Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Again!

I just returned from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I spent Christmas with my niece, her family, and my brother. This once-a-year family reunion has become a tradation, and a great one at that.

My niece, Cindy, loves Christmas and Santa Claus. She always has her house beautifully decorated; she actually had her Christmas shopping done by November 1 this year, and the number of gifts under the tree was enormous. The whole process overwhelms me to the point of paralysis, so I'm glad to have someone take care of the whole holiday. Cindy is a great cook, too, so I ate more meals than usual, including desserts. I haven't had to courage to step on the scale yet.

My favorite gift was a Kindle book reader. I had been very skeptical about this, being a lover of real books, but during this holiday I got hooked. Reading seems faster and easier on this little machine, and it's easier to hold, too. I'm not ready to give up real books entirely, but it's nice to know that I can download almost any best-seller for about $10 before it comes out in paperback (I've always been too frugal to buy hard cover books).

I want to thank my niece Cindy, her husband Scott, and their daughter Lauren for getting me into the spirit of the season. I hope this tradition lasts for a while longer, and that I will remain well enough to travel (airport walks are a problem, but there's always a wheelchair if I choose to use one; I didn't this year).

Next comes New Years, and I'm back at The Clare for that. We'll have a special New Years Eve dinner. It's time to get busy on the January newsletter, and I have a lot of puzzles to do and lots of material to read. Winter isn't so bad after all!

Photo: Clare tree in the Ambassador Lounge

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Rictameter for December

A Rictameter for December

Fresh snow

All soft and white:
I admire your beauty,

Dread the thought of later days when

Brilliant white turns into dirty gray that

mars the landscape, much as age and

illness mar the promise

of golden years,

Fresh snow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's Nice to be Mentioned!

I've mentioned before how much I enjoy seeing my name in print. I especially enjoy it now, since I've not been actively writing or working or doing much of anything in the literary field, or any other field, lately. In this month's The Writer magazine, Jenny Rough mentions this blog and my poetry book (Elder Expectations) in a short paragraph in her article "The Craft Welcomes Writers of all Ages" on page 12. The article emphasizes that writing is something anyone can do, regardless of physical fitness, age limits, or age requirements. Her examples mention a writer who began writing at 14, all the way up to one who is still writing past 100. At 78, I'm closer to the oldest than to the youngest, of course.

As Rough mentions, I have "made it [my] mission to encourage seniors to write." I've had limited success in this effort, although I have encouraged at least two residents of my senior residence to write rictameters (my favorite poetic form) and a few to contribute to the resident newsletter I edit. I'll soldier on in this effort, and even try to contribute to this blog more often. I can't entirely have run out of things to say, lame though some of them may be. A writer never really quits, I guess.

Anyway, Thanks, Jenny, for letting me see my name in print once more. Now if more people would buy my books . . .

Monday, October 25, 2010

Older Animals Can be Active Too!

Remember Cheeta, co-star of those old Tarzan movies? Perhaps you've wondered whatever happeneed to him.

Thanks to a fellow Clare resident who has a second home in Palm Springs, CA, I have found out the answer to a question I didn't even know I had. Cheeta is alive and well, doing abstract paintings in Palm Springs.

Last August, the Clare book club held a Tarzan day. The club discussed Cheeta, a best-selling Hollywood expose purportedly written by the chimpanzee who starred in the Tarzan movies, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' 25 Tarzan Adventures. After discussing the book, the group had a luncheon of Cheeta favorites, includng Bananas Foster, served by The Clare's Dining Room Manager. While the more "snooty" among you, and among Clare residents as well, may dismess all this as silly, when I found out about it (after the fact), I thought is was a refreshing story. We "art lovers" sometimes forget that art can be fun, too.

Cheeta, perhaps the oldest living primate in captivity, now lives near downtown Palm Springs, cared for by retired singer/dancer Dan Westfall, who inherited Cheeta from his uncle. Cheeta has hius own walk of fame star, enjoys three regular meals a day, and receives two insulin injections daily for his diabetes. Doesn't this remind you of the state of some older human beings as well?

Like us humans, Cheeta is keeping busy in old age. His abstract paintings have sold for as much as $10,000 each (for charity). Great art? Who cares? I think it's an interesting story, further evidence of Jane Goodall's contention that chimpanzees are closely related to us.

