Friday, February 17, 2012

Ciao, Shalom, Salaam, Aloha (goodbye—and hello)

To my loyal readers (and there are a few out there): This will be my last post on this blog. As of today, I am no longer (gulp) in my 60s.

I don't feel any different than I did yesterday. I sure hope I don't look any different. And my good friends who have achieved this milestone a month or two before me tell me it's no big deal. It's just a number. They feel great. They're happy to be alive and well and have never enjoyed life more. (Some of these happy souls are in Arizona or Florida basking in the sun, and I'm sure that adds to the euphoria.)

I too am glad to be alive and well, and I hope to spend this new decade with happiness, good health, and creativity. It's good to have gotten to this point in life. I'm painfully aware that not everyone makes it.

Here, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, are my thoughts about my age. First, the bad news:

1. In only 10 years, I'll be 80!

2. Related to No. 1: The years go by faster and faster.

3. "Use it or lose it" is even more meaningful now. I'd better start using whatever it is I don't want to lose.

4. It's getting even more difficult to get out of a chair. (May be related to No. 3.)

Here's the good news:

1. In Cook County, if I get a summons for jury duty, I can now either ask for a change of venue (say, from 26th and California to the Skokie courthouse) or I can opt out altogether. (Note: I'm not opposed to jury duty. I have served six times, the last one on a week-long trial, which I found fascinating. But I'm done.)

2. It may be time for full retirement, with carefree, sleep-late-if-I-want-to mornings. So far, I'm still plugging away 3 days a week. But if I ever get a real hobby, it's nice to know that I can step down and go off in a new direction without feeling I gave up too soon.

3. Having friends and fellow alumni who are in the same decade and who understand my mixed emotions on this milestoneand, like me, enjoy joking about our perceived limitations.

I'm giving up this blog, but I'm not giving up blogging. I'm working on a new one. So far, all I have are several possible names, or themes, for the new blog. None has hit the spot yet, and I'm still ruminating. Any ideas are welcome.

Thanks for reading and sharing!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Decluttering for the next decade

This is the time of year for article upon article on decluttering. An entire O Magazine issue was dedicated to the subject. And I can't seem to get enough of it. I'm always looking for ideas on closets, my drawers, my desk, my life. It's not that I'm a hoarder (Gor forbid) or even a pack rat. In fact, I'm much better about tossing unused items than I used to be. But I can do better.

Maybe cleaning out my mother's condo when she died in 2005 helped me realize that I wouldn't want my kids to go through my things after I'm gone and ask, "What in the world did she keep this for?" I also realized my mother's life might have been a little easier if she didn't have to look at the corner of her bedroom that was a shrine for boxes, plastic bags, shopping bags, and whatever would fit into any of those containers. Really, it was a mound of stuff. Then there was her walk-in closet, filled with clothing from at least four decades. She had items hanging there that, even if they came back in style, would never fit her. Ever. And some items had been hanging there so long, the foam covering on the hangers disintegrated as I handled them. On the other hand, having lived through the Depression, maybe she was comforted by seeing the hundreds of rubber bands in her kitchen drawer and the books of S&H Green Stamps stashed on a shelf. I know that I don't want to live that way.

So I've been purging my closets, drawers, and shelves ever since. As I said, I can do better. And I also have to be discriminating in what I give away or toss. A few years ago, I started eating healthier and exercising more (mainly because of a fear of dying of something related to high cholesterol or sloth). I lost about 15 pounds and was delighted to be able to buy a smaller size in pants and skirts. This, I declared, was the way I was going to live the rest of my now-healthy life. I would never go back to slathering two pieces of bread with butter in a restaurant or taking a second piece of chocolate cake at a birthday party. I would use low-fat non-creamy salad dressings and look away when passing through the candy aisle. So I donated all my larger pants and other clothing items that had become way too big.

Then, about a year-and-a-half ago, old habits crept back. I don't know why, and I did nothing to stop them. Before long, my newer, smaller pants were getting slightly snug. Soon, they were unwearable. How I longed to have my old clothes back! Now I'm buying the larger sizes and vowing to keep them in the back of my closet if (rather, when) I lose the weight again.

But I've been pretty good about visits to the Goodwill donation center, about two or three times a year. It feels wonderful to get that stuff out of the house and garage. So why do I still have two overstuffed closets? And why are my books stacked up in double rows? Am I really going to read all those novels again? I suppose I could forget that I've already read one and not realize it until I come upon a character with an unusual name and think, "I've seen that name before...". It's like old 48 Hours Mystery episodes that don't look familiar until the district attorney who has a pronounced Southern accent or odd hair style is interviewed and I begin to remember watching it the first two times it aired. Getting back to books, I now have a Kindle, and although I still love the look and feel of a paperback book, I can have an entire literary collection in one convenient little device.

