking example, "You're a mile from the curb."  "No I'm not.  I'm directly behind the car parked in front of us."  I could probably come up with a number of grocery store aisle examples, but I think I've made my point.

I wouldn't want to give the impression that bickering occupies a disproportionate amount of our time.  Most of the time, we are best friends, always appreciating each other, always helping each other.

But still, we bicker.

Coffee Ice Cream

I’ve always been a purist when it comes to ice cream. No goppy chocolate sauce with peanuts and whipped cream for me. Just give me the real stuff.

For as long as I can remember ice cream has been my comfort food. From the 5-cent Creamsicles and Fudgicles  of my childhood to the super-high-butterfat premium ice cream that is my preference today, I just can’t resist  my favorite dessert.

For my birthday during my sophomore year in college, my friends made a scavenger hunt for me. Each clue led to a spot in our dorm that had a gift certificate for a pint of ice cream at our favorite ice cream parlor. I’ve asked a few college friends if they remember its name. No one does. But they all remember its delicious ice cream.  I remember feeling so ill from overeating one of those pints of ice cream that I literally stuck a spoon down my throat one late evening. I’ll skip the details. By the way, there’s a Ben and Jerry’s in that location now.

I’m more responsible in my ice-cream eating today. For example, my portions are more reasonable, and it is very rare for me to indulge more than once in the same day. In fact, during the workweek when we tend to eat dinner at home, only every other night is an ice cream night. But it has to be premium. It has to be coffee. And it has to be Starbucks.

Yes, I have had my disloyal moments brought on by seasonal flavors such as fresh peach, or maybe I’ll have ginger after Chinese food. And I indulged in an unforgettable key lime pie cone in Ipswich, Massachusetts last summer at the ever-popular White Farms Ice Cream drive-in.

One of my all-time favorite spots where I didn’t keep to my once-a-day rule is a tiny gelato stand located in Orvieto, Italy. You’ll find it if you stand facing the front entrance of the magnificent Orvieto Cathedral and walk down the street on the left side.

I asked Peter why he thinks I am so content after a bowl of Starbucks coffee ice cream.

“Because it’s delicious,” he replied.

Routine Maintenance

Routine Maintenance

For the majority of my life, “routine maintenance” meant taking my car in for regular checkups. No more. Now routine maintenance means doing whatever I can to prevent further deterioration of Judy Kugel AND the car. I am aware that for me, it’s a losing battle. It is all about putting off the inevitable, but I’m giving it my best.

   My maintenance program began at age forty when I decided it was time for my first facial. I wasn’t convinced that it did much, but it sure felt good. At about the same time, I took up running. Running was not a popular female activity then. I know this because my first pair of running shoes was purchased on the men’s side of the sporting goods store. There was no market for women’s sizes then, so perhaps I was a pioneer.  I remember those Adidas shoes well; they were an iridescent green shade and the ever-present Adidas three stripes were a disgusting yellow-green. I would be laughed off the running path if I were wearing those today. However, since I’m not running anymore (prime example of my deterioration is knee-deterioration), this hardly matters.

Rather than log the (boring-even-to-me) history of my increasing efforts to stay in shape, let’s see where I am 30 years later. I spend approximately nine hours a week exercising. That includes a 45-minute-weekday early morning session split between the elliptical trainer, the stationery bicycle and stretching. Add in a three times per week weight-lifting session, biking to and from work except in horrible weather, and an aerobic walk or two on the weekends. My reward comes when I refuse help in loading my carry-on into the overhead rack on a plane or the offer of a seat on the subway.

OK, occasionally I do take the seat.  Seventy may be the new fifty, but not necessarily 24/7.

Am I My Mother?

Am I My Mother?

My mother, Lillian Kahn, was born in Buffalo, New York on the day Wilbur and Orville Wright flew the world’s first successful airplane, the Wright Flyer, at Kitty Hawk. (Imagine how they would feel if plopped down in Logan Airport in 2008!) Anyhow, for those of you who haven’t heard that date as often as I have over the years, it was December 17, 1903. Note: I’ve never been to Kitty Hawk, but I enjoyed all the hoopla on the 100th anniversary four years ago.

Mom was one of six children, and she didn’t have all the advantages I’ve enjoyed in life—like a college education, lots of travel and a fulfilling career. However, she and her siblings were a great bunch, and I could fill an entire blog with tales of that clan.

