Thursday, December 13, 2018

Marking Senior Milestones

Most kids can’t wait for their birthday – parties, birthday cake, presents, what could be better!? As we move into adulthood each year seems less important, often less recognized. Milestone birthdays may be acknowledged and celebrated with a party, a trip, an adventure long desired. Then suddenly we find ourselves in that period of our lives where every year seems significant again. 

Different cultures throughout history have a variety of ways of venerating, caring for, and sometimes ignoring senior members of their community. China, Japan and Korea respect their elders and treated them with reverence since ancient times. Some cultures attribute special powers to seniors. The Huaorani of Ecuador believe elderly shamans have magical powers. 

In ancient Egypt sons were expected to care for family tombs. Reaching 110 was considered the reward for living a balanced and virtuous life. I have no documented evidence to back up my assertion, but would guess very, very few (if any) men or women attained that honored age. Life expectancy was about 40 years of age and less for women, most of whom succumbed in childbirth.

And what is ‘old’? In New Guinea, 50 is the magic age. The United Nations classify the elderly as 60 and older. In the U.S. a senior citizen is defined as 65+. 

Today many of us enjoy reaching senior milestones and celebrate the accomplishment. There are others, however, who wish to ignore the reminder that they are getting old. I consider them fuddy-duddies. Note to stick-in-the-mud geezers: Enjoy yourself!

A couple of months ago my sons indicated they wanted to throw a party for hub’s 70th 
birthday. A surprise party. I agreed and undertook the planning. After all, they would come – not an easy feat, one family flying to Philadelphia from Vermont and the other from Florida.

The event proceeded without a hitch. Family and friends converged on an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia. Completing arrangements over the phone, it was a question whether the occasion would succeed – the venue, the food, the surprise. Happily, the birthday boy was shocked to see friends and long-distance family converge for the event. The food was excellent and plentiful, the staff attentive. Folks enjoyed socializing in a lively atmosphere. The grandkids had a great time annoying the bar staff with requests for ‘concoctions’ – non-alcoholic drinks of their own invention.

As we age it seems more and more of our friends have health issues, minor and major, and these problems become a drain on our time and energy – doctor’s visits, procedures, rehab, recovery, medications. It is especially nice, therefore, to get together for happy occasions.

But sometimes gatherings are more somber. Hub and I attended a graveside funeral two days after hub’s party for a 98-year-old woman, alert almost to the end. A Holocaust survivor, she arrived in the U.S. at the age of 19 and built a new life, working in the garment district in Manhattan (one of her dresses intended for Marilyn Monroe), getting married, raising two children, involved in volunteer activities. Although a sad event, it was an occasion to reminisce and honor a courageous, strong woman.

The following day we visited our niece, an exhausted Mom, and her 10-day-old baby boy. 

Life’s milestones celebrated, honored, remembered.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Welcoming Light into the Darkness

How did it get so late so soon? 
Its night before its afternoon. 
December is here before its June. 
My goodness how the time has flewn. 
How did it get so late so soon?
-      Dr. Seuss

For eons throughout history, the onset of winter – and specifically the month of December – demoralized otherwise contented folks. To inject some comfort into the short days and long, black nights, people created ways to bring light into the darkness.

Physical light is one way to banish the darkness. Long before electric lights, candles and lamps heartened homes. Nowadays holiday lights illuminate our lives throughout the month. 

Activities can also brighten our lives. Our ancestors devised celebrations to inject cheer into otherwise morose days. Holiday preparations - cooking and baking, shopping, decorating, family and friend get-togethers - allow us to pass the time in (what are hopefully) positive pursuits. Rather than feeling depressed, wasting time spending time in couch potato mode, activity helps dispel winter bleakness. 

We have an advantage over our ancestors who somehow managed to get through the dark time year after year, for thousands of years, without the conveniences we luxuriate in today. They read books by candlelight, sewed and needlepointed, talked to each other (now there’s an old-fashioned activity!). We can waste time indulge for endless hours in electronic gadgets galore. 

