A new look at Fifty Couples Over Fifty

February 25, 20175 CommentsPosted in careers/jobs for people who are blind, guest blog, memoir writing

A writer in my Monday memoir class named Hugh wrote an essay about a very cool photography exhibit his wife Bobbe Wolf  put together. Fifty Couples Over Fifty is a series of pictures she took of couples she knew decades ago. An updated version is on exhibit again now — I’ll let Hugh explain the rest:

by Hugh Brodke

Twenty-five years ago Bobbe put together a photo series entitled Fifty Couples Over Fifty. It started out as just a group of photos of our friends and gradually took shape as a well-structured project recording many people who were part of our lives. Some of the couples were long-time friends and some were new. Some of the couples had been together many years and others were fairly recent.

One of Bobbe’s couples: The late, great Bud Lifton and his wife Carol Rosofsky.

A significant feature of the project was that Bobbe also interviewed and recorded the couple, asking them a variety of questions about their relationship and their hopes and expectations for the future. While I wasn’t present for the sittings or the interviews (I would clearly have been a distraction) Bobbe and I listened to the recordings together and picked out a short quote that could be printed on the mat for each picture. Bobbe and I were not yet married then, and we joked that the comments of these couples could be our pre-marital counseling for how to have a successful partnership.

Each photo is 15X15 inches and has a wide white mat so it ends up 20X24 with a uniform simple silver-colored frame. The pictures were first exhibited at The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College in Chicago and some were shown at The Blank Museum of Art in Michigan City and The Highland Park Museum of Art. The exhibits received a lot of favorable reviews and publicity but then the pictures went into storage…for a long time.

Recently, we were visiting a friend at The Admiral senior residence in Chicago and noticed a long corridor with an art exhibit. Our friend encouraged Bobbe to talk with their Art Committee about rehanging “Fifty Couples.” They liked the concept and the work and the couples came out of storage. Thirty of the fifty couples went up on the walls.

There was a grand opening night with champagne and many people attending, including many of the couples who had posed 25 years before! “Over 50” plus 25 meant that the youngest in the photos was now 75.

What had happened to our friends over the ensuing 25 years? Some appeared just as enthusiastic, just as vital as when they first posed. Some were slowed down by age or illness. Canes and walkers had been added. Several pictures showed a spouse who had since died. In a few cases, both of the smiling, optimistic subjects had died. But Bobbe photographed several of the attending subjects looking at their own old picture. And the response of the crowd to the pictures was just as enthusiastic as it had been 25 years before.

The pictures now are on display at a senior residence in suburban Evanston where there is room for 47 of the original 50 pictures. And now, several of the old pictures have contemporary pictures hanging below. What you see in these is the subjects looking at the older pictures of their younger selves.

Photography is sometimes thought of as just a cold snapshot of how something looked at a particular time at a particular place. But Bobbe’s pictures show how people felt — about themselves and about their relationship with their partners. Bobbe had caught something in the interaction of each couple — laughing or serious — that resonated true and still resonates as true. That’s the difference between a picture-taker and a photographic artist.

Bobbe Wolf’s Fifty Couples Over Fifty exhibition can be viewed at Three Crowns Senior Residence, 2323 McDaniel, Evanston, Illinois (ask the folks at the reception desk for directions to the photograph gallery in the corridor). The exhibition will be coming down Monday, February 27th around 2 p.m., and Bobbe Wolf asks that if anyone knows of a gallery interested in this exhibit or more of her work, to please contact her via her web site.

Just this one Tuesday with Mike: We have liftoff!

February 21, 20173 CommentsPosted in Beth Finke, memoir writing, Mike Knezovich, Mondays with Mike

Thanks to the talent and persistence of Beth’s publisher, Golden Alley Press, the technical glitches have been un-glitched, all the blog posts and you wonderful subscribers have been relocated, and…


Next up: Writing Out Loud!

And so am I!

Pretty nice, ain’t it?

We hope you find it easier to find all things Beth—blog, upcoming appearances, etc.—in one place. I’m pretty sure that the sighted among you already find it a lot easier on the eyes, and easier to use. And, the site has been designed and tested for accessibility. Beth, using her speech software, can vouch for the usefulness of the alt tags and other features.

A few things to bear in mind:

  • The old URL for the Safe & Sound blog ( will automatically lead you here to the new blog digs for the foreseeable future. But not forever. So while you’re thinking about it, if you’ve bookmarked the old URL, delete it and create a new bookmark for
  • If you’re subscribed to the blog by email (you entered your email address some time in the past and you receive email notifications with each new post), you don’t need to do a thing. You’re still subscribed, and you shouldn’t miss a beat.
  • If you’re a follower you will see new posts in the Reader View.
  • There are likely to be quirks that we’ll only discover as you all use the site—if you do encounter a problem, please notify us using the contact form. We’ll get on it as soon as we can.

Meantime, welcome to our new home. You’re welcome anytime.

Sign up now for this cool playwriting class — it’s free!

February 15, 2017CommentsPosted in blindness, writing

Our cast rehearsing my play “Night at the Emerald City Disco” before our performance on August 13, 2016. Photo by Malic White.

Remember all those posts I wrote last summer about the free playwriting classes I took and the two-minute play Whitney the Seeing Eye dog and I performed with the help of Chicago’s Neo-Futurists? Well, they’re offering another physically accessible eight-week workshop from March 13 to May 1, 2017 free of charge at Victory Gardens Theater this year, and when their Communications Manager Will Sonheim asked if I’d help spread the good word, of course I said “yes!” Here’s the course description and information on how to sign up. .

