Friday, January 30, 2015

Alligators and Guns

What could alligators and guns have in common? Your brows pucker, your head moves quizzically to the right, then left, attempting to figure out any relationship…

Until last week I never thought much about alligators. And I try not to think a great deal about guns. Gun rhetoric makes me mad.

Hub and I spent five days kayaking in the Florida Everglades. Before leaving, every person we mentioned our trip to responded in the same way,

”What about the alligators?”

Yes, alligators can be dangerous and yes, we saw lots of them.
Snoozing the day away...
But we were not worried, although we did steer clear of the reptiles by several feet. Do not bother the alligators and the animals will not bother you, locals told us.

Thinking about everyone’s universal response, the wheels in my quirky mind began slowly grinding, creaking, eventually making an absurd analogy.

When I go to a mall, no one asks, “What about snipers?”

When kids leave for school each morning and teachers head out to work, no one asks, “Nervous about snipers?”

When going to the movies, no one inquires, “Worried about being shot?” The question asked is, “What movie are you going to see?”

The odds of being attacked by an alligator in Florida are 1 in 24 million.

It is not alligators I worry about.

Guns on the other hand are, unfortunately, more likely to present a problem.

Statistics gathered by the magazine The Economist found the chances of being assaulted by firearms 1 in 24,974.

I do not know about you, but I am a lot more concerned about kids in school and everyone everywhere, including myself, being the victim of gun violence than being assaulted by an alligator.

But friends did not ask about being shot. They inquired whether or not we were worried about being attacked by alligators.

Somehow our society manages, after every horrific shooting incident, to shake its head and move on, as if these events are part of life and therefore should be accepted, if not expected.

But I believe our society wrong.

Touring Guatemala a couple of years ago, I could not help notice the prevalence of security measures in many parts of the country. Gated and barbed wired walls surrounding homes were the norm. In Guatemala City my companions and I met friends at a restaurant located in an up-scale mall. Security guards were posted at all entrances and exits. We walked through security scanners before entering the mall.

Guatemala is considered a developing country. We believe ourselves, lucky to live in a developed land, safer than citizens of developing nations, but perhaps we deceive ourselves.

I hope no one I know, including myself, experiences gun violence. But the odds are not good. One in three people know someone who has been shot. Yet I am not ready to wall and barbed wire my home. I continue visiting malls, movie theaters, and other public venues.

Meanwhile I am not at all nervous about the alligators. One day I will return to the Everglades, kayak again and visit my alligator friends.
Baby gators enjoying the Florida sun. 

The Economist chart offered fascinating information on the possibility of dying various ways. A few statistics to ponder:

Chances of dying from an asteroid impact: 1 in 74,817,414.
Chances of dying from a dog bite: 1 in 11,273,142.
Chances of dying by being struck by lightning: 1 in 10,495,684.
Chances of dying due to “exposure to excessive natural cold”: 1 in 474,844.
Chances of dying by falling down stairs: 1 in 157,300. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Weather Confined

Our backyard
I cannot decide whether the best part or the worst part about being housebound is staying indoors and eating. Of course we do not have to eat (a lot), but that is what people do when hanging around the house all day. Why else does everyone jam the roads driving to the nearest supermarket as soon as meteorologists broadcast a bread and milk alert – a.k.a. a snowstorm or hurricane? I doubt any of the people clogging the roads have bare cupboards and an empty refrigerator.

Folks I know alter the bread and milk mantra somewhat. One friend buys ice cream – a perfect food when cocooning, watching old movies and reading. Another’s favorite storm foods are wine and chocolate. I lean towards ingredients for good, old-fashioned comfort dishes, another term for yummy, calorie-ridden, high-cholesterol, high-carb food.

Yesterday hub made guacamole, one of his specialties. That served as our afternoon snack/appetizer. For dinner, wineglass filled and close by, I prepared a seafood casserole. When a kid, decades ago in a previous century, it was better known as tuna-noodle casserole. My up-dated version boasts seafood besides tuna, usually whatever is on sale. Last night’s dish included scallops.

And – not to feel totally guilty - I went to zumba and yoga in the morning, burning calories and attempting to get back in exercise shape, the first classes attended in over a month...

