Tango and the Movies…….

I’m not sure how the past few days slipped by me without posting, but these things do happen occasionally. As I have discussed at previous times, I am a member of the Homestead Center for the Arts (http://www.homesteadcenterforthearts.com/index.html) and within that organization is a special committee called Music Experience (MuSe). We had our most recent event last week with Baroque and received wonderful feedback. While we also have the well-loved Community Concert Series in HCA that runs December-March, the intent of MuSe was to combine music and food and so we mostly hold the events at the White Lion Café that has a large courtyard. The “In the Garden” series has been Jazz and Blues, next up will be Blue Grass and we’re working through other genres.

That brings me to the question of did I like tango? I do, although my experience is limited and I know there are different types of tango and wouldn’t for the life of me be able to identify or recognize them. Setting aside,  “The Last Tango in Paris” since this is a more or less PG-13 blog, who can forget Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman”, and have you seen, “Shall We Dance”? A little-known Robert Duvall movie was “Assassination Tango” and that, too, used tango as a metaphor for life’s complexities. Okay, what other movies out there have famous tango scenes?


About That Wine Snob Comment…..

Contrary to my husband’s contention, I am truly not a wine snob and I certainly do not fall into the wine expert category – I had to look up how to spell oenophile. As an aside, for anyone who knows me, the fact that I did not drink alcohol the year I studied in France is incredibly ironic. Like many Baby Boomers who had not experienced wines abroad and didn’t have friends with big budgets, I made my way through Gallo with Mateus, Lancers, and Blue Nun as the fancy stuff. My first overseas assignment to Germany was of course where I learned to appreciate wine and by the time I returned, California was making it’s presence known. My husband, on the other hand, having a similar background as mine was first assigned to Fort Lewis near Seattle. He therefore had greater access to California and Northwest wines as part of his “education”.

I simply learned the “rules” about white, red, and rose in a different environment than he did and while I will agree that those rules have relaxed to the point that many people consider them to be non-existent, there are times when I draw the line. I have no intention of drinking a glass of Zinfandel with fish in a dill sauce, but hubby is welcome to it. I continue to be grateful that restaurants have enough of a variety of wines by the glass to accommodate us. And yes, I am aware that we often wind up paying more for 4 glasses purchased that way than if we bought a bottle, but it’s worth it. And yes, I admit that if I am in the mood for red wine, I will adapt what I order accordingly. I genuinely don’t care how other people approach wine and I’m pretty sure that takes me out of the running to be a “wine snob”.

Citrus Tree Woes….

Small blossom on our lime tree

Small blossom on our lime tree

“Woes” is probably too strong a word. “Puzzlement” is more accurate. It’s difficult to tell in the photo, but that streak of white is the single blossom that we have on our lime tree. We have one poor lonely lemon on the lemon tree and therein lies the issue for this year. Let me back up for a minute. I have posted before that in putting our back yard together, we really didn’t know anything about citrus trees and while we’ve always had lovely foliage on the lime tree, actually getting limes hasn’t worked out. We sometimes have blossoms and even tiny limes, but they never make it much past the thumbnail size. We thought that birds were taking them and when we brought in the landscaper to update our design, she said that no, we had a drainage issue in that spot and the small fruit was literally dropping off the stems before they could mature. Addressing that issue is still on the to-do list. Not having blossoms at all is what continues to puzzle us.

On to the lemon tree. Until this year, it has been exactly the opposite of the lime tree with us frequently having so many lemons that we couldn’t use them all and they would fall to the ground from lack of being picked. Not only were they plentiful, they were large – sometimes twice the size of what you usually see in the store. They also took forever to turn yellow and we just had to become accustomed to have green-colored lemons. Their flavor was wonderful though so we didn’t mind. We have no idea what has happened this year and why we’ve had maybe half dozen lemons over the past few months. Ah well, maybe we’re just going through an odd cycle.


Slow Cooker Novice…..

