Shingles And We Boomers…….

Okay, any GenXer’s can chuckle, but I was reminded the other day about the reality of we Baby Boomers and outbreaks of Shingles. “Back in the day” there was no vaccine against chicken pox. It was a 3-5 day period of itching and threats from our mothers to not scratch or else face being scarred for life and if I recall correctly, sometimes you were supposed to stay in low light, but that might have been for the measels. Anyway, the accepted practice at the time was whenever a kid got chicken pox, any friends that hadn’t had it were sent over to “play” in order to catch it. The theory was that it wasn’t serious and the sooner you got over it the better because you were then immune. That was correct in so far as that went, and few kids suffered complicaitons. After the chicken pox vaccine came out, no one even thought about it. We certainly never thought that the pesky chicken pox virus would remain dormant inside us to potentially pop out as Shingles beginning at or around 60. Another of life’s little ironies.

My sister had a terrible, long lasting outbreak of Shingles a couple of years ago and one our neighbors is currently going through it. There is a vaccine and the general medical advise is for all Baby Boomers to have it, especially as we approach age 60. It is on my to-do list and I’ll drag my husband along or remind him the next time he has an appointment. We’re both in good health, but this is one of those things that really does have a simple fix that we shouldn’t procrastinate about. So, fellow and sister Boomers – Shingles vaccine – check into it.

Pool Ponderings……

             For those who may not know the true statistics, adding a pool to your home does not normally give you a Return on Your Investment (ROI) unless you are in one of those neighborhoods where it is expected that you will have a pool. There is a mix in our area and what it comes down to is that someone who doesn’t care about a pool isn’t going to pay extra for one, but somone who wants a pool will specify that when looking at houses. In our case, we put in a pool and hot tub for our own enjoyment, so while getting an ROI would be nice, that wasn’t the primary point.

This has been our first time to have a pool and it does come with some interesting lessons. The first being that in this particular location, the limited size of the yards means a small pool and it can’t be deeper than five feet. Say what? Yep – it has to do with a number of factors that we weren’t aware of. It was a mild disappointment, but hey, if you’re swimming/floating on top, it doesn’t really matter. Our next decision was about the wonderful soft chlorination system that is now available and that is a special option that allows you to use salt instead of chemicals for the pool. It is not a saltwater pool, but there is a slight salt taste as the chlorine is drawn from the salt that you dump in. There is no harsh smell or itchy eyes from heavy chlorine and you use very few other chemicals to keep the water in balance. We recommend this to anyone considering a pool.

However, one of the things that we didn’t know was that a pool has to be re-surfaced every 6-10 years and yikes, we just had to have that done. Hopefully that will carry us through until we sell this place and make the next move. Interestingly, when we put the pool in, the salesman actually suggested that we not heat it. He explained that a heater was not expensive to retrofit and that many people didn’t use their pool in the winter even if it was heated. As it turned out, we went the first year without a heater, then added one, although I admit that we don’t usually get into the pool in Jan & Feb, but do use it March through early December.

Between the problem that led to the pool being resurfaced and the time that took, it has been out of commission for the past few weeks, but it is Memorial Day weekend and a pool workout this morning seemed like the right thing to do. It was pleasant and at least I didn’t have to fish frogs out of it today. The creatures that get into a pool are the subject of another post though.

Perspective and Anger….

Most of us have flaws of one sort or the other and back in the days when I was involved in  “touchy-feeley” work, the popular term was “Self Defeating Behavoir”. That was an easy one for me to identify – anger. I do realize that I am not alone in this or there wouldn’t be an entire category now of “Anger Management”. As the Country and Western song says, “I’m not as good as I’m going to be, but I’m better than I used to be.” I have actually improved to at least some degree.

My husband, bless him, copes with my flaw better than anyone and has far more practice at it than he deserves, but that’s another discussion. The other day, I was not quite on a rant about a policy that was upsetting me, although I was working up to one and he gently interceded. His comment (more or less) was, “Think for a minute. You spent a career in the Army – you went by dumber rules than this. Put it into perspective.”

Ah yes, smack me on the forehead – he was correct. This was one of those things that I had lost perspective on and it was most assuredly an irritant, but not worth the level of emotion I was expending. It’s along the same lines as the “Count to Ten” method, but I had/have a habit of zipping through the “ten count” quickly and declaring it not to work. As much as I struggle though, I will say that the one place where I do practice delay is sticking an email into draft as a precaution. I genuinely think that a lot of irate ones go out because the “Send” button is too close to the “Draft”.

