Thursday, August 27, 2015

Traveling a Rocky Virtual Road

The stock market road…


Recent news provided a change from the constant barrage of political broadcasts. Enough Trump, enough Hillary, is there anything else happening in the world?

Well, as a matter of fact, yes.

For a number of nail-biting, nerve-wracking days the alternative news was not upbeat.

The stock market plunged. Plummeted. Went down. A lot.

Most people are not stock market aficionados. I, on the other hand, spent 15 years in the financial field. Market data aired on my office TV throughout the day, performing its magic as colors changed from red to green and back again, and chart lines meandered up and down. Watching too closely made one dizzy.

As a retiree my days begin with a review of the local papers, New York Times and Wall Street Journal headlines, emails, and a Facebook scan. No different than many retirees’ early morning routine. However once the stock market opens, market headlines receive a once-over.

My philosophy has always been invest for the long term. As I age my horizon shortens, but remains focused on tomorrows.

I did not panic and sell during the financial crisis years ago. Most of the clients of the financial firm I worked for also took a deep breath and concentrated on the future, hoping the crisis was not going to deplete their resources forever. They were diversified enough to avoid becoming victims of immediate impoverishment.

It took years for the market to recover and move ahead, but it did.

Now, mainly because of events on the other side of the world, the market scared us again. It is difficult to avoid feeling panic-stricken while watching the numbers in almost real-time flash on electronic gadgets while serious-sounding, alarmed broadcasters add to our sense of fear.

Sometimes it is a good thing when not connected continually electronically. Do we really need to know in real time Trump’s position on immigration, or whether or not Biden is going to jump into the race, or how the world’s stock markets are performing? Are our lives enhanced with this up-to-the-minute information? Or does it simply fill our time and clog our brains?

I want to be connected and know what is happening, but wish to manage my need-to-know.

If I panic whenever the stock market reacts negatively to events, I should not be in the market. When I cannot afford the risk, or stomach the volatility, it is time to get out. Now I monitor investments, hope for the best but prepare for, if not the worst, a period of disquieting conditions.

And should the worst occur, I know where my kids live. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sex, Home, Food and Money On the Mind of the Best of Boomers

The weather could not have been more perfect the past few days. Warm sunny days, low humidity. I stopped by the local nursery and bought plants – leftovers on sale - hoping vibrant fall mums will brighten the yard and keep winter grayness at bay a little longer. 

This week's trip to our local farmer's market found me tasting and evaluating one of my favorite foods, the opportunity described in Tasting Tomatoes.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about the dangers of Addyi, the new prescription drug for women’s low sex drive. Check out her article here.
   
Tom Sightings , Sightings at 60, sat through a six-hour Motor Vehicle Accident Prevention Course in order to save 10 percent on his auto insurance. You can find out some of the things he learned in just a few minutes at his latest post The Money You Save May Be Your Own.
  
Laura Lee, writing on her blog Adventures of the New Old Farts, wonders everyday when she will finally get used to living in such an amazing place: Life in the Colorado Clouds!

Spend a few minutes visiting our boomers and have a great week!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Tasting Tomatoes

Food is a passion of mine. I love thinking about food, cooking food – as long as the recipe is not too complex – shopping for food, and of course consuming food. It is probably an inherited cultural phenomenon. Family events always centered around food.

So when I read an article in the local paper about a project sponsored by a state university, I was intrigued. Rutgers is attempting to recreate a once-common, much-loved summer favorite – the Jersey tomato.

Not that Jersey tomatoes disappeared from the face of the earth. Jersey farmers grow lots of tomatoes, but not the kind enjoyed over 50 years ago.

Jersey tomatoes, the sort the older generation waxes poetic about, were not heirloom varieties, but specimens developed in the 1930s. Campbell Soup’s manufacturing facilities in Camden and other food processors propelled the search for commercially viable products used for sauces, soups, ketchup, and juice.

