Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Don't Want to Slight Chocolate

The one thing I have in common with former President Ronald Reagan is that I, too, love jelly beans.

Every time I go to my local supermarket I am faced with a serious decision--do I or don't I attempt to walk down the jelly bean aisle because if I do, then my next dilemma is how much of each flavor do I scoop into my little plastic bag. Should I give in to my fetish, I can't wait to pop those tasty little artificial berries into my mouth. I vigilantly observe the grocery checker to determine where he put my stash.

Let's go back a few steps. There I am facing 25 different containers of jelly beans from bubble gum to pina colada to root beer. I'm overwhelmed with the variety. I'm grateful there aren't any See's Candies close by to distract me further.

Like my predicament with jelly beans I sometimes think I am faced with too many options. Wouldn't life be easier with only a half-dozen choices? Maybe cherry, orange, cinnamon, lemon, grape, and lime?

Now more than ever, complications go hand-in-hand with our choices, especially when you add the computer and internet into the equation.

Enormous amounts of information are out there in Cyberland. Maybe it's just too much for any one of us to handle. When I enter a term into the Google search box, I am bombarded with pages and pages of sites. My simple question retrieves anything and everything remotely related. Wouldn't it be nice if there were someone who could read my mind and unearth my answer without any detours?

Don't despair, 50+ers. Help is just around the corner.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Eulogizing a Shirt: Improving Your Life

When I first met him last week, he described himself as previously socially inept. Now I was listening to him speak both eloquently and humorously of his old friend.

Not many people can eulogize a former shirt as capably as Colin. I was figuratively present at several events marked (literally) on the fabric. I envisioned him sharing his favorite lobster bisque with the shirt. I imagined this English gentleman deftly sipping his wine but missing his mouth as he chatted with the pretty girl at his side. I could picture his wife as judge, jury, and executioner of his adored piece of nostalgia.

Seeing his comrade not only tossed away unceremoniously but also being driven away in a thrift shop van must have made him choke up some. I could feel his emptiness upon detecting the gross absence in his closet.

Colin may have had trouble communicating before. But certainly not now.

He enrolled in Toastmasters. And it wouldn't surprise me if he availed himself of adult education classes. Or participated in some volunteer organizations. But you can be certain that whatever he is doing, its side effect is promoting better health, and giving him confidence and better self-esteem which he was so eager to acquire not that long ago.

Bravo, Colin.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mama Knows Best: Clothes for the Older Woman

Mom says I'm in the wrong business.

Mom: Do you realize how hard it is for women my age to buy clothes? When will a good designer produce clothes which have 3/4 length sleeves, fullness around the middle, and a round neckline? We don't want trendy. We want simplicity, comfort, and good fabrics.

Me: But Mom, what do you want me to do about it?

Mom: Become a clothing manufacturer. Cater to seniors. They'll flock to your stores.

Me: Yeah, Mom, I could do that...provided I have a couple of million bucks, some knowledge of the clothing business, plus a lot of chutzpah (defined by Wikipedia as "the quality of audacity, for good or for bad"), all of which I'm sorely lacking. But, Mom, I can supply people with links to websites which might help out. Would that make you happy?

Mom: Give it a try. I'll let you know.

Here goes...

If this works, you have my mom to thank. If this stinks, blame it on me. Either way, I'd like to hear from you.

The NY Times agrees that older women are harder to dress.

I've watched enough of those what to wear and not to wear shows that I know that a good bra-fit is essential.

When in doubt, ask an expert.

Or study wardrobe videos for the baby boomer.

Lola and Gigi will help you request the right size from different designers.

For reasonable prices, check out J.C. Penneys,, Macy's, and Chicos.

But I think you're best bet is to find a style (and pattern) that looks good on you and have the clothes made to fit. Spend more on fewer items.  Check out different fabrics (maybe you can find them on sale!).   Adorn or accessorize your clothes differently. And should you be able to sew (good for you!) but have vision difficulties, there's help for you.

