Author Archives: Sandra Pesmen

Walking for the Kids

I walk a mile every day for my health.

Saturday I walked that mile for the kids.

When I retired at 65 the doctor suggested I walk to help control my blood pressure and cholesterol. Well, it’s done more than that.

Medics tell me it has helped my brain stay alert, my knees, hips and other bones continue working, and helps maintain my weight.

I couldn’t get to an organized march this weekend, but I felt so strongly about this remarkable mission to control guns that the young people are waging, I supported them in my own way.

Taking the American flag from the front porch, I carried it on my usual route through the neighborhood.

Now all YOU have to do is walk to the polls in November and vote for candidates you believe will help our beleaguered country survive.

My Day As An Election Judge

I saw a notice in the paper that my county couldn’t find enough people to work as judges in the March 20 gubernatorial election.

To apply one had to be a U.S.citizen and registered voter. High school or college students in good standing also were invited to apply, and there was no discrimination against seniors.

So I sent an email listing my required qualifications because I sincerely felt, and still feel, it’s our civic duty to perform any government service we can, especially while our country is in such a precarious state.

I received an immediate confirmation and learned judges had to attend a four-hour training class one week before the election, work a few hours setting up the polls the night before the election, and work election day from 5 a.m. (setting up again) until 9 p.m., which included counting ballots and repacking equipment after polls close. The pay was $140 plus $50 for attending the training class. (You do the math for the hourly wage.)

The training included a fast run through a 300-page workbook and quick hands-on exercises on special polling place computers. I was so confused I went home to practice the rest of the week on the Cook County website’s online tutorial, while rereading the manual over and over. (Add about 25 anxious hours and do the math again.)

When we finally got to the polls Tuesday morning I felt totally inadequate, sure I didn’t understand anything about what I was supposed to do. The three other judges were considerate and set me up at Station 2, where I passed out ballots after people had been checked in on the computers, and then I directed them to the voting booths and escorted them to the scanner which accepted their ballots.

It was a very long day. I never did feel I knew what I was doing, though the others did let me check in a few people so I felt I learned a bit more about how the operation worked.

I felt better when I read a review of being a judge on the watchdog website It gave the training and job one star, and complained that the county provided “inadequate training and expected you to know everything about the procedures during what was an extremely long day.”

I was glad to read I wasn’t the only one who felt stupid doing this civic duty. But I did take umbridge over the writer’s comment that “elderly judges, who probably do it for the money, are slow and not computer savvy.”

Well, this elderly judge has been computer savvy since 1976, but she’s right that I did it for the money. I am giving it all to the campaigns of candidates in the November 2018 election who I hope will save my country–because that’s my real civic duty.


Call Me Twinkle Toes

There was a time when I could stand up, put one foot at a time on a chair, and neatly clip my toe nails.

Today, with older eyes, It’s really difficult for me to give my toenails the same full treatment. So I’ve taken to dropping in to the local nail salon to have that done every few weeks.

And, as long as I was there, and they offered a special price for a “mani-pedi” on Mondays and Tuesdays, I got the whole deal for $37 plus $8 tip.

Imagine how pleased I was to hear from my friend Beverly that Medicare will pay for me to visit a podiatrist every six weeks for the same service, plus callous’ removal and general foot care, even diagnosing fungus that may lurk beneath the nails.

Happily I just made my first appointment. Since this doctor doesn’t paint nails, as soon as the weather is warm again, I’ll return to the salon now and then for purple toenails too.

But until then I’ll enjoy regular medical toenail heath.

A nice surprise. Try it.

A Peaceful Refuge

Any longtime fan of author Elizabeth Berg—like me–will enjoy her wonderful new book, “The Story of Arthur Truluv.”

But if you’re a widow–like me– you’ll find special comfort in it too. For the hero, Arthur Moses, 85, still is hopelessly in love with his late wife, Nola, and visits her grave each day to enjoy his bag lunch in her company. He finds refuge in the peaceful surroundings.

I won’t spoil the plot,though I promise you it is fine, but I will say Berg’s skill and sensitivity shines through every page.

