Now I Lay Me Down

I just received another invitation from the National Cremation Society. They seem to be reaching out monthly. They must know something I don’t. Perhaps it’s the actuarial table for men over sixty who were born and raised in New York City.

Diet is so Important

A few years back, I rubbed shoulders with an oncologist from MD Anderson. We talked about the benefits of eating organic. He made it clear that for someone my age, it was too late. I was already filled with harmful chemicals from a lifetime of processed foods. Thank you Hostess, Swanson and Sara Lee. At least now I don’t have to feel guilty about not shopping at Whole Foods.

Prescriptions

At last check, I take no medications. My Dad didn’t either and bragged about it for years. Then at 78, he developed a degenerative disease. So much for his good health. But I did have a male grandparent that lived independently into his 90s. He never held an emotion back. He yelled as easily as he cried. He exhausted us all.

To Be or Not to Be   

In our house, we’ve discussed whether to be buried or cremated. Jeff wants to be environmentally friendly. He got the idea from living in the Bay Area. I own a plot. And since I come from a dramatic family, the whole event has been planned out in my mind. Someone will sit in the front row, bawling hysterically, and at a key point in the eulogy will cry out, “it should have been me.”

Trust me. You won’t want to miss it.Continue reading . . .    

Aussie Survivor

Ever hike an Australian preserve in search of wild animals? Me neither. At least, not until the other day.

It was a side trip recommended by friends. I went along with it mostly because Jeff had always wanted to go on an African Safari. So, this was a kind of concession. Instead of days out in the wilderness living off the land, it would be just a couple of hours in a preserve riding around in a Mercedes van with a group of strangers and a very nice tour guide.

It turned out to be a day-long excursion that lasted from eleven in the morning until ten-thirty at night. A stretch of time that included two meals and what generally passes for my bedtime. Of course, my greatest concerns were: What would we eat and where would we find a restroom?

NYC Childhood

Growing up in New York City, I’m not much for wild animals. Oh—we had our native species of cockroach. Two-inch, brown water bugs with cellophane-like wings. And then, there was that occasional mouse. It generated a lot of excitement when it showed up. But I don’t remember anyone running for a camera.

Pigeons lined the terraces which we rarely used. And just like an episode from Marlin Perkins’ Wild Kingdom, some even attempted to nest before brooms were pulled out to sweep them away. The adults called the pigeons—rats with wings—and years later on a trip to Venice, I thought a lot about that reference as they swooped overhead in St. Mark’s Square.

No Pets Please

Dogs and cats were barred from our building. And now that I think of it, I didn’t have one friend back then who even owned a pet. Not a bird, turtle or hamster. Not even a fish. So as I marched through the forest, damp leaves, broken sticks and loose rocks underfoot, I barely looked up from the trail, hoping that I wouldn’t be the first to slip and disappear into the deep canyon below. All the while our guide kept talking. “There are twenty variety of snakes here. Poisonous spiders that are perfectly camouflaged to match the bark. Kangaroos that have been known to seriously injure dogs.”

And I was searching for all of that?

Uh Oh 

And then, up ahead, resting in a tree—a Koala bear. Gray and fuzzy with Mickey Mouse ears and enormous eyes. He stared down at us as we stared back up and marveled at him. I forgot about the dangers, the dampness, and all that dung underfoot. I was part of nature, enjoying the moment, and grateful to be on the trip.Continue reading . . .    

Let’s Eat

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about eating. Well, I’m on a cruise ship circling Australia—and frankly—eating is the major activity. And despite what you might have heard about Americans being overweight, I assure you, we’re not alone. There are plenty of people from Australia and the UK who easily match us in girth. Perhaps that’s because a cruise self-selects those who are obsessively interested in dining as they float along to the next destination.

Group think

Food seems to be on everyone’s mind. What you ate, what you’re eating, what you’re going to eat. And instead of being pleasurable, it becomes a little sickening. Especially when you wolf down two hot dogs and fries with a pizza chaser (guilty). Can the second ice cream sundae be too far behind? Are those chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies? I didn’t know Jell-O and cheesecake worked so well together.