Cats Do the Darnedst Things

I'm not really a cat person. It goes with my thinking...if you really love dogs (I do), you can't really love cats. Or if you really love ice cream (I do), you can't also love frozen yogurt.

But once I viewed this video . . .

. . . I may consider a feline roomie.

Cousin Andrea and I used to spend precious time arguing whether her cats or my dog was the more intelligent. I'd call her apartment, get her voicemail, and claim that I was certain her cats could hear my message but were so intellectually-challenged, they couldn't even pick up the phone and say something. Even if they were smart enough to answer the phone but ignored me, then they were obviously ill-mannered.

The truth is:
I don't like animals around which are smarter than I.

Take the neighborhood crow, for instance. I have not liked crows ever since I saw Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds." But just so long as they stay out of my way, I can put up with them. This crow, however, found my pristine fountain (in a city full of fountains) and he likes to wash his food in it. Everyday I find myself fishing soaked bread crumbs out of the upper trough.

Yesterday I spotted the bird landing on the fountain. I called out to Bob to scare him away. Unfortunately, Bob isn't very threatening.

So I've devised a plan to mount a fake owl or some shiny strips of paper (maybe even a scarecrow) on the fountain. But deep down I know who's going to win.

And it's humiliating.

I'll stick with a dog.

Ebay to the Rescue: Ladies Clothes at Great Prices

Omigosh. I forgot about ebay.

A week or so ago I purchased a great but pricey dress at Nordstrom's, one that would get me through 3 weddings (and possibly a funeral!), two on the coasts and the last in the middle. It's one of those dresses which can be suitable for a lot of occasions depending on the way it's accessorized.

Granted I enjoy clothes like most ladies. But my itty bitty closet doesn't allow for much. So I have to be selective.

I don't often buy dresses (period) but when I do, I rarely exceed a reasonable pricetag. This one, however, was more than my usual budget for a couple of months.

I tried to justify the expense (for at least 2 1/2 minutes) and then thought...Ebay! Could I duplicate the dress at a discount?

I entered the designer name and my size. Voila. There it was at half the price. The dress still had its tags. The seller had received almost 100% positive response. The bidding was in progress and I was determined to get it.

Bob reviewed ebay dynamics with me. I waited by the computer until the last moment and plugged in my bid. "You have won the item" felt like nirvana to me.

Now for shoes. Pretty doesn't work for someone who has bunions...but I wanted to give it my best try.

I went back to Nordy's, returned the dress, and checked out the shoe department. The perfect shoes (good-looking and comfortable) beckoned me and since I had the cash burning a hole in my pocket, I purchased them on the spot.

Not an exciting story. Kind of boring, I suppose. But I shall live happily until after the weddings.

Pay Attention to Your Roots: Save Your Teeth

Dental care can be a serious issue for 50+.

For appearances sake, bad teeth can age you. Overlooking your teeth can cause gum disease. And long-term neglect puts you on a path to losing all your teeth.

It's important to brush right and at least twice a day, after breakfast and before bedtime. Floss correctly and rinse with a fluoride mouthwash just before you go to bed.

Going to the dentist is just about the last thing any of us want to do. But there are ways to make it more bearable. Practicing relaxation techniques, asking for more pain relief, or signaling to the dentist when you need a time-out may help. Some of the newer dental equipment can reduce the time of the procedure.

Teeth can last forever.

Find a good dentist.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Growing Up

My granddaughter's growing up. She got her 3rd tooth yesterday. Granted, it's not #1 or #2. But enough time has passed that this might also be cause for celebration.

Tomorrow they come for dinner. What do you serve someone who has just gotten her 3rd tooth? Not that Nicole doesn't eat plenty now. In record time, she can clear off her tray and then hurl the remainder onto the floor.

I've watched the rhythm of her dining rituals with curiosity. I like the flinging part. Especially because she does it with such ferocity. Boy, that looks like fun! However, the old adage, "there are children starving somewhere," prohibits me from pitching food overboard.

Yet, I think to myself, there are definitely things (and some people) which I wouldn't hesitate to chuck should my conscience abandon me.

For instance, my life would be alot more pleasant without taxes.

