Boring

boringMy Sister Jane came up to visit over the holidays and, of course, the late night topic of conversation turned to dating.  Or not dating, as the case may be.

I shared that, having been blogging now for a whole few months, I’ve had the occasion to read a plethora of blogs about dating experiences by women in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

ACK!!!  We all report pretty much identical stories.  Age doesn’t seem to matter. And, that’s a pretty dismal statement.

I had also read an interview with Kristie Allie, who was back once again in the dating scene and made a plea to the more mature man:

Don’t be so freaking boring! Don’t have the life already sucked out of you.

We must have dated some of the same men.

What I found even more interesting were some of the comments by men who had read the interview. Many lacked photos of themselves, but had posted pictures of sport cars, dead fish and guns.

Yawn.

There was the man who wrote that, in his forties, he had taken up fishing, golfing, four-wheeling and how dare she describe him as boring.  Ah, hint:  those are hobbies.  Good for any man (or woman) has hobbies, quilting, gardening and painting included, but if that’s all you can talk about it on a date, boring just about fits either gender.

And then there were the men who wanted to take another nap before leaving a comment.

There were also the men who understood Alley’s comments. 

Boring is not a function of what you do but who you are. Do you strive to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and try new things? Are you always learning? Do you reach out and try to offer things of value to the people you care about? Then you will not only not be boring but you will also be the best self you can be, and get the most out of life.

Whoo Hoo!!  I’d sure like to meet that wise man, even if he is a forty-something college professor who lives 3000 miles away.

 I do wonder if the current economic situation hasn’t added to the life sucked out of you observation, at least for some of us of retirement age. I can’t tell you how many professional men I’ve met who didn’t plan and are now faced with working for the rest of their lives because they have to, not because they want to.

If that doesn’t drain life out of someone, I’m not sure what does.

Sadly, I also think these men may be the harbinger of things to come, as increasing numbers of retirees will need to rely on 401Ks, given defined benefit programs are fast becoming the safety net of the past. If Frontline predictions hold true that 401Ks are both a gamble and train wreck waiting to happen — all while underwriting increased company profits — then we can pretty much forget about boring dates.

We’ll be far too busy surviving to be concerned about the folly of coffee dates.

 

 

 

 

Deck the Halls and Flip the Tree

IMG_0231I did it.  I bought a flippen’ Christmas tree. It’s a beautiful artificial Nobel Fir that does really flip. I figure I’ll have to decorate it for at least eight more seasons to make this an economically sound purchase. On the other hand, the tree is far less expensive than therapy or vacations in the sun during the dark winter season, which means I’ve now rationalized my purchase.  That was easy!

It is a beautiful tree, artificial or not.  Kimberley, who help me through a rather prolonged selection process, is absolutely correct — get the tree that speaks to you.  This one definitely does.

It’s a bit of a new concept to me, flipping the bottom two-thirds of a 7.5 foot, very full Nobel Fir Christmas tree from an upside down position over four locked wheels to a right side up tree.

Now, instead of arguing with myself over the best tree, cutting it down, getting it tied atop the roof and getting it in and upright in a watertight container, I just wheel in the tree and quite literally flip the tree.  Put on the top third of the tree, easy peasy, plug in the light cord into the socket and I’m practically ready for the holidays.

Well, not quite.  First the needles need to be fluffed. Who would have thought?  From what I can gather, the first fluff should take a couple hours; next year will be easier.  I figure a bit of eggnog or wassail and brandy should make the whole process a lot more painless.

In irony or ironies, the flippen’ tree came with two pairs of gloves which I found hysterical.  I know, there’s only one of me and I come with the requisite two hands, but even if Mr. Santa were around, and there have been a few over the course of my adult life, I can’t recall any of them that got much beyond the getting the tree into the stand stage of setup before disappearing to watch a football game, mow the lawn, clean the gutters or anything that has nothing at all to do with decorating the Christmas tree.

So, fluffing the tree with Mr. Santa?  Wishful thinking, I’m afraid, but a nice thought nonetheless.

My friend Terry, who is also the best cat sitter I know (she made me say that), stayed with BlackJack over the Thanksgiving holidays, fed him turkey and now the darn cat won’t touch cat food.  She also provided the comic relief after I returned home from the kids and began setting up the new Christmas tree. 

I rolled the tree out of the closet, down the hall and into the living room, locked the wheels, flipped the tree, fastened its safety belt to make sure it doesn’t flip back on its own, stuck on the top and plugged it it.  It was enormous — much larger than I expected, but whoo hoo, I did it all on my own!

Two hours later, with Terry and me still laughing at the absurdity of it all, the tree was fluffed and ready for decorating.  Honestly, the tree is so lifelike and beautiful, it could have stood without an ornament and have been a stunning Christmas centerpiece.

nah. Of course I decorated the flippen’ tree and, like all Christmas trees, it is perfect.

