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October 2015

Insomnia (Again!)

When I toss-and-turn a couple of nights in a row, I try to figure out what’s going on that’s keeping me up.

Was it because I talked to my high school friend who had just looked at an attractive assisted-living community? She and her husband are healthy and still love their home of forty-plus years, but their kids don’t live near enough to look after them and are worried. (They hated it.) 

Is it time for us to look?

Or was it because our furnace stopped working on that same bitter cold day?  We have a service contract, but the gas company outsourced repairs to another organization. Rather than promptly sending out a technician, (our expectation based on the gas company's past service), that organization told us that they couldn’t send someone until the following week and offered to give us the names of some plumbers to call, promising to reimburse us for the expense.  Except none of those plumbers could come that day either. 

And finally, there is the possibility that I was worrying about our kids.  This is a frequent source of sleeplessness.  It seems both of them are working way too hard with no let-up in sight.

Maybe it was none of the above.  Still, I’m tired.


Bad for You/Good for You

Remember when coffee was bad for you?  No more.  Now studies show that coffee may offer protection from a variety of cancers. 

As a child, I had whole milk plus additional cream on my breakfast cereal.  As a grown up, I reluctantly turned to skim milk because it was “better” for me.  But now, a study shows that people who drank more milk fat had a lower incidence of heart disease.  So back to whole milk I go, happily.

But what really got to me is a new study ( that indicates that taking calcium doesn’t improve bone health.  Celiac disease (from which I suffer) wreaks havoc on your bones, so I have taken large doses of calcium and vitamin D for almost sixteen years.  Have I have lugged calcium supplements with me all over the world for nothing? 

I’ll report back after I visit the endocrinologist next month.


Building Body AND Vocabulary

Normally, I wear a loose T-shirt and black exercise capris when Kathy, our trainer, comes to our house.  But on Saturday I wore my body-clinging-sleeveless-scooped-neck exercise top (and black exercise capris).

I eagerly showed Kathy my “wall angels” because I’ve worked hard on them and have really improved.  Her comment?  “Judy, you have ripped deltoids!!”

She was stunned by the puzzled look on my face.  She explained that “ripped” means high muscle-definition.  In other words, I am very cool (for an old lady).  She added that “jacked” is another word for having well-developed muscles.

Improved vocabulary is just one more reason to keep exercising.


Ich bin ein Berliner


Jeremy, Leo and Grady @ the German Embassy

Last Monday, our son Jeremy and his sons became German citizens in a ceremony at the German embassy in Washington, DC. 

This was possible because Article 116 of Germany's constitution permits those who had their citizenship revoked for "political, racist, or religious reasons" during the Nazi regime to reapply for German citizenship while retaining their current citizenship.

Decades ago, my husband Peter’s family was stripped of their German citizenship after they fled from Berlin to escape the Nazis.  He was six.  Now Germany welcomes back Peter and his descendants.

In a moving ceremony, the Counsul General apologized for “a terrible chapter in German history.”  He thanked the new citizens for their “act of faith that Germany has changed.” He welcomed each family individually as the official photographer snapped a photo.

Our daughter-in-law Katrina wrote on her Facebook page:  “In the 1930s, Peter Kugel and family were stripped of their German citizenship.  Today his son and grandsons became German citizens…Take that, Hitler.”


To Work or Not to Work, That Is the Question

I had cleared my calendar for last Friday, planning to spend the day working.  However, my home page is The Boston Globe and I saw a glowing review of “Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer,” a new exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts. As members, we could see it before it opened to the public. And since the Museum is walking distance from Boston’s Symphony Hall, where we could get last-minute tickets for a 1:30 concert for $9.00, I proposed a day of culture to Peter.

Work or play?  That was easy.  By 11:00 we were at the Museum, having gotten our rush tickets when the Symphony Hall box office opened.  We saw a great exhibition, had lunch in the museum and walked to Symphony.  Yeah, the $9.00 seats weren’t terrific, but it didn’t matter.

Work or play?  Retirement has its pluses.


When Plans Go Awry, Part II

I have a problem with wasting time.  (See my previous post.) I have an even bigger problem when it’s my fault. 

On Sunday we had tickets to hear a celebrity panel talk about ethics at Boston’s historic Fanueil Hall as part of the City’s inaugural Hub Week.  We decided to go early and wander around Quincy Market and the waterfront until the event started.  Except I mis-remembered the time, and we arrived more than two hours early.  Peter, to his credit, did not make me feel like a complete idiot.  He didn’t need to; I already felt like a complete idiot.

