Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Greetings from a Winter Wonderland

Whether we like it or not -
We have weather!

Words of wisdom from another writer (not this blogger...)

There are three reasons for becoming a writer:
The first is that you need to write,
The second that you have something to say that you think the world should know;
The third is that you can't think what to do with the long winter eveings.
     - Quentin Crisp, 20th Century Writer

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Alas, I am NOT Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

The fact that I am not smarter than a fifth grader is not easy to admit, but it is true. Two events in recent months brought the realization home that not only am I not smarter than most kids nowadays, but a lot of today’s entertainment and activities are passing me by. I cannot keep up. My brain has slowed down a notch or two, recognition of things and people does not come as quickly as it used to, and new things are not as easily remembered. Those fifth graders are becoming smarter than me every day.
The first event occurred in what to me is a foreign environment - an electronics store. My son asked me to stop in and buy a particular electronic item; it was sold out in the store near his home. He told me the item name, and for some unknown reason I did not ask details. I am sure he assumed I knew what he was talking about. I did not. Next thing I know I find myself surrounded by big screen TVs, video games humming all around me, and aisle after aisle of computers and computer paraphernalia.
I had no idea what I was looking for, or where to find it. I drifted over to the computer section and started slowly walking around, up and down the aisles. I did not know if I was looking for a game, gadget, or some other product. Bewildered does not describe how I felt. Suddenly a young girl about ten years of age came up to me and asked if she could help. I realized she did not work at the store; store clerks were scarce and rarely seen. I told her what I was looking for and she wandered off. A couple of minutes later she returned and told me exactly where I could find the item – a Wii game. A few minutes later I had made the purchase and was on my way.
The second event happened a couple of days ago. I was home on my computer. I do some freelance writing and was reviewing a list of article titles. One of the titles was something like, “How to get to XXX Village”. I had never heard of the place. It piqued my interest, and I investigated. It did not take me long to grasp the fact that the article was all about a video game. There was no road trip involved in reaching that village.
Somehow I manage to survive without knowledge of the video world. It seems to be all around me, and I am sure it won’t be long before my grandson will roll his eyes as he tells me about his latest video adventure, and I have this glazed look in my eyes. I won’t even know what questions to ask, let alone have any idea what he is talking about. I know I should learn a little bit, but honestly, I really don’t care. There are too many other things I want to do and learn before I spend a lot of time on video games. The young people have plenty of time to do it all. My time is precious. I envision my future, hopefully years from now, sitting in front of a computer screen playing senior versions of video games. It will be an enjoyable way to pass the time, and I will not be able to do a lot of other things. I will be too old, deaf, weak, and frail to do anything else. I can wait.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Color me Clueless

Our newspaper is delivered everyday; it supposedly arrives about 6:30 a.m. All I know is that when I go out to retrieve it, it is there.  I have a pleasant morning routine making breakfast, then retreating to my office - my kitchen counter - with the morning paper. Eat breakfast, read paper, review e-mail…
I missed a lot of things during my the years working a traditional office job. I recently read an article that a company, Pantone Inc., designated honeysuckle as the color of the year for 2011. 

I never knew there was a color of the year. The company declared: “Energizing Honeysuckle lifts spirits and imparts confidence to meet life’s ongoing challenges”. Apparently the company reviews new clothing lines, interviews designers, and determines what we – consumers – will see and buy in the coming year. 

For the year 2011 -the new color is honeysuckle. Let me explain what that means. Pantone’s honeysuckle is pink. 

Pink is the new ‘in’ color.
I can guarantee I am not going to run to the nearest store and grab a bunch of pink clothes. I have never been a pink person. My granddaughter loves pink. Her room is pink, a lot of her clothes are pink, and she has pink toys. 

I got into pink late in life. The only way some of my clothes – sweaters and shirts – did not disappear in my house was if they were girl-colors. I started buying pink as a defense mechanism to secure my hold on my clothes.
I will have to wait a full year to find out next year’s color. Perhaps then I can go out and buy new clothes. But I have to admit I did not realize my life was missing anything until this recent new-color discovery in my sixth decade of life. Somehow I survived. I believe I will continue to manage fine without a new pink wardrobe.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Spa Experience

I received a spa gift certificate for my 60th birthday. I put it in my drawer, weeks and months passed, and finally five months later I made an appointment.

I have only been to a spa a couple of times in my life. I had a massage once and a facial twice. I figured a spa experience was a wonderful waste of a day.
I arrived about 10:00 a.m. The receptionists were gracious and quiet; the whole atmosphere was peaceful. There was very soft background music, and everyone seemed to be walking around in shoes that did not make a sound.  I was handed a locker key, robe, and pointed to the dressing room. I stripped, threw on the long white robe, which was very soft and comfortable, and made my way to the massage room.
The room was semi-dark with muted lighting. Gentle, subdued music played. The massage therapist was young, very nice, and business-like. No frivolous conversation or chit-chat here. Right down to work. My neck, back, and legs got a thorough workout. An hour later I was totally relaxed and ready for a good long nap.
But the nap had to wait. There was a sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi to take advantage of. By the way, the place was almost empty. The spa was located in a resort hotel. It was mid-week and not a holiday or vacation season.
I spent about 15-20 minutes in the steam room. After cooling down and drinking the purified bottled water provided, I tried the sauna for fifteen minutes. It felt good; I was lying down and almost fell asleep. But I did not want to lose track of the time and end up totally cooked. 

