Thursday, December 27, 2018

Cross Off Another Year

I don't care what science says, without a doubt time passes faster than when I was a younger soul. Recently I wore winter gear and complained about the cold. That was January. 2018. Almost one year ago.

On the other hand when asked what I did two days ago I blank out and must think about it. I remember, but not immediately.

I feel as if my life is like an accordion. I am being squeezed tighter each year. When younger the accordion spread far out, each year lasting seemingly forever, the notes long and steady. Now notes are short, sharp, staccato and increasingly close together.

I stopped by my doctor’s office for my semi-annual check-up last week. The numbers were all good, although my cholesterol could ease down a few notches. Doc asked how my back was doing. 

“When I do yoga stretches regularly, my back feels fine. Miss a couple of days and I notice it. My back warns me.”

“Yoga? That’s pretty strenuous…”

“I do gentle yoga. That’s what my gym calls it.”

He nods his head. “Senior yoga…If it’s working that’s great.”

My eye doctor said I don’t need cataract surgery…yet. 

I told my hairdresser I want my hair to turn silver gray (with help from her). She nods in agreement. It wasn’t long ago she responded, “you’re not that gray yet…wait…”

I am reminded of my granddaughter’s remark that I wear old lady clothes. Well, yes, but not as old-ladyish as my grandmother wore - loose fitting house dresses (do they even make them anymore?) and heavy, thick-soled black shoes.  

I attended a buffet dinner featuring entertainment by a comedian who lives half the year in Florida, the other part of the year north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Most of his act was less than riveting, but the audience responded favorably to a reading of the minutes of a retirement community in Florida. Fabricated of course, funny, but at times too true. Examples: the Board decided not to show any more silent films on movie night. After Tuesday night’s movie several members of the audience went to the doctor because they thought they needed hearing aids…Because of the increasingly high cost of food and entertainment on holidays, we will celebrate events at a different time. Our community’s New Year’s Eve celebration will be on December 2…the community Thanksgiving dinner on October 3…and Fourth of July fireworks on April 22. At noon so all can enjoy…

My mind wanders. Another symptom of the passing years. One more year gone, a new year to look forward to. 

May the new year be one of good health, contentment, happiness and peace. 

May you indulge in enjoyable activities and reach out to family and friends. 

And on a political note (I can’t resist) the madness leading up to the 2020 election has already begun. 

May we survive.

Happy New Year 2019

Thursday, December 20, 2018

My 2018 Holiday Letter

The year began with a New Year’s Eve concert by our local symphony orchestra. It was a bitter cold night, the roads and parking lot iced over, but we managed to maneuver to the concert venue and home again unscathed. Later in the month hub and I spent a couple of days in Manhattan. January is the cheapest time of the year to take advantage of the Big Apple. It is cold, people are recovering from the holidays, paying bills, and in serious couch potato mode. For those brave enough to face the elements, hotels are very reasonable, theater tickets available, and anything else you want to do is most likely not crowded.

February’s highlight was a road trip to somewhat warmer climes to thaw out a bit, driving as far south as northern Florida. After a couple of weeks of southern cooking implanted on my body, we returned home. I resumed exercise classes in the desperate hope of shedding those southern fried pounds. I huffed and puffed in zumba, rode a stationary bike at the gym, flexed stubbornly inflexible muscles in yoga, and took up a new workout pursuit – tap dancing. Yes, had fun. No, the pounds did not melt away. I think returning north the fat froze in place.

I endured the cold winds and rains of March, but before basking under April’s warm rays, a trip north to Vermont provided a last whiff of winter. 

Unlike normal people (and birds and other animals) who migrate south for the winter, hub and I ventured to south Florida in the month of May for family events, experiencing sizzling sidewalks, a scorching sun and oppressive heat. Indoors, however, remained refreshingly cool as long as activity was kept to a minimum. By activity I mean any kind of movement. Walking upstairs could result in a good sweat. People living the semi-tropical life claim the body adjusts, but my bod urged me onto a Spirit flight north.  

I spent one day a week during the cheery months of May and June performing my civic duty serving on a grand jury. No rain or sleet or minor flooding kept me from the county courthouse. A string of town and county police officers took the stand and answered questions concerning cases involving theft, prostitution, domestic issues, gambling (after all, a dozen casinos are located in Atlantic City). Hopefully I will not have to report to the IRS or the state of New Jersey my ascent into affluence because of the pay earned – $5 per day. 

