Saturday, February 28, 2015

Confession of an Early Birder

Spending time one snowy afternoon in my neighborhood hair salon, I stared at an image in the mirror directly in front of me.

I did not recognize the face gazing back at me. Gradually over the past few years the face aged. I saw a senior citizen.

Me.

And now I (hub too) am acting like one.

Confession time.

Hub and I recently started patronizing restaurant early bird specials. In our younger immature years, like up until our last trip to Florida a couple of months back, we made fun of people frequenting early bird specials. Most people taking advantage of these bargains are seniors.

We have met those seniors, and we are them.

We like dining out. We have our favorite haunts, but also enjoy trying new places. However eating out gets expensive. We are now retirees and more conscious of monetary outflows (or should be), with diminished earned income. Hub works three to four days a month for his long-time employer, and we make a modest amount of airbnb income, but earned income shrunk dramatically and permanently this year.

Living in a seasonal resort community offers lots of restaurant options. These places do not need our dollars during the tourist season. Off-season, however, the establishments welcome, encourage and entice us, luring locals with early bird specials. Restaurants also offer breakfast and lunch deals, but these do not carry the stigma of the ‘early bird special’ moniker.

Next week is Restaurant Week in our town. Once a year restaurants offer three course dinners for $33.15. For the truly dedicated early birder, a three-course luncheon is available for $15.15. This may not seem cheap, but many of the places are upscale, special-occasion establishments not normally visited (by us).

Once a year we get the flavor and atmosphere of upscale affluence at popular prices.

Three seasons we patronize other special offerings, including early bird specials. During the summer not only do the deals disappear, the restaurants are very crowded. We stay home, fire up the grill and cook.

So laugh at us, make fun of us, point mockingly at us, because now we are those old folks eating early.

I do not, however, stuff Sweet ‘n Lo packets in my purse. Or anything else. Not yet anyway…  

Kids, stop laughing. The more early bird specials patronized (along with other bargains sought in our life) the more might be left for you guys. Someday. Maybe.

As my Dad stated when he and Mom spent a few dollars on a trip or other extravagance, “We’re spending your inheritance.”

My response was, “That’s great. Enjoy!”

Now it is our turn.

After all, there must be some upside when that reflection in the mirror stares you down, declaring, “Face it. You ARE old. Get over it…”

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Top 10 Reasons to Like Winter

Winter has gotten a bad rap this year. I admit the season deserves some of our indignation. Braving the bitter cold and listening to 24/7 news reports of one storm after another results in winter weariness.  

But in all fairness the season has its virtues, so here are 10 reasons to like winter:

·     *    We get to eat, guilt-free, favorite comfort foods such as mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and tuna noodle casserole. The extra calories help keep our bodies warm.

·      *   Winter clothes are great for hiding extra pounds, paunches and potbellies.
Winter provides opportunities for great cardio exercise - like shoveling snow.
·      *   No excuses necessary for temporary hibernation. Additionally we appreciate and revel in warmer weather and sunny days when finally here.

·      *   Southern destinations like Florida, Arizona, and Southern California benefit economically from hoards of visitors fleeing the frozen North.

·     *    The season provides bonus quality time with housemates.
·      Hopefully we do not live with the roommate from hell,
·      the kids are old enough to entertain themselves most of the time, and
·      lengthy time spent in close quarters with our significant other does not end in divorce.

·     *    Winter weather is a great excuse to cancel appointments, meetings, get-togethers, etc. we do not want to attend anyway.

·     *    The weather provides lots of pretexts to skip work –
·      my car won’t start,
·      the road is not plowed,
·      my front door is frozen shut…

·      *   We get to wear expensive winter gear purchased but rarely used, assuming we can find the stuff. Cleaning closets and storage places searching is a worthwhile use of involuntary indoor time. Once found, we can spend lots of time burying ourselves in winter wear, plodding clumsily outdoors and partaking in cold weather sports activities. My favorite is going back inside and drinking hot chocolate.
Mama and Papa Baer in their winter gear - hoodie footies.
·      *   For folks homebound alone, the opportunity to briefly shed society’s expectations should not be wasted. Wear your birthday suit, although I doubt it is warm enough in anyone’s home for that to be an acceptable choice. No reason to shower or brush your teeth or wear makeup or get out of bed at a certain time…

·       *   Life slows, except when making a bread and milk run before an approaching storm. Relax and enjoy the forced downtime. Spending more time than usual reading, watching TV, doing nothing, taking afternoon naps, and partaking in other delightful activities is acceptable. Before long the snow will disappear and the earth warm.

