Category Archives: General

To Give or Not to Give–and How Much?

A group of us were coming home from a party last weekend when one member of our widows’ group opined that the holidays were taking a woeful toll on her budget.

“My husband and I got into the habit of writing a check for one set amount to each member of our family for every birthdays and for Christmas,” she said. ” But now that he’s gone and I live on a careful budget, the holidays have become too expensive for me. But how do I stop something we’ve done for many years?”

You tell the family members your situation and explain you are making changes and tell them what  you’ve decided to do instead. I’m sure none of them want you to make daily sacrifices in order to hand out gifts you no longer can afford.

One other in our group said she had faced the same situation and told her grown children she was no longer giving money to them on special occasions so she can afford to continue doing so to all the new, younger members of the family.

Another said she had spoken up too, and now gives half as much to everyone as she had doled out previously.

It’s that simple.

True love between parents and children shouldn’t depend upon payment.


Dinner Instead?

How many movies can a widow see?

That’s what I asked myself when my regular theater gang called to set up our usual Saturday night movie and  supper date.

Then I suggested that we skip the movie one week and instead hang out at my place with a nice bottle of wine.

It’s not that my house is such a big deal. But the idea of doing something different for a change was really appealing.

I added a roll of goat cheese topped with jam and parked next to fancy crackers, added little humas with chips and we were off to a grand start. Then I tossed a fancy frozen pizza I picked up at the market the day before and baked while we snacked. One of the guests brought a salad, another bought dessert.

The latter was a nice addition, though I baked raisin/carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting of all sizes and shapes the day before.

It was a delightful evening–one we’ll repeat in each other’s houses often.

And we can always catch that movie another time.


Hear Better–and Live Better

I went to a monthly meeting of the Chicago North Shore chapter of the National Hearing Association today and learned helpful tips on preparing for and buying hearing aids–something I’ve been dealing with for several months.

Two years ago I became aware I wasn’t hearing as well as before and went to a medical doctor specializing in haring loss and his audiologist ( a person who must earn a doctorate in audiology) gave me my first test. She said my loss was mild to moderate and didn’t require aids, but they might add to my quality of life. The physician she worked with told me to check again two years.

Since I wasn’t convinced I should spend between $6,000 to $8,000 out of pocket for aids then, I bought a sound amplifier from Amazon on sale for $24 (from $125.) It worked fine where I needed it in theaters, at lectures, and anywhere else microphone were involved.

But I took the doctor’s advice and went back recently for another test .

My hearing was still mild to moderate and aids still weren’t imperative but I thought they might be considered to improve my life quality.

Again I heard the words “mild to moderate” with the same suggestions as I went to outside dealers for more research. Then someone mentioned Costco, which everyone in the industry knows sells hearing aids for less than half what others charge,  and I went there too.

Today the Hearing Association explained that Costco aids should be fine for anyone with mild to moderate loss, like me, as are those bought mail order from Amazon, Google, or other internetamplifiers, but should be checked by an audiologist to make sure they cause no harm.

Anyone with a more serious loss should see an audiologist for testing and suggestions for aids.

But some other important news came from Guest
Speaker Guest Speaker, U.S.Rep. from IL  9th District Jan Schakowsky, who noted the FDA is now testing hearing aid products that may be available over the counter in about three years.

She added that she is introducing a new bill to make hearing loss care and appliances part of medicare. Though we currently can deduct out of pocket hearing, dental,and  eye expenses she fears this congress is  working to elimate those deductions.

They don’t care about the cost,  because hearing loss, which afflicts about 85% of people over  80, is often caused by aging–which is a disease they seem to think they’ll never catch.

Rep. Schakowky also pointed out  everyone in Congress receives the same free or very inexpensive health care the as the military, and that includes free hearing aids,


Quit Comparing Self to Others!


Attending a meeting of old friends, I was struck by the fact that most of them spent the afternoon bragging about and comparing their lives.


One talked about her new car, almost everyone had stories about children and grandchildren complete with photos, others bragged about recent trips or cruises,(again with phone pix) and still others talked about “things” like jewelry and clothes—then stood to model them.


The comments were made with an attitude of “Aren’t you jealous of me?” and “Look what I have that you don’t.”


I thought we had grown out of constantly comparing our lives to others’, but I was wrong.


Many of us never do grow out of it, and that’s not healthy, according to Aaron Hill, Greg Miller and Jack Skeen, who together wrote “The Circle Blueprint: Decoding the Conscious and Unconscious Factors that Determine Your Success.”


