Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Weekend Writing Getaway

I spent the Martin Luther King holiday weekend at the Poetry and Prose Getaway, my third endeavor into the realm of intensive workshops sponsored by Murphy Writing of Stockton University, a provocative, thought-provoking, exhausting, educational experience worth the investment in time and money.

The Seaview Hotel and Golf Club (no one played golf in freezing temperatures. In January. Golf not included in getaway package. But the golf shop was open.) is half an hour from home. Hub dropped me off at the entrance to the resort and drove off. I eagerly hauled my suitcase up the steps and checked in. You may wonder – why didn’t I commute? Three reasons, weak as they may be: January weather conditions can be brutal. I had a roommate to share room expenses. And I wanted the full immersion experience.

Participants sign up for a three-day workshop. Three hours in the morning, a lunch break, another three-hour afternoon session, one three-hour session day three. But I don’t want to give the impression it was all work. A Friday evening reception (the variety of foods satisfying most dietary preferences), happy hours, an early morning yoga class, surprisingly good cuisine. And an indoor pool, although I don't know if anyone took the plunge.

Photographers recorded the weekend – not every event, but a sampling – including the Sunday evening dinner, the banquet hall resplendent in dark blue sateen-like tablecloths, a cash bar (what’s a lovely dinner without wine?), a birthday cake celebrating the 25th year of the Getaway, and a drone. A picture-taking drone.

Here is a video thanks to my iPhone. Not a professional film, but you get the idea. The drone circled the hall snapping pictures.

The getaway ended on a somber note, a tribute to Martin Luther King. We listened to the speech Dr. King gave the night before he died. And the speech Robert Kennedy gave the following evening in Indianapolis disclosing Dr. King’s death. I end this post with excerpts from Kennedy’s speech. It is a sad commentary on our times that 49 years after the death of Martin Luther King, Charlottesville starkly demonstrated that violence and division continue to poison our country.

What we need in the United States is not division;
what we need in the United States is not hatred;
what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness,
but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another,
and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country,
whether they be white or whether they be black…
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago:
to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that,
and say a prayer for our country and for our people.
            -Robert Kennedy

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Color Purple Rocks

In past years, I have come across announcements of the Color of the Year. Again this year I spotted a bulletin broadcasting the 2018 color selected by Pantone, manufacturer of color dyes used on everything – clothing, furniture, home and fashion accessories and more.

I am not planning to buy anything in this year’s Color in an attempt to be an up-to-date cool cat. The only reason I can think of for a Color of the Year is as a marketing device, an excuse to get people to spend money. And there are lots of folks who eagerly purchase the latest electronic gadgets or clothes fashions and announce to the world they are ‘in’ dudes.

I am happy to be out of the loop and don’t mind NOT being stylish, sophisticated, trendy. Ask anyone, my grandkids for example, and they will tell you I am as uncool as they come.

This year’s Color of the Year is Purple. A color with an interesting history. Reaching back thousands of years, purple represented wealth, power and royalty. The color was originally derived from a snail, an intensive, long and difficult process, therefore expensive and reserved for the rich and powerful.
Purple is popular for
costumes and uniforms-such as
this cheerleading uniform
modeled by my granddaughter.

Alexander the Great wore purple. Roman generals and magistrates donned purple. The royal families of the Byzantine, Holy Roman, and Japanese Empires embraced purple. Roman Catholic bishops chose purple for their vestments. Queen Elizabeth I allowed only members of the royal family to wear purple.

By the 20th century purple took on different meanings. In the early 20th century purple, green and white became the colors of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and the 70’s feminist movement adopted purple. The color symbolized the rock and drug culture of the 1960s and 70s - remember Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze and Prince’s Purple Rain? More recently the color became associated with the LGBTQ movement.

Purple is the honored color in a favorite book of mine and children of all ages – Harold and The Purple Crayon.

The color purple rocks. 