As my birthday approached in June, illness settled in. Each year I am host to a different health issue, but mysteriously the phenomenon occurs around the same time each year. My annual inner body experience.

As the days lengthened and warmed, friends and family descended on our humble abode. The beach beckons in summer. Meanwhile hub and I spent half of July exploring, with our oldest grandchild, the wilds of Alaska and the Yukon. Returning east, we spent two weeks babysitting our youngest grandchild while the rest of the family vacationed. Overseas. Without us.

And suddenly summer’s over, crowds disperse from our island and hub and I are alone once again. Fall ushers in a new routine. Another trip to Florida (before the hot weather ends; why would we head south any other time?), the garden begs for TLC and the house also pleads for my time and attention. After eight years in the place, it overflows with stuff. New stuff, old stuff, unwanted stuff, treasured stuff. Too much stuff.

As the year winds down, I watch old movies (surrounded by stuff) and think about de-cluttering. TCM is running a series of oldies (mostly 1930s and 40s) with a holiday theme; not all well-known films but many with famous performers. I am hoarding energy for my next trip, which begins before the New Year.  

So here I am as 2019 approaches, older, grayer (cannot be denied), a couple pounds heavier (darn southern food), probably shorter (afraid to find out), doubtless poorer (check out those stock market numbers), but moving ahead!

As for New Year’s resolutions, I gave up years ago.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Marking Senior Milestones

Most kids can’t wait for their birthday – parties, birthday cake, presents, what could be better!? As we move into adulthood each year seems less important, often less recognized. Milestone birthdays may be acknowledged and celebrated with a party, a trip, an adventure long desired. Then suddenly we find ourselves in that period of our lives where every year seems significant again. 

Different cultures throughout history have a variety of ways of venerating, caring for, and sometimes ignoring senior members of their community. China, Japan and Korea respect their elders and treated them with reverence since ancient times. Some cultures attribute special powers to seniors. The Huaorani of Ecuador believe elderly shamans have magical powers. 

In ancient Egypt sons were expected to care for family tombs. Reaching 110 was considered the reward for living a balanced and virtuous life. I have no documented evidence to back up my assertion, but would guess very, very few (if any) men or women attained that honored age. Life expectancy was about 40 years of age and less for women, most of whom succumbed in childbirth.

And what is ‘old’? In New Guinea, 50 is the magic age. The United Nations classify the elderly as 60 and older. In the U.S. a senior citizen is defined as 65+. 

Today many of us enjoy reaching senior milestones and celebrate the accomplishment. There are others, however, who wish to ignore the reminder that they are getting old. I consider them fuddy-duddies. Note to stick-in-the-mud geezers: Enjoy yourself!

A couple of months ago my sons indicated they wanted to throw a party for hub’s 70th 
birthday. A surprise party. I agreed and undertook the planning. After all, they would come – not an easy feat, one family flying to Philadelphia from Vermont and the other from Florida.

The event proceeded without a hitch. Family and friends converged on an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia. Completing arrangements over the phone, it was a question whether the occasion would succeed – the venue, the food, the surprise. Happily, the birthday boy was shocked to see friends and long-distance family converge for the event. The food was excellent and plentiful, the staff attentive. Folks enjoyed socializing in a lively atmosphere. The grandkids had a great time annoying the bar staff with requests for ‘concoctions’ – non-alcoholic drinks of their own invention.

As we age it seems more and more of our friends have health issues, minor and major, and these problems become a drain on our time and energy – doctor’s visits, procedures, rehab, recovery, medications. It is especially nice, therefore, to get together for happy occasions.

But sometimes gatherings are more somber. Hub and I attended a graveside funeral two days after hub’s party for a 98-year-old woman, alert almost to the end. A Holocaust survivor, she arrived in the U.S. at the age of 19 and built a new life, working in the garment district in Manhattan (one of her dresses intended for Marilyn Monroe), getting married, raising two children, involved in volunteer activities. Although a sad event, it was an occasion to reminisce and honor a courageous, strong woman.

The following day we visited our niece, an exhausted Mom, and her 10-day-old baby boy. 

