Saturday, September 23, 2017

Greeting Fall

Hub and I, along with Mom, traveled north to the pristine landscape 
of Vermont to greet our family -and the fall season. 
Before leaving, however, the winds and rain of Hurricane Jose, raging in the Atlantic Ocean, 
battered the shores of our hometown.

We bid farewell to summer on the shores of Lake Champlain.
Great Grandma, 92 years young, waves goodbye to summer as she 
and her almost-two-year-old great granddaughter enjoy a ride on the carousel.

The bright colors of mums and an evergreen full of pine cones signal change.

And of course, pumpkins!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lies Our Leaders Tell Us

Do politicians believe the lies they spout are truths? Or, knowing they are lies, tell those lies to manipulate the masses to get whatever it is they want.

Like votes.

Do the statesmen and women denying climate change believe it is a hoax?

I don’t know. The powers that be deny a lot when in power. It is not a new phenomenon.

On September 19, 1633 – almost 400 years ago – the scientist Galileo went before the Inquisition accused of heresy because he believed the Earth revolves around the sun. He expressed his position and wrote about the theory, first proposed by Copernicus 100 years earlier.

The political/religious power of the time – the Catholic Church – felt threatened by this usurper who denied what the Church taught to be true: the earth was the center of the universe.

Did anyone inside the Church believe Galileo’s beliefs correct? Did everyone think Galileo (and Copernicus) wrong? Did anyone carefully evaluate the scientists’ work? Or was the Church more concerned with power, prestige, and maintaining control over the populace than learning the truth?

The Church censored Galileo. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

On October 31,1992 – about 350 years after Galileo stood before the Inquisition - Pope John Paul II issued a statement conceding the errors of the Catholic Church in regard to Galileo’s scientific views.
Over 25 years later, in 2008, the head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences announced a plan to honor Galileo by erecting a statue of him in the Vatican. Later that year, during events marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo's initial observations, Pope Benedict XVI commended Galileo’s contributions to astronomy. But less than a month later the head of the Pontifical Council for Culture revealed that the plan for a statue had been postponed.
I have no idea how long it will be before climate change naysayers admit their stated positions are dishonest and downright wrong. Perhaps they never will.
I am sure there are Trump supporters who believe every denial the man utters, even when faced with written, verbal, video, social media and witness evidence, believing without any doubt everything he pontificates. Not that he is a minister or monk, reverend or rabbi, priest, padre or preacher, Buddhist holy man or fakeer – that word is not misspelled, although one thing he can be called is a faker.
I do not know how long it will take for the majority, the populace, the everyman, to realize so many of DT’s ideas are wrong. One day DT’s positions will be thrown on the trash heap of history, just like the Church’s belief that the earth is the center of the universe.
Admitting defeat sometimes takes a long, long time, occasionally never, illustrated by the fact that the Church, four centuries after Galileo announced his findings, still holds a grudge.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Gardening Guru I Am Not

I read articles by fellow bloggers extolling the bounty of their garden. I smile as friends regale me with the variety of veggies harvested from their small corner of the Earth, mounds of zucchini filling their refrigerator and beautiful flowers adorning their table.

I remain silent. My fingers do not fly over computer keys writing on and on about the beauty of my garden’s tomatoes, the bounty of my beans, the crispness of my cucumbers or the crunchiness of my greens.

I do not write about or discuss my garden prowess.

My garden flopped this summer.

There is no one to blame but me. I cannot fault Mother Nature, anyone or anything else. I could not tend the garden most of May and the first half of June because I was out of town. Entertaining grandkids took up the second half of June.

Seeds and seedlings planted early May were on their own. Unfortunately the Benign Neglect School of Gardening failed me.

My garden succumbed to inattention and almost total abandonment.

Confession: I do not have a vibrant green thumb. My dull digit tilts light green to yellow, green for healthy plants and yellow for ones struggling to survive. Brown is another color appearing in patches around my garden. The dismal drab shrunken leaves cried out to me, “Help me! Help me!” but I did not listen.

