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March 2017

Comfort Food

Although I’m not a bona fide foodie, I like to eat, I like to cook and I like to try new things. Epicurious is bookmarked on my computer and I have three shelves of cookbooks. We do have some standard meals that we repeat two or three times a month, but we’re always eager to innovate.

Every once in a while, however, I yearn for a meal from my childhood and the other night I gave in. On the menu: Meatloaf, spinach and baked potato. Sure, I had to make breadcrumbs for the meatloaf from gluten-free bread (not a problem I had in my childhood) and yes, I created a new topping of ketchup and brown sugar. But that meal could have been served in my home at 6547 Bartlett Street in Pittsburgh sixty-five years ago.

There would have been differences though. My mom would have included an appetizer, the table would have been covered with a tablecloth and the dessert would have been homemade apple pie.

Learning to Say "No"

When I retired three years ago, I thought it inconceivable that I would ever be as busy as I was when I was employed. After all, I spent 50+ hours a week at work and was a mom, a wife and a homeowner in my spare time. That was being busy.

I admit that it takes me longer to do things now, but I have committed to so many things that it’s hard to keep track of them all. I have my paid work, my volunteer work, my classes, my husband and even though they are long gone from home, I spend a fair amount of mental energy on our kids and grandkids.

When the non-profit that I do volunteer consulting for asked me to take on another coaching client last week, I was tempted. There is nothing I like better than helping a young person navigate the bumps in his or her career path.

I thought for a minute about how much I have on my plate, and about how I have been feeling over-extended and a bit anxious.

I said “no”.

It was the right thing to do. But it wasn’t easy.

My New Fridge

Thanks to 70-something blog reader Joe Q, we have a new refrigerator. Joe’s suggestion came in response to my reported delight with the refrigerator in our January rental home in Bethesda, Maryland and my complaints about the taped-together shelves and the drawers that don’t shut properly in our own refrigerator.

Joe advised that investing in a new appliance would take only a small bite out of our children’s inheritance and we could just thank them for their gift. Made sense.

So now I have a shiny new refrigerator.   I can get cold filtered water (and ice) without opening the refrigerator door rather than standing at the sink and waiting for the water to run cold. And the drawers open and close properly so that our fruits, vegetables and deli items keep well. Furthermore, it’s spanking clean and I am committed to keeping it that way.

Once again my readers know what’s best.

Revisiting Worry

I read just about anything on the subject of worry. I know that I worry too much. I know it is completely counter-productive. I know how good it feels when what I worried about didn’t happen. I know it is the things I don’t worry about that do happen. But I read on, looking for ways to stop worrying about worrying.

And just on the chance that you (dear reader) are also a worrier, I want to share some thoughts from The Wall Street Journal of 2/27/17. “Don’t Worry If You Always Worry (It May Help You)” suggests that worry is a form of problem-solving in advance that can be constructive. When it is, they call it “adaptive worry”.

However, there are the people who worry all the time, whom they call “chronic” worriers. And if those chronic worriers’ ability to function is affected by their excessive worrying, they are called “pathological” worriers. “Chronic worriers don’t have any confidence that anything they come up with is going to work, so they…keep worrying,” says Dr. Graham Davey, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Sussex, in England, who studies worrying.

So I have decided to try to be an adaptive worrier, solving all my problems in advance. Alternatively, I can take Dr. Davey’s suggestion to set a timer for fifteen minutes, worry like crazy about something, and then stop.

For more see

The Pleasure of Giving (Away)

The other day I decided that I no longer needed a sewing machine. I hadn’t used it in years and it was taking up valuable closet “real estate”. I was planning to put it out with the trash when I decided someone might find a use for it. So, I emailed our neighborhood list-serve to see if anyone wanted an old sewing machine. I asked that any taker come get it before the Tuesday trash pickup.

I was shocked to hear from eight different neighbors who said they wanted it. A couple had questions like what brand and how old it was. But they all wanted it. So I told the first person who responded that it was hers.

