House (Not So) Beautiful

I hope you’re not angry with me because I haven’t invited you to dinner lately.    I’m aware that you have had us over a couple of times, and I have not reciprocated.  The truth is, I would love to.   But there is a major problem.  I no longer have a dining table.

You see, my husband has undertaken the redecoration of our home.  In contrast to my affinity for the minimalist, uncluttered look, he seems to favor a very different style.  The new decor has a contemporary motif based on two design principles of his own creation.

Principle I:  Nature abhors a clean surface.
Principle II:  Every electrical outlet must contain at least one, if not two, charger cords.

It is the former that has prevented me from being a gracious hostess.

This aesthetic should not surprise me, however.  Over time, I have visited several of the business offices that my husband has occupied and I have to say he has been very consistent in his design sense.   File folders of various sizes and colors can be seen covering his desk, his conference table, and when space is at a premium, piles begin to spring up on the floor.

Since he has recently declared himself  to be “semi-retired,” he is inclined to spend part of the week working from home.   This calls into question what he will use for work space.

For a while, we tried sharing a room.  We installed two desks and hoped for the best.  Our hopes were in vain.

My need for peace and quiet directly conflicted with his need to talk on the phone.  Sometimes two phones. ( I often wondered, was he a lawyer or a bookie?)

So an amicable separation was in order.  I stayed downstairs; he moved upstairs.  Since he still had his city office, I got custody of the larger office at home.  That seemed fair.  At least it did at the time.

So he was kicked upstairs with his lap top, his printer, his I-Pad, his I-Phone, a land line, a file cabinet, office supplies, and an array of colorful file folders.  I helped him get organized.  This solution seemed rather promising.  At first.

But shortly, In an insidious progression, sheets of paper and entire file folders began sneaking out of the file cabinet and onto the dining room table with a very proprietary attitude.  Noticing me noticing the potential impact this might have on our eating habits, he promised to have them all put away by the end of the day.

Which he did.  For a while.  And for a while, I was able to push the remainder aside, and still manage to set two places for dinner.

dr-tableBut did you know that file folders have this nasty way of reproducing? Sort of like rabbits?  You can’t leave them unsupervised because they begin forming stacks.  First they cover the table.  Then they move over to the top of the buffet.  Finally, when you can no longer see the wooden surfaces, they start stacking on the floor.  This was starting to look way too familiar!

The files and other assorted papers have now taken up full-time residence in what used to be our dining space.  It’s been months since I’ve seen my table.

Presently, I’m keeping a very watchful eye on the living room.

I turn now to Principle II, the matter of decorating the electrical outlets.

I personally never felt there was anything particularly objectionable about a naked electrical outlet.  But, apparently my spouse does not share that view.  Little by little, each socket in my abode is becoming the permanent home of a charger cord.

While I do not deny the ease and convenience of devices such as the Smart Phone and the tablet, they are hungry little devils and seem to require constant feeding.  My husband relies on them heavily, and as a result, has determined that he needs to accommodate their hearty appetites from every room in the house.

Let me further explain that the cords are in residence even when they are not engaged in their designated purpose.  This, according to my husband, minimizes the risk of misplacement.

As I write, there are two cords gracing the outlet in our entrance foyer, laying on the floor looking like dormant anorexic snakes.  (One of them actually is for his GPS golf watch, which he uses only on the weekends.  Nevertheless, the cord remains.)

A long white cord graces the bedroom night stand.  In the living room, two more cords are artfully draped over a formerly lovely piece of sculpture that decorates a counter top.

My personal favorite happens to be the one dangling from the outlet in the bathroom.

So now that you understand the situation, I want to add that you are more than welcome to come for dinner.  As long as you don’t mind sitting with a tray on your lap.

Oh, and if you need to wash your hands in the powder room, check to see that the electrical cord has not landed in the sink, preferably before you turn on the water!

1,000 Things To Say……. will be taking some time off.  Taking a cue from the broadcast media, the month of August will feature two reruns — particular favorites of mine.  Check them out.  You might have missed them, or will perhaps enjoy reading them again.  And stay tuned for new episodes in September.  Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!

