Monday, December 14, 2009

Kansas City Jazz Revisited

My niece, Janette, visiting from San Francisco, wanted to listen to Kansas City jazz so I found us tickets to Diverse, an up and coming jazz group playing a one night gig at the Record Bar on Westport Road.

Janette, herself, is an accomplished pianist and music lover while I am, at best, a very reluctant jazz lover. I am tone deaf. I can't carry a tune. I am a piano and guitar lesson flunkie. And I am a lover of Elvis Presley, doowop, The Platters and ABBA. My late husband, Felix, on the other hand, loved jazz and took it upon himself to lure me away from what he considered to be my pedestrian taste and educate me on the finer points of jazz music. "I know all about jazz." I used to say. "I wrote a paper on Tin Pan Alley and the History of Jazz in high school." "That's not learning it." He insisted. "You have to feel the music and let it speak to your soul." He would say. And so it was that I allowed him to drag me to jazz concerts, (the likes of Count Basie even) and to jazz festival pub crawls when we were healthy enough to withstand second hand smoke and to the French Quarter in New Orleans and jazz clubs in Chicago. He had me listen to musicians like Pete Fountain, Charlie Parker, Al Hirt and others. Felix thoroughly loved live jazz while I, on the other hand, struggled to listen to instrument improvisations that go on for several minutes at a time, hoping it would speak to my soul. Jazz lovers don't care that in a two hour concert, the band may have played only eight compositions. Elvis and The Platters can speak to my soul in three minutes. Needless to say, jazz and I were not on the same page, my taste being limited to Dixie and Dave Brubeck. Ask me about jazz and Watermelon Man comes to mind. Because my husband loved it, I tried to be friends with it, sometimes even allowing myself to enjoy musicians like Wynton and Branford Marsalis.

Back to Diverse. Diverse was the last jazz band I took Felix to. We were invited to listen to them in the home of one of the Friends of Jazz Club in January this year. Surprisingly I liked them, so I invited Janette and her parents who were not jazz fans themselves to this one night show.

Diverse has a sound that is young, eclectic and fun. Members of the band have won awards and played with well known bands. Young (early twenties, two of them still in college at the University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory of Music) but extremely talented, all the band members compose and create most of tunes they play. Ryan Lee plays drums; Ben Leifer is on bass; William Sanders plays tenor sax, John Brewer plays piano and rhodes and Hermon Mehari is on trumpet. Some Bobby Watson sound is noticeable in their compositions, not surprising since they have him for a mentor. I thought I heard some Charlie Parker influence as well but what do I know. Nonetheless, what I liked about them is that they made jazz enjoyable to people like me with their playful syncopations, the different styles that seem to come together just right and the sheer mastery of their instrument. And they seemed to be having fun doing it.

No, I am sorry to say, they still did not speak to my soul like Elvis or ABBA would have.

Find out more about Diverse at Diversejazz, listen to their sound, buy their CD and when they are rich and famous, remember, you heard it first from me. The Record Bar is at 1020 Westport Rd, Kansas City, MO.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Lesson in Grieving

Last night I had a very Freudian dream. It seems I had enrolled in pilot school. My husband, Felix, who passed away a few months ago and I drove to the airport for the lessons. He waited in the car while I went in. I went into the airplane which also had a store and bought what seemed to be a pilot bag. There was an announcement on the loud speaker that all students should now be on the plane which was leaving in five minutes. Suddenly I panicked and said I couldn't go. I had to get off the plane because Felix was waiting and needed a ride home. Then a voice which was both Felix' and an awake part of me said, "It is all right. I am dead. I do not need a ride. I am already home." Before I could decide, the plane took off with me in it. The plane was crowded. There was a big buffet with lots of food. A server saw my puzzled look and said it was all right. They always did this as thanksgiving and proceeded to serve me. Meanwhile, a fire had started in the back of the plane and the loud speaker once again blurted that it was now the job of the students to land the plane safely. And we did.

It has always amazed me how insights abound if we just pay attention. Felix loved airplanes and dreamed of flying one. He loved watching airplanes take off and land. He enjoyed seeing airplane fuselage frames on rail cars at the train yard. He believed that when planes are being built it meant that people had jobs.

Many a time, I still forget that Felix is no longer here and for a moment I think he is at work or somewhere or that I need to pick him up. Even as I pursue activities that are now truly my own, there is that momentary lapse of thinking that I am still part of a couple.

I have started the daunting task of redecorating the house which needed much repair. Felix resisted repainting our bedroom which was a manly hunter green because he was sure I would paint it a sissy pastel color. That is exactly what I did. The bedroom is now a very pastel sage green, very sissy and very happy.

I have also committed to a two year yoga study, something I have always wanted to do but did not have time for. One rigorous exercise is to study and learn from my dreams. That is how I remembered this dream and in remembering, found comfort in its meaning.

The process of grieving is a slow and sometimes tricky thing. I am still sad that he is not here. I also enjoy being alone and coming into my own, which, of course comes with great ambivalence precisely because I am not sad. I suppose it is why I had this permission dream. Looking back at the forty three years, I am sure we had hard times and fights and resentments but so generous is the heart that it filters the mind to only recall the good times. And so it is that I can remember and smile.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gift Giving for All Seasons

With the holidays right around the corner, gift giving can be a difficult decision especially for the person who has just about everything. There is also the matter of sending gifts to loved ones far away. Gift baskets are a good way to go. Often you can just go online, shop different stores, purchase with the click of a mouse and you are done. No fighting crowds in the store, no gift wrapping, no lining up at the post office. You could also call your local grocer who can make up a gift basket with your specifications or price range.

Flower delivery is easily purchased online. Flowers and plants are delivered fresh and in a timely manner. There is always a variety of flower arrangements to choose from. Plants that bloom beyond the season and perennials such as orchids are also popular.

