Sunday, December 10, 2017

December Holiday Highlights from the Best of Boomers

Although the calendar indicates winter has not officially arrived, the season made an early appearance in my hometown. Snow swept in and presented us with a glorious white blanket. Unfortunately the town cancelled its twilight holiday parade due to the weather, but the holiday spirit is alive and lively in musical events scheduled throughout the month, Santa sightings, outdoor decorations, and a festive atmosphere in stores, restaurants and community gathering places.

The onset of cold and snow gets those of us living north of the Mason Dixon line in the holiday mood. But the holidays can be tough for many. Whether it's a holiday or not, Carol Cassara has some helpful, simple-to-implement ideas for taking care of ourselves that anyone can do. My favorite suggestion: eat chocolate! 

Do you have any Festive traditions?  Traditions are an important part of life, especially as we reach midlife and beyond.  It ties family and friends together. Sue Loncaric over at Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond shares 5 of her favorite traditions for this time of year. Living in Brisbane, Australia means it is Summer so no snow or mulled wine!  Read how she and her family enjoy the special time of year.

Rebecca Olkowski at Baby Boomster is reliving a river cruise she took several years ago to see the Christmas Markets on the Danube. She shares a recipe for authentic German Gingerbread on her blog as well as photos from some of the markets she visited.

This past week Tom Sightings took advantage of the freedom (and the senior discounts) afforded to us retirees by making a quick trip to New York City. So if you're at all curious, ride along by punching your ticket over at Two-Day. . . and see what's currently showing at The Met.

Over at Unfold And Begin, Jennifer did another interview for her Begin Again Series and chatted with Molly at Shallow Reflections. Molly is a nurse who picked up humor writing later in life.  You can read about Molly and the book she recently published in Who Is That Boomer On The Ledge. 

Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, is in a stew about the holidays. Robison returned from a two-week vacation to Australia about 10 days ago and been “lost in space” since with jet lag. She didn’t have a plan to get ready for Christmas before she left, so received a jolt when she calculated it’s just two weeks away. Luckily, Robison has been blogging, so take a look at her articles on how to make tasty chicken stew, which can help you if you, too, are in a stew about the holidays, and how to avoid sugar, which abounds in desserts and alcoholic drinks during the holidays. But then, things aren’t all that bad. Robison also wrote about the second Volkswagen executive being sentenced to prison for taking part in the company’s emissions testing scandal. That’s good news for consumers.

I hope everyone enjoys the holiday season. Don't forget to take time to sit back, relax, and stop by the Boomers. We love to hear from you.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Short Road Trip Extended

Six o’clock on a drizzly December weekday evening and already dark, it was my turn behind the wheel tackling rush hour traffic. Hub sprawled comfortably (as comfortably as possible in a small car) across the front passenger seat. We dropped Mom at her apartment on Long Island and headed home to south Jersey.

Cars converged onto roads from all directions, motorists and passengers intent on getting home ASAP, allowing no time or patience for slow drivers, for those unsure when or where his/her entrance or exit would appear, and no tolerance for cars moving merely at the speed limit on the one hand or crawling in stop and almost-go traffic on the other.

I have driven the route numerous times, but sections still prove stressful, especially a piece of road where, coming off the bridge from Staten Island (NY), millions (an exaggeration, but not much) of cars merge onto seven southbound lanes (according to Wikipedia) of the Garden State Parkway.

I maneuvered onto this wide stretch of parkway in a painstaking effort NOT to destroy myself, hub, and/or the car. As if on cue the drizzle became a downpour. I could not clearly see lane borders. The glare from parkway lamps, car lights and rain obscured pavement markings. Windshield wipers worked furiously but partly obscured the roadway, sweat crept across my forehead, hub repeatedly asked what was happening and cars sped past both sides of me – passing on the right common on these roads. Dwarfed by mammoth vans and sedans (no trucks allowed on the Garden State), the car inched forward into a murky abyss.
The Garden State Highway looking north.
The vehicles created a mass movement of steel and humanity replicated, I am sure, on highways in cities across the nation.

My car is not among the daily commuters. Never was. My commute involved a six mile drive along two-lane roads, at one time country lanes but by the end of the 20th century congested suburban corridors. Driving these roads is nothing like facing metro city traffic – slow crawling traffic jams or multitudes of cars careening down the highway at breakneck speeds.

