Friday, June 23, 2017


Life consists of transitions. Big ones. Little ones. School to work, home to college or apartment living, single life to marriage, school to work, adulthood to parenthood...the list goes on.

Not all transitions are major life events. Some are minor, maybe not even noted or casually mentioned in passing.

Transition is what occurred in my life last week, best described in the following pictures. Recovering from both events (and still in the midst of event #2) most of my brain cells have yet to work properly, mired in a fog of exhaustion. Pictures tell the story.

Friday night - Shabbat - Jerusalem, Israel.
The Western Wall. 
There are separate sections for men and women,
a fence separating the two areas.
Standing on chairs and peeking into the area off limits to us,
we view the men preparing for and celebrating Shabbat.

Cycling in the city of Tel Aviv.
And spending a couple of less intense, more relaxing days visiting friends.
View from friends apartment in the city of Modi-in looking east to the West Bank.

Making the transition...
From the ancient city on the hill to the modern, sophisticated metropolis of
Tel Aviv (we arrived on the day of the Gay Pride Parade), the city known as
To home - summer -grandsitting - 
and celebrating another (very minor) event.
Celebrating my birthday with the girls.

Cooking and baking, here decorating cupcakes.
Other activities include multiple trips to the library.
 Storybook Land, the playground, the pool and of course the BEACH!

Bedtime disrupted by a thunderstorm and the loudest thunder EVER.
Three girls and a Grandpa huddle against the storm.

Oldest granddaughter preparing for camp.
Yup, purple hair - exactly what she wanted.

I will survive!

...I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live
And I've got all my love to give and I'll survive
I will survive, hey, hey
It took all the strength I had not to fall apart...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

An Israel Adventure Almost Over

There are occasions when time drags, seconds and minutes tick by slowly while waiting for something - an event, an announcement, or perhaps we just feel sick. Other times we cannot believe how quickly the hours pass. Each day of my Israel adventure is packed with touring sites, bus rides, walks in the blistering hot sun, and of course eating. Evening arrives and my bones and my mind barely function. I am physically and mentally exhausted. 

On the other hand today hub and I pack and endure a 12 hour plane ride home.

Each long day left little time for relaxation. Every night I prepared for the following day, turned the TV on, searched for something to watch and fell asleep to the drone of CNN news reports, too tired to pay attention. Hotels offered free wifi, so evenings and mornings I checked email and messages. I turned off cell data and silenced my phone, opting not to pay Verizon $10 a day for overseas service. The company gets enough of my $$. Every month.

Israel is approximately the size of the state of New Jersey, but the geographic diversity is dramatic. Desert, rolling hills and mountains, miles of flat seaside lined with beautiful beaches, farmlands, forests, lush river valleys and dry scrubland all squeeze within the borders of this small country.

Our tour group included six children between the ages of 5 and 13, so many activities geared towards the young ones tested the physical endurance of hub and me. But we survived! Nature hikes, river walks, rafting, tunnel explorations, boating, walking. Steps seem to be everywhere - steep, high, often slippery ones.

Here are a few pictures of our Israel adventure.


Climbing stairs in the old city of Safed

Making chocolate in the Galilee in northern Israel.
Visiting HaCarmel market in Tel Aviv
Playing in the sand, the Mediterranean in the background, in Tel Aviv
Climbing tanks
Touring tunnels under the Western Wall in Jerusalem
Feeding donkeys on a kibbutz.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I Climbed Masada

Travel is all about seeing new places, trying new things, meeting new people, expanding horizons. It is about exploding ideas and stereotypes concerning everything from food, modes of travel, weather, homes and buildings, people, countries and lifestyles. It is learning to not freak out at the unexpected or problems encountered, to be flexible and open-minded when confronted with cultural differences, and to be open to new experiences. Travel is exhausting, invigorating, irritating and annoying, but always an adventure.

Touring Israel I participated in activities that, if offered at home, I would most likely politely decline. 

