Jul 30, 2015

Out of the mouths of babes...Amelia-isms

When Meelie comes to stay with us, we know we are in for a treat. She is 7 going on 15, very precocious and easy to be around. Her favorite word is "why" but she know that she has a limited supply when she come in the door. She is careful to use the allowed amount wisely. We love her a big bunch.

I have new sliding drawers in my kitchen cabinets thanks to my wonderful husband. I can slide out the appliance drawer and get the mixer without unloading the whole collection. I was showing it off to 7 year old Meelie and bagging on Grandpa. "Boy," she said, "you are really really lucky!" and grinned from ear to ear. I didn't expect that. She made me realize that I need to count my blessings more.

We were getting up from dining room table and she walked over to a mirror that hangs on the wall. As she began to touch the mirror all over I said, "Meelie, please don't do that. When you touch a mirror, your finger leaves something behind that will make the mirror look dirty after a while." Her response was, "I love you Grandma." Oh my goodness...how can you even be cross with a child that is such a dear.

"Why just exactly are you painting your house?" she asked during a conversation we were having over paint colors as we drove down the road to horse camp. (One "why" gone.) I explained how the value of one of our biggest investments, our house, would drop if we didn't paint the inside and outside. She pondered that for a minute and responded with this reasoned thought. "Yes, Grandma I see that the value drops and your house is not worth as much money but it cost money to paint. Why go to all that work." Oh, my gosh...how does she do that?

So, as we were packing her bag to go home yesterday she leaned over to me and said softly, "I will miss you Grandma." You can see why we love her so much. She is a treasure. All of our grandchildren are. Indeed, we are very, very lucky.

Have a wonderful day.

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Jul 26, 2015

When Should We Feel Guilty?

I wrote yesterday about making rain. If you don't remember, I was the grandmother that planned a pretend outdoor theater party in my daughter and son-in-law's backyard then woke up the morning of to find rain, rain, rain. I talked to my daughter and we cancelled the party with no further ado. Period.

We went camping several years ago,
 it did not rain and my grandchildren
were not disappointed. It was wonderful.
Then, as any grandmother will tell you, the guilt began to seep in and I began to question things that I could not change. After all, who wants to disappoint their grandchildren? Not me that is for sure.

Here is where it gets tricky. Guilt should be all about what we can change. Wouldn't you agree? We can't change the past so feeling guilty is useless. We can't change the weather so feeling guilty about something that is caused by the rain is useless. Even feeling guilty about not being perfect is useless.

We honestly are in control of so few things in our lives. If we are smart we have passed the mantel to our children as we age and they control a lot of the social things we had taken care of when we were younger. We do not have a say in the behavior of our grandchildren or children. We are not in control and everyone is happier for us accepting that reality.

The new mantra in my family dynamic has to be "I am not in control!" Did I say that was easy? No, of course not. I still hear myself chiming in when grandchildren stand on their heads at the dinner table or interrupt a conversation even though their parents are way ahead of me. Darn.

So, "I am not in control!" is something I repeat to myself often. Everyone is happier for it. When I forget, I can only ask some indulgence from everyone. After all, one does not recover from a lifetime of bossing people around overnight. But when I do forget, I think a little guilt is in order. I can control my behavior and when I don't, I need to get a little nudge from my conscience. It is a good thing. Hard but good.

So there you have it. Guilt is not all bad. It just needs to be kept in its place.

Have a wonderful day.

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Jul 25, 2015

How To Make Rain

There are people here in the Western United States that need a rainmaker...not the financial kind but the water kind. I just want them to know that I am able to do that. Yes, you heard it from here. I can make rain that comes out of the sky.

On several occasions I have made rain. Really, it isn't rocket science. You can do it too. It is all in the wrist (or something). See you only need to think really hard and make big plans for a special event that needs to be held outdoors. It can be a wedding, a camping trip or even a gathering of family in the backyard for a bbq and a movie. You need to send at least 20 text messages and get everyone to agree on a date and time. Then wait. How hard could it be?
We need a bigger screen Grandma!