Here’s a sample:

“The earth has begun softening, because of spring. The earth is softening and the buds are all like tiny little pregnant women. Arthur wishes Nola were like spring; he wishes she would come back again and again. They wouldn’t even have to be together; he just wants her presence on Earth. She could be a baby born into a family far away from here, he wouldn’t even have to see her, ever; he would just like to know that she’d been put back where she belongs. Wherever she is now? That’s the wrong place for Nola Corrine, the Beauty Queen…

“Arthur takes a bite of his sandwich.Then he gets off his chair and kneels before Nola’s headstone, presses his head against it and closes his eyes. He cries a little, then he gets back into his chair and finishes his sandwich.”

One takeaway for us all? The memorial parks where our beloveds rest provide peaceful settings for lunch on a pleasant day. Comfort comes in many unexpected places.


Darn, It’s Valentine Time Again

“Oh, darn, it’s that time of year again,” you think, when you hear Valentine’s day ads all over the media and see joyful hearts covering entire shopping malls, “That’s one more reminder that I’m alone.”

Well, you’re entitled to feel sorry for yourself, but just for a short while. The best defense against any challenge, including widowhood, is a good offense. Don’t let your life be consumed by grief over a situation you can’t control.

Because there are some things you DO still control.

Instead of falling victim to that justified depression (and possibly anger at your situation), get up and start putting one foot in front of the other.

The first stop might be a walk in the memorial park where your loved one rests. Most become exquisite winter wonderlands amidst all this snow, and a handful of bright flowers placed beside his marker will brighten your heart as well as the scene.

If he was cremated, with ashes scattered, visit that place where he asked to be remembered.

And remember you are never alone if you keep special memories alive. In that vein, contact family members and friends who also remember good times with him and plan to see each other Wednesday. You can meet for a meal, or a drink or afternoon tea.

It’s also nice to get out an old CD you enjoyed together, watch it with a glass of wine. If you are lucky enough to have children or grandchildren nearby, invite them to join you–and bake some cupcakes for them.

The only thing that reminds us more of happy yesterdays is smelling something delicious in the oven.

In other words, don’t fall victim to sorrowful thoughts when you can at least minimize them with good ones.

Plan D at Your Service

As I sat down at my late husband’s desk to begin gathering the information too give to our CPA for Income Tax preparation, I discovered I didn’t have the total amount I paid in 2016 for Plan D RX coverage.

After a moment of panic I realized I carry a card in my wallet with the customer service number of my Plan D carrier and my ID number. I called, was answered immediately and after I identified myself properly, the agent said she would send that year-end information to me immediately. In addition she checked a box on my policy in the computer directing that it be sent to me at the end of very year in the future.

She also noted that not many people know about this service.

But now YOU do.

‘Ragtime’, A Time Worth Exploring

The musical “Ragtime” opened at the Marriott Theater in nearby Lincolnshire, IL recently, and one of my friends found it very disappointing.

“It was three hours long and I was just plain bored,”she said. “I thought it would be about Jazz in America, but it was stories about a bunch of people at the turn of the century and I lost track of who was who, and it was all song with no dialog, which confused me” she complained.

Paraphrasing Pogo, she might have looked into a mirror and seen her enemy.

This play was a huge success on Broadway, where it captured rave reviews and several Tony Awards. It’s based on “Ragtime” the widely acclaimed historical novel by E.L.Doctorow that was also a successful film starring James Cagney, among other famous stars.

I recently read this remarkable work about three separate families, of different income levels, including immigrants new to America, during the period between 1902 and 1912. Aside from being exquisitely written, it casts light on the people living in Brooklyn and New York at the time, as well as their circumstances, feelings and depth of character. I can think of no better vehicle for transition to the musical stage.

Ah, but my friend who made the comment also made a major error for any theater goer: NEVER ENTER THE DOORS UNTIL YOU HAVE DONE HOMEWORK ABOUT THE PRODUCTION YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE.

