Thursday, March 28, 2019

Signs of Spring

Spring is in the air, on the ground, and inside too. The air feels cold, but the sun shines longer and stronger each day. My neighborhood is coming to life--greenery peeking out everywhere, folks walking their dogs or simply strolling around town, when lingering outside was done only when necessary just a couple of weeks ago.

Here are signs of spring in my town.
Spring has arrived when the local ice cream shop opens.
My first of the season!
Displays of sun tan lotion, outdoor chairs and beach gear 
replace racks of snow shovels, umbrellas, gloves and hats.

Spring color!

Unfortunately spring also brings weeds. Lots of them.
Winter hibernation ends.
Folks wander outside and walk, run, ride bikes, 
and welcome the season.

What is more spring-like than baseball?
To celebrate opening day of the baseball season,
I offer a quote--Berra-ism--from the late great Yogi Berra,
famous for his expressions. One of my favorites:

Baseball is 90% mental and the other half physical.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Dog Gone Where?

Grandsitting our Vermont granddaughters consumed me the past week. Hub was by my side. And I am happy to report both of us survived. When parents returned the kids were safe and healthy and the house remained standing and in relatively decent shape. 

Grandma and Grandpa were packed and ready to return home. 

The week passed with no major mishaps or meltdowns. However one event caused us brief panic. 

It was all about the dog.

On the last day of our grandsitting stint I let Leo out in the morning, as usual. An invisible fence borders the property. Leo runs around the yard, barks greetings at passing dogwalkers and dogs, the mailman, joggers and anyone else in the vicinity. 

The humans in the house (me, hub, and Lila, the 3-year-old) finished breakfast, dressed, and attempted to whip the house into shape. A frustrating task – me putting toys away and Lila retrieving them while at the same time adding others to her play pile. Finally, the task completed as best as it was going to be, we prepared to go out. First stop a bakery where kids get to decorate their own cookie. But before leaving the house Leo needed to be retrieved.

Opening the sliding glass door and calling, “Leo, Leo,” I waited for the dog to bound up the steps and dash into the house. But nothing happened. No barks, no visible sign of the dog. 

I tried calling again. No response. Hub went outside and walked around the house. No dog. He got in the car and began driving through the neighborhood, asking dog walkers, the mailman, anyone on the street if they saw a black dog running loose.

No one saw the dog. No sign of Leo.

Panic time.

How would we tell Leo’s parents we lost him?

“Should we call the kids?” hub inquired. And tell them we lost the dog? Not yet...Hub continued driving around. Luckily no one reported a suspicious out-of-state car cruising the streets. Meanwhile I checked Facebook for community bulletin boards. In our town folks post about lost dogs and cats and often include pictures.

I was ready to call the police when hub called. He was on the way back to the house. After scouring the neighborhood for an hour without finding Leo, he called our son. 

The response?

All was well. No need for alarm. The dog walker texted Leo’s parents that she had picked up Leo for his weekly hike. 

Unfortunately no one had informed us about Leo’s social engagement.

Lila, Grandma and Grandpa missed the cookie decorating session, but made it in time for Yoga at the local library, then stopped by the market for Lila’s treat. She hadn’t forgotten the promise of a cookie. 

We returned to the house to eagerly await the arrival of Mom, Dad, and Leo. Leo returned happy but exhausted from his trek. Weary parents, home after flying a red eye flight cross country, soon followed. 

We didn’t hang around for a family reunion. 

Grandma and Grandpa bade farewell until the next grandsitting adventure beckons.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Boomers March Towards Spring

My corner of the world began to display signs of spring over the past couple of weeks. Green shoots poke through the brown dirt that dominates my front yard. The local ice cream shop opens this week. Folks walking their dog linger and enjoy the fresh air. The afternoon sun feels warm on my pale skin.

