About Me

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Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Father's Voice

This guest post is by pharmacist, author of murder mysteries, and friend, Don Weiss. 

My father died on August 8th, 1982.  I was 30 years old.  The day of his funeral dawned hot and sunny. I was amazed at the number of people who showed up at the cemetery. People whom I knew and people who were perfect strangers. The common denominator, my father had touched these people’s lives in some way. Enough so that they wanted to honor the man they knew in life.

My dad was a member of Tom Brokaw’s “greatest generation.” He served honorably in World War II as a combat field medic, earning a purple heart and a bronze star at the age of 24. 

What I remember about my dad was his sense of humor, his humility, and how he had the ability to make you feel safe when he was around. He was completely dedicated to his sons and his wife, and worked twelve hours a day for as long as I can remember. I can still remember the sound of his car pulling into the driveway and how good that felt.

Going with dad to see the Phillies play at old Connie Mack Stadium and going with him to watch the Eagles play, and the day he took my brother and me to the zoo (to give my mother a break). Trips to the Franklin Institute and the Academy of Natural Sciences and never protesting when my mother would plan a family outing on my dad’s only day off.

When I was a rebellious fifteen year-old, I mouthed off to my father. He smacked me across the face at something faster than the speed of light. It wasn’t a hard slap; it was more for the shock value, but boy did it get my attention. It was the first and last time it happened and with the exception of a brief spanking when I was little, it was the only other time that my father laid a hand on me.

My dad would never come to the table unless he was showered, shaved and dressed and I never saw him get something from the kitchen without asking my mother if he could get her anything.

When I was seventeen and still rebellious, my dad suffered his first of three heart attacks. Two years earlier he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Both began to rob dad of his vitality and I had to grow up fast to help my mother care for him.

He recovered well enough to go back to work, but he wasn’t the same guy. On the eve of his second heart attack, I was home when it happened. With dad in the backseat, I drove the car to the hospital. Again dad recovered enough to go back to work but three years later at the age of 60, he retired on disability. He cooked meals and did other work around the house as much as his physical condition would allow. On rainy days, he would wait at the bus stop for my mom holding an umbrella. Three years later he succumbed to his third heart attack. Parkinson’s had taken a huge toll on him as well, and he was only a shell of the man that I knew.

My huge regret in life is not spending more time with my dad during those last years. I had moved away seven years earlier and only got to see my folks two or three times a year. I wish that I could have talked with him more. The last words I spoke to him were “Hi dad, how are you?” All he said was “I’m fine; I’ll put your mother on.”

Now that I’m going through my own period of self doubt, I can only guess at what advice father would give me.  All I can hope for is that I’m as good a man.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Holidays to All!

May your blessings be many,
May your worries be few,
 Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, 
And a bright New Year too!
Take strength from a smile, a hug, or some zest,
Return it and see why you'll feel at your best!

Thank you for reading my blog and my book,
This silly rhyme also,
With photos they took!

Wishing everyone a healthy 2015 with some laughs thrown in!            Fondly, Pam

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Camilla and Charles Babysit While the Royals Visit the Colonies

Charles:   For the love of heaven, what is that beastly smell?

Camilla:    It's Prince George's biggie.  He just finished his lunch.

Charles:   Can't you do something?                                                                  

Camilla:   Sedrick (butler) is bringing rubber gloves and an apron.  Should I order you
               a mask?

Charles:   No, just get it done.  Oh no, oh no!  He just vomited over my velvet
               slippers.  It's vile - it's green.

Camilla:   It's just peas, Charles.  Kate said to give them a try.  Here's Sedrick now.
               Help me get the Prince out of the highchair, would you, Charles?

Charles:  Sedrick, I need a wet towel right away.
               You know I have a bad back, Camilla.  I can't lift him - he's a load.

Camilla:   And I just had my nails done.  Come on, give me a hand.
               (they both lift Prince George)

Charles:   Stop squirming, son!  My god, he's heavy.  I can't hold him.
               (Prince George and Camilla fall sideways onto carpet)
               Holy Queen Mother!  Are you hurt, Camilla?

Camilla:   (slightly winded)  George fell on top of me.  Get his doctor!
               (Prince screaming on top of Camilla)

Charles:   Where is that nanny when we need her?  Where's Sedrick?
                Oh, there you are, Sedrick..  There's been a fall.  Summon the Prince's
               doctor immediately.
                Not a word of this, mind you!
                (takes wet towel as Sedrick retreats again for doctor)
                Take deep breaths, darling.  The Prince will be fine.  He had a soft landing
                on that lovely bosom.  (Prince George's cries turn to whimpers)
                Up-a-daisy, now.

Camilla:    (on her knees, handing Prince George to Charles)
               Oh, my nails are ruined!  Where is that nanny?

Sedrick:   (reappearing)  The doctor's on his way.  I'll take the Prince to his nanny.

Charles:    And do something about that odor, will you, Sedrick?
                Some spray, perhaps?
                I need to calm down.  Where's the paper, Camilla?

Camilla:     I need to get an appointment with my manicurist.

Charles:    (scanning paper)
                Look at this, Camilla!  They're in Brooklyn, of all places, for some brutish,
                smelly game. There's a monster with his arm around Kate.
                Didn't he get the protocol sheet?
Camilla:    (looking at news photo)
                She's making the best of it with that smile.  Always a good girl.
                William doesn't notice - his eyes are on Beyonce.

Charles:    Leave it to the Yanks to create a tempest.

Camilla:    We didn't need a Yank to create a tempest, did we now, Charles?

Charles:    Don't go there, Camilla.  Here they are at a gala.  I wonder what that
                 frock cost the Treasury?

Camilla:    It's elegant and covers her baby bump. Frumpy's all you get in
               The Pretty Pregnant Boutique here.

Charles:    Maybe the next one won't eat like a gargantuan or poo like a horse.

Camilla:    Her stylist outdid herself with those five 'do's.  Are they going away again

Charles:   If they must, we'll be heading off in the opposite direction!



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Favorite Christmas Memory

My husband comes from a large Irish family in Massachusetts.  To be specific, he is the oldest of five brothers and twin sisters.  Among the next generation are eleven grandchildren (and now twenty-three great-grandchildren).  The clan gathered at Granny’s house for every holiday except July 4th, when we were all at the beach.        

On Christmas Eve we piled the car with presents for each niece and nephew and Charley’s parents, and then all of us piled in – Charley and me, our two boys, my parents, and sometimes my sister and her husband. On this particular Christmas Eve, Granny and Grandpa were living in a two-story cottage.  It consisted of a kitchen, small dining and living room, and an enclosed sun porch.  Upstairs were two bedrooms and a bathroom.

With the temperature near zero, we spilled out of the van into the kitchen, hugging and kissing whoever was there and spilling their drinks in the process. We dropped our presents under the tree, leaning down to kiss each niece and nephew as we passed.  One nephew weaved a new Big-Wheel among the legs of the adults, screeching like a siren as he went.  A two-year-old pulled the bell on his new fire engine as he made his way to a fire. They’d been unable to wait.

Granny had the buffet set up in the dining room, where smells mingled from baked ham, lasagna, sliced roast beef for sandwich-making, sweet potatoes, and Granny’s famous potato salad.  My sister-in-law Joanne brought her blueberry and pecan pies and one of Charley’s sisters brought a cake.  Sugar cookies decorated with red and green crystals waited for the kids.

