Sep 29, 2014

Blogging: Why Comments are SO Important or You Can't Get it Right Until You Get it Wrong

I was just reading an article written for a website called Medium. It was called I'm Saying Wrong Things on the Internet. The website is not important (although it was very enticing). The quote I bring to you today went like this:
You can’t get it right until you get it wrong.
The premise for the article was that doing is the best way to learn. The writer was a programmer that had tried using lessons provided by some very prestigious company. The lessons were incomprehensible so they decided to jump into the pool and just do it learning as they went along. Like inexperienced blogger or writer that has not put in their 10,000 hours, they made mistakes.

But here on the internet we all know that someone, somewhere will call us on a mistake or misstatement especially if they see their field threatened by some beginner. And that is what much more experienced programmers did. They pointed out the errors and the beginner learned.

Most bloggers are learning as they go along...after all what good is reading a book on writing going to do? You need to start somewhere. We blunder along trying this and that. But what we need is constructive criticism. However, here in our blogging world, people are more apt to say atta girl or boy. We need a lot more comments AND a lot more honestly when it come to subject matter. If what the blogger says doesn't agree with your take on things, then they should say so.  Even a troll serves a useful purpose. Somewhere in that persons words will be a small truth. Learn from it! That is why we are all here.

Comment away are important!


Sep 28, 2014

My 6 Secret Semi-important iPad Hints

My friend Jack just bought himself his very first Apple iPad. He is like an older brother to me so I need to make sure that he has the benefit of my advice. He has been a PC user up until now. He had to let us know because he had been holding out for about 6 years. I suppose that in some weird parallel universe we had won...we have never owned anything but an Apple computer. I did own a Nokia cell phone once but that doesn't count...the iPhone had not been invented yet. Apple is kind of a religion with us I suppose. Anyway...

Water droplet Screen Saver
He is not the first of our friends to relent and every time someone buys one they beat a hot little path to our door. It just seems so confusing to them. But I will have to admit that the iPad is a bit of a mystery to me too. I haven't ever really taken full advantage of what it can do for me. I learn something new all the time, especially when I am teaching them. There are a few simple things that I need to point out to Jack so I thought I would make a small list right here on my blog.

  1. Remember your iPad comes with a screen saver. It used to be droplets of water and they looked very real. Do not take the iPad to the Apple store and ask for a refund. There is no water and your iPad is not broken. It is all a mirage.
  2. Your iPad can be used for mail, texting, skype and even taking pictures. It will not however add your contact list by magic. You will have to do that yourself. While computers are very cool they cannot really talk to each other unless you help them out.
  3. Email and text messaging is wonderful even though young people do disdain it. You can talk to your iPad by touching the microphone on the keyboard. However, it does not make grammatical corrections and will often add goobledy gook when you want grandma's gone. It does not read your mind. You will have to make corrections. Read the directions telling you how to drag the cursor around in the text using your finger.
  4. I love the new system 8 that allows you to send a voice text message. I don't know how to screw that up yet...I will let you know.
  5. Don't get rid of your computer until you have figured out how to set up your email. I am still fuzzy about ip addresses and that kind of stuff but I do know it is on your computer somewhere...I wish that magic could happen there too but it just doesn't.
  6. While your iPad is very cool it is always necessary to write your passwords down someplace with a pencil on a piece of paper, especially your Apple ID. You will use your email address as your user name and then a password that is yours alone. If you cannot remember your password please try to remember your address...both your home and email. It is sorta important. Refer back to the "magic" advice.
Welcome to the land of oz Jack. You know that Earl got his very own iPhone last year...I have not heard from him since. Talk to you soon.


Sep 27, 2014

Aging in 2014: Fitting In with the Kids

Note: Feeling old? You have to read or reread this blog post called Don't Act Old. I even laughed at it and I wrote it.

