Thursday, July 20, 2017

Get Your Senior Park Pass Now!

For me summer, spring and fall are ideal seasons to enjoy the outdoors. Lathering up with 30+ sunscreen, donning appropriate loose clothing (since I am no longer a teenager, twenty- or thirty-something devoted to figure-hugging clothing) and comfy shoes, I venture outside to walk, hike, kayak, raft, ride horseback, ride my bike, garden, mountain climb, swim, lounge, take a scenic drive...Actually I don’t do all these activities, or most of them, but the idea at times crosses my mind.

My winter persona.
Hardy souls explore during the white season of winter, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing (so people tell me. Personally ‘enjoying the outdoors’ and ‘cold weather’ do not mix well.) The rest of us seniors, primarily retirees who are not cold weather fans, flee northern climes for a brief respite or the entire season. We throw off layers of clothes, bask in the warm sun, and discover southern regions, places too hot in summer’s sizzling sun and heat, but ideal winter getaways.

Under the umbrella of the National Park Service and other U.S.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
agencies, vast regions of the country are ours to enjoy. Sometimes too many visitors converge on breathtaking scenery, campsites and park roads, but that makes it more imperative to visit off season – anytime but summer, when families converge and take over.

Seniors (over the age of 62) can enjoy these national treasures for a pittance - a word I don’t think I ever used before - but one that describes the cost to individuals of the gift the country bestowed on its elders.

For the bargain price of $10 a lifetime pass can be purchased from the National Park Service offering free admission to over 400 sites.

Hub and I purchased a pass a couple of years ago and have used it several times, including Big Bend National Park in Texas, Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, and the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Preserve not far from our New Jersey home. One pass is good for a couple, or as the Park Service defines it, one pass owner and an accompanying passenger.

The price of the pass increases to $80 beginning August 28th.

The $10 passes are available until August 27th at National Park sites listed on the National Park websitePasses are also available online and by mail for an additional $10. The government website warns there is a high demand (everyone purchasing before the deadline), so if interested act NOW.

For more information check out this website.

Uncle Sam does not often provide wonderful things at a bargain price. The National Park Senior Pass is an exception. If unsure if you will ever use it, check out the list of places where you can use the pass. One or more interesting sites may be near you. Take advantage and check it out!
Everglades National Park, Florida
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Monday, July 17, 2017

Summer Reads Highlight This Week’s Best of Boomers Blogs



As the hot summer days of July overwhelm, many of us respond by slowing down. We lounge by the pool or the beach, savor cold drinks, and pass the hours enjoying a summer read. Over at Heart Mind Soul, Carol Cassara offers her definitive summer reading list for your enjoyment. Light reading, in-depth nonfiction accounts, humor – whatever your pleasure, Carol offers suggestions for the perfect summer diversion.

My current beach read is an appropriate one - the location a beach community. A new book by a fellow writer (Beach Outlaw by Wanda Argersinger), I will try to be vigilant and finish it in the next couple of days, write a review and NOT procrastinate (a weakness of mine). A heat wave supposed to invade my area in the next couple of days might result in a bad case of lethargy, preventing me from doing much of anything – except sit in air conditioning or my well-shaded backyard, nurse that ice cold drink, and maybe read.

And speaking of books, these two posts summarize Laura Lee Carter’s week pretty well: On the one hand she received her first real troll review of one of her books, and responded. And, in an unrelated event, she observed at her home a double rainbow the next day! That's life for you....

Summer is not only time to relax around the house or our neighborhood. It is also vacation time, and this week one of our boomers traveled to New England.

We are never too old to learn something new, and so while on vacation Tom Sightings is taking a break from more weighty concerns and relearning the alphabet. What? Did he forget his ABCs? No. He's just looking at them from a different perspective over at Charlie Alfa Papa Echo / Charlie Oscar Delta.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about a recent court ruling that says the public can record police officersRecording the police is protected under the First Amendment, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled recently. The court said the ability to record police is important because it ensures that the public can hold government officials accountable for misconduct.

Enjoy a beautiful summer week (I hope it is beautiful wherever you are!) and while relaxing take a look at our boomer goings-on. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Family Gathering

My family sees each other regularly, but not routinely. My kids live several states away, and other family members are a three or four-hour drive. Mom, despite our pleadings to move closer, also lives three hours away.

Which might not be too bad, except the drive to Mom’s is through one of the largest, most congested metropolitan areas in the world – the New York City metro region, characterized by high tolls, traffic congested highways, expensive gas, and roads that suck in poor condition.

Family get-togethers rarely involve everyone, so it is nice when a major event draws folks together. This past weekend most of the clan descended on Lancaster County PA for my niece’s wedding.

