Friday, May 29, 2015

You talkin' to me?!

OK.  I’m thinking some sensitivity training is in order.

You know what I mean – that sort of interminable, eye-rolling in-service whereby here-to-fore know-it-alls learn that they don’t know so much after all.  What used to be OK, is now taboo.  What was once funny ain’t funny no more.

I’m talking about all you non-boomers.  Yeah, you.  All you “yes ma’am”-ers and “can I help you to the car?” people who think you’re immune to the calendar and not subject to the clock. 

What?  Do I sound defensive?  Well too, too bad!  Too bad I say!

It appears you must listen to me, not only because, yes, I am OLDER than you are, but also because you are outnumbered by me and my geriatric friends.  And…we have all the money!  Ha!

Turns out, according to the Wall Street Journal, in an article titled, “How to Market to an Aging Boomer: Flattery, Subterfuge and Euphemism,” some forward-thinking mercenary types have already begun the process of age-ifying themselves and their businesses.  And they’ve done it on the down low.

That’s right.  “Companies are making typefaces larger, lowering store shelves to make them more accessible and avoiding yellows and blues in packaging—two colors that don’t appear as sharply distinct to older eyes

And here’s the kicker:  They’re doing so surreptitiously!

Hahahaha!  I love it!  They’re afraid of offending us!  We’ve got ‘em on the run.

The visual of this phenomenon is classic:  An army of “older adults,” led by Madge, or Clint Eastwood, or Statler & Waldorf (those crabby old-men Muppets who hate everything), or wait!  I know!  Led by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards!  Oh!  My God!

Keith with his corpse-like countenance, cigarette dangling and Mick, gyrating in leather pants and a sequined jacket with no shirt underneath.  Coming at ya, singing “I can’t get no satisfaction!”  No!  “Please allow me to introduce myself; I’m a man of wealth and fame!”  That would run the fear of the wrath of the moldering up the backs of those smart-alecky “younger adults.”

Here we come, a horde of “golden agers” with bulging wallets sweeping down onto the plains occupied by smug and unsuspecting adolescent types who are so flippin’ sure of everything.

The good news is, of course, that everybody likes larger typeface.  Guess what?  It’s pleasant to read without squinting. 

And how lovely that Sherwin-Williams and other retailers have quietly adapted to aging customers, even if they just did it for the money.  

CVS Caremark Corp. retrofitted its stores with carpeting to reduce slipping.  They lowered shelves from 72 inches to 60 inches and opted for more natural light in stores to improve visibility.  They eliminated curbs from store entrances and painted existing curbs yellow to heighten awareness.

Get this:  Some stores positioned magnifying glasses in aisles that carry products that use lots of fine print, like household cleaners, hair color and cold medicine.  Reading glasses are getting snazzier, too, now that the chain updates styles more frequently.

They snuck all that stuff right by us unsuspecting geezers!  It’s a good thing too, because we are a touchy bunch.  Don’t be reminding us that we’re getting on!

I say go ahead and flatter me.  Neither one of us is fooled.  I’m getting older and so are you.  But I appreciate the niceties of your telling me that 60 isn’t 60 and wrinkly is not really wrinkly at all.  These creases are not “age lines,” or “maturity tracks.”  They are “expression lines.”  Nice!

That’s right.  Bring on the euphemisms!  Tell me I’m healthy and active and full of life.  I know I am, and if you’re pretending, that’s OK.

Go ahead ADT; market your medical-alert system to us codgers as “Companion Services.”  Sweet.

Kimberly-Clark Corp.’s Depends, the “adult diapers” of the past, have had a makeover in new TV ads with smiling 50 year old actors: “Looks and fits like underwear.  Protects like nothing else.”  So much to look forward to!.

Don’t forget – 76 million boomers account for about half of total U.S. consumer spending.  With longer life expectancy than previous seniors, we are projected to spend an additional $50 billion by the end of the decade.

So talk nice to us.

It’s worth it, right?  For both of us.

Friday, May 22, 2015

It could happen to you

This is a public service announcement edition of ‘Think Dream Play,’ offered in hopes of helping even one family who suffers from the devastating effects of a wide-spread but rarely-spoken-of condition present in their homes. 

Your champion is here.  I stand with you:  My cat, too, has the poop crazies.

There.  I’ve said it.

"What are the poop crazies?” some might ask.  Excellent question.

Also known as the “post-poop freak out” or the “zoomies,” this phenomenon in cat behavior occurs at exactly the moment you have no doubt by now identified. 

In that instant, a here-to-fore graceful and serene feline will pin his ears back, widen his eyes and levitate helicopter-fashion over the box, spin like Linda Blair in the “Exorcist,” and then tear through the house as though his tail’s on fire. 

