Thursday, October 12, 2017

Stopover at the Old Hometown

I visited my old hometown. My grown-up old hometown. Hub and I lived in Lancaster County PA over 30 years, working, raising kids, making great friends, and then…

We moved.

The Jersey shore is now our home. Happily, I might add.

We had no idea we moved from what U.S. News and World Report proclaimed the #2 Best Place to Retire in 2018, based on a survey of locations in the U.S. offering a great quality of life at an affordable price.

Who knew? Not us.

There are no signs upon entering the county touting the place as a retirement mecca. No billboards broadcast the virtues of an ideal combination of city, suburbs, and pungent farmlands. Pungent meaning foul smelling, but you get used to it.

There are senior citizens all over Lancaster County, but nowadays seniors can be found everywhere. Boomers swagger into senior citizenhood every day. Seniors live longer and are healthier and more active than previous generations. We hike, bike, travel and eat out. A lot.

There are lots of reasonably priced restaurants in Lancaster.

On the other hand Lancaster’s senior population is not as ubiquitous as places in other parts of the country, for instance Florida.

Like Sarasota, which happened to be named the #1 Best Place to Retire 2018.

There is not a lot different about Lancaster from thousands of other mid-sized cities with surrounding suburbs and farmlands. Except the Plain sects – the Amish among them. Experiencing continual growth, the county boasts clogged roads and shopping centers under construction, but also a revived and flourishing downtown.

We returned to old haunts for a short stay. We met friends for dinner and drove downtown, noting art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants and a variety of small businesses, few of which existed when we lived in the area. And we observed people. Lots of people walking around, quite different from years ago when rundown stores dotted the city landscape and few people strolled the streets.

We spent a couple of hours in another Lancaster County town, Lititz, voted in 2013 America’s coolest small town by Budget Travel.

The recognition was not referring to the weather.

Eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings accommodating stores and restaurants – no chains – line the main streets. We wandered from store to store, strolling aisles of clothes and local crafts, souvenirs and tchotchkes.

Hub and I have a talent for missing ‘in’ places. We moved to western Pennsylvania immediately after steel plants closed. Thousands of workers lost jobs permanently, disrupting a thriving economy and pushing the area into depressed status. We moved a couple of years later, and since leaving, the area has undergone a renaissance led by technology companies. Pittsburgh, the Western PA city closest to our home at the time, is rated in the 2018 U.S. News and World Report survey #8 Best Place to Retire.

Go figure.

New Jersey’s high property and estate taxes are two major reasons the state is NEVER on ANY retirement places to live.

But we love it. Will we stay? We don’t know…

If we relocate the state will probably figure out a way to lower property and income taxes and create incentives attracting businesses. The benefits of living on our island will outweigh the negatives and our current home will suddenly appear on lists of appealing places to retire.

But first we must move. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Exploring Wild and Wonderful

West Virginia. ‘Wild and wonderful’ – not the state motto (which is: Mountaineers are always free) - but a tourism slogan.

Hub and I ventured west with friends, one of whom lived for years in West Virginia. The trip was a reunion with Sharon’s state of youth.

It is a challenge timing a trip to witness the glory of fall foliage. Our son lives in Vermont, and an autumn trip is usually on the agenda. Too often however we arrive too late or too early, or weather conditions preclude vibrant colors in favor of pales and browns.

 Our weekend in the mountains of West Virginia offered a feast for the eyes. Mountains of trees boasted vibrant bands of color. Reds, yellows, golds and oranges along with greens dotted the landscape as we drove narrow two-lane roads up and down mountains, switchbacks causing slight queasiness. We observed run-down cabins and well-kept farmhouses, small thriving towns and others struggling to survive.

Rolling mountains stretched to the horizon. The state’s modern history dates to 1609 when it became part of Virginia. Hunters, trappers, explorers and adventurous settlers crossed the territory, a few lingering. Today much of the state remains rural thanks to the rugged terrain.

Following a long morning ride we eagerly piled out of the car at Coopers Rock State Forest. Sharon and I

ventured down a marked path, at some point losing trail markers posted for hikers. We realized we were off course when the narrow path disintegrated to rocky, untrod ground. But the downward trek and upward climb made us ravenous. After numerous pictures on to our next stop – lunch!