When I received a comment from Mary on yesterday's post about the Peter Pan Syndrome and the need to remain young forever, I stopped in my tracks. Here is what she said:
If you are going to be a dino
at least be scarey!
This was a great post. I just retired last year, but I am just the opposite of the retiree who wants to stay forever young. It was actually retirement that brought me to the point where I could face the aging process head on and become who I really wanted to be. It was while I was still working that I did 'all the right things' to stay young. I can sit back now and see how hard it was on me. My oldest co-worker was 20 years my junior. I was of another generation than everyone else, and I worked so hard to fit in that I forgot about who I am. Today I am comfortable with me. 
She took me back to a blog post I wrote back in 2009 referencing an article in More magazine regarding fitting in the work place. In that blog post I talked about several things the writer thought made an older worker appear to be well... very not cool. Here were some of the things she mentioned in her rave against acting old that I thought I was guilty of:
We all tend to do this once in a while, rave that is...even those of us that are guilty of some of the sins she described. We don't "keep going" at the grocery store and tend to block the aisles while we try to find the right hair dye color, we don't text with our thumbs and well, we probably all still leave voice mails. Most of us wear watches and if we leave it at home, aren't smart enough to just check our cell phones for the time. Many of us are walking office or cocktail hour "archives", spouting more information than anyone ever wants. The author from More was just plain irritated by all these things and thought that, if you were still working, you should avoid doing these things...especially in front of your co-workers. In her mind, they just made you appear older than you really were. (Or could it be it made them appear the age you really are.)
Note: When I wrote this post I had not broke myself of the habit of double spacing after the end of a sentence. My posts had many uneven margins as a result...another hint that I am not as young as I could be. 
Have things changed in the last almost 6 years? Do workers like Mary have a whole new list of "fitting-in" requirements? I know it must be very hard to fit in with workers that are 20 years younger. We all can remember when we were 20 or 35 or 42 and it really wasn't THAT long ago. When I see comments like Mary's, I become very grateful for retirement and even for being old. I think she is like me in that she is very lucky to not have to worry about fitting into a world that disregards your knowledge or experience. Being young must be such a burden...all those old people around and everything.

On the other side of the coin I am also aware that we older people really do need to be aware of our public demeanor...even though I sometimes just don't want to think about it. People don't treat me right when I let myself go for example. I don't want to dress younger, I just want to look like a person a younger person would treat with respect. Here is another balancing act. After my blog post yesterday I thought I would tip over because I knew there was much more to that story on no worrying about aging anymore.

Let go back to a post I wrote back in 2011 called 7 Restaurant Behaviors. I suppose it was a bit of a rant that was prompted by something that had happened to me. As I reread it today, I saw that I seem to keep coming back to the subjects mentioned in that post. Evidently I am still bothered by people that complain about the price of a meal when we are in a restaurant, share a meal at a five star establishment, don't tip enough and spend the whole meal talking about their ailments.

I saw this in Mexico when we were there last week. A group of 8 expat retirees came into a 5 star restaurant, sat in the main dining area and ordered 3 appetizers or desserts to share. I thought the waiters were going to fall over laughing. It was kinda cute but it also was kind of silly. Remember, there was a bar with seating that served small bites and that is where they should have been. I wanted to go home, dye my hair black and pretend I was 55.

I think the point here is that the social part of our lives does not change that much as we age. While we may not be chasing the evil wrinkles away or putting on makeup just in case someone sees us, when we are in public, our life is not all about us. It never has been and it never will be.

Any thought?


Sep 26, 2014

Stages of Aging: From Neverland to Reality

illustration of Lost Boys, Wendy, Peter Pan
illustration of Lost Boys, Wendy, Peter Pan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I was tempted to see if anyone else has had this thought before I began writing but I decided that it didn't really matter. I need to talk about this with you. The question is Do all new retirees and boomers becoming obsessed with the idea that they might remain young forever? Are they, in fact, wanting to return to Neverland and live like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys?

I went through that phase when I retired and moved to our winter home in Arizona for six months of every year. It seemed that living in a cloistered world with other retirees, most of them much older than myself, gave me the freedom to be young my case it may be that I was actually young for the first time. Who knows? What I do know is that I felt like I had found Neverland. I even talked about the "pods" in the pool that those people in the movie Cocoon swam with. Remember, those alien pods were like the fountain of youth.

Years went by and I began to grow up may be that boomers/retirees will all go through this when they are free to do just what they want without worry about a job or even the care of children. Aging may have a youth, middle age and old age all it's own. It is something to think about.

In the youthful part of my old age I belonged to a group of women online called Fab Over Fifty. Geri, the owner of the website, was a beacon for women that were growing older. She promoted the idea that young was something we could have if we just played our cards right. Beauty products, clothing choices and just a little bit of ridicule for women that did not have that special sense of style filled the website. I stayed with the group for a while then...

