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June 2012

How Old I Am

I’ve had several how-old-I-am encounters recently that made me want to change the words of an old camp song that ends with “Nobody knows how dry I am” into “Nobody knows how old I am.”

It started when I had my blood tested last week. The lab technician verified my date of birth before sticking in the needle. She did a bit of a double-take when I told her, and said, “You don’t look that old.  You look about 50.” 

That Friday, going through security at the airport, the TSA man came up to me and said, “Don’t bother removing your shoes.  People over 75 don’t have to do that any more.”  “But,” I started to say, intending to tell him I was not 75.  Instead I kept quiet and left my shoes on.

Then on Sunday, in the airport again, the TSA lady told me to take off my shoes because I couldn’t have been born 75 years ago.  “I wasn’t,” I told her, “but I was born 74 years ago.”  TSA lady, ”Are you going to cheat for one year?”  “OK,” I replied.  “I’ll take my shoes off.”  “Don’t bother” she said.  She added, “You sure look good.”

Nobody knows how old I am.

Old and Happy

I have always been interested in transitions.  At sixty, I taught a study group called “Leaving the 50’s”.  I was a bit dubious about the coming decade at that time, but my sixties turned out to be full of wonderful adventures.  

When it comes to the 70’s, however, no matter how you look at it, you have much less of life in front of you than behind you.  Studies claim that at this stage of life, people are happier than they were at middle age, and that may be true.  What isn’t true, according to Susan Jacoby in her 2011 book Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age is that this happiness lasts through old, old age.  

In her carefully-researched and well-documented book, Jacoby tells us that although our lives can be extended by breakthroughs in medicine there will come a time that life is not so great, if we live long enough.  She warns us that ninety is not the new sixty, even if it is a better ninety.  At eighty-five, the best years are not yet to come.  At least not for most of us.

Jacoby’s book is a bit of a downer.  But the sooner we face the fact that our oldest years may be difficult, the sooner we can plan for our needs and make sure our loved ones are informed of our choices.


June 28, 2012

Beware of Magazines for Miles

I could write a book about my love/hate relationship with frequent flyer miles programs.  I hate them because everyone I know seems to be able to use their miles to fly to exotic places while we always have to plunk down hard-earned cash, no matter where we go.

It’s not that we don’t have any miles.  It’s that they are distributed among too many airlines.  And even though we are sitting on 100,000 miles on British Air earned from a tempting credit card offer, we have not been able to use them, even when we were flexible about the times we flew.

And then, our miles disappear because we don’t use them.  Of course, that’s because they never let us use them.

Time after time, we get offers for free magazines for our miles just before they expire.  I don’t know what got into me, but I decided I might as well get something for the miles, and I signed up for two magazines that I don’t really want.

After I sent in my order, I learned from a friend that although the magazines are “free, they automatically renew and the subscriber is billed with no notice.  It’s a subtle scam, but a scam.

So, on my calendar for April 2013, I have written “cancel magazines”.

Be careful about “free.”

Re-winding the Tape

I came home Friday evening feeling a little stressed.  The week at work had not seen my best performance as a manager, and I wasn’t feeling so great about it.  So since we don’t have a cat to kick…

When I walked into the house, I saw that Peter had made a purchase that replaced something similar that he had never used. So, of course, I am thinking, “Why not get it right the first time?”  What’s more, he had bought it at a store where we get a 15% discount that he forgot to use. And it was  expensive enough so the discount would have mattered. 

Considering that we had just spent a small fortune to paint the outside of our house and that someone wrecked our car’s fender while it was parked yesterday without leaving a note, the added expense just hit me the wrong way.  Let’s put it like this, I could have started the weekend in a friendlier way.

I proceeded directly to the basement to lift weights. There, I thought about how unnecessary and inappropriate my reaction was.  The thing Peter bought is really important to get right, and I should have said, “What a good idea!” Compared to the painter’s bill and the expected cost of the car repair, the expense was practically nothing.

So when I finished my weights and came upstairs to find my wonderful husband making dinner, I asked him, “Can we rewind the tape?”


Katrina and Jeremy asked us to come to Maryland and take care of our grandkids overnight while they celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary at an inn on the Maryland shore.

The last time we stayed with the grandchildren, five-year-old Grady was an infant and he wailed for what seemed like hours when his parents left.  This time was different.  He and his older brother Leo figured out that their grandparents didn’t know all the house rules, and that their parents would allow them to relax some of them anyhow. So they barely noticed when their parents left.

Gramps, aka Peter, went to see “Madagascar 3” with Leo and slept through most of it, according to Leo.  I stayed home with Grady, trying to learn the ins and outs of Ninjago, at which I was a complete failure.

After a pizza dinner, bedtime kept getting pushed back.  Finally, I became stern. “Don’t make me be a mean grandmother,” I pleaded.  “You are an awesome grandmother,” replied Leo.  So they got to stay up a bit longer.

In the morning we had a whiffleball game.  Gramps and Grammy vs. Leo and Grady.  We were losing 17 – 0 before we got our turn to bat.

 Leo pitched one over the plate, and I hit the ball sharply into his eye, thus risking my “awesome grandmother” ranking. 

A few hugs, some ice, and everything was OK.

Pick Your Poison

What’s good for us often turns out to be bad for us and vice versa.  Coffee was bad, now it’s good.  A day at the beach used to give us a “healthy” tan.  No more.  Chocolate was evil.  Now a bit of dark chocolate daily may save our hearts.  And the latest claim, not-enough salt can increase our chances of dying.

It’s confusing. 

Recently, I sought advice from a celiac disease specialist because I had heard that those of us who have celiac disease have trouble absorbing the bisphosphonates that my primary care doctor was recommending to keep my bones strong.  I learned that the celiac specialist doesn’t like to prescribe bisphosphonates for her patients and recommended that I first check to be sure that I am absorbing enough Vitamin D.  She specifically said that I should go out in the sun without sunscreen, something that would cause my dermatologist to jump off the nearest bridge.

What’s more, bisphosphonates have been known to cause fractures of the thigh bone if taken for too long.  And this medication is meant to save us from fractures?

Toss a coin?  Pick your poison? 


Like Mother, Like Son

Our son Seth is a writer who writes about travel.  His mother is a graduate school dean who occasionally writes about travel.  One could say I got there first, but Seth far surpasses me in talent, and, unlike me, he makes a living from it.

On Sunday, June 3d, his article “36 Hours in Oxford, England” appeared in The New York Times ( ).

HOWEVER, nine years ago, his mother’s article “Vacationing in a College Town—Oxford, England” appeared in Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel Magazine ( )

I was there first.  Is that cool, or what?

Nobody Likes a Grouch

When I feel sorry for myself, I remind myself that there are zillions of people who are worse off than I am.  That doesn’t usually help because, of course, there are also at least a half a zillion people who are better off than I am.  So I allow myself to be in a bad mood and hope that I don’t cause those around me to flee.

In the last ten days, four things have gone wrong. 

  • Peter hurt his back gardening. He was in a lot of pain and, as a result, grumpy. 
  • A new sofa that we special-ordered was delivered and turned out to be the wrong size. 
  • The TV feature with my new sister and me got cancelled.  (See the 70-something entry from May 27th ).
  • My internist recommended that I start taking a generic Fosamax to   keeping my aging bones strong.  That’s a complicated problem for people like me with celiac disease.

Peter’s back is getting better.  The furniture store agreed to order a new sofa for us.  I’ve gotten over my disappointment about the cancelled TV appearance.  So I am in a better place on three of the four things that went wrong.

I’m still working on the aging bones/Fosamax/celiac decision.  And I am still complaining.