It might be hard to believe, but spring will arrive.
Sooner.
Or maybe later.
Trust me.
 Think spring!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cleaning Up Cleaning Out Cleaning House

I was, am, and will forever be a reluctant housekeeper.

I inherited this trait from my Mom.

Mom – Dad also – collected stuff and rarely threw anything out. Everything was saved. After all, the item might be useful one day.

Some collections I remember distinctly. We saved the newspaper comics, repurposing (although that term was not used in the 1950s) the colorful cartoons as wrapping paper for birthday and holiday gifts.

Advertising circulars and other paper with only one side imprinted were cut in quarters and placed in a pile on a shelf next to our wall phone. The notepaper came in handy when writing down names, phone numbers, messages. Of course when a particular message needed to be retrieved it was usually nowhere to be found, hidden under a mound of mail, papers, magazines, newspapers, and books heaped on the kitchen counter.

Mom and Dad worked, and housework was a low priority on their to-do list. Their tolerance for disarray was rather high.

Clutter and crud are partners in grime. Hub does not get the relationship.

You must de-clutter in order to clean.

For years I was reluctant to throw out stuff. A couple of downsizing experiences later I am much less hesitant to toss or give things away.

Every few days weeks I get disgusted enough with my surroundings to fling myself into cleaning. This is when hub disappears. I am not a nice person when the cleaning bug strikes. I furiously dash around the house, vacuum, spray cleaner and miscellaneous cleaning utensils in hand. I cannot be disrupted. I cannot be disturbed. My whole personality changes. I transform into a fiendishly freaky dauntingly mean, cleaning machine…

We have an apartment posted on airbnb, and business is good. I realize people want a nice, clean place to stay and try to oblige.

So now I clean, carefully laundering towels and sheets and remaking beds, vacuuming floors, wiping counters, cleaning bathrooms.

Bathrooms are the worst. I would rather work almost anywhere and pay someone to clean a bathroom than do the work myself.

But maid service is expensive.

And I am cheap!

So I clean.

Hub usually joins me, and he is learning. He has always been good about helping around the house, but blind to many basic cleaning essentials. (His mother was not a good housekeeper, and that is being polite.)

Hub cleans the bathroom. I inspect and finish the job. We take inventory of essentials – do not want to leave guests without toilet paper, for instance - and restock.

Who would have thought a couple’s retirement activity would be cleaning?

Professionals tell us learning and practicing new skills keeps our brain youthful, working and alert.

I guess cleaning, for me, is exercise for the mind as well as the body. Keeps me youngish…until one day my weary bones eventually rebel and cry, “Enough!”

Then someone else can clean my house. And we will lower our airbnb price and note the place is available “as is, comfy, a bit cluttered but homey. Special deal available for those willing to clean…” 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Keeping Up With the Lingo

While researching a retail corporation (a shameless addiction carried over from previous work in the financial arena) catering to the hip, trendy crowd, a word with which I was unfamiliar leaped off the page. The report comprised mostly financial lingo and statistics, with some descriptive information about the company’s products included.

The term that caught my eye was not a financial term. As far as I know, no financial phrase includes the word ‘sex’ or ‘sexual’.

And this particular word did.

Ready for it?
Lumbersexual

Multi-colored panoramic, glossy images instantly crossed my mind, but I cannot describe them here. After all, this is a G or PG rated blog, or it would be if blogs were rated.

I immediately proceeded to Google and feverishly keyed in the word.

Enough suspense?


Not knowing either of these words – Man Trend or Lumbersexual - underscores how out of touch I am with the latest fashion styles.

Usually I do not care my knowledge of the latest crazes is woefully out of date, but lumbersexual caught my attention. I was curious.

