Wednesday, August 4, 2010

We Are All Related

I continue to go back in time with my genealogy research. I have again renewed my membership in ( for another three months, and have been able to break through some more “ceilings,” thanks to member connections and some research on the Internet.

While I hoped for some tidbits about great-grandparents and maybe new information on older ancestors, I was definitely not prepared for all the breakthroughs I experienced. While I have always considered my family to be good citizens and workers, I certainly never thought I would find famous people in my lineage; nor did I expect to find country origins other than Denmark, France, or Ireland.

My trust in the accuracy of my findings is mild to lukewarm the further back I go, but beyond the 15th century I must admit I am starting to question things—the primary reason being that facts were passed along by word of mouth rather than recorded in a book, and we all know what happens when information is conveyed that way. I am saying this because as I picked up the breadcrumbs in my family journey back in time (and a variety of branches within), I stumbled upon the likes of Charlemagne, Macbeth, the kings of Sweden, Finland and—the greatest stretch—Turkey! I was literally walking through the dark caves of the 8th century when these gentlemen began to show up, and my first reaction was “Whoa!” Then, of course, how could I stop? As long as I found a father or mother, I pressed on. Finally, I think it was the Turk in 100 A.D. who showed no mother or father and my longest journey ended—whew! I highly suspect there are lots of mistakes in these rafter-finds, but I must say it does give me a bit of a boost to consider the possibility of royalty in my blood—not just from one twig but several other twigs in the branches of my family tree.

The other thing that interests me is the fact that all these people who comprise my tree—over two thousand souls so far, by guesstimate—come from practically everywhere in Europe. I’ve definitely got the Atlantic crossings in the early 17th century from France to Quebec; then the mid-19th century crossing from Ireland to New York (finally ending in Michigan) of my great-grandfather, as well as the mid-19th century crossing of another great-grandfather from Denmark to Pennsylvania. But I’ve since discovered other travels of other ancestors around Europe—Germany, Sweden, Finland, Scotland, and England. I honestly know I have no ancestors from the Middle East, the Greek isles, Asia, Russia, or anywhere in the southern hemisphere—but the rest is a distinct possibility.

And that brings me to my next obvious conclusion: we really are related to so many strangers in so many lands. To be among one of the approximately two million descendants of Charlemagne doesn’t impress me nearly as much as knowing I am therefore related to the other 1,999,999.

How nice it could be if today we could make a mark on this earth similar to the historically famous people we have heard of and read about. I guess my feeling is, give it your best shot. What we all have in common is that we have been given a life and it will end. What we do with it is largely up to us. I think we all would like to be favorably remembered, but the truth is that after five or six generations we will be less than a “blip,” perhaps without even a name. I don’t want to have that happen to me—I want a descendant of mine, in 2510, to “find” me and smile.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ninety—The New 70!

The older I get, the younger the older get—get it? When I hit 50, it was the new 40. When I hit 60, it was the new 50—and so on. But NOW, this form of thinking has fast-forwarded to those who are as mobile and agile as a 70 year-old…but who are twenty years older!

I know people in their 90s, and I meet new ones nearly every day. They don’t own a walker, they live independently, and they are busy enjoying life! My neighbor down the street turned 90 about eight months ago and the rest of us are still not over it. She has a cute figure, is a fashionable dresser, and she recently booked onto a cruise from Finland to St. Petersburg, Russia—she leaves next week. My guy’s stepmom will be 92 in February, and although she has had a heart problem for years (ten years ago she got a pacemaker) she still takes classes at the local college and plays bridge—not only with two local bridge groups but also internationally, online. She and her husband, who will be 89 in January, take local trips—their favorite is Las Vegas. Her sister-in-law celebrated her 93rd birthday last month, flying across the country to a convention in North Carolina. When she’s at home—between similar trips to Texas, Utah, etc.—she is a docent at a well-known museum about half an hour’s drive away. Oh, and did I tell you all of these people are still driving—having recently renewed their licenses? I will add, however, that I make certain I don’t ride with them—no amount of vitality guarantees life-saving reaction time behind the wheel of a car when you are 90 and beyond.

