Saturday, December 27, 2014

My New Year’s Prognostications

Hub and I spent a good part of Christmas Day driving. First we drove through the heart of Philadelphia to rendezvous with hub’s family for dinner. Then we drove to my Mom’s home on Long Island.

Covering over 200 miles through two major cities, we encountered no traffic jams, no construction-in-progress delays or detours, few trucks, no accidents, no bad weather – no delays whatsoever. We made excellent time both trips. It was a Christmas Day miracle!

And now it is time to look ahead and predict 2015 happenings.

So here goes, a few predictions, hopes and guesses for 2015, in no particular order:

Hub enters almost complete retirement mode January 1 and will spend more time at home. My prediction is that at times I get annoyed with him and we will bicker as he adjusts to his new status.

The number of upbeat news stories (except around Christmas) continues to decline, increasing geometrically my frustration with short news shows, long news programs, and 24/7 mind-numbing ‘news’ stations.

The political scene heats up again, and as much as we might want to avoid the hoopla, the media already expends too much time and energy on the 2016 elections. Jeb is in, probably, most likely, not definitely…Romney is out…well, maybe not…Look! Elizabeth Warren over there! Eyeing Hillary…(I predict) it is going to be a very long, politically-saturated year.

And while on the subject of saturated…I hope no major storms strike resulting in death, injury, property damage or other problems. Hopefully 2015 will be a boring year weather-wise.

I am clueless about pop culture, whether music, movies, TV shows, celebrities, fashion. I have no idea what will capture people’s imagination next year, but…I believe black will be in, as always, especially with the older crowd attempting to hide extra pounds and protrusions…I am not an Angelina Jolie fan, but predict her movie Unbroken will win awards…I am in mourning since learning Hot in Cleveland will be history, but predict Betty White will win an award or two this year…The Late Show with Stephen Colbert will rock the ratings (I must admit I watch late shows On Demand. I do not stay up late enough to watch live)… And Downton Abbey will be great fun to watch, as usual.

A cooling period is on the horizon for the stock market following record-breaking numbers. Interest rates finally begin to rise. And of course another financial scandal makes headlines.

Congress continues underperforming and increases its obstructive behavior, not so much a prediction as unfortunate certainty.

Gas prices rise, regrettably, topping $4/gallon again.

The mob plans to relocate headquarters from wherever they are in the U.S. to Havana.

American tourists, many via cruise ships, invade Cuban shores.

Pluto is once more upgraded to planet status (hub’s wishful prediction).

I will not win the lottery.

I will acquire a taste for kale and actually use it and eat it.

Puerto Rico requests statehood, and Texas secedes from the United States upon hearing the news (Ted Cruz elected Texas’ first President). We will not have to buy or design a new flag!

More exercise and weight loss are on the 2015 agenda for hub and me. (OK, stop laughing! I see that smirk on everyone’s face…).

I turn 65 in 2015, not a prediction, hope or guess, but an indisputable, incontrovertible fact. ‘Nuff said…

Wherever you are,
Before the Calendar turns
And Hibernation Season begins
a.k.a. January

Wishing everyone a
Very Happy and
Healthy New Year! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Blogging Boomers Talk About the Holidays

Take a look at what is under this week's Blogging Boomers Christmas Tree here (you may have already read my First Holiday Letter Ever, but there is lots more interesting stuff to check out.).
If you are looking for more to read today, go on over to The Green Study blog and view my response to the deep, philosophical question: What's on the B side of that 45? titled My Time is Now.

I hope everyone takes time to relax and enjoy the season.
Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2014

My First Ever Holiday Letter

 Greetings from Momma and Poppa Baer!

2014 was a wonderful one for the Baer family. Let me begin by stating that Steve and I are grateful to have survived this year's New Jersey bear hunting season. We laid low for a few weeks, not wanting local hunters to knock us off.

