Thursday, May 17, 2018

Doing My Civic Duty – Part Two

I received a reprieve from civic duty this week. A call from the county court house informed me there were no scheduled cases. I need not report for ‘work’.

I can honestly say jury duty is work because I am paid - $5.00 per day. My first paycheck arrived in the mail this week.

My experience as a grand jurist has been an interesting one. I serve one day a week until the end of June, assuming cases are scheduled on my reporting day. 

the jury
The 23 members of the grand jury file into the courtroom, many bearing drinks - non-alcoholic of course. We are allowed to bring beverages and snacks into court, a more informal situation than trial courtroom practices. Actually it is inaccurate to state 23 members enter the room. Each week three or four do not appear. On the first day we were informed that it is OK if necessary to take a week or two off. Twelve jurors constitute a quorum and are required to vote on whether or not to indict an individual, meaning send the case to trial, or not. 

My fellow jurors are supposed to represent the county’s demographics, and to an extent they do. Folks range in age (I am guessing; did not take a survey) from 30ish to 70ish. Blue and white-collar workers, unemployed and retirees, black, white, Hispanic, and undetermined (not sure of everyone’s background – did not ask). Insufficient factual knowledge (except speculation) about education, economic circumstances, family situation. 

the witness
the prosecutor
The jury remains silent as court proceedings progress and are recorded. A witness is sworn in, the prosecutor asks questions, dismisses the witness and reads the indictment. The jury asks questions based on the case’s facts and point of law. Then the recording stops, and the jury discusses the case. Sometimes there are questions and debate, sometimes not. Occasionally the witness returns to the room for follow-up queries. Once discussion concludes, the jury votes.

the perpetrator
 We have heard a variety of criminal cases involving drugs, domestic abuse incidents, burglaries, robberies, thefts and other offenses. First-time offenders as well as habitual law breakers find their way into criminal court.

The experience opens a window into a world not a part of my everyday routine. I encountered women in domestic abuse situations when I taught at a business school, and the school witnessed a varied cast of characters, a few of whom probably ended up in criminal court.

 A few weeks to go, and so far cases have not risen to a level of national prominence in magnitude or interest. I wonder if one of Trump’s secret liaisons lived or worked in my county and the case lands in court, or one of his fix-it lawyers happens to live in town, or a Russian oligarch patronized a penthouse suite in an upscale hotel and participated in – or was the victim of – hanky panky. That would be fascinating courtroom drama.

I think I am the victim of too much detective TV, having grown up watching Perry Mason, Columbo, The Rockford Files, Matlock… 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Happy Mother’s Day Heroines of My Past

This article is revised from an earlier one posted in 2012.

I was lucky to have strong, independent women role-models growing up. I did not realize the impact of Nana’s, Aunt Jean’s, Aunt Nettie’s and Mom’s experiences until years later. These women (and others not mentioned in this article) created a mosaic of memories that shaped my life. Among the values absorbed was the importance of financial responsibility. A boring trait, definitely not warm and fuzzy, but an important one to everyone’s long-term happiness, security, and well-being.

In honor of Mother’s Day I remember and celebrate two generations of women who influenced my life.

Dad’s father died when he was about four years old and his sister, my Aunt Harriet, was six. On the eve of the Depression, 1929, Nana was left with two children to support. Married, job-hunting women in their 30s were an unwanted commodity. Nana lied about her age, dropping eight years, and as a good-looking 20-something woman found employment. She worked most of her life, never remarried, and struggled for many years. Yet she always looked glamorous to me, a tall, regal, well-dressed lady, every hair in place, whom I wanted to emulate.

I was ten years old when my Uncle Ed died. His wife Aunt Jean floundered, lost without her husband. Uncle Ed handled all the couple’s affairs, including everything financial. I remember Grandpa sitting at the dining room table, hunched over, concentrating on piles of papers strewn across the table, attempting to organize Aunt Jean’s life. She had never written a check and had no idea how much – or how little – money she had. My grandfather taught her how to write a check, keep track of her checking account, and helped her create a budget. The year was 1960.

My Uncle Harry married Aunt Nettie, about as independent a woman as there ever was. Born 1900 in Montana, her independent and adventurous streak was imbedded in her DNA. As a young single woman she travelled cross-country with friends. She went to nursing school and eventually became an administrator at a large hospital in New York City. She returned to school in the 1940s and obtained an additional degree in social work. She and my uncle travelled all over the world. I got engaged while in college; her advice, “Whatever you do, finish college.”

