Thursday, June 13, 2019

Electronically connected and not necessarily happy about it

I am now a member of the cool crowd. After 60+ years of never being in the in-crowd, I have entered that august realm. 

I am one of a select group who walk around talking to themselves, although that is not what folks are doing (most of them, anyway). I used to ask myself when observing these individuals: who are these important-looking people who cannot wait to sit down somewhere – in a car, at home, in their office, anywhere – and talk. We give these folks a second glance – at least I do, but maybe that is because of my age, the generation born before electronic devices shared our cribs. These self-talkers seem to be in their own world, absorbed in a significant discussion that observers are not privy to.

A closer look indicates most of these people – a few actually talk to themselves – are deep into a conversation with someone somewhere. Further scrutiny discovers earpieces and wires unobtrusively protruding from their ears, or at least one ear. 

Well folks, I am now one of those walking, talking, electronically-connected folks. Not because I graduated to a new level of electronic smartness, or a desire to be electronically-hip.

No, I am connected by the latest intrusion on my life indicating I am slowly, relentlessly entering seniorhood.

I am now the not-so-proud owner and wearer of an obscenely expensive pair of hearing aids. 

ear trumpet

I guess I should be glad I live today and not prior to the 19thcentury. Or, if living back then, did not hang around long enough to experience one aging feature – hearing loss. Back in those pre-electric and pre-electronic years hollowed out animal horns were used to amplify sound. Pre-modern aids were invented in the 19thcentury and have evolved since, although still need a long way to go to be user and budget friendly.

I am a 21stcentury hearing aid user. One more reason not to cut my hair - my mane covers ears and aids. A small rubber tip plugs into each ear and a narrow wire, tip on one end and hearing component on the other, hooks over the ear. 

Insert aids and the world is a louder place. Assuming the aids are charged. Mine are rechargeable, but must be inserted properly in the charging station or won’t work the next day. Or so I was told...

My hearing aids are Bluetooth enabled, and an app (what doesn’t have an app today?) on my phone buzzes the aid when my phone rings. I answer by pressing a control switch on the aid and begin talking to whoever is on the other end of the call. 

So here I am, a walking, talking figure of an almost-old-lady. Folks observing me probably think—is she talking to herself? Is she crazy? Old folks do talk to themselves...many are crazy...better steer clear...if someone says something to me, or about me to someone else while passing by I may hear them, now that my hearing is amplified...on the other hand sometimes ignorance - and an unheard voice - is bliss. 

I should be thrilled modern technology makes conversations, movies and other forms of sound louder, clearer and more intelligible. Modern magic!

But there are times quiet is cool too.

Listen to the sound of silence.
-       Paul Simon

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Angelique, Me, 21 other folks…

And a crew of six young, enthusiastic, highly trained, athletically-inclined 
men and women and one 50-year-old Captain—
not so young but also enthusiastic, highly trained and athletically-inclined.
Advertising material emphasized the Angelique sails in calm waters. No need for motion sickness meds, but if you would feel better, take along Dramamine. The night before hub and I boarded the Angelique we detoured to a Rite Aid for a couple of items that never made it into our bags, including a pack of Dramamine. Hub would not need it, but my stomach is not so strong. One afternoon a pill performed magic on my queasy body.

The windjammer Angelique sailing out of
Camden, Maine
The majestic windjammer Angelique, a 95’ long ketch (two-mast sailboat) loaded with life’s necessities for the six-day cruise, sails through the state of Maine’s Penobscot Bay, the Atlantic Ocean on the east and thousands of islands large, small and mini scattered throughout the bay. 

The wind carries cold air off the Atlantic directly onto my outer layers of clothing. I am unsure whether my light-headedness is due to motion sickness, too much sun, too much wine (one of life’s necessities)—or a combination. We dress in layers--long sleeve shirt, sweater or sweatshirt, jacket, socks. Preferably warm ones. Smart folks packed winter hats and gloves; we did not. We don sun hats. It is June.