All is not dreary once the holiday month morphs into the new year. Drape yourself in a blanket, settle in with a mug of hot tea or coffee or perhaps something stronger, open the first of a pile of books sitting on your shelf yearning to be read, and before you know it spring will be (almost) here.

Or binge watch one of the numerous series friends rave about, but you haven’t got around to viewing.

Or pack a bag and take an extended trip to a warm locale offering hours of daylight.

Or succumb to the TV and that hot mug of something. Which brings us to one of the banes of modern society – 24/7 news. Viewing can be addictive. There should be a warning when tuning in: Caution:“Watching 24/7 news channels may be hazardous to your health. Specifically your mental health.”The onset of winter blues may compel us to wallow in this mindless activity. If you catch yourself watching, immediately cease and resist – if you can.

So grab that hot mug of something along with your favorite comfort food, wrap yourself in a warm hoodie-footie, and allow winter to lull you into semi-hibernation.

There will be plenty of time to work off those extra pounds next spring.
The first snow of the season.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Best of Boomers Prepare for the Holidays, Take a Holiday, and a Walk Down Memory Lane

My town officially ushered in the holiday season Saturday evening with a holiday parade and block party. It rained early in the day, but by the 5:00 PM start no rain fell and the temperature was almost balmy. Fire engines, school bands, home-made floats, and enthusiastic spectators created a festive atmosphere. 
How else would Santa arrive in a shore town but in a boat? 
Some of our boomers are involved in their own holiday celebrations and preparations.

Jennifer of Unfold And Begin created a calendar for December. Before you get all caught up in having to do “everything all at once" for Christmas, use this calendar to help enjoy the time more and stress less over it.  Each day has one task to complete.  Some will help you to prepare for the holidays while others will help you to enjoy the holidays.  The hope is that by using this December Holiday Calendar you’ll be able to ease into the holidays and enjoy them more.

The holidays launch a season of giving, including charitable donations. On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about how to research a charity. Robison’s been recommending it for years, but she hasn’t done it herself because she donates to the four same charities every year. Read about the adventure that occurred when she researched a charity her daughter had donated to because she wanted to help families who had been separated at the border.

Sometimes the holidays allow us to take a trip down memory lane. Tom Sightings admits he was kind of naive, growing up in a gentle middle-class suburban neighborhood as he did. He knew that kids could fight. But he never knew that adults got into fights. too. It happened one day at a family get-together, when some resentments boiled over and ended up in The Fist Fight.

One of our boomers is already ‘on holiday’. This past week Carol Cassara has been on Maui at Ram Dass' retreat. Over at A Healing Spirit, she's treated us to a brief discussion of her favorite of his sage quotes. She thinks you know it.

Not all of our boomers have immersed themselves - yet - in the holidays.
It’s no fun dealing with a serious health situation and having to figure out the ins and outs of the healthcare system. Rebecca Olkowski with relates her personal experience as a caregiver for someone who has life-threatening cancer. 
Everyone have a great week. And take a few minutes to visit the boomers and say hi!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Sort of a Staycation

Definition of staycation: a vacation spent at home or nearby, according to Merriam-Webster.

I love to travel, whether a day trip close to home or days spent further afield. I travel and take vacations frequently nowadays, more often than during my pre-retirement life, when time and money limitations restricted my adventurous streak.

The idea of a staycation never appealed because, when home, it is hard for me to avoid the pull of the environment – as in laundry, dirty dishes, dusty furniture, cleaning the bathroom…

Then I found myself home. Sick. A bad cold. 

 A forced staycation.

I felt too lethargic to do much except sleep (a night activity), nap (a daytime pastime), drink tea, watch TV.

I was lucky to get sick at an auspicious time. Two days after Thanksgiving (healthy enough to enjoy indulging in the feast), one day after Black Friday (I did not participate in the craziness) and the beginning of end-of-year holiday madness. Most important of all to a stay-at-home-couch-potato, the season ushers in weeks of Christmas movies and specials. So between naps I viewed oldies but goodies, including White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street. Natalie Wood was an 8-year-old beauty in Miracle…and who knew Rosemary Clooney (who danced and sang along with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen in White Christmas) and her extended family would become theater royalty (George Clooney the king, of course).