There is of course, the gift card. Adults can enjoy gift cards to restaurants, book stores, spa treatments, golf courses, or a show while young people can enjoy shopping for their own clothes. Prepaid credit cards sold by credit card companies offer a wider shopping choice.

Let us not forget gifts of love, crafts painstakingly made, a framed photograph, a phone call, donations to the food bank, or volunteering in the local soup kitchen. Better still, commit random acts of kindness, cheer someone up, smile often, offer a prayer and make gift giving an all year affair.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Manny Pacquiao Proves He Is the Best Yet Again


Like Filipinos around the world, on Saturday, November 14, 2009, our family gathered at my brother-in-law, Charlie's, house to watch the Pacquiao vs Cotto WBO welterweight fight. Charlie has a movie theater in his basement big enough to accommodate our clan. Like any Filipino gathering, there was a lot of food, talking and merriment.

Everyone looked to the fight with apprehensive anticipation. Can Manny beat a bigger opponent known for landing hard punches? Even the women of the family who all oppose the violence, blood and gore of boxing could not help themselves. Those who watched HBO 24/7 worried that Manny did not spend as much time training as he did running his political campaign to be a congressman, rehearsing with his band, and helping typhoon victims. Someone commented that Manny did not seem focused as the camera panned on him in the dressing room. Cotto, on the other hand seemed determined, focused and ready.

So we watched. The guys made technical comments, the women watched with one eye closed or at an angle so they could not see the hard punches. Everyone was shouting and screaming as Manny landed punches and cringed as he took one.

For many women, boxing is such a painful gladiator sport to watch even though we know that these athletes train hard to withstand grueling punishment. As a physician, I cringed as I imagined the concussion and whiplash that these fighters sustain and the long term outcome such as we see in retired football players and sadly in the great Muhammad Ali. We know too well, the dangers of a well placed punch and hope both fighters come out unharmed at the end of the fight. By the 10th round, the women in our family were begging for someone to stop the fight already especially as we empathized with the anguish on Melissa Cotto's face. We wished we weren't watching but could not stay away. We watched riveted, nonetheless, because Manny Pacquiao has that effect on Filipino men and women alike, because he is our own, because he stands for the Filipino dream to be acknowledged in the world, because he stands for the poor fatherless street urchin who did not give up on the dream and because as great as he has proven himself to be, he remains humble and generous. Our shouts of glee resonated with those of Filipinos the world over as the fight was stopped on the 12th round with a TKO. At the same time, Miguel Cotto's grace in defeat was not lost on everyone as he proved himself to be a classy fighter.

Our family will definitely gather again for the next Pacquiao fight. We are checking the Internet for Team Pacquiao tee shirts (like we're not hyped up yet.) The guys might be interested in Manny Pacquiao underwear to be made by Big Headed Boxers. We will follow Pacquiao's political career and check out his music CD's. Four million Filipinos make up one per cent of the American population. There will be a big market for all things Pacquiao in the US alone.

As the Filipino people revel in the victory, I think. If one man can unite a people even for just a few hours, think of the power of many one man and many one woman, all working in their own way to unite all people. Manny Pacquiao has proven that any dream can happen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Tribute to the Nation's Soldiers

It is quite fitting that Veteran's Day comes just before Thanksgiving Day. It gives us all pause to give special thanks to the people that made America what it is.

As a naturalized citizen born in World War II, I have great appreciation for America, the opportunities she presents to those who come through her portals, and the people who serve and protect. I watch with great sorrow when at the end of each program, KCPT News Hour presents in silent tribute, pictures of soldiers who have fallen. They were young men and women. They were someone's child, spouse, or parent. For that moment I feel that they were my own. I ask myself, "Am I worthy of them? What have I done today to have deserved their sacrifice?"

Veteran's Day is not just a holiday, a day off from work, or a chance to go shopping for bargains. It is not just one day but all the days to remember that somewhere there is a soldier who stands guards for my freedom because freedom is not free. Soldiers understand this. A soldier stands guard somewhere so I can go shopping, write what I want, speak my mind, pursue the American dream, and sleep soundly at night. I am ashamed when I complain of a bad day at the office while somewhere a soldier is carrying heavy military gear in over 100 degree heat while dodging bullets and land mines. Whatever stress I might experience is a minor inconvenience in comparison.

Soldiers go where they are ordered by the country's leaders who may not always have clarity of purpose. They waive political affiliation to follow their commander-in-chief. They are called to respond to national emergencies, guard our coasts, fly our air space and plumb the depth of our oceans to keep the nation safe. The men and women of the military may be seen in disaster areas at home and abroad, in peace keeping contingents or in war. Wherever they are, they are always in harms way, intentional or accidental. Young, vital men and women go to war. They do not always come home whole. They come home to a people who do not always remember but for this one day and do not always express their gratitude. Too many do not come home at all. Beyond the life lost and the disabled, there are families who serve alongside their soldier for a service they did not sign up for. To them, I am also grateful.

We are in a rapidly changing world where our priorities can often get confused and national policies even more so. We are also now citizens of a global community and not just one country. For whatever reason nations choose to go to war, we must never forget that war kills; lives are lost be they friend, foe, innocent or combatant. One life lost is one too many. A mother's sorrow for a lost child is the same the world over. Sadly, war will continue until man gives up hate and learns to love.

Today I make a promise to honor these men and women by living an honorable life. I promise to be the best that I can be and make my piece of the world better. I promise not to take my freedom and liberty for granted. Most importantly, I promise to love.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Felicisima Quiason Is 90 Years Old

Felicisima Quiason is 90 years old. The matriarch of the Quiason family in Kansas City, Missouri, grandchildren and friends from out of town came to celebrate the momentous occasion at the home of Drs. Stella Quiason and Charles Smith where Felicisima also resides. As she jokingly made a wish for a 100th birthday, we all made a sincere wish for the same. For Grandma, as we all call her, is the one guiding force in all our lives, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, in laws and friends alike. We draw from her values, her strength and especially her wisdom.