Geri wrote a blog post about getting old. She talked about Pilates and baldness and night creams. She worked hard at doing all the right stuff so her thinking was that she was not going to get old. She could not understand why everyone was not like her. Then she posted pictures of old people with big moles. At the time I was about 69 I think. You can imagine that I was just a little offended and a lot angry. I was beginning to become more mature in that stage in my life. I became aware of the realities of aging. I could not wrap my mind around the mindset of a group of women like that.

See, it doesn't matter if you do all the right are going to get old just like everyone else. It is one of the givens in life.

I just returned from a place in Mexico, a haven for artists and expats. I was not aware that this place existed and I don't think that a lot of retirees are. But, for those people living there, there is a quality to the air, a inexpensive lifestyle and a unspoken hope that youth may be forever available. It is one of the many possible Neverlands people are seeking.

As I was driving down a back road near Leon, Mexico, it occurred to me that staying young forever is not what I want...not really. The idea that I would forever have to walk endless miles to keep fit or eat just the perfect healthy food or even maintain the regimen of beauty creams and makeup began to feel like a burden. I don't even want to begin with how to dress!  Sometimes I just want to sit and read in my housecoat. I want to get up in the morning, wash my face and hair, get dressed and nothing else. Sometimes I just want to sleep. In a word, I just want to be who I am at the age I am. Isn't that perfect?

So, Peter Pan, you can have your forever youthful life. Getting old is not bad, not at all. In fact, when it comes down to it, life just gets better and better. That is what I think.

Have a wonderful day!


Sep 25, 2014

Travel: The Beautiful People of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

He was very proud of the process he used to
make the chocolate products he sold.

Our hosts are Casa Mia Suites were the
absolute best!
In the end it is always the people that stay with you. Whether it is a train ride to the Portland Pearl District or a weeks stay in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, the adventure always has a face.

In the case of San Miguel, my husband continued a tradition we started in Spain over 10 years ago when I took a picture of the waiter at a restaurant in the Alhambra. Since that time we have accumulated photos of people from around the world...and the USA. Here are a few we took this last week in Mexico:
Chocolate and a smile! He was very gallant and sweet...I liked that a lot.
I think the scent of chocolate came home with
us and even permeated our clothing. 
Oaxacan rug maker came to town once every
3 months. We bought one of his creations. He was grateful for a sale and
patted me on the shoulder as though I were his grandmother.
A startling gorgeous bride parading with her groom, friends and family.
They were all dressed in white.

She smiled a beautiful crooked tooth smile
when I ask to take her picture but made sure
she was hard at work when the actual picture was taken.
In spite of the cobblestone streets and tiny colonial streets
 there are constant reminders that it is, soldiers with
guns and luxurious Mercedes.
The school children had just completed walking in a parade for
their schools. This little girls must have scuffed her shoes because
this man, her grandfather perhaps, was treating her to a shoe shine.
I am sure there will be more but for now I am done. We will move on and begin planning a trip t Dubai. Stay tuned!

Sep 24, 2014

Travel and Photography: 7 Days to See Unique San Miguel, Mexico

I will never forget standing at our window watching the fireworks a few
blocks away lighting the night sky.  The declaration
for freedom that the Mexican people dreamed of was announced fromthe front of the Cathedral. Hand rung bells in the
tower continued for a half an hour of more. It was glorious.
A bride and her husband led a parade followed by...


...a band of men singing and a wedding party
all dressed in white, each taking photos with their smart phones!

I am not accustomed to beautiful horses ridden by beautiful men
arriving for no reason at all (that I knew of!)
We have been here almost 7 days now. Tomorrow we will travel back to a hotel near the airport close to Leon. We have wandered through neighborhoods and poked our head is so many portals I have lost count. It has taken this long for use to begin to appreciate the uniqueness of this beautiful city.

This morning we were awoken with fireworks at 5 am or earlier...who knows. We jumped because it seemed as though we were being invaded. Día Madre en Miguel Hidalgo began with a boom on this Sunday morning and it was time to get up. I was reminded of being startled awake in Viet Nam with loud speakers at a very early hour. It is not what you expect that sticks with is always the surprises.

There are no streetlights or stop signs here. No one plays music in their cars. Traffic police seem to appear out of nowhere when a small traffic jam happens. It is amazing but when a horn is honked traffic will actually seem to move a little faster. 

