Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Fashion Statement

The other day I went to a meeting. The participants sat across from each other and I noticed a woman that I have known for at least thirty years. This woman is hardly overweight, although I would imagine she’s put on between 5-10 lbs. in the last thirty years. She is also a little older than I, up to ten years. I really don’t know.

She looks great for her age and she deserves no criticism of any kind.

Yet…..I  noticed that she had those new low cut “jeans” and a nice springy top with it. They were fresh and lovely….but the design showed what little rolls she has in certain places.

A true friend will tell you the truth.
At the weight I am currently at, I am the last to throw a stone. It’s about the styles today, not about her or me. It’s one thing to see a late-teenager or early twenty-something standing in front of me in a line, pouring out of a pair of pants because she thinks that’s cool. (And it’s so NOT!) I did stupid things as a young adult also. But it’s another thing to see a fairly slim, well-proportioned senior citizen, who has the blessing of a healthy body just not fit into the clothes, even I would presume she is wearing the correct size for her.

She’s just not the type to pour herself into anything.

Where is this girl's mother?
So, I wear “Grandma Jeans” and I am darn proud of it! They COVER the rolls that I am working very hard on reducing, but as I write this, they ARE THERE, and I don’t feel like sharing the image with anyone. IF I WIN, I may wear something else, but it won’t be until that day arrives.

I don’t wear tight tops although I do wear dressy t-shirts for the summer. I like blouses as “jackets” too.

The problem is, you go to any department store, and Grandma Jeans are almost impossible to find. We are at the mercy of someone in the fashion industry, and that someone is just darned not telling me that I am going to wear something that is unflattering. I still have my LLBean, although they have all different styles, they do have what I need.

I am just amazed at how many women wear clothes that are at least one size too small. I sympathize with the new mother who hasn't got the baby weight off, but WILL, and I certainly sympathize with that person who is in the process of losing and hasn't QUITE arrived. As a social worker, I know I NEVER know the whole story, and try to give the benefit of the doubt.

But it certainly seems to be an epidemic out there! And when it actually involved a pretty skinny person, I had to wonder if it’s the fashion….

……or it was just a bad winter.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Beyond Expectation

I doubt Mark Zuckerberg could ever imagined what would become of Facebook when he and his friends came up with an idea for college students to be able to connect with each other.  Could he have imagined “old people” finding long-lost friends and feeling wonderful about it? Could he have imagined “friends” connecting over interests that they have found that they share? Could he have imagined families connecting and sharing pictures of today; let alone digging through boxes or photo albums, and embarrassing their siblings and cousins?

I may be wrong, but somehow I don’t think so.

As I have said before, I set up a profile so I could follow the friends of my son that were going off to different colleges, and I was genuinely interested in what they were doing. I watched these guys grow up, I wanted to see what they were up to. My first friend was our neighbor’s son, who was teaching in Spain. My second friend is the young man who eventually served as my son’s best man. (I was on Facebook before my son).

Most of my peers had not joined FB yet, but they came along in time. A buddy of my son did say, “The parents are taking over Facebook!” and we most certainly DID. In fact, eventually OUR parents, not to be left out, joined Facebook.

There have been reunions planned on Facebook, and in my own life, I have found folks that I am quite sure I would never had heard from without it. People from my first years of life that were very important to me, people I worked with many years ago but didn't know what became of them, and of course, high school and college friendships.

Could anyone have imagined how every single business would have a Facebook page? How we would set up our feeds to become our literal news feed. The local newspaper, the local government, my congressman at any given time, regardless of party affiliation. The local schools as well as the system my son teaches in, sports teams, favorite singers and shows, the church (mine as well as the kids’ churches) as well as favorite authors—the list is endless.

I know when I got into Facebook, I just wanted to know what various people were doing. It has become so much more in terms of news and marketing.

It pays to keep informed about privacy issues and one of the best sources that I have found is Naked Security from Sophos. By following them, I have accessed a wealth of privacy issues, as well as computer information in general. It is a great concern to me, but I also realize that I don’t put anything on Facebook that is really private. There is email for that, and of course, the question remains if anything is REALLY private! It’s just something to keep in mind.

I think Facebook, and social media in general has gone beyond what anyone could have imagined back in the day. The simple truth is most people like other people and want to keep up. This is how we do it—at least today, in 2014.

Monday, April 7, 2014

How Homes Have Evolved

Today we will have a short history lesson. I have always been interested in architecture, and how it’s changed over the years. Actually, I was quite the child prodigy, with the things I observed about building in general. My father was a carpenter and brick mason, I don’t know if that had anything to do with it or not, but I was always fascinated with how things were built, the styles that have evolved over the last 55 years of my life, and how they reflect life.