At 90, Grandma reads the newspaper in its entirety. She keeps up with current events and the political scene. She has her own opinions about the world, chooses her own candidates carefully, and on election day, votes her conscience, unswayed by pressure from her children who usually vote for the opposing party.

Born and raised in Dinagat Island of Surigao in the Philippines, Grandma learned the value of hard work and perseverance. She became a school teacher and had a long career in teaching Math both in the Philippines and in Kansas City. It was a given that her children and later, her grandchildren, learn the four fundamentals of Arithmetic and compute in their heads without electronic aid. As she sacrificed to send her children to college, she also expected perseverance, determination and over achievement from her children. She stopped at nothing to make sure that all eight children became professionals. The story is told over and over about how her firstborn, Felix, (my husband) had been truant in dental school (dental school, mind you) and Grandma camped out at the University of the East Dental College to be sure that Felix stayed in class. What mother would have the courage and determination to do that? Felix did graduate from dentistry, went on to earn two postgraduate degrees and later spent the last years of his life teaching dentistry. Her children became dentists, physicians, nurse and accountants.
We laugh when she admonishes grandson Jacob for coming home with an A instead of his usual A+. And was she all smiles when Jacob surprised her by flying home from Stanford University just to be with her for that one day. Grandma sees talent as a gift that should not be squandered and encourages all to be the best that they can be in whatever path they choose.

Granddaughters quickly learn that their beaus must pass muster with Grandma who grades them on how respectful they are, how they value the granddaughter, their sense of responsibility and accountability and their family values. Grandma has not made an error in judgment yet as all the married granddaughters chose wonderful husbands and fathers.

Grandma taught her children the value of money, not so much as a means to luxury but as a way to give back to God and the less fortunate. So it is a family tradition on Christmas Day, along with the extravagant toys the great grandchildren get, a collection is taken up for less fortunate relatives in the Philippines. To this end, children and grandchildren all support their individual charitable causes by giving time, talent or treasure.

One of Grandma's many legacies is making the right choice. She is known for the term, "Paghunong" a Visayan word for "Watch out" or "Stop and think." She reminds everyone to stop and think and we have internalized this as the watch word for our choices.

Video by Vic Quiason

Felicisima Quiason is 90 years old. While few in her generation lay claim to this, it is not her best accomplishment. Her best achievement is in raising men and women of integrity, industry and compassion who in turn raise children with the same values. With the ripple effect, her circle of influence widens even more, love grows and touches this piece of the world.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Walking for Felix

Still nurturing our sadness over, my husband, Felix' passing last month, the extended family decided to walk the Missouri/ Kansas chapter of the National Kidney Foundation walk and raise money for the organization. Masterminded by Dr. Vic Quiason, (with his obsessive sense of organization) and his wife Cathy, Team Quiason quickly gained momentum and within three weeks had signed up over 20 walkers. The modest goal of $500.00 was quickly topped by friends of Rob Quiason who contributed $800.00 in two days.

Walk day was on Saturday. Friends from out of town came as did nieces and nephews who came home from college. Cathy provided Team Quiason tee shirts. It had been raining and chilly all week but surprise, surprise, Saturday morning was sunny, cool and nice. The walking trail circled a small lake behind Bass Pro Shop in Independence, Missouri. Fall was in full regalia with red, yellow, and brown foliage all throughout the path. I could see Felix' hand in making sure that the ambiance was just right for this walk. It was perfect although I'm sure he had many comments on how it could have been better.

The walk started at a snail's pace as hundreds of walkers got in line, prompting Vic to comment, "Even Felix could have walked this walk." No, he couldn't have because Felix had this thing about when he'd had enough he would just up and leave. He would have stayed where he was (insisting I stay with him as well) and waited for the rest to get back. Just like when he played golf, he always had nephew Blake on call to take over for him at the 4th or 5th hole or whichever hole he decided his golf game ended.

Felix' connection to us all still amazes me. The children and I reminisce on the camping trips where we got rained on because we forgot the tent poles, fishing trips, concerts he dragged the children to, taking Emilie then in grade school and barely able to do math to ham radio classes with him and all manner of activity that have suddenly become precious because in some small way, it also defined us. Nieces, nephews, sibling, in-laws, friends, all have memories of some Felix-ism which have become part of our family's collective memory.

We have big plans for next year's walk. Cathy wants to add Felix' picture to the Team Quiason tee shirts. We plan to top this year's pledge and sign up more walkers. My suggestion to adjourn to a casino buffet and then challenge the one arm bandits is gaining wide enthusiasm. (Not a Felix thing because he couldn't stand cigarette smoke.) It will be a bigger Felix event because walking for Felix is walking for ourselves.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cruise Ships As Retirement Communities

Whether going for a long weekend or a month long travel, going on a cruise is the ultimate vacation. Tired after a long day's work, I long to be on a cruise where I can be waited on and pampered. No grocery shopping, no dishes to wash, clean sheets and linen daily, dine to my heart's content, walk to a show, read, or just watch the sea. Little wonder that some older adults think of cruise ships when checking out retirement communities. It has been tried and it can be done.

Bea Muller, 89 years old, opted to stay in the Queen Elizabeth 2 when her husband died. She sailed the seas on the QE2 from 2000 until 2008 when the QE2 sailed to Dubai to become a museum. She was then flown to the replacement ship, the QM2 where she is in residence. Clair Macbeth sailed back to back cruises on Cunard Lines for 14 years. Blogs and forums talk about the tempting promise of cruise ships as retirement communities and the advantages of cruise ships over assisted living apartments for the older adult. I think of travel in retirement but would also love to live where I can walk to every place. What is better than a cruise ship to do both.

