Search for the Perfect Shot

If one helping of Theresa Sokol’s blog wasn’t enough for you, we have another savory selection in today’s post.  And we have a personal invitation for you at the end.  Read on!  –Editor


Theresa D’Aiuto Sokol

I know, I know. You think I am referring to the Covid vaccine, and truth to tell the month of January was indeed a relentless and fruitless quest to get vaccinated. Happily we finally scored appointments for our first shot and have joined the fortunate few who have received the first step toward immunity from the disease that has poisoned our lives over the last twelve months.

However, that shot that is not the subject of this latest blog. Starting in early January I embarked on a quest to learn how to pull the perfect espresso shot with my new Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso machine. But let me back up a bit.  (More…)

Reflections of a Former Joke-Writer for Joan Rivers

Robert Strozier

Now that I’ve reached the age of 80, a milestone year if ever there was one, I thought it’d be a fitting time to revisit some moments from my life as a writer—for better or for worse.

Let’s bypass the rave reviews I received from my parents for a play I wrote and starred in at nine, Detective Dick, and skip along to 1964. I’d just graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in Humanities and was living with a friend in Berkeley, California.

I decided to launch my freelance career by writing poems and greeting card ideas—two surefire money makers. Some poems got published, most suffered a less happy fate. As in: “Sorry we won’t be able to use your poem, but we did like parts and particles of it.” The word “the” in the second line of the third stanza, I surmised, the third syllable of the eighth word in the fifth line of the second stanza, the…  (More…)

Family Found

Diane Henrikson Russell

1880 portrait of Carolina in Swedish family photo album

The Ancestry.com hint appeared as a leaf linked to Carolina Eugenia Oscaria Tillberg.

Before I reveal the hint, here is some background. Carolina was my great-grandmother. The story goes that Carolina was born in Stockholm, and at age 11, she traveled with neighbors to Chicago and settled in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  She was supposed to return to her family in Stockholm, but she never went home.

Instead, Carolina at age 20 married a Norwegian man, Bernhardt Henrikson, who immigrated to Sheboygan as a two-year-old boy with his parents and siblings. They raised three children, including my grandfather, and moved to Chicago in 1894 for a job with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad.  (More…)

My Young Life

Anne Strozier

When my mother became a widow, I was 12 years old, living in Tallahassee, Florida.  The morning of April 20, 1960, I walked into the kitchen just as my mother was hanging up the phone. “Daddy’s had a heart attack,” she said.  I assumed she meant her father, Clough.  No, it was my father who’d had the heart attack.

The day before, my father had gone to a conference in Chicago.  Mother told me she’d be flying to Chicago to be with Dad while our elderly and rather taciturn neighbor, Mr. Yant, would take me and my 16-year-old brother Chuck to school.

Mid-morning, Mr. Yant appeared at the door of my classroom.  We drove home in silence, and I arrived home to be greeted by three anxious neighbor ladies, one of whom still had on pin curls.  I said hi to them and walked into the living room to sit by myself.  (More…)

How Sweet It’s Been!

Theresa D’Aiuto Sokol

Late winter holidays provide the perfect excuse to gorge on sweets, treats and rich temptations for the palate in order to take the edge off a numbing progression of dark, icy days.

Wait! What? This is Florida, America’s Spring Break playground—sun, beaches, sand, Disneyworld, parks—amusement or nature—the ultimate getaway destination for the winter weary!

Sadly, not this year for the over 65 set….

The monotony of COVID-induced isolation forced us to remain holed up at home. We endured feverish hours refreshing vaccine sites or counting the days until the achievement of full immunity after getting our jabs. Late March ushered in the mass breakout of grateful grandparents sporting newly minted silver coiffures and COVID-padded waistlines.  (More…)

On the Trolley

Junia Ancaya

The 2007 crisp autumn air of Portland, Oregon, invited Rosa and me to stroll down the tree-shaded central streets of an immaculate city.

Later, we wandered through Chinatown and laughed while we cracked and read fortune cookies, carefree like the youngsters we were when we became college friends fifty-two years ago in Buenos Aires. Since then, our lives had taken us on our separate ways, but we had continued to nurture our friendship. Now we were alone, as it sometimes happens in time . . . .

Far away from our Florida homes, during our flight to Portland, we had released arrays of troubling thoughts and unresolved problems. We longed to absorb new discoveries during our short vacation that would include a visit to the iconic Mount St. Helens Volcanic Monument.  (More…)

America the Beautiful: My Personal Story

Teri Dreyfuss-Gray

What does it mean to be an American?  To me it means everything.  What it means goes beyond my place of birth.  For me it goes back to when millions of Irish people, Italians, and Eastern Europeans crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a better life.

My mother’s parents were refugees who came to this country from Russia.  They fled religious persecution as the pogroms claimed the lives of their families.  They made a good life for themselves in the safety of Coney Island, owning a dry goods store.  They never talked about the old country:  only about how lucky they were in America,  the land of freedom.

My father’s father left his family in Romania as a young adult, because they were poor.  Once in America, he pursued his dream, became a chef and made a future for himself.  My father’s mom was born in Palestine.  She was the oldest of ten children and was sent to America to find opportunity and a better life.  She often talked of her pride in living in America and loved to sing the song, “America the Beautiful.”  My grandparents felt lucky, blessed, and safe to raise their children in the freedom of this beautiful country.  (More…)

Baseball and the Atomic Bomb

Bharat Pathakjee

While researching for my class on the Atomic Age, I came across a little-known human interest story about a man named Moe Berg. The son of a Jewish pharmacist, he was born in New Jersey in 1902.  He loved baseball and was quite good at it, much to his father’s displeasure. He excelled at his high school, won a scholarship to Princeton, and played ball in the Ivy League. He majored in Romance languages and became fluent in no fewer than six.

After Princeton he was recruited by the pros—the Brooklyn Robins–for $5,000 a year ($71,000 in today’s money). More success was soon to follow, and in 1926 he earned $50,000 ($700,000 in today’s money) playing for the Chicago White Sox.  (More…)

National Poetry Month 2021 – The Finale

We hope you’ve enjoyed the poetry we’ve been able to share with you in our past three issues.  National Poetry Month for this year is almost over, but you don’t have to give up poetry until next April rolls around.  Check out our Events and Resources page. While April has seen a surge in poetic activity, there are many events and resources that celebrate poetry all year long.

And while you’re being inspired by the poetry of others, we hope you’ll also be “inspired” to write some poetry of your own.  And give us the chance to publish it next year.  We’re OLLI Connects, not the Lithuanian Literary Gazette.  Our purpose is to give OLLI-USF members an opportunity to share their creativity.  Hmmm…, make that your creativity! So, let’s give you a little more inspiration right now.  (More…)

National Poetry Month 2021 – Part Three

What makes a good poem? Melissa Donovan tried to answer that question, and you can read her thoughts here. But before you dash off to get someone else’s opinion, pause for a moment and think about what aspects of a poem make you say, “Now, this is a good poem!” 

Is it economy of language?  Not a single word in it that isn’t critical to its wholeness?  Imagery?  Words that paint vivid pictures?  Powerful language that moves you?  A sense of sound  and rhythm that makes reading the poem aloud an experience far beyond just seeing the words on paper?  Authenticity?  The sense that this poet is sharing a powerful and private truth with you?

Got some thoughts?  Good!  Take them with you as you enjoy this week’s issue.  (More…)