No wonder I never heard the term. I am not a man, not into the latest trends, and do not read male-focused media. I confess ignorance of Man Trends.

Woman Trends, too, for that matter.

I decided to become educated about Man Trends so I could educate my readers, who I know are eager to learn something new every day.

Male fashions and fads are Man Trends.

Lumbersexual is the latest (as of Wednesday, February 18, 2015) Man Trend. A new fashion rage may pop up today or tomorrow, but until then lumbersexual is the ‘in’ obsession.

Lumbersexual replaces the previous style.

Which was…

Ready?
 Metrosexual

Another term never before seen or heard by this writer. I am obviously way, way out of the loop.

Metrosexuals are – or rather were - well-groomed, neat looking, clean-shaven, young, handsome (I saw pictures of these guys in ads. Necessary for my research.) dudes outfitted in slim pants.



The latest trendy man - lumbersexual - is a different type of guy.


Lumbersexuals project a carefully crafted image of careless, laid-back, muscular, ruggedly handsome, youngish (twenty and thirty-something, guessing by the magazine glossies) masculinity. Dress du jour is comfy looking, roomy pants.
I bet it takes a long time to put together that not very clean-cut but robust macho appearance.

No doubt advertisers work long hours creating Metrosexual and Lumbersexual images, hiring models with lots of gym time, using the expertise of makeup artists as well as professional photographers, Photoshop, and designer clothes.

I think I know what I learned from this experience:
Reading dry, boring financial stuff sometimes
results in interesting tidbits of information,
if the reader does not fall asleep too soon.

Or maybe I am supposed to keep up with the latest trends.

Meanwhile I will file this information away for some future Trivia game.

Now I am wondering what the latest Woman Trend is... 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Best of Boomers Discuss Chocolate...and other topics

This week the Best of Boomers attempt to forget the endless winter with the latest news concerning a food favorite - chocolate, an interesting idea on clearing the mind, thoughts on our sometimes misguided memories, and a school subject much unloved by many - grammar.


On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about action Wednesday by a consumer group asking the state of California to inform consumers that there are high levels of lead and cadmium in chocolate. As You Sow filed legal notices against Hershey’s, See’s Candies, and Mars, with a previous legal action filed against 13 additional chocolate manufacturers.

Tom Sightings, Sightings Over Sixty, who volunteers as a writing tutor at his local community college, answers a question that is currently on the minds of all Americans: Do You Know What a Gerund Is?  Okay ... okay ...he says. But you might want to know anyway.

Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting ponders the woes of news anchor Brian Williams and wonders in this week’s post, Misremembering My Life, if she unwittingly misremembers facts of her life. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Misremembering My Life

Time and memory are true artists; 
they remould reality nearer to the heart's desire.
-       John Dewey

The Brian Williams fiasco started me thinking about what I say and write regarding my life.

For those lucky enough to have missed the sensational story, news anchor Brian Williams talked about flying in a helicopter hit by enemy fire in Iraq. As it turns out he was in a helicopter traveling with the damaged one, but his copter was not struck.

Brian misremembered the facts. Maybe purposely, maybe not. He is now on a six-month salary-less hiatus from his job. Time will tell if, where, how, and when we hear from the man again.

If I were Brian (or if he asked my advice) I would spend time honing my resume.

I write. People read what I write (hopefully). Will I be caught in an untruth? A lie? An actual fabrication?

Do I misremember facts of my life?

Age dims, alters, forgets memories. Over the years the brain revisits and reformulates events, transforming them slightly – sometimes considerably.

Memory files collect in our cerebrum. We cannot shred unused or unwanted ones and make room for more. Occasionally files are carelessly thrown aside or left lying on the equivalent of the file room floor.

One day we attempt to retrieve a particular piece of information long ago stored and subsequently ignored.


Our brain frantically begins working, struggling to retrieve and make sense of scattered bits of data, putting them together like pieces of a puzzle. Our mind, in its desire to please, takes liberties with found data and reconstructs missing fragments. 

Our brain also knows us well and realizes that, deep down, we may not want to remember certain events exactly as they occurred. Maybe they are hurtful, or embarrassing, or will open old wounds. On the other hand we may want to embellish selected circumstances. Events interesting or important to us may seem boring to others. We enhance the details so the story will be attention grabbing.