Scientists continued their innovative work and produced extremely firm tomatoes capable of surviving shipments over long distances. Picked green, chemical processes turned them red. Consumers found the product tasteless, but the lab-born varieties proved commercially profitable. States with longer growing seasons like Florida and California replaced New Jersey as prime tomato-growing regions. The 1930s Jersey tomato disappeared from farm fields.

Wonderful tasting locally grown tomatoes could be purchased at farmer’s markets and grown in gardens. The problem with these varieties is that they are not commercially viable for a variety of reasons – for example they may have a short shelf life, do not travel well, have low yield per acre, are too susceptible to the vagaries of weather and disease, or may not be pretty and stuff.

Consumers bought the tough varieties available or – like me – refused to buy tomatoes during the long winter months.

Then one day the wailing of consumer discontent was heard in the antiseptic labs of the university. Rutgers took up the challenge of developing tomatoes that actually taste good and could be commercially grown locally.

The article about the Rutgers program noted that tomato-tasting tables would be set up around the state to taste test the new varieties. Scientists were seeking consumer input, and one of the tasting places would be our local farmer’s market.
 
Tomatoes ready for tasting...
During my weekly farmer’s market outing I made my way to the tasting table. Six plates of carefully cut tomatoes awaited scrutiny. Bowls of crackers sat between the plates should the taster wish to cleanse their palate between tastings. Each batch was tasted, the tomato slowly working its way around my mouth so its full flavor and intensity could be appreciated. Then I completed a questionnaire rating each one on a scale from one to seven for sweetness, taste, acidity, texture, and firmness, finally awarding each variety an overall rating. 
Filling out the tomato-tasting questionnaire.

None were as good as our CSA tomatoes or the tomatoes from our garden. On the other hand they were better than most supermarket tomatoes.

Rutgers is taking a step in the right direction, reintroducing the good old foods grown before mass production of foodstuffs made qualities like taste unimportant, encouraging locally grown fresh, nutritious and delicious fruits and vegetables.

The way food used to be. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Best Of Boomer Bloggers Enjoy Home, Hometown, and Offer a Challenge

August implies fall is around the corner. I am taking advantage of summer while it lasts. Time at the beach and seasonal foods supply warm memories during the cold winter months.
Summer and the beach - a perfect match!
Farm-fresh corn on the cob, steamed clams,
and tomatoes from the garden - the perfect summer dinner.
I attended a writer’s conference last week in my old hometown and wrote about returning to Lancaster PA. Friends considered a couple of my observations inaccurate, so I wrote a follow up post with some clarifications. Read Lancaster My Hometown Part Two here

My fellow bloggers have been busy this week.

Laura Lee appears lost in gratitude since she moved into her solar home in the foothills, probably because she thought it would never happen! Go check out her two latest posts about freedom and love.

Tom Sightings has a challenge for you today that has nothing to do with age, class, ethnicity or gender . . . oops, wait a second, it does have something to do with gender. So, do you think you can identify the 12 Reasons Why Women Have It Easier Than Men?

Our consumer reporter, Rita Robison, is nursing a fractured kneecap, but took time to write about a special birthday - the 80th birthday of Social Security. Check out her post on the Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide.

I hope everyone has the opportunity to enjoy summer before the seasons change.

Take a few minutes to read our posts and comment. We love to hear from our readers. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lancaster PA My Home Town – Part 2

I did not intend to make my Lancaster visit a two-part post, but comments from Lancaster and blog friends led to a decision to expand on my observations. After all, I do not want to disappoint Lancaster friends over a misunderstood remark about the town we know and love.

I received some heat from the fact that I mentioned the KKK. The organization is so extreme conservatives get incensed when grouped with the KKK. I did not mean to insinuate conservatives and the KKK are the same, but attempted to emphasize the point that Lancaster has traditionally been a very conservative area. County voters have not voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate since 1964, when Barry Goldwater lost the county to Lyndon Johnson.