So here's my new resolution. I will once again purge my closets and my bookshelves. My drawers might be a lost cause, but I may get to them eventually. And I will look at each item and try to imagine my heirs' reactions before I make the decision to toss or keep. Then I'll move on to my email Inboxes and the files I'm keeping on my work computer from 2003 and even earlier. I may even go through the linen closet and ask myself if those multi-colored towels are ever going to be displayed again. (If they're to become rags or padding for hauling items to Goodwill, they belong in the garage...but that's another space that desperately needs an overhaul.)

I'm celebrating a big birthday tomorrow, so this resolution to clear out what's not needed is timely. I want the next decade to be more serene, more carefree, less cluttered in a physical, mental, and emotional way. And maybe I'll celebrate by buying myself an outfit, a few books, and some new towels. That will make it mandatory to carry out the resolution, unless I also rent a storage unit.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I'm so happy...except when I'm not

Can a person be happy and uhappy at the same time? Especially when that person is happily married to the kindest, most generous man on earth and has two lovely and talented daughters, both married to men who cherish them, and twin grandwons who make her beam with love? Even when she lives in a spacious townhome in an very nice suburb? Even when she's lucky enough to have a job that pays well, offers camaraderie, and gives her an opportunity to be creative?

To be accurate, I have my moments. Moments of wondering what it's all about, what I'm going to be when I grow up, what I need to do to feel as if I'm making some mark on the world. Moments of worry when something comes up that disturbs a family member or close friend. Moments of thinking about aging and wondering what ailment that usually affects those over 65 will finally get me.

And then the moments pass. They pass because I get up to get ready for a lively lunch with good friends or a party to celebrate something or other or even a trip to the grocery store. Or I just get up and do something. You'd think by now I would have learned that lesson: Don't just lie there brooding. Do something!

Sundays are the worstthat is, the Sundays with no obligations, no plans. After enjoying "Sunday Morning" on CBS and reading the multi-section Chicago Tribune, I get into a slump. I tell myself I'm sleepy or achy, and I resort to napping or playing Boggle on the iPad.

To add credence to the idea that this is a grown-up version of the teenage whine, "I'm bored. There's nothing to do," here's what happened one Sunday when I was still in my pajamas, snacking for the third time that day, at 2:30 in the afternoon. The phone rang. It was my daughter.

"Hi, Mom. What are you doing?" (Did I really have to tell her?)

"Nothing, really. Why?"

"Wanna meet me in Old Orchard [a north suburban shopping mall]?"

The transformation was instant. I promised to meet her in 45 minutes, then accomplished the necessary grooming in record time. I had energy. I was smiling. I was happy!

We had a wonderful afternoon, shopping and eating and talking. And I was basking in the knowledge that my daughter initiated this outing. She wanted to spend time with me.

It doesn't take much to dispel the blues when life is otherwise going well. The solution, therefore, should be easy:
  1. Make plans (Sunday brunches, maybe?)
  2. Get a hobby (one that I'll stick with beyond buying all the equipment and gear)
  3. Volunteer (I know, I know...someday I'll do that)
  4. Exercise! (Seems to be the cure for almost everything)
And if you're a daughter or son reading this, call your mother. Ask her to go shopping. It's a miracle cure.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Mindless eating and pants that don't fit

I’ve finally managed to analyze my eating habits. Or, rather, my reasons for requiring larger sizes in most of my clothing.

I eat when I’m hungry. I eat when I’m bored. I eat when I’m challenged. The only times I don’t eat are when I’m sleeping, already really full from a meal or snack, or doing something that I feel confident I can complete successfully.

Today, at work, I sat at my desk anguishing over the editing of a new online course that is not going well. To pull myself away from the aggravation, I got up to go to the bathroom. It’s a far enough walk that I get to stretch my legs and put some distance between my brain and the computer monitor.

On the way back from the bathroom, I wondered if there were any sweet snacks around. Then I got serious with myself, and asked (in my head), “Are you really hungry after that big lunch?” The answer was no, and I understood that I was reacting to the prospect of going back to that miserable task.

Besides, when I snack at my desk, it's a waste of calories. I keep my eyes on the keys and the monitor and intermittently reach for a bite of granola bar or a few peanuts. Suddenly, I reach, and there's nothing to grab. I've just eaten the whole thing without realizing it. Worse, without savoring it. At that point, I may not be really hungry, but I feel deprived of the pleasure of the snack.

Now that it's almost the last day of the year, I vow to be more mindful of why I'm craving food next year and, more important, I must come up with better ways to satisfy what I'm really craving.

I want to be able to wear my smaller size pants, now relegated to the back of the closet, by March. I have one more day this year to figure out how I'm going to make this change and get it to stick. Until then, I'm going for a Nature Valley Almond Crunch bar. No, I'm still not really hungry. I just like Almond Crunch bars.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Seeking advice, or confirmation?

I'm a life-long advice junkie. You'd think that at my advanced age—face's advanced in the eyes of the Millenials—I would trust my accumulated knowledge and not have to seek so much wisdom from magazine articles and online forums. You'd think wrong.

