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September 2013

Last Monday

While we were out of town visiting the kids last weekend, no magic elves did our laundry, watered our plants or went grocery shopping for us.  So it was nice not to have to rush off to work on Monday.

Somehow, I managed to fritter away the morning on those undone weekend chores, minus the grocery shopping that Peter did.  In the afternoon I had a medical appointment and did some reading for my management class,

It wasn’t until 8:00 p.m. that I realized I had spoken to a total of three people all day--Peter, the gardener who was trimming our neighbor’s bushes from our side of the fence (and making a mess of our flower beds in the process), and the woman who did my mammogram.  (OK, I did check in with the receptionist at the doctor’s office and I did have a phone conversation with a woman from the Social Security Office who called because I forgot to sign a document.)

On a normal Monday before I retired, I would have had numerous encounters with colleagues and solved a bunch of problems for students. 

It’s quite a change.

Starring: Jet Blue

The USAir shuttle has been our default choice for countless trips to visit our grandchildren in Washington, DC.  Its hourly schedule from Boston is unbeatable.  Its terminal, convenient to the Metro, has good restaurant choices. On the downside, if your return trip to Boston is scheduled after 2:00 p.m., you have to be prepared for flight delays or cancellations.

For a change, we tried Jet Blue last weekend. When we hesitated for a moment upon entering their terminal in Boston, a Jet Blue employee offered to direct us. As we walked through the terminal, a Jet Blue crewmember walking in our direction asked if we had eaten.  He advised us that since there weren’t many food choices near the gates, we might want to grab something to eat before going through security.  He asked where we were going and at what time, and when we told him, he said that he would be our pilot and that it was a beautiful day to fly to DC.

The flight left on time.  The flight attendants offered only gluten-containing snacks (which leaves me out), but when I asked, they found some Jet Blue signature blue potato chips for me.  We arrived at National Airport a few moments ahead of schedule. 

Our return flight late in the afternoon on Sunday was flawless.

Oh, and we had a good time with the grandchildren too.


My New Dermatologist

My long-term dermatologist, Dr. Foster, retired.  He always took good care of me, including advising me never to look in my 5X mirror. I was sorry when he decided he had assessed one-too-many suspicious moles and left to travel to far-away places. 

On Wednesday I had an appointment with his replacement. She looks sixteen.  She has naturally strawberry-blonde hair, a slim figure, a peppy personality and the most perfect skin I have ever seen. 

And if that wasn’t depressing enough, three times she referred to me as a 77-year old, which I am NOT!  (At least her math isn’t perfect.) 

I have to admit that she impressed me with her knowledge of my dermatological history and gave me some good advice about skin care.

I didn’t ask her about my 5X mirror.


Now Comes the Hard Part

As I reported on Sunday, I was thrilled and honored by the reception for my retirement last week. I have written the thank-you notes, stored the photos Peter took in my online album, and sent the “The Judy Kugel Trivia PowerPoint Show” from the party to our kids who couldn’t be there.  I’m done with all that.

 But now that the romantic idea of becoming a student has become the reality of being a student--- especially a way-older student--I’m feeling a bit at odds and ends.

First, it is very odd not to be going to my office every day.   In addition, I am realizing that I am as old as many of my classmates’ parents (or grandparents!).  I haven’t studied for a grade for more than fifty years.  My classmates grew up with Excel and PowerPoint, while I grew up with typewriters and dial phones.  Even more important, their brain cells are much fresher than mine.  It’s a little daunting.

I mentioned this to a good friend yesterday. “Just attempting what you are attempting is very impressive,” she said. “Whether or not you succeed, you will not have failed.”


Good-bye to Me

At 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, more than seventy people gathered to say thank you to me for my thirty-three years of service to the institution that I loved.  It was the fastest and most magical two hours I’ve had since I saw “The Lion King” in 1991.

Like many women who grew up in the 50’s, I’m not very self-confident.  So although I gave my best for all my years at Harvard, I was never sure it was good enough.  Until last night.  The current dean and two former deans of the school spoke about my contributions.  (I know how hard it is to get a word with them, let alone a speech from them.)    