Posted in Clutter, Housekeeping, Spouse, Technology | 8 Comments

Daughter of a Beach (Hater)

The inevitable has happened.  The insidious process has reached its  conclusion.  The final step has been taken, and the journey is over.  I can deny it no longer.   I have become my mother!

Despite our self-righteous cries as young girls that we will never be like her, one day we look in the mirror, and there she is, peering back at us.

This should not be shocking.  Certainly our own aging process was genetically designed to parallel hers.  Mine started in my twenties with the appearance of the first prematurely gray hairs.  Which, by the way, I used to pull out.  But this only works for so long, unless you prefer bald spots to gray patches.  So I stopped pulling and started dying.

Familiar patterns of lines and wrinkles begin to emerge.  The threat of a double chin avoided with just a touch of liposuction.  Recognizable facial expressions and gestures.  You catch yourself in mid-sentence and realize that you are about to say something that is exactly what she would have said.  Something you swore you would never say.

And the list of similarities goes on.  But in my case, the ultimate surrender was The Beach!

Two blogs ago I attempted to evoke your sympathy by revealing my deprived childhood and how I never went to summer camp.  But there was compensation in the form of weekend family trips to the ocean.

My father was in charge of the food.  He would cook roast beef and make potato salad, and start the sandwich preparation early in the morning.  Coolers and jugs and beach chairs, blankets, toys and towels would be loaded into the trunk of his latest used car.

This was accompanied by hats and shirts, and changes of clothing.    Heaven forbid we should get a chill from wearing our wet bathing suits.  (Weren’t bathing suits supposed to get wet?)  We were embarking on a fifteen minute drive to Coney Island with enough gear to travel the Alcan Highway!

I was happy.  My brother was happy.  I think my father was happy.  The only one who was miserable was my mother.  My mother intensely disliked the beach!

Her attitude was a complete enigma to me.  And so contrary to my own.  I was thrilled to be at the beach.  I loved the sense of freedom.  I loved the sun, the  gentle waves, collecting shells.   I loved playing in the sand and burying my brother, wishing I didn’t have to dig him out.

My father seemed content.  He swam, then relaxed and read the newspaper.  And where was my mother while all of this was happening?

Where she always was during these forays.  Covered from head to toe and sitting under an umbrella.  Occasionally she could be coaxed to wade up to her knees, but after five minutes, she would scurry back to her hiding place.

There was nothing about the beach that pleased my mother.  She hated the sun.  She hated the feel of the sun lotion.  She hated the sand.  She had a special facial expression that she reserved for when some of it got in her food.  Sort of a cross between seeing a dead animal with its guts hanging out and biting into a lemon.

Her favorite part of the day was when it was time to go home. Then she could get into a shower and wash away all the gritty unpleasantness.

Could this beach-hater be my real mother?   I was convinced that I had been adopted.

When I reached adolescence, and could travel to the beach on my own with a group of friends, I think my mother ceremoniously burned her bathing suit.

My own romance with beaches did not end in childhood.  Any opportunity to spread a blanket, I was there!    Domestic beaches, foreign beaches, man-made beaches on a lake,  it didn’t matter.   Beach vacations were the best.  Despite being enveloped in total inertia, you could still feel like you were doing something.  You were at the beach!

When my children were young, I took them to the beach, and once again, the trunk of the car was packed to overflowing with stuff!

It was always my dream to own a house at the beach, which we did for 10 happy years.  My own children now grown, I lived my fantasy of walking with my dogs every morning and watching them joyfully take on the challenge of the crashing waves.  It was back to being easy.  Dogs don’t require a lot of stuff!

Then my husband suggested moving to Florida.  When I could finally speak again, I told him that one of my conditions was that we live near the beach.   And so we did.

But gradually the universe began to shift.

Now on the beach, you will see a woman, covered in protective clothing, with hat and sunglasses, sitting under an umbrella.  She does not appreciate the sun and has slathered herself in sun screen.  She fears skin cancer and more brown spots.  She might venture into the water for a quick swim, but feels safer under the shelter.

She hates how the sun screen causes the sand to stick to her skin.  She tries to open a bottle of water and is annoyed by the pesky sand that has affixed itself to the cap.  But for the sake of her husband, she endures.  Finally he’s ready to leave, and she is once again happy.

