Time Flies to Spring 2016…A Look at the Ominous Eighties

How did it happen? Unthinkable. Of all my birthdays, the one I struggled with the most was my eightieth. I perceived eighty as the beginning of the end, the period at the end of the sentence, a drop in status to the “old oldies.” Up to now I had avoided most of the negative pitfalls of aging.

Obviously, I needed to deal with some new mind sets. Officially, I was staring at a category called “the old, oldies.”  No more kidding around. I admit getting up from the floor required more effort, and then there were those people offering me a seat. The first time someone offered me a seat, I was offended. Did I really look that old?  I guess I did.  Time for me to think for myself about myself.
Actually I was happy to be me at any age, but I didn’t want anyone else to know. I cherished my own image, not one of a stereotypical symbol of failing body parts and other nonsensical ideas.  Letting go of preconceived ideas is hard work, and if I needed a leg up now and then, so what?  I could be gracious and say, “Thank you.”

There is a scary mythological picture of the eighties, and I had bought into it, lock, stock, and barrel.  The time of reckoning came and went. Nothing dramatic happened–I still remember where I live.   No one needs to tell me that I won’t live forever.  There will be wearing down of the parts.  The natural progression of age goes on.  Here is my solution:  I don’t dwell on any of the unpleasant bruises of life, nor do I predict unsolvable problems. I am too old to buy the Brooklyn Bridge.  CARPE DIEM.

I want to tell you about my friend Fran.  We go back to our crazy college days.  We’ve weathered a few storms. About three months ago, she took in her twenty-something granddaughter.  The blow back was negative.  “You’re too old, blah, blah, blah and so on and so forth.”  As of this week they are both helping each other.  Somehow they are solving each other’s problems.   Who would think grandma would be bonding with her granddaughter at eighty-one.  Plus, our weekly telephone talks are more lively.

Another thought for you.  A group of BVM sisters, all over 90, are actively promoting lifelong learning.   There they are in my Alumna Bulletin, sitting in comfort as they take on new dimensions.  Wonderful.  Three sisters were over a hundred. Nice to know they are not bored.

And speaking of Adult Education, I am all for it.  Sometimes it takes a bit of doing to find your niche.  Hang Tough.  You don’t get to our age without guts.


Time Flies to…2016 and My Aunt Bess (A Column by Lu)

Just as some folks deserve to be forgotten, some people deserve to be remembered. So it is with my Aunt Bess. She  deserves to be remembered.

It is strange how her story stayed with me all these years.  When I was growing up, this bandy-legged, sun browned woman never directly took center stage in the drama of my family’s life.  But she was always a presence.

Aunt Bess was a hardworking farmer’s wife who could wring a chicken’s neck and then serve it for dinner.  I remember vividly the times she would snag a hen and then finish the job in her cellar.  I even recall that the floor of the cellar had a hard mud-packed floor.
There was so much about this woman that I did not appreciate at the time.  Farm life begins early.  Roosters do wake you and you better get up and eat because you will need your energy.  Aunt Bess would head out to do morning chores.  The worst place in the world to me was the chicken coop.

Gathering eggs, feeding animals, cleaning out barns, washing produce, doing something to the milk (never figured out why the milk was poured into a bucket over a clean cloth). These were daily jobs, and they never went away.  You always had to feed the pigs you might say. I even bottle fed a few myself.  About this time in my life, I knew I would always be a “city mouse.”

Also I never heard Aunt Bess complain.  My other aunts (my city aunts) did and often with tears in their eyes.   Mostly she always had a bit of a smile.  I figured out later that was her general attitude to life.  She possessed an inner peace that was also poured through a cloth to siphon off the grit maybe.  Still don’t know.

During the summer, almost every Sunday my family, four kids, and parents would pile into our old, green Dodge and ride out to visit. That ride lasted forever.  And no air conditioning.