In the October 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Dr. Lee A. Lindquist and Dr.Robert M. Golub examined the needs and care of older adults in assisted living and compared them with the care provided in cruise ships. They found that the cost for both was about equal. The article goes on to suggest how cruise ships can modify services to accommodate the long term needs of older passengers. They suggest that cruising is a viable alternative for older adults who can no longer live independently but are still healthy enough not to require much medical and nursing intervention. The American Geriatrics Society estimates assisted living cost to be anywhere from a low $30,288 to upwards of $48,000 a year. The cost of living on a cruise ship varies according to type of accommodation, season and cruise line. In January 2010, Holland America will start a cruise to circumnavigate the world from Sidney, Australia to Vancouver, BC, Canada. An inside cabin for single occupancy starts at $11,476 for the 74 day voyage or $45,904.00 for back to back booking for 296 days. Quite tempting, I must say.

For the affluent, there is of course, The World Ship, a 12 deck floating city where one can buy a 2-3 bedroom condo (675-3,242 sq ft of luxury accommodations) for a mere 1.3 to 6.3M USD, not to mention the condo fees to pay the crew, fuel, insurance and whatever else it takes to float a ship. Owners can disembark and stay in any port and catch the ship in another city. Condos can be rented for 1,000.00 USD/night and up with a week long minimum. A second floating city is soon to launch.

Cruise living will attract a unique breed of older adults. Unless you own or rent a condo in The World Ship, you have to change rooms with each sailing. This and living in a 10 x 12 foot space make it hard to have a sense of home. You cannot drive over to a relative's home for a nice visit or watch the grandchildren play ball. Passengers change with each sailing making it difficult to keep lasting relationships.

On the other hand, this is the ultimate example of having few possessions, living uncluttered, living simply (but oh, so luxuriously,) of letting go and looking at life as a series of hello's and goodbyes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Uncluttering: One Way of Preparing for Happy Retirement


Much as I love my work, age 70, the magic age I promised myself I would retire is just around the corner. As I contemplate happy retirement, one mantra comes to mind, unclutter. It is amazing how many things we hang on to, how much we accumulate and how many of them have any real meaning. I decided to spend this next year weeding out the clutter and focusing on what is truly important. Now, this takes real focus, commitment and brutal determination. People like me who were born during WWII are natural born hoarders. We just can't throw anything away.

The first things that went were the contents of my refrigerators and freezers. Note the plural. We have a refrigerator in the kitchen, in the garage, two beverage refrigerators, two dorm refrigerators from the kid's college days. And they were all full of stuff, like commercial size mayonnaise from the wholesale club, big tubs of margarine and large jars of olives, just because they were cheaper, never mind that they expired the next month. I am embarrassed to confess that I kept food until they turned green and only then could they be thrown out on trash day. It was not easy, but I was determined. Today, my freezers are empty. The cooler section only holds small jars of mayo, condiments, milk and today's food. I plan to get rid of all but one refrigerator. If I travel in retirement, there is nothing in the refrigerator to spoil. Having done that, I am confident I can tackle closets, shelves and yes, the garage so if I decide to look into retirement communities, I will be unencumbered.

Of course, refrigerators and closets are just metaphors of life, my life. I look into my mind and my heart and I examine the clutter. Caught in the busyness of contemporary living, I aspired to achieve goals I thought at the time were important as many were. In younger days, developing a career, financial stability were right in there with raising good healthy children. My husband I lucked out in having great children who raised themselves and us. It is a priceless blessing. Just like having a closetful of clothes and not having anything to wear, many a time, I failed to see the forest for the trees and to savor the moment because I was too busy getting ready for the next activity. There were some relationships I failed to nurture; the phone call I had been meaning to make; the letter I wanted to write, all when I could make time.

We are a culture of doers. We measure our self worth by what we have done. We act as if tomorrow is a certainty and not just a promise. We postpone the joy of being for the clutter of activities. We have great difficulty in being present where it counts, in savoring the moment as if it was the last, and in simply being. Like most I have to learn just to be. Seventy might not come but today I'm here. I choose to retire from the clutter of everyday life. I cherish good memories. I count my blessings. I promise to rekindle friendships and relationships. Today I empty my mind and heart of clutter so I can be open to just be.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Baby Boomers Postpone Retirement

Group runningKathleen Casey-Kirshling applied for social security retirement benefits online on October 15, 2007. This signal event marked the beginning of baby boomer retirement, Casey-Kirshling having the distinction of being the first baby boomer eligible for retirement. She was born on the first second of January 1,1946. Many baby boomers followed suit in anticipation of happy retirement. The US government estimates a total of 8 million retirees over the next 20 years or an average of 10,000/ day, the so called "silver tsunami."

Little did these retirees know that a year later, the economy would collapse, their 401K and other nest egg investments would be demolished, and plans for travel in retirement would have to be scaled down if not postponed. Indeed, many baby boomers, men and women born between 1946 and 1964, who have applied for retirement benefits are either staying in or returning to the work force. There are varied reasons for this.
  • On a positive note, many older adults are healthier and more energetic. While they enjoy happy retirement, they also feel free to pursue other interests, go back to school, this time for fun, or pursue other careers.
  • There are positions in industry and other employment that cannot be filled by younger workers who are either lacking in training or have not quite matured with experience. Some skilled craftsmanship such as chimney sweep, shoe repair, musical instrument making and repair do not attract enough young people that the skills are in danger of extinction. For these, older workers may have to keep filling in.
  • There is of course, the loss of retirement nest egg which has forced many potential retirees continue working it can be built back up. Some with plans to move into retirement communities must opt to remain in their present homes. Some lost their homes in the mortgage crisis.
Employment for baby boomers can take on different forms. Some opt to keep working full-time for a few more years. Others choose to work part-time and leave room for recreation. Part-time can take on different forms as well. Some might choose to work a couple of full days a week or half days several days a week and still have time for recreation like golf, tennis, gardening or charitable work and, of course, the spoiling of grandchildren. Some work a few weeks or months out of the year leaving options for travel in retirement.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that more older adults are staying in the work force and that can only be a good thing for the country.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Letter to Family and friends

It has been four weeks since my husband Felix died and were it not for your love and support, the enormity of my loss, our loss, would have been too much to bear. While I will try to thank you all personally, I am writing this so as not to dilute the sincerity of my gratitude.