Our house is warm. We are splurging a bit by keeping the heat at a very comfortable temperature. Housebound requires, in addition to comfort food, warmth.

The blizzard of a century, breaking all records, turned out to be a bust in our neck of the woods. A few inches of snow, enough to make everything look pretty in the early morning light, and that was it. No high winds, no power outages…

I am not complaining. We have experienced our share of storm disasters and damage. But I believe 24/7 news hype – in this case about the impending storm – creates unnecessary anxiety. We were prepared – flashlights and batteries available, water bottles filled, electronics fully charged. But I wonder how many people ignore warnings when forecasts and the resulting buildup, almost hysteria, prove incorrect.

A couple of boys knocked on our door this morning offering to shovel our walkway, and I hired them. I admired their drive and entrepreneurship, and like encouraging young people. I am sure their parents were thrilled the kids were not home creating chaos.

I think the best part of staying indoors, remaining inside because outdoor conditions are bleak, cold, windy, rainy and/or snowy, icy, etc. – are –

- the warmth,
- pursuing activities not usually part of a busy, daily routine, and
- cooking and enjoying comfort food or whatever your stomach desires.

Once in a while, our world slows down. Do you think people years ago - before everyone jumped in their car every day to go to work or wherever, when life was not so dependent on moving from one place to another not within walking distance – lives were so disrupted by a storm? 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Four Weeks From Home

Hub’s Retirement Celebration Trip began December 26th.

It officially ended January 23rd.

We did not experience an exotic vacation in far-off lands, although some might consider parts of Florida far-off and, if not exactly exotic, definitely quixotic. There was family togetherness, grandsitting, and sightseeing.

The first couple of days home I sorted through a month’s collection of worthless ads and unsolicited junk mail delivered by our strong postal carrier. Bills needed paying. Notification of jury duty required a response within five days. I had no idea when the notice arrived. No date on the communication and no postmark. But I immediately logged on to the website and filled out a questionnaire – I am eligible! (qualifications established a very low bar) – and now look forward to possible jury duty the beginning of March. Maybe it will snow...Food shopping, unpacking, laundry, catching up on missed TV shows (Downton Abbey!) filled the rest of the time.

Four weeks away from home, the longest time ever for both of us.

Ten Benefits of Being Away From Home

Dust collects more slowly (or at least seems to) around the house, but it does not matter. I am not home to notice or remove the dust bunnies.

I do not have to eat leftovers.

I do not strip beds and launder towels and sheets as well as clothes, extending laundry time.

I am not staring at the same indoor scenery every day. Some rooms I like, others need work. I am not ambitious enough to plunge in and undertake the projects.

I do not need to deal with broken anything around the house.

Electric and gas bills are lower.

Meeting new people, talking to different people, and making new friends is stimulating.

Ditto for exploring new places and trying new activities.

My car, sitting motionless in the driveway, will not have to be replaced quite as soon as if driven, battered in bad weather.

Dragging suitcases around and packing and unpacking develop organizing skills and shoulder muscles.

And Ten Advantages of Staying Home

My own comfortable bed, pillow and quilt.

My comfy chair.

The afghan I wrap around myself before sitting in my cozy chair.


Exercise classes.

Down time between activities when needed.

Familiar roads and stores, knowing where I am going and how to get there (most of the time).

I can cook my own food the way I like it (or hub can cook the food the way we like it).

We spend less money.

Our town is home to the best bagel bakery. We have really good pizza, too.

In summary, it is fun to go away but nice to come home!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wearable Tech for Me

People today spend oodles of money on the latest craze – wearable tech. I know because the media tells me so. The hype is everywhere. Companies fall all over themselves and others, developing and marketing state-of-the-art wearables.

Current wearables do not interest me. But I could be a prospective buyer if tech gurus wised up and produced gadgetry for the growing geriatric set.

I have a few suggestions, but perhaps most important, any device must be user-friendly, easy to learn and uncomplicated, simple, and trouble-free.

How about a gizmo that quietly vibrates to alert us a rest room is in the vicinity? We are always looking for nice clean ones. A device that pre-screens so we know there are no long lines or dirty cubicles to contend with would be ideal.

An alarm when a Starbucks is close by, a wearable piece requiring no activation, always ‘on’, fulfills a need. We can always use a fresh cup of coffee or tea.

