Sunday, January 29, 2012


Where do writers get ideas? Most writers have been asked this question at least once, and most likely many, many times. This question also appears in a good number of the “how-to” write books and articles. Sometimes when I do something crazy or stupid Iris asks me, “Where did you get that idea from? What were you thinking?” This seems to happen fairly often lately.

Ideas are easy. They come easy. Some are good, some are gems and many are not worth the paper they are written (if they make it that far). Ideas for 65 and Alive come from the world around me. I find ideas while reading a story on-line or in the newspaper and something in the story grabs my attention. TV news, with its brevity, is an excellent source of ideas, certainly not content. Observation of people is the best source ideas. Everyday events provide a wealth of ideas. I’ve been to many buffets, cruises and a few restaurants that have senior specials and they provide insights to people at their best and not so stellar. Life situations are fodder for the keyboard.

I jot these random thoughts onto scrap note paper, enter them into a notebook and then into my laptop files. Sometimes I’ll expand the notation with a few sentences for later reference. Then when I am ready to write the next blog I refer to my notes and I’m off to the races.

Once I thought about writing about a typical day in my life. That idea got discarded because it would take all day and I am too busy to follow me around. I see advertisements for over 50 dating services. But I am married and I don’t know anyone who is dating. A blog about adult children returning home didn’t generate any significant motivation; my children are still independent. Childcare issues also are not something I know about, no grandkids yet.

The real challenge is to take a good idea, gather information, determine a central concept to convey, and convert those thoughts into a coherent piece that I think my readers (the blog-talk word “followers” is too self-serving) would enjoy. And be worthy of giving up a few minutes of their day to read.

Perhaps by now you’ve gotten the message. This week I struck out in the idea department. Writers block. Perhaps not, just worthwhile idea block.

I’ve got a great idea. I think I’ll take a nap. Something that I’ve heard was good for seniors.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Older, Yes. Slower, Yes. Better, Yes!

Physical and cognitive functions decline as we age to this is usually no argument.  We walk slower, can’t work outdoors as long as we did when we were young, and many physical tasks that were once easy are now a bit more difficult.  Names are forgotten, past events become faded or lost memories and walking into a room for an item becomes an unpleasant task when we don’t remember what we were looking for. 
But don’t despair they tell us.  This is normal.  Oh, crap!  I had a great thought to write and now I stare at a partial sentence on the computer screen.  But I say don’t believe them, researchers have good news.  WE ARE GETTING BETTER.  (All caps to tell you I’m shouting, because our hearing is bad).
I’ve read a few articles about middle age brains.  One article summarizes a book by Barbara Strauch, “The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain.”  I must admit I haven’t read the book, so my very lean thoughts are a summary of a summary.  Strauch suggests that our brains are not on a steady decline and may be improving.  We are improve like aged cheese, a fine wine and old songs.  While horses don’t fare so well with age the good news is that they are put out to pasture to be studs.
Brain function slows down, we forget things.  Ask any senior citizen.  I have forgotten more names than I can remember.
Our brains are like a full file cabinet, full of experiences.  It just takes longer to find the information we need.  Perhaps the contents have been reshuffled or moved to different drawers.  Information is misfiled.  The chocolate cake recipe we are searching for is not with cakes but with our favorite Aunt who gave you the recipe.  Remembering names is not a memory issue but a matter of finding them in the overfilled file cabinet of a lifetime of events, people and memories. 
Tests show that inductive reasoning, verbal skills, vocabulary and wisdom are better.  Logic is improved by experience; we can filter out the junk faster and judge character in others better.    Repeated experiences seem to reinforce each other and develop into that wonderful place: been there, done that.  We don’t forget how to ride a bike, swim, knit, or work with hand tools.  We may be slower at these functions, arthritis makes these tasks more difficult and we avoid them.  But we know how, we are on autopilot.  Problem solving utilizes the mass of previous events and we know what has or hadn’t worked in the past to solve current issues.
Life is like shampooing your hair: wash, rinse, repeat.   Been there and done that.  We are good at filtering out the irrelevant, the extraneous and unimportant facts.  When we were young we wanted to find ourselves; now we know who we are.  The searching mode of our youth, life without experiences, is behind us.
Seniors function better without the stresses of trying to get ahead at work, raising young families, going to school, or trying to do it all as active adults.  Seniors handle emotional swings of life in a different way than they did when they were young.  Most of us don’t sweat the little stuff.  We know what is important. 
But I guess I am lecturing the choir.  You’ve been there and done that. 

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Famous Old Folks

I was away from home this week and only had time for a short blog.  So here it is: a few brief thoughts on some prominent Senior Citizens and their work.  What a world this would be if we were half as productive as those listed below. 
Albert Einstein:  Taught until his death at the age of 75.  Some of his work was published after his death.
Thomas Edison:  Worked on a railroad electrification program until his death in 1934.  This project served commuters until 1984.
Benjamin Franklin:  While famous for his efforts during the War of Revolution he was governor of Pennsylvania at the age of 82 several years after the war.
George Burns:  Played God at the age of 80 and lived another 20 years.
Ronald Reagan:  Served as President of the United States at 70 years of age. 
Jimmy Carter:  Born in 1924, served as President of the United States at the age of 51.  Carter is still active today a statesman and humanitarian.
Dick Clark:  Happy New Year at 82.  I remember Americian Bandstand as a teenager, now Dick is still putting on a rockin’ show.
Betty White:  Entertaining to young and old at 89. 
Clint Eastwood:  The star of  Rawhide (the theme song is still recognizable today) starred or directed more movies than I can count or remember.  “Make my day.”
Sir Sean Connery:  He starred as the original James Bond fifty years ago.

