Sunday, December 29, 2013

We begin again.....

60 was bad. Some of you may remember that. (What I know)  It brought us all together here after all.

So,  when my friend, Paula, and I were discussing my approaching 65th birthday, she wanted to know what I had in mind to celebrate. "You must do something," she said. "It's a special one!" Of course, I'm the one who doesn't start thinking about events until the last possible second; Paula, on the other hand, plans events for a living. She won. I threw myself a party last night to celebrate,with a Retro Chinese Buffet at a local Asian restaurant. We had a great time. I'm glad she prevailed.

The point, though, is this: I was willing to acknowledge this birthday. I've settled into the decade nicely, I think.

But I have missed my monthly "thing I've never done before," after a year's hiatus. It adds a sense of anticipation and excitement that is often dulled as we age, a way to challenge ourselves just when we begin to think we've done it all. We haven't. Not by a long shot; it may take some time to come up twelve new things to do, but that's part of the mental gymnastics that go along with the actual activities.

I learned to dance, I tried a hookah lounge, tiled in my kitchen, had my palm read, and went on cruises, just to name a few of the roads I traveled when I did this before. (See more here.) Sometimes I was scared. Often I was nervous. But always I was exhilarated and I learned a lot about myself as a person, regardless of my age. I recommend it to anyone, no matter THEIR age.

I missed it last year. Not right at first; it was actually kind of a relief to not have to come up with something each month. But I realize now that it added a great deal to my life, and I'm ready to begin again. Are YOU ready?
The road ahead....

Stay tuned!

Be your biggest competitor - challenge yourself each day to 

be better than you were yesterday. Kaoru Shinmon


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Silver bells and ugly sweaters...

Have the silver bells finally stopped ringing? Did those reindeer with the scratchy hoofnails that go "click, click, click" on the rooftops finish their rounds without falling off?

Sometimes it seems like once it all starts it will never end. But here we are on the day that is either tinged with a shade of disappointment or replete with exhaustion--or both. Um, not so fast, you remind us: we still have New Year's Eve to deal with.

Scarlett tells me that I can think about that tomorrow, so bug off.

But I'm not here to grumble and "bah humbug" your day off to a grumpy start. The holidays simply reminded me of something that has been tumbling around inside my head even before Santa visited multiple parties and millions of home to enliven our lives, to toss a bit of magic glitter onto our heads and hearts.

He tries, but is often met with reactions that belie that effort as various recipients grouse that "this isn't the color I wanted" or "I don't LIKE marshmallows on my yams" or "It's great, but I just got one last night, too!"

In other words, we have forgotten how to be gracious. We qualify, we complain, we behave with a petulance that acts like a blast of cold air on the warmth that was intended by the giver.

To be gracious means to peer past the concrete in front of us to the love or fellowship or friendship peeking out behind that ugly sweater or duplicate CD or casserole with an ingredient that isn't our favorite. To give to someone who qualifies or quantifies everything is frustrating, to say the least. The long-term result may be to abandon the effort altogether, knowing that our well-wishes won't be accepted well at all, no matter what we do.

To be gracious means to be "well-mannered, courteous, considerate, friendly." And, even though it isn't included when you cheat and visit the on-line thesaurus, here's a word I will add to the list: accepting. It means to accept that ugly sweater with a smile and a hug to acknowledge what the giver meant by handing it to you at all. Or unobtrusively moving aside the bits of bacon you hate from the casserole that was made with love for your pot luck. It means a heartfelt "thank you!" as you unwrap that CD by the artist you don't follow.

As we add maturity to our years (notice that I didn't use "get old"), we come to understand that people matter more than things do. The item they just handed us isn't the gift at all. The gift is that we are here to hold it close to our hearts and they were willing to give it.

And once we smile and offer a sincere hug to the giver, gift receipts help.

“The only gift I have to give, is the ability to receive. If giving is a gift, and it surely is, then my gift to you is to allow you to give to me. 
Jarod Kintz

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A cause for celebration?

It's December 1st.

The day I qualify for Medicare.....

....which is a day to celebrate, right?

Some may be asking WHY I feel this way, as it simply means I am technically "OLD" in the estimation of many.

For some reason, I never thought I'd get here. Strange, because I am a very healthy person. (Just ask one of my close friends who was amazed that I hadn't had cause to see a doctor since 2009. She still tells people about her OLDER, healthy friend.)

So, here's to me: I'm now able to reap the benefits of all those deductions from my pay over the years. And I don't feel "old." Inside my head I'm still 25; actually, I'm having more fun now than I did when I was that young. I know how to enjoy myself, as well as how important it is to appreciate the small things that can add beauty and sparkle to our lives every day.

And I'm still coherent enough to figure out all the crazy Medicare paperwork to make it happen!


Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough.

You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.

You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.

You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Stepping up for me.......

One thing we learn for sure as we age is the value of I mean personally. We are unique, strong, fantastic beings, all on our own, and we each have things we can offer to the world.

But we have to be willing to step up for ourselves. We often have no problem doing it for others, especially those in our lives that we cherish and love. When it comes to US, though, that love often doesn't ooze over to our own needs.

I'm a pretty good writer. Oh, heck....I'm a really good writer! My strength, I've discovered in the past five years or so, is when I write about life, the true stuff that happens to me that also sounds familiar to you. Oh, the details may be a bit different, but the big screen of each of our lives shows the same movie in many cases. I've often told people that there is no need to write fiction; my life is weird enough. No one could make up some of the things that have happened to me. But when I share my life, or even a small slice of it, I can see the recognition in the eyes of others who hear that sharing. And suddenly, the world doesn't seem quite so cold and lonely any more. 

I'm stepping up here for myself. I've written two books: one on divorced parenting and one on living a more positive life. The first, Broken Strings, is based on my life raising a child alone. The second, Nothing to Complain About, is the result of a challenge I took to go 21 consecutive days without complaining. (Yeah, YOU try it. It took me 125 days to accomplish it and I'm a positive person to begin with.) I tried to get both books published the "conventional" way, by contacting publishers, sending query letters, waiting, and then waiting some more. I even had a publisher lie to me until the very last minute, when she revealed (after 5 months) that I had to pay to publish the book myself after all. And this was a publisher that I had found in the most well-respected source of publishers and agents that exists.