 

 

Profile Police

onlineI just finished reading a blog describing an “older gentleman” who was so desperate for love following an ugly divorce that he fell, in rapid succession, head over heels for four online dating scams, buying their lines and sending them money.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I also seem to be in the target age for scam artists, especially when it comes to online dating.  It probably has something to do with being perceived as a frail, lonely old lady.  Not.

Last summer, I ventured out once again onto two well-known, well-advertised, pretty reputable sites and paid both membership fees.  Thought I might as well maximize my options. 

I searched on one site and, Whoo Hoo, there he was, Mr. Potentially Wonderful.  Then I realized, a screen later, there he was again, the same profile with a different user name and photo. And, two profiles down, there he was yet again! Three Mr. W’s, different ages, different user names, different towns, identical profiles and all within a twenty mile radius. Evidently scammers never studied geography.

On the second site, I received a good number of emails.  Probably a third were from scammers lurking on the site.  

I sometime wonder if the online dating sites actually monitor for scam artists or just rely on paying members to do the policing job for them. 

The sites warn members not to give out personal email addresses or send money, excellent advice, but not nearly enough. So, for those of you venturing out into the online dating scene, here are some pointers I’ve figured out:

I:  If s/he looks too good to be true, be wary. Great looking photos, widowed, no kids, professional, exceptionally high income…those warning flags should be waving.

I look for profession and location; sometimes, it’s almost comical…one of my favorites was a purported PhD, employed at the corporate offices of an east coast company while living in the middle of Death Valley CA in a town with a population of 27.  uh huh.

II:  If s/he can’t talk on the phone or meet you within a few emails, especially if the emails quickly become overly romantic, as opposed to flirtatious, proceed with caution. Texting doesn’t count as a phone call. This is especially true if they are, ahem, unexpectedly working out of the country in an area that can’t be accessed by voice, Skype or Facetime.  They’re working alright, probably on getting into your bank account.

III: Read the narrative:  If anything looks the least suspect, I copy a couple sentences, paste it into Google search and wait for Google to work its magic.

Nine times out of ten: BINGO! The same profile narrative pops up all over the world…same site, different sites, different user names, different ages, different ethnicities, sometimes even a different gender, but the cut ‘n paste approach apparently works well for the scam artists in Nigeria and Russia that are just waiting for you to answer their emails, winks or flirts.

Bless the Google Goddess that lists them all.

If you find a scam profile, do report it to the online dating service as a concern — with an explanation as to the other websites they’re on and the profile names being used; otherwise, the dating website has to actually investigate the concern, which doesn’t always happen.  If you do the work for them, the dating service will usually delete the scam profiles on its site.

It goes without saying that dating sites could do a much better screening for scam artists.

In the meantime, whenever I’m on a dating site, I continue reporting the scam profiles.  I also continue asking to get paid for doing their job, but my requests are ignored. Too bad.  It could be a great side income.

o Christmas Tree

ChristmasChristmas tree (1) trees have always been at the center of my Decembers.  The lights and ornaments chase away the dark and gloom and essentially get me through the month until the Winter Solstice, which conveniently falls on my youngest grandson’s birthday. Then I can breathe again, knowing that the days are getting longer and we’re on the downhill side of the darkest winter days. 

I love winter for about twenty minutes and then I long for spring.

Around fifteen years ago, give or take, it dawned on me that I could no longer handle a freshly cut, or even lot cut, Christmas tree.  It was too messy, too heavy, all the too’s that said, go forth and buy and artificial tree.  At the time, I remember looking at a 7 ft. tall Christmas tree at the exorbitant cost of $79 and debating its worth.  I bought it and hauled it home where it has stood proud and well decorated, gracing the Christmas holidays.

A Christmas or two ago, my two middle grandsons — just entering their teens and sprouting like weeds — stood silently in front of my tree. Then, they turned in unison and announced with all the wisdom of 13 year olds, Grandma, when we were young, your tree seemed enormous and so tall.  But now….”

With that, a wee bit of Christmas magic simply evaporated into the pine and cinnamon scented air.

In the midst of this last move, I took a  critical look at the tree.  It was old and tired — of course, so am I — but, it was a tree and it was time.  So, the tree and I parted ways without so much as a tear.

Now, as daylight savings time is no longer and the darkness of winter has closed in all too quickly, I am in search of a new Christmas tree.  But, 15 years older, I am well aware that I can no longer lug 80 lb trees around and set them up, even if they’re artificial and look like the real thing.

My old neighbor, who is now my new neighbor in one of those ironies of moving — except she’s still much younger in years — purchased an artificial tree last year that is very beautiful.  Armed with iphone photos of the box and label, I went in search of the tree.  It looked a whole lot better in her home than the Lowe’s forest and I quickly realized that it was still going to be a challenge to set up.