Me and Mom
My mother was an only child and went to college, not a typical undertaking for women born in the 1920s. Most girls majored in education or nursing. Mom majored in math. She returned to school in the early 1960s. I remember Saturday mornings Mom and Dad in our basement, Dad hard at work on the typewriter while Mom dictated a report due in class later that day. She earned a master’s in library science and worked for years as an elementary school librarian. In the late 1960s Dad faced financial difficulties and a period of unemployment, and Mom’s paycheck bridged the gap until Dad was again employed.

Of course I made life decisions that may not have been the best, but I can only blame myself.

For the positive choices reached because of lessons learned from these women,

Thank You and

Happy Mother’s Day!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Doing My Civic Duty

I was never summoned for jury duty while living 30+ years in Lancaster, PA.

Eight years living in Atlantic County, NJ, and the municipality summoned me twice, the first time as a petit juror. I looked forward to the opportunity to sit on a jury, observe and decide an exciting case – maybe a homicide that made the local and regional papers and possibly national news. Or a financial trial involving a Bernie Madoff-type financial swindler. Or perhaps a case of any kind involving a famous person.

I sat on a personal injury case. The trial lasted two days before lawyers settled out of court. My jury experience concluded.

A couple of months ago an official-looking letter arrived in the mail. Most of my mail nowadays is junk mail. A real letter, official or otherwise, rarely appears in my box. The letter summoned me to court as a prospective grand juror. But before my court appearance I needed to fill out an online questionnaire.

The questions set a high bar (note the legal lingo):

Am I over 18 years of age? A no-brainer for this senior.

Am I a U.S. citizen? As far as I know. My birth certificate proves my existence began in a hospital in New Jersey. Unfortunately the hospital no longer exists, so if anyone questions the authenticity of the document I may be in trouble. But I don’t think I should worry. I am not going to run for President (of anything).

Can I understand and read English? No problem, most of the time. Sometimes I have trouble understanding my 2-year-old granddaughter. And the accents of actors in British films throw me. But I don’t think there will be many cases involving individuals with British accents in south Jersey.

Am I a resident of the county in which I am to serve? The exorbitant checks written for property taxes, the ticket received – one time only – because I forgot to move my car on street cleaning day, my addiction to local pizza and bagels, plus the junk mail accumulated in my name at my address are proof positive I reside in the county.

Have I “been convicted of any indictable offense under the laws of this State another State or the United States”? Definitely a no, and a search of all records will result in nothing.

The court wants to ensure that I “shall not have any mental or physical disability which will prevent the person from properly serving as a juror”? I would say no, although I cannot guarantee all my family, friends, and acquaintances would agree with me.

I passed the test. The next step was to show up in Criminal Court.

The decorum in the courtroom impressed me. Over 100 people sitting quietly, no one squirming or whispering, cell phone use banned, nothing to do but wait. The judge asked if anyone had a reason they could not serve on a jury. People raised their hand and one by one approached the bench. The judge and the individual had a heart-to-heart. Sometimes the person left the courtroom, sometimes returned to their seat, their excuse not compelling enough to sway the judge.

Once everyone hoping to be excused spoke with the judge, court employees conducted orientation, the main part a PowerPoint presentation on the crimes a grand jury may deal with – burglary, theft, domestic abuse, assault, homicide, financial fraud, arson…

We were sent home with instructions to report the following week. I will serve as a Grand Juror one day a week during May and June.

So what does a Grand Jury do? A prosecutor presents a case. The grand jury decides whether the case should go to trial. Or not.

I get paid $5 a day. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Almost Home Again

I didn’t visit the house where I grew up with my sister Janice and parents. I did visit the bungalow where I spent many summers with my sister and grandparents.

My grandparents' Catskill Mountain 'estate'.
The bungalows look run-down and neglected,
but otherwise much the same as it was 50 years ago.
Note the stump where once a tree grew.
 My grandparents bought a small house – a bungalow set on concrete blocks – in the Catskill Mountains sometime during the 1950s. I was a little girl and do not remember the particulars. I do remember what the bungalow looked like outside and inside, and have memories of summer days walking along Joyland Road, playing with friends at the nearby bungalow colony, sitting in the grass under huge shade trees playing cards, reading, drinking iced tea and lemonade.

Grandpa drove to our house on Long Island the day school closed. Janice and I jumped in the car and three-hours later we piled out, eager to begin our summer vacation. We stayed until Labor Day, another summer of hot days, ice cream nights, lazy weekends and occasional trips to town over until the following June.