Within the context of this blog, it is no profound statement to say that we are building bigger and better. Our children today do not share bedrooms (we don’t have as many children either). Kitchens have evolved. Bathrooms have evolved. A cursory reading of the real estate ads espouses the glamour of the “open concept” living spaces.

My son (Coach) and DIL RN are building a house as I write this. We used the same builder and I do recommend them. This home has four bedrooms, two and one half bathrooms, and living room, dining room and kitchen, plus a family room. It is going to be absolutely gorgeous!

The first house I lived in was built by my father in 1955. It had three bedrooms and one bathroom, and in reality the living area was “open concept.” My mother wanted the kitchen to look over the front yard (to keep track of us) so she had a galley kitchen and dinette in front and the back of the house was a pretty good sized living room. There was no family room, although we had a full basement to play in. My mother’s washer and dryer was down there—and I vaguely remember a wringer washer—and my dad had a home office tucked into a corner of the basement. It was pretty basic but there was a phone down there.

When I think of how homes have evolved over the years, the first thing I think of is how much stuff we have today vs. then. The second thing I think of is how families interact with each other. Certainly, this is different at different stages of life, and depends on the size of the family. My husband and I have always had two living spaces (living room and family room) but one was a MAIN area and the other auxiliary. Today, as retirees, my husband and I like our space too. For us, it’s very healthy. I can’t imagine being my great-grandparents sitting in one room of an evening listening to one radio program. But again, how many choices were there in those days? Today we have 200 channels and I don't have to watch sports!

One type of home that has always fascinated me is the Sears home. These were catalog homes that you could order and have the kit delivered to your lot and you either built it yourself or you sub-contracted. Or both (think digging a basement). These homes were available from 1908 until 1940. They are in every town in the Midwestern state that I live in. I did some research on them and quite a few were very close to homes my grandparents and my aunt and uncle lived in. The one I am going to use as an example is VERY close to the home my aunt and uncle lived in from the time I was 0-3. When I was an adult, we were talking about this house, and I drew this floor plan on a napkin and my aunt was astounded—that I could remember this much from less than three years old. As I said, I was different.

You can Google “Sears homes” and find lots of examples and a quick look will remind you of homes that you have seen if you live in the Midwest.

Well, back in the day we didn't have as much stuff. The closets were small and there weren't as many rooms. The house I am showing (by the time they moved) had two boys 6 and 9 and a girl 2 living in it. I know I spent time there when my brother was born and I was only 2.

I do remember this: the living room jutted out and the porch was only a half-porch. I believe that the one bathroom was between the bedrooms on the left side of the plan, not the back of the house. There was no second floor, although I assume there was a basement that I never went down into. Otherwise, this is pretty much it. I wonder what my aunt and uncle paid for it in pre-1953 days?

This blog can also be found at The Thrifty Tabloid.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Being Organized....or Not! (In Retirement)

Being organized…..or not.

I have always had a schedule. It has changed over the years, but I had a schedule for cleaning so that if I missed a week, due to illness or some other unforeseen circumstance, it wasn't the end of the world.

I have mentioned using Flylady before and I liked the idea she has about a “shiny sink” every day. Now that may seem ridiculous, but the idea is psychologically sound. If the kitchen sink is clean, the counters are likely to be clean. It would seem to inhibit the habit of stuff piling up on counters. I say that not knowing how many people live in your home. It was definitely different with four of us than it is now with just the two of us.

When I was newly married, I had Wednesdays off and I cleaned on that day, since Hubby was working. I changed employment and worked 9:30-6:00 five days a week. I altered my routine to clean one room a day before I left for work. Then I had children, and we all know babies change things, but I kept up little by little.

Being such a person of routine—always—I figured that I would thrive best in retirement if I had a schedule. In some respects this is true. I look forward to my exercise classes, my Bible study group and eventually, getting back to choir practice. There will always be grocery shopping, doctor’s and dentist’s appointments, and other errands. I fully intend to visit with friends frequently as the weather turns better.

But housekeeping? This organization guru says, “That can wait until tomorrow.” Sorry, Scarlet O’Hara, I have adopted your philosophy!

That doesn't mean I want to live in a dump. I live with a very neat man and we have no pets. If I see something that needs done, I do it. (BTW, I tell him to do the same!) When discussing housekeeping, there is a difference between CLEAN and CLUTTERED. We have all been in homes that are cluttered, but clean—usually these are homes with crawling children. I do prefer clean, but I also like every item to have a home. That’s just something that I've always done, and it makes life easier. I just stay out of Hubby’s den, although it really is neat.