For my sons it was a homecoming, the place they grew up and left years ago. Since hub and I relocated the boys do not return to their childhood hometown. Jason road tripped old haunts and chatted with neighbors. Matt discovered a new craft brewery/restaurant where we rendezvoused for lunch. Hub and I complained about the traffic. Residential and commercial development boom but roads remain, for the most part, two-lane slow-going meandering parking lots pathways.

Unloading the car I made a disastrous discovery. The suitcase with our clothes was in the trunk, but a furious search of the entire vehicle triggered the realization that a second bag packed with shoes and makeup was missing, left on the floor of the bedroom at home. Three hours away.

There was no way I could go to the wedding without makeup. I would feel naked. Makeup is not a magic elixir, but psychologically helps me feel better about myself. Not that anyone (but me) cares how a 60-something looks…

Hub and I made an emergency shopping trip to the nearest department store. I found a pair of white sandals ($16 – a true bargain originally marked $50) and purchased some makeup – not on sale. Hub also bought a pair of shoes, marked down but not as great a bargain as my sandals…

Sunday was sunny and hot and at 5:00 p.m., official start time for the wedding, the sun still blazed in the sky. As we walked from the parking lot to the reconditioned barn now banquet hall, families played miniature golf on one side of the barn while on the opposite side golfers practiced on the driving range. A typical summer Sunday afternoon.

Inside the banquet hall twinkling white lights, sunflower table decorations, green tablecloths, wide wood floor planks and deep red draperies set the tone for the rustic countrified setting.

We are an extended blended family religiously. Living in Lancaster County for decades I became familiar with its conservative environment. Politically, religiously, culturally – except for Lancaster city, a liberal-leaning oasis in the center of the county – the area evokes conservatism leaning right. Far right.

Some members of my family, not having the privilege of ever living in Lancaster County, were not as familiar with the culture as hub and I. The evening proved an eye-opening experience – the fundamentalist Christian marriage ceremony, the country band, women in head coverings, cowboy hats donned by friends of the groom. Women’s attire varied from bare-shouldered sleeveless dresses, short skirts, and form-fitted outfits to looser fitting plain dress.

Polite table conversation avoided political discourse. I was surprised, however, to meet a friend of the groom who proudly announced she was Scandinavian, her blond hair and fair skin proof of origin. Somehow she knew I did not quite fit in with most of the guests (pointed out by a member of the bride’s family? Did my clothes or appearance give away my political preferences?) She chatted about how she tried to convince the groom to vote for Hillary, but was unsure of her success. (I doubt she won that argument. The bride is a Trump fan.) She also said how excited she was to learn that tenants at a rental she owned marched in Washington.

I strongly suspect, however, she was a lone figure (except for members of my family) in a crowd of conservatives.

A highlight of the evening is shown in the following picture, my 92-year-old Mom dancing with her grandson.


The family dispersed Monday morning, piling into cars and returning home. One son departed 5:00 a.m. to drive to Vermont in time for a noon business meeting. Another car headed to the airport. Hub and I drove my niece and Mom into Philadelphia, my niece on her way to work and Mom taking the train home. Cars headed west, east, north…home. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Beach House or Bust!

Some beach houses are quiet, laid-back, off the grid hideaways. Occupants luxuriate in the sea air, sand, solitude, and water.

Then there are beach houses that anxiously anticipate the chaos, confusion, and cacophony as children of all ages converge on the place to delight in the sea air, sand, swarm of humans, and the water.

Our year-round home also happens to be a beach house. During the summer hub and I host a stream of men, women, and children, relatives and friends, infrequently strangers, mostly humans, but occasionally canine guests cross our threshold.

Visitors drive up in cars overloaded with gear that scream, “Beach House or Bust!”

No solitude most of the summer around this particular beach cottage.

This season’s weather has been sublime, warm, sometimes hot but rarely humid. Some days clouds hover, but rain graciously waits until evening to descend. Flowers in full bloom hold their heads high, not yet drooping and limp from long scorching rainless days.


In the beginning of July no one is tired or bored of lengthy sunny days, endless sand beaches, ocean waves, lifeguard warning whistles, whiffle balls and Frisbees. 

The best part of a day at the beach is the Ice Cream Man. Summer routines may eventually induce boredom, but I am excited from opening day on Memorial Day weekend through the last beach day in September to see the Ice Cream Man.