Janice and I enjoyed Grandma and Grandpa’s company and I am sure they enjoyed ours. Meanwhile our parents relished each other’s company sans kids. For 2½ months.

I thought about the old mountain homestead one sunny spring day while driving north on the New York State Thruway. Monticello was about 30 miles out of the way (each direction), but my curiosity won.

The once pristine landscape driving northwest into the mountains is no longer unspoiled. Billboards urge travelers to stop and visit nearby gas stations and convenience stores, fast food restaurants, stores and roadside stands.

The area is not, however, an economic marvel. On the contrary, for years the Catskills have been subject to run-down and closed up hotels, dying towns and businesses. The tourist trade lost out decades ago to new, more exciting vacation locations.

A renaissance is in the making, however, thanks to casinos. A 2013 amendment to the New York State constitution allows Las-Vegas-type casino gambling. Whether the largesse of the casinos spills over into the community remains a question.

I knew Grandma and Grandpa’s cottage was on Joyland Road, a name etched in my memory. An exit off the highway for ‘Joyland Road’ made it easy to find. Turning onto the street, the car traveled along the two-lane road, passing dilapidated rows of abandoned bungalow colonies, houses occupied but in disrepair, and vacant, neglected homes and businesses.

Then I saw it – two bungalows, one set back a few feet from the larger house. Grandma and Grandpa owned the mountain estate, comprised of two bungalows and a storage shed, and rented out the smaller bungalow every summer. We resided in the larger one.
The bungalow and storage shed. I remember a red door and trim. 

 The bungalows sat silent and deserted behind a patchy brown lawn. No towering shade trees, only stumps where once majestic branches provided shade during hot summer afternoons. The lot reflects the economic problems the area faced over the past decades. Still standing but struggling.

It was hard to tell if the property is permanently abandoned or only uninhabited during the winter. Perhaps owners will arrive in May or June and signs of life appear. The lawn will turn green and newly planted flowers bloom, outdoor chairs and tables materialize, fresh paint brighten the dingy white shingles.

I had not seen the bungalow since the 1960s, and probably the early 1960s. Once in junior high, days hanging with friends at the pool and beach and jobs replaced summers in the mountains. Grandma died in 1969, and Grandpa sold the place the following year.

Walking around the property, I could almost hear echoes of two little girls’ rowdy voices as they race around the house, Grandma calling us to lunch or dinner, Grandpa hunched over his vegetable garden in the far corner of the yard, occasionally a car careening too fast down Joyland Road, a neighbor walking by hollering “hello!”.

I was almost home again, for a short time.  
The far corner of the property where Grandpa's
vegetable garden flourished.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Earth Day Yesteryear and Today

The first Earth Day was celebrated April 22, 1970. I was a college student concerned about the environment.  A small committee, which I co-chaired, organized my school’s Earth Day events, a series of speakers and a very polite demonstration. My environmental activism, sad to say, did not extend much beyond my college years.

The Earth Day movement originated during a tumultuous period in American history – the Vietnam War raged and protesters took to the streets. Young people realized if they wanted change, they would have to instigate reform. (Not unlike the current gun control movement, an unfolding modern-day story.)

The beginnings of modern environmental activism can be traced back to the publication of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring in 1962. The book highlighted the damage pesticides were doing to the environment, and Silent Spring became a turning point in environmental awareness. The nascent green movement flourished.

At the time there was no Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, or EPA. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson spearheaded the first Earth Day, and 20 million Americans, mostly on college campuses around the country, expressed their support for a clean environment.

Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty.
The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect
for all other human beings and all other living creatures.
-       Gaylord Nelson

In December of 1970, President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Congress, the Administration and the public 
all share a profound commitment to the rescue of our natural environment,
and the preservation of the Earth as a place both habitable by
and hospitable to man.
-       President Richard Nixon

Earth Day became an annual event and a world-wide movement.

On Earth Day two years ago – April 22, 2016 - over 120 countries signed the Paris Agreement on climate protection. Unfortunately President Trump announced on June 1, 2017, that the U.S. would pull out. However agreement provisions stipulate the U.S. cannot officially withdraw until November 4, 2020 – one day after the Presidential election.

With the assault on the environment by the current EPA Director and the Trump Administration, I am worried the environmental clock is running backwards. Earth Day should celebrate how far we have come in preserving our land and natural resources, cleaning our food and water supplies, our lakes, streams and oceans, saving forests, as well as publicize the work yet to be done. We should not have to lament the rollback of environmental regulations and protections.

