Saturday, June 17, 2017

Pur older generation - Part II

     “All I want is a hug once in awhile,” one sixty-something told me.
     That was right after I wrote the column, Our Older Generations Often the Most Forgotten, back in April.  
     I thought I had hit on all the bases.
     Seriously, I had struck out failing to mention a major component of living a quality life in the golden years. Thanks. I appreciate being put on notice.
     Not one, but several people reminded me of that valid point, too, and perhaps, this is where another column came to mind.

     From our moment of birth until we take our last breaths, we need hugs. The simple act of an embrace has profound psychological and physical effects that are essential for our survival. People who receive hugs and cuddles from their spouses, children or even their pets live longer and recover from illness faster.

     Nowadays teachers are hands-off with students in the classroom. There’s no hugging. I am sure there are valid reasons for this policy in light of a new generation.
    I remember being in the beginnings of the transition period when policy changed, and it took some getting used to shifting from one way of thinking to another frankly.  It affected me deeply, and I struggled to find different ways to make each student accept his worth without any contact as such.
      Might I add that I do believe educational bureaucrats sitting in  offices far away from real live classrooms tossed out a humanistic approach used by educators for generations.    That’s my observation.
     Today, to make up for the ruling, whenever I see a former student and we approach each other as two adults, it is with a hug. Both of us are saying, “Thanks for the memories, and having faith in me.”

     Scientific studies reveal that hugs work by producing specific beneficial chemical reactions in the brain and body. You can read the studies yourself. It’s most compelling.
     The obvious benefits of hugging don’t require a scientific study, though. Hugs make us feel loved, safe and secure. They boost our self-esteem, and keep us connected to the world around us.
     Sadly, of all age groups, seniors are the least likely to be hugged, and they need hugs even more as years go by.
     The chemical changes produced by hugging can be a powerful tool for deterring the effects of age-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and cancer.  
     In assisted living settings, many seniors lose the option of daily contact with friends and family members. They have often lost their spouses or lifelong friends, and health problems, disabilities or depression may prevent them from reaching out to strangers. For these reasons, depression and isolation are especially common, but a few hugs a day could prevent or even reverse their despair, and allow them to live fuller, happier lives.

     The other week I was in at the Livingston County Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center in Mount Morris visiting a close friend. As I brushed by other women in the commons room who reached out, I gave their hands a pat along with a smile.  It seemed like the right thing to do. It was only a small gesture, too.  

     It brought to mind the last contact that I had with my mother. As she lay dying I whispered how much I appreciated all that she had done in raising me. I had no way of knowing whether she heard me as her eyes were closed and she was sedated heavily. Then, I felt a slight tug on my hand. I knew. That memory lingers with me forever. I believe I still sense that squeeze of her hand today.

     Most churches have a larger population of older folks in the pews than any other age group. Another reader of this column told me that her church puts on intergenerational lunches, and although her children had only attended one due to school conflicts, it is an amazing opportunity for laughter, and yes, hugs for the elderly and children alike. That’s bridging the gap and serving others on many levels.

     I am the first one to admit that I will often post, “electronic hugs” as a reply on Facebook when I hear a piece of sad news. Well, that works, and it doesn’t quite do it, too.

     The same reader that reminded me about the meaningfulness of a hug also said that we shouldn’t forget that for some folks, the simple act of getting groceries is a complicated ordeal.
     The physical exertion getting in and out of a car, let alone finding a parking place, or someone to give them a ride, is not so pleasant the older one is in society. Seniors are ambivalent about depending on others for such basic needs, too.
     The rest of us should show a little kindness in reaching up to a higher shelf for someone struggling, and give those slower folks a wider birth in the aisles.  Help load their groceries in their car as you pass them in the parking load. It only takes a couple extra seconds. It’s a teachable moment for you younger parents.