I was not around or quickly passing through, glanced at the plants and moved on. Tomorrow I said to myself, tomorrow I will garden…

Too many plants could not survive without me, yellows and browns outnumbering healthy greens.

Not everything disappointed. Basil, a holdover from past years, flourished. Four or five cherry tomato plants produced a few delicious products. A couple of eggplant also made it to my kitchen.

But no large, juicy tomatoes grew in my backyard this year. No beans or cucumbers or carrots or peppers. I cannot remember what else I planted, but it doesn’t matter. Most seeds never sprouted. A small number peeked through the soil, grew tiny leaves and quickly wilted, trying to hold on, patiently awaiting my tender loving care.

But it was not to be. I did not provide much TLC this summer.

No excuses. Weather-wise it was a wonderful year, plenty of rain and sunshine in the early months to coax vegetables and flowers to grow. Long sunny days throughout the summer and ample rain sustained thriving plants.

Hopefully next year produces better results. With my diligent help, of course.

Now I can only lament my shortcomings while shopping at a local food store, oohing and aahing over the beauty and bounty of produce displayed.

For the remainder of the season I will force a smile when friends enthusiastically chat on about their successful garden. I will gloss over articles about what a wonderful harvest season this was and how delicious the fruits of one’s labor turned out to be.

Fortunately it won’t be long before talk shifts to the turning leaves, cooler weather, holidays, and indoor activities. I can’t wait! 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Fall is in the Air

Lingering with drinks, late afternoon,
enjoying sunset over the bay
(NOT my front porch!)
I sit on my front porch completely shaded by an overhang and the sinking sun. It is not very late in the afternoon. A few weeks ago, not even that long ago, it would still be hot, bright and sunny this time of day, no shadows blocking sunlight from the garden.

But things change. Now after 4:00 in the afternoon trees sway, producing a cool refreshing breeze. Almost chilly. Not nippy yet, but in a couple of weeks a brisk breeze will have me running for a sweater. Or going inside and staying inside.

Shadows lengthen as the sun moves across the sky, lower each day, imperceptibly so, but I can tell. Flowers stretch to get as much sunshine as possible. They know. Less light, cooler temperatures, they will soon disappear.
Fall is in the air in my corner of the world.

Labor Day marks the informal end of summer. There are a couple more weeks of official summer, but around my world the summer season is over. The town is abuzz over the long holiday weekend, folks getting their last fill of sun and fun. Restaurants are packed, cyclists ride up and down the boardwalk and streets, and Moms and Dads drag tons of gear to the beach while kids lament a return to school.
Sun, sand, sea water, water toys - what could be better!
Riding bikes on the boardwalk.
Soon I will transfer potted plants indoors. Mobiles will be taken down and packed away until next spring, outdoor chairs stacked in the garage along with the plastic picnic table. The grill should be stored in the garage but too often we forget, leaving it out until biting rain or snow surprises. We like to grill as long as possible, although food is carried indoors for a comfortable eating atmosphere.

The neighborhood ice cream shop closes along with some restaurants at the first sign of cold weather, shuttered until next April or May.

Birds act livelier now that hot weather does not relegate them to long daily naps, cooler weather encouraging flight. They survey surroundings and sing to each other; warbles we all can enjoy. But most of the birds will soon be traveling on.

Local produce abounds, yet the appearance of fall crops - squash, carrots, broccoli, greens, fruit - and the disappearance of garden-fresh corn is tinged with sadness.

Summer held such promise a few short weeks ago. The agreeable weather, the sunshine, extended daylight hours, lazy afternoons, quiet evenings and long lines at the ice cream shop launched an endless summer.

But seasons come and go. Everything moves on. Everyone marches along.

We recall summers past and look forward to sunny seasons yet to come.