Lunch transformed into dinner. Muriale’s Italian Kitchen in Fairmount opened in 1968, expanded and redecorated several times over the years. I know because Sharon told me. She remembers the place from the restaurant’s opening, a major town event. Apparently there were not many restaurants in the area at the time. 

The second day of our journey dawned foggy and rainy. Our first stop should have been the New River Gorge Bridge. Driving into the Visitor’s Center, we did not park or get out of the car. We did drive across the bridge, the longest steel arch bridge and the third highest in the country. Unfortunately we could not see the river below because of fog.

Finally mealtime again - lunch! The place, chosen by hub, proved underwhelming. We journeyed on to Blackwater Falls State Park. A wide, level path and boardwalk leads to viewing platforms overlooking the falls. No rain, but we were not taking chances. No longer young and adventurous, a long hike in the forest with the possibility of being stranded in a downpour was not on our itinerary. More pictures, then on the road again.
On the path to the water falls. 

Due to too much coffee and advanced age we visited Sheetz – a regional convenience store chain - more than once. Or twice. We kept moving, but the considerable number of trucks along with constant car traffic made the final portion of the drive a bit tense, although I admit the three passengers dozed off. Luckily our driver stayed awake.

Reunion weekend over, four travelers slowly exited the car and stretched bodies bent over from the lengthy ride, tired but happy following a foray into wild and wonderful. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Nothing Funny to Write About Today

I wanted to write a light piece today, but the words did not come. I could not think of anything funny. Nothing funny happened to me. I did not witness anything funny.

Nothing seemed funny. Or slightly amusing.

All I could think about was the horrific Vegas massacre. There is nothing funny about being killed. About people injured. About people scared. About people forever losing a sense of security and safety. Safety and Happiness – what our leaders are supposed to provide citizens. Says so in the Declaration of Independence.

Our leaders are failing us.

I could enumerate an alphabetical list of mass shootings, beginning with an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County PA and a theater in Aurora Colorado, a university in Blacksburg and a church in Charleston…and on and on and on.

People born in the U.S. and immigrants and the mentally ill and teenagers and people fired from a job and the poor and the rich and the middle class…all kinds of people shoot other people for a variety of reasons.

The common denominator?


I think about the politicians who tell us to pray for survivors and the wounded and families of victims, but who refuse to discuss the real reason these events happen.

In Vegas one man got his hands on guns. Lots of them. Semi-automatic, automatic, devices allowing guns to shoot more bullets in a shorter period of time.

Do you think the politicians refusing to discuss gun control sleep soundly at night?  Do you think they in any way connect the money they receive from the NRA with their passionate defense of guns? Do they truly believe easy access to guns has nothing to do with the epidemic of shootings in this country?

Statistics don’t mean anything to the powers that be. Ignore the number of shootings, ignore the numbers killed and injured, ignore the number of guns stockpiled in peoples' homes. I do not know anyone that owns a gun or two or three and belongs to a militia. That part of the Second Amendment  - A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State - is another detail gun advocates choose to ignore.
Millions of dollars spent on propaganda wins believers. It is OK for politicians to work hard establishing ways to prevent people from voting – a right guaranteed to all citizens in the 15th Amendment to the Constitution.

But ratifying gun control to make it a wee bit harder for anyone to arbitrarily kill innocents? Well, no. Gun rights apparently trump other rights. Like the right to life. And the right to the pursuit of happiness. Dead people can’t pursue anything. How about free speech? Dead people don’t speak. Vote? Dead people don’t vote.

Why are so many powerful people shortsighted and greedy, selfish and inconsiderate of others?

Does anyone benefit from mass shootings? Gun manufacturers and gun dealers. Following a bloodbath folks dash into gun shops to purchase guns, worried their right to buy guns will be limited in the future. So manufacturers make more guns and donate more money to politicians via the NRA, ensuring gun control does not become reality.

It’s the economy, stupid.

I have spoken. Or rather, written. My next post will be upbeat (hopefully). I am sure something funny or cute or humorous and amusing will happen to me. Or I will witness a funny incident.

Life is a drama of tragedy and comedy.
You should learn to enjoy the comic episodes a little more.

- Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Boomers On Happiness, Money, Work, and Personal Care

The butterfly and birds in these pictures stopped by my house this week, welcome visitors, if only for a short time. I assume they are travelling south, the sudden cool weather a warning winter will arrive soon.

