Thursday, March 23, 2017

An Honoree, a Reunion, and Vegas, baby

Young wives and mothers (emphasis on young!), Kathe and I connected over 40 years ago. Over the decades we shared the highs and lows of life - jobs, school, holidays, graduations and weddings, divorce and remarriage, grandchildren, funerals.

Kathe's boys went off to college and soon after she left town, following her soul mate across the country. Settling in the sprawling desert metropolis of Las Vegas, she obtained a position in her chosen field and lifelong passion, education.

That was over 20 years ago.

Twenty years - historically a generation, Biblically and as recent as the Gettysburg Address a score - seems like a long time when reminiscing about a life’s journey. In my life the span stretches back into the last century, but in my mind does not seem so long ago. Time moves and compresses at an increased pace as we age. I am not sure scientists have quantified the phenomenon, but it is worth investigating.

Two old friends growing older each year kept in contact and saw each other occasionally.

The Honoree giving her speech
Kathe retired from a career in education reaching back 50 years, but could not tear herself away from her school and the kids. She continues to volunteer in the library. In recognition of her teaching career and dedication to the school, she was honored at a dinner this past weekend. Hub and I traveled to Vegas for the event.

Our journey turned into a four night, three-day reunion in the surreal land of Vegas, baby. The recognition dinner was the highlight, and that too had a definite Vegas flair. Attendees included owners of strip clubs, tour companies, restaurants, and at least one professional gambler. These people have spouses (serially, not simultaneously as far as I know) or significant others and children. They want the best for their kids, so they started a private school and scoured the region for the best teachers. Kathe was the first professional educator hired.

Activities the days before and after the dinner included a tour of the Mob Museum...
The Mob Museum, all about an organization
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover said
did not exist, "There is no Mafia."

...a visit to Fremont Street, a.k.a. Downtown Vegas,
Chihuly ceiling in the Hotel Bellagio, Las Vegas
a stroll along the Vegas Strip, and much time catching up. And eating. Drinking too...
Ceiling of the Aria hotel

Starbucks in the very upscale Crystals at CityCenter mall (Gucci, Prada, YSL, Cartier -
 lots of designer stores I never heard of.)

Stairs leading to the Starbucks, the only store we could afford. 
Hub and I leave Vegas anxious for home, but glad we made the pilgrimage west. Kathe and I are planning another get-together. Unsure of the date, it will definitely occur in less than twenty years. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Disjointed Deja Vu Lament

So here I am again. In the back of a Spirit Airbus.

I am not alone. Hub is on my right and an unknown woman wearing headphones watching a game show on her iPhone lounges to my left. Around me men, women and children, wedged into narrow seats, try to get comfortable for the five hour flight.

Yes, hub and I are nuts.

Every time we log onto the Spirit website we ask ourselves, "Why are we doing this?" then surf other airline and travel sites, eventually returning to the low-budget, intensely uncomfortable but affordable Spirit Air.

I hate Spirit's website. Moving from one screen to the next, encouraged to buy seats and insurance and book a rental car and make hotel reservations and pay for express checkin and check bags and...

I want to check out, but comparing prices it inevitably is the cheapest. Often by a lot.

The woman next to me is now probably sleeping, her head against the hard plastic back of the seat in front of her. I tried that position hoping I might nap, but got nauseous and quickly raised my head.

No food or snacks to break the monotony, unless purchased onboard or carried on by passengers. Not hungry when boarding, hub and I have no drink, no food, no snacks. Not that I am hungry, but eating would be a diversion...

I read the paper, but am too tired to concentrate on a book. I dozed a little, but for far too short a time. Way too much flight time ahead.

We arrive at our destination 11:15 p.m. Pacific time. It will be 2:15 a.m at home. Bleary-eyed and exhausted, we will deplane, make our way to baggage claim and drag our one suitcase and two bodies into a cab, exiting joyfully at our final destination. 

Why one suitcase for two people? Because Spirit charges per bag. One large piece is the same price as a small one (within size and weight limits). Instead of checking two small bags we lug one large one. In one place for three days, once ensconced in our quarters we will not have to drag our bag anywhere except back to the airport and home three days hence.