This woman could be my mother.  But it’s not.  It’s me.  The transformation is now complete.

Posted in Aging, Change, Mother | 4 Comments

Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again……..

I have become quite convinced that retirement causes a chemical reaction.  Stimulated perhaps by the monthly receipt of the social security check, a bodily response occurs on the glandular level, resulting in the production of a certain pheromone.

Unlike the pheromones emitted to attract a mate, the substance in question triggers a very different kind of social response.  This perfume seems to be saying “I no longer work.  I have time.  Just ask me.”

Please don’t misunderstand.  I’m a staunch proponent of volunteerism.  A firm believer in giving back.   Free time should not just be about “me” time.  That would be ungrateful.  Wouldn’t it?

Shortly after I retired, I did in fact offer my services to a cause that I considered worthy.  And true to the promise of giving, I did feel gratified , satisfied, and fulfilled.  I positively glowed with the aura of altruism.

Little did I know that it was to be the beginning of a descent down the slippery slope of saying “yes.”

So I innocently joined a second organization as a mere member of the rank and file.  But someone with a keen sense of smell soon approached me.  “How would you like to serve on the steering committee?” I was asked.  I was so flattered.  Of course I agreed.   The meetings doubled and the responsibilities naturally increased.

I really suck at asking people for money.  So when an old acquaintance called, and said she  heard that I retired, and would I like to be on the Board of her vital community organization, I, in fact, hesitated.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “it’s not about fund raising.  We need your ideas.”  Oh, my ideas.  My head swelled just a little.  Yes, sometimes I do have good ideas.  So I said “sure.”   (Maybe that was not one of my good ideas.)

Before I knew what was happening, I had joined the free labor pool of three different organizations.  All worthwhile.  All valuable.  But when was I going to smell the roses, let alone do my laundry?

I needed to pause and reassess my situation.  Why had I become such an easy mark? Could I possibly still be harboring a guilty conscience over turning down the presidency of the PTA?  Or that I didn’t join Hadassah?  I had a valid excuse.  I was working at the time.

I was beginning to feel as if I were part of some data base of vulnerable retired people worried about having too much time on their hands.  Apologies to William Shakespeare,  but perhaps there can be too much of a good thing.

Then and there I made a firm decision to raise my hand only to scratch my head.  My volunteer plate was full.

That is, until a very dear friend confided in me that her not-for-profit organization was teetering on failure unless she could get some help.  Free help, of course.  In spite of my promise, I heard myself asking “What do you need?”  And there I was, overeating again.

So, at the end of the day, am I sorry about stepping up to all these commitments? No, actually, I’m not.   The responsibilities are really quite stimulating.  I’ve met lots of interesting people and even acquired some new skills.

But listen.  If you need me to do anything, the answer is no.  Unfortunately, I’m all tied up right now.  However, leave your name and number.  I promise to get back to you as soon as I have an opening.

Posted in Retirement, Volunteering | 2 Comments

Roughing It?

Is there an official start date for one’s second childhood? I don’t mean the one that accompanies the onset of dotage, but a time of life when you no longer feel silly about releasing your inner pre-adolescent?  I urgently need to know, because it’s already June and I’m thinking about enrolling in summer camp.

I never went to summer camp, and I’m tired of being left out! “Left out of what?” you might ask.  Left out of all the screeching and squealing that occurs when we are out to dinner with friends, and three out of four (that’s me who’s excluded) discover that they all went to Camp Gitche Gumee or Maka Laka or some other fictitious Native American tribe.

Then they start reminiscing about the lake, and the counselors, and visiting day, and the food, and how they learned to water ski. All that nostalgia about Color War and gathering around the camp fire.   If I’m really lucky, I’m treated to a chorus of the good old camp song.

And I’m left sitting there, wondering if anyone wants to hear about how I spent my childhood summers under the sprinkler at my inner city neighborhood playground.  Probably not.

Not going to camp is one of my biggest childhood regrets.  Bigger than not going to Woodstock and getting all muddy and high.  Bigger than not buying last year’s Prada handbag at half-off half-off from Neiman Marcus’ Last Call outlet store.