Sometimes we take on a physical challenge for the satisfaction of saying,"I did it!" The sense of accomplishment feels good, but also provides a tiny bit of comfort that my body functions, if not as well as my touring cohorts generations younger, well enough to assure me I am not yet ready for the retirement home.

I climbed Masada, a very tall hill, not quite a mountain, maybe a small mountain, in the middle of the desert. It is a national monument, the remains of a Jewish settlement about 2,000 years old. When facing defeat by a foreign power and the knowledge they would all be killed or sold into slavery, the 967 inhabitants made the difficult decision to commit suicide rather than be captured by the Romans.

My day began hours before daylight. The bus left the hotel at 4:00 a.m.; in the middle of the night I am awake, dressed, and very groggy. Hikers must begin before sunrise - 5:30 a.m. - because the sun rises quickly and it gets very hot; too hot to climb. A cable car carries visitors up and down the mountain all day long. My party of seven hiked up the mountain, toured the site, then rode the cable car down. 
At the beginning of the trek up Masada. The body of water is the Dead Sea.
The rest of my hiking buddies, all ahead of me. I took up the rear the entire time
And reached the summit in 1 1/2 hours (most people can complete the hike in one hour).
We were not alone hiking Masada. A group of army trainees
Also hiked up - after they had already walked nine miles.
Our group poses with some of the soldiers - still smiling after their long march!
I am the civilian in the gray shirt (not the skinny one - that's my granddaughter).
View from the top of Masada. The mounds in the back of the picture
Are remains of Roman fortifications built during the seige of Masada.
View from the cable car descending Masada.
Mission accomplished.
And I have the T-shirt to prove it!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Jerusalem: Past and Present in Pictures

Our days filled from early morning until after dinner, I have not been able to muster enough energy to post. Keeping up with six kids aged 6 through 13 and their parents is challenging and exhausting to the bone, but fun.

The first stop on our itinerary Jerusalem, a city with one of the most contentious histories in the world, reaching back thousands of years. Attacked periodically over the years, the place became a holy city for three major religions. Invading groups included: Egyptians, Ethiopians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Mongols, Turks, British...

Here are a few pictures of the city with a tortured past and vibrant present.
The Western Wall, sacred to the Jews. Women praying on the women's side of the wall.
The shofar, an ancient instrument announcing the arrival of holidays and other events,
Here announcing the beginning of Hayden's (my grandson) Bar Mitzvah. 
One of the entrances into the Old City of Jerusalem.
The modern city: A protest march on one of Jerusalem's main streets today (Ben Yehudah street). Most
Of the signs were in Hebrew, but I got a couple of pictures of signs in English.

Walking the ramparts, on top of the wall surrounding the Old City.
Soldiers occupied the rampart, protecting the city and scouting the area outside the city walls
for enemy sightings.
Dome of the Rock, an Islamic sacred shrine.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Round Four Begins - An Overseas Adventure

Round Four of this season's travels begins. Our home will temporarily be inhabited by a couple enjoying a trip to the states, American ex-pats who have made France their home for decades. Hub and I travel east, spending two weeks in a Middle Eastern country (despite what our esteemed - note the sarcasm here - Prez might think. Look at a map. Or globe.) - Israel.

Travels began with a two hour ride to the airport - not the closest to home, but offering non-stop service to our destination. Mid-week, no holiday, check-in and security proceeded smoothly. Plenty of time for dinner in the airport. The toughest part of the embarkation process was staying awake until settling on the plane. 

Our 11:30 pm flight was airborne close to the scheduled time.

What do you do at midnight on a plane? Sleep, or attempt to sleep.

Lots of empty seats surrounded us. I relocated from my assigned aisle spot with two people next to me to an extra row. Hub sat on an aisle with an empty next to him.

Reclining seats, some leg room, a pillow and blanket provided, traveling economy. Air travel heaven!

Ten hours in a seat, no matter how comfortable - or not - is a long time. I slept fitfully. Everybody slept, or tried. About two hours before landing people began to stir. Lights went on, shades rose, and breakfast carts appeared. Mid-afternoon at our destination, it was morning back home. Stomachs urged nourishment.