I skipped the Jacuzzi, but enjoyed  a soothing shower. I dried my hair and moved on to the salon. A facial and manicure awaited.
The facial felt calming, cool against my skin, and although the woman raved about how it made my skin look fresh, young and wonderful, I could not tell the difference. But it did feel refreshing. The manicure was thorough – a lot more thorough than the bargain-basement-priced ones at my neighborhood nail salon. At the height of the season you are in and out in ten minutes. No one can do a very good job in such a short time. Off season they will take more time and effort to do a decent job.
I was supposed to get lunch during my spa experience, but that perk had been discontinued since my gift certificate was purchased. I was not offered an alternative, and nobody seemed too concerned that I had been shortchanged. I finally left, hungry and eager to get home for some food.
During my entire time at the spa and salon I saw only three or four other customers. That is great for the customer – a lot of personal service – but obviously not good for business. But I guess even the busiest places have off days.
I had a very pleasant, relaxing, soothing day. But I have to admit I would not pay for the experience.  It was expensive, and as indulgent and pleasing as it was, I cannot help feeling it was a luxury I can do without. 

On the other hand, if anyone wants to buy me another gift certificate, I would not turn it down. Pampered extravagance feels good – especially if someone else pays for it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

From First Class to Commoner

My husband and I flew to Orlando, Florida a couple of weeks ago. We were lucky enough to be upgraded to first class, thanks to my husband’s extensive traveling. We arrived at the airport early and spent the first hour in the airline club. It was holiday time and few business people were traveling. There were some couples like us, dressed casually and either on vacation or visiting family. It was quiet, almost a hushed atmosphere. There were plush seats, nice coffee and end tables, magazines and newspapers, a wet bar and snack bar.
We walked to the gate a few minutes before boarding time. Usually first class passengers board first. The announcer allowed those traveling with children under the age of five to board immediately. That was half the plane. A long line of strollers, kids, parents lugging kids and all kinds of accessories – blankets, toys, dolls, babies, food - paraded out of the terminal and onto the plane.
Everyone settled in quickly, and we were off. The airport was not crowded. Our plane was full (the reason we were upgraded), but in general it was a quiet travel period.
First class was nice, but not what it used to be. There were two seats across instead of three. That was the main advantage of our first class experience. Our ever-expanding butts can use all the extra space. There is a table between the two seats large enough for drinks and papers. And there was plenty of leg room. We did not get any special food or drinks; blame it on austerity measures on the part of the airlines.
The flight was, thankfully, uneventful. I was surprised how quiet and relaxed the flight went, despite all the kids and babies. I envisioned crying kids for three hours. We were lucky.
Arriving at the airport, we immediately turned into commoners. We had decided to take the public bus to our hotel. OK, we are cheap. Rather than splurge on a $50 or $60 taxi ride, I discovered a city bus went right by our hotel. It sounded easy enough when planning the trip in the comfort of our home.
It took a very long walk around two levels of the airport before locating the appropriate bus stop. We found Disney buses, tour buses, private limousines, and taxis; just one small section of the transportation area was reserved for three or four public buses. We finally found the area, and asked a bus driver when our bus would come. Well, there were complications. It was raining, there were traffic jams, and the bus was delayed. It was Black Friday. The driver told us to take another bus which had just pulled into the terminal and transfer.
We piled on the bus with our suitcases and back packs. About twenty minutes later, after a short stint on the highway, down busy city streets, and a longer detour through a mall (we just couldn’t avoid a mall on Black Friday), the driver said get out – this is where we transfer. It was now close to 6:00 p.m., getting dark, and we were tired. I attempted to converse with the one woman waiting for a bus. She only spoke Spanish.  She told us she had been waiting about five minutes, the bus came every half hour, and she wasn’t sure when it would come. At least I think that is what she said. I really have to practice my Spanish.
We waited a few minutes. No bus came. We looked at each other and said – enough. We were on a main road with a couple of hotels and stores around us. When we saw a taxi we stepped onto the road and tried to hail the cab. The third cab pulled over. We piled in, gave him the address, and in five minutes arrived at our hotel. The taxi ride cost $10. The bus had been about $2.00 each.
I doubt most people will make such a circuitous trip to their vacation destination, in Orlando or anywhere else. I must confess, however, that we are bus people, commoners. We are used to figuring out public transportation systems in various cities, and some countries. In one Latin American country we were warned not to use the public buses. They were in poor shape, packed with people standing and hanging out of the buses, broke down often, and had a lot of accidents. We might be adventurous, but we try not to be stupid.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How to Feel Thin in One Day