I almost went to camp one summer.  I think it was Girl Scout camp, in fact.

Yes, I was a Girl Scout.  I learned how to tie knots and properly fold napkins for a dinner party.  (Who gave dinner parties when you were ten years old? Who gave dinner parties in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, at any age?)

I forget why I ultimately decided not to go.  But had I known then that my decision at that tender age would condemn me to outlier status as an adult, I definitely would have packed my trunk.

But alas, I am no longer a girl, and I can’t go back.  I’m resigned to the fact that Color War was just not in my deck of cards.

But that doesn’t stop me from contemplating what a camp experience might be like at this point in time.

camp

First of all, I would definitely need a lower bunk.  The reasons for this should be obvious to anyone old enough to have second thoughts about changing a light bulb in an overhead fixture.  And who sleeps through the night anymore?

Speaking of bladders, I don’t mean to sound like a snob, but there would have to be cabins where the toilets are en suite.   The thought of trudging to an outhouse at 2:00 AM is about as appealing as a luke-warm cup of instant coffee.

Then there’s all that sharing.  Sharing sleeping space, sharing a bathroom, sharing a shower.  The potential of seven other females seeing you naked.

I hope it won’t turn out to be one of the camps where they drop you in the woods with two rocks and a toothpick and you have to make your own way back.   I think the most rigorous survival experience I could handle at this point would be having to leave half of my skin care products at home.

Seriously, who among us could  possibly endure eight weeks without face creams, body lotions, hair dryers, gels, mousses? To say nothing of missing our appointment at the beauty salon for a  trim, blow dry, and at least one process?

I think I would be game for all the activities.  Activities are fine.  In moderation.  With frequent rest periods.  Followed by a relaxing massage.  And regarding those early morning swims, I would ask to forego the dip in the heart-stopping frigid lake in favor of a pool heated to just below body temperature.

Tell me honestly, you verterans, what’s camp food really like? Will they have half-and-half for my mid-morning iced beverage?  And will they provide Splenda or do I have to bring my own?

Funny, this entire concept is starting to sound less and less compelling.  Reconsidering my current requirements, I have confirmed how foolish it is to contemplate a later-in-life camp experience.

But while one door closes, another door opens.  The Golden Door that is.  Clearly my time would be much better spent at a spa!

Posted in Aging, Friends, Vacation | 2 Comments

Down with Upgrades!

This essay has to be quick, brief and simple.  Why? Because I am at risk!  Any minute now some unseen entity could be looking over my shoulder and stealing every word that I write.   So I’m saving all of my really good words for another time when my security is not in jeopardy.

(Did I just use the word “jeopardy?”  Uh oh!  That was one of my good words.  I must be more careful going forward.)

How do I happen to find myself in this situation? Believe me, through no fault of my own.  The current circumstance is an unfortunate sequelae of trusting a higher power.  (“Sequelae.”  Damn! Just blew another one.)

I was one of those who was naïve enough to believe that Windows XP would always be there for me.  I should have heeded my mother’s advice to never trust an Operating System.  (Actually, my mother didn’t tell me that but she definitely would have if they had been around in her lifetime.  My mother didn’t trust anyone!)

Instead of feeling the love when I open my computer, daily messages flash on my screen warning me that I am no longer being supported by my invisible protector.  The alarm system, the barbed wire, the bell around the cat’s neck, and all other security measures have been removed, leaving me vulnerable to alien forces.  The Empire has aligned with the Klingons and they are just waiting to take me down!

These messages say they require my immediate attention.  They sound harsh and demanding, but they are not without compassion.  They also offer me end-of-support guidance for my operating system.  It’s like a cyber-rabbi is inviting me to join a bereavement group for my computer.

In general, I am not opposed to change.   Change is good when it comes to seasons, clothing, perhaps even husbands.  But change is definitely not good when it comes to my computer.

When something is as baffling as modern technology, one develops a comfort zone.  Over time, you establish a relationship with your equipment.  You understand each other.  You are aware of each other’s quirks.  For example, on those sluggish mornings when your computer seems to need a little more time to turn itself on, you have learned not to become impatient and pound on the keys.  Instead, you calmly rise from your chair and begin to do your laundry.

