Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Simple Pleasures of Summer

Life decelerates during the summer. We savor things glossed over or ignored the rest of the year. I meander through our town’s farmer’s market – outdoors once a week Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day – and take more than a few minutes to appreciate the cornucopia at each stand. Market stands are spread out in a wide one-way path (thanks to the pandemic) around a church parking lot. I order a tall plastic container of half-n-half, fresh-squeezed lemonade and iced tea, at a stand called Twisted Lemonade, and sip carefully under my mask as I peruse each stand and decide what to purchase.

My favorite summer fruit/vegetable is the tomato. At the beginning of the season I buy local hot-house, then as the season progresses purchase small ones – cherry and grape tomatoes, then plum, and finally enormous New jersey tomatoes ripened on the vine.

The market is close enough to my house that I either walk or ride my bike. I return home laden with scrumptious, healthy food. Most of the time. Sometimes I cannot resist the pull of fresh berry pies, homemade cheesecake, and giant muffins (blueberry my favorite). 

Hub and I have not wandered far from home since March. We filled the car with gas only

My heirloom tomato plant
a couple of times in weeks. I spend a lot of time in my garden, and the harvest has begun – greens, radishes, strawberries, a meager yield of sugar peas, lots of herbs (basil, mint, lavender). Blueberries will ripen in a day or two, green peppers and tomatoes in a few days. Unsuccessful plantings too, but I won’t dwell on those...

Last night we walked a couple of blocks to the ice cream shop and waited in a long line outside, socially distancing from folks in front and behind us, everyone wearing masks. It is a holiday weekend and our beach town is packed. 

Our evening ended with Hamilton. The movie includes the original Broadway cast and is free for Disney+ subscribers. I doubt a lot of seniors subscribe, but many have children and grandchildren who do. Key in the Disney+ user name and password, and you are on the way to an evening of fabulous entertainment! The show is closed captioned, so none of the fast-paced dialogue is lost. I admit I did not last the entire show, got too tired to focus, but will finish watching tonight. The original night’s entertainment, Fourth of July fireworks, were cancelled, thanks to the coronavirus and irresponsible folks. But...

It is summer and the sun shines, the weather is hot, the water warm, and folks just want to have fun. Enjoy the holiday and stay well, stay safe, stay sane. 
Tomatoes purchased at the farmer's market.
From Ode to Tomatoes, by Pablo Neruda 
...on the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Thinking Positive and Planning Ahead

I have begun planning for the future, a time of a new normal allowing hub and I to venture outside our cocoon into an ever-widening world. Maybe it’s the season or perhaps the sun has gotten to my head, but I need a change of scenery. Planning ahead lets the optimist I am prevail over the atmosphere we currently plough through – increasing coronavirus numbers in too many states, limited contact with other humans, restrictions in our everyday lives. But slowly we emerge...

I got my hair colored and cut! Not normally a major accomplishment or worthy of note, but after over four months of neglect my mane needed professional attention. Now I can leave the house without wearing a hat to cover the mess.

I ventured inside neighborhood stores – the grocery store, and a gift shop for - what else – gifts!

But most important are future plans...

We made plans to see our son and his family on Cape Cod in August. We haven’t seen the Vermont grandkids since February. A few extra days lounging in the pristine New England countryside would be nice, but no specific plans yet. Suggestions welcome!

Our Florida granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah, originally scheduled for April 2020, was rescheduled for October, 2020. That date was beginning to look less promising as Florida covid-19 numbers soar. So the event is postponed once again, this time on the calendar for April 2021. Hopefully it will be safe to travel and gather in groups next spring.

And on the topic of travel during the pandemic... Advisories suggest driving is a safer means of travel than flying. I am not ready to board a plane, and probably will not until a vaccine guarantees a safe, virus-free trip.