Old bones rebelled, demanding movement. I walked off the plane scrunched over, unable to straighten, a couple of days of exercises needed before standing upright again. Exhausted, irritated waiting on airport lines, we finally exited the airport and officially entered Israel, a country I visited once. Fifty years ago. The thought is almost more than I can imagine. Fifty years is a long span in one's lifetime.

On the other hand memories of my six weeks in this foreign country when 17 years old bombard me as hub and I enter the country - experiences and people not thought about in years.

I tried reconnecting with cousins not seen or heard from since the 1970s, with no luck. I would like to see the house where I stayed in Jerusalem, but do not know the address. I am guessing the place still exists, a part of the history of a city reaching back thousands of years.

But my trip is not a nostalgic one. We come for a family celebration, the Bar Mitzvah of our oldest grandchild. 

Almost two weeks touring with two generations younger, stronger and more energetic than my aging body will be challenging, but worth it for a trip of a lifetime. Assuming, of course, I survive to tell the story...

Friday, June 2, 2017

Reflections on Being Electronically Connected, Bewildered and Befuddled

I see my elementary school classroom. I don’t know exactly which year, but it doesn’t matter. It is the 1950s. The rooms are all similar. Large spaces, high ceilings, a wall of windows with beige shades tilted at different angles, the room filled with straight rows of square wooden desks with a shelf underneath for books and papers and a wooden chair under each desk. A blackboard covers almost the entire front wall. Posters hang all around - maps, pictures of animals and people, class worksheets…

What is missing?

Computers. Headphones. Electronic gadgets.

I did not use a computer until grad school in the 1980s.

Today classrooms still contain colorful posters, mobiles hang from the ceiling, desks and tables (no longer made of wood) fill the room. Cubicles with computers line a wall.

I have incorporated technology into my life. I sit on a couch in a coffee shop writing on my Mac. My iPhone lies next to me. I wonder how I would find places without a GPS…or rendezvous with a friend at the last minute without a cell phone…or answer a question during a heated discussion without instant access to Google or Wikipedia.

I have come a long way, baby, metaphorically speaking.

Kids nowadays grow up tech-savvy, viewing gadgets from infancy, fingering them as toddlers, using them easily as they play games on the devices, take pictures, text, comparison to younger folks, I am technologically impaired.

I know what I need to know to do what I want to do.

The younger generation loves reading books on an electronic device. I enjoy holding a real book, a physical object. 

Connectedness created the flexibility of working from home. On the other hand being connected has drawbacks. Companies expect employees to be available hours after they would otherwise be ‘off the clock’. Yet isolated home-based work has limitations. IBM is bringing employees back into the corporate building, setting regular work hours, with expectations that increased people-to-people contact will enhance productivity. 

I love the fact that we can travel anywhere and read favorite newspapers and magazines anytime, everyplace, and stay in contact with work, friends and family. People today enjoy the opportunity of deciding where to live, no longer waiting until retirement to move to a dream location.

What happens when super-connected souls – my grandkids come to mind – become unconnected? On vacation Mom and Dad may encourage limited connectedness, and gadget-addicts somehow survive. However if a storm knocks out cell and wifi service howls of despair pierce the air from gadget-geeks of all ages, and people find themselves lost (metaphorically speaking, of course). 

I get annoyed at people texting and doing who knows what on their devices in restaurants, not paying attention to the people they presumably came to socialize with. Kids of various ages text across the room rather than talk to each other. Will the art of verbal and written communication soon be lost skills, replaced by abbreviated text and emojis?

Technology offers an important advantage to seniors and others with limited mobility. Unable to leave home, folks can maintain contact with friends and family scattered everywhere. Isolation due to physical restrictions is minimized thanks to technology. 