The photo above shows Cheeta with his two pantings purchased for The Clare (at much less than $10,000). They may eventually be displayed in a public area, or in the apartment of an animal lover who fell in love with them. To those who scoff, I say, "Loosen up!"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Rictameter: Time Flies

Time flies:
An old cliche,
Yet oh so true these days
With meetings, puzzles, TV shows
All designed to keep us busy, content.
In youth, time seemed to crawl along:
Plans were made, lessons learned.
Now, not enough.
Time flies.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Admirable or Foolhardy: What Would You Do?

One of the advantages of living in a large continuous care senior residence is the chance to meet fellow seniors of all types. One of the most memorable people I've met here at The Clare is Anne (not her real name). When I first saw her, I assumed that she was near death: shaved head, halting gait, negative attitude. She continued to come to eat breakfast with the Independent Residents, of whom I am one, even though she lived on one of the Assisted Living floors.

When I first met Anne, she was complaining about the trouble of selling her downtown condo, where she had previously lived. This was or had been a problem for many of us during these uncertain economic times. The next thing I heard from her was that she was trying to cancel her contract with a real estate agent and keep the condo; in fact, she planned many improvements and changes to the place, which she obviously loved. I admired her for her forward-looking plans, since she had told me she had terminal bone cancer. She takes an array of serious medications, some of them experimental. She complained often of pain, sleeping problems, night sweats, and other alarming symptoms. One experimental treatment laid her low, so she was forced to discontinue it.

Anne is very intelligent, but like many of us, having trouble dealing with the problems of aging and illness. I started to think about what I would do in her situation (she is the same age as I am, 78). Would I have the courage to make such grandiose (and expensive) plans to move out of a care facility while facing an uncertain and likely brief future? My answer would be no, but I can't fault Anne for her decision. I have never met a cancer sufferer more optimistic and forward-looking, not to mention one having so much energy despite her fragile appearance.

On one hand, I admire Anne for her tenacity. She is very determined (and overly critical of everything, from the food to the service to the staff to other aspects of this relatively comfortable place). Few approve her attituude or understand her desire to move out of this beautiful place. Is she being admiraable or foolhardy? She seemed to enjoy telling me about her struggles with her remodeling contractor to get everything in her condo just right. Yesterday, she finally moved out. However, she confided in me that she knew things would not be the same as they were before.

Even so, all the planning and fretting seemed to keep Anne alive. One of the drawbacks of senior living, especially for those of us with no local family, is the feeling that this is the end, the final move. Of course many healthy seniors here are on the go every moment, but some of us are contented to just relax and enjoy easy living. I do that too much. So I guess I admire Anne more than I condemn her. I wish her the very best, which would include a cure for her cancer. Will it happen? Somehow I doubt it, but Anne is certainly a profile of courage and an example of having plans for the future, even a very uncertain one.

Photo: The Clare, from the Chicago Tribune.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Conferences and the Aging

I attended some parts of the National Federation of Press Women's annual conference, held this year at the Union League Club in Chicago. It was a very successful, well-run conference, with interesting speakers and excellent meals. My main purpose in going was to support the organization, of which I've been a member since 2006, and to receive my third place award for the Clarion, the residents' newsletter that I edit.

This conference reminded me again that I'm old. I can't say I didn't enjoy some parts of it, but I got very tired and overfed, and I skipped one reception, one banquet, and one cocktail party during the two main days of the conference and the evening before. First, I found that the speakers were addressing matters that didn't much concern me: dressing for success, getting a book published, making money. I know that my books will never attract traditional publishers, and the process of finding an agent, writing book proposals, etc., which were spelled out skillfully, just made me tired. I found out long ago that I'm not cut out to be an entrepreneur, and that's what a writer must be to succeed. I enjoy writing, but I just don't have the interest or the ability to promote my work. If I expected the world to come to my door, it just hasn't happened.

Another problem is my hearing. With my state-of-the-art hearing aids, I can hear the amplified speeches (unless the speaker has an unusual accent or mumbles), but the general level of chatter in a large dining room is really annoying. I can't hear colleagues across the table, and I can barely hold a conversation with those nearby because of the background noise. I feel that I miss out on a lot of interesting conversation, and I probably appear either mute or stupid, or both. No, I'm not the oldest member of the group, but some people seem to have retained their mobiity and their hearing much better than I. This conference made me feel a bit sorry for myself.

