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).