The tiny living room bulged with a love seat, a lounger, and folding chairs.  My parents and my sister squeezed together on the love seat.  I headed for a drink in the kitchen. “Time to eat,” Granny announced.

A hungry mob almost ran me over, stampeding toward the dining room.  With drink in hand, I followed and eventually found the arm of the lounger as my place to perch.“Can we open our presents now?” the grandchildren begged who hadn't received riding toys.  They'd only eaten a couple of bites.

The sound of ripping paper and screeches of joy filled the tiny living room, as our sons and their cousins found their gifts under the tree. Parents couldn't keep up with who'd given what to whom.  Torn paper and ribbons soon littered the floor.  Adults who weren't parents pinned themselves against the outer extremities of the walls.  Amid the chaos, a dispute broke out between two cousins.  "Mine!" yelled the little one, trying to dislodge his older cousin from the seat of his Big Wheel.  He used his only defense mechanism - he bit.  Teeth marks drew blood, howls filled the room, and Granny flew upstairs for iodine and a band-aid.

Eventually trash bags appeared amid the mayhem.  Parents stuffed wrapping paper and ribbons in dark green bags and attempted to round up their kids' toys into a family bag.

At midnight we got our gear together and dispersed into the freezing cold.  The inside of our noses stuck together. Charley’s brother's SUV was stuck in front of us and needed a jump start, which Charley provided.  The two of them ran into the warm refuge of the kitchen, where the rest of us waited. 

We arrived home around 2 a.m. to grab a few hours' sleep before Santa’s appearance.  Thankfully, we'd already put together all the gifts with small parts.  My exhausted parents, sister, and brother-in-law pulled themselves upstairs.

The next morning after Christmas breakfast we opened our gifts and retrieved the bag from Grandma’s house.  Anticipating their new hockey gloves and head phones, the boys discovered only wrapping paper, tissue, ribbons, and torn gift cards!  We’d taken home a bag of garbage.

Thirty years later, I remember the laughter more than any of our missing gifts.
Patience Brewster, artist and designer of handmade ornaments and holiday decor (http://www.patiencebrewster.com/ornaments.html), helped inspire this
holiday memory.           

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Grandma's Instructions

Grandma had to go out while the grandchildren were visiting in Florida.
Here are the instructions she left for Grandpa.


 1. Become a mannequin for "Beauty Parlor"
 2. Check for BARRETTES in your hair before
     leaving the house
 3. Lock the bathroom door, if you must use it
 4. Put the phone in Hannah's pocket so she
     can call me if you fall asleep and begin to
 5. Put any colored pills on
    an unreachable shelf so they
     won't mistake them for jelly beans.
 6. Sneeze only if absolutely necessary
    and into your elbow or you will
    be told you are spreading germs
    and a demonstration will follow of the
    appropriate method
 7.  Keep an extra pair of glasses in
    a locked drawer and write down
    where the key is.  Story-time follows
 8. Make time-outs a learning experience
    about right and wrong, but place them in
    a chair that isn't
    near wallpaper they can peel.  
 9. Use microwave only.  No

            DO NOT:

 1. Take the children within 50 feet of the
 2. Take the children within 20 feet of the pool
 3. Reheat pizza for lunch AND snack-time
 4. Tell them about starving children
    around the world to make them finish their
    When Olivia tells you she's
    allergic to fish and peanut butter,
 5. Let the children out of your sight for more
     than one minute, tops.
     That includes toilet time, so pee
     frequently and in small amounts.
 6. Try to shower
 7. Assume any sporting event on t.v.
    will keep them fascinated for three hours
 8. Pretend you heard something they
    said when you didn't.  Your response will
    make no sense and they'll think
    a nut case is in charge.
 9. Allow more than 2 carousel rides or Olivia
     will throw up
10. Assume they can buckle their own
      seat belts, but follow their instructions if
      you can't figure out how to do it
11. Frighten them by raising your voice for
      any reason. When you think you're
      whispering, you're actually speaking
      loud enough to be heard in a hurricane.
12. Believe them when they tell you they
      aren't tired and can skip a nap
13. Wear your "comfort outfit" or your fanny pack out of the house
14. Attempt to explain where babies come from or whether there's
      a Santa Claus.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Gift

Enjoy the following post by pharmacist, mystery writer, friend Don Weiss.
I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving with those you love!   Pam
                                                                     Steinway & Sons      

                                                       The Gift

Today, with your indulgence, I would like to wax philosophic. When you’re in your sixties, I believe it’s your God given right—so here goes.

Even in my state of hiatus from labor (sounds better than being out of work) I have many blessings to be thankful for. I have a wonderful wife, two terrific step-children and a lovely daughter-in-law. With the exception of a few age-related problems, my heath is good and I’ve been given the ability to play the piano. Nothing beats sitting down at my 102-year-old Steinway grand and that feeling of peace and contentment that washes over me when I play something by Chopin or Debussy. 

Have you ever considered the miracle that is the piano? In the hands of an artist it is capable of producing a wide variety of tones and sound with such nuance and finesse. The debt I owe to my teachers, Tanya Royshteyn (who gave me the fundamentals), and Judith Burganger (who gave me the music), cannot be re-paid.

The ancestor of the piano was an instrument called the Pantalon; an invention by a man called Pantaleon Hebenstreit from Leipzig. It was essentially a hammered dulcimer with a double sound board. It was six feet long and had 200 strings arranged as singles, pairs and triplets. It was capable of a full chromatic scale and had over five octaves, and most important of all, it could produce loud and soft tones unlike the organ or the harpsichord. The father of the modern piano was the Italian, Bartolomeo Cristofori, who developed the precursor to the modern hammer mechanism found in every piano.

It was Mozart who adopted the piano as an instrument for performance, and the German manufacturer, Steinway, who made it accessible to everyone. Modern artists like Artur Rubenstein, Claudio Arau, Vladislav Richter and Vladamir Horowitz  brought it to life. The great black pianists like Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, Scot Joplin and Eubie Blake took it to an entirely new level with Ragtime and Jazz.

I can trace my own instrument to the day it left the Steinway factory in New York, and in its 102 year old life, I’m only its third owner. The molds used to form the case are still in use at Steinway and the metal plate was forged in Steinway’s own foundry. The ebony keys are original. Most of the action is original as are all of the hinges, and pedals. The heart of the instrument, the sound board, was in perfect shape when I found it.

Osteo-arthritis in my little fingers prevents me from playing powerful octaves or performing great leaps like I used to or tackling more demanding works, but I still play slower, quieter, pieces with the same satisfaction and pleasure. It’s seen me through a whole host of dark days. That’s what I call a blessing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Holiday Dinner

This spoof posted on UTube has Sandy and Richard Riccardi performing in California.
Lyrics are by Sandy.  Parody is USCOPYRIGHT:FAIRUSE.
Click on this link to view Sandy singing and Richard on the piano:  http://www.youtube.com/embed/TX9EAavxrus

(To the tune of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer")                            
I made turkey and stuffing
And hot mashed potatoes,
Yams and ham
And fried green tomatoes.                                                                  
But I had forgot...
What family could have and have not!

Stanley could not have cheddar
'Cuz it clashes with his meds.
Lee's on a low-carb diet,
Couldn't sample any breads.
Anya could not have onions
'Cuz they fill her up with gas.
Elsie could not have eggnog
'Cuz it knocks her on her ass!

I made Martha Stewart's tart,
Sweet and high-falutin'
That six people couldn't eat
Because it con-tained gluten.