On my recent trip to Napa, in the shuttle bus from the Oakland Airport to Napa—the best scenic drive for the money around—I got acquainted with a 94 year-old woman on her way home after a week in Oklahoma. She flew alone round-trip. Now, she did have a walker—but she confided to me that she only uses it when she travels. Of all the 90+ people I either know or have met, she is the only one so far who lives in retirement home. However, this is the Veterans’ Home in Yountville—also known as the mansion on the hill. To get into this retirement home (which now reportedly has a waiting list longer than Route 29, which passes by it) you have to have served your country in the military—the only other people they will consider are the spouses of veterans. She said she had the smarts to enlist in the Army during World War II. After she got out, she got her teaching credential and taught for about 35 years, eventually outliving her husband and then had the smarts to sign up to live in this Veterans’ Home which overlooks the Napa Valley. If you have been to Napa Valley, you know what I am talking about—gentle, rolling hills covered with vineyards, and wineries along the road which winds through the city of Napa all the way up to Calistoga, past St. Helena. It is just a big chunk of Paradise in my opinion. I didn’t ask her, but I’ll bet the residents get a glass of wine with each meal.

All of the 90-somethings I know are not necessarily healthy, but they are all positive thinkers and they’ve got something going on all the time. They have obviously had to modify any exercise regime, but they walk whenever and as far as they can. They have lost sons or daughters, spouses and other loved ones. They all have every reason to be bitter or depressed—I mean, it is easy to pick just one thing sad or tragic out of each of their life experiences—but they have chosen not to be. They do NOT say things like “I am only marking time,” “This life sucks,” or “I wish I could (fill in the blank) like I used to.” No, they are too busy DOING things! Each day spreads in front of them—a gift. They are survivors, fighters—tough, yet nice & friendly. They exercise their minds and they think about others.

I want to be like them when I grow up. I think if they could hear me say that, they would immediately comment, “Then start NOW.”

Monday, June 28, 2010

Going To My High School Reunion--I Think!

The other day a postcard came to me in the mail to herald the 50th reunion of my high school class exactly one year from now. How nice of them to get a save-the-date out to me twelve months in advance—now I will have plenty of time to completely overhaul myself before I dare step on board with I have no idea how many sixty-eight-year-olds who once were “cool in school!”

Since I was never “cool,” I won’t have to make as much of an effort. Ha! I went onto the web site provided on the postcard and saw a current group picture of my reunion committee—none of whom I recognized, although their names were familiar. Regrettably, I never kept in touch after graduation with anyone I went to high school with. I had transferred there after two years of Catholic school—an all-girls high school in my hometown, located across campus from the all-boys high school. The girls were not allowed to be over in the boys’ buildings and vice-versa—yet, there were occasional attempts to “mix” via a sock-hop after a game but of course I didn’t know any of the boys (because I followed the rules and never went over to their building!) except for the few I knew from the Catholic grammar school I had attended for eight years and they weren’t all that mysterious to me having known them since they were about five years old. I was painfully shy on top of it, taller than most of the boys, and I didn’t feel I was pretty. Of course, the curriculum was excellent but curriculum was of absolutely no interest to me at that point in my life (foolish girl)—I wanted to at least look at the boys in class and hope perhaps one or two might speak to me! So my mother wisely allowed me to enter public school at the start of my junior year where I looked forward to each day even though I didn’t learn as much. It is the public school I attended that is having the reunion—although maybe if I am lucky the Catholic girls high school just might send me a postcard too (why do I think their reunion won’t be as much fun?).

Anyway, when I brought up on my computer screen the group photo of the reunion committee, complete with the girls’ maiden names, I went hunting for my yearbook from my senior year to compare. I have to say, time is not kind! But then, I have only to look in my mirror and then glance at my senior photo to know that. I’m telling all the eighteen-year-olds out there right now that no matter what you do—you are not going to look like you do now ever again. The kind classmates on the reunion committee understand this, however, and even say in a really sweet poem on the web site that it doesn’t matter if you are rich, if you are poor, if you are fat, if you are losing your hair, if you have a tummy, etc., etc., come to the reunion! There will be drinking, so that should help. I am thinking, after 50 years it probably doesn’t matter that I didn’t keep in touch with any of them—probably no one is going to recognize anybody else anyway!