Mentioning (once again) Florida...I live in a community of snowbirds and retirees, many with Florida connections. People travel along the East coast all the time, visiting family, on vacation, staying in the Sunshine State over a weekend, a week, a month or an entire season. Florida folks visit the Jersey shore all the time for the same reason. As a result the mix of Jersey/Florida folks is constant. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut placed a 14-day quarantine on anyone arriving from states where covid-19 numbers are on the rise – Florida, Texas, Arizona, and others. I wonder if folks will self-quarantine. It is a concern for those of us beginning to feel safe in a region of decreasing numbers.

Meanwhile...e-mail and ‘real’ paper travel brochures arrive in my mailbox almost daily, and I peruse them for ideas. Where do I want to roam? Number one priority is anyplace safe, but after that I am open to going...anywhere.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Boomers Cope in Extraordinary Times

                                         Those lazy hazy crazy days of summer...
Nat King Cole

It is official. Summer arrived Saturday, June 20 at 5:43 P.M.EDT

The arrival of the sunny summer season does not magically dissolve current problems – the coronavirus pandemic, anti-racism protests, economic uncertainty, an acrimonious Presidential election. But hopefully we do not ignore a new season offering upbeat possibilities. 

This week our bloggers explore the Black Lives Matter movement, discover innovative ways to endure quarantine, and ponder when the time is right to venture out into the world again.

The Black Lives Matter protests over the past month have inspired many of us to evaluate our personal prejudices. 

In support of what's happening around the world, Jennifer, of Unfold and Begin, felt it was time to take a look at herself and uncover any racial biases she might have in order to move towards a better world. Read It's Time to Look at Myself.

Carol Cassara's blog, A Healing Spirit, is an interesting read you won't want to miss. This raw, unflinching, honest interview with a professional Black man whose courage in opening himself up and revealing himself at his most vulnerable is in every word of Carol Cassara's post, "Why Some Feel More Hope Than Ever on this Juneteenth"

We continue to cope with the coronavirus that has turned our 2020 lives upside down.
Rebecca Olkowski of interviewed two people who have used innovation in creative ways to help others during the pandemic. It’s amazing what people have come up during the time spent in isolation.
Tom at Sightings Over Sixty posts an item this week about -- what else? -- the Coronavirus. Along the way he poses an interesting theory about the psychology of why some of us are still self-isolating and wearing masks, while others are ready to jump back into normal life. So check out What Are We Doing? to see if you are a Hero, or a Do-nothing.

Venturing out in the world
all masked up!
Quarantine has meant changed plans and a lot of cancellations – events, trips, activities. 2020 is a year of lowered expectations...

Have you heard of the teacup list? Laurie Stone of Musings, Rants & Scribbles explains -- instead of the bucket list with its dramatic, “before-I-die” goals, we have the teacup list. Instead of feeling panicked you haven’t gone on that cross-country road trip or hiked Thailand or parachuted in the Gobi desert, you shrink all expectations. With this in mind, here in no particular order are the small (okay, very small) things she wishes to do this summer…

Finally, a fraud alert –

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer and personal finance journalist, writes about what you should do if someone applies for unemployment benefits in your name. Report it to your employer and your state employment agency and go to the FTC website to see what to do about identity theft.

Thank you for stopping by and spending a few minutes with the boomers.
Have a great week and take time to enjoy summer.

Rest is not idleness,
And to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day
Listening to the murmur of water,
Or watching the clouds float across the sky,
Is hardly a waste of time.
-       John Lubbock

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Primarily Voting from my Couch

                                         143 Days Until Election Day
Tuesday, November 3, 2020

My mailbox contained an interesting piece of correspondence yesterday, a thick envelope with a mail-in ballot for the New Jersey primary. Every registered voter in the state will receive a mail-in ballot this year because of covid-19. The primary is July 7, delayed from the original June 2 date due to coronavirus. A limited number of voting venues will be open for the convenience of individuals who want to vote in person. Rather than risk standing in line waiting to vote, I will complete the mail-in form and return it in the no-postage-required envelope.

Primaries are usually non-events in New Jersey. By the time primary day rolls around decisions are made, and this year the Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates have been chosen. However my Congressional district offers a noteworthy race.