Professors spoke.  My latest boss read a two-page tribute from my former boss. People came from around the University.  It sounded like the school would not survive without me.  (So far, two weeks without me, it seems to be doing just fine.)

There was food and wine and a book filled with letters and good wishes.

My highest priority was not to cry.  And although I stuffed Peter’s shirt pocket with tissues just in case, I didn’t use a single one.  Best of all, with the professor of my communications class in the room, I gave a five-minute extemporaneous speech using all the things he taught me in the first three classes!  People laughed and cheered.

I’m really done now, but it was a great finale.


The Older Women in My Life

There are three amazing older women in my life.  They live in different cities. They don’t know each other, but I love them all.  Often I will phone them on a Sunday, one right after the other.

The first is my Aunt Ruth. I have known her all my life. She’ll be 102 in February. She lives in her own house with the help of someone who comes for part of every day.  She hosts family events on the holidays, either in her home with help, or in a club she has belonged to for decades. She is up-to-date on politics and the Buffalo Bills football team, and her (arthritic) fingers still produce beautiful knitted things for her great-great grandchildren.

The second is my half-sister Florence who is going to be 97 in December.  I only learned of her existence when she was 82, but we’ve tried to make up for lost time.  When we spoke last Sunday, she reported that she is not hearing so well and not walking so well. Yet she flew across the country twice in the last three months to visit her family on the west coast. 

And finally there is Esther, my friend Tina’s mother.  She is a bundle of energy, looks twenty years younger than her age (mid 90’s).  She has had more than her share of losses in life, but she remains upbeat, and reminds us that no one wants to hear the complaints of others.

Role models for all.  


We are lucky to have remained a part of our children’s lives even though they have been gone from home for more years than they lived with us.  (Hard to believe.)

From time to time, the kids still seek our advice and we are happy to help, if we can.  But lately, we’ve been seeking—and taking—advice from them.

Take yesterday, for example. I was griping to our son Jeremy about the problems I was having trying to sync my new iPhone with my computer.  Jeremy’s advice—spend ten minutes trying to fix it yourself. Then spend ten minutes Googling your question.  If neither fixes the problem, head for the Apple store “Genius Bar.”  Brilliant advice, and today I am heading to the Apple store.

Then I reported on what I had learned in my first week in school, (pretty interesting stuff).  But I expressed concern that my brain cells have diminished and I was worried that I might not be up to speed. 

“Are you kidding?” he asked. “You are not out on the golf course (apologies to golfers) or playing mahjong (apologies to mahjong players). “What you’re doing is awesome.  You are awesome!”

Now that’s payback.



On Tuesday, only four days into retirement, I became a master’s student. 

I didn’t have time to shop for a first-day-of-school outfit, but I did buy some spiral notebooks, a scientific calculator and an external hard drive for my laptop computer. I passed up the pencil bags and magic markers—for now.

I spent part of the Labor Day weekend setting up a place to study at home.  My best option was Seth’s bedroom (aka our guestroom) because it has a desk and a comfortable, though shabby, recliner. I emptied a file drawer of all my published articles and random journals I had kept of my life to make space for school files.  I solved a light problem with a floor lamp that had been relegated to the TV room in the basement, but had never been plugged in.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I “shopped” classes at school, just like all the other students.  Professors, who were my friends and colleagues, know me as a successful dean. But as a student?

Let the adventure begin.


At 5:00 p.m. on Friday, I placed my re-cycling wastebasket outside my office door just as I have every Friday for years.  I shut down my computer and printer.  I looked at the walls, stripped of pictures and paintings, bare except for the hooks that once held everything in place.

And I retired.

Earlier in the day, I had looked for my new student locker.  I was pleased by its location—someone is looking out for me.  I put a box of tissues and an emergency umbrella in the locker and taped a picture of my family to the inside of the door.  I think it will hold my lunch, a couple of books, and my laptop.  But compared to my 12 ft. x 10 ft. office…

The rest of the day was almost like any other.  Returning students coming to seek my advice, my direct reports with just one more question, my yet-to-be-named successor’s new boss telling me she is worried about not having me around for my advice.  When students found out that I was leaving, they were pleased that I wasn’t going far—just to the classrooms they go to.  I’m pleased too.

I grabbed my backpack and my bicycle helmet, and turned off the light.