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Motherpie’s New Year's “Still” List

category_bug_journal2.gif A couple of days ago, Motherpie remarked on the stillness that surrounds the ending of one year and the beginning of another and then extended that thought into a “still” list to mark the season when some people make resolutions (not me!), and many reflect upon what has recently gone by.

Anyone who has been around Time Goes By for awhile knows I don’t do memes. But this isn’t exactly a meme and it fits my mood. I’ve amended or skipped some of Motherpie’s categories – just because I can be ornery that way – and added one or two of my own. Where Motherpie’s list is personal, mine combines that with some blog and political “stills” and a bit of whimsy.

Still Loving: Ollie the cat

Still Not: joining social media sites

Still Glad: I live in the U.S., but not as much as in the past

Still Enjoying: blogging every day

Still Doing: mostly whatever I want after a lifetime of living on other people’s schedules

Still Proud: of recovering from my computer crash quite nicely, even while whining about it

Still Amazed: at the huge, warm response from so many of you when I quit blogging for several days

Still Hoping: Jean-Luc Picard will run for president

Still Enjoying: my little, red PT Cruiser (except when it snows)

Still Grateful: for all the wonderful blog friends I have

Still Wanting: to move to Portland, Oregon

Still Trying: to understand how the U.S. has gotten so far off track

Still Failing: to grasp the reasons for the popularity of ageism

Still Passionate: about studying and writing about aging

Still Dating: no one and not unhappy about it

Still Working: on getting Ollie the cat to sleep later (this is worth a rerun)

Still Reading: the 25 or 30 books in the unread pile

Still Worried: about the U.S. slide toward fascism

Still Wondering: if there will be a presidential candidate in 2008 I can vote for without holding my nose

Still Pleased: about the growing number of excellent elderblogs

And, at 5:30AM, it is STILL snowing with about five inches on the ground already. It began around midnight and the weather folks say it will continue until mid-afternoon. It is barely new years and this will be the fifth time I've dug out my little, red PT Cruiser from the [expletive deleted] snow. So:

Still Wishing: snowstorms were as much fun as when I lived in New York City and didn't own a car

Since this is not a real meme, I won't tag anyone, but do feel free to make your own "still list".

See you next year.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Demijon reflects on the perennial disconnect about chores between husbands and wives in The Night Before - Two Nights Before.]


Browser Toys

As anyone who has recently stopped by Time Goes By knows - ad nauseum - I've been spending a lot of time over the past week refurnishing my computer following a big-time crash. In addition to re-installing Windows, it also required re-downloading all the little toys and goodies I regularly use.

So I thought it might be fun over the weekend to recommend our favorites to one another. I'm not talking about the big programs like word processors and Photoshop. Nor the little necessary utilities like a PDF and zip reader or a media player. And I don't mean widgets for our blogs either. Just those little helpers that sit in the toolbar of a browser.

A couple of days ago, Bitteroot left a comment suggesting FoxMarks as a convenient way to secure bookmarks. Since I use the Firefox browser for everything except visiting Microsoft sites (which, in their provincialism, requires IE), I'm trying out FoxMarks to see if I like it. I do know about del.icio.us, but it never worked for me; maybe it's that I can never remember where the dots go in the name. Different toys work for different boys - and girls.

Given the amount of snow that can fall here in a short period of time, predicting winter weather has never been more important to me than since I moved to Maine. My favorite weather toy comes from weather.com.

It sits in the top toolbar of Firefox (undoubtedly, there is an IE version) and tells me the temperature and weather - current, tonight and for the next two days. Mousing over any one of those items opens a small box with further information like wind speed, humidity and the time of sundown, and there are links to video reports, Doppler radar and other weather-related data. It installs easily from the home page of weather.com. Very cool.

Many different kinds of web services have such toys, and there must be thousands of Google Toolbar toys by now. I like an uncluttered desktop, so I use only a few: several news sources like Reuters, CNN, BBC International, The New York Times; quick links to a thesaurus, Google blog search, my Google calendar and Wikipedia; and a button to toggle search term highlights off and on.

It's one-click simple to install the Google Toolbar and once that's done, just drag the toys you want onto the toolbar.

What about you? What toys do you use and which do you recommend? Don't forget to leave links for us to find them.

[Today at The Elder Storytelling Place, Linda Davis tells a story every HR person should be requiredto read, titled Hiring the Elder.]


Protecting Vulnerable Elders

On a residential street not far from my home there is a traffic sign: "Deaf Child." On a nearby corner where a retirement community is located, there is another traffic warning, "Elderly Crossing." (I would prefer it said "Elder Crossing," but that is a different issue from today.)

Society routinely makes allowances to protect children. We place guards at school crossings so that kids, apt to distraction, get to class in one piece. Megan's Law and other legislation help keep predators at bay. And based on the fact that they as yet lack experience and judgment, minors are not allowed to enter into contracts.

But aside from arrangements elders make for themselves such as living wills and durable powers of attorney, there isn't much concern for protecting people at the other end of life. Old people are, after all, adults.

A recent story in The New York Times attempts to think out loud about what protections might be needed or should be allowed. Building on the (lengthy and unnecessary) details of how a man came to give away all his substantial nest egg to a grifter, the writer quotes Sharon Merriman-Nai of the National Center on Elder Abuse:

"Figuring out how to protect senior citizens from victimization, even when it's caused by their own mistakes, is one of the most important issues facing us right now. If we don't solve this, millions of older people will suddenly be reliant on their families and the government.

"But we also have to figure out how to balance our desire to protect vulnerable seniors with their rights to autonomy."

Elders are more frequently targeted in fraud attempts than young people because the con men aren't stupid - old people tend to be more trusting than younger people, they have a lifetime of savings and may be too embarrassed to report being duped. In addition, declining cognitive ability can impair decision-making. As much as we each like to think our mental faculties will remain intact, there is no guarantee we won't become dotty enough to cave into swindles or other forms of fraud.

But most of us will not need protection and therein lies the difficulty. There are bad people in the world and I believe we, as a society, have an obligation to protect those who are vulnerable. But as long as I've still got all my buttons, I'll be damned if I'll allow anyone to tell me how to spend my money or require a test or whatever else a bureaucracy might think up to judge my capabilities. As 78-year-old George Tomer, quoted in the Times piece, says,

"If you look at how seniors are portrayed, it's demeaning. We travel all over the world. We're as active now as we were in our 40s. But the only old people you see on television are buying adult diapers or scooters. It's frustrating when some salesman treats me as a child."

"Frustrating?" I'm not as kind as George. I want to whack the kid - it's always a kid - who treats me like I'm an idiot because I'm old.

Nevertheless, as the number of old people as a proportion of the population increases in coming years, there will be more who, due to declining mental ability or just stupidity (you don't get smarter just because you get older) will need help. We must develop means to do that without infantiziling elders and that won't be easy.

"We know that, statistically, seniors are at enormous risk for fraud," said A. Kimberly Dayton of the Center for Elder Justice at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. "It's foolish to ignore that. But there's also a huge dilemma in determining when someone is just being eccentric, versus someone who is a victim of undue influence."

[Hat tip to the dozen or so who emailed me this Times story.]

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia recalls the joys of women-only day at the community swimming pool in Subculture I.]