I would have said Felix passed away but he didn't pass away, he died. Death is so final. I still cannot fathom how someone I slept and awakened with for 43 years was here one moment and gone the next. Of course, he had to leave in his typical style, just up and go when he felt like it. No "Sorry, honey, I have to go now. I'll wait for you on the other side." It's just a Felix thing.

For all the years I spent my waking moments away from work, looking after him, it is still disorienting that I have so much time on my hands. My house is quiet. The TV's are not on at the same time as the radios. He is not here to laugh at slapstick comedy, give opinionated comments or watch the food channel, Anthony Bourdain and Judge Judy. He is not here to meddle in all our affairs or to buy us stuff because he liked them, never mind that we didn't. Nonetheless, I sense his hand in things like how his last services went so smoothly in a Felix kind of way, how effortless his estate is getting settled or how somehow I feel protected. Closing out his credit card accounts has been a painful endeavor. I could only do one, one week at a time. It is like closing a part of a life. When I get to the last one, where will he be? But would you know, the one credit card with a large balance is the credit card he forgot to stop the credit insurance after the trial period? The company is refunding my payment. Serendipity? While his health kept him from taking care of me in his lifetime, I like to think he is looking after me now.

Felix touched so many lives. You all know how undeterred he was by infirmity and disability. He kept teaching, mentoring, spoiling family, making people laugh, scolding, and mostly loving. He loved his children and grandchildren and so he kept going until he could no longer. And through it all were all the people who worked with him, helped him, humored him and took care of him to make his last years memorable. There are so many people who loved him and by, extension, loved me. There are those of you who love my children and my family and who were there for us. There are my family at home and work, near and far. There are my friends. There are my children and grandchildren, who, despite their own pain, call to make sure I am all right. And there are the random acts of kindness by kind people. Felix and I have been so blessed. To you all, I am forever grateful.

Please know with certainty that I will be fine. I am not depressed. I am just sad. I weep in the shower, when I'm driving or at odd times and places. But I sleep well and eat well. I walk and exercise. I am competent at work. Felix and I were as different as night and day. While he thrived at being around people, I value my solitude. I choose to be alone and alone does not mean lonely. How can I be with all of you out there. I choose, for now, not to be comforted. I want to hold on to my grief just a little bit longer for it feels he is just slipping away from me much too quickly.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I don't play golf but I watch it on TV and Korean golfer Y.E. Yang's Rocky-esque win of the 91st PGA championship was not lost on me.

Ranked 110th in the world and considered a 70 to 200 to 1 long shot, 37 year old Y.E. Yang did not play golf until age 19, did not enter serious competition until he completed his Korean military service four years later. He won major tournaments in Korea and Asia but dreamed of entering a major American tournament. He came to the US to enter a PGA golf qualifying school and came into the American golf scene when he won his first PGA tournament in the Honda Classic in March 2009.

I admire people who excel in their chosen vocation and watch them perform their job well. Y.E. Yang certainly excelled in his calm unassuming way. His goal was to play his best game and that he did and more. He is now a symbol for Asians and Koreans in particular that anyone can excel in a sport that was dominated by westerners.

Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods and we will always love him for the symbol of dedication, perseverance and excellence that he typifies. We will love him even more as he showed that he, too, can have a bad day at the office. But on Sunday, August 16,2009, at Hazeltine National Golf Club, the day belonged to Y.E. Yang who reminded us that when we work unceasingly to follow our dream, yes, we can.

"At first our dreams seem impossible, then they become improbable. And when we summon our will, our dreams become inevitable." Christopher Reeve

Friday, August 7, 2009

More Boyle Watching

As you can tell, I am unashamedly a Susan Boyle fan. I watched her on You Tube, with Meredith Viera on the Today Show and now here is the the Harper's Bazaar make over.

Harper Bazaar's editors talk about her twinkling eyes and the cackle of a laugh that is uniquely Susan Boyle. And to illustrate that everyone is beautiful, here are more photos by Hugh Stewart in Harper's Bazaar.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bren Bataclan Brings Smiles and Hope

Six years ago, Bren Bataclan noted with dismay that fewer people in his home city of Boston were smiling. He decided to do something about it and in 2003, launched the Smile Boston Project . It has been a rolling stone gathering enormous following since.

Philippine born artist, Bataclan, began to leave free small acrylic cartoon paintings in public places like malls, park benches and anywhere people might congregate. In exchange, he asked the finder to commit random acts of smiling. And smile, finders did.

In his website, Bataclan writes that his goals were to: "Bring art to people who typically do not visit art galleries and museums, give paintings to folks who may not be able to afford original artwork, and see smiles around the globe. "

The 2003 Smile Boston Project was a huge success. People were smiling. This was followed by Smile Chicago, Smile Las Vegas and Smile projects all over the US. Bataclan's smile critters could be found in public places throughout the country and around the globe. Smile paintings have been found everywhere from Alaska to Hawaii, from the ice caps of Antartica to the deserts of Saudi Arabia, from Europe to Asia and round and round it has been going bringing hope and the promise of a smiling world.

When the economy bottomed last year, Bataclan changed the note in his 2009 paintings to say, "Eveything will be allright." Many art finders/keepers have been so moved to hope and have left feedback on how it changed their outlook.

Bataclan completed his art degree at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1993 and Masters in Computer Animation at Ohio State University a few years later. Among other activities, he has worked as animator and designer for such movies as Free Willy and Last Action Hero and taught computer animation and graphic design at the University of Massachussets.

The success of the smile project has brought Bataclan into the limelight. He has been the subject of a documentary by David Tames. The book, The Smile Project, has been published by Gingko Press. Bataclan has been featured in TV news such as the June 22,2009 segment on CBS Evening News.

Bren Bataclan is a reminder of the power of one.