Every day we read about the sad state of the American waistline. It is fast disappearing, replaced by an ever-expanding girth increasingly difficult to fit comfortably in planes, trains, or molded bus seats. It is an epidemic charitable organizations and government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration have put too little funding and research towards. Whether eliminating the sugar, fat and salt, or taking a magic pill, the cure eludes us.
Most of us feel fat at some point in our lives, whether we are actually overweight or not. Maybe it’s the outfit that doesn’t fit any more, or the angle of the mirror in the department store fitting room, or that worst of all offenders – the bathing suit experience. Shopping for one, stuffing our bodies into one, wearing one, it is all too awful.
I finally found a way to instantly feel good about myself. It does not involve eating chocolate or some other calorie-laden goodie. It does not involve extensive dieting and exercise. The answer hit me this past week vacationing with my family.
The fast way to feel thin or at least not-so-fat is – visit one of the large amusement parks scattered around the country. Small local ones don’t necessarily count. They may not typify a true cross section of the American people; or at least amusement park participants. I observed a variety of men, women and children, from infants to the elderly. They were from all over North America, with representatives from several countries. You could tell from the languages and accents heard, and the T-shirts representing towns, restaurants and bars, schools, and sports teams from around the country. It was not too difficult to pick out the foreigners. They were the slim ones, and the better dressed ones.
Walk around one of these parks. There are a lot of big people. Men, women, even, unfortunately, children. Way too many people are wearing clothing that is, to put it gently, not very complimentary. Shorts are too tight and too short. Tops are too small, showing every roll. Personally I think sleeveless shirts should be banned for everyone over a certain age. Everything hangs out.
What are these people thinking? Do they not care how they look? Do they realize how unflattering the clothes are? Are they unable to find clothing that fits? Have they eaten themselves into extra large sizes, or is there another explanation for the expansion of Americans in the twenty-first century?
Anyway…all of a sudden I am not so fat. Comparatively speaking, I have a lot to be thankful for.
But I am still short.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Holiday Everyone!

Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-time takes twelve minutes. This is no coincidence.
     -Erma Bombeck

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The First Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving focuses my thoughts on food and the first holiday feast. I am not cooking dinner this year, but will be making a couple of dishes to take to our family banquet.
We are members of a CSA – Community Supported Agricultural group. Every week we receive a box of fresh herbs and vegetables. The assortment varies as the season’s progress from spring to summer and fall. We opted for an extended program, and will get veggies until mid-December. This week’s delivery brings broccoli and cabbage, among other fall greens. Consequently I am preparing a broccoli casserole and cole slaw.
Most family dinners will have some food in common with the First Thanksgiving feast celebrated by the 53 Pilgrims lucky enough to survive the winter, but not a lot and prepared very differently. A detailed menu for that first three-day feast is not found in any contemporary account, but some of the foods eaten by the first Pilgrims are mentioned in existing records. The menu probably looked something like this:
                Seasonal Fowl (ducks, geese, venison, possibly wild turkey).
                Possibly fresh seafood, perhaps oysters which the Indians would have supplied.
                Stuffing of herbs, onions, and oats.
                Indian corn, processed and prepared in dishes similar to rice or oats such as porridge and pancakes.
                Various dried and fresh vegetables, including: parsnips, collards, carrots, turnips, spinach, cabbage, onions, and beans. They would have been seasoned with fresh or dried herbs: thyme, marjoram, sage, parsley.
                Fresh and dried fruits: pumpkin, cranberries, grapes, nuts.
There were no potatoes, no sugar, no pumpkin pie, and no cranberry sauce.
The commercial turkeys of today bear no resemblance to the wild turkeys the Indians and Pilgrims enjoyed, but that is another story…               

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fashionable Finally! at Sixty

I have never been stylish or trendy or classy, ever, in my entire life. When I was a teenager Twiggy was the model du jour. She was ultra-skinny with long, stick thin legs and knobby knees. I am short, chunky, with too many pounds, and large breasts. Twiggy must have had breasts, but you would not know it from the clothes she wore. I looked pregnant in the popular dresses of the time.  
Before jeans became the uniform of my generation the preppy look prevailed. I did not care for it, and could not afford it. I liked the jeans and sweater look. The clothes hid a lot of flaws. My work clothes were conservative, affordable, and uninspiring.
Fast forward to the present. Nothing much has changed fashion-wise. My wardrobe is still not chic or elegant or modern. I want clothes I like, outfits that are comfortable, fit well, are reasonably priced and a bit beyond boring.
A couple of years ago I bought a navy blue wool cape. It works well in all but the coldest weather. I love it. On plane or car trips I drape the cape over me and use it as a blanket. It scrunches up and takes up less space than a coat.
And then there are my hats. I like hats. They cover my hair and part of my face. I was never skilled at hair or make-up. Hats keep me warm in winter, protect my face in summer, and hide my hair and face. At my age comfort, concealment, and function are most important.
My uniform for a recent trip was jeans, comfortable boots, my blue cape, and a wide brimmed brown hat. And – something that never happened to me – people commented positively about my hat and cape – I like that hat! – Love your cape! All of a sudden I was stylish. Who would have thought…?
I have been thinking about the moral of this story. Maybe it is the old adage be yourself. Or maybe it was just a fluke.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Junk Mail, Jobs, and De-cluttering