But I am still not going to buy purple stuff. Right now the economy is doing just fine without my money.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

New Year New Computer New Problems

A series of issues occurred with my Mac over the past months. A visit to the Apple store fixed issues temporarily, but the genius working on my machine informed me the battery was dying and could not be replaced. Purchased in 2010, the machine was gradually failing. 

I persevered, transporting my baby home. Problems persisted. My Mac struggled, but I refused to pay attention to the signs of the machine’s demise, reluctant to spend the $$$.

One day I turned Mac on. It started to boot up but after a couple of minutes paused, paralyzed, then shut off. I tried again. Same scenario. And again. Know the saying: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result? That was me and my computer.

It was time to return to the Apple store, fix my old computer (again) and face the fact it was time for a new one.

Fast forward to my visit to the Apple store. I purchase a new machine and leave the old one for techies to transfer data from the old to my new computer. My Mac died, but the data remained intact.

A day later I pick up my new machine and return home, a happy customer.

I purchased Microsoft Office with the proviso I install it myself. Easy, I was told. Go to the website, key in the product code, download and install.

An agonizing couple of hours ensued. A few seconds after clicking install, a message appeared on the screen. Error. The program could not be installed. Call Microsoft.

I called the number indicated on the screen and a harrowing hour plus brought both hub and me ready to throw the computer out the window. Luckily temperatures in the single digits and high winds prevented us from opening windows or doors unnecessarily.

The technician on the other end of the phone line informed us my new machine was infected and the only cure was to spend $200 for a certified network engineer to get rid of the infection. We are not techies and did not understand most of what the technician told us. He got more aggressive as time passed and grew angry at our questions. Neither one of us wanted to spend the money on something we did not understand. We got irritated with the man attempting to talk us into moving forward.

We needed a second opinion. I hung up and called Apple. A pleasant speaking woman heard my pleas.

A half hour later Microsoft Office was installed on my new machine.

An online search discovered numerous entries about scammers doing exactly what the man on the phone tried to do - talk us into paying $200 to clean the machine. It is a mystery how a Microsoft Office install got sidetracked to scammers probably operating out of a warehouse in India.

A day later hub and I recovered from the stressful experience. My new computer works - so far - without a glitch.

New year, new computer, hopefully no more problems. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

More Than 10 Mostly Political Prognostications for 2018

My idea was to come up with a list of predictions for the coming year. I must have spent too much time this past year watching 24/7 news and reading newspapers because my mind could not move beyond the political sphere into other categories. I finally gave in. Below are my mostly political prognostications for 2018, not necessarily serious, some wishful hoping. 

During the frigid (for a good part of the country) month of February millions of Americans gleefully take the additional cash generated in their paychecks by the new tax law and head off to the nearest McDonald’s to celebrate with a Big Mac, causing a run on Tums at drugstores everywhere. And the economy steams forward!

The Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl (but I wouldn’t put your new-found money on it).

The Democrats win both the House and Senate in the November election. As a result of lengthy, contentious, nasty political races, millions of Americans fall prey to an illness characterized by horrible headaches, sleeplessness, restlessness, and feelings of alienation and helplessness. Although not terminal, symptoms may linger for months. There is currently no known cure or vaccine, and another outbreak is predicted in 2020. 

The oldest member of the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, retires due to poor health following the November elections.  

Trump will NOT be impeached in 2018.

As a result of climate change the Antarctic ice shelf continues melting at a rapid clip and inundates Mar-a-Lago (this is not a political statement).

During the second half of the year the stock market declines more than 10%, officially entering a bear market. The country slumps into a (hopefully) minor and short-lived recession. Also in the world of business Tesla and Uber merge, laying off thousands of drivers replaced by driverless cars. Many of the unemployed seek jobs as pizza delivery men and women and gas station and car wash attendants, while others begin nefarious careers in auto theft.

With a continuing influx of immigrants walking across the U.S. border into Canada, Canada announces a plan to build a barrier across the two-country border and have the U.S. pay for it. Meanwhile construction begins on a wall across the Mexican border after Putin agrees to loan Trump the funds. 