All of you out there, practice those smile muscles and spread the word. A Bataclan smile critter may be lurking in a bench near you.

If you're not lucky enough to find one, purchase a smiley critter painting from the artist's website:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont: A Movie Review

But for Netflix, I would have missed Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, an endearing movie released in 2005 starring Dame Joan Plowright as Mrs. Palfrey and Rupert Friend as Ludovic Meyer. This movie squeaked silently by, a pity as it is quite a feel good movie.

Recently widowed and hoping for an independent life, Mrs. Palfrey leaves her home and daughter in Scotland to live at the Claremont in London, a hotel romanticized in a travel brochure. She also hopes to reconnect with her grandson who works in London. Meeting the relic of a doorman should have been the first clue that the Claremont was not as publicized. The suite turns out to be a tiny room with a window looking out to a wall and the shared bathroom runs out of hot water. The Claremont is, in fact, a hotel where people stay in the twilight of their lives as they wait for the inevitable. The dining room is the hub of the regular denizens where Mrs. Palfrey comes overdressed for dinner. Mrs. Arbuthnot (Anna Massey), self elected group leader, provides her with the low down on the other diners. As time passes, Mrs. Palfrey's grandson does not return calls, write a letter, let alone come to visit, making the other residents think he is a fiction of the imagination.

On the way home from the library where she had picked up a copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover for Mrs. Arbuthnot, Mrs. Palfrey falls. A young man, Ludovic, comes to her rescue, invites her into his apartment and tends to her scrapes. A friendship develops and when Mrs. Palfrey invites Ludovic to dinner, the hotel residents mistake him for the grandson, a charade they chose to perpetuate. Ludovic earns a living as a street musician while pursuing his dream of being a writer. As the friendship grows, they come to terms with their isolation, having few friendships with people their own age. They help each other find the goodness in their lives, Mrs. Palfrey helping Ludovic find love and move on to his future while Ludovic helps her see the value of her past.

The movie is adapted to the screen by Ruth Sacks, herself in her 80's from the last novel by Elizabeth Taylor (the novelist, not the actress) published in 1971. The book, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, itself, is worth reading and depicts the changes as one ages as in this passage:

“The morning was to be filled in quite nicely, but the afternoon and evening made a long stretch. I must not wish my life away, she told herself; but she knew that, as she got older, she looked at her watch more often, and that it was always earlier than she had thought it would be. When she was young, it had always been later.”

Dan Ireland directs a wonderful cast of older actors and young Rupert Friend. Friend, dashing and handsome, is an actor to watch. (He is in the upcoming movie, Cherie, with Michelle Pfeiffer.) Friend makes us believe that friendship between a young man and an elderly woman is a most natural thing that happens everyday. There is wonderful chemistry between Plowright and Friend as pretend grandmother and grandson and between aging actors playing the residents of the Claremont.

Go rent or buy the DVD. There is no violence, no foul language and no nudity. It is just a great escape movie that warms the soul.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Frank J. Hanna,III Teaches Living in Grace

Frank J. Hanna,III, successful businessman, philanthropist, educator and author of What Your Money Means: And How to Use It Well encourages living in gratitude. He challenges us to look at money as a loan from God and thus to be used to improve ourelves and the human condition. He encourages keeping an attitude of abundance, seeing the cup as half full, believing that there is enough of everything for everyone, sharing rather than hoarding and doing it all willingly and joyfully.

Frank J. Hanna,III is a devout Christian and is active in the Catholic faith. This spiritual upbringing is evident in his writings and in his motivational speches. He necourages honesty in business dealings and dealings with others in general. Integrity is a virtue to cultivate.

Frank J. Hanna,III has put his business acumen and spiritual philosophy in philantrophy, education, and now, spiritual motivation.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

American Tax Relief Can Help Relieve Your Tax Burden

Has the economic downturn caught you in a tax bind? Many taxpayers and businesses have seen their income go tumbling down and yet find themselves with a tax burden they are hard pressed to pay. After all, if you were caught in a reduction in force whether as employee or employer, there just is not enough money to go around. What you may not know is that for qualifyng taxpayers, the IRS can lessen your burden. The IRS does not advertise it and would just as well no one found out about it.

Tax experts like American Tax Relief can analyze your situation and find the best option. You can negotiate with the IRS yourself but with the complexities involved, it would be worth consulting an expert. American Tax Relief has a dedicated legal staff who can research every legal recourse for your particular situation. Some qualified taxpayers have seen their tax obligation cut in half. After all, the IRS have a vested interest in getting some money in a timely manner rather than none and then hounding you for years when you don't have it to give.

Don't fret and see what tax reduction solutions are available by checking online tax experts like American Tax Relief.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Keep Going, Susan Boyle You Are Loved.

It is final.  Susan Boyle placed second in Britain's Got Talent.  No matter.  What she gave to the world in the past seven weeks is memorable.

Susan Boyle hit the web by storm when she sang "I Dream a Dream" in the TV show Britain's Got Talent.  A stocky unpretentious woman from Blackburn, Scotland, 47 year old Susan was looked upon with disdain when she first walked on stage.  Within seconds, judges and audience alike were in awe, cynic judge, Simon Cowell especially. She was a hit on You Tube and the world was instantly captivated.

Susan Boyle is the triumph of the underdog, the unlikely hero, the rebuttal of first impressions, the fulfillment of dreams.  She brought tears to our eyes because she is all of us, struggling one day at a time, doing our jobs, winning some, losing some.  We rooted for her because she proved that there is another kind of  beauty besides the Hollywood stereotype.  She sang straight to our hearts and proved that yes, we can.

The last few weeks have been difficult for Susan Boyle.  Sudenly in the limelight, there were reports that she was having a nervous break down and predictions that she will not appear for the finals.  She proved her critics wrong once again and gave a better performance than before.