Lancaster City, on the other hand, is a Democratic stronghold (full disclosure: there are a handful of Democrats dispersed throughout the county!).

Moving on, Lancastrians - natives and transplants - are a generous group. One example: a recently created local chapter of the non-profit organization 100 Women Who Care attracted 170 members, far exceeding the authorized 100 women roster.

Young people flock to the creative energy and cultural scene Lancaster city generates, but they are not the only demographic group attracted to Lancaster.

A combination of city amenities, suburban conveniences, rural landscape and reasonable cost of living (compared to nearby cities) lure transplants of all ages. The county is within driving distance of major metropolitan areas along the East coast. Folks visit over the years, searching out the Amish, dining at family style restaurants, shopping in quaint country villages, exploring farmer’s markets, staying in friendly B&Bs, and eventually decide to make Lancaster their home.

The county has become a retirement mecca. Willow Valley is the largest retirement community in the county, a lifecare center opened in 1984 (the company recently removed the word retirement from their official name). From the beginning Willow Valley defined a resort lifestyle. Restaurants, indoor pools, a state-of-the-art gym, cultural center, a clubhouse and more sprawl over 200 acres and two campuses
. Residents purchase a residence in an independent living section, and if needed transfer to onsite assisted living or nursing care facilities. The place is a self-contained oasis of about 2,500 residents hailing from 37 states. The business is Mennonite-owned but non-sectarian. 

Many of the more than 55 active adult and retirement communities, assisted living and nursing facilities in the county are church-connected but non-sectarian.

Hub and I witnessed a lot of changes in our ex-hometown over the past four decades. Population growth explains much of the transformation. County residents numbered 319,600 in 1970. We moved to the area in 1972. Estimated population in 2014 was 533,300.

Growth has been punctuated by a transition from a farming-oriented community to a vibrant, cosmopolitan destination in the growing east coast BOWASH megalopolis. Anchored by tourism, agriculture, and a diverse service economy, Lancaster’s future is bright.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Fashion Trend Perfect For Me

To all women dismayed, disappointed, discouraged and disheartened at the dismal choice of bathing suits –

Rejoice! There are now alternatives! Stylish swimwear for real women.

Designs include sleeves, shorts and leggings, skorts, skirts, tunics and dresses with mix and match options. Outfits look, at least in promotional pictures, form fitting and flattering, but not skin tight.

Suits are not (yet) stocked in most women’s shops, and the nearest retail outlet may be far from home. But we need not seek by foot, walking miles to find whatever it is we are seeking, or get in cars and expend valuable gas, mucking up the environment.

Our fingers can do the walking. Not in an old-fashioned telephone directory, but on the Internet.

Over the years it has been difficult finding bathing suits that were not too revealing, secured my well-endowed breasts and held in my ample midsection. The search appeared futile.

Until now. Try googling modest swimwear. A variety of options appear.

Who knew?

Not me.

I discovered this latest fashion trend in an article in The Wall Street Journal highlighting companies such as Undercover Waterwear and HydroChic. Founded by Orthodox Jewish women in search of discreet bathing suits, the companies are expanding their markets.

Most styles travel beyond pool or beach. Promoted as exercise as well as swimwear, garments effortlessly journey from pool or gym to stores, coffee shop or your kids’ (or grandkids’) school.

I am considering a purchase, but will probably pass on a skirt or dress. Swimming in a skirt or dress appears impractical, a drag on the swimmer.

Three issues stand in my way.

First, decisions must be made. Short sleeve or long? Should the top hug my waist or reach my hip? High neck or discrete low neckline?

Maybe leggings, Capri or longer length. A bright color or pattern or something more sedate? The decision-making process seems endless…

The second issue: Clothes cannot be tried on before ordering. Size charts do not always transform into a suitable garment. An outfit that looks fabulous on the model may not look quite as wonderful on my body.

