Friday, December 19, 2014

My First Ever Holiday Letter

 Greetings from Momma and Poppa Baer!

2014 was a wonderful one for the Baer family. Let me begin by stating that Steve and I are grateful to have survived this year's New Jersey bear hunting season. We laid low for a few weeks, not wanting local hunters to knock us off.

The year began with a trip to see the kids and grandkids in Florida. Why anyone wants to live in a state with interminable red lights and streets too wide to cross before the light changes is beyond me, but anyway…We had a wonderful visit, except for the minor car accident incurred (Meryl was driving) with our rental vehicle.  

There was another slight accident a few weeks later at home. Meryl, again in the driver’s seat, was sitting at a traffic light when the car in front of her backed up – the driver was too far into the intersection – bumping into her car. Only minor damage resulted.

We returned home from Florida to frigid weather and frozen water pipes. An unnamed relative (to protect the guilty) was supposed to check the house. She realized the house felt cold, but figured we set the heat very low because we are cheap. Not bothering to inspect the toilets, she did not notice the frozen water in the bowls and tanks.

Our friend Bill the plumber fixed the pipes, then he and his wife left for an extended Arizona vacation (immediately after we paid him). We stayed home the rest of the winter and set the temperature low, but not low enough to freeze the pipes again. Luckily our son works for the Pajamagram Company and sent us cozy Hoodie-Footies that helped us survive the winter.

We took a number of trips this year, visiting the grandkids as well as a couple of true vacations. Meryl landed in the emergency room on two of our outings. The doctors thought it might be appendicitis, or gall bladder, or too much chocolate consumption. It turned out to be none of these ailments. Both times the doctors prescribed a strong painkiller and antibiotic, and she was fine.

Meryl accompanied Steve on a business trip to New Orleans, and was lucky enough to spend a day meeting and mingling with locals while in a dentists’ chair. The dentist prescribed a painkiller and antibiotics (sound familiar!) and, upon returning home, she spent additional time at an endodontist and dentist enduring a root canal and capped tooth.

Steve had an uneventful year healthwise. He passed - with flying colors - his regularly scheduled colonoscopy (stop by the house and we’ll show you the pictures), and enjoyed a trip to the hospital so the doctor could examine his heart, which turned out to be in great shape for a guy his age. No stent or other paraphernalia needed! Good job Steve!

Another milestone Steve experienced this year was acceptance into the Medicare health program. Way to go Steve!

We worked on improving our diet, joining a CSA farm and receiving a box of organic veggies each week - until the CSA encountered difficulties, missing a couple of deliveries. We savored pizza and other forbidden foods during the hiatus, but then got back on track. Unfortunately the CSA suffered a fire in late fall which destroyed its office and some equipment, but should be up and running by spring.

We hosted a lot of friends and family this year, all descending during the summer. No one wants to visit us at the shore during the rest of the year. Actually, before moving to the beach, family and friends did not want to visit us any time of the year.

A June storm downed wires and left us without electricity for a couple of days, but the weather cooperated and we did not need air conditioning. We bought ice from the local store before supplies ran out and saved our freezer and refrigerator foods.

A few additional notes before signing off –

Steve made new friends this year, befriending a couple of local policemen when they knocked on our door one day. Once the initial problem was straightened out, they had a nice visit.

Steve worked all year, except for days missed when his computer froze and his company’s IT guy, on vacation, was unavailable to debug the machine. He will enter almost total retirement mode next year, working three or four days a month or whenever weather forces him indoors.

Meryl enjoyed exercise classes and follow-up visits to the chiropractor to adjust bones displaced during class.

Enough about our family’s delightful, event-filled year. We hope everyone experiences a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy 2015.

Until next year,

The Baers 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Leaving Up and Coming for Down and Out

Did you ever get the feeling you are out of sync with the rest of the world?

That is how hub and I feel about leaving our hometown of four decades and moving to the Jersey shore.

We left behind a town - actually, a small city, but let’s not quibble over definitions – in the midst of a rich agricultural area dotted with smaller towns and farms. We relocated to a resort area bustling with activity during the summer months, calm during the spring and fall shoulder seasons, and nearly deserted in the darkest winter months of January and February.