Twenty-two hearty folks, hub and I among them - although we are definitely not so hearty - signed up for this Road Scholar sailing cruise. We can help hoist the sails—or not. Row the rowboat to shore—or not. Help with the dishes—or not. Attend lectures - or not…
Hearty Road Scholar participants rowing to shore (or back to the ship).
No one misses a meal. The food is too good, and not just because someone other than me cooks.  We awake in the morning to the smell of hot coffee. On deck a pre-breakfast buffet of coffee, tea, a selection of muffins or pastry awaits. Then breakfast. Blueberry pancakes one day, eggs and potatoes the next, then French toast and bacon...Salads and homemade soup for lunch. Hors d’oeuvres before dinner—baked Brie, clam dip, caprese salad, cheese and crackers. Followed by dinner. Lasagne and salad the first night, halibut with quinoa and asparagus the next. Not just thrown on the stove or grill—the quinoa was the best ever tasted, the baby asparagus garnished with a light hollandaise sauce, the halibut fished from local waters. Homemade rolls and desserts.…the menu surprises and pleases, each meal a culinary adventure in (mostly) locally produced ingredients prepared with panache.

Me dressed for the wind and cold
encountered on Cadillac Mountain
in Acadia National Park.
Days pass on the water. Well, not the entire day. A bus tour of Acadia National Park one day, a walk into town another. Always picturesque—the state seems like a New England postcard-perfect landscape minimally touched by 20 and 21st century architectural tackiness.

My shipmates hail from around the country—Texas, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. Some have sailing experience; most have not.

A key to enjoyable travel is, I believe, flexibility. In the case of our sailing adventure, this refers to the accommodations. When I describe the rooms as small, I am generous. Our room measures 4.5 by 8 feet. A bed and sink (cold water only) fill most of the space. No other furniture, only a few hooks for hats and coats. We live out of soft-sided duffle bags recently purchased at a Bass outlet. Good move. Hard-back suitcases cannot be squashed and shoved into small nooks. Shared bathrooms—toilet and shower. 

The (usually) gentle rocking of the boat mesmerizes. Waters reach to the horizon, sunny skies warm, somewhat—it could be a couple (or more) degrees warmer…for six days we experience a unique lifestyle sailing Down East along the coast of Maine.
Lobster buoys. Every lobster fisherman (or woman)
has a distinctive colored buoy marking
their 'territory' on the water.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Boomers Dive Into June and Summer Activities

Summer officially begins Friday, June 21, but the unofficial start of the season is Memorial
Day weekend. Sometimes the weather does not cooperate, but when it does we enjoy timeless summer traditions—barbecues and picnics, family and friend get-togethers, outdoor activities at home and further afield. Lucky to experience sunny, warm weather this year, my town awakened from a long winter slumber (and less-than-perfect spring weather) and welcomed visitors. Crowds packed the beach, lines spilled around the corner from the ice cream shop, and cyclists and skateboarders ruled the roads. 

Our boomers have been busy and start the season with ideas readers will find interesting.

At times it is challenging to prioritize our life, and one of the most difficult tasks to learn is how to say NO. Just in time for June, Jennifer of Unfold and Begin created the latest self-care calendar to go along with her year of Extreme Self-Care.  This month it's mostly about NO!  But it's also about YES!  Read more in How to Create an Absolute NO List and prepare for creating time in your life for what's important.

Friendship and spring have been on Carol Cassara's mind and she shares some helpful ideas for healthy friendships at A Healing Spirit in "How to cultivate your friendship garden."

All about entertainment...
Summer activities...
Rebecca Olkowski with has been spending the last two month attending Emmy events for shows in consideration for the Emmy Awards 2019. It’s been one big party! She writes about some of her favorite television shows and events and more are still coming for at least a week or two.

And questions on our mind...
On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison writes about the top 100 most frequently asked questions. When she was in Madrid recently, her granddaughter called her mom and asked if the dishes in the dishwasher were clean or dirty. That got Robison to thinking about other questions that we ask all the time. Check out her list of 99 more questions to see if she forgot any.
Welcome June!
A number of significant events occur in June. June 6this D-Day, Father’s Day June 16, and the summer solstice June 21. June is also National Bathroom Reading Month

Everyone have a wonderful start to the summer season and take a few minutes to visit the boomers.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Celebrate National Bathroom Reading Month

June is National Bathroom Reading Month
A marketing gimmick--an amusing one--the month-long celebration declared by the Bathroom Readers’ Institute is worth considering for a couple of minutes. The Institute publishes the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader books, collections of fun facts and trivia. Publications include The Best of Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, Uncle John’s UNCANNY Bathroom Reader, Fake Facts and Flush Fiction.