I wouldn't mind cooking the bird that destroys my fountain (but I'm afraid the meat would be too tough).

I'd send the person who took my parking space to Siberia.

Maybe I could burn all the mail piling up on my desk in the fireplace I wish I had.

And that policeman who wrote me a ticket for a mere 20 miles over speed limit?

OK, back to dinner. I wonder how Nicole's 3rd tooth could handle some yummy ribs.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Yes, But...or I Just...

Dr. Laura would have a field day with me.

Life is good. My husband is a great guy. My kids are amazing. My grandkids are the best. And they are all healthy (except for this dastardly flu that's going around now).

But as I climb closer to Dr. Laura's decade (the big 6-0), I really want a dog. Next (but a far next), I'd want a painting by Alice Matzkin. I love her art but I can't walk it to the park or cuddle it on the floor like I can a dog.

It doesn't have to be a pretty dog. It doesn't even have to be a puppy. But it does have to be mellow (for Bob) and show some personality (for me).

But there obviously are other issues which get in the way of this dream of mine. And Dr. Laura probably would say, "Get over it."

So I think I'd better settle for a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

An American Idol Junkie

I admit it. I'm a boomer junkie.

I am addicted to American Idol and just can't help it. Every Tuesday and Wednesday night I am glued to the television. I await the individual performances and the group Ford commercial.

David Cook is overwhelmingly gifted and has been my favorite from the beginning. The purity of his voice combined with his creative arrangements make him a star already. And he's so darn cute even for someone a fraction of my age.

Brooke is a sweetheart and a great role model. Lovely, sexy, exuberant Syesha was born for Broadway. Humble and bashful David A. is a natural but just too young for the title. Jason's exit is long overdue--he wins some cuteness points with his sparkly eyes but loses them on his laissez-faire demeanor. Carly should have stayed till the end to battle it out with the 2 Davids.

Handling criticism with poise and grace is hard enough--taking it in front of millions of people reveals their courage and character.

I applaud each of them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Caregiving When You Can't Be There

Bob (looking at my driver's license): Sue, why did you put that weight down on your license? You haven't been that weight (15-20 pounds more than I actually am) since you were pregnant with Erin (30 years ago).

Sue: I'm looking ahead.

Bob: You're looking ahead to what?

Sue: When I gain weight, I won't have to make changes on my license

Bob: But you may never weigh that much.

Sue: Yeah, but you never know. Besides, if I ever decide to commit a crime, they'll be looking for someone much heavier.

Bob (shaking his head): You know? You've been watching too much Law & Order.

Did you know that nowadays you can utilize your tv for more than just watching your favorite programs?

Certain companies help supervise the wellness of homebound elderly by using "smart house technology." Day to day habits may be revealed with or without intrusive cameras or microphones. Detectors are affixed to floor mats, chairs, walls, beds, and kitchen appliances. Gait monitors report a person's ability to get around. And many veterans are using "Health Buddy" which checks and communicates pulse, blood pressure, and lungs data.

Should you want peace of mind regarding the care of a loved one, check out these sites:

LifeAlert is endorsed by Dr. C. Everett Koop, M.D., former Surgeon General. This company supplies equipment for life-threatening medical, police, or fire emergencies. Lightweight, wireless, and waterproof monitors worn around the wrist or neck enable the user to contact LifeAlert operators who can summon for immediate aid.

GrandCare Systems uses the Internet and the senior's television to monitor wellness. Family and friends can send messages, reminders, calendar appointments, etc. on a dedicated, customized television channel.

ViTelCare Home Health Monitoring allows patients to use a touch-screen monitor to transfer health measurements with healthcare professionals who make medical adjustments based on the data inputted. Elderly facing ailments such as heart failure, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Diabetes, Hypertension, Major Depressive Disorder can be observed closely.

Maybe you can prevent a catastrophe before it happens.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ways to Look Younger

Haley reached for baby Nicole's sippy cup and swallowed its watered-down contents. No matter that her juice box was within reach. It was much more fun to act the baby. No doubt the advantages of being a toddler must far outweigh those of being a big girl of four.