Anyway, I think that I am ready at this point to calmly express my concern (see, not the word outrage) about this particular policy and we shall see what becomes of it. And this is a case where I may not have all the information that I think I have and I discover that the policy does make sense. On the other hand, if it turns out that it really is a stupid policy set forth by some over-controlling bureaucrat who has no other way to feed his or her self-esteem except through the use of petty power, well then, we will see….

 

Long Distance Relationships, Romance or Avoidance?…..

My husband and I still wonder occasionally if there was an element of fate to the fact that we arrived at the Army installation where we met only two months apart. That meant we would be in the same place for at least a year and probably longer. With our careers, it was easy to meet someone who was being assigned as you were leaving an assignment or vice-versa, so that you would have very little time to establish a relationship. He and I had both experienced that situation and since, as it turned out, we had several personal complications to navigate, we needed the time to acknowledge that our fairly instant attraction was of the sustainable variety. But to move on to the subject of long distance relationships.

The military is by no means the only mobile profession, and I have friends and acquaintances who are faced with trying to manage a long-distance relationship. Today’s technology of email, cell phones, and video calling certainly help with the ability to have pretty much daily communications, and no, I’m not about to get into the topic of sexting. There is no doubt that easier communication is important in trying to maintain a long distance relationship, especially when significantly different time zones are involved. An interesting aspect came up in a recent conversation and I was reminded of it when I was on my trip last week. The question was prefaced with the statement of, ”Getting together during a long distance relationship usually equals a romantic interlude because it often lasts for no more than one to weeks,” followed by, “As much fun as that is, who can’t sustain a relationship if you’re only around each other for a week or two at a time?”

Ah, yes, that is a question to consider. Keeping the romance going in a long term relationship, whether marriage is involved or not, is the theme for a lot of talk and millions of articles/books. So, in the most common list of reasons for starting a long distance relationship – work/school/family obligations – is there also a preference for prolonged “newness”, to avoid losing the sense of excitement that can happen as you learn of one another’s habits and the routine of everyday contact? How about it readers out there – do you want to weigh in with your experience and opinions?

“Do What You Say You Will”…..

The other day I interviewed a local man who I will not mention by name because I did not interview him for the purpose of a post. He began work in town as a young man and as he worked at his job, somewhere along the way he decided that this was what he wanted as a career, but to own the business, not merely rise in it. He did so and not quite fifty years later, he still has a hand in the business although his daughter and son run the day-to-day operation. It is not a glamorous business, but rather one of life’s necessities, and as he expanded it and became successful, he and his wife (she passed away some years ago), moved from contributing to charity to sponsoring a couple of charitable events that have become major fundraisers for both the National Mental Health Association and the Diabetes Research Foundation.

The gentleman rose in prominence in town serving on a local bank board of directors and other boards. In short, he is everything that the American Dream stands for – an ordinary beginning that became a highly successful career with a solid family. A man who created jobs, became a cornerstone within the community, and gave large sums of money to charity along the way. A capitalist – oh yes. A heartless, greedy one – not at all, although I would imagine that business competitors might have a different perspective.

. I asked what advice he would offer to young people starting out and he didn’t hesitate. “Do what you say you will and keep your word. Everything else will take care of itself.” In the swirl of daily drama that we seem to be surrounded by, these simple sentences stand in stark contrast to the ponderous statements that often come from people who speak with no intention of doing what they say they will. I salute this gentleman who has and will continue to live his life by his philosphy of, “Your word should mean everything.”

Snow and Heat……

Last week was decidely hectic, but we wanted to squeeze in one more lunch with a couple who are living their golden years in a manner that we enjoy observing, and I may do a post about that at a future time. Since they were preparing to leave the Keys and head back to upstate New York, the conversation naturally turned to climate. They are in an area that gets lake effect snow as well as regular snow and can expect 100 to 200 inches per year. While the very thought of that made us shudder, the comment was, “You prepare for it and really, you have the same issue in the opposite way with the heat.” Having both grown up in the deep South in the days before air conditioning, my husband and I did understand and it does raise an interesting point.

Let’s do snow first. Our friends actually have an RV and so rather than “move to Florida” to escape the cold as so many people do, they ride out the winter and then hit the road in the RV during March and April when it can seem like lingering snow and ice will last forever. They are retired now and therefore no longer have to be out for the daily jobs. They have the equipment to handle snow as well as enough indoor interests to hunker down during the worst storms.