Politicians are geniuses at creative fabrication – always to their advantage – and embellishment.

I try not to purposely misremember or embellish events, but dredging up murky past happenings sometimes results in faulty truths.

Is that an actual term or did I make it up – faulty truths? It definitely describes the phenomenon.

I do not believe I misremembered facts or created faulty truths writing about the first time I laid eyes on my mother-in-law. I am sure, however, Mom would insist some of my particulars wrong…Does it matter if I mess up or mix up the names of people from my long ago past?...I have no doubt the details of a breakup episode varies depending on which party tells the tale.

Writers, storytellers, kids, most people (especially politicians and news anchors) put the best spin on events in which they are involved, whether consciously or unconsciously.

I try to be faithful to the facts, but if I misremember specifics please do not blame me.

I cannot control the workings of my brain, or the final interpretation of events, which may contain faulty truths and misremembered facts.

After all, I am a writer. Writers are allowed – encouraged - to be creative.

Memories are just stories we tell ourselves about our past; 
and that's often why they don't match when we've shared 
the same experiences with someone.
     - John Slattery 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sex and Snowstorms

 I knew that title would get attention.

Sitting inside warm and cozy while cold, rainy, snowy, sleety, yucky weather roars outside, I wonder about the long-term ramifications of being housebound.

Do people gain weight because of a double whammy - eating more and not exercising?

Speaking from personal experience, it is difficult not to put on a few extra ounces lounging inside while watching the white stuff fall outside. The longer confined indoors, the more ounces appear, surreptitiously but inevitably, on my body. I am sure there is some mathematical equation computing bad weather, confinement indoors, eating, and ounces gained. Preparing and eating culinary delights is a major indoor activity during periods of forced confinement.

There are other activities to be enjoyed while sealed indoors.

Like sex.

There have been studies, some completed as far back as the 1960s and 70s, attempting to discover whether weather-related catastrophes produce baby windfalls months later.

Initially studies debunked the theory, but more recent investigations cite minor upturns.

A study in the UK found an uptick in births in September and October 2010, nine months after record-breaking snowstorms blanketed the nation.

Of course parents home with a houseful of young ones, attempting to keep them occupied, out of trouble, and preventing them from destroying the home, are not necessarily the ones cozying up to a loved one, with a roaring fire and solitude precursors to some adult fun.

Nine months after Super Storm Sandy pommeled New Jersey, hospitals along the shore reported an increase in births. Atlanticare Medical Center reported a 25% increase.

Living in South Jersey at the time this once-in-700 year storm hit (and if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like you to take a look at…), lots of people evacuated. Stuffed in shelters or the homes of relatives and friends, I doubt most people found the environment conducive to romantic interludes. Add the stress of not knowing whether or not you would have a home upon returning, the conditions leaned more towards nerve-racking, combative occasions rather than romantic ones.

On the other hand a lot of people remained trapped in their homes, power out, with no choice but to cuddle and keep warm under heavy quilts…

There are additional consequences of storms. Marriage rates sometimes tick up. The divorce rate increases too, especially when disasters result in major physical damage, job losses, and other personal problems. The divorce rate increased 10% following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

I wonder if anyone ever studied whether people indulged in more sex during the long, dark nights and confining days of winter than during the other seasons of the year before the invention of electricity.

The days are slowly, almost imperceptibly getting longer, a few minutes more of light every few days. Additional storms are on the horizon, according to our ubiquitous 24/7 news channels, but I choose to ignore the forewarnings days in advance.

I am rooting for an early spring. I know the groundhog saw its shadow and that means six more weeks of winter, but no groundhog is going to depress me.

I look forward to no more confinement indoors, no more bitter cold, gray days, no more layering sweaters, heavy coats, hats and gloves...

And to those expecting a bundle of joy in a few months, I say – Congratulations! - while heaving an enormous sigh of relief that I am not the one with a growing belly.

