Thursday, December 29, 2011


Call it the December Blues.  I went on a vacation cruise just before the holidays (timed to beat the family holiday surge) and then came back in time for the final holiday shopping binges.  Couple these two factors with end-of-year work and a bout of the notorious South Texas Mountain Cedar Fever and the result was no blog updates.

Now a few days before the New Year begins I still have nothing to end the year with.  No list of resolutions or projects to boast about or reveal.  Although Cedar Fever could remain an issue until February I am happy that it is under control right now. 

I have a list of topics that I will cull and my sole resolution is to have a new post on-line January 2.

Happy New Year.

Print Blog Post

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reflections on my first interview

Linda and I picked a table in a small side room of the restaurant; there were two long tables for eight and two tables for two.  We sat at one of the large tables; I spread out my notebook and folders to prevent anyone from interrupting us.  I placed three napkins under my tape recorder to muffle any sounds of our plates and utensils.  I was ready to go. 
My first interview. 
Right off the bat I violated one of the rules of interviewing: no restaurants or public places.  Lunch time was the only time our schedules allowed and I was anxious to get my new blog project started, so I settled for a noisy locale.  The napkins didn’t muffle the lunch sounds very well; later when I played the recording back the waitress could be clearly heard several times asking if we needed more tea or how did we like the salsa.  Each of our phones rang a few times.  We took two calls each and ignored the others after a quick look at the caller ID.  I hit the pause button during these brief interruptions. 
But I persevered and continued with my questions and let Linda ramble on.  Linda’s verbal wanderings provided answers to multiple questions with only one prompt.  I let her move the conversation in any direction she desired; my questions required more than a yes or no.  Linda revealed inner thoughts that filled my interview notes with material that screamed to say, “I’m interesting.”
We laughed and lamented about the pleasures and pains of senior citizens living in the new retirement, called work.  Both of us have different reasons for working, but have accepted our fate.  Rather than mere acceptance, we relish our current situations.  Linda says today is the best day of life.  Tomorrow is the best day for me.
I learned several valuable lessons about recording techniques from my first interview with Linda.  Napkins don’t muffle sounds, use something more substantial to reduce table sounds, and you can’t turn on the table recorder soon enough or turn it off too late.  The best comments are sometimes left unrecorded. 
Of course my mind wandered on occasion.  The smell of eggs and sausage on the grill created delicious distractions; wonderful aromas drifted from the kitchen.  Never go to your favorite Mexican restaurant for an interview. 
Go there for huevos rancheros.

Print Blog Post

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Count Your Blessings

How many times have we been reminded to count our blessings?  My parents often used that phrase when I was a younger.  Their lives were influenced by the Great Depression and the tough times they endured and this indirectly affected me. 
My father was too young for WWI and too old for WWII but he lived his 30’s during the depression.  Likewise my father-in-law knew the depression era first hand.  Both of these men influenced my life at different times.  While neither became destitute or homeless then, neither lived a financially comfortable life.  They taught me valuable life lessons about work and character.  I started my work career around 15 years of age delivering newspapers and for the first eight years of my married life I worked two or three jobs (and went to college fulltime for three of those years).  Both my father (Henry) and father-in-law (Charlie) retired and then went to work at other jobs for several more years. 
As a teenager I knew that I would have to pay for college on my own.  That’s just the way it was.  I paid for my car insurance and gas in high school, worked for nine months between high school and college, and every break thereafter.  Later, my father-in-law found work for me as a temporary parking lot attendant when I returned to college after my 3 years in the army.  Surprisingly enough, last week a volunteer at a local non-profit agency’s holiday fair complemented me on my parking ability as he directed traffic.  He gave me an A+, thanks Charlie.
Now many years later I feel that work is part of my life.  I can’t imagine not working; it doesn’t seem like a chore.  It is just something I do.  Thanks Henry and Charlie.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Technology Adoption: A Slippery Slope

