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August 2017

July 2017

Twenty years ago, at age fifty-nine, I taught a workshop called The Fifties--Love ’Em and Leave ’Em--at Rancho La Puerta, a spa in Tecate, Mexico. A large number of women in their mid-to-late fifties attended, all concerned about their vanishing youth. My promise was to give the group some tools and strategies to enrich their later years.

The workshop was “wildly successful,” according to Rancho La Puerta, and they asked me to come back and do it again. Why?

I think I helped the women find joy in their current lives. Sure a lot had changed. Their bodies weren’t what they used to be, for example. But we focused on what the women had achieved thus far and what they could look forward to.

I urged them to build a dock so that their “ships” could come in—to make a list of things that they wanted to learn new or learn better. A list of their dream travels. A list of their professional goals, if they were working, and a list of their personal goals.

Their biggest worries were about the losses they were facing—their parents for some, their children leaving home for others, and for some, both.

I wonder what those women would say now about their achievements, their goals and their worries. They will have experienced some losses, and there will be more. But many of their issues remain the same—their bodies, their loved ones, their “work”.

It is interesting now to look at what concerned us then.

A Milestone

On Sunday, July 2, I posted my thousandth blog entry on It’s hard for me to believe.

That’s a lot of words reflecting a lot of thoughts, mostly about navigating my seventies.

When I selected around two-hundred posts for my new book, 70-Something: Life, Love and Limits in the Bonus Years, I never thought about the total number. I just wanted to give those who weren’t with me in January, 2008 a chance to look back without having to plow through every word.

I’ve been writing now for nine and a half years, without missing a Monday or Thursday. It may be impossible for me to stop.

People are starting to ask me if there will be an (assuming there will be a Judy F. Kugel here to write it which I hope there will). I can’t imagine not putting my thoughts on the Internet.

We’ll see.

2017 vs.1997


Grown and Flown is a popular website for parents of children ages 15-25 that was planning to publish an article I wrote about how to help your kids make smart decisions about graduate school. Because I had worked at a Harvard graduate school for a long time, they asked if I had a photograph showing me and Harvard that they could use. “Not really”, I told them, “except for a picture at my son’s graduation.” They wanted it, so we scanned it in and sent it off. (Ultimately, they didn’t use it, but that’s not my point here.)

I love that picture. It shows a proud mom (me), my boss at the time (in his doctoral regalia) and Seth, the new holder of a master’s degree. Maybe I’d just had the perfect haircut. Maybe it was my outfit. But I looked great.

The bad news is that the picture made it clear to me that I don’t look as hot today. Twenty years have taken their toll.

Not that I haven’t worked hard to stay in shape. I use sunscreen, eat all the right foods, and exercise regularly. I wouldn’t change anything except my expectations to keep looking like I’m fifty-nine.

On the other hand, I know that if I’m lucky enough to be around for another twenty years, I’m going to wish that I looked then the way I look today.  


Longer Days

I appreciate the longer days of summer for many reasons. One is that they allow Peter and me to take an after-dinner stroll around our neighborhood, one of my favorite things. It takes us about twelve minutes to do a loop. We check out our neighbors’ gardens, notice how much the kids playing basketball on the street have grown and, perhaps, chat with their parents.

Our strolls make it OK to spend the rest of the evening plopped on the sofa.

Sometimes we talk to each another as we walk. Sometimes we are lost in our own thoughts. The other night, I mentioned how fortunate we are. Nine years ago when Peter was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, we had no idea how much longer he would be able to do this walk. We didn’t know that, nine years later, we would still be in a house with three flights of stairs. We had no idea what we were going to have to deal with.

“It’s better than I thought,” said Peter.


On the thirteenth of July,1965, a red VW beetle pulled up to the entrance of the Harvard Square subway. It was driven by a man who worked where I was starting a new job that day. Since it was not accessible by public transportation, Human Resources (then called “Personnel”) had arranged a ride to get me to work until the new car I had ordered (also a red VW beetle) arrived.

The driver, now my husband of forty-nine years, was Peter. I remember what I wore that day AND what he wore.

Since my new job was in Human Resources, I had access to personnel files, and as soon as I had a free moment, I determined that Peter Kugel was single. I got a little help with that from a woman in the office next to mine, and next week, we will have dinner with her and her husband, as we have countless times in the ensuing years.

Thursday, on the anniversary of our meeting, I gave Peter a ride to his new physical therapy program at a place that’s hard to get to by public transportation. I told him that it was payback for two weeks of rides to work in 1965. He replied, “I got the better deal.”

That’s questionable.

Our New Tradition

I’m not sure how we got started. I think that it was when we were binging on Parenthood, a TV series about three generations that was completely authentic in its treatment of issues we’ve all faced. At the end of each episode, Peter and I would cuddle on the sofa for a few minutes, so mellow after watching its beautiful depiction of real life.

Although we don’t like Grey’s Anatomy (which we are now watching) so much, it does offer us an opportunity to hang out with each other before going to bed, and we still hold each other tight for a few minutes at the end.

Here’s our conversation during our cuddle the other night.