Change is inevitable and life marches on. All change offers advantages and disadvantages, and we cope as best we can.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Travel Rounds One and Two: On the Road and in the Air

Baer’s Grandsitting Service enjoyed a winter hiatus. The arrival of sunny spring days meant leisurely days at home exchanged for a faster-paced existence. We looked forward to a few weeks of travel and family.

Round One: Grandsitting.

Vermont is a special place, blessed with beautiful scenery, lush greenery, quaint, picturesque towns, distinctive businesses, young people everywhere - a wonderful place for individuals favoring an outdoor lifestyle and the perseverance to endure long, cold winters. And the home of two of our grandchildren.

Vermont-bound, we prepared for a chaotic time with one kindergartener, an18-month-old and a six-month-old, 40 pound puppy. The dog proved the most challenging.

I am not used to chasing after a toddler, and that is an understatement. My slightly (humor me) overweight body got a workout following the 18-month-old around the house, the yard, the neighborhood and a farm. Her attention span is nonexistent. Maybe that is an exaggeration, it might be somewhere between 5 and 10 seconds. She looks at baby goats, waddles over to the sheep, then back to the goats. Over to the cow, into the chicken coop, back to the goats.

I ran through the house picking up toys and other things scattered around. The puppy grabbed anything on the floor and low surfaces and chewed it. I attempted extracting the forbidden items from his mouth, not always successfully. Usually the well-chewed piece landed in a corner, discarded when Leo decided it did not taste good.

Not the pup,
but how I felt
 The best time of day was nap time/rest time.  Hub napped, the toddler napped, the dog napped. Syd and I watched movies, Grandma ecstatic to sit in one place for more than five minutes.

We do not have Netflix at home, and an advantage of visiting the kids is that they do. After putting the youngsters to bed, hub and I crashed on the couch with our coffee and binge watched Season 3 of Grace and Frankie, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. If unfamiliar with the show take a look, but begin with Season 1, episode 1, or you will not understand the relationship between characters. The show, funny and serious, highlights issues of people of a certain age. And the acting is great.

Meals out, meals in, snacks, clean up, dressing and undressing (the kids, not the grown ups), baths, bedtime, soccer, diaper changes, playground, little friends visiting, all a busy jumble. The days passed quickly and we were home bound, but not before experiencing construction and traffic delays.

Round One of our spring and summer travels over, we relished a day of rest before beginning…

Round Two: Three grandkids, three year-end school events and the joys of 21st century budget travel on Spirit Air.

The alarm rang 4:45 a.m. Tuesday morning. Bleary-eyed, hub and I threw on clothes and drove to the airport for a 7:00 a.m. flight. No hassles, quick security check-in, on-time departure, and arrival a day early for middle child’s acting debut in The Lion King.

Our Lion King star!
A well-planned itinerary.

Or so we thought. But the play was not the following day. Rescheduled for Tuesday afternoon, the
same day as our flight, we landed in time for the elementary school performance.

Wednesday evening we attended the middle school band concert. Oldest grandchild is in the Jazz Band and Symphonic Band, performances that bookended the 6th grade band and concert band. 

One day with no special events filled with shopping and a trip to Barnes and Noble. Middle child received B&N gift cards for her birthday she could not wait to spend.

There is no such thing as spending a short time in a B&N store.

Our Friday flight home departed 3:00 pm, allowing enough time to attend youngest child’s kindergarten graduation. The students sang songs and we viewed a video of the class's yearlong activities, the kids becoming increasingly active as the video played on. And on…the teacher sprinkled each class member with special dust, anointing them first graders, and presented awards.

Hub and I are the proud grandparents of the recipient of the Silly Award.

Four days passed quickly, and once again I sit in the middle seat of a Spirit Air flight. The airport-especially the women's rest room-was bustling, but the plane loaded on time, then sat at the gate. Finally the pilot announced a broken piece of equipment delayed takeoff; mechanics were on the way with a machine borrowed from Jet Blue.

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the engines cranked on. The plane started and proceeded to the tarmac, awaiting takeoff.

An hour after the scheduled departure time we were in the air.