Maybe I am getting old. I am not as aggressive and single-minded as the wild drivers around me on New York and New Jersey highways determined to get someplace fast, traffic and rain be damned

Exhausted but happy, four and a half hours after leaving Long Island we exited the car, exhaled a huge sigh of relief and gently rose from a curled, bent position to an almost straight one, our bones not as flexible as years past.

We were home.

Until the next trip. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

10 Things to Do While Home With a Sick Spouse

Or significant other, relative, friend, or anyone else

Hub came down with pneumonia a couple of weeks ago. We thought it was a cold but the nasty cough lingered. He spent days with the TV on and eyes closed. 

What does a caregiver do for days home when the sickee (as opposed to sicko, which hub decidedly is not) does not require 24/7 constant care?

Here are ten suggestions (in no particular order) for anyone facing this predicament:

1. Spend money...lounge in your favorite chair, laptop in hand, multitasking - watch TV, listen to music, observe your significant other sleep. Buy anything. Doesn’t matter. Keeps you busy and stimulates the economy.

2. Cook. Jewish penicillin, a.k.a. chicken soup, is a must-have in a home inhabited by sick folks.

3. Watch TV. Don’t feel guilty. Be a couch potato. It’s part of a caregiver’s job and somebody’s got to do it. I reviewed a list of the 100 best movies of the 20th century. We watched All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity…oldies but goodies.

4. Clean the house. You can do it. I thought about doing it. A lot. But didn’t get further than feeling guilty that I wasn’t cleaning but should be.

5. Read. Magazines, newspapers, that book on the top of a pile waiting for attention…

6. Clean out your computer. Delete old emails, documents, pictures, anything and everything.

7. Create photo albums online, or better yet use real photos printed on real paper. Place them in real albums. If you are like me, there are boxes of old photos sitting in a closet patiently waiting for you to reach in, drag out the boxes, organize pictures and create photo albums.

8. Plan a trip or two. Not going anywhere is a good time to research where you want to go. Plan a getaway or two, maybe a day trip into the city to visit a museum or see a play or spend a day with friends, or a longer trip farther afield.

9. Catch up with family/friends/business associates/other humans. Call folks or send an email that is like an actual letter, with sentences and paragraphs.

10. If at a loss for something to do and starting to go stir crazy, there is the best modern time waster of all – social media.

To maintain sanity, there is one thing you absolutely should NOT do:

Do NOT under ANY circumstances listen to a 24/7 news channel. You will become anxious and fearful, the result a desire to take out your anxiety and nervousness on the nearest human – the poor sick guy or gal under your care.

And remember – this too shall pass. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

On the Move Again

We left the house about 9:30 Thanksgiving morning. First stop the local coffee shop for a coffee and muffin for the road. The shop was surprisingly busy for a holiday morning – especially a day when everyone looked forward to a huge meal a few hours later – but the place is famous for its baked goods. Most people walked away with a bag full of pre-ordered goodies for the dessert table - and a cup of coffee.

Hub and I headed off on a three-hour drive (assuming minimal traffic) to my sister’s for Thanksgiving dinner. The big question was how long it would take to get through Philadelphia. We needed to drive the Schuylkill Expressway – an ironic name for a road often jam-packed with vehicles progressing at a crawl.

The drive proceeded smoothly. No traffic. I think most people traveling distances were where they wanted to be. Local traffic trekking an hour or so to reach their dinner destination had not yet clogged roads.

Almost at our destination, we encountered the first motorized vehicle usually ubiquitous on the roads – a truck.

I realized one key reason the drive had been a pleasant one. No trucks. The more trucks on the road, the more drivers (or at least this particular driver) become stressed. The larger the trucks, the more tension. Trucks run from big, to bigger, to the double whammy, all of which dwarf our small (but cute and gas efficient) Mazda. Sandwiched between monster trucks is a powerful stimulus to rising blood pressure, anxiety and a far from enjoyable trip.

We drove home Friday afternoon, detouring to meet friends at an airport hotel for dinner. Our friends spent the holiday with family in Philly and were flying home the following morning, staying at the hotel Friday night to decompress (it is exhausting spending a week with grandkids 24/7). The four of us sat at the hotel bar drinking (not me – I was the designated driver) and eating – again.

