Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Writing About Your Life

Yesterday I took photos of the things around our house since Car-man repeatedly reminded me that photos "saved" us when we had the big earthquake (1994, Northridge, CA) and we could then prove to our insurance company what we owned.  So I went around this house and garage and itemized on camera the appliances, antiques, paintings, china, crystal, etc.

What would make little difference to anyone but my family are the boxes and boxes of photos stashed both in the house and garage.  These, obviously, couldn't be replaced unless they were saved in some off-site computer storage like Shutterfly or Snapfish.  Nor could the memories that go along with them.

Journal for Jordan has made the headlines of late.  Jordan's father, Sgt. Charles Monroe King (pictured), spent only two weeks with his infant son before he returned to duty in Iraq where he was killed in 1996.   In his writings King, unique and spirited,  lovingly shared his personal wisdom with the son he would never share first steps, first date, and first child.

I don't have to look far to remember faces  younger than I who once occupied special moments in my life but who are no longer on this earth.  You never know when you time is up--it only takes one car accident or one visit to the doctor to know that your days are numbered. 

In the spirit of Charles King, we, too, can leave a legacy for your children and grandchildren. We can impart the wisdom we have gleaned from years of living.  As a New Year's resolution, think about putting pen to paper about what makes you you, what you believe in, what's most important to you. And let those who descend you know the person you really are.  

Friday, December 26, 2008

Making New Year's Resolutions

It's that time again.  Making those dreaded New Year's Resolutions.  I'll share some of mine (if you show me yours!):

1. Eat better, particularly fruits and veggies.  The chocolate has always been a temptation but I'll try to keep it at more than an arms-length away.

2. Exercise more.  2 days a week just isn't enough when you're sitting at the computer all day long.  I think I'll add yoga to my routine.

3. Maintain a positive attitude--it does wonders for your health (and besides, people won't get the urge to toss you out the window).

4. Make new friends (it's hard when you're sitting at the computer all day long--see #2) but keep the old (I won't say who), faithful ones closer than ever.
5. Volunteer (it's hard when you're sitting at your computer all day long--see #2, 4); it's even harder to make a selection from all the worthy causes out there.  

Check out these wise tips for keeping your 2009 resolutions.   

P.S. BUT since it's not 2009 yet,  I think I'll take the tiniest sample some of that holiday chocolate sitting on my counter and lounge around in my jammies a little while longer.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Put Santa on a Diet

I've checked out more than a few Santas in my time and I can tell you they all seem to have a problem around their middles.

Granted, our aging bodies tend to change in shape but I suspect Santa is indulging in too much Coke and cookies.

I suggest, then, that for his sake, you place healthier tidbits for the man sliding down your chimney tonight and inspire him to begin his New Years resolution a few days early.    

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Last Minute Gifts

You're pressed for time.  

Check out my holiday season gift blogs for Granny and Gramps for items that won't break your bank. 

Maybe you want to buy something handmade (with someone else's hands!).

Or you want to buy something everyone can enjoy.  

Perhaps you're into the outlandish.  

Or you're considering helping a person decide on a pet.  

Maybe this holiday season you're determined to support the economy and the environment.

Or you might join the many who are making donations to charities.  

You can spend less this year on gifts and still have beautiful and memorable holidays. 

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It Takes Energy Being a Grandparent!!!

When can you become a Grandma, princess, and doggie within seconds?  When N turned 2 last week and received a "magic wand,"  she got the hang of it really quickly.  All she had to do was press the button and the fairy music accompanied an imaginary transformation.  I'd act like an exaggerated Grandma or curtsy like a princess or bark like a dog.  She had all the power.  I was her servant and gladly so because I lacked sleep from the night before and this activity required little energy (I could practically handle it sitting down!).

Then 4 1/2 year old H pulled me out of my bliss.  

"Grandma, chase me (among two words grandmas, especially tired ones, fear the most).  We want to play with the grandkids but sometimes feel really sluggish.  Guess it's time to get back into a diet and exercise regimen!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Lesson in Kindness and Resilience: Dealing With Loss After The Santa Barbara Tea Fire

While the rest of us are already being guided through our 2-minute circuit training routines at ToneUp, Mady scampers in several minutes late, surreptitiously hangs up her car keys, and heads straight for the treadmill.  As one of the few regulars, Mady is consistently greeted with the warmth and humor that she herself exudes.

One morning, then two, Mady wasn't at the gym.  Word was out that maybe she lost her home in the Tea Fire.

Mady moved to Southern California in 1992 with her two teenage daughters in order to earn an advanced degree in spiritual psychology at the University of Santa Monica.  While she studied "healing on physical, mental, and emotional levels," she became deeply rooted in the Santa Barbara community where she chaired events for "people in trouble" at the Heartfelt Foundation.  This time of year you'd usually find Mady and some volunteers collecting donations and gifts, cooking for the homeless, or brightening senior lives with meals and entertainment.  

Mady's rental home became her sanctuary where she could appreciate the light, quiet, and lush landscape.  This is where she preferred to write chapters for her book in longhand.  This is where she housed her favorite shawls and belt collection.  Her garage was filled with boxes of memories--pictures, artwork, and journals by her and daughters Saskia and Stephanie.

Yet Mady was distant from extended family still living in Australia.  Often she felt alone and unsure of where she fit in.  She wondered if she mattered to other people.

Now Mady shakes her head in disbelief as she reminisces how fast the Tea Fire approached and destroyed her home.  Luckily, she reflects, she saved her computer but her "mind blanked out"--just about everything she'd normally rescue was wiped out by the immediacy of the situation.

She urges others to create a prioritized list (including location) of cherished  keepsakes and vital records in the event of a disaster.

Mady and daughter Stephanie were left homeless with few possessions between them.  But typical of Mady, she looks back on this loss reflectively.  She views the fire as a "blessing in disguise."