But now I’m advised that I’m vulnerable to security risks and viruses unless I upgrade.  I don’t want to upgrade.  I hate upgrades.  Upgrades change everything and not always for the better.  (Like recently I had to upgrade my e-reader and now it keeps losing my place!)

However, left with no choice, I have had to purchase a new computer.  I wonder, was this also part of the conspiracy?

So these are the last words I will write on my no longer viable machine.  Tomorrow I will be the owner of a newly-installed computer whose Operating System might give hackers a bit more of a challenge.

Hopefully my data transfer will go without a hitch.  May The Force be with me!

P.S.  If any of you also have XP issues, or any other Windows or Mac needs, may I recommend the best computer guy in the NYC metropolitan area? His name is Russell, and he can be reached at (646) 734-1996.  And don’t forget to tell him that his mother sent you!

Posted in Change, Technical Support, Technology | 1 Comment

The Eye of the Beholder

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re in a restaurant.  In your line of vision is another table with, let’s say, three couples.  You unconsciously absorb the physical details of the six well-dressed people who are about to eat their appetizers.  You notice the gray hair on the partially bald men, the obviously chemically-treated hair of the women, the flashlights on the I-phones to help illuminate the menu when reading glasses aren’t enough.  And yes, those are hearing aids snugly tucked behind at least three pairs of ears.

And your conclusion? Boy, there’s sure a lot of old people in this place!

Sticking with reality for the moment, as painful as that might be, the fly on the wall tells you that the woman on the left is celebrating her birthday tonight.  And guess what? She is, in fact, a whole year younger than you are.  Wow, she should take better care of herself!

The question is, how accurately do we see ourselves? In public places I frequently find myself scrutinizing people I consider “older,” trying to determine their ages.  Funny how I consistently conclude that they must be at least ten years older than I am.

With each passing year, reconciling my chronological age with the “me” that exists inside my head, is becoming more and more challenging.  The person that lives behind my face cannot possibly be related to that D.O.B. I just wrote down on the doctor’s intake form!

While I can’t exactly pinpoint at precisely which decade my self-view became arrested, I can assure you that my alter ego is, in fact, still paying full price for a movie ticket.

And that lovely 21-year-old woman calling for “Grandma” can’t possibly mean me.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, I don’t avoid mirrors.  That would be difficult, if not impossible.  I prefer to confront my reflection rather than poke myself in the eye with a mascara wand.

But I have discovered a few enhancement tricks that I’m happy to share.  Be sure to place your mirror away from the possibility of naked sunlight streaming through the window.  And never, never make the mistake of looking into a magnified make-up mirror while wearing a pair of reading glasses!

And what about photographs?  I will admit that lately I’ve grown more camera-shy.  The person living inside my head is not always happy to be mistaken for the woman in the picture.  And selfies are definitely a no-no.  My arms aren’t long enough.

I know that men can have a similar reaction.  My husband, for example, is frequently alarmed by his captured image, and can be heard to mutter “Who’s that old man?”

And then there’s my 91-year-old uncle who stated the other day that his peers “look so old,” implying with that comment that he didn’t see himself that way.  He might be correct.  I don’t know his friends.

So, do I really want to know how the rest of the world views me, or continue to exist in the bubble labeled “you’re as young as you feel?” And except for the forty-five minutes in the morning that it takes me to recover from night-time stiffness, fortunately, I feel pretty good.

But the illusion is not fool-proof.  In spite of my personal inner life, the world continually presents a series of reality checks.

The cashier behind the ticket window never asks me for proof of age when I say “one senior, please.”  (Well, what can you expect? She’s probably only eighteen and everyone over thirty looks old to her!)

Young men have occasionally offered me a seat on a crowded bus.  I don’t require it, but I accept.   Pride is one thing, comfort quite another.