Not our Thanksgiving turkey.
 Did I mention we enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast? My vegan sister prepared traditional fare – soup (squash or corn chowder), then the main course - turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (white), sweet potatoes (with marshmallows on top), Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce (choice of canned and homemade)…etc. Then dessert of course….

We are home now. No travel, a return to careful eating, and a weekend sans appointments, meetings, nothing on the calendar!

Will we bore ourselves to oblivion? Will we survive?

We are looking forward to a couple of days with no pressure to accomplish anything or go anyplace, an uneventful, pleasant interlude, possible as long as we don’t listen to any 24/7 news channel, the American 21st century equivalent of mental pain and suffering. We will read. We will watch old movies, non-political, non-violent ones with easy to follow story lines. The good old days… 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Day in the Big Apple

I live about three hours from New York City, the city that never sleeps, the Big Apple, the concrete jungle, the center of a metropolitan area that sprawls across three states. Home to millions of people.

I do not often venture into the city, and rarely drive. Driving can be a nightmare. Traffic ranges from bad to worse to impossibly jammed up with no one going anywhere anytime soon. Add the cost of gas, tolls, and parking and the ka-ching, ka-ching becomes daunting.

Yet the city entices. So Wednesday (matinee day) I boarded a Greyhound bus at 7:40 a.m.
for the Big Apple, the goal rendezvousing with two girlfriends for lunch and a show.

The bus rolled north along the Garden State Parkway. Trees line both sides of the road, and some still boast fall colors. As we neared the city the landscape transformed into an ugly panorama of warehouses, commercial structures and power plants spewing smoke and I don’t want to know what else. Traffic intensified. I was thrilled NOT to be behind the wheel of a car crawling through the congestion, dwarfed between BFT’s (big f**king trucks) and buses.

The bus pulled into the basement of Manhattan’s Port Authority terminal, I grabbed my things and headed out into a clear, cold sunny day.

The mass of humanity assailed me immediately, wide sidewalks packed with people, everyone in a hurry. People congregated at street corners waiting anxiously for the walk icon on the traffic light. A few folks dodged vehicles and walked across the street while a red hand indicated do not walk!

New Yorkers are renown for impatience.  And bravado.

I walked over to Broadway and strolled through Times Square. Sesame Street and Super hero characters solicited people for pictures, expecting a gratuity. If out-of-town visitors are clueless to this custom, signs explain costumed creatures expect a tip when posing for photos. Other individuals hand out fliers advertising shows and restaurants. Groups of tourists walk around, stopping to snap pictures and stare at the high-rises and huge signs dominating the Times Square area.


Cheap is in my genes. City prices can shock those venturing in from the burbs and hinterlands. But as infrequently as I hob nob with the theater crowd I can splurge. The food was good although not memorable. Our waitress seemed disengaged and annoyed when we asked for anything – water, an extra plate, coffee.

My friends and I enjoyed the Broadway play Waitress, a musical about a woman in an unhappy marriage who finds herself (surprisingly) pregnant. She has an affair with her gynecologist, her two friends/coworkers indulge their own love interests, and of course all ends well. The band remains on stage throughout the show. Waitress happened to be our third choice (the first two shows closed before our trip).

On the walk back to the bus terminal I detoured into Dean & Deluca, an upscale chain offering, according to the store’s website, the world’s best epicurean treats for cooking, eating and entertaining. I purchased a pastry for hub – to assuage a bit of guilt over leaving him home – and an iced coffee for the road, or rather the bus.

When arrangements were made for the trip my calendar was empty, but during the ensuing weeks events requiring my presence arose. I was not going to cancel my travel plans, so instead sent a substitute.

Hub, and he did a fine job!

The bus home half-empty, I stretched across two seats. Finally home, I entered the house tired but glad for the opportunity to reunite with old friends, relax and catch up over a leisurely lunch, take in a Broadway play, experience the vitality and ambience of a great city, and breathe New York’s foul air. I am not sure how contaminated the city’s air actually is, but the aromas were closer to unpleasant than pleasing.

My New York experience summarized:

Savored good but not great pricey food served by curt waitresses who want to be somewhere else doing anything but serving the theater crowd.

