A TGB READER STORY: Hot in Houston

By Fritzy Dean

Frank Billingsley, Channel 2’s weather man, is worried about me. Every afternoon he looks earnestly into the camera and tells me it’s hot. He adds that the elderly are especially vulnerable to the heat.

If I happen to check in with Channel 13 or Channel 11, they say the same thing. All of them think the hot weather is bad for me because I am old. They warn me to stay indoors where it is cooler.

The Mayor is also worried about me. He had a press conference to let me know it’s hot. He is so worried he has opened up “cooling centers” for me, in case my house is hot, too.

In addition, the Mayor hired a “Robo Telephone Guy” who calls me twice a day to tell me its hot and I am old and I need to stay inside. The Robo Call Guy even insists that I press ONE on my telephone to let The City of Houston know I got the message…..just in case I hadn’t realized its really hot.

He sounds like the male cousin of Siri:

“This is The City of Houston with a heat advisory. Houston is experiencing triple digit heat and you elderly should take precautions.”

Then today, just an hour ago, I got an email from TXU, my energy company, and they are saying how happy they are that I dialed it up a notch. They complimented me on the fact that I keep my house a little warmer than Siberia and, thus, I have helped control energy usage.

I am trying my elderly best to comply with the instructions from Frank and Tim and David and Mayor Turner and TXU. It’s really lovely of them, all of them, to be so concerned. I am grateful they want me to know it is hot in Houston.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]

Accepting the Fact of Growing Old

While I was actually cooking instead of just microwaving a couple of weeks ago, two of the three sets of fluorescent tube lights that nestle on top of the kitchen cupboards flickered and died at the same moment.

Later that day, having bought two new sets, I looked at my big ladder – the tall one I use for jobs near the ceiling - and had a second thought: Sometimes, these days, with chemotherapy and other treatments for cancer, I am a little wobbly in the knees.

“Perhaps,” I said to myself, “the last time I changed these lights should be the last time I used this ladder.”

Having taken my own advice, I'm waiting now for someone younger and more sure-footed to change them for me.

Sooner or later, if we live long enough, it comes to almost all of us: the day we must give up something we have easily done all our lives. Maybe the first time it happens, we dismiss it as we have have ignored most other signs of ageing through our mid-years. But that's not so easy the next time.

In an excerpt fromDisrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift, a new book to be published in August, president and CEO of The Eden Alternative, Jill Vitale-Aussem, writes,

”It makes sense that we would avoid thinking about old age. We know that, unless things shift drastically in our society, getting old means we’ll likely be looked down upon, pushed aside, pitied, and perhaps even laughed at. That’s certainly not something to look forward to.

“So instead of facing reality, we spend exorbitant amounts of money, time, and energy in a desperate, and always unsuccessful, attempt to hold onto youth.”

It is, of course, called ageism and if you've been at this blog for awhile, you heard from me on this topic many times. Ms. Vitale-Aussem and I aren't far apart in our beliefs about and we've clearly studied the same research.

She continues on a related topic that drives me crazy – the media's total attention only to outlier elders:

”When we do honor aging, it’s generally in the form of celebration of older folks who don’t act their age and are able to keep up with the youngsters. We call them ‘rock stars’ and ‘successful agers,’ implying that the majority of older people, who aren’t running marathons or climbing mountains, are somehow deficient.”

Here is a recent example of how the media exhalts those elders:

Good for Gloria Struck that she is still riding. But stop holding up elders who are lucky enough to be free of debility as the gold standard of old people that proves, supposedly, the rest of us are doing it wrong - that it is, somehow, our own faults that we're not skydiving.

Vitale-Aussem continues:

”Beneath these pseudo-celebrations of age, at the core, is the message that value lies only in youthfulness. As my twenty-something trainer at the gym once said to me, 'It’s not bad to be old as long as you seem like you’re young.'”

What a shameful thing to say. I hope she fired that trainer.

It's not just young people who hold ageist views of elders. Old people themselves are, not infrequently, their own worst enemies. As Vitale-Aussem notes,

”As a nation, we spend billions of dollars on anti-aging treatments. In 2012, pharmacy benefit management service Express Scripts reported that Americans with private insurance spent more on prescriptions to fight aging than they did on medication to treat diseases.”

It pleased me to see that Ms. Vitale-Aussem highlights one of the most important research findings about the effects of ageism on old people that does not get mentioned enough.