I was too sick to care about what I was NOT doing and what I SHOULD be doing. My bleary eyes did not notice crumbs accumulating on the kitchen counter and floor…did not care about my unmade bed…or stress as mail and papers piled up in the family room.

Sometimes ignorance, or in this case obliviousness, is bliss. I blissfully laid around for days doing nothing. And not feeling guilty. After all, my body was working hard getting well.

And succeeded.

I am almost 100%. Tomorrow back to a normal schedule. 

Staycation over.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Downside of Air Travel

Anyone who has experienced air travel anytime during the past few years knows it has its downsides – lots of downsides. Complications begin long before boarding the plane.  

The torment begins with the simple act of purchasing a ticket. The airline’s website guides the customer through screen after screen after screen before – finally! - confirming the purchase. 
Will you bring any  baggage? If more than a small bag – my backpack just meets the requirements – a bag, either checked or carry-on, costs additional dollars. How about paying a few extra bucks for a seat? Of course you will be assigned a seat without dishing out more dollars, but you never know where you might end up. Usually in the back of the bus. In a middle or window seat. Then there is the opportunity to spend more money to board the plane before the common folk, which I don’t understand. Why would I want to pay extra to spend more time than necessary in a cramped seat? And how about insurance? What if you cancel your flight due to illness, yours or a family member, or have a change of plans, or the loving couple getting married decides not to go through with the nuptials - anything can happen!

Ticket purchased, boarding pass printed or on your cell phone, and you’ve stuffed as much as possible in your free bag. Now you’re off to the airport. 

The airport scene. Pray no cancellations or delays. Lines to check in…check baggage…more lines weaving through security checkpoints. Pass through electronic monitors. Suddenly a bell rings Bing…bing…forgot about a bracelet or belt or wire bra – resulting in a pat down. TSA Pre-check minimizes the hassle and time it takes to get through the hurdles, but in a busy airport only helps slightly. 

A customer service agent announces the plane is ready for boarding. Folks crowd around the gate waiting to be called. The disabled…families with young children…zone 1…zone 2…zone 3 – sometimes us…zone 4 – usually us. We board and proceed down the plane aisle. We walk…and walk…and walk, eventually arriving at the back of the bus. Not necessarily the last row, but close to it. A window seat, a middle seat, rarely an aisle.

Sometimes turbulence mars a flight. Thoughts flash through my mind – what are people (probably family members) going to think when going through my house when I am suddenly gone? My bedroom is a mess…the last thing relatives want to do is wash my dirty clothes piled in the laundry basket…am I up-to-date with paying bills…what about those junk drawers full of – junk? When I get home I MUST clean and declutter the house.

I think about taking a pill to sleep through the trip, but so far have not done so. I tolerate the hassles and relish the best part – the end of the journey, disembarking – after waiting impatiently for everyone in front of you to get off the plane - and exiting the airport. 

Relief…until the next flight.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Upside of Air Travel

I am not a fan of air travel, but the activity does have its upside. 

In preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday, hub and I boarded a Spirit Airbus and spent 2 1/2 (mostly) quiet hours scrunched in an upright, immovable seat doing whatever we wanted, within limitations. 

Unless upgrading - translated as spending a lot more money - to the first two rows of the plane, where two plush seats span the space occupied by three seats in the rest of the aircraft, a passenger cannot stretch in any direction, assuming the plane is full, which is usually the case. Should anyone be taller than me (including most adults and children over the age of 10), there is minimal leg and knee room. Common sense rules include: 

* Don’t cross your legs or sit in any position but upright and the passenger will survive the trip with minor aches and pains. 

* Be careful not to move around while seated or your knees will knock the seat in front of you.

Within the confines of my space I spent the time reading, paperback in my hands, elbows scrunched against my body for two reasons - one, to keep warm - the aircraft temperature on the cool side - and two, to ensure I did not hit anyone. 