Susan Boyle is not the best voice that graced talent shows but she is certainly the best person that did.  She deserves to be the hit on You Tube that she has been.  Keep going, Susan Boyle.  You are loved. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother's Day: A Brief History

The second Sunday in May is the day when Mother's day is honored in the United States, Canada and many other countries. Different countries have different celebrations and dates for honoring mothers. In the UK and Ireland, the day is known as Mothering Sunday and is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of lent. In 1870, in the US, Julia Ward Howe published "Mother's Day Proclamation" encouraging the designation of a special day to honor mothers. It was not until 1907 when Anna Jarvis began her lobby for a special day to honor mothers and in 1914, she finally got Mother's Day its righteous time on the second Sunday of May. Anna Jarvis was passionate about the day being a day to honor each individual mother. She was picky about the designation and that the apostrophe had to be between the last two letters, "Mother's Day", not Mothers Day or Mothers' Day implying collective mothers. The day was to honor one's special mother. The observation became popular and is now celebrated with much commercialism, much to Anna Jarvis' dismay. What was to have been a very personal day became a marketing venue. Later in her life, Anna Jarvis, unsuccessfully tried to get the observation discontinued.

Mothers day flowers are the most popular gift. In China, where mother's day celebrations are catching on, carnations are the most popular and most sold flower for this celebration followed by lilies. Local florists and online florists like 1800flowers get a major portion of their annual orders on this day. Likewise, moms love receiving flowers. Business research firm, IBIS World estimates that 2.6 billion dollars will be spent in the US on flowers this mother's day, not including the money spent on jewelry, greeting cards and spa treatments.

Citation: Wikipedia

Monday, May 4, 2009

Manny Pacquiao: Best Known Filipino in the World

Like Filipinos worldwide, last night,  our extended family watched Manny Pacquiao knock out Ricky Hatton in the second round in a much publicized boxing match.  Filipinos were undaunted and cocky sure that their man would win and PacMan did not disappoint, proving the media description that  he is, pound for pound, the best boxer in the world today. A much anticipated fight, Filipinos everywhere watched the pre-game 24/7 series chronicling the boxers training and background.

Judging from ABS-CBN reports, Filipinos everywhere crowded in homes, public venues and outdoor TV projections as did our family who crowded in my brother-in-law's home theater. Sports fanatics and sports illiterates alike watched and cheered.  Filipino military and law enforcement agencies also took time off to watch the fight. Violence halted. Philippine news reports even point out that crime took a holiday.  There was no crime committed during that period as law breakers also took time to watch the fight.  

No other person in Philippine history has united the Filipino nation and Filipinos everywhere if only for too short a period of time.  Pacquiao continues to make his country proud. 

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Look to K-Designers for Energy Efficient Windows

Most senior citizens living on a fixed income and choose to remain in the home they bought will be faced with remodeling needs at some time or another. Moving to energy efficient windows is one of those remodeling activities that save money in the long run.  K-Designers may just have the answer for seniors who need to get the most for their money. 

K-Designers is a remodeling company with offices in the Midwest and Western part of the United States. Now may be an opportune time to replace those old windows and let Uncle Sam foot part of the bill.  As part of the stimulus package, the government is giving incentives for homeowners to change to energy efficient windows.  K-Designers offers windows made especially for the company and are not only energy efficient but are easy to clean,  fire retardant, do not rust and do not need painting.   Just as important, the windows come with a lifetime guarantee.

YMT Vacations: Planned Tours Can Be Fun for Seniors

Past their prime, senior citizens often have unique needs and considerations when planning vacations. While many seniors are healthier and more active now, many have unique needs they might not even realize. Using tour companies such as Your Man Tours can save you the headache of planning, and can provide solutions to unexpected occurrences. To make the best of your vacation, you, too, must have a sense of your special needs. Remember, your travel agent cannot read your mind.

Single seniors and couples as well, may feel more comfortable joining tours with vacationers of like minds. For instance, Your Man Tours offers guided European tours with emphasis on visits to the Vatican. You may be interested in the Mayan culture, taking a fall trip to New England, or being pampered in a cruise ship. Travel agencies like Your Man Tours which specialize in affordable vacations cater to different groups. They also package trips specifically for older adults.

Simple things to consider when planning a vacation:

  • Your health and health care needs. Be sure to check with your doctor about your travel restrictions, make sure you have your supply of medications and ask the travel company for a list of health care facilities in the vicinity of your trip. Be aware of your allergies and food restrictions so you can avoid a flare up.
  • Your mobility. Do you need wheelchair access? Do you get winded easily? This is an important consideration when choosing your land trips and side tours as many places require considerable walking. Your travel agent can arrange for mobility assistance in airports, during land transfers and in the hotel.
  • Travel and health care insurance. Remember, Medicare does not pay for health care outside the country. Inexpensive travel and health care insurance can pay for illness related trip cancellation, ambulance or even airlift.
  • Lastly, have fun. You deserve it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

United American Insurance Company; A Choice for Medicare Part D

With retirement investments half their worth, the economy still on a down swing, it is harder for senior citizens to meet their prescription co-pay especially for expensive third tier medications. This is where your choice of Medicare Part D carrier is important.  United American Insurance Company might just fit the bill

United American Insurance Company  is an approved Medicare Part D provider.  Medicare Part D is the Medicare prescription plan which pays for prescription medications.  All plans are required to pay for your first $2,700.00 of medication expenses after which you are responsible for 100 percent of your prescriptons until you and your plan have paid $4,350.00 for the year. This is also known as the donut hole. The catastrophic coverage then kicks in.  Although it varies from state to state, United American Insurance Company Medicare Part D coverage has no deductible and has low co-pay for generic drugs (starting at $5.00.) Catastrophic prescription coverage is quite liberal.  You pay 5% of the medication cost and UAIC pays 95 %.  If your income falls below certain income limits, you may be eligible for low income subsidy (LIS), where your monthly premium may be lowered by 25, 50, 75, or 100 percent.  

