Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Blogging our way into old age

We receive the AARP magazine in the mail. I'm not retired and I'm just 51, but in reality, it's Ed's name on the label, and he is 8 years older than I am, so that's only proper. Now that the Baby Boomer generation is gearing up for retirement, AARP has retooled its focus to produce a magazine which is supposed to sound more modern and less archaic. No longer does the acronym AARP mean only white-haired ladies and gentleman hobbling on their canes. This month's issue has stories like "Back to College at Fifty-Plus" and "7 Ways Fitness Makes You Smart, Sexy, Pain-Free." I doubt if they ever had the word "sexy" on the cover twenty years ago.

At any rate, in this edition I found a short article on the proliferation of bloggers over 50. "Keyboard-tapping fiftysomethings are writing, ranting, and reflecting online." "Only 5 percent of bloggers are over 50, according to a recent study, but most Web experts believe that number will grow. Blogster.com, a site where users create their own Web pages, says 22 percent of its bloggers are now older than 50, a 20 percent increase since October 2005."

On their list is www.jenett.org/ageless which "...has links to an array of blogs created by people 50 and older." Of course, I made haste to go there and submit my blog for their list. Finally - an advantage to being 51!

Oh, yes - my sister Joy might want to keep that link handy, because in July she can submit her blog. (The countdown has begun, Joy!)

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Any closet is a walk-in closet if you try hard enough.” (Steve Connelly)
I like my money right where I can see it... hanging in my closet.” (Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw)

We toured a sample modular home today. After much thought, Ed and I decided that the original modular home he designed would have to be scrapped, because, as a 2-story house, it would not be conducive to our lifestyle as we age. So now we're back to square one on our plans, and are settling for a simple 1-story ranch.

In the last year, we have seen and discussed many house plans, and in each one, our first thoughts were usually, "It's too small." They certainly are too small for our current accumulation of furniture and other stuff. Yet we insist we are downsizing and simplifying! Such a paradox. We finally agreed that we were determined to build a much smaller house and would just have to make do.

It's the closet space that surveys insist people are most interested in. It seems nobody every has enough closet space. After years of living in parsonages with teeny tiny closets, Ed and I made sure this Victorian addition had a huge walk-in closet. It is so big that, before the rods, etc., were hung, the tax assessor thought it was another room.

Our new house will have much smaller closets. The question we had to finally ask ourselves is this: Are the closets too small, or do we have too many clothes?

We manage to do a great job at filling up whatever space we are given. We never thought we could have filled up this 3-story Victorian, but we managed. Now we have to un-fill.

I think it is a worthy plan to embrace the smaller closets as a starting point. If something doesn't fit in that closet, it is too much. It's not needed. The overflow will have to go. (That has a good rhythm for a mantra.)

The same way we filled up to capacity, we will have to empty to capacity. More selling, more giving away, more letting go.

Closets have much to teach us.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Odds

With the Triple Crown horse races in the news, I've been thinking a lot about odds and betting. As a chronic worrier, I always see the infinite possibilities in any situation, and therefore the infinite consequences that may arise.

For instance, we like the house to have a pleasant smell for showings. How best to do this? I stand at the grocery store shelves, perusing my choices for odors. Lilac? Cinnamon? Fresh Rain? Rose? Gardenia? Vanilla? Apple? It looks like if you can grow it or eat it, there is a room freshener out there somewhere extolling its virtues.

But, of course, the house is huge. Many, many rooms. I'll need more than one plug-in. It is at this point my anxious mind goes into overdrive. Here's my thought pattern: OK, I'll get the cinammon for the whole house. But what if the client doesn't like cinnamon? What if she hates cinnamon? I will have turned her off forever, because the whole house will smell like cinnamon! So, then maybe I'll get some cinnamon and some rose. Yeah, that will do it. Unless....

....that means I have just upped my chances for losing.