Been There, Done That. What's Next?

category_bug_journal2.gif Selling my apartment and leaving New York City was a wrenching decision - the hardest of my life. It was the only fiscally sane thing to do, but I resisted. I was a New Yorker through and through - in my bones - and over the decades I lived there, dozens of people (hundreds? a thousand?), often native-born, said they knew no one who was as much as a Manhattanite as I.

One day, during the months I dithered, while whining to my former husband about leaving the only place that ever felt like home (perhaps not for the first time), he told me to get over it. Circumstances required that I move on, he said, and my 37 years as a New Yorker would always be part of me.

Simple, obvious, but nevertheless a revelation: my New York experience was more than half my life and wouldn't leave me anytime soon.

Although I continued to postpone the decision for awhile, Alex's advice gave me the shove I needed to get on with the next stage of my life. Since then, that wise counsel has had wider ramifications.

Getting old forces change. From the minor, such as declining energy making cleaning the entire house in one fell swoop impossible, to the major, whether it is health problems, retirement from the workforce or adjustments due to reduced income - living day-to-day is not the same as it had been for decades. We can "get over it" or we can spend the rest of our lives lamenting that things aren't as they once were.

It is hard - and sad - to leave one's home as I did, or when old friends die or children move across the country or even the world. But no one can take away the memories - and change brings new experiences, many of which are positive, instructive and just plain interesting if you think about them intentionally.

Take sex. From puberty until my mid-fifties, sex ruled my life - getting it, enjoying it, getting more of it. When there wasn't someone to roll around in bed with, I was looking for someone. For 40-odd years that was the way it was. Even though it sometimes overrode good sense and caused untold complications of the heart, I didn't know life could be any other way.

It takes the distance of years and the waning of hormones to know it can be different, to know that it was all chemically induced.

In a culture as openly sex-soaked as ours in which even clothing for five-year-old girls is sexualized, it is blasphemy to admit that you are indifferent to sex. That's really what the American pursuit of wealth and beauty is about - getting more sex. And if you're not doing that, you're not normal, "they" say, in need of a little blue pill or any number of dubious nostrums for sale on the internet. But we don't need to buy that belief.

Like leaving home, leaving behind slavery to hormones is sad at first and, in our culture, embarrassing - not something you want to admit even to yourself and certainly not others. But on further thought, it simplifies life and leaves time for a lot of other things. Sex was then (and loads of fun), this is now and it's time to move on.

For most of our lives, getting old was assumed to be a gradual ending of many things leading to the ultimate end, death. However, without meaning to sound sappy, each ending, each loss brings a beginning and with it a new perspective and, sometimes, wisdom. Can't run a mile anymore? Then walk a mile and appreciate the time to smell the flowers.

Of course it is sad to let go of old habits, friends, places, pleasures, robust health and other losses that accompany age. But when the sadness eases, as it will, Alex's advice to get over it and move on seems the only sage thing to do. Been there, done that. What's next?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Colleen Shannon recalls the thrills of a childhood amusement park in Weelitch's.]


Happy Christmas Day, Everyone

category_bug_journal2.gif Early bird readers of Time Goes By (if you're even here on this holiday) will note by the posting time on this entry that I slept in this morning - a rare occurrence thanks to Ollie the cat's daily sunrise exuberance. But today I fed him and went back to bed for awhile.

I'm giving myself the day off from blogging to catch up on chores and tasks around the house that were ignored during the great Christmas computer crash of 2007. But The Elder Storytelling Place is in its usual daily flowering with a holiday story from Darlene Costner titled, The Christmas Present.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


The Great Christmas Computer Crash of 2007

category_bug_journal2.gif That headline may be overstating it a bit; nevertheless, I've been in computer limbo since last Wednesday or Thursday and had little time to think about anything all day every day except downloads, setups, transfers, backups, glitches and missing software. So this isn't a real blog post today - just a minor whine because, you know, I'm the only person in the universe this ever happened to...

Who knew Outlook doesn't come with MS Office (only Outlook Express does). Not that it matters. Pretty much all the software CDs for this laptop have disappeared. Last time I remember seeing them was when I installed them in May 2006, and they seem not to have completed the journey from New York City to Portland, Maine, 18 months ago.

How could that be? Did a box fall off the truck? I tore this place apart to such a degree that it may not be in livable shape again until February. Well, that can't be allowed since guests are coming in January. But the missing discs will, I suppose, remain one of life's eternal mysteries.

I actually know what I'm doing in setting up computers from scratch once Windows is reinstalled, but that doesn't allow for lapses in memory - mine, not the computer's. I made a careful list of everything I would need to back up or have handy for the new installation, what new downloads I would need, what my settings are and the license keys for various programs. With the exception of the missing software, I was quite pleased with myself...

Until it came time to import Firefox bookmarks. Ahem - they were not on my neatly organized and printed to-do list, so I am starting from scratch. Years - maybe a decade - of collected and arranged bookmarks (including intended new additions to the Elderbloggers List), and now there's no telling what I won't ever find again. I'm sure there will be some painful surprises over the coming months.

Also, because the new Outlook won't be delivered for several days, I don't have my Contacts list with email addresses, nor emails from many of you that arrived in the two or three days prior to the hard drive wipe on Saturday morning. If I haven't answered, I'm not ignoring you - I just won't be able to retrieve those emails until Outlook arrives.

Even with all that, it's like getting a new laptop from Santa Claus. I know from previous experience that IBM ThinkPad T60s are workhorse machines and this one is now in pristine condition as though it just came from the factory, chugging along nicely like it had never been used before.

To all of you who suggested I buy a Mac (as opposed to stabbing myself) - that's not in the budget any time soon and this computer is working beautifully now. However, you are right and when the time comes for a new machine one day, it will be a Mac.

Thank you all for the commiseration and seasonal greetings. Today is Christmas Eve and for those of you who celebrate, I wish you a joyous holiday and that Santa brings you everything you wished for.

[Today at The Elder Storytelling Place, Georgie Bright Kunkel tells of a special Christmas present from 80 years go that is still shining brightly, titled The Red Plush Coat.]


Merry Christmas

Merrychristmas2005

[UPDATE 10:45AM: OH. MY. GOD. Sometimes the world, the gods, Gaia or whomever smiles upon us.

To my utter horror, after tearing the house apart (which will take a couple of days now to restore to a livable condition, I couldn't find my original Windows discs to re-install.

I'm good about not panicking in such situations, but I was dejected at what I would need to go through (beg and grovel?) to get new discs and how long it might take.

I called Lenovo (got through with no wait time on hold) and the customer service guy acted like this happens every day. Hit this key, click that, click that, and then click that, etc. etc. and the machine will be restored to its factory condition when I first received it.

WOW, OH WOW, OH WOW!!!!

I still need to offload everything I want to keep and that's a major undertaking considering how much is on the machine and that might take more than just today. But even the snow doesn't feel so daunting now.

What a great early Christmas present. I'm in a much better mood (she said, grinning).]

Yes, this greeting is a bit early, but get used to it - it may be all you see here at TGB for the next few days.

Technology
My laptop has gone all wonky - a virus run amok and some registry errors that together undoubtedly mean I'll need to reinstall Windows. Most of the time the machine won't boot at all, but I can occasionally get in long enough to retrieve some information I need before the machine goes nuts again.