Back in 2002, leading researcher in the fields of social gerontology and psychology of aging, Becca R. Levy, also Professor of Epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health and Professor of Psychology at Yale University issued the results of her findings about how what we believe about ageing affects how long we live:

”Those who hold negative self-perceptions of aging are likely to die a whopping 7.5 years earlier than those who have positive views.”

It's worth the effort to check yourself for ageist beliefs. Ageism is so deeply ingrained in American culture that it's hard to see sometimes – even our own prejudices. There are some tips for doing it in Ms. Vitale-Aussem's book excerpt.


Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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We’re now getting back before any of us can remember, and I imagine before any readers were born – if I’m wrong on that, please leave a message in the comments. So, I can waffle on and nobody can contradict me. Well, they can, but not from personal experience. So, on with the motley.

JELLY-ROLL MORTON (or Ferdinand LaMothe to his mum and dad) was really up himself (as we say here in Oz).

Jelly Roll Morton

He claimed to have invented jazz much to the derision of others at the time (and since). He was jazz pianist, band-leader and composer and was the first to publish a jazz composition.

He showed that the essentially improvised music could be notated without losing its verve and spirit. We’ll just glide over that “invented jazz” business and hear what he does with Kansas City Stomps.

♫ Jelly Roll Morton - Kansas City Stomps

CLARA BUTT was an English contralto who specialised in (then) contemporary composers like Elgar and Saint-Saëns.

Clara Butt

She also made records of popular music as well as her classical repertoire. One of those is the song Love's Old Sweet Song, these days better known as Just a Song at Twilight.

♫ Clara Butt - Love's Old Sweet Song (1923)

JOHN STEEL was an American tenor who appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies several times.

John Steel

He was a regular performer on Broadway and on the vaudeville circuit. In spite of earning vast amounts of money (for the time), he went broke and finished his life as a singing instructor. He performs one of his hits, Lady of the Evening.

♫ John Steel - Lady of the Evening

Over the years, many people have had a go at the song That Old Gang of Mine. It was written in this year, 1923, by Ray Henderson, Billy Rose and Mort Dixon. Quite a few performers recorded it at the time, but the one I have is by BENNY KRUEGER AND HIS ORCHESTRA.

Bennie Krueger

There is a “vocal refrain” on the record, as was the thing back then. As far as I can tell it’s by Billy Jones and Ernest Hare, but I could be wrong.

♫ Bennie Krueger's Orch. - That Old Gang Of Mine

Any year that has a BESSIE SMITH hit is worth a listen, and so it is for this year.

Bessie Smith

Bessie was the most popular blues performer of her time, and she’s been a major influence on blues, jazz and rock singers ever since. Her music is still being recorded today. So, back to 1923 and Gulf Coast Blues, her very first record.

♫ Bessie Smith - Gulf Coast Blues

Unlike Jelly-Roll up at the top, KID ORY, or Edward to his mum and dad, may have been the most important person in the early development of jazz.

Kid Ory

That’s because he hired King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Johnny Dodds amongst others for his band. Unlike many musicians from that era, he lived a long time, retiring to Hawaii in 1966 and dying in 1973 (he was born in 1886).

This is Ory's Creole Trombone with those musicians mentioned playing along with him.

♫ Kid Ory Louis Armstrong - Ory's Creole Trombone

ETHEL WATERS had a dreadful childhood and early life. I won’t go into it but it’s worth finding out about it, just to see what she had to overcome.

Ethel Waters

Quite early on she was performing in the same club as Bessie Smith who was the headliner. Bessie refused to allow Ethel to sing blues or jazz, so she (Bessie) wouldn’t be upstaged. So Ethel performed pop songs from the day.

Maybe that set her up to be the versatile performer she became. Here, and ignoring Bessie, Ethel performs Georgia Blues. This has Fletcher Henderson and cornet player Joe Smith accompanying her.

♫ Ethel Waters and Her Jazz Masters - Georgia Blues

BEN BERNIE AND HIS ORCHESTRA were the first to record the song Swinging Down the Lane.

Ben Bernie

Isham Jones wrote the song and he recorded it as well, but not until a few months later. Ben had quite a good singing voice but this track is an instrumental.

♫ Ben Bernie - Swinging Down The Lane (1923)

I remember Connie Francis singing Who's Sorry Now? That wasn’t in 1923, of course. The song was written in that year and several people recorded it at the time, including MARION HARRIS.

Marion Harris

She was one of the first white performers to sing jazz and blues. I have to admit that I can’t hear it in this song. There is a talkie bit in the song which Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, always contends that means it’s a country song. I bow to her insight, but I notice that later recordings eschew this bit.

