Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Downside to Adding Up the Years

I vaguely remember the old folks – my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – sitting around the dining room table, lingering over coffee and pie while discussing their aches and pains, past and future doctor visits, and whispering when news was particularly bad.

Fast forward a few decades and the old folks are my friends and I. The scenario came to mind during a breakfast at a local restaurant.

 Every few weeks my yoga class, composed mostly of retirees, gathers for breakfast. We walk into the restaurant, still stretching and massaging sore muscles, sit around a table, a dozen or more of us, and order coffee and fairly healthy food. I don’t think anyone wants to appear a glutton and, for instance, order potatoes with their omelet–a side of sliced tomatoes will do. Work hard in exercise class; cancel the benefits with a satisfying meal. My routine, but most of my yoga friends have more motivation and willpower than I.

Conversation ensues. “Getting up early, going to the gym, sometimes I just want to turn over and go back to sleep. Not today. Looked forward to breakfast.”

“Me too, once in a while I don’t make it. But the exercise helps ward off the evils of osteoporosis, or so I’m told. Probably just another old wives tale.”

“You know what, if you don’t come every week nothing much happens. On the other hand coming religiously will not make you beautiful.”

“But not coming ever will make me stiff and fatter, I know…”

A handful shun eggs due to high cholesterol concerns. The ordering initiates a discourse on how best to lower cholesterol-foods to eat, foods to avoid, meds to try, meds to avoid…

The conversation over the course of the morning encompasses a variety of topics, from good reads to bad movies, current events and politics, kids and grandkids, holiday plans and recent travels.

Health-related issues dominate dialogue when setting a time for the next breakfast.

On the first date suggested the conversation proceeds generally like this:

“I hate to admit it and it took a long time to come to terms with this, but I have cataract surgery that day, so can we get together another time?”

“Let me see…I can’t make it either. Dentist. Need a cap.”

The next date proposed a couple of folks pipe up:

Outpatient surgery. Nothing major…”

“Follow-up from hip surgery.”

And on the third date, voices heard:

“Big day for me. Never mentioned it before because it definitely means I am OLD, but a few months ago got shingles. Mild case, but have to wait six months to get the vaccine. Marked the momentous day in red on my calendar. But I can go after breakfast. It will be a kind of celebration.”

“Hair appointment. Time to color the gray–again.”

“Since we are on the subject…any of you wear hearing aids? I know I need them but don’t want to spend the money. I’ve heard mixed things about how much they really help.”

“By the way, can anyone suggest special exercises for my arthritis?”

“I just started meds for high blood pressure. Tried keeping it down with diet and exercise, but didn’t work. Doctor said some people can’t fight genes, and aging.”

“OK, we have a date!”

“Wait, I missed that discussion. When is it?”

“Have to put it in my calendar now or I will forget.”

“I’ll remind everyone in class the week before. And the day of.”

“What’s the date? Didn’t hear it…”

“Don’t remember it…”

“Anyone see my phone?”

“See everyone next week…S**t, where did I park the car?”

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Good Government Experience…for a change

Interactions with federal and state agencies and large corporations - paying taxes, Medicare and medical insurance processing and snafus, cable, phone and internet company hassles to name a few - get in the way of living a tranquil, laid-back life.

Dealing with large entities has become synonymous with stress.

But not all the time!

Since hub and I travel a lot, we applied for Global Entry status, a program allowing holders to sidestep immigration lines when entering the country. In the past we experienced exasperatingly long lines following lengthy flights, adding to our exhaustion and frustration. Bypassing lines, inserting our passport into a kiosk and allowed to move on is appealing.

The process seemed intimidating, however, involving interface with the largest and probably most fossilized bureaucracy on earth – the U.S. government.

The online process begins with an application fee, $100 per person. Uncle Sam keeps the dough whether or not approval is received. A risk, but I was optimistic we would be granted Global Entry status.

Hub and I filled out forms and waited. Pre-approval meant progressing to the next step, a personal interview. Most interview site locations are airports, with a handful at government offices scattered throughout the country and abroad.

