Monday, October 29, 2007

This is My Tarot Card?

Can this be me? I got the idea from a new blog, Check it out.

You are The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

A Geriatrician's Views on Aging

Thanks to Ronni Bennett of Time Goes By, I have encountered Geriatrician William H. Thomas, of the Erickson School of Aging Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore Country.

Check out his blog at, as well as Ronni's interview of him at

The second part of the inteview will appear on Time Goes By tomorrow. I plan some comments on Dr. Thomas' ideas later.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Support Little-Known Authors!

Do you restrict your reading to best-sellers, old classics, and books by authors who specialize in expensive publicity campaigns? Do you depend exclusively on books from your local library? Why not expand your tastes to a few books you've never heard of? Two good ways of doing this are by searching by author, title, or genre and by attending your local book fairs.

I was one of thirty authors appearing yesterday at the Illinois Woman's Press Association Fall Book Fair (see program front and back covers above), and I was favorably impressed by my fellow authors: their diversity, their variety of topics and genres, and most of all, their enthusiasm. Of course I have not read all the books on display there, but those I have read were well worth reading. They all tell fascinating stories. There are books here for all ages.

Here is a list of the participating authors and their titles. If these books sound interesting, look them up on line. Find out what the small press and self-publishing world is up to. You may be surprised and pleased.

* Indicates IWPA members.

Kathy Catrambone and Ellen Shubart: Taylor Street: Chicago's Little Italy

Larry W. Green: Water Tanks of Chicago: A Vanishing Urban Legacy

Lenore and John Weiss: Traveling the Historic Three; As the Story Goes; Traveling the New, Historic Route 66 of Illinois.

Jerry Crimmins: Fort Dearborn

* David G. Clark: Exploring Route 66 in Chicagoland; Route 66 in Chicago

* Marianne Wolf: Joliet, Images of America

Renee Rosen: Every Crooked Pot

Naedi Okorafor-Mibachu: Zahrah the Windseeker; The Shadow Speaker

Lynn Voedisch: Excited Light

Carol June Stover: Current River Redemption

Michael Cain: The Tangled Web: The Life and Death of Richard Cain--Chicago Cop and Mafia Hitman

Judy Douglas Knauer: Bad Catholics, a Novel of Dark Suspense; Ecstasy Reclaimed

Tina L. Jens: The Blues Ain't Nothin: Tales of the Lonesome Blues Pub

John Weagly: The Undertow of Small Town Dreams

Tina L. Jens and John Weagly: Book of Dead Things; Tales From the Red Lion; Spooks!

* George Scheber: Earl the Squirrel Series: Peanut Butter Apple Pie; Hollywood; Chicken Big

Linda Hoffman Kimball: Come with Me on Halloween

Cindi Dammann: Tailgating Tales: Diary of a Female Football Fan

* Helena Lehman: Pillar of Enoch Ministry Books: The Language of God in the Universe; The Language of God in Humanity; The Language of God in History; The Language of God in Prophecy

*Marlys Marshall Styne: Reinventing Myself: Memoirs of a Retired Professor; Seniorwriting: A Guide for Seniors Who Want to Write

* Jane Ranshaw: 101 Tips For Marketing Your Services; Quick Guide to Grammar and Style

Thomas R. Jones, Sr.: Lost Survivor

Jennie Spallone: Deadly Choices

* Rachel Madorsky: Create Your Own Destiny! Spiritual Path to Success

Stephanie E. Wilson-Coleman: Embracing Life Lessons; Is Anybody Listening?

Yvonne F. Brown: Self Creation: 10 Powerful Principles for Changing Your Life

* Susan Brauer: Just Keep Dancing

* Francine Pappadis Friedman: MatchDotBomb: A Midlife Journey Through Internet Dating

Rami Yelda: A Persian Odyssey

* Dr. Elena Ashley: Splunkunio Splunkey Detective and Peacemaker Case One: The Missing Friendship Bracelet (bilingual, English-Spanish)

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Never too Late, Indeed: Today's "Senior Class"

"Call it the graying of community colleges. With more free time on their hands, more retirees, many of them in their 70's or older, are finding their way back to the classroom."

In her article, "This senior class grayer, and still hungry to learn: Community colleges flooded with retirees" in the October 19 Chicago Tribune, staff reporter Megan Twohey explores the growing back-to-class trend among seniors. Community colleges are creating or expanding programs to meet their needs.

Among Chicago-area suburban colleges with flourishing programs is The College of DuPage. Its Older Adult Institute, which opened in 1982, has grown from 65 to 7,000 students. Oakton Community College's Emeritus Program, 25 years old, has more the 23,000 students, and the newer Harper College Lifelong Learning Institute is also growing.

