Author Archives: Sandra Pesmen

Your Driving Is- Driving Me Nuts

You may not be guilty–but too many women drive around while talking on cell phones and clicking at texts when they should be watching the road.

I know, I know. The call came in while you were at the stoplight.

If so, then pull over to answer, or let it wait until you get where you’re going. Answering while driving is DANGEROUS for you and everyone in your path. (It’s also rude if someone else is in the car.)

Similarly, I’m annoyed when I see you turn left into the far right lane because  you plan to turn right later. As a driving instructor taught me: THAT IS AGAINST THE LAW AND WILL GET YOU A TICKET OF A COP SEES YOU DO IT. Always turn left into the same lane you are in, then turn on your right turn signal and cross to right lane. It’s not rocket science, yet too few people do it.

The last irritation is illegal use of handicapped parking spaces. It’s a great temptation to continue to use the handicapped card after your husband, who actually needed it, has died. Also, no one can actually catch you because many disabilities may not be detected by others. But if that card hasn’t been issued to you for your own disability–please do the right thing and throw it away. People with real disabilities need the space.

Fortunately, you can drive past it and count your blessings if you don’t




Move Over, Superman. SuperAgers Take Center Stage

Earlier this month I appeared at a seminar on “SuperAging”—a study of people over 80 who still maintain memories unusually well, held in Montgomery Place Senior Residence at 5550 South Shore Dr.,Chiccago,

Main speaker was Dr. Emily Rogalski, research associate professor for the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s disease Center at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. It’s one of 31 centers in the country studying Alzheimer’s disease, but the only center studying older adults who defy—for whatever reason—what is regarded the typical or normal memory loss for most adults their age.

The study also is trying to determine what is “common” versus what is “possible” at a certain age.

Dr. Rogalski reported that the study found one trait in common among the subjects and that was they all exhibited “curiosity,” which many seniors no longer do.

Another, more scientific commonality is that MRIs of those studied show all have an intact “anterior cingulated cortex”  in the center of the brain that affects the ability to control and manage uncomfortable emotions which is often the motivating force in negative behaviors such as substance abuse, binge eating, and suicide.

It also seems to increase the ability to focus and concentrate, which leads to strong memory retention. Research suggests that also may strengthen long- term memory and lead to a tendency to story-telling, all of which was shown in the study subjects.

I also spoke at the meeting, describing my experience as a subject in the SuperAger study. My talk is in the following post.





SuperAger “Exhibit A” Speaks

I’m SuperAger Exhibit A, one of 74 subjects chosen from 1,000 candidates to participate in the Feinberg Medical School’s Superager study.

Since my mother died at 40 , and my father at 50. They didn’t live long enough to have memory problems, and relatives who did live to old age didn’t exhibit any.

So who knows why we live so long, or why some of us remember more than others.? I don’t.

But I’m gratefully healthy, I walk 1 ½  miles a day, and, since Dr. Maria Piers told us many years ago, “To remain happy and fulfilled, don’t retire FROM something, retire TOO something,” — that’s what I did.

Since retirement 20 years ago, I’ve worked from home for my company, Widlist Media LLC, writing two blogs:, advice to widows, and, advice to joblorn.

I also give two seminars for senior organizations and communities:

1.Surviving widownhood.

2. a slideshow/ talk called “Celebrities I Have Known” based on my years as a features writer for Chicago papers and on my memoir, “Stairway to the Stars: John Travolta, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers..and Me.”

I joined the Superager program 4 years ago when I found a notice  in the Chicago Tribune, asking people over 80 who had good memories to call. Since I’ve always been told I remember things no one else does, I did call and was given a test on the phone.

During the test I was asked to listen to a list of 20 words then repeat back a many as I could.  I later felt I “cheated” because I instinctively “bundled” like words together, i.e. Shelter: house, tent, cabin. I did confess that and I was told that wasn’t cheating, it was “strategizing” and that was to be commended.