I’ve tried my best not to give into the mass hysteria that the next meal might be our last. And yet, even as I sit here, content to spill my guts about the incredible excesses everywhere, I’m pondering the sugar donuts I saw at the buffet. I should have eaten one when I had the chance. Will there be any left if I go back?

Am I showing?

Each morning I awake and stare at my gut in the mirror. As I stroke my belly, I wonder if it’s getting bigger. I’m reminded of that guy Morgan Spurlock who did the Super Size Me documentary. You remember him. He ate McDonald’s every day for a month to determine the impact on his overall health. As I recall, he got pretty sick. Even vomited. The thought has crossed my mind. Instead, I keep popping antacid after antacid.

I wish I had more self-control. But I don’t. Day three and food is everywhere. Except at the gym. And yes, I’ve actually been there. But any plan to stay slim is 80% diet—20% exercise. That’s what I’ve heard. So really, there’s little point going to the gym while on-board. Unless you plan to lie flat on your back, mouth closed, to ease digestion.

No more

I’ve told Jeff that this is the last time we go on a cruise. Next vacation will be an active one. He agreed with me as we sat in the dining room admiring the sweet rolls placed table side by the waiter. And as I bit into a fresh croissant with a chocolate center, I realized that this moment won’t last forever. Soon, I’ll be back at my house where carbs are banned. Where the evenings are spent foraging through cupboards that hold nothing more than spices and dried beans. My stomach will once again be flat. My persistent indigestion gone.

I guess sometimes in life we just need to let go. Practicing self-control on a cruise ship is a fool’s journey. Better to fully immerse oneself and get it out of your system. And so, once again I prepare for breakfast. Did you know that pancakes taste best when covered yea high in stewed prunes?

What Did You Say?

I’ve been deaf in my left ear since I was two-years old. Pneumonia. Dead nerve. Nothing they could do. At least until cochlear implants came along. But honestly, I’m not interested in the procedure.

Change Adverse

While everyone wants the latest and greatest — I’m bemoaning the loss of the familiar. Now there are some things I don’t miss. Black and white television. The flip phone. TV dinners (okay — I might actually miss those — but have you checked the salt content?). And, I don’t miss the hearing I never really had.

Growing Up

The New York City school system required me to have my hearing tested each year. I’d sit in a sound proof booth as the audiologist turned up the volume to a roar. I couldn’t hear a thing but I did feel the pressure on my ear drum. That’s when I’d raise my hand and they’d stop.

And because I had years of lip reading classes and no discernible speech challenges, people didn’t remember that I had a handicap. Teachers walked about the room during spelling tests. It was impossible for me to hear them. So, I learned the week’s words … memorized the list … and filled in at the end of the test … those words I missed hearing.

You Overcompensate

Throughout my business career, I suffered through round conference tables. I learned early on that it was always best to be upfront. I’d turn to the person to my left and quickly explain that I couldn’t hear on that side. Invariably, that person would engage me in a long discussion. Very awkward. Or they would ask for the salt. A lot of people on my left always seemed to want the salt.

And then there were the people who thought I was unfriendly. That happened a lot. Hey, we all have our moments, but in a large room with lots of background noise, I was never going to hear you. Close friends know that. Now, so do you.Continue reading . . .    

White Tube Socks

I’ve been told that wearing white tube socks is passé. And if the crowd at the gym is any indication, that’s certainly true. Black is the new white. So I bought some black no-show socks. The ones you can’t see when you put on your sneakers. And I gathered up all my old white tube socks with the intent of sending them off to a friend who said he uses them when he dusts. Sock puppets, I get. Dusting? Not so much.

Slippage

No sooner was I on the elliptical at the gym then one of my new socks started to slip. Half-way through the workout—it had crept down to the bottom of my foot, eventually balling up under my heel.

Don’t reach down?