Did you take typing class in high school?  Did you own a fountain pen?  Do you have memories of Kodak Brownie cameras, Princess phones, the Ernie Kovac’s show, or Roy Rogers?  If you do then you may be a member of the Low Tech Club.
Many senior citizens prefer things they way there were when they were young.  Comfortable and familiar aspects of our youth, you knew how they worked and how to use them.  You refilled your pen when it went dry, no need to reboot or call tech support.  Life was easy, maybe a bit messy but easy.
If you called someone and if they didn’t answer you knew they weren’t home.  Now a message comes on and asks you to leave a message.  Are they home, screening calls, busy or on with someone else and don’t care to answer?  You just don’t know and that is perplexing.  Likewise, if you email or send a text message to a friend and don’t receive a quick response you get annoyed. 
Many seniors avoid the lure of high tech gadgetry.  Someone I know has a smart phone and all they can do is make phone calls.  Twenty-five years ago they couldn’t program a VCR (a device that has virtually disappeared).  Now they exhibit some of the same attitudes towards email, text messages, smart phones or online social media services.  Too many options, choices or strange terminology make them feel uncomfortable and inadequate.
The stereotypical view is:  Seniors don’t do technology.  Assistance is often required when they do make a leap in technology usage.  Usually a younger family member or friend is contacted for help or advice.  Or they totally foul things up and then they make that dreaded call for help.  I too make those calls to my sons on occasion.
But many senior citizens embrace technology.  One of my earlier interview subjects uses email extensively in her new enterprise and accesses extensive real estate data bases for information.  Only a few short years ago she would have laughed at the thought of her dependence on a computer for her livelihood.
While my wife, Iris, verbally eschews the Internet and computers she actually is very adept at online shopping, researching cruise line information, finding coupons for restaurants and communicating with her friends via email.  Iris appreciates the benefits of our new iMac™ compared to the now defunct PC.
A former co-worker (70 years plus) uses the Internet to display his artwork and has an online resale web site.  Another of my contemporaries has a business that relies on his computer skills to publish a coupon calendar and a portion of a second business relies on the Internet.  On the personal side he is in constant contact with his family for pictures of his grandchildren (5) and communicates sports news back and forth with his son via his smart phone.
While I manage three web sites for my personal enjoyment and now write this blog, use a new iMac™ computer, a Nook™, a laptop and rely on computers heavily at my 8 to 5 job I have not embraced all of the newest technologies.  I still use a flip phone without a camera, don’t have a social media presence and don’t send text messages.  In addition, I still pay for cable service because I don’t watch TV on my computer.  I write checks to pay my bills, but access my savings and checking accounts online. 
I use technology in limited doses.  I am addicted to Yahoo news and google for information regularly.  My Palm™ is retired and my contact and calendar information are stored on the Cloud, for access wherever I go (as long as I have a computer to use).
But as a self-proclaimed member of the Low Tech Club I hold true to some core values.  I still like reading a printed book.  There are no used book stores for my Nook™.  While many classics are available, there are still many books that are not available in print or for the E-reader.  But I will load my Nook™ with several E-books to read on my next vacation, especially the new Stephen King hardback book that is too heavy to carry or hold.  My mix and match approach to technology use is my style.
Crossword Puzzle App
Somehow last week I slipped deeper into a new technology.  I purchased the new Nook Tablet™, which adds web surfing and a variety of apps to its book reader and passed my older (6 months) Nook™ to my wife.  Adoption of gadgets and that life style commences with a trip down a slippery slope, start small and gradually increase.  I just hope that my recent purchase doesn’t lead to more gadgets.   

Oh, listen to that!  Pandora Radio (google it and find out more), it’s great.
Sorry, what did you say?  My cell phone is dead and my Internet connection just dropped.  When I get home I’ll call you back on my land line, if I remember.
KISS:  Keep innovation selectively smart.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bucket List Part 2

My Bucket List
Perhaps you’ve seen the 2007 movie “Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.  In this movie the two protagonists, from completely different backgrounds, embark on a journey in which they try to accomplish items on their bucket lists.  The movie encompasses both the humorous and serious aspects of life as it draws to close.  A much older movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart as George Baily reflects on life in a different manner.  George Bailey views life from a ghostly view highlighting his absence.  Different questions are raised by each movie; one movie sees life as a checklist, the other measures a person’s affects on those around him or her.
In the Nicholson-Freeman story the emphasis is on the final lap of life.  At least one of the protagonists is trying to check off as many items during the final period of life as possible.  Achieving the items on the bucket list is a sprint to the finish line.  George Bailey reflects on his life and sees how it would have been without him; the focus is on life’s long journey. 
My blog idea list which contains topics I want to explore and share.  My writing notebooks and folders contain four or five concepts for large and small pieces of fiction.  I plug away without counting, without finishing a certain number this week, this month or even this year. 
While these writing projects are in written form, I don’t have a formal bucket list.  No top 10 places to visit and no 1000 things to do before I die.  I enjoy plugging away, just enjoying things as they happen.  Life’s journey and experiences are too much fun to ruin by quantifying or checking off a list.  I do have several unwritten bucket list items and if the occasion arises they will be enjoyed, as and when they happen.  They are moments to be savored by virtue of their value, not because they get crossed off some fantasy list.  My preference is to live right now, not for some unknown future.  But hope for a future life to enjoy.
Rather than enjoy special events just once I like to repeat them.  On the spur of the moment I will go to my favorite Jazz club and enjoy the music.  Sometimes it’s to hear a favorite band or could be to listen to a new group.  Pleasant experiences are worth doing over and over.  Iris loves cruises and would rather go on two modest trips per year than one extravagant cruise in a year.  Life is like pizza: when it is good it is good, when it is bad it is still good.
The checklist approach to life is mundane, boring and technical.  Been there, done that.  A period at the end.
Approaching activities for their intrinsic value is fun, unique and memorable.  The peaks and surprises of life are worth remembering, worth doing over.   An exclamation point at conclusion!
As I write this I realize I do have a solitary bucket list thought: wake up tomorrow morning with Iris and my dog, Ruby, by my side waiting to see what will happen. 
This is the Zen of life.  List not included.
KISS:  Keep it Somewhat Spontaneous.

