November 2023

Fall Colors


It was quiet on the farm that night. Mary was gone now, as was his Lab, Rocket. With the Green mountains in the distance, Will looked from his back porch over acres of pasture. Will Stockwell had to admit that though he loved his place, he was lonely and couldn’t tend to things as he once had. He sold off the last of his livestock, and though his workload had lessened, there were still fences to fix, painting to do, and hay to mow. 

His daughter had talked with him several times about moving to an assisted living home in Rutland, but Will Stockwell was a proud, independent man, and he didn’t want anyone taking care of him. But on second thought, he wasn’t doing his best self-maintenance. When was the last time he had cooked himself a meal? How clean was the house? 

Maybe it was time, he thought. If anyone knew changing times, it should be he, who had lived on a farm for the last forty years. Didn’t the seasons change? People were born, grew up, and died. It seemed simple when he thought about it that way, but moving into a place with many city people seemed a bit much at this time.

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The Ritz-Carlton Wedge

Here is a recipe for an old-fashioned salad that has been returning in recent years. The dressing is easy to make and delicious. Try it!

1 ½ cups of mayonnaise
1/3 cup of buttermilk
¼ cup of sour cream
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 
¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
5 ounces of Roquefort cheese
romaine lettuce

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients except the Roquefort until smooth, and then stir in the Roquefort and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate. Serve the dressing over Romaine lettuce with some small pieces of fresh tomato and red onion.

Time

Time goes quickly,
like a speeding train,
like a falcon in the wind, 
like a river in spring.
the rhythm of things
goes on like a bouncing ball,
a spinning top,
passing clouds.
the rains come and go,
ice in winter,
water in spring,
leaves in the summer.

Later Life Transitions: Retirement

On May 19, 2023, the Aging Issues Committee began a series of six luncheon series presentations on Later Life Transitions. David DiCicco, Ph.D. led the first discussion that explored challenges to retirement including internal and external barriers to the process. The essay below aims to summarize the discussion with some theoretical material from the works of Erik Erikson and George Valliant.

Most psychologists are familiar with Erikson’s stages of adult development and they form the backdrop for understanding the aging process. Those stages are psychosocial identity, the capacity for intimacy, career consolidation, and generativity.

Our group discussed planning for retirement. Some planning is possible, though new interests and activities may develop post-retirement. I knew I wanted to play golf and ski, but I had no idea I would write mystery stories daily. It is crucial to be open to and pursue new interests if passion exists. Julian Meltzoff became a respected sculptor after he retired. Lessons are available for almost any interest.

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An Evening with Bernice and Fritz

Before moving to California in 1990 to work as a licensed psychologist, I taught full-time at a small, private college in Iowa. Among the classes was Adult Development and Aging, and some of the prolific research of Bernice L. Neugarten required reading.   She was an American psychologist (Feb. 11, 1916 – July 22, 2001) whose skepticism of overly simplified theories of aging and myths about later life, such as midlife crises and empty nest traumatic events, prompted her pioneering research in the field of gerontology. 


Bernice Neugarten was a remarkable person. At the University of Chicago, she was the:

  • Youngest undergraduate at age 16; earned a BA, MA, and Ph.D. and taught for 30 years.
  • The first person to teach Adult Development and Aging, a course that became the model for other universities.
  • The first person in the world to earn tenure in the field of Human Development.
  • Rothschild Distinguished Scholar at the Center of Aging, Health, and Social Policy.

She was also:

  • Invited to develop the Ph.D. program in Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University after she retired from the University of Chicago. 
  • President of the American Gerontology Society.
  • Author of more than 150 journal articles and co-author and editor of 8 books.
  • The first person to research styles of grandparenting.

To recognize her distinguished career and long-standing contributions to the use of psychology in the public interest, she received the Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in Psychology in 1996 from the American Psychological Association. 

In the mid-1980s, I attended a Conference on Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams at the University of Chicago, where she taught. I wondered if she could be contacted and available to talk on the phone and, if possible, sign my copy of one of her books. Her name wasn’t listed in the University Directory. However, it was listed in the local phone book at that time.   I took a chance and called. A man with an apparent German accent answered. I explained that I was an Assistant Professor of Psychology attending a Conference at the University of Chicago, hoping to speak to Dr. Bernice Neugarten. He said: “Yes, she’s here…hold on, I’ll go get her.” I was pleasantly surprised.