So, if you live in the Portland Metro area, you can thank me for the rain. I send out a text message on Monday inviting everyone to my daughter's house to watch a movie outside. (Oh, did I mention that you also need to inconvenience someone you love with your plan?) The text message went out to 9 people. Everyone I could think of was in the loop.

I received a flurry of replies...I can't come on Friday, I can't stay up late on Saturday, I don't return to Portland until 11 pm Friday and, best of all, we need a bigger outdoor movie screen! See what I mean by planning.

We finally agreed on a time, date, what food to bring, who we could borrow a projector and screen from, who would light the bbq and so forth. We were set. I was thrilled even though the whole thing scared me a lot. I am not in charge much these days so I didn't want to mess things up.

It is the big day today. I opened my eyes this morning and, for the first time in months, it-is-raining.

Am I good or what? #PDX, I appreciate you gratitude. I am always glad to help with droughts and other natural problems. Just let me know!

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Jul 20, 2015

Don't Turn Your Back

Summer in my neighborhood...Blue Angel in the
sky and ants in the livingroom!
It is summer, very hot, the plants are dying and the sugar ants are sure we are canning sugary peaches. I know, not very likely you say. But tell that to the ants.

How is it that the ants move in and the plants die when I turn my back? I went shopping yesterday. I got up this morning to find ants in the kitchen and the flower pots on the patio dried up.  How does that happen in one day?

My daughter-in-law made a mixture of the essence of mint oil and water that is suppose to repel the ants. I am giving that a try.

We found a herd of polite ants that decided to use the front door as their entrance and that was the day I became the ant murderer in the family. I used insecticide and the mint spray. It was all guns blazing around here. They haven't come back. I don't mind sharing but really, there was food by the front door? I don't think so.

As for the plants, I have come to a place where I am watering when I am watering and the plants can just live or die. It is their choice not mine.

I will tell you this though...I am not turning my back again this summer. It was a bad idea.

I'm just saying!

Jul 15, 2015

How do they figure out how old you are?

English: 10. Measure length at side of figure ...
English: 10. Measure length at side of figure from waist to below buttocks plus 2 inches. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You will need this picture as a reference
for information posted later on this page. I suppose
doctors know this already. :D
Karen Austin over at The Generation Above Me published an educational article regarding all those tests they can do on us to determine if we are going to live forever (or longer). It was called Bio-Markers for Aging. I perked up right away when I saw it because, as you know, I am curious. My outward age and the age I am inside my head are NOT connected in any way so I sometimes need a reality check.

The list you see here are suggested tests that people keeping statistics or doctors tracking our decrepit bodies for signs of rot can use. I am sure a professional has a more scientific way of phrasing it but since I am writing for lay people I want to keep it simple. Here was the list Austin referred to from "the Dunedin Birth Cohort study  by The Guardian."
  1. HbA1c
  2. Cardiorespiratory fitness
  3. Waist:Hip Ratio
  4. FEV1/FVC
  5. FEV1
  6. Mean arterial pressure
  7. BMI
  8. Leukocyte telemore length
  9. Creatinine clearance
  10. Urea Nitrogen
  11. Lipoprotein(a)
  12. Triglycerides
  13. Gum Health
  14. Total cholesterol 
  15. White blood cell count
  16. hsCRP
  17. HDL cholesterol
  18. ApoB100/ApoA1
I looked at this list and thought there must be some mistake. Surely, someone like me should know what these tests are.  Of the 18 I only recognized 4. I looked up Leukocyte telemore length and did not understand one bit of the information. I could understand why Austin talked about "being in over her head." I know I was.