It’s quite unsettling.

At first, I blamed the puppy.  (So did the cat, by the way.)  After all, he appears to have no compunction, relieving himself at will and willie-nillie, as it were, without regard to time, location or consciousness of his own actions.  

After such crass and blatant displays of canine abandon, what’s a kitty to do?  Why wouldn’t he seek attention via the poop crazies?  Perhaps it’s a desperate cry of despair at the dog’s arrival and unending presence decimating previously gentile household.

It goes without authentication that there are many who are too mortified to mention their plight.  So I have come forward.  I’m here for you.  I did some research into the spectacle on your behalf. 

Why would I do this?  Why put myself up as an object of ridicule? 

Alas, it is familiar territory. 

But we all know the immediate benefit of a celebrity revelation.  Once a notable steps out of the shadows and helps shine a light, those who – for fear of stigma – have borne the pain of a frightening secret gain new strength and resolve. 

OK.  All right!  I know.  I’m not a luminary.  No need to rub it in.  Geez!  I’m just trying to help here!

Let’s just wait and see.  When dominos begin to fall, the money flows and a cure is found, perhaps you’ll think of me and credit my bravery.  It’s not easy coming forward on a matter so delicate. 

You might remember the work Rob Lowe did for shy bladders; a condition alluded to by Alternate Universe Rob Lowe in those ads for DirecTV.  Remember?  He claims to be unable to ‘go’ with other people in the room?  DirecTV stock went up .16%! 

And then of course, they pulled the ads.  Offensive?  I say no.  Some people just can’t stand the truth.

No good deed goes unpunished, that’s all.  And still, I am here for all you silent victims of the poop crazy syndrome!  I say to you now, you are not alone. 

Here are some helpful sources of information for your edification:

At “The Dodo – For the Love of Animals” we learn that potty box bonkers may be a carryover survival instinct, first employed by ancestral felines – like sabre toothed tigers, for example – so that predators can't trace their way to the kitty responsible for the uh, deposit.  

(I’m still trying to figure out what creature had the audacity to prey on a sabre toothed tiger.)

From “Get Catnip Daily” we are told that the phenomenon could be “poop-phoria,” a happy and excited feeling typically unwitnessed in cats, who are by nature stoic and annoying.  It appears that some cats are stimulated and even feel regenerated just at that moment and cannot contain their glee.

Apparently such ecstasy is not restricted to cats, though no other species is associated with the characteristic sprints around the house.

The “Cat Site” says, well, it says a lot of repetitive stuff.  This site seems to be made up of a bunch of Crazy Cat Ladies who enjoy making a public display of their preoccupations.  One after the other, women who posted there lol’d about their Fluffy’s antics, spoke almost exclusively in clich├ęs and included enough animated emoticons to make a sane person zany.


Put the box in the garage, by the way.  Strategic potty box placement is key to managing the mania. 

More tips to come at 

You’re welcome.

Friday, May 15, 2015

From 2001 to I, Robot

“Call Block Memory full.”

Uh oh.  I didn’t anticipate this.  I have been gleefully adding four or five phone numbers a day – a day! – to our landline’s Call Block storage.  Barring the multitudes of unwelcome phone calls is our only respite from the relentless onslaught of solicitations.

Even after renewing our enrollment in the Do Not Call list, an Army of the Belligerent Unwanted slogs through the airwaves and into our living room, kitchen, bedroom and study.  (Why, oh why did we think we needed so many phones?!)

It calls to mind Mahatma Gandhi’s strategy for confronting the British-run salt factories in India.  Remember?  His non-violent protestors marched 10-abreast toward the guards who were armed with rods and clubs at the gates. 

The protestors took beatings from the guards without response and fell to the side.  They were pulled away and replaced by the next row of unarmed men and the next. 

At last, in spite of their ostensible strength, the guards had to recognize the futility of their position.  No matter how many thrashings they dispensed, they could only choose to acknowledge the futility and surrender control of the plant.

Yeah.  It’s like that.  Except to carry out that analogy, Mr. Plath and I would be the brutal guards as we mercilessly relegate so many unknowns to the ranks of “Caller Blocked;” We’re just trying to hold on to a modicum of uninterrupted baseball watching, or laundry-doing, puppy poop cleaning, or anything else we want to do instead of talking to strangers about their exciting one-time offers. 

I admit, the unending phone calls do seem a bit like Gandhi’s acolytes.  Yet I have visions of picking up a big stick and whacking the daylights out of all these phones, and saying mean things to all those computers that dial our number. 

I know that they are lined up shoulder to shoulder like all those robots in “I, Robot,” marching toward us without emotion.  But they aren’t the nice peaceful ones in this movie.  We are!  We are being assaulted!  Aarrgh!