Meanwhile, I’m using an antique computer in the guest room that is on its last legs; the monitor appears to be ready to die any minute, the noises emanating from inside machine are mildly alarming and it's so slow, it feels like a typewriter. At least I got email set up now so I can send and receive, but if you sent me anything in the past couple of days for which you're expecting an answer, it's hit or miss whether I can do that on the laptop so I'm not making any promises.

One other thing, Typepad has instituted tighter controls on their comment spam filter which means some of your comments don't get published. They are not lost, but I am not notified and must check the Typepad spam folder every hour or so to see if any of you have been labeled spam. I'm keeping up with it as best I can and your comments will be published as soon as I discover them.

Blogging
There is a story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. The Perfect Christmas Tree from Sharon Lippincott. But unless I can tolerate this ancient computer (it’s got better internet access than a 9600 baud modem, but not by much), that blog will fall silent for awhile too.

Weather
Meanwhile, I need to work on moving snow and my car around outside. Yesterday we had a third major dumping in eight days here in Portland, Maine, with more, "they" say, on the weekend and I’m tellin’ ya - I’m not nearly as enamored of snow here as I was in New York City now that I must dig out the car every couple of days and move it here and there to accommodate the city’s snow removal trucks.

All that aside, have a Merry Christmas everyone and if you have any tips on reinstalling Windows with the least amount of pain, do send them along...


The Perversion of American Democracy

category_bug_politics.gif I am more discouraged and hopeless about the future today than I have ever been. I'm exhausted from the presidential campaign from which I have learned nothing about the candidates except their most excessive beliefs - or, rather, pronouncements, because there is no way to know what they believe. Their messages shift with the wind of the polls and all we are given by the news media day after day, hour upon hour (and where else is there to go for information?) is who is ahead by five points or 10 points or behind by 15.

Perhaps my hopelessness (and no small amount of fear) is what comes from a close reading over the past five or six hours of campaign coverage - in two dozen newspapers and at least that many political websites and blogs of all stripes, some research into the background of big-money campaign supporters plus the general television news coverage of the past few days which I spot check in the morning, at midday and evening.

The news is always the same - they just recycle yesterday's script and substitute new numbers. I could recite it from memory except for the shifting poll statistics.

From what I can glean, half the Democrats are crypto-Republicans and half the Republicans want to establish a theocracy in America. As a friend refers to him, "that Mormon fellow," trying unsuccessfully to channel John F. Kennedy didn't come within light years of JFK's unequivocal, "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute." Instead he told us "freedom requires religion". God save me and our country from all the ignorant religionists in America (and that's not irony).

I don't mean to single out Governor Romney. All the candidates but one of both parties are smarmy suckups paying lip service to democracy with their carefully crafted non-statements calculated to be empty of substance so they will be beholden to nothing and no one if they are elected.

There is one exception among them, Dennis Kucinich, but the public is not being allowed to hear the lone voice of reality and intelligence in the campaign. The news media almost never lists him in the preference rankings even though he regularly outpolls Senator Biden and Senator Dodd.

And on 13 December, Kucinich was shamefully and shamelessly banned by CNN and sponsor The Des Moines Register from participating in the final Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses based on the stupendously stupid excuse that he doesn't have a campaign office in Iowa, instead working out of his home. Will someone explain to me how this is different from tyranny where the power elite decide whose voices may be heard.

For the rest of them, every healthcare plan is variation on every other healthcare plan designed to further enrich the insurance companies. No one has anything new to say about improving education. All equivocate on the illegal immigrant debate which is a phony issue, anyway - immigrants are here to stay because corporations want the cheap labor.

I can't find anything useful from any candidate about the horrendous economic problems they will inherit if elected. And not one has addressed how they will restore the civil liberties the Bush administration has removed from the Constitution. Or the hundreds of signing statements with which the president has neutered Congressional legislation.

The pundits - paid press and unpaid bloggers (yes, me too) - discuss the issues and candidates as though they matter. Only one thing matters - the person who will be selected president, and I use the word "selected" purposefully because the corporatocracy decides who wins.

So what if Ron Paul raises $6 million in one day. Corporations can dump a hundred times that much into the campaign in the blink of an eye. What's that to such as a CEO of Goldman Sachs who was paid $70 million in 2007 - and that's just salary, not yet counting his year-end bonus. Some predict the cost of this presidential election will come close to a billion dollars. Think what that amount could do for the education system or those 47 million citizens without health coverage.

As backup - just in case the American public is pissed off enough to see through the money haze - the corporatocracy, much of it controlled by the most zealous of the religious right, have their rigged voting machines to assure the victory of their candidate. Our government is owned by corporations, exists to serve the wealthy and the next election is already decided. The 11 months between now and election day are a charade, a perversion of democracy.

And you know what? Even if all that weren't so, when was the last time any president lived up to his campaign promises?

[In keeping with the approaching holiday, today at The Elder Storytelling Place, Lia tells of the Ghost of Christmas Past.]


The Non-Social Security Crisis

[REMINDER: For those who want to switch to a new carrier for your Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage, you have 12 more days until the enrollment period expires on 31 December.]

category_bug_politics.gif A lot of the presidential candidates, Democrats included, refer to the Social Security "crisis" in the same terms President Bush did, a couple of years ago, when he was trying to privatize (read: kill) the most successful social program in the history of the world.

Let me be clear again: Social Security has no chance of failing any time soon and it will take only a couple of tweaks to keep it solvent for the long term. This is important to know as the candidates blather on about things they, apparently, know nothing about and we make our choices - for president and Congress alike - over the coming year.

Now, thanks to the good folks at the Entitled to Know blog, who cover Social Security and Medicare matters with great authority, we are directed to one of the best and most comprehensive stories refuting the political propaganda against Social Security, published last week in The Dallas Morning News and written by Bob Moos.

"To say, as some politicians have, that Social Security is going broke is not just wrong but also counterproductive," said Thomas Saving, a Social Security trustee and director of the Private Enterprise Research Center at Texas A&M University. "It needlessly scares people," reports Mr. Moos.

He also quotes other experts:

"Social Security can afford 78 million boomers and, with some reforms, future generations as well," said Virginia Reno, vice president for income security at the National Academy of Social Insurance.
"The public has been led to think Social Security is out-of-date and on its last legs," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "Haven't we been scared enough?"

As Mr. Moos points out, Social Security will run a surplus this year, after paying benefits, of $189 billion and annual surpluses will continue for about another ten years. In 2017, the system will begin paying out more than it takes in. Interest on the surplus will be used first to pay benefits, then the reserves themselves.

In 2041, if nothing is done, the reserves will be used up, and Social Security will be able to pay only 75 percent of benefits on a pay-as-you-go system.

However, it doesn't take much to ensure Social Security - IF Congress makes changes soon.

Moos lists most of the possible correction choices that we discussed here two years ago during the president's kill-Social-Security campaign. An overview:

  • Raise retirement age
  • Change the cost-of-living adjustment
  • Raise the earnings cap
  • Use the estate tax
  • Invest part of the trust fund in stocks
  • Encourage private accounts

You can read short explanations of these ideas in Mr. Moos's story along with a brief overview of each candidate's proposals.

Now here's the coolest part. Mr. Moos links to "The Social Security Game" at the American Academy of Actuaries website. In the game, you can choose which fixes you like best and at the end, you'll see whether you have covered the future shortfall in Social Security. This isn't just for fun; it will inform you about whether a given candidate's solution makes sense.