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Finding Good Books

My October 15, 2011 blog listed 10 things seniors need with a brief description of each.  Each one of the items listed included a few descriptive sentences.  In retrospect, each one of the “needed” things deserves more than just a few words.
This blog will concentrate on item 3: A good book.  What constitutes a good book?  And how do you find them?  Do you like mysteries, science fiction, romance, or historical novels?  Perhaps fiction is not the type of book you read, instead you read non-fiction.  The genres of fiction and non-fiction are wide ranging and staggering amounts of any type of book can be found.  Maybe your preference is a mixed bag or of only one type.  You may have hated a recent best seller, or loved some obscure book that never received the recognition you think it deserved.  Classics may be your turn on.
A good number of people don’t read books, they prefer newspapers, magazines or the Internet.  Notwithstanding the medium, they peruse the written word in one form or another.  Perhaps my listing of a good book should be modified to state enjoyment of the written word, which would include a wide range of media.  But for me a good book is the ultimate manifestation of the written word.  So I will stick with my original listing that Seniors need a good book.
The problem is finding good books.  Booksellers want to sell you books that are on the shelves, friends know what they like and will recommend what they like, and it is hard to find time to go to the library and ask.  A friend who happens to be a retired librarian made some recommendations to my wife that turned out to be right (no pun intended) on target.  She made these recommendations by listening to my wife tell her likes and dislikes in a book and life. Women tend to talk more to each other and develop a mutual empathy and understanding of each more than men, which leave men at a loss. I would have a hard time describing my likes or dislikes to our librarian friend.  One of my sons makes recommendations that sometimes are great and at other times completely off base and I am left in a lurch when I search for books.
Last month I found the Goodreads website.  Goodreads is an internet service that makes reading recommendations.  When you register you are requested to enter at least 20 books that you have read and rate them.  Based on these entries Goodreads will make recommendations and as you enter more books the recommendations become more refined.  The Goodreads user can find information about books, read comments made by other users, add reviews, make comments, find lists of books, share thoughts with friends and find good books to read. 
Right now I have started two new books and have another book on my next to read list.  Register at Goodreads, become my book friend and find out what they are.  I too can find out what you like and what you are reading now.  Book Friends suit me better than Facebook Friends.
Goodreads is the next best thing to having a librarian friend.  But in the end you’ll have to read the book before you really know if it is a good book or not.  So my advice is pickup a book now and read.

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Nostalgia and the New Year

I usually don’t make New Year’s Resolutions and this year is no exception.  But with age comes nostalgic yearnings for the past.  A wish for some long ago memory, skill, size or a favorite car emerges.

Prompted by the references and use of the past in a novel I just finished, Stephen King’s - 11/23/63, ideas for this blog came to me.  Without revealing the plot, various twists and the conclusion I have a few thoughts to share about the novel and nostalgia.  Jake (aka George) goes back in time to prevent the assassination of President JFK.  He is transported to 1958 and must live there (or the Land of Ago as Jake calls it) until November 23, 1963 to fulfill his goal.  While living in the Land of Ago he reflects fondly on many of the joys of those days.  The taste of fresh home delivered milk, unlocked back doors and the trusting nature of people are a few of the elements of the past that Jake enjoys.  Several times the reader gets the impression that he would prefer to remain in The Land of Ago instead of the present day.

Oddly enough, Jake never lived during the time of the story.  Born in the 70’s Jake is actually not living in a past he remembers, but one that is familiar and close in time to his comfort level.  A few weeks ago my daughter-in-law (Nina), who makes marvelous homemade soaps, gave me a homemade bar of shaving soap.  I never experienced a soap and brush shave before.  It was fun once; but the second time I realized my technique needed improvement.  A shaving brush is probably better than a washcloth.  My shave was okay but not smooth.  This quirky past experience left me in desperate need of the predictable Colgate Shaving Cream and for a shaving brush if I intend to really appreciate the shaving soap experience of my father.  

Would you want to return to some nostalgic past?  Perhaps lurking in the back of your mind is a wish to relieve a moment or two and perhaps savor it for its joy or make different choices.  I spent a year in Thailand and now wish I had seen or done more.  That year is a hazy recollection of working on a military radio station with precious few special memories (other than a motorcycle accident written about in Oriental Tales).   Now a desire to see and enjoy that country with a mature appreciation exists.  There are other events I would love to just relive for sheer joy.

Not withstanding my moderate disappointment with shaving soap I still want to drive my 1955 Pontiac with all its faults, live in our second apartment, and relive the fun of riding my bike with no particular destination in mind at the age of 15.  Most of all I would love a redo of a few special moments.  I want to remember riding in my sports car with Iris, my wedding ceremony and the birth of our sons.  My wish would be to have digital and video recorders ready to record those events.  Of course neither of those devices existed then so I am left with my imperfect memory.  

As I wrote in another blog, today is the best day of my life.  Nostalgia will have to remain a playful wish. Making meaningful and special memories today to enjoy in the years to come is a more important principle for life rather than living in the past.

Happy New Year and make fond memories for the future.

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