Saw a Broadway show with superbly talented actors at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, a magnificent playhouse built in 1926.

Inhaled the smells of the city – food from street vendors, coffee shops and restaurants…the nastier odors of car and bus exhausts…a variety of aromas from the multitudes surrounding me.

Heard the sounds of audience laughter and applause, car horns, hawkers advertising their wares, sirens, whistles, shouting.

Viewed the sights – skyscrapers, billboards, shop and theater signs, window displays of food, clothes, souvenirs. The unceasing street scene swirling by – cars, buses, taxis, carriages, bicycles. People everywhere. And lines - lines for the theater, lines for the ladies room, lines to the cashier, lines for the bus. I hate lines.

I look forward to my next New York City experience.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Stock Market, Our Savings and Congress’ Meddling

In a previous life I worked for a financial firm. The TV next to my desk broadcast a business channel, muted most of the time. A stock ticker rolled across the bottom of the screen. I researched stocks, bonds and mutual funds and helped clients invest for their future, the goal being a poverty-free retirement and fulfillment of their bucket list.

I worked through the buoyant economic environment of the 1990s and the Great Recession and financial crisis of the 21st century. I saw clients panic and take their money out of the market while others perceived opportunity and jumped in. Most investors stayed the course, hoping the market recovered and moved forward, which it eventually did.

Market history is a series of ups and downs, crashes and bull runs. Maddening to most people, especially investors following the market regularly. Perspective is necessary to avoid heart attacks on a dreadful down day and uncontrolled euphoria on an exceptionally elevated day.

Investors in for the long haul usually are rewarded. Those shifting in and out are often disappointed.

A market milestone occurred November 14,1972, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) closed above 1,000 (1,003.16) for the first time. The market plunged soon after, losing almost 40% of its value. But it recovered, dropped additional times, recouped, and the cycle continues…

Forty-five years later the DJIA hovers around 23,500.

Mighty impressive!

Anyone investing a small amount in 1972 and adding to it over the years would own a sizable nest egg today.

Recently out of college and newlyweds in November 1972, hub and I were lucky to have enough extra money for a pizza on the weekend. But life moved quickly. Hub’s discharge from the military followed by a good job meant more money, which immediately got eaten away by runaway inflation.

The economy settled down, but kids assumed the job of depleting our income.

Finally we started investing for our future. IRAs and 401(k)s, introduced into federal law in the 1970s, were promoted and adopted by individuals and corporations during the 1980s.

Statistics tell us most Americans do not invest for the future and upon retirement have limited financial resources. Meanwhile Congress is doing all it can to cut the amount folks can contribute to 401(k)s. Few people save the maximum, but those who can should be allowed that privilege, while the rest of us save as much as possible. The limit on IRAs is much lower than 401(k)s and should be increased. It won’t happen – not in the current Congress.

The government needs as much money as it can muster for the federal budget. One way to get more income (American taxpayers’ hard earned cash) is to redirect IRA/401(k) contributions into Roth IRAs. Roth dollars are taxed immediately while IRA/401(k) dollars are not subject to the greedy hands of Uncle Sam until withdrawn, often decades after the initial investment.

Congress aims to cut Social Security and Medicare, so the least our elected officials can do for senior citizens of the future is to encourage folks to save. America’s seniors will need the money for ordinary expenses like food and medical care.

The proposed tax bill is not finalized. Everyone is fighting for his or her piece of the pie. Tax reform is an excellent idea, but playing with people’s lives is not. Congress should be upfront about the pros and cons of the bill, which apparently throws a few bones to the middle class now but costs them dearly down the road.

I wait anxiously to see what convoluted concoction Congress cooks up next. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Countdown to the 2020 Presidential Election - Installment #3

1090 Days (as of 11/9/17) Until the Next Presidential Election
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Mark Your Calendars!

Election Day 2017 came and went, generating more interest than most off-year elections because of the current POTUS and the deep political divide seizing the country. Election night results indicated anti-Trumpers had much to celebrate while pro-POTUS-ites had lots to think about.

Before the election I told hub I was not going to vote for any Republicans. Our local ballot had a lot on the table – a governor’s race, state assembly reps (2) and senator, county freeholders and sheriff. Hub’s point of view was that local politics should not interfere with national politics. A good local Republican candidate should receive our vote despite the party’s national leadership and agenda.