But just in case—and because they’ve already indicated our name tags will display our senior photo—I finally have an incentive to try to look as close to eighteen as I possibly can, without the expense of plastic surgery (no reunion is worth $5,000+). And besides, on this same web site they published the 92 names of those classmates who have died over the years—cripes! I looked them up as well in my yearbook and realize I had known some of them—how sad that they are no longer around! I felt better then—after all, I may look older but at least I am still here!

So, I am thinking right now that I just might go—but in case I decide not to go, I am still going to send in my biography with a current photo so I can at least buy the memory book and find out what everyone else has done with their lives. See—I’m really not that all certain I’ll go! I am still shy, still tall, and I still don’t think I’m all that pretty.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Not Always What You Think

It is funny how your point of view—even a simple impression you get—can be skewed by stuff going on in your head. In other words, it’s not always what you think it is.

I like to remember this bit of wisdom whenever I find myself in a “blue funk.” Things aren’t really that bad—it is the filter I am using that is the problem.

Now, this doesn’t work with cold, hard facts—such as your house is being foreclosed or someone dear to you just died. What I am talking about is when you wake up and have a “What’s good about it?” general response to the day that is spread out before you like a buffet. Something, perhaps a comment you heard the day before or a dream you had, has placed you to the side of the road instead of in dead center. You just don’t feel much like doing anything—and if you did, it probably wouldn’t work out anyway. When you are retired and don’t have a stress-filled job to tackle—which usually reduces the blue funk to a pin-prick—this mood tends to linger and weigh you down like a stone. The voice in your head not only plays on, it gets downright chatty and begins to sounds logical!

Like other problems in retirement—subtle weight gain to deal with, the increased need for time-management and self-maintenance, etc.—this one requires serious action. Pull this weed out by the root or it comes back, over and over.

Because time really is on your side—and is not at all the enemy—you can get a grip on it. All my life I have found myself saying, “If I ever get time, I am going to do this or that.” Well, now there is time—lots of it!

Yesterday, after a lovely morning, I arrived home with a sad mood sitting in the passenger seat of my car and it accompanied me right into the house! I didn’t know how it got there at first, but then—because I took time to think about it instead of trying to just smother it with plans to go back out shopping or watch TV or have a snack—I realized when it came out of nowhere and stuck to me like a leech. I had joined a group of ladies whom I know—not really well, but whom I have previously met at various functions—on a private tour of a lovely old home in the nearby hills. This was an 80-year old Spanish-style villa that a Realtor and member of a club to which I also belong has on the market. The ladies I shared “oohs and ahhs” with are from varied stations in life—one writes a column in our local paper, another is head librarian in our town, still another lives in a beautiful historic home on Main Street, and the rest are just like me—what I call “refined without credentials.” Somehow during this tour I must have started listening to that voice in my head which was informing me that had I not made stupid decisions I too could have lived in a better home and had a better life! And, instead, I live in a 40 year-old condo in an “okay” part of town, with a “poor” nice guy—instead of a “well established” husband who is also the father of my children—and I drive a 13-year-old car instead of a newer, more expensive model, and so on.

Yes, of course this is nonsense! But it played on and on while I listened—the gist of the message was, “You could have done so much better—you should have done so much better—and now here you are, your life practically over, stuck, with absolutely no hope of change at this point. I turned and looked at each woman as one by one they were recalling their early days and I determined that they weren’t children of divorce like I was—their parents no doubt had money and so they enjoyed lots of parties and dated the boys from the other “best” families. Their mothers stayed home and wore aprons with heels all day and baked cookies and provided towels for the pool. Oh, this voice was clearly out of control! Even my fellow “refined without credentials” ladies ever so subtly levitated off the floor before my eyes!

Well, at some point the voice of reason should come around, but so far he is sleeping in this morning! Writing about this helps me see that my perception about this is just that. But I realize that my quiet and less-hectic lifestyle invites this kind of destructive thinking—and how many others out there are having similar experiences?