The Congressman representing New Jersey’s second Congressional district, covering a large territory in the southern part of the state, is Republican and ex-Democrat Jefferson Van Drew, a first-term Congressman. 

Van Drew ran as a Democrat in 2018 and won. One year later he became the only House Democrat to oppose the impeachment of President Trump. In November, 2019, he publicly stated that he would remain a Democrat despite his opposition to impeachment. But in December Van Drew met with Trump and announced he was switching parties. January 7, 2020, he officially changed his party affiliation.

The local Democratic party sprang into action, seeking a candidate who would (hopefully) defeat Van Drew in the 2020 election. Five candidates vie for the nomination, one of whom, Amy Kennedy, is the wife of former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy. He is the son of former Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.

The Congressional district is labeled a pivot district – it went for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but for Trump in 2016. A moderate Republican represented the district for 24 years before retiring. Then-Democrat Van Drew replaced him. The election promises to be a contentious one.

A combative Presidential race...a contentious Congressional contest...a Senate election. New Jersey Senator Corey Booker(D) is running for a second term. Five candidates seek the Republican nomination, but Booker’s reelection is considered secure. 

It is going to be a bumpy campaign season. After an election I normally look forward to a hiatus in political hype and propaganda. Unfortunately whatever the outcome of this year’s Presidential election, I doubt any degree of calm will descend on the political scene. On a positive note, however, maybe by November coronavirus concerns will be history and trips can be planned and travel will be safe once again. It will be time for a politically-free vacation anywhere that is possible.

Meanwhile stay sane, stay well, and enjoy safe forays back into the world.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Summer’s here and that means bathing suits

Bathing is a sport
Enjoyed by great and small
In suits of any sort
Though better none at all.

We are witnesses to history. The coronavirus has been with us for months and refuses to leave. We stay close to home, quarantine, and weigh carefully the desire to go out, socialize and do what used to be normal activities vs. the possibility of getting sick, a situation that could be dire for seniors and anyone with a compromised immune system. There is the resulting recession as millions are unemployed. There are protests against racism, an issue that has haunted our nation since the first slaves set foot in the New World centuries ago. 

But it is summer and time for a bit of light-heartedness. I dig into my closet for summer attire – light-weight shorts and capris, short sleeved and sleeveless tops, and what for me is the most hated item of clothing ever – the bathing suit.

When I was younger I did not abhor bathing suits – I wore one-piece suits, two-piece suits and bikinis at the pool, the beach, lounging in my backyard. But as the years passed I became more comfortable in loose clothing, and the idea of squeezing into a bathing suit became more and more objectionable.

Looking way, way back in history, I probably would not have liked swimming in classical times when the most popular swimming attire was none – the nude look was in. Nude bathing lasted until the 17th century in Europe. But most people back then didn’t live to be senior citizens, so I guess nude bathing wasn’t an issue for old folks.

In cultures that deemed swimming a positive pursuit, some kind of everyday wear was appropriate from the 17thcentury forward. Attire specifically for swimming became fashionable in the 19th and 20th centuries. Women’s and men’s suits were similar, outfits that initially covered arms, legs, and neck. Over the years suits became fitted, sleeveless, covered less leg, and the neckline dropped.
Late 19th century women's bathing suits.
Men's bathing suits early 20th century.
Turn of the 20th century... 
and later in the 20th century.

The 1920s saw a lot of changes in American society and fashion, one of which was the introduction of the ancestor of today’s one-piece swim suits. Controversy came with the clothes. On some beaches the beach patrol, tape measure in hand, measured the distance from the bottom of a woman’s suit to her knees. If too much skin showed, she would be fined. Or dragged off to jail. But these draconian actions did not last past the 1920s as the suits became too popular for the police or anyone else to control. 
Beach patrol measuring a woman's suit - distance from
the bottom of the suit to her knee. 