One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter. 
— Henry David Thoreau 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Life in Perspective

I work with a Program Committee of three, planning and organizing a series of continuing education courses, our target group retirees. Sometimes we get wrapped up in details and worry about minor issues as if they were major catastrophes. Take yesterday’s class

The documentary film was the last of a summer series. To end with a bang, so to speak, we went beyond the usual. In addition to showing an excellent documentary (pre-screened by us, award winner, interesting topic) we planned snacks – fruit and mini-cheesecakes (small squares from Sam’s Club – they are REALLY good-too good…) and also engaged a quartet to play following the movie.

The day before the class we found out the musicians believed they were to show up at 3:00 p.m. – exactly the time the program ended.

Jim, the instructor, called me concerned and befuddled. What do we do?

We discussed the dilemma. We both felt stressed, worried the afternoon would be a muddled failure. Then Jim put the situation in perspective, matter-of-factly stating, “With what’s going on in Houston, this is nothing.”

He was right. We would handle the situation best we could and move on.

A phone call urged the men (the quartet was all male) to arrive half an hour beforehand, but the main man could not guarantee everyone could roll in early.

Jim and I prepared contingency plans. We would delay the start of the movie. I could waste time buy time talking about the fall class lineup, with the food served first rather than after the movie, although people may just have eaten lunch and would probably enjoy the treat an hour and a half later – after the film.

Arriving early to ensure a glitch-free set up (projector, movie, chairs, food), the man in charge of the venue (a local church) was surprised when he noticed the movie to be presented. He had attended the movie’s premiere, knew the main character’s family and would be happy to speak for a few minutes. Now there was no need for me to delay the start of the film.

Following a brief introduction the movie began. Then the nosh materialized and our impromptu speaker made a few comments about his connection to the movie. The musicians appeared before the end of the movie and set up while folks got their food…the audience loved the movie, the munchies and the music.

As veterans of Superstorm Sandy, we have an inkling what is ahead for the thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Those who lost most if not all of their possessions face financial difficulties even if they have flood insurance, which most do not, and will be dislocated for weeks and probably months.

The little hiccups faced in our everyday lives pale compared to the enormity of the challenges Harvey victims now confront.

Sometimes we need life to be placed in perspective.

Here is a link to a New York Times article listing charities accepting donations for Harvey victims, and how to avoid being scammed.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Forgetful…or Not

Forgetfullikely to forget…characterized by negligent failure to remember...neglectful…inducing oblivion. 

“So when are we going to the show?” Hub asks as we dig into our grilled chicken and salad dinner one summer evening.

“Uh…honestly, I’m not sure. Sometime the week after Labor Day. I just don’t remember the exact date,” I respond, concentrating on my plate.

“Saturday night?”

“Definitely not Friday or Saturday night. I didn’t want to deal with traffic. One night during the week. Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.”

“You don’t know? You don’t remember? Didn’t you exchange the tickets?” looking at me as if I was from another planet. How could I forget? his body language insinuated.

“I did. Called last week. I just don’t remember what day the new tickets are for, and forgot to add it to our calendar.”

“Oh…you better find out when we’re going or we won’t go. I don’t want to lose our money.”

”I know.  I’ll call.”

End of conversation.

The next day I called the box office and sheepishly explained to the woman on the other end of the line my dilemma.

At which point she burst into hysterical laughter.

“I won’t ask your age or how your memory is doing these days,” she states between fits of laughter, and, after controlling herself continues, “OK, give me your name and let me look up your account…”

A minute or so later she’s back on the line, “I see you requested a ticket exchange…”

“Right, we couldn’t go on the original night of our tickets. Last minute grandsitting obligation.”

“I understand…I have your account here. I see the request for exchange, but we are holding it for further instructions. There is no date noted for another show.”

“Oh…that’s why I couldn’t remember the date we were going. There was no date. I guess I called requesting an exchange when I found out we couldn’t go on the original day. Figured I would call again and choose another time later. Can I exchange my tickets for a specific date now?”

“Sure…when would you like to go?”

