Saturday, May 30, 2020

Mail Call!

Our local mail carrier delivers an assortment of mail to our door six days a week, most of it junk. But I look forward to reaching into my mailbox, grabbing flyers and envelopes and scanning through the stack (can I fall any lower during quarantine than when a highlight of my day is getting the mail?) Sometimes there are items besides junk sprinkled in – a bill or two (most bills appear via email), a thank you note (occasionally), an invitation, catalogs, packages of must-have items ordered online, and perhaps an actual letter (I have not received one of these in – oh, I don’t know, months or years).

The post office is owned by the federal government but operated as a private corporation overseen by a Board of Governors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. USPS, the U.S. Postal Service, is a service most of us use regularly. Unfortunately, it is threatened with extinction.

In small towns and rural areas post offices were small structures
like this one in Florida, or in the general store.
Sure the post office does not make a profit and runs a deficit every year. The federal
The post office is in this retail store.
government also does not make money and often generates a deficit. But the post office, its buildings and employees are beloved members of our communities. You never know if you will see a neighbor and chat for a few minutes. Sometimes lines get long, but...the variety of stamps for sale are appealing, educational, and works of art.  And the post office employs thousands of people, extremely important when unemployment is in the double digits.

Yes it is a large unwieldy bureaucracy. But so is government and we’re not going to throw that away so fast (although maybe we should, but that’s a discussion for another time.).

The post office has been an integral part of our society since Ben Franklin became the country’s first Postmaster General in 1775. It is part of our history. The Pony Express, although short-lived, captivated folks when it began in 1860. In 1913 parcel deliveries began. Americans, ingenious folks that they are, came up with the idea of using the mails to send their children...wherever. An Ohio couple spent 15 cents, plus $50 to insure the youngster, to mail send their son to his grandmother’s home a mile away. For long distance travel it was cheaper to send a child via mail than buy a train ticket. 

The practice of sending children via the post office did not last long. The method was obviously controversial. In 1915 the last child mailed was a three-year-old sent 40 miles by her grandmother to visit the child’s sick mother.

Although the last documented child sent via the mail was in 1915, as late as 1920 two applications to mail children were rejected because they could not be classified as “harmless live animals”. Any man or woman who has raised kids can understand that decree. On June 13, 1920, the Post Office announced children could not be sent via parcel post under any circumstances.

I lament the fact that another hallowed slice of our society may soon be consigned to the trash heap of history. With any luck it will not occur until after we all mail our ballots in November.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Summer Begins and My Little Free Library Opens

It is Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. I am sitting on my front porch watching the world go by. There is, surprisingly, a lot of activity, especially when considering the pandemic still with us. It rained all morning and was supposed to rain all day, but the weather gods and the holiday gods consulted and thought better of confining folks inside another day. So the sun emerged and people ventured out...

Bikers, walkers, runners, kids and adults. Dog walkers, shoppers, beach goers. Folks from far and near converged on my beach town this weekend.

Summer officially begins.
Masks strongly recommended in my town.
Hub and I err on the side of caution, not going far or mingling. We maintain social distance and wear masks when venturing out. Which we did – venture out - Friday morning. Our town’s Farmer’s Market opened for the season, 19 stands spaced out in a church parking lot. Masks required. A socially distanced-spaced line formed around the block as only a limited number of people were allowed in at a time. Hub and I are market volunteers, and we staffed the line. As folks left we permitted the same number to enter. For many it was the first time among a group of people of any size in weeks. Almost everyone behaved. Only one man angrily questioned the mask rule and the line. (Why can’t I go in now?) He said he wasn’t coming back. Good! 

The big event in the life of hub and me this weekend is the opening of our Little Free Librarya ‘take a book, return a book’ free book exchange, although a book can be taken without replacing it with another. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share.

Our library has been ready for weeks, sitting on the porch, but we were reluctant to place it in front of the house, stock it and open because of the pandemic. Across the country many Little Free Libraries closed but others remained open. We decided to delay. But we felt now might be the time to open. 

There is one shelf of books, mostly children and young adult titles but adult novels too. I placed two small bottles of hand sanitizer inside. No announcement or advertising. Researching Little Free Libraries online, some owners are very involved in promoting their library. Initially I am doing nothing. I will place a picture on my Facebook page and eventually mention it on the Nextdoor app. Baby steps to start. I can’t wait to see the interest our library generates.
Our Little Free Library

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Peanut Butter Flashback

My current quarantine lifestyle seems to revolve around food. Which is fine because I like food. I enjoy meals. Food has become an integral part of sane survival techniques during these troubling times, and I like spending time cooking comfort food, the fare of my childhood. And the thought of comfort foods consumed years ago brings back memories...

