Once upon a time you had to live in or near New York to take advantage of the remarkable lectures, classes and discussion groups presented by the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Now you can hear professors, authors and other experts right from your living room. The Y has worked hard since the start of the pandemic to make all of its virtual programs as personal and interactive as possible. And you don’t have to be a tech wizard to participate.
Please tune into a free virtual introductory event on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, from 3:30 to 4:30 ET to experience a sampling of the program. During this one-hour Open House you’ll meet three experts in art, politics and fitness who are among the stimulating and learned faculty members.
COVID 19 may be limiting our ability to get out and about. It doesn’t have to limit us from expanding our minds!
A high degree of tension always accompanies my mammogram appointments. My stress level has gone up, thanks to COVID 19. But I didn’t want to postpone the six-month follow up appointment for a 3-D image of my left breast since some tissue was suspect last time.
The Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health in Manhattan seamlessly handled the new and more elaborate check in process. After registering at the front desk, I passed through a series of stations to pick up a mask, sanitize my hands and have my temperature taken. Everyone in the lobby respectfully stood at least six-feet apart from our sister patients.
Only one other woman sat in the third floor waiting room, usually packed with patients waiting for their mammograms, sonograms and other critical tests. A sign on every other chair instructed us not to sit there so that we could keep our distance from others. Within 10 minutes I was called to change into a dressing gown for the exam.
Technicians no longer congregate in a small room between patients, where they handle administrative work. Each one now uses a computer right in the exam room. The technician who did my mammogram has been at her job since the start of COVID since it’s classified as critical. She’s periodically tested for the virus, she told me, but can’t be tested daily. Aside from arranging my breast in the imaging contraption – which takes seconds – she and I weren’t on top of each other.
The radiologist told me that although new spots had appeared on my image, she wasn’t concerned because they’re probably due to the estrogen patch I use. She recommended that I return in six months for another follow up mammogram. When I started to automatically shake her hand and thank her, she chucked and gave me an elbow bump. “Oops, I forgot,” I said.
It’s always impressive when organizations – and of course the people in them – adapt to adverse situations, devising systems and new behaviors that allow them to continue functioning successfully. COVID 19 has certainly forced us to hone our resourcefulness on many levels, professionally and personally.
Adapting to change can be difficult for many of us. I think of a middle aged woman I knew who completely shut herself off from friends after her husband died suddenly, and remained isolated from then on. He was her anchor, but once she lost him, she couldn’t find a new mooring. And a young man who had a devil of a time getting back on his career track after a debilitating accident. Sadly, he couldn’t adapt to his limitations; instead, he let them sideline him decade after decade.
Contrast these two people to these two: A woman who loses her long-time husband, then moves to a new city, joins a vibrant community center and develops a new circle of friends. She also starts dating a couple of men from the group. And a man who almost loses his life after being hit by a taxi and is hospitalized for months, but fights his way back – day by day – all the while managing to keep his consulting company going.
I recently heard the interesting term “lifequake,” which is an event that suddenly changes your life. Every single one of us experiences them, some more than others. Sometimes, we even cause our own lifequakes, say when we leave a secure job to start our own business or stop drinking after 40 years, even though it was such an integral part of our life.
Millions of us are now going through the same lifequake. We didn’t ask for it, but just like a town that rebuilds itself after an earthquake, we must reconstruct our lives so we’re stronger than ever.
I secretly congratulate myself when my Noom app shows I’ve walked 5K steps. If I manage to reach 7K, I’m tickled pink. 10K steps??? Not likely.
Putting one foot in front of the other 10,000 times is a cakewalk when I’m roaming the streets of Paris (will I ever see Paris again?). Otherwise, it’s no walk in the park.
So when I discovered a Brigham and Women’s Hospital study on how walking impacts the long-term health outcomes of older women, I was ecstatic to learn that walking 10K steps a day isn’t the gold standard! FYI, the hospital is a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School “recognized internationally for its excellent and innovative patient care, biomedical research, and education and training programs for physicians, scientists and health care professionals,” says its website.