FYI – The term ‘bathing suit’ originates from our friends across the pond. The bathing suit was appropriate attire for men and women while frequenting public baths and spas in England, eventually becoming popular at pools and beaches.

These are difficult times for all of us, but take time to enjoy bright sunny skies, warm weather, and wear whatever you want at the beach, the pool, or at home!
21st century bathing suits.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Mail Call!

Our local mail carrier delivers an assortment of mail to our door six days a week, most of it junk. But I look forward to reaching into my mailbox, grabbing flyers and envelopes and scanning through the stack (can I fall any lower during quarantine than when a highlight of my day is getting the mail?) Sometimes there are items besides junk sprinkled in – a bill or two (most bills appear via email), a thank you note (occasionally), an invitation, catalogs, packages of must-have items ordered online, and perhaps an actual letter (I have not received one of these in – oh, I don’t know, months or years).

The post office is owned by the federal government but operated as a private corporation overseen by a Board of Governors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. USPS, the U.S. Postal Service, is a service most of us use regularly. Unfortunately, it is threatened with extinction.

In small towns and rural areas post offices were small structures
like this one in Florida, or in the general store.
Sure the post office does not make a profit and runs a deficit every year. The federal
The post office is in this retail store.
government also does not make money and often generates a deficit. But the post office, its buildings and employees are beloved members of our communities. You never know if you will see a neighbor and chat for a few minutes. Sometimes lines get long, but...the variety of stamps for sale are appealing, educational, and works of art.  And the post office employs thousands of people, extremely important when unemployment is in the double digits.

Yes it is a large unwieldy bureaucracy. But so is government and we’re not going to throw that away so fast (although maybe we should, but that’s a discussion for another time.).

The post office has been an integral part of our society since Ben Franklin became the country’s first Postmaster General in 1775. It is part of our history. The Pony Express, although short-lived, captivated folks when it began in 1860. In 1913 parcel deliveries began. Americans, ingenious folks that they are, came up with the idea of using the mails to send their children...wherever. An Ohio couple spent 15 cents, plus $50 to insure the youngster, to mail send their son to his grandmother’s home a mile away. For long distance travel it was cheaper to send a child via mail than buy a train ticket. 

The practice of sending children via the post office did not last long. The method was obviously controversial. In 1915 the last child mailed was a three-year-old sent 40 miles by her grandmother to visit the child’s sick mother.

Although the last documented child sent via the mail was in 1915, as late as 1920 two applications to mail children were rejected because they could not be classified as “harmless live animals”. Any man or woman who has raised kids can understand that decree. On June 13, 1920, the Post Office announced children could not be sent via parcel post under any circumstances.

I lament the fact that another hallowed slice of our society may soon be consigned to the trash heap of history. With any luck it will not occur until after we all mail our ballots in November.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Summer Begins and My Little Free Library Opens

It is Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. I am sitting on my front porch watching the world go by. There is, surprisingly, a lot of activity, especially when considering the pandemic still with us. It rained all morning and was supposed to rain all day, but the weather gods and the holiday gods consulted and thought better of confining folks inside another day. So the sun emerged and people ventured out...

Bikers, walkers, runners, kids and adults. Dog walkers, shoppers, beach goers. Folks from far and near converged on my beach town this weekend.

Summer officially begins.
Masks strongly recommended in my town.
Hub and I err on the side of caution, not going far or mingling. We maintain social distance and wear masks when venturing out. Which we did – venture out - Friday morning. Our town’s Farmer’s Market opened for the season, 19 stands spaced out in a church parking lot. Masks required. A socially distanced-spaced line formed around the block as only a limited number of people were allowed in at a time. Hub and I are market volunteers, and we staffed the line. As folks left we permitted the same number to enter. For many it was the first time among a group of people of any size in weeks. Almost everyone behaved. Only one man angrily questioned the mask rule and the line. (Why can’t I go in now?) He said he wasn’t coming back. Good! 

The big event in the life of hub and me this weekend is the opening of our Little Free Librarya ‘take a book, return a book’ free book exchange, although a book can be taken without replacing it with another. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share.

