Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Perfect Pet

Erin and Sky headed for their mailbox in their 200+ apartment complex when they noticed a familiar image in a photo on the wall. "Found," it said. "For more information..."

Which of them had left the door to their apartment open? Who was to blame for this embarrassing slipup? And who had the burden of retrieving the missing member of their family?

Let's go back a step. Erin loves dogs. Even though she grew up with them, it wasn't until fairly recently that she discovered that she absolutely must have one in her household. Sky, on the other hand, never had a dog so it's possible he could be swayed either way.

Both work long hours so the idea of a dog watching hi-def t.v. in their apartment all day had to be put on hold until a satisfactory temporary replacement could be found.

Enter Roomba. Roomba is active but she is both quiet and friendly. She doesn't need to be fed. She doesn't even need bathroom privileges. Combined with the fact that she helps with the vacuuming, she was the image of the perfect pet.

Perfection, however, has its limits. Roomba, on occasion, has been known to disappear--under a bed, behind a piece of furniture, down the hall of an apartment complex if someone leaves the door open.

Should you be in the market for a pet (the mechanical kind) and want to know its pluses and minuses, check out Consumer Reports.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Education: It's Not Just For Kids

"A man is not old until his regrets take the place of his dreams."

Education isn't reserved for the young. If you want a career change, if you want to advance in your profession, if you'd like to take classes purely for the fun of it, even if you'd like to study abroad, no one is stopping you...except maybe yourself?

The benefits of lifelong learning are obvious and there is no shortage of opportunities to continue your education:

1. Check out Senior Summer School for 2 - 6 week summer programs or 3 days - 1 week winter classes.

2. Among other opportunities, Senior Net provides older adults with ways to hone your computer skills and/or study genealogy, graphics, digital photography, and personal financial management.

3. There's an amazing assortment of free online classes available. This includes hobbies, games, home and garden, money, relationships, style, health, and gadgetry.

3. You've heard of Road Scholar, a
behind-the-scenes access to participant education, including excursions, lodging, and time for independent exploring.

See what your community center or community college offers.

If you think you can't afford, find out how you, too, can qualify for

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Weddings For 50 Somethings

Traditionally, seniors who got married planned quiet, reserved ceremonies. The trend, however, is being challenged all over. Romance and marriage isn't reserved exclusively for the young, many think. 50+ couples are now grappling with the notion: Why shouldn't they have the big wedding celebration they have always wanted?

No matter what your age, TheKnot provides a budget tool with a most comprehensive list of expenses and descriptions. The weddingchannel not only tracks your costs, deposits, and balances, it compares suggested amounts with actual costs.

So here are your nuptial alternatives:
1. Serene, relaxed, quaint
2. Dreamy, entertaining, fun

You can't go wrong either way.

But as my mom would always say, "With one ass you can't dance at 2 weddings." So make your choice and enjoy!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Man At Work

Brent was 12 years old. His 6 year old sister's friends' parents knew that he made extra cash by hand washing and waxing cars (and paid him royally). Many of the cars were dark colors (black, mostly) so it was especially difficult wiping off any remaining wax/getting them spotless. He worked for hours and even his meticulous dad rarely found smudges.

One Saturday Maury R. called to ask if Brent could clean his car. I answered the phone and relayed the proposition to Brent to which he replied, "Tell him to call me at 2. I'll try to fit him in."

Actually Brent didn't have any clients that day but he wanted his customers to think he was incredibly busy!

Check out career centers and opportunities for employment. Retired Brains is a job search engine for older boomers, seniors, retirees, and those about to retire.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Honey, Have You Made Any Friends?

I feel like I'm back in kindergarten.

We moved here about 5 years ago. Bob's occupied with his new career, selling cars, and I spend the bulk of my time working on a baby boomer/senior website. That leaves little time for cultivating new friends.

Aside from playing grandma to my pre-school dermatologist (age 4) and my toddler anesthesiologist (age 1), I've joined a leadership group. I meet monthly with Newcomers groups. I play Mahjong. I volunteer when I can. I've joined Toastmasters.