♫ Marion Harris - Who's Sorry Now

BLOSSOM SEELEY was a vaudeville performer who helped to bring blues and jazz to a wider audience.

Blossom Seeley

For a white performer of the time she’s not bad. She’s no Bessie Smith, but nor is anyone else. She was one of the first to sing many of the songs we think of as classics today, including Way Down Yonder in New Orleans.

♫ Blossom Seeley - Way Down Yonder In New Orleans



It's been so long that I can hardly remember a time without Dr. John, the Night Tripper in my musical life. His death last week from a heart attack at age 76 (or so) was a shocker to me. Here is a short video obituary from CBS Sunday Morning program:

Rolling Stone magazine (among many others) posted a more comprehensive obit here.

Watch this space for TGB musicologist, Peter Tibbles', column on Dr. John coming soon.


It's been a bad week for our poor old U.S. Constitution and the rule of law. The president has made it abundantly clear that he not only doesn't understand the Constitution, he also couldn't care less about what it says.

Some Congressional leaders have made the right noises about the president's conviction that only he knows what's right or wrong in regard to foreign intervention in our elections. But not loud enough and not with any meaningful follow-up.

My friend Jim Stone sent this speech from another era in our history when the rule of law was under attack by a president. Texas Representative Barbara Jordan, during impeachment hearings in regard to President Richard Nixon, specified in detail the articles of impeachment and the glory that is our Constitution.

This is audio only of Jordan's full speech and it is worth every one of its 13 minutes. President Nixon resigned his office on August 9, 1974. It is widely believed that if he had not resigned, he would certainly have been impeached.

The “1971” citation at top of video is an error – Representative Jordan's speech took place in July 1974 regarding a vote on articles of impeachment.


A toddler walks off with a mother cat's kitten and she doesn't waste much time snatching back her child.


Here's an explanation from one veterinarian about why so many cats love catnip.


I may have mentioned that I'm not much fond of compilation videos but cats can be fearless (jerks, sometimes too) and it's really fun to watch them being so.


Last Wednesday, Maine's Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill that allows physicians to prescribe medication for people with terminal diseases to end their lives. As AP reports:

”Maine’s measure will allow doctors to prescribe a fatal dose of medication to terminally ill people. It declares that obtaining or administering life-ending medication is not suicide under state law, thereby legalizing the practice often called medically assisted suicide.”

Read more here.


High (pun intended) in the mountains of western China, archaeologists Yimin Yang and Meng Ren of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences examined 10 wooden braziers pulled from eight burial tombs.


The Los Angeles Times reports that when the braziers were tested,

”...they found high levels of cannabinol, a metabolite of THC. Though the predicted THC levels would have been much lower than those in strains of cannabis cultivated today, they were still significantly higher than the levels found in typical wild cannabis plants.

“Beyond the THC levels, the braziers themselves supplied the smoking gun, Frachetti said.

“'It’s the difference between finding the residue of burnt cannabis versus finding an actual bong,' Frachetti said. 'That’s going to be the indication that these things are being deployed as smoke, and that’s what these braziers really are. They’re showing a whole technology of releasing cannabis smoke.'”

Read more at the L.A. Times.


The reporter on this video tells us:

”I took a boat through 96 million black plastic balls on the Los Angeles reservoir to find out why they're there. The first time I heard about shade balls the claim was they reduce evaporation. But it turns out this isn't the reason they were introduced.”

The video is 12 minutes long and I didn't expect I would stick around to the end. But I did and enjoyed the whole thing.


By their sister, according to the video. Thank TGB reader Simone for this surprise ending.

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Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.

Elders and Cannabis Use

A growing number of elders in the United States, including me, are using cannabis to treat their old age ailments.

For more than a decade, I couldn't sleep longer than three or four hours a night. After I woke, I'd lie in bed for a few hours, but I never fell into a real sleep again that night.

Once a week or so, survival (I'm guessing) kicked in and I'd manage a marathon sleep of six or seven hours before reverting to three or four hours.

When, two years ago, I had recovered enough from the pancreatic cancer surgery that my “normal” sleep pattern returned, I was concerned that without more sleep, my health would suffer while I try to live with this cancer predicament.

Over-the-counter potions have never worked for me and I didn't want prescription opioids. In the hospital, I had been given fentanyl for three days following my 12-hour cancer surgery and I learned then how insidiously wonderful it is. I understand completely how people get hooked.

Fortunately, I live in a state, Oregon, where both medical and recreational cannabis is legal. Dispensaries are scattered around the Portland area at about the same ratio as pharmacies and are easy to find. They are run by friendly, knowledgeable people.