I can understand that.

Approaching the big 6-0 next month, I, too, like to fancy myself a baby of, let's say, 40 years old (Oh, no, is that Mother Nature again doubled-over in laughter? Is she the one responsible for my body mutiny?). And in a split-second hardhearted reality sets in :

I find white hair where brown hair used to be.
I find hair where I don't want it and no hair where I do.
My eyelids need clothespins to haul them back into place.
Bulges substitute in for taut muscles.
The bunions have won.
The dimples on my thighs are turning into Grand Canyons.
And my jawline has...well, what jawline?

So I prepare for battle. Using my nearsighted eyes, I study the options.

I know facial bones change with age.

1. I can try a non-surgical facelift or the real thing.

2. I can have the crevices filled in or I can repair wrinkles naturally.

3. I can have better brows.

4. I can lift my lids.

5. I can remove unwanted hair.

6. I can get a hair transplant or a better haircut (Men can too).

7. I can apply cosmetics more becomingly.

Or I can just be myself and do nothing. Except pray. Alot.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Financial & Retirement Planning

After a sleepover, I hesitantly asked my 4 year-old granddaughter if her blankie and I were drowning, which of us would she rescue? Mind you, I did my best during these couple of days to give her everything she could ever a first visit to Costco complete with pizza and free chocolate samples, a trip to doggie daycare where we observed "campers" splashing in a bone-shaped pool, and stops to the local ice cream store. Still, the answer was disheartening. I took a lowly second place to a mere piece of fabric, a smelly one I might add.

My confidence took a major blow. But I recovered speedily when I realized that Haley was only one of my two granddaughters. I figured that since Nicole could barely speak, I still had some time before I would pose the same question to this one-year old, time to build my retirement savings to sweeten the pot (the better to bribe you with, my dear).

How does a borderline boomer/senior increase her net worth?

For years I dabbled with investments trying to beat national averages. I studied day and night and was convinced that no one could boost our savings better than I.

Then I realized that there was a lot of information that I could not possibly be privy to. For instance, even though I used paid subscription resources which were not monetarily connected to any company, I learned that the information fed to these resources was supplied by the company itself and not by any real uninvolved outside source.

I gave up membership in my ladies investment group. I relegated stock and bond picks back to my broker and figured that he would always have a better pulse on the economy than I.

I'm not saying this was the right way to go (sorry, Prof David), but in my case, I've profited (and lost) about the same as before but with a lot less time and effort and a lot more sleep.

I know, also, that I didn't have to employ my stockbroker in this decision. I could have used any number of professionals to guide me. AARP offers clear explanations of the different kinds of financial experts: financial planners, investment advisors, stockbrokers, insurance agents, CPAs and accountants, and estate planning attorneys.

Check out CNN Money's top-10 list of things to know before hiring financial help included in its first-rate Money 101 Lessons. You may also want to consider the advice of Certified Financial Planners Board of Standards.

Maybe in a few years I will have earned enough to sip Mai Tais while swimming at the pristine beaches of Hawaii. But if Haley's around (with her ever-present blanket), I'll be sure to wear my floaties!

A Great Website--And It Isn't Even Mine!

I'm not going to recommend something for you that I wouldn't use myself.

I just found one of the most useful websites (and believe me, I've researched hundreds, maybe thousands). It's FREE, EASY, and packed with valuable information.

Seniorclix is a winner. It suggests online courses; it provides information via directories and a library, and furnishes access to important forms. Take "Planning a Funeral or Memorial Service," for example. 3 pages of large readable print can supply you with a thorough decision-making form, including your choice of music, pallbearers, ushers, etc.

Retrieve national, state, and community directories for nursing facilities, home health care agencies, assisted living facilities, hospice care, geriatric care manager, Alzheimer's care facilities, and community services.

Scour a collection of articles, brochures, and websites which advise you on advance directives, computers, family caregiving, financial issues, finding urgent help, healthcare websites, helpful forms and checklists, independent living, issues near the end of life, legal topic, navigating the health care system, nursing home care, and staying healthy and active.