When Bob comes home, we discuss what we've done during the day. When he remembers that I've met up with some locals, he always asks (like mom used to do when I was 5), "Well, honey, did you meet any new friends?"

True friendships are hard for some of us to come by. Forming associations based on our professions or our kids and their extracurricular activities is no longer an option. Shared history obviously can't be created overnight. Old-timers already have their alliances and may have neither the desire nor energy for a new attachment. I can understand that.

I'm open to your suggestions. And I'm a quick study!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Affording Clothes When You Don't Have the $$$$$

Bob and I were starving married students. He worked at the UCLA Student Union. I frequented the want-ad board and took odd jobs. After 4 years of dating we married as undergrads, mere kids when I look back at our photos. The chances of our surviving together were slim to none.

A constant problem for us was--you guessed it--money. We joined parents for meals as often as our schedules would permit. We were both scrawny in those days so our food budget wasn't much.

But (and this is a big BUT) I always liked clothes. Occasionally, I'd purchase something from K-Mart or its equivalent. Then there were birthday (remember the days when they couldn't come fast enough?).

I'd play a game with myself. If there are any shrinks analyzing this blog, I realize I am in big trouble.

Anyhow, I'd buy clothes but I'd leave the tags on. When I got the "wanting thing" out of my mind, I'd return the items. I felt like I owned the garment but once "needing it" passed, I reclaimed my money.

It's not much different now.

You retailers must despise people like me.

On a slimmed down retirement income I find myself reverting back clothes-wise to my 20's. If I see something that I "must have," I'll buy it. Hold it. Think about it. Until I become indifferent about it.

Then off I go back to the store.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Grandma's Theater Instructions

Last night I took my 4-year-old granddaughter to see "Annie." We arrived after our dinner date at a pizza parlor.

Armed with garlic breath, a feisty kid, and her devoted blankie, I made my way into the auditorium. Convinced that the villain (Rooster) would "get her," Haley planted herself firmly in the back row. Grandma countered that our tickets assigned us seats in Row H, well towards the front. I picked her up and carried her past several ushers, stepped on not a few feet, and plopped us down at the prearranged location.

Haley was convinced that Rooster (aka "bad guy") couldn't pluck us from our mid-row hideout. She carefully tucked "blankie" into my purse (I brought my big gold one for this reason only) where she could reach in to rub the satin binding for reassurance.

At 4 you're not much of a veteran play-goer. But at 4 you're not much of a vet at anything.

Haley was a champ, however. She needed little reminding about not kicking the seat in front of her. She kept her voice at a semi-appropriate volume. And she didn't complain (too much) when a head blocked her view.

For all you grandmas out there contemplating taking your grandkids to the theater, check out my tips:

Go potty (both of you) just before the play. It goes faster if you've already discussed why you use those paper thingies.

Don't drink too much (see above).

Arrive when the candy counter is camouflaged by customers.

Carry kleenex for those unanticipated sneezes.

Don't forget blankie.

Plan for company on your lap.

Have fun.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What You Can Do To Make The World A Better Place

It's small enough to fit into a purse or a back pocket. It separates the "good guys" from the "bad guys" and turns your shopping list into a powerful statement to major corporations. It's "The Better World Shopping Guide," by Ellis Jones, a sociology teacher at University of California, Davis.

Mr. Jones' book covers categories including coffee, computers, gasline, clothing, banks, cars, and water. He profiles the best and worst companies and directs you to online resources which deal responsibly with environmental sustainability, human rights, animal protection, community involvement, and social justice.

Find out how HP compares with Panasonic, Starbucks with Yuban, JC Penney with LL Bean, Infiniti with Acura, and more. How does Southwest Airlines fare against American Airlines?

Then do your part.

Friday, May 16, 2008

If Not Now...When: Telling Your Story

Boomers and seniors: Record your history. There are many resources at your fingertips to help with research. Remember the stories while they are still relatively fresh in your mind.

You may want to begin with Cyndi's List. Tap into AARP's references and do not hesitate to use Family Search.

