Wednesday, September 26, 2018

My Muddled Memory

I walked into my bedroom, paused and went into the bathroom. Completing my business I returned to the kitchen. Then I realized the reason I went into the bedroom – the humming of the dryer reminded me about the laundry. I went to fetch another load for the washing machine.

I crawl into bed and then remember – I was supposed to call a friend about an event the next day, assuring her I would pick her up. I forgot to call her. Would I remember to pick her up? Is she worried I forgot?

I receive a voice mail while at exercise class. After class I listen to it, drive home…and forget to return the call. 

These are not uncommon occurrences as one moves into seniorhood.

The news media this week obsessed over conflicting stories about events that occurred 35 years ago. I honestly do not know if I would remember a party attended 35 years ago. More than 35 years ago, in high school and college, I went to parties, but specific ones do not stick out in my mind. They would if a bad thing – like an assault – happened to me or a friend, but most occasions did not make a lasting impression. The events may lodge somewhere in my memory lobes, but the particulars would have to be prodded and pushed out. I understand how people not involved in an incident would not remember an individual who may – or may not – have been there, if they remember the occasion at all.

I do not have a keen memory. My mother-in-law was amazing – names, dates, specific events could be recalled in a nanosecond. For me, events do not immediately come to mind. If someone prompts my memory with their recollections I may recall the episode. But often my mind draws a blank. My rmemories are a creamy toast-colored soup – mushy, mixed up, opaque. 

Over time if we do not forget events completely our mind alters them, especially situations that made us unhappy, embarrassed, caused pain. It is a coping mechanism our brain uses to keep sane and moving forward. We want to learn from our mistakes, but not dwell on them.

Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory. 
-      Albert Schweitzer
I am especially poor at summoning names, always was. Living in one town for over 30 years the issue did not cause many problems. Seeing the same people over and over, I would eventually remember names. Then I moved to a new locale and view innumerable new faces. I am introduced to an individual, and meeting again, cannot immediately recall the person’s name. Sometimes minutes or hours later the name jumps into my mind, but too late.

I am glad I never had to appear before a panel and be questioned about a specific occasion, whether long ago or recently. My fuzzy flashbacks would probably be misinterpreted as purposeful vagueness, the panel wondering, What is she hiding? What doesn’t she want us to know? She must be guilty of something...

The only thing I would be guilty of is a lousy and possibly erroneous memory. My response to the interrogation might proceed something like this:

Where was the party? Are you sure? Wait…was that the Valentine’s Day or Christmas bash…I don’t think I was around for the Christmas party. Is that the year my family went away?...You say I was wearing a yellow dress. I doubt it was me. I don’t look good in yellow. Never did. Don’t think I ever owned a yellow dress. I would probably wear pants, not a dress…Who said I was there? Doubt it again. He was one of the in-crowd. I never was. I wouldn’t have been at the same party as the cool kids, the jocks and cheerleaders, in high school. Definitely have the wrong person…

I've a grand memory for forgetting.
Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, September 22, 2018


My family has been Sesame Street fans since my boys tuned in years ago. They grew up with Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Mr. Hooper, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Bert, Ernie, Count von Count and countless others, humans and Muppets. One of our favorite holiday traditions was watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. Big Bird tries to figure out how Santa gets down the chimney.

I am oftentimes amused, flabbergasted, annoyed and sometimes perplexed by today’s news. This past week’s controversy – besides the Kavanaugh drama – was about the Muppets Bert and Ernie. The debate raging across the continent: are Bert and Ernie a gay couple?

Sesame Street says no. The company published the following tweet this week – then retracted it:
Bert and Ernie premiered with the original Sesame Street show in 1969. The two Muppets were apparently modeled after Neil Simon’s Odd Couple, a male duo thrown together by circumstances – divorce.

Over the decades the gay community ‘adopted’ Bert and Ernie. Opposition to the couple’s portrayal started in the 1980s. 

Are they, or aren’t they? My question: Why does it matter?And what does it say about a variety of interactions witnessed all around us every day….

