Friday, February 27, 2009

"There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is in having lots to do and not doing it." Mary Wilson Little

Enough said.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Missed Step - Barking dogs

Last night our community had a town hall meeting. The purposed was to discuss concerns/ask questions of he Home Owners Association(HOA).

One resident asked what could be done about her neighbor's barking dogs. She stated the dogs barked from the time the man left for work until he got home.

The responses astounded me!

Fill out a form and turn in to the HOA yelled out one person.
Call animal control, said another.
No, call the police, it is disturbing your peace and quiet, boomed a voice in the crowd.

I listened for a few minutes, but anyone who knows me, knows I speak my mind- or am "unfiltered" as my family calls it.

"May I make a suggestion? Why don't you speak to the neighbor, He may not even be aware his dogs bark, since it sounds like they don't bark when he is home."

Duh, wasn't there a missed step? What ever happened to people just talking to each other?

It is not like we live in a dangerous area, this is a retirement community for heaven sakes. I know I would appreciate a neighbor letting us know if we were disturbing their peace; like if our water feature is too loud - but more on that later.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The party is over

There have been many studies that conclude children thrive with routine and will attempt to regulate their food intake when left on their own with many choices.
Oh sure, they headed right for the cookies and ice cream in the beginning. But given time, they started to eat the things their bodies needed. Fruits, grains, vegetables and protein.

Being alone in the house, I felt like a kid in a candy store.
I could eat whatever I wanted?
Eat whenever I wanted?
I didn't have to fix 3 meals a day?
I could sleep as long as I wanted?
I could read in bed all night?
OMG, it was just too much for my brain to handle. I was giddy with the possibilities.

But, like the children in the studies, the novelty has worn off. I now crave nutritious food, set meal times and my weekly schedule!

My private little party is over. It is time to get back into my routine.

Monday, February 23, 2009

When commercials hurt the products they promote

Remember the commercial with the poor, pitiful women crying, "Help I've fallen and I can't get up?" Of course you do - it was so obnoxious and aired so frequently it is hard to forget.

The product on the other hand, is a wonderful idea for anyone - especially someone with medical issues. As a medical social worker, I often recommended some kind of personal alarm (PA) for my patients.

Before the commercial aired, the suggestion of a PA was received with enthusiasm. Having a PA can mean the difference between feeling secure and independent or worrying about a situation that might lead to crisis if alone and unable to use the phone. The PA gave both the patient and the family peace of mind.

After the commercial aired, I noticed a lot more resistance to the suggestion of getting a PA , but at least they knew about the product. I understand, it is difficult to admit that you need help. People don't want to be seen as frail, or elderly - which is the image left by that obnoxious commercial.

My sister used to live alone, 15 mles out of Redding, with acreage, horses and other animals. I worried about her getting hurt and not being able to get to the phone. She could yell for help until the cows came home, but she was not close enough for neighbors to hear.

So one year, when Sis was in her early fifties, I got her a PA that connected to her phone (okay, maybe I shouldn't have got it for her birthday).
This particular brand did not require a monthly fee for monitoring. If she pushed the button on her PA (worn on a pendant around the neck), the phone would automatically dial a neighbor, then me, then 911 -if a human did not answer one of the first two calls. A message was broadcast, in her voice, "this is Sis, I need assistance and can't get to the phone.

Sis was offended by this gift. I have always admired her strong independence; she was/is NOT a pitiful, frail, person. I tried to explain how much I worried about her. Maybe it was more of a gift for me than for her. Using it is such a simple thing - just wear a pendent around your neck tucked into the shirt - but she wanted nothing to do with it.

Several months later, Sis "just went out to feed the horses". When she was walking back up to the house, she stepped in a gopher hole, twisting her ankle and breaking a leg. Of course she was not wearing the PA. Luckily, Sis was strong enough to crawl up to the house and call for help. But I keep thinking about how scary and painful it must have been for her and how much longer it took for help to arrive.

Why am I thinking about this now?
I swore then, that if I thought a PA might be useful, I would not let the stigma of the device influence my decision to use one. It is a reasonable safety measure for anyone alone or with medical issues.

We don't bulk at other safety precautions, like wearing a bike helmet, saftey goggles or fastening a seat belt. Yet, the likelihood of being sick or injured at home is a much greater risk. Unfortunately, that stupid commercial made us think differently about a PAs.

Our new house came wired for a burglar alarm. Last week we decided to connect the alarm system. I asked the company about a PA and was surprised to learn a monitored PA is included in the price - but only if you ask!