While I was shopping for cannabis recently, a “budmaster” told me that most of the dispensary's customers are old people and the available research seems to bear that out.

Here is a statista.com chart showing registered users of cannabis in Oregon by age as of April of 2019. Of course, “registered” is moot now that recreational use is also legal so this is not an entirely accurate picture of elder cannabis use:


If you add up all the users age 60 and older, just over 35 percent of are using cannabis.

Last fall, NPR reported on a free, regularly scheduled bus that takes elders to a local dispensary. Ninety-year-old Shirley Avedon uses cannabis to treat her carpal tunnel syndrome:

"'It's very painful; sometimes I can't even open my hand,' Avedon says.

“So for the second time in two months, she has climbed aboard a bus that provides seniors at the Laguna Woods Village retirement community in Orange County, Calif., with a free shuttle to a nearby marijuana dispensary.

“The retired manager of an oncology office says she's seeking the same relief she saw cancer patients get from smoking marijuana 25 years ago.

"'At that time (marijuana) wasn't legal, so they used to get it off their children,' she says with a laugh. 'It was fantastic what it did for them.'”

Some physicians are supportive of elders' cannabis use, others not so much mostly, it seems, because there is so little research due to the federal government's designation of it as a Schedule 1 drug. NPR again:

”The limited research that exists suggests that marijuana may be helpful in treating pain and nausea, according to a research overview published last year by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Less conclusive research points to it helping with sleep problems and anxiety.

“Dr. David Reuben, Archstone professor of medicine and geriatrics at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, says he sees a growing number of patients interested in using it for things like anxiety, chronic pain and depression.

"'I am, in general, fairly supportive of this because these are conditions (for which) there aren't good alternatives,' he says.”

A lot of elders report that their doctors are uninformed about the medical uses of marijuana and they, the patients, feel uncomfortable asking for a card in the states where only medical marijuana is legal.

Earlier this month, MSN.com reported:

”More and more older people are turning to cannabis for their ailments, because it can soothe the symptoms of problems like arthritis, Parkinson's, and chronic pain...

“A new study suggests that the number of people using marijuana is increasing faster for those aged over 65 than for any other age group, but they come up against many barriers when trying to access it.”

I'm fortunate that my doctors are knowledgeable and informative about patients' use of cannabis and we can discuss it openly. We also keep it on my list of medications so that when they are changed, we remember to check how the cannabis might interact with my other drugs.

It amuses me that something my friends and I saw as “cool” and rebellious when we started smoking pot in our teen years is now cool in a whole new way for us oldest folks.

One difference is that the largest number of elders to whom I've chatted with about cannabis tell me, “Oh, but I wouldn't want to get high.”

Really? I think it's fun to get high and listen to music now and then. But if that's not your thing, there are plenty of CBD products that treat a variety of ailments without the psychedelic effect.

I bring all this up because there are now 30 U.S. states that allow medical and/or recreational use of cannabis, and I wonder what your experience with and thoughts are about it – particularly since many of us elders seem to be taking to it with eagerness.

And god knows, it's cheaper than a lot of prescription drugs.

(Feel free to use an alias in the comments if you don't want others to know your name.)

Elders and Extreme Heat

I know, I know, this is one of those nuts-and-bolts blog posts that sounds like a snore. You think you know all you need to know and maybe it's just me but each year at about this time when I check what I wrote in the past, there are a bunch of things I've forgotten.

We are still a week away from the first day of summer and already there is a mini-heat wave going on here in the northwest corner of Oregon. Temperatures were in the 90s F yesterday and are threatening to reach that level today.

Then, according to the weather websites, we will have two weeks or so of mid-80s F degrees. This certainly is not as high as it can and does get here and especially in the southern tier of the United States, but it can still be a danger to old people.

So at about this time each year, I post a reminder about how to keep ourselves cool throughout summer and how to know when overheating is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Although everyone suffers, extreme heat is more often deadly for elders than younger people.

For example, in France in August of 2003, during an extreme heat wave, 14,802 heat-related deaths occurred, most of them elders. In the U.S., it is estimated that about 370 deaths a year are attributable to heat, half of them elders. Do not take extreme heat lightly.

Here are the best suggestions for staying cool and safe during extreme hot weather. Yes, I've published these before – pretty much every year - but it's good to review them again.

Even if, like me, you dislike air conditioning, when temperatures hit 80F, it's time to pump up the volume of that appliance. Fans, say experts, don't protect against heat-related illness when temperatures are above 90 degrees; they just push hot air around.