Published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the survey results of 16,741 (primarily white) women with a mean age of 72 years proclaim:
Women who averaged approximately 4.4K daily steps had significantly lower mortality rates during a follow-up of 4.3 years compared with the least active women who took approximately 2.7K daily steps.
And, as women took more steps each day, their mortality rates progressively decreased before leveling at about 7.5K steps a day.
Translation: While walking at least 4.4K steps a day can help lower your risk of dying, you won’t fall apart if you stop stepping at 7.5K.
While no one would dispute the health and longevity benefits of going the extra mile (assuming 2K steps per mile), it probably won’t further decrease our risk of mortality.
To measure participants’ steps, the study team required them to wear an ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometer device — a research-grade unit — on their hips during all waking hours for seven consecutive days. Over the 4.3 years the women were followed, 504 died.
➠ Women who walked an average of 2.7K steps a day were at the greatest risk of death, with 275 dying.
➠ Those who walked an average of 4.4K steps a day had a 41 percent lower risk of death.
➠ Risk of death continued to decrease with more steps walked, up to 7,500 steps per day, after which risk leveled off.
➠ Interestingly, the speed at which a woman walked – among all the women who walked the same number of daily steps – wasn’t associated with risk of death.
The average American takes between 4K and 5K steps a day, previous studies show. No one is sure where the 10K-step goal originated, but it’s been surmised that it started in 1965 when a Japanese company launched a pedometer called amanpo-kei, which means “10,000 steps meter” in Japanese.
Due to the observational nature of the study, the authors couldn’t definitively determine whether walking more lowers mortality or women in better health step more, reported the article in JAMA. Women with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and less than excellent or good self-rated health were excluded, however. What’s more, previous experiments do confirm the beneficial effects of physical activity on short-term health markers, including blood pressure, insulin and glucose levels, lipid profile and inflammation.
Further research in younger and more diverse populations is necessary to determine if the findings apply to other groups, especially to those who take more steps. The study also didn’t assess outcomes such as quality of life and risk of specific diseases.
So, ladies, keep walking. But if you stop at 7.5K, or even 4.4K steps, you’ll still be doing yourself a world of good!
Larry (not his real name) and I were mutually – and instantly -attracted to each other the first time we met, at a train station in New Jersey in 2002. Responding to an ad I placed in The New York Times personals section, he called me one morning as I was leaving my Manhattan apartment for a meeting in Jersey, where he lived. We agreed I’d get off the train on my way back to New York. We’d have dinner, and then he’d drive me home.
I learned over dinner that Larry’s beloved wife of over 40 years had died of cancer a few years before. Ten years my senior, he had three grown children, a few grandchildren, and owned a successful business that stored legal records. We had an animated and comfortable conversation. He also looked so much like a well-known – and sexy – actor that it was downright eerie. And exciting!
So began our hot and heavy relationship. And then I learned about Gwen, the best friend of Larry’s deceased wife, who was divorced. Gwen and Larry had been “dating” on and off since his wife died. He claimed to be ambivalent about her, but she seemed to be “hovering” around us most of the time. Not literally, of course.
Larry took me to his home for dinner and a sleepover about four months after we met. Things were getting serious. During dinner, I casually asked: “Do you love Gwen?” He mumbled, “No.”
I called my sister from the train the next morning, during my trip back to Manhattan. It was a dreary, rainy day, but I was happy. “I think Larry’s the one,” I told her.
The week was intensely busy at work. I didn’t hear a peep from Larry, which increased my anxiety with each passing day. I finally called him on Friday. “Why haven’t you called?” I asked.
“When you asked if I loved Gwen, I realized I need time and space to decide,” Larry answered. “We should take a break for a few weeks.” It was inconsiderate of him not to have called the whole week, I said. I was distraught as I headed to a meeting for a big summit I was planning.