Our usually peaceful, mostly residential new hometown butts up against the infamous gambling mecca Atlantic City, just over a mile walk along the Boardwalk from our home. AC received lots of publicity lately, almost all of it bad. From Ray Rice of elevator bashing fame to the closing of four hotel/casinos in one year, the town is in trouble. Hopeful expectations of a depressed city reviving and revitalizing, rising like a phoenix from crumbling buildings with the arrival of gambling, never materialized.

The flip side is our old hometown – located in the south central Pennsylvania county known as the place where the Amish live – is now a hip place. Downtown Lancaster is a hub of trendy restaurants and pubs, art galleries, boutiques, and cultural hot spots. When we first moved to the area the only city dining establishment (besides mediocre white-bread-sandwich-type places) was the worst Chinese restaurant in the Northeast, and possibly the entire country.

Lancaster County has also become a retirement magnet, attracting people from all along the Northeast corridor seeking a calmer lifestyle and lower cost of living than nearby metro areas.

Meanwhile, approaching life in retirement, hub and I relocated to one of the most expensive cost of living states in the country (the main reason being high taxes), a place never found on best places to retire lists and sometimes on a short list of worst places.

But right now we love it. Barring storm damage (Sandy) resulting in being displaced for several weeks, hours and sometimes days-long electrical outages (Irene and a couple of other unnamed storms), and municipal water issues resulting in an inability to use our city water system (temporarily), life is good.

I am sure everyone heard the saying: It is darkest before the dawn. I think that describes the current situation in Atlantic City. There are a lot of reasons AC is in the dumps, including years of government overspending, neglect, political corruption, shortsightedness in viewing gambling as the savior of the city…on and on.

But the city has hit bottom (only my opinion, of course), and bright minds with an interest in more than lining their own pockets are coming forward with a new vision. Maybe there is some light at the end of an interminably long dark tunnel, and we will see it soon.

We are in a great location. Philadelphia is an hour’s drive or a $9 round trip train ride (special senior citizen rate). Manhattan is a 2½ hour bus ride away, about $35 round trip. A long, sandy, beautiful beach fronting the Atlantic Ocean is a three-block walk.

Sometime soon we will return to Lancaster, spend a First Friday strolling downtown, enjoy one of the new restaurants, visit with old friends, and consider that maybe, when the shore becomes too expensive or ends up underwater (literally), we can move back.

Before then we are going to celebrate hub’s birthday with dinner and a comedy show at the Borgata, one of the AC resort casinos still open and apparently successful. We are not usually party people. In fact, we are rarely party folks. The biggest excitement this month (aside from the birthday night out) is eagerly awaiting hub’s first social security check. But I digress…

To summarize, we left up and coming for down and out.

Maybe crazy/unwise/foolish/reckless (choose one, all, or add one of your own descriptive adjectives), but we followed our heart.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cocooning in the Cold

I like bad weather. Occasionally. Specifically when I can cocoon indoors. Nasty weather presents opportunities to vegetate, to couch potato, to do nothing and not feel terribly guilty about the inactivity.

Before there was man or beast, there was weather. Beautiful sunny days. Cold, rainy, dark days. Snowy days. Windy days. Hot days. Frigid days. Animals, and later man, adapted. Early man huddled in caves for days during storms. Then people wised up and learned to pack their belongings and journey from cold weather regions to places offering more benign conditions during cold months (the original snowbirds).

Nowadays the 24/7 news media continually warn of impending doom-worthy storms approaching the Northeast, the Great Lakes region (think Buffalo), the endless plains and Western mountains. Following a milk and bread alert and quick run to the nearest convenience store or supermarket, residents are warned to stay inside and off the roads. 

I am happy to remain indoors and watch, through the double-paned window, my small car slowly but steadily transform into a white-encased mound.

I do not remember snow days – no school! - as a kid, but there must have been a couple over the years. I do remember my kids’ snow days, and not nostalgically. I recall long days dressing the boys in layers of clothing and sending them out to play. Depending on the temperature, they remained outdoors a couple of hours or a couple of minutes.

But they always came back inside. I peeled clothes off their cold, shivering bodies, threw the wet garments in the dryer, and made hot chocolate and a snack. By the time the boys finished eating, resting, and fighting, the clothes were dry enough to wear again.

The scene repeated again. And again, until it mercifully grew cold and dark. 

Fast-forward a few decades and cold, snowy days and rainy, squally ones entail a totally different experience.