Print Blog Post

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bucket List Part 1

What is a bucket list?

Life’s journey often starts without a clear path laid out.  Most people don’t have an exact clear life plan when they are in middle school, high school and sometimes even in college.  Our first steps in the journey are tentative and flexible.  That is okay.  That is normal.  We blaze our own path in the beginning; our youthful confidence ignores doubt, missteps and ignorance.

Life takes shape and direction at its own pace.  People develop a concept of themselves and what they want to do; they develop and follow an internal compass.  Along with near and mid-term plans people conceive an ethereal concept of some distant future.  People begin to create dreams, wishes and aspirations of a conceptual nature.  These conceptual ideas are presented in concrete terms of things they want or want to do.  Thus is born the “bucket list.”

In the beginning the list is short including only major events: I want a small family, I want to go college, and I want to visit Italy.  Items are added and removed.  Events change the list: you go into the army instead of college, visit to Canada not Italy and the family is larger than planned.  That is just the way it is.  You adapt to the circumstances, change your expectations and move on.

I am not sure when the term “bucket list” or common use of a written list came to be.  Now at every turn references are found to the bucket list.  A 1000 things to see before you die, 50 things to do before you die, 111 ideas for a bucket list and summer bucket list are actual web sites on the Internet.  I didn’t bother to view these pages.  I am sure they are interesting and of value, at least to the authors.  They are the author’s lists, not mine or yours.  Do I really want to see the Pyramids in Egypt, climb a mountain, run a marathon or find a long lost friend?  The bucket list is only of value to those who engage in writing them.  How do they know what I want to do or need?  Am I part of a giant marketing research effort?

My simple life philosophy eschews the need for a formal list.  Wanting things or wanting to do a prescribed list of tasks is not pleasant, it creates urges to get, do or have material items.  It causes greed and desire to have things that others have or have done.  I am not them (whoever they are), and I don’t want their things or lives.
I don’t feel the need to have list of things to do because I am not ready to go just yet.  All I really want is to be the best “Warren” I can be, nothing more, nothing less.  List not required.

More Next Week

Print Blog Post

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Goal of Retirement

Retirement is the light at the end of the tunnel, the brass ring to grab, and the finish line of a long race.  We work in order to retire; our ultimate goal is to stop working.  Eight to five, five days a week for years we toil to attain the final reward of retirement, the target we’ve been striving to reach.  We check our Social Security statements to make sure the annual reported salaries are correct, we carefully monitor our savings and perform endless tasks related to our financial well-being.  Sometimes we feel satisfied that our progress is on track and sometimes we feel that we have fallen behind.  Short-term issues balloon into major stumbling blocks in the trek to that wonderful goal, the unending vacation called retirement.

For years retirement has been a goal in the very distant future, so far away that it is only a theoretical concept.  One day the goal creeps into our vision, still far away but rapidly approaching; the distant retirement dream begins to race towards us at an even quicker rate.  We have been planning for it, but not thinking about what we will do.  Retirement is here.  The first week we complete our to-do list and our spouse wants us out of the way.  Yikes.  What am I going to do?  

I’d rather ask a different question.  Not what am I going to do when I retire, but why retire?  Paid retirement is a relatively new concept; the first government paid program only began in 1883.  German Chancellor Bismarck formulated retirement to counter the growing influence of Marxism in Europe.  Bismarck tried to give the German people hope, a dream of a better future.  The concept of retirement stuck even though the 65 years of age needed for retirement was higher than the average life expectancy.  Paid government retirement became the norm in Europe and the United States within a few decades.  Despite the newness of the retirement concept everyone accepts the fact that we are entitled to it, we’ve worked for it, and it’s our right.  Paid retirement may be new but that doesn’t mean it is bad or we need to turn back the clock.

I’ll rephrase my question: What should we do now that we are ready to retire?  Those fortunate enough to have sufficient financial capacity to stop working may actually stop working but they still need productive and meaningful activities; those whose financial circumstances force them to continue working must now adjust their mindset away from a permanent vacation, heaven on earth, and long days on a rocker.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wandering Behavior

Wandering or Wondering?