After acceptance, I was taken aback  when they asked me to volunteer to donate my brain (which they MRI regularly)to the study  upon my death so they can compare it to those of dementia patients.

I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to do that. Then I thought, “ What will I do with it?”  (Also, I rationalized that it wasn’t like donating my body, which I wouldn’t do because I don’t want a bunch of young med students standing round, pointing and laughing. Or as Bob Hope said, saying “ that one need pressing.”)

One thing they don’t talk about in these research studies is how difficult it is to grow old and widowed as sickness and death encroach  your circle of friends and family.

It takes a strong sense of self and an even stronger sense of humor—and the ability to look death in the eye as a noble combatant you’ll have to face one of these days.

Many of us try and make sensible exit plans and my friend Estelle was no exception. She lived in a small suburban ranch with a cement driveway. Her neighbor built a small garage on that driveway and after 50 years, the automatic door broke. The repairman said it would cost more to repair the motor than replace the door, so she agreed. As he was writing the invoice, he told her, “This is a great door. If there’s even  a slight whiff of carbon dioxide the door flies up.”

And she said, “Stop right there. Fix the old one. I’m usieng the garage to get out of here.” And Estelle told her she better not change the door because she only had a driveway and she was going to use it too!









Participate in holiday–and in Life

I think I feel it  most at Spring holiday time, when we women used to gather at the meat counter of our local market buying brisket or ham–whichever our holiday required.

And we gossiped: “No one makes a brisket as good as mine, I make it with beer–and my sponge cake uses 13 eggs,” one would boast .

Another would chime in, “All the children love my bunny cake. I sprinkle pink coconut over the top and use a marshmallow for a nose, with a cherry for the mouth.”

But we aren’t hearing that anymore, and those ladies aren’t at the meat counter anymore. (Where have all the butcher shops gone?)

The next generation has taken charge and younger men and women in the family, plan, prepare, or order the meal, using shortcuts where they can because every one is too busy working to make much from scratch.

So should we complain about taking a back seat ?
No way! Enjoy it.

If you feel left out, stop right there.

Don’t ask permission to participate in holiday preparations. Bake that sponge cake or coconut bunny dessert. Bring it to the dinner with or without permission, and see how glad everyone will be to have such a delightful reminder of yesterday.

If you keep participating in the family’s holiday parties, you continue to participate in life.

And if you have no family party to go to, invite yourself to a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen and help serve.

That may be an even greater way to participate in both the holiday and in life.

My Grandson—WHO????

Sometimes I wonder just how foolish the younger generation thinks we are.

I just got a phone call from a young man who said, “Hi, this is your oldest grandson.”

The line was somewhat garbled, so I said I couldn’t hear him. He tried again, “Is that better? This is your oldest grandson.”

I do have a beloved grandson in another part of the country, but I was sure that voice on the garbled line with no traceable id, wasn’t him. So I asked, “Who is this?”

And that fool took a shot: “Michael. It’s your grandson Michael.” And of course I have no grandson by that name,

I have been previously warned that scammers call seniors giving similar greetings, but I never thought it would happen to me.

If you go along with it, I’m told, the caller adds he’s in a foreign country and was mistakenly arrested and needs you to send money. They usually suggest various ways of dong that, often asking for your banking information.

Most of us are too careful to be swept into such nonsense. But  one more warning never hurts.

If you get such a call and can’t immediately identify the voice of your grandchild, hang up. Then check his wherabouts with the family. Then alert the police and your bank.

Has this happened to you or a friend? What was the outcome?



When Cell Phone Gets Unwanted Bath


We carry those cell phones everywhere.

We buy protective covers in case they drop and break. Sometimes we buy replacement insurance.

And now you can buy protection against water ruining them.

During my last visit to the Verizon store a woman came in moaning that she had dropped her phone in the washing machine. The salesman assured her not to worry, and for $23 he put the phone into a new “dryout box” that sometimes solves the problem. It did not.