Sherman could not have shellfish,
Or he would asphyxiate.
There wasn't one damn item
That could stay on Linda's plate!

My souffle was a masterpiece,
So light and airy!
But my guests couldn't eat it
'Cuz no-one ate dairy.

I broke down and wept.
If you're vegan, then why'd you accept?

Penny got on her podium.  On
And on and on she went...
About the evils of sodium (plus
How she's lactose-intolerant).

Peter was prone to bloating,
Couldn't eat the broccoli.
Annie gets acid reflux,
Every time she looks at me!

When I put the turkey down,
Sarah had to say,
"Ever since the world began,
I can't eat no tryptophan."

Everyone at the table, getting
Up in years, you see,
Skipped the meal all together,
Talked about their surgeries!

So I said, "Pass the Beano
And pour me some vino
And screw it, next year,
YOUR house, please!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Another Necessary Evil of Aging

Because of my husband's report from the doctor this week that his colonoscopy revealed a "pristine cylinder," I am reproducing this blog post from July, 2012.  Just honoring my vet on Veteran's Day.          
U.S. Air Force Lieutenant

I was working on a machine at the fitness center when I overheard this conversation next to me.

John  (standing in a UMass teeshirt, dripping sweat that barely missed the gray-haired professor-type
          in white socks halfway up his shins, trying to do sit-ups on the bench under John):
         "You've never had a colonoscopy?  How old are you?"

Professor-type:  "I'm sixty-five."

John:  "Your doctor let you get away with that?"

Professor-type:  "I just didn't bother."

John:  "So this will be your first?"

Professor-type:  "That's right, and I'm not looking forward to it."

John:  "Well, the actual procedure isn't so bad, unless you've had a problem with anesthesia.
            You're sedated, you know."

Professor-type:  "I only had anesthesia once, and I was real groggy after."

John:  "Then you'd better be sure to bring someone to drive you home.  You won't know where
           you are, but you have to be there so early in the morning that by the time you're
           finished, it's only 10:30.  You can still go back to bed.  Anyway, it's the day before
           that's brutal."

Professor-type  (still in halfhearted sit-up routine):   "That's what I hear."

John:   "Well, the liquid you drink is a lot better than when I first started.  That stuff was like
            brake fluid.  Now you can get these little bottles of Citrate of Magnesium.  Unless
            you have a problem taking magnesium."

Professor-type:  "No."

John:  "That's lucky.  You have to make sure the Citrate of Magnesium is clear.  There's a
           lemon flavor.  Stay away from the cherry.  You have to finish the whole bottle around
           6 o'clock.  So you'd better plan to take off work the day before, because you have to
           take Ex-Lax pills in the afternoon. They react on some people fast."

Professor-type:  No response.  Still doing half-speed sit-ups.

John:  "And you have to drink 64 ounces of water.  That's the most
           important part.  The water flushes your kidneys.  So like I said, you could react fast or

Professor-type:  "Got it."

John:  "For me, things started to get interesting around 7 o'clock. I'd suggest a portable t.v. in the bathroom,
          or a magazine."

Professor-type:  "Thanks for the tip."

John:  "Of course, you can't eat anything all day, so you begin to get hungry the more you sit on
           the can.  But you can't drink anything after midnight, either."

Professor-type:  "I'm sure I won't be thinking about eating."

John:  "Well, I had to run every half-hour all night.  You might be different.  When
            it got clear, that's when I knew I was about done."

Professor-type:  No longer doing sit-ups, putting a towel over his head.

Pam:  Stifling laughter, jumps off the machine and runs to the mats.  Stretches in hilarity.

P.S. - I've had two colonoscopies and wouldn't skip one for the life of me (and the two friends
          we lost to colon cancer).

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Value of Laughter


I've been interviewed a lot lately about my book, ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS.  One of the frequent questions I'm asked is, "How does a caregiver de-stress, since caregiving is a 24/7 job that is often frustrating, thankless, and tiresome physically as well as emotionally?"

I respond that it's imperative a caregiver attend to his/her own well-being, in order to continue to provide for the loved one.  That is often easier said than done in a crisis or long-term care situation.

One of the first suggestions I have is to find and use humor wherever possible. Laughter forms a great bond between people and is also a stress reliever.

In Sunday's Palm Beach Post, November 2, 2014, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz reported that from 1995-2014, comedies at the box office brought in $38.6 billion -  more than action, adventure, and horror movies.  There's a scientific reason for this.

A University of Maryland study found that laughter helps your blood vessels relax, promoting healthy blood flow and good blood pressure.

Other studies indicate that laughter boosts levels of antibodies that help the body fight off upper-respiratory infections.

When you laugh, you lower cortisol and epinephrine levels that are "implicated" in weight gain, blood vessel damage, and depression.  Certainly caregivers, as well as the elderly, must deal with depression on a regular basis.

Laughter also keeps glucose levels stable.  Post-meal blood sugar spikes will be slower and lower.  In other words, laugh while you're eating, if possible.

For those of you who appreciate "senior" humor, I urge you to watch stand-up comedian Fritz Coleman in a 15-minute YouTube routine at the Conference on Aging, Pasadena, California. I guarantee you'll feel relaxed afterward!


Other suggestions I have for maintaining health and sanity while caregiving are:

- Do something therapeutic for yourself as often as possible (walk, work out, read,
   paint, write, play music, knit, garden, cook, or immerse yourself in a project at
   work -
   whatever interests you to relieve stress)
- Ask for help!!! And don't be afraid to delegate.  Support systems to tap into might
   include friends, family members, church members.  Of course, there are also
   professional services available, such as pastors, counselors, and healthcare
  The website www.aarp.org has lots of specific advice for caregivers.
- Make great memories with a loved one.  Offer your hand, your heart, your time,
  even if it's just to talk. The time spent together, even if brief, will remind you later
  why that person was important to you.
- Eat at least one balanced meal every day and keep a supply of healthy snacks
  with you
  (such as nuts, granola bars, yogurt, fruit).  Poor nutrition will wear you down.
- Get enough sleep.  If you are unable to sleep, ask your physician for a mild
  or become a fan of Sleepytime or chamomile teas and yoga.
- Keep your social life alive and try not to take your "significant other" for granted.
  Interact with friends as often as possible.  It's restorative and you'll need support.
  Tell your
  "significant other" how much you appreciate his/her involvement and ask for

Monday, October 27, 2014

Conference Detox

I've just returned from three days at the annual Florida Writer's Conference in Lake Mary, Florida. There were over four hundred of us, each hoping to unlock the secrets for publishing a best-seller.  I have an entire journal of notes.

There were three sessions each morning, starting at 8 a.m.  For each session we had a choice of several presentations by writers, marketing experts, financial experts, lawyers, publishers, agents, or screen writers. Fortunately there was a mid-morning break for some liquid and a cookie, granola bar, or yogurt.  I chose the cookie.

There were three sessions each afternoon, again with a choice of several presentations or panel discussions. During my mid-afternoon break I chose an ice cream on a stick.

There was a dinner each of the two evenings I attended, with a keynote speaker or awards.  Having walked for thirty minutes before each dinner, I felt righteous and ate a dessert at each - the carrot cake and chocolate mousse.  I managed to waddle into my book signing for ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS.