Larry and I spoke on the phone frequently, and I started dating another man who I liked, but not nearly as much as Larry. I told Larry about him.
After a few weeks, Larry asked if he could take me to the theatre and dinner. We had a wonderful evening, and the next morning during breakfast, Larry told me he had decided he wanted to be with me. I turned him down. “I think I’ll continue seeing the man I met when you were taking a break,” I told him. I wasn’t convinced Gwen was completely out of the picture.
And that was that. I spoke to Larry a number of times during the next six months, and he kept asking if I was still seeing the other man. I told him I was.
Larry didn’t wind up with Gwen. He and I lost touch.
GERI, CHARLIE, AND BELINDA
After a former close friend died four years ago, her husband Charlie told me she had thought he should become involved with a close friend of theirs after she was gone. They had known Belinda for decades. The dying woman knew Charlie would have a hard time being alone and she felt Belinda would take care of him.
During a lunch date, Charlie said he wasn’t entirely sure Belinda was right for him.
They’re living together now, and Charlie recently sent me an email about how happy he is. He intimated, however, that he and his lady love have different values about crucial issues that affect our lives. (BTW, I’m generally dubious about anyone who feels the need to tell you how “happy” and in love they are.)
I met Belinda once. She physically resembles my former friend, and from our brief conversation, I observed other superficial similarities.
Unlike Larry, Charlie didn’t do much soul searching about his new relationship. He’s not as emotionally secure or as physically fit as Larry was, so perhaps he wasn’t up to playing the field in his seventies. Although I fail to see how he would want to be intimately involved with someone with opposing fundamental values, I’m not surprised that he is.
At one point I actually thought I could become involved with Charlie but realized how wrong I’d be for him, as I would have been for Larry. I loved many things about both of them, but would have found it terribly difficult to overlook others.
Thank goodness for a woman’s best friends. They can make you see things more clearly.
GERI AND DOUGLAS
Now I’m with Douglas, the father of my two children to whom I was married for 30 years. We share a great deal of history, and we’re best friends. We may not be lovers, but we love one another. We’ve also grown to accept each other’s many foibles, more or less. Before Covid crashed onto the scene, Douglas would come to Brooklyn from Manhattan to spend three nights a week at my house.
We’ve been together constantly since the beginning of March, sharing three meals a day, lots of laughs, conversations, and perhaps a handful of arguments. We met when we were juniors at New York University, over half a century ago.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”― Søren Kierkegaard
Nora Ephron wrote a book “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman.” Katharine Hepburn covered her neck with scarves and high collars. Helen Mirren looks like she had plastic surgery on her neck.
Whoever thought our necks could cause such consternation?
Please tell us what you think about your neck by completing this quick and anonymous survey.
Although I’ve had my share of unequivocally unlovable neighbors, now that Mina Stone is my neighbor, it’s easy to follow the well known Biblical commandment. Mina is charming. Caring. Classy. Smart. Attractive. Engaging. And, Mina is a superb chef who is working on her second cookbook. Incredible aromas often waft through the air when I’m sitting on my back deck, which is feet away from her kitchen.
As a mother of a daughter who is Mina’s age – 38 years old – I’m intrigued by how young women today are leading their lives. I admire the way Mina is leading hers. Besides her passion for cooking, she is devoted to her handsome and talented partner, Alex, an artist; to their adorable 3 ½-year-old-son Apollo, and to her sharp 13-year-old stepdaughter Sophia.
Born in Cleveland, OH, to a Greek mother and an American father, Mina’s family moved to Greece when she was two years old, then to Boston a few years later, where she grew up. At 18, Mina became a fashion student at the renowned Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, which is less than one mile from where she and I live.