The year began with a trip to see the kids and grandkids in Florida. Why anyone wants to live in a state with interminable red lights and streets too wide to cross before the light changes is beyond me, but anyway…We had a wonderful visit, except for the minor car accident incurred (Meryl was driving) with our rental vehicle.  

There was another slight accident a few weeks later at home. Meryl, again in the driver’s seat, was sitting at a traffic light when the car in front of her backed up – the driver was too far into the intersection – bumping into her car. Only minor damage resulted.

We returned home from Florida to frigid weather and frozen water pipes. An unnamed relative (to protect the guilty) was supposed to check the house. She realized the house felt cold, but figured we set the heat very low because we are cheap. Not bothering to inspect the toilets, she did not notice the frozen water in the bowls and tanks.

Our friend Bill the plumber fixed the pipes, then he and his wife left for an extended Arizona vacation (immediately after we paid him). We stayed home the rest of the winter and set the temperature low, but not low enough to freeze the pipes again. Luckily our son works for the Pajamagram Company and sent us cozy Hoodie-Footies that helped us survive the winter.

We took a number of trips this year, visiting the grandkids as well as a couple of true vacations. Meryl landed in the emergency room on two of our outings. The doctors thought it might be appendicitis, or gall bladder, or too much chocolate consumption. It turned out to be none of these ailments. Both times the doctors prescribed a strong painkiller and antibiotic, and she was fine.

Meryl accompanied Steve on a business trip to New Orleans, and was lucky enough to spend a day meeting and mingling with locals while in a dentists’ chair. The dentist prescribed a painkiller and antibiotics (sound familiar!) and, upon returning home, she spent additional time at an endodontist and dentist enduring a root canal and capped tooth.

Steve had an uneventful year healthwise. He passed - with flying colors - his regularly scheduled colonoscopy (stop by the house and we’ll show you the pictures), and enjoyed a trip to the hospital so the doctor could examine his heart, which turned out to be in great shape for a guy his age. No stent or other paraphernalia needed! Good job Steve!

Another milestone Steve experienced this year was acceptance into the Medicare health program. Way to go Steve!

We worked on improving our diet, joining a CSA farm and receiving a box of organic veggies each week - until the CSA encountered difficulties, missing a couple of deliveries. We savored pizza and other forbidden foods during the hiatus, but then got back on track. Unfortunately the CSA suffered a fire in late fall which destroyed its office and some equipment, but should be up and running by spring.

We hosted a lot of friends and family this year, all descending during the summer. No one wants to visit us at the shore during the rest of the year. Actually, before moving to the beach, family and friends did not want to visit us any time of the year.

A June storm downed wires and left us without electricity for a couple of days, but the weather cooperated and we did not need air conditioning. We bought ice from the local store before supplies ran out and saved our freezer and refrigerator foods.

A few additional notes before signing off –

Steve made new friends this year, befriending a couple of local policemen when they knocked on our door one day. Once the initial problem was straightened out, they had a nice visit.

Steve worked all year, except for days missed when his computer froze and his company’s IT guy, on vacation, was unavailable to debug the machine. He will enter almost total retirement mode next year, working three or four days a month or whenever weather forces him indoors.

Meryl enjoyed exercise classes and follow-up visits to the chiropractor to adjust bones displaced during class.

Enough about our family’s delightful, event-filled year. We hope everyone experiences a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy 2015.

Until next year,

The Baers 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Leaving Up and Coming for Down and Out

Did you ever get the feeling you are out of sync with the rest of the world?

That is how hub and I feel about leaving our hometown of four decades and moving to the Jersey shore.

We left behind a town - actually, a small city, but let’s not quibble over definitions – in the midst of a rich agricultural area dotted with smaller towns and farms. We relocated to a resort area bustling with activity during the summer months, calm during the spring and fall shoulder seasons, and nearly deserted in the darkest winter months of January and February.