Important things to remember when considering a prescription plan:

  • Participation in Medicare part D is voluntary.  However, with the spiralling cost of medication, most seniors are better off participating.
  • Understand your plan's formulary:  Check your current medications against the plan's formulary to ensure that your medicines are covered adequately.
  • Understand formulary tiers: Tier 1- generic drugs, Tier 2- brand name drugs on formulary, Tier 3- more expensive brand name drugs and Specialty tier- very expensive medications such as cancer fighting drugs.  The higher the tier, the higher the copay.
  • Check to see if you qualify for low income subsidy.
  • Convenience: Does the plan have a mail in service for maintenance medications? his can save you from frequent trips to the drug store.

United American Insurance Company has been in business for over 60 years, operates in 49 states, D.C. and Canada and for 30 consecutive years has been rated strong and very strong by A.M. Best and Standard & Poor Company.  It has been a Medicare participant since 1966.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Keeping Healthy during the Swine Flu Outbreak

The recent swine flu outbreak in Mexico and the few reported swine flu cases (50 as of this writing) in the United States are causing worry among older citizens who are generally more vulnerable to infections.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has published information to clarify the situation and allay the public's anxiety.

Swine flu is a respiratory infection caused by a strain of influenza virus A known as H1N1.  It is generally a disease found in pigs but from time to time it finds its way to humans.  Transmission is from person to person only, by droplet (sneezing, coughing or touching a surface like door knobs, telephones, and desks, with the virus and touching the nose, mouth, or eyes).  You cannot get swine flu by eating pork.  It is contagious one day before symptoms appear and up to seven days after the person feels better.  Previous outbreaks have been relatively mild.  In 1976, 200 cases were reported in Fort Dix, North Carolina and in the three years between 2005 to he end of 2008, 12 cases of human infection wer reported.  The April 2009 cases reported in the US seem to be mild as well. 

The symptoms of swine flu are similar to any influenza infection and consist of tiredness, fever, chills, cough, sore throat, and body aches.  Some people complain of diarrhea and vomiting.  As in seasonal flu, swine flu is self limiting although the course and intensity may be shortened by antiviral medications.  Of significance to older adults is that flu can worsen other medical conditions and persons with decreased immune responses may be quite susceptible to complications such as bacterial infections like pneumonia.  

Keeping safe and healthy:

  • Get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and continue with physical exercise.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover the mouth and nose with tissue paper and throw it in the trash.  If you do not have tissue paper, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow.
  • Stay away from sick people.
  • If you feel sick, stay home, rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Call your health care provider if you get dizzy, experience chest pain or oppression, trouble breathing, or severe persistent vomiting or diarrhea.
There is no vaccine for swine flu just yet. Two prescription antiviral agents, oseltamivir and zanamivir, can shorten the course of the illness if taken within two days of the onset of symptoms.

Swine flu cases reported seems to all be mild and self-limiting.  Don't panic.  Call your health care provider if you have concerns or check the CDC website for further information.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Florists Love Mother's Day

The second Sunday in May is one of the seasons in a florist's year. Along with Valentine's Day, Easter and Christmas, Mother's Day, represents high sales volume. Weddings, professional recognition days such as Administrative Assistant Day ring up a smaller volume. Little wonder that florists, nurseries, and grocery stores ensure that they don't run out of Mother's Day flowers.

Since flowers now come from all over the world, florists can play with a variety of flower arrangements. No longer confined to local floral variety and seasonal blooms, florists are now only limited by their creativity in crafting floral arrangements. Well, perhaps the customer's budget as well. It can be an Ikebana arrangement with its simple style and line, an English garden style with radial colorful blooms or a contemporary high style arrangement. Any time of the year, florists can have orchids, birds of paradise, tulips and various flowers for every occasion. Recipients are equally pleased. A mom in Asia can have a spray of tulips while another mom in Greenland might receive a pot of phaelonopsis orchids.

Customers can have Mother's Day flowers hand delivered by their local florist or through floral wire and online services such as 1-800-Flowers.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Adapting the Home for Mobility Access

Sometime in our fifties, we bought a home with an eye on the lifestyle changes in our senior years. We bought a reverse story and a half patio home with an open floor plan. Not until we had to cope with disability did we realize the barriers to mobility that most homes present.

These are what we found out:
  • The doors were not wide enough for wheelchair mobility access. This is especially difficult in the toilet where the door was even smaller. We had to remove the doors for easier access.
  • The stair steps were not wide enough to accommodate a walker. Although there were only two to three steps from the garage or the front porch to the house, the steps were too narrow to plant a walker safely.
  • Shower doors were too narrow for either wheelchair or walker. Taking a shower proved to be a long ritual. We are still struggling with options retrofitting the shower and bathroom, all of them expensive.
  • Kitchen counters can be formidable for someone who is wheelchair bound. Needless to say, reaching up to a built in microwave or over the counter shelves are next to impossible.
  • Getting in and out of the bed can be very difficult for someone with bum legs. There is nothing to grip to pull up.
These are seemingly mundane things and for sure there are remedies as we quickly and by necessity found. But for those nearing their senior years and looking to move to a new home, these should be realistic considerations. At the very least, look for wide doors, wide garage steps and disability friendly bathrooms. These can be added without detracting from the decor. You just never know when you will need them.


This blog is a collection of musings about things that interest me. The opinions are my own. While I try my best to be accurate and ensure accurate links to relevant sites, I may make honest mistakes, hopefully few and far between. I intend no harm to anyone. I welcome comments but please be kind and observe a no profanity ethic. This site may contain paid content but this in no way affects the honesty and spirit of the writing. I do not collect personal information or insert cookies in reader's computers. Blog posts belong to me. Content may be copied and distributed (but not modified), as long as my authorship is acknowledged with a link back to the content page. Photos are either mine or obtained from free sites. I make an effort to track and acknowledge the owner but this is often not possible. If you are the owner of photos on this site, please contact me. As life is a continually changing process, this blog is a work in progress.