What kind of word is hence? I don't think I ever used it before. I must be getting lightheaded, punchy, but hopefully not sick.

Hub just ordered a bottle of water. Maybe I am getting dehydrated, a possibility when flying high.  Literally, not figuratively.

Three dollars. That is what Spirit charges for the water. 

We are usually good about bringing drinks, water specifically, aboard a plane. For some reason we forgot this time.

I cannot wait to throw off jeans, sweater, socks and sandals and plunge into a large, clean, soft bed. Sleep. My body yearns for a dark space, a quiet environment, comfy sheets and a blanket. A place to rest my weary, headache-prone head, sore butt, achey back, and cramped legs. 

I tried packing light for this short trip. As often as I travel, I never seem to get the packing thing right. Too many clothes. Not enough outfits. Not the right ones - no warm clothes during a cold spell, no lightweight apparel during a record-breaking heat wave, no rain gear and it storms...Shoes take up space, are usually heavy and how many pair do I truly need? It was cold when leaving home. Definitely needed socks, but closed-toed shoes would not be worn for the next three days, sandals the shoe of choice for the weekend. I donned socks and sandals, not usually a duo on my feet, but a way to forego packing an additional pair of footwear.

So much for my Spirit saga of woe. I am grateful hub and I can travel to special events, the reason for this weekend's trip far from home, but during the actual uncomfortable hours of flight I get edgy and short-tempered, and my body slowly rejects me. The message is getting through - sore muscles in my legs need massaging. I need to reposition my butt, but the seat does not allow for much maneuvering. I should probably get up and stretch, but the seat belt sign is on. 

We experienced a bit of turbulence. Minor, but an announcement cautioned everyone to remain seated and belted. I would worry, but am too tired. My brain is numb.

Hub and I are wracking up Spirit Air points, but quite frankly, who cares?  Attempting to use them results in another frustrating Spirit story...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Wear and When of Pajamas

Is it OK to wear pajamas all day if not sick?

I realize this is not a major issue of the day. It does not compare to computer hackers stealing state and corporate secrets or whether or not the GOP’s health care plan should be called Trumpcare or Ryancare. Personally Idon’tcare. It does not even rise to the level of 24/7 TV coverage of the latest weather emergency – possibly a blizzard of epic proportions, a record breaker, or maybe not…

But the matter of whether or not I can remain pajama-clad during the day is on my mind. Of course if ill I can curl up in bed or on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket sipping tea, watching old movies all day. And night.

But what if there is no physical excuse for hanging out in pajamas the entire day?

The subject is on my mind because yesterday was an indoor day. News reports warned days before of an impending disaster. I mean storm. It turned out NOT to be an onslaught of epic proportions, but it did rain the entire day. Minor flooding occurred, blocking roadways around the neighborhood. The wind howled. TV and text messages advised everyone to stay indoors and ‘shelter in place’.

So hub and I did.

Armed with newspapers and books, laptops and phones, we settled in for a quiet day at home.

The question of proper attire for a home-based day arose. Neither one of us was sick, but we lounged around in PJs for hours. Warm PJs. Flannels. It was cold outside…

Finally I changed into loungewear – sweatpants and sweatshirt, my favorite outfit of choice, and I believe most telecommuters’ outfit of choice. I never saw a poll on the subject, but I would bet it beats any other at-home get-up. Some telecommuters may work in their underwear, or pajamas, or birthday suit, but probably would not admit it to a pollster. Or me. Or anyone else.

Another question to ponder. What time in the afternoon or evening can I toss my sweats and change into pajamas? Whenever I don pajamas, does that mean it is officially evening, no matter what time it is?

Does it have to be dark outside before I can put my pajamas on?

Is it decadent to stay pajama-clad all day? It is definitely comfortable. Would I be embarrassed if someone – the mail carrier, UPS guy, a neighbor – knocked on my door in the middle of the day? Would the intruder think I was sick, a lazy bum, or a senile old lady?