    Go out and do something for an elderly person that you might never notice otherwise. I would be willing to bet that you will be rewarded tenfold in your heart for your generous spirit.
     Lastly, go on.  Give that person a hug. It’s good for what ails you. That’s what my mother told me.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

40 weird things that make adults happy

       I wasn’t sure where I would go with this topic, or not. I asked followers on my Kay Thomas writer’s page on Facebook if they would be my guest and add their happy weirdness.
      Evidently, a struck a chord, and in one twenty-four hour period, I was good to go as a result of the conversation. That’s how this column came to fruition.
    I decided to leave the wording intact since it says so much about how individuals describe their feelings, including the exclamation points.
     To all of you who participated, thank you so much.  Obviously, you and I are compatriots in what makes us fulfilled as grown ups.
     When I read and reread this column in preparation for filing with the newspaper, I thought to myself that so many of your comments were such simple little pleasures that we all too often take for granted, too. A lot don’t cost any money, and others simply involve heightening our sensual awareness wherever we are at the moment.

    In no particular order, here is the list.  I put one or two of my own tucked into the grouping, as well, as the temptation was too great. Incidentally, I saved my husband’s idea for third from the end.

·      Gentle rain on a metal roof early in the morning.

·      Plans canceling and suddenly there is extra time.

·      Observing the freshly tilled soil waiting for that first plant.

·      Simple pleasures are the best - but good aromas truly take first place with me. Diffusers, body wash in the shower, clean - not too flowery smelling lotions are all comforting and remind me to breath deep and relax!

·      Opening a new book.

·      The scent of fresh cut grass, chicken on the grill, dogs barking and kids playing after a long winter. It's a shame so many southerners have never experienced this. Everyone should at least once.

·      I love being able to organize my desk after it's gotten especially messy. I also love being able to have my planner/desk calendar filled with appointments and such!

·     Collecting a coffee can full of loose change and turning it in to the bank before a vacation. Mad money.

·     Finding a designer label piece of clothing at the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

·    Making homemade applesauce in the fall and the aroma filling the kitchen is heaven. I can be dead tired and I still feel a lift of my spirit.

·   Coming in from swimming, taking off your suit, and getting into bed between the covers. Just as exquisite as skinny dipping!

·      I always enjoy new school/office supplies. There is something about a full box of sharpened crayons or an empty journal with a fun cover or a chunky pink pearl eraser...maybe it is the excitement of starting new or the endless possibilities ahead (or both)!

·      When a song from my youth comes on and I find I still remember every word as I sing along as loudly as my surroundings allow.

·      Having my dogs sleep on my bedspread leaving me little room to move and turn at night. I love those dogs too much to complain.

·      The first seed catalogs of the year and the first shoots from planted seeds.

·      Watching daily kid video updates on Facebook.

·      My cats purring while having coffee listening to the quiet sounds from outside through an open door.

·      Eating the corner brownie from the pan.

·      Having a cup of coffee by myself on the porch before anyone else is awake refreshes me.

·      The sense of smell is very strong. It can trigger memories tucked in your brain from childhood, or a smell from Grandma’s house.

·      Lining up my fly fishing lures during the winter and contemplating the first adventure of the spring.

·      My favorite: Pink Pearl Crayola. The off brands don't smell the same!

·      The smell of the air after a summer thunder/lightening storm.

·      The first sunny warm day of spring when I can hang my sheets outside and watch them blowing in the wind and then the wonderful smell when you sleep in them.

·      Buying a tub of onion dip and a bag of potato chips just on a whim for myself.

·      Picking up sticks in the yard in the early spring.

·      Buying yarn. More yarn. Hoarding yarn. Now I’ve lost track of what I own.

·      My grandmother's perfume Emerraud and her cooking. 

·     New car, simmering home made sauce, fresh tomato out of the garden, and my husband's musk cologne.

·      For me, it's all about the mindset. *If* my mind isn't totally racing thinking about things, then I notice the smell of the coffee beans etc.

·      Or weeding the flowerbed.

·      Salt air.

·      I can watch the hummingbirds come to my feeders on the porch for hours on end, and still each one is a unique gift of nature.

·       Writing with a nice pen.

·       Cleaning the lint from the dryer filter.

·  Receiving a bouquet of dandelions from my grandchild with her innocent eyes looking into mine.

·      The smell of a campfire.

·      The Combination: chipped ham, scrambled egg, cheese all on toast. A Pittsburgh memory. Hard to explain at the deli in WNY how to slice the ham – “thin enough to read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette through it.”

·      Coming home.

·      All of the above. Some of the above. No comment.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

A short story in under 600 words

Note: hang in there readers. Sometimes I enjoy endulging myself in a tiny bit of fiction and showing off. 

When I walk past the woman the third time, I make the connection.
Her clothes are rumpled from what appears to have been a long travel day, and now with more to come, thanks to the announced delay at the Orlando gate, the outfit will have to hold up a bit longer. It’s to be my final leg home. Who knows where she goes from Philadelphia?

I fixate on her choice of shoes–navy-running sneakers with neon orange laces. One time I wore sneakers thinking it would make the long walks from gate to gate easier, and beforehand I went into total denial about having to take them on and off at the security TSA checkpoint. Do you think I could ease out of them hopping first on one foot and then the other without making a complete idiot of myself?  Never again. I run that scenario over and over to keep my nerves at bay when I have to rush into action–flat shoes, purse, computer in a separate bin-before I leave the airport shuttle bus.

She is youngish. I am guessing she’s in her late thirties, although it is hard to tell by her firmly toned body. She could be older, more in the age bracket of my step-niece who fools everybody at forty-seven. Definitely, she is someone who works out, and by the looks of the rest of her clothes-–all coordinated North Face from top to leggings–her style is casual and understated. She’s put a little thought into her wardrobe selection and she has not spared the expense.

It is a habit of mine to notice luggage and hers is a sleek hard body shiny black carry-on with a custom Delta Airlines luggage tag‒A Delta Queen then with lots of miles in the air? One of my main goals in traveling is being able to handle my own luggage and get away with hands free as much as possible. I observe little old ladies in my age bracket who struggle and expect a kindly young person to tackle removing heavy awkward luggage from the above seating bins and I think to myself that when my day comes, I will quit flying. She has an air of independence about her, and I haven’t lost mine either. I sit up a little straighter in my seat, and check my phone for messages.

The longer we wait in the terminal, the more restless people become, and the volume of chatter increases as a result echoing off the high ceilings hurting my ears. The woman, on the other hand, slumps down in the plastic gray seat with both feet propped up on her suitcase and her head leaning into her cell phone oblivious to what’s around her. Ha. A seasoned road warrior who is making the best of a situation gets my admiration. I lost my patience, if I ever had any, ages ago.

 Back and forth I’ve hiked to the ladies room for that one last visit just to make sure, to the kiosk for a bottle of water so I won’t be held captive to the undependable whim of the flight attendant onboard and to the observation area to watch planes take off and land assuring me that the entire airport itself has not shut down due to bad weather. It is on my final stroll down the carpeted hallway that it dawns on me that I would be that very woman years ago, and I like what I see very much.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

If you could unmeet someone, would you?

I saw that statement on social media, and right away I thought, oh boy, I could go down a slippery slope reviewing the crusty characters, ex-boyfriends and creeps who have passed through my life tarnishing it a bit. 

Resentment and hatefulness are not healthy attitudes to hang on to, and possibly my part of relationships with them wasn’t all that perfect either.
If nothing more, I have stuck with the philosophy that everybody who walks into my life for a period has some purpose, and maybe even the worst of them has taught me a lesson or two for my own good when I look backward.
I will give them each a belated, “thank you.” 

It would be better to turn that phrase around. If you could re-meet someone, how would you work to make things go more smoothly?
Now I am not saying things will work out any better the second time. Perhaps, a proper appreciation of the other person, a correction of your own attitude or a realization that you did your best is all that is needed. 

Take for example the piano teacher I had when I was totally disinterested in lessons as a young child who patiently came to my house weekly to listen to me unprepared and filled with excuses. 
What a total waste of both of our time, and for my mother’s pocketbook. I never put in the proper minutes practice, and if I even came close to it, I did it half-heartedly.
Here I was feeling a tremendous dislike for a teacher only there to give me help. 
In fact, my mother insisted on the lessons and she didn’t take into account that I showed no desire to play the piano.
Later, I did find a love of music through playing the flute all the way through college, and to this day appreciate listening to a variety of styles. 

I would like to re-meet my piano teacher and take lessons again with the proper respect. Apparently I wasn’t meant for a flourishing career as a pianist, but a little more effort on my part might mean that I could play a tune or two for enjoyment.
That’s a pretty simple scenario. You get my point. 

Often in our immaturity we are quick to jump negatively without understanding someone’s frame of reference.
We are quick to impose our own values on someone else.
For example, a lot of potential friends, or even boyfriends, are overlooked, as their qualities are not defined yet during high school.
Everyone bumbles and circles around awkwardly, and after graduation people become more defined. 

Look back at a class reunion and you get what I mean. 
A quiet, studious guy in my high school class who never made a splash one bit as far as anyone remembers is now the owner of Lion Gate, a major movie production company in Hollywood.
Several women told me that they went to proms with him, and that was about it for his young social life.
At the reunion we all were anxious to have our few private moments with him, and when it was my turn, he acted like he remembered me. I know that he didn’t. Apparently, we never noticed each other in high school either.
How we all would love to re-live those years and perhaps, in hindsight we would have made a wider circle of friendships.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Being more mindful of others

      Everybody has something going on. Each of you has a different reality you are struggling with daily.
     You rush around doing life “things” totally engrossed in your own big problem. That’s where your energy is pulling you. Zapping you often, too.
     It’s completely natural.
     Occasionally, like now, you are reminded that every single one of us is owner to a different big problem inside our heads. 
     No. Not one of us is exempt.
     I am writing this column on purpose, not just for you, but for myself, too. You and I walk around with blinders on too much of the day. Now let’s give ourselves a mental check.
     Be more sensitive to others.
     Go ahead, and repeat it several times. Post a note by your computer or on the refrigerator.

      Most people you encounter will never share the big problem that is consuming their body, mind and soul.
      Performance on the job must be executed at the highest level. You expect it of yourself and others. The big problem must be pushed aside temporarily.
     However, you notice that the parking lot attendant, waitress or receptionist is a little “off’ and not on his game plan. Give each a little slack. It might be the best encouragement they get all day on the job when their heart is heavily weighed down with a big problem.
     Once I was in the process of buying a new phone and I noticed the salesperson was rather quiet. He answered my questions and went through the paces. Further into the discussion he mentioned that he would be leaving shortly and would be handing me over to another salesperson. He paused for a moment, and told me that he was going to his grandfather’s funeral. Unfortunately, he couldn’t take much time off and I could see he was suffering greatly. I backed off. I waited for the next salesperson.
     When you have a physical ailment you stretch the mind and soul to think positively for a faster and better outcome. Financial burdens certainly affect all aspects of a person’s being as well. Any worry or fear without an anchor in our soul can easily get the best of one. Death of a loved one takes its toll.
    None of our big problems are unimportant.
    Not everyone wants to talk about his or her big problem either, or be defined by it.