If you don't have an air conditioner, plan for the hottest part of the day by going to a mall or a movie or the library or visit a friend who has air conditioning.

If you have air conditioning and have elder friends or neighbors who don't, invite them for a visit in the afternoon. Some other important hot weather tips:

Wear light-colored, loose clothing.

Drink plenty of liquids and make reminders to yourself to do so. Elders sometimes don't feel thirst (another thing that stops working well with age). One way to know if you are drinking enough water is to check the color of your urine. Light-colored is good; dark indicates dehydration.

Do not drink caffeinated and alcoholic beverages – or at least keep them to a minimum; they are dehydrating. (Some people dispute this; experts do not.)

Plan trips out of the house and exercise for the early morning hours.

Eat light meals that don't need to be cooked. High-water-content foods are good: cantaloupe, watermelon, apples, for example.

Keep a spray bottle of cold water to help you cool down. Or use a damp, cool towel around your neck.

Close doors to rooms you are not using to keep cool air from dissipating.

Some medications for high blood pressure, diabetes and other conditions can inhibit the body's ability to cool itself, so it might be a good idea to ask your physician if you can cut back during hot weather.

Pull down the shades or close curtains during the hottest times of day.

In that regard, I have been quite successful in keeping my home cool during hot weather without the air conditioner. In the morning, when the temperature here in Portland, Oregon is typically in the mid- or high 50s, I open all the windows.

I keep my eye on the thermometer and when the outside temperature reaches 65F or 70F – usually by late morning - I close the windows and the shades. After several years of practice with this method, I only rarely need the air conditioner even on 90-plus degree days. It saves a lot of money, too, not using the air conditioner. But never, ever hesitate to turn it on when you need it.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body gets too hot. Symptoms are thirst, weakness, dizziness, profuse sweating, cold and clammy skin, normal or slightly elevated body temperature.

Move yourself or someone experiencing this to a cool place, drink cool liquids, take a cool bath or shower and rest.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It can cause brain damage so get thee or the affected person to a hospital. It occurs when body temperature reaches 104 or 105 in a matter of minutes. Other symptoms include confusion; faintness; strong, rapid pulse; lack of sweating and bizarre behavior.

Don't fool around with heat stroke.

There now. That's pretty much the best of health experts' recommendations about protecting ourselves and others during extreme hot weather. If you have additional suggestions, please add them in the comments.

A TGB READER STORY: Singin’ All the Way

By Lyn Burnstine

We - my accompanist friend, her partner, and I - had been to a spectacular birthday party of a dear young friend whose request of the guests was to sing a song for her—preferably their own.

Almost every folk musician in the Hudson Valley who didn’t have a gig that afternoon was there. The music flowed for hours, with time out only for a fabulous meal, thoughtfully considerate of the needs of gluten free and vegetarian guests. It was a scorching hot day, but comfortable inside. We headed for home while still daylight.

A sudden flash of metal, of light coming toward us, caught our eyes just seconds before our windshield became something from a horror movie, as first we hit the car before us, in spite of valiant efforts on the part of our driver to avoid it, then CRASH!

The car coming toward us in the wrong lane at 100 miles an hour had come to a final stop up against our car after wiping out a truck and several cars, killing one mother of four and seriously injuring several others, himself included, between them and us.

I was sitting in the back - doctor’s orders since the pacemaker in my belly could be a killer if hit by the airbag. Fortunately, my friends in the front were saved by the airbags, with only minor burns on their hands. Not so, me.

The force of the crash and the pain in my chest were unlike anything I had ever experienced. My friend turned to ask, “Are you okay, Lyn?”

I could barely squeeze out a faint “no” with a shallow breath. I thought I was dying, then the real terror hit as the airbags deployed, releasing thick, chalky pink powder into the car’s interior.

We truly thought we were going to suffocate until finally my friends managed to open a door and window. It took all of my will power to breathe, even shallowly, with the injury to my chest, which I eventually realized was caused by my little three-wheeled walker flying over from the side seat and hitting me.

I had been bragging for some time that I was making it through my lifetime without any bone breaks other than toes. Now my record was broken, along with my sternum, and four other little bones in my neck and back that I never even felt, paling as they did to the pain in my breastbone.

In the three miserable weeks in the hospital and rehab, I was frequently reminded by my many visitors of how lucky I was. Who could ever have imagined that this “frail-elderly,” 84-year-old with bones weakened by 62 years of severe rheumatoid arthritis, with osteopenia, if not osteoporosis, could survive such a crash let alone recover so remarkably well and speedily that all of my friends are convinced I’m the Energizer Bunny.

