A Post-Pandemic Quest

Vern Schmitz

Socrates is alleged to have said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Was he talking to the elite of ancient Greece? Or are his words still applicable to us, even though we are separated by thousands of years?

Bruce Feiler, in his most recent book, Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age, would appear to agree wholeheartedly with Socrates’ idea that we benefit from examining our own lives. After interviewing 225 people who had experienced horrific and some more common life-altering events in their lives, Mr. Feiler states: “Life is the story you tell yourself.”

Feiler says that our life transitions, which he calls “life disrupters,” and for the very largest of these events, “lifequakes,” require us to rewrite our life story. I had one of these “lifequakes” myself; it was my heart attack on the eve of my 49th birthday. To compound the difficulty of this medical event, it also led to the subsequent loss of my first career.  (More…)

If You Could See Me Now

Peter Terzian

Ever since my wife died a couple years ago, my life has taken a turn in a completely new direction. My son moved away with his girlfriend, got married and had a couple of kids. The house full of stuff was no longer necessary, so I sold all of it. Any work I was doing was now done online, from anywhere in the world. So, I moved to the South of France and opened a small brew-pub. I call it Un Voyou.

Every morning I get up early. The first thing I brew is some coffee. Then I tend to my other brewing: beer. Every day there’s something to do:  brewing, fermenting, packaging, and ordering ingredients. Sometimes I imagine this is how the Belgian Monks lived. Not bad at all. Then, I walk to one of the cafes nearby to get lunch or just relax with some fresh fruit, a cheese sandwich, and some wine.  (More…)

What We’re Reading Now

Linda Feeney

Planning an OLLI social event in today’s world presents challenges. Robyn Cheung decided to try a form of book discussion and I offered to moderate. The result was an invitation to a virtual Book Lovers’ Happy Hour on September 4. Would anybody come? Should we prepare some back-up questions in case the discussion lags? Silly us.

The 15 participants signed in more than ready to talk about their books. There was very little moderating to do except to ensure that everyone had a chance to speak —  plenty of time to marvel at the variety and depth of both selections and accompanying commentary.  (More…)

The Quest in Question

Marilyn Myerson

Alphonse was on a quest: he wanted to commit the perfect murder. As a fledgling novitiate in the 16th-century order of the Aquinas Brethren, he considered himself a devout Christian. But the one precept he had difficulty obeying was “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” The neighbour in question was Bernard who slept in the cell next to Alphonse.

The monastery was several centuries old and its moldering dampness exacerbated the elderly Bernard’s afflictions: among them, severe arthritis and chronic catarrh. Alphonse was a light sleeper at the best of times, and much of his night was constantly disturbed by Bernard’s moans and groans, his teeth-rattling coughs, not to mention the incessant sounds and noxious odors brought on by his neighbour’s well-known digestive troubles.  (More…)

Confined to Quarters

Shelly Belzer

02 VendorIn normal times, the OLLI Shutterbugs range over the state, the country and even the world to take pictures. Staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic has made us look at what’s right around us for good subjects.

Rich Edwards was probably the most adventurous, traveling to a goat farm in May and then to the Blairsville farmer’s market in Georgia in July for these shots of a vendor and honey in sunlight, as irresistible to a photographer as to a honey lover. Gail Parsons, master naturalist, shot the pictures of a yellow-sided skimmer and a black swallowtail butterfly getting ready to drink nectar from a thistle at Lake Dan Preserve in northwestern Hillsborough County.   (More…)

Nine Eleven Memories

Diane Russell

The University of South Florida (USF) Career Center staff in Tampa, Florida happily spent Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, attending the Student Affairs Annual Employee Recognition Breakfast, an event that we always enjoyed. One co-worker left the breakfast early, and the rest of us lazily strolled back to our office. I was surprised that the people I passed along the way seemed unusually troubled and self-absorbed. I chalked up their moods to hectic schedules and deadlines.