I wrote last year about problems with that year's NFPW conference in San Antonio. Of course that involved air travel, rainy weather, inappropriate plumbing fixtures, etc., things I avoided this year. Still, I have a feeling that I'm finished with conferences. Conferences are good for the young and agile, and I used to enjoy them very much. Now, they just seem to be too much work. I need a shot of energy--and better hearing.

At least one good thing came out of this conference: I may have been inspired to write more again, mostly just for myself.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Joys of City Living

Occasionally I stop whatever I'm doing (if anything) to look around and think about the advantages of living on the 35th floor of a highrise building, with a Lake Michigan view.

This has been a good week so far: it's time for the Tall Ship festival, which brings 20 beautiful sailing vessels to Navy Pier. While other tall buildings block my view of nearby Navy Pier, I was able to observe part of a parade of the ships on Tuesday evening: all sizes and shapes, the ships seemed to be reminders of a romantic past. They are very impressive.

To make matters even better, I heard the sound of fireworks about nine o'clock Tuesday night, and again Wednesday. For once, the fireworks were directly in my line of sight over the lake, and they were spectacular. I hope they continue every night. There's something about elaborate fireworks displays that makes me feel good. Yes, there's "medicine" in living near the lake.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Further Reflections on the IWPA Awards Luncheon

As I wrote earlier, I was fortunate enough to receive a first-place award from the Illinois Woman's Press Association Saturday at the annual awards luncheon at the Union League Club. The award was for editing The Clarion, our resident newsletter here at The Clare at Watertower. Of course I was pleased by the award, but my real inspirations from the occasion probably came from the beautiful paintings in the Club's main dining room, and more importantly, from the student journalists' awards.

Each year, the organization encourages high school newspaper sponsors to encourage their students to enter their best efforts for judging. I was impressed by this year's crop of winners. The young people were quiet, respectful, and well-dressed for the occasion: no baggy pants or holey jeans in sight. There was at least one short, short mini skirt, but the wearer had just the figure and legs to wear one. I'm not so stodgy as to object to such apparel at that age; there will be time for sedate business suits later. Some of the male winners did, indeed, wear conservative suits and neckties.

In an age when the newspapers and TV broadcasts are filled with gang crime and teen shootings, it was encouraging to see such an attractive lot of highschoolers. Granted, these were mostly suburbanites, not Chicago ghetto dwellers, but it is encouraging to see students who care about writing and do it well. Perhaps if more writing were encouraged, the crime rate would decline even in depressed nieghborhoods. In fact, today's Chicago Tribune featured poetry written by residents of a local juvenile detention facility. There's nothing like writing to free a person's thoughts and encourage sharing.

I've long encouraged writing for everyone, from children to senior citizens, so I'm happy to find a bit of evidence that there may be something to that idea. Perhaps it's because writing promotes thinking that it works so well!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Awards Again!

Every year at this time, the Illinois Woman's Press Association holds its annual awards luncheon. In each of the past three years, I've received first-place awards for one of my books: Reinventing Myself, Seniorwriting, and Elder Expectations. I've also received awards for this blog and for various individual blog posts and book reviews.

I've been writing much less lately, so I was surprised yesterday by a first-place award for two issues of The Clare's resident newsletter, The Clarion. The category (one of many) was "Publications Edited Regularly by Entrant," a new category for me.

The judge (not an IWPA member, but a member of the local writing community) commented as follows: "It's clear this is a "home-made" newsletter and labor of love and, despite the fact that its audience are residents and not a professional organization, its features and stories are really interesting, the photos well-chosen, and the organization and content informative and reflective of the active, interesting, accomplished residents." I suspect that this is the first senior residence newsletter entered in the contest (most are newsletters for professional associations), so I was elated. Perhaps this will draw attention to the fact that we seniors are still alive and kicking, and that seniors (the many contributors to The Clarion) can write.

I plan to share this honor with my staff and all the residents of The Clare who have contributed their talents and their stories. For me, this is a labor of love. Now The Clarion goes on to the National Federation of Press Women's national contest, where it will probably be overshadowed by the professional organizations' newsletters, but I believe I've made my point. I'm so glad I began this newsletter, now in its second year. It gives me a sense of purpose and achievement.