Ah, but here’s something my personal IT expert says does work:

If the cell phone gets wet, put it into a bowl and cover it with dry uncooked rice. The rice should absorb the moisture.

It’s worth trying before you pay for dropping it into a magical drying box. ###

To Tip or Not to Tip

We all know we’re supposed to tip as generously as we can when eating in a restaurant. Ditto when someone delivers pizza or flowers.

But I was taken aback last week when a male friend said I should have tipped two delivery people when they delivered a new TV and set it up. I had $85 extra for that special service and assumed no  more payment was necessary.

In fact, the workers were so efficient and pleasant I called the company to praise them and was thanked, and told my compliments would go into their records.

But later my friend said that wasn’t enough and  I also should have tipped both those people. He added that I should do the same  when I paid extra for furniture and appliance set up and delivery.

I called the appliance company back and asked what most people tipped and if I was expected to also.

They said some people did give the delivery people extra cash for good service, but it was never expected nor required.

So help me out here, People. What do you do?



Consider Pre-Planning Exit

It’s one of those dirty little secrets, but here it is : We’re all born. we live, and “it must follow, as the night the day,” we die.

Remembering how difficult it was to handle final arrangements for our husbands, many of us opt to shove the whole concept of dying under that pretty Oriental rug at the front door.

We tell ourselves death’s too painful for the family–and for us–to think about now. Well, you’re right, and making final arrangements is usually very, very difficult for loving children.

So why not do it yourself? I did.

You bite the bullet. Look death square in the eye as the natural part of this glorious time on earth that it is, then call your professionals and set up plans for your final journey.

LindaLee Schwinnen, Family Services Advisor for Mt. Olivet & St.Simeon Catholic Cemeteries in Wheat Ridge, CO, makes the point that all final arrangements rise-and pre-planned arrangements are locked in at today’s prices.

“But I don’t want to spend the money on myself,” you protest. To which Schwinnen answers,  “It’s not like buying yourself a fur coat, or like taking an expensive cruise. Someoneelse  in the family will have to spend that money, and probably more, if you wait.”

She also makes the point that if you take charge now, and leave directions in  your will, YOUR wishes will be met. (You also might also want to choose a flattering photo to go with your obit, instead of having your high school graduation pix appear in the local paper and Website.)

In any event, these action definitely demand courage, and  we’re all suddenly learning we must exhibit more of it every day.



Abide by deceased’s last wishes–not your relatives’

When are people going to learn to abide by the final wishes of the deceased despite disapproval of some family members?

My friend’s daughter-in-law’s mother died recently and was cremated according to the directions in her will. She also designated the cremation should be followed by a  memorial service in the cemetery chapel, followed by burial of the cremation vessel. She also asked the family to dine together afterward and spend some time comforting each other afterward.

Unfortunately, there was little comfort because my friend’s daughter and her family belong to a religion that disapproves of cremation and were very vocal about it.

“We didn’t tell them about the cremation until it was all over,” said my friend, “So when they learned about it at the service, they behaved very, very badly.”

She added, “My son-in-law sat with a disapproving frown on his face the rest of the day, and later kept saying you’re supposed to go back into the earth as you came into this earth, or something like that. It just made everyone uncomfortable and my daughter-in-law was devastated.”

My friend also bemoaned the fact that her husband, who died five years ago, would have stopped that son-in-law.

“I know Richard would have told him it was none of his business, that woman chose cremation in her will, and it was up to HER, not HIM!!” she continued.

I told her that since Richard couldn’t do that, she should have.

“I don’t like to make trouble in the family,” she answered.

“But HE was making trouble in the family,” I told her, “and unless you stand up for that family and tell him to but out, he’ll keep doing it.”

Afterward, I wondered why so many widows forget they can and should do and say what must be said and done for the good of our families.

That son-in-law’s bad behavior won’t end until she ends it, and THAT’S what will be for good for the family–not her silence.