I disagreed. My feeling is that a Republican vote is a vote in favor of the party, locally, statewide and nationally. I could not in good conscience pull a Republican lever.

In my corner of the world most Democratic candidates won. The Republican running for state senator won a seat.

But the biggest surprise came after the polls closed.

Our Congressional representative, Frank LoBiondo, is a Republican, a moderate leaning toward conservative. The general consensus is that he has served his district well. In 2018 he will have represented south Jersey for 22 years.

LoBiondo announced he would not seek reelection in 2018. His decision, stated in his official announcement, had nothing to do with his health or personal life. In his words:
…as some of my closest colleagues have also come to realize, those of us who came to Congress to change Washington for the better through good governance are now the outliers. In legislating, we previously fought against allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. Today a vocal and obstinate minority within both parties has hijacked good legislation in pursuit of no legislation.

LoBiondo is not the only outlier announcing retirement. A fundamental change is sweeping the Republican Party. The 2017 election and the number of Republicans announcing they will not seek reelection portends positive things for anti-Trumpers. Despite Trump’s media publicity, his tweets and the PR received by right-wing bigots he cajoled out of their holes, the majority of the country opposes Trump, his policies, morality and ethics, as well as the characters he has chosen to populate the swamp (today swampier and slimier than ever).

It is a long way to the 2020 election, but 2017 election results provide the opposition with hope and the administration with much to think about. Not that they will do that. Trump will, as always, resort to blaming everyone but himself for Republican losses.

As far as the opposition candidates go, who knows? I predict a long shot will appear, someone not on anyone’s radar today or low on the list of possibilities. Following the 2018 election things will heat up. Meanwhile the 2018 mid-term election takes precedence. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Organized Chaos

Organized Chaos defined: My life.

A well-ordered personal environment helps an individual lead an organized life. Or so I have read. A disorganized environment, on the other hand, leads to chaos at home and in life.

This is probably true, but as hard as I try, an ordered lifestyle eludes me.

My brain’s awash with to-dos, all a jumble. I note appointments on my calendar, but on days I forget to check I miss something – an appointment, an exercise class, a to-do with a time constraint, missing a deadline.

This is my life.

My house will neither appear on the cover nor on the inside pages of a house beautiful magazine. No one will interview me about my quirky yet imaginative decorating ideas. No one would ever pay to see my home on a house tour. I, alternatively, might consider paying people to avoid my house. Or at least my bedroom. Should an individual disappear amidst the piles of clothes, bedding and other paraphernalia scattered around the room or in the dark recesses of my closet, they are forewarned.

I knew a man who moved from one house to another a few miles away. He took the junk drawer from his old house, drove over to his new home and dumped the contents into a newly designated junk drawer, then returned the empty drawer to his old house.

Not to give the wrong impression, I do laundry (when necessary), put away clothes (usually), make my bed (most of the time) – yet the mess resurfaces, rising again like the phoenix. Piles propagate, appearing higher and wider every time I enter the room. This past weekend I spent time decluttering, filling bags for the local thrift shop, feeling good about cleaning the room AND donating clothes previously worn but in great condition.

Getting rid of items not torn, stained, too small (must have shrunk in the wash) or otherwise unwearable is not in my genes. It is hard for me to sort through stuff and decide what to keep and what to give away. I have done this before. Hub and I downsized – twice - but it is still difficult. A friend goes through her closet yearly, and anything not worn in the past year is tossed. I am not that cold blooded.

Then there are papers. And books, magazines, newspapers. I have files and shelves and toss newspapers and magazines, but after I read them. Problem is I don’t get around to reading them every day. So the material piles up.

I think about going to the Container Store and buying a carload of organizers, but there is no room in my house for all the containers. And I probably would never get around to filling the containers in an orderly manner. I consider calling 1-800-closet organizers, but am unwilling to spend the money.

On the other hand should I need a particular book or document I can locate it in a surprisingly short period of time. I am orderly in my own peculiar, disorganized fashion.

Organized chaos. That’s my lifestyle.

Perhaps a gene warped in utero, forever condemning me to a lifetime of unneatness (it is a word – I looked it up). Or maybe I inherited a disheveled gene from a well meaning but also untidy forefather or mother.