People have reached out to her in so many ways--with cards, email, money, household goods, and clothes.  Above all, she's felt the love and support from people she didn't even know prior to the fire.

She's learned to accept the gifts without feeling obliged that she has to give back and regards this act not only as part of her own recovery but also as a value to others who want to help but feel helpless.

She feels more of a connection with the present than ever before.  She knows she can't go back in time so she doesn't focus on what she's lost but rather on what she has now.

She realizes that there are limitations on her energy.  She now knows when to turn her energy inward even if her natural inclination is to assist others.

She's grateful that she's one of those people who doesn't overvalue material goods.

She's learned that the human spirit is resilient and can be renewed.

But most of all, Mady has learned that she is not alone.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

When You Can't Get Together For The Holidays

You think it's easy getting together for the holidays, right?


For some, "step" is the optimal word.  Besides "real," "half," "adopted," there are more steps than the Empire State Building: Step-parents, step-siblings, step-children, step-grandparents, step-grandchildren, to name a few.  

Seeing all of them at one time of year often feels overwhelming if not impossible.

So how can you make this holiday season easier on everyone whose allegiances and distance separate them?

With Skype, you can talk with anyone, anywhere in 28 languages and if everyone is registered with Skype (it's free!!!!), then your calls cost bupkes (frei, libre, nothing).  Your calls originate and take place at your computer and you can chat with up to 100 people or conference call with up to 9 others.

Once you've mastered the simplicity of Skype, move on to free video conversations (you can even watch baby Levi or Ilana take their first steps!). In order to view your family and friends far away, however, you need to purchase a webcam.  Count on tech reviewer CNET to base their ratings on whatever your priority:  price, popularity, manufacturer, editors picks, user ratings, and product features.  Just make sure one of their recommendations  (at $52.76 after a $20. rebate) is compatible with your PC or Mac.   

Now is your opportunity to show off your creativity.  YouTube helps you make and broadcast videos around the world.  Go to CNET to compare camcorders but be aware that the costs widely vary. 

Who knows?  Maybe there's another Steven Spielberg budding inside one of you right now. (If so, don't forget to give me honorable mention in your credits!!!). 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Spend Less On Holiday Gifts

Car-man and I have been drastically affected by this economic downturn.  Our investments are a fraction of what they once were and we're having to cut back on holiday gifts this year.  The question is:  What can we do to spend less but still show our love and appreciation?  Clearly this year we're going to have to be more creative than ever.

Etsy has reminded me of one of my favorite toys (and yes, I still love toys!). You, too, can use old knit sweaters to create cuddly creatures.  Check out the recycled wool sweater owl or the sock dog or the socktopus.  An older kid might warm up to a punky monkey.

Study eco-friendly marketplaces gifts  for ideas on recycling used products into cooler new ones.  For instance, some artists have used old typewriter keys for cufflinks and the like.

Pick up those knitting or crochet needles and whip up some scarves, mittens, or throws.  

Recently, I read an article about well-known interior designers, art museum curators, and other "A-list" people scouring discount stores (Tuesday Morning and Big Lots) for unique clearance items.  If they can do it, so can we.

Create baskets: 
1. Send a garden.  Package some seeds with one or two garden tools.
2. For the college student, make a sewing kit.
3. For the newlyweds, print some of the old family recipes and put them into a cookie jar or crock pot or a colorful index box.
4. Assemble arts and craft items for any age (and don't forget the stickers).

Check out LookyBook, named as a best 2008 website by Time Magazine, for picture books.  Sure, you could purchase their recommendations at full retail prices but you could also find old standbys in "good as new" condition at garage sales, thrift stores or websites.  Look for "Harold and the Purple Crayon," "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day," "The Hungry Caterpillar," "Good Night Moon," "Corduroy," "The Giving Tree," "Pat the Bunny," "Guess How Much I Love You," and the Dr. Seuss classics. 

One year Car-man surprised me with a bizarre doll that I had been eyeing for some time resembling the characters in the popular children's book, "Where The Wild Things Are."  Think about creating another such creature to accompany the book.  

Music is always a "best bet."  "Jazz For Kids" could be a winner for children of all ages.  I can still enjoy the words and melodies to "Free to Be You and Me" from when food-man was a kid. 

Iliketotallyloveit  is a place to shop for teens and other "difficult" (discriminating?) recipients. I can't vouch for the prices but I do think this site can satisfy the tame as well as the outrageous members of your family. 

Don't forget the consignment stores where you can get quality items at bargain prices. 

And finally, for those recipients who have everything, don't have the space for anything or don't want anything, pick a charity they'd approve and make any size donation.  

This year enjoy the holidays as much as ever!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Radio Interview With Jeff Lumby

This morning I was interviewed by Jeff Lumby and co-host and sidekick Gayle O'Brien on 107.5FM in Ontario, Canada. This is the year that Jeff turns 50 and joins the rest of us in dealing with boomer and senior life changes. My guess is that he's making this transition kicking and screaming.

Anyhow, Jeff asked for gift suggestions (just in case anyone had an impulse to commemorate his giant leap into his 2nd 1/2 century).  Well, folks, I'm going to save you the trouble agonizing over the proper gift:

1. Try the picture book, Zoom.  (Message:  What feels overwhelming right now is really insignificant in the scheme of things)

2. A great movie (he may be sleeping less so he can enjoy his sleeplessness more)

3. Compression socks for tired achy legs 

4. Tickets to a ball game (make sure the binocs are extra-magnified) or Concours d'Elegance (show me a man who doesn't have a car fetish)

5. A very cool visor (for people who are losing those curly locks)

Happy Birthday, Jeff.   Thanks for the interview!!!!

P.S. For those of you who want to know some of my favorite websites, here they are:

Money: CNN Money

Shopping: Nextag and Amazon

Pets: Petfinder

Law:  Nolo

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Women At Work

The Mom Entrepreneur (TME) is a blog dedicated to helping women who are balancing motherhood and running a company. At first blush, her Lemons to Lemonade feature appears to be limited to the mothers who have said, "Enough!" to being bounced from job to job because of our crappy economy and moves on to explore how these women have aimed to create something of their own on their own terms.