     Each of us is a person first – perhaps married with children and a job - which happens to have a big problem. Doctors and mental health providers treat the whole patient, and the rest of us should do likewise. No one wants a pity party. Well, at least no one does for any length of time if they know it isn’t a smart idea.
     When the big problem has diminished into the background, we forget, don’t we? It’s as if the mind can only deal with a weighty issue for so long.
     More than likely, s person with a big problem will have the widest smile on his face and appear more at peace than you could ever imagine. He has his way of coping, support network and belief system in place. You admire him for walking tall through life with grace and dignity out of his usual comfort zone.
     You wonder if you would be able to be like any one of these folks when your time comes to step up to your big problem.      Somehow or other it happens to all of us, and we manage at the moment.
      Interestingly enough, these are the very folks out doing more good for those less fortunate than themselves. You and I could mention on two hands those gentle souls with big problems that turn around and bless others with their love in deeds right in our own town.
     I am thinking of wonderful human beings that have such a spirit about them. I’m not sure that any one of them needs our affirmation in print. They do decent things simply because it is the way they have lived their entire lives.
     Sit in the waiting room of say, the Wilmot Cancer Institute in Rochester, or the new Ann and Carl Meyers Center in Dansville, for any period of time, and it is humbling to be associated with patients, caregivers and staff with the right winning attitude. There are heavy stakes tossed out there in the pitch of darkness. Uncertainties prevail. The comfort comes in the assurance that a team is collaborating on plans for the big problem. 
     At Wilmot I was minding my own business reading a magazine, and a couple leaned over into my space waiting to be noticed. They could tell that I wasn’t a “regular.” I looked up. The gentleman told me they were there for his ten- year cancer free check-up. They were both ecstatic.  How could I not celebrate for a brief moment with a high five? It was a big deal.
     I notice on Facebook the child of a friend with cancer fiercely making her way between school, treatments and life in general. I cheer right where I am for this precious young one. Yes.
     The world is so guarded and fearful today you have difficulty making your way through. For self-preservation, circles tighten and therefore, love can’t escape.
     Frankly, looking out beyond your personal horizon is refreshing and healthy. Remember to pay attention.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Best new restaurant in the country- definitely

by Kay Thomas

I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down to a meal at the FLX Table in Geneva. Check your Yelp or Trip Advisor reviews and you'll get an idea of what I  mean about this lovely little spot on lovely little Linden Street that everyone is raving about in national travel magazines.


FLX Table  website for more specific information.

It was a evening of suburb food, thoughtful wait staff and splendid conversation around the table with a group of folks that blended well together for the two-hour meal. 

Growing up I remember distinctly large family gatherings focused on togetherness sharing the bounty of the earth.  I got that similar feeling at FLX Table and it soothed my soul. Simple and elegant all at the same time. 

It was not only a special milestone birthday for one couple and a graduation from college party for another large family. For every single one of us, it was a celebration of local seasonal food, and with the passion of the chefs preparing each dish, we honored  the environment and its farmers. 

Note: I don't have pictures of the Starter course: A farmer's board of cheese, veggies, spreads and dips;  or the smoked polenta, 64-degree egg, truffle puree and foie gras
You get the idea, though, that each course was special. We were positioned to watch the meal being prepared in the kitchen area adding to the feeling of intimacy and belonging there.

Reservations required. Plan ahead.  

Waiting in anticipation always makes the heart beat faster. My reservation was made the moment a new set was made available online. 

Mushrooms, pickled oysters, lion mane, mistake, shiitake, black garlic and ramps
 I chose wine with my dinner and the pairings for each course were perfect in my opinion.

Buckwheat carrot cake, lemon curd, cream cheese, mint, olive and cashew
Lamb sausage, pee wee potato, black olive puree, seaweed

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Conversations on Costa Rican time

     If you lean in to conversations with local people and keep in mind their unique attitudes and lifestyles, you will be rewarded tenfold while traveling. 