“When I graduated I realized my personality would get lost if I worked for someone because I’d get wrapped up trying to please him or her and I wouldn’t stand out,” Mina told me. “I had all these interesting, artistic friends and I could see the differences between their personalities and mine. They threw caution to the wind and had their own voices. I knew I could find my own voice alone, but if I had a boss I’d surely work harder trying to get his voice out than my own,” she explained.
Her self-awareness at only 22 years old inspired Mina to launch her own fashion line, a small collection of dresses inspired by five vintage pieces that she loved. “You could wear them during the day and dress them up for the evening. It’s nice when you can put on something in the morning that’s so awesome you’re happy to wear it at night. You don’t have to go home from work to change,” Mina said.
Besides getting a sizable order from a fashion retailer, Mina’s patternmaker willingly waited for her payment until the retailer paid her. “I was lucky,” she added.
THIS IS WHERE COOKING ENTERS THE PICTURE
As orders increased, Mina needed more money to keep her business going. Dating a private chef at the time, she loved watching him cook. “I didn’t know rich people hired chefs to come to their houses to cook their meals, and I thought it would be a perfect part time job to bring in income while I ran my fashion business,” Mina explained. So what if she never cooked professionally. Mina was in her twenties and thought she could do (almost) anything!
With the help of her boyfriend, she landed a job cooking two to three times a week for a young family on the upper East Side of Manhattan. “I was forced to learn to cook and I learned a lot,” Mina said. “The family would ask me to prepare dishes like goulash – which I’d never make of my own accord – and I’d look up the recipe.” She loved cooking. “I was like a kid playing dress up or house, but I played chef for my friends,” she laughed. Strictly following recipes at first, Mina started altering them as she became more confident.
Mina also began cooking for fun shopping parties that her retail fashion clients threw for customers. “This was before internet shopping and right before Project Runway. Stores were supporting young indy designers and it was a really exciting time for us in New York,” she explained.
When the director of a cool art gallery at one of the shopping parties asked Mina to cook a casual dinner for 40 at the gallery, that marked her official entree into the world of professional chefs. Singer-songwriter Debbie Harry was one of the guests at the dinner who ate Mina’s chicken bouillabaisse with saffron and aioli on the side, accompanied by green rice with herbs. “I was starstruck,” remembers Mina, who still cooks for the gallery.
When dinners for 40 turned into dinners for 100 and then 200, Mina gave up her fashion business. The choice to switch careers entirely was seamless. “I was curling up in bed with cookbooks. My heart has switched paths. Besides, cooking was a simpler business model than fashion,” Mina said. She also started to cook for Urs Fischer, an artist, who had his own book imprint, so in 2010 the two of them began working on a cookbook together.
THE COOKBOOK AND THE CAFE
Cooking for Artists, a 2015 journal documenting the recipes Mina created for non-stop gallery events, has done well and is sold in every major museum. Drawing on Greek, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures – and adding her own spin as a New Yorker – Mina calls her dishes “simple and accessible, featuring ingredients you can get from your corner store.” She uses olive oil, lemon juice and salt in most everything she cooks. “People love that I use five ingredients at most in every dish. They say, ‘Hey, I can make that cabbage salad, for example. It’s easy.’ They really use my cookbook,” Mina added.
The title of her cookbook represents Mina’s tribute to the creative communities with which she’s been involved since her days as a student at Pratt Institute. “Artists have always supported my creativity and desire to find my own voice. They don’t control what I cook, but let me shine and let me have fun. I never would have continued cooking if it was for a family on the Upper East Side,” Mina noted.
A few months before the pandemic hit, Mina and partner Alex opened Mina’s, a cafe in MoMA PS 1, a contemporary art museum in Long Island CIty, New York. It served “really simple and delicious food you could have with a glass of wine,” including Greek Mezethakia (appetizers) such as Greek sausage with leeks and orange, white anchovies with thyme and lemon, whipped feta and Muhammara, a Syrian red pepper and walnut dip.
