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September 2021

Managing Stress

Stress is always with us.  The resurgence of the coronavirus hasn't helped. 

According to a recent Washington Post article (, the usual stress reducers (exercise, good sleep, socializing, mindfulness, positive reframing and self-compassion) are still the best prescription for lowering stress overall, but sometimes even a small action can help.

Here are a few of the science-based strategies the author suggests:

Submerge your face in ice-cold water while holding your breath for 15-30 seconds, chew on a hot pepper, or smell a pungent chunk of cheese. The key is to distract yourself, at least for a short time.

Writing posts for 80-something works for me.

The New Table


There is an entrance hall to our new condo that cried out for a small, but elegant table. Big enough to drop keys and a purse, but small enough that a wheelchair could get by.

A good friend loves tramping through consignment stores and suggested we visit one she likes in the unlikely chance that they might have something I could use.

Think of your mother’s (or grandmother’s) living room.  Even the couple who owns the store which is down an alley off a main street, could be your grandparents. I’ve never seen bunions as big as the wife’s, but she shuffles around just fine, and she knows her stuff.

Assuring us that we could try out the table and return it, she insisted on “restoring” the top before we left.  For $31.88 I got the perfect table.

See above.

Jane Brody Turns Eighty

Jane Brody, one of my role models, just had her 80th birthday.  I’ve been a fan of hers for years.  My copies of her cookbooks are well-worn, and I read her column “Personal Health” in the Science section of The New York Times­ every Wednesday.

In a recent column, she shared some turning-80-wisdom.

  1. Gray hair isn’t so bad.  Maybe natural just looks better.
  2. Wrinkles are earned and not to be hidden.
  3. Walking your dog over difficult terrain can help your balance AND your confidence.
  4. Don’t climb on a chair to reach something. Use a step-stool.
  5. Pay to have someone do what you shouldn’t do for yourself.
  6. Refrain from “organ recitals”.

See more at

Now Hear This

In February, 2020 when I bought hearing aids, I was unable to get one into my oddly-shaped right ear canal. Therefore, I only have one for my left ear.

When Seth visited recently, he asked me if I was wearing my hearing aid because I was saying “what?” a lot.  I did have my hearing aid in.  I decided there was something wrong with it and took it back to be fixed. 

Unfortunately, the hearing aid was fine.  What was not fine, is that I had not one, not two, but three hearing aid domes (which must be changed frequently) deep inside my left ear canal.  The hearing aid specialist took out the first two, but I had to have the third removed by a physician.  That was painful.

The domes for my hearing aid are tiny, and one could easily come off when I put it into my ear. When I saw that one was gone, I just assumed I had dropped it.

It won’t happen again.

Dressing Up

The other day I joined a neighbor who was waiting for the elevator.  She was elegantly dressed in black slacks and a flowing black top. Her beautifully coifed white hair and her “statement” silver necklace were just right. I told her she looked gorgeous.

She told me that she was on her way to a funeral. She added that if she was going to a party, she would be be wearing the same thing.

Standing there in my jeans and t-shirt, I thought about the last time I dressed up.  It was our birthday party for Peter’s 90th.  People were beginning to pay attention to something called Covid-19.

It was March 8, 2020.

Your Parents' Shoes

(Please be aware that 80-something is now distributed by Follow It.  It may look a bit different, but it’s still me.)

Years ago, when my father was suffering from terminal lung cancer, Peter and I flew to Florida with Seth to visit him.  I am embarrassed to report that the most vivid memory I have of that visit was how frightened our toddler was by his grandfather’s dry hacking cough.

As a young adult, I am sure that I was sympathetic to my parents’ challenges.  I’d be aware of the things that they were struggling with, but I usually could put them on the back burner. But I am also sure that they never outweighed my concern with myself.  I don’t think a younger generation can know what it’s like to be old.

I heard the great trumpeter Wynton Marsalis describe a disagreement he had with a very young man.  His memorable words:

“I’ve been your age; you’ve never been mine.”

The Wisdom of Our Grown Children

Although Hurricane Ida delayed Seth’s Labor Day Weekend visit, we had four terrific days with him.  He helped put up art in our new condo.  He pushed Peter to Harvard Square (wheelchairs and brick sidewalks are a bad combination) where we had lunch outside. While we were waiting for the bill, he ran to Mike’s Pastry and came back with gluten-free sweets as a parting present for his parents.

I was impressed by our conversation about good news, bad news and gifts. He recalled from his freshman psychology class that while bad news should be given all at once, good news should be spread out.  For example, he is taking four boxes of her favorite Belgium cookies to a friend in Brazil.  He will give her two boxes upon arrival.  She will be sad when she finishes the last one, and that’s when he surprises her with the other two.

Not a bad idea.

The Real World

We’ve been in our new condo for ten days.  I have emerged from a world where only two things mattered:  Moving and Peter.  I didn’t talk to friends.  I didn’t read a book.  I only sat down when I ate.  I lost four pounds, and I look like I haven’t slept in weeks.  But we did it.

Our decision to become owners is all about security.  We didn’t like our housing future being in the hands of a landlord.  That worry is over.

Our new place has had some surprises for us.  The towel rack fell off the wall in the shower while I was in it.  I couldn’t set our (very nice) oven to anything but 375 degrees.  Nor could I set its clock. And there was no “how to” stove guide.  There was an odd contraption on the wall of the “pantry” closet.  It looked like a fuse box.  Fortunately, a friend helping us explained that it held brooms and other long-sticked things on the wall in a very clever way.

The real world is a bit scary now.  But I’m glad to be back in it.


We are moved.  We are twenty-two steps down the hall from our “home” of three years.  I know because I walked back and forth a lot.  But it’s done. 

Our condo is similar, yet different, than our rental down the hall. There are things I like better in our new home (for example, double-glazed windows that lessen the traffic noise) and things I miss (like our larger bedroom with a huge walk-in closet). But the dishwasher here is bigger and the sunrise is amazing because we are at a corner of the building. I miss the built-in bookshelves we had most of all, and when I get all the boxes emptied, bookshelves will be our first purchase.

It’s beginning to feel like home.