“OK, give me a minute, I’m bringing up my calendar.” A few seconds later the calendar appeared on my computer screen, “How about Wednesday or Thursday September 6th or 7th?”

“We have good seats available for either night.”

“OK, let’s make it Wednesday.”

“Any preference for seating?”

“No, we have not been to that theater before.”

“Well, I have two seats row six center.”

“Sounds great…”

“You will receive an email confirmation. You can print your tickets.”

“Thank you!”

“Your welcome, good bye.”


I immediately put the information on my calendar. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

10 Ideas for Avoiding the News of the Day

My lifestyle has not changed significantly over the past year, but listening to the news, reading newspapers, checking social media, life in the United States mutated over the past months.

The dictionary definition of mutate: If an animal or plant mutates, or something mutates it, it develops different characteristics as the result of a change in its genes.

The current President of the United States is the something that has mutated our life, sucking folks into a vast vortex of paranoia, trickery, and fast-moving, ever-changing events. I thought life moved fast before his ascension to the highest office in the land. Was I wrong!

I need a break. Everyone needs a break.

What is an ordinary person to do?

Answer: Seek diversions.

Here is my list of ten ideas to temporarily put aside political crises 
and revel in ordinary activities. 
In no particular order:

    1.    Eat and drink. Always a substitute when faced with problems. Tina Fey suggested cake, but there are lots of alternatives. Dig into ice cream (a great summer choice), a large pizza topped with favorite toppings, a plate of wings from your neighborhood take-out joint…the opportunities are endless. Should you gain a few pounds, well, it is not your fault. The President made you do it. Indulge in alcoholic drinks or non-alcoholic beverages, but the alcohol will do a better job of deflecting attention from the issues of the day. Dine (and drink) with friends, but make a pact to NOT talk politics. At least not American politics.  

     2.    Cook your favorite high-calorie meal. The attention to detail will redirect your mind, and the feelings of guilt after consuming delicious but fattening and probably unhealthy foods will delay contemplating the state of the nation.  

.          3.    Volunteer. Organizations need workers and people need the diversion. Offer your skills and get involved. Shun political organizations, however. Political entanglements significantly raises blood pressure, causes severe headaches, increases intake of sugary substances, and results in weight gain, palpitations, anxiety, exhaustion, and the need to take meds to calm nerves.

     4.    Grandsit. The kids keep you on your toes and constantly in motion. By the end of the day you are too tired to listen to or care about the news.

     5.    Watch movies, read a book, binge watch a TV series. Immerse yourself in the book or movie and forget about everything else. Can be combined with suggestions 1 and/or 2.

     6.    Take a class, learn something new. As fall approaches, this is a good time to think about new endeavors. Sign up now!

     7.    Be a tourist. You may not have to wander far to explore zoos, art museums and galleries, botanical gardens, etc. Animals especially help lower blood pressure and put a smile on your otherwise tense, politically-worried face. Visit historic towns and lively cities; take a walking tour or even better, a food tour.

     8.    Visit a national park or anyplace somewhat cut off from modern life. Do not watch TV, connect with social media, read newspapers, or check email. Sit and stare at the wilderness, the mountains, the lake or the sea, a campfire, anything calming. Or better yet –

     9.    Be active. Hike, swim, ride a bike, do anything to get the heart pumping, adrenalin moving, and engaged enough to forget about politics.

    10.  Leave the country, at least temporarily. I am not advocating moving abroad! Spend time soaking up another culture. But be warned: beware locals attempting to engage in conversation about the current President. It happens all the time. Folks begin the dialogue with a statement such as, “what were you Americans thinking!”

This is not a comprehensive list, but hopefully starts you thinking about ways to clear the mind and disengage temporarily from the political controversies roiling our country today. Unfortunately the issues will still be around tomorrow. Better to worry later than stew today…

Maybe one day we will wake up and this abnormal state of affairs will have been a bad dream. Or a reality show gone bad. The director yells, “Cut and it’s a wrap!” performers walk offstage for the last time, and the lights go out. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Summer Sizzles as Boomers Consider Difficult Questions

Hub and I pack a bag and hit the road often, exploring places far and near. It is one of our retirement priorities, and we have taken advantage of the opportunity.