I wonder how many people have an alarm system and don't know that a PA might be included in the monitoring fee. How many others could get both a security alarm and PA for less than the 'national brand' of just a PA.

Our service costs $20.00 per month. However, now that we are connected, our home owners insurance is also reduced.

I don't care about the stigma. But I was surprised by how much more confident I feel knowing that should another medical emergency arise, I just need to push the button.

I hope my family and friends feel reassured now too.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Spam - never ceases to amaze me

Do people just sit around thinking of ways they could scam the public?
How does that work?
Hey, I've got an idea, lets send out mass emails claiming to be from an 'ex' so we can gather valid email addresses, charge subscriptions, steal money, etc.

Good scammers know they have to appeal to emotions such as greed. The chance to get rich quick by helping someone transport money out of the country fits this category. It has to be successful as the scam is still in operation judging from my daily emails.

The one I received today played on the emotions people feel towards an ex-spouse. It was mass mailed and screamed "YOUR EX IS TRYING TO REACH YOU"

Statistically, they are going to hit a large number of people that have an 'Ex'. Of those, many will let their emotions about the ex get to them and click on the link. Bingo, they now have a valid email address.
I don't know what other action or request they then made, because I didn't click on the link, but I bet they wanted a subscription or to tell you the ex had money for you and all you have to do is..............

Friday, February 20, 2009

Being alone

How could I have possibly reached the age of 55 years never being alone for any length of time?

The answer is I have been with my husband, Jim, since I was 16 years old. Oh sure, he has been away on work related conferences - but then the house was alive with our children and their friends. I have been alone at work related conferences too, but usually the workshops went so late, the only thing I had time to do was shower - before collapsing is bed.

So it was with anticipation (okay and some apprehension) that I face almost three weeks of Jim being gone. Our daughter, Laura, talked him into taking a bicycle trip in Vietnam (only she could get him to go back there). I am so excited for them. What a great opportunity for making father/daughter memories.

I have a list of things I am going to accomplish; clean closets, clean out the garage, and sort through the last remaining boxes from the move. In those boxes are things we didn't want to toss out, but we really don't need them for the house either. Maybe now I can eliminate a few.

Then there is the BIG PROJECT; one I started several years ago and was quickly too frustrated to continue. Scanning boxes of photos. Yes, I am one of THOSE- one that didn't put pictures in albums when they were taken. Heck, I didn't even write the dates on the back. Oh, my!

Where do I start? How do I sort them? Do I try and group them for each child? What about duplicates, it seems sinful to throw out a picture. Any suggestions for tackling this project are most welcomed!

They have been gone for two days and I still haven't been alone. I have been surrounded by dozens of pictures of laughing children, smiling relatives and precious memories.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Elmer- what a good ol' boy

Our family has never been without a dog for very long. We have had, a doberman, papillons,and an assortment of puppies. Our daughter, Laura,a raised guide dog puppies for Guide Dog for the Blind (GDB) so we had labs, Sheppard's, and one golden retriever in our home through the years.
The Golden Retriever, already named Elmer, came to us as 12 week old yellow fur ball. He was so adorable, how could we not fall in love with him? Laura faithfully cared for all the puppies. She socialized them and took them to school with her. She made sure to work with them on basic obedience skills and exposed them to different environments; buses, trains, elevators, stairs, etc. Laura taught them to trust her and not to react to distractions such as noises from trucks, motorcycles, sirens, children playing or other dogs.We were told that only 1 in 4 puppies raised for GDB makes it through to graduation and is matched with a visually impaired partner. Laura had an outstanding track record as a puppy raiser as all of her puppies made it - except Elmer.

Elmer did not give any indication that he would not make it through the training. He had no bad habits, he wanted to please and was very responsive. The time came for him to return to GDB for the rest of his training. It was a cold and damp morning when the GDB van pulled into the meeting place off of Hilltop. Several other puppies were ready to go and we shared hugs and knowing glances at the sun glasses worn on such a drab day. There were many tears shed that morning -me being the biggest baby. But we kept talking about what a great guide dog Elmer would be for someone. For me personally, he was the hardest puppy to give up.

Laura was handed a cute little German Sheppard that eased some of the heartache. A few weeks days later, we got a call from GDB. They explained that Elmer was going to be dropped from the program as he would not adjust to the kennel. They explained he refused to eat. They even tried taking Elmer home with trainers, given him special food, and keeping him in the school dorm rooms instead of the kennel. He still refused to eat and was on the verge of being fed intravenously. Did we want him back?

