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.