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.