College in One Day

Imagine going to college without worrying about term papers or exams. You can do it like I did recently at One Day University.

Colleges around the country host professors from premier universities to speak about science, literature, history, art, and many other subjects. These award-winning professors consistently garner the highest ratings by students.

I attended a 4-hour program at Tufts University titled “A Day of Genius.” Three dynamic and captivating professors spoke about:

  • The Scientific Genius of Marie Curie
  • The Restless Genius of Benjamin Franklin
  • The Literary Genius of Shakespeare

The lectures were informational and entertaining and left me feeling energized.

If you seek educational enrichment, consider going to college for a day in a nearby city.

Celebrating Best Buddies

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Best Buddies International, a remarkable organization that unites volunteers and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) for one-on-one friendships. Their mission is to promote inclusive living through advocacy, employment, and personal and social relationships.

My daughters became Best Buddies in high school because they were inspired by the unique abilities of their uncle. Now in their twenties, I admire the compassion and patience they have for people with different abilities, and especially for my brother who enriches our family every day. Whether we’re working on a jigsaw puzzle together or chatting about golf, Jimmy reminds me how lucky I am to be his sister.

There are plenty of ways to get involved with Best Buddies. Find a program near you.

Jimmy is a wizard with jigsaw puzzles, showing deep concentration and persistence. He taught me to solve problems by looking at them from different angles.

The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia

Reading literature is “an exercise in empathy,” says Sofia Segovia, author of The Murmur of Bees.

This rang true for me while reading the novel. The setting is early 20th century Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. A wealthy landowner and his family struggle with the Spanish flu pandemic and civil war while trying to protect their land. When they rescue a baby boy abandoned at birth, they see past his facial deformities to his unique abilities that inspire and help the family.

Beautifully written (although at times a bit slow) here are passages where I empathized the most.

“In her world, a woman took her parents’ home with her wherever she went: to school, on a foreign voyage, on honeymoon, to bed with her husband, to the birth of her child, to the table each day to teach her children good posture and good manners, and–she believed–she would even take them to her deathbed. In her world, a woman never left her parents behind, even when the parents left her.”

“ . . . you leave a place or say goodbye to someone, and thereafter, you feel the existence you have left behind is frozen by your absence.”

” . . . she would never lose the now-gentler grief that she felt at her father’s absence.”

“At my age, one realizes that time is a cruel and fickle master, for the more you want it, the faster it appears to vanish, and vice versa: the more you want to escape it, the more stagnant it becomes.”

“I didn’t see the defect or any reason to be shocked. I saw only my brother, and I loved him.”

“The empty hours of the night do not pass unnoticed, because in their unrelenting cruelty, they do not allow one to rest; they force one to think, and they demand a great deal. Because it is at night that fear is most frightening, yes, but it is also when sorrow becomes deeper and one regrets what one did or did not do more. It is in the deepest darkness that one sees things most clearly.”

“Contrary to what I had believed, what I came searching for isn’t here, strewn among these ashlar stones. It was never here, because it was always in me . . . “

” . . . he reminded me how important it was to listen. To listen to what life sometimes murmurs into your ear, heart, or gut.”

Thank you, Sofia Segovia.

A Back Door Friend

My mother had a sweet, funny neighbor named Theresa who’d regularly cross the yard and enter our house through the back door calling “Ro!” in a singsong voice. They’d sit at the kitchen table and talk, whisper, and laugh for hours over several cups of coffee and a few cigarettes. Occasionally, I’d see Theresa pound her fist and drop her head on the table in a fit of giggles. I’d get a snack and leave, hoping to have a rich friendship like theirs someday.

When I became their age, my neighbor Ellen might be outside first waiting for me in her driveway across the street. For 22 years we regularly walked a three-mile loop around the neighborhood. In every season we hoofed it side by side, bundled in winter gear, carrying an umbrella, or wearing shorts, a favorite t-shirt, and baseball cap.

As a self-appointed beautification committee, we decided which house needed painting or a new roof and whose plantings looked lovely. We consulted each other on our own home improvement projects. What color should she paint her front door? Which curtain rods looked better in my master bedroom?

Topics of conversation marked life phases: careers, growing children, the school system, menopause, retirement, and caring for aging parents.

I saw Ellen teary-eyed when her son left for college, shared her joy planning his wedding, and gushed over photos of her adorable granddaughter. Ellen cheered for my two daughters, too. She rejoiced in all their accomplishments, attending graduations and visiting first apartments. She particularly delighted in their fashions. She’d jog over when spotting them emerge from the car or leave the house all dressed up and give her signature “Darling!”

When my elder daughter’s delicate high school years coincided with my mother’s failing health and my stress level rose to an all-time high, Ellen was there. My daughter would cross the street and soon I’d see the light on in Ellen’s living room. Ellen, a retired high school principal, patiently listened to and counseled her. I never resented this. Rather, I was grateful to have Ellen part of my village, helping my daughter cope through rough waters.

She became a second mother. One tender time that stays with me occurred after my mother died. Ellen helped both teenagers pack for the funeral while I was away in New Jersey planning it. A week later she hosted my family for Thanksgiving dinner when I was still numb. Recently, Ellen comforted me while I sobbed on her couch during my father’s final days.

Besides stories about our children and parents, we related tales about our fun-loving and sometimes annoying husbands and siblings. She’d make a witty remark and I’d stop in my tracks, bend over in laughter, and slap my thighs.

After three miles, we’d go for coffee, taking turns driving to a local café. There, sweaty and exuberant, we’d gab for another hour.

Back home, I’d see Ellen adorn her front door with seasonal wreaths, a Halloween witch, and winter skater boy. Whenever on vacation, we’d collect each other’s mail and newspapers and retrieve box deliveries.

I knew Ellen was home when I saw the outline of her Toyota through the windows on the side of the garage. Then I’d frequently go over with a batch of soup, cookies, or leftovers. Ellen didn’t cook much. In her youth, she swam competitively and played tennis. I grew up with a dust rag in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other.

Last year Ellen told me she was moving. She and her husband wanted one-story living and were done with lawn care. It pained me to see the “Sold” sign on their front lawn.

I miss waving to my good friend. I miss seeing her car pull in and out of the driveway. Mostly, I miss our walks and hearing her call my name when coming through the back door to chat.

My College Reunion

On the second page of my college yearbook, a classmate stands in front of the Villanova University sign with his arms raised. The caption reads, “We Are the Champions!” In 1979, Freddie Mercury belted out the anthem in defiant confidence as my friends and I danced and celebrated our final days on campus.

We didn’t know what was in store for us as we headed out in different directions from the revered campus. We didn’t know we’d become champions and leaders in business, education, healthcare, government, and the law. We built careers on our high-quality education and promised to lead lives on faith-based ideals.

At our recent 40-year reunion, one friend put it simply: “We still have the same personalities as we did when we were in college.”

Thank you Villanova for paving the way to lifelong learning and lifelong friendships.

Hopeful graduates in 1979
Reuniting at Villanova 40 years later

IGNITE CHANGE. GO NOVA.