The policy of GDB is to offer the puppy raiser the first opportunity of keeping any dog that is dropped from the program. There is also a waiting list of families that would love to have any of the puppies as they know they are well behaved and already socialized. Since we had a small backyard and we had the new German Shepard puppy and another puppy from a raiser that had quit the program - we had limit of dogs and felt is was best to give him to a waiting family.

Two days after that call, there was scheduled activity for all the puppies and raisers in San Rafael. We loaded up the dogs and headed to the GDB campus. During the afternoon break, I wondered if Elmer was still on the campus. We went into the kennels looking for him - bad idea.

Walking down the main isle, we would call out Elmer's . I thought I heard his bark and turned to the right to see a skinny golden retriever standing on his hind legs with his head straining to see over the cement kennel divider. I said, "Elmer?" and he went crazy jumping and barking.

Laura and I dashed down the the three spaces to his kennel. We couldn't believe our eyes. I burst into tears as I looked at this once beautiful, healthy, silky golden retriever. Elmer's checks were hollow, his silky fur was dull, and the worst was his hip bones. His hip bones stuck up like a starving cow, his backbones were clearly visible. It was heart breaking. The staff explained that there are just some dogs that will never adjust to a kennel and stop eating- usually because they missed their family. They said Elmer was the first Golden Retriever they had behave that way - it was more common in German Shepards.

We immediately went to the kennel master and asked it Elmer had been placed with a waiting family. He had not. We told them we would take him home that day. We quickly completed the paperwork and took him out of the kennel to the grassy area between buildings where the rest of the group was finishing their lunch. We got horrible stares as we walked him out - he looked like one of those dogs removed from homes by SPCA.

Sitting down under the tree on our blanket, we offered Elmer food. He gobbled two cups of kibble in less than a minute. We offered a little more -same result. I didn't want to offer him too much as we still had the ride from San Rafael home to Redding. But it was so hard to resist his big pleading eyes, that by the time we reached Redding, he had consumed 6 cups of kibble - a little at a time. Okay, and he did barf in the back seat - but it he was obviously a happy dog.

The next obstacle was telling Jim. He is an easy going guy but I was pretty sure he thought we had enough dogs . I didn't expect him to thrilled that he was not included in the decision to adopt a permanent family member.I can't remember if it was Laura's idea or mine but we somehow agree d that the best way to 'break the news' was to take Elmer to his office so he could see for himself that we had no choice but to take Elmer home - and that is what we did.

Jim agreed we could not have left him. Elmer sure helped with the decision by greeting Jim like his long last buddy. Elmer never had any problems eating again - except as he grew older we did have to watch his weight. He grew into his name - he was our big lovable Elmer dog. He would do anything for us. Elmer put up with a number of other puppies that went through our home. He was there for us when Laura and Jeff went off to college.

One day he was laying at my feet when I noticed his stomach was distended. He had not exhibited any sign of discomfort. When we were walking out to the car to to go the vet, Elmer was wagging his tail and enjoying the prospect of a car ride. The vet thought he may have a blockage or twisted bowl. Elmer was wagging his tail all through the visit. When they opened him up, he was full of cancer - he did not wake up.

A Golden Retriever would not have been my pick as a family dog (too much shedding). But Elmer came into our family for a reason and I could not have asked for a better family dog.It has been years since Elmer died. A lot has changed in our lives, but I still think about him and know that Elmer would have adjusted to any change our family made. He was such a good ol' boy.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Games with a purpose

When we told friends we were moving to a retirement community, we were often asked what we would do with our time. The flip answer 'anything we want!' Then I would described all the activities, card games, photography classes, potlucks, water aerobics, crafts, book clubs, group travel, etc. One friend said, "just shoot me."

What I have come to appreciate is the daily schedule of activities is not about the games. Rather, the games are the event that pries people out of their homes to be together with neighbors. Eventually, neighbors become friends.

When someone takes a vacation, there are plenty of offers to pick up mail, water plants or pet sit. When someone is having difficulty the are not alone as there are many offers to help in whatever manner possible.Jim will be away for 3 weeks towards the end of the month. The card players know that and gave me their phone numbers insisting I call if I need ANYTHING. I know these are sincere offers because we all look out for each other.

It reminds me of our college days when all we could afford for entertainment was to get together with other students to play cards, share a meal or watch a movie together. The friends we made then are among our dearest friends today. Maybe we are trying to re-capture those college days. If so, that's fine by me as that was cherished period in my life.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

When did this happen?

