274 posts categorized "Crabby Old Lady"

To Be Old in America in 2012

[NOTE: I know I told you yesterday that there would be a post today from a resident in an assisted living home. That's still coming soon but until then, this today. It's long and will probably bore some of you, but Crabby Old Lady believes it needs to be said.]

If you are old today – let's say 55 and up – and not wealthy (that is, most of us), you live under constant threat of financial disaster. Here is Crabby Old Lady's list of what has happened to elders in the past four years since the 2008 crash:

  1. IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement investments have been decimated; many have never recovered and never will

  2. Home values have dropped by a third or more leaving many with underwater mortgages and in some cases, unfair foreclosures

  3. Millions have been and continue to be laid off from their jobs

  4. Age discrimination means it takes older workers longer to find the next job than any other age group

  5. Many older workers who don't find that next job are forced into early retirement resulting in a lower Social Security Security benefit for life

[Crabby understands that people of all ages are living with brutal financial circumstances but this blog is concerned with elders.]

For many elders, the slightest uptick in food prices, for example, or even a minor emergency can mean choosing between eating and buying prescribed medications.

Those are the current conditions. Let's take a look at some of the threats.

About half the politicians in Congress want to take away or dramatically cut Social Security, Medicare and food stamps among other programs for the poor, disabled and aged. Just as many of them, along with a large number of state governors, want to kill Medicaid which affects elder dual eligibles.

Many of those same elected officials want to raise the retirement age – that is, the age at which full Social Security benefits are allowed – to 70.

Generally, Crabby Old Lady has no objection to people working longer than 66 or 67 but only if they are physically capable so she believes that any legislation raising the retirement age must include accommodation for those whose bodies cannot do it any longer.

Please recall, too, as we have said here many times, that people's bodies age at dramatically different rates so it is not just those who have done heavy physical labor who may not be able to continue working.

With all that in mind, however, there is the elephant in the room, the unspoken Catch-22: they already refuse to allow us work even until we reach the current retirement age.

It's called age discrimination in the workplace. It has always existed but it has become grimly more visible during our four-year recession than in the past.

The average length of unemployment for older workers is at an all-time high — well over a year. On average, it takes someone age 55 or older three months longer to find a job than a younger person.

“These long-term unemployed are disproportionately composed of older workers — who, compared to younger workers, are less likely to lose their jobs, but more likely to have trouble finding re-employment if they are laid off,” reports The New York Times

“Given how far behind these workers have already fallen, it may turn out that many of these Americans will never work again.”

Exactly. Just like me as I've written about here in the past. But I was 63 when I was laid off from my last job. Even though with careful budgeting and belt-tightening I was able to squeak by until I was old enough for full benefits at age 65 and 10 months, I still wound up with a reduced Social Security benefit for not having any income during the last two-and-a-half years until my eligibility.

It's much worse if you are laid off, for example, in your late fifties or early sixties and must scrimp by until age 62 and then take reduced early Social Security benefit. And don't forget that when you do that, you're stuck at the lower figure for the rest of your life. But many have no choice if they enjoy eating.

Speaking of eating, 46.2 million people (nearly one in seven Americans) receive food stamp (SNAP program) aid. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), three million of them are elders.

[By the way, many more elders than the three million are eligible but do not know it. If you believe you or someone you know might be among them, you can find eligibility rules for people age 60 and older here.]

Last week, the House passed a farm bill that cuts $16 billion from the SNAP program while retaining subsidies for corporate farmers. If the bill passes in the Senate, between two and three million people will be thrown off SNAP and 21 million children will not longer qualify for free school lunches.

So one way or another, the people who already stole elders' savings, homes and livelihoods leaving millions in drastically reduced financial circumstances for their old age now seek to further impoverish them.

This is how it is to be old in America today.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The Idaho Trip


How to Invent a Generational War

Crabby Old Lady went into near fits Sunday morning when she saw a story in The New York Times titled, Old vs. Young.

Not again!

Yes, again, although the Times, as is so often the case, is a long way behind the rest of the media.

All of them have been trying to build an argument that greedy geezers are impoverishing young people and they all cite a November 2011 study from the Pew Research Center headlined, The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-Being subtitled, The Old Prosper Relative to the Young.

Like yesterday's screed in the Times, most of the media amplify the tone and point of view from Pew's headline. As reporter David Leonhard wrote in Sunday's Times story:

“If there is a theme unifying these economic and political trends, in fact, it is that the young are generally losing out to the old.”

Although a large part of his story is devoted to the differences in political and social attitudes between young and old, Leonhart continues the onslaught against elders by contrasting, for one example, what he calls the “wealth gap,” based on Pew figures, as unfair to young people. This is Pew's chart on net worth by age:

Pew Net Worth

The stupidity of seeing inequity here astounds Crabby Old Lady. Under 35s have a net worth $3,662 versus $170,494 for 65 and older. So? The largest part of everyone's net worth is the value of their home. Elders have been paying off their mortgages for 30 years longer than 35-year-olds have.

Crabby hates to be obvious, but that is the way the world works. We start out young with very little, we work hard, pay our bills and when we get old, we have accumulated a little wealth to see us through until we die. That is how it is supposed to work.

It's not just net worth. The “wealth gap” Leonhard blames old people for includes income and home ownership all of which are the largest since record-keeping began.

Apparently, he does not know that for the past four years, the U.S. has been living in a recession so deep, some believe it is a depression. Apparently, he does not know that the 2008 crash stole trillions of dollars in savings from everyone, that millions of homes have been foreclosed upon or are underwater, that unemployment is stuck on hold and that employers haven't raised anyone's salary in 30 years.

But never mind that. Young people are hurting and it's old people's fault:

“Young adults are faring worse in the private sector and, in large part because they have less political power, have a less generous safety net beneath them.”

In Leonhart's world, Crabby is guessing, the average $1,100 per month Social Security check is way too much and if young people can't have Medicare then old people shouldn't have it either.

It doesn't occur to Leonhard (or anyone else who blames elders for everyone else's ills) that the better solution all around would be to expand Medicare to everyone along with paying all workers a living wage and seeing that the wealthy among us pay their fair share in taxes.

Yes, young people are having a terribly hard time getting started in the world. Just ask the old people – parents and grandparents – they are still living with after college.

But it is not the fault of old people.

Just as Crabby was winding down this story, an email arrived from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) with economist Dean Baker's response to Leonhard's story.

Baker and Crabby pretty much agree but because Baker is smarter and follows this stuff more closely than Crabby, he had some interesting additional information:

”There is a well-funded effort in this country to try to distract the public's attention from the massive upward redistribution of income over the last three decades by trying to claim that the issue is one of generational conflict rather than class conflict.

“Billionaire investment banker Peter Peterson is the most well-known funder of this effort, having kicked in a billion dollars of his own money for the cause.”

Baker ends his tirade acknowledging that young people are not doing well. Then:

“But this is a story of Wall Street greed, corruption, and incompetence. It has nothing to do with the Social Security and Medicare received by the elderly.

“Leonhardt should be ashamed for falling for this tripe.”

Hear, hear. Do not let the one percent and their sycophants start a generational war.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Hertslet: An Episode of Life or Death in Rome


How Dumb is Crabby Old Lady? Let Her Tell You

Late yesterday morning, Crabby Old Lady had half a blog post written for today. She stopped for lunch and then checked her email which nagged her about updating the program to a new version.

STUPID! IDIOT! MIGHT AS WELL HAVE BEEN DRUNK! As Crabby's hand, on autopilot, maneuvered her mouse pointer toward the update button, her brain clang-clang-clanged a warning too late to prevent her finger from clicking.

When the updated program reloaded, Crabby's calendar - the place where she keeps not only birthdays, appointments, comings and goings, etc., but daily (get that, daily reminders necessary to run Time Goes By smoothly) - was, GASP, gone.

DUNCE! DIMWIT! DOLT! The calendar is an add-on to the email program and Crabby perfectly well knows never to update until she is certain the add-ons have been updated too which years of experience have taught her can take a few days. Sheesh.

After several hours of failed attempts to retrieve her calendar - HER LIFE! - by reverting to the previous email/calendar version, Crabby walked away from the computer. Disgusted with her witlessness, she spent the evening with a bad movie and a good book.

About 40 minutes ago, armed with her first cup of coffee of the day, Crabby sat down at the computer. Oh. My. God. There on the screen was today's half-written blog post.

Crabby forgot not to click the update button AND she forgot to finish her blog post. Next stop: dementia ward.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sydney Halet: Hope


No Way to Treat a Crabby Elderblogger

Crabby Old Lady has been on a rip-roaring tear for most of the weekend and it is about nothing – or very nearly nothing - that affects you, dear reader. Nevertheless, she is going to carry on about it for the next few paragraphs to no purpose whatever except to bitch. You are welcome to take the day off from here.