Aunt Bess would always welcome us.  Everyone ate Sunday dinner in the dining room.  Nothing fancy, there were always fresh, homegrown vegetables, chicken, and beef. How I loved the sweet corn.  We would leave with a cardboard box filled with eggs, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and stuff that she had canned.  Her chili sauce was magical; she did this for every visit.  I never realized what a blessing it was, but I know my parents did.
After she died, I discovered a bit of drama I never would have suspected. When my Uncle Tom fell in love and married Bess, his family disowned him.  Back then children were expected to marry in their own ethnic group. I assume they came to love her; but, maybe not.  I do not know.

As a couple, she and my Uncle Tom must have had a great respect for each other.  Aunt Bess once told me, ”Lucille, I’m not afraid of dying.  Uncle Tom and I talked about it, and we know it will be alright.”  She didn’t elaborate.  I just nodded my head like I knew what she meant.  They consulted each other in ways I never imagined.

In her life, she found satisfaction and contentment tending to Uncle Tom, her family, and the land, but she did have a weakness–store bought bakery.  How she loved the chocolate chip sweet rolls and the butter crust bread from our Chicago bakery. Rural communities rarely had bakeries.

Even bathrooms were a bit of luxury that came with time, and Lifebuoy was the soap of the day.

Aunt Bess was my Mother’s sister and dearest friend, the only person on earth that my mom completely trusted.  As we grew away from our Sunday visits, I got on with my own interests, but the time I spent with my Aunt Bessie stayed with me.  Bits and pieces of that time remind me that somehow what we became and did was made from these memories.  One way or the other, we will be part of someone’s story, too.

2016 is upon us.  Enjoy!


Time Flies–Soup’s On (A Column by Lu)

For an unknown reason that I am still trying to figure out, I decided to play Julia Child and prepare my version of different recipes and make soup.  Using my fairly new Android 6 cell phone, I said, “Tomato and Beef Soup.”  Thereby I sentenced myself to an entire afternoon of washing, peeling, cutting, sautéing, and performing other little tricks in my kitchen.

Armed with a shopping list, I gathered my little harvest of  spices, herbs, veggies, etc. and repaired to my kitchen.  I selected only veggies that I liked–no broccoli for me, thanks.  Then I organized my tools, bowls, knives, one giant pot, and a medium fry pan and got going.

Each recipe called for different herbs and spices.  TIME OUT. USING MY ANDROID, I INVESTIGATED THE WORLD OF HERBS AND SPICES. Do you know the difference between an herb and a spice?  I do now.  Also do you know that some herbs only hit the pot about twenty minutes before the dish is finished.  This helpful information took about 40 minutes or so to get and to apply.

Thus I began my creative cooking of soup event.  Knives sharp, cutting board at the ready, I began chopping.  And I chopped some more.  Then I realized I forgot one vital ingredient…carrots.  Off to the store I went again.  Big carrots or baby peeled carrots?  Baby peeled, of course. Chopping is not my sport of choice.

How much bouillon?  Big pot, throw in the whole carton.  Done.  How many tomatoes?  As many as I had.  Good.  Use small yellow onion, and many red.  Done.  (I sautéed them first along with 2 lbs. of good red meat cut into hunks.)  What fun is this?  My floor, good grief.  Very sticky in some places.   Onion peels, tomato seeds, smears of this and that and bouquet garni all over the place.

Looking at my clothes, I wondered, “Why would anyone in their right mind choose white to wear in the kitchen?” For me, I think a hazmat suit would be more appropriate.

No string beans?  Do I really need them?  No string beans.  Done deal.  Time for herbs and spices.  Use rule of “eye to pot.”  In using herbs and spices, it really is anyone’s guess. Some books say more is better (except for red pepper), so I used them freely with no bad effects.

As my soup burbled, I was actually proud of myself.  I felt good. Goddess of the kitchen, I think not. I took a break. Then came clean up time.  I managed. Floors are made to be washed.

And the end product?  Needed salt, but tasty, quite tasty.  I have a year to rest…I also have four large containers of soup. So, go play in your kitchen. It could be fun. (You may create the next Twinkie.)


Also, check out The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown,  the story of nine rowers and their quest for gold in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Time Flies…Passing Strange (A Column by Lu)

Isn’t it passing strange that—

– Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have similar problems.  It’s their hair.   Future presidential wannabes need to have curb appeal, nd the fact that they both spend big bucks to upgrade their images via their hairdressers makes you think.  A balding president?  Or a lady prez looking frumpy?  Well, that is bad form. Must look the part,  eh?