The Ice Cream Man slowly ambles up the beach, a white cooler slung over his shoulder. My hungry, thirsty crew hopes that by the time he arrives at our site favorite treats are not sold out. We anxiously watch him toss the cooler on the sand, and as he opens it delight in the cold dry ice arising from within. We watch in anticipation as he thrusts his hand in and pulls out our treats – a chipwich sandwich or fudgsicle, fruit flavored ice or creamsicle, a crunch bar or my favorite, an old fashioned ice cream on a stick, a milk chocolate shell with vanilla ice cream inside.


Time never stands still, but seems to slow down during the sultry summer months of July and August. People do not get upset when phone calls are not returned promptly. Everyone (or rather the majority of humanity in the Northern hemisphere) understands that vacations and visitors take priority. There will be plenty of time to pick up the pace and return to normal routines come September.

There are a few days between out-of-town invasions when hub and I enjoy our sanctuary peacefully, quietly, lazily.

I do not have to go to the beach to enjoy these magnificent days. My front porch is shielded from the sun most of the day and usually a gentle breeze mitigates the heat. I watch neighbors and their houseful of guests lug cartfuls of equipment three blocks to the beach: chairs, coolers, towels, sand toys, and an assortment of additional items they will probably not use. On the other hand we carry a light-weight beach chair, water bottle and reading material. Only the essentials.

Sitting on the porch reading, checking the news, writing, time passes leisurely as we reenergize for the next invasion.

We do not mind. We enjoy the company, the chaos, and the activity.

But I must confess it is nice when September nears and once again anticipate more tranquil times.

We love the summer. We love the frenzy of family and friends.

We also love the calm and quiet of cooler months.

We are blessed to experience both. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Spamming the World for 80 Years

The July 4th holiday is an interesting time to celebrate things uniquely American. The birth of our nation, of course, tops the list, but another American-born item to be praised or scorned, depending on your taste, deserves attention. Although I personally have no history with this product, lots of Americans and people throughout the world love it.

I am talking about the food fave Spam.

Happy 80th birthday Spam! 


Born July 5, 1937, the spiced ham concoction introduced by Hormel Foods Corporation was created with leftovers from the production of pork products. Food manufacturers along with most Americans learned to be frugal during the Depression years, using everything, never throwing anything out that could be reused, reworked, recycled, or reprocessed.

Seeking a unique name for the product, the company held a contest. Kenneth Daigneau, who happened to be the brother of a Hormel executive, won the contest and $100 prize with his suggestion: Spam.

Fried with eggs for a hearty breakfast, plunked between two slices of bread for lunch, folks quickly became fans of the meat in a can. Spam became a popular food staple found in Depression-era pantries throughout the country.

According to Hormel, Spam’s six ingredients include: pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrate. Cans filled with the mixture are cooked and cooled for three hours.

Spam spread around the world during World War II, nourishing American and Russian soldiers.

Without Spam, we wouldn't have been able to feed our army. 
- Nikita Khrushchev

Today Spam products continue to be popular in the U.S. and 42 additional countries.

What are Americans still buying? Big Macs, Campbell's soup, 
Hershey's chocolate and Spam--
the four food groups of the apocalypse. 
New York Magazine’s Frank Rich

Americans throughout the country eat Spam – in red, blue and purple states, the poor and occasionally the rich (who were probably poor when introduced to Spam), and rednecks -

You might be a redneck if in an effort to watch your cholesterol 
you eat Spam Lite. - Jeff Foxworthy

Spam fans can get their fill of the product and its history at the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, south of Minneapolis.

And to clear up any confusion in the minds of folks today, the food Spam gained popularity long before spam became a synonym for junk e-mail. 

The term for junk email originated from a 1970 Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit. All of the restaurant’s menu items turn into Spam and when the waitress repeats the word Spam, a party of Vikings sing “SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, lovely SPAM!  Wonderful SPAM!”, drowning out other voices.
Exactly when this episode morphed to Internet messages is shrouded in mystery. However it happened in different places in a short period of time. Users in these first occurrences chose the word “spam” referring to the 1970 Monty Python sketch where Spam singing overwhelmed conversation, and Spam appeared unwanted all over the menu.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Fourth of July Boomer Round-Up

Confession: I am not a very good house cleaner. In fact I could probably win a prize for worst housecleaner. A short story illustrates this sad fact: My three-year-old son (obviously this true event occurred decades ago!) saw me take the vacuum cleaner out of the closet and asked, “Mommy, who is coming over?” “Why do you think we are getting company?” I innocently asked. “Because you are cleaning the house,” was the reply.

Although Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, is another kindred soul who does not enjoy house cleaning very much, she does think there is some value in spring house cleaning (even when delayed until summer). Read her article to find out what she found when vacuuming her laundry area that made her see spring house cleaning in a positive way.