Time indoors on these days should not be misused accomplishing useful things. They are occasions for laid-back activities like beginning that novel sitting on the shelf for weeks and making a pot of soup that, while simmering, pervades the entire house with a wonderful smell and tastes delicious as it is leisurely savored at whatever time of day one decides to indulge.

As the wind wails outside and the rain or snow falls, I make myself comfortable on the family room couch, surrounded by the tools needed for a day of comfort, relaxation, and guiltless squandered time. A steaming cup of coffee or hot chocolate. A pile of newspapers and magazines, and some books. My cell phone and laptop. The TV remote. A blanket to snuggle in.

TV watching is, admittedly, a waste of time, but during a day tolerating – more than that, sanctioning - wasted time, old TV shows and movies with casts of famous actors and actresses, most long gone, are a delightful indulgence.

The only time forced to leave my comfy corner is when nature calls.

Eventually the world returns to its frantic tempo. Re-energized, I resume normal activities, secretly awaiting the next weather-related retreat day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Unsubscribe Me – Please

Warning: Today I rant.

At the moment I am fuming about a problem endemic in our connected society. At least I have found it an ongoing, annoying issue. I do not know if others are faced with the same dilemma. Although it is not a dangerous or costly concern, it is irritating, at times maddening, and definitely frustrating.

So here goes:

Why is it so easy to subscribe to various websites and receive a constant barrage of ads, news alerts, solicitations or whatever – and so difficult to unsubscribe?

Theoretically by scrolling down to the bottom of an email – first of course locating a magnifying glass so the fine print can be discovered and studied - there is a link to unsubscribe, or maybe it says:

If you no longer want to receive emails
from this company, click here.

Clicking produces a screen saying something like:

Verify that you no longer wish to receive
our valuable emails by checking the box below.

Sometimes a follow-up screen wants to know why I no longer wish to receive this particular company’s correspondence, or wonders if perhaps I would like to receive their valuable materials less often (once a week? once a month? exclusive promotions only? holiday products? sales announcements? midnight madness extravaganza offers? cyber Monday markdowns? new product news? Try NEVER).

So I click through, check off the boxes, and wait for my slew of emails to be reduced by at least one.

Unfortunately too often nothing happens. The steady barrage of emails from the company continues unabated.

What could I have done wrong that the company rejects my request?

Sometimes my user name and password are requested. A lot of times I do not remember the information because I used the site to buy an item once – probably months or even years ago. I have a lengthy password file, but occasionally forget to add a new one. I use the same password for lots of websites – a no-no, according to Internet security gurus – but at my age I forget too much to fool around changing (and remembering) passwords all the time.

Occasionally I mark an email as junk and hope future emails are immediately relegated to the junk or spam folder. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

So what is the secret to getting rid of unwanted on-going emails?

I am more careful nowadays about giving retailers my email address, not wanting to be bombarded with ads and tired of scrolling through the junk before arriving at one I actually want to read.

Then there are the totally unsolicited emails that magically appear in my inbox. They arrive and I wonder – where the h*** did that company get my information? Probably purchased from another retailer, or some company that now collects and sells the information. Once again I waste my time attempting to get rid of the unwanted messages.

I guess I should feel good that so many companies want my business. I am wanted. I am solicited. I am sought out, petitioned, implored to read the correspondence and ACT NOW! I am supposed to drop whatever I plan on doing, grab my credit card (or PayPal information) and CLICK THIS BUTTON IMMEDIATELY!

I am afraid it is a losing battle.

So here is my plan. I am going to set up a new email account and begin giving it to retailers and those annoying websites demanding that YOU CANNOT PROCEED FURTHER WITHOUT GIVING US YOUR EMAIL NOW.

I will never have to actually scan through the emails. I will know, even if it says there are 25 - 50 - 100 or more emails, that every single one of them belongs in the round – a.k.a. discard - file.

There is another possible solution. I can give my email address and, by mistake, key one or two incorrect characters. Of course that is not an honest thing to do, so I will open that other email account…

Soon – maybe a month, a year, a decade from now – my ‘real’ email account will be devoid of advertisements and solicitations.

But then I wonder – will I get any emails at all?

Will anyone out there not wanting me to buy something want to correspond with me? 