Plus, there is a lot of material at the actuaries' site to help you understand the Social Security issue so you will know when the candidates are trying to snow you.

The 2008 election is undoubtedly the most important in our lifetimes. Our country is in deep trouble on many fronts and there are a lot of issues we need to be on top of to make informed choices at the ballot box - not that any of those choices are anywhere near ideal. But they're all we've got.

[The Christmas season is nigh upon us so today at The Elder Storytelling Place, Nancy Leitz recalls a childhood holiday ritual in Christmas Shopping 1939.]


Elder Comedian - Mrs. Hughes

[EDITORIAL NOTE: There is a Q&A interview with Mrs. Hughes here.]

A long time ago, we had Phyllis Diller to feed us one-liners about getting old, but that genre of comedian mostly stopped with her. Not so anymore. Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles sent me a video clip from a performance by Mrs. Hughes.

Apparently, Carol Hughes has been doing her standup act for a some time, but I hadn't run into her and she restored my sense of humor yesterday after shoveling my car out of what felt like ten feet of snow.

And so, ladies and gentlemen - Mrs. Hughes...


There is a Time Goes By interview with Mrs. Hughes here.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Tamar explains how she was blogging decades before blogging existed in Child Bloggers.]


A Tempest in a Blogging Teapot

[We are entering the annual award season and I'm proud to announce that Time Goes By has been given the first "Blog of the Week" award from citrus at There's Alway Something... who describes the award as "the most interesting, inspiring, funny, provocative - whatever - that I came across during the week." Thank you, citrus, and I'm sure we'll all be keeping an eye on your weekly awards.]

A couple of months ago, a new elderblog appeared among us, Code Name Nora, in which Nora, who is 80 and a newly-arrived resident in a retirement community, writes in the third person about her experiences with others who live there.

I’ve forgotten how Nora’s blog came to my attention, but I was charmed by her off-center attitude, style and excellent writing. I soon added her to the Elderbloggers List.

From the first, there were doubters. Terri of Writing Away on Cedar Key posted this comment on one of Nora’s early entries:

“So I know I'll be a regular reader here in your Twilight Zone. I'll also be adding you to my favorite page.”

Then, she amended her opinion with this comment:

“Very good writing with entertaining stories. And call me suspicious - but golly, this sure sounds like a preview of a novel to come.”

joared of Along the Way took up the drumbeat with a similar comment:

“…guess I agree with terri about this sounding much like a budding novel.”

Without referencing those comments, Nora admitted to thoughts of fiction-writing :

“Nora has in mind a novel she wants to write…Three old ladies live in a retirement home. They are Nora, Pat, and Winifred. They’ve had the usual hard knocks in their lives and now should be able to take life easy...”

A few days later, Alice of Wintersong posted this comment to Nora’s blog:

“Nora, you aren't really an 81 year old woman are you?”

Because of these comments, I took a closer look at Nora’s blog than I might otherwise have done and immediately noticed that the image of her is a Photoshopped composite, and poorly done at that. Matty of Running on Empty commented on the faked photo, to which Nora replied:

“Oh, Matty, someone noticed! At last. No, the body is courtesy of an ad in Victoria's Secret catalog. The face, of course, is prim old me.”

All this doubting would be merely an amusing cyber-aside if an elderblogger had not emailed angrily ripping me for including Nora on the Elderblogger’s List and asking if I know what credibility Nora has. Because this is a private email, I can’t quote it, but it suggested that Nora is not who she purports to be and therefore my Elderblogger’s List can no longer be trusted, that I no longer vet blogs for honesty.

Hul-lo! I collect URLs for new elderblogs I find and add them to the list, if they meet my criteria, when I have time. Let me be clear: I am not in the business of doing background checks on bloggers.

However, I’m more disturbed that elders – grownups! - in back-channel email as though it were a political whisper campaign, would impugn another blogger’s integrity with no basis in fact. Perhaps it is the excellence of Nora’s writing that makes some suspicious. I can’t find it now, but somewhere I read a comment that Nora writes very well “for an 80-year-old" which added to the suspicions that she is not who she says she is. Sounds like a little bit of elder ageism to me. Why shouldn’t she be a good writer at 80? Writing skills only get better with time and use.

Or, maybe, it is the third-person style that bothers people. It is a time-honored literary device that can be annoying but which, in fact, Crabby Old Lady uses on this blog without having been accused of dishonesty.

Nora announced in her first post that her “cybername” is Nora, implying that it is not her real name - and maybe that seems less than forthright. But many bloggers use pseudonyms for important, valid and even whimsical reasons (two I know for certain come to mind) and sometimes you don’t know that a real-sounding name is a not the person's real name at all.

We all try to read between the lines to help us determine more about the people behind the blogs we like, but unless you’ve come to know a fellow blogger off line, you don’t KNOW if any blogger is telling the truth about him- or herself. So attempting to winnow out how honest someone may be is a fool’s game.

Authenticity (a word that lately is way overused) is valued in the blogosphere and undoubtedly most bloggers are not pretending to be something or someone they are not. No one can maintain a false front, writing every day for years, without slipping. But just as undoubtedly, some do create online personae that are different from their own. It’s not a crime. (At Second Life, it is an art form.)

When they started, personal blogs were mostly collections of links to online places people wanted to pass on, usually without much commentary. They developed into personal journals, expanded into advocacy and topics and a few have now become as important as newspapers for needed information. Some blogs hardly deal in words at all, only video. Blogs are always in the process of transforming themselves and Code Name Nora may be a new(ish) direction.

Or not.

Nora has chosen to write in the third person in a novelistic style. I don’t care if it’s fiction in disguise; as with all good fiction, there are truths being told. And I don’t care if Nora is outed at some future point as a professional novelist or a 35-year-old, beer-swilling biker. Code Name Nora is funny, charming and a delight to read so I'm taking Nora at face value. If a guessing game about whether she is "authentic" must go on, let's keep it in all good fun and not be mean about it.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Rabon Saip tells a most extraordinary love story, Muriel.]


Ollie the Cat Wakeup Video

category_bug_oliver I really, really wanted to sleep in this morning. I was up late reading last night, I have a lot I want to get done today so I intended to be completely refreshed from a full night's sleep.

Ollie the cat had a different idea at 5:15AM and there is no ignoring him when he's on a wakeup mission. Browsing email with coffee 15 minutes later, I discovered this video sent by Melinda Applegate. I've seen it before and lost track of where it was. I've now discovered that it's been viewed on YouTube nearly three million times, so you've probably seen it.

But it makes me laugh every time and it duplicates Ollie the cat's wakeup procedure to a tee. (Do they all learn this in the womb?) So I thought you might enjoy it again too, and now it's where I can always find it. Enjoy.


The Facebook Menace

In the past week or so, Crabby Old Lady has received dozens of Facebook emails

  • from strangers who want to be her friend
  • from people she knows sending imaginary snowballs, beer and teddy bears
  • from the same people asking her to send the imaginary beer back to them
  • from people requesting she write on their walls
  • from people asking her to write on their superwalls, whatever that is
  • from people asking her to join a group of some kind

Some of these requests require Crabby to install third-party programs to read the messages. One took so long that she made lunch, read two chapters of a book and when she returned to her desk, it was still installing itself.

In addition, Facebook may be the most usability-challenged site on the web. Crabby Old Lady might have sent that beer back if she could have figured out how. And write on a wall? Crabby can’t find any walls on Facebook or much of anything else. The navigation sucks.

