Elderly: What’s that mean?

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What’s that mean?

I was listening to the news the other day when the reporter commented that a woman in the story she was covering was “elderly”. I wondered what she meant by the adjective. What I found is that the definition is rather hard to pin down.

According to Merriam-Webster, elderly means “rather old, especially past middle age.”

So, then, what is middle age? The definition today is “between 45 and 65 years of age,” but that has not always been the case. Prior to the 20th century, human life expectancy in the US was 49, so middle age would have been about 25. (I wonder what today’s youngest millennials would think about that.)

When I asked my high school students what age they think is elderly, someone blurted out 24.

And then there’s this. My mom resides in an independent living facility. She mentioned  that she had recently met a woman. “She’s not elderly,” my 94-year-old mom commented. “She’s 82.”

So, clearly, the term elderly is confusing. And to some it’s downright derogatory. A story posted by NPR was titled “An age-old problem: Who is elderly?”  In it, Michael Vuolo, the co-host of Slate’s Lexicon Valley podcast, was quoted as saying,  “Nobody likes to think of themselves as old, let alone very old. ‘Elderly’ often carries the connotation of feeble and dependent. Which is offensive if you’re not and condescendingly euphemistic if you are.”

Admittedly, I’m a bit wobbly at times, due to bad knees and a crumbling spine, but, geez, I can take care of myself. While I do ask my 22-year-old son to bend down and get things out of the lower cupboards, I would never categorize myself as dependent. Feeble? Call me that at your peril.

In Asian countries, older people have historically been valued and respected. Likewise, in the Mediterranean and Latin cultures. Sadly, here in the US, we live in a culture that worships youth, a predilection supposedly based on our Puritan forefathers who prized independence and a strong work ethic, qualities that apparently expire as we age. (One wonders how they measure such things.)

And here is where I confess that, on my next birthday, I will be 65. Six-and-a-half decades seems to be the “elderly” threshold, one where there is no longer any wiggle room for argument. So, I am soon to officially wear the “elderly” mantel.

I could, perhaps, smile and go with that overused adage, “You’re only as old as you feel,” but, truth be told, sometimes I feel like I’m pushing 100. Yet, at other times I find it hard to believe my wild 30s happened more than a few weeks ago. Sigh…

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Our lives may not get easier as we age, but apparently we do get happier.

A recent poll asked 2,000 Americans between the ages of 16 and 34 their thoughts on older people. The results concluded that, among other things, these kids believe we will  become an economic burden, that we are out of touch with technology, and that we are the worse drivers on the roads.

Balderdash!

Imagine how surprised those young whippersnappers – yes, I said whippersnappers –  would be to learn that the happiest decade of life is said to be the 70s. The second happiest is the 80s. While that certainly doesn’t mean getting older is easy, the idea of getting happier as we age is uplifting.

Now … if only I could get out of my chair.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

White Chocolate: a sweet faux pas

Collection of different chocolate sweets

Yum! Nothing is as tasty as chocolate.

I love chocolate, which does not make me special. Americans consume roughly 18% of the world’s chocolate stash, spending over $18 billion annually on the rich, creamy confection.

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I was a big girl in grade school, which led to my mother hiding sweets from me.

As a child, my mother fretted constantly about my waistline and hid sweets from me. In retaliation, I’d scour my dad’s Brooks Brothers suit-coat pockets for change and trundle through the woods to Ben’s Diner, which had a long, glorious rack of candy. Ben, a big man with a giant stomach encased in a white apron, never questioned my daily haul of candy bars – which were big suckers back then.

I’d sit by the brook with my collie Betsy and eat that candy – Snickers, Milky Way, Baby Ruth, Chunky, 100 Grand Bar, M&Ms, Heath Bar – every day.

My mom, exasperated by my girth, would defend herself to strangers. “It’s not my fault,” she’d tell people when she thought they were staring at me. “I feed her baked fish and salad with no dressing.”

I always wanted to say, “I’m fat, Mom, not deaf. I can hear what you’re saying.” But I never did.

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Chocolate? I think not!

The point is, I love chocolate, which brings me to the abomination: white chocolate.

I realize that some people like that creepy colorless confection. I also know that, lately, fancy chocolatiers have been experimenting with it in an effort to make it more hip. Still, the fact that white chocolate includes cocoa butter, which is derived from cocoa beans, does not make the substance chocolate. One needs cocoa solids to make actual chocolate. (Yes, I know the FDA claims white chocolate made to their standards is considered chocolate, but I’m not having it.)

White chocolate was first unveiled in the 1930s, a product of the Nestlé company in Switzerland. The theory goes that the substance was invented to utilize excess cocoa butter, but no one is really sure.

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White chocolate with broccoli? The whole idea would make even Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka queasy.

The Maya, who were the first people to cultivate cacao trees, probably would be stupefied to learn that their prized chocolate – the beans of which they used as a form of currency – is now offered in this pale, unrecognizable form.