Do I care?

And if I don’t care, is that a bad thing? After all, I do not want to become the pajama-clad equivalent of the weird neighborhood cat lady.

“No cats,” neighbors would whisper and point to my house, “but she wears pajamas ALL the time. Day and night. I see her peeking out the window sometimes. And she walks to the mailbox in her PJs. Oh, she might throw on a jacket, but I KNOW she is wearing pajamas. And slippers. Weird, isn’t it?”

I am not thinking about wearing PJs all day every day. Most days I have commitments, so I dress, put on a little makeup and head out the door.

I am not a total recluse. Yet.

But winter weather is very conducive to hibernating. And wearing pajamas a great deal of time.

As spring approaches I will venture outside more. Gardening beckons, and I will not sow the soil in PJs.

I am sure the neighbors will be thrilled to know that. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Boomers Rescue Companies in Financial Straits

The boomer generation buys lots of stuff. We travel, we eat out, we indulge our kids and grandkids, and we spend oodles of money on medical care and health-related products. 

Boomers disperse so much money we inadvertently became saviors of some companies whose business would decline, and maybe fail, without us.

One of these lucky industries is paper manufacturing. The 21st century term International Paper uses to describe their business is ‘fiber innovators’.

As society digitized over the past couple of decades the demand for conventional paper decreased, and continues to decline. E-mails, e-books, e-readers reign today. Sales slid and profits plummeted. Companies needed new products, new consumers, and new ideas.

And we – the boomer generation – came to the rescue! Boomers, along with aging populations around the world, salvaged the slumping fortunes of paper companies.

Healthier than previous generations, boomers still succumb to age-related maladies and require the on-going use of certain products. One particular item is on the upswing.

The product: adult diapers.

And none of them, or very, very, very few, are the cloth kind. Disposables rule.

Not every senior, or a majority of seniors, will require the product. But even a tiny minority using diapers daily adds up to a lot of diapers. Tons of sales every day. Ka-ching, ka-ching…

A few statistics make the point: there were 562 million people 65 or older in the world in 2012. By 2050, the 65+ populations will reach 1.6 billion.

Yup, incontinence – defined as “leaking urine you can’t control” – is a major health issue, and incontinence merchandise a growing market. One-quarter to one-third of adults suffers from some degree of incontinence. The good news is that new products are not as big, bulky, and uncomfortable as older designs.

Capitalizing on the declining health of our generation and the increasing life span of most people around the world, the paper industry, or at least a couple of the big players, discovered aging populations were the key to prosperity for decades to come.

We boomers provide economic windfalls to many businesses and industries, and have done so ever since purchasing our first 45s, make-up, and comic books. We continue to help fuel the economy. Boomers rock! And pee. Often. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Six Weeks a Wanderer

Not alone on my wanderings, hub (sometimes reluctantly) trailed along. We drove south to the Sunshine State, detouring to visit the North Carolina mountain town of Asheville, site of the largest private home in America – Biltmore, a Vanderbilt legacy - and unisex restrooms. On to Florida and friends and family, then hopped on down to Costa Rica, transport a compact, crowded, tightly packed Spirit Air plane.

We spent three weeks in Costa Rica eating, hiking in the jungle, eating, walking beaches, eating, visiting friends and enjoying local cuisine. Returning to the U.S., luckily unencumbered by TSA pat downs or immigration officials, we rendezvoused with family for a captivating visit to the magical kingdom of Disney World (four days + four parks + four parents + four grandkids = two weary grandparents).
We saw lots of princesses in Disney World.
Driving home, exhausted and eager to NOT be on the move, we once again sleep in our own bed.

I am of two minds about travel. I love to see new places, tour famous sites, meet people, sample local cuisine, and stay in one locale long enough to hang out with the locals.

I also like being home.

I guess I did not get enough of the travel bug out of me when younger. Nowadays teens and twenty-somethings haul a knapsack around the world. The kids keep moving for days, weeks, and months with no ill effects. Not me. Or hub. We need our down time, our rest time, our simply hanging out time. Otherwise we end up with a variety of physical ailments, which in their own way are telling us, “Enough!”