Now in flight babies cry, teenagers chat loudly, and people walk up and down the aisle while little ones run up and down. Food smells permeate the air. Unable to survive the two-hour flight without eating, a lot of people purchased food in the airport. I can't blame them. Snacks keep kids of all ages occupied. Drinks and snacks can be bought onboard, but are pricey and not sold until the plane is airborne. With a delayed takeoff and no other entertainment, eating consumes the time.

Hub and I, on the other hand, opted to wait until landing to fill our stomachs. I sit here thinking about what I want to buy, bring home and consume....

Round Two of our summer journeys soon ends. Round Three begins tomorrow. On the road again... 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Physical and mental wellness and by the way, has life really changed much over the decades?

A perplexing question gripped hub and I this past weekend as we traveled almost 600 miles - 300 miles in each direction - to a wedding in the mountains of Virginia.

Why are AAA and other travel maps so difficult to open in the car? And once opened, why are the maps tricky to refold correctly? Or is it just us? Nowadays most people probably use modern technology-a GPS, either a gadget on or in their car or an app on their smartphone-to reach their destination. Sometimes, however, like this past weekend when we wanted to avoid highways around Baltimore and Washington, a map showing a large area with major highways as well as side roads indicated, comes in handy. We found an alternative route thanks to an old-fashioned paper map.

The driving situation brings up an interesting question discussed by Tom Sightings in his post this week.

Tom revisits an issue that has plagued him for some time, which is ... has technology really improved our lives all that much? See if you can sympathize with his plight by calling up Is There An App for That?l

"Living everyday with passion and purpose," is one of many quotes pondered by Laura Lee over at Adventures of the New Old Farts. Living hectic lives consumed by modern life, including jobs and careers, family and other relationships, there is little time for pondering one’s situation and asking: Is this really what I want? Why am I living this life? Retirement often brings a more flexible, laid-back lifestyle with time to think. Laura Lee reflects on these questions in this week’s post, Purpose is Highly Overrated.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about a report that shows that drinking one glass of wine or other alcoholic drink a day increases breast cancer risk. However the report, which analyzed 119 studies, including data on 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer, overlooks the link between exposure to chemicals and breast cancer, Robison said. It gives the impression, wrongly, that women are totally responsible themselves for getting breast cancer through their lifestyle choices. Read Robison’s article to see what steps you can take to reduce the exposure to toxic chemicals in your life.

Carol Cassara discusses the fact that the mind/body connection cannot be ignored if you are healing from any disease, especially cancer. 

Carol closes this week’s boomer blog with some well-chosen words about life from a man of few words, the poet Robert Frost. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

No inflation? My Pocketbook Knows Better

Whoever says inflation is nonexistent must be a politician because the rest of us find rising prices everywhere. Higher costs cannot be avoided by staying home. A rate increase notice arrives with monthly utility bills. Internet services bombard us with special deals. Take the deal, and at expiration the bill soars. Don't take a deal and eventually service options decrease. And don't get me started on taxes. Federal taxes may (temporarily) remain the same or fall (if you are in a top income bracket) but state and local taxes continue to rise.

New Jersey instituted a 23 cents per gallon gasoline tax increase this year. The revenue is supposed to fund transportation infrastructure. The state desperately needs new roads and rail service while existing roads and bridges deteriorate, forcing closures. Crews begin fixing bridges and roads and discover additional problems, forcing long-term detours and traffic jams while local businesses suffer.

So the 23-cent price increase goes into effect and today the cost of gas is 45 cents a gallon higher than before the tax was implemented. Oil companies took advantage of the increase, I guess, to sock it to consumers.

And inflation doesn't exist?

I am not wedded to particular food brands, buying what is on sale, what looks good, what I might be in the mood for. When an item gets too high I seek alternatives. I gave up red meat a couple of years ago for health reasons. Prices climbed and recently there has been a lot of publicity about the ill effects of products produced on factory farms, the source of most of America's beef.