Time will tell. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Best of Boomers on Travel, Mind Play, Holiday Shopping and Charitable Giving

This week on The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about how she and baby boomers love to travel. Boomers plan to take four to five trips next year, with more than half traveling within the United States and four in 10 traveling both domestically and internationally, according to an AARP survey.

In a previous post, Amy Blitchok at Modern Senior took a look at the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing the AARP RealPad for your loved one this season. While the RealPad may not be the best choice for a tablet, Amy is back this week with recommendations for tablets that offer higher performance capabilities at a better price point.  Her 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Seniors also contains other great ideas that will help you finish your holiday shopping.

As we get older we sometimes forget things. Sometimes our minds can veer off track and fool us into thinking something happened when it really didn't. And we run the risk, to put it bluntly, of losing our minds. Tom Sightings at Sightings Over Sixty experienced a couple of unusual and unsettling adventures last night, which led him to wake up this morning and ask: Is my imagination just overactive these days, or Am I Going Crazy?

Laura Lee aka the Midlife Crisis Queen wrote a post this week supporting the efforts of animal shelters for #PetShelterLove. Please adopt, and help out a homeless animal this holiday. And speaking of HOME, Laura's new home in the southern Colorado foothills is finally taking shape!

Visiting her mother-in-law in an assisted living facility, Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting cannot help wondering: Will Mom be me a couple of decades or more from now? The statistics are not reassuring, but she is going to do all she can to, if not avoid a home permanently, minimize time spent. Read her musings in Home Sweet Assisted Living Home.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Home Sweet Assisted Living Home

Always be nice to your children because they are the ones 
who will choose your rest home.
                                              - Phyllis Diller

I think about that quote often nowadays as I frequently visit my mother-in-law in her assisted living home. We – my husband, my sister-in-law and I – chose the place. Mom had a stroke and the consensus among the family was that she could not return to her apartment and continue living alone.

While Mom rehabbed, we visited assisted living facilities, eventually selecting a very nice place six miles from our home.

That was three and a half years ago. Mom has had her ups and downs since then, as a slow, steady decline in mental and physical abilities continue.

A couple of months ago she transferred to a more secure section of the home. Her long-term memory still works remarkably well, but short-term functionality has been compromised. In addition she lost hearing in one ear as a result of the second stroke, and has difficulty catching and processing conversation. Phone calls are a string of, “What?” and, “we must have a poor connection.”

Yet, in a strange sort of way, she is doing better than before her transfer. She receives more attention and hands-on care, and as a result is thriving.

But because she is thriving she is restless and displeased with her situation, but participates in more activities than previously. She is less likely to sleep her days away.

A newly hired Activities Director enthusiastically supports and encourages the residents. Learning each one’s likes, dislikes, and history, she develops activities tailored to their interests and abilities, including family events promoting family and resident interaction.

So will Mom be me a couple of decades or more from now?

There is a strong movement to age in place – in one’s own home – but that is not always possible or desirable. Physical and/or mental requirements sometimes force an individual into an environment offering more intensive, hands-on treatment than spouses and family members can provide.

Not that there is anything wrong with Mom’s assisted living facility.

Except of course that is not what Mom will tell you. She berates the fact that her son put her in ‘this place’. She wants her car, which she cannot drive. She wants freedom to do what she wants when she wants, but is too frail to help herself do much of anything anymore.

Down the road I hope my health, both physical and mental, holds up enough so I can live my life the way I want and make my own decisions.

So how much longer might I expect to enjoy my favorite foods, world travel, reading (it will take several years to finish my current must-read list, and it continues growing), mind-numbing TV shows…and survive zumba class so I can enjoy my favorite foods?

Life expectancy at my age (I will turn 65 in 2015) is another 20.5 years. For men of the same age life expectancy is 17.9 years. 

If I must, I hope to pick my own ‘rest home’. At least then the only one I can blame for not liking the place will be me. It may be a difficult mission. A Health and Human Services Department study forecasts a shortage of housing for seniors as boomers age, predicting about 70% of the population reaching age 65 will need some form of long-term care during their lifetime.

In this particular case, I hope I will be a member of the minority population.

Meanwhile I will…

Eat a lot of chocolate. Recent studies indicate flavonoids, found in cocoa, may help stem age-related memory loss.

Get exhausted – but lots of exercise - every few weeks attempting to keep up with the grandkids.

Think about cleaning the house, occasionally actually doing so.

Make an effort to lose weight, a battle never won.