A wearable back support would be heavenly. After exiting a car or standing after sitting for any length of time, bones feel stiff. How wonderful to get up and a gadget automatically triggers, soothing and massaging the spine!

A thingamajig worn around the neck that beeps when anything looks like it is in our way would be useful. We might actually avoid running into the object, whether a dog or pole or curb or car or even another person. Sometimes distracted, sometimes glasses may be out of whack, and sometimes we simply are not paying attention.

The best invention of all could be reverse rose-colored glasses. The glasses would project a special invisible light at the individual looking at you. The light, reflecting back towards you, reveals your face in the best possible way, lines smoothed and skin shining.

One more item…. an unobtrusive device worn anywhere on a woman’s body activated when a hot flash is about to begin. Mimicking a fan, the device would send what feels like cool breezes throughout the body.

Unfortunately gadgetry for boomers and beyond must wait for tech creators to mature. When they need these items and realize the potential for such innovations, the marketplace will be flooded.

Meanwhile I should learn to use all the options on my iPhone and computer. They are proving perplexing enough to master. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Best of Boomers Consider Gray Divorce, Snowbird Travels, and Recollections

The Boomer Carnival is on the move! Check out this week’s January musings. The year begins with National Divorce Month, not exactly an upbeat beginning. Two of our members examine the issue of Gray Divorce. 

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide , Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, offers information on how to protect yourself if you’re getting a Gray Divorce. Although the overall divorce rate has declined over the last 20 years, the rate of Gray Divorce – divorce between spouses 50 and older – has doubled. Those going through or considering a Gray Divorce need to examine retirement savings, insurance, Social Security, and estate planning.

Tom Sightings joined the great Snowbird migration to the south and, thankfully, has enjoyed some nice weather. But he doesn't rub it in; instead, he has had some extra time on his hands, which led him to reflect on this Bittersweet Memory.

Meanwhile hub and I also joined the Snowbirds and traveled far from the cold weather. We have Florida on our minds, at least temporarily. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Florida On My Mind

I first set foot on the sandy, swampy soil of the great state of Florida at the youthful age of six, or maybe eight. I cannot remember exactly, but it was sometime in the mid-1950s. The trip also marked my first plane ride.

Mom and Dad, my sister and I flew to Miami to visit my grandparents. I believe it was during Christmas break. Grandma and Grandpa rented an apartment in Miami Beach for the winter. They fled north again before the hot, humid, perspiration-dripping weather arrived. I remember visiting two tourist attractions - Parrot Jungle and Monkey Jungle - and not much more…

One June decades later my two sons, hub and I visited relatives living year-round in south Florida. I cannot remember why we chose that particular month, but it probably had something to do with the intersection of school and work vacations, cheap airfares, and inexpensive hotels.

We stayed in an air-conditioned motel near my aunt and uncle’s small one-bedroom apartment in Century Village. For those unfamiliar with these communities dotting the East coast of south Florida, they were among the first planned retirement communities. Construction began on the first one in the barren wilderness on the swampy side of West Palm Beach in the 1960s.

Northern retirees suddenly no longer tethered to their hometown by jobs sought warm weather during the winter, eager to avoid throwing on layers of clothing and maneuvering treacherous icy, snowy, wet roads and sidewalks. Fixed-income seniors interested in cheaper digs and dining became devoted Early Bird Specialists. 

Century Villages, along with the arrival of air conditioning, ushered in the golden age of the Sunshine State.

Back to my aunt and uncle’s apartment…Four of us sat around the apartment barely moving, breathing heavily, immersed in our separate pools of sweat, even the boys paralyzed into inaction by the oppressive heat and humidity. After a couple of days my uncle suddenly asked, “Are you hot? You know, we are used to the weather down here and don’t use the air. If you are hot we can turn the air conditioning on.”

Fast-forward to the present, and one of those stupefied boys is a permanent, full-time, happy Florida resident. After years visiting aunts, uncles and grandparents who migrated to the peninsula, hub and I now regularly visit the younger generations.

Florida is now the third most populous state in the nation, and continues to flourish. Housing values and the economy may not have completely recovered from the Great Recession, but signs of economic activity are everywhere.