Most of us will be spending the Fourth of July holiday relaxing with family and friends, throwing burgers (chicken at my house) on the grill, sleeping late, watching fireworks after dark - enjoying time off from our normal routine. But not everyone.

Tom Sightings knows what he's doing this Fourth of July weekend. He tells us about it in My Life In Boxes ... and hopes you are having more fun over your holiday than he is.

Some boomers were more reflective this week, thinking about topics often avoided and rarely discussed, yet impacting our lives. Laura Lee Carter of Adventures of the New Old Farts ponders our country’s suicide epidemic in three ways we can battle our epidemic of suicide in our country!
 
Laura Lee enjoyed the movie, “Golden Kingdom,” Brian Perkins director, set in the country of Myanmar. She previews the movie and relates the theme to her profession, urging us to choose our worries and thoughts, instead of letting our undisciplined mind choose them in her post Manage Your Fear.

Despite a long history of worrying, something her mother also did quite well, Carol Cassara at Heart Mind Soul has learned that no amount of anxiety can change the future, and offers help to those of us plagued by World Class Worrying.

Carol walked a grief labyrinth last month. A labyrinth is a maze with intricate passageways constructed in such a way that it is difficult to find one’s way out. Carol thought, as she worked her way through the labyrinth, she would remember people lost, but found herself grieving her Lost Youth.

I hope everyone enjoys the holiday. 
Spend a little time perusing our boomer blogs and -

                     Have a wonderful Fourth of July holiday!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Life Back to Normal

The past few weeks a busy, energetic, on-going series of activities bombarded me and pushed everyday life aside.

Now, special events concluded, life returns to normal.

The excitement of touring new places, meeting new people, tasting different dishes fade into days of scenery sameness – my front porch and backyard, neighborhood streets and stores and familiar eating and shopping places. Not a bad thing. A comforting fact.

Long travel days to far-away destinations are now miserable memories of hours scrunched into a tight plane seat, mediocre to bad food, inability to sleep, and cramped muscles. Transportation these days is often by foot, exercise and fresh air replacing inertia and stale air.

The challenge and intensity of attempting to satisfy grandkids of different ages and interests over (temporarily!), replaced by time to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee.

Multiple trips to the Rite-Aid drugstore a couple of blocks from the house decrease to once a day, and occasionally NONE a day! I do not own stock in Rite-Aid, but perhaps should. And I have no doubt my family’s repeated visits to the store had something to do with the recent uptick in the company’s share price. (Stock analysts will tell you the price jump had to do with the fact that Walgreen’s is buying half of the Rite-Aid stores, but I know better…I wonder if my neighborhood store will soon have a name change. In that case I might buy Walgreen’s stock.)

I look forward to catching up with friends missed but ignored for weeks.

Volunteer responsibilities on hold now demand attention.

Returning home and looking forward to cooking once more, bare shelves need restocking, and summer means excursions to farmer’s markets for delicious local fresh produce.

Flower and vegetable gardens beg for attention after weeks of benign neglect. Weeds gloat, reaching for the sky. It is time to let them know who is the boss!

A pile of books beckon.

And last, my political awareness dropped a few notches over the past few weeks. I was not around a TV constantly blaring the latest Presidential buffoonery. I ignored newscasts droning on and on about repealing, replacing, voting on, and changing the good, the bad and the ugly in the GOP health plan. My inattention changed nothing, but my blood pressure thanked me. I will make an effort to minimize my exposure to all political discourse hoping my blood pressure remains under control.

Life back to normal. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

TRANSITIONS

Life consists of transitions. Big ones. Little ones. School to work, home to college or apartment living, single life to marriage, school to work, adulthood to parenthood...the list goes on.

Not all transitions are major life events. Some are minor, maybe not even noted or casually mentioned in passing.

Transition is what occurred in my life last week, best described in the following pictures. Recovering from both events (and still in the midst of event #2) most of my brain cells have yet to work properly, mired in a fog of exhaustion. Pictures tell the story.

Friday night - Shabbat - Jerusalem, Israel.
The Western Wall. 
There are separate sections for men and women,
a fence separating the two areas.
Standing on chairs and peeking into the area off limits to us,
we view the men preparing for and celebrating Shabbat.

Cycling in the city of Tel Aviv.
And spending a couple of less intense, more relaxing days visiting friends.
View from friends apartment in the city of Modi-in looking east to the West Bank.

Making the transition...
From the ancient city on the hill to the modern, sophisticated metropolis of
Tel Aviv (we arrived on the day of the Gay Pride Parade), the city known as
To home - summer -grandsitting - 
and celebrating another (very minor) event.
Celebrating my birthday with the girls.