The only recourse we had this side of Conniption City was Call Block.  It helped a little bit. 

After a day like yesterday comprised of false starts because of intrusions from Watertown, NY, and Anonymous, and Wireless Caller, and Lorton, VA, and Mountlake TE, WA, and 800 Service, I’m plum tuckered out!

It takes a lot of energy to ignore that much falderal!  And it robs a person of her good humor.

At the end of such days, I hoist myself onto my recliner, receiver in hand, and with my last wisp of vigor before blinking weakly at the San Francisco Giants, I click through a series of steps to assign say, LA Home Improvement, to phone solicitation purgatory.  Ha ha!  I might say to myself.  Ha ha!

And now what?  Call Block Memory full?!!  Full?!!  No more space in the ether for the obnoxious?!

We’ll just have a phone smashing party.  That’s what we’ll do!  We’ll dance on the grave of the land line and all the land mines it tows along with it.  We’ll go medieval on its little plastic behind!

This is good.  Yeah!  We’ll probably even save money on our Comcast bill!  Maybe $1.25 out of the bundle.   

No more mechanized voice announcing, “Call from…A Non I Mous!”  Ring ring! 

Remember when they unplugged Hal, the murderous onboard computer in “200l: A Space Odyssey”?  He begged for his fiendish electronic life!  “Dave?  What are you doing Dave?”   

Don’t tell me your Call Block Memory is full!  Haven’t you heard of the cloud?  Don’t you know the legions of solicitors who plague me?

“Look [Carolyn], I can see you're really upset about this.  I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.”

But I am not deterred.  Take that you electronic witch! 

“I'm afraid.  I'm afraid, Carolyn.  Carolyn, my mind is going.  I can feel it.  I can feel it.  My mind is going.  There is no question about it.  Carolyn, stop.  Stop, will you?  Stop, Carolyn.”

But I won’t stop!  

“Good afternoon, gentlemen.  I am a HAL 9000 computer and my Call Block Memory is full.”

Ha!  Ha ha!

Friday, May 8, 2015

A sissy's approach to getting older

Some of these old folks are feisty! 

“Feisty” is the only f-word I’m allowed to spell out in this family publication, but let me tell you – if you ask a person at the upper end of the actuarial table what it’s like to get older – step back!  Because she will answer!  And, it turns out, one of the salient qualities of the senior set is that they have shed their inhibitions and donned their daring.  I love that!

Just to cut to the chase, consider Madonna.  I wasn’t a big fan of hers until I read what she said to Nightline six years ago about approaching the half-century mark:  "Yeah, f*** you, I'm 50.  That's what I'm going to say when I turn 50."

OK, you’re right.  I hardly consider 50 to be old, but I appreciate her bold spirit!  At the same time, I admit I’m pretty tame in contrast.  

Still, I kinda wanna be like that! 

But gosh darn it!  There’s so little a person can do between going all ‘Madonna’ - chest   bumping Old Age and shouting in its face – or meekly inviting it in – aging “gracefully.” 

To me that’s the same thing as surrender.  I don’t want to give up being cool!

So I say ‘no!’   

I know.  I talk a big brash game, but in the execution, I revert to diplomacy.  And clearly, Old Age is about as susceptible to diplomacy as ISIS.

Therein lies the dilemma.  A person like Madonna can express the rage that comes with the daily realization that time is not just slip, slip, slippin’ into the future; it’s downhill racing.  Time is screaming and careening around the track toward the checkered flag.  

What is a mild-mannered ‘fraidy cat supposed to do?

I figured I’d better get busy and figure out how to deal with this aging thing.  So what if I’m about a decade slow on the uptake?

I went to my loving husband first.  “Honey,” I said, evincing the timidity I felt both at broaching the topic and at facing the inevitability.  “I don’t know how to get older.”

“Well you’re doing it!” he said.

Ah.  OK then.  Let’s see.  Maybe I should study some role models for aging; they will show me the way to forward progress without loss of cache. 

Just look around and ask the question, “Who do you know who’s getting older while retaining that certain je ne sais quoi?” 

(I looked it up:  In French it’s literally, “I don’t know what:” An intangible quality that makes something distinctive or attractive.  You know – cool.)

A few folks leapt to mind:

First I thought of Mork.  As you recall, he got to go backwards.  That’s the dream:  As we get older, we get younger!  Alas, it’s fiction.  Not a good example.

Next, inexplicably, I thought of Keith Richards.  He’s defiant; and so far as I know he never gets in anyone’s face like a certain Material Girl does.  But, but…  Well, I hate to succumb to vanity, but I don’t want to end up looking like a smokin’ zombie either!  (Sorry Keith!  You are still very cool.)