As many of us learned at “Hamilton,” you may completely miss what’s going on if you haven’t educated yourself beforehand.

Before you buy the tickets, go to the library or the Internet and find out what the production is about, what the story line and the playwright’s intention are, as well as who the characters really are and what parts of society they represent.

If it’s making its premier,with no history to research, you WILL have to put some faith in the theater, its past work, and the artistic director’s taste. But even in those cases, the theater usually can provide a brief summary of the play and something about it’s author if you ask.

I’m going to buy a ticket to this one.

Funny Thoughts

I went to the theater with one of my wittier friends last night and as we waited in the lobby for the doors to open, she noticed that almost every woman there was wearing one of the suddenly popular, and usually unflattering, quilted goose down jackets.

“Hmmm,” she murmured, ” It looks like a room full of Michelin tires.”

This is the same woman who confessed she keeps misplacing her mobile phone and has to call herself from the landline several times a day.

“Yesterday when I was talking to my daughter, I suddenly thought I lost it again.” she said, ” and my daughter said ‘No, Mom. You’re talking on it.’ ”

Sound familiar?

Scaling back weight

First thought in the morning:
I have to go for my annual physical today and I’d like that guy who weighed the president to weigh me.

Second thought: I must report that last Saturday at 12:30 p.m., as the Women’s March began in Chicago’s Grant Park, I grabbed the flag from my porch, flung it over my shoulder, and marched throughout the neighborhood to show my solidarity with women, the civil rights movement, our constitution which, I believe is in great peril, and all else the current administration is trampling on.

I marched alone, as I did last year, because I couldn’t travel downtown, and once again, neighbors waved, and truck drivers honked horns. I felt encouraged that freedom will ring again after the next elections–and I resolved to work with my congressional district to help get out the vote.

And so I beg you: Please help preserve our fragile democracy. Regardless of your views or your party—please VOTE in every election and work too help others (whose opportunities to vote may have been hampered by gerrymandering) vote too.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to pick up a flag and march around your town to encourage neighbors to participate in Americans.

(And that hike around the block also may help when you have to step on the scales.)


Ready, Set, GO ! Take That Trip

Many senior widows stop traveling because they can’t face the obstacles.

Don’t let that stop you from enjoying trips to visit friends and family in other cities (with better climates.)

Here are some solutions to a few travel issues:

  1. Can’t get around the airport, through security, and to the gate? Tell your airline, and they’ll meet you at the front door with a wheelchair and whisk you through security quickly, take you to the gate, help you board with the FIRST group, and take you to your seat. They’ll arrange to have a chair meet you at arrival too, and do the same to your exit.
  2. If you have to  race across the terminal to another gate during a stopover–and haven’t won any marathon’s lately– do not panic. Airports have open motor carts and will stop when you wave them down and take you wherever you must be, quickly and easily. There’s no charge but it’s an independent company so a tip of $1 or $2 is nice.
  3. If you should have to lift a carry on bag or heavy coat to the overhead bin and can’t manage it, look around for a strong man/woman and ask for help. I play the widow card, “Would you please help a senior widow?” and have never been refused.
  4. Afraid of being hungry ? Bring a hard cooked egg  to eat with the biscuit or nuts airlines still provide. Order tomato or fruit juice from the free beverage cart and you should make it to landing. They also offer free Bloody Mary Mix, which is a nice substitute for the real thing.
  5. If it’s too close in the crowded seat when that guy in front of you tips his chair back, do not be shy. Tap him or her on the shoulder, and say, “Please put your seat up. You are squashing me back here.” He/she won’t like that–or you–but we don’t care. You are not in a “Most Popular Flier” contest, and that also works for me. If you get an argument, call the flight attendant and ask for a decision, or to be moved.
  6. Invest in lightweight luggage with wheels  just in case you have to lug it somewhere.
  7. And  you don’t have to be bored. Most people sitting next to you will chat, even if it’s just to complain. Encourage them.

So get moving. For as that famous anonymous quote warned:

“You only pass this way once. Any fun you can have, any good you can do–have and do now, for you only pass this way once.”