However, extra poundage wasn't the only thing I gained from this Conference.  The amount of information we gained was dizzying. Here are some of the presentations I attended:

"Sell Truckloads on Amazon"
"Change Your Characterizations through Syntax, Grammar, and Diction"
"What to Do and Not to Do in a Book Signing"
""Financials of Book Selling"
"Contracts and the Creative Process"
"How to Use Social Media to Sell Your Book"
"Using Writing Competitions to Advance Your Career"
"Book Trailers"
"Satisfying Endings."

With Margie Miklas
FWA Conference  Lake Mary, Fla.

In addition to seeing old friends from my critique group, I also made new friends - one in particular.  Her name is Margie Miklas, a recently-retired open-heart surgical nurse.  She won an award at the Conference for her memoir of travels through Italy (my favorite place in the world).  It's called MEMOIRS OF A SOLO TRAVELER: MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH ITALY, so check it out at www.margieinitaly.wordpress.com.

Now I've got to digest and absorb all the information. That goes for the food, too.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sixty Is the New Sixty

This post is by friend, pharmacist, and mystery writer Don Weiss.

So fellow sexagenarians, here is something that unfortunately is not new to men and women of our vintage: too young to retire, too young for Medicare, too young for social security, and out of work.

I’ve recently joined the ranks of the unemployed, going from a six figure salary to zilch with the stroke of a pen, and from the primary bread winner to a collector (if you can even get it) of unemployment.  In Florida, by the way, that is $275.00/week.

When you have fewer years in front of you than behind you, when you’ve collected as many bruises on our collective butts as we have, and your approaching golden years have turned to lead, you get hit with a harder dose of reality than you’ve ever been hit with before.  When your spouse has to bear the entire burden, when you begin to dip into your savings and prepare for the possibility of cashing out your IRAs, 401Ks, 403Bs or whatever nest egg you’ve managed to build up, you’re in total survival mode. You stop spending money except for necessities and all your plans go out the window. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not to you, because you followed all of the rules and paid your dues.

You send out resume after resume, only to find out how much the world has changed.  Everything is online. Application after application is filled out and disappears into the ether. No longer do you talk to a person. Everything is detached, and if you do get an interview, chances are you'll get an email saying: We’re sorry, but we’re pursuing other candidates whose experience fits our needs better. But thanks for your interest in our company.  In English that means: we’ve got younger applicants and we can pay a lot less than we have to pay you. When people started to become human resources, everything became depersonalized.  When Bob Dylan wrote "The Times They Are Changin'," they did; but not for the better.  You consider taking jobs for a lot less money just so you can work again, just so you have your self-respect.  You start to second-guess everything and your confidence is at an all-time low.

Then something happens. You get news that someone you know, someone just like you, has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Then this bump in the road becomes just that, a bump. Sure you have the aches and pains that come from getting older. You’ve had this blow to your self confidence and self respect but you’re going to live to fight another day, and that’s what you do. You spit in their eye and say, I’m still here, and you send out more resumes.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Elderly Healthcare News

According to Jennifer Smith's article in The Wall Street Journal on October 3, 2014, lawyers have discovered a get-rich scheme as America ages:  suing for-profit nursing home chains.

As defined in the appendix of my book, ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS, skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes) may be for-profit or non-profit and are licensed by each state. Professional nurses, social workers, psychologists, physical and occupational therapists, doctors, and clergy are on staff.

Attorneys are now filing neglect and abuse cases which allege, typically, that "patients were harmed not just by neglect or medical errors but because the corporate owners skimped on patient care to boost profits" in large chains of for-profit nursing homes.

Operators of the facilities are already grappling with falling reimbursement rates from the government.  The increase in litigation is prompting some chains to abandon certain states where there are limited or nonexistent curbs on non-economic damages.  Lawsuits that elsewhere might be settled for $50,000 can generate much larger settlements or verdicts.

Large for-profit facilities are more likely to be cited for severe health deficiencies, despite beefing up staff and making other improvements, according to data from Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services.

The lawyers take the cases on a contingency basis, paying upfront costs in exchange for a cut - up to 45% - of any settlement or award, plus expenses.

"If you have a good case," attorney Brian Reddick said, "jurors are very sympathetic."

The October 3, 2014, Wall Street Journal also reported that Medicare will cut payments to 2610 hospitals across the country, because too many patients were readmitted within thirty days, according to an analysis by Kaiser Health News.

The hospitals selected will see Medicare reimbursements reduced from .01% to 3% for every beneficiary they treat from October 1, '14, to September 30, '15.

The penalties will save Medicare an estimated $428 million, a spokesman for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said.

The Obama Administration has emphasized reducing readmission to hospitals to reduce Medicare spending and spur hospitals to pay more attention to patients who are being discharged "quicker and sicker."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Squeaky-Clean in Morocco

My friend, Pat, followed her tour guide to the waiting bus.  There were four men and seven women who had signed up for the hammam experience in Tangier, after two days in the desert.  One of the men was Pat's husband.

The hammam is a bathhouse. Since the Moroccans visit the hammam just once a week, there were probably more foul-smelling visitors than the Western travelers.

They drove to the Ouifak Hammam, where two gorgeous ladies, Yatto (age 30) and Etoh (age 26), greeted the seven women.  The men in the group expressed their disappointment that they had been greeted by a Moroccan male.

The seven women followed Yatto and Etoh into a changing room, where a large number of women stood in nothing but their panties.  Young daughters stood next to their mothers in the same state of un-dress. Their djellabas and hijabs (robes and headscarves) hung from pegs.

Any female who's tried on clothing in a communal dressing room can picture the scene - perky boobs still pointing at the ceiling that hadn't nursed, saggy boobs in a race to reach the navel, minuscule boobs that raised the question, "Male or female?"

Like the others, Pat and her fellow travelers stripped to their panties.  Etoh led them through two rooms of white marble to a wall, where she instructed them to sit on a colorful tile floor covered with hot water.

 Istanbul hammam
She put a blob of dark olive oil soap in each visitor's palm and asked them to lather themselves, except for their faces.

SURPRISE!  As in the ice bucket challenge, Pat felt the shock of a bucket of water flung at her.  The only difference was there were no ice cubes.

Pat was first in the lineup.  She heard Etoh say something and point at her. Etoh wanted her to lie on the hot, wet tiles on her back.  Immediately, Pat felt a loofah mit scratching her arm.  It seemed like steel wool rubbing her skin off. When that arm was complete, the attendant scrubbed Pat's other arm and then her legs, ending with the stomach and chest. The attendant turned her over like a flopping fish, and the torture began on her back and legs.

"Back to the wall, please," she heard and obeyed, waiting till everyone had had a turn with the loofah.

SURPRISE AGAIN!  More buckets of hot water flung at her to wash the dead skin and soap down the drain.

"Please stand up," Etoh said.  She led the seven Westerners in a column to a cooler room, where they sat against another wall to.....SING.  The only English song Etoh knew was "Cum - bye - ah, my Lord," so that's what they sang.  Seven naked ladies sitting against a wall singing "Cum - bye - ah."

One by one Etoh brought Pat and her now-best-buddies forward for the olive oil rub. Up one side and down the other again, but this time Pat's beet-red skin stayed in place.

Shampoos followed.  On the wet tile floor, her back to the attendant, Pat aimed her nose to the ceiling and felt water splashing on her head, as if a neophyte in baptism. The attendant worked olive oil shampoo into the wet strands and combed it through without restraint.  More buckets of hot water!

But wait...Pat's feet were still unclean!  A pumice stone fixed that, removing calluses that had built up hiking in the desert, as well as some live skin.