There may be special programs for people like me, but at my advanced age I doubt the treatment would be effective. I am fated to be me, chaotic but content.

After years feeling guilty living and working amidst chaos, kidding myself that I will straighten up the clutter one day, someday, I no longer feel guilty. This is me and I’m going with it. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Best of Boomers Halloween Edition

A New England fall offers a feast for the eyes, assuming one is lucky enough to catch the crimsons and golds at the right time. Hub and I ventured north to grandsit, the brilliance of the land a bonus. Once past the creeping traffic and grays around New York City, colors stunned as the terrain morphed from suburban flatlands to a countryside of rolling hills and mountains. We enjoyed the opportunity to get in the spirit of the season, buying pumpkins, wandering a corn maze, and visiting Spookeyville. 
One of many
Spookeyville characters. 
This week we welcome a new member to our group, Jennifer Koshak. I have not met her, but already feel a kinship. She likes chocolate, practices yoga, enjoys trying new things and likes to travel. Me too on all these things!

If you've ever wanted to travel internationally but live like the locals then join Jennifer of Unfold And Begin as she interviews Suzanne Vickery of Global Housesitters.  Suzanne shares how she and her husband are spending their retirement housesitting around the world.

Tom Sightings invites anyone who needs a dose of Halloween to hop on a magic carpet, rev up the broomstick, or in any other way beam over to Summer Leaves, Fall Nights . . . to see some ghosts and goblins and skeletons come out to play on Sightings Over Sixty.

This week Laura Lee Carter, Adventures of the NEW Old Farts, saw the most interesting show on the National Geographic Wild channel. All sorts of animals indulge in psychoactive drugs in their environment for all sorts of amazing reasons. Where do you stand on this topic? Indulge or not?

At Heart-Mind-Soul this week, Carol Cassara gave blog space to a law enforcement officer who pitched in to help with the fires in Sonoma County, California. His report from the fire and his vivid photos tell the story from an angle you won't find anywhere else.

Two of our boomers discuss medical topics this week.

Sunday, October 29, is World Stroke Day, and Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski of Baby Boomster helps spread awareness on the importance of blood pressure monitoring for Baby Boomers. She includes tips on how to keep blood pressure regulated by making four lifestyle changes. 

Saturday was National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, but many communities have drop off locations where you can take unused or expired drugs throughout the year. Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, recommends going through your medicine cabinet and disposing of drugs regularly. About 6.4 million Americans abuse controlled prescription drugs, according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The study shows that a majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet. Four out of five people who start using heroin start with inappropriate use of prescriptions.

Have a good week and please take a few minutes to stop by the Boomers and leave a comment. We love to hear from our readers. 
Corn maize cornfusion

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Lottery winner?

The following email arrived in my inbox. I read it and should have been excited, dreaming
about wonderful things to do with my new fortune.

Unfortunately I am not so gullible to believe everything on the Internet and in my inbox is truthful. On the contrary, fake news proliferates. I read the email and hit delete, but first copied and pasted it here for your edification. Should you receive this or similar correspondence, ignore and erase immediately. Here is the entire text of the email:

Dear Lucky Winner,

We happily announce to you that Your email has won you US$4.2m for 2017 Uk-Lotto Sweepstakes Lottery International programs, reply for more information.

Juan Peterson
Telephone: +4470457 86726

How many other people received this communication? Knowing I was not the only one, was there 100, 1,000, tens of thousands? Maybe millions? Or am I the only one – the supposedly lucky one – to be chosen as the recipient of this magnificent gift?

It is a miracle! Or it would be if I won. I rarely win anything. And never bought a Uk-Lotto Sweepstakes Lottery International lottery ticket.

I googled the Uk-Lotto Sweepstakes Lottery International and this is what came up #1:

No one won any money.

I occasionally buy a lottery ticket – a Powerball or Mega Millions – when potential winnings are great. Not that a million or so is mediocre, but I do not buy tickets regularly. The most ever won is $2, and immediately bought another ticket.

And of course won nothing.

Most scam emails land in my spam folder, but once in a while one announcing I am the winner or the inheritor or the recipient of a fortune drops into my inbox.

Before lamenting a fortune lost, I received another email, this one much longer.