I am being inundated by junk mail. Snail mail daily brings ads, requests for donations from charities contributed to in the past, and appeals from organizations I have never given a penny. There are address labels from groups all over the country. Conflicted over whether to use them without sending a donation, I got over my reluctance and now use all labels received. It would be a shame to waste them.  There are catalogs from vendors I purchased from, and many from retailers I never heard of until their literature arrived at my door. I like coupons as much as any thrifty shopper, but I do not like them cluttering my house. I am not very organized, and papers pile up everywhere. By the time I want to use a particular coupon it has either expired or I can’t find it and just get frustrated. 
Then there are emails. I finally got impatient and tired of deleting them. I went down the list and unsubscribed. Most companies make it fairly simple; a couple of clicks and that is it. A few have a menu allowing a choice of how often you wish to receive emails – daily, weekly, monthly. A couple of times I chose monthly. I felt bad cutting them off completely. 
I had second thoughts about getting rid of snail mail. I used to feel bad mail carriers are forced to lug all that extra weight around, but recently I began looking at it another way. The more junk mail to deliver, the more mail carriers will be considered necessary. I now accept junk mail as one small way I am helping to keep people employed. Most flyers, credit card offers, catalogs, charitable requests and miscellaneous correspondence are thrown out without opening. Less junk email and snail mail to deal with helps de-clutter my life, and any help simplifying and organizing my life is welcome.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Am I Waiting For?

A lot of times I do not wear what I consider to be the best things I own, whether clothes or accessories or jewelry, because I am ‘saving’ them. It finally occurred to me – what am I saving them for? I am 60 years old. 

I have stuff that has been in drawers and closets for years - even decades – rarely used.  What good do these things do sitting in a draw or hanging in a closet gathering dust? By the time I decide to wear them many items are dated, do not fit, or I do not like them anymore.  I look at the item and ask myself: Why did I ever like that? Why did I ever buy it? Why did I ever think that was so special? And the biggest question - what was I saving it for?
So I have come to the conclusion that it is time to use everything. If I want to wear a nice sweater I will not wait for a special occasion. That special occasion may never come.
My new motto: Use it, wear it, enjoy. 
Clothing I do not like, or that does not fit, or I know I will never wear will be tossed out. 
My stuff will do no one any good after I am gone. Most things will end up at Goodwill or some other charity. So aside from a thrift sale shopper, no one will care about my wardrobe. I am going to wear things, enjoy them, use them, or get rid of them. 

What is the worst that can happen – something I love gets worn or ripped or stained? I will then need to replace it. I will have to go shopping. That is a tough, time consuming, exhausting undertaking, but I will do it…

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chocolate, Cheese, and Gelato Delight

I am a dedicated foodie, and any activity revolving around food is tops on my list. One Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago five members of my family experienced what is known as the Decadent Food Tour. It was 2 ½ hours of food tasting, talking, walking (not so much), and generally having a good time.
The first stop was a gourmet grocery store. Our guide gave a short talk detailing the cheese-making process, the difference between real cheese and faux supermarket cheeses, and the different types of cheeses. Then the fun began. It was taste testing time. There was a selection of hard and soft cheeses, sharp and mild ones. They were all excellent, expensive, wonderful domestic and foreign varieties. My favorite was a goat cheese.
The cheese tasting was followed by a short walk to a chocolate cafĂ©. There were a total of thirteen participants and the tour guide. We sat around a low circular coffee table. Each one of us had a small plate of chocolates in front of us. Before we could taste, our guide explained how chocolate is made, from cocoa beans to finished product. It was difficult staring at the chocolate and not eating until the lecture was over (but it was interesting). There was white chocolate, milk chocolates, dark chocolates, and a truffle that was absolutely out of this world. There were so many kinds of chocolate, and several of each kind, that we could not finish them all. The guide passed around cute little pink boxes so that we could put the extra chocolates in the box and take our gourmet chocolates (read: expensive if purchased) safely home. No one asked about the calories, but there has been much written lately about the benefits of chocolate…
After another brisk, short walk we arrived at a gelato store. I would guess the two walks totaled about 20 minutes, and only because we walked slowly. We probably expended about 20 calories total. I realize that doesn’t come close to making up for all the tidbits we ate. I am sure just one piece of chocolate was way more than 20 calories…Anyway, back to the gelato store. We sat around a long rectangular table. Placed in front of us was a set of dishes with six scoops of gelato, each a different flavor and different color. Our job was to taste every one and guess the flavor. There was pumpkin (it was October and Halloween season), basil (who but the Italians would think of making basil gelato!?), and four other flavors I cannot think of offhand. One was a chocolate variety, and of course that was my favorite. Sometimes I am not very adventurous.
After having a great time sampling all the wonderful goodies, it was time to find a place for dinner. But that’s another story...
If you are looking for a different kind of city experience and live in or are visiting Philadelphia, try one of the food tours offered by City Food Tours: (By the way, this is not a paid advertisement! I just enjoyed the tour and thought others might too.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Found: A Suitable Gym Experience

I have no excuse now that I am retired for not exercising. I realize the need to pay attention to my body if I want to avoid becoming a big round ball. I see too many older people put on the pounds and collect an assortment of maladies and problems. And so I head for the gym. I don’t expect miracles. My goal is to put off the inevitable as long as possible. 