At a glance I was seeing the lab bill from hell. But, being the nitwit I am, I could only giggle. I could picture how the conversation was going to be. My doctor, like me, has a very good sense of humor. The third item on the list, Waist:Hip Ratio, had me picturing a lot of poking around my midsection.
Doctor: Barbara, let me check to see where your waist is these days (poking at my middle). Is it moving up or is it moving down and is it bigger than the rest of you.
Barbara: (Looking down.) My waist? Why do you want to know where and how big my waist is?
Doctor: Well, it seems the Federal government is very interested in your waist? (That may not be true but doctors do use the Federal government as an excuse for all sorts of stuff.)
Barbara: Huh. Who knew?!? What do they call that test?
Doctor: Waist:Hip Ratio. We call it the "Where and How Big" is it test.
Barbara: Well good luck. When you find my waist, let me know. I haven't seen it since 1990. But I am sure it is down there somewhere.
The "gum" health seemed pretty straight forward and I did recognize "creatinine clearance".  Then there was the "cardiorespiratory fitness"  or the huff and puff test.

I think my gums are in pretty good shape but there was some questions about that when I visited the dentists. He wanted to know if I thought I would live long enough to warrant replacing fillings. That did make me wonder. Up until then I did not feel like a horse being checked for its age when a dentist looked in there. Now I do.

As for the creatinine clearance, we all know about pee and bodily functions. The word clearance is pretty self explanatory I think. I am glad that the medical profession came up with a more lady-like name for peeing a lot. That in a of itself is a good thing. On the other hand I did not know that peeing a lot was part of my age related problems. I have never been perfect in that regard...oh I suppose that is TMI (FYI: Too Much Information).

If cardiorespiratory fitness is a marker, I am in such deep #@#$%! Without going into the whole subject, let it be said that my husband walks fast and if he decided to put me to the test, I will arrive at his walking destination sometime the next day. I try but there you have it! On the up side, I am no worse than I have ever been. I huffed and puffed when I was 6!

Anyway, I just thought you would need to think about what is going on with your age. I am sure your doctor would order all these tests. Austin says in her article that they are not that bad:
"Simply put, biomarkers need to be simple and inexpensive to use. They should cause little or no pain and stress. And they must measure aging accurately."
Cheap, simple and painless work for me.

Don't worry, you are just fine. I, on the other hand, may not be doing so good! Sigh!

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I think you will find the Article written by Karen Austin over at The Age Above Me informative. If you are interested, she had some good reference material. I looked them over.

Jul 14, 2015

Creativity: The Bucket is Never Empty

There was a time when I absolutely refused to create a bucket list. You know that list of things you want to do before you die. Just the idea that the bucket would be empty and then I would die was more than this small town girl could wrap her mind around. All I could think was, why are those people in such a hurry to do all those things? Don't they know that when the bucket is empty their life is over? It was wrong on so many levels I cannot even begin to tell you why.
I often talked about my fear of the bucket list. My friends really didn't understand why I was resisting the idea. Someone pointed out to me that I could keep adding things to it, new ideas and goals and adventures. For some reason I thought that I would run out of things to do. It kept me from even thinking about those things I would wish for or set out to do. In fact, up until this very day I have never given a bucket list a try.

Then along came Maya Angelou, one of the wisest women I have ever known. She didn't pretend to know everything I don't think and she surely didn't need to be perfect. But in the end it was all about her creativity. In a Maya Angelou quote posted by Mrs. AOK as a writing prompt, Ms. Angelou referred to the endless possibilities of creativity. She said:
"You can't use up your creativity. The more you use, the more you have."
The truth is that if I had a bucket list, it would be full of idea, creative notions and bobbles. Those things would be all the things I need to create and experience. If Ms. Angelou is right I would not need to add things, they would simply multiply on their own. I love that concept that creativity is multiplied each time we use it. Isn't that wonderful?

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20 Places You Should See Before You Die

Jul 13, 2015

What Were You Doing When Bloom County Disappeared?

A blast from the past is not past anymore. Bloom County is back in print...well not in print but still. It seems that Berkely Breathed has decided that the time has come to bring our beloved, dorky clueless Opus back to life online. People like me that depended on the comic strip to get the day started with a laugh are, of course, very happy.