Nevertheless, sometimes she succumbs to the email notices and dips in her toe. She is always sorry.

Another annoyance is that whenever Crabby accepts a friend invitation, the form asks where she met the person. Crabby thinks it’s pretty strange that a website created by a college student doesn’t have a “through blogging” choice, and since she didn’t go to college, the numerous requests for college connections and affiliations are useless to Crabby. Plus, there is another irritation no one seems to mention - the pages are incredibly slow to load.

If all that weren't enough to send Crabby fleeing, there is also the uncomfortable guilt factor to Facebook. All those people who send Crabby Old Lady beer, teddy bears and ask her to write on their walls mean well. Some of them are Crabby’s friends, people she likes, and it feels rude to her not to respond. But she can’t keep up with her real email so imaginary beer is not on her agenda and she doesn’t like feeling guilty or unfriendly every day.

Facebook’s ageist groups have been discussed here in the past, but a link recently fell into Crabby’s inbox leading to an even more disgusting report. Facebook founder/media-golden-boy, 24-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at a tech conference last spring, had this advice for aspiring technology entrepreneurs:

“I want to stress the importance of being young and technical,’ he stated. ‘If you want to found a successful company, you should only hire young people with technical expertise… Young people are just smarter.”

The TGB Bias Test hasn’t been used in a long time, but these statements cry out for it. The test involves replacing ageist bigotry in public statements with racist or sexist bigotry to show how little attention is paid when the targets are old people.

Hardly anyone objected to Mr. Zuckerberg’s ageist statements, but imagine the uproar if he had said, “You should hire only white people” or “Men are just smarter.”

Wolf Blitzer would have led the The Situation Room with that story.

Thousands of old people use Facebook. Apparently, Mr. Zuckerberg doesn’t mind adding them to his questionable membership count, but he wouldn’t hire any of them. His stunning ignorance is an excellent example of the reasons to not give inexperienced young people too much money, adulation and power. This kid doesn’t even know that if it is his hiring practice to exclude old people, it would be better for him and his investors (Microsoft) to keep his mouth shut about it in public.

For all these reasons, Crabby Old Lady tried to cancel her membership. But that’s not so easy at Facebook. In fact, it is impossible. One can only “deactivate” an account and even then, you must be sure to check a box to opt out of future email. A note warns:

“Even after you deactivate, your friends can still invite you to events, tag you in photos, or ask you to join groups. If you opt out, you will NOT receive these email invitations and notifications from your friends.”

Oh, dear - as if this breaks Crabby’s heart. But more important, it means her presence is not removed from Facebook and she has lost control of her information.

In addition, it means that Facebook’s phenomenal membership statistics are false; since no one can cancel, membership can only grow. Do you think Bill Gates thought this through before investing in Facebook? There is no telling how many people, like Crabby, want out and can't do it.

So Crabby Old Lady must be content to “deactivate” her Facebook account. She doesn’t mean to be rude to her friends – real and ephemeral – but to her, the “service” represents all the things that are wrong with so-called social media.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Grannymar tells of her efforts to "gift wrap" her daughter in I Gave My Wedding Dress Away.]


Trickle Down Celebrity Ageism

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“There aren't that many good roles for women over 40,” said 43-year-old Demi Moore a few months ago. “A lot of them don't have much substance, other than being someone's mother or wife. If we are told we are not valuable once we hit 30, it is a problem. We all have more to give…We can't just wait for something to happen. We have to say, ‘I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more.’”
- MSNBC.com, 14 September 2007

At 49, Madonna is feeling the professional age pinch too:

"Not only does society suffer from racism and sexism but it also suffers from ageism. Once you reach a certain age you're not allowed to be adventurous, you're not allowed to be sexual. I mean, is there a rule? Are you supposed to just die?"
- contactmusic.com, 12 October 2007

It’s not just women stars. 70-year-old Dustin Hoffman is forsaking Hollywood for the same reason:

"I might get the father who's dying or an Alzheimer's part. That's why I don't work that much and why I want to work in Europe right now. I have a much better shot at my age of getting a lead role. No one writes leads for people my age unless you're a signature actor who carries a gun and has a little more longevity."
- kcjb910.com, 10 October 2007

At their personal level, I’m not inclined to pay much attention to multi-millionaire celebrities who moan about their lack of work. Unlike “real people” who are victims of age discrimination, they won’t lose their homes and health coverage and unless they are extravagantly profligate, they won’t spend their old age in penury as a result of lost jobs.

But their mid- and late-life career crises are important to the rest of us because media – movies, television, music, the supermarket tabloids – bombard us with visions of gloriously gorgeous youth, excluding age from our collective, public consciousness.

The trickle-down theory may have lost its influence in economics, but it works quite nicely in perpetuating ageism. When aging media stars disappear from view, so do aging workers in other fields. When no one sees old people, they become the “other”, unknown, strange, feared - and not hired.

The problem of ageism in the entertainment industry begins, in large part, with age discrimination against writers. In recent years, there have been several lawsuits against production companies that jettison the people - when they reach 40 or so - who create the stories and characters that entertain us. And young writers, having grown up in a profoundly ageist society where most portrayals of old people are negative, are not capable of imagining old age in any other way. They write – as the adage instructs us – about what they know, and what they know about old people is what their own media have taught them – illness, incapacity, incontinence.

The exceptions of such celebrities as Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Tony Bennett who manage to keep finding good work into their 70s and 80s are just that, exceptions and even they are too often victims of the “still syndrome” that infects many who write about old people: “Isn’t it amazing that she is still going strong at her age” or “He proved that he can still thrill a crowd.”

It is mostly the media that perpetuate ageism and which can do the most to change the common misperceptions about old people. But they do not and I haven’t the slightest idea how to change that. However, until it does change, ageism will continue to trickle down from celebrities to the rest of us.

We should keep our eye on Dustin Hoffman and if Europe works out for him, we can consider joining him there.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mage Bailey gives us her take on the importance of the right shoes as we get older in What Did You Give Up?]


A Nasty, Medicare/Social Security Regulation

category_bug_journal2.gif Several readers have asked what I was referring to when, in my post announcing that I’ll not shut down Time Goes By, I mentioned a nasty Medicare/Social Security regulation that will dramatically reduce my benefits next year.

You are right to ask. It is something everyone needs to know so you don't learn the hard way as I have, and can plan for it.

For reference in understanding how nasty this is, here is my recent financial background:

After a year of unfruitful search for work, in 2005 I put my New York apartment on the market to be able to move to a less expensive city. Another year passed, unemployed, while I upgraded the apartment for sale, went through showings for longer than anticipated and waited out a three months’ lag between sale contract and closing. So in the end there was a total of two years accumulation of debt. (All the savings I once had was gone from a previous period of unemployment that had lasted 14 months for which I was still paying off credit cards at the time of the second layoff in 2004.)

I had owned my Greenwich Village apartment for 23 years and it sold, happily, for a lot of money. The real estate agent took a six percent bite of the sale price, and paying off the mortgage and debt took another 20 percent or so. Still, I could comfortably buy my new place in Portland, Maine, a car, pay the several thousand in moving expenses with some left over to invest.

The purpose of the investments is not income, but safety and modest growth so that should I become ill or disabled, there is money to care for me.