The Bathroom Readers’ Institute proclamation:
Since 1988, the Bathroom Readers’ Institute has led the movement to stand up for those who sit down and read in the bathroom. National Bathroom Reading Month celebrates the 66 percent of Americans who proudly admit to this time-honored pastime.

I’m thinking: What do the other 34% do in lieu of reading in the loo? What do YOU think they do? If a member of the non-reading crowd, what do you do?

I suppose the Institute conducted a poll to arrive at the 66% statistic, but were people honest when asked about such a sensitive topic? I bet people say they read to appear smart and literate. If the answer is no, people might consider these non-reading-bathroom-beings boring.

Bathroom reading is apparently an American pastime, like shopping, eating out, and watching TV. Speaking of an episode of the iconic sit com Seinfeld, “The Bookstore” George Costanza is forced to buy a book he takes into a Brentano’s bathroom to read while doing his business. 
A 4-minute YouTube clip of the Seinfeld bathroom episode.

Reading in the bathroom is not, however, strictly an American pastime. Two thousand years ago Roman baths contained libraries so folks could borrow books to read while doing their bathroom business. With the invention of the printing press (thank you Gutenberg!), reading material proliferated. Folks used the pages of finished items as toilet paper (and thank you Sears for all those catalogues). 

The invention of the smartphone increased the numbers of folks reading on the toilet. Verizon Wireless conducted a study and discovered 90% of people with smartphones used them while on the toilet. That begs the question: how sanitary are our phones? I think we all know the answer...

Why do folks read while pooping on the potty? Probably as a way to pass the time until their bathroom task is flushed finished. Sitting on the toilet can be a wasteful use of precious timeWhat does one do? Look around a (usually) uninspiring space. Most bathrooms are not decorated with interesting artwork, decorative furniture or unique accessories. How often do you see towels that spark your imagination, catch your eye and keep your attention for more than a couple of seconds?

On the potty, immersed in a book, newspaper or magazine--on a favorite electronic device or an old-fashioned paper edition--time passes quickly. For the reader – not necessarily for others waiting their turn. Ever notice some individuals take tomes into the bathroom and do not emerge for...a very long time. 

In summary, do not feel guilty when perusing magazines or books in the bathroom, either at home or away. A good host will supply reading material for guests. 

What’s in your bathroom?
Reading material found in one room of my house.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Old Coots Give Advice

Definition of coot from the Cambridge dictionary:
1.   A small, dark bird that lives near rivers and lakes.
2.   An old man who has an unusual or slightly crazy way of behaving.

I am an old coot. Officially. Not the small, dark bird kind of coot, but the “unusual or slightly crazy” variety. Although strictly speaking a male phenomenon, nowadays a broadened definition includes old people of the feminine gender.

I was recruited for my new part-time volunteer job because I am an old coot. No one calls me that—at least to my face—but I wouldn’t be surprised if unknown persons refer to me as, “you know that old lady, the old coot, who lives in that house with the overgrown bushes...”

Or used to. I trimmed the bushes this week. 

Anyway...our town’s farmers market opened for the season Friday of Memorial Day weekend. The old coot stand is manned (and womanned) by a group of seniors. We sit under a canopy providing much-needed relief from the sun. A sign hangs above that reads, “Old Coots & Company Giving Advice.” 

I arrived early for my 9:00 a.m. shift, intent on making a good first impression, and settled into a metal chair. I observed people walk by accompanied by babies in strollers, older kids tagging along behind, and dogs. Folks wandered from one stand to the next, talking with vendors, buying fresh fruits and veggies, flowers and plants, local honey, breads, pies and muffins, and pasta, sometimes munching fresh-made crepes, breakfast sandwiches and coffee.

My co-workers wandered in and we proceeded to proactively invite folks to ask questions. 