Never mind that I'd probably be able to write my own articles on, for example, "How to Write Effective Marketing Copy," or "What Not to Wear Tips for 60-Plus." I still seek helpful hints on these and many other topics from published gurus.
Never mind that, much of the time, I read these articles and think, "I knew that!" But I'm usually expecting someone else to have a better idea, or two or three. I do find a few better ideas, but most often I find ideas I knew once (because I read them in an article long ago) and eventually forgot.

Some of my favorite information sources are—
  •  Real Simple, an email newsletter related to the publication, usually highlighting decorating tips, organization ideas (my most frequent clicks), recipes, and more
  •  Real Age, the web site run by Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen
  • Marcia Yudkin's e-newsletter, The Marketing Minute (she's amazing)
  • Vibrant Nation, a wonderful web site I recommend to my friends. It covers topics related to women over 50, and nothing is too sacred or sensitive to be discussed. Besides the post by the featured writer, I read all the responses from others, looking for even more ideas.

Some examples of article titles that get my attention:

 "5 keys to bright, beautiful eyes after 50"
"Top Ten Foods that Lower Cholesterol"
"Quick and Easy Closet Makeover"
"What to Do About Those Chin Hairs"

 Very seldom do I find something I want to adopt immediately. But still, I pore over the list just in case.

I don't limit my advice-seeking to published articles. I'll shamelessly ask my friends, coworkers, and acquaintances what they use, do, or think about various things.

Maybe I can approach this is a different way and consider myself an information-gatherer. Sounds a lot better than advice junkie—or any kind of junkie!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

UPDATE: Magenta phone comes home

As a postscript to the most recent post, I'm happy (I think) to say that my lost phone is now back in its owner's possession.

I had thought I'd looked everywhere and traced all my actions since the last time I had the phone in my hand, but I forgot something. We went out to dinner last Thursday evening and sat in a booth. My purse was sitting beside me, along with my coat and scarf. At some point I rooted through the pile next to me to get something from my purse. It wasn't the phone, but I'm guessing the phone thought this would be as good an opportunity as any to make its escape. And escape it did. I didn't notice it sitting there, despite its shocking pink color.

When I finally came to my senses and called the restaurant, I was happy to hear, "Yep. We've got it!" So all is well, except...I was going to use my lost phone as an excuse to go shopping for a newer and better one. Maybe I'll do that anyway. In the meantime, I'd better get all those stored phone numbers transferred to my computer before my errant Razr phone decides to get into trouble again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Where's my #&!* phone???

I lost my cell phone. It's not in my purse, my car, my office, my bedroom, or the refrigerator. (I didn't actually look there for it, but you never know.) I'm not one of those people who hug a cell phone to their ears most waking hours. In fact, of the 500 minutes we have on our family plan, we use very few. But I've become so reliant on it, and now the cell phone is not alone in being lost.

I'm glad it's an old (very old by today's standards) model. A magenta Motorola Razr. It's not even a smart phone. In fact, I've always thought it was rather dumb. (Notice I didn't blame the user...) But it contains precious information: the cell numbers and sometimes home and office numbers of friends and relatives. I kept telling myself to record them in a document so that, if the phone died, I'd have them and be able to retype them into a new phone. Never happened. I add this to the long list of procrastinations that I've become infamous for.

I think I can hear some people saying "We got along fine for most of our lives without cell phones!" But think about it. We were able to cope while being away from home because we could always find a pay phone: in a booth on the street, in a supermarket, at municipal buildings, in the airport. Try finding one conveniently located now. And I know I had many moments when a cell would have made life so much easier. Two cases in point:

  1. We were invited to a dinner party that required a long car trip. Admittedly, we left home a few minutes later than we should have. And then we encountered an unexpected traffic jam. This was Chicago, so "unexpected" is ludicrous on a Saturday evening. I got nervous, as I tend to, concerned that our hosts would wonder why we're not there and would worry about us. At the time, there were phone stations scattered along Lake Shore Drive, but I wondered if stopping to make the call and then trying to weave back into traffic would make us even later. A cell phone would have eased the worry and the angst.
  2. We were picking up my daughter when she lived on a very busy street in a very busy and trendy north side neighborhood. Parking was not an option, so she was to wait downstairs in the lobby and watch for our car. Once again, traffic got the best of us, and we were much later arriving in front of the building than planned. Daughter was, to say the least, irritated. She had been waiting in the cramped lobby, peering out the window, and getting more and more annoyed. (Notice I didn't say "worried"...) Much later, when we had a mobile phone, we would call her when we were a few blocks away, and then she would come downstairs.
It's obvious, I view the value of the phone differently than someone much younger would. You don't hear me whining that, until I find the phone or get a new one, I can no longer text my friends and family, I can't take and email photos, and I can't ask my husband which brand of tonic water I should buy while standing in the grocery aisle. (To be fair, I don't text—yet.) I'm more concerned with those times when a call would alleviate worries, advise people to keep dinner warm, or provide a courtesy to someone who's expecting me.

So where in the world is my phone? By the way, don't try calling it. I had T-Mobile suspend my service for now, lest some unscrupulous person rack up charges for calls to far-away places. Before I give up and buy a new phone, I'm going to keep looking.