For those who have known me intimately for most of my life, they will find it surprising how “laid back” I am now. My ultimate goal has always been to be ready for company on a half-hour’s notice. The only time I was not ready was when we were painting or something equally messy. I remind myself that people are more important than having the house look a certain way.

I’m really going to be OK with this!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The "Paperless Society" (not quite)

Back in the day, I worked in a bank. This was before computers. I was chosen to go to some training with a bank officer to learn about the first computer that would be installed in a common area for all to use. This was not a teller machine, those came later. This was 1979 or 1980. I know it was prior to the first ATM. I was supposed to be able to teach the other tellers. How well I did with that task is anyone’s guess.

This was well over 30 years ago and I remember, we were told we would be a “paperless society.” I got to thinking about how we are doing now. I am not working, so in our household we have eliminated the work paper.

My OSHIIP notebook
However, recently I went to a refresher training for an organization that I volunteer for called OSHIIP. (Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program) When I was originally trained in 2010 I got this BIG honkin’ notebook that has so much information in it—and I still do have it. At my refresher training in 2011 they sent me a big package of information to put in the notebook, and remove the dated material. Now, although we get some printed information, mostly to hand out to senior citizens, it is now ALL on the web. As numbers change, the web site is updated.

As I drove home from the informational and interesting day, I got to thinking about how I have eliminated paper in our home.

First of all, we throw out (shred) a year’s paper every year after we get our taxes filed. We only keep what we need for a possible audit. My husband pays the bills, and he keeps the files of paid bills. Many of them are paid online, but we do still get paper statements for some things. We have other accounts that are paperless. It’s been years since checks were returned to us, and we use our debit cards most of the time. We still buy checks, but certainly less often than we used to.

I started downloading music about five years ago. I know that’s not paper, but it’s stuff that takes up room. I have an iPad with a Kindle app and I pretty much am paperless with books. We still have bookshelves (we even have a 20 year old encyclopedia that I got at the grocery store when the kids were younger) but we’re not buying many books. I did get some research books on cancer fighting foods last year, but that’s pretty much it. My last purchase was “Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey.” That’s just one of those books you have to hold in your hand. It just is.

Several years ago, I moved into de-cluttering and downsizing mode, but it is always a process that is never completed. Recently, I went through my filing cabinet and put A LOT of professional paper in the recycling box. I kept the letters of reference. Many of the writers have passed on. It’s like a journal of working life—the best of the best. However, like my recipe box, with instructions written in the hand of dear ones, it’s one of those precious things in life that I am not throwing out.

Speaking of recipes, I may pin new ones on Pinterest or bookmark in some way, but they are never a replacement for those recipes written in my deceased mother-in-law’s hand, my several aunts, and other friends who were special to me. I may not be adding MORE paper, but I am not getting rid of it! It’s the evidence of a life of passing information on from older to younger. It’s not the evidence of a fabulous cook.

While I still have several boxes (organized) of pictures, we are now into the digital age. Remember when your parents, in-laws, and others wanted copies of pictures of the kids? We always got double prints. Now we email our images to whomever. The most recent example is our son’s wedding. Even when our daughter was married nine years ago, we ordered prints for everyone. Now here’s the CD, upload them to Snapfish© or Shutterfly© and get what you want! One less thing the bride, bride's mother and groom’s mother have to worry about. I still have pictures in my house, but they are the biggies and not everything. I can show off pics of the grandchild(ren) on the phone. Just think how slim my wallet is now without pictures. No comments about money!

My son and his colleagues use Google Drive for their documents. (I know, this isn't my home, but I still marvel). His coaching documents are in one place and teaching documents in another. He has his smart phone and his iPad mini©. A person just doesn't have to carry around so much stuff anymore. My husband retired in 2003 and still has three Hammermill© paper boxes of his teaching career in the basement. I think maybe he’s looked at them once or twice in eleven years. Those boxes will be at the curb before his obituary hits the newspaper if I have anything to say about it.

I know that I have gotten rid of books that have more updated info on the Internet. There are plenty of good reasons to keep reference books around if they are still useful, but there are others that just take up space. 

If the Internet ever goes down, we’re in big trouble.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Talking to Old Men

I like to think that friendships mean something to me. Not just peers, but the cherished relationships with my parents’ friends, friends’ parents, kids’ friends, friends’ kids, professional, neighbors and so on…..

Lately I was reminded of an incident that happened during the summer of 1998. I was employed as the office manager of a church and I was very good friends with all of my co-workers. Working at a church is like working with family anyway. The music director, Cheri and I were very close friends. I was in her choir, my daughter took piano lessons from her and babysat her children, and our boys played basketball in the same league. Suffice to say we were in each other’s lives daily. (We even worked together at a retail children’s clothing store in the late evenings, stocking the store. This was a miserable mistake. I am not even going there.)