Ninety minutes later Pat and her best-best-friends emerged looking radiant.  She didn't tell me how much the hammam had cost, but she said her husband looked like a new man, so it was probably worth it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

Nikki Falls accompanied by her dad and my sister
Together with my sister's extended family, we celebrated her step-daughter's wedding in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. We removed our shoes to walk to our seats in the sand, cooled from the wind and rain of the previous day. Sunlight bounced off the tips of waves, and a huge fish jumped out of the sea in front of us. The steel drummer announced the bride, accompanied by my sister and her husband. The junior high school cheerleader had blossomed into a responsible, loving woman, starting a new life full of hope and promise.

On the almost-nine-hour drive home, Charley and I got off Route 95 in southern Connecticut at Exit 5/ Riverside/Old Greenwich.  It's where I grew up, and we knew the McDonald's was right off the exit.  In fact, it's where we took our two sons over the years we visited my parents.

After we got our bag of burgers and drinks, a woman entered the restaurant.  She was approximately six feet tall, wore black patent stiletto heels (which added another six inches), tights in a flowered pattern, and a very, very low tank top.  As she came toward me, my mouth began to smile its proverbial "Hi," but stopped, frozen. My focus became not her eyes, but the globes that faced me.

I do not mean perfect round breasts peeking from the top of the tank top.  I mean perfect round globes, as in the kind that spin to show us the world.....which is what she was doing. The Amazon and Southern Hemisphere were clear outlines under the flimsy material.

It's a wonder she didn't approach Charley to proposition him, but he was standing with a smirk on his face and had no idea Diet Coke had overflowed from his cup all over him while he tried to get the lid on.

This was MY McDonald's - the McDonald's where my parents and my kids
My parents, Evelyn and Walter Plumb, on their wedding day, 1938

used to eat.

"Eyes ahead, forward, march!" I commanded. Arm-in-arm we exited, as brides and grooms have done for centuries into their new life. The more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Television Appearances

     For my first book, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS, my publicist got me a five-minute spot on Fox television in Providence, R.I.  It was a show called, "The Rhode Show," and featured locals with stories to tell.

     I agonized for weeks over what to wear and finally decided on a black dress with a red jacket.  I didn't want to disappear into the backdrop but I didn't want to be too flashy.  My necklace and earrings had to be visible but not overwhelming.  I decided on a string of black beads and black earrings.

     I had talked about the book for weeks in radio interviews and speeches, so the topic was no problem. Besides, the studio had been sent an advance copy.

     When I arrived thirty minutes early, I had to be buzzed into the locked studio.  I signed in and the News Director took me to a waiting room, where four others sat in plastic chairs.  She offered me donuts, coffee, or water and told me the order of our appearances.  I went to use the restroom.

     When the person before me was "on air," an intern led me past miles of wiring and props to the set. Behind a partition was a fake kitchen.  Well, the appliances, sink, and counter were real.  It was where the chef exhibited his talents during the cooking segment.  We walked through the pretend kitchen toward the set for "The Rhode Show."  The intern attached a tiny microphone to my lapel and told me to stand with her till the previous guest was finished.  During an advertisement, I took my position on the couch next to the show's hostess, while the previous guest scrambled off.  My book was propped on the coffee table in front of us. Lights glared down from the darkened exterior.  The intern was attaching a microphone to the guest that would follow me, in the same spot where I'd stood.

     The dynamic of having to respond with information and wit within seconds on live television is entirely different from being on the radio in the comfort of my living room or standing in front of an audience with notes.  I gave lots of information but my eyes bugged out.  My hands felt glued together on the side of my lap.  I made sure to keep my legs together.  My publicist told me I appeared stiff.  Although I nodded, smiled, and shook hands with the hostess, I hadn't been dynamic enough. "Television is a visual medium, after all!" the publicist said with an exclamation point in her voice.

     For my second book, ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS, a new publicist got me a two-minute spot on ABC6 "Noon News" in Providence.  This time when I arrived thirty minutes before air-time, I'd gone to the bathroom first.  I wore the same red and black combination, but the red was a blouse and the black was a skirt.  As it turned out, I would be sitting behind a news desk.

     I was met by the News Director, who introduced me to the News Anchor named Matt. He had to be younger than my kids!  I handed him my book so he could look it over. The News Director escorted me to an 8x8' waiting room, where I sat alone for twenty-five minutes. No donuts, no coffee, only water.  Same plastic chairs.  Finally an intern brought me past a room with hair brushes and make-up (nobody was there, so guests were on their own!).  We continued past the darkened control room, where the News Director sat, and other tidy rooms to the news set.  I stood in the wings with the intern, till Matt motioned me into a swivel chair next to him behind the elongated desk.  "How much time left?" he asked the intern.

     "About thirty seconds," she said, fastening the microphone to my blouse and draping the wire behind my neck and down my back.

     '"Just look over there at the camera, unless you look at me," Matt said, giving a swipe of his arm to a vague area in complete darkness.

     We began.  I smiled at the cameras in every direction, since I didn't know where I was supposed to look. I smiled at Matt.  I used my hands and arms.  I picked up the book lying on the news desk, and gave lots of animated information.  I even flashed a sign I'd made about caregiving:  ASK FOR HELP!  I tried to be dynamic without spinning in the chair or dancing on the desk. The two minutes were over in a flash.

     I stepped off the news platform and the same intern disengaged my microphone. Matt mouthed a "Thank you" during an advertisement.  I waved good-bye and turned into the open office to retrieve my purse.

     "You smiled too much," my new publicist said.  "You looked unnatural.  And you were looking in different directions.  But you gave lots of good information. If you want me to market your book for nation-wide television audiences, you'll have to make a video trailer," she said.

     I'll put that on my blog when it's ready.  Meanwhile, the ABC6 segment is linked below.




Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Five-Day Challenge

I took the challenge.  No, it wasn't a bucket of ice water over my head for MLS or a cleansing of my organs or any kind of iron-woman challenge.  It was the Skoop 5-day challenge.

My daughter-in-law asked me, "Would you like to try a powdered product I believe in?"

I knew she was a former spinning instructor and into all things healthy, including juicing.  "What is it?" I said.

"It's a plant-based super-food, really healthy.  I don't juice any more, because this one product contains so many of the natural foods I put into the juicer, and more."

I remembered her kitchen, littered with rinds and seeds after one juicing session.  I wasn't about to make that kind of a mess in my kitchen and besides, I was retired with no time to waste - there were more important things to explore!

"Like what?"

"Like antioxidants, veggies, probiotics, omegas, fruits, and greens in the form of grasses.  They're all super-foods from plants."

"Sounds like fodder for cows to me!"  I could still taste the juicing concoctions she'd put together that tasted like cucumber and not much else.

"Skoop 'B Strong' is a protein boost, without cholesterol or sugar.  You could try the Skoop 'A Game' for energy. There are different flavors, if you want to do the five-day challenge. The first day there's a packet with chocolate flavor, the next one has the flavor of greens, then the chocolate, and so forth for five days."

"How do I make it so I can actually swallow it?"

"You add frozen fruit or a non-fat soy or almond milk."

"Can I still eat my meals?"

"Well, I take mine first thing in the morning for a real energy boost.  On those days I usually skip breakfast because I mix the Skoop A and B together for a complete meal. But you can put it in food, not just drink it.  You can mix it with yogurt or oatmeal or bake with it."