Writing careers, even those as unprofitable as mine, need never stop. There is at least one IWPA member (the organization is 125 years old) who is ninety, and several are in their eighties. Write on!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tests, Tests, and More Tests!

It seems that as I've grown older, my spring ritual has included going for all sorts of tests and medical examinations, even when I'm not sick. I no longer have the youthful outlook that nothing will go wrong; I'm always expecting something.

For the last few weeks, I've had appointments with my heaaring aid specialist, my dentist, my internist, and my opthalmologist. I had to make a special trip to have blood drawn, as ordered by my doctor. She also ordererd a stress test, the chemical kind, since I can't necessarily walk on a treadmill long enough and fast enough for the desired result. That is not fun; I've had such a test before, and it requires shots of chemicals, probably dangerous ones, and much waiting.

First, I had a tooth extracted, but since it was in the back of my mouth, I figured I didn't need it. It took a while to recover from the extraction. Now my dentist will want to put in an implant to replace the tooth, but I see no need for that. We'll see. My next visit is coming up.

My new hearing aids seem to be working as well as possible (no hearing aids give perfect hearing), so that was a quick visit. I got new transparent plastic "wires," the ones that go into my ears. So far, so good.

The doctor visit and blood tests didn't turn up anything especially frightening. My cholesteral is up, so I need to take a statin medicine again. My blood pressure was within reason, but the medication may be making me tired, so I'm trying a new one. Now I have to have my blood pressure checked again, but fortunately, I can do that here at The Clare. I got new prescriptions for all six of my meds, so I'm set for another year. I sometimes think it's crazy to take so many, but when I stop one, odd things seem to happen, like the new shoulder pains when I tried stopping Celebrex. Oh, well.

I passed the stress test. The doctors always get a bit uneasy because I have a slightly irregular heartbeat, but so did my mother, and she lived to age 95.

The worst news from a financial standpoint is from the opthalmologist: I need new eyeglasses. Granted, mine are quite old, but they've served me well. Buying three new pair of progressive bifocals (one regular, one spare, one prescrription sunglasses) costs an arm and a leg, even though I don't go for the premiere designer frames. I still haven't filled the new glasses prescription, but I probably will do so next week.

Now I have nothing to worry about until the bills come in: the yearly Medicare deductible will apply. I'm always tempted to skip these yearly tests, but I guess I'm brainwashed by the medical community. I hope that if I do get some dread disease, it will be discovered early and be curable, but then I remember an acquaintance who did fine on his stress test and died of a sudden heart attack soon thereafter. He wasn't even old.

So now I'm all tested and medicated and hoping for a healthy year. But who knows what is in store for me? Getting old is not for the weak.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Trouble with being a Good Samaritan

I've lived in Chicago for a long time, so I don't have the country fear of crime that bothers others. In general, I trust people. I've become more mellow living in a senior residence where nearly everyone exudes helpfulness and sympathy. Of course I don't fall for those Internet schemes involving Nigerian con men eager to give me money if I'll only send some of my own. I always thought I was quite alert and savvy.

So what happened? A week or so ago, I fell for a young woman's sob story in the grocery store parking lot. She was obviously pregnant, or perhaps bolstered with a pillow (I don't know much about pregnancy), and she claimed to be about to give birth and needed a ride to a hospital quite far away. She told me where she lived (probly not true) and babbled on a lot, but I couldn't understand much of what she said. I made the mistake of offering her money, and she saw where my wallet was. She strongly insisted on a ride, so I agreed to drive her to an el station; the hospital was too far away.

I stowed my purse, with wallet inside, on the floor beneath my feet, but my car is very small, and the woman was supposedly in pain, so she moved around a lot. I just kept my eyes on the road and was in a hurry to get rid of the woman before something happened. (This being Chicago, she might well have had a gun, so I began to worry). After quite a bit of driving around (I wasn't sure of the location of the el stop), she finally agreed to get out as a bus approached. I heaved a sigh of relief to get rid of her, and proceeded home.

I started to have nagging doubts when I later observed that, although my wallet was still in my purse, it seemed out of place. Sure enough, when I took it out, it was very light. Most of its contents were gone. The cash was gone, of course: probably about $80 or so, but I'm not sure. More importantly, my major credit cards were gone, and probably some minor ones I no longer use and can't remember. Fortunately, my driver's license and medical cards were left, as well as one credit card that was in the purse but outside the wallet.