There are occasions the time and place of trips is not of our choosing. This week is one of those times. We sit cocooned in air conditioning amidst the torrid temperatures baking South Florida, grandsitting. Temperatures hover in the 90s with a heat value index around 104. I don’t know what that means scientifically speaking except that it is hot. Really, really hot. Walking out the door my glasses fog over, and stepping outside barefoot my feet burn on the sidewalk. I cannot drink enough to purge the thirsty, dry feeling.

Are we having fun yet?
Not me, but maybe my granddaughter in 10+ years!

Question: Where is the coolest place in Palm Beach County?

I won’t make you wait for the answer. It is the ice skating rink.

I tagged along with two of my grandchildren as we experienced a refreshingly cool atmosphere for a couple of hours. I donned skates and ventured onto the ice, keeping up with my 6-year-old granddaughter, a novice skater. I remained upright the entire time!

My fellow boomers spent the week in more serious pursuits. Tom Sightings spent the week reviewing some issues about the life that we face ahead of us. In the process he asks himself 8 Questions About Retirement . . . from the financial (How will taxes affect our IRA withdrawals?), to our futures (Do we have a retirement plan?)

Carol Cassara wrestled with the question: Do patients always need to know the unvarnished truth about their disease? Is there value in hope? We've all known friends and loved ones who have had difficult diagnoses. Over at Heart Mind Soul, Carol Cassara and her readers discuss the question " how do we best support them?"

Divisiveness and discord bombard us on the national scene everyday, but observing our immediate environment we hopefully feel less distressed. Laura Lee, like so many of us, is feeling a bit confused lately, torn between the ugliness of racial hatred and the amazing beauty of her present surroundings!

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, reports on a new study that shows more than 40 percent of student loan borrowers leaving college or trade school owe at least $20,000, double the number of borrowers a decade ago. In addition, more borrowers are taking out student loans later in life, and fewer borrowers are paying down their student debt in five years.

Enjoy the week and take advantage of summer activities in your town as the season winds down. And take a few minutes to visit our boomers!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

White Food Bad Food Great Tasting Food

The title summarizes my sentiments. White processed food tastes yummy but is bad for the body.

White food was not always bad, and unprocessed white food like onions, cauliflower and white beans are good for us. But over the decades manufacturers managed to suck good nutrients out and replace with bad ones, adding ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, and hydrogenated oils.

I did not realize how much my eating habits changed over the years until my grandson visited. We – hub and I - consume only a small amount of white processed foods at home. We dine out regularly, however, and the trouble with eating out is that undisclosed ingredients can ruin the illusion of healthy eating. And chances are we never know about the bad stuff: chemicals, artificial ingredients, manmade foods, all of which might enhance the taste of a dish but are not beneficial for our bodies.

My grandson likes to cook and has specific ideas about what he likes and refuses to eat, so hub and I indulged.

One night he cooked Crispy Garlic Parmesan Chicken with Zucchini. Sounds good for you. So I thought, until collecting ingredients needed.

The only reason I had white flour in the house was because earlier in the summer my granddaughter visited and we made play dough. Main ingredient: white flour. I purchased a small bag for the craft project. (The play dough came out great!)

 The chicken recipe called for eight tablespoons of butter. Butter is not technically white, ranging in color from dark yellow to almost white. My no salt butter sported a pale yellow hue. I don’t use eight tablespoons of butter in months. I rarely use butter.

The recipe specified soak chicken pieces in butter, then coat with bread crumbs.

No bread crumbs in my house, but the grocery store carried several brands.

My refrigerator supplied lots of zucchini thanks to my CSA.

The chicken and zucchini tasted wonderful, but I know I did not do my heart or waistline any favors.