–Money speaks.  True, I agree, and it often shouts, but what does it say?  The voice of Big Bucks is often loud or self-aggrandizing or exaggerated beyond credibility.  It says everyone has a price.  Do we?

I am not keen on social media information, but in an effort to stay informed, I’ve twittered some public figures.  We are a free country.  You can send your words out there. Some people will believe whatever they read.  Not me. I quickly concluded that a tweet is your version, it’s  rarely objective.  It  should be viewed with a jaundiced eye, and If you believe this mountain of babble,  the Brooklyn Bridge is still for sale.  Buy one.

–On the lighter, side it is also passing strange that the cereal Cheerios contains magnets (not maggots).  Every time I pour some, I find these little circles on my floor.  Every mother knows what I mean. It’s the baby snack of choice.

–Finally, I have a  91-year-old, white-haired cousin.  I think she is the new poster child  for “happy aging.” She raised seven children, has about 30 grandchildren, retired to Hawaii, and lost her husband over 15 years ago. Nothing breathtaking in her life.

She boards a plane in Hawaii and spends  her summer flying all over the country visiting her kin.  Her children reek of success, but are also service oriented.  Being quite impressed with her life, I asked, “What was your favorite time of life?”

She replied, “The last ten years. I was free to do what I want, I proved to myself that I could be a happy, independent person.  It was exhilarating.”

Again, in light of her many accomplishments, this little section of life remains her nesting place, her final growth spurt.

Isn’t it passing strange that our life force grows even as we age?


Time Flies to…My Wandering, Meandering Mind Wants to Know (A Column by Lu)

HEROES… Sometimes as I wander from topic to topic, I wonder—WHERE HAVE ALL THE HEROES GONE? Mother Teresa is dead; who will take her place?   Is there someone emerging that I don’t know about?  For sure, It’s not your latest athlete or superstar or million-billionaire.  I’m looking for someone to inspire me.  Someone who speaks to me with  a voice that touches everyone.  I’m hoping.

THE EIGHTIES… There is a new demographic out there.  I’m talking about the increased number of folks who are in their eighties.  How do we navigate the eighties?  Well, we all have different DNA, so there is a different map for everyone.  By this time, we are on the doorstep.  GO FOR IT.  SPLIT THE ATOMS OF YOUR SOUL.

GARDENERS ADVICE… Judi Doychak, past president of the Darien Garden Club,  gives this advice,  “Whenever I go out to my patio, I  bring gardening gloves, shoes, weed bag, and one tool, ‘cause I can’t sit still without seeing something that needs pulling.”  And have you tried a Garden Walk?

HERBS AS SOUL FOOD… Do you have a mini hobby for fun? Growing herbs, on a small scale, has a medicinal effect on me.  Not that I use them all, but I read about them and find this age old hobby fascinating. (Our library owns some good references.) Anyway, after all this study, I’m thinking of putting out my shingle, “Cheap cures. Homeopathic.”

DOES THE MEDIA BLITZ YOU? JOURNALISM and what I read in the paper do not co-exist.  In the name of greed, the printed word rarely reports accurately.  Objective reporting is like an old telephone booth, a relic of the past.  I think folks are starting to catch on, starting to demand more, and that’s a happy sign.

ROBO CALLS MAKE ME CRAZY… I hate to even go there.  “We have changed our menu…”  Sometimes I would sell my soul for a human voice.



Time Flies to…Sign Up to Win a Free Cremation! (A Column by Lu)

February and March, Bits and Pieces

I kid you not at all.  You can enter a contest to win a free cremation.  That not so little ad in the Obits section made my day.  I thought, “Just my luck.  I win some expensive prize and it will go up in smoke.”   Looking at the bright side, a bargain is a bargain, isn’t it?

Having survived one of coldest Februaries on record this year and the Arctic Vortex of last year, I am wondering how we can top that next year.    Maybe we can do the Boston thing and get snow up the yin yang.