I had a very flexible schedule at the church. I tried to keep regular hours for the parishioners, but there were amendments. One thing that we did during the summer was go to the local pool as a group. We had stay-at-home moms, teachers, some DADS and all our kids went to the pool on one afternoon a week. We always had fun and it bonded all the children and parents. It was a great memory.

One afternoon Cheri and I took the kids, and during the afternoon I talked with three different older men. I had to endure teasing about “Denise, who talks to old men wherever she goes,” but the real story is that one of them was my dad’s best friend, who brought his grandsons to the pool; another was the father of my former boss, who I had a great conversation with during the “safety check;” and the third was my father’s officiating partner (basketball) and he and his wife were working with my husband (backed up by me) as we did a motor newspaper paper route for two and a half years.

Cheri teased me about my older friends, but there was a day when we sat down and she said to me, “Denise, the thing that I notice when you are talking to anyone is that it is not a casual conversation. You are fully engaged and so is the person you are talking to.”

Now, certainly there are days when I wave a quick “How do you do?” but for the most part, she’s right. The relationships that I have developed over a lifetime had some element to them that made them close. Maybe it’s just the pure length of time, which is full of many memories (such as my dad’s best friend), or maybe it’s someone I haven’t known a long time, but something (like my boss) draws us close together. Perhaps it’s something important in life that we went through together—raising kids, sitting at uncountable baseball games in the rain.

Here we are at another one of "our girls"
weddings in Oct. 2012.
There have been many people in my different seasons of life and I try to have meaningful relationships with most of them, sharing lives as we live them, observing life as it passes by. It may be for a short season, but it’s important. They are all important.

Cheri moved away, and we don’t see each other often, but we pick right up whenever we do. She came and played piano at my daughter’s wedding, which was a great memory. I was ill when her daughter got married and that made me sad. However, I know that we’ll always be friends.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Maintaining Professional Relationships

Hopefully, during your life you have made good professional relationships. Sometimes they get personal and that’s OK. During your downsizing years, all these relationships will enrich your life. I like to think that I enrich their lives also.

I have worked at three banks and we bank at one of them today. I ended my “employee” relationship in 2002, but it is now 2014 and I still do business there. Only one of my co-workers remains, and he is on Social Security and working part-time. However, I have made relationships with others who came along after I left. The phone number is etched in my memory and they are but a call away, for whatever I need. Between internet banking and their help over the years, I am covered.

The bank is forever trying to get us to invest more with their investment department; but our insurance agent has handled that for thirty-six years. By understanding us and our thinking, he has guided our assets so that we are in a good place. We are conservative and never did anything outrageous. He knew that, and he knew where we could save a few dollars on our insurance plans. Like many others, we save by having all of our insurance products in one place. He is now guiding the next generation; who chose the agency because of their “personal attention,” NOT cheapest prices.

Sometimes you get what you pay for, and in the few situations we’ve had with our automobiles and accidents, it was one phone call. Like a good neighbor…….seriously.

I have a joke that I doctor and get my hair done via Facebook. That’s not true, but if I have a non-medical question, I am friends with probably the longest serving staff member of my doctor’s office. I have changed doctors several times within the practice over the last twenty years, but she has been there.

My hairdresser is also a good “friend.” We already have a plan to spread out hair appointments and reduce costs. NOT having my hair done is NOT an option, but eventually we may change style or the color as I age. I trust her to know what will look best and when.

My dentist and I (we) have been together for twenty-five years. We were private pay for many years and he helped us then too, because we were committed to good dental health for us and our kids. He works in tandem with a periodontist and does what he can to save us on his end. He is committed to helping us have the best tooth and gum health that we can for old people. I don’t know what I am going to do when he retires.

We've been through few pharmacists in our marriage, and we now use mostly mail order, but we still have one contact at the local drug store. She will retire one day and I hope that’s not anytime soon. I used another pharmacist through my youth and adulthood for at least twenty years. He is retired.

We now see the daughter of the partner of my lifelong eye doctor. I have never left this one practice. We do have exceptional insurance, but it is a place where I am always comfortable.

We've lived in three houses and have had four regular mailmen. With the exception of our present mailman, we have known them ALL. Well.

It is my hope that by developing and maintaining relationships with all these professionals, that we will be guided in the most thrifty way in the upcoming years. I expect everyone to be able to earn a living, and have always said that, but I certainly have benefited by long-term relationships in the past, and hope that continues.

This blog can also be found at The Thrifty Tabloid.