BACKGROUND
Time Goes By is an ad-free zone. Many years ago, Crabby tried taking advertisements but they cost way too much in maintenance effort than the amount of payoff that is possible for a blog with only a few thousand readers.

Now, after all these years, Crabby enjoys living and working on a website where no story is ever sliced in half (or thirds or quarters) with text exhortations to spend, spend, spend; where no screen yo-yoes up and down from gigantic banner ads opening and closing; and where she never needs to frantically punch the audio-off button when a video commercial starts shouting at her from the sideline.

(Please don't tell Crabby about ad blockers. She has her reasons not to use them.)

The Elderblog List – what others call a blogroll – lists only personal blogs maintained by people who are age 50 and older. The several hundred on the list cover about every topic under the sun but the key (and requirement) for inclusion is that they are all personal blogs.

Business blogs are not allowed and personal ones cannot carry advertisements beyond a smattering of text-style Google Ads or similar services for those trying to make a few extra pennies from their blogs.

THE PROBLEM
This is not new but it has escalated dramatically over the past couple of weeks so that Crabby has been fending off up to half a dozen business owners a day requesting to be added to the Elderblog List.

The only goal of these requests is to flog their product or service to a fairly large, ready-made population of a certain age group – that is, they are trying to fool Crabby Old Lady into giving them free advertising.

And get this: when Crabby explains via a short, polite email why they don't qualify – damn - as often as not, she gets return messages arguing with her. Geez, that's a fairly high level of hubris.

What pissed Crabby off more than usual, however, was a request on Sunday morning from the owner of a business specifically targeting elders.

Not that it would make any difference for inclusion on the Elderblog List, it's a pretty good business idea, even useful for old people. But the owner, besides attempting to fleece ad space from Crabby with a “blog” that is a minor section of the marketing site and hardly ever publishes new material, nowhere tells readers or potential clients how much it costs.

Not anywhere on the website are there individual prices or even price ranges for service levels.

Now, depending on how much she needs or wants it and how good the product/service appears to be, Crabby Old Lady (and probably most of you, too) knows nearly to the dollar how much she will pay for a given product or service.

If it's in her range, she will reveal personal information to a website to learn more or continue the transaction. If it is out of her range, she will not and it is ludicrous for a business owner to expect otherwise by not listing prices.

What makes this lack of price more than a nuisance, contemptible in fact, and infuriates Crabby is that the service – help for elders with downsizing and moving – is often necessary when people become frail and, possibly, confused enough that they are easy prey for zealous sales people.

Many who run small businesses are just trying to get by in a bad economic climate and it can't be easy. But that's not an excuse for bad behavior. Call her paranoid if you like, but Crabby suspects that anyone looking to fool her into giving them free advertising on her blog would not shrink from conducting their business in a similar manner.

That is not to say that Crabby has any recourse but to deny a place on the Elderblog List (which she would have done anyway) and bitch a bit in public.

Oh, my. Crabby feels so much better now.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: Flat Feet


“Honoring” Elders During Older Americans Month

ITEM: The public transportation agency in Portland, Oregon, TriMet, avoids using the word “old” with a hokey euphemism Crabby Old Lady had not heard before moving here. As they explain on their website:

"'Honored Citizen' is how TriMet identifies seniors age 65 or older, people on Medicare and people with mental or physical disabilities. Honored Citizens receive reduced fares and priority seating on buses and trains.”

What a crock. Empty phrases like "honored citizen" are what give political correctness (and in this case, elders), a bad name.

ITEM: A local service organization that does excellent work for elders in many areas of need and interest is using the May designation of Older Americans Month as a fundraiser urging people to donate in the name of an old person who will then receive a “handmade card” recognizing the gift made in their honor.

Just what every elder needs; Crabby is sure they are thrilled.

ITEM: The U.S. government's Administration on Aging (AOA) website explains that Older Americans Month is meant to “honor and recognize older Americans for the contributions they make to our families, communities and society.”

But that's not what the AOA does. Instead, each year, the organization issues a theme for Older Americans Month:

”This year's theme 'Never Too Old to Play' encourages older Americans to stay engaged, active and involved in their own lives and in their communities.”

The AOA's big suggestion for communities to encourage older Americans' engagement is to host a “Day of Play” during May with such activities as a “team trivia night, inter-generational Wii bowling tournament or...a photo scavenger hunt.”

Oh yeah, Crabby is certain that a round of miniature golf will honor elders as never before.

To be fair, an activity guide brochure [pdf] has some other, more palatable, “play” suggestions but to Crabby, it still looks like the same two, disturbingly wrong depictions of elders repeated in every discussion about us:

  • Photos of grinning old people who don't look all that old

  • Concentration on activities that are usually more suitable for second-grade recess period

Crabby Old Lady is not saying crossword puzzles, quilting and Pokeno are not perfectly fine pastimes in their place. But she finds it demeaning that what are, undoubtedly, well-meaning efforts to include elders are always about light entertainment and provide nothing that can be defined as the AOA's own call for elders to be “engaged, active and involved in their own lives and in their communities.”

And just to be clear, Crabby's complaint about all this has nothing to do with the thousands of local social workers nationwide who do amazing work helping elders against sometimes astronomical odds no small part of which is constant cutbacks in federal and local funding.

What Crabby Old Lady objects to is this belittling of old people with empty "honoring." Crabby does not want to be honored, especially with such a pandering title as “honored citizen” that nobody believes in anyway.

Nor does she want a card - hand-made or store-bought – in “honor” of someone else's donation.

She does not want an afternoon of games one day a year and to be ignored for the other 11 months.

Crabby wants inclusion for elders in daily life every day of the year.

There is so much that needs doing for elders that would help them take part in the life of their communities - that would help everyone else too. Such as:

  • Improve public transportation

  • Enforce age discrimination in the workplace laws

  • Encourage better geriatric education for physicians

  • Invite elders onto the citizen advisory boards of cities and towns

  • Create opportunities to serve that make use of elders' decades of experience and knowledge

  • Teach elders how to effectively lobby government officials

Most of all, stop Congress from scaring the crap out of elders with constant threats to cut or kill Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Working on these issues would be real honoring of elders.

February is Black History Month and every year, there are hundreds of activities that involve poetry, music, science, politics, military, entertainment, lectures, book signings, famous firsts, civil rights movements, biographies, exhibits and that doesn't begin to cover it all.

Lots of this information is on the television broadcasts we regularly watch and on the websites we visit every day and in special sections of book stores, for example. Black History Month is hard to miss and each year, Crabby learns more and more about the African American experience.

What Crabby Old Lady would be thrilled to see something similar for Older Americans Month. Now, THAT would be honor. After all, elders come in all colors and there is a lot more to know about us than games, greeting cards and demeaning euphemisms.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia Hirtz: Abraham


Advertising the Agony of Old Age (from 2008)

EDITORIAL NOTE: Time Goes By Sunday Elder Music columnist, Peter Tibbles and his Assistant Musicologist are visiting from Melbourne for a few days.

While they are here, in place of new posts are some vintage TGB stories that I kind of like and hope you will enjoy them in rerun. I won't disappear entirely. I'll be checking in now and then to see how it's going and perhaps join in the comments.

And, IMPORTANT, all Elder Storytelling Place stories linked at the bottom of these repeats are NEW.


This story has been rolling around in Crabby Old Lady’s head for several months. She kept meaning to record some hours of prime time television over a few days and then zap through the shows to the commercials with pen and paper in hand to have some hard numbers for you. But it would undoubtedly raise her blood pressure and she never got around to it. So you’ll have to trust her general impression:

According to television commercials, old age is so dangerous or painful or simply annoying, it may not be worth hanging around for. Some say old people are more visible on television these days, but not in any manner Crabby wants to be portrayed.

Mostly, elders appear in commercials for remedies to treat diseases and ailments that range from minor through deadly serious to disgusting. Even that icky, mucus, cartoon character is old and these ads outnumber all other types.

Take a look at this list, typed out off the top of Crabby Old Lady’s head. There are so many commercials and public service announcements broadcast so frequently that any young person watching can only assume old age is agony:

Osteoporosis
Back pain
Aching joints
Loose dentures
Gum disease
Bad breath
Heart disease
Diarrhea
Hair loss
Cholesterol
Diabetes
High blood pressure
Atherosclerosis
Heartburn
Acid Reflux
Restless Leg Syndrome
Alzheimer’s
Incontinence
Arthritis
Insomnia
Erectile Dysfunction

Just to check that her memory isn’t failing, Crabby pulled out a recent issue of AARP magazine to see what they advertise to their readers. Most of the items on the list are represented and the rest of the ads are for insurance.