The state annually welcomes more people and constructs more roads, more stores, malls and commercial structures, more homes, more golf courses, more gated communities surrounded by stone walls and manicured landscaping, and more wide six-lane roads cluttered with countless traffic lights. You can check your email, messages, and text your significant other while waiting for a light change.

Hub and I are currently in Florida spending time with the family, babysitting the grandkids, sightseeing and visiting snowbird friends.

Florida is on our minds, at least temporarily.

This post was going to end with the above line, but the TV show host and comedian John Stewart recently mentioned the state. Before introducing the evening’s guest, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Stewart threw a few light-hearted gibes at the Sunshine State. I could not resist including his monologue. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Vacationing With Family

Following a holiday break, the Best of Boomers are back this week writing about recent travels, recent retirement, birthdays, and on a more serious note, boomer divorce and comments on current bleak events. Read the latest articles here.
During the break my family took a vacation...
Vacations are all about adventure and making new friends.
Fifteen members of my family, ranging in age from 3 to 90, enjoyed a week-long vacation over the holidays. A cruise through the deep blue warm (warm being the key word to most of us Northerners) Caribbean waters, this was a celebration cruise in honor of Mom's (a.k.a. Grandma, a.k.a. Great Grandma) 90th birthday. I could go on and on about the experience, but sometimes a picture is worth several paragraphs. 
Our family got together with a few - about 4,500 - other vacationers. 

Four  members of our group realized a lifelong dream - 
appearing in a Nickelodeon show and getting slimed.
What is a modern-day vacation without an opportunity to go shopping!
We made new friends (Great Grandma with a member of the Blue Man Group).
We fled the cold north, but so did lots of other people.

We tried to learn new skills. Two people (unnamed to protect the flunkies) failed napkin folding and were not promoted to the next class – towel folding. 
Hearty folks missing the Northern cold spent an evening in the Ice Bar.
Everyone partied!
And everyone had a great time.
Note: The fashionably smart outfits worn by the entire family are Pajamagram creations.
This is not, however, a paid advertisement, 
but a comment about the company where my son works. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

New Year New Routine, Sort of

Change is the spice of life, or something like that. Change keeps us engaged, involved, moving, active. Hopefully most of life’s transitions result in positive developments.

A major change in hub’s life began January 1st. He is (about) 90% retired, working three to four days a month.

He will now be home. A lot. With lots of time on his hands. 


So I am creating a list, in no particular order, of –

10 Things For Hub to Do When Retired
Year One
Additional suggestions welcomed

     1. Complete a honey-do list. Never before attempted, I am writing one now, hoping a series of odds-and-ends-tasks-around-the-house occupies quite a bit of time over the next couple of months. This will not be a growing list, but items not attended to over the past few months years… for instance installing curtains in the guest room purchased months ago and hanging pictures patiently awaiting an honored place on the wall.

     2.  Exercise. Everyday would be ideal, but four days a week an accessible goal. Walking outside counts. Walking to the refrigerator to retrieve a snack does not.
     3. Clean the garage. A warm weather activity eating up a lot of time organizing, throwing out stuff, replacing broken needed things, giving useable unneeded items away. I cannot wait to see what treasures will be revealed.  
     4. Clear out business office. Clean up, get rid of, and empty, creating much-needed space. Hub rarely worked in his office anyway.
     5. Build a climbing garden wall in our backyard vegetable patch. Hub is not traditionally an outdoor guy, born and raised in the concrete Bronx where weeds were considered exotic vegetation, but retirement offers the opportunity to try new things and learn new skills.
     6. Plan trips. Lots of time consumed surfing the web.
     7. Figure out how to binge watch TV series, then watch the shows. Especially ones I have no interest in viewing.
     8.  Find buddies to meet regularly for Romeo get-togethers (Retired Old Men Eating Out).
     9.  Play golf. Isn’t that what countless retirees do? Hub has a set of rusting clubs somewhere.

     10. Work very hard to NOT create messes clutter chaos resulting in the need for additional cleaning time. I already get exhausted spending approximately ten minutes a day on housework.