There have been moments when I’ve nearly lost my balance on the elliptical due to a minor distraction. Straining to make out a CNN headline on the flat screen television mounted high above the gym. Spotting an attractive passerby and allowing my eye to linger too long. Listening to Eydie Gorme on my iPod. She may be dead and buried but she can sure belt out a tune. Swinging your arms to and fro as she hits a high note can be dangerous. It’s best to listen from a seated position.Continue reading . . .    

I Hate to Complain

Seriously. Complaining is an awful behavior. Especially when it’s done without regard to the listener.

Complaining to someone who is financially strapped about the problems you’re having scheduling that European trip — is at best — rude. Crabbing about the service at a restaurant when the poor waiter is rushing about like a madman — insensitive. Grousing about Washington, D.C. — well — that’s just the norm. But complaining for the sake of hearing your own voice — now that’s a problem.

Not You Again

No one wants to listen to a lot of whining about nothing. Certainly not in my house. Or so I’ve been told on more than one occasion. Okay, maybe twenty times. After that, I stopped counting. And that was back in 1991.

My updates — as I like to call them — tend to focus on how I’m feeling. I’m acutely aware of every little ache or pain. Not that they’re major. They’re not. But I like to keep Jeff updated. Just in case something does happen — he should have the necessary information for the EMTs.

Family Hold Back

I’ve learned through the years to shield my friends. Right now some are rolling their eyes and laughing — but don’t believe them. The real updating has been heaped squarely on Jeff’s shoulders. Mostly in the morning. Usually when he’s checking his iPhone. Or does he start checking his phone when I start updating? Hmm. It’s kind of hard to know.Continue reading . . .    

Whatever Happened to Customer Service?

Customer service is disappearing.

Now, I’m not talking about the person who helps you at the store. That person has been missing in action for years. No. I’m talking about the ability to pick up a phone and solve a problem directly. For some reason – it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find an actual telephone number for customer service. In many cases, they simply don’t exist.

Twilight Zone 

I get that we live in the digital age and technology is our friend. On so many levels I agree. Who doesn’t like to order online? Or Skype? Or read my blog? Okay – maybe that’s pushing it. But technology is now part of how we live. Resistance gone. Let’s all take a breath.

But there’s a downside too.

Life has become 24/7. We’re always on. There’s no escaping the iPhone. Texts arrive. Emails must be answered. The work week has stretched beyond office hours. And I guess that’s okay because we now have Netflix and YouTube and Twitter and Facebook. The world is at our finger tips. Goodie.

Where’s that number?

Then why can’t I get a hold of anyone in customer service?

The technology companies seem to have been the first to do away with live-customer service. Have a problem with your computer? There’s a chat box to start a dialogue. Problems with your website host? There are online videos to scour through. Okay – I get it. I don’t like it – but I get it. It’s like the healthcare companies of the 1980s insisting you not smoke on the premises. It has to start somewhere.Continue reading . . .    

Happy Hour Anyone?

I’ve begun to notice that my 13-year old senior dog is eating earlier and earlier.

He used to eat dinner at 5:00 p.m. — but over the last few weeks, through insistent whining and vocalizing, we’ve moved dinner time to 4:00 o’clock.

Who Could Stand the Crying? 

So what’s the big deal? Who cares when the dog eats?

Certainly not me. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind eating dinner at 4:00 p.m. but I’ve been told that I’m too young. Only the elderly eat so early. And since I certainly don’t want to be judged as elderly, I shrug and go along.

But I’m Hungry

So what I’d really like to know is — what does age have to do with the time of day when you get hungry? Someone please answer me that.

Besides, it turns out that 4:00 p.m. is now designated as Happy Hour. A chic, sophisticated concept, created by the Hospitality industry. Discounted bites and liquor. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s the time when adults gather in the late afternoon to drink. A prelude, if you will, to the real show. That little thing I call dinner.

Teetotaler

I don’t really drink. Maybe a martini now and then. A glass of wine to be polite. Champagne on special occasions. It just isn’t my thing. Remember — I’m the one who is hungry.