"So I won't need my Kashi twigs and blueberries on the day I use my potion?"

"Nope.  The super-foods grow tissue, fight sickness and infection, heal wounds and inflammation, and give you energy.  Oh, and the Skoop owners started something called MISSION NUTRITION. They pledged a child's serving of fruits and vegetables placed in school lunch salad bars across the country for each serving of Skoop sold."

"You're a good rep for the product!  I'd try the five-day challenge with some 'A Game' samples."  Which she promptly produced.

I have to admit, I cheated.  Chocolate tops the list of my primary food groups, but the first day's chocolate powder, frothing in the blender with a cup of water, tasted nothing like the Hershey bar I was imagining.  And the only fruits I had in the house were blueberries and apples.  So I added some cherries from a can of pie filling, including a couple of tablespoons of the thick, sweet syrup.  I sipped mouthfuls of the concoction, no problem.

The next day I dumped the green-grass powder into my blender for breakfast.  I figured mixing it with water wouldn't hide the flavor of still-ripe hay.  So I poured a cup of vanilla-flavored soy milk in. Downright tasty!  Much better than the chocolate, actually.

The next day's packet was chocolate again.  By then I'd bought a package of frozen pineapple/strawberries and fresh bananas.  I dumped some of each into the whirl.  Tasted just like a milkshake - really.

We had to go away for two days to attend a memorial service. I welcomed my Kashi twigs with blueberries, but didn't tell my daughter-in-law that. I'd promised to finish the challenge, and I would.

After my liquid energy boosts, I ran around the tennis court like a gazelle.  Maybe my daughter-in-law was onto something for us over-60's?  If only Skoop would help my golf game!
Visit trish.healthyskoop.com for information about the company's three products.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Travels of a Real-Life Sheldon

Our friend's son is doing post-doctoral research in bio-chemistry in France and hopes to be the first to
publish his findings on a particular protein, the name of which his parents can't pronounce.  If you've ever watched "The Big Bang" on television, take Sheldon's smarts and height and add a few pounds and a shock of auburn hair.

When Jed was ten, his mother would call him but he wouldn't respond.  He was solving something in the outer galaxies somewhere. Finally his father would yell, "Earth calling Jed, earth calling Jed."

Jed eventually answered with, "I can't process that disc right now.  Give me a few more minutes."

Jed recently traveled from France to Boston to visit his family.  He didn't fly from a large Paris airport, but used a smaller one outside the city to connect in Belgium for his final leg home. The small airport had no amenities except toilets and a coffee machine.

Typicallly, he arrived late - fifty minutes before departure - with a hockey bag of belongings and his computer.

"Sorry, we've closed the baggage intake," the agent said.  "You have two options. You can buy a ticket for the next flight in two days and check your bag then or fly without the bag."

"Where can I leave it?" Jed asked.

"You could destroy it," the French agent said.

"Don't you have any trash bags?" Jed asked in a soprano voice.

"Sorry, sir, we don't."

Without time to think of another alternative, Jed hurried outside the terminal. He found a large bush with loose gravel underneath and......buried the bag.  He made his flight before the ramp closed, computer slung over his shoulder.  Mom and Dad would have to provide a toothbrush and some clothes.

In Brussels, he was escorted off the plane by security.  "Come this way, sir," two guards said. They led him to a detention room because he'd been flagged by the agent at the counter.  After an hour searching his computer, they decided he was safe to board to Boston.

Following his visit, his parents drove Jed to Logan International Airport for the return flight.  Halfway there, Jed discovered he'd forgotten his papers stating he was employed in France. They were back at the house and there was no time to turn around if he wanted to make the flight.

Without work papers, Jed was again forced to wait till he cleared security.  Since he was flying without luggage, work papers, or a round-trip ticket back to the States, his parents had no alternative. They bought a refundable one-way ticket back to Boston - for $3,000 - and were told that if his work visa was found, they could get reimbursed.

Which they did, eventually.

Jed's duffel bag was never found.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Video of a Losing Coach's Inspiring Words

As former residents of Cumberland, Rhode Island, for twenty-three years, it is with pride I share this link.  The Cumberland Little League  team, ages nine through twelve, won the New England Regionals this year but lost in the Little League World Series last night in double-elimination.

My husband, Charley, coached one of the Little League teams in Cumberland between 1979 and 1983. Both our sons played on his team and won the town championship.

Fast forward thirty-one years, as we watched our sons' assistant hockey coach, Dave Belisle, on television at the helm of the Cumberland Little Leaguers!

Please click on the link below to watch and hear Dave's words for the team last night after their loss. They serve as a reminder how to motivate and encourage children, while underscoring the benefits of team sports.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Alien Baby

In a recent article in The Providence Journal titled, "Baby's Brains Rehearsing Speech" (July 28, 2004), Katherine Long reported that even seven-month-old babies are "mentally working out the mechanics of how to form words with their mouths, well before they're able to utter their first recognizable syllable."

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, emphasize the importance of speaking to babies from the minute they're born.  They also reinforce a longstanding observation of scientists:  that babies get the most out of one-on-one human interactions, such as speech or games, which can't be replaced by high-tech toys.

Which led me to think about the comic genius our nation lost this week - Robin McLaurin Williams.

How did he learn to take our common language and reshape the sounds, mimic it, recreate its rhythms, or semantically take it on a flight to elongate a story?  Did his mother talk to her toddler in dialogue with different characters' voices?  Reported to be shy in high school, did he learn his rubbery versatility at Julliard or was he coiled with manic energy as a child?

His impersonations as sometimes troubled lunatics or offbeat authority figures showcased his gifts in movies like "Dead Poets Society," "The World According to Garp," "Good Will Hunting," and "Mrs. Doubtfire."  But the role I most remember was in "Good Morning Vietnam."  It was there his feverish free associations reigned supreme.

However his brain reshaped his mother's words into loose-knit spontaneity, he remained an alien we understood.  When he used pure sound in an octave higher (or lower) than his own speaking voice, somehow we understood (like a woodpecker's "rat-a-tat-tat-tat").  His imitation of dialects and his mumbled asides took us on free associations, but somehow we followed. His routines stretched stories out to the planets, then brought us back with a snap, like Mork's rainbow-colored suspenders.

Yet he remained an alien.  His ability to play disturbing characters ("Insomnia," "One Hour Photo"), gave his genius the freedom to expand and grow inside characters we couldn't like.  He was tormented with interior demons, we know, living in a universe most of us will never inhabit, like his disturbing characters.  But unlike them, he will always be loved.

If only we had a clue as to the sounds he heard as an infant, we might begin to understand the development of his creative powers. They might have been the same sounds we heard in his stand-up routines, sounds that, like his genius, couldn't be contained.
Robin McLaurin Williams   1951-2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Two Plane Stories

I recently read a post on Peter Greenberg's blog (Out of the Office) titled, "The Crazy Things We'll Do to Get on a Plane."  Peter is the Travel Editor for CBS News and says he travels 300 days a year around the globe.  I will be paraphrasing two stories from his blog here.

A friend of Peter's was booked from Lagos, Nigeria, to London on a 727. He received a hand-written boarding pass two hours before flight time.  When the flight was called, the crowd bolted onto the tarmac and ascended the stairs to the plane.  It crushed past the lone gate agent and one timid policeman.

Within two minutes, according to Peter, there were fifty people stranded on the stairs and tarmac who had boarding passes but no seats.  Punches were thrown and the army was called in.  A lone colonel arrived.  He shot his weapon into the air and the mayhem stopped.