I think housework (a dreadful sounding word) should be the first thing to go when reaching the magic age when retirement becomes a full-time pursuit. But I digress…

Meanwhile – before beginning any of the above-mentioned activities - hub and I are on the road for a few days celebrating his new stage in life. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy 90th Birthday Mom

On January 2, 2015, Mom turns 90. She is treating her family to a Caribbean cruise in honor of the momentous event.

Fifteen family members boarded an NCL mega-ship on December 28th at the Port of Miami. For seven days her family will enjoy (or at least tolerate) each other's company, the kids will have a lifetime of memories, and Mom will revel in and be entertained by her family.

Mom is in excellent health for any age. She drives and lives independently. A few years ago she sold her home and moved into a seniors-only apartment house close to friends and activities. She leads a busy schedule of club meetings, lunch and dinner engagements, visiting housebound friends, movies, concerts and shows. Unfortunately her circle dwindles relentlessly as peers die or move into assisted living and nursing homes. She visits those close by, but loses their companionship for many activities.

My sister and I wanted her to move closer to one of us when she sold her home, but she was concerned about not having enough to do, losing connections cultivated over decades.

Mom was an only child and grew up during the Depression. Grandpa owned a retail store in Cedarhurst, Queens NY, and the family lived above the store. There was enough money for food and the necessities of life, but Mom was not a spoiled kid. Her Depression upbringing shaped certain practices. For example for decades she only shopped sales, the idea of paying full retail price unthinkable. Sharing especially restaurant meals is desired, and slipping extra packets of sugar, and then Sweet and Low, in her pocketbook part of the joy of eating out.

Education was important to Grandpa, and Mom attended college. She and Dad met on a blind date, married in 1947, and moved to the Long Island suburbs in 1952 with their two little girls.

Mom did not particularly like to cook (or clean). I remember meat loaf (with veggies hidden in the mix because I would not eat them any other way), pot roast, spaghetti and meatballs, and lasagna. Hearty, delicious comfort food. She still stocks shelves with canned and packaged foods, but a lot of lunches and dinners nowadays are leftovers carried home from restaurant meals.

Mom loves Sticky buns, bakery made, of course.

We went camping as a family. Once, I believe. A thunderstorm drenched the campgrounds and everything in it. Mom hated tent living and the outdoor life.

The back of her car contained a box of coupons arranged alphabetically. Sale items were purchased in bulk and stored in the basement. The box remains, updated regularly, on the back seat of her car.

Dad commuted to the city while Mom remained home, but that did not last long. Mom went to work when my sister and I were very young. She returned to school and earned a library science degree, working for decades as an elementary school librarian. She always loved books and is still an avid reader and word puzzle afficioinado.

Mom was interested in new technology, and attempted to keep up with the latest innovations (a losing battle). She installed computers in her school library and taught kids computer basics.

Although not normally on the cutting edge of fashion (or any other new fad), Mom was the first female teacher in her school to wear pants, a liberating experience quickly followed by the rest of the women on the staff.

My sister and I left for college and finally graduated, lifting a financial burden off my parents shoulders. They began traveling and participating in a variety of organizations and activities. Mom spent time typing committee meeting minutes, participating in scholarship review committees, reading to the blind...she and Dad rode bikes regularly a few miles to a McDonalds for fun and exerciseshe still gets down on the floor to play with the great grandkids

When Mom broke her foot, she did not cancel a planned trip to England. The only place her broken limb deterred her sightseeing was at The Tower of London. She could not climb the stairs.

She and Dad enjoyed the grandkids, taking them (not all at once!) every summer for a week or two of non-stop fun. They took them on trips around the country and overseas.

And there were other family trips. Hawaii, a family trip celebrating Mom and Dad's fiftieth wedding anniversary, paid for but not actually experienced by Mom and Dad. Dad was in the hospital recuperating from gall bladder surgery and could not fly. Mom remained home with him, but they insisted the rest of the family go to Hawaii. We did.

There was a family cruise to Bermuda...a weekend at a hotel in the Catskill Mountains...a couple of trips to Las Vegas (Dad loved to play blackjack and Mom hit the nickel poker slot machines)now a holiday cruise.

And the family grows. Four great grandkids are part of Moms birthday celebration cruise entourage.
Mom, her grandchildren and great grandchildren
Happy 90th Mom
We love you!