Forgetfulness is normal and as we age memory loss increases.  There is no escaping occasional memory loss.  Have you ever walked into a room and don’t remember what or why?  This becomes more common the older you get.  The fix is to start over and have a mini AH HA moment.  Your spouse or friends may ask why you did something stupid or exhibited poor judgment and you don’t really have a satisfactory explanation.  You don’t want to change something you’ve always done because you’re stubborn.  These behaviors are actually part of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease; fear of which causes anxiety in most of us who seen its dreaded effects. 
My wife, Iris, claims I exhibit wandering behavior, another Alzheimer symptom, coupled with a small measure of antagonism now and then.  My behavior involves taking my camera and driving through the older areas of San Antonio.  On these photographic excursions I would drag my wife along with me.  The stated goal was to photograph outdoor art, mostly done by average people or community service organizations to beautify a neighborhood or to promote a compelling social message. 
I started these photographic adventures a few years ago with no agenda or plan.  Sometimes a newspaper story about some piece of outdoor art would peak my interest, or I saw one while driving and I would make a mental note to go back with a camera.  My satisfaction came not with the original location found and photographed but with an accidental bonus shot.  A random piece of art on a wall or fence, on the side of a warehouse would catch my attention and it would be added to my collection.  Over a 1000 photographic images fill my digital files and many are displayed at
The antagonism would come when Iris would find fault with my driving (looking around, missing a turn or driving on the wrong side of a deserted street).  Her anxiety level increased when I would park, get out, leave her in the car alone and walk around with a $1,000 camera. 
I would claim my actions are normal and safe.  And I would proclaim this loudly.
My actions were not clearly thought out and perhaps even a little dangerous.  Sometimes I would go on these trips alone early on a Saturday morning.  My rationale was anyone up to no good was probably still asleep.  I would drive to my target area, circle around once to check out the neighborhood and then call my wife to give her a report.  Her paranoia became contagious; I would park, shoot my pictures and hurry back to my car.  After a quick look at the pictures on the camera’s preview screen I would return home.   My return would be delayed by a ride around the general area trying to locate other outdoor murals or paintings.  On the way home I would call Iris and ask if she needed anything at the supermarket, an automatic behavior induced by 42 years of marriage.
Yes, I was wandering.  Yes, I was sometimes antagonistic.  Yes, I was inappropriate.  Three strikes and you are out.  Don’t put me away just yet I still have a lot of life to investigate.  I am just curious and somewhat creative.  Perhaps I was wondering about life, not wandering without direction.
My recommendation for channeling creative ideas is: KISS.  Keep it Safe Seniors.

Print Blog Post

Sunday, October 30, 2011

No Pain, No Gain

No pain, no gain is a popular theory used by trainers, athletes, jocks of all sorts and of course me. If you look back at several earlier blogs I have resumed exercising (walking / slogging) this year with great results. I have lost over 35 pounds since February and my blood pressure is normal. Along with the reduced weight (from technically obese to almost an ideal weight) my sugar level has dropped significantly.

My 5K time has decreased from about 50 minutes to 41 minutes on my last timed outing. Emboldened by my own results I started to run more during my weekly treadmill sessions. I would walk 2 or 3 minutes then run 1 minute; sometimes I would run 2 minutes. This is a valid form of interval training used in many training regimes to increase overall results; it is used with time, speed or repetitions of any physical activity at all levels. This has come with considerable effort and sweat.

Usually I have ample time after work to exercise but one particular day I was rushed and wanted to get home early and I decided to run an entire mile without stopping. My time was 13 minutes and 8 seconds and I felt great. Several days later I walked (with some interval jogging) slightly over 2 miles in 27 minutes and again I felt great. 

The following Saturday I started my fast walk with some slogging and finished the first mile in just over 13 minutes, a great time with no noticeable problems. Just as I started the second mile I felt a slight discomfort in my left hip but I continued to walk at a good pace and finished the second mile with a total time of 27 minutes. But as I got off the treadmill the discomfort increased and I neglected to stretch out after my walk.

Pain is nature’s way of telling you to slow down.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Are You Happy?

This seemingly benign question poised to me by a friend presented an opportunity to think about my happiness.  Was I happy?  This casual comment cascaded into a serious thought provoking quest. Where does one find the answer to this eternal question?  What is happiness?

Dictionaries are useless: the dictionary defines happiness as the state of being happy, with happy defined as delighted, pleased, or merry.

Does that mean do I go around smiling and skipping all day?  I think not.  Adults are sometimes institutionalized for public skipping.  Some of us describe our wedding day as the happiest day of life; perhaps we were thinking of our wedding night.

Children can be happy with an ice cream cone on hot summer day, or with a new video game. For the child perhaps this is happiness; but not for this writer.   Although, I must admit I do love ice cream.

I did what every 21st Century blogger would do, I googled happiness.  The happiness search resulted in 281 million hits, too much to actually research.  There is even a Happiness Journal.  So I refined my search and used the term contentment.   Contentment assumes a more peaceful state, of being at ease. Contentment is a trait that seniors are assumed to possess by virtue of their life’s experiences.  This search resulted in only 13 million hits.  More manageable, but not something I would not attempt to review in a short period of time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Things Seniors Need

Recently an on-line article (credited to AARP) "25 things Senior Citizens don’t need" caught my attention.  A litany cute items were on the list.  Of course we don’t need a 36-roll package of toilet paper or a 2-gallon container of mayonnaise from our favorite wholesale store.  Nor do we need three hundred HD channels from the local cable company.   Most these items would make a very long email joke; I am sure that this list is now circulating and will outlast all of us.
But a serious question is implied: What do seniors need?  Doctors, social workers and scholars could develop a list of worthy real needs.  A list of medications comes to my mind instantly: to share with doctors and emergency responders.  Another need would an emergency contact list, a file of important documents and the list goes on. 
I’ve made a top ten list of things Seniors really need.  Perhaps need or things are not the correct words.  I consider them qualities or behaviors that are essential for a person’s well being.  