In this physically accessible 8-week introductory class, students will explore core Neo-Futurist tenets of honesty, brevity, chance and audience interaction in order to create and perform short plays in The Neo-Futurists’ unique, non-fiction aesthetic. The class will culminate in a public performance at Victory Gardens on May 1 as part of ‘Crip Slam’ in the Richard Christensen Theater.

The class is open to everyone; however we will strive to maintain a majority of artists with disabilities in the class. link here to sign up and learn more about the class.

Back to me. Will tells me the 2017 class will have largely the same structure as the one I enjoyed last summer. “You all had great feedback,” he said. “We’re working on applying all of that as well.” Take it from me, there is absolutely no theatre experience necessary to sign up for this — I learned a ton and met a lot of very cool people with and without disabilities taking part in this last summer. Give it a try — what have you got to lose?

Anu’s favorite year

February 12, 20173 CommentsPosted in blindness, careers/jobs for people who are blind, guest blog, memoir writing

When I assigned “My Favorite Year” as a prompt for the writers in the memoir class I lead in downtown Chicago, Anu knew immediately which year she’d be writing about: 1969. That’s when she immigrated to America. Her husband Pawan sat in with our class for a few sessions last year, and it was easy to understand how they “kept postal service on their toes” when they lived apart — they are a charming couple. We were disappointed when Pawan didn’t join up again this year until Anu told us why that is: he’s volunteered to lead Wednesday morning English language classes for Chicago immigrants. Now here’s Anu with the back story:

by Anu Agrawal

I have had many wonderful and memorable years in my life, but I would pick 1969 as my favorite year. I got married on May 9th,1968 and three months after that my husband came to America to do his M.S. in mechanical engineering. I stayed back in India to finish my last year of college.

Both of us were quite busy in our studies. Even then it was quite hard to live so far apart from each other. In those days there were no computers, no Skype, no Facetime, no emails, or chatting. Even making a phone call was almost impossible. The only way to communicate was writing letters to each other. So we wrote letters every day and kept postal service on their toes.

Christmas field

The atrium at Marshall Field & Co.’s State Street store.

After nine months of separation, I came to Chicago in June 1969 to join my husband. I was charmed by the beauty of the city of Chicago, especially the lake front. My husband took me to Field Museum, Art Institute, Science and Industrial museum, Planetarium and Aquarium. I was exploring the whole new world.

The most amazing place was Marshall Field and Co. department store, A store so huge, so beautiful. It was a museum in itself. I was totally mesmerized by the chandeliers and the art work on the walls and ceiling. Even today that place amazes me. In India I had seen palaces and forts with this kind of artistic beauty, but not a shopping place.

1969 was the year the whole world was glued to television to see the moon landing. I could not believe my eyes to see the humans walking on the moon. It was not a science fiction movie. It was real. Even today I get the same feelings what I felt at that moment when I think of that experience.

Most importantly,1969 was the year when I started to mature into womanhood. I was out in the world to live my life without the shelter of my parents. I had to grow up. My dreams, my life, my hopes started to take a shape in 1969.

At last! News everyone can be happy about: retired Seeing Eye dog celebrates 17th birthday today

February 8, 201720 CommentsPosted in blindness, guide dogs, Hanni, Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized

  Hanni’s still spry at 17!

Bring out the party hats! Hanni turns 17 years old today. You read that right: seventeen.

Loyal dog followers know that after Hanni retired from guide work, she went to live with our dear friends Nancy and Steven. They started celebrating the big day last Sunday with a visit to nearby Homer Lake–Nancy sends audio messages to my iPhone whenever they head to that forest preserve. The audio reports are a joy to hear — they always come with background sound of Hanni panting after a run or chomping on well-deserved treats. “We’re getting ready for Hanni’s big 17th on Wednesday,” Nancy said in Sunday’s audio report. “It’s a beautiful day, sunny, the geese are out, hard to believe it’s February.”

I guess it should be hard to believe that a 17-year-old Labrador and Golden Retriever Cross can still get out and enjoy a romp at a forest preserve, but I’ve gotten used to it. My first Seeing Eye dog Dora retired at 12 and lived to be 17 years old, and my third dog, Harper, who retired after saving us from getting hit by a car in Chicago traffic, is healthy and robust at age 8. The excellent health of these mature dogs has everything to do with the wonderful friends who adopt my retired dogs, but the care and research the Seeing Eye and other guide dog schools put into their breeding programs deserves a lot of credit, too.

Some schools still train service dogs who’ve been donated from individuals or from animal shelters, but the more established guide dog schools breed their own dogs in order to end up with the unique traits so important to guide work:

  • excellent health
  • intelligence
  • temperament
  • willingness to work
  • ability to thrive on praise

The Seeing Eye breeds Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, Lab/golden crosses and German Shepherds. Decades of research has gone into the Seeing Eye’s breeding program, much of it driven by the fact there is no “perfect Seeing Eye dog.” Dogs of all sorts of temperament, size, strength, speed and energy are necessary to match with blind people who come to the Seeing Eye school with, guess what, all sorts of temperament, size, strength, speed and energy levels. The Seeing Eye web site says their breeding station has “interconnected geometric pavilions, designed so that dogs can see each other and see people enter the kennel, so barking–not to mention stress – are greatly reduced.” Their goal? “To provide a facility most conducive to a positive early childhood experience for the puppies.” I just love that.

And I just love Hanni, too. I’m so grateful the Seeing Eye bred her for me, and so happy to think of her celebrating with Nancy and Steven today. Happy birthday, dear Hanni. Happy birthday to you.