Pre-approval came via email less than two weeks later. We immediately logged into our accounts to set up an appointment at the Philadelphia airport, closest site to our home.

Viewing the interview schedule proved discouraging. The only slot available for the next two months was 4:00 p.m. the following Saturday afternoon. We went for it.

Hub signed in immediately, and then as I tried to log in a message appeared stating the slot was unavailable.

Now what?

We were not going to forfeit hub’s interview. I called and asked if I could possibly get an interview at around the same time. The agent, not supportive, reluctantly stated I could come in and see what happens. 

No traffic hindered our one-hour drive to the airport. We found our way to the customs office, pressed the intercom button and stated the reason for our visit. The door magically unlocked.

Aside from being very cold, the waiting room was not crowded and individuals were summoned steadily. We arrived early, leaving plenty of time in case we got stuck in traffic or could not easily locate the office, and were ushered in for an interview before the assigned time. Explaining our situation, the immigration officer readily took care of both of us.

Personal information verified, picture snapped, fingerprints taken, and we were done.

An added bonus with Global Entry is TSA pre-check with most airlines.

Courteous, accommodating officials, escorted in to the appointment early, completed in a timely manner, willing to work with both hub and me – government at its best!

There is hope for the future after all.

Global Entry status is good for five years. We trust the program is not cancelled before then. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Reflections on the Position of President of the United States

                  As of April 6, 2017 - 1,306 Days Until the Next Presidential Election

 Since there are only 1,306 days until the 2020 election–three and a half years, a long time or a short interval depending on your views of the current POTUS–it might be time to begin evaluating candidates for that austere position.

But it is too early for me to speculate on Democratic candidates. Hillary and Bernie will be over the hill, in my opinion, although my feeling that Hillary’s baggage would preclude her from running in 2016 obviously was not heeded. Another important but often-overlooked reason neither Bernie nor Hillary would have won is because both are too short. Bernie is somewhere between 5”8” and 5”11” and Hillary is 5’5”. Recent Presidents have been tall: DT is 6’2”, Obama 6’1”, George Bush 5’111/2 ”, Clinton 6’2”, George H.W. Bush 6’2”, Reagan 6’1”, Carter only 5’91/2”, Ford 6’, Nixon 5’111/2”, Johnson 6’3”, Kennedy 6’ – there is definitely a trend here.

The Dems need new, youngish, tall fresh faces. One of my state’s senators (NJ), Cory Booker (6’4”), is making a name for himself, but will the country elect another black man so soon after Obama?

A female dynamo around a long time, California’s Diane Feinstein, is too divisive. I did not know she is, well, quite mature – 83. Cross her name off the 2020 list. On the other hand the junior CA senator, another Democrat, Kamala Harris (5’4” – may be a problem), is only 52. I know nothing about her.

I heard Colorado’s Michael Bennet (height unknown) on TV discuss the Gorsuch hearings, and he impressed. He is only 52 (age here being a relative term; after all, the President must be at least 35 years old). No Coloradan has been President. And he is not bad looking. All good reasons to consider him...but enough about the Democrats. It is reassuring to realize, however, there are potential candidates in the wings. Whether they are good aspirants or schmucks*, research and time will tell.

The current POTUS will be 74 when 2020 rolls around. But more important, First Lady Melania will be 50. Will POTUS stand for a First Lady of such vintage?

If DT decides to opt for trophy wife #4, I am sure his admirers will forgive a divorce. After all, they did not mind that he already suffered through two. As for all those other women sexually harassed by the POTUS, his followers will forgive. Again. And again. And again...We are all familiar with the infamous tape putting the lie to DT’s denials of sexually harassing women. He is an inveterate cheater, invoking the Fifth Amendment 97 times during divorce proceedings from his first wife (Ivana) when questioned about relationships with other women.

But let us not overlook the fact that the POTUS is a magnanimous, forgiving soul and good friend. On Bill O’Reilly’s recent indiscretions, or rather the publicizing of his transgressions, DT said in an interview with The New York Times, "I think he’s a person I know well. He is a good person...I think he shouldn’t have settled. Personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong."

