Thursday, March 23, 2017

An Honoree, a Reunion, and Vegas, baby

Young wives and mothers (emphasis on young!), Kathe and I connected over 40 years ago. Over the decades we shared the highs and lows of life - jobs, school, holidays, graduations and weddings, divorce and remarriage, grandchildren, funerals.

Kathe's boys went off to college and soon after she left town, following her soul mate across the country. Settling in the sprawling desert metropolis of Las Vegas, she obtained a position in her chosen field and lifelong passion, education.

That was over 20 years ago.

Twenty years - historically a generation, Biblically and as recent as the Gettysburg Address a score - seems like a long time when reminiscing about a life’s journey. In my life the span stretches back into the last century, but in my mind does not seem so long ago. Time moves and compresses at an increased pace as we age. I am not sure scientists have quantified the phenomenon, but it is worth investigating.

Two old friends growing older each year kept in contact and saw each other occasionally.

The Honoree giving her speech
Kathe retired from a career in education reaching back 50 years, but could not tear herself away from her school and the kids. She continues to volunteer in the library. In recognition of her teaching career and dedication to the school, she was honored at a dinner this past weekend. Hub and I traveled to Vegas for the event.

Our journey turned into a four night, three-day reunion in the surreal land of Vegas, baby. The recognition dinner was the highlight, and that too had a definite Vegas flair. Attendees included owners of strip clubs, tour companies, restaurants, and at least one professional gambler. These people have spouses (serially, not simultaneously as far as I know) or significant others and children. They want the best for their kids, so they started a private school and scoured the region for the best teachers. Kathe was the first professional educator hired.

Activities the days before and after the dinner included a tour of the Mob Museum...
The Mob Museum, all about an organization
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover said
did not exist, "There is no Mafia."

...a visit to Fremont Street, a.k.a. Downtown Vegas,
Chihuly ceiling in the Hotel Bellagio, Las Vegas
a stroll along the Vegas Strip, and much time catching up. And eating. Drinking too...
Ceiling of the Aria hotel

Starbucks in the very upscale Crystals at CityCenter mall (Gucci, Prada, YSL, Cartier -
 lots of designer stores I never heard of.)

Stairs leading to the Starbucks, the only store we could afford. 
Hub and I leave Vegas anxious for home, but glad we made the pilgrimage west. Kathe and I are planning another get-together. Unsure of the date, it will definitely occur in less than twenty years. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Disjointed Deja Vu Lament

So here I am again. In the back of a Spirit Airbus.

I am not alone. Hub is on my right and an unknown woman wearing headphones watching a game show on her iPhone lounges to my left. Around me men, women and children, wedged into narrow seats, try to get comfortable for the five hour flight.

Yes, hub and I are nuts.

Every time we log onto the Spirit website we ask ourselves, "Why are we doing this?" then surf other airline and travel sites, eventually returning to the low-budget, intensely uncomfortable but affordable Spirit Air.

I hate Spirit's website. Moving from one screen to the next, encouraged to buy seats and insurance and book a rental car and make hotel reservations and pay for express checkin and check bags and...

I want to check out, but comparing prices it inevitably is the cheapest. Often by a lot.

The woman next to me is now probably sleeping, her head against the hard plastic back of the seat in front of her. I tried that position hoping I might nap, but got nauseous and quickly raised my head.

No food or snacks to break the monotony, unless purchased onboard or carried on by passengers. Not hungry when boarding, hub and I have no drink, no food, no snacks. Not that I am hungry, but eating would be a diversion...

I read the paper, but am too tired to concentrate on a book. I dozed a little, but for far too short a time. Way too much flight time ahead.

We arrive at our destination 11:15 p.m. Pacific time. It will be 2:15 a.m at home. Bleary-eyed and exhausted, we will deplane, make our way to baggage claim and drag our one suitcase and two bodies into a cab, exiting joyfully at our final destination. 

Why one suitcase for two people? Because Spirit charges per bag. One large piece is the same price as a small one (within size and weight limits). Instead of checking two small bags we lug one large one. In one place for three days, once ensconced in our quarters we will not have to drag our bag anywhere except back to the airport and home three days hence.

What kind of word is hence? I don't think I ever used it before. I must be getting lightheaded, punchy, but hopefully not sick.

Hub just ordered a bottle of water. Maybe I am getting dehydrated, a possibility when flying high.  Literally, not figuratively.

Three dollars. That is what Spirit charges for the water. 

We are usually good about bringing drinks, water specifically, aboard a plane. For some reason we forgot this time.

I cannot wait to throw off jeans, sweater, socks and sandals and plunge into a large, clean, soft bed. Sleep. My body yearns for a dark space, a quiet environment, comfy sheets and a blanket. A place to rest my weary, headache-prone head, sore butt, achey back, and cramped legs. 