I realize that there is an element of amusement to the fact that I am embracing a slow cooker, not back when I was fully employed at a structured job with a commute, but rather now that I mostly work from home in a freelance capacity. Despite my friends who swore by their slow cookers, I was always reluctant and I admit that was not a particularly logical hesitation on my part. We have, therefore, used our slow cooker more as a warmer for party foods than for anything else.

Even though it would seem that I should have plenty of time for meal preparation these days, between hubby and me, we often have late afternoon meetings or “cocktail” type events that don’t include real food. Depending on where the event is, we frequently go out to dinner or do pick-up, but one day when one of these gatherings was at a location close to the house, it occurred to me that if I prepared a slow cooker meal, we could be sitting down to eat more quickly than we could stop by a restaurant. That may have also been about the time that a friend showed me how she used the slow cooker liners for incredibly easy clean-up.

I am considering using the slow cooker option more often and am trying to come to grips with the proper amount of liquid to use and to allow the length of cooking time that is required. Yes, I could use a recipe, but it seems like there should be some easy rule of thumb, too. Any advice out there for me?

Multiple Careers…..

As a Baby Boomer, I remember the release of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, although I didn’t read his later book. Even though I was much more influenced by Ayn Rand, there were two segments of Toffler’s book that stayed with me as I watched the lives of my generation unfold. The first, interestingly enough, was his explanation that we would see an increase in the divorce rate among seniors as people lived longer and ultimately determined that 20, 30, etc. years with a partner did not mean you should spend another lengthy segment together. I have a close friend who was emotionally devastated when this happened with her parents and as she was trying to comprehend what her mother had passed on as to the “why”, it tracked almost exactly with those passages from Toffler.

The other, more pertinent to me, is the aspect of multiple careers, which was not the norm when he wrote the book. “Back in the day”, you entered a career, usually with one company or organization, and stayed with it until retirement. Oh sure, there were people who moved around, but getting that “gold watch” for retirement was the standard. I don’t want to get bogged down in the economic aspect of why so many companies moved away from planning for long term employees, but I do want to discuss the concept of setting up for more than one career. This applies differently to Baby Boomers and Gen-X. For us, it often means one 20-30 year career, then it breaks along different lines of a 10-15 year (could be less), part time or freelance, or entering into a personal business. In some cases, it may be all of the above. For our children, it may be the recognition early one that a specific field will lead to another. For example, despite our concern for our son’s passion for dance, we came to see that with the short length of performing life, that paves the way for continuing to teach, choreography, production, physical therapy, and so forth.

In other cases, there is the desire to go multiple different paths and you wonder if there is any connectivity. It can be a situation of an individual “not being able to find a direction”, or it can be an individual enters into whatever field and discovers other opportunities through networking; some of which may not be related. There is also the economic consideration of contributing to a 401K (if that’s an option) or establishing an IRA and reducing/holding debt down. This, by the way, is where the “Bank of Mom and Dad” may very well be needed since transition between jobs does come with expenses and tapping into a 401K or IRA has definite drawbacks.

I absolutely do understand that career changes are not always by choice, but that is a different post.

Of Memory Issues, Part II…..

Okay, after this post I’ll go back to “fun” topics. Because of the well-deserved attention of Alzheimer’s, there is a tendency for we non-medical individuals to lump all dementia in older people into that category. That is not inherently a problem in the sense that other forms of dementia often have essentially the same impact on family and friends as Alzheimer’s. Treatment, however, can be different and in seeking the appropriate treatment, family and friends need to recognize that medical and non-medical treatments are extremely limited for many types of dementia. While there are standard treatments for Alzheimer’s, for those who have dealt with it, you are aware of the limitations, but they do have tests to be able to verify that the condition is Alzheimer’s. Sadly, once dementia in whatever form it takes or degree of it there is, in general grows progressively worse, sending the individual into a downward spiral.