Founder of Bisson Barcelona Traci Bisson Barrington knows from personal experience what it was like a few years back to have tried and failed at business (what good businessperson hasn't?). She also knows what desperate measures businesses need to take to stay afloat in these erratic times to keep co-workers from collecting unemployment.

Little did blog author and PR firm owner Barrington know that I, Susan Levine, 60, could relate. Even though I no longer have to juggle play dates, carpools, homework, and music recitals, I still have my own time constraints that involve grandparenting, caregiving for aging parents, and retirement planning. I feel the economic crunch the same as younger folks but I know that I have less time to reverse my financial faux pas. Finally, I, too, have hopes and dreams that include the lure of being my own boss, creating some income, and someday (not too soon, I hope!) "leaving this world a better place."

Kudos to Traci for using her smarts to do battle with the current economic trends. Rather than lay off her team, she chose to cut corners by bringing her kid home rather than go to daycare, canceling trade shows, and postponing meeting with consultants. Online social networking substituted for face-to-face contacts while her blog enabled her to "vent" her frustrations and get supports from others "in the same boat."

For anyone who wants to be a participant rather than a spectator in this generation's economic "New Deal," consider reading The Mom Entrepreneur, a blog by a young mother who combines the challenges of motherhood with innovation, creativity, and expertise of owning her own business.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Friends During The Holidays

Mom says that there should be friends and acquaintances in your life for every occasion. Some you want by your side when you're in crisis. Some provide great comic relief. Some will share the brutal truth about those extra bulges. Others can be counted on for vital statistics like what's number one at the box office this weekend (and accompany you to the movie!) or how many years OJ is being sentenced to prison (finally). Some can even talk politics or religion and not get too heated. Still others can teach or inform, maybe even provide a scrumptious recipe for a special event. And don't forget the ones who've known you the longest (and still like you!)--these ones you can reminisce with.

This holiday season I hope you celebrate all the different people in your life for what they bring to your life--diversity, humor, continuity, gratitude, and love.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008's Feature Article on Yours Truly - A Q&A with the Information Tamer for Boomers and Seniors

Boomer411 is a powerful site that helps users search and find relevant articles quickly and easily. It allows visitors to bookmark, organize and share their favorite sites, and was recently voted one of the best sites for baby boomers.

So I'm really honored that they have published a feature article on me and my new website, I hope you will stumble over there and check out the Q&A, which highlights the origins of my human-powered search engine and my remarkable transition from librarian to boomer web entrepreneur!
And while you're there, I hope you'll enjoy exploring Boomer411. One of the things that makes the site different from other search engines is its use of "Trustees" - Boomer experts that are invited to provide quality articles of interest through the site. I became a Trustee earlier this year love sharing my expertise on their site. 

The other thing I love about Boomer411 is sharing space with other prominent Boomers, including the radio host of the Beyond 50 Radio Show, Mark Miller from Retirement Revisited, and the founder of the Gilbert Guide, an extensive resource of senior care articles, tools and directories.

I encourage you to check out the site, sign up for your own account and start tagging so you can begin sharing your favorites web sites and articles!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Car Alarms

I've had it. Car-man doesn't like the car alarm chirp and I do. He finds the sound loud and annoying. I, on the other hand, know that when it's activated, my assortment of water bottles and dirty laundry (even in plain view) are safe. Intruders run the risk of my trustworthy siren.

Granted I recognize that most people nowadays ignore the racket. Even I've been known to "turn the other way" in my passion at completing another round of errands. Yet the cacophony gives me a fleeting sense of security.

What I didn't realize until today was that the familiar chirp also could have preserved what remaining dignity I have.

After I victory-lunched with my incredible team of wild web women (explanation to follow in a future blog), I tried to retrace my steps to where I parked my car. Just my luck there wasn't a trail of bread crumbs like those used by Hansel and Gretel. Nor were there any numbers or letters like those posted in some mall lots. I'd have to rely on pure instinct to guide me to the safe and warm confines of my sedan.

After stewing for 10 minutes (and not thinking too kindly of Car-man!), I realized that if I had my chirp, I wouldn't be stranded. I wouldn't even have to act like I knew where I was going.

I was reduced to plan 2. I travelled up and down the aisles hoping to spot the car with the open trunk before anyone else did.

The moral of the story:
Hansel and Gretel had the right idea.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Purchasing the Right Car

I leave all things car to Car-Man because he's an absolute car-nut. After several jobs and careers, he's now selling cars, the foreign expensive ones he's favored for quite some time.

Besides make, model and price, color seems to be a major issue for most people, he confides, followed by such things (in no particular order) as visibility, maintenance, MPH, safety rating, interior space, comfort, and even how effortlessly Rufus can enter or exit.

Aging compounds the accessibility factor. Getting in and out of the car can be monumental. Finding an accessible place for a wheelchair or walker can pose its own problem (the wider the car, the better). And comfortable seats (with lumbar support?) tend to be a priority. Reaching for seatbelts makes it difficult to follow the law. And just try to turn the ignition key or gas cap if you suffer from arthritis.

People tend to think that they'll get Kelley Blue Book price for their trade-in. Remember, Car-man warns, that Kelley Blue Book does not buy or sell cars; therefore, their estimation of what your used car is worth may be grossly inflated. Keep in mind also that many cars are worth more as scrap than as a refurbished vehicle.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dealing With Death

I used to get depressed this time of year.

I'd fixate on all the people who lost someone (family member, friend, pet) who they loved and how the holidays for them would be especially painful.

Frankly, I don't know what brought me out of the funk (but probably it had something to do with Car-man).

Now I'm faced with questions from my granddaughter about life and death. She measures impending doom by gray hair and wrinkles. But we all know that those aren't necessarily prerequisites for sudden death.