     After a cool-off swim in the pool accompanied by a few persistent Great Kiskadees – small yellow and brown colored birds - perching overhead in the swaying palms and an inconspicuous lime green iguana quietly nibbling leaves, my husband and I headed into Tamarindo for dinner a short mile away. The sunset didn’t disappoint over the Pacific coastline where its colors fanned out framing the volcanic mountains to the west.
     A youngish waiter seated us at a table on the patio and made his usual generic conversation starter. “How was the surf today?”
     Tamarindo is celebrated as a mecca for surfers, and for those sharpening their skills, they are at home in a paradise abounding with friendliness. Costa Rica has no military and crime is low, even in tourist areas with normal precautions.
       “Do we look like surfers, dude?” my husband replied tongue in cheek.
     The waiter didn’t miss a beat and used his next best line for visitors. “I hope you are enjoying your stay in Costa Rica.”
    He patiently listened while I expounded on my joy with our condo pool and explained that where I come from people are shivering in the winter cold. I don’t suppose he could relate to the North American climate, yet he tried valiantly by sharing his story. He remembered looking forward to pool time when he was a kid traveling with his grandma.
      That was about as much dialogue that we had with him the rest of the meal, other than his checking on our dinner choices and drink order. As the temperatures cooled into the high 70s we had survived a typical March day – dry, 97 and sunny.

     A conversation that I had with an American family with two teenage boys while we were at a coffee plantation was in stark contrast leaving me shaking my head at the presumption so ingrained in behavior.
     The teenagers didn’t want to be there, and every step of the way they informed their parents of such, along with reminding them that they didn’t drink coffee. The tour guide was admirable in trying to engage the boys, but to no avail. He couldn’t beat the competition – cell phones.  
     Shouldn’t I have given them a reality check at this point? Something held me back from telling the boys to go with the flow and don’t ruin the experience for others. They stayed on their phones and never once spoke to their parents or acknowledged us. Well, they did ask when they were leaving twenty thousand times.
     On the way back up the hill from observing the coffee processing and grinding, the father informed me in an authoritarian tone all in a matter of a couple minutes – everyone else had moved on faster ‒ that he is a corporate executive for one of the leading health insurers in the U.S., and owns two homes in exclusive sections of Scottsdale and New York City. He mistakenly assumed that I would be impressed by his importance.  I assessed the man had some deep-seated insecurities and we couldn’t have a casual dialogue.
     We had a more down-to-earth moment with the owner of our local café bar.  She shared that her husband was originally from Buffalo. Go figure. She pointed us in the direction of the weekly farmers’ market on the beach, and we wandered down to spend a few CR colones on local melons and cheeses.

     The next day my husband and I rented an electric golf cart to get around. We probably wouldn’t adjust to the excessive heat in two weeks time as hard as we tried keeping hydrated. The alternative ATV mode of transportation is rough on your back as you get older and the bumpy roads don’t help matters here. There are potholes dotting the roads, and of course, at the most inopportune time.   
     By the way, drivers of all types of vehicles have excellent road manners, and for example, an SUV overtaking a golf cart waits its turn to pass. No honking horns. No rage. No hurry.
     The other impressive thing is whether walking or riding, locals make eye contact, wave and say, “Hola.” You certainly feel the pride they have in their country. 

     Saying that, you are supposed to charge your cart overnight, right?  When we merrily got in ours the next morning headed out to walk the beach, we ran out of juice en route.
     I won’t deny there were some utterances back and forth, and one or two, “I told you so’s.” Frustration goes along with hot temperatures and new environments.
     Fortunately, I walked the beach – it was hot and windy at 8 am - and my husband got his exercise walking back to the nearby rental place. A wonderful guy got him straightened out without excessive embarrassment. You like to think that at our age we have life figured out, but those little surprises keep us on our toes.
     “Crazy tourists. You must be tired of us,” I said when he shook my hand.
     “No. No. Crazy machines. Don’t feel bad. It happens all the time, and to the locals, too. The dials don’t indicate how much charge you have left.”  He kindly followed us back to our condo gate like a special escort.  
     We waved good bye to him, sheepishly drove in to recharge for a few hours and sip some rich iced Costa Rican coffee before planning our next adventure. Live and learn.