After all, the POTUS is such a romantic. Commenting on his second wedding (to Marla Maples) he said: “I was bored when she was walking down the aisle…I kept thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’”

I would LOVE to hear what DT's two ex-es have to say. Unfortunately their stories are unavailable due to confidentiality clauses in divorce decrees. Speak and ye shall lose your $$. Not that they get oodles of money, due to prenuptial agreements, but a check in the mail occasionally for a million pays the rent. And food bill. And some entertainment. And travel…but I guess only if carefully disbursed.

Ladies, should you need help, in a previous life I was a financial geek. Call me…

DT will be the Republican Presidential candidate in 2020, assuming he is alive, breathing, and not impeached. In his own words from a 1990 Playboy magazine interview:

The show is "Trump" and it has sold out performances everywhere. I've had fun doing it and will continue to have fun, and I think most people enjoy it.

Meanwhile…in small offices and large corporations around the world writers and publishers huddle over laptops, furiously updating children’s books about the Presidents to include #45. I wonder what fairy tales will be spun to make DT’s story G-rated.

* schmuck - a Yiddish word with a common understanding today of someone who is on the stupid side of the intelligence spectrum, perhaps obnoxious, difficult, a jerk. Original, literal meaning of the word is penis.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

110 and Counting!

 You meet a lot of interesting people in an assisted living home. My mother-in-law graced one for over five years. A lot of people think these places sad–old people everywhere.

But there is another side. Initially against the move, most folks end up enjoying life in their new home.


A major reason is social interaction. Sidelined at home because of physical problems, unable to drive, poor weather preventing the weak and unstable from venturing outdoors, seniors become bored and depressed, wallowing in aches, pains and ailments because there is nothing to do but dwell on their problems.

Not confined to what is viewed on a TV screen, a facility is often more cheerful than an isolated apartment or house. Residents become part of a community offering a variety of activities and people to communicate with, trips to local places such as the supermarket, library, and bank, restaurants, shows and tourist attractions. An outing to the beach, a short van ride, and hanging out on the boardwalk is a favorite warm weather destination at my MIL’s place.  

Residents are served three meals a day in a lovely dining room. Medical care is consistent and pro-active. Health issues are taken care of before becoming a catastrophe. I realize all homes are not high quality, but many are.

Why is this topic on my mind?

Helen Turner, a woman I got to know at my MIL’s assisted living facility, marked a special birthday, and the local newspaper highlighted her celebration and her life.

Helen turned 110 on April 1st.

Helen uses a walker and has some eye problems, but her eyesight is good enough to knit every day. And her mind is ‘all there’.

Helen and many others are living a long time nowadays. How many of my friends and family will celebrate 100 years of living?

Should I live a century, I have one-third of my life ahead of me. An overwhelming thought.

As long as I am fairly healthy – mind and body working well enough so I can take care of myself – living another three plus decades is not a bad idea. For instance I will probably never finish the constantly growing list of books I want to read. Or articles I want to write. Or places I want to visit…

Yet it is not just about the quantity of time. Quality counts. Mae West said it best:

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

The topic also brings to mind a TV series about two women of a certain age played by fabulous actresses Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. The show: Grace and Frankie (Netflix). The women play young 70-ish women. In real life Jane Fonda is 79 and Lily Tomlin is 77.

Talk about role models.

On the other hand I am not into face-lifts or cosmetic surgery. I remember Jane Fonda’s exercise tapes – “feel the burn” – but not in a million years and hours of exercise would I ever have a Jane-like figure.

But I admire the spunk and energy these two women project.

I must learn to be satisfied with the me in the mirror.

Helen Turner enjoyed her life – growing up on a farm, a teaching career spanning 37 years, marriage and children, travel. 
Her slogan: Have you hugged anybody today? 
And Helen's recipe for successful aging, “Work through things. Don’t let them bother you.”

Hub and me at 103??