Because I own my apartment and my car outright and have no debt, my Social Security benefit has covered my monthly costs with a small amount left over for frills. It’s about 20 to 25 percent of what I was earning in my later working years and I live close to the bone. Everyone can use more money, but my needs are few and I don’t feel deprived.

And so it went until the letter arrived from the Social Security Administration (SSA) almost two weeks ago. In case you don’t know, here is how Social Security works with Medicare:

  • There is no cost for Medicare Part A.
  • The premium for Medicare Part B is set at the beginning of each year and is the same for everyone. In 2008, it is $96.40.
  • The Medicare Part B premium is deducted from beneficiaries’ monthly Social Security benefit.

Simple enough, right? Except, here is that nasty little exception, as explained in the letter I received from SSA:

“Medicare law requires some people to pay a higher premium for their Medicare Part B based on their income.”

In the letter, there is a table with columns for: Filing Status; MAGI (I know, it sounds like a seasonal gift, but it means, “modified adjusted gross income”); and the Monthly Adjustment to the Part B premium at various levels of income.

The tax return on which this year's “adjustment” is based is two years old – 2006, the year, in my case, when due to the sale of my New York home, I showed a humongous adjusted gross income.

If you are older than 55 when you sell your primary residence, you are allowed a deduction for capital gains tax purposes of up to $250,000, all of which I took in 2006. Even so, I paid tens of thousands of dollars in capital gains that year.

[By the way, for many years all capital gains tax on the sale of a primary residence was waived, one time only, as long as the money was reinvested in another home within a specified period of time. We have President Clinton to thank for removing that waiver.]

And now, NOW – the Social Security Administration is reducing my benefit by increasing my Medicare Part B premium at the highest level imposed - by nearly $2000 over the year 2008. That doesn’t sound like much, but in my case, it covers the “frills” I mentioned including veterinary care for the cat, birthday gifts, unexpected expenses that turn up such as, perhaps, a repair bill for the boiler, dental work or a plumbing problem.

According to SSA, this premium increase can be adjusted downward under certain circumstances, which they list, and none of which I meet. Beyond that, according to the letter,

“We cannot make a new decision if your income has gone down for a reason other than those listed above, such as receiving a one-time income from capital gains. [emphasis added]

Here is how that regulation should be written: “…such as receiving a one-time income from capital gains, excluding the sale of your primary residence.”

Many people, when or sometime after they retire, sell the home they have lived in for decades. Even without the housing price inflation of recent years, they are likely to have a one-time, giant income spike due to the sale. Although its purpose is not to cover living expenses, I have the cushion of that modest investment account if I can’t find work next year, but many people do not.

I mentioned in my return-to-blogging post that I was struck by how mean politicians are in their legislation and this Medicare regulation qualifies. After having settled into retirement and based living arrangements on a known Social Security benefit, to cut it so drastically is shockingly callous and a hardship for elders.

If downsizing your home or selling anything else of substantial value is part of your retirement plan, you must take this regulation into account as you plan your retirement budget. It’s no fun being surprised.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon McKinney explains how a chance encounter with a past lover can be bittersweet in Going Up the Stairs.]


Guest Blogger: Darlene Costner

category_bug_journal2.gif [EDITORIAL NOTE: Darlene Costner does not keep a blog, but her name should be familiar to you from her many comments in the elder blogosphere. When she told me via email that she would soon be getting a cochlear implant and if all went well, would be able to hear again for the first time in decades, I asked her to write about the experience for TGB.

Boomers (and some older folks too) have a higher incidence of hearing loss than previous generations due to too many rock concerts in our past. Darlene’s report will give you a good understanding of this procedure should it be necessary and possible for you or someone you know. So here is Darlene’s experience titled My Cochlear Implant.]

If you are wondering what the heck this is all about I am about to enlighten you. It’s all about hearing, or lack thereof.

When I was in my forties, I incurred an inner ear disease called Meniere’s Syndrome. This can cause dizziness and/or a hearing loss. In my case the dizziness was the first symptom and the hearing loss followed.

I will not bore you with a medical report on everything that happened at that time. Eventually my hearing stabilized and I was able to function without the use of a hearing aid for about ten years. (I did ask people to repeat a lot.) Then my hearing gradually worsened over a period of the next thirty years. I started with one hearing aid and eventually needed aids in both ears. I progressed to needing digital aids and telephones for the hearing impaired. I made the adjustments as they became necessary.

My hearing loss became episodic. There were days when I could understand conversation and I was able to function reasonably well. I had problems in public places with noisy backgrounds but I could understand what was said in a quiet environment.

However, for the last four years there were mornings when I would wake and not be able to understand anything. The human voice was distorted and sounded like a radio that was not tuned in properly. These episodes would last from four to ten days and then I would be able to hear once more.

The good periods grew further and further apart and eventually trickled off to very few good days. I found I had trouble understanding what people said most of the time.

Leaving home became a nightmare. People would be friendly and try to start a conversation and I would explain that I couldn’t understand them. At times I just got tired of explaining and I would pretend to hear what they were saying and smile and nod. I could tell by the expression on their faces that I had smiled inappropriately or I hadn’t answered a question.

This became stressful for me and I stayed home more and more. When I was forced to go out in public, I would take a book to bury my nose in it to avoid conversation. I was not a social butterfly.

A few episodes due to my lack of understanding are now funny, but at the time they were embarrassing. One time my granddaughter, who was about five at the time, telephoned me. I couldn’t tell a single thing she said but I knew that asking her to repeat would be a waste of time so I just made comments like, “That’s nice, Honey. Oh that’s great,” thinking that she was telling me what she had been doing.

When my daughter took the phone back she asked me if I knew what Rachel had been saying. I replied, “Not a clue.” She informed me that Rachel had been telling me that she had been sick. Poor child to have such a mean Grandma to say it was nice that she had been sick.

Another time I had made BLT sandwiches for my son and daughter, who were visiting me. I served my son, who was sitting at the kitchen counter, and turned my back to get my daughter’s sandwich. I heard him whisper to his sister, “Is this all the bacon we get?”

Imagine his embarrassment when I turned back and said, “Oh, do you want more?” The look of confusion on his face was priceless. Once in awhile I heard things that I was not meant to hear.

One Sunday each year, our church had Woman’s Day. I was vice-president of the woman’s society and as such, was required to give part of the service. Included in my part was making the announcements. The president was going to take the same part in the second service.

Before going into the sanctuary, I went in the office to get the announcements. While I was there the president was teasing me and asking me to take the second service also because I would be experienced. While she was kidding me, the office filled up with people and I left.

As I was walking out the door, the president called to me from the back of the office and I thought she was teasing me again asking me to take the next service. I threw up my hands and said most emphatically, “Oh no!” The next day she informed me that she had actually asked me if I would take her little boy home after I was through with my duties. She told me that people turned to her and said, “Well, what’s the matter with Rusty?” How embarrassing. Embarrassment is a large part of a profound hearing loss, I discovered.

Several years ago, I did research on a wonderful new technology called a cochlear implant. This is a device that is embedded in the mastoid bone and inner ear where an electrode array is inserted in the cochlea. A receiver similar to a hearing aid is connected to it and it sends the sound signals to the cochlear nerve.

The device is implanted behind and above the ear and a headpiece about the size of a quarter attaches to it by the magnet embedded in the skull. There are different devices and some require a receiver that is worn on the body. Mine does not.