According to a national survey, while less that 25% of community colleges had special programs for seniors in 1990, 69% had them in 2005. "It's just going to keep growing," said the Oakton Emeritus Program's manager Leona Hoelting. The average age in her program is 75.

Some seniors take classes for credit to earn associates' degrees; others appreciate the "no grades, no pressure" atmosphere in non-credit lectures and classes that they find interesting: everything from Iraq to art to Shakespeare, from history to religion. Of course there are social aspects too: theater and other cultural events, sports, ballroom dancing.

As a long-time community college professor, mainly before the growth of specialized programs for seniors, I noted that my older students were often my better students. They wanted to learn, did their homework, and asked questions. Now, some Oakton students said they'd tried golf, Florida, and other typical retirement locations and activities, but CCNY grad Larry Pressner, 81, says, "Golf doesn't send me."

Having spent virtually my whole life in one classroom or another, I have not explored these senior programs extensively myself. I live in the city, but such programs are expanding here as well. I'd like to try teaching a writing or literature class for my fellow seniors, but if senior students are in demand, senior teachers don't seem to be.

Whether you want to explore those subjects you never had time for in college, or did not have time or money for college at all when you were younger, check out your local community college. It's never really too late: "We had one student who was 100 years old," said Marget Hamilton of College of DuPage's Older Adult Instutute.

Link to story:,0,833896.story

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Video -- and a Book --Worth Noticing!

On September 30, I reviewed Donna G. Humphrey's book of poetry, I Speak of Simple Things (Ampersand, Inc., 2007) on my other blog, "Write your Life!" Donna Humphrey, the 89-year-old mother of a federal judge in Chicago, is sometimes remembered as the victim, along with the judge's husband, of a horrible murder in 2005. Mrs. Humphrey's daughters Joan Humphrey Lefkow and Judith Humphrey Smith discovered her poetry in drawers and closets after her death and published this book as a tribute to her.

My "Write your Life!" is a blog designed to promote the writing of life stories, and reading this book made me realize that poetry is a very useful medium for telling such stories, as it obviousy was in Donna Humphrey's case.

On yesterday's Today Show, Matt Lauer interviewed Joan Lefkow and Judy Smith about the book, and the interview underscores the importance of leaving one's thoughts, experiences, and memories behind. The family had realized that Mrs. Humphrey wrote frequently during her later years, even feeling guilty when she didn't take time to write, but they were surprised at the extensiveness of her poems and by all the things they revealed: her enjoyment of nature, her concerns about aging, her feelings about family. These poems present a picture of a real person, well worth remembering.

For a video of the Today Show interview, go to

To read my review, go to

Monday, October 15, 2007

Another Look at the Bold Women of the Past: Models for the Future

Top: Coordinator Cecelia Green as Rosie the Riveter.

Bottom: Models, with Commentator and Script Writer Marlene Cook. (Seniorwriter as Jane Addams, center of back row, behind "Elvis").

National Federation of Press Women Conference, Richmond, Virginia, 9/21/2007.

Click on photos for larger views. See also my September 24 post.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Joys and Benefits (?) of Chocolate

Nutritionists have recently discovered that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is good for us. Hooray! But . . .

After I added this information to my mental list of food facts right above the benefits of wine, I stopped to think for a moment. As my ample figure shows, I have always had a problematic love-hate relationship with food, and chocolate has always been one of my biggest problems. I'm afraid I'm one of those crazy binge eaters. If elated, I want to celebrate with chocolate. If depressed, I need the comfort of chocolate. Cake, cookies, ice cream, candy: I want it all, as long as there's chocolate in it (and sometimes even when there's not).

I drink wine occasionally, seldom more than one glass a week, and it's not a problem. I can drink a single glass of wine without demanding the whole bottle. But give me a chocolate, and I want the whole box. Serious, rational woman though I am, I crumple at the sight, smell, taste, or even the thought of chocolate.

When I was finally old enough to go to the dentist alone, I preceded nearly every visit with a trip to the five-and-dime for a bag of chocolate candy, usually old-fashioned chocolate drops with that creamy white stuff inside, as I recall. I'm sure that my dentist knew, despite my heroic rinsing efforts, but that habit probably contributed to my lifetime financial support of a long line of dentists.

Another example of my chocolate insanity came a couple of years ago, while I was taking care of a neighbor's cat during the holidays. I went into his apartment twice daily to take care of Gracie, the elderly cat. My honesty was sorely tested. Had there been money lying around, or a pile of diamonds on the table, I would have ignored them completely, but there on the kitchen counter was -- a Christmas box of almonds covered in dark chocolate! The box had already been opened, so what was the harm of my trying one or two? My neighbor wouldn't notice.