And the third obstacle: Prices are not cheap, but locating a comfortable fitting suit that does not look awful is worth the big bucks. I may wait for companies to advertise sales, or until the introduction of new styles when companies place previous season’s unsold merchandise on clearance.

Shopping for swimwear requires faith, hope, suspension of any desire to look smart and snazzy, determination, the time to peruse websites, review options, and finally make a decision.

I will place my order…eventually.

So what do these swimsuits look like?
A couple of pictures from the HydroChic website:

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Revisiting My Hometown

Déjà vu.

My feeling returning to the small city where I lived for over 30 years. Actually I lived in the suburbs because when we – hub and I – moved to the area in the early 1970’s few white folks of middle class means lived downtown.

Entering Lancaster as a young bride of 21 proved somewhat of a culture shock.

Lancaster County was a beacon and a shining light of conservatism (note the sarcasm). It was not too much of a stretch when people described the state as Philadelphia on one side of the state, Pittsburgh on the other with Alabama in between.

Rolling farmlands covered with fields of corn, grazing cows and horses greeted visitors, and the lush green land continues to amaze. Amish farms and small towns peppered the landscape. Homemade signs promoted fresh eggs, root beer, and handcrafted furniture. Churches of various faiths appeared around every bend in the road, many denominations unknown beyond the local geographic area.

Lancaster city, home to a liberal arts college situated across the street from a theological seminary, anchored one section of the city. We ventured downtown to see shows at the Fulton Opera House, a beautiful restored theater dating from the 19th century, and to shop at the farmer’s market. We discovered the only Chinese restaurant, but ate there only once. It was horrible; so bad I still remember the experience. Most of the time we remained in the suburbs, driving on two lane roads that each year got more congested as shopping centers, restaurants, convenience stores, businesses and housing developments sprouted around the city.

Driving out of the county felt like we were leaving a bubble, a slice of a lifestyle left behind by the frantic pace of late 20th century life. Much of this bucolic life is still visible in the county, but change crops up everywhere.

Franklin and Marshall College remains a city institution. Recent construction including stores, restaurants and dorms revitalize the west side of town.

 Art galleries and retail shops line center city streets. Smoothie and ice cream shops, French and Italian bakeries, coffee shops, ethnic cafes, pubs, breweries and upscale restaurants, many with outdoor seating, entice locals and tourists.

The town excites, attracting people who bring their energy, creativity and talents to the area.

The rest of the world, or at least the region, is discovering Lancaster.

Originally settled in the early 1700’s, rapid development and progress passed the area by decades ago. But there are advantages. A large number of 18th and 19th century buildings survive. Visitors tour restored Colonial homes, museums and enjoy city walking tours.

It is heartening to walk around and observe the transformation. A Marriott hotel, on the site of a department store that closed in 1995, accommodates conventioneers and tourists. A run down hotel a couple of blocks away has been renovated, although I did not go inside and view the changes. An upscale hotel houses a farm to table restaurant and another hotel is planned for center city.

Some things take longer to change. The area is still very much a conservative stronghold. The KKK marched locally in the 21st century.

Perhaps the energy and diversity the city exudes will eventually emit waves that reverberate throughout the county, resulting one day in a less judgmental, more open-minded and tolerant environment. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pondering the Potty

Time has a way of muddling my memory and disremembering experiences. Parenting is a good example, the specifics receding into a part of my brain rarely accessed nowadays. But spending time with the grandkids spurs the mind into action. Lost sleep, sibling rivalry, bedtime resistance, early morning commotion, meal time stress - dim memories until the grandkids came along.

Potty time is one of those murky memories.

There are many things humans do together. We are social animals and enjoy each other’s company. We spend time with family and friends during meals. People live together, travel together, vacation together, shop together, and communicate in numerous ways with one another.

But there are activities modern society consigns to privacy.

Peeing and pooping fall into this category.

According to scientific studies, pee time averages 21 seconds for all mammals, regardless of size, including humans.