"Everyone off the plane," he ordered.  "No exceptions!  Drop your carry-on bags under the fuselage." He lined up all the passengers under the left wing.  "Stay here till you hear me fire my gun again," he said.  "Then run completely around the plane once, grab your bag, run back under this wing and up the stairs.  The first 125 will get seats."

Which they did, even the little old ladies.  After 125 passengers boarded, huffing and puffing, the colonel barred the doorway, firearm ready.  The 50 "losers" had to wait two days for the next flight, when the colonel showed up again, just in case.

That story doesn't sound so crazy now, with the Ebola outbreak there!

In his second story, Peter tells of a flight scheduled to leave Beijing at 10:00 a.m. for Hong Kong.  The year was 1999.  Peter waited from 8:00 till 10:00 without any call to board.  AT 10:20 a.m. a Chinese gate agent announced, trembling, "Plane is very sick.  Please walk to next gate and we take that plane."

However there was no plane at the next gate.  Around 11:30 a.m., an aircraft landed and taxied to that gate. At 1:15 p.m. the same gate agent stuttered, "Very, very sorry again.  This plane more sick than other plane...so we take...other plane."

All the passengers, including Peter, boarded the first "sick" plane...and took off. "Why in the world did I do that?" Peter is still asking himself.

Which reminds me of a a flight Charley and I were taking from LaGuardia to Florida on Delta.  We had boarded and sat on the runway in a queue of twelve to take off. Half-asleep, we heard, "Sorry folks, we have to turn around."  That was it?  In the dark and in pouring rain we disembarked in some remote corner of the airport to take buses back to the terminal.  Dogs sniffed our luggage, strewn on the tarmac. Ambulances and fire trucks surrounded the plane. A phone call had threatened to blow up our flight!

We waited...and waited.  When no bomb was found, we were given the option to wait for a flight the next morning or re-board and proceed south.

We landed that night in Florida without incident but to this day we wonder, What were we thinking??

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Link to Newspaper Article on "Fist Bumps"

Here is the link to the complete article on the study of hygienic fist bumps vs handshakes and high-fives:


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fist Bumps

Charley has been trying for at least two years to get me to stop shaking hands after tennis matches. He claimed that I was picking up germs during a handshake of even moderate strength that lasted for just a few seconds.

I watched the men doing their fist bumps after matches and told him I thought it would be insulting to finish a match and approach someone across the net as though I were going to punch her. The ladies give firm handshakes to be polite, win or lose. We don't want to be viewed as poor sports, and certainly not competitors with a wimpy grasp, even if wet and slimy. In fact, I seem to remember a rule in the Palm Beach County Women's Tennis Association handbook about the necessity of handshakes after matches.   There's a rule for everything else, so that must be covered, too.

"Suit yourself," Charley said.

Turns out he was right.

According to a study at the Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University in Wales, fist bumps are 20 times more hygienic than handshakes and 10 times more hygienic than high-fives.  It's because the fists have a smaller area that touch each other during the bump.  Handshakes, on the other hand (ha ha), have an average of 24.4 square inches of contact and last an average of three seconds, longer than high-fives and fist bumps. An average of 124 million colony-forming units of E.coli were transferred during the three-second handshake in the tests.

That's right, researchers at the Institute actually donned sterile gloves and dunked their hands in "a soup of de-fanged Escherichia coli bacteria, then shook hands, high-fived, or fist-bumped with one another."
In addition, they used an instrument to measure the grip strength of various handshakes and found strong handshakes transferred the most bacteria.

Imagine a researcher coming home from work and the wife asks, "Did you have a rough day, dear?"

"Oh, it was lethal."

I'm still not convinced I could approach someone with my fist after a match.  So I have another solution.  Why not do the butt bump?  It would be a lot more fun and wouldn't transfer any germs.  I know I'd enjoy seeing NFL players doing the butt bump instead of handshakes!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Link to NY TIMES article about robot caregiving

Here's the link to Louise Aronson's article in the NY Times on Sunday, July 20, 2014, titled,
"The Future of Robot Caregivers."  It also links to her other publications on healthcare.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Granny's New Companion: A Robot Caregiver

The world of caregiving is physically and emotionally exhausting, stressful, frustrating, awkward, and sometimes dirty.  It can also be never-ending.  Yet it can be rewarding and stimulating, tapping into a whole range of experiences and challenges the caregiver never knew existed.

What will happen when there aren't enough caregivers for those who will need them ten years from now?  According to an internet report on the website www.retirementrevised.com, there will be a 48% increase in the need for caregivers in the next decade, with a 1% increase in the supply.

Enter the robots.  Many countries have acknowledged the reality of a dwindling supply of caregivers by investing in robot development, such as Japan and a consortium of European countries.  According to Louise Aronson in "The Future of Robot Caregivers" (NY Times, July 20, 2014), research in the U.S. has been slow to move in this direction.  Within the medical community here, the idea that machines can help fulfill more than just physical needs meets with skepticism and occasional outrage.

We see robots maneuver along hospital corridors to deliver meds.  We know they assist in surgery and rehabilitation and clean up afterwards.  Is it too much of a leap to believe that granny couldn't relate to a robotic companion that would answer her question, remind her to finish her meal and swallow her pill, and then read to her?  Is there a huge difference between that and millions of kids who sit in restaurants communicating with an electronic device instead of their human families?  Are they stimulated and satisfied?  Is loneliness and neglect (or even abuse by a human caregiver) a better situation?

As kids we talked to stuffed animals and dolls. We created a world of pretend and were stimulated.  We weren't lonely.  Today the animals and dolls can move and talk back!

"Imagine this," Aronson says in her article.  "Since the robot caregiver wouldn't require sleep, it would always be alert and available in case of crisis...It could do laundry and other household tasks.  When (the patient) woke, the robot could greet her with a kind, humanlike voice, help her get out of bed safely and make sure she was clean after she used the toilet.  It -she?-he?-would ensure that the patient took the right medications in the right doses.  At breakfast, the robot could chat with her about the weather or news.

"And then...the caregiver robot would offer to read to her.  And after a while the robot would say, 'I wonder whether we should take a break from reading now and get you dressed.  Your daughter's coming to visit today.'"

Will there someday be a world where the robot feels as much happiness as the patient?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Link to Joyce Wadler's Humor

At the beginning of each week I'll try to post a link to something that relates to the latest blog I posted. It may be humorous or informational or just plain interesting. This week's link is to Joyce Wadler's humorous column, "On the Road with Mothers," from the March 3, '13 NY Times, which I mentioned in my latest post.  If the link doesn't open, type in the entire name of the site.  It's worth it!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

To Urn or Return?

When my kids were toddlers, I'd deposit them in the play room at the indoor tennis courts and we young mothers would exchange recipes or discuss what the kids wouldn't eat or where our husbands were on business.

When my kids were in school, we'd discuss our work, our kids' schedules, their report cards, and family trips.  We wouldn't stick around for a drink afterward because we had to run the carpool route or get the kids home to finish homework before hockey practice or organize our own material for a meeting.

When my kids were in college, we could sit afterward and mostly talked about vacations we were planning or work.  Or the cost of college educations and what kind of jobs the kids might find later (yes, there were plenty of choices then).

In retirement, an after-tennis discussion recently revolved around whether we were planning to be cremated with a memorial service or have an open or closed coffin with wake and full funeral or just a service. And whether we'd talked with the kids about it.