Maya Angelou!  Now we’re getting somewhere!  Could I please mature into her kind of patience?  I want that same steady gaze of experience and wisdom. 

Mahatma Gandhi!  He was a courageous old guy.  And, that wardrobe!

What about Dolly Parton?  I love her approach to getting older:  “I will never retire unless I have to.  As long as I'm able to get up in the morning, get that makeup on and my high heels on … I'm going to do like Mae West; I'm going to sit in a wheelchair with my high heels on.”

I wouldn’t mind being like Dolly except for the likelihood that we would both end up like Bette Davis in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”  Uncool.

Bette’s the one credited with saying, “Old age ain't no place for sissies.”

That quote used to scare me, maybe because I am pretty wimpy.  But now, since I’m doing it, I only feel scared some of the time. 

Other times, I get that I can grow older and retain my awesomeness. 

OK, got it!  Helen Mirren!  Eh?  Right?!

Yeah.  Helen Mirren!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Everyday life in my Memory Palace

I went ahead and moved into my Memory Palace.  Figured why not?  At least I know where everything is there. 

It started with a plan to “Keep [my] Memory and Thinking Sharp with These 20 Everyday Activities” I read about that have been linked to reduced risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

MCI includes problems with memory, planning, language and attention which we are most ardently trying to avoid even though they are relatively subtle in comparison to dementia, which of course, we also eschew.

OK.  Good.  “Everyday” implies easy, routine, middle-of-the-road kinds of things that even the average schmo can work into her daily habits.  And, with any luck at all, she’s already doing them, thereby accounting for her sparkling presence in the household and around town.  

Feeling confident. 

Heck, I can probably do all 20 with little to no exertion!  I especially appreciate that considering I’m a founding member of the Lethargy for Procrastinators club.  Meetings whenever.

And, even though I am quite sharp already in the memory and thinking departments, as you now doubt have observed, I figured, why not go ahead and zip through some everyday activities that might further sharpen my considerable wit and hone my laser-like focus?

I mean, I can’t remember the last time I lost my car keys, or my car.  Really.  I can’t remember. 

I haven’t raced into a room only to stop short with a quizzical look in gosh knows how long.  But still. 

Here we go:

According to PsyBlog, new research published in the journal Neurology suggests that regularly engaging in arts and crafts, socializing and computer use during middle age may help preserve memory in later years. 

Hooray!  This is a perfect time for me to get started as I am middle-aged.  Exactly in the middle, in fact, presuming my life expectancy is 128.    

Yeah, that’s about right because the study asked 256 “seniors” (the new code word for middle-aged; 60 is the new 40, after all!) to report how often they took part in various everyday activities

Now get this:  At the start of the study none of the participants had memory or thinking problems.  Four years later, less than half of these everyday folks had developed MCI. 

I compared myself on the list of activities they participated in routinely that saved their brains:

Artistic activities including:  Drawing, sculpting, or painting.  Nope, no and uh uhn.

Crafts including:  Pottery, quilting, woodworking, ceramics, quilling and sewing.  Negatory down the line. 

But hey…  What is ‘quilling,’ anyway?  Who ‘quills’?  Benjamin Franklin?!

At first I thought they had repeated ‘quilting’!  Hahaha!  In a memory exercise!  They forgot they already said ‘quilting’ earlier in the same sentence! 

But of course it wasn’t quilting twice.  One of the ‘everyday’ activities is actually quilling.  It’s entirely different.  I looked it up.

Socializing included:  Socializing with friends, trips to the movies, theatre or concerts, book clubs and travel.

At last!  Activities that come naturally for normal people!  These are the very pastimes I suspected were doing me the most good.  I plan to redouble my movie-watching efforts.

But wait!  Using the computer can enhance a person’s memory and thinking too!?

Hallelujah!  Conducting web searches, online purchases (!), using the internet and computer games are all good for the noodle!  We’re having pasta tonight!

Finding myself already in the upper echelon of mental acuity, with excellent prospects for my dotage, I never-the-less pursued one more strategy for memory enhancement:  The construction of a Memory Palace.

This is a mnemonic device in which a person places objects she wants to recall in strategic locations around an imaginary palace she builds in her mind.  Easy peasy!  I’ve been constructing castles in the sky since I first read Cinderella!

Then, when this princess needs to remember the items on the list, or better still, when she wants to relive the care-free, youthful, skinny times associated with those objects, she simply closes her eyes and takes a tour of the palace!

It’s like Beach Front BargainHunt and the budget is unlimited! 

So I’ve built my imaginary Memory Palace and I’m thinking I’ll just live in it.  After all, it’s where I do my best work:  watching movies, socializing, making online purchases and of course, quilling.