Ah, but we change the clocks this month, and the light shall be with us.  I’ve never figured out why we had to change the clocks in the first place.  Rumor has it, it might have something to do with milking cows.  Do cows get depressed without light?

If you tire of your own company or just can’t get about enough, we need to find happy distractions.  These are my thoughts:

  1. Take a vacation from the news–not forever, just for a few days.  Not to hear the woes of the world constantly is quite a boost for our psyche.
  2. Immerse yourself in a project, something that takes you to a new place mentally.  Projects come in many packages, just looking for one is good juju.
  3. Call someone you don’t like to talk to.  You’ll feel good about yourself.  I mean this sincerely.  Doing something kind lifts the spirit.  Put yourself out there.
  4. There are special clamps you can buy to avoid falling.  Nothing is foolproof, but getting out to walk the dog, or go to the car, so you can shop or visit, that’s a happy thought.
  5. Make soup.  This always works.

My best thought is, spring always comes, every year for as long as I can remember.  And we are tough.  We have experienced more changes than any other generation.  We are resilient.   We are also very blessed.


Time Flies…The Gadgetry of the Brain

I don’t doubt that even Donald Trump of big sign TRUMP TOWERS in Chicago is annoyed with senior moments.  You can’t do a comb over on the brain.  The memory becomes an unreliable tool (nothing new here), but I have noticed that if you wait, the missing thought will pop into your head.  Now the word or idea may be a day late, but what the heck?   Later rather than sooner indicates a degree of success.  The tool is rusty, but still working.

I also think that the functions of the brain are programmed.  This idea is not mine, nor is it new.  Certain areas of the brain respond to certain needs and have particular characteristics.

Again, we all know that, but judging from my own experiences, I have found that the little grey cells don’t quite quit. They attempt to remedy or replace or even patch the old gadgetry by offering other compensations.

What does that mean?  As we age, we sit more; at least I seem to.  Okay, but now I also enjoy those quiet moments of taking in the scene of the moment.  I’m out of the race.  I used to be a regular toe-tapper, leg- swinger, always ready to move to the next thing.  My pace has slowed, and I now savor certain moments that are almost poetic in nature.   A sense of being is everything.  Wow.  Yes, wow and more so.  To be in the moment and part of the moment is better than a “big fat Greek wedding.”

Whoopee.  Being bored, feeling sorry for yourself, can be reduced by skydiving, especially if you jump in the buff.  Happy landings.  With this scary thought, I wish you all a proactive new year.  Regards, my friends.


Words I frequently forget, my brain tells me to repeat and then add a mental picture to associate with the word.  These mnemonic devices work.  One word I could never remember is “nebulizer.”

Time Flies to…My Toe, and It’s Gone! (A Column by Lu)

Because the days are dark, the weather is stark, and the news is what it is, I think we need a light touch this month.  So I have a silly story.  You see, while my left foot sports five toes, my right foot shows only four, and therein lies the rub, literally.  Are you curious?  Probably not, but hang in there.

For the last ten years, my hammertoe never bothered me. I inherited this condition from my Mother.  She had the works–bunions, calluses, hammertoes–which she covered with many little plasters.  We shared the same gene pool.

Early in the summer, that bump on my second toe had a growth spurt, and it began to throb and almost doubled in size.  Not funny.  Pinocchio’s nose was growing on my foot.
Talking to my internist, he suggested I might try shoes with square boxes in the front or talk to an orthopedic man.  My podiatrist shooed me off to get open-toed shoes, which I did.  But neither idea seemed like a long term solution. So off I went to an orthopedic foot surgeon, expecting to hear about pins and pain to come, which I did hear about.

But my surgeon also gave me a choice: 1. Break big toe, insert pin and then straighten second toe (big ouch) and insert pin and stay home six weeks and heal.   Or.   2. Remove the toe, as in amputate. Be up and about in a week.

Essentially, after a long and thoughtful week, it became a no brainer.  I innocently scheduled my procedure, but I also told a few friends, who told a few friends, who told a few friends. All the strong feedback spooked me.  My little decision raised eyebrows, friends questioned me.  What about my balance? No one had heard of such an outrageous thing.  “What outrageous thing?  I am not having major surgery, or even a facelift.  It’s only a toe.”  It was hard for me to fathom that one toe caused so much feeling.  Ah well!