Crabby wouldn’t be so ticked off if she had ever seen an old person in a car commercial. Not even detergent ads feature elders, as though we don’t wash clothes or dishes in our dotage. And no one old appears in glossy ads for clothing, expensive watches or fancy electronics – none of the glamour stuff.

It’s enough to make a Crabby Old Lady sicker than advertisers believe she already is.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Terry Hamburg: Close Encounters of the Third Kind


Elder Media: For Women Only? Dumb Ones?

As Crabby Old Lady has written here in the past, the largest impetus behiind this blog was the fact that after seven or eight years of diving deep into available research on aging and what it would be like for her to get old, there was nothing to be found that had anything positive to say. It was all about disease, decline and debility.

When Crabby began planning Time Goes By in 2003, with the idea of opposing that negative spin, there was hardly any attention paid by mainstream media to elders. The lives of old people in newspapers, magazines and on television were, for all intents and purposes, non-existent; there was even less of it online.

Soon, however - 2004, 2005 or so - the media checked their calendars and saw that the oldest baby boomers would soon hit the 60 milestone. There was a sudden flood of stories all pretty much on the same theme: boomers will “redefine” retirement, repeated ad infinitum based on not a whit of evidence (nor any since then, but that rant is for another day).

By last year, as the first wave of boomers became eligible for Medicare, the media had taken advantage of what they belatedly realized was an entirely new (to them) advertising demographic – old people.

One way that was manifest through these years, was a proliferation of websites meant to attract boomers. Crabby frequently checks the web looking for elder online trends and regularly disappointed that these websites are generally awful.

Crabby is not talking about the serious organizations that deal factually with crucial aspects of aging like Social Security, Medicare, caregiving, health and medical information, financial services, choosing new living arrangements, etc. Those serve specific purposes and the best of them, quite a few, do it well.

No, Crabby is talking about the brand-name, general-interest websites aimed at boomers and seniors - magazine-style publications meant to both entertain and inform.

When Crabby Old Lady was studying aging in her pre-blogging days, it was all about how terrible getting old is – might as well shoot yourself was the impression she got.

Nowadays, it is the opposite. Although the websites openly target their aging audiences by name – boomers and, sometimes, seniors – there is little in the topic selection to indicate the audience has left puberty.

According to the headlines, life in people's 50s, 60s and beyond hasn't changed since they were reading Seventeen magazine or maybe .

The headlines make Crabby cringe: Why We Marry the Wrong Men, 10 Weight Loss Myths, Five Steps to Healthier Nails, Is Your Relationship in Trouble? and the one that sent Crabby over the edge to this blog post: Spandex Done Right.

Spandex?

Like Crabby said, she is embarrassed. When she read those stories half a century ago (with only slight variations in the headlines), she had an excuse: she was young, unformed and uninformed.

Crabby is old now, smarter, much better informed and she resents being treated like nothing has changed, that she has learned nothing in the intervening 55 years.

In addition to the juvenilia – not to mention the anti-aging articles and advertisements - all of these websites are aimed at women. Most have home page links with such titles as Women's Health, Women's Health News or Women's Health Center without comparable links to men's health.

And as far as Crabby can find, there are no websites specifically for boomer and senior men which doesn't seem fair. If this blog is any indication, male readers – although fewer in number - are just as interested in what we talk about here as women readers.

But from the websites that target boomers and seniors, Crabby wouldn't know there were any elder men at all (except for those causing “relationship” problems).

All these years since Crabby Old Lady first began investigating what it is like to get old, the subject just gets more intense, complex and compelling. But you wouldn't know it from boomer and senior websites.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Michael Gorodezky: Metaphor


Crabby Old Lady on Awareness Junk

You could say that Crabby Old Lady is on a tear this week, what might be called a bitch roll. First Komen, then White House communication and today, awareness junk – the ribbons, car magnets, wristbands and other trinkets that trivialize cultural, political, medical and personal issues that deserve better.

Crabby got herself wound up in this topic coming off the Komen/Planned Parenthood brouhaha. She was interested to learn, from the trailer for the new Canadian documentary, Pink Ribbons, Inc., the origin of the pink breast cancer ribbon; it was the idea of Charlotte Haley, then appropriated by corporate America.

(The full Pink Ribbons, Inc. trailer is here.)

Crabby will get back to ribbons in a moment but long before there were awareness ribbons, there were bracelets. Crabby's first – um, awareness of them was in 1970, when people began wearing copper and nickel bracelets engraved with the names of American servicemen captured or missing in the Vietnam War.

A lot of effort went into finding names and dates for these bracelets. Here are two of three that are on display at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.

POW Bracelets

Today, bracelets are usually made of stretchy silicon and are only slightly less ubiquitous than ribbons used, in addition to disease awareness, as giveaways at birthday parties, weddings and as corporate swag. Crabby has seen people whose wrists are covered in half a dozen or more rubbery bracelets, each in a different color.

Find a Cure Crabby assumes the this pink silicon bracelet has escaped a lawsuit by Susan B. Komen For the Cure because the wording - Find a Cure instead of For the Cure - does not match the Komen trademark.

Red_ribbonThe first symbolic ribbons in the signature foldover shape that Crabby recalls seeing were red ones in early 1991 for AIDS/HIV awareness. Where she lived then, in Greenwich Village, they were suddenly on everyone's lapel and for a good portion of that 90s decade, the red ribbon was a fashion accessory without which no actor dared show up at the Academy Awards ceremony.

Diamond ruby aids pinWhen Crabby began writing this post, she had a vague recollection of having been disgusted back then at seeing some well-known person wearing a bejeweled red ribbon. A quick check around the web shows that her memory is probably intact on that subject. This diamond and ruby red ribbon sold at Christie's in 2000 for $21,837.

Goldred926Or, if that's too rich for your pocketbook, how about this ruby and 14K gold red ribbon to hang on your charm bracelet. It's a bargain, just $926.10 marked down from $1029 at generousgems.com.

PinkjeweledbellybuttonringamazonThe pink ribbon is trademarked in Canada by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation so there are probably not as many variations of it there as in the U.S. Crabby's current favorite piece of cash-in-on-cancer junk is for sale from BodySparkle at Amazon, a pink “jeweled breast cancer awareness ring” for your belly button at $16.99.

There is no mention on any of these websites that the disease organizations get a dime of the price - expensive or cheap.

It is no longer just pink and red ribbons. There are dozens of colors for every conceivable disease and condition. When they ran out of colors, they started combining them into stripes and checks and other designs. Here is a tiny representation of ribbon types a screen grab of part of a long page at Google. There are thousands more.

Many Ribbons

While multitudes of colors have confused awareness of everything, ribbons are further debased by no longer representing one disease or condition, but many including, now, political issues.

100px-Green_ribbonGreen is for aging research awareness (did you know that? Crabby didn't), cerebral palsy, kidney cancer, Lyme disease among seven others.

100px-Orange_ribbonOrange is for ADHD, animal cruelty, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, malnutrition and – wait for it, self-injury.

100px-Blue_ribbonBlue now represents at least 15 problems, among them addiction, chronic fatigue syndrome, colon cancer, the Electronic Freedom Foundation for online free speech, von Hippel-Lindau and sex slavery.

Red_ribbonEven red stands for more than AIDS/HIV. It represents heart and stroke, substance abuse (not to be confused, Crabby is guessing, with addiction which is blue's responsibility) and vasculitis.

Gray-ribbonGray is for asthma, brain cancer, diabetes and – get this! - zombie awareness. That must be a joke, right?

But how could it be and still take real disease seriously. And that is, of course, part of what is wrong with all this. It's time to put away all ribbons and bracelets. They have become meaningless.

Now you might think all this puts Crabby in a really bad mood but you would be wrong. It is possible to be angry and not unhappy plus, all this talk of awareness ribbons has reminded Crabby of one of the best practical jokes she ever heard of.

100px-Yellow_ribbonIt happened some years ago when Crabby Old Lady's friend, Neil Thompson, noticed at a mall two identical SVUs SUVs parked next to one another. In every way but the license plates, they were indistinguishable except for the big, yellow, magnetic ribbon on the back of one.

If you knew Neil as well Crabby Old Lady does, you would easily understand that this was an irresistible opportunity for him. He checked to be sure no one was watching and as he strolled toward the store, casually plucked the ribbon from its mooring, plunked it in a similar position on the second car and continued on his way.

Crabby Old Lady thinks everyone should continue on their way without the awareness junk. It has long outlived its usefulness.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: A Lifetime of Speeding Tickets


Crabby Old Lady and the White House

Here we go again.