Congress passes an infrastructure bill. One of the first projects is a tunnel between New York and New Jersey (finally!), and two bridges - one from Miami to Puerto Rico, enabling those still impacted by Hurricane Maria an easier way to get to the U.S. mainland, and a second bridge linking Alaska and Russia. Both Trump and Putin plan on attending the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Transbering bridge (the Bering Straight separates Alaska and Russia at the narrowest point), bringing Russia once again into the sphere of influence along North America’s Pacific coast, not seen since Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. in 1867 for $7.2 million - 2 cents an acre - a bargain even in 1867. Trump withholds funds for the Miami-Puerto Rico bridge but forges ahead with the Transbering connection.

Obama hosts SNL (Saturday Night Live) the week before the November election and breaks the  record for viewing numbers. Fox News declares the numbers bogus and fake news.

I continue a personal tradition and get sick on my birthday.

Hub and I spend several days during the holiday week of 2017 (between Christmas and New Year’s) in the VERY cold but beautiful state of Vermont. Next year we hope to spend the week anyplace promising warm weather.

Happy New Year!

The wonderfully frigid weather experienced in the Winter Wonderland of Vermont, December 27, 2017.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

My 2017 Year Abridged

I should begin back in January, but my mind is not what it used to be. Remembering what I did a year ago is challenging. And gives me a headache.

So I will move along to February. Hub and I escaped the cold. We visited friends who deserted us up North and now call Florida home, then hopped a Spirit flight to Costa Rica. It is always a pleasure flying Spirit (note: sarcasm here). 

As retirees we try to travel at a pace more conducive to 60-somethings on a flexible schedule than young working folks cramming a whirlwind vacay into a week or two. We visited friends (another couple who deserted us Northerners) at their Costa Rican casa.  We lounged in their pool, drank their wine, ate their food, picked bananas off trees in their yard, the visit an integral part of our budget-conscious travel strategy.

We returned stateside for a wild trip with the grandkids to Disney World, a reminder that WE are not kids anymore. 

Our at-home schedule would be considered boring by many. We attend classes offered by a local organization and I spend hours on the group’s program committee. It is my unpaid retirement job.

I research trips we rarely confirm.

I garden when neighbors working outside make me feel guilty I am not.

I attend zumba and yoga classes, hard work that never appears evident on my body.

We visit doctors who missed us while away.

We drive to Vermont to babysit grandkids. In May we fly (Spirit again) to Florida to see grandkids in year-end school activities. 

We drag table, chairs and grill out of the garage, clean them and look forward to spending time outdoors. Then it rains. Copiously. All spring.

Mid-year. June and a festive two-week family trip to Israel. We return home with no time to recover from the grueling itinerary because summer means relatives and friends knock on our door. We shop, we cook, we visit, we are pooped. And every year in time for my June birthday I get sick. 2017 was no exception.

We go car shopping but do not buy. 

We return to Florida in August because it isn’t hot enough in New Jersey and babysit the grandkids for a week while their parents fly to Paris. Business trip is the excuse. I know better. Mom and Dad want to escape the oppressive Southern heat.

Suddenly September. Family and friends flee (until next summer). Cool weather reigns. The garden needs attention. The house demands care. I procrastinate.

December. We return to Florida for grandkid events ($40.20 each way on Spirit, the airline for cheap travelers willing to scrunch into seats and do without free mini-packs of pretzels). 

And all year long we pass too many hours in front of 24/7 news feeds feeling depressed and wondering what the f**k is happening in our world. My 2018 New Year’s resolution: pay less attention to all the news. Ignorance is bliss, and I want more bliss in my life in 2018.

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy, non-stressful and peaceful 2018.

Happy holidays! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

They’re Coming to Take Me Away

I don’t know when they’re coming to take me away, but unfortunately it will probably be sooner rather than later. I am not sure who they are – anonymous people in white suits? My family? The police? Friends? – whoever they are, they are coming.

