Sunday, May 31, 2015

Question: How Old is Computer Dating?

As I approach my (or should I say, "as we approach our") 46th wedding anniversary, I had to laugh this morning at a story on the first dating service in America. That was -- hard to believe -- 50 years ago! And I was a part of it.
A group of guys at Harvard -- at a time when I was at nearby Wellesley College -- came up with the idea. They called it "Operation Match."
"We'll provide the match. You provide the spark," was their pitch.
Recognizing -- even while I was  still in my late teens --that this would be remembered as a seminal moment in history,  I kept a copy of the questionnaire.
The story by one of my favorite reporters, Michael Vitez, would make it appear that the questions were fairly comprehensive.  Actually they were straight forward, pairing couples up largely on the basis of such basic things as location, religion, depth of religious belief, sex -- and height.
One of my Wellesley friends, Susan, was matched with Harvard medical student, Fred. They weren't particularly surprised.  Both were already dating, and both are particularly short for their respective genders. Height probably played a huge part in the match algorhythm. They married. And are still married!!
I was matched with five guys, all living within a couple miles of my dorm. I vaguely remember meeting a couple of them. They must have been forgettable. None stuck.
Mixers were the more typical way of meeting in those days. Then, at least, you could size up the person quickly. (A bit like what one dating service touts today: "It's only lunch." ) Wellesley, an all-women's college (still), needed to lure guys to campus. I remember at one dorm mixer being asked to dance by a very tall guy. He must have been 6-foot-three or four. I'm five-foot-one.
After a song or two, I looked up from somewhere around his armpit and asked him: "What's it like to dance with someone so short?"
"It's great," he said, looking down at the top of my head. "You don't have to talk with them."
I met my husband the old-fashioned way: blind date. His college friend and my college friend decided we would get along. A lot more than getting along, of course, is involved in 46 years of marriage. And, too, more than those Operation Match questions could possibly fathom back in 1965.
There's that thing, though, they did identify but could not quantify or capture:
The spark.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Fulltime or No Time grandparenting?

On Mother's Day, one might wonder who needs a mother most. Your own children and grandchildren or a lot of parentless children in Uganda?
Where would you spend your time?
Mama Arlene had an epiphany in her 70s.

Bored with traveling, she took off to live in Uganda and follow through with her vision. Hers is an inspiring story that few of us will replicate. She's now 84 and still mostly working in Uganda.
On the other hand ---and isn't there always an other hand ? – Melissa Dribben, a long time reporter and columnist has quit her job, no, her career, to be the full time caretaker for her grandchild while her daughter works. Read that story here.
 I respect the commitment that these women have made but their choices stir up other feelings in me.  Questions like-- did I spend enough time with my children when they were little and I was pursuing career.? Is Melissa now generously giving back or making up for what she herself may have missed? On the other hand, I'm shocked that mama Arlene Brown could at this stage of life want to remove herself so entirely from her own  family.Where is the balance? How much do grandkids need you and how much do you need them? And where is that balance?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Shoulberg at 76: Going Just Swimmingly

Dick Shoulberg, master coach -- Phila. Inquirer, Clem Murray

Dick Shoulberg, the renowned Germantown Academy swim coach who hurtfully lost his job in 2013 to a huge national outcry, is doing just fine, thank you.  Hazing had been hinted at, an allegation that many of the youths he had coached even to the Olympics  could not believe, nor did their parents. His age at the time, 74, was another theory. The school backtracked months later and called him back as "coach emeritus," with reduced responsibilities.
Shoulberg, 76,  who finally 'was retired'  from the school earlier this year, has clearly not retired.
As this swim coach extraordinaire says:
"As long as there is water and kids, I'm going to do it as long as the guy upstairs says I can."
He recently traveled to Mumbai to teach young swimmers in India. He's been out to Colorado to help coach the US swim team in advance of the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. He's setting up a local swim camp. He has kids from around the world coming to train with him.
A fine interview by Jessica Parks in the Philadelphia Inquirer catches us up with Shoulberg.   With age has come wisdom and he has plenty of Shoulberg-isms to share, mostly on what young people need. Parents should take heed.
On why to push kids hard:
 "What I've found is, the higher you raise the bar, the higher the kids will reach."
On their need for structure:
"Kids wanted structure in 1958, and they want structure in 2015. They want to know where they stand with you. They want consistency."

To read my previous blogs on Dick Shoulberg:
About his ouster.
Then the outcry that followed.
And his reinstatement.