If occupying the middle seat, there are two people to be careful not to hit - the passengers on either side of you. If on the aisle there is the unlucky person in the middle seat and anyone passing on the aisle. It might be a flight attendant, a passenger walking to or from the head, or random wanderers. Window seaters might hit the person next to them in the middle seat, or bang the plane, which hurts the passenger more than bumping any individual.

There is also the seat in front of you to be aware of. Stretch those legs and that seat gets whacked. Raise your arms anywhere but straight up and once again that seat gets hit- or your hands end up annoying the person sitting behind you.

The upside of air travel -  I started and finished a short book, otherwise known as a novella, during the flight, all 128 pages. I read the entire local paper, brought along for the occasion, and several pages of handouts from a class I am taking. No interruptions, except for hub occasionally nudging me to ask a question and the flight steward walking down the aisle inquiring, “Drinks? Food?” None of which is free. On the return trip down the aisle the steward requests trash, to be tossed into a classy white large kitchen garbage bag.

Fellow passengers included quite a few children, a nod to the beginning of a holiday week. I saw three dogs, and there might have been additional dogs and other animals I missed. One yippy canine spent the trip in a small mesh case on the floor of the plane. The other two dogs were larger. And quiet- much quieter than one particular (human) baby that loudly squawked towards the end of the flight, obviously annoyed at being confined on Mom’s lap for so long.

The plane arrived on schedule, and in a short time we were in a white Lexus sedan, courtesy of our Lyft driver, on our way to the grandkids. Air travel over - until the flight home.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Change is in the Air

A dull banging creates background noise. I sit in my family room wrapped in a blanket, gazing at bare branches outside the window. It is fall, the weather crisper, colder, darker each day. 

A house in the process of
being raised.
The hammering is outside, behind my house. Developers purchased a house for sale and tore down the old brick home, in disrepair but I suspect with wonderful innards. But that is not how things work nowadays. It took only a couple of days for the house to disintegrate into a pile of rubble. A few days later concrete displaced earth and two homes began emerging. 

Change is in the air. Walking around our neighborhood a variety of homes meet the eye, most built around the middle of the 20thcentury – our home in 1949. The house catty-corner to ours was constructed earlier, in the 19-teens, a Sears catalog home. Most were, and many still are, summer dwellings.

The landscape is transforming. It began in earnest following

Superstorm Sandy, homes destroyed replaced by bigger ones. Houses have been raised, creating the illusion of largeness as they soar three stories high – ground level garage and storage, a two-story house above.

Change is not always cultivated or wanted. Sometimes we tenaciously fight change. 

I think one of the reasons the man in the White House emerged victorious is because he cued into people’s fear of change and impending doom. 

The end of the 20thcentury and beginning of the 21stushered in a period of doom, a common occurrence at such momentous historical times. The start of a new century is ripe for quacks, religious nuts and end-of-world believers.

Unfortunately the pessimism and sense of disaster hit our political life hard. The seeds were always there, occasionally appearing in a dark corner of the web or a social hall or church, but not tenaciously sowed – until the 1990s. Newt Gingrich and his band of merry men decided compromise was a bad thing, the opposition always wrong and not just misguided, but awful people. Talking heads like Rush Limbaugh nurtured the seeds, demonizing the opposition, throwing out lies. When exposed, he shrugged his shoulders, said, “Oh, sorry,” and went ahead to throw someone else under the bus. The damage was done, the lie out there. It would not die and he knew it. 

Change was occurring at a speed too fast for many to process. And change can be frightening. It makes people pull the blanket over their heads and instinctively react negatively. No change, thank you, all is fine the way it is.

It was in this atmosphere The Man descended from his gilded tower, observed the insecurity and fear in people’s eyes and assured them, “Follow me, I will rescue you. The Others are bad people, nasty people. I can save you.”

Many believed, and the man earnestly cultivated those seeds. George W. Bush said,

You can fool some of the people all the time, 
and those are the ones you want to concentrate on. 