I immediately called Chase Bank and Bank of America and cancelled two credit cards and a debit card (my pin number was not in the wallet, so the thief couldn't have used that very much). By the time I called, soon after the incident, one card had been used, but for only a small amount. I'm glad the thief was not a big spender! Apparently she made a few other small purchases--small enough so as not to be asked for an ID. I've not found any large charges on any of the cards, but more could be on the way.

Anyway, I now have new cards with different numbers, and I've used my new debit card successfully to replace the cash. I'll check out future statements very carefully. I am ashamed for being so gullible, but the woman must have been an experienced thief to grab the wallet, strip it, and return it to my purse without my noticing. Some slight of hand must have been involved.

While I've always believed in people helping people, and although I could probably afford to lose what I lost, I know I'll be more wary from now on. No wonder city people, especially, sometimes seem so cold and distant. The big city is not a friendly place for good samaritans, and I'll probably never try again to be one.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Good Day--Optimism Restored!

I began today thinking that it would be filled with difficulty. To be honest, I tend to be a creature of routine, and I hate to make telephone calls. Perhaps it's my loner nature, or perrhaps it's my hearing difficulty (even with very expensive hearing aids), but the thought of making routine phone calls fills me with dread of automated answering services, surly service representatives, and disappointment.

Today, I had three problems. First, I had made two medical appointments I wouldn't be able to keep. I had made an appointment with my opthalmologist for an afternoon when I had a newsletter meeting at the same time. My mistake, of course, but I hate to ask for changes. I called, and the answer could not have been more courteous. My appointment was rescheduled for only a few days later. One down.

Then, I had an appointment for a stress test that turned out to be on the same day as a luncheon at my old English Department. I"ve missed a lot of these in the past, and really wanted to go. Hospital staffs are overburdened, so I was on hold for several stints, but eventually, I got a real, courteous person, and got another appointment. No problem.

Finally the biggest problem, which I purposely left for last. My large flat-screen HDTV, almost a year old, suddenly stopped working. The screen turned a bright kelly green, and that was it. It happened yesterday. I'd never seen such a thing. My first thought was to call the dealer. After another atomated phone system, I got to their repair service. I was told that the problem was probably in my cable box (also less than a year old). I hated to call the cable company, with its poor reputation for service, but endured more time on hold. I finally reached an amazingly patient and understanding woman. She directed me through a long series of steps: searching for serial numbers, plugging and unplugging connections, pressing various buttons on two remote controls, finally unplugging the TV power cord. All this took nearly half an hour, but somehow, it worked! My beautiful hi-def picture was back.

My kudos to Comcast! The woman I spoke to was so patient; she had me trying vaarious steps, and she never gave up or became irritated. Now things are back to normal, and I can go back to watching too much TV.

Today's experiences have improved my opinion of service representatives, with or without automated phone systems. I somehow never expected that everything would turn out so well. Chalk up one for a more optimistic attitude!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Baseball: Sign of Spring

Baseball: Sign of Spring: A Rictameter

Cubs play

At Wrigley, first

Home game, exciting day.

They often fail and make us wait

Until it's time to say, "Wait 'til next year."

But still we watch and hope "Cubs Win!"

Will echo through the stands.

A sign of spring?

Cubs play.

Copyright 2010 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Facing Reality

It didn't exactly come as a surprise, but one of the features of senior living that I hadn't devoted much thought to is the frequency of loss among this age group. In the year since I've moved in, a few residents of Independent Living have been moved to assisted living or nursing care, and two or three others have died.

None of these people have been close friends; it's just that a semi-familiar face (in one case, a man I've worked with on a resident committee) simply disappears, and is soon mentioned in an administrative publication.

In addition to those cases, the number of people transported to the hospital after falls or other disasters is and always has been impressive. I've signed a lot of get-well cards.

Somehow, when I lived among the younger, such things seldom came to my attention. It's sad but rather different when I hear that some old acquaintance across the country has died. That somehow seems less shocking and more understandable. Of course the main shock comes when a much younger person dies. One of my younger cousins died recently of cancer, but that wasn't entirely unexpected.