I tried packing light for this short trip. As often as I travel, I never seem to get the packing thing right. Too many clothes. Not enough outfits. Not the right ones - no warm clothes during a cold spell, no lightweight apparel during a record-breaking heat wave, no rain gear and it storms...Shoes take up space, are usually heavy and how many pair do I truly need? It was cold when leaving home. Definitely needed socks, but closed-toed shoes would not be worn for the next three days, sandals the shoe of choice for the weekend. I donned socks and sandals, not usually a duo on my feet, but a way to forego packing an additional pair of footwear.

So much for my Spirit saga of woe. I am grateful hub and I can travel to special events, the reason for this weekend's trip far from home, but during the actual uncomfortable hours of flight I get edgy and short-tempered, and my body slowly rejects me. The message is getting through - sore muscles in my legs need massaging. I need to reposition my butt, but the seat does not allow for much maneuvering. I should probably get up and stretch, but the seat belt sign is on. 

We experienced a bit of turbulence. Minor, but an announcement cautioned everyone to remain seated and belted. I would worry, but am too tired. My brain is numb.

Hub and I are wracking up Spirit Air points, but quite frankly, who cares?  Attempting to use them results in another frustrating Spirit story...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Wear and When of Pajamas

Is it OK to wear pajamas all day if not sick?

I realize this is not a major issue of the day. It does not compare to computer hackers stealing state and corporate secrets or whether or not the GOP’s health care plan should be called Trumpcare or Ryancare. Personally Idon’tcare. It does not even rise to the level of 24/7 TV coverage of the latest weather emergency – possibly a blizzard of epic proportions, a record breaker, or maybe not…

But the matter of whether or not I can remain pajama-clad during the day is on my mind. Of course if ill I can curl up in bed or on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket sipping tea, watching old movies all day. And night.

But what if there is no physical excuse for hanging out in pajamas the entire day?

The subject is on my mind because yesterday was an indoor day. News reports warned days before of an impending disaster. I mean storm. It turned out NOT to be an onslaught of epic proportions, but it did rain the entire day. Minor flooding occurred, blocking roadways around the neighborhood. The wind howled. TV and text messages advised everyone to stay indoors and ‘shelter in place’.

So hub and I did.

Armed with newspapers and books, laptops and phones, we settled in for a quiet day at home.

The question of proper attire for a home-based day arose. Neither one of us was sick, but we lounged around in PJs for hours. Warm PJs. Flannels. It was cold outside…

Finally I changed into loungewear – sweatpants and sweatshirt, my favorite outfit of choice, and I believe most telecommuters’ outfit of choice. I never saw a poll on the subject, but I would bet it beats any other at-home get-up. Some telecommuters may work in their underwear, or pajamas, or birthday suit, but probably would not admit it to a pollster. Or me. Or anyone else.

Another question to ponder. What time in the afternoon or evening can I toss my sweats and change into pajamas? Whenever I don pajamas, does that mean it is officially evening, no matter what time it is?

Does it have to be dark outside before I can put my pajamas on?

Is it decadent to stay pajama-clad all day? It is definitely comfortable. Would I be embarrassed if someone – the mail carrier, UPS guy, a neighbor – knocked on my door in the middle of the day? Would the intruder think I was sick, a lazy bum, or a senile old lady?

Do I care?

And if I don’t care, is that a bad thing? After all, I do not want to become the pajama-clad equivalent of the weird neighborhood cat lady.

“No cats,” neighbors would whisper and point to my house, “but she wears pajamas ALL the time. Day and night. I see her peeking out the window sometimes. And she walks to the mailbox in her PJs. Oh, she might throw on a jacket, but I KNOW she is wearing pajamas. And slippers. Weird, isn’t it?”

I am not thinking about wearing PJs all day every day. Most days I have commitments, so I dress, put on a little makeup and head out the door.

I am not a total recluse. Yet.

But winter weather is very conducive to hibernating. And wearing pajamas a great deal of time.

As spring approaches I will venture outside more. Gardening beckons, and I will not sow the soil in PJs.

I am sure the neighbors will be thrilled to know that. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Boomers Rescue Companies in Financial Straits

The boomer generation buys lots of stuff. We travel, we eat out, we indulge our kids and grandkids, and we spend oodles of money on medical care and health-related products. 

Boomers disperse so much money we inadvertently became saviors of some companies whose business would decline, and maybe fail, without us.

One of these lucky industries is paper manufacturing. The 21st century term International Paper uses to describe their business is ‘fiber innovators’.

As society digitized over the past couple of decades the demand for conventional paper decreased, and continues to decline. E-mails, e-books, e-readers reign today. Sales slid and profits plummeted. Companies needed new products, new consumers, and new ideas.

And we – the boomer generation – came to the rescue! Boomers, along with aging populations around the world, salvaged the slumping fortunes of paper companies.

Healthier than previous generations, boomers still succumb to age-related maladies and require the on-going use of certain products. One particular item is on the upswing.

The product: adult diapers.