A humble Sergeant in the U.S. Army not well schooled in the English language sent a letter chock-full of grammatical errors. The Sergeant must get $1 million worth of gold out of the Benin Republic, where his package resided over the past few years. He received the money as a result of a peacekeeping mission in Libya in 2011.

Anyone interested? Anyone believe this fairy tale?

Benin is a small French-speaking republic in West Africa. Its biggest claim to fame is that it is the origin of the voodoo religion.

Voodoo…bogus claims…a 21st century phony tale…Excerpts from the letter exactly as received:

Dear (nothing personal – but the writer did NOT know my name. Maybe the letter is from Trump?)

This message may come to you as a surprise but i want you to patiently read my proposal and respond back to me for more details if interested. My name is Sergeant John whyte, I am a Sergeant in United States Army but currently in Afghanistan for a peace keeping .  I humbly need your assistance in a transaction which i will need a trusted person that will handle with me, I  got an urgent information from a security company in Benin Republic were i deposited my package few years ago and according to the information i got from the company , they notified me that the government of Benin has issued urgent approval to all security companies in Benin to release and deliver every financial packages that has been deposited in their company for a period of 6 years…

The letter continues for a couple more lengthy paragraphs, and then requests the reader to contact the writer, at which time a request for funds to transfer the money (or the gold) will be made. The author of the correspondence receives the money from the gullible email recipient who never hears from the person again. No cash or gold or any follow-up.

Does anyone believe these fabrications? How many people answer the scams? Do receivers of these unsolicited messages send money when requested? The sender(s) must make money or would not waste time.

Remember the TV show The Millionaire? The series ran from 1955 to 1960. A rich guy gave away a million dollars each week to an individual who may or may not have deserved it.

Should a real modern-day benefactor appear looking for worthy recipients, I will humbly accept the gift.

Regrettably it is not likely to happen.

But I can dream. We all can dream. And disregard scam emails. Fake news too.

An interesting study would be to discover whether or not a correlation exists between responders of scam emails and fake news fans. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bad Karma?

Do I possess bad karma?

I am not sure exactly what that means, but the thought occurred to me recently.

Three girlfriends and I rendezvous once a year in Manhattan – the Big Apple. We spend the day pigging out savoring a leisurely, wine-stimulated lunch, and then catch a Broadway show.

I buy the theater tickets because I am the most computer-literate of the group, a sad state of affairs. Definitely nothing to brag about!

We agreed on Curvy Widow, a musical comedy; the true story of the dating adventures of a 60-something.

Already laughing? We could not wait to witness the hilarity.

I purchased the tickets, emailed success to my three friends, and circled the date on my calendar. Not literally – I don’t think dates can be circled on an online calendar. If it can be done, I don’t know how to do it.

Moving on…a couple of weeks later I received an email from Ticketmaster.

Curvy Widow was closing before our scheduled November show date. Our money would be refunded in full, so cash was available for more tickets.

Second show choice: War Paint, a musical based on the rivalry between cosmetic queens Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein. Interesting, light, fun. Our kind of show! Bought tickets, once again emailed success to friends, and looked forward to a great day in the city.

A couple of days later another email from Ticketmaster found its way into my inbox.

War Paint was closing early because one of its stars, Patti LuPone, required hip replacement surgery.

Two shows down.

Once again I needed to buy tickets. Our Big Apple day drawing near, new tickets for another show became an urgent to-do. The closer to our get-together date, the fewer choices would be available.

Third choice: Waitress, another musical, about a waitress, her ne’er-do-well husband, an unexpected pregnancy, an affair…should be fun!

I got the tickets, emailed the other three of my success, and for a third time await the big day. I told my friends if for any reason Waitress closes – even for the one day we are supposed to see the show – my job as ticket-purchaser is over. I will officially retire as procurer.

So do I boast bad karma?

Will my bad karma rub off on others? If I have bad karma now, is it temporary? Can – or will – my bad karma turn into good karma sometime in the future?

Is it me? Do I possess unseen, unknown, unbounded powers that signal across the Internet something problematic should happen? Is the fact that TWO shows I wanted to see and bought tickets for closed? Is it MY fault the shows are closing?

Will I be blacklisted? I may not be allowed to buy theater tickets ever again!

Is it coincidence – I buy tickets, the show closes unexpectedly?

Once? Possibly.

But twice? 

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