Thank goodness for Goggle — how did we function pre-goggle, internet and smart phones? — and there is an encyclopedia worth of information regarding artificial Christmas trees. I narrowed down my selection and, as luck would have it, there was an artificial tree farm in the bay area in addition to their online farm.  I decided to make the three hour trek down to the farm.

Who knew there were so many choices?  Vermont, Colorado, Stratford, Norway, Blue and Red Spruces; Balsam, Frasier, Douglas Firs; Pines, Redwoods — the choices were overwhelming.  It was akin to walking down a hundred cereal aisles of the local supermarket, except this time I couldn’t just zero in on the old fashion oatmeal.

I walked up and down the rows of trees, tall trees, short trees, narrow trees, wide trees, trees with led lights, warm lights, clear lights, multi-color lights and the newest tree, the tree that rolls in on wheels and then just flips into place. It really does flip. I flipped it. A flippen’ tree.

This was not your Charlie Brown Christmas tree lot.  Far too many choices, and, no, I still haven’t made up my mind.

A Thanksgiving Turkey

turkeyIt’s amazing how we carry on traditions.  My mother hosted Thanksgiving for the extended family until, one year, she was done and the tradition was handed down to me. 

As the kids married, we tried T-Day at in-laws and out-laws, and we all agreed, it just didn’t feel like Thanksgiving.  Traditions die hard.  In short order, I got the day.  I tweaked the menu a bit, asking my son-in-law and daughter-in-law to bring their favorite dish or two from their family Thanksgivings.  Those dishes have become a part of our evolving tradition.

In addition to the meal, I also inherited the china, silver and crystal, which I used until the last few years ago when I purchased a new set of pottery that I like so much more and, even better, can be put straight into the dishwasher.  No one seems to use the finery any more, not that I ever used it much in my adult life.  But, it was an opportunity to teach my four grandsons all about forks; the oldest, my granddaughter, had already gotten that training from her other grandmother.  The boys all stepped up and, each in turn, helped train the next youngest in fork and dining etiquette. 

Not only do they know forks, they know not to eat until after Grandma’s Grace, which is what their parents call my once-a-year blessing. The grandkids know to patiently wait and remain silent while their parents provide the mocking setup for the annual event. The younger ones know full well not to mess with Grandma; Christmas is just around the corner.

Just to make certain the grandkids have the next holiday on the calendar and can start bugging their parents, each one of them gets a Christmas ornament with the slice of pumpkin pie.  Retribution is a grandmother’s prerogative. 

A few years back, I had minor hand surgery in early autumn.  The surgery went well; the recovery not so well and, in one of those small percentage glitches, the wound had a rough time healing.  It finally started to do what it was supposed to do in mid November when I went in for my weekly visit with the surgeon.

Looking good, he said. I’m assuming you do Thanksgiving.

Yep.

Not this year.

What???

The hand is still not totally healed.  You can’t do the cooking.  You can host it.

I can cook.

Nope. Not til it’s fully healed. Get the kids to help.

uh huh.

Seeing as no one answers their phones anymore, I sent a text asking for help as I was barred from the kitchen.  I could still host but the few days of intensive kitchen cooking was out.

My daughter was the first to respond. I don’t cook.

I already knew that. I raised her to stand strong and independent, which she is, except in the kitchen.  Her husband says she’d starve to death if she couldn’t find someone who could boil water.

My daughter-in-law was marginally more helpful. Whole Foods has a package deal.  We can do that.  I don’t do dishes.

My son jumped in.  We’ll bring paper plates.

This was proving to be more challenging than I thought it would be.

I texted back,  Thanksgiving. Traditions. Dishes. All that Stuff and Stuffing. Leftovers. Take out?

Silence.  Evidently, it was a take out or leave it proposition.

So I left it, sadden by the knowledge that when I can no longer handle T-Day, it might well evolve into a take out with paper plates day, given that everyone is too stressed in forty different directions to dedicate a day to family, gratitude and tradition.

In the meantime, thank goodness for the internet; there were entire websites devoted to make ahead Thanksgiving recipes.  I lined them up, and one at a time, got them done with no strain on my hand. 

And, on Thanksgiving, the kids proclaimed it was the best dinner ever. Of course they’d say that; all they had to do was show up and eat.

They still had to do the dishes. 

 

Women of a Certain Age

Not much has been written about Women of a Certain Age although we certainly do exist.  The few articles are usually hidden on a back page, typically next to the Obituaries, or buried deep within the links of an online format. It’s the myth vs. the reality regarding women of a certain age…women who are old, older,  um well-seasoned by life.