Remember when Crabby Old Lady told you about a letter emailed from her house to the White House? And then, a few days later, the pro forma reply that bore not a single reference to the subject of Crabby missive?

Last Friday, Crabby received a second email from the White House (full message is below) - this time addressing elder issues in general but again, making no meaningful reference to the topic of her letter.

Crabby had written to President Barack Obama about Social Security but more than half the latest response is about how wonderful the Affordable Care Act is for Medicare recipients. (It is, if not wonderful, a welcome improvement in some areas.)

Only three sentences of the five-paragraph, boilerplate letter address Social Security. One is simply PR, another is a pitch for the president's request that Congress authorize another one-time, $300 payment to Social Security beneficiaries as was distributed when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e., the “stimulus bill”) was passed by Congress in 2009. (Don't hold your breath.) A third says this:

“By protecting Social Security from risky privatization plans, we are preserving its solvency and maintaining it as a reliable income source for seniors.”

It's not at all clear that is what the Obama administration is doing but more importantly, it makes no mention of Crabby's point that by giving workers a two percent break on the payroll tax and replacing that money in the Social Security trust fund from general revenue, the seal on the trust fund door as been seriously breached.

Because it holds the budget purse strings, Congress can, if it chooses, refuse repayment thereby NOT “maintaining [Social Security] as a reliable income source for seniors.” Who needs protection from privatization when the trust fund door is left wide open?

Plus, there is no mention of the possibility, put forth by some in Congress during the last session, to change the method of computation of the cost-of-living adjustment that would drastically reduce those adjustments from what they are now.

The letter finishes with a bunch of links to government web pages for elders that, like the letter, do not address the reason Crabby wrote her letter in the first place.

If Crabby Old Lady were running the White House office to answer citizen mail, she wouldn't allow such claptrap out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. First, she would commission software to flag email with too many expletives. Just save them in the F*** File.

Crabby's software would also sort for keywords related to current and ongoing issues: Social Security, Medicare, Afghanistan, taxes, ACA, housing, unemployment, Wall Street, Occupy, banking, Wall Street, Syria, Israel, abortion, immigration, unions, budget, etc. etc. which would, obviously, be updated as needed.

Snailmail would be sorted by hand but could be easily scanned into the electronic file folders.

The White House communications office would supply Crabby's mail-answering crew with briefing books by topic so that responses would conform to fact. All the crew would be supplied with email addresses and phone numbers of designated federal experts on each topic or subtopic for fact checking.

Of course, there would also be parameters past which the workers are not authorized to speak/write.

Workers then could respond with answers that make sense. The letters would not need to be long or elaborate. But they could address the writer by name (the computer could do this part too) and speak to the actual point of the writer's message. Crabby would not have been disappointed to read:

Dear Crabby Old Lady:
Your point about the trust fund breach is well taken and the White House keeps its eye on that. The president also agrees with you about not changing the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment calculation...

(Or, they could have said, “disagrees” and briefly explained why.)

Now and then, as the White House tells us they occasionally do, a handful of really good letters could be shown to the president for him to answer personally. Yeah, they can promote doing it; that won't offend Crabby.

Crabby's point is that to her, the boilerplate letters are counterproductive. They make her feel a bit foolish for having wasted her time slaving over a hot keyboard to write a smart letter that made her points clearly and, maybe, effectively.

In fact, in an era when only wealth has access to power in Washington and the problems for the middle class seem insurmountable, the president could score a lot of points with disaffected voters by nothing more than greeting letter writers by name: Dear Crabby Old Lady:

That would have worked or, at least, softened the boilerplate.

Here is the White House letter, below which is the daily link to The Elder Storytelling Place.


February 3, 2012

Dear Friend:

Thank you for writing. I have heard from many Americans about issues affecting older Americans. Today's economic climate further intensifies the unique challenges faced by seniors, and I appreciate your perspective.

My Administration continues to support older Americans encountering unfair treatment, financial hardship, or difficulty obtaining health care. The historic Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare by providing free preventive care and improving care coordination. It gradually closes the "donut hole gap" in prescription drug coverage, and provides individuals who fall into this gap a $250 rebate. This law also helps prevent and eliminate elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Additionally, the Affordable Care Act implements unprecedented measures to fight waste and fraud, and to improve the quality and outcomes of care for Medicare beneficiaries. It ends unwarranted subsidies to private insurance companies, and takes important steps to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions, improve patient safety, modernize payment systems, and streamline record-keeping. It also realigns incentives to reward medical providers for the value, not the volume, of their care. For resources and information on how to prevent, report, and stop Medicare fraud, visit: www.StopMedicareFraud.gov. To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, please visit: www.HealthCare.gov.

By protecting Social Security from risky privatization plans, we are preserving its solvency and maintaining it as a reliable income source for seniors. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included an additional payment to supplement Social Security benefits for seniors struggling to make ends meet, and I have called on Congress to extend this relief again. Together, we will ensure all our citizens, not just a privileged few, can retire with dignity and security.

Finally, as we work to keep America's promises to senior citizens, we are helping ensure older Americans can continue to enrich communities across our Nation through service and community involvement. By expanding the Senior Corps and implementing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, we are creating more opportunities for seniors to share their knowledge and experience with younger generations.

Thank you again for being in touch. To find assistance for senior citizens and their families, visit www.Eldercare.gov or call 1-800-677-1116. For help with Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE. Additional information and resources are available at: www.usa.gov/Topics/Seniors.shtml.

Sincerely,
Barack Obama


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Hellos: The Church was Closed but Angels were on Duty


Crabby Old Lady on Komen/Planned Parenthood

The first thing Crabby Old Lady did last week when she read about Susan G. Komen For the Cure withdrawing their grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings was send a donation to Planned Parenthood.

Apparently, she was not alone. Hundreds of thousands of others agreed with Crabby, and Planned Parenthood raised $3 million or more, effectively overnight.

Of course, Crabby's contribution was not anywhere near as large as the $250,000 matching grant promised by New York City billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but Crabby's sentiment was not any smaller than his. For many years, Crabby has been suspicious of the pink-ribbon campaign in general and the Komen organization in particular.

It started sometime in the mid- or late-1980s when Komen was relatively new. Someone affiliated with them contacted Crabby about getting her friends to pay money to sponsor her participation in an upcoming walk. Crabby politely declined and thought that was the end of it.

But oh no. Then the high-pressure tactics began. Several calls from Komen associates at home over the next two or three weeks trying to guilt Crabby into agreement and then more calls to Crabby's office. Crabby was at a loss to understand why her personal participation was so important to someone. She never found out.

The calls eventually stopped and life went on without Crabby much noticing Komen campaigns except that through the years, she felt uncomfortable about the increasing number of pink-packaged, breast cancer products associated with Komen.

Crabby couldn't identify what bothered her until she read a 2001 rant from advocate journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, herself a breast cancer survivor, against Komen, other breast cancer charities and the relentless cheerfulness cancer patients are pressured to display:

"If you can't run, bike, or climb a mountain for the cure - all of which endeavors are routine beneficiaries of corporate sponsorship - you can always purchase one of the many products with a breast cancer theme...Bears, for example...

"What sustained me through the 'treatments' is a purifying rage, a resolve, framed in the sleepless nights of chemotherapy, to see the last polluter, along with, say, the last smug health insurance operative, strangled with the last pink ribbon.

"Cancer or no cancer, I will not live that long of course. But I know this much right now for sure: I will not go into that last good night with a teddy bear tucked under my arm."

Thingsthatcannotscreenforbreastcancer

Ms. Ehrenreich is interviewed in a new Canadian-produced documentary titled, Pink Ribbons, Inc. which takes on the corporatization of breast cancer. Here is a trailer:

Unlike Ehrenreich, it was not pink teddy bears that crystallized Crabby Old Lady's ire with Komen; it was when the organization partnered with KFC in 2010, putting pink ribbons on big buckets of greasy fried chicken. It turns out that other products wrapped in Komen pink are unhealthy too.

There is an excellent backgrounder on Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the current controversy by Susan Seltzer at Alternet.

For Crabby Old Lady, it has been many years of disheartening behavior by Komen that fed her growing anger about their motives. One of the biggest is this: Komen trademarked the phrase “for the cure” and according to several reports, spends at least a million dollars a year defending that trademark against other, smaller charities. From Huffington Post in 2010:

”So far, Komen has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred of these Mom and Pop charities, including Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure - and many of the organizations are too small and underfunded to hold their ground.”

A year ago, Stephen Colbert handled the Komen trademark issue much better than Crabby can do it for you:

So it wasn't much of a surprise to Crabby when Komen canceled their breast cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood particularly after Congress voted last year to defund Planned Parenthood. She always suspected the Komen leadership was as much about political power (Republican in this case) as cancer research.