Do you understand? I think the same way with airplanes. Once my kids were talking about the idea of both of them and their families flying to Tennessee on one plane. Yikes! What if that plane crashed? I would lose my whole family! So I asked them if they could take two different planes. That way, if one crashed, I would still have one kid. BUT - and this is a big but - by taking two planes, haven't they increased their chances of being involved in a crash? They've changed the odds. Now instead of 1 out of whatever, it would be 2 out of whatever. The two-plane solution would have decreased the odds of losing both kids in a crash, but would have increased the odds of losing one kid in a crash.

So if I use both cinnamon and rose, I have decreased the odds that someone will hate the whole house because it smells like cinnamon, but by adding rose, I have upped the odds that someone else might not like rose. It's kind of like "betting the farm," "putting all my eggs in one basket," or whatever other cliche you can think of. All or nothing. Or should I spread out the risk?

Do you see the anxiety this provokes in me?

I have never been a lottery participant, and you can see why. I just can't make up my mind in petty decisions or large ones.

I can't even make up my mind where to end this post. Oh, for heaven's sake...THE END.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Guilt must be my middle name. I am always quick to feel guilty, even over things I can't control. For instance, I feel guilty when I'm not actively quilting, and a recent issue of one of my quilting magazines didn't make me feel better. It featured a lady who is quilting - even selling her quilts - and she is legally blind. Ouch.

But mostly I feel guilty that I can't help out Rachel more than I am doing. Since I work Sunday through Thursday, Fridays are usually reserved for her. I urge her to schedule her appointments on Friday, so I can be there to babysit the little ones. I certainly don't consider it a duty; obviously, spending time with Caroline and Charlotte once a week is heavenly. But I still wish I could do more.

My own mother was a stay-at-home mom. I never knew her when she had a job. I remember hearing her talk about working before we were born, and it freaked me out a little to imagine my mom as a store cashier. I just couldn't picture it. She used to take us around downtown Memphis when we were little, and every time we passed a store called Silver's, she would remind us that she used to work there. It just didn't compute with me. Our mom wasn't a store clerk - she was...well...our mama! She cooked and cleaned and woke us up with wet washrags on our eyelids, she doled out dimes for A's on report cards, she washed clothes and hung them on the line, she washed dishes by hand, and she learned to drive one year in the empty Fairgrounds lot while my sister and I were held captive in the back seat of the car (before seat belts!) as she (with Daddy as instructor) tried to master the art of the brake and clutch. She made us sugar-coated frozen bananas, frozen chocolate milk, and delicious BLTs in the summer. She picked us up from East Elementary when we were too young to walk home, and forced us to eat raisins.

As we got older, she was always there for our every need. She could drop everything and come to school in the middle of the day to take us home if we were sick. She didn't have to "call in" to her job to stay home with her sick children because we (and Daddy) were her job.

After I got married and had children, there she was again, helping us at every turn. She stayed with Rachel and Matt when they were sick so I could go to my job at the hospital.

Basically, Mama has always been there for us, no matter what, no matter how old we were, no matter when or where. Unfortunately, I have to work these days, but my fondest dream is to be that available for Rachel and Matt. I will forever be limited in what I can do and when I can do it, but I still keep in my memory the generous role model of my mother.

(Also stuck in my memory are those pictures of us rolling around in the back seat screaming during her "driving lessons." That Survivor show doesn't have anything on us!)

Thursday, May 18, 2006


In our ongoing quest for simplicity, Ed and I automatically find ourselves gravitating to natural things. To us, natural means less processed, less refined, closer to what our bodies are meant to use, be it food or drink or clothes. Natural ingredients. Natural fibers. We read labels, and usually the shorter the list of ingredients, the better.

I was intrigued, therefore, with the latest ads from 7UP which announce that their cola now has "all natural ingredients." Hmmm....a cola that's nutritious? A cola that's less processed? I had to find out. On our next trip to the grocery store, I stopped to pick up a can of 7UP and read the label. Here is their new list of ingredients:

Filtered carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, natural citric acid, natural flavors, natural potassium citrate.