Staying several days in a house or apartment, whether an Airbnb rental, house exchange or a place secured by other means, partially makes up for constant on-the-move activity. We can relax in a way impossible in a hotel room. A kitchen allows us to relish leisurely breakfasts, cook dinners, put our feet up and unwind. Do-it-yourself fare saves money and is healthier than copious dine-out meals. No matter how careful we try to be, hidden calories and ingredients, too much salt and sugar play havoc with our weight (I initially wrote waists, but neither of us has one anymore. Ours disappeared years ago), blood pressure and general health.

So now we are home, catching up on mail, bills and shows missed (if you are not already hooked on This is Us, watch it!), washing two suitcases full of dirty laundry, and restocking the refrigerator.

We have a couple of days of R&R before reviving our home life – organization meetings, doctors appointments, yard work (spring has sprung!), house repairs…I think I will start planning our next trip. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Fitness Vacation, Sort of

Use it or lose it, the saying goes. That is exactly what hub and I are doing, experiencing a four day physical fitness walkathon. Anyone can do it, but I warn you - it is NOT cheap. The word I would use is: costly.

We are in a place with a moderate climate this time of year, hovering in the mid-70s during the day. Cool in the morning and again in the evening, but not cold or uncomfortable.

Flat terrain everywhere, walking is easy, relatively speaking. No inclines or steep grades, with few steps. Wide paved walkways accommodate large numbers of people.

Restrooms, restaurants, recreational activities and snack bars line the route.

By mid day the place is packed. Walking in a straight line proves almost impossible. Weaving around folks large and small, numerous strollers and motorized scooters make maneuvering forward tricky. 

Colorful displays line pathways.

People watch as parades pass. We observe the crowd, infants to nonagenarians, men and women babbling in many tongues.

Early morning until nighttime, we keep moving on.

Can you guess where we are?

Disney World.

With the kids.

We sit during rides and shows, but too soon are up and walking again. Fast Pass ensures we do not stand on too many lines for long periods of time, but keep plodding forward. Enter one area, zig zag through a series of roped lines, then eagerly enter another area - only to continue walking through long passageways until finally reaching the ride or theater. 

Standing still for long periods of time is worse than walking, and we do some of that too. Waiting, walking, waiting, walking.

But we are having fun. Disney World is a magical place. Exhausted at the end of each day, we massage sore feet and quickly fall asleep before beginning the scenario again the next day. Four times, four parks, ten people on the go.

Once our Disney adventure ends, hub and I drive home. I am looking forward to sitting in the car, resting my weary body, horsepower providing the action.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Famous, the Not So Famous, and the Academy Awards Highlight the Week

 Sunset over the Pacific, Domenical Costa Rica. Peaceful...
.unlike my last day in the country!

Poor internet connections, iPad woes and a shuttle van trip from h*ll marked the last full day of my Costa Rican adventure.  Hopefully everyone else's experiences this week were more upbeat. 

The boomers were busy this week reading and researching, interviewing and writing about some famous individuals, and others not so well known. A famous poet, a fashion blogger, and a Mom are in the spotlight. A Dad also receives a few good words..

Laura Lee of The Adventures of the New Old Farts has been enjoying the writing of the great American poet Maya Angelou and a GREAT PBS Special about her life this week! So thought provoking...

On a lighter note, over at Heart Mind Soul Carol's got a shoe obsession and knows someone who is even more a fan of great shoes. She's interviewed Linda Hobden here and Linda has shared some photos of shoes that are hot in the U.K., where she lives. 

Carol's also talking about how she learned to let go of things she thought she wanted, only to find that even better things came her way.

And if you're in the mood for a bit of nostalgia, laced with some humor, check out the post by Tom Sightings, My Mom's Cooking, which shows how some things change, while other things remain the same.

Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, has been busy watching the movies from last year that have been nominated for Academy Awards. She has some gripes about the nominations as well as her list of preferred winners.  Robison hopes Hollywood will change its pattern and make more less-violent movies and make more movies about women. These trends continue despite fantastic movies last year such as “Hidden Figures” and “Arrival.” She also found time to write about income tax scams, how to make lamb stew, and new protections when you write an online review.

