Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why Do We Blog?

     Whenever people find out I have a blog, they look at me as though I'm a little weird, then ask incredulously, "Why do you blog?"

     Now that I've moved and am meeting all sorts of new people, the question comes up more and more often. And I can hear them thinking -- What kind of strange person is this? Where does he come from? What's his problem?

     So I've decided it's time to revisit an article I wrote a couple of years ago, prompted by the coordinator at the community college writing center where I volunteered as a tutor. She actually thought it was interesting that I write a blog. It's a form of writing that's relatively new and different, especially for an academic setting, and maybe she thought I was setting a good example for the students -- someone who was writing for no other purpose other than it was rewarding in itself, someone who might show students that just maybe writing could be fun!

     One day she asked me if I could convey the bogging experience in 300 or 400 words for their newsletter. I decided I could, but didn't I think I had to take the assignment too seriously.

The Writing Center is in the WCC library
     I introduced myself as a volunteer in the Writing Center, but admitted that in my secret life I write a blog. It’s called Sightings Over Sixty, and it covers baby boomers, retirement, health, finance, grownup children and . . . how time flies. My pen name – my nom de Internet, if you will -- is Tom Sightings. And I’m over 60 years old. Get it?

     So why do I make the time and effort to jot down thoughts in cyberspace, a place where . . . actually, does anybody really read this stuff?

     First of all, I am not alone. A lot of people write blogs. (And I wonder -- why do you write a blog?) There are scores of blogs about retirement and baby boomers. There are blogs about stamp collecting, knitting, golden retrievers and a thousand other topics.

     But if you really want to know, here are . . . well, here are the Top Ten reasons why I blog.  To:

     10. Get something off my chest – I have a few opinions on things like health care and how people drive (in my opinion, unlike Lake Wobegon, most people are worse than average drivers!), and so I can spout off whenever I want.

     9. Make friends – I have a couple of hundred followers of my blog. Some of them I consider friends. Last winter, when I vacationed in Florida, I played golf with one of my blogging friends.

     8. Join a community – You don’t just get people to read your blog. They talk back, make comments, and usually you end up following their blog as well. It’s a party!

     7. Make people laugh – I admit it, in my younger days I was a class clown. My teachers didn't think I was very funny, but some of my classmates did. If you don't believe me, check out the Humor section of my blog, and you be the judge. But hey, gimme a break. It’s not easy to be funny!

     6. Make money – Yes, you can sign up for advertising programs though Google and Amazon, and earn money from your blog. Why, sometimes I make as much as . . . get this, $3 in one single day!

     5. Practice my writing skills – As you can see . . . I need the practice.

     4. Annoy my spouse – Since I write my blog under a different name, and I don’t identify my spouse by name, I can say anything I want!

     3. Stay out of trouble – I’m retired. Well, to be more accurate, I’m unemployed. But when you get to be a certain age, you can call yourself retired instead. Blogging gives me something to do while my long-suffering spouse goes off to work. (Okay, to be honest, B has now retired as well. But that doesn't mean I can't still annoy her!)

     2. Make a name for myself – Wait a second, I write the blog under a different name, so how am I making a name for myself? Er, I guess I’d better rethink that one.

     And the Number 1 reason why I blog? I blog, therefore I am – It’s a little known fact, but all the great philosophers had their own blogs. The first blog? "In the beginning . . . .”

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Retiring Mind

     The mind does not slow down in retirement. It just focuses on different things -- some of them are simply fun, while others run to deeper issues regarding health, retirement, and the course of our lives.

     One thing we know for sure is that time passes quickly -- and seems to speed up the older we get. Sometimes a milestone will emphasize the passage of time, especially anniversaries of births and deaths, war and peace, cultural milestones and . . . TV shows.

     This week Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting notes one especially influential TV show that premiered 60 years ago, on August 5, 1957. The program starred Dick Clark and ran on the air for more than 30 years. So swing over to The Music Lives On to read more about the show that not only appealed to baby boomers but put baby boomers in a starring role as well.