Therefore, others—like me—desperately need to hear kind words at times like these. A friendly smile, a genuine gesture of kindness (not pity) toward that person beside you, can really help! Because it really is okay, you really are just like everyone else! The woman who writes the news column, the local librarian, the owner and resident of the grandest old home in town, even the owner of the Spanish villa—they all feel like crap every now and then, and every single one of them needs to know, at times like that, they are acceptable! It works even better when you fully understand, when you struggled to stand up straight and face the day this very morning. And another payoff is—it helps get you out of that terrible funk that can drag you down and possibly flatten you for good. You almost need to always do it—instead of keeping quiet, listening to the voice inside that tells you the other person could care less.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Free To Be...

In the early 1970s (I think it was 1974) actress Marlo Thomas published a book and a song for children called “Free To Be You And Me,” which dealt with diversity. It was also used to promote feminism. The idea was that you can be anything you want because you are OKAY! I have always thought it was a positive thing, to give a child the idea that he or she could be whatever they wanted whether they were girl or boy, black, brown, yellow or white. But I think, like so many wonderful movements, it has surpassed its original purpose and now there is pretty much license out there to do whatever you want and act any way you want because, gosh darn it, you are special!

In this entry, I am focusing on spelling, grammar and punctuation, as well as the importance of being knowledgeable of the social graces.

Case in point—the other day I received an invitation to a wedding shower. It is being put on by the bride’s family (that is written right into the invitation) at her mother’s home. Well….I don’t think they are aware (or do they just not care—after all…) that they are already soliciting one gift with the wedding invitation and, therefore, the family of the bride is not supposed to add to that by soliciting for an additional gift by officially giving the bride a shower! But now comes another big, glaring error—the pretty, computer-generated invitation, written in beautiful script and bordered by pictures of spring flowers, says, “Bridle Shower"!!! Is the bride a horse-lover and the spelling a play on words? Will we wear western outfits and sit on hay? Sadly, no. The invitation is now a glaring faux pas on two levels. The bride, by the way is an elementary school teacher.

Speaking of school, in all the years I worked for the school district and specifically for the high school part of my duties was proof-reading letters, memos, flyers-—written by individuals who not only had teaching credentials but by many who had their masters degrees and administrative credentials. And I found horrendous errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar—-all the time! Their excuses ranged from, “I’ve never been good at spelling,” to “Gee, spell check didn’t catch that?” Well then, you shouldn’t have been handed your degree if you couldn’t spell or use proper grammar without assistance!

And from a wide range of friends and acquaintances of all ages I have witnessed: not responding to invitations and then showing up, showing up late, and not thanking the host/hostess. Were these people raised by wolves?

In the workplace, some people call in sick about half an hour after they were due in to work. They do not call at the end of the day to say whether they think they will be in the next day—-so if they don’t show up the next day, you are to assume they are still sick. And they continue to do this after they are told to call ahead—-on top of the fact this is in most companies’ policies, it is the courteous thing to do! They become a “problem” because their supervisors don’t have the balls to approach them when they do this habitually—-let’s not offend them, they say!

I don't think my mother's generation wrung their hands over this kind of thing when they looked at other people--did they?? (I'm not counting Elvis or The Beatles!) Is this to be expected in our "golden years?" To watch the actual disintegration of ways of doing things that all our lives were important social components is very difficult indeed. I admit--I was unprepared.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Betty White