Well, one or two led to three or four or more, and remember that I was going in twice a day! As my nieghbor's return approached, I paniced. The box was nearly empty. I couldn't replace this particular gift package. I decided to write a confessional note; I was really ashamed of myself, and very apologetic.

Fortunately, my neighbor laughed, and even presented me with the remainder of the box. I was forgiven, but I was also embarrassed.

I've never had any of the standard addiction problems: drugs, alcohol, even smoking. However, I guess each of us has his or her own "Achilles heel." I'd probably be better off if those nutritionists had discovered that chocolate is poisonous to humans--but have you noticed that Peanut M & M's now come with a dark chocolate coating? Yummy!

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Friday, October 12, 2007

About Turning 75

Today is my 75th birthday. Young people often look forward to birthdays. To them, birthdays mean great things like permission to drive, drink legally, get a job. For us oldsters, birthdays are not always so eagerly anticipated. I thought I was "over the hill" at 55, then 60, then 65, then 70. Now I'm 75, and I'm still around.

My situation is not really typical; I have no children, no grandchildren, no family nearby to throw a party or wish me well. I'm not a party person anyway, so I don't mind. What I do have are a few good friends. Two offered to take me out for birthday dinners, so I'll enjoy good food and good conversation tonight and tomorrow night. Thanks, Jane and Margot.

As seniors often do, I received birthday cards from my alderwoman and my insurance agent, and I'll probably get an e-card from my brother. That's fine.

So what's good and bad about turning 75? The bad is obvious: wrinkles, aches, and pains. I miss my husband, who died in 2000, and my mother, who died this year. She always used to send me a birthday card and/or call me. I'd like to be able to walk more and better. However, the good is there, too. I'm relatively healthy and active for my age. While I'm not wealthy, I have enough income to live fairly well. More important, I have the time and energy to follow my passion, writing, wtihout worrying about its notorious lack of financial reward.

If there are secrets to successful aging, here they are:

Follow you passions.
Make use of whatever assets and abilities you have.
Appreciate your family and friends, but rely on yourself as long as possible.
Enjoy life according to your own wishes, not the expectations of others.
Pass along your experience and memories to future generations.
Help others when you can.

Growing old isn't so bad, considering the alternative.

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Thursday, October 11, 2007

From Fiction to Reality: Presidential Campaign Fashions

Red ties are so over. Color matters. In this seemingly endless presidential campaign, the most important people may be the candidates' fashion consultants. Clothes make the man--or the woman--or the presidential nominee.

I learned all this by watching a segment of Good Morning America yesterday, or did I? Perhaps I really learned this lesson many years ago when I read a favorite book of mine, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Yes, that's the satire about book burning, but there's a lot more to it.

As Guy Montag, the book-burning fireman who has begun to question his job, forces his wife Mildred and her friends to discuss "serious topics" rather than glue their attentions to the TV walls, one of their topics is elections:

"I voted last election, same as everyone, and I laid it on the line for President Noble. I think he's one of the nicest-looking men ever became president," says Mrs. Bowles.

"Oh, but the man they ran against him!"

"He wasn't much, was he? Kind of small and homely and he didn't shave too close or comb his hair very well."

"What possessed the 'Outs' to run him? You just don't go running a little short man like that against a tall man. Besides, he mumbled. Half the time I couldn't hear a word he said. And the words I did hear I didn't understand."

"Fat, too, and didn't dress to hide it. No wonder the landslide was for Winston Noble. Even their names helped. Compare Winston Noble to Hubert Hoag for ten seconds and you can almost figure the results."

Well, I don't know the color of either Noble's or Hoag's necktie (I'm surprised that Mrs. Bowles and Mildred Montag didn't mention it), but I do see a parallel. Are we too concerned about what our candidates wear and how they look? I have a suspicion, and I hope that I'm wrong, that far too many Americans pay more attention to how the candidates look and dress than to what, if anything, they really say and stand for. Does tie color (or the color of Hillary's suit) really matter?

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Need a Laugh?

Do you think Robert Browning might have had something to say about self-image and romance on the Internet (see my previous post)? I borrowed this cartoon from Grandad's "Head Rambles," an Irish blog.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Robert Browning Lives! Some Retirement Nostalgia

Last night I ate dinner at a long table at Emilio’s with a group from the Two-Year College English Association-Midwest’s annual conference. Eight years retired, I was there at the invitation of my old friend and colleague, Jane Wagoner, who was ably running this year’s conference sponsored by my former employer, the City Colleges of Chicago. I had done the interior layout for the printed conference program, so I had a connection to the event.

I was an outsider among this young group, and yet, as an observer of people, I regained an appreciation for my old profession. In a pop culture world, English teachers are often the repositories and promoters not only of good writing, but of the literary classics as well.