(The tennis was pretty good, really...no correlation to the topic!)

Which brought to mind something a friend recently printed for me - an old column by NY Times writer Joyce Wadler titled, "Queens of the Road" (March 3, 2013).  Joyce has become my new favorite humorist.  Her point in the column was to NEVER travel with your mother long-distance.  "Unless maybe you are disposing of her ashes. And then there's a very good chance you will hear her voice in your head:
     'You packed the box with my ashes without double-wrapping it in plastic and putting it in a baggie?
Look at this box:  It's cardboard, it's nothing.  What if I spill all over this suitcase?...By the way, how are you planning to do this?  If there's a wind, make sure it's not blowing at you, and when you open the box, make sure you don't pour it over your head.  Don't say, 'Everybody knows that,' because everybody does not know.  I hope you didn't invite your father's cousin Marvin.  I can't stand that man.'"

Back to the question posed at the tennis court.  To urn or return (in open or closed casket)?

I've been thinking about my parents a lot recently, doing book promotions for ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES.  They'd signed up with The Neptune Society to be cremated and prepaid for the service, which included scattering their ashes at sea.  Dad got seasick on any boat he stepped foot in and they most certainly did not want to be scattered at sea!  What they did want was to be co-mingled and divided in half for my sister and me to dispose of on each of our properties.

We had a lovely memorial service for my mother.  She sat in a cardboard box on a shelf of Dad's bedroom, waiting.  Not too long, as it turned out. When Dad passed almost exactly a year later, we had another lovely memorial service.  The ashes went back to The Neptune Society, which mingled them, provided the paperwork, and sealed the urns.  My sister and I transported them in our respective cars, she to Virginia and me to Massachusetts.

Maybe there's a bench at a tennis court somewhere where Charley and the kids could sit to reminisce about our lives together. As for the rest, I'll leave it up to them.  I doubt they'll hear my voice telling them which way the wind is blowing.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Snapshots of Greece and Italy

The following are snapshot memories from our recent trip to Greece.

- Historic Athens surrounded by mountains, the Acropolis lit on a plateau above the city at night, graffiti covering the downtown by day.
Acropolis from our hotel
- A neo-Nazi demonstration in the central plaza across from Parliament, so quiet that only the speaker on the microphone could be heard a block away. The Greek military puffing on cigarettes in an alley around the corner, awaiting trouble.
- Volcanic cliffs of Santorini, with black beaches and towns of white perching recklessly on the outcroppings over the caldera. The caldera: a volcano that collapsed into itself under the sea.
- Olive trees, grape bushes, cacti, and occasional oleanders breaking Santorini's barren landscape that receives only two days of rain a year.
- The blades of quaint windmills jutting unproductively like a snowman's arms, now mere landscape ornaments.  Four hundred churches, each with a blue door.
- Between Santorini and another island cradling a volcano, cruise ships spewing thousands into the narrow streets of Oia and Fira to shop or have wedding photos taken against the spectacular scenery.
Oia, Santorini

- Greeks struggling to use the English they learned in elementary school so they might escape the 28% unemployment of their native country.

The following are snapshot memories from our recent trip
to Italy.

- A plate of the chef's specialty, octopus, for lunch on the island of Ischia, which nearly made me lose breakfast but proved to be delicious.

- A curly white coiffure on our driver from Rome to Anzio, whose three-piece suit and dazzling cuff links should have signaled he would drive as slowly as possible to collect an extra two hours' fee.
- The American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, where 8,000 are buried following the battle of Anzio and where we found Charley's uncle's name on the marble "Missing in Action" wall.
- The Italians' love of American music, movies, "Levi's," neon or leopard or zebra-striped high-top sneakers, and tee shirts that made no sense.  Examples we saw on the shirts:
          a swollen gone-to-seed 70-yr-old man wearing "PLAYGROUND HERO"
          a rotund grandmother with a cane wearing "I HEART CURVES"
          a 12-yr-old girl featuring Marilyn Monroe with thick, injected lips emblazoned with the Italian flag
          a  fairy-like wisp of a woman with half a heart covering each minuscule breast and the word "LOVE" between them.
- The pace of life that allows a three-year lawsuit over our hotel's driveway, where the
neighbor created a narrow turn in the rock wall to stop the flow of anything bigger than golf carts. Like the stroller trashed in the bush of a private garden, the wall will remain till we visit again.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sixty Is the New Sixty

So here I am approaching my sixty second birthday.   Sixty-two doesn’t sound so bad when you consider that I have an aunt who is approaching her one-hundred-and-second birthday.  I called my aunt on Mother’s Day. Although her hearing and eyesight aren’t what they used to be, she’s still sharp as a tack.  Before she goes to bed every night, she spends some time reflecting on her long life.  She raised two boys on her own and ran her own business.  She could play the piano and had a pretty good singing voice.  She was always tough, but she had to be.  She has outlived two husbands, all of her friends, and one of her children.  In my comparatively short sixty-two years I’ve had a chance to reflect on my own life. Choices good and bad, the best laid plans that aft gang agley, like my first marriage.  That marriage didn’t last very long and there were no children.  When I remarried, my second wife came with a pretty cool car (a vintage Stingray) and two children, a fifteen-year-old son and a ten-year-old daughter.  Now I was facing one of the toughest jobs on the planet… step parent.

Fortunately for me, their biological father was pretty much out of the picture.  That made things a little easier. At least I didn’t have to compete with anyone.

I’m not what you would call a fun guy. But I tried to be the fun dad. Take it from me, it doesn’t work. It was easier with my step daughter.  I surprised her with Riding Camp when she turned ten years old, and I built stables for her Breyer Horse collection. She wanted a fish tank; I got her a fish tank. She wanted to play the violin; I bought her a violin.  Is anyone out there interested in buying a violin? 

It was a much tougher with my step-son.  He was turning sixteen so we indulged him with a car. HUGE MISTAKE!  When he blew it up I paid for a new engine. EVEN BIGGER MISTAKE!

It was also tough on him.  He was taken away from all of his friends, his school, and his whole way of life. I was the lucky so-in-so who got him when he was at his most rebellious and fell in with the wrong crowd at school. I didn’t know how to relate to my step-son and he didn’t know how to relate to me. To tell you the truth, I don’t know how either of us made it through those years. My toughest lesson was learning how not to be the fun parent. Learning how to say NO!  That was tough.  My daughter wasn’t used to a step-dad who said no. My daughter is now twenty-four.

Then there was the problem of what to call me.  My step-son called me by my first name.  My step-daughter didn’t call me anything.  It was only through my wife that I found out she referred to me as her dad in front of friends. It took years before she called me ‘dad’ to my face, and even more years for my son to call me ‘dad,’ though he feels more comfortable calling me ‘Pops,’ which I don’t mind. I called my own father, ‘Pop.’  My son’s now twenty-nine years old and married.  We get along very well. I just wish he wouldn’t kiss me on top on my head.

The toughest thing about being a step-parent is that you never share that instant bond I’m told people feel with their biological children. It’s never there and it’s the biggest void you can experience. You’re their dad, but you’re never really Dad. You can’t be. That’s something every step-parent lives with.

So that’s what I reflect on.  What do I look forward to?   Walking my step-daughter down the aisle and maybe in the not-too-distant future, holding my first grandchild in my arms who will only know me as ‘grandpa.’

D. G. Weiss