But Phoenix is ripe with all sorts of restaurants catering to this Happy Hour concept. I suspect more than one cheapskate has figured it out — loading up on discounted food — making that social security check stretch. But when we go — I don’t see those folks. No walkers or canes. No wheelchairs. Only young hipsters — upscale adults — gathering about, smartly dressed,  engaged in witty repartee. The food seems to be of secondary importance. The focus is on the drinks.Continue reading . . .    

Exercise – Does It Really Help?

I can’t figure out why I’ve been feeling so well lately. It’s not like me to be without an ache or pain. Not that I’m so very old, but I’ve come to expect sore muscles in the morning. It’s kind of routine.

Eating right?

We just came off of a cruise ship. Four course meals were the rule.  The bread basket at the table was sometimes refilled twice. I became very close with the sourdough. And afterward, there were chocolate chip cookies everywhere. Many were in my hand — before magically disappearing.

Weight Lifting

I usually go to the gym a couple of times a week, but with travel to Asia and the jet lag, I kind of let that go. Besides, it’s dangerous to work out when a ship is rocking. Experts (don’t ask me who) agree that dizziness might cause a fall. No sense risking a broken bone. I’m sure you’d agree.

Surprisingly, I didn’t miss those sessions on the elliptical machine. Or peddling, peddling, peddling on the stationary bicycle, going nowhere, sweat soaking through my clothes. It was nice not to immediately shower in the morning, lounging about instead. People seemed friendlier than when I typically walk around after a workout. No one cleared a path, stepping back, giving me the sense that something was terribly wrong.

Backache?

My back feels great. No muscle aches at all. My feet are terrific.

That must be because of the dog. We usually go on long walks, but he recently tore his ACL. With congestive heart disease, he can’t have surgery. So walks are much shorter. Barely to the end of the block. I’ve been spending a lot of time looking up as Charlie slowly hobbles along. Arizona has amazing sunrises and sunsets. You should check it out.

Vic and Jack 

Which leads me to wonder about the virtues of diet and exercise. Could Vic Tanny, Jack LaLanne, Weight Watchers and Pritikin, all have it wrong? Could excessive eating and a lack of exercise actually be good for you?

Well, it’s only been a week since we returned from our overseas trip. Three weeks since I’ve last stepped into a gym. Have I given it all up? Of course not. But I’ve loved the break.

So as I lace up my sneakers, I find myself thinking of all the professional athletes soaking somewhere in an ice bath. Those weekend warriors straining into the next stretch. I wish them all, wherever they are, a big basket of hot sourdough bread — some real butter — and maybe a chocolate chip cookie thrown in for good measure.

My New Car is Up on the Roof

I’m one of those people who hates to buy a new car. The fact is, I don’t like spending large sums of money. On my husband —  sure. The dog — let’s do it.  On me — not so much.

Lease

And I’m too practical to lease. I tend to buy and hold, fully depreciating the investment. Plus, leasing would require that I walk into a showroom every few years. And I don’t like showrooms. The sales staff are too attentive. Asking all sorts of personal questions and offering me coffee at every turn. I wouldn’t mind a big glazed donut — but they don’t offer those. The baked goods are reserved for the suckers in the service area.

Car Blind

A close friend recently said that I have lousy taste in cars. I should be offended, but all cars do look alike to me. I can tell an SUV from a Sedan. A sports car from a luxury model. I’m not stupid. I just can’t tell one SUV from the other. Inside and outside, they all seem the same.

Detroit Car Show

You’d think after living in Detroit for so many years, I’d have developed a passion for cars. Well, I haven’t.

I regularly attended the North American International Auto Show in January. That’s big in Detroit. I remember it being so darn cold outside. The cars — left little impression. The truth is, there was too much new car shine going on. Too many bright lights, cars spinning, large crowds and music blaring overhead. The whole thing left me dizzy and exhausted.Continue reading . . .