Bloom County 2015 now has it's own Facebook page (I know, can you imagine how confused Opus will be?) It is all very modern and up to date and trendy and handy. But it makes me a little nostalgic for the newspaper and all that it meant in our lives. All of a sudden I miss the crossword puzzles and the ladies section with recipes and Dear Abby and my husband reading the funny items from the inside pages in section III. Even though the times have changed, we at least have a little bit of that era back. As for me, I am very happy. Thank you Berkely Breathed. TBBFTH!

So, twenty-five years ago? Do you remember what you were doing in 1990?

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Bloom County books are available on Amazon

Jul 11, 2015

Books: What Quote Do You Remember?

A Sargasso Sea of Graffiti 
I have read so many books during my lifetime. There is no way I can remember every title or the author of each one. I am actually surprised at how many I do remember and authors too. But the thing that strikes now is that I keep lines in my head.

Remember that opening page of East of Eden. John Steinbeck brought the valley around Salinas Ca. alive with very few words. I thought I remembered the words but when I went back to read the book, I had rewritten the opening sentence in my mind. I liked his version better.
He wrote, "I remember the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation..."
Those words brought back childhood memories of a place that I needed to treasure before I could see the beauty of the place and feel it's invitation. I love everything that Steinbeck wrote.

Now I am reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Inching through this book has allowed me to digest the story. Early in the book the line "It would have been better had she not died."(paraphrase) kept coming back to my mind. Don't we all carry that story of "it would have been better if..." around with us every day. I loved the simplicity of the foreshadowing phrase. "It would have been better if...." How wonderful is that.

Later in the book Tartt was describing the bedroom of an aging rich antique collector. The lady had spent a great deal of her life redecorating rooms but never disposing of the furniture that was replaced. As a result her bedroom became the "Sargasso Sea of unused furniture." I don't know about you but I have closets that are the "Sargasso Sea" of unused clothing, books and abandoned hobbies. I suppose everyone has those hidey holes in their house. The phrase will stay with me and be used often.

Along that same path of thought I have a line that I quote from the old Friends TV series compliments of Phoebe Buffet. When she was asked to do something she thought would be boring she said "I would really like to do that but I don't want to." It works for me even though it really doesn't make any sense. I loved that show.

So, what line do you remember from a book, or a TV show or a movies? Leave a comment. I am interested.

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Jul 5, 2015

Aging: Make Mine Beautiful

Note: This is a guest post I did three years ago. When I went back to see it again, links for every sex medication know to man had been added to the text. Read this and see why it would draw that kind of spam. 



James Joyce posits the idea: when we are in the presence of great beauty, our minds go still. We feed on aesthetics. Not only does it come into play in our private life but it also enhances our social interaction. If we are wearing or using a device that is aesthetically pleasing, not only do we feel good, but the person that sees you also experiences pleasure. So, if we are to believe the classic poet, we will want to select a gift or a device for an elderly relative or for ourselves that not only functions but is beautiful.