Just yesterday, Crabby learned this from breast cancer advocate, Betty Pinson, reporting at Daily Kos:

”In 2009, Komen lobbied behind the scenes to weaken the health care bill (ACA) as it was being debated in Congress. They hired Hadassah Lieberman, wife of Joe, in an effort to convince Joementum to vote against the Public Option. Komen spent over $1 million in 2008 & 2009, on behind the scenes lobbying related to the health care reform bill, so who knows what else was on their agenda.”

Compared to Komen's flashy, rhinestone pinkness, Planned Parenthood is a no-nonsense - you might even say, boring - organization that goes about the day-to-day business of providing women's and children's health services.

According to Planned Parenthood, 75 percent of their clients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level. For many of them, Planned Parenthood is the only health care they can afford and/or is available in their area. Some people estimate that over the years, as many as one-fifth to one third of American women have used Planned Parenthood's services at least once in their lives.

In a rare moment of political kumbayah, the backlash against Komen was instant and fierce forcing the organization to restore funding to Planned Parenthood – sort of. Here is the less than fulsome retraction on the Komen blog posted Friday:

“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.”
Whatever that means.

For many years there have been public indications that the agenda of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is not as pinkly pure as they want us to believe. Crabby Old Lady thinks an important reminder from this episode is that it's good to follow our instincts and also do some research when deciding where to put our charitable dollars.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Andrea Kline: Nameless Neighbors


Crabby Old Lady's Customer Service Success

Last week, Crabby Old Lady's internet and television provider, Comcast, sent a letter with a big bold telephone number and headline asking, Are You Getting the Best Value?

In November, when the company raised her monthly fee again (as they do every year without providing increased service), Crabby had made a mental note to arrange to drop some of her TV services to save a few bucks. The new letter was a good reminder to do so.

PLEASE STAND BY: Any of you pious folks who don't watch television, please keep it to yourself. Crabby does watch television and finds it crucial to understanding the cultural and political zeitgeist of the country just as regularly following internet trends is too.

Moreover, she likes various news and opinion programs that help keep her informed and she relishes the renaissance in original drama series that has taken place over the past few years. The writing and production values are, overall, much better these days than in the majority of feature films.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post:

Before Crabby could explain why she was calling, the Comcast customer service representative launched into a sales pitch for a higher priced service that included a bunch of premium channels like HBO, Showtime, etc.

Crabby explained that she had no interest in those channels and her point with the call was to lower the price, not raise it. She suggested how that might be done.

The woman said (Crabby paraphrases, but it's close): “The only package Comcast is prepared to offer you at this time is the more expensive one I described.”

CRABBY: Do you mean there is no lower-priced package available and the only way I can change my account is to pay more or cancel altogether?

CSR: Yes, this package is all I can offer you.

Crabby found this to be not believable and phoned back to get a different representative who spent 10 minutes trying to pull up Crabby's account on her computer without success.

Because both representatives Crabby spoke with were located somewhere other than Oregon (she could tell because they mispronounced the state's name), Crabby next tracked down a local customer service number for Comcast and tried that.

What a difference. John (not his real name) was smart, well-informed, personable, eager to help and funny too. Crabby had a fine, ol' time laughing and talking with John about television, the internet, old people, high prices for everything, her specific Comcast services and how she might reduce her monthly bill.

In the end, the services Crabby was willing to cancel would not affect the price and she was unwilling to reduce the speed of her internet connection. So John knocked $20 off the bill for the next six months.

Not a whole lot less than the full price, but just enough (they probably do surveys to pinpoint the exact discount that works) to let Crabby feel a little better. She and John were having such a good time that Crabby felt free to tease him a bit. “Oh fine,' she said. “That's nice now but it jumps again come summer.”

John gave Crabby his direct telephone number and told her to call him back then, implying that another adjustment could be made. Because she's an old cynic, Crabby tried the number and behold, it is John's direct line – at least for one day.

So Crabby is guessing that it sometimes helps (a little) with service providers to be persistent and not accept the first answer.

Actually, Crabby had intended to take today off from blogging but it's not often that customer service news is good (sort of) and this didn't take but 10 minutes to write.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, June Calendar: Mistaken Identity


It's All Iowa's Fault

The Iowa Republican Caucuses, being held tomorrow, are giving Crabby Old Lady heartburn. What a rotten, miserable event for the first big thing of a brand new year.

Crabby can no longer recall a time when, natural disasters aside, Iowa has not led the news – all day, every day. Okay, she exaggerates but it sure feels like the Republican nominating campaign is been going on for a decade.

And it's not as though there is anyone – even if you're a Republican – to root for. What a field of freaks these candidates are – not one deserves admiration or respect. Not one has a cogent, thoughtful or reasonable plan for a country deeply mired in all kinds of trouble.

That's what Crabby most resents about them: not one has a speck of honest, intellectual curiosity and it's downhill from there: they are actually proud of their ignorance except, of course, for the insufferable Mr. Newt Gingrich who, in misplaced self-admiration, is surpassed only by Donald Trump.

This is the leader of our nation we are choosing, someone who should at least aspire to become a Lincoln or a Roosevelt or a Jefferson. Can we really do no better than this sorry bunch?

The only upside is that a couple of them likely will drop out after tomorrow and we'll never hear from them again. Bah. What a terrible way to begin a shiny new year.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: It's Going to be a Great Year


Crabby Old Lady and the Consumer Culture

Undoubtedly you have heard that the real purpose of Thanksgiving – Black Friday and Cyber Monday - were a big success this year racking up billions of dollars in sales for retailers. A lot of pundit know-it-alls would have you believe this is good news for the economy.

Actually, it is nothing more than a blip on data screens that will soon reverse itself, nothing more than a temporary consumer response to rock bottom and loss leader prices.

Crabby Old Lady who, in case you can't tell, is not an economist but has a great deal of good sense, regularly wonders if the know-it-alls actually expect her to believe them when they attach positive or negative meaning to the daily ups and downs of the stock market and other economic indicators.

Three months of steadily improving numbers might be a trend. Six months worth could be reason for cautious optimism. A year would be better. But one day of billion dollar sales at near giveaway prices from giant retailers who pay their employees $8 an hour with no benefits does not indicate an improving economy no matter what the one percenter talking points are.

So sayeth Crabby Old Lady.

Actually, Crabby is a capitalist's nightmare – someone who hates to shop, who avoids all but the most necessary purchases, a woman for whom shopping in general and shopping centers in particular cause heartburn.

Additionally, Crabby despises all but the handful or two of retailers she has come to trust over time, mostly local ones, because the majority work overtime trying to either trick or gouge her. Have you noticed that too?

Of course you have – such as bank ATM fees, debit card charges, high minimum bank balances and other afflictions of the 99 percent. In other retail realms, there are many hidden charges, unwarranted increases in price without explanation and when buying online, the price itself is often not displayed at all until checkout.

Maybe they figure if Crabby has clicked through that far she won't mind if it's overpriced by a 100 percent or more. Wrong.

All year long, retailers cram Crabby's email inbox with sales crap and this time of year, it triples and quadruples nearly blinding Crabby as she tries to pick out the important mail from friends and blog readers that she wants to read.

She can use that unsubscribe link (when she can find its miniscule font) all she wants, but even if the company honors her request, they've already sold Crabby's email address to dozens of other retailers who harass her unmercifully.

Certainly, you too suffer the astronomical increase in snailmail catalogs during this season of year. One weeps for the forests and for Crabby, it's just that many more pounds of paper she must eventually haul to the recycling bin.

Crabby may not be a typical consumer; she is, perhaps, more irritated than many at the non-stop attempts to raid her pocketbook. But she thought she had experienced every possible retail annoyance there is – until yesterday morning.

First you must understand that normally, Crabby is an early riser – that is, very early. 4:30AM is not uncommon. This is not necessarily by choice. She just wakes that early.

When she does sleep later, Ollie the cat usually makes it clear that food is required – right now - by about 5:30AM. On rare occasions, extremely rare, the two of them stay tucked in until 7AM or so.

Yesterday was well on its way to being one of those twice-a-year, late snoozy mornings when WHAM! Ollie the cat went directly from dead out asleep to straight up in the air. Crabby's mind fumbled its way from dream state to screeching reality – the phone clanging in her ear.

A glance at the clock told her it was 6:30AM. Someone must be dead. Still a bit foggy and expecting the worst, she gingerly answered the call – which went something like this:

MJ: This is Mary Jane. I have some suggestions on how you can save money on your cable bill.

COL: (not quite functional yet) Huh?

MJ: I'm Mary Jane. I have some suggestions on how you can save money...