But talk about turning lemons into lemonade.  We wandered through the Quincy Market area, one of Boston’s most popular tourist sites and one we never visit.  We people watched.  People watched us. 

A group of chattering high school-aged kids approached and asked if they could interview us.  They were in the U.S. from Korea on a cultural exchange.

They asked three questions in excellent English:

  1. Where are you from?  That was easy.
  2. What is Boston best known for?  My first answer, The Boston Red Sox, didn’t seem to resonate, so we tried the start of the American Revolution, and that answer made them happy.
  3. What else is Boston known for?  The Boston Tea Party seemed to work.

Then, giggling like teenagers do, they asked to take our photo. 

We walked the entire market.  We watched street performers.  We laughed over ridiculous signs for sale at one booth.  I almost bought a dishtowel with the warning, “Never laugh at your husband’s choices.  You’re one of them.”  We read the menu at Durgin Park, a restaurant dating back to when Quincy Market was a market and a prime rib dinner cost $13.95. (It's now $49.95.)

And then we went to the event we came for, a panel of famous people discussing things like whether or not we should allow parents to genetically engineer children or whether an “app” that allows people to sell the metered parking space they are leaving to the highest bidder is OK.

Our closets didn’t get their fall change-over and the newspaper didn’t get read.  It didn’t matter.

When Plans Go Awry, Part I

Last week was hectic.  After a long weekend away, there was a lot to do in a short week that ended on a Friday, jam-packed with commitments, including company for dinner.  So naturally I welcomed Saturday as my catch up day.  Laundry, email, making gluten-free granola and working a couple of hours on a consulting project were on my to-do list.

But that didn’t happen. 

You see, we wanted to put Peter on my cellphone plan and upgrade him from his stone-age phone to one that would let him dictate texts and emails, something that would be incredibly helpful for him.  I had planned no more than an hour for this activity, but it turned out that we were in the T-Mobile store for three hours.  Chalk it up to a new salesperson’s lack of experience and Peter’s unhelpful former provider.  (It took us 45-minutes to get them to give us the account number T-Mobile needed to transfer his phone number.)

Why am I relating this?  Because stuff happens, and my reaction was what bothered me the most. I was increasingly annoyed, frustrated and at moments close to tears.  Nobody was hurt, the phone upgrade will be wonderful for Peter and somehow everything will get done.

But pity the man who had to spend the rest of the day with a grumpy wife.  And, by the way, it has nothing to do with the fact that his new phone is light-years ahead of mine!   


Four Goalies



                                                                                        Photos by Seth Kugel

When we visit our grandsons in Maryland, we go to their soccer games.  No longer little kids, both boys have become pretty good players.

And they are both goalies.  Their father and his brother were goalies too.   A powerful tradition.

We spent Saturday afternoon on the soccer field at the school where their dad works with our two former goalie sons and our two goalie grandsons trying to score against each other.

Seeing both of my sons in goal (How many years since that has happened?) trading shots against each other and my grandsons…is that a grandmother moment, or what?

On Sunday, we had to decide which kid’s game to attend or spend six hours (three of which were travel) to see both.  You can’t have a favorite grandson—so we went to two games.  We drove 137 miles, almost the entire Virginia/Maryland beltway to see both boys’ teams lose.

Who cares that they didn’t win?

On the Bus

We feel virtuous when we go to the airport by public transportation.  It’s good for our carbon footprint (and our pocketbook). True, it’s a three-minute walk to our bus to the subway followed by another bus to the airport.  But, heck, we’re retired.

And it’s fun. 

I imagine stories about other passengers. I imagine the other side of their cell phone conversations or think about where they are in their lives.  I used to try to see what they were reading, but it’s harder with Kindles.

On our way to the airport last Friday, I was particularly struck by two bus passengers.  A (probably) homeless man sat across from us.  His shoulder-length, stringy gray hair was unwashed.  His stain-covered red sweatpants drooped.  They clashed with his crimson Harvard! sweatshirt.  He had a crutch attached to his right arm.  He didn’t meet my eyes although I was sitting directly across from him.

To his left, a young woman, probably an au pair, chatted with an adorable three-ish boy (or rather listened to his chatter).  Clearly this was a kid who recently discovered how to talk and couldn’t stop.  He said “Hi” to everyone who passed, and, of course, to me.  I responded “Hi, what’s your name?” We immediately became fast friends. He told me he was going to “school” and when he got off, he said “Bye Judy”.

One passenger who seems to have lost his way in life.  Another, with so much in front of him.  Hope and despair on a short bus ride to the subway to the airport.