I’m not a believer in heavenly intervention but I do know that I still have a job to do here. I’m often reminded of it by my younger cohorts at the open mics where I sing regularly.

They count on me to keep them knowledgeable about American traditional folk music, as, more and more, they turn to their own and others’ contemporary singer/songwriter music.

I am proud that many of them and the more-than-200 followers of my photography on Facebook tell me that I am their inspiration for “keeping on” despite multiple health issues and increasing fragility.

It was almost worth it to have my accompanist, a wonderful songcrafter, write a beautiful song about me called Singin’ All the Way, the title of my first book of memoir and audio cassette, as well as my mantra.

The ironic sequel to this story: when I had nearly recovered, after three months, I suffered injuries to my tailbone in a hard fall, ricocheting off a soft, squishy mattress onto a pile of hardcover books.

In the reading of the x-rays, the technician announced, “No breaks now, but I see you have an old break in your pubic bone.” DAMN! Four years ago I suffered another painful fall that put me in the hospital, where a near-sepsis infection, of which I was unaware, was discovered.

The fall saved my life but the price was high as I walked around in agony for weeks, insisting it had to be broken, despite what the x-rays showed. I wonder what future x-rays will say about my coccyx!

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]

Crabby Old Lady Tries to Manage Her Disease

TGB readers generate a lot of good ideas for blog posts, sometimes without knowing it. The latest that caught Crabby Old Lady's attention is pretty much a perfect fit with one of the tenets of TimeGoesBy – that we talk about old age things here that nobody ever tells us will happen. We discover them the hard way.

About a week ago, Patty-in-New-York left, in part, this comment:

”Reading this post,” wrote Patty, “I was struck by how complicated it is, managing your illness.”

No kidding. As soon as Crabby read that, she realized such thoughts have been rolling around in her head for some time, just slightly out of reach. Patty's note made them manifest along with instant understanding that Crabby is far from the only old person doing this.

Start with medications. It's not just the pills themselves, it's how and when they are taken. Crabby has one that she takes first thing in the morning. Another – a double dose of two pills - to take 30 minutes before breakfast.

There are five or six more she takes at the beginning of that meal, and another pill that she must take before every meal and every snack she eats; it is crucial to replacing the enzymes her body can no longer produce on its own.

Then there are the evening pills. Some related to the evening meal, others not. Oh, and one more – Crabby takes cannabis in a variety of forms an hour before she intends to go to sleep to relieve the insomnia she lived with for many years.

Crabby counts out all these into little pillbox containers every Saturday for the coming week. She's been doing this now for two years. It's boring. Really boring. Crabby sighs a lot on Saturday when she counts them out.

Since the breathing problem appeared, Crabby has been on an inhaler four times a day which is now plugged into her schedule with the pills and altogether, they go something like this: 6AM, 7AM, 10AM, noon, 2PM, 6PM and so on. It means being in almost constant communication with a clock all day every day.

About a year ago, Crabby needed to inject a solution into the fat in her belly twice a day for two months. This is not fun and the longer it went on the fewer “clean” places there were to stick the needle. Thank god she didn't need to find a vein.

As Crabby has undoubtedly mentioned, cancer and chemotherapy eat up energy (calories) faster than a healthy body and weight loss can quickly lead to frailty. Crabby is regularly admonished by the nurses and doctors to eat lots of protein and animal fat and if she is not eating enough, weight slips off her body like water after a shower.

So first thing every morning Crabby weighs herself, marks the number on the chart she keeps and adjusts her eating for any given day on whether her weight is heading up or down.

Start with the aforementioned shower. For reasons Crabby doesn't understand, showering leaves her breathing hard before she's halfway done. She is completely baffled as to why standing mostly still while lovely hot water falls over her body should do this.

Making the bed since the breathing problem appeared is a long procedure; Crabby needs to sit and rest two or three times when straightening the covers, and don't even ask how many times she rests while changing the bed.

Even getting dressed sometimes requires a rest period to get her breathing back on course.

Carrying groceries in from the car? Crabby used to just grab all the bags, even six or seven of them, and walk them into the house. With the breathing problem now, that many bags requires at least three trips with a 10 minute rest between each one.

Further – again, associated with the breathing difficulty - even standing still can be exhausting. It still surprises Crabby every time she washes the few dishes one person generates that she's breathing hard before she's halfway through two plates, a cup, silverware and a pot or pan.