COL: (Getting the idea now) You're kidding. You woke me to sell me something?

MJ: Well, I can analyze your...

COL: What company are you with?

MJ: Comcast.

COL: (loudly and profanely) It's @#$%^&* 6:30 in the morning and you have the nerve to make a sales call???

MJ: Would you like me to call back in an hour or two?

COL: No.

MJ: When would be convenient then?

COL: Never. (punches “end call” button)

Just so you know, Crabby recently received a mailing from Comcast increasing her monthly charge, as of January, for internet access and cable television. She cannot tell you how big the increase is because the letter is obscure on that point (see “trick or gouge” above).

It did assure her, however, that the value of the new sports and shopping channels added to her subscription package makes up for the increase.

Uh-huh. The two areas of life Crabby least enjoys.

There is no longer anywhere to turn in the U.S. where Crabby Old Lady is not being beaten over the head to spend, spend, spend. Advertising has taken over every empty spot on the continent. There is nothing left that is not branded.

Crabby is the farthest anyone can get from being a sports fan; she actively avoids knowledge of all sporting information. But she thinks she lost heart in her culture for good when, a few years ago, she noticed that ballparks were being renamed not for famous or accomplished athletes or even managers or team owners, but for billion-dollar corporations.

And now the almighty corporation has reached into Crabby Old Lady's sleep. Surely, such a culture is doomed.

“As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?”

- Alexis de Tocqueville

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, A Message From Ronni


Boney Butt Syndrome

Such an education you all gave Crabby Old Lady on Monday about panties – um, in deference to Lee who finds that word “creepy,” Crabby will stick with “underwear” today.

The older she gets, the more strongly Crabby believes/knows there isn't much new or different in human behavior and most certainly, there is nothing she does that others would find odd. Nevertheless, she was surprised to read how many of you too own dozens of pairs of undies. Although it works for us, it does seem excessive, don't you think.

Also, Crabby was amazed to read how neat and tidy Darlene Costner is about storing her clean underwear:

”When I put them away after laundering, I put the new stack under the old so they all get the same amount of wear.”

Some years ago, Crabby finally figured out that underwear doesn't wrinkle and anyway, who is to see if it does. So she gave up folding them, now just dumps all the undies into a basket she keeps on a shelf in the closet and pulls out a clean pair each morning from the scrambled mess.

Elizabeth Rogers noted an advantage to the brand of undies she buys [emphasis added]:

“Terrific fit and feel and as they claim, no panty line.

In the parlance of technology, women have always considered panty lines a bug and to the extent that we could tolerate pantihose, we were/are happy that they eliminate panty lines. But it could be that we have been misled and they are, instead, a feature.

For a number of years a long while ago, Crabby dated a wonderful man who had a delightful sense of humor about sexual attraction in all its guises and possibilities for fun.

To him, panty lines were sexy and he despised pantihose for removing an innocent, small pleasure he could indulge just walking about the neighborhood on his daily or weekly errands. Crabby has often wondered if other men feel that way.

But that's not why she came here today. Crabby wants to talk about her newly boney butt.

Well, it's not really boney – she hasn't lost that much weight, but that phrase is the best way she can describe the problem succinctly: that Crabby Old Lady can no longer sit for any length of time without her bottom aching.

Soft chairs or hard, with and without cushions or pillows, even reading in bed – after 20 or 30 minutes, the ache is so painful that Crabby needs to get up and walk around for awhile.

As noted last February in a post titled, What Happened to My Butt,

”But I still have to ask, what happened to my cute keister? It's not exactly flat now but there is no shape. I know this because – only for the purpose of this blog post, you understand - I checked it in an angled mirror.”

Having then only just begun her 2012 diet, Crabby had yet to lose any discernible amount of weight and had no trouble sitting for as long as she wanted. But that's no longer so.

It took only a short tour around the web via Google to find that this may not be just a minor manifestation of aging that we can get silly about. Crabby's boney butt pain is probably due to loss of muscle mass which is common in elders.

According to the experts, this results in weakness and fatigue, loss of strength, contributes to poor balance, slower gait, falling and reduced ability to carry out activities of daily living – among other difficulties in a long list. In other words, it is not to be laughed off.

What prevents all these problems is strength training. Oh dear. Now Crabby must consider how to work that into her schedule and all she really wanted to do today was bitch a little and have some fun with an issue she thought was only a mild irritant.

Damn.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ralph Lymburner: The Circus is Coming


Crabby Old Lady Wearies of Stupid Retail Tricks

By now, just about everyone who uses email can spot the infamous Nigerian scam and its imitators, right? We also know better than to give our Social Security and bank account numbers to strangers over the telephone or in an email. And Crabby Old Lady is pretty sure you would never fall for a “miracle cure” that lands in your inbox.

If you ever have doubts about a commercial offer, the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission keeps up-to-date lists of scams, how they work and advice on avoiding them.

But today, Crabby Old Lady is more concerned with tricks than scams. It feels as though she has spent a lifetime being always on alert for someone who is trying to rip her off – even reputable retailers – and rather than ire, Crabby feels weariness and ennui.

Hardly a week passes that a catalog doesn't arrive with a blaring headline, “25 Percent Off Sale.” It fools Crabby every time.

Just when she thinks she can finally pick up an item she has been wanting at a reasonable price, she spies the teeny tiny print beneath the giant headline. It requires her magnifying glass for Crabby to see the catch: “On purchases of $200 or more.”

Crabby's item is never as much as the price limit and do you suppose those marketers really believe she will buy $150 of stuff she doesn't need to get 25 percent off? Do they think she is stupid?

This 25 percent off $200 trick is invariably from well-known, established retailers Crabby Old Lady has used all her life – in stores and online - but Crabby is less inclined to feel warm and fuzzy toward them each time this happens.

Then there are the online retailers – well known and otherwise, hundreds if not thousands of them – who make Crabby click through 12 pages to find the price of the item she is interested in. Who in their right mind believes making it hard to find a price will endear anyone to their products?

Crabby Old Lady lives on a budget. She knows how much she is willing to pay for any given item and she does not stick around through 10 or 12 pages to see if her price is a match with the store's. They have lost the sale no matter what the price by page three Crabby clicks.

Crabby cannot be the only person who shops – or not - in this way.

Although Crabby likes to think she's sophisticated in spotting tricks and scams, she got caught in one just this week. She had received an offer to try a “serum” that promises to erase facial wrinkles even in people older than 50.

Yeah, sure, like any of those things work. However, about once a year Crabby tries one with the idea of writing about it here – if she ever finds one that does what it claims. This offer required that Crabby pay only shipping costs.

The miniscule bottle arrived a few days later and as in the past, after a couple of weeks, Crabby's skin was no firmer and her wrinkles had not changed a whit. About then, an unexpected box arrived in the mail – another miniscule bottle of serum.

And sure enough, when she checked her credit card activity online – there was a charge from the serum company for $75. Oh, damn - Crabby immediately knew exactly what had happened.

In purchasing the sample, she had skimmed the 89-page terms and conditions where it undoubtedly states that she agrees to receive a new bottle of serum every two weeks at a cost of $75 each, but she missed it (or, perhaps, it's not there).

It's an old trick used by thousands of online retailers – especially cosmetics companies.

Crabby went ballistic. After a heated telephone discussion with the company, Crabby currently awaits a deduction from her credit card and if it does not appear by Monday, she will open an official dispute via her credit card company. No way will she ever pay those rip-off artists.

That happened on Wednesday. By Thursday, Crabby was again assaulted by lame marketers who believe withholding the price is a sure-fire way to make a sale.

In yesterday morning's email was an announcement of an “upgrade” for the brand of money management software Crabby uses – the new 2012 edition. $20 off, said the email without telling Crabby the price.

Like she said, Crabby feels less angered by such trickery than tired by the stupidity of marketers thinking customers are more inclined to make a purchase when the the price is hidden behind large numbers of mouse clicks.

On this one, Crabby will stick with her old edition and if the company cuts off her ability to sync with her online banking, there are alternatives.


There is no story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. There will be more next week.


Boomers Aging

It's arrived, the ultimate boomer website, HuffPost50, jam-packed with celebrity takes on turning 50 along with a plethora of blogs from no-name boomers who, together, make getting old sound like - well, just what turning 25 felt like.

For these people, passing the half century mark is “incredible” and “cool.” They are “reinventing” themselves, becoming “independent,” feeling “alive,” being “active,” “celebrating” themselves and having the “most passionate” sex of their lives.

Crabby Old Lady nearly strangled on all the self-regard, particularly the parts explaining how none of these people are anything like their parents at the same age. Actor Tom Hanks' wife, Rita Wilson, is HuffPost50's editor at large:

”Dad golfed and he and Mom, together, did their Victory Laps of Parenting, taking care of everyone's grandchildren's needs,” writes Ms. Wilson. “My parents didn't question what their future held.