Although I think a few extra ounces embedded themselves on my stomach over the past few weeks. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Soft Outdoor Adventure For Me, Please

Sitting in a large comfy chair at the beauty salon, my hairdresser described recent ski outings with her grandkids. The next trip to the slopes, she promised her oldest grandson, we’d take snowboarding lessons.

Yes, she is planning on joining him.

Snowboarding is not on my bucket list. And I gave away my skis years ago. They were outdated anyway. Picturing myself zooming down a mountain – not because I want to, but because I lost control – the wind in my face, knees buckling, poles flailing wildly, sliding down partway on my butt, ending up plastered in a hospital bed (covered with plaster, not drunk, although getting drunk in the hospital sounds kind of appealing), is a situation easily avoidable by never skiing downhill again.

As I get older I find myself unwilling to tackle adventurous, possibly body-damaging activities.

Nowadays I opt for soft adventure-type outdoor pursuits, gentle on the bones and body of a 60+ grandma.

I am not the only one opting for ease. Tour companies advertise soft adventure trips for the 50+ crowd, realizing we are wary of a too-jarring bodily experience. And we enjoy our comfy conveniences.

My kind of soft adventure includes:

Cycling on level ground. Place a mountain, high hill or steep bridge in front of me, and I am not happy. And forget about mountain bike-type terrain. My bumpy-ride days are over.

Kayaking (row boats and canoes are OK too) on calm, flat water, no wind, the sun shining but not too hot. The best rides include a stop at a destination such as a cafe. Sit, relax, eat, drink (nonalcoholic beverage only – one should not drink and paddle).

Walking/hiking in sunny or slightly overcast weather, temperatures below 80 but above 50, on level terrain, a nice coffee shop halfway through a plus. No elevations, stairs or climbing please.

Swimming. I like to swim but fear being caught in public (and then on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or – heaven forbid – Youtube) wearing a bathing suit.

Running/Jogging. The last time I ran – I was late for a meeting – I tripped, fell, and chipped a tooth. Never again.

There are lots of other activities invented by people over the course of human existence. I conclude with my favorites…

Walking to a nearby restaurant.

Cooking and Eating. Probably the number one and two outdoor activities of all time as far back as cave people times.

Sitting. Always an appealing option. A comfortable chair, a drink within reach, a book in hand. Priceless…

No one ever said outdoor activity must involve exercise. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Presidential Campaign 2016 Update #10

644 Days Until the 2016 Presidential Election
(as of Tuesday, February 3, 2014)

it is that time again, folks. Presidential contenders for the 2016 election are coming out of the woodwork, at least on the Republican side. A whole bunch of Presidential wannabees showcased themselves at a recent Iowa sideshow.

Mostly conservatives bowed before the people, discretely but obviously (an oxymoron, I realize, but such is politics) imploring the devoted to seriously consider them to be their esteemed candidate, their banner-holder, their representative against the evils generated over the past six years, their 2016 Presidential candidate. It is imperative, they entreated the attendees, to elect a Republican to right what is wrong with the world – or at least with our country.

The lone not-really-a-Tea-Party-conservative present was the maverick from the Eastern (and usually politically blue) state of New Jersey, Chris Christie, attempting to convince right-wing Republicans he should be their man. He declared a too-far-right candidate would never win a Presidential election.

Other party stalwarts parading onstage included Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, proud of his anti-teachers-union crusade, Rick Santorum (again), Senator Ted Cruz, exhorting members to prove their conservative leanings with action, Mike Huckabee (again), Rick Perry (again), and for a few laughs Donald Trump (again).

The moderate wing of the Republican Party was underrepresented, only Christie braving the conservative headwinds. Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney made sure they had other commitments.

Subsequently Romney bowed out of the race, graciously leaving the contest open for younger, more animated, vibrant, energetic, less-known candidates. Maybe Romney felt he was getting a bit too old to withstand the rigors of a Presidential campaign. After all, he will be 68 in March.

Jeb Bush, on the other hand, a top contender, is only 61. Rick Perry is 64 and Ben Carson a year younger, at 63 just two years away from Medicare eligibility. Huckabee is 59. Many are quite a bit younger – Chris Christie and Rand Paul are 52, Scott Walker is 47, Paul Ryan 45, Ted Cruz 44 and Marc Rubio 43. These guys, if not chosen in 2016, can be viable candidates remaining on our radar for years. Think four and eight years from now.