And, even worse,  those trendy chocolatiers are doing unspeakable things to this white sweet. You can now purchase organic kale with mustard mixed into your white chocolate. And salted almonds with broccoli. Clearly, there are maniacal minds at work here. Confectioners who make Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka appear quite sane.

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I’ll concede that a little bit of white chocolate is pretty.

So, what are we to do with this sweet faux pas? Despite my misgivings, I don’t mind a bit of white as a decoration. After all, it’s pretty. But as a real chocolate substitute? Never!

So give me a dab of white chocolate, if you must, but please … hold the broccoli.

 

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compression socks: If those guys can wear them so can I

“Compression socks?” I squinted at the doctor. A picture burst into my brain. A little old lady, hair in a black-mesh net, heavy flat shoes, thick stockings rolled just below the knee: Ruth Buzzi’s Gladys on Laugh-in.

“You should wear them whenever you spend time on your feet.”

“But it only happens when I referee football games.” I gulped. “And I wear shorts. A lot.”

“I understand, but you should wear these socks all the time. I do.” The doctor lifted her pant leg and displayed her compressioned calf. Then she smiled. “Let’s see if that helps.”

Leg rash

Pretty icky, I know. But this is how my legs looked after officiating high school football games.

Compression socks. Yet another assault on my age. As if cataract surgery and high blood pressure meds and the never-ending visits to the physical therapist weren’t enough to remind me that I’m…um…getting older.

The red rashes that appeared on my legs after football games were certainly unsightly. In fact, I looked like I had some rare tropical disease. The blotches would fade after a few days, but as the season wore on the affliction got worse.

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Brett Farve spent 20 years in the NFL shredding defenses and was the first to throw 500 touchdown passes.

And so I was feeling rather glum. “I have to wear compression socks,” I said to my sweetie pie.

“Brett Farve swears by them.”

I sat up in my chair. “He does?”

“Jerry Rice wears them too.”

McDonald's Limited Edition 1993 NFL Gameday Collector Cards Sheet C 3 of 3

Jerry Rice is the best NFL receiver of all time.

My brain whirled. Jerry Rice: the best receiver in NFL history. Brett Farve, who led his teams to eight division championships, five NFC Championship games, and two Super Bowl appearances.

I was skeptical. “Why?”

“I don’t know.” Ryan shrugged.

So I dashed to my computer to see why two fabulous athletes would wear compression socks. I found what I was looking for on WebMD. “Some athletes … wear compression socks and sleeves on their legs and arms. The theory is that, during activity, better blood flow will help get oxygen to their muscles, and the support will help prevent tissue damage. And afterward, the beefed-up blood and lymph circulation will help their muscles recover quickly. They won’t be as sore, and they won’t cramp as much.”

“Ha!” I said to myself. “Compression socks will make me a better athlete.” But then I saw this disclaimer. “Studies show the gear has little to no effect on athletic performance, but some people swear by it. Maybe thinking they have an edge gives them one.”

I didn’t let that last part faze me, after all, if compression socks were good enough for Jerry Rice and Brett Farve, well, they were certainly good enough for me. I smiled, rose from my computer, and took two steps. Then, I stopped. I could have just left it alone, but I felt compelled, so a sat back down.

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NFL Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice is 57.

It didn’t take me long. There they were. Two of the greatest athletes in the history of pro sports, both of whom had passed the half-century mark. Which meant … they were old. Like me. (OK, I’m a little older, but you get the picture.)

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Quarterback Brett Farve, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2016, is 50.

I pondered for a moment and again considered compression socks. I wondered if Farve and Rice meant they liked their compression socks now that they were approaching senior-citizen hood or when they were strapping young athletes.

Eventually, I decided the timing wasn’t important. If those guys could wear compression socks so could I.

And so, I do. And, magically, they work.

My legs are much prettier now.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

Things we never told Mom: The kitten, the projector, and blackmail

When I was a kid, my mother was the only woman in the neighborhood with a job. She was way before her time. The bearer of a bachelors degree and a former reporter, she was smart, acerbic, and sometimes scary.  She was by no stretch of the imagination that sweet mom everybody went to for a hug. Understandably, we rarely crossed her.

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My mom had a projector courtesy of her employer: the Livingston New Jersey Board of Education.

But she possessed something that will loom large in this story: a projector. I didn’t know anyone in the early 1970’s who owned this particular piece of technology. My mom had the machine because she did public relations for our local board of education.

My brother, sister, and I would be called latch-key kids today, had we actually owned keys. Our house was never locked. New Jersey in the 70s was like that. What was abnormal was returning from school and finding no mom at home.

My brother Jeff, two years older, was on the football team, so our house was often overflowing with teenage testosterone. Perhaps, then, it should not be surprising that one day, after a quick bus trip into New York City, he arrived home with a package wrapped in brown paper. Turns out he’d paid a visit to 42nd street with the express purpose of purchasing some reel-to-reel porn.