Dye my hair, although I am not sure for how much longer. At some point I will succumb to its natural color, whatever that might be.

Endure exercise classes, realizing achieving amazing results and morphing into a slim, trim figure will never happen.

Enjoy friends, family, and new relationships.

Try some new pursuits, learn a new skill or two or three. Easy ones!

Continue writing, traveling, complaining, and participating in all the other activities honed over six decades of living. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Final Note on Election 2014

And 2016 Presidential Election Update #11

Politics is the best show in America.
I love animals and I love politicians,
and I like to watch both of 'em at play,
 either back home in their native state,
or after they've been captured and sent to a zoo,
or to Washington."
-Will Rogers 

Conservative Republicans won Washington.

Progressive ideas won the grassroots ballot questions.

We are a divided country.

It seems that following each election cycle Washington becomes more and more a separate entity, alienated from the people the governing body is supposed to represent.

The new group of ruling Republicans, guided by dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, held their celebratory press conference the day after the elections in front of a sign stating, “Stop Obama. Fire Reid.” And Limbaugh continued ranting about blocking Obama on everything and anything the President attempts to do.

But all that is history now. On with the 2016 show!

What makes pre-election hoopla interesting is the unexpected, usually in the form of scandals, about sex, money, bribery, nepotism, plagiarism, embellishment (such as education and resumes), or just plain stupidity.

As the Presidential battles begin, I long to see who falls first.

Of course we do not yet know who is definitely running. Rumors abound, politicians hint, and the media speculates. The committed will begin throwing their hats in the ring soon after the first of the New Year.

I have to admit, however, the absence of political ads is a blessing.

On the other hand, replacement ads encouraging, urging, exhorting us to shop are not much better.

So let the political games begin! Sometime in 2015…

Disliking pre-election hype, I am considering signing on for a long outer space ride that will take me far away from the electioneering. I want to leave before January 2016, when things really heat up, and return the day after Election Day.

I would (thankfully) miss the constant bombardment of political propaganda, making it difficult to decipher truth from falsehoods, reality from fiction.

But I guess politics has almost nothing to do with reality.

I still plan on voting, my information received via coded messages from my grandkids, who will be as well-versed in campaign trivia – or not – as most adults. Or maybe I will stock up on reading materials before leaving. Most candidates have written at least one book. I will cast an absentee ballot, assuming between now and November 2016 my state does NOT pass ID laws limiting my participation. I have no idea on what grounds my vote would be unwelcome, but politicians, if nothing else, can be creative at times. But I digress…

Unfortunately I cannot afford a space voyage, but am considering starting a Kickstarter campaign to fund my trip.

Or maybe I will find a place right here on Earth – a nice, quiet, safe, inexpensive place - without TV, cell phone service, cable, or any other communications with the outside world. A location with no access to liberal media, conservative bombasts, or daily news announcing the latest survey results.

If anyone knows of such a place, let me know. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

December Bedlam Begins

The days from Thanksgiving through December can be a difficult, trying, stressful time. Or an enjoyable, family-centered, busy in a fun way time. For most people, it turns out to be a combination of both.

My time began on a disappointing, or more accurately a frustrating, note. 

I did not set the alarm Thanksgiving night. The following morning I woke early, and although no alarm jolted me out of a deep sleep (sleeping is one of my greatest skills), the clock read 6:20. I rolled over, then immediately thought about my 7:00 a.m. Zumba class.

I knew I could use some spirited exercise after two days of cooking and eating.

I climbed out of bed, threw on gym clothes, and crept silently out of the house, leaving hub and houseguests sleeping peacefully in the warm, cozy house.

My car thermometer registered 32 degrees.

Approaching the gym I noticed no cars parked along the street. Well, I figured, it was the day after a holiday and everyone was sleeping in or out of town. On the other hand there are always a few hearty souls around. I had a sinking feeling I would not be exercising.

Walking toward the building entrance, it appeared dark and deserted. My intuition proved right. A note taped to the door indicated the gym would open 8:00 a.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving.

I know, it was my fault. Should have checked the website or Facebook.

Sometimes I am not social media savvy enough for today’s world. Perhaps because I did not grow up using Internet tools, electronic devices are not always the first place accessed for information. Or I make presumptions and assumptions and do not check them out before acting.