She was thrilled when she saw it. She said they just don’t make sewing machines that last anymore. I couldn’t help but be happy for her.

Later that day, I felt some “seller’s remorse”. De-accessing is tough work.

Amigo Gringo

Our son Seth has produced and starred in about 150 videos for the Amigo Gringo channel on YouTube. Often viewed by half-a-million people, his videos are extremely popular in Brazil (they are in Portuguese with English sub-titles) and, while being helpful and informative, are also great fun. They are a guide to New York City, a guide to differences between Brazil and the U.S., and more. He writes them and stars in them with a professional cast. At the end of each episode, he gives a short lesson on the English language. People recognize him on the street in Brazil and sometimes in New York City where he lives.

So imagine our surprise and delight when he asked his parents to make a guest appearance on the channel. He posted a request on Facebook for questions he should ask his parents in an interview and received 152 suggested questions in just a couple of hours.

That’s how we found ourselves sitting on a sofa in his apartment while he taped a video interview with us. Peter and I had to introduce the video in Portuguese. We did our best (poorly) reading a phonetic text from an iPad. Of course, the interview, in English, will have Portuguese sub-titles.

Seth did not tell us the questions in advance, but they ranged from how his father and I met to how we felt about Brazilian food to what’s it’s like having a son who plays a character who is a complete clod on YouTube. (The word that is used to describe him in Portuguese in the videos has been censored for the 70-something audience.)

Peter and I laughed our way through the interview. Not sure how we’ll feel once it’s edited, but it was so much fun to be part of our son’s working of his magic.

Amazing at Eighty-Seven

Tomorrow is my husband Peter's eighty-seventh birthday. I don’t recall thinking about what he would be like at eighty-seven when I met him many decades ago.

I know that I am lucky to still have him, and I think about that every day. He doesn’t run marathons any more—in fact, he doesn’t even walk all that well, and that’s OK. He sometimes answers a different question than the one I ask because he doesn’t hear as well as he used to, but usually I can laugh at that. Most important, we still agree on almost everything, and we laugh together a lot. We are accepting of the losses that come with aging and grateful for our amazing family and steadfast friends.

So Happy Birthday my sweetheart. And thank you.

Routine Testing

I’ve seen my dentist twice a year decade after decade. I like my dentist a lot, but that doesn’t mean I like seeing him. But I do like to eat, so saving my teeth is a priority.

I’m also good about my annual medical check ups. I had good insurance while I was working that has continued into my retirement, now supplemented by Medicare. I’ve been in the excellent hands of my primary care physicians over the years. And my dermatologist.

I dread colonoscopies, but I get them. And I get an annual mammogram. My good health is some combination of genes, responsible eating and exercise, and I don’t take it for granted.

So when I read that some people are recommending no further mammograms or colonoscopies after age 75, my first thought was “Wait! I’m not done yet!”

A Needle in a Haystack

“Notions” is a word you don’t hear much any more. It used to refer to the items in an aisle in five and ten-cent stores like Woolworth's. The notions department consisted of shelf after shelf of safety pins and straight pins, variously-sized needles, spools of thread of every imaginable color and buttons galore.

The other day, when I realized I didn’t have the right-size of needle to use with extra-strong thread, I mentioned to a friend that I missed Woolworth's notions departments.  She told me that a fabric store in her neighborhood has such a department.

Last Thursday, I decided to check it out.  It was a gorgeous un-wintery day with bright sun and temperature in the 70’s so I parked a few blocks away from Fabricplace.  My spirits were high as I wandered into the basement- level store.  And there, against the back wall was a notions department just like we had in the olden days.  It had an endless variety of needles.

Of course, what should cost 39 cents now costs $2.99 + tax. The salesperson chuckled when I told her that. Then, when I went to checkout, I spied a sign that said “Senior Citizens Day Thursdays—10% off non-sale items”.

It was Thursday.  Even better, the salesclerk asked me for my ID to prove that I qualified for the discount because you had to be 62 years old.

I grinned all the way home.