There is an excellent grocery store a few blocks from my house renown for in-store prepared foods, offering everything from several kinds of potato salad and cole slaw to a variety of meat, fish, chicken, and vegetable concoctions. But convenience comes at a price. I buy when an item is on sale. Packaged uncooked chicken is also expensive at this particular store, whether brand name, organic, hormone-free, whole or parts. Rotisserie chickens are actually cheaper. I guess prepared ones are loss leaders. Don't want to cook? Buy one of our cooked chickens. And don't forget sides along with it - which, as previously mentioned, are pricey. High margins, I suspect, means more profit...

I purchase chicken at another market. Cheaper, fresher than brand names, and regional.

Uh oh. I am beginning to sound like a cranky old person, complaining about things changing-and not for the better.

I realize prices rise, but sometimes the increase jolts me into a kind of financial anxiety. Hub and I are retired and cannot complain about our financial situation. On the other hand our resources are finite. Assuming we live to enjoy a long retirement, our funds must stretch over many years. Not a problem as long as the gas tax doesn't keep jumping wildly and taxes do not surge precipitously every year and prescriptions do not spiral steeply...

Medical costs. The bane of retirees. We have insurance, but that does not guarantee financial peace of mind in the long run. Increases may not make a difference in everyday expenses but over the years add up. A lot. And how about medical items not covered by insurance? Glasses...hearing aids...

And what about our electronic gadgets? They are made NOT to last forever by becoming technologically obsolete.

Sometimes I hear my mother-in-law in my head. The woman was unaware in her later years of the cost of living and, once a financial maven, handed her financial affairs over to younger family members. Maybe that is the answer - ignorance can sometimes be bliss.

No worry. Be happy. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Was Driving Ever Fun?

Cocooning at home avoids lots of the hassles of modern life - crowds and traffic high on the list. Hub and I spent the past few weeks cocooning, but now begin another travel adventure. And it starts with car travel. Driving. 

Driving almost anywhere anytime nowadays can be anything but a pleasant experience.

Decades ago a Sunday drive was a family adventure, a time to explore nature, enjoy a picnic, visit friends and relatives. Enjoyable, bucolic, fun...but was it really?

Looking back I realize it was not, at least for my family, all fun. My sister and I fought a lot in the car, and I am sure we drove my parents crazy. Luxury cars, or at least comfortable cruising vehicles, were not in my family's budget. Our cars were purchased for the lowest price, travel amenities not a priority. 

Too many people discovered the joys of escaping home. Roads clogged with eager vacationers anxious to reach their destination. Cities and states could not keep up with the demand for roads and sometimes new ones were jam-packed immediately upon opening.

Fast forward to the 21st century. The driving situation in many parts of the country has not improved. 

Hub and I took a short road trip a couple of days ago. Our saga of road obstruction is a sad one:

Ten minutes from home and before getting on the highway we were rerouted because of road construction. Creeping forward between orange triangles and flags, we lost time before finally entering the highway miles away at a different entrance.

Approaching the bridge into the city, moving trafffic slowed to a crawl. On the bridge I said to hub, "It's weird. I don't see any cars going in the other direction."

"Maybe nobody wants to go to Jersey today," was his response.

"Wait, I see a couple of cars..." and then spied the problem - an accident. Cars on our side of the bridge slowed to ogle the scene. Once past the accident, we were up to speed once again.

Stop and go traffic through the city is to be expected. Finally a sign appeared, 'Lancaster County,' and we breathed a sigh of relief. Almost at our destination. No more traffic.

I was wrong.  Like much of the country, Lancaster County PA is growing. More houses, more people, more cars, more commercial development, more retail stores, but no more roads. Suddenly an orange sign in the middle of the road announces: Incident Ahead. Then another sign: Detour Ahead. Road closed.

What the...?

Two accidents on a beautiful sunny day. No rain, no wet roads.

We inched our way through the countryside, although we could not see much because of the BFTs (trucks) in front of us. So much for pristine countryside.

And so our travels begin.