The definition of a woman of a certain age is apparently defined by her hormones, or lack thereof.  This county, and Great Britain for that matter, tend to lump single women of a certain age into a rather vague, grey nothingness — a spinsterhood somewhere beyond menopause, which is apparently the dividing line between maiden/mother and crone — that marks the slow, winkled descent into elder-hood and death.

Wow. Alone and asexual. Now that’s something young women can put on their calendars and look forward to.

Women who do not accept the prescribed definition are faced with a myriad of challenges. 

Single women of a certain age are labeled Cougars for doing the identical thing that men do everyday — although, I admit, men are a whole lot more successful with their marketing strategies.

Then, there is the very well-advertised, large HMO that refuses to prescribe hormones because of a woman’s age (“old” being the operative, diagnostic term) while perfectly willing to provide men of all ages with a variety of enhancement pills.

Good grief.

While we could embrace a mass exodus to France, where both men and women of a certain age enter a rather erotic phase of life, we might also consider redefining the myth with a more realistic version of entering that certain age..with a certain confidence, a certain air and a certain wisdom regarding life, aging, sexuality and partnerships.

I rather like that approach, but in the meantime, there are still those pesky assumptions that keep getting made about women of a certain age…

A while back, I had a date with an older gentleman — I’m saying older because his whole demeanor was old although he was only a couple years older than I.  We sat down with the prerequisite coffee and began the conversation.  He told me about his car, his daily routine and the stress of keeping up on a recent walking tour in Europe.

Then, he lowered his voice, confiding that he had problems “down there” and he looked downward.

I looked down at his feet, given all the walking hardships of his European trip.

No, not my feet!

oh. I wasn’t going to look there so I refocused on his face.

He leaned in toward me, as if to share something very confidential.

It was more than a bit uncomfortable, not knowing the man and not even finished with my coffee, but there was no break with which to make my escape. He was adamant about sharing, which he did with all the confidence of a man experienced with women of a certain age.

And it doesn’t matter.  Women your age aren’t interested in sex anyway.

He smiled and leaned back in his chair. He had had just solved his problem by making it my problem.

Um. I hate to burst your bubble, but not all women of my age are finished with sex.  Many of us actually enjoy sex quite a bit.

As his bubble burst, this woman of a certain age spotted her escape, thanked him for the coffee and made a quick exit.

Autumn Leaves

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Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of the year, but, given our mild weather, it is not a season we Californians fully celebrate.  We seem to slide from summer to Indian Summer and then suddenly, it’s overcast and rainy.  Well, sometimes rainy.  We’ve been in a severe drought the past few years and are beginning to forget what rain is.

A long time past, I lived in Pennsylvania for almost a year.  They definitely embrace autumn.  I have a vivid memory of stepping outside to retrieve the mail, an apple in hand.  I could smell the dampness of an early rain as I walked into the crisp fall air, surrounded by flurries of falling orange, red and yellow leaves. Walking down the long drive to the mailbox, I bit into the crisp, cold, so very sweet apple and in that moment knew that it was the taste of autumn.

Last spring, I moved to the Sierra foothills, an area that does believe in autumn despite the drought.  With the lack of water, the leaves are struggling to change colors although, as you can see, there are still some very vibrant red, yellow and orange leaves decorating the landscape. While I haven’t found an apple quite as crisp as the Pennsylvania one, the memory remains and surfaces now and again as I walk amid the color and dried leaves swirling to the ground.

For me, autumn brings the end of another cycle and another year.  It’s a time of quiet reflection and review. Am I on the path I supposed to be walking or simply wandering in the woods enjoying the view?

This is the first time in my life where there has been little drive or passion. No to-do list; no have-to list. A blank piece of paper.  I always assumed there was a reason for one’s existence, une rasion d’être, but now, at this stage, that too seems to have gone missing.

There’s an admitted calm and bit of disconnect from the more grueling aspects of life.  Perhaps it’s a function of age; perhaps a function of location.  Nonetheless, the mind wanders and wonders although, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what about.

A few weeks ago, I went in search of an artificial Christmas tree, as my last one looked a bit too sad last year.  I stood next to another woman, about my age, as we evaluated the artificial forest before us.

She asked what I was thinking.

I was honest.  I’m looking at the prices, wondering how many more Christmases I’ll have, and whether the investment will be worth it.

She smiled and said she was thinking something similar.  I remember my mother teasing about getting too old to buy green bananas. Maybe she wasn’t teasing as much as I thought.

My friend Bill puts things in a slightly different way. He says to get a long measuring tape, measure out one inch for each year you’ve lived and then add another inch for each year you hope to live.  It’s certainly a sobering exercise.

Autumn is indeed a gentle time, and at the same time, there is a chill in the air bringing the promise that the next season is on the cusp of arriving. Sometimes, not often, I wonder what it will bring.

In the meantime, lacking a really crisp, cold, so very sweet apple, I think I’ll put an apple in the oven to bake while I watch the leaves just a little longer.