It should not be difficult to find 21 seconds in the course of a busy schedule to relieve oneself.

However the average time a toddler allows a parent (or Grandma) to pee in private is, maybe, two seconds.

That leaves 19 seconds Mom, Dad, or Grandma is not truly alone, toddlers bursting into the bathroom or, should the door be locked, pounding doors, screaming, whining, or sometimes just the opposite.

Silence, which can be really scary. What are the kids up to now?

The chaos and questions prompt a swift end to bodily functions and a return to minding the kids.

Adults responsible for children may not spend a lot of time in the bathroom taking care of personal needs, but still find themselves frequenting bathrooms.

With the kids.

Helping with the kids’ clothes, teaching the art of peeing and pooping in all the right places, enlightening their minds to the importance of consuming and conserving toilet paper (as opposed to using an entire roll and stuffing the toilet), introducing diverse flushing mechanisms, washing hands, illustrating the intricacies of various soap and towel dispensers and hand drying devices, and performing what, in my opinion, is the most disliked (Grandma) task – wiping butts after pooping.

It might be delightful changing a baby’s diaper, but things change as the cute baby morphs into a person consuming real food.

I do not know why, but performing this particular activity propels my mind into the future.

My future.

And contemplation of the following non-philosophical, but intensely human and personal question:

When I am much, much, much older and possibly in need of assistance, who will wipe my adorable wrinkled ass? 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Flying High with Spirit

It was time to relinquish custody of my granddaughter. After a week encompassing a trip to Vermont to play with her cousin, beach and boogie board time, bike riding, coloring, Princess matching and other games, library outings, Frozen and Wizard of Oz DVDs, and of course lots of ice cream, her visit was coming to an end.

Sami’s parents live 1,200 miles away. Four-year-olds are not quite old enough to fly solo, so Grandma accompanied her home.
Our local airport is small and rarely crowded. Checking in, checking bags, going through security expended only a few stress-free minutes.

Before settling in at the boarding gate we detoured to purchase a treat – M&Ms – for the plane.

Settling in for Grandma implies something quite different than settling in for a four-year-old. Unable to sit still, Sami wiggled over me, around me, onto nearby seats, and in front of me.

I was already worn out.

Thankfully no delays increased our waiting time, and when our flight was announced we proceeded to the back of the line (zone 4 boarding) and slowly made our way to the check-in counter. Sami proudly handed the attendant her boarding pass and we strolled onto the plane.

Spirit Air is known for tight seats with essentially no space between the back of the seat in front of you and your knees. This did not bother Sami. Small and agile, the seat suited her.

Unfortunately most travelers are taller and heavier than the average four-year-old.

Once wheels left the ground, Sami demanded her M&Ms. Then it was coloring time. We opened our tray tables, coloring book, and markers. Available space was so limited the top of Sami’s marker hit the back of the seat in front of her.

Two hours and fifteen minutes after takeoff we landed in the Sunshine State. Exiting the plane, we entered what in the past could be described as Airport Hell.

The Spirit terminal in the Fort Lauderdale airport.

A cavernous space very different from previous visits confronted us. I thought I was hallucinating. The area was clean, bright, and uncrowded. I am guessing the new terminal was built with funds collected from customers buying insurance, paying for checked bags, priority seating, and other extras.

We walked – actually I walked and Sami pranced - towards baggage claim, and as soon as we left the security area Dad appeared, waiting along with Mom and big brother.

A few minutes later everyone relaxed under a canopy at an outdoor café, enjoying a late lunch.

About four hours remained until my return flight, so we indulged in the All American Pastime – shopping.

We went to a mall.

In our defense it was raining, limiting choices to indoor activities.

Time spent was not wasted. Summer sales beckoned, and I purchased a pair of sandals and a black shirt. Before spending more money we left for the airport.

The flight home proved uneventful. Losing myself in a book, time passed quickly.