Here is the beginning of my family's story:

With an oil lamp burning at the table above the general store in the barren prairies of Saskatchewan in the 1930's, Dad discussed and argued values, ethics, and morals with the visiting pastor. Not surprisingly, remnants of these debates appeared in the sermons on Sunday mornings in church where dad loved to sing in the choir.

Hazlet is a small town in central Canada. To this day the main street is dirt. The population has varied little from its original 120 homesteaders, mostly English, Scots, and Norwegians, who were lured to the area with promises of free land and an easy water supply. Free land was doled out provided the homesteaders could endure primitive conditions and a harsh climate. The surrounding towns such as Swift Current and Gull Lake had neither rivers, lakes, nor gulls. To this day the tap water has a natural sulfuric (rotten egg) taste.

It was relatively common for Jewish families to venture to hamlets spiking off the Canadian Railroad to set up stores to supply burgeoning farming communities.

Dad, 16, and his father personally built their store hoping to lessen their struggle to support their large family. But on the day that they were moving into the store, my grandfather suffered a heart attack and died. The role of breadwinner now was placed squarely on my father's shoulders.

It was through the kindness of the homesteaders and their patronage that Dad was able to keep his siblings out of orphanages and foster homes.

Dad grew to love the people (among them the Bangs, Starkeys, Schnuths, Akres, Dewars, and Pattersons) and served them fairly. He earned their esteem and goodwill by keeping long hours, by buying and selling products off their farms, by helping with harvesting, and by participating on the school board. Eventually he was wooed to run for provincial office but because it meant that he would be away in the capital, Regina, from family and business for long stretches of time, he declined.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Driving Over 50

Driving is simple if you know how to back up.

A while back I dashed into my garage, flipped open the garage door with my handy-dandy opener, put my car into reverse, stepped onto the gas pedal, and smashed into my husband's car (lying in wait on the reverse side of the garage door). Needless to say, both cars had to undergo some serious cosmetic surgery.

The most humiliating part of this scenario was when Bob asked why I didn't look at the back-up camera.

Should you find yourself in a similar situation, consider the following:

1. Select a quality repair shop.

2. Get your car repair questions answered for free by certified mechanics.

3. Learn how to use your car's gadgetry.

4. Take a refresher

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Plain Public Speaking

I'm no longer a guest at Toastmasters. I paid my membership today and obligated myself to do an icebreaker at our next meeting. Sounds easy enough, right?

What do you think an icebreaker is?

When I think of "icebreaker" I imagine a tool or a ship colliding with ice causing a rippling domino effect--kind of like spider cracking when a stone hits your windshield at 60 mph.

I also think of the times when you're attending a get-together and you're instructed to turn to the person on your left or right and introduce yourself.

An "icebreaker" at Toastmasters, I surmised, would be an equally brief introduction. No more than a few generous seconds.

Just to confirm that our definitions matched, I raced back into the hall where today's meeting had adjourned and asked an old-timer.

I was (rather unpleasantly, I admit) surprised that I had agreed to a 5-7 minute autobiography.

5-7 minutes! I don't talk in that long a stretch about anything! Sure, I can read a book aloud or answer a few questions. But this is me, with or without notes, rambling on and on about my life? How would all these fresh acquaintances regard my gibberish?

I was faced head-on with one of my biggest fears and I realized I would need to summon all the courage I could muster.

Hoping I'd receive a response that would generate compassion and understanding, I related my plight to my mom.

No sympathy there. In fact, I think she was laughing.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

An Awesome Sight

Imagine hearing a chorus of parrots. Outside your kitchen windows. And then seeing a dozen tall green parrots adorn the tree in your front yard.

That's what I experienced occasionally when I lived in Northridge.
Many years ago Busch Gardens had a lovely venue in Van Nuys, California. The home of the brewing company was also home to a park with birds, rides, and beer pavilions. When the recreational area closed, the birds must have been let free.

Amazingly, some not only survived but thrived.

Should you ever visit Southern California and venture into the San Fernando Valley, look up. You, too, might witness this awe-inspiring spectacle.