Each day I awaken to renewed disappointment. I sigh. When will it end? How many laws and regulations sustaining the fabric of our society must be destroyed before people realize the man has, as the saying goes, thrown out the baby with the bath water? 

You can fool all the people some of the time, 
and some of the people all the time, 
but you cannot fool all the people all the time. 
-      Abraham Lincoln

Whether we like it or not, embrace it or disdain it, change happens. The political pendulum swings back and forth, we cannot stop it. It shifted to the far right, now temporarily poised, immobile, but will begin moving once again. 

Spring is not quite around the corner, but I look forward to warmer and brighter weather and viewing bright green leaves and white flowers from my window again. 

I have to believe political change in the form of sanity (as sane as any political system can be) will come about. Eventually.

Thursday, November 8, 2018


Hub and I sometimes run errands for Mom. At 93 she is feisty, mentally alert, drives and gets around on her own. But she no longer wants to trudge through grocery stores if she doesn’t have to or schlep through big box stores seeking needed items.

Mom wanted a wall lamp over her desk. She didn’t want to spend time and energy shopping. 

Hub and I set out on the mission on a cold, windy, rainy Saturday.

First stop Home Depot. A logical choice, or so we thought. Did I mention Mom lives in a rented apartment? Home Depot sold only wall lamps that needed to be hard-wired, which means drilled into the wall and connected to electrical wiring. No can do in a rental. We needed a lamp with a cord that could be plugged into an outlet. Simple, easy. 

The Home Depot salesperson suggested we try Ikea.

I have passed massive Ikea stores in my wanderings over the years, but never had the urge or need to walk in. Until this particular Saturday afternoon.

My phone GPS got us to the store, but the five-mile trip took almost an hour due to traffic and lights. Finally turning into the Ikea parking lot, locating a parking space proved frustrating. Available spaces seemed non-existent. Cars crawled up and down lanes looking for, hoping for an empty space, or lucky enough to find someone pulling out of a spot. We eventually parked in the row farthest from the store. 

We walked quickly – it was raining and windy – to the store’s entrance, or what we assumed was the entrance. We were wrong. Entering the building through large double doors an employee immediately approached and told us we had come in the exit doors. He escorted us outside. The entrance was around another side of the building. More walking. By the time we set foot in the store we were already exhausted, chilled and damp.

I cannot adequately describe the spectacle that confronted us. Concrete walls painted in pale colors, bright lighting, wide corridors, high ceilings, a sweeping staircase, an elevator, children’s playroom, and multitudes of people milling around. We walked upstairs and studied a directory, trying to locate lamps. I gave up, spotted an employee and asked where lamps could be found. He highlighted the department on a brochure, handed me the store map and directed us back downstairs to begin our journey. 

We followed the directions and several minutes later, after walking through a series of aisles loaded with kitchen stuff – appliances, gadgets, dishes, glassware…found ourselves surrounded by lights of all makes and models, sizes, colors and prices. We gazed at lights displayed on the floor, above us, on shelves and in bins, before locating wall lamps with cords. Success!

We did not dawdle, were not particular and quickly chose a lamp. Of course bulbs were not included. Scrutinizing the small print on the displayed lamp’s tag we noted the bulb required and roamed around again attempting to find the right bulbs. We grabbed the items and proceeded to checkout.

Not an easy, and definitely not a short, hike.

First we had to find the pathway to payments. Apparently you cannot retrace your steps in Ikea. You slog forward along with everyone else, like a herd of cattle. People in front of you, folks behind you, keep moving! Checkout was somewhere in front of us, the only route via a series of zigzagging aisles lined floor to ceiling with shelves stocked with everything imaginable for a home – furniture large and small, accessories like baskets and candles, a picture gallery, wall hangings, and, succumbing to the season, holiday stuff. Mainly Christmas items.

Finally we turned a corner and directly in front of us were more people. Lots of them. Lines of people with shopping carts and flatbed carts loaded with boxes. We got on the end of a check out line and waited impatiently, eager to pay, get back to the car and rest our aching feet.