Finally, I caved and published my books myself. At least I could hold the book in my hand and read my name on the front cover. I know I can write. The fact that no one else in the business is willing to read my work, even just a page or two, doesn't negate that fact. The second book is an eBook only, primarily because I had no more money to create a printed version. 
Broken Strings

I'm here to promote me. My books are available on Amazon, Books a Million, Barnes and Noble, and all major online book stores. My favorite is Kobo Books, mainly because it offers the buyer multiple platforms from which to purchase and read my work. And they are affordable for anyone: Nothing to Complain About is only $4.99 and Broken Strings is $3.49. (Broken Strings is also available in book form if you'd prefer that: $10.00.) Surely you know someone who is facing the task of single parenting, even if it is the result of separation due to military service. And who wouldn't enjoy laughing at me as I struggled to refrain from complaining, even under some really adverse conditions? There are lessons to be learned from both.

Nothing to Complain About

Writing is my love. The actual process of crafting my thoughts into tangible objects is exhilarating, maddening, frustrating. But I love it anyway. 

The only thing better is when people share that process and read those words. So, I'm here to step up for myself: Please buy my books! I would be very appreciative.

“The saddest people I've ever met in life are the ones who don't care deeply about anything at all. Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there's nothing to make it last.”
Nicholas Sparks, Dear John

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Wooden Dutch shoes and all things.....wrinkled

After seven days at sea on this ship with a Dutch-looking flag, the shore can't appear off my balcony on the ninth level fast enough. This is my fifth cruise in a span of three and a half years; it may be my last for a while.

Without opening myself to a libel suit, I did know that this particular cruise line catered to "older" cruisers. Meaning those WAY over my own age. (For those of you new to this page, I will qualify for Medicare in six days. I congratulated the on-board blues band for proving there were actual pulses aboard ship with mine, something I seriously doubted for the first few days aboard.)

Some other clues that I had picked the wrong cruise line this time.....

  • Even if this Dutch-sounding cruise line had provided a pair of their wooden shoes to all those who came aboard, it wouldn't have slowed these people down any more than they already were. 
  • The spa spent most of its time presenting seminars on taking care of your feet.
  • The bar called "Chocolate Seduction" was never open, probably because no one who crawled on board could remember what that second word meant. And their doctors had told them to avoid the first one anyway. (Bad for those hearts.....)
  • I didn't get splashed even once in the pool by a person younger than 80. Actually, the pool never had more than five people in it at any one time.
    A lonely pool.....
  • All the "Name That Tune" games featured music from the Big Band era.
  • .....and all the games were over by sunset.
  • Most people were reading real books.
  • The bars were populated only by a crew member wiping the already-clean bar...a lot. 
    A lonely buffet area....
    The lonely barkeep.....

  • What's up with this mouth-breathing thing with older people?? Mysterious. But maybe that's why I was feeling anxious to get back to shore; all the oxygen around me was being sucked out of the air.
  • The nurse automatically asked what blood thinner patients were on before passing out band aids.
  • The only noise in the passageways at night came from the lonely "DING!" of an elevator.....once an hour or so. 
     A lonely theater....
I thought I would welcome a vacation at sea sans children and drunks. In exchange, though, I got  more gnarled feet that I ever care to see again and no activities that even smacked of a trip to the tropics. (I sadly remembered the great deck parties that started even before the ship sailed...on all those OTHER cruise lines.)

All of this is another reminder of the axiom that continues to prove itself as I age to perfection: Be careful what you wish for.

“If you didn't remember something happening, was it because it never had happened? Or because you wished it hadn't?”
Jodi Picoult, Plain Truth

Monday, November 4, 2013

After all, tomorrow IS another day.....

Scarlett O’Hara and I are kindred souls in many ways. Oh, not in her selfishness and vanity. (OK, maybe in the vanity part….. just a little.) But, she was a stubborn, resourceful, and independent woman at a time when none of that was admired in a lady. Yes, I realize that I’m talking about a character in a book and subsequent movie, but still…….

She moved in society as easily as she faked her way into jail to visit Rhett when she needed money to save her family and their homestead. She whined, she cried, she slapped many faces (I counted how many times in the movie rendition once, but have forgotten the number now), and she haughtily uttered some very wise things.

Such as “Tomorrow is another day.”  As I’ve aged to perfection, that one has been the most valuable to me.

When we’re young, we tend to view everything that happens to us as the stuff of our very own daytime drama. Life hums with the highs and lows we all experience, and when we’re on a high, it’s a lot of fun. But when those lows hit, we often fall into a valley of personal despair from which it’s hard to see over the rock walls surrounding us. Some people are even so naive to think that THEY won’t have any serious valleys in their lives….until they do. It’s even worse, then, because it was unexpected for those folks. And sometimes we fall into so many holes, deeper and deeper each time, that we give up trying to climb out at all. We allow the darkness to envelope us and we think that is going to be our lot in life forever.

A year or so ago, I was on top of the mountain. My life was on the high end of the pendulum’s swing. I smiled a lot; I had an activity that brought me such joy that I was literally dancing through life. I was working at something I loved—writing—so my days seemed like a playground. Then the evil genie who grabs the end of the pendulum and drags it to a stop showed up. I fell off into the dirt, scraped my knees and ran home to lick my wounds.

I think the cliché is that things can change on a dime, right? But I channeled Scarlett and we had a chat. “Fiddle-de-dee,” she said. She reminded me that this little set-back wasn’t going to last forever. She was knocked down so low once that she wore curtains for a gown to seduce Rhett. But she succeeded in her quest to chase those Yankees off her land and have a real dress again. She realized something that we all embrace as we age: tomorrow IS another day. And there will be another one after that when a low may hit again, then the pendulum swings back to happy days, if we just keep hanging on to it long enough to shake that evil genie off into the mud.

The trick is to realize that when you’re young. When life seems dismal, you have to know that things will get better…… because they always do. If we all just listen to Scarlett admonish that “tomorrow is another day,” and hang on long enough for the dawn.