I turned around, got back in the car, and drove home, stopping momentarily to stock up on bagels for breakfast. The salesgirl asked if I was out early for a shopping spree, and answered, “No way!” She said her family passed Best Buy on the way home from dinner the night before – Thanksgiving night - and the parking lot was packed. Four policemen directed people – not traffic - rushing to get pre-Black Friday Best Buy bargains.

The outlets in our town opened 6:00 a.m. Black Friday morning.

I strongly disagree with our consumer-oriented world’s push to open as early as possible Black Friday, Thanksgiving night, or Thanksgiving Day.

I feel badly for employees who have to cut short their holiday and work because people cannot wait to participate in what has become an all-American pastime. Shopping may be today’s number one American leisure time activity and sport. Not a sport exactly, more like a form of exercise, consisting of running into stores as the doors open, yelling at kids, sales clerks, and other shoppers reaching for the last item on the shelf, simultaneously lunging for merchandise, walking long distances through malls, and building muscles carrying packages.

I fail to see the fun in such exercise.

Marketers love hype. We view the evening news and watch people running into stores and walking around with baskets full of merchandise. Continuously inundated with TV ads, catalogs and mailers, advertisers hope we will jump in our cars and drive to the nearest big box store, mall or outlet center, credit cards firmly in hand.

Most of us will do some shopping in the coming month – for gifts, for more food than usual as we entertain and enjoy friends and family gathering at home, purchase holiday decorations and possibly winter paraphernalia should the weather turn ugly. 
I am a fan of Small Business Saturday. Actually I am a fan of shopping locally throughout the year.

So I am throwing my hat in the small business ring. Patronize local independent stores.

Shop Main Street, not Chain Street.  

And may your December be happy, healthy, and stress free. Perhaps most important, do not forget to allow plenty of time for fun. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Reunion Reveling in Retirement

Friends move in and out of our lives. Maybe we move away. Sometimes they move away. We fight and fail to reconcile. Lives and interests diverge, and we no longer have much in common. If lucky a few special friends remain in our lives over the years. We may not communicate for weeks or months or years, but eventually reconnect once more. Thanks to social media it is easier nowadays to stay connected.

Four couples initially bonded decades ago when our kids were infants. The babies are now in their thirties. These four couples will experience a major life event in 2015 - six members will retire. The other two already enjoy retirement.

We are an unusual group of married duos statistically speaking - each couple remains together since getting married decades ago. 

We are thinking about a joint retirement celebration, but have yet to work out the details.

The celebration would go something like this:

We will meet in a convenient central location; we live spread over 600 miles. Summer is the ideal time. Long hours of daylight are conducive to driving lengthy distances. Retirement allows for leisurely travel, with ample time for pee stops, refilling coffee mugs, breaks to stretch legs and backs, and any other intermissions necessitated by aging but still moving bodies.

The place chosen for our celebration will provide comfortable accommodations with private bathrooms. Everything will be close and convenient and lighted by night-lights. Otherwise, up in the middle of the night, we might forget where we are. Who knows what accidents might occur...

Tired from sitting in a car for hours, we will rendezvous for an early dinner, then adjourn to the hotel bar for a nightcap. At least one of us will turn in by 9:00 p.m., the rest lasting a lot longer - maybe until 10:00 p.m.

Talk will revolve around the following topics of conversation endlessly discussed among members of our generation:

Aches and pains, crossing over into Medicare territory, and the frustration of dealing with insurance companies,
Kids, grandkids, weddings and funerals,
Where we live, where we used to live, where we want to live, and
Recent trips, imminent travel plans, and where we want to travel.

The second day's activities begin with breakfast, a choice of palette-pleasing dishes along with an assortment of pills downed for a variety of ailments.

We linger over coffee. Conversation concludes with a discussion of a morning walk and appropriate footgear, considering members' bunions, flat feet, broken toe, weak knees, and bad back. Who can far each one of us can or wants to walk...

We stroll outside, but only if relatively flat and the weather perfect - sunny, not too cold, not too hot. Some of us will walk a few yards, others continue for a mile or longer, and the heartiest will complete five or six miles.

We meet again for lunch. Then sightseeing may be on the agenda, whether a local market, craft fair, museum, shopping, or simply wandering around town.

We return and decide on evening plans. We are not a late-night crowd, so clubbing (the music kind, not the caveman hitting each other kind) is out.

Dancing might be fun, but only to the oldies.