What happens when two people of the same sex are seen together. Do some people automatically think they are gay? What if they are not holding hands? What if they are? What if they are walking down the street eating ice cream and taste each other’s concoctions? Does that make them gay or just unsanitary?

I traveled with three girlfriends and we shared rooms, two per room. I traveled with my sister and we shared a room. I stayed with a friend for a week in her vacation villa. If anyone saw us leave the hotel room or villa together would they assume we were a gay couple? Would onlookers consider us an item? Has this happened and I was unaware of the stares and whispers?

I occasionally walk arm in arm with another woman when my companion needs assistance. Do spectators assume we are doddering old gay love-birds?

When friends have lunch together, do folks at adjacent tables discuss whether or not the couple is gay? If it is me and a friend, when we lean in to listen to each other because we both have hearing issues does that confirm the hypothesis?

When three people walk together, huddling against the cold or in deep conversation or seemingly enjoying each other’s company – three women, three men, two women and a man, one woman and two men, one, two, or all three gender ambiguous – are they considered a wild erotic threesome?...

My mind wanders. Back to Bert and Ernie. I hope both experience a long, happy life, however they choose to live. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

What Goes Around Comes Around…Eventually

The 20th century will go down in history as a breakthrough era in industrial progress. One  technological innovation changed American eating behaviors and vaulted women into a new era. For the first time in history most women - the exception upper class ones - no longer had to spend a large part of their day preparing meals. 

Clarence Birdseye perfected a process to flash-freeze food.

Following World War II advancements in food technology proceeded rapidly, and the 1950s witnessed the introduction of frozen food dinners. I remember a shelf in my family’s freezer, a large white appliance parked in our basement, stacked with boxes of frozen dinners. Leftovers (and ice cream) outnumbered the boxes of brand name processed foods, but the meals found an honored place in the freezer and in our lives.
But the popularity of frozen foods, and especially pre-made items, waned by the end of the century for a number of reasons. The competition with fresh prepared unfrozen foods offered by almost every supermarket, deli and boutique food market in the Northern Hemisphere, the rise in fast-food restaurants, increased affluence allowing people to dine out often, the realization that much of commercially prepared foods are laden with unfamiliar, unpronounceable ingredients – all led to a downward slide in the sale of frozen dinners. 

Until recently.

Leave it to mega-corporations to resurrect a slowly dying product.

The sale of frozen prepared foods is once again on the rise. Concerned with decreasing sales yet unwilling to abandon a lucrative market, companies rose to the challenge and developed products appealing to today’s consumers.

Kraft Heinz, for instance, updated and upgraded their Weight Watchers SmartMade brand that now features, “real ingredients you can pronounce.”

Three years ago the Nestle corporation, famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) for chocolates and baby food, opened a $50 million research and development facility in Ohio targeting frozen food innovation.

A huge market exists for good tasting, fairly healthy frozen foods. Young people on their own don’t want to spend time and energy preparing meals…the same with old folks…workers and families on tight schedules appreciate the option of popping a recyclable bag or box in the microwave and eating a few minutes later.

I have not purchased a processed, pre-made, ready to heat and eat frozen meal in years. Usually I bypass the frozen food section when shopping, unless I need ice cream (I know no one needs ice cream but there are times I need my fix). My freezer – the smallish top section of my refrigerator – is stocked with leftovers and ice cream, the only frozen food considered an integral part of my food intake (I would say diet, but there is nothing diet-like about ice cream).

I conclude with the following cartoon, 
one example how frozen foods changed women's lives:

If it weren't for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, 
we'd still be eating frozen radio dinners. 
- Johnny Carson

Thursday, September 6, 2018

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Countdown to the Presidential Election

 Installment #6

789 Days (as of 9/6/2018) until the November 3, 2020 Presidential Election

A question that sometimes drives me hazy: 
am I or are the others crazy? 
-      Albert Einstein

We live in a topsy-turvy world, an upside-down place in a state of confusion. The whole world may not be experiencing this phenomenon, but most people over the age of 10 (possibly younger) living in the United States are in the midst of this madness.

I have no idea what scholars will label the current Administration, but I dub it the era of preposterous Presidential pretentiousness. I can guess how historians will judge the DJT Presidency and where DJT will rate compared to all Presidents, but realize no one cares about my opinion!