Reliving World War II

I just read a heartwarming and all-too-familiar story of a man whose father was in World War II. Even though "Hawk" hungered for reminiscences of his father's Pacific operations, his father never got comfortable enough to share his experiences before he died at the tender age of 49.

My father-in-law was Master Sergeant of a Railway Battalion in Europe. He, too, has difficulty talking about the war. I fear it is because he saw too much atrocity. The frigid weather, the lack of proper food, clothing, and shelter, in addition to tasting the fear of death, must have been utterly overwhelming. Seeing his comrades die on and off the battlefield must have been excruciating as well as life-altering.

Morrie earned his Battle of the Bulge certificate, copies which we all display proudly on our walls. He has few remnants of the war and I sadly suspect most of the memories being replayed in his mind will be lost to history.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Park You Car and Enjoy the State Park?

Not for long.

Hey, Californians, wake up! Our Governor plans to close down 48 state parks and reduce the number of lifeguards at 16 beaches.

Join me in sending a clear message to our legislators that this is not an option.

Parks need to be accessible to the public. They're far more than vacation destinations. More importantly, they represent opportunities to learn about nature and California history.

Cutting back on the number of lifeguards endangers beachgoers.

Alex from Winnetka expresses himself eloquently.

What we don't need are fewer parks. On the contrary, we need to expand park programs and facilities.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Just Don't "Plan" on Getting Old

Check out Senior Journal and MetLife Mature Market Institute Boomers Ready to Launch Survey.

You might be surprised at the findings:

The first baby boomers who participated in the "turbulent 1960's" have chosen traditional lifestyles.

63% of us are as conservative or more so than we were at a younger stage.

Most of us have our 2+ kids, have earned a decent living, and have been successful caring for family, community, and ourselves.

We don't "plan" on getting old for another 12 - 21 years, especially if we're in good health.

Old age scares us--what health problems lie ahead and will we be prepared and able to pay for long-term care?

Health and financial issues aside, we look forward to retirement and not having to work.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Closing the Door Behind You:Security Options

We were on vacation in Montana, authentic Lewis and Clark country. Bob and Brent were anxious to search the area. I double-locked the door and took a shower.

It was beautiful outside. I imagined the celebrated explorers seeing this exquisite virgin territory.

I wrapped a towel around me and stepped out onto the balcony and closed the door behind me.

Big mistake. The pin on the slider must have dropped into place. I was stuck on our 2nd floor balcony.

I tried to make casual conversation with the people on the next terrace opposite me feeling too foolish to let them in on my predicament.

Bob and Brent returned from their excursion. They couldn't open the door. Bob panicked and convinced the front desk that something was wrong in our room.

The rest is history. Not the famous Lewis and Clark kind. Just one within the chronicles of my most embarrassing moments.

There are all kinds of security applications. As demonstrated above, pins in sliding doors can be very effective (and in some cases, too effective).

Check out some other security information:

Learn what you can do to prevent break-ins.

Installing door hinges and locks correctly can be a deterrent for crime.

Know essential features for a security alarm system.

A Ladybug Becomes a Meal: Diet and Nutrition for 50+ ers

"Grandma, why don't you sit on the grass with Jonah (age 1)," my nephew Leonard (age 38) suggested to his grandmother (85+).

"If I sit down, I won't be able to get up."

"I'll help you up. Go on. Sit down and enjoy him."

Leonard's grandma reluctantly lowered herself onto the grass. She was captivated with the scene unravelling before her: Her great-grandson was mesmerized with a ladybug making its way on blades of grass. She attempted to draw others' attention but when she glanced back at Jonah, he was popping the little insect into his mouth!

Diet and nutrition are important matters for all generations. Numerous sites are currently dedicated specifically to nutrition for the boomers and seniors. One site refines the common food pyramid to the express needs of 50+ers. Another tackles other nutrition issues for the same age group.

Pay attention to snacking tips for seniors and the role of antioxidants and aging, Get on a hotline linked to a registered dietician who specializes in diet and cancer.

Finally, take particular note of the site that instructs seniors on foods to avoid. I wonder if ladybugs are listed.