Research from the 1950s shows that people have a natural drive to make “upward” or “downward” comparisons between themselves and others, report the authors. And due to social media, we can now look at posts from friends and acquaintances and assess how we “measure up” on a daily (or even hourly) basis.

Hill adds that spending too much time or energy studying the proverbial “Joneses” or ranking others is harmful to all involved.

“Comparing establishes your own worth by whether or not you feel better or worse than others,” says Hill. It’s an unhealthy waste of time that undermines your ability to reach your full potential. And it’s a widespread problem. But most people who engage in comparing themselves to others don’t realize how damaging it really can be.”

The authors explain that comparing yourself with others is detrimental to your happiness and success. Here are a few of the problems that come along with constant comparison:

Comparisons are rarely accurate. “When you compare yourself to others, you are often inaccurate in your conclusions,” says Hill. “Upon seeing a shabbily dressed person, you may make judgments about their job, ability, intelligence, or motivation. But you don’t have all the information. A brilliant day trader who works alone may choose to work in old sweatpants, for example, and has left the office for a quick walk to clear his head. The point is, you don’t know the whole story, so your comparison is ultimately wrong. Then you allow those comparisons to detrimentally affect your performance and your life suffers…all based on false facts.”

Comparing upward makes you unhappy and erodes your confidence. There will always be someone who has more or has accomplished more than you. But when you spend most of your time fretting over others’ supposed superiority, you’re wasting valuable time and energy that you could be using to enhance your life. And before you assume someone else has it so much better than you, remind yourself again that you get to see only a slice of their life. On social media, for example, people post only what they want you to see. From glamorous selfies to gorgeous vacation photos, their online personas are an inaccurate portrayal of their real lives. Make sure you’re not giving them more credit than they deserve.

Comparing downward creates feelings of superiority that don’t serve you well in various ways. It might make you feel smarter, more successful, or just “better” than other people, but downward comparisons cause you to overlook others’ gifts. At work, you may not give those you’ve judged as “less than” enough credit for their knowledge and may not seek their advice even though they have plenty to offer. Or, you may give yourself too much credit and slack off because you think you’re more capable.

The good news is, there are easy steps you can take to quit comparing yourself to others and become more autonomous, and, thus, more independent:

  1. Make a point to notice how often you make comparisons. If you want, take a notepad and make tally marks every time you catch yourself making a comparison. The number may astonish you, and that is okay; everyone makes comparisons. You have to start somewhere, and simply taking note is a start toward reducing your comparisons.
  2. Now, take note of how such comparisons affect your thoughts and actions. Are you holding something back because you think you are too good or not good enough? Do you act differently toward those who are “upward” or “downward” of you?
  3. Practice reducing such comparisons. When you catch yourself comparing, try to stop. Remind yourself that comparisons are not healthy for you.
  4. Practice treating all people you come in contact with at the same levels of courtesy and respect. Sure, it is unlikely you’ll meet a stranger with the same greeting as a good friend—it might be strange to all involved if you hugged a complete stranger as you would someone you know and love—but your greeting can be similarly pleasant and respectful.
  5. Become aware of how free you feel. When you stop comparing, or even reducing your comparisons drastically, you’ll feel a new level of autonomy and independence.

“It’s time to stop worrying about who has more Facebook friends, who’s got the bigger paycheck, or who has the greatest house,” concludes Hill. “In the end, knowing who has more or less than we do accomplishes nothing. Instead, we should all focus our attention on becoming better versions of ourselves—because that’s the true measure of success.” ##

Join Uber’s Go Go Grandparents

I don’t know why I came so late to the Uber party.

For a long time I watched my kids and grandkids whip our their smartphones and quickly order transportation, and I was amazed at how efficient and inexpensive it was.

But I stuck with traditional rides because I didn’t use them often, and it seemed a bit overwhelming to work through the website and registration to set myself up as an Uber rider.

But then I had to travel from the suburbs to Chicago’s loop Monday. That usually involves an hour and a half drive through traffic, and very expensive parking. (Last time I paid $47 for three hours in a public lot.)

Instead I decided to ride the Metra Train, a 30- minute trip that costs about $2 one way for seniors. But how was I going to get home after an afternoon meeting and dinner? I didn’t want to go down into the dark, train station alone late at night.

I have paid $80 plus tip for a limo ride home, and one taxi driver I know charges $70 plus tip. I was leaning toward the latter Sunday evening, when I decided to at least try and check out then sign up with Uber. It was not that daunting.

In fact, it was rather simple and I was pleasantly surprised to find there’s even a special “Go Go Grandparents Club” that lets you do it all by phone and skip the internet altogether.

Here’s the Go Go Grandparents’ phone number you can use to speak directly to a live person and make arrangements or reservations: 855-464-6872.

Monday night after dinner, I took out my phone, pressed the app and typed in my name, location, and request. I was asked to put in my credit card information. Once accepted, I was told the driver’s name, his car’s description and its  license number, then directed to meet him outside the door in five minutes.

He was there on time, he drove me home and the bill was $30!!!!!!  No tip was required, but I was allowed to add one to the bill and survey that arrived in an email later.

In all, it was a very satisfying experience and one I’ll be repeating often.  Try it, you’ll like it.


Nostalgia: A Willingness to Embrace Past Pain

I often lunch with an old high school friend, and  recently, we decided to try and round up others who belonged to our long-ago high school club, The Rhos.

A few “round robin ” calls brought about 10 positive  responses. The upshot is we’re planning  a “Sunday Brunch Reunion” at a nearby  diner later this month.

Why does the idea of one more “Rhos meeting” bring so much joy to all of us?

I found part of the answer in author Sara Donit’s “The Guineveres”.  Its a tale of four girls named Guinevere who are given to nuns to rear in a convent until age 18 because they have no real homes or families. Ah, what a sad but bewitching story.

At the end, when the girls reconnect as women, they ponder the question of why it’s necessary to look back on their history, the good and the bad.

“Maybe that’s just what nostalgia is: a willingness to embrace the pain of the past,” says the narrator.  Although the women don’t speak often, she adds that  “frequency doesn’t determine the depth of friendship… and no one can ever know you like those with whom you’ve shared the pangs of your youth.”

With that in mind, we “club sisters” are really looking forward to seeing each other.

Now, if I can just find that club photo and my little gold Rhos pin!


Hear This: Beware Old Bait & Switch

I’m not deaf as a stone yet, but I do have what’s diagnosed as moderate, age-appropriate hearing loss, averaging  from10-20-30% depending upon range.

That means you and I can enjoy a normal conversation, but I have trouble in theaters and at lectures without efficient sound systems, or listening to very high and very low tones, or English accents on Masterpiece theater. I was saying “what?” a lot.

I’d been using a $25 amplifier from Amazon in one ear and it seemed adequate despite some background noise.

Then I saw a newspaper ad from Miracle Ear offering its newest, smallest pair of 2 aids for $895, compared to all other aids they sell, ranging from $4,000 to $9,000.

Sounded good to me so I made an appointment, was tested by a professional and very pleasant hearing specialisst who explained the “bait and switch” deal: That set only works for 20% loss or less.

When my hearing fell just below that line on her graph, she gave me a “switch pitch” for the other, very high priced products.

As much as I liked her personally, I drove right to COSTCO HEARING CENTER for a cost comparison .

Once there, I was tested by an equally pleasant and professional hearing specialist,  and  shown brochures for several sets of hearing aids that research shows are equal to brands elsewhere, and I chose one of COSTCO’s Kirkland Signature brands. This store’s range is from about $1,700 0$3,000.

Since I have a mild to moderate loss I bought a less expensive model.

My advice is tobe tested by an audiologist in a medical doctor’s office, and follow their advice. If they determine you have mild to moderate loss, you can but need and want aids, go to COSTO and Do Not Pass Go.

(Hearing specialists are trained by their company. Audiologists, who need medical doctor supervision, receive special training and receive a “doctor” degree, similar to tht of a podiatrist. It is not a medical degree.)



Delete Guilt

We have no room in our brains for guilt–so delete it!

In the last few weeks I’ve spoken with two recent widows, one in her sixties and one just turned 90!

They both had long, happy, satisfying marriages and still  enjoy the love and attention of their children and grandchildren.

Everyone feels particularly sad about the  younger woman’s situation because she enjoyed a remarkably loving relationship. She says, “I Ifeel as though I’ve lost half of me.”