I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.
Scarlett O’Hara/Gone With the Wind

Need gift ideas for the holidays?
Visit Kobo Books to pick out one of Deborah's books: 
Nothing to Complain About: My 125-Day Journey to Become Complaint Free
Broken Strings: Wisdom for Divorced and Separated Families

Both are available as eBooks and Broken Strings is also available in print form.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

I agreed to WHAT??

Our hearing goes. It just does.

So why is the music in restaurants still too loud?

Another irony of aging, a joke on all of us about things that should fit together nice and tight, but don't.

Many people my age, boomers knocking down the doors of Medicare right about now, are suffering the consequences of our loud music in the 60s and 70s. Imagine Santana jacked up to decibel-exploding levels in the midst of lava lamps and interesting smells. It's no wonder so many of us are nearly deaf.

Today we spend a lot of time yelling, "WHAT??!!" across the table or pretending we heard things we really didn't (which can get you in a lot of trouble, believe me), or accusing everyone else of mumbling.

So, into restaurants we go, wishing everyone would JUST SPEAK UP! and the first thing we do is ask the server to turn the music down.

Go ahead, think about that for a minute.

Did you figure it out, because I sure can't. I'm projecting demographically here but in the future, as more and more of us hearing-challenged folks wander in and out of public places, we'll soon outnumber younger people who don't worry about that piped in music because they're mesmerized by their multipurpose phones, complete with ear buds. Which means that we''ll have the advantage of greater numbers and can get some cooperation from the 16-year old manager when we demand that he TURN IT DOWN!

So we can not hear each other talk.

“Keeping up the appearance of having all your marbles is hard work, but important.”
Sara Gruen,
Water for Elephants

Do you think I'm complaining?You haven't heard anything yet......

 Nothing to Complain About: My 125-Day Journey to Become Complaint Free

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Adult pacifiers.....

I left my cell phone in my car today.....on purpose....when I visited my friend at her house and then while we went to lunch in a local restaurant.


And it wasn't an easy decision, which explains why I'm bringing it up.

When did it happen that we all decided, no matter what our age, that we are required to be available to one another every minute of every day? This isn't just a young(er) person's compulsion; it seems to span generations, which makes it an oddity. Gen Y (and X or C or whatever the latest age group is called) does it, but so do people my age, the Boomers who are flooding the Medicare rolls. As well as my own mother, who has me by another 20+ years.....she panics if both her cell phone and her house phone are not in working order all the time. What if someone needed/wanted to get in touch with her, for heaven's sake?  There are few things that all ends of the age spectrum agree on, right? This seems to be one of them, though.

WHEN did this happen?

Or more importantly, WHY did it happen? And what happens to us because of it?

All I know is that if my cell phone gets too far away from me...say, if I forget it at home for some reason....I turn that car around and go get it, even if I was making a quick run to the grocery store for milk. Which would take about 15 minutes, max. WHY do I feel that I must be available during that time, to whomever might call me? What if it's an emergency, after all? We seem to live on the edge all the time because of this, the edge of the "what if?" precipice.

One factor, I think, is that people on the other end of that phone get testy if they can't reach you whenever THEY want to reach out and touch. Hasn't that happened to you? "Where WERE you? Why didn't you answer your phone??! Etc, etc, etc." Like I have offended them in some critical way.

I can remember when (oh, no....I can't believe I just used that phrase) the only way to contact someone was by calling them on the phone that was hooked to the wall in their house. There was no answering machine (yes, I've been around that long!), so if it rang and rang and rang, you finally just hung up and thought, "Well, I'll have to try again later." And you did. If it was an emergency, you called someone else or a cab or rescue (there also wasn't any 911 back in the olden days, either) or stumbled out into the street until someone took pity on you and helped. But it got taken care of, one way or the other. No one expected anyone to be available all the time; it wasn't possible, so the expectation just wasn't there.

I try not to get too technical here in this gathering space, but I wondered what others say about this. I found a study about this constant connectivity, as well as other technology use: Heavy Technology Use Linked to Fatigue, Stress and Depression in Young Adults showed that heavy cell phone use showed an increase in sleep disorders in men and an increase in depressive symptoms in both men and women.

These are two points that support what I believe, and have experienced myself, along with the fact that apparently those who are constantly accessible via cell phones were the most likely to report mental health issues. How many nights lately have I woken up in the wee hours and then can't go back to sleep? Or never go to sleep at all? I have cycles of this, some of which I blame on the normal aging process, but maybe some of it has to do with this obsessive connection to technology. (And yes, some folks who know me will attest to the "mental health issues" thing, I bet.)

So, to go back where I started, I left my cell in my car when I visited my friend today. Actually, it wasn't quite that simple. You figured that out, right?

I opened the door, looked at the phone before I got out, stopped, thought What if someone needs me right away?, gave myself a mental shake: NO! Leave it there! They'll leave a message or call back!", and I finally escaped without it.Victory!

When I got back in the car: no message, no calls. See? All that angst for nothing.

And do you know what? My time with my friend was stress-less, because I didn't have to worry about anything anyone laid at my feet, unasked, while I was there. No drama, no gossip, no impositions on my time.The same while we went to a restaurant to have lunch: I left my cell phone in the car, which led to a wonderful time of sharing face-to-face with my friend, something we don't get to do often enough. Got back in the car: no messages, no calls. Heaven.....

Can we all wean ourselves from these instruments of stress, old and young alike, and get rid of these pacifiers of the modern age? Let's make a deal right here: I won't expect YOU to be available to me 24/7 and you won't expect it of me, either. Now go find someone you love (or would like to love) and spend some quality time.

Leave the cell phone in the car.

 The cell phone has become the adult's transitional object, 
replacing the toddler's teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.
Margaret Heffernan
The cell phone has become the adult's transitional object, replacing the toddler's teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.

The cell phone has become the adult's transitional object, replacing the toddler's teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.