While our grandparents lived with just what was necessary, today’s boomer generation is accustomed to beauty at every turn. Even the groceries stores are designed to please the eye and increase the appetite. Those of us that are aging in this era want and expect that what we use is beautiful. In a talk given for TED several years ago, Denis Dutton talked about what beauty is. His talk on the Darwinian theory of beauty points out that we may all hold to a similar aesthetic. It seems that people in every culture love the idea of nature and the beauty of being surrounded by trees, water, living creatures and a pathway to the horizon. It could be that being “green” is just a built in code for beauty. In an article written by Patrick Roden called The Aesthetics of Aging in Place Design: Turning Obstacles into Beauty he talked about fulfilling the need of the  elderly person. He said we need to select things not…
“…only for function, but to delight the senses with non-stigmatizing design. [We] must understand that  [the elderly need things designed to meet a] deep biological emotion.” Aging in Place
Roden sited Michael Graves’ designs for Target as a prime example of how we are drawn to beauty. His designs are all about making utilitarian things beautiful. Graves was confined to a wheelchair after a serious illness several years ago. He has since turned to designing hospital rooms and devices for people with limited mobility. His thoughts on his hospital experience reflect what most people feel.
“I had really good care and really atrocious rooms,” Graves laughed. “I thought to myself, ‘I can’t die here. It’s too ugly.’” Culture Map, Houston
This is right where I am. I would not want to use something, no matter how useful, that is ugly. So, if an older person is sitting in a wheelchair or carrying a monitor around his/her neck, why not find something beautiful or cool for them? A lovely magnifying glass for reading or a beautiful rolling shopping cart is only two examples. A beautifully feminine or steely masculine lanyard will make the monitor not only functional but also beautiful. I saw a folding cane that I think any man would find fascinating. It just takes some research to find the perfect item. I loved the quote by a Charles Limb, a surgeon that helps with hearing loss, in a TED presentation. He said: “When we think of the loss of the sense, we really think about something like this: the ability to touch something luxurious, to taste something delicious, to smell something fragrant, to see something beautiful.” Isn’t it interesting that even when our mind or hearing does not function like it should, our senses may still be able to feed our soul? It is a reminder that those things that bring the senses to life are important even for those that are becoming less aware. It is a thought!



Jul 4, 2015

Books: Some Walking Away Books

I love beach reads in the summer so I am on the hunt for fast reads that are interesting and different. I just finished reading Lynne Spreen's latest book, Dakota Blues. I think it has been out for a while but I am just a little late getting on board.

The book made me think of how many books I have read about leaving...some characters simply going out the door and finding a new life, others start walking and forget to stop and some being taken against their will. It is a very interesting scenario for a story. Here are some of the books that came to mind.
Latest Anne Tyler book:
A Spool of Blue Thread
  • Dakota Blues, Lynne Spreen. This is the story of a busy 50 year old unappreciated HR director finding a life after she is fired for being too old. Spreen has found a wonderful vehicle for telling the story in a 90 year old eccentric neighbor of her late mother and a very old RV. 
  • Earthly Possessions, Ann Tyler. The character, Charlotte Emery thought she had found a solution for what she saw as a dull life...she gave most of her earthly possessions away without her husband noticing. Then she wrote a note and left. She went to the bank to get some money and a bank robber took her hostage. This one was so funny in a way that only Tyler can be funny. Loved it!
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Nina George. If you are retired, thinking about retiring or just want to read a very good book, this is the one for you!
  • Last Day for Rob Rhino, Kathleen O'Donnell. I've told you about this one before but I keep coming back to the delicious disfunctionality of the characters in this book. Picture Shirley McClain as the Prada carrying bald woman and Danny Devito as Rob Rhino, porn star. It is so much fun.
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi (nonfiction). When I looked up "books about leaving" on Amazon, this one came up. I had forgotten what a wonderful book this was. I loved the story from beginning to end. It was the ultimate story of be careful what you wish for....
  • Magic  Fishing Panties, Kim Dalferes. New book out in August but available for preorder now.
I have a couple others on my kindle I think you  might like:
  • Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety, Daniel Smith. This book is hilarious and poignant all at the same time. The author suffers from an anxiety disorder AND has a fabulous sense of humor. I suppose the humor is what helps him survive. Honestly, you will love it!
  • The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain. I love a good travel book but this one is so wonderful. I read the free version online but I will buy it one of these days. I could only think that not that much has changed since Mark Twain traveled from New England to the Holy Land...well apart from the mode of travel. People are still the same. I loved it and, yes I did laugh!
Now I want to read some of the books upon which some of my favorite Netflix shows are based. Anne Cleeve's Vera Stanhope Series and Henning Menkell's Wallander Series are on my list. 

I am currently reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tarrt. It is the Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction in 2014...read it soon. My only comment is that you should NOT read the flyleaf or the back of the paper back version. Just read and watch as the story unfolds. There is a very good reason why Pulitzer Prize winner are so widely read.

What are you reading these days? Leave a comment! :)

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Be sure to check out Midlife Boulevard's summer list!