Jeff had a plan to make some money. He’d invite his teammates over and charge them to watch those skin flicks. All he had to do was set up the projector, close the curtains, and unroll the screen, which we also had courtesy of the Livingston Board of Education.

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A kitty found a reel of film the perfect plaything.

What he hadn’t counted on was my sister Meg’s new kitten. The wee, gray-and-white cat was a fluffy ball of kitty mischief, who wandered into my brother’s closet, only to find the most fantastic “toy”. She  pawed at one of those spoked film reels, toppling it to the floor where it started to roll. That kitten chased the reel as it unspooled, leaving a trail of X-rated, Super 8 film as it went out the door and down the stairs into the living room.

As it happened, Meg – who was about 12 at the time – found that movie footage. She gathered it up and put it back in the box, but Jeff was far from off the hook. Meg was the smartest of the three of us. Even at her tender age, she understood Jeff would be in serious trouble if our parents found out. So she did what siblings have been doing to one another throughout the ages.

She blackmailed him.

I was never privy to their arrangement. Knowing Meg, she probably got a hefty cut of the gate. As you can imagine, our home became rather popular.

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My brother and his friends staged a photo shoot with a beer keg on our front lawn.

The funny thing is my mom and dad never had a clue that these X-rated parties were occurring in their living room. But leave it to my brother to push his luck. Because one day he and his friends came up with another smashing idea. They would purchase a page in the high school yearbook and take a “team” picture. So, they set up a beer keg on the front lawn of our suburban home, arranged themselves in orderly fashion, and waited for my brother to crawl up onto the roof, where he snapped some photos of the boys, no doubt using my mother’s board of education-provided camera.

How that picture got past the yearbook censors is anyone’s guess. But it did, and imagine my mother’s surprise when she turned a page and instantly recognized her own front yard and all those boys mugging with a beer keg.

I’d like to tell you that I recall the fallout, but I don’t. I steered clear of those events, hoping not to get caught up in the subterfuge. But Mom was not the forgiving type. I’m guessing Jeff paid a hefty price, while Meg got away with the spoils.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

Saying Goodbye

I’m sad.

Really sad.

Sadder than I expected to be.

No one is sick. Nor has a loved one died. I still have a job and a home and people who love me. But, now, something is missing.

Seems like a little thing, especially when you consider that I’m talking about sports officiating. I’ve been blowing whistles and throwing flags for four decades, an avocation that initially was intended to be temporary.

Coin Toss

I love the ceremony of the coin toss.

I only became an amateur sports official to try to convince a forward-thinking TV news director to give me a shot as a sportscaster, so I took five years and learned the games – football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball – by reading rule books. I’ve called youth sports, men’s and women’s leagues, high school games, and a few exhibitions, the most memorable a contest between the Triple A Phoenix Firebirds and the San Francisco Giants, a TV game where I worked the plate and got to kibbitz with skipper Dusty Baker.

That I did eventually land a TV sportscasting job – and four more after that – still surprises me sometimes. But even more shocking is that I never quit officiating.

Why? I’m not sure I can answer that. After all, we officials spend a lot of time being screamed at and second-guessing ourselves. We have to take exams and attend clinics and scrimmages and rules meetings and camps, none of which we get paid for. We are supposed to be right 100% of the time. (The job is so demanding that 80% of high school officials quit before their third year on the job.) On more than one occasion, I’ve been escorted to my car by police officers, wary of angry coaches and fans.

The day I broke my back copy

In 1987, I was hit by three players and fractured my spine. Though I finished the game, I was unable to walk for several days and I’ve had back problems ever since.

And still, when I walked on the field last night for what was my final high school football game, I felt a loss I never expected. A degenerative spine and two bad kness have made continued on-field work problematic and dangerous. While I’ve never been fast – as anyone who’s ever worked with me can attest – I am simply unable to get out of the way. In an effort to avoid any further MRIs and X-rays, and surgeries, I have hung up my whistle.

What will I miss? The pre-game locker-room rituals where my crew mates and I polish our shoes and squabble over tricky plays. The sometimes surprised expressions when I introduce myself to coaches who still find it odd that a woman wears the white hat. The National Anthem, eyes on the flag, cap over my heart. The smokey smell of sizzling meat served up by booster clubs. The players who accidentally call me sir and blush in embarrassment. The ceremony of the coin toss. Marching bands and Arizona sunsets.

Crew 2019

Football Crew 2019: Alan “Doc” Richardson, Gabe Gutierrez, Thomas Graca, and Torrance Williams.

But mostly, I will miss the camaraderie. Crew members become a second family, people who share my peculiar predilection for wearing stripes, an oddity few others understand.

So, I’m sad, because I will miss them most of all.

 

 

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.