And none of them, or very, very, very few, are the cloth kind. Disposables rule.

Not every senior, or a majority of seniors, will require the product. But even a tiny minority using diapers daily adds up to a lot of diapers. Tons of sales every day. Ka-ching, ka-ching…

A few statistics make the point: there were 562 million people 65 or older in the world in 2012. By 2050, the 65+ populations will reach 1.6 billion.

Yup, incontinence – defined as “leaking urine you can’t control” – is a major health issue, and incontinence merchandise a growing market. One-quarter to one-third of adults suffers from some degree of incontinence. The good news is that new products are not as big, bulky, and uncomfortable as older designs.

Capitalizing on the declining health of our generation and the increasing life span of most people around the world, the paper industry, or at least a couple of the big players, discovered aging populations were the key to prosperity for decades to come.

We boomers provide economic windfalls to many businesses and industries, and have done so ever since purchasing our first 45s, make-up, and comic books. We continue to help fuel the economy. Boomers rock! And pee. Often. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Six Weeks a Wanderer

Not alone on my wanderings, hub (sometimes reluctantly) trailed along. We drove south to the Sunshine State, detouring to visit the North Carolina mountain town of Asheville, site of the largest private home in America – Biltmore, a Vanderbilt legacy - and unisex restrooms. On to Florida and friends and family, then hopped on down to Costa Rica, transport a compact, crowded, tightly packed Spirit Air plane.

We spent three weeks in Costa Rica eating, hiking in the jungle, eating, walking beaches, eating, visiting friends and enjoying local cuisine. Returning to the U.S., luckily unencumbered by TSA pat downs or immigration officials, we rendezvoused with family for a captivating visit to the magical kingdom of Disney World (four days + four parks + four parents + four grandkids = two weary grandparents).
We saw lots of princesses in Disney World.
Driving home, exhausted and eager to NOT be on the move, we once again sleep in our own bed.

I am of two minds about travel. I love to see new places, tour famous sites, meet people, sample local cuisine, and stay in one locale long enough to hang out with the locals.

I also like being home.

I guess I did not get enough of the travel bug out of me when younger. Nowadays teens and twenty-somethings haul a knapsack around the world. The kids keep moving for days, weeks, and months with no ill effects. Not me. Or hub. We need our down time, our rest time, our simply hanging out time. Otherwise we end up with a variety of physical ailments, which in their own way are telling us, “Enough!”

Staying several days in a house or apartment, whether an Airbnb rental, house exchange or a place secured by other means, partially makes up for constant on-the-move activity. We can relax in a way impossible in a hotel room. A kitchen allows us to relish leisurely breakfasts, cook dinners, put our feet up and unwind. Do-it-yourself fare saves money and is healthier than copious dine-out meals. No matter how careful we try to be, hidden calories and ingredients, too much salt and sugar play havoc with our weight (I initially wrote waists, but neither of us has one anymore. Ours disappeared years ago), blood pressure and general health.

So now we are home, catching up on mail, bills and shows missed (if you are not already hooked on This is Us, watch it!), washing two suitcases full of dirty laundry, and restocking the refrigerator.

We have a couple of days of R&R before reviving our home life – organization meetings, doctors appointments, yard work (spring has sprung!), house repairs…I think I will start planning our next trip. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Fitness Vacation, Sort of

Use it or lose it, the saying goes. That is exactly what hub and I are doing, experiencing a four day physical fitness walkathon. Anyone can do it, but I warn you - it is NOT cheap. The word I would use is: costly.

We are in a place with a moderate climate this time of year, hovering in the mid-70s during the day. Cool in the morning and again in the evening, but not cold or uncomfortable.

Flat terrain everywhere, walking is easy, relatively speaking. No inclines or steep grades, with few steps. Wide paved walkways accommodate large numbers of people.

Restrooms, restaurants, recreational activities and snack bars line the route.

By mid day the place is packed. Walking in a straight line proves almost impossible. Weaving around folks large and small, numerous strollers and motorized scooters make maneuvering forward tricky. 

Colorful displays line pathways.

People watch as parades pass. We observe the crowd, infants to nonagenarians, men and women babbling in many tongues.

Early morning until nighttime, we keep moving on.

Can you guess where we are?

Disney World.

With the kids.

We sit during rides and shows, but too soon are up and walking again. Fast Pass ensures we do not stand on too many lines for long periods of time, but keep plodding forward. Enter one area, zig zag through a series of roped lines, then eagerly enter another area - only to continue walking through long passageways until finally reaching the ride or theater. 

Standing still for long periods of time is worse than walking, and we do some of that too. Waiting, walking, waiting, walking.

But we are having fun. Disney World is a magical place. Exhausted at the end of each day, we massage sore feet and quickly fall asleep before beginning the scenario again the next day. Four times, four parks, ten people on the go.

Once our Disney adventure ends, hub and I drive home. I am looking forward to sitting in the car, resting my weary body, horsepower providing the action.