Often, just bending over to pick up a dropped pen or pencil results in a few minutes of heavy breathing.

In comparison, laundry is relatively easy. Throw it in the washer with the soap, then dump it in the dryer. Crabby can manage folding with only a couple of rest periods.

Mostly, Crabby can manage only one trip from the house per day (she has come to think of them as expeditions) to do the grocery shopping, a medical appointment, lunch with a friend, etc.

Nowadays, Crabby takes stairs slow and easy, trying to avoid them if at all possible. Even slight inclines in the pavement for a few feet leave her exhausted and breathing hard.

And it's more than just the physical activity and driving; there is a kind of psychic fatigue at being away from home that piles onto “normal” sluggishness resulting from what it takes to get through a day now.

All of this, and more that she skipped over telling you, eats up hours from Crabby's day, especially when she's tired enough to need a nap. But she signed up for it and shouldn't complain – at least, not too much. She can ditch all the treatment at any time and let the disease take its course. No one is stopping her.

So far she is willing to live this way although what she lately misses most is personal time. She goes brain dead by about 3:30 in the afternoon which means that in addition to household maintenance for the day, she is done with books, magazines, the internet, email, writing the blog – anything that takes mental power.

Speaking of email, a goodly amount of it arrives daily with messages, questions, suggestions and other missives from readers that need at least a “thank you” if not a longer response.

But there comes a time in the afternoon – usually around that 3PM mark – when Crabby cannot sit at the computer for one more moment without crashing. Her body is done for the day.

When that happens, unanswered email is likely to go unanswered indefinitely as it gets mixed with all the new stuff that drops into the inbox and as Crabby just described, there are many fewer hours in her day than there once were. She tries, but she hopes you will understand if you don't get an answer.

One of the few things Crabby Old Lady has learned over time all by herself is that if it is happening to her, it is happening to a lot of other people.

Crabby isn't the only denizen of TGB who struggles with managing a chronic or deadly disease (or "just" getting older) and she wonders what you do to keep it all together. How do you deal with needs, limitations and surprises old age inflicts?

ELDER MUSIC: The Queenston Trio

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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This was the joke name for a trio consisting of EMMYLOU HARRIS, DOLLY PARTON and LINDA RONSTADT. They recorded some albums together and occasionally performed in various combinations over the years. This column is merely an excuse to hear three of the finest singers of the last 50 years.

EMMY leads off with Do I Ever Cross Your Mind? Of course, as with all the songs today, the others are there in the background (or foreground).


The song was actually written by Dolly, and she has performed it both on one of her albums and another as a duet with Chet Atkins. However, it’s Emmy’s turn today.

♫ Do I Ever Cross Your Mind

Everyone together with Mr. Sandman, a cover of The Chordettes’ hit from the mid-fifties.


The song was written by Pat Ballard and was first recorded by Vaughn Monroe, of all people, before The Chordettes took it to the top of the charts.

♫ Mr. Sandman

LINDA is to the forefront of Lover's Return, an old Carter Family song, written by A. P. Carter.


♫ Lover's Return

LINDA sings a splendid lead on one of Jackson Browne’s finest songs, For a Dancer.


This first came to our notice on Jackson’s fine album “Late for the Sky”, maybe his best. Jackson’s version is hard to beat, but Linda just about equals it.

♫ For a Dancer

The song, I've Had Enough is mostly the trio, with EMMY out front now and then.


It was written by Kate McGarrigle, who was a writer of fabulous songs.

♫ I've Had Enough

Are You Tired Of Me was written by G.P. Cook and Ralph Roland, and first recorded by L.K. Reeder in 1925. Since then it’s been performed by many people including our trio. It’s mostly the three of them, but EMMY is slightly to the fore.


♫ Are You Tired Of Me

I’ve always been ambivalent about Neil Young. I don’t particularly like his singing. When I’m in the mood (not very often) I like his roaring lead guitar. However, he sure can write great songs. This is one of those, After the Gold Rush. DOLLY performs this with some help from the others in the background.


♫ After The Gold Rush

DOLLY again, with the song, He Rode All the Way to Texas.


The song was written by John Starling, and performed by him in his band, The Seldom Scene, a fine, progressive, bluegrass group. Others have recorded it as well, and it’s the trio’s turn today.

♫ He Rode All The Way To Texas

My Dear Companion goes a long way back but is attributed to Jean Ritchie. However, Jean’s sister Edna recorded a version before Jean tackled it. Jean massaged the song, scrubbed it a bit, made the language more poetic and recorded it herself. That’s the version we have today. EMMY sings lead on this one.