But for me winter is not over. Hub and I packed the car this week and drove due north, destination Burlington, Vermont, to grandsit our two granddaughters. Vermont boasts snow on the ground. It snowed last night and remains ski jacket, hat and gloves weather. But boomers are nonetheless thinking spring. 

Tom at Sightings Over Sixty doesn't have much to say this week. But take a look at Can You Bear to Wait for Spring? and you'll see that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Spring heralds a season of new beginnings, and new beginnings can happen at any stage in life. In her latest Starting Over interview, Jennifer of Unfold and Begin chats with Roxanne Jones. Roxanne is taking a hiatus from her popular Boomer Haiku blog in order to focus on what retirement means for women.  Read more in Giving a Voice to Women in Retirement.  You can also find out how you can participate in the research.

We all face the reality of aging in our own way. One of the most remarkable things about aging, Carol Cassara of A Healing Spirit has noticed, is that her thoughts about life and mortality have significantly changed over the years. That's the topic she covers this week over at A Healing Spirit's blog. 
It is difficult nowadays keeping up with the latest trends, in any field. Things change quickly, new ideas pop up, old products become obsolete, new ones are introduced every nanosecond, or so it seems. This week Rebecca Olkowski with reviews some CBD products. Have you jumped on the bandwagon yet and are using them for pain management? They’ve become quite popular these days as alternatives for pain meds.
A problem our nation, and the entire planet, faces is the issue of recycling and reusing all of the stuff we produce. On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about how to reduce your use of plastic. Robison has been working on it seriously for the past year, and it’s a huge challenge. Her best tip is to take plastic bags you’ve saved from buying fruits and vegetables and reuse them when you go to the grocery store to buy more.
It may not seem like spring yet in some parts of the Northern Hemisphere, but the calendar tells us the new season arrives this year on Wednesday, March 20th, at 5:58 P.M. EDT. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Screwing It All Together

I have purchased items online. Sometimes the items are exactly what I want, other times not so much. Occasionally the dissatisfaction is my fault - I do not diligently read the fine print. I did not carefully review the data on my latest order, resulting in squandered time and a great deal of frustration.

The large box arrived on my porch on the day stated in the company’s email, a good omen. Hub and I dragged the box inside and opened it. Honestly, hub opened the box while I stood by eagerly awaiting the unwrapping of our new storage bench.

“Oh shit,” hub stated in an unmistakable tone of annoyance, “It’s in pieces. We have to put it together? Did you know that when you ordered it?” his voice challenging my intelligence and sanity. 

“No, I guess I didn’t read all the information,” I said sheepishly. Hub waved a sheet of paper plucked from the box, “it says it takes only five minutes to assemble.” He shakes his head, “Nothing ever takes just five minutes to put together.” 

We dragged the box into the family room and hub carefully unpacked the pieces. I took possession of the directions. There were two long boards - the top and bottom of the bench, shorter boards to separate the interior into compartments, three partially assembled baskets, and a bag of screws. The only additional item needed, not included in the box, was a screwdriver. 

We set to work.

Two hours later we had our storage bench. Two long, stressful hours later. 120 seemingly endless minutes later. And that does not include time spent unpacking the box and cleaning up afterwards. Styrofoam flakes and packing materials landed on the floor, chairs, our clothes, and assorted nearby items.

I read the directions while hub screwed parts together. We made (only) one mistake. Two panels were screwed on wrong. We realized this when installing the bottom of the bench and the holes did not line up. We unscrewed the misplaced panels and reassembled.

One task remained. Baskets, one for each cubicle, came four sided, the bottom pieces packed separately. We had to secure the bottom panel to each basket with four tiny screws, one in every corner of the basket. 

A frustrating endeavor.

Problem #1 – The holes were so small our senior eyes had difficulty locating them.
Problem #2 – The basket’s woven material obscured holes and proved difficult to move aside.
Problem #3 – We were tired and cranky.

We persevered, completed the job, and placed the bench in its new home next to the front door. Mission accomplished!