Before moving I belonged to a succession of gyms. The first one had a variety of equipment, and a limited number of exercise classes. There were a considerable number of younger people in cute outfits who were there to socialize, pick up a weekend date, network, and otherwise complete a variety of tasks that had nothing to do with exercise. And there I was, older than most, sweating in what can kindly be called an older version of modern gym wear: a pair of cheap sweats purchased at an outlet and an oldie-but-goodie T-shirt. Nothing fancy, nothing close-fitting, nothing matching, but the outfit worked for me.

Did I mention the men at the gym? Besides the women in charming tight clothes, there was a group of fanatical men with oversize muscles sweating, grunting and groaning their way to ever bigger muscles. They wore tight clothing too. 
After a while I moved on to a women’s-only small workout center. It was fine for a while, but the routine got boring. And much as I like to meet friends, I was there to work out , and not so much to socialize. The socializing became distracting.
At about that time a friend told me of another women’s-only workout place opening near my home. I signed up. The equipment was newer and the place larger than the other women's-only gym. The center was fine for several months, but then the recession hit and the place closed.
Next stop was a cheap gym. For $10 a month I could work out to my heart’s content. I averaged twice a week, if lucky. No classes, but you can’t have everything. Or maybe the right way to look at it is – you get what you pay for. I passed the gym on my way home from work. It was a big place with lots of equipment and worked well for me for several months.
Then the gym went all out on a publicity blitz and marketing campaign seeking new members, and at the offering price was inundated. That was great for the company, but bad for me. I was still working, so had limited flexibility for my workout schedule. A lot of people went to the gym after work in the late afternoon. It became annoying trying to maneuver from one piece of equipment to another, seeing what was available and making a beeline for it before anyone else grabbed it.
Then we moved. The local community center has a fabulous modern, well-equipped gym. The price is more than the bargain $10 a month, but worth every penny, and not as expensive as a lot of fancy gyms nowadays.
 I am in gym heaven for a number of reasons:
·         The workout areas are clean, bright, and spacious, and the equipment in excellent condition.
·         It is not too busy or crowded.
·         There are no twenty-ish young people in fashionable attire seeking a social life.
·          A lot of the men and women are my age and older.
·         Popular apparel are sweats and old T-shirts.
·         I fit right in.
·         There are a variety of classes, many geared toward seniors.*
·         I feel comfortable.
·         There is no pressure.
·         It works for me.

I try to go three times a week, but usually make it twice a week.  I feel good when working out, and feel good when I leave. And hungry.
So I stop at my favorite bagel store, buy a bagel and go home and eat.
I know there is something wrong with this routine, but can’t figure out what…
*Seniors as in older people, not high school or college seniors.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sexty in the City

I admit to hitting six decades in June. Not a thrilling milestone. For me, more impact than hitting 30 or 40 or 50.


Sounds old. And it is, especially to anyone younger than 60. Sure there are lots of people older, but they are OLD. OLDER. And not getting younger.

We can kid ourselves about getting better. But all the medical research (and personal experience) indicates our bodies have begun to go: hair turning gray, eyesight dimming, hearing waning, boobs heading south, waist expanding, butt sagging, knees dragging. Feet flatter. Instant response time increasing. Forgetting things.

To celebrate this dubious milestone, four friends decided on a girls' night out. We all have birthdays in June, July, and August, turning between 60 and 65. Our night out involved dinner and bar-hopping (OK, just two bars, but for us that is two more than usual). We exchanged our summer daywear for fancier attire, combed our hair and put on makeup. And wore heels (not high ones; at our age we would have ended up with blisters and bad backs).

The first stop was dinner at a tapas restaurant, characterized by low lights, high prices, small portions, a fancy ladies’ room, and great food. We drank just enough wine to make us somewhat tipsy, and ate to our heart's content. This celebration was worth throwing diets to the wind.

Exiting the restaurant, we walked out into the summer night shore air. It was refreshing and energizing, encouraging us to walk along the boardwalk and enjoy the evening.

We strolled a couple of long beach blocks to Bar #1, found a table and settled in to enjoy the band and order drinks. But nothing happened. No one came over to our table or seemed to acknowledge our presence.

We listened to the music and the minutes ticked away. After being studiously ignored by the waitresses dressed in skimpy red bikinis, we realized we were not going to get any service. We figured we did not meet the criteria of the hip, young, chic crowd the bar wanted to attract. We gave up, got up and left.

Walking another couple of blocks we decided to try Bar #2. We arrived about 11:05 and were told that after 11:15 the bar waived the $5 cover charge. This was a no-brainer for four long-suffering frugal friends. We waited.

At exactly 11:15 we again entered the outdoor beach bar and found a perfect round table in a corner booth. Swirling white curtains surrounded three sides of the cubicle. We settled in, enjoying the view of dark ocean on one side, the bar and dance floor in front of us and the lighted, bustling boardwalk beyond.

A few minutes later a waitress stops by and informs us that this delightful space is available for rent for $100. We looked at each other, sprinted out of that pretty but expensive booth, found a table among the common people and ordered drinks.

The band of three large (obese by medical standards) Italian brothers sang their hearts out to music we loved, oldies but wonderful goodies. We danced and sang along until the final song. Nursing our drinks, talking and laughing, we were the last ones to leave the bar.

When was the last time four sexty ladies closed a bar!?