The bagger in the super market offers to help me load my cart full of groceries into my car.  I flex my muscles and tell him I’ll be fine, thank you.  Clearly, he has no clue that he is actually addressing a much younger woman than may appear in his mirror

In spite of considering myself to be a confident woman with real, more serious values, I have a sneaky feeling that this duel between perception and reality will go on.  And I will continue to derive pleasure and satisfaction to hear from someone who has just learned my age “Oh, I’m shocked.  You certainly don’t look it!”  Not like those other guys.  You know, the ones in the restaurant.

It could very well be that this phenomenon is just a normal part of the aging process. (Not that I’m aging, of course.)

And perhaps this quote says it all:  “Inside every older person there’s a younger person wondering what happened!”

Posted in Aging, Anatomy, Beauty | 1 Comment

The Right To Bare Arms

Overheard at Saks:

Shopper No. 1:“Ooh, that’s such an adorable dress.”

Shopper No. 2:  “So why don’t you try it on?

Shopper No. 1:  “Are you crazy? It’s sleeveless!

As we approach the warmer weather, I am convinced that this scene will be replayed over and over again in boutiques and department stores across the country.    I don’t know if this fixation transcends continents, but American women of a certain age have a thing about their arms.

Typically, it is not the entire arm.  The arm between the elbow and the wrist may be entirely acceptable.  It is the area that lies between the shoulder and the elbow, otherwise known as the upper arm, that is the offending body part.

This female upper arm obsession was brought into sharp focus the other night when I was having dinner with some women friends, all contemporaries.  Somehow the conversation became rerouted from the threat of global warming to apparel without sleeves.  At the time, I wondered how we got from one topic to the other.  But in retrospect, I can see a certain logic to this detour.

One after the other, my friends related how they long ago decided it was not in their best interest to display their upper arms.  When even the most petite among us claimed that she was starting to feel bad about her elbows, I knew that this fixation had gone way too far!  OMG, I thought.  Upper arms have become the new neck!

As the only person at the table who still dared to go bare, I could sense seeds of doubt scattering through my psyche.  Was I seeing my own arms through rose-colored glasses? Or maybe one of those fun-house mirrors that make you look long and thin? (Every woman should have one in her home.)

Although I have been a dedicated triceps toner, perhaps the jiggly, jello look had finally caught up with me.  I immediately reached for my sweater, and blamed my cover-up on the excessive use of air-conditioning, so common in south Florida establishments.  And yes, wasn’t it awful how they kept these places so cold.

Needing an objective opinion about the true state of my upper arms, I naturally turned to my husband.

“Honey,” I said (I admit, I only call him honey when I want support rather than the truth), “what do you think about my arms?”

“Your arms? I haven’t given much thought to your arms.”

“My upper arms.  Do you think they’re in good shape?”

“As compared with who?”

After correcting his grammar, I recounted the conversation at the dinner table.  He made an enormous effort not to laugh, patted my shoulder, and told me I had nothing to worry about.  Once again, the term of endearment had yielded the desired result.  But I quickly turned to make sure the shoulder pat had not triggered any excess fatty tissue disturbance.

So, as older women we hate our upper arms.  But it doesn’t stop there.  I bet we’re not too crazy about our knees, either.  Summer’s coming.  That’s when we all get seasonal affective disorder.  Every time we put on a bathing suit, we each have an opportunity to hate our entire body.

I don’t know about men, but women have a tendency to be very hard on themselves.  We carry around  criteria for perfection based on some long-ago, presently unachievable body image.  Hey, why can’t I just say, “My arms look great for my age,” and be satisfied with that.

But there are some braver souls among us.

I was in a clothing store the other day, and because of my recent obsession with upper arms, noticed this very attractive “older” woman.  She was of medium-height, not particularly thin, with beautifully styled gray hair.  Her make-up was well-applied, she wore interesting earrings, and yes, she was sleeveless!

Believe me, she would not be hired for a deodorant ad, or any other product requiring one to bare their arms, but yet, there I was, admiring her appearance.

Good for you, lady, I thought.  It’s a hot day.  Why not?

And so, Michelle Obama, don’t get me wrong.  I truly admire you.  But you have set a standard for upper arm fitness that few of us can match.

Therefore if Hillary makes it to the White House, I’m sure looking forward to her rolling up her sleeves!

Posted in Aging, Anatomy, Beauty, Exercise, Fashion | 1 Comment