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.

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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.