As I entered the Career Center, I noticed that the co-worker who left the breakfast early was openly watching her small portable black-and-white TV. I wondered why she was so lackadaisical.

Another co-worker said, “Did you hear about planes flying into the Twin Towers? They thought the first plane accidentally flew into one of the towers, but then a second plane hit the other tower.”  (More…)

Brenda Tipps – A Memory

Joyce Carpenter

A woman stands in an archway

It’s hard to imagine a finer human being than Brenda Tipps. I do not use that phrase lightly: Brenda was a person one so rarely meets in one’s lifetime. We met twenty-eight years ago, and for me, the friendship born of that meeting has been life-changing.

Brenda was extraordinary. She was beautiful and classy but always in an understated way. I am sure that she was completely unaware of how her physical presence affected and captivated her circle of friends. Neither vanity nor jealousy of others ever wormed their way into Brenda’s life.

Those of us who had the good fortune to enroll in an OLLI class with Brenda know that she possessed a trove of literary information.  She deeply loved and understood books and poetry and plays.  She spoke never to demonstrate her brilliance or knowledge but only to contribute to the topic under discussion. Her comments were wise, considered, and often slyly witty. In her classes she was supportive and respectful of participants and she had the ability to respond to all remarks with insight and charm. When Brenda spoke, the class paid attention.  (More…)

Mr. Abraham Lasting

Junia Ancaya

Any time is a good time to add a new dimension to the mystery of human life.

One blistering Florida summer afternoon, on one of those routine office days of my youth, I entered the examining room to see the last patient.

“Hello Mr. Lasting,” I said to a shriveled old man. He was sitting down, leaning with one arm on a walker. Next to him sat a woman, a heavy-set German-looking matron, twice his size.

He didn’t answer.

“Is it Abraham Lasting?”

I noticed a questioning look in his eyes. Accustomed to Florida’s hard-of-hearing retired patients, I yelled the question.

“Yes Ma’am, Doctor,” he answered.

The man struck me as being vital in his deep base voice and  (More…)

Delp Family Totem

10 Pals foreverAn eagle flies gracefully over the prairie and leads me to animal adventures where I frolic with bears, beavers, squirrels, and porcupines. I bring my young son Gary with me. We go fishing with bears named Blackie, Brownie, and Slicky and collect feathers from the eagle’s mountaintop nest.

It felt natural to take Gary to join other adventuring animals squatting in a circle and wearing beaded vests as we played games and told stories. It was 1959 when we started in the YMCA Indian Guides program in Wilmington, Delaware. We met with other fathers and sons to develop our imaginations in an atmosphere of Native American lore. We made boats, a church and aircraft models in our workshop at home and played in the woods. We adopted animal spirit names. Gary was Diving Eagle. Our motto was “Pals Forever with my Dad.”

Two years later we moved to Bradenton, Florida, and my second son, Bryan, joined us as Hunting Eagle. In addition to meeting in various homes, we occasionally took field trips. Once when camping in Myakka State Park, I set up a large teepee, and we told stories around the campfire. When Diving Eagle and Hunting Eagle graduated to Cub Scouts, my third son, Scott, came of age as Flying Eagle, followed by my blonde-haired David, Golden Eagle.  (More…)

The History of Sex: A Personal Journey

Bharat Pathakjee

I’m currently teaching an online course for OLLI called “History and Science of Sex” which implies that I am an expert on the subject of sex.  This isn’t quite true.

I grew up in a traditional Brahminical culture in post-independence India. Sex education in school was limited to the birds and bees. Nothing about people. Most of the information I got came from older boys and a few racy magazines. Indian laws were, and still are, based on Victorian laws left over from the British Empire.  Ironic for the land that created the Kama Sutra.  I remember reading a banned copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and being shocked at seeing the “F word” in print. Most of us (at least the men) grew up reading the articles in Playboy while carefully ignoring the pictures.  (More…)