Do YOU think you could go 21 consecutive days without complaining? 
Take the journey with me: It only took me 125 days! 
 Nothing to Complain About: My 125-Day Journey to Become Complaint Free
The cell phone has become the adult's transitional object, replacing the toddler's teddy bear for comfort and a sense of belonging.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Descending the ladder......

I'm not quite sure when this happens. And maybe it's different for all of us. Most things are.

But a few years ago, I jumped off the career whirley-gig. You know the one where you care about that next move up the ladder that is particular to your profession? The one that keeps you from pointing out to the idiot in your office that he (or she; they come in both genders, but I'm only going to say it once) IS an idiot even though his ego causes him to toss around nonsensical edicts like confetti at a coronation?

When you're younger you roll your eyes, but you comply. You care about that ladder with all those steps you haven't gotten to yet. They can mean more money or prestige, after all. A better life for you and your family......right?

Let me alert you, which is why we convene here anyway. At some point, you'll get your saw out of the garage and chop that ladder right down. 

For some people, it happens gradually. You'll realize that the pull of your living room is stronger than the one that has always sucked you back into the office, even if you had already put in hours of overtime that week. You'll sneak out to attend your child's basketball game, rather than make one more excuse for missing it. You simply would rather be sitting in the sun cheering her on than you would occupying a chair in another endless meeting where egos are slithering all over the room.

You will accept that your boss or supervisor or whatever that person is called in your professional life is not a diety after all. That person does not hold the key to your happiness. It occurs to you that you're probably smarter than she is; it's simply a matter of you not being intimidated any longer. Why? Because the ladder is of no concern to you.

For some, it happens overnight. You wake up and the world has shifted on its axis as you slept; your mirror shows a different person as you brush your teeth. The thought of walking through that office and smiling at all those nonentities one more time churns your stomach.

As a writer trying to climb the ladder of acceptance, I did all the right things: I attended writers' conferences. I continued to study the craft. I started a writers' group. I smiled at agents; I even paid agents to talk to me about my work.  I wrote queries according to ridiculously detailed instructions. I submitted my work following even more detailed directives. I was lied to by a publisher. And I wrote and wrote and wrote.

I did all of this for years. I still don't have an agent. I ended up publishing my work myself: one printed book and one eBook.

I love to write. I don't need anyone's acceptance or approval to do it.

My ladder? It was hacked into pieces during this past year, and put out on the curb for garbage pickup. Where it finally belonged.

Any consideration of the life and larger social existence of the modern corporate man ... begins and also largely ends with the effect of one all-embracing force. That is organization.... It is to this, at the expense of family, friends, sex, recreation and sometimes health and effective control of alcoholic intake, that he is expected to devote his energies.John Kenneth Galbraith

Are you a single parent or know a single parent? Broken Strings: Wisdom for Divorced and Single Parents is available at all online bookstores now! Save shipping by contacting the author directly......


Monday, September 9, 2013

A, B, C, and can't be!

There isn't any funny way to say this. And I'm not really laughing too much myself right now.
I applied for Medicare the other day.
Oh, my......
How did this happen? I'm about 25 in my head, complete with fantasies of all kinds as well as a full work load and an active life.
I can remember (yes, I DO remember most things) when any discussion about people over about 45 resulted in an inner shudder, thinking about all those OLD folks, decripit and wizened gnomes who could hardly get from armchair to the potty much less from the gym to a country bar. (Fill in the blanks as to why I chose that comparison, which only extends my point.) To be 65 must be practically dead, for pete's sake!
And now, here I am, a few months shy of that dreaded year myself.
Oh, my......
The application process wasn't bad, once I opened all the envelopes that had been arriving in my mailbox for months now. First, I had to read long enough to get into the zone of bureaucratic lingo, you know the one where they use 25 words to say something that really only requires about 10, and includes enough acronyms to sink an alphabet? But once I was there, and knew the difference between Parts A, B, C, and D, I went onto the official website and registered in about 15 minutes. I do think they need some nursery rhyme-type jingle to aid in retaining it all, though. It works for little kids, and I've heard tell that senior citizens often revert to the behavior of children, so maybe it would help? Just a suggestion......
There isn't any way possible I can be eligible for Medicare, though. There just isn't. This is going to take some getting used to.
I'll let you know how it goes.

  We've put more effort into helping folks reach old age than into helping them enjoy it. ~ Frank A. Clark


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Suck it up, folks......

My daughter is approaching 30, so I guess it's time to give it up. WAY past time, actually.

You may have even heard me whine this well-worn excuse a time or two: My stomach pooches out due to my (one) pregnancy, the one where I gained 50 pounds. I was 35 at the time, well past the age of a tight, toned body of most 20 year olds who begin child-bearing earlier than I did. Bodies just don't pull themselves back together as quickly as we age. 

Plus, there is the fact that for 9 months, I craved Egg McMuffins and apples. (The apples probably aren't to blame for too much, I admit that; my daughter does love apple juice, though. A lot.) Those yummy egg and cheese muffins, though? They became daily treats, if I'm being honest.

Thirty years is a long time to pull that excuse out whenever I stand in front of a full-length mirror, though, and grouse about that bulge that hovers around my midsection. I work out now--four or five times a week, two of those with a personal trainer--although I always have, sometimes more than others, but I've always paid attention to fitness. I joke that I have great abs under there somewhere, we just can't see them for the layer of "baby" fat I still carry around.

About three weeks ago, I  dragged the weary excuse again out while I was with my trainer and realized how idiotic it sounded. But my irritation with myself didn't answer the question of why all my work has left me with great arms, strong abs, improving legs ....and a fat stomach. Somehow in the midst of a conversation with myself later in the day, I thought "I wonder if I just have let my muscles in that area get lazy and weak, while I rely on my time-worn pregnancy excuse?"

So, what did I have to lose? I sucked in my gut and bam! Much better....except that I couldn't breathe. Well, that's not going to work. I almost gave up (and we know where that would have led......back to talking about baby fat), so I concentrated really hard and pulled my stomach in and practiced some deep breathing until I could do both at the same time. (Coordination has never been one of my strong suits, which my dance instructor can attest to.)