One morning we made pancakes. We could have found a recipe using whole-wheat flour and other healthy ingredients, but my grandson would not have eaten them. The Original Pancake recipe included: white flour, baking powder (white), salt (white), white sugar, milk (white), eggs (partially white), and butter (pale yellow – almost white).

An old-fashioned goody, but…

Another night we made potatoes. White potatoes. Another unhealthy choice.

White potatoes are high in the type of carbohydrates the body digests rapidly, causing blood sugar and insulin to soar and then drop. Long term, a diet high in this type of food contributes to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Potatoes rank high on the culprit list. 

I love French fries and mashed potatoes.

Uh oh…

We made ice cream. Luckily the flavor of choice was peanut butter, not my favorite. I did not taste, so missed another dose of white stuff: milk, cream, and sugar.

My grandson went home, and hub and I resumed a healthier diet.

Next week we grandsit the kids for a week.

Our healthy diet, I fear, will be short-lived. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Countdown to the 2020 Presidential Election: Installment #2

Nowadays we hear way too much about what the current President is doing every day, whether tweeting, playing golf, vacationing, speaking to rallies of the faithful, dining, traveling, even governing.

There has not been much information about anyone or anything else until articles began appearing recently about possible 2020 Presidential candidates – Republican candidates, the President’s party.

News organizations must believe the American public waits in excited exhausted eerie anticipation for the 2020 election. I would not be writing about the event so early in the election cycle except other journalists, talk show hosts, radio windbags, celebrities, and social media are now providing input into the great event.

So as not to be thought ignorant or oblivious of this momentous future moment in American history, I enter my words of wisdom into the great pot of poop being generated over the 2020 Presidential election.

Should the current President not be his party’s standard bearer, the gossip goes, who will be?

Much speculation centers around the VP, Mike Pence. Which is a subtle way, I believe, of the current President’s political machine working behind the scenes to undermine the guy and ensure he is NOT the candidate. I am unsure what the sleaze leak will be, but something will happen. There is plenty of time to shovel dirt on the guy’s political grave.

Republicans are everywhere nowadays, and so are potential candidates. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley is a fresh face, and a female one, although that is not necessarily a plus in the mind of many Republicans. Consider her a VP possibility. Unless the party thinks they are desperate.

The Republican Senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, is interesting. He recently published what is apparently a scathing indictment of the current President, Conscience of a Conservative. Or at least that is what I heard. I have not read the book yet. The other Arizona senator, John McCain, will be too old to run. He tried in 2008, but the most conservative element of the Party stuck him with Sarah Palin for VP. That sunk his candidacy almost immediately.

Ohio governor John Kasich might decide to throw his hat in the ring again…and Ted Cruz, assuming he is re-elected Senator from Texas in 2018, and most of the other 2016 Presidential wannabees.

As for the Democrats, a lot depends on what happens in 2018. Will the party gain any House seats? Maybe, especially if the Supreme Court takes action on gerrymandering. Wishful thinking on my part…Will Dems gain Senators? Lose some? Of the 33 Senators up for re-election in 2018, 23 are Democrats, 2 are Independents who caucus with the Democrats, and 8 are Republicans. Democrats face an uphill battle to keep all current seats and add more.

Looking toward 2020, well-known politicians include the old guard: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Hillary already bowed out. But the Dems would do well to offer a fresh-faced candidate not necessarily a household name - yet. It worked for Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

Potential contenders include Kamala Harris, Senator from California, apparently a viable candidate because she is already facing negative feedback from her own party. I think some of the bigwigs do not like her – another talkative woman. Imagine a well-spoken, smart, liberal woman with a Jamaican/Indian heritage. Ouch!

Moving on…how about Hillary’s VP candidate, Tim Kaine…Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey…Andrew Cuomo of New York…Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado…then there are non-politician candidates. Steven Colbert…Mark Cuban…Mark Zuckerberg…Caroline Kennedy (almost a non-politician with a potent name)…and the list goes on.

The fun has only just begun. Or the agony, depending on your perspective.
How many of us feel this way!?