Looking ahead almost 800 days, Republicans and the rest of the country wonder whether DJT will last long enough in office to run for a second term. Personally (again, my worthless opinion) I hope enough of the opposition is elected to the House and Senate in the 2018 midterm elections to stymie the worst measures DJT and the Republicans hope to pass – such as cuts to Medicare and Social Security, the complete eradication of Obamacare, and the obliteration of Obama’s name from any and all documentation indicating he was ever President (OK, this might be a bit of a stretch, but a dream of DJT’s I am sure). 

I want DJT to simply go away, walk off center stage, his tweets no longer daily fodder for the media, his speeches and rallies no longer broadcast anywhere. I hope he fades away after January 2021, returning to his mansion in the sky (a.k.a. Trump Tower). 

I predict the Republican standard bearer will be DJT, assuming he does not leave office beforehand. If DJT does not serve a full four-year term, Vice President Pence will replace him in the Oval Office, and in the 2020 campaign. 

As for the Democrats, what fresh face will appear in 2020? There are the timeworn stalwarts - Joe Biden, in great shape (did you see him jog during the Pittsburgh Labor Day parade!?), but he will be 78 in 2020…Bernie Sanders will be one year less than four score…Elizabeth Warren will be 71, but hardly considered a fresh face.

Sometimes an individual not staring at the public every other day via the news emerges as a viable candidate. Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey is making a name for himself during the Kavanaugh hearings, but I doubt most Americans of any political persuasion are paying attention. Diane Feinstein of California, 87 years young, is also making herself heard. Not a viable nominee because of her age (yes, I guess I can be accused of age discrimination), she is a formidable role model (whatever your political leanings) for everyone decades younger.

Is there a governor living and working outside the Washington Beltway that captures people’s imagination? How about a young Senator that emerges from obscurity? Or a businessman or woman? Or (following DJT’s lead) a celebrity? But not a vacuous one…How about Oprah?

Or how about actors who have portrayed Presidents? They would have more experience than the current President had before assuming office. I have no idea about these individuals’ political persuasion, but they made formidable Presidents on screen...

Daniel Day Lewis, who portrayed Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln. The country could use a President with the stature and wisdom of Lincoln.

William Pullman, the fictional President in Independence Day

Bruce Greenwood, who played President Kennedy in Thirteen Days, about the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Jamie Foxx, the fictional President in White House Down, about a terrorist assault on the White House.

I am sure readers have additional ideas. We can speculate…dream…prognosticate about what individual will stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 20, 2121, and take the oath of office.

Of course we know that (unless it is DJT) the crowds will NEVER exceed those witnessed at the 2017 inauguration.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

September Inspires End-of-Summer Activities and Transitions

It is hard to believe we now speak of summer – not the official astronomical season but our human timetable – in the past tense. It is no longer daylight after dinner, and an evening crispness in the air hints of weather changes to come. The TV blasts previews of fall shows. The school bus impedes my drive to the gym. Farmer’s markets transition from mounds of fresh corn and tomatoes to corn stalks, squash and pumpkins. 

September rolls around and the three-day Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer
Final days of summer at the beach
fun for many. But not everyone must cram their last days of summer fun into the holiday weekend, stalled in traffic, waiting for a table at a favorite restaurant, surrounded by boisterous crowds at the beach. 

When we're retired, we don't have to travel over the holiday weekend. We can take advantage of a beautiful day and take a trip during the week -- and beat the traffic as well. So join Tom Sightings for A Day at the Beach to enjoy a mini-vacation featuring sun, surf and sand.

September is a great time to buy a car

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, offers advice on how to buy a used car. Suggestions include do research, make a budget, ask about the history of the car, get an inspection, and get any oral commitments in writing. Although she wrote the article for Labor Day shoppers, the recommendations will also help you throughout the year. 

September is self-improvement month

Jennifer of Unfold And Begin felt that having a list of small things that could be done each day would inspire you, so she created a printable calendar of items in A Quick Guide For Self-Improvement in September. 