The surgery is done under general anesthetic and takes from one-and-a-half to five hours. It is normally done as outpatient surgery. Infection at the site of surgery is the thing to watch out for. Should that occur, the patient will probably lose what hearing he/she had and will be worse off than before.

The device is activated (referred to as “turning it on”) as soon as the swelling has gone down after surgery. There is further fine tuning to the device until the patient is able to achieve the maximum hearing possible. Normal hearing will never be achieved and the patient is encouraged to have low expectations.

Prior to surgery, I met with the audiologist to make a selection as to which device I would be implanted with. There are three manufacturers at the present time. Since there has been no study as to the value of one device over another, this selection is a hit-and-miss piece of guesswork.

I had done my homework on the Internet and told her I wanted a device that had been helpful to some in regaining the sound of music. (That sound is usually lost with the implant.) While nothing is guaranteed as a result of the surgery, there had been cases of patients eventually recovering the sound of music after a year of hard work.

After the implant, nothing will sound the same as it did when the patient had normal hearing. Some have described the human voice as sounding like a cartoon voice. Others say everything sounds mechanical.

Once the implant is turned on, the hard work begins. The patient has to train his/her brain to recognize sounds and the implant has to be fine tuned until the best results possible are achieved. This is an endeavor between the audiologist and the patient that usually takes a year, but varies with each patient.

The audiologist gave me a final hearing test to help her in deciding on which side to use the implant. This is a difficult decision, because if the implant is done on the side of the best ear and if it fails the patient will lose what hearing was in that ear forever. For me it is doubly difficult because I had mastitis on the bad ear side; however there was no distortion in that ear.

I had to trust my audiologist to make the right decision because if things go wrong, I would be totally deaf after the implant. It was a time of mixed emotions. I was excited, but also very apprehensive.

Surgery
The day of surgery finally arrived and it was an extremely stressful experience. The audiologist had not done the study and the doctor didn’t know which side to put the implant on. He finally made me choose and I chose the weakest ear when he couldn‘t tell me whether or not I would still have distortion in my best ear. I couldn’t help thinking that if it didn’t go well I would be the one to take the blame. I refer to this as covering one’s posterior.

Surgery was backed up and my operation was delayed for four hours. This meant that I had been without food or drink for 22 hours and I was getting quite weak. My surgery took two hours and I was the last patient to leave the recovery room. I was booted out with hugs from the nurses and two prescriptions - one for an antibiotic and one for pain meds. I had a big plastic bubble (called a cone) on the side of my head that covered the surgical area that was held in place by a Velcro strap around my head.

My implant was turned on (activated) six days after surgery. I had parts of an orchestra in my head. The human voice sounded like a duck quacking along with a very soothing tone. I couldn’t distinguish a single word.

On the second day of my implant, I played the piano. When, to my amazement, I was able to hear my playing without distortion, I jumped up yelling “YES” giving two thumbs up. It’s a good thing I was alone because my friends would have thought I had finally lost it completely.

I could hear what I was playing and it sounded normal with one exception. The keys in the upper register sounded tinny. Since these are sounds in the higher resolution that may never change.

On day fifteen, I could finally distinguish more words and the quacking duck had left my head. I need to practice with a talking book reinforced by the text of the book that I read at the same time. The brain has to be taught all over to recognize sounds and it’s slow work. Some people are able to understand conversation rather soon, but I am a slow learner, I fear. Some people take months and I am hoping I am not one of them.

I had my first mapping on day seventeen. I call this fine tuning the device. It is actually adjusting the electrical signals from the implant to the cochlea. At this first step I ended up with three programs: 1. soft; 2. medium; and 3. loud. Eventually those programs will change to music, noisy places and normal environment. The following day, I listened to a DVD with a vocal. The album had 11 selections and I was able to hear three of them. The rest were just strange noises. I believe that the more familiar music is easier for me to hear and, although I knew the other melodies, they were not as easy to sort out.

It has been 22 days since my implant. Each day I hear more and today I had a complete conversation with a friend and heard nearly every word. My friends will no longer have to shout at me to make me hear. It is going to change my life and I am looking forward to leaving my safe house and exploring the world once more.

[Just because I can and it's fun, I've made this an all-Darlene Day. At The Elder Storytelling Place, she tells the tale from her vantage point of how a famous novel came to be in The Young Authors.]


Aging, Femininity and Sex Toys

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The folks at the Elder Abuse blog have honored Time Goes By with their Blogger of the Year Award. In doing so, they have linked to each chapter of my "mom series" - A Mother's Last Best Lesson - which recounts the time I spent caring for my mother during the last months of her life and is the story I am most proud of writing. I'm proud of this award too. Please do stop by their site.]

Not infrequently over the years, people have described me as “one tough broad” implying that I express some of what are usually considered masculine traits. (If only those folks knew how squishy I am inside.)

On the other hand, many years ago, after I had made the morning transition from just-awakened horror hag to fully coifed and war-painted working woman, the man of the moment in my life said, in all seriousness and as a compliment, “I’ve never known another woman as feminine as you.”

It is always interesting to learn how we are perceived by others and that moment stuck with me. I pondered what he might have meant for a long time eventually deciding it was not the externals he was commenting upon (although they were part of it), but my inherent, inborn female-ness that is as immutable as the rising sun. It is what I am.

I have never questioned my female-ness and more, relish the biological manifestations of being a woman with fascination and even, sometimes, awe: the breathtaking beauty in the roundness and curves of women’s bodies; the sense of primal connection to the natural order of the universe in menstruation. The sudden swings in body temperature and other phenomena of menopause amazed and amused me.

In recent years, it has been interesting to watch my body’s transition to an outwardly more neuter appearance while my internal femininity remains steadfastly intact.

This came to mind recently when Lia of Yum Yum Cafe, told me that a friend wondered what I would say about "combating the menopausal body changes women experience, the loss of femininity.”

“I told her that I didn’t really know what you would say on the matter," wrote Lia, "but I believed you wouldn’t give any bloody tips along the line of be proud [to] wear make-up; titillating tummy tucks with 50; botox, the wrinkle eraser; sex toys for the adventurous at heart and weak of bladder. Instead, I thought you might discuss how it is possible to still feel like a woman even though we are losing/have lost our sense of femininity.”

She was so right in her answer that I hardly need to say more except that I heartily endorse sex toys at any age if that is your pleasure.

In all the personal observations I make here at Time Goes By, I operate on the assumption that I am not unique. That is, if I experience something, so do many others, maybe even a majority, but perhaps it hasn’t been pointed out and that may apply to Lia's friend's question.

While I was still working full time, up until mid-2004, I didn’t notice any body neutering. New little jowls had developed, my mid-section had thickened and although I had stopped trying to force my body back into its age 25 form, I looked, to myself, as feminine as any woman, even occasionally sexy when I made the effort.

The change in my appearance since then has been swift. (That far-right photo in the banner is nearly five years old and needs updating.) Some of the change is due to allowing my hair to go gray and refusing to spend another moment ever in a hair salon. But most of it results from subtle shifts in my face that become apparent in all of us, I suspect, when we stop listening to the incessant marketing messages to be young, young, young forever.

In addition, a flat belly, slim hips and upturned, perky tits are long behind me and without knowing how the feeling came to be, I don’t care. As my mother once said (in the more frightening context of cancer), “What do I need breasts for. I’m 74, not 24.”