Fast forward. I persevered and  had the surgery.  I went in at 6: 00 a.m. and was home at 9:00 a.m.  A week later, the surgeon, a graduate of the Northwestern School of Medicine, smiled and pronounced me good to go, no restrictions.  Two weeks later, I fully engaged in my line dancing class.  I wanted a ballet class, but you have to make some trade offs to age.

What did I learn?  People can scare you out of things as well as into things.   Even a little change can cause a big brouhaha.  Everyone thought C. Columbus would fall off the end of the world.  Columbus and I know better.

We have so much to be thankful for, at least I do.   I just bought a pair of $100 dollar boots for thirty dollars at Kohls.

Let me hear from you.


Time Flies…Landmarks in Our Lives (A Column by Lu)

Every ten years, we reassess and define ourselves, but as those decades pile up, we enter new territory.  I recently talked to a woman, and I will quote, “From eighty to eighty-five were the happiest years of my life.” She smiled, and she then walked out of my life.

I wanted to run after her and say, “Wait!  Tell me more.  I could use some wise advice.”  THE BIG EIGHT O IS DAUNTING.  I always thought the eighties lead to a dark place called, “The Old Oldies.”  Not so and not true. Numerical age cannot be denied.  At 21 we could drink legally, at 65 we could retire, at eighty, I think we can pretty much do as we please.

I don’t recommend walking naked down the street, but if you want to go to a nude beach, it’s now or never.  The big noise of the first part of our life is reduced.  We don’t need to make our bones.  Instead we  get to choose.  One day I just turned off my alarm clock.  What a blessed freedom.

For many years, an old friend, who had lost a spouse, spent most of her spare time shopping.  She told me she had old clothes with price tags on them, and still she bought more.  Then one day she had a grand awakening.  Within the solitude of her own mind, she began to build a more satisfying life.

Here’s what I firmly believe: I cannot control the aging process, and if I am walking, talking, breathing, I am letting go of baggage, like grudges, bad memories, caring too much what others think about me.  I find myself frequently failing, but that’s okay. I am trying.
Just maybe, I can say, “These are the happiest years of my life.”


Time Flies to…Feel Good, Try These Experiments (Or Not): A Column by Lu

I used to enjoy listening to the 10:00 p.m. news, reading the morning paper; but now, not so much.  I hate to get depressed at the start of my day, so I rapidly scan the paper, check the weather, the ads, and the word Jumble. Sometimes, I even check my computer.
You have to live in a cave with a bag over your head not to realize we live in a scary world.  We do, and we are overexposed to that bad stuff all the time.  I hope I never reach a state where I become desensitized to bloodshed and body parts.  However, we sometimes need to set our own dials and push “happy.”

Now that my little rant is over, I want you to consider these ideas…  I blame Mother Teresa of Calcutta for these thoughts.  She advised everyone to gift the people you meet with a sincere smile.  You know the kind of smile where you make eye contact and are aware of another human.  Kindly smiles beget kindliness…sometimes.

With that thought in mind I tried two bitty experiments.

EXPERIMENT ONE:  This morning I just smiled at myself.  Alone, in my living room, there I was smiling, and I immediately felt silly.  So to the smile I added some happy thoughts, and guess what?  I smiled again.  For some crazy reason, I felt in charge of my day.

EXPERIMENT TWO:  My daughter called.  (This gets weird.)

Me:  Julie, I want you to smile and say, “Hello, Mom.”

JULIE:  Do you feel okay.  Should I call 911?

ME:  No, humor me.  This is an experiment.  Just smile and say, “Hello mom,” but smile like you mean it, okay.

JULIE:  Hello, MOM. I’m smiling.

ME:  I’m smiling back.  How do you feel?

JULIE:  (Laughing.)  Mom, I’m fine, but I’m a little worried about you.

And that was that, but, I have another unscientific theory.  When you smile or laugh, all the muscles in your face relax thereby releasing the tension that causes wrinkles. For a fact, happy faces look younger longer.

Be proactive, smile at a stranger.