Now, unless you have been under a rock somewhere, you must have heard that HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP is one of the worst things you can consume. Here is one of thousands of references on the Internet to HFCS:

Pure fructose contains no enzymes, vitamins or minerals and robs the body of its micronutrient treasures in order to assimilate itself for physiological use. While naturally occurring sugars, as well as sucrose, contain fructose bound to other sugars, high fructose corn syrup contains a good deal of “free” or unbound fructose. Research indicates that this free fructose interferes with the heart’s use of key minerals like magnesium, copper and chromium. Among other consequences, HFCS has been implicated in elevated blood cholesterol levels and the creation of blood clots. It has been found to inhibit the action of white blood cells so that they are unable to defend the body against harmful foreign invaders.

Many other companies have jumped on the "natural" bandwagon in a sneaky way, but 7UP for some reason irks me the most. It makes me wonder about two things - the ethics (or not) of the food industry, and the wisdom (or not) of the consumer. Using the word "natural" to imply "healthy" is just underhanded. There are a lot of natural things that we shouldn't eat.

The stones and pips of apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, apples and pears all contain glycosides which if eaten release potentially lethal doses of cyanide.

I guess if 7-UP put cyanide in their cans, they could still say "all natural ingredients." No thanks. I love to drink Coke, although I try to limit it because I know it's bad for me - but I'll stick with a cola that doesn't use this form of misleading advertising (although cola industry advertising still doesn't wear a halo). Let's just be frank: Coke is junk, 7UP is junk, and no amount of labeling will change that.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Years ago, we gave Ed's mother a sign that said, "I finally got it all together and then I forgot where I put it." Every time I hear the word together, I think of that sign and chuckle. So true, so true.

It's getting harder and harder to get our family together these days. I'm sure it's the same situation with most families. Even excluding my relatives in Memphis, it's still hard to get our two kids and their spouses/kids together at one time. It's more difficult to get in one place to take the annual Christmas card picture. It's also more complicated on other special days.

Matt was talking to me last night about when we could all get together for Mother's Day. I have to work anyway, and both my children have in-law mothers and/or grandmothers who are older and/0r live farther away than I do, so I don't mind in the least that they go visit them for Mother's Day. I can see my kids another time. My Mother's Day is happy just knowing my children are healthy and content. Seeing them is just icing on the cake.

It takes longer these days to "get it all together" for me. Take physically: It takes longer to take photo of myself that I am satisfied with. It takes longer to get myself presentable in the morning.

As usual, I'm really thinking about "getting it all together" on the inside. The older I get, the more I realize that I am a compilation of many parts, and these parts have to live congenially in one body/soul, and if I neglect one part, the whole somehow suffers. My job as a medical transcriptionist caters very well to my analytical self - the part of me that loves words and grammar and spelling and language. It also gives me daily challenges. It gives me experience in problem-solving and trouble-shooting. It gives me great pleasure to come home from work after a productive day (which is not always reflected in how many lines I transcribed, but also can be the result of problems I successfully solved or a word expander created months ago that I actually remembered).

Then there's the creative side of me - the desire to write, to make greeting cards, to quilt, to cross-stitch, to take photographs, to sing, and to play the harp and piano. This part of me, too, must have an outlet. This is the part I tend to neglect. It's like being a school district with a limited budget. The reading, writing and arithmetic are necessities; the music and art programs will have to suffer, because they're dispensable. Such a shame.

I am still learning that to be "perfect" means to be "whole," and the whole with a few slices cut out of it is missing more than I think. What a continuing challenge it has been to try to integrate these various parts of myself and deem each one worthy to be fed!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

We're in the club

An article in our local paper yesterday discussed the enormous task we have of sifting through the overload of worthy charitable causes in these days of natural disasters and other tragedies. The columnist said basically that the only way to cope is to prioritize charities and organizations which are especially suited to one's gifts, and concentrate your time, energy, and money there. He remarked that some people find a specific charity because it speaks to them in some way. Others are drawn to another charity because of an important experience in their lives. For instance, you are diagnosed with breast cancer, and decide to use your energy for breast cancer research organizations. The charity suddenly got personal. I would imagine in that sense, every "Race for the Cure" would get your attention, every pink ribbon pin would make you notice it, and every news article on breast cancer research would be read fully and intently. You have instantaneous rapport with others involved in the world of breast cancer and its cures. One hope, one dream, thousands of lives brought together because of a common entity.