I am not sure where they will take me or what will happen to me. Will I be confined to my home? Installed in a locked-down facility? Signed into a hospital? Dropped on a park bench someplace? If so, I hope it is someplace warm.

My decline became obvious yesterday. I did not think I was ‘losing it’ yet. But yesterday’s episode made me rethink my sanity. Or lack thereof.

Hub and I pack a few things and head to our old hometown. We throw the bags in the car, including one with my laptop case inside, and drive off.

Three hours later we arrive at our quarters, a small two-story townhouse. We unload the car and settle in comfy lounge chairs to relax for an hour before meeting friends for dinner. I take the laptop case out of the shopping bag, take out my computer, return the case to the bag and place the bag on the floor.

I am on my computer until we leave for dinner, and after dinner again use it, eventually noticing it needs recharging. I reach for the bag where my computer case is stashed. The charger is nestled in the case’s zippered compartment.

The shopping bag is gone.

I begin searching the house. The small house. The very small house. I look everywhere but cannot locate the bag.

It is hub’s turn. Maybe I overlooked it. Maybe it is staring me in the face and I cannot see it. Maybe it is time to have my eyes checked. Maybe I need cataract surgery. Hub combs the house and cannot locate the bag.

What did I do with the bag? It definitely did not walk away by itself. Too tired to keep hunting, I decide to go to bed and resume the search the following day. A rested body and open mind would locate the bag easily in the morning.

Morning arrives. I begin looking for my treasured lost object. I peek in drawers and cabinets, closets (only one downstairs), under and around chairs and furniture. I return upstairs and continue searching. I do not remember taking the bag upstairs, but am beginning to question myself. I inspect under the bed, in my suitcase, closets, all over the floor. The bag is not a tiny object that got kicked under a vent or cabinet.

How could the shopping bag disappear? I check the car. Maybe I absent-mindedly grabbed the bag and took it back to the car when we went out to dinner. No idea why I would do that. I didn’t. No bag in the car.

What do I do now? Buy another charger? I hate to spend the money. I plan on buying a new computer soon, but not tomorrow. My computer is old (for a computer) and loses juice quickly, so needs charging often. I need my computer. I am like an addict without a fix. I cannot hold out long without a usable computer at my disposal 24/7.

I see myself going out screaming, “Where’s my charger? I want my charger!” clutching my computer to my breast.

A nagging thought sneaks across my brain – What will I forget next? Misplace? Fail to remember?

My downward slide begins…and they (whoever they are) might come soon to take me away. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

December Holiday Highlights from the Best of Boomers

Although the calendar indicates winter has not officially arrived, the season made an early appearance in my hometown. Snow swept in and presented us with a glorious white blanket. Unfortunately the town cancelled its twilight holiday parade due to the weather, but the holiday spirit is alive and lively in musical events scheduled throughout the month, Santa sightings, outdoor decorations, and a festive atmosphere in stores, restaurants and community gathering places.

The onset of cold and snow gets those of us living north of the Mason Dixon line in the holiday mood. But the holidays can be tough for many. Whether it's a holiday or not, Carol Cassara has some helpful, simple-to-implement ideas for taking care of ourselves that anyone can do. My favorite suggestion: eat chocolate! 

Do you have any Festive traditions?  Traditions are an important part of life, especially as we reach midlife and beyond.  It ties family and friends together. Sue Loncaric over at Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond shares 5 of her favorite traditions for this time of year. Living in Brisbane, Australia means it is Summer so no snow or mulled wine!  Read how she and her family enjoy the special time of year.

Rebecca Olkowski at Baby Boomster is reliving a river cruise she took several years ago to see the Christmas Markets on the Danube. She shares a recipe for authentic German Gingerbread on her blog as well as photos from some of the markets she visited.

This past week Tom Sightings took advantage of the freedom (and the senior discounts) afforded to us retirees by making a quick trip to New York City. So if you're at all curious, ride along by punching your ticket over at Two-Day. . . and see what's currently showing at The Met.