Last night I watched a repeat of the Tonight Show--the Betty White segment when she was a guest on the Tonight Show in mid-March. What a delightful lady! I like to think she is in my mother’s generation (the only generation older than mine), but in truth she would have been only 19 if I had been her child! Anyway, she is currently enjoying a surge in her Hollywood career—a rarity these days for someone her age. I think she is amazing—take a look at her information on these web sites & when you get a chance. Guess she has an autobiography, "Betty White in Person,” that was put out in 1987. I remember her series on television in the early 1950s, “Life With Elizabeth” for which she won an Emmy, by the way! She was only about 28 years old then. And here she is today, 60 years later, still going strong. And she is nice. And decent. And, in spite of the ditsy roles she has played so convincingly, she’s smart. She has never been glamorous, just ordinary. And so very, very funny! Of course, she has a good agent/manager and she is probably very assertive (and maybe a bit aggressive)—you don’t keep on going like she does if you are quiet and retiring. She was asked on the show I watched last night if she planned to retire and she laughed out loud—absolutely not! So, she’s got to be willing to schlep (I love that expression and use it a lot—it covers so much) and put up with a lot in order to be considered for spots. Her next “gig” will be to host Saturday Night Live on May 8 (,,20350436,00.html). I’m looking forward to that! I think she is probably very healthy, happy and on top of everything, with such a busy work schedule. My hat is off to her, honestly. She is truly a role model for her generation (and mine).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Keep On Movin’

Until I retired I never realized how old my body is. Well, there were hints that I chose to sweep aside—like the increasing difficulty getting up from kneeling or sitting on the floor without holding onto anything, along with struggling to get out of that beach chair of mine that I use in the summertime for our local concerts in the park. My excuses have centered mostly on the conditions rather than my lack of ability. Chair is too low, I sat too long, these stupid shoes, etc.

And then I joined a workout class two months ago. There is a cross-section as far as age is concerned in this evening class—a fairly equal distribution from mid-forties to late-sixties. There is one 75 year old in the class, but she is awesome so I am not counting her. Anyway, I drag myself to this class three nights a week and for one hour it is one grueling workout—but I speak for myself! And I am confessing that here only. Because after each set it seems all the others clap and cheer, while I am filled with OMGs. Well, a couple of gals in the back row with me exchange glances while they gasp for breath.

I have discovered there is a sisterhood in this back row because we don’t always get the routine right away and we are in the back row so no one will notice—I figured that out the first week. I asked one of my “sisters” how long it takes to learn the sets and she replied that the instructor keeps changing them all the time so you really have to pay attention. Our instructor is great—beautifully toned and inexhaustible. And she is around 50, so there goes the age excuse. No excuses, ladies! Unless you honestly cannot get your breath you are fine. Keep it going! She says that all the time. The music is fast-paced and she is even faster—and when the music stops she keeps going with the next routine so we will see it as our preview; thirty seconds of silence is followed by more music, and this goes on for one solid hour nonstop!

The room is ice cold when we enter, so I wear a light jacket. It is colder inside than out in the parking lot! But after 10 minutes of warm-up, I throw that jacket back against the wall where my workout bag sits because I am sweating like all get-out. This is very good, the sweating. Yep. Another good thing is learning the routines, because I am exercising my brain—which, I’ve discovered, is gradually losing ground just like my body. And I didn’t really know this before! Ah-ha. Gee. Ooops, we only do four skips before we do the ball-change and then we punch the air four times with the right arm, then four times with the left. Got it! Hey, we stopped and now she is doing something else! Okay, I’ll get it. And I do get it—just not as fast as I expected.

But then, half-way through, it is time to get out our mats. And we slowly kneel down and then finally sit with our legs outstretched. We have an excellent workout stretching our legs, which is also good for the abs—my abs ache, actually—and then we are to rise to a standing position. That’s when I say, “Oh, crap.” It is this exercise that delineates me from the pack—except for my sisterhood of the back row, and they get on all fours like me and rock from side to side as they struggle to get the heck off the floor.

So, I have learned that I have to keep moving. Walk and exercise body and mind every single day. Because if you don’t, you’re screwed. Really.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


We are being buried by “stuff!” There is too much of unimportant material things lying everywhere—I see it all the time. Here at home, at my daughters’ homes, in neighbors’ garages as I drive past. To me, this stuff is not a symbol of wealth or comfort; rather, it is a symbol of excess. And it has become a burden. Direct mail brochures, delivered in our mailboxes, show us that we can have attractive wrought iron dish racks beside our sinks or small statues and fountains in our gardens. Hang this or that on your walls, buy 100 shoes for all occasions—in short, add comfort to your already comfortable lives! For the children, make certain they have everything so that they will somehow be smarter and happier—that is supposedly the best thing we can give them, and it is our duty to do it! And speaking of our goals for the children, when did being smart and attractive with few needs and all wants satisfied become what everyone has to have in order to be accepted? And if we are accepted, we of course will be happy...won't we?