Anyway, it only took about three weeks and the improvement in the appearance (disappearance?) of my mid-bulge is quite amazing! I can pull my gut in AND breathe at the same time. I think I can even see some abs now, unless they are my ribs, but that's good, too, right? (If you are younger than about 50 and are laughing at me right now, STOP it! You'll be here someday and you'll feel bad that you laughed at me.)

Aging and all its consequences are often out of our control. But how many times do we use getting older as an excuse, just because we can?

Suck it up and take back control...whether it's your midsection or whatever consequence of aging taunts you.

A woman has the age she deserves. ~ Coco Chanel

Monday, August 26, 2013

Magic Erasers.....then again, maybe not.

Just my luck it would end up stuck in my cheek instead of my upper lip.

I looked into it, I'll admit it. There had to be a way to get rid of the tiny vertical lines that appeared, seemingly over night, around my mouth. It looks like I'm a Raggedy Ann doll with the stitches on the outside of the fabric instead of hidden away where they belong.

But I thought the remedy would be like those Magic Erasers sold in stores that ARE magic at getting marks and other annoyances to disappear. Seemed logical to me. The answer, though, was strange and kind of creepy, if you ask me.

It seems that they inject some kind of substance around the mouth that serves as a way of filling up that thin, collagen-thirsty skin. You've seen the results, I know you have. You probably just didn't know why that woman at the grocery store had an upper lip that transformed her into Daffy the Duck.

The skin around her mouth IS smooth as a baby's bottom, that's for sure. But her lips are twice as big as they should be, thus her sudden kinship with Daffy and his family. Sometimes it's just the upper lip, which is even odder in some twisted way.

Celebrities do this all the time, and they keep it up until we don't even recognize who we're looking at anymore. But celebrities actually live on another planet, and we expect them to trade in the bizarre; it's another thing completely, though, when your friendly librarian or hairdresser or workout partner shows up with balloon lips. Are we supposed to say something or is that verboten? What's the etiquette here?

I think this is an area that can be instructional to teenagers, in that it simply proves that humans of any age are  prone to the "It can't happen to me!" syndrome. Some of Daffy's new relatives have witnessed friends and strangers submit to these injections, with sad and crazy results.....yet they still think it won't be their experience when they decide to lay out the big bucks to do the same thing. Somehow they will be immune to the incipient disasters awaiting.

The substance that is injected under the skin to stretch out those horried lines is a plastic that is pliable, too. I'm sorry, but that is just creepy.

Because you know what would happen to ME? During the night I would turn my head the wrong way on the pillow and that plastic would end up under my eye. And my mouth would still looked like a bad seamstress had attacked me.

“It's paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn't appeal to anyone.”
Andy Rooney

Buy my latest eBook, Nothing to Complain About: My 125-Day Journey to Become Complaint Free here.  Only $4.99!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Have you ever walked from one room to the next with a great idea?

I had a great idea for a new addition to this column about the joys of getting older.

Between the time I thought of it and the time I walked to the next room, I forgot what that great idea was.

I'll get back to you.

“Keeping up the appearance of having all your marbles is hard work, but important.”
Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants


Thursday, August 8, 2013

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck.....

......and is advertised as a "gambling" cruise, take them at their word.

Believe me.

As I've gotten older, I have become cynical about advertising. In other words, I believe NOTHING. This has proven to be a safe tactic to follow. Usually.

There are exceptions, it seems. I found that out this weekend. We had purchased a "Casino Cruise" and even though we don't gamble, we thought it would be a nice evening on the water and a chance to spend the night out of town. The price included dinner for two, a $5 coupon for some game of chance (which we gave away later), and the cruise. Good deal, huh?

But it WAS a gambling boat. And that was advertising truth. The owners of the business wanted its patrons to do one thing: gamble. After six of the longest hours of my life, we knew that we should have taken them at their word on this one.

I worked in a facility once for delinquent boys. I was a "housemother" (which is terribly funny to me now, but that's a story for another day) who lived in a big house with about 10 boys who were....well, the name says it all, right? And we ate in a cafeteria, so I didn't have to cook for them. Serving as target practice for thrown furniture was bad enough.

When we herded the boys through the line to get our "food," it was often unrecognizable. The "dinner" we had on this boat was reminscent of those good times. The chopped steak was gray, the ham was overcooked, and the mixed veggies swam in a green liquid. The "chef" plopped a scoop of mashed potatoes on our plates and then swirled a brown gelatinous semi-pudding gravy over them. At least he had the good grace not to smile as he moved us through the line.

One of the worst meals of my life. Bar none. Plus they wouldn't serve alcohol during the meal. THAT was only available in.....the casino, of course! While we ate this delectable cuisine, Santa Claus serenaded us on his karaoke machine. Of course, that wasn't his real name, but it was hard not to make comparisons with the full white beard, suspenders, and jolly tummy. He did have a good voice, though, and there was even a dance floor. AHA! we thought. We had found our hang out during the rest of the cruise. We would return there later and enjoy the music and dance, which is all I need in life to keep me happy. Then later we can return to the open-air deck and relax in deck chairs under the stars. Who needs gambling? Our plans were laid.

The boat left dock while we were eating, and we soon went up to that open-air deck to find three metal picnic-type tables with combined hard bench "seating" for about nine people, if you squished together real tight with seven people you didn't know, five of them (at least) smoking. Not a deck chair--or anything with a back on it at all--in sight. The deck below us, with a smaller observation area had no chairs or benches at all. So, we stood there as the boat chugged out to the three mile limit and then it began circling. Downstairs the casinos opened for business.

People raced down the steep metal stairs to one of two complete decks devoted to gambling. Everything from poker to routlette, plus those noisy slot machines. Folks found their game of choice and hunkered down for the duration.

And everything else on the boat shut down. Everything. We returned to the dining hall to listen to Santa and found him sitting in a corner; the music on this evening of fun stops when the casinos open for business and it stays quiet until time to return to the dock, some four and a half hours later. Plus, they lowered the thermostat in the dining hall to tundra temperatures to discourage "visitors." There were more comfortable chairs in this area, but we hadn't brought our down jackets in August; who knew? And there was nothing to do in there anyway. (We had considered bringing our own deck of cards on board to play rummy, but thought managment might not take kindly to that, so we left the cards behind. Mistake.)