Over at Unfold And Begin, Jennifer did another interview for her Begin Again Series and chatted with Molly at Shallow Reflections. Molly is a nurse who picked up humor writing later in life.  You can read about Molly and the book she recently published in Who Is That Boomer On The Ledge. 

Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, is in a stew about the holidays. Robison returned from a two-week vacation to Australia about 10 days ago and been “lost in space” since with jet lag. She didn’t have a plan to get ready for Christmas before she left, so received a jolt when she calculated it’s just two weeks away. Luckily, Robison has been blogging, so take a look at her articles on how to make tasty chicken stew, which can help you if you, too, are in a stew about the holidays, and how to avoid sugar, which abounds in desserts and alcoholic drinks during the holidays. But then, things aren’t all that bad. Robison also wrote about the second Volkswagen executive being sentenced to prison for taking part in the company’s emissions testing scandal. That’s good news for consumers.

I hope everyone enjoys the holiday season. Don't forget to take time to sit back, relax, and stop by the Boomers. We love to hear from you.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Short Road Trip Extended

Six o’clock on a drizzly December weekday evening and already dark, it was my turn behind the wheel tackling rush hour traffic. Hub sprawled comfortably (as comfortably as possible in a small car) across the front passenger seat. We dropped Mom at her apartment on Long Island and headed home to south Jersey.

Cars converged onto roads from all directions, motorists and passengers intent on getting home ASAP, allowing no time or patience for slow drivers, for those unsure when or where his/her entrance or exit would appear, and no tolerance for cars moving merely at the speed limit on the one hand or crawling in stop and almost-go traffic on the other.

I have driven the route numerous times, but sections still prove stressful, especially a piece of road where, coming off the bridge from Staten Island (NY), millions (an exaggeration, but not much) of cars merge onto seven southbound lanes (according to Wikipedia) of the Garden State Parkway.

I maneuvered onto this wide stretch of parkway in a painstaking effort NOT to destroy myself, hub, and/or the car. As if on cue the drizzle became a downpour. I could not clearly see lane borders. The glare from parkway lamps, car lights and rain obscured pavement markings. Windshield wipers worked furiously but partly obscured the roadway, sweat crept across my forehead, hub repeatedly asked what was happening and cars sped past both sides of me – passing on the right common on these roads. Dwarfed by mammoth vans and sedans (no trucks allowed on the Garden State), the car inched forward into a murky abyss.
The Garden State Highway looking north.
The vehicles created a mass movement of steel and humanity replicated, I am sure, on highways in cities across the nation.

My car is not among the daily commuters. Never was. My commute involved a six mile drive along two-lane roads, at one time country lanes but by the end of the 20th century congested suburban corridors. Driving these roads is nothing like facing metro city traffic – slow crawling traffic jams or multitudes of cars careening down the highway at breakneck speeds.

Maybe I am getting old. I am not as aggressive and single-minded as the wild drivers around me on New York and New Jersey highways determined to get someplace fast, traffic and rain be damned

Exhausted but happy, four and a half hours after leaving Long Island we exited the car, exhaled a huge sigh of relief and gently rose from a curled, bent position to an almost straight one, our bones not as flexible as years past.

We were home.

Until the next trip. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

10 Things to Do While Home With a Sick Spouse

Or significant other, relative, friend, or anyone else

Hub came down with pneumonia a couple of weeks ago. We thought it was a cold but the nasty cough lingered. He spent days with the TV on and eyes closed. 

What does a caregiver do for days home when the sickee (as opposed to sicko, which hub decidedly is not) does not require 24/7 constant care?

Here are ten suggestions (in no particular order) for anyone facing this predicament:

1. Spend money...lounge in your favorite chair, laptop in hand, multitasking - watch TV, listen to music, observe your significant other sleep. Buy anything. Doesn’t matter. Keeps you busy and stimulates the economy.