Growing up, when people told me I looked like Mom, I couldn’t really see it, but I knew she was pretty and so I always said “thank you”. But I shall never forget how shocked I was by an event that occurred one day while visiting her in her concrete-skyscraper-Florida-beach-front-apartment. After running an errand, I was in the elevator on the way up to her floor when a perfect stranger stepped in. Without missing a beat, she said, “Why you must be Lillian’s daughter!”

Comments like that became rather frequent over the years, but it wasn’t until I caught a certain angle’s glimpse of myself in a bathroom mirror one day, that I was struck by how much I really do look like my mother. But am I my mother redux?

On her many visits to our Ridge Road home, Mom always wanted to be helpful. She would ask if I had any mending she could do. She enjoyed keeping her hands busy while watching some sports event with her grandsons. I remember at some point she began asking me to thread the needle for her. It was easy with my young eyes, and I didn’t think twice about it.

Mom died in 1989 when she was almost 86 years old.

Last month Peter and I were visiting our son Seth who lives in New York City. We had been to a theatre matinee, and were going to order in dinner at his co-op so we could watch a Patriots playoff game. In the afternoon, I had noticed that the lining of his overcoat was hanging a bit, and I offered to fix it. We stopped on the way home to buy some thread. And while he and his father concentrated on the game, I mended his overcoat. I was too stubborn (proud?) to ask him to thread the needle for me so I struggled to do it myself.

Am I my mother?

The Old Neighborhood

Thirteen years ago my husband Peter and I left our Ridge Road home in Newton, where we raised our kids, and moved to Cambridge to “recapture” our early married life. This morning, we returned to Ridge Road for Sunday brunch at a former neighbor’s.

As we drove up the street we saw that “our” house no longer has black shutters, and that there is a different side entrance. There are new garage doors (we should have done that), a couple of new decks and who knows what else? The house next door has new owners who have MacMansioned it to the point of non-recognition.

Our friend Barbara, our brunch hostess, has lived on Ridge Road for 35 years, raising her children and a succession of black or yellow labs there. Now there is only Barbara and Sammy, the latest black lab. Her husband died a year ago and her kids have married and moved away.  When Peter and I commented on the changes to our old house, Barbara offered to call the occupants so that we could drop in to see them, but we demurred, preferring to remember our home the way it was when we lived there.

There are nine houses on Ridge Road. Only four of the nine are now occupied by the people we shared the street with. Visiting today was bittersweet, and somehow I felt it viscerally. Gone are the nightly four-square games with young and not-so-young kids. Gone are the pothole-fixing parties that were a yearly ritual when the street was private. Gone is the time our family traded our older son for the eldest daughter across the street for a week. (They had three girls and we had two boys.) We loved parenting a “daughter” for a change, and they loved their first “son.” Our “daughter’s” family moved out of town six years before we left, but for the last eighteen years her mom and I have talked on the phone almost every Sunday. It doesn’t replace our twice-weekly Jane Fonda exercise talkathon, but it helps

But mostly, gone are those years of child-raising. We were young then, and seventy seemed so far away. I had a very empty feeling in the pit of my stomach as we drove back to Cambridge.

Welcome to The 70-Something Blog

You are invited to join me on a journey into my seventies. Thirty-seven days from now I will celebrate the beginning of my next decade. Ten years ago, I kept a journal of my 59th year in preparation for turning sixty. Sixty sounded very old then. I had no idea that in my sixties, I would travel to Cuba, I would bicycle in New Zealand, France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark, Ireland and more, that a child of mine would publish a book and another give us two grandsons. I didn’t know I would study beginning Spanish or still be working at a job I love after 27 years. I certainly didn’t expect to replace a knee. I didn’t know that I would have to give up gluten for the rest of my life.

So what will the 70’s bring? Sure, some sad things—a given as we age—but I will try to embrace change and appreciate each day. A big order, but I’ll do my best.

Over the years, I’ve published a lot of “personal” essays and even more travel articles as an extracurricular activity. But this is my chance to write what is important to me. I’ll let you know my triumphs and my low-points.

I’ll probably write about my parents and being a parent. I’ll write about the role exercise plays in my life and should play in yours. I’ll share my thoughts about ageing in the workplace. I’ll report on my efforts to catalogue my wrinkles.  And more. Please stay tuned.