Friday, April 24, 2015

In Her Spirit: an UnRetiring Passion Prevails

It really stuns me that two years after the death of Happy Fernandez, her legacy continues -- and is building. That's how much she inspired some two dozen women she brought together after retiring as president of Moore College of Art. Of course, she wasn't retiring. She was putting together a new challenge for herself -- trying to help women improve their leadership skills and rise in the ranks of non-profits, especially boards of trustees.
Since she died in January 2013, this rump group, made up of leaders of a number of Philadelphia non-profits as well as women on executive boards and high-ranking university officials, has met numerous times. At first, it was to honor Happy. But then it began gathering its own head of steam. The group's signature accomplishment so far was convincing the Forum of Executive Women to gather statistical information about women on non-profit educational and medical boards in the region for the Forum's annual report.
The results proved painful. Most of these boards had fewer than 1 woman for every 5 men. Some had none. And that despite the extraordinary number of women now holding high level jobs in all areas of the economy.
Happy's group hasn't stopped there. Now it is trying to use connections and persuasion to convince those who govern the Philadelphia area's non-profit universities and medical behemoths to address the lack of board diversity.  In today's Philadelphia Inquirer,  Jane Scaccetti -- a member of Temple University's board who also runs and is a founding member of a professional tax accounting firm -- partners with WHYY (public broadcast) president Bill Marrazzo to make the argument publicly.
Jane Scaccetti, CEO Drucker &Scaccetti

Bill Marrazzo, WHYY
This is not simply a question of gender equality.  As the article states, "We are not making the argument that women are 'better' than men. We are, however, making the suggestion, one firmly rooted in evidence, that perspectives informed by the different life and professional experiences men and women bring to the table yield new and often better decisions."
Stay tuned...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

An Immortality of Sorts

Photo and caption from Catholic Charities Appeal
Here's one cohort of workers who do not have to fear that, upon retiring, they won't know what to do with themselves. Their service is so in demand that they are constantly being called up for duty.
Who is this group?
As Kristin Holmes reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer,  the shortage of priests is so severe in the area that many well into their eighties are stepping up to the pulpit.
Nearly a third of priests and bishops in the Philadelphia Archdiocese  --171 out of 520-- are officially retired, the article says. A full 50 percent in the neighboring Camden Archdiocese are also retired. And no army of young recruits has emerged to fill the ranks. 
So people like Msgr.  James Mortimer are regularly recruited to replace priests on vacation or ill. He hadn’t wanted to retire in the first place, but back when he was 75, he hit the mandatory retirement age (already moved up from 65 because of the looming shortage.) He went off to fill in for priests in South Dakota and did a teaching stint in Rome.
Now Msgr. Mortimer is back in Philadelphia, retired but not really, at age 88.
I remember when the Quaker Lace factory closed in Philadelphia. Lace tablecloths and the like were being made on machinery so old that when the one man who knew how to repair them retired or died, they shut down.
What other jobs or industries are teetering as they lose their workforce with few or no replacements? What are the ramifications? Any thoughts?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Barbara Bergmann: A Feminist Economist

Barbara Bergmann
It was nearly two years ago that I had the remarkable opportunity to meet Barbara Bergmann, my daughter's backyard neighbor. It happened because of an enormous fig tree that she wanted Becca to have.
During the course of that afternoon, the moving of the tree, and the time to talk, I sensed that this elder, whom I was seeing only in the context of her garden was someone very special.  With a little research, I learned that Barbara Bergmann was a pioneer in the field of women and economics and that she had broken through glass ceilings even before that phrase existed. I wrote about her, the afternoon of the fig, and the difficulty we have as a society seeing past gray hair, thick glasses and a cane.
Sadly, it takes a death and the subsequent obituary to fully appreciate a person's legacy.
Barbara Bergmann died last week and yesterday the New York Times devoted significant acreage to her life.
Here are a few items from this obituary, which I encourage you to read.
For one, Barbara saw the advent of the word processor as a threat to women's employment. Thousands of women would lose their jobs as  typists, secretaries and clerical workers, she warned.
She argued for federal support for daycare, especially as the number of single parent households exploded.
And she fought for equal pay for women, even as she had fought on her own behalf to get academic jobs at universities that just didn't hire women.
Becca now has Barbara's fig tree, which after the shock of transplant, will soon bear fruit again. As for the richness of Barbara Bergmann's legacy, we thank her for the intellectual seeds she planted that continue to challenge old thinking and give parity to women in this economy. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Art of Aging

I'm now listening to some of today's live "Transforming Aging" sessions on the web-- still free for 48 hours -- that started today. You can just go to the website... sign up here
again if you didn't already.

Then click on any of the sessions that have already happened -- and you can listen! (I list the schedule at the end of this post.)