Want advice? Need advice? It’s free and worth the price!

All sorts of questions came our way:

·     How do you cook kale?
·     Where is the nearest bathroom?
·     I’m having my first baby. Advice?
·     My three kids live in three different states. Where should I move?
·     A current town controversy is the distribution of new trashcans, much larger than the old ones. Folks asked about the cans – Do you like them? Do we have to use them? Why the f*** did they change them?
·     Construction crews are working on my street. How early can they start?
·     What are market hours?
·     Which stand sells coffee?
·     A band played music in one corner. Folks complained there was no shaded place to sit and listen.
·     Where can we buy beach badges?
·     How old do you have to be to become an old coot?

My hour and a half shift passed quickly. Replacements drifted in and I surrendered my seat. It was my turn to stroll around market and make my purchases. I filled bags with local products--lettuce, spring onions, tomatoes, asparagus and more, and headed home.

Until my next assignment as an old coot giving advice.

Friday, May 17, 2019

My Here and After

34,000 feet above the East coast of the United States, flying due south (and west), I am crunched into a Spirit Airlines seat. My turf for 2½ hours. And I forgot to pack a book. To make the situation somewhat worse the flight is a bumpy one. Passengers are warned to tighten their seat belts. My mind wanders... 

Hub and I cannot sustain our jet-setting lifestyle (if you call flying a low-budget airline to the same place all the time jet-setting) indefinitely. What happens when our bodies begin to reject us? (Cannot help thinking diSPIRITedly as the plane bounces and jolts.) We cannot continue to fly squashed into a narrow Spirit seat forever. Our bodies are beginning to reject the confinement. We slowly unravel as the plane shuts down at its final destination, our stiff joints protesting every movement.

When hub and I forego frequent air travel, Spirit Air will survive without our presence and our cash (barely). But we will want to continue seeing the family (and hopefully they will want to see us, but we won’t ask). Do we relocate and live near the kids? One family resides in Florida, the other in Vermont. Both interesting alternatives at different times of the year.

There is an intriguing option. I have read about a phenomenon called tiny houses or the small-house movement, loosely defined as homes with no more than 400 square feet of living space. I never needed or wanted a large house. Smallness appeals. 

The dilemma: Where to put a tiny house? Would our tiny house replace the Florida family's backyard pool? Could it be erected on stilts above the water? Or float in the pool like a houseboat? 

Or would our tiny house replace the Vermont family's ice skating rink and sandbox?

Two families to fight over hub and me.

The loser gets us. 

Or...some tiny houses can be equipped with wheels. We can secure the house in Vermont in the summer, Florida during the winter, and live the snowbird lifestyle. At a bargain price.  

Tiny houses cost anywhere from $10,000 to $180,000. And of course they come with associated costs. But one could be cheaper—and probably more fun—than conventional living arrangements. (What about an RV, you might be thinking. Not a viable long-term solution for us. Too big for hub and me to drive, too massive to maneuver into either family’s backyard or fit in one of their yards, and more expensive than a tiny house). 

The plane is about to land. Safely. Tiny house talk can wait for a time far into the future.

Meanwhile we forge ahead and fly budget airlines. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

An Awesome Responsibility

I sat still, rigid actually, not moving. Barely breathing. Perched on my thighs, my two hands caressing the sides, an open box with cargo weighing 20-plus pounds settled. 

The pressure proved almost unbearable.

What if I sneezed? Coughed? Spit while talking? Spit while not talking? Oozed saliva in a fit of panic...the possibilities seemed endless.

Not a speck of foreign matter must settle on the object my hands lovingly embraced.

What if any part of my body itched and the urge to scratch became relentless and intolerable? How could I release a hand to handle the problem? Would the box move, the precious cargo tilt, touch the side of the box and an imperfection appear on the perfect, flawless object secured between the sweaty palms of my hands? (After all I was in Florida, an ancient word meaning fiercely hot and unbearably humid much of the year.) 

The pressure. An awesome responsibility.