And yet, she confessed, “I also feel guilty because I’m relieved. My husband suffered for seven years, struggling to keep all those very sick days and constant  trips in and out of hospitals, and to doctor offices, more or less secret because he didn’t want to upset everyone. It’s peaceful now. I’m mourning a loved one and also the death of the  beautiful life  we lived almost 40 years. So I feel guilty that I’m actually relieved that the stress and  tension of watching his constant pain is over.”

The other woman believes she did everything possible to make her husbands last years and days as happy and comfortable as she could’. They were both in their late 80s when he became ill, and it was a physical as well as emotional strain for her. She kept him home with caregivers as long as possible, then placed him in a nearby nursing facility she visited twice daily.

“I feel guilty because on my 90th birthday I decided  this is my ‘happy year.’ I’ve been the caregiver all my life. First I raised our four children, then cared for all our parents, and now I’m always worrying about our 13 grandchildren. It never stops until you make it stop.

“So I decided this year is for ME! I am doing only things that bring me pleasure.”

Then she added, “But I can’t help feeling guilty about it.”

Well, she shouldn’t. We only pass this way once. And since she’s spent 90  years giving care and love to others it would be a sin NOT to spend whatever time is left to her doing everything she can to have fun. .

No guilt. Just enjoy!


A Perfect Sunday

I woke up when I finished sleeping–with no alarm or obligations –and met a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the mid to high seventies.

While coffee was brewing, I  walked  down the driveway to pick up my  Sunday New York Times. Because it was such a gorgeous morning I carried paper, coffee and  toasted bagel out onto the patio to begin my daylong reading of it.

I kept glancing at the garden surrounding me, with amazement that it somehow survived our heat spell and once again was glorious. There is nothing like a few tree branches overhead to make you feel “safe.”

And I did, until later when I put the paper aside and went into watch an hour or two ofd recorded Sunday morning news shows. (ACCCCCCHHHHH!!!!!!! That will dash your feelings of safety and security.)

After more reading outside, I realized it was time to visit my new neighbor’s “Sukkah”  a  small temporary hut set up in honor of the Fall season’s harvest ,and i spent a pleasant  half hour meeting even more new neighbors.

I could feel myself becoming more and more relaxed as I went back home, changed into sneakers and took my daily mile and a half hike through nearby West Park .  How lovely were all the other gardens and lush trees I passed  that were just beginning to change color for our famous  Midwest mural of colorful falling leaves.

Back home  I went, and back to reading the Times until supper.

I took my simple meal back to the patio along with  a half bottle of leftover red wine, and finished  reading the book section as I ate.

Looking around again, I thought, ” How lucky I am to have the freedom, at long last, to feel I’ve taken care of everyone  I love, and now have only to take care of me.”

Its another kind of liberation, if you will: choosing what I want to do whenever I like—and doing it.


Staying Put–Again

For several years I’ve vacillated over whether to move to a condo where I won’t have to be responsible for snow, lawn and house maintenance, or stay in the family home I’ve been in 54 years.

The arguments for moving seemed obvious, especially this year when I had to replace a leaking roof, redo the paved driveway, replace 30-year-old carpet and constantly call trusty repairmen to attend to HV/AC, plumbing and electrical problems.

Seemed like an expensive, tiresome year and I yearned for the carefree life in a condo that I thought would probably cost about the same as keeping up this place

Then I met Barbara. She made that transition when her husband died several years ago, moving to a two bedroom, spacious condo in an upscale, gated community.

“I have a mortgage because my accountant said it would help with write-offs, and a monthly assessment. I’m very upset because the assessment was $200 when I move in and now its $600. Also, we’re getting a special assessment next year for new roofs on all the buildings.”

I thought that was all, until she added, “Then my refrigerator broke, flooding the kitchen, and I had to replace the entire floor. That was covered by insurance, but the maintenance man saw my workmen, and reported it to the building management company which threatened me with a lawsuit because I didn’t ask their permission first. I hate them and I hate the maintenance guy.”

Well, stuff happens. But then she got going again: “Then the lady upstairs had a broken toilet that dripped down through my ceiling and ruined the paint on all the walls and ceiling. This time I did ask management about the insured repairs, and they insisted they only had to repair the area over the tub and I argued that the whole room was a mess. The inspectors came out and agreed with me and it’s finally settled. But I spent two weeks with each incident on the phone and waiting around for workmen.”

So that convinced me to stay put, because I believe the same problems follow us wherever we go. And this way my family can still enjoy holiday dinners around the same big old table we’ve been eating and laughing around for 54 years.

Did you have a downsizing experience different from Barbara?