How did this transition happen? The transition from laughing about certain habits of older people to being the one that is doing them. Things like:

not driving at night

wearing sensible shoes

not remembering why I went into a room

avoiding driving in cities

picking restaurants based on senior menus and discounts

preferring to go out to eat before 5:00 - if it's just the two of us

eating in the living room instead of dining room table

having certain days to do the laundry, shopping, etc.

not being able to drink coffee or caffeine all day

being the one offered the seat in a crowded room - and being thankful

Finding inspiration

“As I grow older part of my emotional survival plan must be to actively seek inspiration instead of passively waiting for it to find me.” — Bebe Moore Campbell

Often, if I only take the time to open my eyes and my heart, inspiration is all around. The trick is not to miss it by being too 'busy'.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Sky is falling

There seems to be one in every group.
The one I call Chicken Little.
They're the ones that run around crying the 'the sky is falling, the sky is falling'.
The ones that like to spread rumors, especially those that are upsetting to some.
They like to see if they can stir up a group. "We must band together or the evil (fill in the blank) will change our world as we know it and cause us harm".

There are the ones at work, sport groups, service groups and social groups. They love being the bearer of bad news.The biggest defense against that kind of person is to know who they are by past behavior.
Who are the Chicken Littles in your life?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cute Movie

Sometimes I am just in the mood for a cute, no brainer, movie. Such was the case the other day when we went in the late afternoon to see New in Town. We joined three other people in the theater. I guess others were getting ready for dinner or not home from work yet
Did I mention, I love being retired?

New to Town fit my mood perfectly. The movie starred Renee Zellweger who is sent to downsize a small manufacturing plant in Minnesota. The movie is predictable with the city girl experiencing adjustments relocating from Miami to the bitter cold and icy roads of Minnesota.

I loved the accents and speech pattern of the locals. Their idea of culture is ice fishing and "scrapping" - You betcha.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The "lost" years

Recently, in conversation with relatives, the subject turned to "lost" years. Those are the years a mom or dad takes care of x number of children under the age of five. Whoa, wait a minute.
I am not saying the years are lost, as in a waste of time. Quite the contrary, they are the most precious for a the developing family. Those years disappear into the past at lighting speed.

What I mean is they are lost in terms of conscious awareness of the world outside the growing family. These are the years parents find difficult to keep up friendships, extended family, current events, and music.

I guess it is true of any period that requires prolonged, intense concentration. My husband, doesn't remember any movies or music between 1967 and 1968 while he was in Viet Nam - and those were amazing years for music.

Our conversation was a reminder to friends and grandparents to be patient with young parents; especially during this hectic period in their lives. Yes, they may not be calling as often as they should and may seem a little ditsy. But remember, it is nothing personal. This is a critical time for an emerging family and they should be concentrating on themselves - even if it seems the're in the midst of a war zone.

Monday, February 9, 2009

An act of kindness brings people together

A widowed friend moved into a neighborhood where most of the people had families and worked full time. She introduced herself to the women across the street who happened to be pregnant. The women did not know anyone in the area either.

So, this friend offered to give the woman a baby shower. She invited all the neighbors. It was a lovely shower, but the most important outcome was neighbors getting to know each other; some after many, many, years living in their houses not knowing their neighbors.

What a generous gift, not only the pregnant woman, but to everyone on the street. The baby shower brought everyone together for the shower - but the friendships made will last much longer.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Real age?

There is a new Real Age Test since the last time I took it - about two years ago.
The test records your chronological age, then adds and subtracts points for dozens of factors. The end result is suppose to be your "real age".

Included in the questions are medical history, of course, but also things like how many miles one drives the type of car or a motorcycle, wear a seat belt, have a pet, moved, and level of diet and exercise.

My husband is chronologically older than I am but his 'real age' is younger.
I just turned 55 but my 'real age' is much older. I am depressed about the results.

The good news is that after reviewing the results, the site provides tips and even a personalized plan to make improvement.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The right move

We lived 25 years in our Redding neighbor-hood; without really knowing our neighbors. We may have known their names, but it was more likely we knew the names of their children. We would wave and greet them when we saw them but there was never any socializing. Who had time? Everyone in the neighborhood seemed to work 40 hours a week and had many after school activities.

Now we are retired and moved to a brand new retirement community. New residents anxiously watch the foundations of their houses being poured. They invite friends to tour the open rooms of the just-framed house. Current residents make a point to introduce themselves and answer any questions about the community. There is apprehension about moving and changing lifestyles. Most of us downsized significantly. What should one take? How does one take the things you have come to love and squeeze them into a house half the size?

The day finally arrives when the escrow closes. There is yet another walk through with the developer. But this one is different. There is a banner across the open garage door, the keys are handed over and the neighbors come out of their houses to welcome the new residents in celebration.
This was the right move.