And finally it was time to return home. Normally by this time of night we would have been asleep for hours. And one of our group did fall asleep at bar #2; however before we could take her picture she was rudely awakened by bar noise.

Reluctantly we headed home, exhausted but sorry the festivities were over.

There is something about reaching 60 that makes you realize time is limited, when it is no longer smart to keep putting off what we want to do.

Vive the Sexty in the City girls!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

We've Come a Long Way...

On November 5, 1872 Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for trying to vote for Ulysses S. Grant.

Three years later, on November 5, 1875 Susan B. Anthony was arrested for attempting to vote.

Everyone get out and vote today!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Domestic Not Quite Bliss and Girlfriends

One lazy summer weekend around our birthdays three girlfriends, decades old in age and friendship, took a break from real life and enjoyed a mini-reunion girls’ night out and sleepover.

We showered off the sand and sweat of summer and spent the evening on the rooftop deck of a Greek restaurant, drinking wine and sharing plate after plate of appetizers and desserts. We did not complain, however, temporarily forgetting about fat and calories, savoring the evening and our time together.

It was a beautiful night and we had a great time talking, laughing, eating, drinking, celebrating birthdays and our decades-old friendship.

On the way home, a bit tipsy and not quite clear-thinking, we noticed one alone-at-home husband called, but did not leave a message. We decided whatever the issue it must not be important. The guy probably was lonely and jealous, alone with two dogs and the TV, his wife out carousing all night. Kate called her husband, there was no answer, and figured he was sleeping peacefully and all was well.

Back at Nina's apartment we spent the rest of the night drinking more wine and watching late night TV. (Who were all those young actors, actresses, and celebrities??? The three of us usually went to bed long before late night talk shows began...)

We sang and danced along with a MAMMA MIA DVD equipped with song captions.

Totally exhausted, we finally dropped into bed.

Fast forward to a sunny, late summer morning. Kate again called her husband and discovered all was definitely not well. The two dogs were sick, throwing up all over the bed. In sympathy her husband also vomited. And the air conditioner in their rented apartment conked out. Dog #1 had an appointment with the vet (old, sick dog), and husband wanted wife home to watch dog #2 and wait for the air conditioner repairman.

He was not a happy hub.

So our sleepover ended, cut short by the demands of everyday life, once again back to the reality of sick dogs, disgruntled hubs, smelly, dirty linens and carpet, broken air conditioners - the normal trials and tribulations of life.

Epilogue -
The air conditioner was fixed by noon. The dirty linens were washed and, with the help of Resolve Pet Stains, the carpet cleaned. Unfortunately the vet determined dog #1, 13 years old, was terminally ill. Disgruntled hub, however, was soon feeling better, enjoying his cool apartment, caring wife, two adoring dogs, and life at the beach.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Confessions of a Foodaholic

I should watch carefully what I eat. All the time. Everyday. I cannot bear to see in print, in stark black and white or any other color, my BMI - body mass index. Last I checked it was not in the obese category, but not far away. 

I exercise, but not enough, and eat too much. And my metabolism is really, really slow.

So today I ate well, until the evening. This is confession time. 

I dug into the Hershey kisses kept in a bowl on a high shelf, usually taken down only when company comes. I do not know why I did it. I like chocolate, but can eat only a little before my body rejects the chocolate and me. 

Hershey’s is not even one of the best chocolates. If I am going to have forbidden fruit or chocolate or cake or anything else, it might as well be the best. Make the guilt worthwhile.
I fall off the diet track often. Actually I am rarely on a real diet track. I am doomed to be not thin or slim or even average weight. Motivation may be high, but willpower abysmally low. 
I know women who could eat everything until they hit menopause. Not one of the lucky ones, I had a weight problem since a teenager.
 I try not to make eating an obsession, but it must be in my genes, my cultural heritage and upbringing, childhood, and social life, all revolving around food. Good food. Lots of it. 
 There is no answer to my dilemma. While all around me people look slim and lose weight, I do not. On the other hand there are so many overweight people I do not feel out of place. Maybe I should. Maybe that would be an incentive to lose excess rolls (body and bread rolls).
Or maybe I need to learn to be happy with who I am.
Who am I kidding?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Penalty of Not Exercising

Last night I went to my dance exercise class for the first time in three weeks. I was out of town and did not go to a gym or participate in any meaningful exercise. I took a couple of walks - strolls actually; definitely not power walks. 

From the first stretches and warm up exercises my lack of body movement became evident. I know I should stretch every day, but it does not happen. By the end of the hour and a half class I was exhausted.
There are twenty-somethings in the class as well as women in their thirties, forties, fifties, and me (yes, I am the oldest). I have a feeling missing three weeks of class would not be a problem for the youngsters. They would jump right in without missing a beat.
I realize there are sixty-somethings and older who run marathons and do all kinds of athletic stuff. But I was never into vigorous athletic activity. I now do some bike riding, walk (keeping to flat terrain as much as possible), visit the gym (not as much as I should, but I am trying to maintain a regular schedule), and enjoy my belly dance and Zumba class. Zumba is a recent addition to my workout regimen. It is great exercise, fun, and demanding.
I feel better and look better because of the exercise. Although I have great trouble losing weight (I love food and I love to eat), I have to wonder what my body would look like if I did not exercise. It would not be a pretty sight (not that it’s such a great sight now, but it could be a lot worse).
My goal is to lose weight (isn’t that just about every woman’s goal?) and increase my stamina and energy level. I do not want the body to disintegrate before my mind is ready for my bod to give in to age and lethargy.