How do you soften the blow of first loss?

As I librarian, I'd recommend a couple of books which were popular at the time, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf and The Tenth Good Thing About Barney.

Maybe you have some other suggestions for our readers?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Less of Mom to Love

Mom's in one of those retirement communities that provides 2 meals a day. Granted the portions are miniature but they are served appetizingly. They're not "what mama used to make" but they are healthy and balanced.

Not unlike many of us mom's not-so-secret stash of chocolates took the shape over the years of more generous thighs, middle, and behind and little could reverse the direction of this unwelcome expansion.

Now mom entered this new phase of life. She's more active than she's been in ages and appears much happier.

What the rest of the family didn't expect was that within a few months there has been "less of mom to love."

That's right. Without any effort mom is taking off weight and finding the urge to replenish her goody drawer less urgent. Her phone calls now include, "I wish I had kept my sewing machine" to "Can you find me a good seamstress or tailor" to "when can we go shopping?"

Who would have known that mom may become svelte again? Move over, Marilyn Monoe!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Photography Par Excellence

My daughter-in-law is a photography-nut but I love it. I don't think there's a week that goes by that I don't get a message from her to view the photos of our incredibly photogenic grandkids.

Granted, she gets her photography gene honestly from her dad. Should any of my off-centered, blurry photos get his approval, I'm ecstatic. Needless to say, I've had few compliments so far.

Part of the blame, I think, has to do with my mom (sorry, mom). I can't take a photo (of a beautiful landscape, for instance) without hearing her tell me, "No photo is a good photo without a person in it."

Another part falls with the camera, I'm convinced. Maybe I should rely less on size and trust digital camera reviews more. I might even heed Best Buy's suggestion on the right camera for my particular purposes.

But when it really comes down to it, I am photographically handicapped and need some guidance from someone who knows. Oh well.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Real Heroes

It was a sight to see. We stood in our cousins' window and watched their neighbors angle their 2 small cars to fit into a garage built to handle 1 1/2 cars. Carman said it couldn't be done except maybe by some experts. But he didn't know Sue and Bob well enough to know that they weren't your usual people.

Twenty-four years ago I met Bob, a healthy, upright, hard-working, vigorous schoolteacher who embraced life.

On a winter break in New Hampshire, his life as he knew it shattered. Not only did it look like he'd never ski again, it appeared that he wouldn't be doing much of anything physically for the rest of his life. Little did we know that this person couldn't be stopped.

We'd watch him hobble down the street, struggling to take each step and maintain his balance. It was painful to watch--it had to be excruciating to maneuver. With his loving, amazing, steadfast, and capable teacher wife by his side, he continued teaching, took vacations, and earned the admiration of anyone they came into contact with.

Last May I heard that Bob took the wheelchair to new heights. With pounds off, he tackled new sports such as basketball, tennis, and skiing.

What will he do next? Who knows? But whatever it is I am certain it will be performed with zest, determination, and courage.

Kudos to my heroes, Bob and Sue R.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Confused 60-Year-Old

Carman and I were at Fort Langley in British Columbia where we heard about "mad hatters." Apparently, these artisans inhaled mercury fumes while curing felt used in some hats. The process often caused hatters to appear mentally confused.

Sometimes, I feel like the mad hatter. In my case, I feel like I am wearing too many hats, not one of which sits firmly on my head.

I don the wife hat alongside the mom hat next to the grandma hat around the corner from the daughter hat facing the worker's and friend's hat. All roles demand my time and I willingly give it. But sometimes the roles coincide--everyone needs me at the same time and sadly I feel like none of them is getting the best I have to offer.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fire Safety: Don't Let Your Dreams Go Up In Smoke

When 3 fires strike your town within a matter of months, it gives you reason to pause, speculate and assess risk for fire in your own home:

Are your emergency plans updated?

Do you know what to do if there's a fire?

Do you have a list of your most precious possessions and are they easily accessible?

What is/isn't covered under your fire insurance?

What can you do to your home to prepare for fire?

I admit I'm an outta-the-box kinda gal so if I had my magic wand, this is what I'd do for the fire-displaced:

I'd take a portion of several city parks, golf course or other unoccupied land and install some pre-fabricated housing, let's say 25-50 homes at each site. This would enable the victims to work together to rebuild their lives--the kids could play together and adults could commiserate and share information. Mental health and other professionals could handle problems at each site. And poof--despair would transform into hope and excitement. (I know--this sounds too simplistic but remember who's carrying the magic wand!).

"Be prepared to accept help from others. They want to help so let them. It's the kind thing to do for all of you," dear friend Mary, survivor of several emergencies and disasters, reminded me.

And what do they say about an ounce of prevention...?

Prepare an inventory, photos included, and save it both at your home and elsewhere (in your bank safety deposit box or at your workplace). Keep an emergency phone list on you at all times.

Be safe.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Back Pain: Nagging Discomfort

I gave in and went to Dr. C, the orthopedist. The sleepless nights, the pain getting out of the car, even the discomfort rising out of my chair (where I spend most of my days working on my website) finally got to me.

Good news. It was muscle, not bone-related. So Dr. C recommended that I take one of several over-the-counter medications for the pain and see a physical therapist or chiropractor. He also said I could check out "Patient information" on the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. What a nice resource!

To begin, follow the directions to enlarge text size because you practically need a magnifying glass to read the information.

Select the part of the anatomical display of the body where you are having problems and you will find ways you can get relief.

There's a safety alert about the ways to prevent falls, the plight of more than 11 million senior citizens each year.

The site has a specific section for seniors which covers topics such as arthritis, osteoporosis, prevention and safety, wellness, and the role of complementary medicine in treating orthopedic disorders.

Honestly, folks, this site is packed with useful information. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Surviving Colon Cancer: The Wake-Up Call

It's hard to believe it was less than a year ago that I wrote about my young cousin contracting colon cancer.