Here at The Clare, many residents are in their eighties and nineties (the oldest is over 100). We 70-somethings are getting a lesson on what it means to grow old. Some residents are remarkably active, regardless of age, while some seem to gradually fade away. For some, the deterioration is obvious; for others, all seems well.

All this is a bit hard to handle. All I can do is resolve to stay as active as possible (although my main activity of writing and editing is a rather sedentery one) and remain optimistic. If I live as long as my mother did, I'll have eighteen years left, but If I had followed my father's pattern, I would have died seven years ago. I know which I prefer, but the choice is not really mine.

At any rate, I'm learning to face reality without becoming depressed. I guess that's one of the realities of senior living.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Failure of Democracy, or Why I Ignore Politics: A View from 360 BC

"His inclination was to turn his back on p0litics--it seemed altogether too hopeless a mess. He had no faith in the rule of the rich, nor any confidence in the ability of ordinary citizens. The rich, as he saw, had mostly their special interests in mind, and during the time of their regimes they had shown to what length they could go to defend the advantages of the few against the majority of ordinary people. But the rule by the many was no remedy, because ordinary people were too easily swayed by the emotional and deceptive rhetoric of ambitious politicians. Politics, in other words, seemed an irremediably corrupted affair, and all a rational person could do was to attend to personal matters, and to pursue wisdom in the privacy of one's solitude and a small circle of friends."

From Plato's The Republic, 360 BC
So what's the answer? Democracy is imperfect, but I've never observed a better, fairer system of government. Thanks to my brother, John Marshall, for alerting me to this quotation.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Different Look at Alzheimer's: A Book Review

A review of Still Alice, by Lisa Genova (Pocket Books, 2009).

This is not a book to read for amusement or quick entertainment. It iis a short and provocative read for anyone seriously wondering about the ravages of Alzheimer's
Disease, or anyone faced by the disease among family or friends. It's a disease that nobody wants to get, but one that seems to be getting more prevalent.

In her first novel, Lisa Genova, neurologist and Alzheimer's advocate, creates an early-onset victim of the disease, Harvard professor Alice Howland, who gradually sees her world crumbling. A world-renowned experst in linguistics with a successful professor husband and three grown children, Alice lives a very active life of research, teaching, and speaking at conferences all over the world. She is also a runner.

Imagine the horror when this active woman can't find her way home from a run in her neighborhood, forgets the ingredients in a favorite recipe, and generally finds her life crumbling around her. She seeks extensive medical opinions and has many tests, but despite her husband's doubts, the outcome is the dreaded one: at age 50, she has early stage Alzheimer's.

Through extensive research, Genova has managed to create a seemingly realistic picture of what it must be like for an intelligent, successful person to notice her mind and memory crumbling. Alice tries various drugs, but to little avail. She worries about having to give up her teaching job, and eventually, she must.

Her family relationships change considerably, leading to greater understanding and patience, although her husband feels compeled to take a new job in New York. Early on, she starts a support group for others also suffering the disease, so she still feels she's making a difference in the world. One of her final public acts is giving a speech before the Dementia Care Conference.

With the help of her son, her daughters, and a devoted care giver, Alice survives in her own way.
This book probably takes us as directly as possible into the life of an Alzheimer's patient through the eyes of Lisa Genova, who has done her research carefully. It is a fascinating, if frightening, book.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Short Lesson on Chicago Politics

There I was, sitting at the Washington Street information desk at the Chicago Cultural Center, reading a book on a day when the cold weather deterred tourists from coming in, when I noticed an assembly of large men entering the lobby. They were obviously waiting for someone; the guard informed me that the Mayor was coming soon. He was appearing at a meeting in the building.

This information aroused my interest only slightly; I've seen Mayor Richard M. Daley before. I'm not very interested in politics, and he's no hero of mine. I do have a picture of him handing me an award for teaching some years ago.

As time passed and I read on, the retainers began to get slightly anxious. Then, finally, the Mayor entered in his characteristic hat; he handed the hat and his overcoat coat to one of his assistants and proceeded toward the elevator. Imagine my surprise when he looked my way, came to my desk, and shook my hand, as a camera flashed. I am a political nobody, just an elderly Cultural Center volunteer, and he's not even running for office this year. An aide handed me a card for claiming a copy of my picture with the Mayor, but I'll probably decline.