Our library has been ready for weeks, sitting on the porch, but we were reluctant to place it in front of the house, stock it and open because of the pandemic. Across the country many Little Free Libraries closed but others remained open. We decided to delay. But we felt now might be the time to open. 

There is one shelf of books, mostly children and young adult titles but adult novels too. I placed two small bottles of hand sanitizer inside. No announcement or advertising. Researching Little Free Libraries online, some owners are very involved in promoting their library. Initially I am doing nothing. I will place a picture on my Facebook page and eventually mention it on the Nextdoor app. Baby steps to start. I can’t wait to see the interest our library generates.
Our Little Free Library

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Peanut Butter Flashback

My current quarantine lifestyle seems to revolve around food. Which is fine because I like food. I enjoy meals. Food has become an integral part of sane survival techniques during these troubling times, and I like spending time cooking comfort food, the fare of my childhood. And the thought of comfort foods consumed years ago brings back memories...

I can’t remember when I was on my own for breakfast, but sometime in elementary school. Weekday mornings were hectic at our house. Dad left for work first, dashing to make the train to Manhattan. Then Mom took off, and finally my sister and I. 

I like to sleep. It is one of my best talents. So mornings I would sleep as late as possible,
then throw on clothes, grab my books and breakfast and race out the door. My breakfast-to-go was a piece of toast with a hunk of peanut butter slathered on. There must have been other choices, but peanut butter toast remains firmly entrenched in my mind, munching while walking to school. Enough nourishment until lunch... 

I remember standing in the lunch line impatiently waiting to pay for my meal, then walking with my tray to the nearest empty seat among rows of green tables that filled the cafeteria. By the time I maneuvered through the lunch line there was not much time to schmooze with friends. Sometimes a homemade meal in a paper bag made the trip to school with me. I don’t remember its contents, but cold cuts were always in our refrigerator. Not the appealing kind craved today like fresh turkey off the bone, pastrami and Hebrew national salami, but cheaper meats like bologna, ham, and liverwurst. I hated liverwurst and will not touch the stuff to this day. There was always peanut butter and jelly. 
Peanut butter toast and sandwiches made at home were always on
white bread.
Chaotic and noisy come to mind when recalling the lunch scene. By the time I was in junior high we had about 20 minutes to get our food, eat, drink, throw away the trash and move on to our next class. 

While our taste buds and level of food sophistication may develop over the years, food consumed when young become part of who we are. Although I rarely eat peanut butter nowadays, I remain a lox and bagel devotee and love comfort food like mashed potatoes, a plate full of spaghetti and meatballs (nowadays turkey meatballs), chicken soup...but I am getting hungry thinking about all this food. Remembering comfort food and preparing comfort food may be a good way to pass confinement time, but I fear my bathroom scale will protest and as summer approaches, my clothes may not fit quite as comfortably as they did last summer. Oh well...

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Step by Step, Stepping Out

The pull to explore beyond my home is strong this year. And so, within the confines of my state’s quarantine restrictions and social distancing, hub and I began stepping beyond the confines of our house and neighborhood. We must be careful, however, and time our trips so that we return home before the pull to...pee... 

 First stop, our favorite bagel bakery for a high-calorie, great tasting breakfast treat. Unfortunately it was apparent from a block away that a lot of other people had the same idea. I hadn’t seen so many people together in weeks. Together but apart – six feet apart in a line that wrapped around the block. 
Another day we visited a cafe that opened last weekend, take-out only of course. I wanted craved one of their famous and fabulous blueberry muffins. I enter the store, take a couple of steps, stop in front of a table with a cash register and coffee trappings and placed my order. “I’m sorry, we’re out of blueberry muffins.” Really? “We were busy today.” 