AND THEN, THE QUARANTINE
Quanatining has given Mina a chance to be together with Alex and their son Apollo. She and Alex have been cooking together since they met in 2008. “He’s a good cook, a natural cook,” Mina said. Being at home has also given her time to work on her second cookbook, which will be a continuing journal of her cooking life. Documenting the opening of Mina’s and bits and pieces of events she and Alex produced at PS 1,” the cookbook will be published in spring 2021.
If you’ve never much been into cooking, Mina recommends preparing something “that has meaning, such as a recipe from your mother, grandmother or another family recipe you can pass on to your kids or grandkids,” she said. “That’s huge because it’s an oral history being passed down. If you want to eat it, you can learn how to make it.”
Mina loves to make good food and have people eat and enjoy it. “I like to tap into what I think someone would want to eat. It’s like a weird psychic thing,” she explained. Unlike the slow-moving fashion business, cooking “feels very fast.” she added. “Chop. Chop. Chop. You cook it. People eat it. Then you start over again. I find it freeing.”
THE SCRUMPTIOUS RECIPE: REVITHIA (Chickpea Stew with Rosemary, Lemon, and Olive Oil)
“This is my favorite stew, recipe courtesy of my Yiayia (grandmother). The day she told me she thought my chickpea stew was ‘nostimo’ (tasty), I felt I had really accomplished something in life.
“The chickpeas cook until they are meltingly soft, and then they are drowned in olive oil and lots of lemon juice. After you have had this you don’t ever want to eat anything else. It is a perfect example of Greek food at its best, transforming only a few ingredients into a luxurious meal.
1 16-ounce bag of dried (not canned) chickpeas
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 yellow onions, peeled and left whole
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Soak the dried chickpeas in plenty of water overnight, or at least 6 hours.
2. When you are ready to make the stew, drain the chickpeas in a colander and rinse them well. Leaving them in the colander, dust the chickpeas with the baking soda (which serves as a tenderizer) and then toss to incorporate, using your hands.
3. Let the chickpeas sit for 30 minutes and then rinse very well, 3 or 4 times, in order to remove all the baking soda.
4. Place the chickpeas in a large, heavy pot filled with enough water to cover them by an inch. Add the whole onions, the bay leaves, and a generous pinch of salt.
5. Bring the stew to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and cover.
6. After about 20 minutes, the chickpeas will start to give off a white froth. Skim this 2 or 3 times, and then don’t worry about it.
7. After you’ve skimmed the stew a few times add 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary and simmer until the chickpeas are very tender, about another 40 minutes. Remove the onions and the rosemary sprigs.
8. To thicken the stew, place 4 tablespoons of flour in a mixing bowl and whisk them with 1/3 cup olive oil. Slowly drizzle in 2 cups of broth from the stew, whisking to remove any lumps.
9. Bring the stew to a low simmer. Add the flour mixture back to the pot, stirring well for about 3 minutes until the stew is thick and velvety.
10. Taste for seasoning and add more salt (you will most likely need to add another generous pinch or two) and freshly ground black pepper.
11. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. This dish is best served on the day you make it.
Variation:During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add 2 cups of cleaned and coarsely chopped chard or kale.
You can also purchase Mina’s book, Mina Stone: Cooking for Artists, here.
A 40-something mother I know sent me a photo of her daughter’s three teachers, who had come for a visit. They were standing around the child, inches away from her and each other. None of them was wearing a mask. When I commented on these two obvious facts, the woman texted that “masks are not required anymore. Not a law. You don’t even need to wear a mask in a store.”
I wasn’t quite sure why the woman was defending these careless teachers. I don’t think they’re smart. It’s also not a law to cover your mouth when you have a bad cold and sneeze or cough on a crowded bus. But, any fairly intelligent person would agree that shielding your mouth is a mighty wise way to avoid passing your cold to fellow bus passengers.
Four facts about COVID-19 are incontrovertible, at least to those who don’t think it’s a ‘hoax’:
⇒ It’s highly contagious.