Her life was full--a loving husband, twin daughters, unending support from her parents and sister, and more friends than anyone has a right to! Eve earned all her accolades with intelligence and sweat. I remember when she went door-to-door selling books and when she kept score for her college swimming team.

You never had to ask Eve how she was feeling; it was always written on her face. I can only imagine her struggles at hiding her disbelief (and disgust!) when unbeknownst to her, everyone was advised to gift-wrap the worst white elephant they could find for a wedding shower gift. Thank goodness she also had a mammoth sense of humor.

She loved the excitement of Washington, D.C. and working for elected representatives, a love that many years later brought her to Iowa to support Hilary Clinton's candidacy for president. This was where she found out that the excruciating pain she was experiencing was due to her next challenge in life, facing and fighting colon cancer.

Since that defining moment the rest of us have helplessly watched as Eve summoned up every tool, every emotion, every person to give their prayers, their advice, their research, and their help to hurdle Eve and her family over this life-threatening obstacle.

It's come full-circle now. Just the other day Eve reported that her "cancer chapter" of her life is finally over. She is feeling renewed hope and the opportunity to do wonderful things for her family and community on a very much smaller scale but similar to what Senator Obama plans for our country.

Welcome back, Eve. We love you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Must-Have or Not in This Lifetime: More on Gifts

I am in the airport awaiting a flight to visit "Almost-Marrieds." Next to me I notice an abandoned copy of the Sky Mall catalog.

Flipping through the pages, I begin to silently categorize the items into "must-have," "it would be nice," "it would be nice but I could do without," and "you've got to be kidding."

Take the X-Glider foot-sized in-line skateboards. Just looking at them puts me into traction. Are you kidding? Not this lifetime, I decide.

The animated emotive robotic companion at a whopping $299.95 is definitely over-the-top. He expresses laughter, distress, or surprise. I imagined his surprise when I'd ask him to cook dinner, my distress when he cooks something ethnically unrecognizable or inedible, and his laughter at my despair. "It's nice but not a must-have" (unless he can be programmed to take Italian cooking lessons, that is).

Then there's the marshmallow shooter. Now that's practical. I could see myself perched on a log in front of a blazing campfire shooting marshmallows into the flames. With amazing agility (reminiscent of Wonder Woman), I'd skewer each charred mallow (the best way to cook them) and plop it between chocolate-covered twin graham crackers.

The massage table looks heavenly. But for $300-400 it had better come with the masseuse. Without the masseuse, it would become a very expensive clothes rack in my house.

The hot dog cooker brings memories of my dad who sent us a "hot-dogger filled with cheese" one holiday. Unlike the poor wieners that got electrocuted for dinner, the Sky Mall version roasts the franks and buns in a toaster-like contraption. Much more humane. A must-have.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Malia and Sasha Obama Aren't the Only Ones

Older folks love their dogs too, not only for companionship but for assistance as well. Many studies have shown that an appreciative, loving companion brings joy into and may even prolong their lives.

If you're considering adopting a pet, do your homework first:

1. Check out older dogs--often they are mellow and happy enough just resting at your feet or putting a head in your lap.

2. Consider the dog's energy level and how it compares to yours.

3. What are the policies of the place where you live concerning pets?

4. Are you up to caring for a pet?

5. Make plansfor your pet should he/she outlive you.

Finally, should Fido do the unthinkable, know what to do.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Holiday Gifts for Grandpa--So He Doesn't Feel Left Out

"It's not fair", I hear in the background.  "Grandpas are people too!  We like presents just as much as Grandmas do."

Okay, Grandpas of the world.  Here go my suggestions for your kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids so turn off the computers like good boys and go back to whatever you were doing.

For the rest of you:
Not being male I don't actually know what the other gender likes but I'll give it a try:

1. Software for the computer.  How about his creating the family tree or trying his hand at Poker or Bridge (so he can play with Grandma)?

2. Lessons.  I bought my daughter-in-law a private tutorial in golf.  She gets a pro instructor and all these cameras focusing on her swing.  She would learn alot (if only she could find the gift certificate!).

3. I love museum stores.  What could be better than something from the Smithsonian?

4. When Car-man and I were in Alabama, we ventured cross the border into Tennessee (no, we didn't need our passports) only to discover Jack Daniels Distillery.  The place where the winner of multiple awards is distilled can't sell the product (it's a dry county) but you can still buy it.

5.  Two tickets to a ball game, Concours d'Elegance, or a film festival.  

6. A trip back to Normandy (to remember D-Day) or to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.   

7. Line his office or den (or garage) with historical photos.  Better yet, get some old photos of the town he grew up in and frame them.  Maybe the local public library could help you out.  

8. An massage easy chair.  Get this for him and you are his hero for life.  

9. Omaha Steaks has a special right now.  At no shipping cost, you can get 8 steaks, 4 stuffed sole, 6 burgers, 4 franks, 6 stuffed potatoes, and 4 caramel apple tartlets.  All for $109.99.  Such a deal!

10. Coupon books (like the ones you used to make in grammar school) are always winners.  Mow the lawn, make a meal, go on a picnic, take to a movie, plus lots of hugs and kisses.  This ranks with the easy chair.

11. Save Grandpa a trip out in the cold when Fido empties his bladder. 

12. Give Grandpa the world--on a write-on map mural, that is.  Fill a wall with all the places he's been or would like to be.  

13. Make getting around as fun as getting that first car.  Don't forget the basket for picking up some chocolates for Grandma. 

14. A bath/shower combo just gets roomier with curved shower rods.  Why couldn't I have thought of that?

And finally, the piece de resistance...

15. Give Grandpa's balding head a new look.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Subscribe to the eNewsletter for Special Updates

As you may know by now, I've been spending most of my time these days working on my baby boomer/senior website, which is dedicated to delivering the best of the net to users 50 years old and better!