A few of us actually discussed, briefly, the soliloquies and dramatic monologues of nineteenth-century English poet Robert Browning (1812-1889), a favorite of mine. It’s been years since I’ve encountered anyone who recognized that name–my late husband connected the name "Browning" only to weapons until he endured a lecture I gave in the early 1970's.

Why Robert Browning? I can’t explain why he’s a favorite of mine, but there’s something about his soliloquies and dramatic monologues, especially, that intrigues me. "My Last Duchess," "Porphyria’s Lover," "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister," "The Bishop Orders his Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church"–I still remember them all. One of my young table companions last night referred to these poems as Browning’s "crazy poems." Well, yes, but I think what fascinated me most was Browning’s ability to explore the gap between the way people see themselves and the way others see them. The poems deal with life’s insane obsessions and misguided self images, the same foibles that often lead to murder and other crimes today. That’s their timeless quality.

My fascination with poetry in general revolves around the great poets’ ability to express profound thoughts briefly. What I would need at least a chapter to explain in prose comes through more clearly in the pictures Browning created.

After strangling the object of his obsessive love by winding her hair into "one long yellow string," Porphyria’s Lover is able to prop up her head and sit quietly with her body. "And all night long we have not stirred, / And yet God has not said a word!" The Duke is able to say of his less-than-haughty former Duchess, "I gave commands, / Then all smiles stopped together," as he goes on to point out his lovely home’s magnificent art work to a representative of his future Duchess’ father.

Browning portrays an envious monk fixated on the rituals of religion rather that its principles in "The Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister." There, the speaker destroys Brother Lawrence’s carefully-tended garden and plots his damnation. Brother Lawrence’s "sins"? He does not properly cross his knife and fork after dining, "As do I, in Jesu’s praise," and "I the Trinity illustrate, / Drinking watered orange pulp– / In three sips the Arian frustrate; / While he drains his at one gulp."

Yes, I realize that this may seem old-fashioned, and perhaps crazy, but unfortunately, obsessive love, arrogance, jealousy, and extreme religious zealotry have not disappeared from our world. A glance at nearly any newspaper or TV news broadcast will prove that.

I was inspired to read Robert Browning’s poems again. Why don’t you explore your own nostalgic memories from your reading–and your jobs–of the past? Who wrote, "Everything old is new again"? How true.

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Program cover design by Allison Wagoner

Thursday, October 04, 2007

First Interview on My New Book

I was happy to see an interview by Paul Lam of The Elders Tribune about my new book, Seniorwriting, on his site this morning. Check it out at Thanks, Paul.

My book is now out and available at

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Nursing Homes: Investment Bonanza or Coming Disaster?

Few people want to think about nursing homes, either as necessary final residences for themselves or for their aging parents. In fact, nursing homes are seldom mentioned until advancing age brings statements such as, "I hope I never have to go to a nursing home" or "I'll never put [Mom or Dad] in a nursing home." Calling them "Care Centers" or downplaying them as sections of continuing care communities doesn't help much, either.

The reality is that as life spans increase, many of us will outlive our ability to care for ourselves, and perhaps the capabilities of our families as well--and some of us have no chldren to take on the caregiver role.

In the October 2, 2007, AFT [American Federation of Teachers] Retiree E-News, I encountered a disturbing article entitled "Wall Street Firms Buying Nursing Homes, Cutting Costs and Quality." Ronald Silva, president and CEO of Fillmore Capital Partners, which paid $1.8 billion last year to buy one of the country's largest nursing home chains, said that nursing homes will see "essentially unlimited consumer demand as baby boomers age," adding, "I've never seen a surer bet." And Charlene Harrington, a University of California - San Francisco professor who studies nursing homes, said, "The first thing owners do is lay off nurses and other staff that are essential to keeping patients safe. . . . Chains have made a lot of money by cutting nurses, but it's at the cost of human lives."

According to the article, nursing home chains owned by private investment groups before 2006 scored worse than national average rates in 12 of 14 care indicators, including preventable infections and bedsores. And the complex corporate structures established make it difficult for families to sue for patient abuse or neglect

As a childless, aging American whose mother died this year in a nursing home at age 95, despite the earlier heroic efforts of a grandson to care for her at home, I find this situation disturbing. Private investment is the American way, and yet we're talking about aging human beings here.

As I approach age 75, the reality is that I am likely to outlive my ability to care for myself, as my formerly healthy, active mother did. She died as a private patient at a relatively good nursing home not owned by an investment group, but even there, short staffing was a problem.

Should we seniors and baby boomers become just another investment bonanza, or is there a better way? What does the future hold?

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne