A Short in the Brain

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It was a simple Christmas gift card that eventually led to my realization that my brain is not wired symmetrically and I may no longer be as confident about learning new things as I used to be. Here’s what I mean.

Back in high school, the most complicated electronic thing I had to work  with was a typewriter, figuring out how to carbon copy without making a typing error that required either starting over or tons of white-out. (And I feel certain the younger crowd, if any of them read this, are probably wracking their brains trying to figure out what that means).

Then I entered the computer age and with my verging-on-midlife confidence, knew I was capable of learning anything. Why should computers get the best of me? And learn I did … sort of. I always picked up  enough to do my job but not really much more than that. I would equate it with my capability with cars: I can start them and figure out all the interior bells and whistles but when it comes to how a carburetor works, I’m out. Or maybe it’s just a question of my interest level. Perhaps I could learn it if I needed to; the problem is, I don’t need to and I have zero interest in it.

So that brings us to my gift card. I decided to buy an Amazon Echo Dot and play with Alexa’s fun capabilities around the house. However, I opened the package and panic set in. The instructions seemed straightforward enough but the second I hit a snag and the computer told me one thing (you’re connected to WiFi) but Alexa told me another (you’re not connected to WiFi), I knew it was going to be hours of frustration before anything was resolved (this is why I hate gadgets nowadays). And I was right. It took two trips to Target and three phone calls to Cox to figure it out. It doesn’t help that they ask me questions like, “Is your original equipment a modem or a router?” I finally had to explain to the technician that I had no idea. Those two words are just that – words. They have absolutely no meaning attached to them for me.  He might as well have asked me if my equipment was a squingle or a skelpty. Same damn thing to me! All in all, it took a dedicated four hours to get this simple gadget up and working. Yes, it’s fun but next time I’ll live without it.

What I’ve learned is that there is a limit to my keeping up as I age. Thing is – I don’t really care. I like my world the way it is, thank you.

Climbing the Ladder

Woman in Charge

As a woman, and a pretty adamant one about being in control of my own destiny, it’s interesting to look back at my own journey and the journey of many of my friends and colleagues over the years and tally the common things I’ve noticed about that fight up the ladder – whether or not any of us ever reached the top rung.

There are any number of directions I could go with these observations, and maybe I’ll take one or two of those in other posts, but for now I want to talk about the propensity for women to use skills we learned as kids in order to maneuver in a male-run world (especially the Baby Boomers, I think) and how they may have gotten some women ahead in the male-dominated corporate world, but they also made them disliked by other women. Interesting, isn’t it? Is that because they became different people during that journey to the top, a person their friends and colleagues no longer recognized, is it a bit of jealousy that one woman found a way to succeed when they didn’t, or is it that they now emulate the very male behavior they tried to overcome to get there? Like their male counterparts, they become no strangers to hubris.

In the business environments where I’ve worked, I noticed one thing that remained consistent: regardless of the spoken words, the top echelon set themselves apart and their actions (speaking far louder than words) essentially showed us that the rules don’t apply to them, the implication being that they’ve earned something better and don’t really need to be a part of that “team” they so often tout. It’s always frustrating and leads to morale issues. Is that strictly a female behavior? No, not really. But maybe women dislike it more from their own sex because they feel like the women who reach the top have become different people. I don’t know what organizations would look like if those powerful women set up new playbooks with feminine rules, but I suspect I never will, either.

And what, you may wonder prompted this post? It was a conversation I had with a co-worker – a smart, savvy, self-assured woman – who admitted her scorn for Hillary Clinton because of her “demeanor.” I realize this is a whole different discussion but I couldn’t fathom voting for the likes of Donald Trump when the only argument against Hillary seemed to be her “demeanor.” I could only surmise that part of the issue was the Baby Boomer upbringing and our views on a woman’s place in the business world. And that led me to look back at all the women executives I worked with over the decades and why we’d feel that way. This post then, is an exploration of the issue and I’m not entirely certain I’ve drilled back to the core but I know much of it is apt.

New Year’s Resolutions?

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Another New Year’s. I’ll bet most of us, through the years, have done every combination of resolution list that’s ever been proposed. In my high school and college years, I sat down and very seriously came up with the one thing that absolutely had to be accomplished during the ensuing year. It took at least a decade for me to abandon that method as a total waste of time. I can’t think of a single resolution that I actually achieved that way.

Then came at least another couple of decades of following different but somewhat similar plans every year: Don’t call it a resolution, make a list of the top ten things and be happy with crossing off 2 or 3, ten ways to stick to this year’s “goals,” rethinking what “achievement” means, etc., etc., etc.

So here we are – the cusp of 2018. What have I learned? Apparently nothing. I’ve put a different description to my contemplative end-of-year exercise and I choose goals that are a little more general in nature – like eat healthier (what, exactly, does that look like?), keep a cleaner house (like that’s going to happen), and make it to 2019 (I think that one’s achievable). I now say that I like to do a “mental reevaluation” of the year and where I’d like to focus in the next one but that sounds suspiciously like watered down resolutions, doesn’t it? Oh well. Who knows? If I keep at it, I may hit one on the nail this time. And what are those things that crop up every year? Publish a play, find a lucrative part-time outside source of income so I don’t have to worry about reverting back to my college living conditions when I retire (fun then – not so much now), publish a series of novels about my showgirl and casino marketing days (each one in a different Las Vegas decade), lose weight so I look as fabulous at 65 as any senior possibly can and check out another country or two as possible retirement sites. I’m not sure I can cram all that into one year so maybe I’ll just stretch it out for a few more.

Happy New Year to all you dedicated resolutioners!

Hemorrhoids Aren’t for the Faint-Hearted

Hemorrhoids. Horrible word. Not talked about. Embarrassing subject. Who me? Happens to someone else. Pretend it’s anything but that for as long as you can. Any of those sound familiar?

Well, they do to me. Although I’ve since learned that the majority of people develop hemorrhoids at some point in their lives, I managed to make it to 65 before it invaded my every waking hour. It all started about five months ago when I ended up in the hospital overnight with what turned out to be GERD. That’s another Who Knew? moment for me. That I could end up in the ER and subsequently overnight in the hospital because GERD mimics heart attack, was quite a surprise. It took another few weeks of tests to discover that I have no heart problems and a trial (suggested by the heart doctor) of using Mylanta to discover that it did indeed stop the burping and tummy rumbling.

Fast forward to five months later. I’ve now been on a blood pressure pill and a GERD prescription and now I have extra issues: not only has the burping not gone away (although it seems better), but now I have this horrible pressure at the other end that makes me uncomfortable all day, every day. Of course, working in hospice, we have a tendency to “awfulize.” Every day we have a family member comment about how healthy and happy their loved one was just the week before and now they’re dying in hospice. Because of this, we have this tendency to advance our symptoms into terrible things. Have a headache? Glioblastoma. A tickly cough? Must be throat cancer. Back pain? Surely it’s kidney cancer. And so on and so on.

That brings us back to pressure all day every day in an area that most people don’t want to casually discuss with anyone else. Must be colon cancer. I made an appointment with a gastroenterologist, had an endoscopy and colonoscopy and was relieved to find out I have acute gastritis (a diagnosis I don’t mind discussing with fellow workers) and hemorrhoids (a diagnosis I do mind discussing with fellow workers).

Why is it that gastritis can be kept under control with a swallowed medication but hemorrhoids require suppositories? Can’t they come up with something a little more palatable? Truthfully, I hate the remedy almost as much as the problem. In any case, it has taken the suppositories almost a week for me to notice much of a difference so I put my herbal skills to work and created a salve that worked instantaneously and has continued all day.    I infused Evening Primrose, Avocado, Safflower and Olive oils with Witch Hazel Bark, Yarrow leaves, Plaintain, Chamomile, Calendula and St. John’s Wort and then added beeswax to get that salve consistency. I applied it topically this morning and it’s still working almost half a day later. You can bet I’ll be adding this product to my web site, Scentsibility. Maybe there are tons of other “closet” hemorrhoidians out there who could benefit.

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Hopefully, this will not be a retirement issue but just a diet and lifestyle issue that I can manage. However, I’m not pleased to have made it all the way to 65 and then get slapped with this indignity!

Who’ll Take Care of Me?

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I often hear people ask those of us who aren’t married and have no children, “Who’ll take care of you when you get older?” Interesting question. Yes, it has crossed my mind many times and I used to believe that my brother and/or my friends would take care of me. I ‘ve never been uncomfortable on my own and living by myself is something I treasure. I never have to argue over what television show to watch, clean up after someone else or let him know what time I’ll be home. If I want to waltz around the house naked, there’s no one to point out my flabby parts or use that as the right time to suggest a healthier diet. So it’s not loneliness that concerns me – well not now anyway. I might one day eat those words but right now, I don’t see that as the issue.

But what if I live to a ripe old age, and most of my friends and my brother are gone? I must admit, it is a concern. On the other hand, working in hospice, I see how abysmally family members can treat each other and fight over money and possessions. The patient is more often than not the one who bears the brunt of the disrespect and, sometimes, outright neglect. So, if I were married and had a bunch of children, could I necessarily count on any of them to do the right thing by me? I think not. Many times the children dislike each other and fight over who’s right concerning the patient’s care. The thing is – it’s usually the patient who suffers because the kids aren’t making a decision on what’s best for the patient; they’re deciding based on their own comfort levels. I guess I’m glad I won’t have a child who’s so determined to keep me here that he/she makes hospice staff withhold medications that would make me comfortable so I can be what they would call “alert” even though I’m thrashing around in the bed.

My biggest concern is the in-between stage – the stage where I’m no longer able to live on my own, require constant care but am not hospice appropriate. I hear horrible stories about the care the elderly get in many of the nursing homes. And I can see it clearly. Nursing homes, like most other businesses, have a plethora of employees who are primarily interested in the paycheck and not the job. Many of them have little or no empathy for the elderly people and how could they? They have zero understanding of living with legs that no longer hold them up, or having to take a ton of medications that take care of one thing but bring all kinds of side effects that may make the elderly person seem “slow, ” when, in fact, the brain works just fine. Those are the circumstances that concern me. I’m not sure the outcome of being in that environment has anything to do with whether or not I have children – and children who truly care about my best interests to boot.

So the fact that I don’t have a husband or children doesn’t bother me about growing older and ending up in a nursing home. What concerns me is ending up in a home where the culture is one of “just wheel them into a corner and let them sit all day.” And I’ve seen it. We had a case of a patient who was brought into the hospice to find placement in a different home because the one where he had been living had wheeled him outside ostensibly to “get some sun and fresh air” and left him in the Las Vegas summer sun for the better part of a couple of hours. I worry that I’ll need to go to the bathroom and someone will be irritated that I ring for help too often. I worry that I’ll reach a point where I have to defecate in a diaper and no one will come to change me for hours and hours. I worry that I’ll end up with Stage IV decubitus ulcers because it’s too much trouble to constantly turn me. I worry that I’ll be hungry but someone forgot to take me down to the lunch room to eat. I worry that I’ll be physically broken but mentally alert and people will come in and talk to me like I’m a two-year-old.

Bottom line: it’s the people in the facilities who will be tasked with my day-to-day comfort that worry me.

Television Tastes

Television through the ages. My, how tastes change and how television has changed. I can remember when a television show where one person got killed was astonishing and now, it’s become so commonplace that if there aren’t more than a dozen deaths in one hour, the show seems boring. And some say we’re not influenced by what we see every day? I would disagree.

Nevertheless, I really want to focus on some of the shows I watched through the decades and see which ones resonate with other seniors – or which ones they watched instead. Until I hit the 60s, I don’t remember watching anything other than whatever my parents had on.

The first show I can remember that I found titillating and scary was Dark Shadows. It’s the only daytime drama I ever watched – then or now. I would hurry home from school to see what Barnabas was up to.

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And I, like many of my schoolmates, was crazy in love with Little Joe from Bonanza. Well, that is until I went to a dance convention in Houston and someone said Little Joe was in the big ballroom next door and when we trooped in to see him in our pink tights, black leotards and clunky tap shoes, he was smoking a cigar and had his feet up on the table while people were eating around him. That ended my love affair.

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I moved on to a succession of shows through the decades – shows like Dick Van Dyke, Laugh-In, All In the Family, Dallas, West Wing, Mission Impossible and Will & Grace. Now, I watch a lot of CNN, Survivor, The Voice, Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.

Self-Image

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Yes, this was me in the 80s in “Jubilee” at Bally’s Las Vegas. So, some 30-odd years later, I’m 50 pounds heavier, have these great gray streaks in my hair, too many lines on my face to count, liver spots, not an ounce of tone anywhere (of course I have to lift the boobs to see some of those areas) and dimpled thighs. The question is: do I care?

Well, I guess I care only enough that I’d like to lose about 30 of those pounds but other than that, not much. The weight gain has most definitely made me feel less feminine but then again, I’m not in the game for attracting a mate so my goal for weight loss would no longer be for outside image but health issues. And the advantage to not wearing dresses any more is that I’m able to bend and stretch and sit in my most comfortable position (legs tucked up) without worrying about exposing anything. There’s a freedom in that I really enjoy.

I find that, although most women will tell you they’re not influenced by slick magazine ads or television commercials or even the women around them, that’s absolutely BS. When I was young, I was also one of those women who professed to have her own mind, one who really loved wearing those sky-high heels that lassoed my toes and caused me to have surgery for a permanently pinched nerve in my foot. Of course, if I’m really honest, I suppose there was a time when I liked wearing uncomfortable things for the sole purpose of “looking good,” because those were the youthful, looking-for-love years. Everyone wants to be sexy, attractive and admired in those mating years, right? The problem for me was that, as a dancer, I spent so much of my time in leotards, tights and jazz shoes – comfort clothes, fit for running and jumping and striking positions you’d never dream of in a form-fitting skirt and heels – that I was always acutely aware of when I felt reined in.

Maybe it’s simply a question of time and place that makes us choose the uncomfortable over the comfortable. I may not be dressing to feel sexy or to stand out in a crowd of women any more, but I still dress (reluctantly) for the occasion. Although I’d love to spend the rest of my life barefoot and in sweats and t-shirts, I wouldn’t wear that to work (but only because I still want the paycheck or I might give it a go). I dress just enough to conform to the culture and no more. I really don’t care if anyone there thinks my shoes look cheap (they are) or whether they look at my ancient history showgirl photos where we lived in G-string underwear and wonder if I now don granny pants. Yes, I do, and some of them are ripped in places but they’re comfortable and who the hell’s going to see them?

Do we dress for ourselves or for others? I think that in a traditional environment (read office), we dress to conform to the crowd standard. In a show business environment, we can be whoever we want to be. But then one’s pretty conservative and one’s a bit more liberal, right? Hmmm, there are a few more variables to what makes us dress the way we do than I originally contemplated.

So, all in all, my self-image at 65 is pretty good. I’d like to lose some weight but mostly for health issues.  I don’t have a huge objection to getting older. Or let me clarify that: I don’t have a huge issue with looks as I age. I do object to the health limitations! But as a child, the people I loved spending time with and talking to were the adults and the older the better, especially when their faces had enough wear to know they had interesting stories to tell. I want to be one of those old-timers and have some interesting things to share. Just let me do it in sweats and t-shirts please.