I wanted to thank everyone for all their support through this process. I've put so much of my heart and soul into this project that at times, it really does feel like I'm giving birth to it! And since people have been asking me for updates on the upcoming launch, I thought I would take this opportunity to encourage everyone to sign up for the 50somethinginfo eNewsletter.

Subscribe below to receive 50somethinginfo news, updates and special resource guides - including a list of The Best Eco-Friendly Sites compiled by yours truly! If you've already signed up, please TELL A FRIEND! Thanks!

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Grandma Gifts for the Holidays

Hey, Mom.  Stop reading now or your presents at the holidays won't be a surprise.  I'm always wondering what to get you and I've wised up and have kept lists (not bad for your slow learning kid).

Here are a few suggestions for those of you out there who are as clueless as I am: 

1. I was on my way with "Car-man" to deliver a new car out of my town.  I listened to a blurb on the radio about identity theft and how people leave important information (credit card numbers, signatures, bank information) in their trash only to be swept up by the unscrupulous.  How about giving mom a paper-shredder.  Okay, so it's not gift-like but you've got to admit it is practical.  An inexpensive one (less than the ones you see here) will do just fine.

2. Software for her computer:  Maybe a great game or two (Bridge, anyone?).  Make sure the program matches her PC or Mac.

3. Play tennis, baseball, golf, bowling and boxing with Nintendo Wii.     Wii Fit adapts the practically ageless fun and entertaining game machine which attaches to your tv to give you lessons on yoga, balance, and strength.  It's even great for when the grandkids and great-grandkids come over.

4. An over-the-bed table on casters.  Mom can comfortably have her morning coffee and newspaper (or crossword puzzle) in bed.

5. A funky new tote.  Use it for shopping, save those plastic bags, and do your part for saving the earth.

6. Donation to a charity in her honor.

7. Lessons on the computer, on the golf course, or in the kitchen.  Find someone who can "talk" in her language.

8. Give her kitchen or bathroom some new class with different hardware for the cabinets.

9. A baker's edge baking pan so all her brownie pieces have crunchy (not burnt or gooey) edges, a really cool gift if you want mom to make YOU brownies!

10. Swivel seats can make getting into and out of cars easier.

11. Towel warmers.  What could be better after a hot shower than a toasty towel awaiting you?

12. Floor standing magnifer lamp.  When vision isn't what it used to be, you can "see" your puzzles, books, and needlework effortlessly.

Happy holidays!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Financial Mess We're In

How have the recent economic and political events impacted your spirituality?  Vibrant Nation, a site for 50+ women to share information and join conversations, wanted to know.   This was my response:

As I reflect on your question, I can't help but think that God is once again testing me on my perseverance, creativity, and intelligence and I fear that I will fall short of His expectations but by golly, I'll do whatever it takes not to:
Let it hurt my marriage (money is always an issue)
Spend more than we have (resist temptation)
Use up savings (now I'm really getting nervous)
Be apathetic when I can have my say (especially at the ballot box).

You see, I am the daughter of Depression-Era parents.  My dad doesn't count as much because he lived in the country and had a home so he could trade goods and services.  But mom lived in the city and felt every minute hunger pain just like most of her community.  Consequently, she learned to use everything sparingly.  In fact, I think she was one of the first to coin "recycling" before it gained popularity.

My husband and I did all the right things (so I thought)--paid our taxes, doled out our share to charities, saved for rainy days (and there were plenty) and planned for retirement.  I'm just grateful that we decided to delay retirement and keep plugging along.  All those people who counted only on Social Security and investment income are out-of-luck and sadly (and rightfully so), extremely fearful about running out of money.

I hear my prayers loud and clear to "make this crisis end" in harmony with my friends and my parents' generation.  How sad that too many of the "Greatest Generation" has to live their final years in despair.

I can't say that I don't think of the people who took their lives when their fortunes reversed in 1929.  But ultimately I am an optimist and though I don't understand God's motives, I am hopeful something good will come out of this financial mess.  Could it be a:
Deeper understanding of ourselves?
More empathy for others?
Greater understanding of how we got to this point so that we can prevent it from recurring?
Wake up call for our government to stop giving away our jobs and save them (even if we have to subsidize them) for the down-and-outters, rebuilding their confidence and self-esteem?
Turning point for mankind to redefine and question heroism, greed, and intelligence (the wealthy and the privileged are not smarter than the rest of us--each of us need not throw away our brains and behave passively because we think we don't know as much as someone else)?

Please, God, your points are made.  You have awakened us bluntly to a mismanaged world and our need to take responsibility.  May you show compassion and not let too many people suffer.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sue Rambles On About Great Boomer Websites

I admit it.  I'm only human.  But I get a real high when I hear that the sites I've recommended have helped people. 
Thus, I plan to continue to inundate you folks with the fruits of my research until you cry, "Uncle."

Here goes:

The U.S. Government supplies more information than you ever want to know.  Find out the top 10 ways to prepare for retirement or factors that may affect retirement benefits (and see the effect of retirement earnings on your Social Security benefits).

If you need help at home and want to know what to buy, check out one of my favorite internet "stores."  This site is not only easy to use,  it is clean and clear and is backed by the Better Business Bureau.  

I'm a fan of the Rodale Prevention Books.  Look no further than The Doctors Book of  Home Remedies and Disease Free at 60 Plus. 

Are you thinking about remodeling.  Don't make a move until you check out AARP home design.  By making your home accessible to people of all ages, you provide comfort for yourself throughout your lifetime and increase the value of your house for subsequent buyers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Less is More: Reuse What You Already Have

Save Your Trash suggests alternatives to "disposable" items.  For instance, you can reduce waste simply by using a commuter rather rather than the paper thingies they give you at Starbucks.

Utilizing reusable shopping bags is become more popular.  I saw one today that said, "Plastic bags are so last year."

When you want to bring home restaurant leftovers, whip out your own to-go containers.

Finally, reuse your water bottle rather than discarding one of the 2 million water bottles used every five minutes.