  1. Spouse or friend:  We are social creatures and loneliness is not a pleasant situation.  Be involved with people; if you can’t be with them pickup the phone and tell them you love them, miss them and make a point to meet.
  2. Good food:  A good diet, one that is appropriate for your health issues is important.  Good food includes occasional indulgences or a meal out of the home, and even perhaps a glass of wine or beer.  Treat yourself to a special dinner at your favorite restaurant occasionally. 
  3. A good book:  Loose yourself in the adventure of reading a best seller, an old classic, or just anything that interests you.  Don’t spend you days or evenings only watching TV. 
  4. Share or teach a skill you possess:  Teaching is truly a wonderful experience.  Passing on your knowledge and helping others learn new concepts, ideas and knowledge gives one a feeling of value.  Or take a class and learn something new or expand your area of expertise.  Read at the local library or school. 
  5. Daily routine:  Have a schedule of things to do, places to go to or meetings to attend.  Keep a calendar for these activities, have a routine.  Don’t wait for things to happen.  Stay busy.  Visit a neighbor or a morning walk with a friend could included in your routine. 
  6. Dreams and goals:  Work on a bucket list of places to visit or things to do, grand or modest.  Desire is a human trait that gives our lives a purpose.  We are not lumps on a log.  We need to have a purpose.  Visit that old high school friend, go on a picnic, or travel to the near or far corners of the world.  Visit the historic neighborhoods in your area. 
  7. A good doctor:  We may hate to visit them, but we need them.  You know your body; you know what your normal is.  Tell the doctor how you feel, they are not mind readers.  They want to help you. 
  8. Hobby:  Keeping busy with a purpose can fill the days.  It can be knitting, photography, any number of collectables, writing, wood working, jewelry making and on and on.  Every hobby has a magazine and group of participants.  Purposeful activities keep us sharp and interesting. 
  9. Be optimistic with a measure of skepticism:  We live in a complicated, sometimes confusing world.  Look for the bright side of life.  But remember if it sounds too good to be true it probably is not true.  
  10. Responsibility: Somebody is counting on you.  It could be your spouse, your children, a friend or even your pet.  They need you and it is your duty to be there for them.

Ruby is a senior citizen
KISS.  Knowledge is so stimulating.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Why my wife's retirement is good for us.

This blog started with the thought that my wife’s retirement was good for me.  Six reasons flashed into my mind and then into my notes for this blog.  

  1. No more rushed dinners when I come home at the same time or just before her. 
  2. Reduced number of weekend supermarket trips. 
  3. She’s home when I come home, it feels like a 1950’s sitcom. 
  4. She can meet me for lunch.  
  5. A typical morning question before I go to work is, “What can I do you for you today?”  
  6. My laundry duty has been reduced to bringing a full basket to the laundry room in the morning. 
While all these points are true I realized it was a list of me, me, and more me.  Even the idea of a blog about why her retirement is good for me sounds a little narcissistic.  Why should I sound this way?  In an instant I switched my thoughts to why my wife’s retirement is good for her.

  1. She deserved it.  She’s worked long enough and maintained our family while working full time. 
  2. More time to devote to her needs, both physical and mental. 
  3. She’s home when I come home (sound familiar), which means she is not rushing to make dinner. 
  4. No need to prove her value.  She’s done it all and while she worked. 
  5. She can meet me for lunch (sound familiar).   Which we now do about once a month.  
  6. Someone has to take care of the dog, the most valuable member of our family.
We are both happier now that she is home.  It is a win, win position for both of us.  I prefer the situation as it is now, a pretend 1950’s sitcom without the kids, noisy neighbors, or calamities.  The real test will come when I am home on weekdays.  Will my retirement be good for me and our family dynamic?  I can’t wait to find out.  But that will have to wait a few more years.
KISS.  Keep it Sane Soul Mates.

Print Blog Post

Saturday, October 1, 2011

M.H. Levine: How do you say no to a Teddy Bear?

Recently I went to M.H.’s (he is commonly known by his initials) office to interview him for my blog.  I was greeted enthusiastically by an imposing figure; the former college football player carried his size gracefully and I felt at ease immediately.  He answered my first question (How are you?) with “Old on the outside, but not on the inside,” with a smile.
University of Arkansas
He related a story about a friend of one of his six daughters who needed to “shadow” him and some of his staff for week for a project but was afraid to ask directly.  The friend was afraid of M.H.; he is a large man with a commanding presence and booming voice.  His daughter convinced her friend that her father was a Teddy Bear, a view I came to agree with as our morning together progressed. 
Before our interview I had known M.H. only in a superficial manner; I was pleasantly surprised when he quickly said yes to my request for an interview for my vague, yet to be finalized idea to start a blog on Working Seniors.  M.H. is the Executive Director of Jewish Family Services and his agency provides social services for thousands of clients in San Antonio and his work schedule is full.  But he made time gladly and I got the impression that he had his phone on do not disturb for our session.
When I asked what he loved about working in the non-profit world he changed the question to reflect about his parents, whom he obviously loved.  His story began when his parents visited a local hospital to learn about adoption and went home with a blue-eyed baby.  He described his parents as loving, caring, color-blind people who helped many people when he was growing up, with money, clothes, bail and even funeral help.  In Pinebluff Arkansas in the forties and fifties they were unique.  Their way of life became M.H.’s way of life. 
Many of the management techniques used in the operation of a non-profit agency are different from those used in for-profit companies, but there are many skills that can cross-over.  M.H. crossed-over without hesitation.  He told me that in many businesses the boss’s word is law and that outcomes are usually clear and can be measured easily.  In his current work the outcomes are not so accurately measured and that makes evaluation of success more difficult; more staff involvement in the entire process is necessary.  Ultimately, the agency director has to make the final decisions but staff involvement is required.  M.H.’s style is semi-democratic: he has fifty votes and each staff member has one each, but a vote is never taken.  They discuss the issues and problems until the right path is found, one that is in the best interest of the clients and meets the agency’s goals.
The Beatles’ song “The Long and Winding Road” might describe M.H.’s path to his current position as Executive Director of a non-profit agency.  He served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force for six years; this was followed by a number of business positions in the food and logistics industry until he was 60.  He served several years on a non-profit board which was his introduction to the non-profit world.  When he returned to his hometown to be near his elderly mother an old hometown friend asked him what he was going to do.  That chance meeting led to a position with Neighbor to Neighbor in Pinebluff Arkansas as its director.  M.H. began phase two of his working career, directly helping others.  At 60 years of age he marched down an entirely new career path; he felt instantly comfortable with that decision and with the work.  Years later his wife, Natalie, told him this was what he was destined to do.
I asked him about his plans to stop working. 
“I have no plans to stop,” his answer was straightforward and clear, without any equivocation.  That ended any follow-up questions about what’s next.
We spent a significant of amount time discussing his return to college to obtain a Masters in Business Administration.   He graduated the day before his 70th birthday.  M.H. graduated with a real degree, earned by hard work, not with an honorary degree or a degree based on work experience.  He was excited and proud of this unique accomplishment. 
For many years he wanted to return to school but lacked the confidence to return for an advanced degree.  But years of experience eventually gave M.H. the confidence he needed.  He found a program that suited his needs and enrolled in a Masters in Business Administration program at the Phoenix University.  M.H. elected to take the traditional route of a classroom program, rather than an on-line option.
He took 12 courses over an 18 month period; each course was four hours per week for four weeks.  Each course required 600 pages of reading per week with weekly written assignments.  It was a grueling schedule.  He worked every evening on his homework and often pulled an all night session.  On weekends he spent hours at a local library reading, removed from the distractions of his home.  He says without the support and help of his wife and staff members he could not have earned the degree.  M.H. is modest about his accomplishment, but he was profuse in thanking others for their help.
Phoenix University’s approach to the degree program impressed M.H.  They required the students in each class to form teams.  The teams created a charter of operations; they divided tasks among the members and encouraged each other to succeed.  That process strengthened each member by working on their weak points and utilizing their strong areas for a better team effort.  Each team had to make a group presentation at the end of the class.  M.H. says he learned as much from the team approach as he did from the books and the actual class work.  He thinks he has carried some of this team approach to his role as a director of a busy agency. 
His goal when he started the degree program was to “to do a better job.”  He was not promised an increase in salary or a better job if he obtained the degree, nor did he expect it.  M.H. was entirely motivated to do a better job and that he has accomplished. 
At the beginning of this blog I mentioned M.H. is what most people commonly call him.  We spoke briefly about his name.  During his degree program one professor called him Levine, while his classmates called him M.H.  The professor told him that M.H. is not a name, it is just initials.  Many of his Air Force fellow officers called him Moe, a form of his first name.  As a child many children transformed the letters M and H into a word, Maych.  I never really delved into how he became known as M.H.; perhaps if I knew the reason it would change my impression of the man.  So while I know his name, I prefer to call him M.H.  Both the name and the man are unique.
Natalie produced a video tribute of his life for his 70th Birthday and Graduation celebration.  It was grouped into ten year segments, highlighting significant events and milestones in his life.  Natalie titled the video “The best is yet to come.”  Friends and family at the celebration would probably agree that, judging by the long winding trail he has taken so far in life and his accomplishments, the best is yet to come.
When we finished our meeting he fell back onto to an old habit of a salesman.  He asked for an order.  The order was a request to help his agency with a project he felt would improve the agency. 
So how do you say no to a Teddy Bear?  You don’t and I agreed to help.

Print Blog Post

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Long Road to Life Style Changes (Part 3 Final)

Lessons Learned from Second 5K Walk Event

Three weeks ago I went to the park again with my wife, son, niece and assorted children. The kids ran the half mile and the mile courses. My wife, son and niece joined the kids on the mile run. I saved my energy for the 5K course. I waited patiently for over an hour for the warm-up events to finish.

Just as the runners were lining up for the 5K event my niece (and pace setter) announced that it was too late for her, she had to get the kids home and get to an eleven o’clock appointment. A moment’s disappointment, then the start was announced.