On Sunday, April 22, 2018, Earth Day events will be held around the world, coordinated by the Earth Day Network

Each year Earth Day highlights a specific environmental issue. For example the focus of the 30th Earth Day in 2000 was clean energy. In 2012 the issue was overpopulation, and in 2017 environmental and climate literacy.  

Earth Day 2018 is all about plastics. 
The slogan: End Plastic Pollution

Each one of us can reduce our plastic usage. One of the easiest ways is the use of eco-friendly reusable shopping bags. I keep a couple of bags in my car, except when I forget to return them to the car after use.

I slurp drinks through plastic straws. Or rather I used to use plastic ones. I ordered a set of reusable straws. Out with the plastic!   

Hopefully Sunday, April 22 will be a warm sunny day, not a recent norm around my hometown. I hope to take a walk and, although I won’t smell the roses – too early in the season – daffodils are blooming and have a scent of their own…

I hope everyone can spend time outdoors this week and enjoy our Earth home.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Tap, Tap, Tapping Away

60+ years young, a mellow age, a time to slow down not necessarily because I want to, but because my body tells me to. If I ignore the signals, my body objects and rejects me in some way. Pulled or sore muscles, low immunity so that I catch whatever it is the grandkids carry, exhaustion, stomach issues, ‘old people’ ailments. Yet my mind wants to keep going, and my body (most of the time) reluctantly trails along.

So my latest inroads into healthy, active living is tap dancing.

You read that right. Tap dancing.

Never tapped before. A girlfriend wanted to give it a try and I agreed to tag along.

Slipping on a borrowed pair of tap shoes, I stood in a line of tap novices – all adults of a certain age including one brave man, creating a coed group – and began tapping away. From the start of class to the end we moved. We shuffled. We danced. The instructor, with over 30 years of dance and teaching experience, was patient with us first-timers, but kept the class in motion.

After the one-hour class, I am hooked.

The session provided a workout, but not the total exhaustion kind. I was not on the floor stretching and contorting my bones into yoga positions. I did not run breathless around a track, or sweat buckets on an elliptical machine. I was not bored.

Tap is my kind exercise. I feel good moving my body, raising my heart rate, working muscles but not gasping for breath, sweating pools, or keeling over in misery. I will not burn as many calories as more strenuous exercise, but I enjoyed the hour and had fun. And will return.

Afterwards my girlfriend and I went out to lunch.

What could be better – an hour of feel-good body movement followed by a good, hearty feed.

I have no illusions about becoming a star tap dancer. The beginner class is informal, meets weekly but is fluid – people come and go according to their interest and schedule. There is an advanced class. I watched them perform a real tap dance. Impressive, but I will never reach that level. I am in it for the fun and exercise.

On a serious note, there is scientific evidence all kinds of Dance are good for the body and the brain.

A study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience linked dancing to improved “white matter” in the brains of older adults. The white stuff tends to break down as we age, leading to a slower thinking process and memory problems.

Dancing reduces stress, providing emotional and physical relief, helps improve memory and prevent dementia as we age.

Although in tap the legs do most of the work, there are times the arms extend above the shoulders, strengthening and toning arm muscles. The combination of arm and leg movement elevates the heart rate, resulting in a good cardiovascular workout.

Age is not a barrier to learning to tap.

There are exercises that burn more calories, but dance’s starting, stopping and changing direction burns a lot of fuel. And if looking to lose weight, dance boosts your chances – assuming too many additional calories are not consumed gorging after a workout!

I will purchase tap shoes this week and plan on tapping away one morning a week.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Boomers Mark Spring Reflecting on the Present, Moving Forward, and Recalling the Past

In the Spring I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.
 – Mark Twain

Springtime in Vermont

I spent the first weekend of April in Vermont, standing at a window appalled at the falling snow. It is spring. Time to pack away sweaters, boots, ski jackets. 

Although the weather won’t cooperate, this week boomers are determined to move ahead as the promise of spring energizes us. Some boomers move ahead with new projects, while others are in a contemplative mood, attempting to slow down and enjoy the season’s newness.

For Sue Loncaric from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond, April has started and along with Spring that also means the Blogging AtoZ Challenge. This year, Sue is taking us from AtoZ with a Guide to Thriving in Life.  She kicked off the challenge with ‘A’ is for an Ageless Attitude and why we shouldn’t let age define us. Read her thoughts about how you can have an ageless attitude and also take a life audit.

Laura Lee Carter, over at the Adventures of the NEW Old Farts seems to be lost in the present moment and busy accessing her intuition this week.