Out of Touch...Out of Mind

I am half way across the country visiting my son, his wife, and my three grandchildren. Number three was born two weeks ago. I am on grandparent duty, attempting to help wherever and whenever I can in a household with a six-year-old first grader, science enthusiast and dinosaur buff (a.k.a. big brother), a three-year-old mini-prima ballerina and drama queen (morphing from little sister to big sister), and baby sister (2 ½ weeks old and very cute).
The change is challenging. My energy level is not what it used to be. Keeping up with a three-year-old and six-year-old is  exhausting. The baby is fine, as long as I am not on the night watch. Grandma needs her sleep, and attempting to wake her during the darkest hours of the night is dangerous business.
Three days into the trip and I am surviving. It is nice to be far (figuratively speaking) from the steady 24/7 news bombardment. Unless a major disaster occurs, I am blissfully unaware of the daily mini-crises swirling around. The stock continues moving up or down without me checking its progress several times a day. 

News commentators constantly tell us what is going on and what it all supposedly means. I have not heard them for a couple of days. I have not listened to the latest political give and take between the numerous political candidates running in the next election. If I miss a few days of the drama, I still will be able to make an intelligent, informed voting decision. Wall Street and Main Street go on without me continuously poring over the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and online business news sources.
 It is a relief to take a vacation from the constant media barrage. Whatever happens in the next couple of weeks, my inattention will not make a difference. 

If more people paid less attention to the talking heads and media mayhem we would all be better off. We need to step back occasionally and put our world – our personal world and the real world – in perspective.
 And so back to diapers, three hour feedings, Candyland and Cat in the Hat games, board books and chapter books, and enjoying time with the family.  There is plenty of time to read about the latest Wall Street antics, financial scandals, and political give and take. They will always be around. The kids will not stay little forever.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cross One Off the Bucket List

We all have bucket lists, whether formalized or an informal, unwritten list of activities to complete before we die, or are too old or sick to do. One thing hub and I discussed was simple, doable and cheap, but we had not gotten around to it. Until one Saturday in September.
Our goal was a bike ride down the New Jersey coast from our home to a resort town 50 miles away. Many people will roll their eyes and say, that’s not a big deal. But to 60+ baby boomers who have not made physical activity a priority most of their lives, this would be an achievement.
Initially we had no intention of completing a 50 mile ride.  Our goal was to bike a little further than  previously. A steady stream of company - friends and relatives, business and social commitments, and extremely hot weather limited cycling time over the summer. 
One of the great things about riding along the Jersey coast is that it is flat. The only inclines are bridges, and bikes can easily be walked up a bridge if necessary. 

We left early in the morning, our initial objective locating a place for breakfast. 

I have been exercising regularly, attempting to build up my very mediocre stamina and squishy muscles. The long, beautiful bridge from our island to the one directly south of us has always been an obstacle for me; Saturday was the first time I rode the length of the bridge.
After two leisurely hours of cycling we were ready for rest and breakfast. We stopped at a dilapidated shack offering food and outside picnic tables, the kind of beach place open only during the season. Relaxing, eating and admiring the scenery, hub announced we were already halfway to our 'bucket list' destination, and since we had no plans for the day, why not go for it?
We continued our ride along the coast. The weather was cycling perfect - no wind, slightly overcast and not hot. 

We stopped a couple of times at convenience stores seeking restroom facilities and water, but at the shore public restrooms are difficult to locate (retailers do not want to be overrun by beach people all day). Hub had no problem using porta-potties located for the convenience of workers at construction sites. I am more discriminating.

After another couple of hours exhaustion set in, and when we spotted an ice cream stand the sign begged us to stop. Unfortunately it was probably the only ice cream shop at the shore not open during the day. A sign stated the stand opened at 6:00 p.m. We sat at the outside tables to rest for a few minutes and were too soon on our way again.
The last leg of the trip proved daunting. Hub underestimated the mileage, and our breakfast stop was not the halfway point. We rode on and on over a neverending flat expanse of pavement, sand and sea on one side and beach cottages on the other side of the road. It was a picture-perfect landscape, but I was too tired to appreciate it.

By the time we reached our destination I was exhausted, cranky, hungry, and my butt hurt. 
But we made it! 

Our first stop was the Welcome Center for a bus schedule, our transportation home. 

We consumed a high-calorie late lunch at a local pub, savoring the food and not feeling the least bit  guilty. 

The bus ride home seemed to last forever, with numerous stops. Eventually reaching the bus station closest to the house, we completed another three mile ride before finally arriving home. 
Next time we attempt a similar ride I will insist on a more accurate tally of the total distance and plan on additional stops along the way, lingering for more than a few minutes. A half hour R&R stop was all I needed to rejuvenate and complete the trip without feeling as if I could not peddle another block.
One item successfully crossed off our bucket list! An impulsive move resulted in a quest completed and a sense of accomplishment and pride. 