There were two lessons learned Saturday. The first was act, don’t waste time thinking. There was no time to consider possibilities or alternate plans. No time to think or cajole my son to go with me. I was there to walk/slog a 5K course and that was what I would do. I don’t remember when I started to slog, but I slogged intermittently during the first mile. A group of young teens and their youth leader formed a pact just in front of me; once or twice I passed them during one of my early slogs. Then I would fall back, but they were always just ahead.

It was a very hot and humid morning and the middle section of the course was on a park road, not on the interior paths and the heat began to sap my energy. But I managed to maintain a good walking pace despite more runners passing me. Several glances back spurred me on.

Just Yards from Finish Line

I was not last. As it turned out the participant right behind was a young man pushing a stroller. At one point he wife came back and joined him. Then further behind him was a man I passed very early on and had chatted with briefly. He was a race volunteer and 72 years old. Later I reviewed a picture that my son took of me near the finish line and discovered another participant behind me. Perhaps there were more even further back.

The second lesson I learned was that in races (and in life) there is always some ahead of you and always someone behind you. Perhaps you can catch the ones ahead or allow them to outdistance you; or allow the ones behind to run you over or leave them in your rear view mirror.

How you view your position is a matter of attitude. At least for races my outlook is to catch the one runner ahead me. He or she has a target on their back. The ones behind are out of sight and out of mind.

This time my 5K time was 41 minutes and 40 seconds. Much better than the first try just four weeks ago. The group of teens I had slogged behind very early in the run waited for me at the finish line; they, along with my wife and son, cheered me on as I crossed the finish line and rewarded me with a bottle of Gatorade.

See you next month at the park. Keep moving.
Print Blog Post

Monday, September 19, 2011

Long Road to Life Style Changes (Part 2)

First 5K Outdoor Walk Event
Recently, with my niece’s encouragement and guidance, I found myself a local park on a Saturday morning participating in an organized 5K Walk / Run event.  My youngest son joined us and the next stage of my exercise regime began.  According to my marathon running niece I walked at a good pace and I even managed to shuffle along a few times.  Not quite a jog, but certainly not a walking pace.  We finished the course less than fifty minutes.  Not too shabby for my first outdoor attempt.  Of course, another 67 year old man ran past me.  (He earlier told us he started running at 64, and had completed four marathons).  Rather than depressing me, his performance gave me a little mental boost.  This run began six months ago and took less than an hour.  But it was a significant milestone in my changing health efforts.
Before the Event

Monday found me back on the treadmill; however, at that session I mixed walking and jogging.   Twice more that week I repeated the same routine.  These two sessions resulted in a two mile distance, of which I probably ran a half a mile.  Business or personal events that cause me to miss a day are just slight interruptions.  Missing a day doesn’t mean stopping. 

I looked at the event schedule for the local running club and decided to participate in another 5K event.  I plan to shuffle, jog or drag myself about one third of the course.  I have four weeks to get ready.   

My wife decided that she too needed to add exercise to her health improvement efforts.  She too started a treadmill routine at the health club and is determined to continue. 

My simple goals of basic diet and exercise changes created an unintended consequence.  My wife and I occasionally walk together.  We have another common activity to share.  Having a partner in lifestyle change programs is an important factor with its success.    

I’ve redoubled my diet commitment and my exercise regime will be reexamined.  I don’t believe that a marathon is in my future, but certainly more 5K events and perhaps longer distances lay in the road ahead.  Longer and faster, and simple has proved successful so far.

Look for a progress report soon.  In the meantime my advice is to KISS.  Keep it Simple Seniors.

Print Blog Post

Friday, September 16, 2011

Long Road to Life Style Changes (Part 1)

Taking the First Steps (to a 5K)

I was more than fifty pounds overweight and led a mostly sedentary life style with a few burst of activity that left me stressed. Body mass index charts rated me obese. As my 67th birthday neared, I decided to improve my health through diet and exercise changes. Not withstanding that my past efforts generally failed or had limited success, I knew that changes were needed. Previous attempts at lifestyle changes were limited to exercise or diet only; this time I embraced both simultaneously.

My two part program for change started in February. At first, I cut out desserts, excessive amounts of carbohydrates at dinner and late night snacks. I had no problems controlling breakfast, lunch and daytime snacks and meals. Dinner and late night snacks were my weaknesses. But I managed to bring these under control and I actually added fresh fruit to my diet and eliminated junk food lunches. My modest efforts began to pay off; I lost eleven pounds the first month.

Shortly after my feeble start, my wife joined Weight Watchers and I reaped the benefits of her efforts. Within a short period of time we began to lose weight consistently. Having a partner in this effort helped us succeed. I must give her credit for the careful planning that is required to have a successful diet program; she certainly paid more attention to the diet program than my merely portion size approach. She knows the values of carbohydrates, fat, protein and fiber components in our meals and the relationship of each in the Weight Watcher point system far better than me.

