Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Casual Look
A friend recently invited me to the opera. We both enjoyed it immensely, but one thing that caught my eye was how people were dressed. It ran the gamut from a lady wearing a long sequined dress to a man showing up in shorts and a t-shirt. It seems to me that the proper attire should have been something at a mid-point like my friend and I were wearing: stylish suits.
            Styles have evolved over the years, and the casual look is certainly front and center these days. That’s a good thing otherwise we women would still be lacing up heavy corsets held up by whalebone under long bulky dresses.
People of a certain age remember when denim was used solely to provide overalls to farmers and jeans to cowboys. Today, men and women of all ages wear denim for play, for work or even as evening wear with the proper accessories.
          A while back, in an effort to outsmart the competition I suppose some jeans manufacturers began selling jeans with holes down the thighs with a bigger hole at the knee. Between you and me who in the world foresaw that it would become a hit among a certain portion of the population? The designer understood that some people need to stand out. What better way to do that than by wearing expensive jeans that look as though they had been mauled by a tiger! Nevertheless, that fad is still part of the fashion scene.
            Nothing is stagnant when it comes to fashion taste. That’s the way it should be because attitudes change. A few decades back, if a teenager had been seen wearing  jeans with holes, kind neighbors would have gotten together to buy the poor kid a pair of decent pants. Today, with the casual look very much ingrained in society, anything goes and no one seems to notice anymore.
            Perhaps it frees all of us, no matter our age. I certainly do blend in when I wear my warm comfy cotton top displaying paint stains of various colors! My grandmother would have made certain that top would be thrown out, but who knows I might start a new trend!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Making a Statement
My retired neighbors are both in their early 60s. He has long gray hair and a white bear, always neatly trimmed. He used to have a gold stud in one ear, but now sports a diamond in each lobe. Of course, I am not sure that they are real diamonds, but they do shine. In any event, I assume he is trying to make a statement: Look at me, I may be aging but I can still look cool!
            Women make statements all the time with their jewelry, their hairstyles and the clothes they chose to wear. I think it’s about time men did the same. Of course, I don’t know that all men of a certain age would be comfortable with wearing jewelry in their ears! Nor would all men over 50 be willing to let their gray hair grow and then tie it in a pony tail. Yet, it is interesting that some of them want to make a statement which attests to the fact that they don’t see the need to follow the crowd.
            A nice young man of my acquaintance, i.e. my gorgeous grandson (of course, I’m not prejudiced!) had nice shoulder length blond hair. One day he decided to make a statement by shaving his head to donate the hair for a wig for a cancer patient. When I asked him what had prompted him to do that, he said that he knew a girl who was diagnosed with cancer and, although she was not in his school, he wanted to show that he cared. Now, that’s what I call making an impressive statement.
            I’ve always admired people who don’t follow the crowd, who are happy doing their own thing. A woman I know who just marked her 86th birthday celebrated by buying a new car. I love driving, she said, never had an accident and I don’t have any physical problem preventing me from having a driver’s license, so why not? Why not, indeed. She made a statement that age is not a reason to stop living.
            That should be everyone’s mantra!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Brave New World
In the last couple of decades, the world has changed drastically. One of the major new ways of the world is that devices of all sorts, i.e. machines, have invaded our lives. They have replaced humans in all spheres of daily living.
            Machines certainly make banking easier. They are a marvel when you travel and can access a machine to withdraw money from your bank account and receive it in the currency of the country in which you find yourself. No need to talk to a human teller. The machine is the teller.  
            Machines have also invading neighborhood grocery stores, not only by keeping track of inventories as items are sold but also by encouraging customers to scan their own purchases. Right now, there are only a few check-out points in each store for customers to add up their own purchases, but how long before there are no employees in grocery stores and we have to do everything ourselves? Or maybe grocery store clerks will soon be robots. One advantage, I guess, is that they don’t go on strike and they are not offended when people criticize them.
            Robots are already very much part of our lives, even if we do not necessarily see them. When you renew a prescription by phone, a robot rather than a human notes your request for the pharmacist. And I’m sure we’ve all received phone calls from robots. They’re used by stores to call customers to let them know that ordered items are now ready to be picked up. They have replaced humans in companies of all sorts, such as credit card issuers, as they try to sell you insurance or other products. One advantage for those who receive such calls is that you can simply hang up without hurting anyone’s feeling, something many people were reluctant to do when an actual person made sales calls. Of course, some still do.
            But my question is: how long before we have robots that can engage an actual human in a heated debate? Or have robots with the emotional dimension of humans? Boggle the mind, does it not? One thing is certain machines are taking over our lives little by little and will continue to do so at an even faster rate. 
            I find it all scary. When humans ruled the world, our private information was reasonably secure. Today, machines control information, communicate with each other, and never delete or update data. Case in point, after doing research on the Internet, your computer will be bombarded at nauseam by ads from the visited websites. Annoying to say the least.
            Of course, we still do have some measure of control. When we fill out some forms on the Internet, to prevent robots from accessing e-mail addresses, we have to prove we are not robots by inputting a series of numbers or letters that look fuzzy. While it’s not always easy to read those and we may need good eyeglasses, at least some information will not be broadcast.
            That is, of course, until robots can read through the fuzz. I’m sure someone somewhere is working on such a machine!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Looking around at today’s grandmothers, one can’t help but see how the passage of years has altered things. I mean, they don’t make grandmas like they used to. In my days, grandmas stayed at home and seemed to cook all day. By comparison, today’s grandma is out there in the world doing her own thing, from running a large corporation to doing open heart surgery and even running for President.