I can’t remember when I was on my own for breakfast, but sometime in elementary school. Weekday mornings were hectic at our house. Dad left for work first, dashing to make the train to Manhattan. Then Mom took off, and finally my sister and I. 

I like to sleep. It is one of my best talents. So mornings I would sleep as late as possible,
then throw on clothes, grab my books and breakfast and race out the door. My breakfast-to-go was a piece of toast with a hunk of peanut butter slathered on. There must have been other choices, but peanut butter toast remains firmly entrenched in my mind, munching while walking to school. Enough nourishment until lunch... 

I remember standing in the lunch line impatiently waiting to pay for my meal, then walking with my tray to the nearest empty seat among rows of green tables that filled the cafeteria. By the time I maneuvered through the lunch line there was not much time to schmooze with friends. Sometimes a homemade meal in a paper bag made the trip to school with me. I don’t remember its contents, but cold cuts were always in our refrigerator. Not the appealing kind craved today like fresh turkey off the bone, pastrami and Hebrew national salami, but cheaper meats like bologna, ham, and liverwurst. I hated liverwurst and will not touch the stuff to this day. There was always peanut butter and jelly. 
Peanut butter toast and sandwiches made at home were always on
white bread.
Chaotic and noisy come to mind when recalling the lunch scene. By the time I was in junior high we had about 20 minutes to get our food, eat, drink, throw away the trash and move on to our next class. 

While our taste buds and level of food sophistication may develop over the years, food consumed when young become part of who we are. Although I rarely eat peanut butter nowadays, I remain a lox and bagel devotee and love comfort food like mashed potatoes, a plate full of spaghetti and meatballs (nowadays turkey meatballs), chicken soup...but I am getting hungry thinking about all this food. Remembering comfort food and preparing comfort food may be a good way to pass confinement time, but I fear my bathroom scale will protest and as summer approaches, my clothes may not fit quite as comfortably as they did last summer. Oh well...

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Step by Step, Stepping Out

The pull to explore beyond my home is strong this year. And so, within the confines of my state’s quarantine restrictions and social distancing, hub and I began stepping beyond the confines of our house and neighborhood. We must be careful, however, and time our trips so that we return home before the pull to...pee... 

 First stop, our favorite bagel bakery for a high-calorie, great tasting breakfast treat. Unfortunately it was apparent from a block away that a lot of other people had the same idea. I hadn’t seen so many people together in weeks. Together but apart – six feet apart in a line that wrapped around the block. 
Another day we visited a cafe that opened last weekend, take-out only of course. I wanted craved one of their famous and fabulous blueberry muffins. I enter the store, take a couple of steps, stop in front of a table with a cash register and coffee trappings and placed my order. “I’m sorry, we’re out of blueberry muffins.” Really? “We were busy today.” 

I have to wonder where everyone patronizing these stores hide when not buying stuff I want. So while I thought about an alternative purchase, I ordered a fruit scone for hub. Then I ordered my replacement item, a lemon bar, rarely consumed because of the high sugar content and too many calories. The cashier, feeling bad because there were no more muffins, added an extra scone to my bag. He meant well...
I came home and savored coffee and lemon bar for lunch. The piece was huge, heavy and thick, unusual because lemon bars are typically thin and light. But I pigged out and ate the whole thing. Later that night I got hungry and ate the scone. The whole thing. No dinner, just the scone. Bad move. The lemon bar and scone did not sit well with me the next day. Enough said...

I wanted tomato plants for my vegetable garden. My usual garden philosophy is benign neglect, but this year is different. I have been weeding, and planting flowers and vegetable seeds. But I wasn’t going to start tomato plants indoors. Hub and I took a road trip seeking tomato seedlings. 

As we approached the first nursery – nurseries are considered essential businesses – I noticed a line of cars slowly inching into the parking lot. We got on the end of the line. When the nursery grounds came into view, it was obvious the place was packed. Both front and back parking lots were full. We didn’t want to spend a lot of time shopping and waiting to pay. We kept driving. 

Next stop, a nursery with no tomato plants in stock. Finally, success at the third place. I
The fruits of my labor later this summer
Wishful thinking!
purchased seedlings and planted them when I returned home

Normally mundane activities, but in atypical times normal undertakings are the highlight of my day. And the week. And the past month. The highlight of hub’s week was the successful forage for toilet paper.