This experience reminded me how politicians work. They seem to be on the lookout for hands to shake, even when they are being ignored. I remembered that when I lived in my Old Town condo, at least three other residents of the small building also displayed pictures of themselves with the Mayor. He surely gets around. I guess that's one of the secrets of getting elected: greet everybody like a long-lost friend and shake many hands. It seems to work for Mayor Daley. Will I vote for him next time around? Probably not, but I can see why he's popular.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Trying My Best

This is a NuStep cross trainer exercise machine. It is one of two machines from the Clare fitness room that I can use, but unfortunately inertia often sets in and I stay away. I am, at best, a reluctant exerciser.

I'm sold on the value of staying active, but I seem to be the ultimate recliner potato. I am lazy and tend to be inactive. Anyway, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (barring special appointments and responsibilities) I appear for exercise classes on the 19th floor. The leader, Jan, is wonderful: always complimentary and encouraging no matter what one does or does not manage to do. "Modify this exercise" is her frequent instruction, usually directed to me. Why?

Some parts of the exercise routine are simply impossible for me. For one thing, I cannot raise my right arm; it's been that way since an accident in 1942, followed by another in 1952. By then, my arm was misshapen and nearly useless, although I continue to write with my right hand. Due to arthritis in my shoulders, my left arm can't be raised very far, either. Despite various bouts with physical therapy, arm exercises are a lost cause.

My legs don't work especially well, either. Two knee replacements helped, but I still lack strength and a sense of balance. I'm the one who can't get out of a chair without using my hands, and the one who clings to the back of the chair during most standing exercises.

Fortunately, my fellow senior exercisers are not toned athletes, but some of them, including some of those considerably older than I, do very well indeed. My many unathletic years seem to have caught up with me. I'm overweight and clumsy, even after more than a year of these exercise classes. It bothered me when our oldest resident, age 101, connected to her oxygen tank, did some of the excercises better than I did.

Many times, I've thought about discontinuing my participation in the exercise program. Still, I keep going. This is one area in which I cannot be a perfectionist, but I'm conquering my embarrassment and trying my best. Some movement is undoubtedly better than none! I'm reminded again, though, that old age is not for the weak. And I'll try to visit my favorite exercise machine regularly soon!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

More on Senior Travel

I've noted a lot of concern about the new air safety rules. On my recent trip to Tulsa (or actually on the way home) I was exposed to a full-body scan for the first time. Actually, it was easier for me than the usual pat-down brought on by my two knee replacements always setting off the alarm.

Privacy? Perhaps younger people feel differently, but I just don't care. My ugly, misshapen body is sure to be ignored once explosives are ruled out, and I'm sure no one will bother to look further. Yes, all these security measures are a bother, but they seem necessary. Safe flights are a high priority for me. Such things wouldn't be necessary if we lived in a perfect world, but that's not the way things are. Let's welcome full-body scans as long as they are needed.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Looking back at Christmas in Tulsa

A Blizzard? In Tulsa?

There's Work to be Done!

The Gifts Await!

The Stockings Were Hung . . .

The first surprise of my Christmas trip was a blizzard: the first ever to hit Tulsa, I believe. Unlike 2008. I managed to avoid airport delays. I arrived before the blizzard and left after it. As usual, the food was excellent; I gained five pounds! That was with careful eating. I can't imagine how much I would have gained if I had "pigged out."

Tulsa lacks Chicago's huge snow-clearing crew, so the side streets were never plowed. Needless to say, we stayed in a lot. It was cold, too. I read a lot and did a lot of puzzles (I never travel without those puzzle books), and I received some fine gifts, including a Flip Video Camera. Now I need to find some suitable subjects for video.

The best part of the holiday was being with family. My grandniece, Lauren, a junior at the University of Arizona, is thinking about her medical school entrance exams already. I wish her luck. Although there were some doctors on her maternal grandmother's side of the family, there have been none among the Marshalls. We seem to be descended from a long line of farmers and craftsmen. Lauren is very inteligent and a diligent scholar, so she should make it as a doctor.

Now I'm back home, and the new year has begun. Life at The Clare will soon be back to normal. My first anniversary of moving in comes in just a bit over a week. As I get older, the time seems to fly past faster and faster. I'm hoping for another great Christmas in Tulsa in 2010.

(Photos by John Marshall)