The boy kid – high school or college student - working the register smiled, “Hi. Is this all you have?” he asked as he scanned our items.

“That’s it,” I said.

“Nothing else? You came here just for these items?” 

I said, “Yup, we’re done. This place is a zoo.”

“Saturdays are bad, but Sundays are worse. People come from all over to shop here. Next time come in the middle of the week, not crowded at all.”

“Thanks, but I doubt we will be back,” I responded, and left with our purchases.

Another brisk walk to the car – it was still raining – and we drove to the apartment, looking forward to steaming cups of coffee and a comfy chair. 

With any luck we will not visit an Ikea store again for a long time. Maybe never.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

High School Reunion

I did not keep in touch with high school friends after graduation. During college I saw some occasionally, the last time at a wedding years ago.

Fast forward years. Lots of years. 50 to be exact, and a group of folks decide it was time to reconnect, stir old memories, rekindle friendships, find out what happened during a half century of living, celebrate successes, lament failures.

It was difficult locating people after 50 years, especially the women. Girls marry, change their name, move, maybe divorce and change names again. Social media helps, but not everyone could be tracked down. And not to dwell on the sadness, it is disheartening learning of classmates who died. We remember them as we knew them, young and healthy and lively.

Not everyone wants to be found. Not everyone loved or liked high school, me included. But for me, curiosity won. 
General Douglas McArthur High School, Levittown NY,
Class of '68
50th High School Reunion
 And so I returned to my hometown for my 50th High School Reunion.

The corridors of McArthur H.S.
Echo with the Sounds of the Class of '68 
A hearty group of grads ventured out in a rainstorm to tour our high school. From the outside the building looks the same as it did decades ago, like a three-story factory building, but that cannot be changed. Inside it appears much better than I remember. I recall dull yellow walls, long narrow gray lockers, too many students. Long corridors remain, but halls are brightly lit and not painted the same monotonous dreadful color. The building, classrooms, gym – all seemed in excellent condition. The cafeteria, recently renovated, was almost appealing. Not the same school I attended, and yet it was.

About 300 kids comprise the current senior class. My 1968 graduation class boasted 554 strong. We were boomers, offspring of parents who moved to Long Island’s new suburbs following World War II. Blocks of tract homes housed families. Today neighborhoods are more age-diverse, accommodating empty nesters, retirees, couples, singles as well as families. Fewer students rush through school hallways. Less pushing and shoving and bodies…

The main Reunion event took place Saturday night, hours of schmoozing with folks my age. Some I knew, or at least remembered that at one time I knew them, many I never knew. It was not possible to be acquainted with over 500 individuals as well as lots of other kids in the school. 

A large group of mature (but not yet elderly) people stood around talking and drinking as I entered the Holiday Inn bar. Appearance-wise I fit in perfectly and recognized some of the women. Women dye their hair, wear make-up, indulge in cosmetic surgery, preserving traces of their younger selves. The men, on the other hand, were bald or gray or a combination, many sported a mix of facial hair, and many displayed bulging bellies. I did not recognize any of them. 

Instructions received before the event requested everyone make a name tag with their yearbook photo. We stared at a picture of yesteryear next to the face of today and commented, “You look the same…haven‘t changed much...” and other untruths.

Some still work, many retired. To Florida. There are doctors and lawyers, teachers, business owners, photographers, CPAs, restaurant personnel, financial geeks, entertainers, lots of Grandmas and Grandpas. The class dispersed around the country and overseas, but many stayed closer to home, living in the same community and sometimes the same house they grew up in. 

No famous person emerged from the class. At least two made very, VERY big bucks. 

I needed a crowd to help me remember. When discussing people and events at times I wondered – was I there?Why don’t I remember her/him?Am I sure we all went to the same school?

It is hard to get my head around the fact that we graduated half a century ago.  Memories were rekindled, but others remain buried. I guess that’s what happens after 50+ years…

And I will (probably) maintain contact (at least on Facebook!) with some of my new-found old friends. 
McArthur Class of '68 Reunion photo 
(almost everyone is in this picture!)
Photo by hub