Personal experiences (even much less significant ones) have that effect. One minute, you are in your normal life; the next minute, you feel part of a "club" - a group of people, all in similar situations, who understand what it's like.

I never used to notice "for sale" signs in front yards. Before last year, the real estate business held no interest for me one way or the other. I never gave a second thought to Realtors and their cell phones, "staging," offers and counter-offers, or whether it's a "seller's market" or "buyer's market." It just wasn't a part of my life.

However, I noticed on our trip to and from Winterport yesterday that for some time I have considered myself intimately involved with the real estate business. I notice those signs - For Sale, Price Reduced, Sale Pending, Under Contract, etc. I mentally calculate how long a certain house has been on the market, or how many turnovers in owners it has had since I originally saw it. I picture the family inside getting ready for showings, agonizing over whether to accept an offer, wondering whether they will move on their specific timetable. I emphathize with their every anxious moment.

For some of these homes, we are their competition. It is within the realm of possibility that some families will tour their homes as well as ours, and have to make a choice of one or none. But that is irrelevant. The empathy still stands. We are together in this more than we are separated by this. The common experience overrides everything. When we meet another homeowner selling his house, we strike up an instant and animated conversation, with plenty of nods and sympathy to go around. Oh yes, we are brothers and sisters now. We might be in the House Olympics on Team USA, still trying to beat the others' times, but in the end, we are all in this together.

Here's to the Team! May we all be winners!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The morning after

To quote our song, "There's got to be a morning after." And so it is with showings. A house showing is another form of the gift-and-curse syndrome. Of course, we welcome showings because they give us a tiny bit of hope once again that our house will be sold. On the other hand, showings are a true pain.

Oh, it's not just the fact that strangers are traipsing through my house, although it is that too. It's not just the fact that those very strangers are making negative comments (OK, call me paranoid) about our decorating or cleaning abilities, although that certainly comes into play. It's not just the full-blown cleaning mode we are in right up until the showing, although that is indeed exhausting and stressful. When I got ready for work this morning, the morning after last night's showing, I realized the true problem I have with showings.

It's my memory.

I'm one of those folks who constantly writes notes. If my memory is this bad at age 51, no telling what it will be when I'm 80. Nevertheless, the way I cope is to write notes. I keep an index card by my desk at work for my notes. I have sticky notes. I have calendars. I have all the necessary accoutrements of someone this age who needs little reminders.

I have found security in my piles. Oh, yes - I have them scattered around. You might call it clutter, but to me, they are piles. I keep them in plain sight because I'm afraid I will forget them if they are filed away or shoved in a drawer. I discovered decades ago that I operate mostly on a visual level (as opposed to auditory level, which might make one understandably question my chosen career of listening to dictation). If I see it, I can remember it.

Right now, my "filing system" consists of various piles of papers on our dining room table, along with a giant calendar in which I have marked paydays and bills due. One pile is for current bills. One pile is for ongoing bills. One pile is for papers that need to be put in my 2006 box of whatever. One pile consists of catalogs and magazines I have yet to read. And then there's the pile everyone has, I suppose. It's called, "I need to keep this but I'm not sure what to do with it." Restaurant coupons, sale flyers, reminders that I need to make an optometrist appointment - that sort of thing.

If any of the above gets filed away or shoved in a drawer, I will forget about it. I will forget to make my appointment, I will not have the JoAnn Fabric coupon when I go to Bangor, and I will forget that I already paid half of the radiology bill. I have to see these things, and I have to see them daily.

Over by the computer, there are more piles, though not as big. Instructions Matt sent me on how to download a certain software. Ideas for a greeting card. Another to-do list. Some Borders coupons. A reminder from the bank about fee changes on May 31st. It's also the repository for my load of index cards from work which I have scribbled reminders on.

These papers are an important part of my life. I can't function without these piles. Because they are "messy clutter," they are the first things to be hidden when we have a showing.

The house looks great this morning. Every surface clean and bare. I know I have to go to work this morning, but as for the rest, without my piles to consult, I'm at a loss. I think I'll be spending the afternoon retrieving and organizing them. That is, if I even remember to.