In order to find a restroom (which had no soap in it all evening) or get a drink, you had to walk through......the casino.....where everyone in sight was smoking. Everyone. I haven't seen so many cigarettes alight in one place for decades. It's been three days, and I can still smell it somehow. My clothes had to be burned upon docking. Within 24 hours I developed a head cold, probably due to all those bodies crammed in one space for so long, the lack of soap, and a boat that isn't kept very clean to begin with.

So, if it advertises itself as a gambling cruise, believe it. If it quacks and walks like a duck, don't pretend you can transform it into a swan.

"Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket."
George Orwell


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sports, sex, crime, and narcissism.....

I am not interested in President Bush's red and white striped socks. I'm just not. I can't imagine too many others care about something like that, either.

Don't get me wrong. I have a lot of respect for President Bush I. It has nothing to do with his political affiliation or his policies while he held the office of POTUS. He seems like a decent human being who conducts himself with dignity. His wife rocks, too.

But why would the media think it newsworthy to include a close-up photo of his socks in a recent article about something totally unrelated? (What ISN'T unrelated to his socks?) Besides, it's a tad disrespectful, I think.

It reminds me that we have arrived at an era of way too much information. Our technology has drawn the edges of our world up over themselves, like a won ton wrapper, folding one corner over the other, until all that is left is a tiny triangle into which information is stuffed 24/7. I guess that leaves us with a great deal of "news" that isn't newsworthy at all; it merely takes up space on the page, whether that's a real page or a page in the electronic media. But that wonton is plenty fat all the time, you can bet on that.

With items about important stuff like red and white striped socks.

The contrast with our history is astounding when you think about it. King George III (no relation to George Bushes I or II that I know of) and those pesky rabble rousers in the American colonies managed to pull off an entire revolution in an era when it took weeks to get a message across the Atlantic. Patriots like Thomas Paine had enough to do spreading the word throughout the colonies without the use of the Internet or (gasp!) Facebook--or even a typewriter for heaven's sake--much less make mention of the King's droopy pantaloons. (I don't think they wore socks back in the day.)

From my perspective as an Active Master, so much of the news today is more aptly dubbed "drama." I don't care what George's (Bush, not the III) socks look like, or how Celebrity X is doing with fiancee #3 who just gave birth to their second child, or any other such nonsense. I'm smarter than that. I also know when I'm being manipulated by the media to fill up space in a newspaper or time during a newscast spouted by talking heads.

Maybe we should all delay reading or watching the "news" a matching amount of time that it took for a missive to sail the Atlantic in the 1770s. Then pull it out and see if it was really important after all.

Want to take bets?

Today’s journalism is obsessed with the kinds of things that tend to preoccupy thirteen-year-old boys: sports, sex, crime, and narcissism.


Nothing to Complain About: My 125-Day Journey to Become Complaint Free by Deborah Hansen is available NOW for $4.99 at

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chicken skin vs. muscles.....

Maybe the increased muscularity of my arms will counteract the chicken skin.

I can only hope.

If you recall, I noted this cruel irony when I started this Aged to Perfection journey a couple of years ago. (See for a reminder.) My arms were as toned as they had ever been, but their outer covering looked like the skin of a chicken that was sitting in my frig, the main course for dinner waiting to be cooked. 

But now it’s worse: my skin looks like that everywhere on my body. I can remember seeing older women with this crumpled up skin on their arms and thighs, wondering why in the world they didn’t DO SOMETHING about it! I was almost offended, like I shouldn’t have to look at all that “elderly” skin, Surely there was something that could be done to fix it….right?

Ouch. Now I am one of THEM. Women of a certain age with crinkly skin.

I recently signed up for a year of twice-weekly sessions with a personal trainer at my gym. I had to do something. Unless I can inject large doses of collagen directly into my flabby skin, I have no choice. 

What in the world is a personal trainer going to do about my crepey skin, you might ask? Especially a man who is probably half my age (at least), someone who won’t ever truly understand the depth of this problem? After all…he’s a man. And young. He won’t face this for decades, if ever. (Probably by that time they’ll have rolls of new skin that you can buy at Wal-Mart or on the Internet. Isn’t technology wonderful? A little late, but extraordinary.)

Here’s what I thought: let’s build these arms up with some more muscle and fill that skin and stretch it out. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the rest of me, but at least I can start by getting rid of the barnyard fowl hanging off my arms. 

If nothing else, you won’t want to mess with me in a dark alley. I'll be able to kick butt, plus I'll be really angry that all this torture didn't work.

Great ideas originate in the muscles.

Thomas Edison

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

This one or that one?

I stood in the bathroom stall and watched my hands shake. The breakfast I had eaten in my dorm room was threatening to reappear and I gulped air like a fish jerked out of the water, trying to keep it down where it belonged. My breakfast, not the fish.

Speech 101 was a requirement in my course of study, which is a logical thing when you’re working toward a degree in teaching. Logical, maybe. But certainly not pleasant for young adults like I was at that age: socially inept, painfully shy, and generally miserable.

But there I was, in the cavernous bathroom of the red brick building on campus where the speech class met twice a week.


Hoping the sky would fall or someone called in a bomb scare, anything to postpone my agony.

No such luck, though. Dissidents never show up when you really need them, and the sky stayed stubbornly in place. I did end up getting the speech over with that day, at least for that one grade. I think this was where I also learned the trick that helped throughout college: volunteer to go first, because no one in the room would be listening to you. They were too busy wrestling their own demons to the ground as they anticipated standing in front of the class in terror. After my turn was over, however bad it was, I could sit and relax. (I didn’t listen to anyone else’s speech, either, but at least mine was OVER.)

I later took a popular public speaking course, only because my boss at the time suggested it, and I didn’t think it professionally wise to refuse him. That was probably the best thing that has ever happened to me, but I shook a lot during those days, too. I visibly trembled all over, including my voice and lips as I stood in front of the group. I know that surveys say that public speaking is one of the biggest fears most people have and I can attest to the sheer fright of it all.