It's simple to do your part to make this world a better place.  Why not start now?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

10 Great Senior Sites

I really like Smart Money. The articles are timely and relevant. The print can be enlarged for these sometimes-weary eyes. Back in February, 2004, it published 10 online resources for seniors. 4 years later I wouldn't debate the continued wealth of information provided by each of these resources, mostly government and nonprofit organizations and trusted companies.

For instance,
1. Go to Eldercare Locator to find help where you live.

2. Use a national database to find out what benefits you qualify for (veterans' assistance, rent assistance, prescription assistance, etc.).

3. explains this program simply and in detail. Here you can determine the level of care needed. You can even compare nursing homes.

4. Get help from a reliable nonprofit consumer-advocacy group about how to judge assisted-living facilities.

5. Sign up for Social Security online. Use the benefit calculator to find out how much money you can expect each month. Consider depositing your checks directly into your bank account.

6. Look for articles and references to other websites from ElderWeb.

7. Get your documents (wills, trusts, power of attorney, estate planning, etc.) in order with advice from National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
8. Find easy-to-understand articles on AARP's website.

9. Caregivers lives are made easier with the help of geriactic care managers.

10. Get help locally while finding out all about caregiving from the Family Caregiver Alliance.

For 2009, add It will give you all the above information in one location!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Modern, Youthful Fashion

Some of us learn by seeing (me, for instance!). Others do better listening.  3 consultants discuss how to look modern and youthful. Sherrie Matthieson helps her clients pick the simple staples for their wardrobe to make each of them look genuine and ageless. 
Deborah, JoJami and guests discuss accessories and color (you have to be very careful how you use certain colors so that they don't make you look hard). Sometimes a charcoal gray may be a better choice than black because black soaks in color and depletes you. 

Have fun with color. Sherrie is partial to orange and plays on orange.  She also suggests mixing your greens (apple, hunter, and lime) with white jeans during the summer.  Stay away from mauve or peach with gray.  Check out men's departments for scarves (imagine a turquoise scarf next to your face).  And while you're there, pick out a men's watch and add your own band.

Look for high-end workout clothes and match with flats or boots and a great purse.  The more ladylike you look as you age, the older you look, according to Mathieson.  Stay clear of all knit suits (and that well-known brand), she advises.  

Clothes should skim your figure.  Collect the classics and then add the special pieces. 
Think sleek and simple for shoes (no bling).

A non-ornamental jean jacket goes a long way in your wardrobe. 

Mathieson suggests an over-the-shoulder good-sized (not huge) weather-resistant patent leather bag which may be adorned with zippers.    Think patent beyond dressy--it can really be sporty.  Try shoes with a patent stripe.   

Replace your heavy Coach bag with a more modern version.  You can find inexpensive eco-friendly bags that can be used everyday.  

Other Mathieson suggestions:

Use a scarf with a v-neck sweater.

Don't go for tight turtlenecks; cowl necks are better.

Replace some of your dainty necklaces with substantial ones--your eye goes to the necklace and not to your neck.
JCrew, Ralph Lauren, and MaxMara consistently carry classic clothes.  You can also find garments sometimes at Target, Banana Republic, and Ann Taylor. However, stay away from Chicos--don't confuse their glitz with fashion. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Best Websites of 2008 Continued Again and Again

If you wonder how mentally stable you are (this is easy for me--I'm not), try out Psych Central. Here you can take a "Do I Need Therapy" quiz. Find out the strength of your relationships and what kind of personality you have.

Desperate people take desperate measures to come up with gadgets to solve everyday problems.  Check out African ingenuity.  

Lay your gift-giving anxiety to rest for your grandchildren.  Check out picture books for the little ones and fun stuff and beautiful stuff for your discriminating pre-teen or teen.  

Are you always looking for ways to entertain mom and dad while you attend to other things?  University of California at Santa Barbara has come to your rescue with its collection of some of the oldest music and sound recordings, including vaudeville.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Simple Way to Make This World a Better Place

I was reading Shannon's blog, Ilivewithit.  On September 18, 2008,  she discussed the life cycle of paper.  Prior to the industrial revolution, this wood pulp-based product was naturally biodegradable. Now, unfortunately, in order to keep up its appearance and usability in successive products, it has become contaminated with toxins (yes, folks, these can hurt us). 

Shannon revealed that there is "paper" out there made of completely synthetic materials that can not only be recycled successfully (no loss of trees) but also it doesn't emit any harmful substances. 

The moral of the story: We needn't look far to find products which do what we want them to do but don't harm us or the environment! 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Best Websites of 2008 Continued Again

Think Colourlovers, The Nest, and Apartmenttherapy if you want to redecorate your digs.  

If you're into healthy, find out how other people are rating foods and save big bucks at the supermarket.

Extra cash on hand (Yeah, right," some of you are saying) and you want to help someone out? Make a loan to an entrepreneur in a developing country for as little as $25.

Are you one of those people who doesn't share recipes?  Then Open Source Food isn't for you--except that you can peek at someone else's private stash.

Dumbfound your guests with photos, documents, and film clips taken straight from the National Archives
Are Mars and Venus that different?, a free men's online magazine, not only gives advice on dating and the secrets of love, it also delves into health, mental fitness,  loss,  and gadgetry, among others. 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How to Prepare For Travel

We're going to a wedding in Huntsville, Alabama, and I haven't packed.  "Car-man" showed me the itinerary last night reminding me about essential things like in which airport are we going to eat. 

Then I got to work:

1. Hold mail and stop the newspaper.

2. Prepare our medicines for travel.

5. Deal with jet lag.

7. Brush up on our wedding etiquette.

8. Put on our dancing shoes and have a great time!

See you when we get back.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Best Websites of 2008 Continued

Time invites the rest of us to vote for our favorite website among the 50 presented.  Here's my boomer-slanted take on some of the choices:

Free Rice and Web Sudoku are already famous among people-in-the-know. Improve your vocabulary, test your problem-solving skills, feed the hungry, and entertain yourself for hours and hours.