Rather than start a complex exercise program, I decided to start simple. I would just walk. No machines, weights, formal classes or ridiculously early morning sessions would be part of my program. The Jewish Community Center health center became my first stop after work two or three times a week. I added one day on the weekend and soon found myself in a regular routine.

The walks started with a mile in twenty minutes and I gradually increased both my total time and pace. My walking time increased to almost 40 minutes and over two miles by April. I added a little more time and reached the three-mile mark with ease on the weekends. Often I go twice on the weekend and on occasion I managed to squeeze in a forty-five minute walk during the week.

Both approached to a healthier life style began to show great results. In six months I have lost over thirty pounds and my walking distances are considerably longer.

Not me and not to scale, and I have more hair.

In addition to the measurable results, I feel better. My pants are falling off, my double chin is almost gone and my gut has shrunk. I have always slept well, but now I sleep even better. Soon, I must make the formerly dreaded visit to the mall for new clothes; I now actually look forward to this trip because I will go down in size, not up.

Look for a progress report soon. In the meantime my advice is to KISS. Keep it Simple Seniors. More on this effort in a few days.

Print Blog Post

Friday, September 9, 2011

What age do you want to be?

“I wish I was young again’” is a frequent lament most of us have either heard or said at one time or another.  If we hadn’t said it, we thought it, wished for it or perhaps even prayed for it.  Sometimes we wish for the things other people have: their car, their house, their job or their latest gadget.  We usually never want to be them; what we really want is to be our old selves again, to be young again.  Wishing to be young again is natural.  We want to turn back the clock.  The question is how far back?  What age do you want to be?
High school was an uneventful time and place for me.  My family came from the wrong side of the track, or rather the wrong side of Clinton Avenue.  Most of my classmates were from middle class families who owned small businesses or were mid-level professionals and some were the offspring of fairly wealthy families with who I had little in common with.  In addition, I entered high school in the tenth grade; most of my new classmates came from a different junior high school and started high school as ninth graders.  Many of my junior high classmates went to a different high school filled with the children of working class families; crazy school boundaries made me an outsider.  However, a few of my really good friends from junior high school made the same trek to the other side of Clinton Avenue with me; those good friends made up for the lack of a wider group of close classmates. On the positive side I received an excellent education which laid the groundwork for my acceptance into Rutgers University and other institutions later.
Warren Lieberman
US Army 1964
In my early twenties I joined the army.  While it was a great experience, the male communal life style and bursts of youthful adventures (or rather misadventures) didn’t suit my personality and I’d rather not repeat that experience.  Some forty-five years later only one friend from the army remains in contact with me.  I married my girl friend, who waited while I served out my enlistment, and returned to college after my three years in the army.Being a married college student meant I was either going to class, studying, working part-time jobs or living the usual life of a low income married man with ample tuna casserole dinners.  There was one year between my graduation from college and the birth of our first son that was ideal.  A few years later the birth of our second son enlarged our family and we moved 1500 miles from our lives in New Jersey to Texas.  My military experience and life as a married college student created a strong work ethic that continues to the present day.  The greatest wonderment of this time was my marriage and the birth of two sons.  Those years were essential to my development as a mature, productive person, and laid the foundation for a strong, loving long marriage.
From thirty to my mid-forties I was either worked sixty plus hours a week, or barely made ends meet, and raised a young family.  I think we went on one vacation to Disney Land during this time.  The four of us packed into our station wagon for over a week.  Our car needed a serious cleaning when we returned home; week old food wrappers, soda bottles, and worse will cause strange odors to permeate inside.  One of my sons has no memory of the trip, my oldest son and I only have a few clear recollections but my wife remembers every ride and our reunion with friends from New Jersey.  While daunting times, these years strengthened our family bonds which are still vibrant today.  I came home every night to a warm home, a hot meal, helped my kids with homework and held my wife tight for fear of losing a good thing.
Not our station wagon!
My children grew up and created lives for themselves, and my married life seemed ideal as the late forties hit.  I worked at a great job, took a few vacations, and spent time at wonderful conventions with a side benefit of taking my wife with me.  Again, I endeavored in a sixty plus hour a week position, with meetings and calls seven days a week.  Community respect came with this work and a large measure of internal reward.  Major surgeries made my wife and I experience the frailties of life.  Thankfully, we both recovered.  I guess I had a late-mid life crisis because in my mid fifties I moved on to another satisfying position.  When I remember the good times I think I want to be fifty again.    
Now at sixty-seven I still work full time and love it.  My children live nearby and my wife is reading next to me while I pound away at the computer keyboard.  We’ve gone on thirteen cruises in the last seven years.  We both have active lives of work, volunteer activities, friends and hobbies.  Life is great.  I pray that it continues.
Each of the different periods of time in my life had pluses and minuses; each period built on the previous experiences and that carried me along life’s journey.  As I reflect on the great memories and wonderful times past I don’t want to relive them, not out of disappointment, regrets or thoughts of lost opportunities but with expectations of new and exciting times yet to come.
I wish to stay sixty-seven, except without two a.m. bathroom calls and the aches and pains in the morning.
Print Blog Post