Oldie music for oldie minds and bodies, enjoyed with old friends.

An oldies reunion.

A good friend is a connection to life
a tie to the past, a road to the future,
the key to insanity in a totally insane world.
- Lois Wyse 

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Thanksgiving Story for Adults

Warning -
This is not an X-rated article. Sorry, folks.

As kids we colored pictures of Pilgrims in black and white outfits and half-naked Indians feasting happily together, and savored dishes lovingly prepared by our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and more recently, restaurants.

The real story of the holiday is quite different from childhood versions.

The myths and realities of Thanksgiving –

The Pilgrims sailed across the sea in 1620, intent on settling in Northern Virginia - present day New York State. Perilous seas prevented the Mayflower from anchoring in the chosen land. Heading North, the ship landed on the tip of Cape Cod in what is today Provincetown, renowned as an art colony and vacation destination for the LGBT crowd.

The Pilgrims moved on and settled in a deserted Indian village they named Plimoth. There were lots of deserted Indian villages at the time. A few years earlier European traders arrived in the area seeking riches. They left behind beads, trinkets and bacteria, and as a result two-thirds of the Wampanoag Indian tribe perished.

Upon docking, the Pilgrims did not set foot on Plymouth (Plimoth) Rock. The legend is a myth. No contemporary accounts mention a rock.

The rock initially appears as the place the Pilgrims disembarked 120 years after their arrival. A 95-year-old man, Thomas Faunae, told the tale in 1741, supposedly recounting what he heard from Mayflower survivors. The story was accepted at face value, and the rock became a treasured national memorial.

Back to the Pilgrim story...

In the fall of 1621 the Pilgrims celebrated their arrival and survival in their new homeland with a three day harvest festival, replicating a yearly English tradition. The Pilgrims and their neighbors, the Indians, were not too friendly, although the Indians taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, beans, and squash. But the Pilgrims were wary of their neighbors and looted their homes.

During the harvest celebration the colonists shot off guns and cannon, and the Indians came to see what all the ruckus was about. Whether invited to dine or crashing the party, we do not know for sure. What we do know is that 52 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians feasted on local produce, game and fish.

The celebration did not become an annual event.

A couple of years later a drought made life difficult for the colonists. Governor Bradford declared a day of thanksgiving, prayer and fasting. No feasting in 1623.

Moving ahead to 1637, an incident created a series of events leading to the first of what became annual thanksgiving celebrations.

A Pilgrim was found, in his boat, murdered. The settlers blamed the Indians, and, enraged by the crime, massacred the tribe. It is estimated over 700 Indians died. Survivors, mainly women and children, were sold into slavery in the Caribbean.

Governor William Newell declared a day of thanksgiving in honor of the battle victory, and a day of remembrance every year going forward.

A small number of the Indian tribe - the Pequots, living in what is today Connecticut and Massachusetts, survived and, centuries later, thrive. The tribe owns the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, advertised as the largest resort casino in North America.

Historians know the stereotypical black and white Pilgrim outfits are inaccurate. Black was worn only for church meetings. Buckles did not decorate their clothing - they were not invented yet, and the black shoes and black steeple hats often pictured are not authentic either. As for the Indians, by fall they would be wearing more than loincloths.

Wild turkey – a much slimmer, tougher predecessor to today’s fat, round, chemically-enhanced birds - may or may not have been on the menu. Wild fowl – most likely geese, ducks, and venison were consumed, along with seafood, Indian corn prepared in dishes similar to porridge and pancakes, a variety of vegetables including parsnips, carrots, turnips, spinach, cabbage, onions and beans, and herbs such as thyme, marjoram, sage and parsley.

Foods not available included sugar, pumpkin pie, cranberries, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top (a favorite in my family), apples, pears, and quite a few other goodies common on modern dinner tables.

150 years later the Continental Congress suggested an annual day of thanksgiving. New York adopted the custom in 1817, and other states followed. President Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November a day of Thanksgiving, and President Franklin Roosevelt specified the fourth Thursday of the month.

The traditional turkey dinner was popularized during the late 1800s.

Today millions of Americans celebrate the 3 F’s on the Fourth Thursday in November – Feasting, Football, and Family (not necessarily in that order).

Whether dining on a traditional turkey dinner, a vegetarian or vegan variation, or totally different meal -

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!