When you walk down the very narrow sidewalks the people facing traffic always step into the street. This was not what I expected because I am from a country where everyone walks on the right side of the walk way. I very nearly was pushed into the gutter because I did not know this.

Women, policemen and military are not allowed in cantinas (the ones with swinging doors I think). That is good to know too because I am not as shy as I could be.

There is a wine shop on Canal just west of the Jardin that sells wine, liquor and snacks. I did not know that and it is important.

I have not seen a newspaper but I think there must be one somewhere around. Our TV is in a totally dark bedroom with no windows so I have not seen the news in almost a week. Imagine how relaxing that is!

There are 13 or so "Temples" here so bells ring a lot. We are near the largest and we have never figured out the bells. They ring 19 times on one occasion and 34 the next. It is no particular hour or minutes so far as we can figure out. The bells just ring close to the half hour or the hour. We have come to think of them as the "talking bells of San Miguel". Somehow I find them comforting and I do not want to know why they do what they do.
Each cathedral or temple as the Mexican people call them, was unique and
beautiful in it's own way.

We have not encountered a cross or angry person and this morning as people emerged from Mass, we were greeted by almost everyone with a smile and a Buenos Dia. What a way to start the day.

But most of all, it is the flowers on every ledge and by all sinks or doorways that I will never forget. It is as if the beauty of San Miguel is a story told through the blossoms that surround us.

Chocolate perfumes the air and flowers blooms give it color!
San Miguel is a beautiful little pocket of European culture in the middle of Mexico. It has been called Bohemian, artistic, an expat's dream retirement location and much more. I think it becomes what you want it to and that is it's charm.

Note: There is a wonderful booklet called San Miguel Walking and Shopping Guide that is published seasonally. The list of links for the city is here

Sep 19, 2014

Travel: Conde Nast's Recommended San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and Me

When John Scherber allowed me to reprint an article about an expat's life in San Miguel de Allende , I did not dream that we would actually come to San Miguel de Allende. Not only had I not been aware that it existed, I did not imagine that it would be hard (and expensive) to get here or that it was actually an beautiful as it is.  Not that I doubted John but it took the top rating from Conde Nast and an article in the NYT to convince me that this might be worth taking what travel time my husband and I have left to come to this part of Mexico.

San Miguel de Allende has been a expatriates dream come true for almost 50 years and was founded around 500 years ago. It was designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site. But as the NYT's article points out, it is the contrast of the new sophisticated San Miguel with the very old Mexican traditions that makes it such a charming place to be. Times said think of a mango next to paprika and turmeric. In the article written by Scherber he said:
The Méxican community and the expat community, largely U.S. and Canadian, struggle a bit to understand each other’s values and way of life. It is difficult to mistake members of one community for those of the other. 
After being here for a few days I can see how that is very true.

We are staying on Correo, the street than runs in front of the pink cathedral. Everything west and south of us feels very rich and sultry. But when we go north for a few short blocks we are in old Mexico. A very large market features meats, vegetable, necklaces and Oaxaca rugs. The native people trade and buy everyday necessities as tourist fondle the trinkets. Interestingly enough, it is the only place in the town that I have seen a public restroom...good to know.

This shop sold antique masks. I paid to take this picture!
That is a first for me!
At the NYT's recommendation we visited places that carried hand embroidered blouses and purses. We bought hummingbird feeders at a La Silvestra just down the hill from our hotel and trinkets from a hole in the wall shop near Calle Dr. Hernandez Macias. But we have found that every street is a treasure waiting to be discovered and that perfect find might be just around the corner. I honestly cannot say that there are any bad places to explore...just different.

We visited the Fábrica La Aurora Centro de Arte y Diseño yesterday. Information said it was a ten minute walk from the husband and I questioned that after what seemed like a very long hike. It was recommended to us by an expat friend that lives here. Artists come to San Miguel to work and this is one of the places the very finest display their art and teach as well. I loved it.

While we spend our days marveling over the uniqueness of this place, our lunch (or tea time) and evenings have been spent eating our way through as many restaurants as going back some wonderful cuisine. At last count locals say there are over 200 restaurants to choose from so we do pay attention to ratings and that sort of thing. So far we have not been disappointed.

Breakfast a Cafe Lavender on Hernandez Macias

Franciscan run Temple de San Francisco
Dinner delight?