Our usually peaceful, mostly residential new hometown butts up against the infamous gambling mecca Atlantic City, just over a mile walk along the Boardwalk from our home. AC received lots of publicity lately, almost all of it bad. From Ray Rice of elevator bashing fame to the closing of four hotel/casinos in one year, the town is in trouble. Hopeful expectations of a depressed city reviving and revitalizing, rising like a phoenix from crumbling buildings with the arrival of gambling, never materialized.

The flip side is our old hometown – located in the south central Pennsylvania county known as the place where the Amish live – is now a hip place. Downtown Lancaster is a hub of trendy restaurants and pubs, art galleries, boutiques, and cultural hot spots. When we first moved to the area the only city dining establishment (besides mediocre white-bread-sandwich-type places) was the worst Chinese restaurant in the Northeast, and possibly the entire country.

Lancaster County has also become a retirement magnet, attracting people from all along the Northeast corridor seeking a calmer lifestyle and lower cost of living than nearby metro areas.

Meanwhile, approaching life in retirement, hub and I relocated to one of the most expensive cost of living states in the country (the main reason being high taxes), a place never found on best places to retire lists and sometimes on a short list of worst places.

But right now we love it. Barring storm damage (Sandy) resulting in being displaced for several weeks, hours and sometimes days-long electrical outages (Irene and a couple of other unnamed storms), and municipal water issues resulting in an inability to use our city water system (temporarily), life is good.

I am sure everyone heard the saying: It is darkest before the dawn. I think that describes the current situation in Atlantic City. There are a lot of reasons AC is in the dumps, including years of government overspending, neglect, political corruption, shortsightedness in viewing gambling as the savior of the city…on and on.

But the city has hit bottom (only my opinion, of course), and bright minds with an interest in more than lining their own pockets are coming forward with a new vision. Maybe there is some light at the end of an interminably long dark tunnel, and we will see it soon.

We are in a great location. Philadelphia is an hour’s drive or a $9 round trip train ride (special senior citizen rate). Manhattan is a 2½ hour bus ride away, about $35 round trip. A long, sandy, beautiful beach fronting the Atlantic Ocean is a three-block walk.

Sometime soon we will return to Lancaster, spend a First Friday strolling downtown, enjoy one of the new restaurants, visit with old friends, and consider that maybe, when the shore becomes too expensive or ends up underwater (literally), we can move back.

Before then we are going to celebrate hub’s birthday with dinner and a comedy show at the Borgata, one of the AC resort casinos still open and apparently successful. We are not usually party people. In fact, we are rarely party folks. The biggest excitement this month (aside from the birthday night out) is eagerly awaiting hub’s first social security check. But I digress…

To summarize, we left up and coming for down and out.

Maybe crazy/unwise/foolish/reckless (choose one, all, or add one of your own descriptive adjectives), but we followed our heart.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cocooning in the Cold

I like bad weather. Occasionally. Specifically when I can cocoon indoors. Nasty weather presents opportunities to vegetate, to couch potato, to do nothing and not feel terribly guilty about the inactivity.

Before there was man or beast, there was weather. Beautiful sunny days. Cold, rainy, dark days. Snowy days. Windy days. Hot days. Frigid days. Animals, and later man, adapted. Early man huddled in caves for days during storms. Then people wised up and learned to pack their belongings and journey from cold weather regions to places offering more benign conditions during cold months (the original snowbirds).

Nowadays the 24/7 news media continually warn of impending doom-worthy storms approaching the Northeast, the Great Lakes region (think Buffalo), the endless plains and Western mountains. Following a milk and bread alert and quick run to the nearest convenience store or supermarket, residents are warned to stay inside and off the roads. 

I am happy to remain indoors and watch, through the double-paned window, my small car slowly but steadily transform into a white-encased mound.

I do not remember snow days – no school! - as a kid, but there must have been a couple over the years. I do remember my kids’ snow days, and not nostalgically. I recall long days dressing the boys in layers of clothing and sending them out to play. Depending on the temperature, they remained outdoors a couple of hours or a couple of minutes.