Spend a few minutes this week perusing these interesting posts by our boomers and perhaps leave a comment. We love to hear from our readers!

Friday, February 24, 2017

It IS a Jungle Out There

Costa Rica is all about the environment, much of it jungle. Thick, dense forests. Tall trees, shorter ones hugging the trunks of their neighbors, smaller plants reaching high, all sinking roots into the rich soil below and stretching above craving sunlight, other plants starting life on the branches of trees and sending long roots down, eventually settling in the ground.
Hanging Bridges waterfall, La Fortuna

I thought the jungle would be noisy. And it is, early mornings and evenings. But during the day it is eerily silent. No birds chirping, no monkeys howling, no animals rustling through the underbrush. Only the sound of intruding homo sapiens. Visitors are cautioned to tread softly and avoid loud noises, and most heed the warning. Occasionally loud bursts disturb the stillness - a child imitating a Tarzan scream or friends greeting each other too loudly.

Costa Rica seems hilly everywhere and mountainous in places, although flat expanses line the coasts. Hub and I live in a flat area, great for walking and bike riding, but not for getting into shape for mountain climbing.

Our Nuevo Arenal Airbnb sits on the edge of town, only a few minutes walk to the town center. However a steep hill leads up the main road through town. Short distance, not so short in walking time.

One afternoon hub and I hiked to a lakefront restaurant recommended for spectacular sunsets and great food. Directions were clear, but distance varied depending on the giver. Half mile, mile at most.
Sunset over Lake Arenal
Two miles later, slogging along unpaved, pitted roads and steep inclines - mostly uphill - who would think you have to walk uphill to arrive lakeside - panting and sweating, dodging dogs eager to announce our arrival and escort us, we arrived in time to enjoy the sunset. 

We took a taxi back to our lodging. 

Another day we hiked in the Montverde Cloud Forest Reserve to the Continental Divide, viewing both the Caribbean and Pacific oceans in the same place. The trek was mostly uphill, steep grades testing our stamina and resolve. And our relationship. Hub blamed me for not knowing the place involved a difficult forced uphill march. The positive - most of the time we were in shade.
View of Montverde Cloud Forest, clouds obscuring the forest.

Our best decision on this trip was NOT renting a car. Our itinerary took us on too many unpaved, potholed, dusty, windy roads characterized by hairpin turns, steep rises and descents. No guardrails. 

Our last week in Costa Rica we are staying with friends who plan on making the country their permanent home. After a few months the driving no longer intimidates, Jim says, "it is what it is". I sit in the back of the car and (usually) enjoy the ride. The rest of the time I wish for a stiff drink and a tranquilizer, and pray no trucks come towards us.

Sometimes it takes time to ease into la pura vida. 
Living la pura vida on the beach, Domenical CR. 
View of Pacific Ocean.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Vitamin D Dilemma

The intense sun shines day after day in the tropical country I am visiting. Not wanting to sunburn badly or get skin cancer, I lather up. 

I hope to return home with a tan sheen over my white winter skin.

Besides a tan, I desire a huge dose of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is all about the sun. D deficiency causes rickets in children, resulting in soft bones and bow legged kids. D deprived adults develop osteoporosis.

My dilemma is how much sun time is enough time but not too much.  As we age it is harder for our bodies to absorb Vitamin D. I know this because magazine and news articles inform me of the dismal fact that it is increasingly difficult for those of us past 50 to synthesize enough D from the sun. We are encouraged to get our fix artificially.  

Our bodies obtain some vitamin D through food but not as much as needed. Too bad, because I like to eat. Unfortunately food does not provide substantial quantities of the vitamin. Fatty fish - tuna, salmon, mackerel - offer the best source. Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks contain small amounts. However as much as 90% of our vitamin D comes from the sun. Because we cannot get enough via food, manufacturers do us a favor and add vitamin supplements to food products, such as milk and breakfast cereals. Vitamin producers encourage us to take a daily pill. 