Cooking and baking, here decorating cupcakes.
Other activities include multiple trips to the library.
 Storybook Land, the playground, the pool and of course the BEACH!

Bedtime disrupted by a thunderstorm and the loudest thunder EVER.
Three girls and a Grandpa huddle against the storm.

Oldest granddaughter preparing for camp.
Yup, purple hair - exactly what she wanted.

I will survive!

...I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live
And I've got all my love to give and I'll survive
I will survive, hey, hey
1
It took all the strength I had not to fall apart...






Thursday, June 15, 2017

An Israel Adventure Almost Over

There are occasions when time drags, seconds and minutes tick by slowly while waiting for something - an event, an announcement, or perhaps we just feel sick. Other times we cannot believe how quickly the hours pass. Each day of my Israel adventure is packed with touring sites, bus rides, walks in the blistering hot sun, and of course eating. Evening arrives and my bones and my mind barely function. I am physically and mentally exhausted. 


On the other hand today hub and I pack and endure a 12 hour plane ride home.


Each long day left little time for relaxation. Every night I prepared for the following day, turned the TV on, searched for something to watch and fell asleep to the drone of CNN news reports, too tired to pay attention. Hotels offered free wifi, so evenings and mornings I checked email and messages. I turned off cell data and silenced my phone, opting not to pay Verizon $10 a day for overseas service. The company gets enough of my $$. Every month.


Israel is approximately the size of the state of New Jersey, but the geographic diversity is dramatic. Desert, rolling hills and mountains, miles of flat seaside lined with beautiful beaches, farmlands, forests, lush river valleys and dry scrubland all squeeze within the borders of this small country.


Our tour group included six children between the ages of 5 and 13, so many activities geared towards the young ones tested the physical endurance of hub and me. But we survived! Nature hikes, river walks, rafting, tunnel explorations, boating, walking. Steps seem to be everywhere - steep, high, often slippery ones.


Here are a few pictures of our Israel adventure.

 

Climbing stairs in the old city of Safed

Making chocolate in the Galilee in northern Israel.
 
Visiting HaCarmel market in Tel Aviv
 
Playing in the sand, the Mediterranean in the background, in Tel Aviv
Climbing tanks
 
Touring tunnels under the Western Wall in Jerusalem
 
Feeding donkeys on a kibbutz.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I Climbed Masada

Travel is all about seeing new places, trying new things, meeting new people, expanding horizons. It is about exploding ideas and stereotypes concerning everything from food, modes of travel, weather, homes and buildings, people, countries and lifestyles. It is learning to not freak out at the unexpected or problems encountered, to be flexible and open-minded when confronted with cultural differences, and to be open to new experiences. Travel is exhausting, invigorating, irritating and annoying, but always an adventure.

Touring Israel I participated in activities that, if offered at home, I would most likely politely decline. 

Sometimes we take on a physical challenge for the satisfaction of saying,"I did it!" The sense of accomplishment feels good, but also provides a tiny bit of comfort that my body functions, if not as well as my touring cohorts generations younger, well enough to assure me I am not yet ready for the retirement home.

I climbed Masada, a very tall hill, not quite a mountain, maybe a small mountain, in the middle of the desert. It is a national monument, the remains of a Jewish settlement about 2,000 years old. When facing defeat by a foreign power and the knowledge they would all be killed or sold into slavery, the 967 inhabitants made the difficult decision to commit suicide rather than be captured by the Romans.

My day began hours before daylight. The bus left the hotel at 4:00 a.m.; in the middle of the night I am awake, dressed, and very groggy. Hikers must begin before sunrise - 5:30 a.m. - because the sun rises quickly and it gets very hot; too hot to climb. A cable car carries visitors up and down the mountain all day long. My party of seven hiked up the mountain, toured the site, then rode the cable car down. 
 
Sunrise.
At the beginning of the trek up Masada. The body of water is the Dead Sea.
The rest of my hiking buddies, all ahead of me. I took up the rear the entire time
And reached the summit in 1 1/2 hours (most people can complete the hike in one hour).
 
We were not alone hiking Masada. A group of army trainees
Also hiked up - after they had already walked nine miles.
Our group poses with some of the soldiers - still smiling after their long march!
I am the civilian in the gray shirt (not the skinny one - that's my granddaughter).
 
 
View from the top of Masada. The mounds in the back of the picture
Are remains of Roman fortifications built during the seige of Masada.
 
View from the cable car descending Masada.
 
Mission accomplished.
And I have the T-shirt to prove it!