Find the right pet for you in Petfinder.  Auntie Peggy found the cutest Yorkie. Make sure you can pass their 3rd degree so that you're not disappointed.

I'm a nut for genealogy (you mean a stork didn't deliver me?).  So is Cousin Larry, thank goodness, because we have the same relatives on both sides (my dad's sister married my mom's brother--and yes, that's legal).  Geni is your headstart on growing your own family tree.

ProFootballTalk wouldn't be one of my favorites but my son would kill me if I didn't let other fanatics in on his little secret.

Do-it-yourselfer alert:  Look no further than HowCast  for videos and step-by-step instructions (from people like you) relating to arts, media, crafts, environment, health, mind & body, personal care, pets, etc..  I love the sorting system--you can select videos and guides by "Most Viewed," "Most Recent," "Top-Rated" (I liked "How to Get Rid of a Hickey"), "Top Favorites," "Most Emailed," and "Most Discussed."

Is that you I hear crying out there?  You mean you, too, have been dealt the cruel financial setbacks by the economic mess we're in?  Check out Mint.  Here you'll get the tools (free!) to brush up on personal finance, money management, and financial planning.  

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Little Secrets

I've been blogtagged which means that I was asked to reveal 6 things about myself that no one should ever know about me (so if you're reading this, stop now, it might get ugly):

1. I was supposed to be Steven.  Mom really wanted a boy after 2 daughters.  Her famous first words after leaving the delivery room (I can hardly remember--I was very young at the time):
"I should've had a boy!"

2. I've been stuck on a hotel balcony wearing only a towel (and I mean stuck--with the glass door locked behind me and no one around to rescue me).

3. I've jumped from an airplane (Not!).  You're lucky to get me on a plane.

4. I've stopped a moving car.  Now this IS true.  It was rolling in a parking lot (albeit at a turtle pace) and silly me thought to run behind it and stop it.

5. I'm a whodunit fanatic.  I love mysteries (and coincidences, for that matter).

6. Don't ever tell me something can't be done because I regard it as a challenge.

Now it's your turn to share with me (and the entire world) 6 or fewer things nobody knows about you.  Don't worry.  I won't spill the beans!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Favorite Boomer Fashion Site

Just when I thought boomer fashion was in the dumps, I got a comment on my blog from Sherrie, Mathieson, style consultant for all ages.  

I studied both her site and her blog and ladies, get your _____ over there right now.  Listen to the podcast on timeless fashion for tough times and aim for simple, well-made classics.  Can you tell I am very excited about this site????  

In her new book (which I'm going to buy today!), Forever Cool; How to Achieve Ageless, Youthful and Modern Personal Style, she rehabilitates the fashion-challenged (like me) with:
What will always last?  What will always be cool?  What is never cool?

Here are a few of her suggestions:
1. Besides the crisp white shirt, the little black dress, leopard prints, black tights, and a pencil black shirt, look for bootcut pants (tapers into the knee and flares out) joining classic styles.
2. Don't go for the extreme in shoes either.  The moderate budget is wise to stick with black and brown.
3. Furs are always in vogue.   Go for fake furs that really look real.
4. Men's pin-stripe suits for women (remember Annie Hall?) are always in but watch for a fitted cut.  
5. Shawls make wise investments; they never go out of style, they give you a chance to be inventive, and they take your simple black dress to alot of occasions.  
6. Learn to accessorize well.

I emailed Sherrie for names of fashion designers and fashion departments who target boomers and seniors.  Here's her invaluable list (however, you'll find gobs more on her blog):
1. Ralph Lauren and JCrew are excellent for larger sizes.
2. Michael Kors!
3. If your body shape is round, go to Eileen Fisher and please, stay away from constructed tailoring.
3. Saks and Bloomingdale's have good large size departments.

Learn to "see" fashion, Ms. Mathieson further asserts.  And keep the phone number of your trusty tailor close at hand.  He/she can work miracles.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Some of My Favorite Sites

You've viewed Time's list of best websites for 2008.  Below are some of my blogs which provide you with noteworthy sites you might want to check out:
For shoes, I wouldn't go any further than Footsmart.
From the company that provides "smarter, better products for lower body health," I can shop by brand or condition of my feet.

Familydoctor is a clean, clear, and concise health site. I love the format and ease of reading. 

I love used things at great prices   but I don't like to be scammed. 

Seniorclix suggests online courses via directories and a library and furnishes you with access to important forms. 

Clothes and fashion are a thorn in my side.  The Glam Gals are the closest thing to my own personal shopper.

At times like these, financial and retirement planning is a monumental challenge.  Let these sites and tools help you.  Good luck!

I'm all for making this world a better place.  Even though I find this website difficult to read, I love its concept and fresh approach to rating corporations.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Best Websites of 2008

You might not agree with her but you HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION to Time's Anita Hamilton and her 10 Essential websites.

The most popular multi-lingual online encyclopedia is drawing more credibility by the minute.

Yahoo! Finance is great for investors but I'd combine it with MSN's Money101 for novices.

If you're looking for used furniture, a date, or anything else, go first to Craigslist.

Sports' junkies, head for ESPN.

Find out what other people are saying about a restaurant, shop, or business.  Then hear how the proprietors respond.

I joined Facebook recently hoping to reconnect with old buddies.  You can too.

If you have something to say about news stories, here's your soap box.  Tell us what you think!

Google as only a search engine?  Not any more.  Boy, I wish I had purchased some of their stock when I had the opportunity.

If you find yourself picking up People or Us at the news stands, check out the most popular gossip site for celebrity tidbits, photos, and videos.

Picknik is free and it is an easy tool to manage your ever-expanding photo collection.

Ms. Hamilton doesn't stop at 10.  We are now privy to her opinion as to the 50 best websites for 2008.  

Vote for your favorite.