Life’s milestones celebrated, honored, remembered.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Welcoming Light into the Darkness

How did it get so late so soon? 
Its night before its afternoon. 
December is here before its June. 
My goodness how the time has flewn. 
How did it get so late so soon?
-      Dr. Seuss

For eons throughout history, the onset of winter – and specifically the month of December – demoralized otherwise contented folks. To inject some comfort into the short days and long, black nights, people created ways to bring light into the darkness.

Physical light is one way to banish the darkness. Long before electric lights, candles and lamps heartened homes. Nowadays holiday lights illuminate our lives throughout the month. 

Activities can also brighten our lives. Our ancestors devised celebrations to inject cheer into otherwise morose days. Holiday preparations - cooking and baking, shopping, decorating, family and friend get-togethers - allow us to pass the time in (what are hopefully) positive pursuits. Rather than feeling depressed, wasting time spending time in couch potato mode, activity helps dispel winter bleakness. 

We have an advantage over our ancestors who somehow managed to get through the dark time year after year, for thousands of years, without the conveniences we luxuriate in today. They read books by candlelight, sewed and needlepointed, talked to each other (now there’s an old-fashioned activity!). We can waste time indulge for endless hours in electronic gadgets galore. 

All is not dreary once the holiday month morphs into the new year. Drape yourself in a blanket, settle in with a mug of hot tea or coffee or perhaps something stronger, open the first of a pile of books sitting on your shelf yearning to be read, and before you know it spring will be (almost) here.

Or binge watch one of the numerous series friends rave about, but you haven’t got around to viewing.

Or pack a bag and take an extended trip to a warm locale offering hours of daylight.

Or succumb to the TV and that hot mug of something. Which brings us to one of the banes of modern society – 24/7 news. Viewing can be addictive. There should be a warning when tuning in: Caution:“Watching 24/7 news channels may be hazardous to your health. Specifically your mental health.”The onset of winter blues may compel us to wallow in this mindless activity. If you catch yourself watching, immediately cease and resist – if you can.

So grab that hot mug of something along with your favorite comfort food, wrap yourself in a warm hoodie-footie, and allow winter to lull you into semi-hibernation.

There will be plenty of time to work off those extra pounds next spring.
The first snow of the season.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Best of Boomers Prepare for the Holidays, Take a Holiday, and a Walk Down Memory Lane

My town officially ushered in the holiday season Saturday evening with a holiday parade and block party. It rained early in the day, but by the 5:00 PM start no rain fell and the temperature was almost balmy. Fire engines, school bands, home-made floats, and enthusiastic spectators created a festive atmosphere. 
How else would Santa arrive in a shore town but in a boat? 
Some of our boomers are involved in their own holiday celebrations and preparations.

Jennifer of Unfold And Begin created a calendar for December. Before you get all caught up in having to do “everything all at once" for Christmas, use this calendar to help enjoy the time more and stress less over it.  Each day has one task to complete.  Some will help you to prepare for the holidays while others will help you to enjoy the holidays.  The hope is that by using this December Holiday Calendar you’ll be able to ease into the holidays and enjoy them more.

The holidays launch a season of giving, including charitable donations. On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about how to research a charity. Robison’s been recommending it for years, but she hasn’t done it herself because she donates to the four same charities every year. Read about the adventure that occurred when she researched a charity her daughter had donated to because she wanted to help families who had been separated at the border.

Sometimes the holidays allow us to take a trip down memory lane. Tom Sightings admits he was kind of naive, growing up in a gentle middle-class suburban neighborhood as he did. He knew that kids could fight. But he never knew that adults got into fights. too. It happened one day at a family get-together, when some resentments boiled over and ended up in The Fist Fight.

One of our boomers is already ‘on holiday’. This past week Carol Cassara has been on Maui at Ram Dass' retreat. Over at A Healing Spirit, she's treated us to a brief discussion of her favorite of his sage quotes. She thinks you know it.

Not all of our boomers have immersed themselves - yet - in the holidays.
It’s no fun dealing with a serious health situation and having to figure out the ins and outs of the healthcare system. Rebecca Olkowski with relates her personal experience as a caregiver for someone who has life-threatening cancer. 
Everyone have a great week. And take a few minutes to visit the boomers and say hi!