All of this is strange to me in retrospect; I have made much of my living since then standing in front of people talking about a variety of things. I also learned that there is a difference in speaking to one’s peers and speaking to students. Sometimes the former is still intimidating.

But I have also learned something else.

Before I show up for a workshop or speech, I still dread it. The day arrives, along with an overall veil of angst, a sense of discomfort that takes me back to my college days. But once I stand in front of the group, whoever they might be, something happens to me. A switch is thrown somewhere deep inside me, and the gloom is gone. It feels as if I become someone else for that period of time. And it’s great. I enjoy myself. I enjoy the interaction between me and the people listening. I’ll admit that I enjoy being seen as someone worthy to hear.

The question is this: Which one is the real me? I still carry that shy, withdrawn person inside me. Sometimes she is the dominant personality. I’ve even been called a “party pooper” (actually, lots of times!), once very recently. But then an occasion arises where I must “perform.” Those of you who are aging to perfection along with me know that I even became a ballroom dancer, complete with a public performance thrown in for good measure. And I loved it. The energy associated with it is intoxicating.

So, which one is the real me? Did I finally let the true person out of hiding, or did I create a new persona to meet a need for my work?

And you thought aging meant this stuff got easier, right?

“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” -Dale Carnegie

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Breaking rules......

 It had already flipped as I rounded the curve but the back window shattered as the car came down on its roof and the crash was followed by an eerie silence. I pulled over and jumped out, phone in hand as I dialed 911. Another vehicle stopped and its driver joined me as I gave the dispatcher the location. We peered into the car, its wheels still spinning, but we heard nothing. As we walked to the other side, the one that wasn’t quite as smashed, we saw movement. The driver was a young woman, strapped into the car by the seat belt, and she was now hanging upside down, probably dazed and unsure of what had happened.

The man spoke to her, but only got whimpering in return. I don’t think she even knew where she was right then, much less that there was someone talking to her. It’s strange the things one’s mind does in a situation like this: all she seemed concerned with was the fact that her skirt, now pulled up around her waist, was exposing too much of her to strangers. She kept trying to pull it down, vainly of course. After all, she was upside down, hanging from the strap that probably saved her life. 

And her phone was in her hand. Had she picked it up after the car flipped or had she been using it at the time? We saw no blood, and she was moving quite a bit, struggling to free herself and get that errant skirt in place. More people had stopped but no one else came closer. Did they want to gawk or what? Are these the same people who slow down and create backups on the highway when they pass a bad accident, waiting to see….what? We asked if anyone had a knife so the seat belt could be cut.

The young man closest to us shook his head. “You should wait until rescue gets here, man. You’re not supposed to move her.”

You’ve read the articles in the media of schools that expel 5 year children for having a butter knife in their lunchboxes to spread their PB & J, right? Well, here was another example standing in front of me. Someone who hears a “rule” and applies it the same way in every instance, with no thought process accompanying it. It can be a school principal or teacher, a politician, a city council member, a parent.....or a bystander at an accident scene.

It’s happened to me before. One day, a student in my classroom began to have a seizure, and I knelt next to her and laid my hand on her arm to let her know that someone was there. Not to move her, or restrain her, or try to get her to “stop.” Just to offer human kindness in that moment, whether she was even aware of it or not. Suddenly, another teacher came shrieking through the connecting door. “DON’T TOUCH HER!! YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO TOUCH HER!!”  That woman berated me for days about that in front of my class and anyone else who would listen, seemingly incapable of seeing the situation for what it was at that moment. Of course I know about seizures and neck or back injuries and the fact that bystanders can do more harm than good sometimes.

But I also am a mature, thinking human being who is observant enough to assess a specific situation and make some judgments about how to proceed, even if it’s only to lay my hand on an arm to offer solace. I know that I’m not an expert in emergency situations; but I am an educated person who has a great deal of information in my head, as well as a heart that is capable of offering comfort to someone who is hurting in some way.

As it turned out, the young woman in the car was able to unsnap the seat belt herself, and she crawled out of the car just enough to straighten her clothes and sit up on the grass. I laid my hand on her head (no, I didn’t twist it or attempt to move her any more but I did let her know that she wasn’t alone), and told her that help was on the way, all would be fine. She appeared to be okay, but was still dazed. She was intent on making a phone call but was too disoriented to make that happen, and insisted she didn’t need any assistance from rescue, which I’m sure is normal under the circumstances. I’ve never flipped a car, so I’m only guessing here. And shortly after that, I left. I don’t know what happened to her, but I’m sure the whole experience was frightening for her. I hope she’s okay.

What I do know is that sometimes unthinking adherence to “the rules” stands in the way of common sense and humanity.

“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”
Dalai Lama

Monday, May 27, 2013

Back in port: Cruise control

I had never thought about it. Why would I?

How do over 3000 people on a cruise ship all get off at once? The logistics are astounding when you do stop to consider it.

Embarking at the other end of the cruise is a bit different. Not everyone arrives at the same time, all giddy to walk that gangway to start the fun. Your travel or cruise agent informs you that there is a window of time for boarding, several hours long, that travelers can use to plan their journey from home to port, so boarding is spread out over that time.

But getting off? That's a different proposition altogether. Crew members have to get rid of all of us--PLUS our collective luggage--in order to clean and restock that floating paradise for all those other passengers arriving. That same ship will pull out of port to do it all over again just a few short hours after we leave, a new group of over 3000 just starting their bit of heaven for a week or so.  How do they pull that off?

At the end of my first cruise, I felt highly inconvenienced the last night at sea when I got a message from my cabin steward--the one who waits on me hand and foot, remember?--directing me to pack up my luggage that night and have it out in the passageway by midnight. What?? What was I supposed to do without all my stuff from then until I got off this floating city? I learned that I could keep a small bag with me (whew!), but everything else needed to be collected by the crew the night before we even sailed into port.

When you stop and think about it, how else would they get it all gathered up and off the ship without starting early? Imagine how much luggage 3000 people can accumulate. I had two large suitcases myself for a 7 day cruise. (I know, I know, but there were TWO formal nights and that's two complete dressy outfits with different shoes and accessories, PLUS all those cute sundresses I got for the trip. Yes, they all had to come along, because you never know what shows you're going to want to see, and.....never mind. Every woman reading this understands what I mean.)