Attaining a more androgynous appearance as we get older allows us to move on to the new role nature intends for us in late life – that of elders with more concern for the world outside ourselves than the more ego-driven mid-years.

We don’t lose our femininity with menopause - that is, if we do not define femininity as sexual allure. In fact, I would argue, that our new position in life is super-feminine, the nurturing, instruction and, sometimes, wisdom we can pass on to those coming up behind us while being an example for their old age when it arrives.

We don’t need to “combat menopausal body changes.” We need to accept them as a signal that it is time to begin moving into a new stage of life. Now I’ll admit the culture we live in doesn’t give elders a lot of room to do that, but we can embrace it individually for the good of world around us and for our personal self-realization. The concerns of late life should be and are different from youth and midlife.

That doesn’t mean, in our private moments alone or with whomever we choose, we can’t still indulge in the pleasures of the flesh – with or without sex toys. And what’s more feminine than that?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Alice Pasupathi muses on the similarities between humans and bugs in
Ode to a Cockroach Killed While Trying to Get From Here to There.
]


Scrabbling Back From a Dark Night of the Soul

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“Caring for Mom during her final three months was the most profound and powerful experience of my life. It was a gift, a grace, a blessing I would wish upon everyone.”

That’s a quote from the penultimate chapter of my “mom series” recounting the time I spent taking care of my mother 24/7 at the end of her life. It is still true. Now, 15 years later, that event has a companion – the responses from you, so many of you, about shutting down Time Goes By.

When I posted that entry (not unplanned, but in a snit), I snapped shut the laptop and took the rest of the day off from the computer. Checking email the next morning was shocking as the messages poured into my email box – some of them comments, others private email.

And that was just the beginning. They kept coming that day and the next and the next. For a few moments, as I began reading, I thought, “yeah, yeah, yeah, they’ll get over it.” And then, as I continued, I was ashamed of that quick take. Most of us sometimes say mean or nasty things in a fit of anger that we are sorry for later. But no one says nice things they don’t mean.

While I read message after message, tears dribbled down my cheeks, as they are again now as I try to write this.

I honestly had no idea – none – that so many people think this blog space is important. A bunch of people who have never commented delurked to ask me to reconsider. I heard from an old friend I haven’t spoken with in nearly a decade who, unbeknownst to me, has been reading this blog.

I didn’t know (or had forgotten) how many of you I encouraged to start blogging. And others who have a new and better feeling about getting old from reading Time Goes By. I am overwhelmed, abashed and pleased to hear that TGB has made a difference in people’s lives.

You must have guessed that those lightweight reasons for quitting I gave in Monday’s post were not the whole story. Although in the past few days, you have raised my spirits, for some time I have been increasingly weary - having what has been/continues to be a dark night of the soul:

  • Our country’s slippage into an authoritarian state while the big-time media entertain us to death is deeply disturbing. S.1959 is only the latest and most frightening manifestation of it and if you don’t believe that, you are part of the problem. Author Naomi Wolf knows what she’s talking about.
  • Ordinary living - just the day-to-day stuff of trying to keep a job, get the kids raised, pay the bills and have enough left over for a restaurant meal or a modest vacation – has become demonstrably harder for almost everyone, out of reach entirely for many. And it has gotten worse in the past seven years. I keep wondering how much responsibility I have for that. We each bear some of it.
  • Our food is tainted, our water resources are drying up, children’s toys are killers and everyone with the power to make changes cares more about their corporate donations that the lives of citizens.
  • I watch the presidential debates, read the candidates’ policy statements and keep my eye on what’s said and done by the president and in Congress. I am struck, in its simplest description, by how mean our leaders are, particularly Republicans and the right-wing, although it is not limited to them. There is money to kill our young soldiers in a war no one understands the reason for and none to give poor children health care.
  • Hedge fund managers are paid more that a billion dollars a year in salary - think of it! - but pay only 15 percent tax and squawk when it is suggested they should contribute more to the common good.
  • Leaders have recently begun throwing around the phrase, World War III, as though it is a fait d’accompli, and that scares the hell out of me.
  • On a personal level, I was advised by Social Security last week that a nasty, little regulation no one knows about (or, I didn’t) will cut my benefits next year enough that I cannot meet my bills. I need to find work and I’ve never been any good at it. I doubt I'm alone in this event.

As Sir Bob Geldoff once said, “If you’re not grumpy, you’re not paying attention.”

In addition to all the lovely messages here and by email, so many of you have written blog posts about my shutting down Time Goes By that I don’t remember who, but someone said my posts have been quite dark lately. I suppose that’s true. It is because we are living in dark, dismal times that cannot be dismissed as politics as usual. Terrible things are happening and it is much worse on many levels than it has ever been in my lifetime.

With all that, your messages have touched me more than I know how to say (it is hard not to pull a Sally Field here). I cannot answer so many individually and I’m sorry about that. But I have read all of the them several times each (oh, shit, I’m tearing up again) and I will quote one that we should all, in our old age, take seriously.

David Wolfe thinks he writes about marketing at his Ageless Marketing blog. He really writes – oh, so eloquently - about how to engage the late years of life, our needs, our duties and responsibilities to ourselves and to the world. I’ve never told him this, but I consider him my mentor in studying and writing about aging. Once again, he has shown me the way. He left, in part, this message:

“As we move deep into our later years we lessen the burdens of age by what we give the world outside our skin. Jung, Maslow, Erikson and other luminaries who have deeply studied the aging spirit talked much about that. Erikson called it ‘generativity.’ Maslow called it transcendence of personal need in service of personal growth. Jung called it ‘letting go of the ego’ on the way to self-realization.

“In a sense, our lives are our own only in the procreational years of our lives. Beyond those years it is in our genes to move beyond the self on behalf of the next generation, the village, the species.”

David’s wisdom, combined with the hundreds of other messages I never guessed would come my way, made the decision for me. Time Goes By will continue and I am glad to be back with, thanks to David, a new perspective. My only regret is that I feel bad about all of you who wished me good tidings - a bit like having attended the funeral only to find it was a practical joke.

A few things will be different:

  1. Any reader may trash me or my thoughts, but only in public. Private emails of that sort will be deleted and no longer acknowledged. (You regulars at that know who you are.)
  2. Do keep recommending blogs for the Elderbloggers List; it is to all our benefit to discover new ones. I will add them or not and if I don’t add one, don’t ask me to explain myself.
  3. Most important: I have felt confined in the past year or so limiting posts to aspects of aging and I realize now I am guilty, in that regard, of ageism not dissimilar to much of the media who write only about health and financial matters in relation to old people as though that is all we care about. So although aging will remain the focus of Time Goes By, subject matter will range further afield in the future. We live too much now in dangerous times not to do so.

During my paid career, I traveled most of the U.S. and a lot of the world, often first class, on someone else’s dime. I worked with kings and queens and movie stars and heads of state, and I had a wonderful time with access few people get to the original sources of almost any information I wanted. No small thrill for someone to whom information and knowledge are manna.

Without negating that, the best time I’ve had in my life, the happiest I’ve been at what I do, is producing Time Goes By. Thank you – each one of you – for inviting me back. “It is a gift, a grace, a blessing.”

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Grannymar gives us a lovely story about the things that become family heirlooms titled Donal's Cot.]