Wall carving on front of Temple de San Francisco 
Last night we were the only people in the restaurant called Olio so we received the royal treatment. We were offer an appetizer featuring the worms (maggots) they put in tequila to make sure it is strong enough. The story I have heard is if the worms die, the tequila is ready. When we were served, the creatures were front and center, deep fried and crunchy. I must admit that I would not eat them again but I am glad I tried them just once.

The first night we arrived we ate at The Restaurant located on Sollano 16. I had a brined pork chop that was the best thing I have ever eaten hands down. This has to be one of the best in San Miguel but who knows. Go to this website and be amazed.

We stop in the afternoon at tea time (2:00 pm) for a small bite to eat and then head home for a siesta, quite time and a glass of wine. I love this pace of life and could live like this forever I suppose.

But, in the end, I belong in Oregon. It too feeds my need for beauty.


Sep 15, 2014

Travel: Mexican Independence Day in San Miguel de Allende, Mx

Honestly, we don't plan this sort of thing. Because we are not Mexican Citizens we did not realize that when we made reservations for our vacation, we would be arriving in San Miguel Allende on Mexican Independence Day. Really, we need to start paying closer attention....or not.

See, the wonderful thing about running around blindly is that you do run into some very cool things. That is what happened to us today.

We arrived in San Miguel this afternoon. This beautiful old city was in the midst of a huge celebration. Today is Mexican Independence Day! Paper flags hung over the streets and a crowd had gathered in the plaza in front of the cathedral. Stages were set up for performances and for speeches and singing of the national anthem. It was, in fact just amazing and beautiful.

If I were to compare it to our 4th of July, it actually seemed like a lot more fun. The center of the city was alive and businesses remained open for shopping. Restaurants were crowed and this evening the celebration was beginning to come alive. There will be fireworks and I can hear the band playing in the distance. While we seem to gather in families on the 4th, this community of families gather in the square.

San Miguel is about 1hr 40 minutes from Guanajuato, Mexico

Lunch in Delores Hildago, Mx.
We are staying at a place called Casa Mia Suites on Correo just a few blocks from the Cathedral and a short walk to the center of town. Our room is just wonderful. Because we are on the 3rd floor we can look out over the city. I think we scored without even trying.

Viva Mexico!!!
San Miguel Roof Tops

Sep 12, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 Hours to Succeed and an Aging Writer

Outliers: The Story of Success
I pretty sure that Malcolm Gladwell did not invent the 10,000 hours notion. But that is where I read about the theory that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. In the book Outliers he told about the Beatles skill in music being related to the time they played for 8 hours a day while employed in Hamburg. 

The whole concept just boggles the mind. Just think how much time you would have to spend at the keyboard, for example, to master your typing skill and to become a proficient writer. I have been writing for about 8 years now (I think). Even if I spent 2 hours writing 7 days a week, 365 days a year for those 8 years I would not even be half way there. And I have not done 2-hours-7-days-a-week-365-days-a-year...not even close.

But I find that very comforting in many ways. My expectation or even disappointments are tempered by the fact that I, although I have given a lot of time to writing, am not close to being as good at it as I will be when I am 80 (good Lord willing and creek don't rise).

In an article written by Karen Austin over at The Age Above Me she talks about changes in the aging mind and shifts in abilities. One of the skills she discusses is writing. It turns out that very good writing is not affected by age. Very good writing was attributed to good health, education and intellect. Here was her advice:
Even though writers do not have a Grandma Moses icon to inspire them to achieve later in life, there are many people who continue to compose or start to compose online  and offline in their 70s, 80s and 90s. Invite your friends and relatives who are a generation above you to put their ideas in writing. 
If you have a plan to write the great American novel, do not delay. If you wait until your sunset years, expect the task to take you a little more time and the writing to be a little less complex in diction, sentence style and overall structure. 
Putting age aside, if we have a dream or a desire to do something, we need to get on with it. As Austin points out, it does not get easier but many things are possible.

Getting my 10,000 hours in would be a true accomplishment I think. At least I would bragging rights...I like bragging rights a lot.

Just a thought.


About Karen Austin: 

Wichita, Kansas, United States
After teaching college English teacher for 30 years, I decided to turn my attention to the generation above me. I recently earned a master's in Aging Studies from Wichita State University, so now I'm a gerontologist. I volunteer at a skilled nursing center. I also teach classes in Aging Studies for WSU.

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