♫ My Dear Companion

To Know Him is to Love Him is a song written by Phil Spector, inspired by words on his father's tombstone. It was a huge hit for The Teddy Bears (which included Spector, the only group he was ever in). This is essentially a trio song, with EMMY occasionally singing lead.


There’s some nice guitar work by Albert Lee.

♫ To Know Him Is To Love Him

LINDA takes the lead on this beautiful version of Across the Border, a song written by Bruce Springsteen. This is a superb song, and this is a wonderful version of it.


If you’d like to hear Bruce’s version, it’s on his album “The Ghost of Tom Joad”.

♫ Across the Border


I’ll end with a religious song and that’s rather unusual for me as I’m not religious; indeed, if pushed I would say I was anti-religion, but we won’t go there.

The first three verses have EMMY and DOLLY trading lead vocals and that alone would make it a great song. Then LINDA comes in on the fourth verse and takes the song into the sublime realm, making it one of the finest songs ever recorded.

Surprising, Softly and Tenderly didn’t appear on their official trio albums; it was only when the complete sessions were released that we discovered it. See if you can remain unmoved by this one.

♫ Softly And Tenderly



A week or two I posted a video of people who rescue animals from war zones. Here is another about those who rescue pets in trouble.


Jonathan, a 187-year-old tortoise this video tells us, is Earth's oldest living land animal. Take a look:

Find out more at Mental Floss.


I am about to offend some of you. There is nothing I can – or am willing - to do about that.

A week or so ago, I emailed my friend Jim mentioning that the U.S. may be about to lose its “eliminated” status as the measles outbreak continues to grow. Our conversation continued...

RONNI: I am no longer rational on the subject of anti-vaxxers. It's one thing to try to eliminate mass shootings like the most recent one in Virginia Beach. But measles? Easy peasy. Yet here we are. Grrrrrrrrr.

JIM: If only we could get the mass shooters and the anti-vaxxers together. Win-win.

If you're offended, I assume you will unsubscribe – so be it. Me? I nearly fell off my chair laughing, a good deal of it with chagrin that I did not see that joke myself.


As it turns out, Thomas Crapper did not invent the modern toilet (too bad for bad jokes) but he did make his name in the toilet business. Here's a short, little history of the toilet:

If you are interested in more detail about the history of the toilet (including Thomas Crapper's involvement), there is an hour-long documentary from the BBC here.


There is a growing body of long-form writing on the web, some of it quite good that would make it a disservice to only excerpt it. So I had a mini-brainstorm:

How about if, in this Saturday Interesting Stuff column, I include one or two or three such articles that I liked reading during the week and link to them from here. Then it would be up to you if you to decide to read or not. Let's try it for awhile:

These Millennials Got New Roommates. They’re Nuns
A project called Nuns and Nones moved religion-free millennials into a convent. Good things happened. Read it at The New York Times.

My Grandfather’s Secret D-Day Journal
Many of us at this blog had a family member who served in World War II. This is a grandson's discovery of a diary from D-Day. He writes:

”I knew his role in the invasion meant a great deal to him. But I never saw his haunting, heartbreaking diary until after he died.”

Read the story and the diary at the Washington Post.

If you like this idea, you are welcome to send suggestions – long-form web articles – but with no promise of inclusion. Please use the “Contact” link at the top of the page – no links in comments are allowed.


Like me, you have probably seen the Suburu commercials starring the Barkley dog family. I ran across a treasure trove of them on YouTube this week and delighted in them all over again. Here's one:

Here's another:

There are more at YouTube:


Just a few weeks after heart surgery Rolling Stones lead singer, Mick Jagger, was in rehearsal for the rock group's new tour which begins on June 21 in Chicago.

Take a look:

Earlier this week, we showed you an old photo of my former husband and me with Beatle John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I was (am) a fan but I always felt just slightly more excited about Jagger and the Stones. God, I wish I could see them one more time before I die - just as I did the first time from row 3 at Madison Square Garden. Oh, well.

There is some more information about Jagger's heart surgery at AARP.


The governor of Illinois. J.B. Pritzker, signed a bill this week making his state the latest to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use.

Here is a map of the current 11 U.S. states where cannabis is legal:


You can read more at the Chicago Tribune.

Also this week, Oakland, California, became the second city, after Denver, to decriminalize magic mushrooms AKA psilocybin. You can read about that at APNews.


Yet another doggie video this week. Can't resist 'em.

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Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.