Rebecca Olkowski with BabyBoomster.com looks back, for fun, at the cartoons and TV shows we watchedin the 1960s, particularly those that dealt with the Cold War. Seems appropriate with all this talk about Russians. 

If life throws you a lemon – make lemonade. 
Our bloggers offer suggestions on how to move forward despite life's setbacks.

We become someone new after every loss--remaking ourselves out of what remains. Carol Cassara explains how that reconstruction requires us to fall apart at A Healing Spirit.   

Sometimes you get to plan for retirement and sometimes early retirement is forced upon you. What do you do?  Do you find another job or do you embrace your new circumstances?  In Jennifer's latest interview on Unfold And Begin, meet Deb and find out what she did when it happened to her in What She did With An Unexpected Retirement.

Much has been written lately about identity theft and security breaches at various companies. On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about what to do if your data is stolen as part of data breaches at Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks OFF 5TH, Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal, or Best Buy. First, visit IdentityTheft.gov/databreach to get detailed advice. For an online login or password, log in to your account and change your password. For payment card information, contact your bank or credit card company to request a new card number. See Robison’s article for more details.

And finally, famous folks on aging and retirement…

This week Tom Sightings of Sightings Over 60 has collected two dozen quotes about aging and retirement that you might find amusing, inspirational or insightful. So if you're of a certain age, go check them out at Quotable Retirees and see that, as Mark Twain said, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

In His Own Words...

 Installment #5 in an on-going series:
Countdown to the 2020 Presidential Election

944 Days (as of April 4, 2018) to the next Presidential Election
Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. The daily doings of the current President of the United States, his Administration, and the party calling him one of their own illustrates the statement.

I was unsure where to begin this article. In our politically divided country today, anything and everything written (and spoken) is analyzed, insulted, criticized, called fake news, misinterpreted and quoted out of context. So the best way, I decided, to consider the President is in his own words, mainly Twitter words, because -

Many people have said I’m the world’s greatest writer of 140 character sentences. (Twitter, July 21, 2014)

Note to readers: I am not a Trump fan. If you are, you might want to stop reading now.

The President on His Assets

I am not suitable for the job of discussing the President because, as he so aptly tells the countrymen and women who are not his fans:

Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault (Twitter, May 9, 2013).

I am not going to blame my Mom and Dad for the fact that my intelligence level may not match that of The Donald (but who really knows?), but (unfortunately) I am probably, unlike the Prez, not a genius…

…my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart…I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius…(Twitter, January 6, 2018).

I cannot comment on the President’s mental stability. I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist or mental health professional and have never met him. I believe, however, if he is mentally stable a lot of the rest of us are raving lunatics.

However, perhaps we should feel sorry for the man. After all, his job is not as easy as he thought it would be. On the other hand, he could always resign…

I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier. (Interview with Reuters, April 2017)…Nobody knew health care could be so complicated (Feb. 27, 2018).

We must give the President a lot of credit for bravery: I really believe I’d run in there, even if I didn’t have a weapon (Comments on the Parkland high school massacre, Feb. 26, 2018).

I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me. (Campaign rally, Nov. 2015)

I know our complex tax laws better than anyone who has ever run for president and am the only one who can fix them. (Twitter, Oct 2, 2016)

It is hard to know how the American public feels about the President because…any negative polls are fake news…(Twitter, February 6, 2017)


The President on His Friends

Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA! (Twitter, March 2, 2018)

I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them…When you’re a star, they let you do it…(Access Hollywood recording, 2005) All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously.

I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-Un. (Wall Street Journal interview January 2018)

The hatchet job in @NYMag about Roger Ailes is total bullshit…(Twitter Aug. 21, 2013)

Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.

I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe! (Twitter, Aug 25, 2017)


The President on Opponents and Those Who Were Never Friends or Are No Longer Friends

Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job he lost his mind. (Twitter, Jan. 3, 2018)

Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George (Papadopoulos), who has already proven to be a liar…(Twitter, Oct. 12, 2017)

I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.

Thank you Omarosa for your service! I wish you continued success.

Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes.

If I were running The View, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say Rosie, you’re fired.

I don’t like losers.
The President on People and Politics

When someone attacks me, I always attack back...except 100x more. This has nothing to do with a tirade but rather, a way of life! (Twitter, Nov 11, 2012)

One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.

In conclusion…in the spirit of fairness the next installment of this series, weeks or months from now, will mention and probably bash both parties. Maybe.
Notes

 Frederick Douglass, African-American social reformer, abolitionist, lived in the 19th century – 1818?-1895.

Quotes not referenced from Twitter can be found here.

All Trump tweets can be found here