Not to slight the Democrats, Hillary Clinton is 67. No comment…

The path to the Oval Office passes through the door of wealthy donors. The greatest impediment for any political candidate for any office representing any political party is MONEY.

The Koch brothers, long-time Republican Party donors, announced their plan to contribute, along with a few of their multimillionaire and billionaire friends, $889 million dollars to the 2016 Presidential campaign.

To get an idea of their largesse, in 2012 the Republican National Committee and the two Congressional campaign committees spent $682 million on the elections.

The 2012 Presidential race cost $2 billion, and the total cost of the 2012 elections reached almost $7 billion, the first year corporations earned the right of free speech (thanks to the Supreme Court Citizens United decision), allowing undocumented millions to flood political coffers.

The 2014 elections – no Presidential race – cost $3.7 billion.

The rush for donor money is on. As soon as Romney announced he was out, the other aspirants immediately began knocking on the doors of Romney donors. The real contest, now and in the near future, is being played out behind closed donor doors.

The only prediction I can make is that none of the contenders will be knocking on my inadequately opulent, bourgeois, middle class door. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Alligators and Guns

What could alligators and guns have in common? Your brows pucker, your head moves quizzically to the right, then left, attempting to figure out any relationship…

Until last week I never thought much about alligators. And I try not to think a great deal about guns. Gun rhetoric makes me mad.

Hub and I spent five days kayaking in the Florida Everglades. Before leaving, every person we mentioned our trip to responded in the same way,

”What about the alligators?”

Yes, alligators can be dangerous and yes, we saw lots of them.
Snoozing the day away...
But we were not worried, although we did steer clear of the reptiles by several feet. Do not bother the alligators and the animals will not bother you, locals told us.

Thinking about everyone’s universal response, the wheels in my quirky mind began slowly grinding, creaking, eventually making an absurd analogy.

When I go to a mall, no one asks, “What about snipers?”

When kids leave for school each morning and teachers head out to work, no one asks, “Nervous about snipers?”

When going to the movies, no one inquires, “Worried about being shot?” The question asked is, “What movie are you going to see?”

The odds of being attacked by an alligator in Florida are 1 in 24 million.


It is not alligators I worry about.

Guns on the other hand are, unfortunately, more likely to present a problem.

Statistics gathered by the magazine The Economist found the chances of being assaulted by firearms 1 in 24,974.

I do not know about you, but I am a lot more concerned about kids in school and everyone everywhere, including myself, being the victim of gun violence than being assaulted by an alligator.

But friends did not ask about being shot. They inquired whether or not we were worried about being attacked by alligators.

Somehow our society manages, after every horrific shooting incident, to shake its head and move on, as if these events are part of life and therefore should be accepted, if not expected.

But I believe our society wrong.

Touring Guatemala a couple of years ago, I could not help notice the prevalence of security measures in many parts of the country. Gated and barbed wired walls surrounding homes were the norm. In Guatemala City my companions and I met friends at a restaurant located in an up-scale mall. Security guards were posted at all entrances and exits. We walked through security scanners before entering the mall.

Guatemala is considered a developing country. We believe ourselves, lucky to live in a developed land, safer than citizens of developing nations, but perhaps we deceive ourselves.

I hope no one I know, including myself, experiences gun violence. But the odds are not good. One in three people know someone who has been shot. Yet I am not ready to wall and barbed wire my home. I continue visiting malls, movie theaters, and other public venues.

Meanwhile I am not at all nervous about the alligators. One day I will return to the Everglades, kayak again and visit my alligator friends.
Baby gators enjoying the Florida sun. 
FYI –

The Economist chart offered fascinating information on the possibility of dying various ways. A few statistics to ponder:

Chances of dying from an asteroid impact: 1 in 74,817,414.
Chances of dying from a dog bite: 1 in 11,273,142.
Chances of dying by being struck by lightning: 1 in 10,495,684.
Chances of dying due to “exposure to excessive natural cold”: 1 in 474,844.
Chances of dying by falling down stairs: 1 in 157,300.