And because we all need to laugh, here is a throwback post about fashion rules that she grew up with - Don't Wear White After Labor Day.

September celebrates Women’s Health Week 

A healthy and happy lifestyle doesn't stop with being active physically. To be totally fit, fabulous, healthy and happy you need to also include mental health and spiritual health. As part of Healthy Women's Week, Sue Loncaric from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond wants to focus on YOU and share a month's worth of ways to keep fit, active and happy in a holistic way.  Remember the message for Healthy Women's Week is #myhealthfirst.  Read 31 Ways to Focus on You for a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Rebecca Olkowski with gets into using objects of nature to enhance meditation particularly stones and crystals. Some are said to have life-changing properties. True or not, they’re beautiful to look at. Read how to use them to set your intentions.

And a Boomer Remembers a Best Friend

One of the most beautiful bonds in life is that between close friends. Carol Cassara at A Healing Spirit shares an essay she wrote about her late best friend's battle with cancer and how, armed with wooden spoon and a stock pot, she tried her best to keep the disease at bay. The essay will resonate with anyone who has supported a sick loved one. It appeared in an anthology in 2016.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Veering Off the Beaten Path

Nestled along the Hudson River a series of picturesque towns, grand homes and mansions stretch the length of the waterway from New York City to Albany. Ever since Henry Hudson sailed the river in 1609 – and probably for eons earlier - the river has been a transportation network as well as a recreational paradise. Hudson encountered native Americans, some not so friendly, and abundant wildlife. 

Over a century after Hudson’s voyage well-to-do New York city folk began building summer homes and establishing great estates in the sparsely inhabited region. Several restored residences are open to the public today

Artists reveled in the river and surrounding terrain – the Catskill mountains, unspoiled forests, modest farms and villages. The Hudson River School of Art flourished in the mid-1800s – Frederic Church and Thomas Cole among the most famous. The artists won renown for their work and established the first home-grown American art movement.

In the mid-1800s James Roosevelt, a prosperous New York merchant, purchased a large home for his family in Hyde Park, on the east side of the Hudson River about 90 miles north of New York City. He and his second wife Sara Delano raised their son in this aristocratic country setting. Franklin Delano Roosevelt grew up to be the 32nd President of the United States, the only four-term elected President, and guided the country through the Great Depression and World War II.
Sculpture of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt at their Hyde Park estate.
Hub and I travel along highways from New Jersey to Vermont regularly, visiting family. We often say – why don’t we stop and see Roosevelt’s Hyde Park…or the Vanderbilt Mansion…or make reservations for an amazing meal at the Culinary Institute…or walk along the Walkway over the Hudson? But we keep driving…

Until this week. Returning from a two-week babysitting stint, we were in the mood for a change of pace, a transition from concentrated toddler time.

In 90-degree heat we ventured onto the Walkway, a rebuilt railroad bridge, and peered at the boats cruising the river. The view is not quite as pristine as that viewed by Henry Hudson and the Hudson School of Art painters, but glorious nevertheless. Rolling Catskill mountains and dense forests – a portion a legacy of Roosevelt’s conservation endeavors – contrast with the buildings and on-going construction of the city of Poughkeepsie. 
The Walkway Over the Hudson, almost deserted on a hot August afternoon.
Unfortunately the past haunts the river. Pollution from a number of sources – most notably PCBs discharged into the river by General Electric – caused pollution issues not totally fixed. GE halted the discharges in 1977 and river clean-up is on-going, but concentrations of the chemical impact the survival of fish, birds and mammals inhabiting the river today. 

The following day we arrived at Roosevelt’s home at 9:00 a.m., eager to tour the house and avoid crowds. The residence offers a peek into FDR’s remarkable life. The home remains decorated and furnished exactly as it was on April 12, 1945, the day of FDR’s death.  

FDR did not die at home – he was in Warm Springs, Ga., but is buried on his beloved estate. 

We toured the house and strolled through the museum. Three hours later, hungry and tending sore feet, we headed home, vowing to veer off the beaten path another time to visit additional Hudson Valley sites.
The flag on the Walkway over the Hudson at half staff in honor of John McCain.