She introduced herself as Bernice Neugarten, letting me know she recognized me as a colleague. I explained that I was teaching Adult Development and Aging, admired her work, had a copy of her book, and wondered if she would consider signing it if I could meet with her. She said: “Of course…I would be glad to meet you tomorrow evening around seven at the apartment….” For a moment, I was shocked and wondered if I had heard her correctly. I said: “Yes, I’ll take a taxi….”  She replied: “The neighborhood isn’t very safe at night…we live just a few blocks from campus…my husband Fritz will drive over and pick you up and drive you back to campus….”  Now, I was utterly stunned.

At 7 pm the following evening, Fritz was by his car outside the Residence Building where the Conference participants were staying. He appeared to be in his 70s, and although I called him “Mr. Neugarten,” he said to call him “Fritz.” With a smile, he opened the passenger door for me and said he’d be my “chauffeur for the evening!” During the less than 10-minute drive to their apartment, we talked pleasantly about living in Chicago and his community volunteer work.

Upon arriving at their apartment, Bernice greeted me with a welcoming smile and handshake. Petite and wearing a colorful, elegant, floor-length brocade robe, she led me into the living room while Fritz went to another room. It was a somewhat formal room, yet appeared well-lived, made comfortable and inviting with books, photographs, soft lighting, and warm, autumn-toned fabric of the curtains, carpeting, and upholstered furniture. We sat in oversized, separate chairs, facing each other. Our conversation centered around her teaching and research. Bernice spoke with the well-deserved authority of an educator, scholar, and psychologist. However, she talked to me as an equal, looked attentively, and asked about my teaching. She was personable, approachable, accommodating, unpretentious, and engaging. As Bernice spoke, the word matriarch entered my mind, meaning a highly respected older woman. I was also reminded of my Italian grandmother during my adolescence in New York, sitting next to her and listening to her stories and words of wisdom.  

Not wanting to overstay my visit, I transitioned our conversation to my copy of her book, which she gladly signed. As we walked to the front door, I thanked her for allowing me to visit her at her home. Fritz then drove me back to the campus. Although I told him he needed not to open the car door for me, he insisted on doing so. I told him I enjoyed meeting him and thanked him for his kindness and for making my visit possible. 

In the following days, I reflected on the visit. I was immensely inspired by Bernice’s dedication to education and research, yet I felt somewhat unsettled, as though something or someone had gently bumped into me. As though something was about to change, not knowing what that was. It wasn’t until several months later that I realized the full force of the impact of what “that” was. I decided to resign from my tenured teaching position, leave Iowa and its brutally cold winters, move to California, where family and friends were, and transition to the private practice of clinical psychology.

There was a certain synchrony to the timing of this visit. Dr. Neugarten’s research dispelled the negative myth of a midlife crisis and what I had been experiencing for some time. I was mildly dissatisfied with my work, disliked winter weather, felt stuck,  and questioned my life choices. The word crisis is from the Greek word for a turning point. The visit with Bernice and Fritz coincided with my apparent early midlife crisis and increased my awareness of it, resulting in a turning point toward California.

I’ve been able to talk about this experience while teaching various classes and making presentations to community organizations. Each time, it’s like revisiting Bernice and Fritz. I’m deeply grateful for their kindness, generosity, and hospitality. The experience was a highlight of my teaching career and significantly impacted my personal and professional life. Some memories become cherished as time moves on. This is one of those memories.

Margo Napoletano, Ph.D., RPT-S, is a retired Pediatric Psychologist, Registered Play Therapist and Supervisor, former Adjunct Faculty at CSPP (now Alliant International University), and Instructor in the Play Therapy Certificate Program at UCSD’s Extension Division.

Death of Meriwether Lewis: Murder or Suicide

Like many individuals who become psychologists, I have had a lifelong interest in history and a desire to know and understand people and their life stories. Following my doctoral training at CSPP and licensure in 1991, I began training in Adult Psychoanalysis at the San Diego Psychoanalytic Center in 1996 to continue to grow and learn about myself and others from an in-depth perspective. 1996 was also the year that the book Undaunted Courage, by New York Times best-selling author Steven Ambrose was published about the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803-1806. Reading it piqued my curiosity to explore this great American adventure story on a deeper level, especially after learning that Ambrose lived in Helena, Montana, for half the year – the same area where my husband David and I were building a log cabin (also located close to the site of his grandparents’ farm). After sending a fan letter to Ambrose through his publisher, Simon and Schuster, about how much we enjoyed his book and informing him that we spent time near Helena on summer vacations, we didn’t expect to ever hear back from him. We were surprised to receive a return letter with an invitation to meet Steve and his wife Moira, who we learned were also building a log cabin near the Little Blackfoot River, about fifty miles northwest of Helena. Thus began our treasured friendship with them until Steve died in 2002 and Moira passed in 2009. 