2. Cook. Jewish penicillin, a.k.a. chicken soup, is a must-have in a home inhabited by sick folks.

3. Watch TV. Don’t feel guilty. Be a couch potato. It’s part of a caregiver’s job and somebody’s got to do it. I reviewed a list of the 100 best movies of the 20th century. We watched All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity…oldies but goodies.

4. Clean the house. You can do it. I thought about doing it. A lot. But didn’t get further than feeling guilty that I wasn’t cleaning but should be.

5. Read. Magazines, newspapers, that book on the top of a pile waiting for attention…

6. Clean out your computer. Delete old emails, documents, pictures, anything and everything.

7. Create photo albums online, or better yet use real photos printed on real paper. Place them in real albums. If you are like me, there are boxes of old photos sitting in a closet patiently waiting for you to reach in, drag out the boxes, organize pictures and create photo albums.

8. Plan a trip or two. Not going anywhere is a good time to research where you want to go. Plan a getaway or two, maybe a day trip into the city to visit a museum or see a play or spend a day with friends, or a longer trip farther afield.

9. Catch up with family/friends/business associates/other humans. Call folks or send an email that is like an actual letter, with sentences and paragraphs.

10. If at a loss for something to do and starting to go stir crazy, there is the best modern time waster of all – social media.

To maintain sanity, there is one thing you absolutely should NOT do:

Do NOT under ANY circumstances listen to a 24/7 news channel. You will become anxious and fearful, the result a desire to take out your anxiety and nervousness on the nearest human – the poor sick guy or gal under your care.

And remember – this too shall pass. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

On the Move Again

We left the house about 9:30 Thanksgiving morning. First stop the local coffee shop for a coffee and muffin for the road. The shop was surprisingly busy for a holiday morning – especially a day when everyone looked forward to a huge meal a few hours later – but the place is famous for its baked goods. Most people walked away with a bag full of pre-ordered goodies for the dessert table - and a cup of coffee.

Hub and I headed off on a three-hour drive (assuming minimal traffic) to my sister’s for Thanksgiving dinner. The big question was how long it would take to get through Philadelphia. We needed to drive the Schuylkill Expressway – an ironic name for a road often jam-packed with vehicles progressing at a crawl.

The drive proceeded smoothly. No traffic. I think most people traveling distances were where they wanted to be. Local traffic trekking an hour or so to reach their dinner destination had not yet clogged roads.

Almost at our destination, we encountered the first motorized vehicle usually ubiquitous on the roads – a truck.

I realized one key reason the drive had been a pleasant one. No trucks. The more trucks on the road, the more drivers (or at least this particular driver) become stressed. The larger the trucks, the more tension. Trucks run from big, to bigger, to the double whammy, all of which dwarf our small (but cute and gas efficient) Mazda. Sandwiched between monster trucks is a powerful stimulus to rising blood pressure, anxiety and a far from enjoyable trip.

We drove home Friday afternoon, detouring to meet friends at an airport hotel for dinner. Our friends spent the holiday with family in Philly and were flying home the following morning, staying at the hotel Friday night to decompress (it is exhausting spending a week with grandkids 24/7). The four of us sat at the hotel bar drinking (not me – I was the designated driver) and eating – again.

Not our Thanksgiving turkey.
 Did I mention we enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast? My vegan sister prepared traditional fare – soup (squash or corn chowder), then the main course - turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (white), sweet potatoes (with marshmallows on top), Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce (choice of canned and homemade)…etc. Then dessert of course….

We are home now. No travel, a return to careful eating, and a weekend sans appointments, meetings, nothing on the calendar!

Will we bore ourselves to oblivion? Will we survive?

We are looking forward to a couple of days with no pressure to accomplish anything or go anyplace, an uneventful, pleasant interlude, possible as long as we don’t listen to any 24/7 news channel, the American 21st century equivalent of mental pain and suffering. We will read. We will watch old movies, non-political, non-violent ones with easy to follow story lines. The good old days…