Here are a few highlights of "The Art of Aging",  with artists Alice and Richard Matzkin 
Richard Matzkin, sculptor: "Creativity is the willingness to move into the unknown.
This has a lot of meaning for older people who have the tendency to go with the tried and true, the habitual ways of being. That deadens creativity. Bringing creativity into your life is like bringing renewal into your life....You have to let go of judgment. That's what stops creativity.

Alice Matzkin, artist:
It doesn't have to be art-- can be gardening, cooking, being with your family in certain ways. Having a passion for something you love to do and put your heart and soul into it.

Q. How to tap into your creativity?
R.M.: Have the attitude of "play," of being a child again and play.... When you're in the zone, creating, it's a meditation.

A.M.: Take a class, meet others... you don't have to show your creation to anyone. It's for you.

Confronting her own aging, Alice Matzkin,  whose work is in the National Portrait Gallery, also painted herself:

Alice Matzkin: self portrait

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

March 3-5: A Creative Aging Telesummit

Some of the top thinkers in the creative aging  movement (aka "third age," "sage-ing," "encore career," etc. ) are hosting an online summit, March 3-5. And it's free!
Mental calisthenics! I'm always up for new ideas.
Wendy Lustbader, author of a book I love, Life Gets Better,  is among the participants. She's a terrific speaker, so I'm sure it will be worth registering, just for her session. (March 4, 3 p.m.)   See my previous blog about her.   Marc Freedman, a pioneer in the notion of "encore careers" after retirement and founder of, is a guru of this movement. He talks at 4 p.m. March 4. For a taste of what that movement is about go here.
Below are some highlights from the schedule, East Coast time. (There's a drop-down to enter your timezone above the schedule.)
March 3, 1 p.m.: The Art of Aging, hosted by a noted artist/sculptor couple.
March 3, 2p.m.: Images of Aging in Film
March 4, 1 p.m.: Why Consciousness Matters in the 3rd Phase of Life
March 4, 3 p.m.: Life Gets Better, the Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older  (Wendy Lustbader)
March 4, 4 p.m.: Inventing the Encore Years (Marc Freedman)

And here's how you register: Transforming Aging Summit 
After you enter your name and email address, it takes you to a page where you can pay for access if you want to tune in after the 48-hour free broadcast period. If you don't want to pay,  just  click out of that page (there doesn't seem to be a "next" to get out of it.) But it works! I got an email that I'm in, with more instructions on listening by phone or internet.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A New Gender-ation Comes Out

Ever hear the phrase "gender fluid?" How about "nonbinary?" Or "genderqueer?"
In the new ever-more-open vocabulary of a younger cohort, they mean the same thing. 
In just the last week, I heard of several examples of young people who describe themselves with these words.
The first was from a friend  -- a man who himself was a trend setter some 18 years ago, when he and his gay partner adopted children, a boy and a girl. Recently his teenage son was talking about a classmate whose name did not make clear his gender. My friend asked his son, "Is that a girl or a boy?" The son replied that this classmate was  "gender fluid" and that the classmate had given themself a new first name to straddle the divide. (I know "themself" is not grammatically correct but keep reading.)
The second example came from a school in a free-thinking New England town, where my daughter lives. The school sent home a letter from the new student teacher, an introduction done for all new teachers. 

Aside from mentioning this teacher's many interests and enthusiasm about being at the school, the letter also said:
"I chose this unusual honorific (M. instead of Ms. or Mr.) because I identify as nonbinary. This means that I do not see myself as either female or male (the traditional binary genders.) Because I identify as nonbinary, I prefer using 'they/them' pronouns, which are also unmarked in gender.

"There is historical and social precedent for using ‘they’ as a singular pronoun," the teacher wrote. "Think about how you refer to people you don’t yet know – you will usually say, “Oh, who are they?” or “This friend of yours, are they nice?”  While some nonbinary people use invented pronouns (such as ze/zir/zirs/zirself), I prefer ‘they.’"

The third example (proving that this is definitely a trend) was in today's NY Times. A University of Vermont student, after struggling to feel comfortable as a woman and not feeling comfortable as a man either discovers that the description  "genderqueer" feels right. "Before, it had been really difficult to explain how I was feeling to other people, and even really difficult to explain it in my own head," said Rocko Gieselman. ("Rocko" is the first name Gieselman gave themself.). "Suddenly, there was a language for it, and that started the journey."
So... in the space of a week, I've gone from a baby kind of coming out,  to quite a different one.
It's a new gender-ation!.

Within a day of writing this, I'm told about these other discussions of the topic:
This book "How To Be Both," by Ali Smith.