The old saying, “Money does not buy happiness,” while still true, is too general I think. Money is important to have in order to realize the basic level of comfort—a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, food in our stomachs—and in that respect it does provide us with peace of mind, a close cousin of happiness. But as I go along in this life, I am learning that material things don’t bring happiness (hearing this and knowing this can be two distinct experiences).

I honestly believe I was happier when I was barely making ends meet. Granted, I was just able to make ends meet—and that gave me a sense of relief so that I could concentrate on my emotional state of mind. And when I thought about where I was—sitting on a ledge somewhere near the top of the pit I had in the recent past fallen into—I appreciated how far I had come as I climbed up and away from fear and desolation. And that made me happy!

And now I have too much stuff! My goal this month is to go through my closets (I now have my clothes in three closets—summer and casual in one, dress-up and winter in another, and in the third closet I have the what-if-I-need-this-someday clothes.) to not only organize them but to weed them out. But I like having something to wear on any occasion, so this will not be easy! I remember when I was first divorced I did not buy anything new—not sweaters, pants, jackets, shoes, purses, nor even underwear—for over one year. I never even went to the mall. My girls had cast off some of their clothes, which I then went through and pulled some tops for myself. I have to say, I weighed about 20 pounds less than I do now so I looked good in the few outfits I had. I took my old shoes to have them repaired and I bought shoe polish. I mixed and matched until I was dizzy. And I liked what I saw in the mirror. So now I am realizing that if I would lose those 20 pounds not only would I ensure a more healthy body, I would not need so many clothes—I buy more clothes because I think that I am just one shopping trip away from finding something that will make me look better.

And then there is the old trap of having the latest thing on the market. We just bought a flat-screened television. The old television was not broken—although the built-in speakers were threatening to go out on us at any time, which proved to be a common-sense reason to go shopping for a new television. The screen is larger and very, very clear. But I must say, there aren't many quality programs on television these days. So we watch the news in high-definition, wide-screen, along with a few nature programs and a couple of sitcoms. And when people come over, there sits our flat-screen television set to prove we are not living in the 1970s—living in the 1970s is a fate worse than death, socially speaking.

And then there is the food! On average, Americans eat about three times as much per day as they need to in order to survive and be healthy. I am painfully aware of this in my journey to lose these 20 pounds. I compare today to my childhood—and I am certain the 1940s and 1950s were more bountiful than fifty years prior to that. I cannot remember eating other than three meals a day, except for a snack after school. I did not start grabbing a large bag of potato chips and munching on them in front of the television until I was about 17. In grammar school, I can remember my stomach growling just before lunch—there was a thrill of anticipation that very soon I would open my lunchbox to see what kind of sandwich my mother had made that day and have a cup of cold milk from my thermos. There was always either a banana or an apple in the lunchbox as well, and maybe a cookie or two. We did not have “snack” at our mid-morning recess—that was the time we ran around and played. After lunch, I didn’t eat again until I got home around three o’clock—and then it was a small healthy snack, usually accompanied by my favorite orange drink, “HiC,” which came in a large can (I don’t know what was in it because ingredient labels were not then required; it didn’t taste like real orange juice—but it was good). By dinner time I was famished again—my mother would cut up some raw vegetables for me to munch on while I waited for dinner to be ready. I always drank milk, not sodas, and never had chips or candy (honestly!). The saying in those days: “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”

Today, I have the opportunity to eat out at least two or three times a week—and it is tempting! I really have to work at not stocking my pantry shelf with salty snacks and cookies, along with boxed meals—the kind where you add water or milk or soup.

Within the past forty years, we have everything at our fingertips. Heaven forbid we should have to get up and walk to get anything! Telephone ringing? Reach over and pick up one of your cordless phones (if you didn’t leave it in the bathroom). Research? Internet. The big game? Television. A cooked meal? Micro-waved packaged dinners, frozen packaged dinners, take-out. Communication and Internet access? Cell phone/iPhone. Raining outside? Drive to the corner. Hot out? Turn on air conditioning/dip in the pool.