“The future for Boomers is different. Our parents were winding down at middle age; we are winding up. There are so many options available to us. Our generation is Go, Go, Go, Go, Go, Do Do, Do, Do, Do...My parents were cool with how simply they spent their time. But for us, there's so much to do, so little time.”

Oooh, we are so amazingly cooler, incredible, sexier and alive than our doltish parents, dontcha know. Crabby wonders how many of those parents are alive to read what their ungrateful boomer kids think of their parents' choices to help care for the grandchildren while they've been busy being so awesome.

The headlines in the Love Post50 section of HuffPost50 appear to have been stripped straight from a dusty, 40-year-old Cosmopolitan magazine: "Five Sure-Fire Dating Tips for Frog-Kissing Boomers," "For Better or for Worse - But Never for Lunch," "Why Second Marriages May Be Doomed," "That Wedding Bell Could Have Been Mother-in-Law Hell.”

Come to think of it, Crabby sees those headlines on rags at the supermarket checkout counter every week.

The nearly empty Health Post50 section bears no resemblance so far to anything real – baldness, stamina, incontinence, arthritis or any of the minor afflictions elders deal with every day, let alone larger medical problems.

There is only a whiny piece from a woman who believes she is too young to have osteoporosis and another from an “expert” whose major health recommendation is to stay healthy. But if something does go wrong, you can – oh, wow - become a medical tourist at, perhaps, Johns Hopkins hospital in Singapore or the soon-to-be-completed Cleveland Clinic branch in Abu Dhabi.

Crabby is supposed to know this guy's an expert because he's got a book about international health travel. But that's hardly a useful benchmark when just about everyone with a blog post at Huffpost50 is flogging a book.

Huffington Post is a phenomenally success news aggregator with millions of readers. Crabby had hoped this new section would be a serious undertaking to investigate and educate readers about the culture, politics, latest news and most compelling thinking related to aging and what to expect as the years pile up.

Instead, HuffPost50 is lightweight celebrity venture without even the pretense of addressing what getting old is really like.

What a disappointment.


At The Elder Storytelling Placce today, Terry Hamburg: My Mom, the Star


Crabby's Vocabulary Complaints

A couple of evenings ago, a young pundit who is a regular on the MSNBC political chat shows used the word, “efficacy.” Crabby Old Lady thought it was nice to hear the vocabulary of public discourse raised a smidgeon from its usual third-grade level.

Or, rather, she would have thought so if he had not pronounced the word, e-FIK-a-see. (Say that aloud; it sounds like a chicken dish.)

How is it possible, Crabby wondered, that someone could use a word correctly, as he did, while getting the pronunciation (correctly, EF-i-ka-see) so wrong?

The answer, of course, must be that he had only read the word and never heard it – not difficult in a era of declining literacy. This reminded Crabby of another word, one that is, apparently, undergoing a change in pronunciation.

She first heard it three or four years ago when a neighbor in Maine, a musician, told her he was going on tour for a month. She did not immediately understand what he was saying because he pronounced the word as “tore” - going on tore.

Huh? Since then, Crabby has heard this pronunciation with increasing frequency and it came up many times on the cable news channels last weekend as reporters spoke of the tourist – that is, toreist – dollars being lost up and down the east coast due to Hurricane Irene. Every reporter Crabby heard, without exception, pronounced it toreist.

In all Crabby's 70 years, until recently, that word was pronounced toor rhyming with moor, not more. When and why did this change?

The pundit's pronunciation of efficacy is simply wrong. But tour is not an obscure word that wouldn't be heard by everyone with some regularity. The change in its pronunciation sounds ignorant, or it could be sloppy, like dropping a g; it takes slightly more effort to say toor than tore.

Crabby Old Lady knows perfectly well that in the greater scheme of things, this falls at the bottom of any given list of 10,000 issues. Still, she finds both e-FIC-a-see and tore annoying.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: My Angels


When it Comes to Money, It's Always Something

It would be easy to assume after the posts of Monday and Tuesday this week that Crabby Old Lady had had her say for awhile. But it's always something. Thursday morning, Crabby woke to no hot water.

(Insert all your best curse words here.)

When staring at the tank for several minutes produced no information that would illuminate the problem, Crabby determined that a plumber was needed but having lived here only a bit more than a year without need yet for that specialty, she had no name.

So Crabby hied herself off to the local Ace Hardware store. (Blatant but deserved plug for the good folks there who have helped her with a bunch of less urgent home needs and been correct every time.)

Ace came through again, this time with the name of a recommended plumber. A call was made and an appointment secured.

Counting all three homes Crabby has owned over a period of 28 years, she has replaced five water heaters. Television sets, refrigerators and ranges, which would seem to fall into the same category as water heaters, last forever – or close enough to call it that. Not one has ever died on Crabby. What is it about water heaters that causes them die so young?

And oh, the price! Like many elders, Crabby lives close to the bone. She can cover her monthly and annual expenses with relative ease but she budgets carefully for other expenses – one month this, next month that; whatever can be paid in cash. Crabby abhors credit card debt.

So if it's painting now, then a coffee table must wait. New bookshelves means curtains are on hold. And if it's teeth – well, most of a year's budget is shot.

The items planned for this month had been carpet/upholstery cleaning and car servicing. Note, “had been.”

But lo, Crabby must have pleased the plumbing gods recently because a repair restored the heater to working order. It took most of the day and screwed up Crabby's blogging schedule (hence, this bitch session), but Crabby will need to postpone the carpet cleaning.

It's always something or, at least, an annoying bit of budget triage.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: A Week at the Beach


What's So Great About a College Degree?

Crabby Old Lady has been silent for a long time. Apparently, she is making up for her absence with a second screed this week and who knows if there will be more.

On Monday, Crabby Old Lady was advised that she is ineligible for a volunteer position with an organization in her county because she lacks a college degree.

No, she's not going to give you details because she has to live in this county, there may be other kinds of opportunities in the future and she does not want to make enemies. But she has got her knickers in a big-time twist over this.

What's a college degree worth, anyway? Grade inflation has been growing for so long, it has been decades since there was any way to know if students actually learn anything. But Crabby is getting ahead of herself.

It's true. Crabby Old Lady did not go to college. And if you want to be literal about it, her formal education lasted only nine years.

In the middle of fifth grade, when that class was overloaded with students, she was promoted with several others to sixth grade which was less crowded.

But Crabby didn't get off free. In addition to her regular sixth grade classes, she was required to study everything in the second half of fifth grade and the first half of sixth grade with a special teacher. She passed all those tests with A's, although Crabby suspects this is where the Greek and Roman gods may have slipped through the cracks.

Nowhere in school did she study those and forever since then she has been confused about which gods are whose. (These days when such questions arise, she thanks every one of them for Wikipedia where she can get a quick answer.)

Jumping ahead to high school, in the summer between Crabby's sophomore and junior years, her parents divorced and she moved from Oregon to California with her mother. It took only a few weeks that fall to figure out that there was nothing in any of her classes that she hadn't already learned.

So Crabby, bored out of her teenage skull and more deeply affected emotionally by the divorce and move to a new community than she understood at the time, became a world-class, successful truant. She showed up at just enough classes to stay out of trouble and figured out a dozen ways to leave most of the classes she did attend shortly after arriving.

For test days, she spent a couple of nights at home catching up with the texts and made it through her two final years of high school with A's and one B. It's not that Crabby is all that smart; the classes in history, science, math, Latin, etc. were that easy and most of it was not new to her.

It may have helped too that she spent a lot of the time she was supposed to be in class reading books she had checked out of the town library, especially on history and politics but some Nancy Drew too. (Crabby checked these out on weekends so the librarians wouldn't question why she wasn't in school.)

It's a shame that happened. From the first day of kindergarten, Crabby Old Lady loved school. She couldn't wait to get there each day to find out what amazing new stuff there was to know and until the move to California, school never let her down.

After graduation, Crabby could have commuted to Berkeley. It was cheap for California residents then and Crabby's mother would have supported her at home for those four years.

But here's a little secret she did not tell anyone for many years. Crabby was so cripplingly shy in those days that when she imagined herself driving across San Francisco Bay and needing to ask someone, a stranger, where the campus administration building was, she was terrified – and defeated. (If you've never suffered shyness you have no idea how debilitating and confining it can be.)

It was far less frightening for 16-year-old Crabby, who was more comfortable with adults than her peers, to get a typing job (with grownups) in San Francisco.

Throughout her career in radio, television and later, the internet, no employer questioned Crabby's lack of a college degree. She left that line blank on the formal applications and still got the jobs.