Judy: “I love our post-Grey’s Anatomy cuddle. It’s sort of up there with coffee ice cream. I actually don’t know which I like more.”

Peter: “I do.”

Judy: “What’s YOUR coffee ice cream?”

Peter: “I don’t have anything.” Slight pause, then, “YOU’RE my coffee ice cream!”

Love that guy…

If you haven't seen the book "70-Something:  Life, Love and Limits in the Bonus Years" you can check it out here

My Sixties--a History Lesson

Fifteen years ago, my friends Barbara (in her 50’s), Muriel (in her 70’s) and I (in my 60’s) wrote about our lives in our each of our respective decades. Our never-realized plan was to turn them into an article and maybe even a book. The following is a condensed version of what I wrote about my sixties, found tucked away in an old three-ring notebook.

My Sixties

by Judy F. Kugel

I would have never guessed that during the first two years of my sixties:

  • I would meet an 82-year old half-sister that I never knew existed
  • I would make my first visit to South America and fall in love with Chile
  • I would have an op-ed piece published in The New York Times.
  • I would finally get pie crust right

In my sixties I am meeting new work challenges, I am content with who I am and love getting away with saying pretty much what I please at work and at home.

But there are downsides…I am dealing with various aches and pains that come from nowhere and won’t go away. I admit to regularly using my two index fingers to pull the drooping skin around my mouth in the direction of my ears to picture the outcome of the plastic surgery that I’ll never have.

I work hard to slow the inevitable changes that my aging body inflicts upon me. My SPF-15 or higher creams are to prevent wrinkles (not working so well). I bike to work every day and I lift 30lbs in shoulder presses. I’ve had minor setbacks, like the knee surgery that ended my jogging and the emergence of a latent gene that makes me gluten-intolerant which, for a pasta-and-bagel lover, is pretty sad. But other genes have spared me that menopausal-matronly spread. Though my hair is about 95% silver, my hairdresser tells me that people pay to have hair streaked like mine. I am mindful of how much worse things could be and am grateful each day that they are not.

As I watch my friends contemplate retirement, I realize how much my work is a part of my identity. Am I ready to give that up? Not yet.

My own family is the luckiest thing about my life. Regrettably, our two grown sons are not nearby. But email and cheap phone rates bring them closer. My husband of 34 years is still the man of my dreams. If possible, we love each other more with each day. And hold each other tighter, fully aware that this cannot go on forever. The kids say we bicker, but we don’t think so. We think we have spirited conversations about subjects of great depth.

I don’t have a lot of spare time, but I have been trying to develop a non-fiction writing career, and I’m having some success. I call it my night job. And I expect when I retire, it will become my day job.

There are other issues that move to center stage in one’s sixties, such as religion and spirituality, dealing with loss, life-threatening illness and more. It is important to prepare for the inevitable, but just as important not to become obsessed by it.

And what about the future? Like all Americans, I feel the loss of security brought on by September 11, 2001. Yet I continue to live my life as normally as possible because I see no other option.

Our sixties remind us that there is much to be done, and never enough time.

(Funny how things don’t change much - I could have written many of the same words today - about my seventies.)


Independence Day


We spent the July 4th weekend at the New Hampshire lakeside house of Gordon and Christa, friends of more than fifty years. Mutual friends, Joanie and Peter, were there too.

On these mountain weekends, we have good food and wine (Everybody pitches in.) and brisk walks around picturesque New Hampshire village greens or in the mountains. If we’re lucky (and we were this time) we take a spin in Gordon’s 1938 LaSalle convertible. People wave and holler at us. We’re quite a spectacle.

We also have good conversations, and sometimes we even disagree like only old (literally and figuratively) friends can. This year we had different views on two subjects.

First, when friend A ask friend B to contribute to a cause that friend A is passionate about, is it OK for friend B to say, “Sorry, I give all my charitable contributions to fill-in-the-blank?” Or should friend B come up with a small contribution to show good faith? No agreement was reached here.

Second issue: Should our generation de-access years of stuff from our basements and attics or should we leave that to our children? One side says “Let the kids do it—we did plenty for them.” The other says that our kids have enough to deal with when they lose us, so let’s make it a bit easier for them.

Good questions on which we eventually agreed not to agree.


I first met my half-sister Florence when she was 82. My father had had a family before he married my mother. It was kept a secret, only uncovered twenty-five years after he died.

Florence, a widow by the time I met her, lived alone in New York City. A year ago she moved to an assisted living facility in Boston to be close to her daughter.

Over the past year, she has had some challenges, but was basically OK. In fact, Peter and I hosted a party for her 100th birthday last December. In May, she celebrated Mother’s Day with her great-grandchildren.

On Monday night she passed away. She had had a fall a few weeks ago from which she didn’t fully recover. After some time in the hospital, her doctors recommended hospice rather than rehab.

The first time I visited her in hospice she was very happy to see me. The following week when I visited, she was unresponsive and on continuous morphine.

Florence had loving children and grandchildren, a meaningful career as a nurse, and friends of all ages. She had a good life and lived to a hundred in relatively good health.

I am sad that I didn’t get to know her sooner.