That’s why I want to discuss “Partial Impairment” which is what many people experience and it is not necessarily a prelude to Alzheimer’s. Before I do, please be aware that I am not medically trained and you can seek information published through medical sources for more details. In a broad brush stroke, Partial Impairment is the situation where severe memory lapses interfere with day-to-day functioning and might cause a problem for an individual continuing to live independently. It can also result in increased “living in the past” where an individual only wants to talk about past experiences and people and is reluctant to deal with current day activities. This condition is intermittent and the individual can go for days or weeks with no problem, then have a day or series of days of “episodes”. The unpredictability can lead to the suspicion of “playing head-games”, and while that might be true, more often it is not. If you can emotionally do so, embrace the situation and allow it to co-exist within reality as much as possible. For example, if the individual persists in calling you by the name of a long-dead relative or friend, correct the person gently and don’t make an issue of it. If the individual wants to speak only of events that are long passed and of no interest to anyone else, try to patiently listen yet again.

Since partial impairment can interfere with health and safety functions, such as not remembering to take medications, not remembering to throw spoiled food away, maybe not remembering to take care of basic personal hygiene, assistance with living whether through at-home care or in a facility will probably be required. Again, this is a step beyond manageable memory lapses and you may need professional assistance in determining if the individual that you care about has taken that downward step. If so, it is usually not a physical danger and the individual can continue in this state for a  number of years. Finding a means to emotionally support yourself becomes just as important as arranging for care of the individual. There is nothing good about these situations and certainly nothing easy. It is, however, a reality of life that you may be faced with.

Of Memory Issues, Part I……

Disconcerting Content Alert! I don’t know many people who are not understandably worried about Alzheimer’s as it applies to a relative or friend. There are a lot of books, many more articles, and numerous foundations and groups to consult about specifics of this insidious disease. One of the sad realities that I learned while writing Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid is that while Alzheimer’s is the most recognized form of dementia, it is far from being the only one. There is, in fact, something referred to as Partial Dementia and this is what a lot of us encounter with older relatives and friends. Before getting to that though in Part II, I want to address unsettling memory loss that also often occurs.

This primarily manifests itself in ways such as not being able to recall names even of people that the individual knows well. For example, suddenly forgetting the name of a grandchild or calling a grandchild by the parent’s name without realizing it. Another example is not being able to recall having completed a task even if it is something routine. By the way, this isn’t the same thing as leaving the house and wondering if you set the alarm. This is more like not being sure if you took your required medication that day. This type of memory loss is disturbing for both the individual and those around her or him, but in general, it can be coped with. Being honest about it is very important, however. Let’s use the medication piece as an example. Labeled medicine boxes are a great solution for this, but someone may need to assist in filling the box and quite probably have a note somewhere that says, “Medicine Box filled for the week. If unsure, call _______”. That will be the name and telephone number of whomever filled the box.

Perhaps the most important thing when facing memory loss in another individual is sympathy and patience. It is incredibly common for an individual to tell the same story or repeat the same question multiple times (and I mean multiple) as her or his brain is trying to lock in that the information has been passed. It can be frustrating for the listener, but it is frightening for the individual who feels the inability to remember. Once this type of memory loss sets in, it won’t normally improve and finding the means to work around it will be highly individualized. The key is to find a method that works for the person with the memory loss. In one case I am familiar with, a lady used a calendar and left a note on her bedside lamp, one taped to her bathroom mirror, and another taped next to the telephone. “Check calendar every day”, was pretty simple to follow. For example, garbage pick up was Thursday. So on Wednesday, she would write, “Get garbage ready for pick-up tomorrow”. For every appointment she had, she would write a reminder one-to-two days prior that she had the appointment. A couple of close friends who often drove her places as she cut back on driving knew about this technique and would wait patiently as she carefully filled out the calendar.

I recently used the analogy of:  “Consider this type of memory loss to be like a dripping faucet. It’s annoying and you constantly lose water because of the drip. If you place a bowl under the faucet, it catches the water and you can at least recover that and use it to water plants or whatever. It’s isn’t an ideal solution, but it does work. Having memory aids that work (whatever those are) are the ‘bowl under the dripping faucet’.”

In Part II, I’ll discuss Partial Impairment, although that post won’t be until Wednesday.

Happy Birthday Army!…..