Friday, February 6, 2009

S.F. To New York City -$107 S.F. to Paris $273!

Travel deals of the week from my email box this morning:

United Airlines has launched a new sale this morning on spring travel from SanFrancisco, San Jose and more. For travel through May 13fares start at just $47 each way to cities worldwide.

The fares listed below are up to $100 less than otherairlines' sale prices. Book by Feb. 13.
Sample fares (each way):
San Francisco-Los Angeles ... $47
San Jose-San Diego ... $47
Monterey-Las Vegas ... $51
San Francisco-Charlotte ... $87
San Francisco-New Orleans ... $89
Reno-New York City ... $97
San Francisco-New York City ... $107
San Francisco-Munich . $188
San Francisco-London . $199
San Francisco-Paris ... $273
For more information click on UNITED

Thursday, February 5, 2009

It's okay for them but not us!

Why is it okay for contractors, repair people and service technicians to be late but we are expected to be on time. When a service provider is actually on time, I can't praise them enough - and I keep their name and number for the future. Second best is a courtesy call that they are running late.

When we had the 90 day inspection of our new home. They noticed a seam was not right on the carpet. The installer blamed the manufacturer. The inspector called the manufacture representative out. He looked at the seam and confirmed there was a flaw. So they agreed to replace the living room carpet AND the master bedroom carpet, as the carpet runs into our bedroom from the living room. Seems like a little much for the tiny flaw. But they know better than I - it will probably get worse so now is the time to replace it.

We were asked asked how early can the the movers come to move the furniture. When do you want to come? Is 7:00AM too early? No. So we get up early and move the pictures and knicknacs.

An hour and half later we are still waiting.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Zumba Gold

I tried a Zumba Gold class. How embarrassing - but I won't give up.

I am trying to do more each day but my balance issues just won't go away. Nevertheless, I decided to give Zumba Gold a try. It is offered at our community center for $6.00 a class or $20.00 for the month. I made the commitment, I am going to stick with it. Hopefully my knee will hold out (I just finished a series of three shots, so this is the best it will be), and I hope I won''t fall on my face.

I stick out like a sore thumb. I have to go to the back and hang on to a chair- how much rhythm can you have hanging onto a chair?

I can't look up or swing my head or body from side to side. What I can do is step in place to get my heart rate up and sit in the chair and do the upper body stuff while my feet tap and enjoy the music and laughter.

A half an hour into it, Sally, the instructor, asked the class-all seniors- if we were warmed up yet. The class said yes. Sally said, Okay - lets take a water break and then we will rive it up!

I slipped out the side door, dripping sweat and holding onto the wall for balance.
I will go back next week - after all, they have my money .

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Southwest Airlines is having a three day sale. You can fly anywhere for $49 - $99 each way on any day. For more information click here :

This was too good of a deal to pass up so I booked a trip with my sister to Norfolk, VA. Why?
It was $99.
We have never been there before.
We have always wanted to go to Williamsburg and explore the area.
We may take a train to Penn station, N.Y., or if it is still cold when we go in 45 days, wemay take a drive or train south.
But the biggest reason is:
If not now, when?
I love open, flexible travel.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super bowl

We never watch football but somehow it seems un-American not to get into the Super Bowl hoopla.

They had a Super Bowl party over at the clubhouse and served soda and snacks. The problem was the clubhouse closes at 5:00 PM on Sundays and the game didn't start until 3:30. No one wanted to be walking back to their house during a potential critical moment in the game or even during the commercials and I certainly didn't want to miss the Boss.

So we watched it at home. The commercials were disappointing - although I thought the Budweiser horses were cute. The game was exciting -at the end. But by far the best part of the event was watching Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I wish they got a penalty for delay of game!

A real hand written letter

I received a real letter from a friend. What made it real?

First, it came with other mail delivered to our house. Then it was from an old friend that I hadn't heard from since a year ago Christmas. Next, and most impressive, it was handwritten.

I can't tell you when the last time someone sent me a handwritten letter, but I bet is was well over 5 years! I wish I could hand write letters in that beautiful style. Shoot, half the time I can't read my own writing now.

The excitement when I received the letter was surprising. Then I had to pour myself a cup of coffee and stopped everything I was doing. When I sat down, I gingerly opened the envelop. The letter was three pages of beautiful scrolling words.

A deep sigh came out of me when I reached the end. I realized I was holding my breath while reading -hoping there was no bad news. There wasn't.

The rest of the day, I somehow felt special and yet a little sad that the experience was over.
So I read it again and again.