And we are drinking more, taking more medication, hiring more therapists, divorcing more, gaining more weight, and having more plastic surgery. “What is wrong? Fix me!” we cry. Damn.

The more we have, the more we have to display it, maintain it, clean it, store it, donate it. That’s what we have when we get more stuff—after the honeymoon with it is over (and that is usually a customary two to three weeks, but may be shorter depending on the cost).

To really win and feel the happiness, we have to get past the pressure of having something we really don’t need. Not long ago, while waiting for my guy to finish talking to a computer salesman at Best Buy, I wandered over to their appliance department looking for an energy-saving, top-loading washer like the one my daughter bought a couple of years ago. A young saleswoman approached, asking if she could help me. When she led me to the washing machine (sitting beside an energy-saving dryer) I had described, I chatted with her about the fact that I still have a dryer from the mid-eighties and that my washing machine is about 17 years old. I looked at the sales tags on the new appliances—obviously it costs more to get a new machine than it did nearly two or three decades ago, so seeing the total figure of nearly $2,000 wasn’t a surprise. But then the saleswoman said something that brought me up short. She absolutely marveled at the fact that my appliances were still in good working order. Then she told me that these two new appliances have been built to last 10 years. Okay, so my old machines are not so efficient and I am spending a few more dollars a year to run them—but they are working and they are paid for! I smiled and did the old “weight scales” maneuver—held out both hands and lifted them opposingly up and down: “My current working machines, paid for. New energy-efficient machines costing over $2,000 with a life-span of 10 years. Which to choose? Hmmm.” When my old machines stop working, I will go shopping—but not until then.

Now, I did replace all my old, drafty windows in my condo early last summer. But not only are they saving me heating and air conditioning costs, they have added to the value of my property. And, I received a healthy tax credit! And these windows will last until they tear this place down. This is the kind of material stuff that is smart to buy.

I am still driving my third car (third car in 45 years), which is a 1997 Honda Civic that I bought used in November of 1999. I stopped driving my previous two cars when they were involved in fender-benders and were not worth the cost of the repair. I seriously would love to own a “fun” car like a convertible, or the latest model of a luxury car—but spending money on buying a car is not efficient! And my car gets me to where I want to go. Would I honestly be deliriously happy if I drove around town in a new car every three or five years? Nope.

I do believe in spending money on travel, however. It is one of the few materialistic pleasures that actually transforms you. And you don’t have to worry about the upkeep (well, except your body....).

See a similar article I just read on the subject that refers more to packratting but it's interesting:

Senior Discounts

When I became 55, I was able to take advantage of my local movie theater's offer to let me in for a few dollars less than the general audience. Some of my friends--specifically those who were digging in their heels and screaming "Hold back the dawn!" at the thought of admitting they were getting older--pooh-poohed the idea of announcing "Two seniors for the 7:40 show." Well, all I could determine was that I was getting in cheaper than they were and the high school student who was sitting on the other side of the ticket window could have cared less. The only regret I had was that I was not "carded." And I didn't look 55 (everyone told me so)! I was so honest that I even waited until my 55th birthday had passed before I summoned the courage to request the senior discount--and then the teenager just punched in "senior" and I got my ticket without fanfare. Kind of disappointing....for a moment.

After I turned 65, I began noticing that if I bought at certain stores on Tuesdays I would receive a 10% discount. Well, isn't that nice. Considering markup, it's nothing--but think of it like this: everyone else is paying 10% more. Another grin on my face as I leave the counter.