That doesn't work anymore. Even the lowliest, entry-level positions require a four-year degree and often a graduate degree. But how much do these kids really know? From Crabby's personal experience when she was still working, sometimes not much and frequent reports on the declining quality of education at all levels is dispiriting.

So as a result of 21st century requirements, Crabby has been rejected out of hand only for her lack of a degree and she is furious about it. It's not like Crabby ever stopped learning. She has always had a wide range of interests and is a quick study when she needs or wants to know something. She'll put her autodidactic education up against a general college degree any day.

By the way, that word, “autodidact,” is usually applied with bit of a sneer as though one cannot be adequately self-taught. But among well-known autodidacts are Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, John Stewart Mill, Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Buckminster Fuller and Jane Jacobs.

And two of the most successful technology titans, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, are Harvard dropouts.

But Crabby has been locked out of an unpaid, volunteer position in an area where she has a great deal of knowledge because some rule or unknown official has rejected her as uneducated. Blast them!


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: Snakes, Snails and Little Boy Tales


Crabby Old Lady's Economic Prescription

Crabby Old Lady has been on sabbatical from this blog for a couple of months. Spurred on by the debt ceiling kabuki that obsessed Washington politicians for months along with their general falsehoods and stupidities on the subject of the nation's problems, she has spent a great deal of that time studying the business press and economics in general.

For all her life, Crabby had assumed that economics, particularly with the need to understand numbers and statistics, was too much for her math-deficient brain. Crabby's more a word person. But here is a revelation:

If you put your mind to it, if you carefully separate the ignorance, lies, partisan ideology and spin from the facts in any given business news report or commentary from a wide range of publications, anyone with slightly above average intelligence (we're all from Lake Wobegon at TimeGoesBy, right?) can figure out this stuff.

Leaving the intricate economic models with their convoluted formulae to the Nobel winners, here is what Crabby Old Lady has learned and discerned about the trouble we're in, broken down to its essentials:

If, as everyone says (Crabby has no reason to believe otherwise), 70 percent of the U.S. economy is dependent on consumer buying, then everything that has been done since the crash of 2008 is useless to improving the economy. Everything that has been done up until now has sent consumers (all of us) to our bunkers.

Twenty percent of eligible workers – the unemployed and the underemployed – do not and cannot spend beyond subsistence level. (Forty million Americans are on food stamps.) Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not count workers who, unable to find jobs, have dropped out of the workforce, that percentage is much higher than is calculated each month.

Because wages continue their 30-year gradual drop or stagnation, millions who are lucky enough to have jobs are not buying. They are living paycheck to paycheck, cutting back everywhere they can.

Nervous about where the economy is headed, others with a bit more than the funds to keep life, limb and credit card together are saving it. The savings rate hasn't been this high in decades.

While the majority of Americans (read: consumer economy) have been losing ground and/or hoarding their money over the past three years, the federal government's solutions - an array of trillions of dollars in bailouts, stimuli, low- and no-interest loans to corporations – have not only failed to lift the economy, they have, by any measure except corporate profits, dug a deeper ditch. (Well, it's more complicated than that, but the result is the same.)

The Washington powers that be keep begging corporations to hire people with the trillion-plus cash surplus they are sitting on. But why should they? Without demand for their products and services, there is no point to increasing production.

In addition, corporations, being the greedy bastards they are, pump up their profits year by year laying off more workers and shipping more jobs overseas to low-wage countries without a smidgeon of protest from the government, further impoverishing America. This makes no difference to corporate executives who are stashing their increasing personal fortunes overseas anyway.

While all this continues, the know-nothing and no-to-everything tea party-enthralled members of Congress march the nation ever closer to an economic cliff with no reason other than to thwart a president they openly hate. The goal, chanted by Republican House Leader Mitch McConnell, Representative Michele Bachmann and others, is to make Barack Obama a “one term president.”

Which brings Crabby Old Lady to this: the only hope the people of America have for a brighter economic future is President Obama. Congress sings only one tune, cut poor people's benefits, and that doesn't increase consumer demand.

So the president is the only person who can actually do anything productive.

First, however, he must ditch his annoying chant, bipartisanship, which has proved to be as much a failure as the economy. It is evident after two-and-a-half years that Congressional Republicans would rather turn the U.S. into a third-world country than compromise with the president.

Once he has given up that bipartisan mantra, Obama should go gigantic. Crabby has come to believe this is the only possible solution and that if the president will do it, a country that is crying out for jobs will cheer like nothing he has heard since Berlin.

In early September, President Obama is scheduled to make a speech laying out his jobs plan. From leaks so far, the biggest news we have is that he will ask Congress to extend the payroll tax holiday and – let's chant it together: “deal with long-term debt.”

Oh, ho hum. We've seen that movie for the past year and it just means we'll have to listen to more of Representative Eric Cantor's shared sacrifice talking points dictated by the corporate chieftains who bankroll his campaign while the economy continues to deteriorate.

The president needs to ignore the Republicans and go big, bigger than anything since the 1930s. In fact, a lot like the 1930s:

Create a new New Deal - a modern WPA, CCC, etc. The whole country's infrastructure is falling apart and rebuilding throughout the land will create millions of jobs and not just those paid by the federal government. All the tools, equipment, big machines, transportation, supplies like steel, concrete, etc. have to come from somewhere. That means manufacturing jobs in the private sector.

All these new jobs will create other new businesses that grow up in the cities and towns where there are jobs. Empty storefronts will open again. Homes will be bought. Local tax revenues will grow.

And while the president is crafting this jobs program, he should, when feasible, target in particular the local projects Republican Congress members want in their districts. Then, when he gives that speech in about two weeks, SELL it.

Play hardball the way Republicans do. Choose one of those Republican projects and lay out in detail how that community will improve while their broken bridge or rail line or schools are fixed: the number of new jobs, new businesses, projected taxes and how many fire fighters, teachers and police can be rehired.

Do this and dare the Republicans to refuse to pass it. Crabby Old Lady didn't think this up herself, you know – a lot of people with strings of letters behind their names are saying it too – and she is certain the people of America will support him big time – if he goes big time enough.

How to pay for it? Come on, Ben Bernanke, print more money. You already did that by the trillions for the bailouts. Now do it not just for the people, but for the future of America because we're not getting out of this recession/depression by cutting benefits on the people who have already given all they have.

Sure, it will probably lead to some inflation. We can handle that for awhile. We cannot handle much more of this economic disaster. (See London riots.)

Still, a bold jobs program is not enough. Here are a few budget items that need to be implemented. Crabby is not picking on rich people for revenge. It's because all the jobs programs in the world won't help much if the wealth distribution gap is not reduced.

And don't worry about those Congressional Republicans. If the president goes big enough on all this, the people will see to it that their Congress members support these items too – or lose their jobs:

Raise taxes on corporations. “Experts” keep saying that business is not hiring because they have no confidence in what the federal government might do next meaning raise taxes or impose more regulation. Those are red herrings. They are not hiring because there is no consumer demand. With jobs and, therefore, demand, they'll pay the taxes and live with the regulations which, in most cases, are needed.

Allow the Bush tax cuts on the rich to expire and taking it further, increase taxes on the wealthy whose income, including capital gains and dividends, is above $1 million. The rich will squeal but in their day-to-day lives will barely notice it. (They should be happy we don't return to the highest tax bracket of the Eisenhower years, 91 percent.

Neither corporations nor rich individuals are "job creators" as Republicans keep insisting. We are years into this recession and corporations have not hired anyone to speak of. And what are individuals doing - hiring a nanny? A housekeeper? A pool boy?

Of course, the salary cap on Social Security should be eliminated. This alone will come close to ensuring the program for the next 75 years with only a couple of other smaller tweaks needed to close the shortfall completely.

For elders, absolutely no decreases of any kind to Social Security. Not just for current beneficiaries, but everyone. In today's economy, workers cannot possibly save for retirement.

Half of workers make so little money they pay no income tax at all. With income that low, Social Security is their only hope for a minimal retirement which isn't good enough, but a big jobs program that Crabby outlines could help change that.

Crabby Old Lady is leaving out a lot of nuance and details. Foreign policy (which makes her eyes cross), corruption on Wall Street, corporate control of Congress along with the awesome stupidity and cupidity of many of its members each play a part.

After weeks studying the economics of the left and right, conservative and liberal, historical and current, she believes this is America's best, maybe only chance to avoid a decade or more of continued unwinding because the only way the economy will get better is to get more people working, millions more. Congress will not do that so the president is the only elected official who can.

Of course, Crabby could be wrong. However, solutions of the past three years have failed so how much worse could these ideas be.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: An Invitation to Dinner