Avoid ‘Down and Dirty’ Men

Unfortunately, now that you’re a widow, you are bound to get into “meet someone” situations. It happens at senior center mixers, online dating sites, or when well-meaning friends and family members try and “fix you up with my brother Harry.” Some of those dates may actually turn out to be wonderful opportunities to meet a special person who may become a real companion to you for who knows how long.

person who can become a real companion to you the years ahead. Others can become a terrible, sometimes dangerous and financially scamming, situation.

Shannon Colleary an L.A.-based author, sexpert, and Relationship/Dating Coach, gives us a “heads up” on which is which in her new book, “She Dated the #Asshats but Married the Good Guy: How to go from Toxic Love to Real Love in 12 Exercises.”

I found the following information from the book  interesting and helpful to us, and also for our single daughters and granddaughters. It describes “down and dirty men” and tells us how to get them out of our lives.

Six Down-and-Dirty Types of Men:

1.    Mr Need For Speed. This is the guy who sees you across a crowded room and it’s Love At First Sight. But, as soon as you’re convinced he’s a good bet and you decide to invest in the relationship, he freaks, ices you out and runs as fast as he can, leaving you dazed and confused.

2.    Mr Mopes A Lot. This is the guy who resists doing anything for you or the relationship. He especially doesn’t want to get to know your friends, family or anyone who truly loves you because he actually knows he’s not treating you well and realizes they will sense it.

3.    Mr One-Way Street. He has needs, but you can’t have any. For instance, he asks favors: Can you pick up his laundry? Can you do his laundry? Can you type up a report for him at the last minute even though you need to get to work? But, if you ask him to just be on time for a date he acts like you’re asking him to drywall your entire apartment.

4.    Mr You Suck. Once this guy knows he’s got you hooked, he slowly but surely begins a campaign of criticism. It may begin with teasing. Then it escalates to full-blown character assassination, “You’re too needy or neurotic.” “You’re paranoid if you think I’m cheating.” Guys like this want control. They want you to fill their emotional and sexual needs while making you feel so inadequate that you don’t feel entitled to have any needs at all.

5.    Mr Caution/Continue at Your Own Risk. This is the guy who wears his dysfunction on his sleeve. He tells you right up front that he had a terrible childhood he barely survived. For many women this guy is catnip. The love of a good woman could heal him and turn him into a loving, appreciative man! Danger, danger!

6.    Mr KGB Agent. Don’t ask this guy too much or he may have to kill you. He doesn’t want you anywhere near his phone, tablet, or computer. He says if you could just trust him and give him his privacy, then eventually he will trust you and give you more access. (Many women wait patiently like little Cocker Spaniels for that access for years… and it never comes.)

Three Spring Cleaning Tips:

If you are dating any of these men, it’s time to take action, pick up a broom, and sweep them out of your life for good!

1.    Identify your self-defeating traits that have kept you from leaving:

a.    Overabundance of empathy
b.    Misplaced responsibility
c.    Rescuing
d.    People-pleasing
e.    Abandonment of ‘self’ due to love/sex addictions

2.    Establish a ‘mental health village’ focused on your needs:

a.    A higher power of one’s own understanding
b.    A community of similarly-circumstanced women
c.    One-on-one coaching

3.    Implement actionable steps to empower yourself to receive Real Love. For example:

a.    Create ‘your perfect mate’ list—what qualities and values you desire most
b.    Find a role model – quiz a couple whose relationship you admire about the secrets to their success
c.    Salvage yourself – start recording the amount of time you spend drowning in codependency (i.e. minutes you spend stalking your Lothario online, time spent driving to his place to see if his car is there, time spent mentally obsessing), and then carve out equal time increments for self-care (i.e. go to the gym, yoga class, out to lunch or the beach with your girlfriends).For more, see the author’s page: She Dated the #Asshats but Married the Good Guy: How to go from Toxic Love to Real Love in 12 Exercises