And then just the other day we planned a visit to Big Santa Anita Canyon, a local hiking spot. I looked it up on the Internet to get an idea of what we'd be in for. We are not hikers, so we were attracted to this place because it was described as "easy, for beginners," and we will eternally be beginners in the hiking world. By the way, we ended up going there and it is quite beautiful with a picturesque 50-ft water fall two miles in. In order to park in the lot at the gate we had to purchase a day pass and hang it on the rearview mirror. Following the link for the National Forest Service, which offered information about where we could purchase this pass, I discovered there is a Senior Lifetime Pass available for anyone 62 years and older for $10. This is a pretty good deal, since the ordinary person/car must spend $5 for a day pass or $80 for an annual pass. If the ordinary person is permanently disabled there is a free lifetime pass after you can prove it to the National Parks office in person. Anyway, back to the Senior Lifetime Pass--you need to go to the local office in person and show your I.D. ( --the link also tells you the locations near you where you can buy the pass) Only one pass is necessary per car in most places but this pass will cover a total of four adults in the car if the particular park is charging per person. Now, I can count on one hand the number of national parks I have visited in my lifetime; however, this parking pass is not just for national parks, but for all federal parks in the entire country as well. So the next time we go for a stroll in a federally-owned recreational area (there are quite a few around us) all we have to do is hang this pass on the rearview mirror and we are covered. The irony is, according to the girl who sold us the pass, not very many people take advantage of this. It's ironic because now more than ever there is an abundance of 62+ people out there who go to these parks and just pay for the day pass--over and over again (nobody will put a gun to your head at the park office to make you get the Senior Pass).

Keep on looking for these senior discounts and enjoy them!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I am discovering as I get older, I have to maintain my body and mind more. Much more. It is not a pleasant experience! Because I no longer have to deal with the level of stress my job provided, I am burning fewer calories (but I am still eating three meals a day, an occasional dinner at a local restaurant, and an occasional glass of wine). My teeth and gums require more care now than they ever did—while I have been assured by the peridontist that my teeth are not going to fall out, I have to floss and use various other little teeth “tools” to clean along the gums and in between each tooth (this takes about five or six minutes every night, whereas for years I got by with a quick brush twice a day), and if I don’t I will eventually have to have lots of dental work done that will cost a lot of money.

I have to watch my cholesterol. I have to keep my weight down (actually, I have to lose 20 lbs.). Every other year I get a bone density scan to ensure I do not have osteoporosis. I get my eyes checked every year, and the eye doctor says that while he sees the beginning of cataracts (!!) he does not think I will need surgery for a few more years.

Aside from my health, I have to maintain my appearance. The true color of my hair is probably mostly white (I have colored my hair for nearly twenty-five years). When I was in my early thirties, I had a white streak in front, just to the right of my forehead. I colored that with a take-home product from the store. When I turned forty, my hairdresser noticed I was getting grey hairs here and there all over my head and suggested a mild rinse. It progressed from there to a more permanent hair coloring, but done so well (for a lot of money) that you couldn’t tell it wasn’t natural. In the last three years, my eyebrows have gone white—so I sweep a mascara wand over them every morning.

I notice that the upper lids of my eyes are drooping, but not enough to get an eye job covered by insurance. Actually, one of the lids is drooping more than the other. And while we are on the subject of my face, I notice I have jowls. But I must say, in spite of everything, people always (and I do mean always) lean back in shock when I tell them how old I am and say, “Oh, no, you can’t be!” I am enjoying every bit of that—but it is probably the next thing to fade.


I retired last June. After what seemed a lifetime of working, I got off the merry-go-round. The time was right: I was old enough to collect a nice pension and Social Security. Not only that, the amount that I would "bring home" as a retiree was more than my net as an employee. In this economy, it was a no-brainer!

So, I stepped off the edge and began the free-fall. But "I am flying!" has slowly evolved into "Where the heck am I going?"

I am busy. I am extremely active in two organizations. I tackle projects I promised I would do when I had time. I have lunch with the girls. I work out. I have researched my ancestry. But I am no longer challenged. I no longer experience the level of stress that propelled me to do awesome things. And I wonder, "Does anyone else feel this way?"

So I have decided to blog. I will ramble (see title!) about lots of things that occur to me as I go through the days of my new life. These days that have no real deadlines, no evaluations, no pressure. I will be positive, however--I have no complaints about the country going to hell in a handbasket (well I DO, but this is not the venue), nor will I harp on the way kids are today. I will not be like the older generation (thank God there is still a generation older than mine!). This is going to be a fun blog spot! Comment if you like, or just read (it would be more fun if you would comment).