But they always came back inside. I peeled clothes off their cold, shivering bodies, threw the wet garments in the dryer, and made hot chocolate and a snack. By the time the boys finished eating, resting, and fighting, the clothes were dry enough to wear again.

The scene repeated again. And again, until it mercifully grew cold and dark. 

Fast-forward a few decades and cold, snowy days and rainy, squally ones entail a totally different experience.

Time indoors on these days should not be misused accomplishing useful things. They are occasions for laid-back activities like beginning that novel sitting on the shelf for weeks and making a pot of soup that, while simmering, pervades the entire house with a wonderful smell and tastes delicious as it is leisurely savored at whatever time of day one decides to indulge.

As the wind wails outside and the rain or snow falls, I make myself comfortable on the family room couch, surrounded by the tools needed for a day of comfort, relaxation, and guiltless squandered time. A steaming cup of coffee or hot chocolate. A pile of newspapers and magazines, and some books. My cell phone and laptop. The TV remote. A blanket to snuggle in.

TV watching is, admittedly, a waste of time, but during a day tolerating – more than that, sanctioning - wasted time, old TV shows and movies with casts of famous actors and actresses, most long gone, are a delightful indulgence.

The only time forced to leave my comfy corner is when nature calls.

Eventually the world returns to its frantic tempo. Re-energized, I resume normal activities, secretly awaiting the next weather-related retreat day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Unsubscribe Me – Please

Warning: Today I rant.

At the moment I am fuming about a problem endemic in our connected society. At least I have found it an ongoing, annoying issue. I do not know if others are faced with the same dilemma. Although it is not a dangerous or costly concern, it is irritating, at times maddening, and definitely frustrating.

So here goes:

Why is it so easy to subscribe to various websites and receive a constant barrage of ads, news alerts, solicitations or whatever – and so difficult to unsubscribe?

Theoretically by scrolling down to the bottom of an email – first of course locating a magnifying glass so the fine print can be discovered and studied - there is a link to unsubscribe, or maybe it says:

If you no longer want to receive emails
from this company, click here.

Clicking produces a screen saying something like:

Verify that you no longer wish to receive
our valuable emails by checking the box below.

Sometimes a follow-up screen wants to know why I no longer wish to receive this particular company’s correspondence, or wonders if perhaps I would like to receive their valuable materials less often (once a week? once a month? exclusive promotions only? holiday products? sales announcements? midnight madness extravaganza offers? cyber Monday markdowns? new product news? Try NEVER).

So I click through, check off the boxes, and wait for my slew of emails to be reduced by at least one.

Unfortunately too often nothing happens. The steady barrage of emails from the company continues unabated.

What could I have done wrong that the company rejects my request?

Sometimes my user name and password are requested. A lot of times I do not remember the information because I used the site to buy an item once – probably months or even years ago. I have a lengthy password file, but occasionally forget to add a new one. I use the same password for lots of websites – a no-no, according to Internet security gurus – but at my age I forget too much to fool around changing (and remembering) passwords all the time.

Occasionally I mark an email as junk and hope future emails are immediately relegated to the junk or spam folder. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

So what is the secret to getting rid of unwanted on-going emails?

I am more careful nowadays about giving retailers my email address, not wanting to be bombarded with ads and tired of scrolling through the junk before arriving at one I actually want to read.

Then there are the totally unsolicited emails that magically appear in my inbox. They arrive and I wonder – where the h*** did that company get my information? Probably purchased from another retailer, or some company that now collects and sells the information. Once again I waste my time attempting to get rid of the unwanted messages.

I guess I should feel good that so many companies want my business. I am wanted. I am solicited. I am sought out, petitioned, implored to read the correspondence and ACT NOW! I am supposed to drop whatever I plan on doing, grab my credit card (or PayPal information) and CLICK THIS BUTTON IMMEDIATELY!

I am afraid it is a losing battle.

So here is my plan. I am going to set up a new email account and begin giving it to retailers and those annoying websites demanding that YOU CANNOT PROCEED FURTHER WITHOUT GIVING US YOUR EMAIL NOW.