Arm yourself with free forms such as advance directives, patients rights, caregiver forms, healthy living, hospice care, independent and assisted living, and nursing home care, as well as a checklist for older drivers, a checklist for purchasing private insurance, selecting a private case management professional, evaluation home health care, personal information, medical bill payment records, net worth statement, questions to ask a chore service provider, and a sample living will.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

2nd Hand Rose: Buying Secondhand

Being the last of three daughters, I was used to hand-me-downs. Brenda passed them to Janet who forwarded them to me with a few detours to some cousins. I guess that's one reason I more than don't mind used items. In fact, I love them...especially if I could acquire them at bargain prices.

Take consignment stores or thrift shops, for instance. I have a thrift shop not far from me ( the posher the neighborhood, the better the store) where I bought barely-used onesies ($1-3) for my baby granddaughter. I wash them, and voila, cutie pie Nicole can crawl around in style.

Have you ever been to an auction at a storage facility? Unclaimed goods are sold at pennies to the dollar. I purchased a beautiful handmade Oriental rug for $25. Some people furnished entire offices with desks at $5 apiece. Be prepared, however, to cart away your purchases that day. I observed two college bikers who bought a sofa trying to figure out how to get it back to their apartment 1/2 mile away. One suggested they carry it!

One man's trash is another man's treasure, so they say.

Sometimes I find estate sales, garage sales, or stores which carry barely used furniture and household items. Some rich person decided to redecorate on a whim. Then I find their tossed table, art, or a knicknack, add it to my eclectic home which makes it look...well...more eclectic.

Erin, my daughter, is a chip-off-the-old-block but she went a little too far. She dragged an ancient olive green upholstered chair (turn head sharply counter-clockwise to see photo above) into her 4th floor walk up apartment (I'm too embarrassed to tell you where she got it). Then the chair traveled halfway across the country. In a weak moment my husband and I agreed to pay the movers to bring it back. Her current boyfriend, however, drew the line--either he or the chair had to go. He stayed (hey, this relationship may be going somewhere!).

Pre-owned shoes are a no-no. You've heard: "You just can't BE in someone else's shoes"? Well, you can't wear them either. First, they may be yucky (word borrowed from 4 year old granddaughter). 2nd, the former owners already molded them to their own feet. And third, if you're like me and have problem feet, shoes are probably the most important items in your wardrobe. No skimping here if I can help it.

Don't get me wrong. There are some drawbacks to second-hand shopping.

For instance, I got this really cool red soft leather purse (Myra make me get it). Every time I go to the market or any other place that has a sensitive security system, I set it off. I don't know anything about the prior owner (honest). I just hope I don't get arrested as a shoplifter.

P.S. I remember when I failed to earn the much-revered handwriting certificate in 5th grade. Mom told me that some people are good in some things and not in others. I guess I'm good at reading and consignment shopping. But my cursive writing and computer skills still need work. Oh well.

Monday, April 7, 2008

One of Life's Surprises: Grandparents As Parents

You've raised your kids.  They're out of the house.  Married (or not) with children.

Peace, you think.  Time to do all the things you've wanted to do but didn't have the time or money.

Then the other shoe drops.

The once-happy couple are now bitter enemies.

Your offspring are again nestled in their childhood sanctuaries...accompanied by your three grandchildren.

Nowadays it isn't uncommon for grandparents to revert back to parenthood, one that now merges the normal trials and tribulations with the age-old grievances of menopause, arthritis, high blood pressure, and fatigue.

Cousin Shirley is a grandma to 4 extremely cute and rambunctious youngsters.  After 23 years of managing hundreds of children, often on her own, this recently retired Kindermusik teacher has some well thought-out suggestions to share:

1. Rarely do for a child what they can do for themselves

2. Provide structure and routine

3. Look for the good; do not respond to the bad

4. When fighting over toys, remove the toy

5. When fighting with each other, remove each child to a separate room

6. Insist on good manners and a pleasant voice

7. Let them choose from a variety of good food

8. Eat with them

9. Tidiness counts