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.