I will never have to actually scan through the emails. I will know, even if it says there are 25 - 50 - 100 or more emails, that every single one of them belongs in the round – a.k.a. discard - file.

There is another possible solution. I can give my email address and, by mistake, key one or two incorrect characters. Of course that is not an honest thing to do, so I will open that other email account…

Soon – maybe a month, a year, a decade from now – my ‘real’ email account will be devoid of advertisements and solicitations.

But then I wonder – will I get any emails at all?

Will anyone out there not wanting me to buy something want to correspond with me? 

Time will tell. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Best of Boomers on Travel, Mind Play, Holiday Shopping and Charitable Giving

This week on The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about how she and baby boomers love to travel. Boomers plan to take four to five trips next year, with more than half traveling within the United States and four in 10 traveling both domestically and internationally, according to an AARP survey.

In a previous post, Amy Blitchok at Modern Senior took a look at the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing the AARP RealPad for your loved one this season. While the RealPad may not be the best choice for a tablet, Amy is back this week with recommendations for tablets that offer higher performance capabilities at a better price point.  Her 2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Seniors also contains other great ideas that will help you finish your holiday shopping.

As we get older we sometimes forget things. Sometimes our minds can veer off track and fool us into thinking something happened when it really didn't. And we run the risk, to put it bluntly, of losing our minds. Tom Sightings at Sightings Over Sixty experienced a couple of unusual and unsettling adventures last night, which led him to wake up this morning and ask: Is my imagination just overactive these days, or Am I Going Crazy?

Laura Lee aka the Midlife Crisis Queen wrote a post this week supporting the efforts of animal shelters for #PetShelterLove. Please adopt, and help out a homeless animal this holiday. And speaking of HOME, Laura's new home in the southern Colorado foothills is finally taking shape!

Visiting her mother-in-law in an assisted living facility, Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting cannot help wondering: Will Mom be me a couple of decades or more from now? The statistics are not reassuring, but she is going to do all she can to, if not avoid a home permanently, minimize time spent. Read her musings in Home Sweet Assisted Living Home.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Home Sweet Assisted Living Home

Always be nice to your children because they are the ones 
who will choose your rest home.
                                              - Phyllis Diller

I think about that quote often nowadays as I frequently visit my mother-in-law in her assisted living home. We – my husband, my sister-in-law and I – chose the place. Mom had a stroke and the consensus among the family was that she could not return to her apartment and continue living alone.

While Mom rehabbed, we visited assisted living facilities, eventually selecting a very nice place six miles from our home.

That was three and a half years ago. Mom has had her ups and downs since then, as a slow, steady decline in mental and physical abilities continue.

A couple of months ago she transferred to a more secure section of the home. Her long-term memory still works remarkably well, but short-term functionality has been compromised. In addition she lost hearing in one ear as a result of the second stroke, and has difficulty catching and processing conversation. Phone calls are a string of, “What?” and, “we must have a poor connection.”

Yet, in a strange sort of way, she is doing better than before her transfer. She receives more attention and hands-on care, and as a result is thriving.

But because she is thriving she is restless and displeased with her situation, but participates in more activities than previously. She is less likely to sleep her days away.

A newly hired Activities Director enthusiastically supports and encourages the residents. Learning each one’s likes, dislikes, and history, she develops activities tailored to their interests and abilities, including family events promoting family and resident interaction.

So will Mom be me a couple of decades or more from now?

There is a strong movement to age in place – in one’s own home – but that is not always possible or desirable. Physical and/or mental requirements sometimes force an individual into an environment offering more intensive, hands-on treatment than spouses and family members can provide.

Not that there is anything wrong with Mom’s assisted living facility.

Except of course that is not what Mom will tell you. She berates the fact that her son put her in ‘this place’. She wants her car, which she cannot drive. She wants freedom to do what she wants when she wants, but is too frail to help herself do much of anything anymore.

Down the road I hope my health, both physical and mental, holds up enough so I can live my life the way I want and make my own decisions.