Yesterday’s grandma seemed to be forever wearing the “house dress” while today’s grandma blends in with the rest of the crowd in her silk suit or her jogging outfit. Yesterday’s grandma wore glasses. Chances are that today’s grandma wears contact lenses while her children get used to reading glasses.
While yesterday’s grandma had white hair, today’s grandma runs to her colorist as soon as grey roots begin to show. And that’s not the only time she runs. Keeping in shape by walking, jogging, cycling or swimming is a must for most of today’s grandmas. In comparison yesterday’s grandmas were too busy keeping in shape doing housework without the help of today’s many labor-saving devices and taking care of the yard and garden to ever consider  the idea of a gym.
And that’s the big difference between today and yesterday. Housework can be accomplished so much faster and efficiently today than in the past, and is generally more shared with the man of the house that in the past. At least, it seems to me.
That’s a good thing because it frees grandma to continue her work outside the home beyond the normal retirement age which will help her live longer. Research is indeed showing a strong association between continuing to work and health. Why? Because work gives everyone a purpose and a strong social network. Of course, doing volunteer work produces similar benefits and it is something in which every retiree can become involved. Grandmas and grandpas.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Marvel of Grandchildren                             
I was visiting my son and his family when I had a fall with my face coming in direct contact with the hardwood floor. There was a lot of blood and a bump quickly appeared just above my nose, however an emergency room visit confirmed that there was no damage, except in my appearance. The big problem was that I soon looked like a racoon on a bender.
          I was having breakfast with my son the next morning when my grandson appeared. He took one look at me and started to laugh. He had never seen two very black eyes on anyone before, and it tickled his fancy.
          The boy had simply reacted to the reality before him: I did look funny. That’s the marvel of children, isn’t it? They say it like it is. No sugar coating, just the truth as they see it. We all need them in our lives.
To stay young we have to surround ourselves with our grandchildren as often as we can manage it. They see things simply, laugh easily, even at their grandparents, and don’t complicate things as we adults often do. It has been my experience that grandchildren make you smile and laugh, warm your heart and force you to be young, to sing, to be silly without any need to apologize. And grandchildren are nurtured by the love and attention of grandparents. People always remember fondly the time spent with their grandparents as they were maturing. Two generations that complement each other perfectly.
As Sam Levenson said: The simplest toy, one which even the youngest can operate is called a grandparent.
           Don’t forget that this year Grandparents Day is September 11. (It’s always the first Sunday following Labor Day.) It honors grandparents for their contribution to our lives, and  gives grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children's children. Let’s celebrate.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

On Being Positive
People who must use walkers in their daily activities are often seen shopping, and they do it without problems. They have a bag at the front of the walker in which to deposit their purchases and thus can remain independent.
          A few days ago as I was grocery shopping, I saw a lady pushing a walker down an aisle while also pulling a shopping cart. She had already deposited several items in the cart and was adding to her purchases. As it was a lot work for her, I offered to help. She smiled and replied: “Thank you, dear. You have your own shopping to do. I can manage. Do it all the time.”
          I was really impressed by her positive attitude. I did the rest of my shopping slowly while keeping an eye on the woman. She managed well despite some physical limitation and has obviously learned to make the best of her situation to remain independent.
          At the cash, the bag boy who knew her by name helped her to empty her cart, then carried her purchases to a waiting taxi. I wondered if someone would be waiting at home to help her with the groceries. No doubt the cabbie, who also seemed to know her, would do just that.
          What I found nice was that through it all, she was pleasant and grateful. So much better than some people with mobility issues who seem to be always cursing their fate while complaining. Makes life so much less enjoyable for everyone.
          A nurse I know told me recently that she takes grumpy patients to task for their attitude. She says that a positive outlook can have a positive effect on health, something she tries to instill in the patients who are rude.
          And the amazing thing is that a smile costs nothing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back in the Day
Adults have a reputation for boring kids with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were back in the day. What with walking twenty-five miles to school every day...uphill... barefoot...yadda, yadda, yaddaHowever, now it is hard to not notice how the youth of today has it easy compared to when we were growing up! I wonder if they appreciate it.
= We grew up without the Internet.  If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the library and look it up, in the card catalog!! 
= There was no email!!  We had to actually write somebody a letter with a pen! Then had to walk all the way to the corner to put it in the mailbox!  Stamps were 10 cents!
= There were no MP3's or iTunes!  If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the record store and shoplift it yourself! Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio. There were no CD players! We had tape decks in our cars to play our favorite songs, and when ejected the tape would come undone rendering it useless.
= We didn't have cell phones. If you left the house, you just didn't make a call or receive one. You actually had to be out of touch with your "friends". Think of the horror of not being in touch with someone 24/7!  And we didn't have Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was!  It could be your school, your boss, your bookie, the collection agent ... You had to pick it up to find out!
 = We didn't have any fancy video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics!  We had the Atari 2600!  With games like 'Space Invaders' and 'Asteroids'.  Your screen guy was a little square!  You actually had to use your imagination. 
= You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! When it came to channel surfing you had to get off your ass and walk over to the TV to change the channel.
=There was no Cartoon Network! You could only get cartoons on Saturday morning.  Unlike today’s spoiled kids we had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons.
 = And we didn't have microwaves.  If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove! 
=And our parents told us to stay outside and play all day long.  No electronics to soothe and comfort.  And if you came back inside you were doing chores!
As for car seats, mom threw you in the back seat and you hung on.  If you were lucky, you got the "safety arm" across the chest at the last moment if she had to stop suddenly, and if your head hit the dashboard, well that was your fault for calling "shot gun" in the first place! 
            The question then is: How long would today’s kids last in the “back then” world?