As we were growing up in Georgia and Lousiana respectively, my husband and I knew that you simply spent part of the year sweltering. It’s that old saying of men sweat and women glisten. And in truth, when I left the house the other morning for an 8:30 appointment and it was already 78 degrees, I knew it would be a hot day. It actually didn’t get over 90, but it is still just May. The real heat is coming and yes, in the midst of the summer, there are plenty of people who “hunker down” in air conditioning and only emerge in the late afternoon and early evening hours. The intense heat and humidity (we’ll set hurricanes aside for the moment) is often misunderstood by people who visit Florida only in the winter. My husband and I have hats, sunscreen, and we hydrate a lot, but the truth is that we also sweat a lot from May through September and it isn’t the life for everyone. Rather than having to bundle up against the cold, we have lightweight clothes and sandals, as women try to avoid pantyhose and men try to avoid ties.

Fortunately, in this country of entrepreneurs and inventors, there are always new gadgets coming onto the market to help with overcoming these inconveniences. Radiant heating for floors in cold climates and misting systems for hot climates come to mind. I suppose in the end, it depends on what your preference is, and understanding that there just aren’t many places with a perfect climate. On the other hand, that is also why the “second home” idea is such a popular concept.

Our friends will arrive home to buds beginning to burst out in color as we say goodbye to strawberries, tomatoes, and corn that can’t tolerate the searing summer. The pool, however, will get more use than it has for the past few months. Snow and heat really are two sides of the same coin.

Cherry Blossoms, Dance, and Old Friends…..

Dustin and one of the female members of the Bowen-McCauley Dance Company

I haven’t the foggiest notion as to why I get strong tugs of intuition occasionally, although in most cases an actual reason emerges after the fact. That may be the situation here as I sit in my hotel room near National Airport. We (or at least I) try to make one of our son’s dance performances each year. That’s the Bowen McCauley Dance Company (www.bmdc.org) if you’re new to the blog. We usually do the March show or the October/November show and none of those were going to work schedule-wise. The show last night and tonight, a very lively, contemporary production was going to be a conflict, but my schedule loosened up and I was able to get a decent flight. An old friend whom I hadn’t seen in quite some time was available to come to the show with her daughter and then I found the telephone number of another old friend whom I also count as a protégé. She’ll be picking me up for a late lunch and I’ll have a chance to meet her son as well as see how much her daughter has grown.

When I met Dustin for a quick cup of coffee last night between dress rehearsal and costume/make-up call, he said he thinks this may be his personal best performance all year. Who knows, perhaps there was some telepathic link calling out for me to come and see. I meandered around Crystal City underground yesterday and then took a brisk walk this morning. If you have never been to Crystal City in Arlington, VA, it’s quite impressive with shops, restaurants, banks, a post office, hotels, apartment buildings, a performing arts theater now, offices, and a Metro station. There are five or six (maybe more) entrances to this underground village and if you wanted to, you actually could remain underground for days at a time. While I am not an urban living person, if I was forced to be one, this is an area I would consider.

This, however, is a lovely spring weekend when Washington, D.C. is at its finest – pleasant weather, sunny skies and the cherry blossoms in full bloom. The timing is such that I will be having Mother’s Day lunch with Dustin and his wife, Samantha, and that’s the first time I’ve done that in ages. Perhaps that was the real reason I felt an urge to come up.

A Charming Slice of History……

Cauley Square is an enclave of historic homes converted into shops and restaurants on Highway 1 S (S. Dixie Highway) between Miami and Homesetad, FL

As part of my freelance career, I usually do one or two articles for our weekly local newspaper with my focus on human interest and restaurant reviews. Those two aren’t actually as dissimilar as they may seem because what I look for is the story behind the restaurant with the food in a supporting role. Although the town and surrounding area has grown considerably in the past ten years (caught in the housing bubble burst, but grown nonetheless), there are still small-town elements that are appealing to we non-city dwellers. With that said, the town is coming up on our centennial celebration (if I have any readers from places like Williamsburg, Philadelphia and Boston, you can quit snickering now), and so I’ve been out gathering stories from residents about families and places of historical interest. Again, for those of us who have strolled the streets of Paris, London, Rome, etc., a hundred years of history is a blink of an eye, but it is a fun project for me.