This is the city?
     Meanwhile, life has slowed down for the Carter family in southern Colorado -- or at least it has for the past week. So they decided to travel to the big city and do some shopping. If you want to find out the real story behind their excursion, drive on over to A Mid-Summer Trip to Pueblo and see how a couple of wild westerners handled the big city lights.

     Carol Cassara gets more serious as she notes that many people try to push down their fears and feelings about being sick. But medical researchers are beginning to see the health benefits of expressing those fears. Cassara points to a study showing that breast cancer patients who wrote about their deepest fears, including dying, had one-third fewer symptoms and doctor visits. Since her new business involves harnessing the power of the mind/body connection, in her post Feeling Is Healing she explores how expressing fears and feelings can support healing of all kinds.

     On another health front, Rita R. Robison on the Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide notes that according to Consumer Reports Americans Are Taking Too Many Prescription Medications. She identifies 12 situations where people might try lifestyle changes to address their symptoms without risking the sometimes dangerous side effects of drugs.

     Robison also reports on a poll showing that Consumers Support Financial Watchdog Agency. A significant majority of Americans favors the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's efforts to rein in the excesses on Wall Street and the practices of bad mortage and other predatory lenders. So at last . . . it seems that Democrats and Republicans agree on at least one thing!

     Finally, after watching the documentary "Coming of Age in Aging America," Kathy Gottberg offers a different perspective on the current aging model that most of us unconsciously believe in.

     People are living longer, and they are having fewer babies, not just in America but all around the developed world. "Although most of us baby boomers think big transitions like this are all about us as a generation," she notes, "we are just the introduction to a permanent shift. Gen X and Millennials will also have longer lives indicating a permanent shift in the human life course as we know it."

     We all have to start thinking of the aging process in a different way, because it changes the way we work and the way we live; it affects how we arrange our familes, how we receive health care, even how we think about politics.

     But don't rely on me to explain it. Head over to Designing a Fulfilling Life Matters Long Before Retirement and get the full story of how . . . you're not living your parents' retirement anymore.

Friday, August 4, 2017

On Marriage

     So as I mentioned, my daughter is getting married in the fall. And even though she's 34 years old and knows her own mind, I feel as if I should be giving her some advice . . . the benefit of my experience and perhaps my vision of the hopes I hold for her.

     Her mother and I are divorced. Her fiance's parents are divorced as well. (Maybe that's why it's taking so long for my daughter to get married?) But I want her to understand that even though our marriage fell apart at the end -- the marriage failed as some people put it -- in my mind the marriage was a solid success. After all, my wife and I were together for 30 years (who keeps a job that long these days?). We owned a home, raised a family; we were contributing members of our community. And we produced two wonderful children.

     We offered them happy childhoods, making sure to live in a good school system, ferrying them to baseball, tennis and swimming practices, loving them the best way we could. And now that they are adults we support their choices (even though, to us, they sometimes seem like questionable ones); and as their parents we do not argue or fight; in fact, we get along reasonably well and might even be considered friends.

     B wants to tell my daughter that the clock is ticking if she wants to have a baby. My daughter was pretty good at math, though, so I think she knows the numbers. However . . . I hope she's marrying this man because she loves hm and gets along with him, and not just because at age 34 she thinks it's "time" she got married. But I don't know if I could raise the subject without sounding like I was cross-examining her, without immediately putting her on the defensive and shutting down any true communication.

     Who has any experience with this? Do you have any advice for me?

     Perhaps the person I want to talk to is not my daughter at all, but her husband-to-be. We have a saying in golf. You hit the ball up toward the hole. You think you have a good shot, certainly on the green and maybe even near the cup, but you're too far away, or behind some trees, and so you can't see where the ball actually came to rest. You walk up to the hole expecting to see the ball sitting on the green -- instead, it's off to the side, maybe in the rough or in a sand trap. This shot is jokingly called a "son-in-law" . . . meaning, it's not what you expected.