So how much longer might I expect to enjoy my favorite foods, world travel, reading (it will take several years to finish my current must-read list, and it continues growing), mind-numbing TV shows…and survive zumba class so I can enjoy my favorite foods?

Life expectancy at my age (I will turn 65 in 2015) is another 20.5 years. For men of the same age life expectancy is 17.9 years. 

If I must, I hope to pick my own ‘rest home’. At least then the only one I can blame for not liking the place will be me. It may be a difficult mission. A Health and Human Services Department study forecasts a shortage of housing for seniors as boomers age, predicting about 70% of the population reaching age 65 will need some form of long-term care during their lifetime.

In this particular case, I hope I will be a member of the minority population.

Meanwhile I will…

Eat a lot of chocolate. Recent studies indicate flavonoids, found in cocoa, may help stem age-related memory loss.

Get exhausted – but lots of exercise - every few weeks attempting to keep up with the grandkids.

Think about cleaning the house, occasionally actually doing so.

Make an effort to lose weight, a battle never won.

Dye my hair, although I am not sure for how much longer. At some point I will succumb to its natural color, whatever that might be.

Endure exercise classes, realizing achieving amazing results and morphing into a slim, trim figure will never happen.

Enjoy friends, family, and new relationships.

Try some new pursuits, learn a new skill or two or three. Easy ones!

Continue writing, traveling, complaining, and participating in all the other activities honed over six decades of living. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Final Note on Election 2014

And 2016 Presidential Election Update #11

Politics is the best show in America.
I love animals and I love politicians,
and I like to watch both of 'em at play,
 either back home in their native state,
or after they've been captured and sent to a zoo,
or to Washington."
-Will Rogers 

Conservative Republicans won Washington.

Progressive ideas won the grassroots ballot questions.

We are a divided country.

It seems that following each election cycle Washington becomes more and more a separate entity, alienated from the people the governing body is supposed to represent.

The new group of ruling Republicans, guided by dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, held their celebratory press conference the day after the elections in front of a sign stating, “Stop Obama. Fire Reid.” And Limbaugh continued ranting about blocking Obama on everything and anything the President attempts to do.

But all that is history now. On with the 2016 show!

What makes pre-election hoopla interesting is the unexpected, usually in the form of scandals, about sex, money, bribery, nepotism, plagiarism, embellishment (such as education and resumes), or just plain stupidity.

As the Presidential battles begin, I long to see who falls first.

Of course we do not yet know who is definitely running. Rumors abound, politicians hint, and the media speculates. The committed will begin throwing their hats in the ring soon after the first of the New Year.

I have to admit, however, the absence of political ads is a blessing.

On the other hand, replacement ads encouraging, urging, exhorting us to shop are not much better.

So let the political games begin! Sometime in 2015…

Disliking pre-election hype, I am considering signing on for a long outer space ride that will take me far away from the electioneering. I want to leave before January 2016, when things really heat up, and return the day after Election Day.

I would (thankfully) miss the constant bombardment of political propaganda, making it difficult to decipher truth from falsehoods, reality from fiction.

But I guess politics has almost nothing to do with reality.

I still plan on voting, my information received via coded messages from my grandkids, who will be as well-versed in campaign trivia – or not – as most adults. Or maybe I will stock up on reading materials before leaving. Most candidates have written at least one book. I will cast an absentee ballot, assuming between now and November 2016 my state does NOT pass ID laws limiting my participation. I have no idea on what grounds my vote would be unwelcome, but politicians, if nothing else, can be creative at times. But I digress…

Unfortunately I cannot afford a space voyage, but am considering starting a Kickstarter campaign to fund my trip.

Or maybe I will find a place right here on Earth – a nice, quiet, safe, inexpensive place - without TV, cell phone service, cable, or any other communications with the outside world. A location with no access to liberal media, conservative bombasts, or daily news announcing the latest survey results.

If anyone knows of such a place, let me know.