The other day I was sent to Cauley Square, a charming enclave of shops and restaurants set within ten acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. It’s origins began in 1903 with a railroad siding where a wealthy farmer (William Cauley) literally created a village to support shipping operations for his produce. According to the stories, it wasn’t charming back then and a series of events caused it to fall into decline until the county planned to demolish it. Mary Anne Ballard, a woman who had built her own Interior Design business, and was an advocate for the arts and history, stepped in and purchased the property. In addition to saving the original two-story stone building, she had the idea of gathering a number of the wooden houses that had been hand-built by early families and converting those into shops and a restaurant.

She did that with great success and worked to get Cauley Square declared as a Historical Site. After her death, however, financial problems loomed, and now comes a delightful development. Frances Varela, a woman who came from Honduras 42 years ago, spent her life in construction. She grew to love the area so much that she decided to buy all of Cauley Square and spent ten years making it even better than it was. There are 25 structures, mostly these old houses that are now shops, with two restaurants and a pleasant outdoor Latin Cafe. Frances made certain that the sidewalks were wide enough for wheelchairs and it is truly a lovely place to meander. I take visitors there all the time and I loved hearing how two women from completely different backgrounds were the ones who created and have kept the place going.

Cauley Square is on Highway 1 (South Dixie Highway), en route to Homestead and the Florida Keys. That’s Cauley Square at 22400 Old Dixie Highway, Tel: (305) 258-3543; www.cauleysquare.com

A Sunday Walk……

I know I posted something similar only a week ago about the great birdlife I saw while on my morning walk. But today was one of those days when I thought about that with all the multitasking we do and the emotional swirl that can surround us, there are still those simple moments that help provide balance. My main route is the route that a number of bicycle clubs take and so every weekend morning brings duos, trios, quarterts, and groups of cyclists whizzing past, but then on the sidewalk, there are some older couples out for a leisurely spin. That is older as in their 70s, and today was one of the times when a family was in the mix as well - dad, mom, and little girl riding on as pink a bike as you could ask for; training wheels firmly in place.

Before that though, as I was getting ready to turn the corner to go out of the development onto the main street, I yielded to allow a mom and teenaged daughter to go in front of me. They were laughing and speed walking and we nodded in a friendly way. I was not far behind them when we reached the main street where they took off on a jog, and I briefly wondered which one was the jogger, but perhaps they both are. There’s another  lady I see at times when our schedules sync as happened this morning, and a retired gentleman who faithfully puts in five miles a day, at a slow and steady pace.

I hit my turnaround point as a young man breezily passed me, sweat glistening on his muscled torso, his twenty-something rounding out the age spectrum. I don’t know what everyone I saw has planned for the day. I trust that most of them are going to be able to relax at least a bit and perhaps have an actual day off. My husband and I are both working, but that’s not unusual for us on a weekend. In our chosen second careers, our schedules are rather erratic, but it’s the nature of what we do and we’re accustomed to it. Just out of curiosity though, how many people try to take at least one day a week to “be off”?

Searching for Women Veterans…….

One of many exhibits at the Women in Military Service of America Memorial

I make no secret that I think the U.S. military is a great opportunity to empower women, be it for a career or a single term of service, notwithstanding the continuing state of hostilities around the globe. That, however, is not the actual point of this post. I was not personally present, but an individual that I trust was in a meeting in the early fall of 1990 when the U.S. was working to establish the coalition that would take offensive action to recover Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation. In the course of discussing the size and composition of the U.S. Army forces that would be brought from Germany, allegedly the question was posed as to if it would be possible to have all male forces in deference to the Arab culture. The immediate response by a very high ranking officer was along the lines of, “No, women are too intergal a part of the Army to even consider that.” That declaration was accepted and the discussion continued.

For the record, that same country later contributed to help establish the Women in the Military Service of America Memorial that is on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetary. It is a lovely building with a wonderful chronology of women in the military and is a place that I highly recommend you visit when you are in Washington, D.C. One of the important aspects of the museum is their database of women who have served, or are serving in the military, but a lot of women don’t know about this. That is especially true for those women who may have served in WW II or Korea. You might also be surprised if you check into your own family history to discover female relatives who served in different capacities, and who are eligible to be entered into the database. I used a vignette from a dear friend about one of her relatives to develop a scene in my novel Irises to Ashes that dealt with women who were trained as pilots to ferry aircraft overseas in a non-combat role. While the scene was fictional, that historical aspect was accurate.

You can check into the museum through their web site of http://www.womensmemorial.org/, and please do consider adding the museum to your next trip. If you live in the Washington, D.C./Northern VA area and haven’t been, be sure to put it on your list.