I am inspired to plan another long-postponed activity. It is time to write down our bucket lists, otherwise too many things will remain undone. I probably have only another couple of decades of good health and exploits left…

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chelsea's Wedding and "Committed"

I figure that the degree of difficulty in combining two lives ranks somewhere between rerouting a hurricane and finding a parking place in downtown Manhattan. 
     ~Claire Cloninger, "When the Glass Slipper Doesn't Fit 
and the Silver Spoon is in Someone Else's Mouth"

I did not make the guest list for the Clinton/Mezvinsky wedding bash the summer of 2010, which is not a surprise considering I never met Chelsea, Marc, or their parents. Although the event apparently cost more money than most of us will ever have in our savings accounts, the one to three million dollars was apparently peanuts to the multimillionaire parents. 

At least the event did not turn into a paparazzi happening; far fewer celebrities were invited than the press anticipated. That is a good thing. Perhaps the wedding planners had their head on straight and invited those who knew and cared about the bride and groom, not just political cronies, celebrity seekers and hangers-on. That probably made the event more meaningful (and less of a circus) for those involved.
I thought about Chelsea’s wedding recently when reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Committed”. I read  "Eat, Pray, Love," and after passionate discussion among friends over which countries we want to experience our Eat, Pray, Love adventures, we moved on to her next book. (Our favorites for Eat was Italy, Pray was Israel, and Love was France.)
"Committed" is Ms. Gilbert's personal journey from a fear of commitment and long-term relationships, resulting from a messy divorce and other relationships, to a willingness to try again and the joy of moving on.

I doubt Chelsea read Gilbert’s book. But I wonder how, or if, she has thought about the institution of marriage and how it will change her life from this day forward. Her parents have a checkered marriage history, and Marc’s parents are divorced. What does that portend for the newlyweds?
They are part of a generation of young, educated, ambitious Americans forging ahead with optimism and great promise for the future, unaware or indifferent to the boundaries, real and imagined, placed on previous generations. 

We  wish them the very best for their future – a life of love, companionship, understanding, and growth, facing the world together, supporting each other with respect, grace, humor, and friendship.

Unexpectedly Unpatriotic in an Economy Begging Me to Buy

I have come to the reluctant conclusion I am unpatriotic after reading commentary from the economic gurus of our time. Many economists believe a key to getting our country out of the economic doldrums is for consumers to consume. A few lone voices talk about the need for companies hoarding money to spend, but those are not the stories making headlines. 

I do not understand why my few dollars can begin to compare with companies loosening their wallets, buying equipment and hiring employees.
It is ironic that not so long ago we were being admonished to save money. We (the baby boomers) might be a generation of retirees with not enough money to meet our needs. But now  we are being told to loosen our purse strings and not save so much, even though the lost decade from 2000-2010 has not served our generation well by allowing us to prepare financially for our future.  

I have become unpatriotic for a couple of reasons. 

First of all I quit my job. Uncle Sam lost some tax revenue from me. The upside is I created a position for someone else to step in and get a paycheck, pay taxes, contribute to a retirement plan, and consume. So on balance Uncle Sam probably has not lost much. I on the other hand have attempted to cut expenses.  I have cut way back on my clothing budget. I no longer have to get dressed five days a week for the office. We enjoy eating out, but cut back on the number of meals consumed out and the amount of money spent. I buy less gas. The environment should be grateful.

But Uncle Sam wants me to spend more money now. As a consumer society, we need (or so economists tell us) to buy stuff. Factories can then make more stuff. Companies will hire, employees will earn a paycheck and a lot more people will have money to buy more stuff.

Unfortunately too many people over the years bought too much stuff and got themselves into a lot of trouble, with mounting credit card bills and loans they cannot pay. 

Now we have to live with the results of our profligacy. Banks, mortgage companies and the salesmen they employed got greedy and sold loans the companies knew were not viable. 

The good times rolled and nobody cared about long-term consequences. All corporations and their employees cared about was their paychecks, bonuses, and corporate profits. No one took responsibility for their irresponsibility when everything came crashing down.

When the financial crisis hit and the housing market collapsed major financial institutions compounded their irresponsibility, taking advantage of their dominance by foreclosing on mortgages gone bad. Large banks were never the friends of the small guy. When residents of Main Street collide with the titans of Wall Street, Main Streeters lose.  

Here is a quote from a JPMorgan Chase & Co. spokesman when confronted with the question of why foreclosure documents were not reviewed:
                We believe the accuracy of the factual loan information in the affidavits was not affected by whether or not the signed had personal knowledge of the details.
Really? I can just see the big guys lamenting the fact that they had to spend their valuable time reviewing foreclosure documents. 

"How much will it cost us?" asks one manager. 

"How much can we charge?" asks another…And after they realized there was no money to be made, they do whatever was necessary to get these unpleasant tasks completed so employees could get back to the real work of making money for the financial institution. 

The mortgage holder now in trouble was undeserving of the bank’s time, effort, service, or assistance. Toss the people out of their homes and move on.
There are many reasons for the economic problems plaguing our country today, but the shortsightedness, arrogance and greed of major financial institutions and those who run them played a substantial part. 

It is ironic those of us taking the old-fashioned financial road are supposed to haul the economy back to life. And we are supposed to start by going shopping.