The task undertaken: transporting a two-tiered, rectangular black-and-white cake from bakery to its final destination. A half-hour journey.
I sat upright in the passenger seat, the hefty yet elegant delicacy centered on a flat silver base inside the open box. The cake rose high above the sides of the box, each tier composed of two cakes with filling between, coated with a fondant icing. The cake appeared level with the top of the dashboard, the top decorative ribbons curled in the center of the top tier, the cake looking like two large gifts for the birthday girl. 

I kept one eye on the movable, unanchored cake, which I hoped remained immobile, and one eye on the road. No potholes please, no abrupt stops, no precarious turns, simply a slow smooth ride.

The air conditioning blasted per instructions from the pastry chef who placed the object on my lap, breathed a sigh of relief the cake was off his hands and no longer his responsibility and bounded away. It was important to keep the pastry cool he noted before departing, otherwise the beautiful concoction might begin to melt. The air blew my hair around. It wasn’t a bother, but another worry. What if one of my brownish-gray wayward locks escaped and landed atop the spotless white top tier or chocolate bottom layer? An undesirable disaster. 

The minutes ticked away. The car edged closer to our final destination, glided up to the front door and stopped. The car door opened and a set of hands grasped the cake—gasping at the weight—and walked away.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief, the awesome pressure off. 

A few hours later I tasted the source of my short-lived stress. 

It was worth it.
Happy 70 Paula!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

An Island On My Mind

I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say, "There's no place like New York. It's the most exciting city in the world now. That's the way it is. That's it."
- Robert De Niro

The history major in me surfaces at times. Names, dates, events conjure memories of hours passed steeped in stories of kings, queens, princes and their murderous end, medieval-era wars, influential artists and scientists, explorers and business titans. Most of the information gathered for essays and exams was soon forgotten, but some of the trivia facts linger.

Like the date May 6, 1626.

Picture this:
A group of Indians, dressed for the warm spring weather in light-weight leather and furs, sit in a semi-circle under a large tree which serves as a meeting place for important tribal assemblies. Across from the chief sit three or four Dutchmen dressed in breeches and long-sleeved shirts and coats, appropriate for the cooler Northern European weather from whence they came, but too warm for the temperate weather prevailing in the mid-Atlantic area of the New World. Indians had been harassing the colonists recently settled on the southern tip of the island. The Dutch West India Company was eager to buy the land, end the troubles and secure the land. The Indians roamed the island and beyond, immense territories available for hunting, fishing, planting vegetables, taking hikes with the kids...So what did the loss of a few acres of forestland matter? 

The Indians sold the land to the settlers; actually, the Dutch West India Company. A Company internal memo at the time summarizes the transaction:

Yesterday the ship the Arms of Amsterdam arrived here. It sailed from New Netherland out of the River Mauritius on the 23rdof September. They report that our people are in good spirit and live in peace. The women also have borne some children there. They have purchased the Island of Manhattes from the savages for the value of 60 guilders. It is 11,000 morgens in size (about 22,000 acres).

Which Indian tribe sold Manhattan? The identity of the tribe remains clouded in history, but probably an Algonquin group. One story says the Indians who sold the land didn’t own it--a reason they accepted the budget price. Or maybe the Indians believed they were renting the land, or offering only trading and fishing one knows for sure.

Who knew what that forested island would morph into centuries later?
I regret profoundly that I was not an American and not born in Greenwich Village. It might be dying, and there might be a lot of dirt in the air you breathe, but this is where it’s happening. 
-                - John Lennon

I learned in school the price of the trade was equivalent to $24, but recently scholars dispute that and came up with a cost of $951.08 (no idea how they can be so precise). I was also taught Peter Minuet traded the Indians beads for the land, but there is no written account verifying that. Again, scholars question the accuracy of the tale, suggesting the Dutch probably traded food, coins, or other goods. The purchase of Staten Island in 1670 involved a trade of clothing, food, cooking utensils, muskets, and other items. 

What is beyond question is that Europeans settled Manhattan and surrounding areas, eventually creating one of the most populous cities on earth--an immigrant gateway, financial and commercial center, tourist destination, culinary and cultural hotbed.

There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man’s bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die. 
-               -  Walt Whitman
Billy Joel (and Tony Bennett) in a New York State of Mind

I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance. 
– Nora Ephron, Heartburn