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Alforon

It was as if I had walked into a family celebration. Except it wasn’t my family! As soon as we sat in Alforon, a Lebanese restaurant on El Cajon Blvd., we were greeted first by a friendly young waitress and then by an attractive older woman, who sat down and told us she would help our group order. She welcomed our friends who had dined at the eatery once before, and then she took over in a caring, fun way.

We ordered hummus with homemade flatbread along with a tasty beet salad. As entrees, we had lamb and beef dishes. Our helper suggested several desserts, all of which were delicious. Award-winning Chef George Salameh stopped by the table, talked with us, and suggested I try Lebanese coffee. Served in copper mini pots with small cups, the coffee was delicious.

Later I chatted with Chef Salameh, a friendly, open man whom one couldn’t help but like. When we left, our waitress hugged us, and Chef said goodbye. We all agreed we had entered an experience beyond the menu. In an era of overpriced, precious, trendy restaurants, Alforon provided us with a beautiful meal in a warm, upbeat atmosphere with caring staff who introduced us to another culture.

007

Though a big man, he walked softly with a light step. Dressed in black, I said, “Well, Bond is here.” Carrying himself with a quiet but authoritative presence, he walked to the straight-backed chair and sat down. Was 007 really in my house? No, but clinical psychologist Richard Levak, Ph.D. was.

Born in Czechoslovakia and raised in London, Richard graduated from CSPP and quickly established himself as an authority on the MMPI. Over the years, he has written several books and numerous articles and taught many of us about this important and fundamental test of personality and psychopathology. He has been very generous with his time, as many members of SDPA know.

I have always liked “Bond’s” lifestyle. He surfs or plays volleyball most days on the beach at Del Mar, a few blocks from his office. Many locals know him. I have been in Del Mar dining spots several times when Richard and his wife entered. “Rock star” is probably too strong, but Richard seems to know many locals as he moves from table to table, greeting people. 

Richard consulted the producers of the “Survivor” show for many years. He helped the producers pick out contestants through the use of the MMPI. He opened doors for psychologists, as others followed suit and became reality show consultants. 

Some years ago, Richard, an expert skier, inadvertently dashed through a gate at Mammoth Mountain that led him away from the ski area into the backcountry. Lost for three days, he made a large SOS sign out of tree boughs. On a final pass, a helicopter spotted him, and Richard was safe. He later wrote a sizeable check to the rescue service.

Richard Levak, a man of the mountains and oceans, has enormously contributed to the field of psychology, SDPA and the community beyond. Every once in a while, I listen closely and hear the sound of an Aston Martin climbing the steep grade up Del Mar Heights Road. For a moment, I imagine Bond is in town once more.

Richard Levak, Ph.D. continues to practice psychology and to provide consultation to other professionals. His MMPI interpretation books are de rigueur for practitioners. He has been a member of SDPA since 1988. For many years he was chair of the Public, Education and Media Committee and was known as “The Face of SDPA” to the public media. Dr. Levak is dedicated to training other psychologists to make presentations of psychological information to the public, particularly in times of crisis. He currently leads a Case Conference Dinner Series at Sbicca Del Mar for SDPA members.

New Amsterdam

New Amsterdam is a medical drama that is currently playing on Netflix. Set in New York City, the show occurs in a fictional public New York hospital modeled after Bellevue. Originally on network TV, the series recently came to the streaming device.


Mental health providers may like the show because it portrays the problems inherent in delivering competent care within bureaucratic obstacles, staff issues, and underfunding. The show is unafraid to tackle complex, thorny problems permeating our society. These include gender, drug abuse, family violence, and racism.

Though the series chronicles serious issues, it does so with compassion, considerable humor, and fascinating characters. The lead actor in the show is Max Goodwin, the medical director. The actor who plays him is highly skilled and does a beautiful job being irreverent, intelligent, caring, and determined.

In some ways, the show is psychologically sophisticated. However, ironically the man who plays the psychologist has an inferior script with which to work. Many of his interventions don’t make sense and are unrealistic.

Though new Amsterdam has shortcomings, I have found it entertaining, moving, and engaging. The show could rightly be criticized for providing too many feel-good outcomes, and some scenes are unrealistic. For example, the patients wander freely around the hospital, including the ER. Some staff relationships are convoluted and hard to imagine in a hospital.

Try the show and see what you think.