I prefer to obtain my vitamins the natural way. And since I am in a land of 12 hour sun, I hope to absorb a huge amount of vitamin D. But a number of questions concern me.

Does sun screen, while protecting my body from harmful rays, also screen out Vitamin D? 

If I don't wear sunscreen but get my vitamin D fix will I get skin cancer? Or a bad sunburn? 

If I start the day sunscreened, then get wet and/or sweat off the sunscreen, will Vitamin D then soak into my perspiring body? 

Does vitamin D filter through areas of the skin covered by clothing but not sunscreened?

If I get a substantial vitamin D dose, how long will it last before I am once again D deprived?

To answer these questions my fingers marched across my iPad. I got answers, but also got confused.

No, sunscreen does not block Vitamin D intake. It takes only 15 minutes of sun exposure everyday to boost one's vitamin D.

Yes, sunscreen does block vitamin D. Some sources say it is better to get additional vitamin D from food supplements rather than risk being in the sun screen-less.

Bundling up for winter weather protects us from cold, rain, snow - and vitamin D. However D can get through light-weight, loose cotton clothing  especially when wet. I guess I can walk around wearing a wet T-shirt, but sadly my wet T-shirt days are long, long gone...

There is a bit of good news. Assuming my body soaks up an abundance of vitamin D now, the supply will last three months.

In three months it will be spring. Late spring. The best time to enjoy the outdoors and the sun.

I may not need extra helpings of fish or cereal or pop a vitamin pill until next winter! 

I will not have to worry about vitamin D deprivation until next December or January. Meanwhile I will lather up, wear a cotton shirt, venture outside, enjoy the sun, and hope those D rays surge through my age 50++ body.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Pursuing La Pura Vida in The Place of Turtles

Green turtles have nested along the island beaches of Tortuguero, the place of turtles, for millions of years. The animals are an endangered species and Costa Rica, on the forefront of protecting the environment, created Tortuguero National Park to protect turtle nesting areas and over 200,000 acres of surrounding land and waterways.

A village existed on the island for thousands of years, off and on, residents farming, fishing, and in the early 20th century working for area sawmills and the timber industry. When the sawmills closed many residents left. The remaining villagers lived without electricity and running water almost to the dawn of the 21st century. Today these amenities plus Wifi make a stay positively plush.
Main Street, Tortuguero 
Main Street, Tortuguero 

I promised hub our visit to Costa Rica would be more relaxing than trips to sightseeing-intensive places like London or Paris. So our first stop included much downtime.

The only event pre-arranged was a boat tour through the park. Upon arrival we were informed the tour began the following morning at 5:45 a.m. 

Hub was not happy, but we set the alarm and met our guide and fellow passengers at 5:45 as directed. We boarded an open boat and spent the next three hours slowly maneuvering in and out of park waters, spotting wildlife, taking pictures, and getting wet.
It rained. A lot. We were unprepared, but our guide was not. He passed around large ponchos. We put them on, huddled underneath, then emerged when the rain stopped. Viewed more wildlife, then as rain began again donned rain gear. This scenario repeated four times. 

The area receives 20 feet - that is not a typo - of rain a year.

We returned to Casa Marbella wet and hungry. A breakfast of hot coffee, fresh fruit, eggs and toast satisfied.

Four days passed...we rented bikes and explored the island, learned about chocolate making and crushed our own cocoa beans, and visited the Turtle Conservancy. We spent lots of time reading, writing, resting, meeting other tourists, and discussing important topics of the day like which restaurant should we try for dinner?

I have no doubt our blood pressure decreased, for two reasons. First, pursuing la pura vida, and second, no immersion in political events, occurring only when locals and Europeans asked something like (and I am paraphrasing only slightly here) "What the hell is going on with you Americans?".

Tortuguero is a colorful tropical locale, but the heat wore us down. We became lazy and lethargic and always felt sticky. Hang around and we will get used to it, locals told us, but we did not linger.
On the boat leaving hour and a half ride.