I have to wonder where everyone patronizing these stores hide when not buying stuff I want. So while I thought about an alternative purchase, I ordered a fruit scone for hub. Then I ordered my replacement item, a lemon bar, rarely consumed because of the high sugar content and too many calories. The cashier, feeling bad because there were no more muffins, added an extra scone to my bag. He meant well...
I came home and savored coffee and lemon bar for lunch. The piece was huge, heavy and thick, unusual because lemon bars are typically thin and light. But I pigged out and ate the whole thing. Later that night I got hungry and ate the scone. The whole thing. No dinner, just the scone. Bad move. The lemon bar and scone did not sit well with me the next day. Enough said...

I wanted tomato plants for my vegetable garden. My usual garden philosophy is benign neglect, but this year is different. I have been weeding, and planting flowers and vegetable seeds. But I wasn’t going to start tomato plants indoors. Hub and I took a road trip seeking tomato seedlings. 

As we approached the first nursery – nurseries are considered essential businesses – I noticed a line of cars slowly inching into the parking lot. We got on the end of the line. When the nursery grounds came into view, it was obvious the place was packed. Both front and back parking lots were full. We didn’t want to spend a lot of time shopping and waiting to pay. We kept driving. 

Next stop, a nursery with no tomato plants in stock. Finally, success at the third place. I
The fruits of my labor later this summer
Wishful thinking!
purchased seedlings and planted them when I returned home

Normally mundane activities, but in atypical times normal undertakings are the highlight of my day. And the week. And the past month. The highlight of hub’s week was the successful forage for toilet paper.

Stepping out, one step at a time, not too far, for not too long, so that we return home before the need to perform bodily functions intrudes on our excursion. There are no open and accessible rest rooms available in public places, yet...not that I would take the chance...

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Best of Boomers Welcome The Merry Month 0f May

 O the month of May, the merry month of May,
    So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!
- Thomas Dekker (1572-1632), 
 from Dekker's play The Shoemaker’s Holiday

Spring officially arrived weeks ago, yet day after day the weather did not cooperate. But once the page of April was torn off the calendar, May ushered in sunny, warm weather in my corner of the world. Historically people welcomed the new season by lighting fires, dancing around a maypole, creating baskets of flowers, candy and other treats – enjoying a lot of social interaction. The spring of 2020 is different – no travel, no family events, no theater performances or restaurant meals, no face-to-face classes, no annoying crowds or long lines. With the arrival of May following almost two months of quarantine (and counting) l think we all look forward to mixing and mingling with more people than our quarantine companions. We want to survive, thrive and plan our futures.

Rebecca Olkowski with explores the future of travel for Baby Boomers after we’re able to venture out into the world again. As older people we will still need to be cautious and take baby steps. She shares her ideas for those who may want to plan a vacation.

Shifting sands under our feet, that's what Carol Cassara says it feels like. We're all walking into the unknown, and at A Healing Spirit she offers helpful ideas for managing that walk into uncharted territory.

Some of us seek diversions to pass the time...

Tom at Sightings Over Sixty went shopping for some inspiration this week. He found it at . . .  well, go do a little browsing over at They Say It Better, and you'll find out where he picked up his pearls of wisdom.

And others look to the past – and future...

Laurie Stone of Musings, Rants & Scribbles knows that moms of boys understand. When your kids are little, you think you’ll never survive the sticky hands, typhoon-force energy, and non-stop “getting into things.” She won’t even go into the teenage years. But then, in what seems an instant, those boys are men. And with that comes another phase. As a Mom you’re doing less, but observing more. Watching her grown sons over the past few years, she's learned the following

We worry about the pandemic, and our concern has not abated. On the contrary...

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer and personal finance journalist, writes about a survey that shows Americans are much more concerned about the coronavirus pandemic in April than they were in March, with Hispanic and black adults having higher concerns. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted financially at least three in 10 adults nationwide, the survey by Consumer Reports shows.

A final thought on coping in these challenging times
Over at Unfold and Begin, Jennifer looks at a Bob Marley quote that points out we never really know how strong we are until it matters.

I hope everyone stays healthy, safe and sane. And please take a few minutes to visit our boomers. We love to hear from our readers!