 Unless you have an Army background or enjoy American History, there is a fair chance that you don’t know that June 14, 1775 is the official birthday of the United States Army. The flag was not actually adopted until June 14, 1777 and Flag Day  not officially until 1916, although it had been informally celebrated in the 1800s. Anyway, it has been 239 years since the various Colonial Militias and “Armies” agreed that reorganization and formation of a Unites States of America Army was needed in order to achieve the independence they were fighting for.

In the 22 years that I served in the Army and the 29+ that my husband did, there were of course bumps along the way, frustrations that come from any large organization. In fact, neither of us intended to make the Army a career, but those are stories for another time. And I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that some of the events that have occurred in the Army (and the military in general) over the past several years haven’t deeply concerned us, but those concerns are not the subjects of this post.

I often refer to myself as an “inadvertent pioneer” and that is because I was in the position to break some gender barriers due to the circumstance of timing, not through some intended plan. However, it came about, I and some of the other women during that same time frame did break the barriers while most of the women left service after their initial assignments. Even with that, they took away valuable lessons and that is one of the things that I tell anyone who is eligible for military service. The system is not designed for everyone to stay for a career, but for young men and women who can serve, there are few other things you can do in your life that will hold you in such good stead. The skills you learn, the code of conduct you adopt, the comprehension of teamwork and leadership you develop will carry through whatever you do after service. Sadly, in some cases what you learn is by observing poor examples of this, but the military is composed of human beings and they are not all magically transformed by putting on a uniform. For the most part, however, they are the small percentage that you will not spend too much time around.

I’ve had a number of people ask me that of all the topics that I write about, why haven’t I written a book about my Army experience. The simple answer is that I’m not ready to do that yet. One of these days, but not yet.

A Second Chance or Time to Face Reality?…..

A second chance at love lost is a favored theme of Hollywood and it so happens that this month on cable, the remakes of “The Great Gatsby” and “Great Expectations” are playing. I can’t find the new version of “Gatsby” to be as good as the Redford one, but I do enjoy the Ethan Hawkes “Expectations”. Each movies deals with the question of, “If you are rejected by the one you love, is there the chance that it can work out in the future, and do you cling to that hope or walk away? I can’t imagine that readers of this blog don’t know the ending of these two movies, but just in case someone doesn’t, I won’t do a spoiler here. I will, instead, take this into the real world because I know of situations where both end results apply. In one case, it was a remarriage after a divorce and in another, it was a fairly lengthy separation (at least I consider three years to be lengthy) that resulted in reconciliation. Since the remarriage is the one that didn’t work out and the reconciliation did, perhaps the couple that separated knew on some level that there was hope, whereas the divorce and remarriage was a matter of wishful thinking.

As I have said on more than one occasion, falling in love and staying in love are often not the same thing. There are a lot of reasons for this, and I have also found that friendship can grow into love over time. People can overlook someone and later realize their mistake. In this day and age, re-connecting is more possible than in the past, but should one? And if in recognizing that you “let the right one go”, how do you approach it? Gently, as in reconnecting for friendship sake and gauging the situation? Forthright to fully admit the error and apologize as much as ask for a second chance? What say you, readers?

Music to My Ears….

 Through a somewhat odd set of circumstances, I have become involved with a local cultural program where we are having very small venue (for now) free performances of different types of music, usually in an outdoor setting where optional dining is available. So far. we’ve done Jazz, Blues, Baroque is coming up (indoors for that one), then Blue Grass in the fall. Let me be the first to say that my musical knowledge is limited – I couldn’t pick out a Delta Blues song from a Chicago Blues except by accident. I can rattle off several composers names, but play me an excerpt and unless it’s one of the really famous pieces, I won’t recognize it. I’m not sure how much of a range I have, although I do enjoy classical in the right setting, rock, blues, country and western, jazz, folk, New Age, Celtic, reggae and whatever category music such as Native-American falls into in short bursts. To me, heavy metal sounds like garbage cans being clashed together and I wouldn’t mind if rap and hip-hop disappeared. If Electronica is actually a type that can go away, too.

My point here though is that people do have vastly different tastes in music, some quite passionately so. A friend of mine continues to astound me with his depth of knowledge of classical considering that he is not in academia. What is it then, that draws us to a certain type of music?