So, at midnight the night before you arrive back in port, the passageways are lined with every kind of suitcase you can imagine, waiting to be picked up. You sleep in undies (or nothing at all, because after all, you're still on vacation, and what happens on a cruise ship, stays on the ship, but we won't go there....) a small bag with toiletries, and the next morning it's time to rejoin reality as the ship majestically slides into port before dawn.

And then all those thousands of people have to get off with some planned exit strategy, another amazing feat of logistics. Each traveler is given a window of time and a location of the ship at which you gather with other bleary-eyed cruisers who don't want to go home yet, either, and you wait until your group is called. This has always gone well before--but not on this cruise, I must say. If you recall, the government's furloughs had begun and there was one--count him, the poor guy, ONE--customs agent waiting to chat amiably with all 3000 of us.

It took a while.

And remember all that luggage? All 6000+ pieces were waiting in one room to be claimed.

Welcome home!

Seven days worth....

Floating paradise!

In line for customs at the end of the cruise.....

One small area of luggage....good luck!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Collective psychosis in action......

It's been four days now. I guess I thought if I waited long enough, the words would magically disappear from the news article, or I would wake up from the bizarre dream that I was caught up in. 

Didn't happen, though. 

I even went and dug the newspaper out of the recycling bin so I could show someone else. Was it just me that was so startled by what happened in Arizona the day the Arias verdict was read? I hope not....that would make it even worse, I think.

The AP ( article that appeared in my local newspaper, the Florida Times-Union ( on May 9th, reported the scene from the courthouse steps as the verdict in this lurid murder trial was announced last week. 

Before we go there, though, a reminder: in order to protect my sanity, a few years ago I gave up watching the news in any form: local, national, world, it didn't matter, I decided they could carry on the craziness without me from that point on. And I must say that I've been happier because of that decision.

But I do read the newspaper every day. There is something about the process of holding newsprint in my hands and scanning the world view presented there that I can't seem to forgo. My dad instilled that habit in me. Maybe it's because my eyes can be averted quickly when I start to read something offensive or scary, whereas the news on TV is so overwhelming, so intrusive, that I can't avoid it as easily or quickly enough. Plus, so much of it is just plain ratings-grabbing, with no real connection to fulfilling an informational agenda at all ("A new strain of virus is attacking the city! Find out how to protect yourself before it's too late! Story at 11." If it's that deadly shouldn't we be talking about it right now?? Either it's important or it's just about ratings, right?)

My reflexes failed me on this occasion, though. I read the darn article. If anyone out there can explain this to me, please message me. If I had to go through it, so do you.

Here goes: "Outside, a huge crowd that had gathered on the courthouse steps screamed, whistled and cheered the news in a case that has attracted fans from across the country who traveled to Phoenix to be close to the proceedings. Some chanted, 'USA, USA, USA!'"

Fans?? Traveled to Phoenix to be close.....? And the most disturbing of all, chanted "USA, USA, USA!"?? 

I know nothing about this case; remember I don't watch the news. I have no idea, nor do I care, whether this young woman was guilty or not. Either way, this is a tragedy: for everyone involved, including (of course) the man who was killed, the woman found guilty, and their families. But to travel across the country to "be close" to all this misery, and then to chant USA! is beyond comprehension.  Such chanting speaks to nation pride, doesn't it? 

I'm speechless. Even after four days, carrying the article around with me, talking to others about it....I still have no grasp of this at all. I can't reconcile pride in one's country with this situation no matter how long I think about it. Believe me, I've tried.

I'll throw the article away now. It  has sullied my briefcase long enough. 

But I just had to share. It's what I do.

Insanity in individuals is something rare--but in groups, parties,
nations and epochs, it is the rule.
Frederick Nietzsche

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cruise Control: Day 6

Roller skates, anyone?

This time we asked for a cabin in the middle. 

Meaning mid-ship, instead of all the way forward in the misty recesses of the longest corridor I have ever seen in my life. Ever.

On our cruise before this one, I almost started stashing my clothes in a restroom near the Atrium so that I wouldn't have to walk that corridor again.  Of course, my stuff would have disappeared almost instantly, due to the uber-efficiency of the housekeeping staff on board, just like every other department we had contact with on these ships. But I did think about it.

We'd open that passageway door leading to our cabin, look helplessly at each other, and begin the long trek. The other end wasn't even visible, as outrageous as that sounds.We walked and puffed and stopped to rest, and then we walked some more.

These ships are immense. I'm thinking that they build them that way in order to board literally thousands of people who pay a tiny fraction of the value they are going to experience while cruising. This way, the cruise lines maximize the concept of quantity, without sacrificing quality at all. It's a thing of beauty. Just about any other industry could learn a great deal from these companies.

The ship we were on for this cruise shakes out like this:

Year Built 2008
Refurbished 2011
Tonnage 113,000 tons
Length 950 feet
Beam 118 feet
Passenger Capacity 3,080

 3000 plus folks contained in a floating city. And that 950 feet is a long way from stem to stern, especially when you're sunburned and hungry, believe me. (I still think they need a buffet on each end of the ship, because no matter where I was starting from, that sucker was on the opposite end. I never did figure that one out.)

One day I walked the entire length of the ship--twice--trying to find the adult swimming pool. I didn't realize that there were TWO of them on board, and I was calling the one I wanted by the wrong name. I never found either one on that particular trek: the one I didn't know existed in the first place or the one I had been looking for when I set out from my cabin. (I think part of it was that "no window in my cabin" thing that I found so disorienting this time; I never knew which way the front--or back--of the ship was when I left my cabin, because I couldn't see which way the the ocean was flowing by. Very confusing.) I finally fell into a deck chair at one of the family pools out of sheer exhaustion. 

Of course, this won't stop me from cruising again, and we did do better with our cabin location this time. We also decided maybe it's in our best interests in the future to focus on smaller ships with fewer people. 

And only one adult pool.