Exiting the Atlantic City airport at 11:00 p.m., I slid into the front seat of the car and almost fell asleep on the short ride home (hub was driving). No physical exercise or manual labor accomplished this particular day, but I was exhausted and looked forward to sleeping late the following morning, then relishing sedentary, tranquil, uninterrupted time with a cup of coffee and the newspaper.

A hectic and tiring pace replaced, at least temporarily, by a peaceful interval.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

One Friendly Summer Day in The City

New York City, and specifically the island of Manhattan, is one of the greatest places on earth. And one of the most bizarre. And one of the most fascinating. And one of the most crowded, especially during summer tourist season. Humanity converges from all corners of the earth, resulting in jam-packed sidewalks in the center of the New York universe: Times Square.

I boarded a Greyhound bus in my hometown at 8:00 a.m., traveling from my fairly quiet oasis (comparatively speaking) in a part of New Jersey characterized by farmlands, pinelands, shoreline, and the troubled Atlantic City, along tree-lined parkways, then speeding by over-crowded, over-built suburbia, passing wretched cityscapes and finally an industrial wasteland.

Two hours and fifteen minutes later I exited the bus in the bowels of New York City’s Port Authority Terminal, walked up a couple of flights of stairs – already faced with multitudes scurrying in all directions – and hit the streets of New York.

The heat of the summer sun and streaming folks struck forcefully. I stood still a moment – no longer, as the crush of movement from all directions shoved me around.

Throwing back my shoulders and attempting to summon my New York persona, I headed off, my destination a few short blocks away, a restaurant on 9th Avenue, dubbed Restaurant Row for the numerous eateries within walking distance of the theater district.

Walking the streets of New York is an exhilarating, energizing experience, activity everywhere. People outfitted in everything from expensive business suits to beach wear greet the eye, while ears are accosted by sirens, car horns, street vendors, children…and the smells, everything from cigarette smoke and vehicle fumes to incense and food-related aromas recognized and a few unfamiliar…city life unbounded.

Immediately upon arrival at the restaurant I proceeded to the ladies room.

One of the intricacies of maneuvering the city is locating clean restrooms. The condition of facilities in the Port Authority bus terminal, for instance, varies from barely usable to vomit inducing. I bypassed them.

I detoured into a Starbucks for coffee, another place with bathrooms (for customers only, of course). The place was packed, the wait to relieve oneself indeterminate. I continued on.

The restaurant, having opened only minutes earlier, offered a clean and well-appointed ladies room. What a relief…

I settled into a comfortable seat at a round table for five, and a few minutes later four friends traveling from various corners of the metro area joined me for lunch and a Broadway show.

Savoring our wine, we relished our leisurely time together, enjoying an interest neglected during long working years when stealing away for a Wednesday matinee was an unrealistic indulgence.

Actually we had too much time to linger - enough for coffee and, dare I admit it - dessert.

The bill produced one of those suck-it-up-you-are-in-New-York moments. But it was worth it…

We strode through Times Square, a sea of humanity, on our way to the theater. Bits and pieces of assorted languages reached our ears. People gazed skyward, staring at huge electronic billboards, in particular one displaying the crowds crossing Broadway. People scrutinized the screen looking for themselves and friends, heedless of traffic, traffic signals, and the throngs surrounding them.

Individuals of all ages stopped to get their picture taken with Disney or Sesame Street characters. Others stared at maps, attempting to figure out in which direction to walk. It seemed everyone had a camera in hand, clicking away.

Summer in the city.

Beautiful.

The show was, indeed, beautiful. The Carole King-inspired musical began with the fresh-faced 16-year-old’s desire to be a songwriter and closed with her award-winning album Tapestry 14 years later.

Everyone walked out of the theater with smiles, memories past and present, and familiar songs ringing in the ears.

Over a final drink we reviewed the show, finished catching up with family happenings, and parted reluctantly, already planning our next New York get-together.