Stepping out, one step at a time, not too far, for not too long, so that we return home before the need to perform bodily functions intrudes on our excursion. There are no open and accessible rest rooms available in public places, yet...not that I would take the chance...

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Best of Boomers Welcome The Merry Month 0f May

 O the month of May, the merry month of May,
    So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!
- Thomas Dekker (1572-1632), 
 from Dekker's play The Shoemaker’s Holiday

Spring officially arrived weeks ago, yet day after day the weather did not cooperate. But once the page of April was torn off the calendar, May ushered in sunny, warm weather in my corner of the world. Historically people welcomed the new season by lighting fires, dancing around a maypole, creating baskets of flowers, candy and other treats – enjoying a lot of social interaction. The spring of 2020 is different – no travel, no family events, no theater performances or restaurant meals, no face-to-face classes, no annoying crowds or long lines. With the arrival of May following almost two months of quarantine (and counting) l think we all look forward to mixing and mingling with more people than our quarantine companions. We want to survive, thrive and plan our futures.

Rebecca Olkowski with explores the future of travel for Baby Boomers after we’re able to venture out into the world again. As older people we will still need to be cautious and take baby steps. She shares her ideas for those who may want to plan a vacation.

Shifting sands under our feet, that's what Carol Cassara says it feels like. We're all walking into the unknown, and at A Healing Spirit she offers helpful ideas for managing that walk into uncharted territory.

Some of us seek diversions to pass the time...

Tom at Sightings Over Sixty went shopping for some inspiration this week. He found it at . . .  well, go do a little browsing over at They Say It Better, and you'll find out where he picked up his pearls of wisdom.

And others look to the past – and future...

Laurie Stone of Musings, Rants & Scribbles knows that moms of boys understand. When your kids are little, you think you’ll never survive the sticky hands, typhoon-force energy, and non-stop “getting into things.” She won’t even go into the teenage years. But then, in what seems an instant, those boys are men. And with that comes another phase. As a Mom you’re doing less, but observing more. Watching her grown sons over the past few years, she's learned the following

We worry about the pandemic, and our concern has not abated. On the contrary...

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer and personal finance journalist, writes about a survey that shows Americans are much more concerned about the coronavirus pandemic in April than they were in March, with Hispanic and black adults having higher concerns. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted financially at least three in 10 adults nationwide, the survey by Consumer Reports shows.

A final thought on coping in these challenging times
Over at Unfold and Begin, Jennifer looks at a Bob Marley quote that points out we never really know how strong we are until it matters.

I hope everyone stays healthy, safe and sane. And please take a few minutes to visit our boomers. We love to hear from our readers!

The Promise of a New Season

The calendar indicated spring arrived weeks ago, but most days the weather did not cooperate. Finally, one day just before the calendar rolled to the merry month of May, the promise of a new season emerged. On my daily walk I observed landscapers weeding and mulching around trimmed bushes and recently planted purple and yellow pansies. Tulips, red and white, reached for the sun. Deep green shoots outnumbered brown stubbles that hung on, the last vestiges of winter. Handmade rainbows taped to the windows of homes brightened facades. Everything seemed normal. Except the rainbows. Rainbows are a 2020 enhancement, the promise of better times after the Covid 19 pandemic.

As I walk the sky clouds over, and white billows become increasingly gray and menacing. The sun disappears and a chill seeps through my body. I pick up my step. I do not want to be caught in a rainstorm. My days of running are long past, and although I could push myself I worry about tripping and falling, a memory of a mishap years ago reminding me – slow down!

It was nine years ago that, walking fast because I was late for a class, I fell flat on my face. Walking fast in Crocs, almost running, is not recommended. As I pushed myself up off the sidewalk, I felt a liquid trickle down my cheek. Over the next few hours my face swelled, my eyes looked like I was punched in the face and my nose turned shades of red, purple and blue. I was sore but fine...

Except the following day was my niece’s baby shower. As friends and relatives oohed and aahed over lunch and baby gifts, I implored folks eager to snap the event for posterity not to take my picture. But of course there remains a permanent record of my clumsiness.

If I fell on this walk and bruised myself, it would not matter. I have no place to go and no one will see me. No one will take my picture, unless my husband surreptiously takes a picture while I sleep. The spring of 2020 is different from any spring experienced in my life – no travel, no family events, no theater or restaurant reservations, no face-to-face classes, no annoying crowds or long lines anyplace. I survive well, better than most people probably, for I am an introvert. However I look forward to restarting life free from the nagging question, is it safe to go...anywhere? Like the promise of a new season, l look forward to moving on.