     My daughter's fiance is not someone I would have expected. He has his positive points -- a good job; he doesn't party or run around . . . he instead spends his spare time fixing up old cars or old bikes or else tinkering with technology (which means he has old cars in the driveway and old bikes in their living room). But he can be a little . . . I'm not quite sure, but he doesn't always sit quite right. With me anyway. Maybe the problem is just that he's in his 30s. But anyway, what I think doesn't matter. What matters is what my daughter thinks of him, what she sees in him that isn't apparent to the elders in the family.

     I guess I just want to make sure this young man treats my daughter well -- that he thinks of her before he thinks of himself. That he supports her emotionally, builds up her self-confidence, encourages her ambitions, and doesn't (like many men do) tear someone down in order to build himself up.

     I also wonder: I have a son, and our relationship is pretty well defined. What will it be like to have another male in the family? I do not want to have to compete with him for my daughter's affections.

     Marriage. It doesn't seem like a big thing when someone else is doing it. But now I know it's a scary proposition, and seems even scarier when you're going through it with your daughter than when you go through it yourself.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Where Am I Now?

     B and I have traveled some 530 miles west from Cape Cod, a sixth of the way across the country .  . . and yet we're still on what most people regard as the East Coast.

     But I'm sure you only need one guess to figure out where we are now.

     It's my daughter, who is having her bridal shower in Buffalo, a place where she lived for two years and where she met her fiance. B has already married off her two sons (and even has a grandchild!) but this is a first for me. So since you all have more experience at this than I have, I'd like to solicit some advice . . . but that's for my next post.

     For now, I'm enjoying the sights and sounds of an old city that is getting some new life breathed into it. There are two big colleges here, the University of Buffalo and Buffalo State. There are a lot of young people around. And the state is building a big new medical complex here to help revitalize the city.

     Meantime, we're staying in an old mental institution that has been renovated into the Henry Hotel, named after the architect Henry Hobson Richardson who designed the complex in the late 1800s. We're staying on the second floor, in a room with 15-foot ceilings . . . don't ask me what's up in those towers!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Local Color

     For some reason -- and I don't know what it is -- the hydrangeas on Cape Cod are absolutely spectacular. B and I have a few hydrangeas in our yard at home. And they are fine. But what people grow here is a whole 'nother class of flower.

     Almost everyone, it seems, grows hydrangeas in their yard. The blossoms are lush, colorful and plentiful.

     Another popular thing to do on Cape Cod is decorate the mailbox . . .

     with flowers, birds and other designs.

     And as you might predict, some people decorate their mailbox with pictures of hydrangeas.

     But, of course, the main reason to come to Cape Cod in the summer is the beach. Here is the beach at the end of our street, which deadends at Nantucket Sound.

     Yesterday B and I drove down to Falmouth and rode our bikes along the Shining Sea Bikeway, which runs some 11 miles from North Falmouth to Woods Hole. We've done this before --- it's one of our favorite rides -- but as usual we only did the section from downtown Falmouth to Woods Hole, about four miles (then four miles back).

     On the way we pedaled past Surf Drive beach, which offers a panoramic view of Martha's Vineyard across Vineyard Sound.

     Then we came into Woods Hole, a tiny little town with one main street featuring shops and restaurants.

     But Woods Hole is also famous for marine research. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a facility here. The University of Chicago sponsors a marine biological laboratory. There's also the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Science Aquarium and a U. S. Coast Guard center.

     The Atlantis is one of the research ships.

     Woods Hole is also a gateway to Martha's Vineyard. People board the ferry for a 35-minute ride over to the island of rich and famous, where one-percenters buy homes for an average price north of $1 million.

     At the end of the day (being neither rich nor famous) we stacked our bikes on the back of the car, drove home and barbecued some hamburgers. Then we walked down to Main Street in Harwich Port for the music stroll, held once a week during the summer, which features bands playing up and down the street or on a little lawn in front of a shop.

     Alas, even for retirees, vacation must end. Tomorrow we set off on a new journey, driving 530 miles due west for another adventure . . .