Sometimes we stop to smell the roses and today I stopped to watch these creatures. They brought a smile to my lips as I spent a few moments enjoying their presence. 

Too often we forget to pause during busy days to observe and enjoy our environment.

You'd think enjoying life would be second nature, wouldn't you? But it's good to have a reminder of things we can do to boost our happiness quotient. Carol Cassara at Heart-Mind-Soul does just that with her piece How to Enjoy Life. And her readers have added to her list in the Comments. How about you? What would you add?

Laura Lee Carter has worked as a professional writer for over ten years now, and she has a few things to say about that! She will continue her work, first of all because she's addicted, and second because of the occasional wonderful fan letters she receives!

In case you missed it earlier in the week, the Sightings Over Sixty blog is offering an important and updated look at Long-Term-Care insurance. Tom Sightings turns to expert Jeremy Kisner, a Certified Financial Planner and Chartered Life Underwriter in Phoenix, AZ, to answer all your FAQs on Long-Term Care. An important issue a majority of us will face, either dealing with an ill family member, or in need of assistance ourselves.

On the Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about a topic dear to all of us - money. First, a survey shows that more than 40 percent of U.S. adults are struggling to make ends meet and about a third are experiencing financial hardships. The survey also shows that financial well-being is higher for older adults, especially those aged 65 and older, whose average score was 61. Younger adults, those 34 and younger, tended to have the lowest financial well-being score with an average of 51.

How much do you spend on a ‘date night’? Although I like to cook, hub and I also enjoy eating out – our kind of date night, occasionally a movie or special event part of the evening’s entertainment. But I must admit that nowadays date night is often 'date afternoon'. Rita R. Robison reports on a survey that shows the average date night costs $101 in America compared to the average cost globally of $86. 

In Robison’s third money article, she writes again about what to do about the Equifax data breach of 143 million consumers’ information.

Thank you for stopping by and spending time with the boomers. 
As Laura Lee Carter notes, we love to hear from our readers. 
Don’t hesitate to leave comments!

Picture from Laura Lee Carter's blog Adventures of  the NEW Old Farts.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Falling for Seasonal Change

Yup, the seasons have definitely changed in my neck of the woods. Fall is officially here.

Blinking traffic lights tell me so.

I relish a time of transition when the passing of summer ushers in a season when crowds disappear and lines shrink at the grocery store, Rite Aid, Wawa, and restaurants, a season characterized by cooler weather, earlier evenings, later sunlit mornings, and quieter streets.

Actually the streets are not as quiet as I would like them to be. This is the season repairmen and construction workers descend on my town, building and fixing and completing work homeowners ignored all summer. The banging, clanging and drilling are a disruptive influence on laid-back mornings – starting too early – and afternoons, forcing doors and windows closed to avoid the racket.

Back to the blinking lights. Less traffic allows the replacement of red, green and yellow on one of our main streets with a constant blinking yellow light. No need for stop-and-go driving. Cruise down the avenue; enjoy the changing landscape colors from green to yellows, reds and brown, the bike riders, joggers and skateboarders, savor life in the slow lane.

Soups and casseroles replace fresh salads and walks to the ice cream parlor. No more local corn. Locally grown tomatoes will be available for only a couple more weeks. And most area farmer’s markets closed until next summer.

Morning hot coffee replaces large glasses of ice coffee. I wear jeans for the first time in weeks and dig out long sleeve shirts. Don’t need them yet, but will soon. Sneakers replace sandals as my footwear of choice.

Time to think about hurricane season and hope our town avoids devastating storms this year. Time to clean out the closet and bag items that will never again see the light of day on my body (or hub’s), but are still in good enough shape for the thrift shop.

Time to think about preparing the garden for months of dormancy. Time to move toys to the garage until next summer. And time to think about cold weather relief. What warm weather destination will hub and I visit this winter?

Time to embrace the change of seasons. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Greeting Fall

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

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

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

And of course, pumpkins!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lies Our Leaders Tell Us

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

Like votes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

Gardening Guru I Am Not

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

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

I do not write about or discuss my garden prowess.

My garden flopped this summer.

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

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

My garden succumbed to inattention and almost total abandonment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Fall is in the Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 1, 2017

Life in Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes we need life to be placed in perspective.

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