Next time I think about ordering online, I will rethink my thoughts. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

To TV Purgatory and Back

In the good old days you went to a store – a department store, an appliance store, general or hardware store - and chose a TV from models displayed. Unlike the myriad choices today, the number featured was finite. You selected a TV, paid for it, took it home, placed it on a table or piece of furniture designed for a TV and – here’s the clincher– plugged it in, turned it on, settled onto a comfy couch and began viewing favorite shows. 

That was it. Buy it, pay for it, take it home, plug it in, sit back and watch. Until you might have to get up and change channels. But that was a really long time ago...

Things have changed. 

Hub and I were not eager to buy a new TV. The fact that our kids and grandkids made fun of our 10-year-old set did not bother us. The fact that it was small by modern standards was OK with us. The fact that it was not smart and did not have HD capabilities did not trouble us. 

We realized a larger screen would be nice on our eyes, which are not as sharp as years ago. A clearer picture would be advantageous also. The price did not deter us, prices starting at a couple of hundred dollars. Or, in our blissful ignorance so we thought before finding out about required extras. 

It was the buying process we were reluctant to face, asking questions about things we knew very little about and not entirely understanding the answers. But one cold wintery afternoon we threw on our coats, hats and gloves and drove a half hour to the nearest electronics store, Best Buy.

Entering the cavernous building screens large and small confronted us. TV screens, computer screens, phone screens, screens on gadgets unfamiliar to me. 

We strolled to the back of the store and perused TVs. Different models, different prices, various sizes, descriptions in small print on tags beneath each one. HD, HDCP, 4K, HDMI, HDR, LED, LCD, OLED...My mind froze. 

It was not easy finding a store employee to help us, but eventually succeeded. Our specifications were simple: a TV that fit on the small table in the corner of our family room. Bigger than our 32” current TV, but not overwhelming for the cozy-sized room. (We have no suitable wall to hang a TV on.)

We did not have many choices. The employee found an appropriate model in a catalog: a Toshiba 50”. We were eager to complete the transaction and return home.

Not so quick or easy.

Do you want a sound bar? the salesman asked. Unless we want to sit behind the TV, where the sound mechanism is, it would be helpful, especially for seniors whose hearing is no longer cutting edge. We turned down a service contract. Added a DVD. Our old one died last fall. We ordered the TV for delivery. With installation. Additional costs, of course. No way could hub or I face the task of installing on our own.

Suddenly our reasonably-priced TV cost over $700.

Saturday afternoon the Best Buy Geek walks into our house with boxes containing our new TV, sound bar, DVD, and an assortment of wires.

Nothing nowadays proceeds glitch-free. Minor problems: Our fast internet signal did not reach the TV, only the slow service. I didn’t know there were two levels, but we learn something every day. The table we thought the TV would fit on turned out to be too small. Our Comcast box did not have HD capability. 

While the geek and hub installed the TV, hooking wires together and programming the set, I contacted Comcast about upgrading to HD service. This I accomplished via an online chat. The individual I discoursed with had difficulty spelling words correctly and keyed very, very, very slowly, but I finally completed my mission. For an additional $10 a month we were now HD-connected. It would cost $70 for a company man to come to the house and install a new box. Returning the old one to a store, receiving a new one and installing it ourselves – no charge.

When the geek finished installing the TV, sound box and assorted gadgets (including 4 – FOUR remotes), hub and I drove a half hour (again) to the nearest Comcast (actually Xfinity) store, returned the old box and received a new one. Before leaving I complained about our bill – too high, now going higher.

The lovely customer service rep took a few moments, “to see what I can do,” and our bill is now $30 LOWER than before.  

We returned home and hub connected our new box.

I am proud to announce I can turn our new TV on!

I can choose shows offered on Netflix and Amazon (thanks to our son) as well as Comcast. 

I can watch shows my friends talk about but previously could not indulge in viewing. I can join the conversation!

I am in binge-watching heaven!