⇒ It can kill you.
⇒ There’s no vaccine to help prevent it.
⇒ Wearing masks and social distancing have helped prevent millions of us from contacting it.
Oh, there’s a fifth fact: COVID cases are rising in over 20 states that opened too early and where people no longer social distance or wear masks. (BTW, the woman to whom I referred at the beginning thinks these reports are “fake.”)
People like these teachers frighten and distress me. This virus is not going away until we have something to help protect us. Wearing a mask and social distancing are the least we can do to help curb the spread.
It may not be “a law” to wear a mask, but disdaining the health and safety of others is inexcusable and unconscionable. Ignorance may be bliss to some. When it has the power to harm me and you, it can be living hell.
I thought you’d like to attend a gratis online event, courtesy of Inspir, an innovative, luxury residence for the boomer generation and beyond that’s near completion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
THE UNKNOWN FDR
FRIDAY, JUNE 12, 2020
2 PM – 3 PM ET ON ZOOM
Join history and entertainment raconteur Doug Brin when he shares an inside look at Franklin D. Roosevelt and his unique outlook on life. Doug will explore FDR’s life before and after he contracted polio and how he turned his challenge into an opportunity.
Fifty-two years ago, young people protesting the war in Vietnam at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago were assaulted by the police at the orders of Mayor Richard Daly. Daly’s only provocation was the mere existence of the protesters.
“As the Democrats gathered in Chicago that summer, their party and the nation were in turmoil. President Lyndon B. Johnson had announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection, and an obvious alternative hadn’t yet emerged to lead his party. The country was reeling from the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in April and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy on the June night he won the California presidential primary. Major cities were rocked by riots, college campuses were gripped by peace protests, and the Vietnam War was raging toward its peak,” according to a 2016 article in The Washington Post recounting the horrific events.
Prior to the start of the convention, thousands of antiwar protesters flocked to Chicago, where city police, Army soldiers, National Guardsmen and Secret Service were armed and waiting. As the protesters marched toward the convention site, they were struck with clubs and hit with tear gas. Even innocent bystanders — including reporters covering the scene and doctors trying to help — were brutally beaten.
As a recent college graduate, employed as an assistant editor, and about to be married (yicks, at 21 years old!), I was horrified to see the news each night during the convention. I distinctly remember crying while I watched the police brutality attacking my peers from the TV in my parents’ bedroom. I remember shouting at them through the TV.
Now I am witnessing events in the United States that remind me of those that unfolded in Chicago over half a century ago. Granted, the police aren’t beating today’s protesters until they bleed, but they are sending them on the run with tear gas and rubber bullets. Without a single provocation, except their existence.
I am not talking about the ‘protesters’ who are looting stores and setting fires. They are indefensible, no matter how much they may despise the way George Floyd and other black men died at the hands (and feet) of the police. Fighting violence with violence may be how soldiers operate on the battlefield; it has no place off it. These people should be arrested, however, every last one of them.
I mean the protesters who are gathering peaceably in cities across the country, just like the young people did in Chicago in 1968. They may be angry and shouting, but they aren’t hurting a single person or piece of property. And, their right to protest is clearly and concisely stated in the first Amendment of the United States Constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The police today aren’t acting arbitrarily in regards to the protesters; they are taking their orders from others. And, the majority of police in our country are dedicated to protecting us. As in every single profession, there are bad cops – sometimes really bad cops. But, the fact that any of this happening in our country today speaks to problems that go far deeper, from centuries-old prejudice and inequality to a broken criminal justice system.
So much needs to be fixed in the US, and for most of us, it wouldn’t be easy to know where to begin. But we have the resources, talent, passion and brains to figure that out. Now is the time to start.
I am in the final innings of my life and I want to feel hopeful about the world in which my children and 7-year-old grandson (plus other potential grandchildren) will live.