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





Traveling Alone? Here Are Some Tips

We all  know we don’t have to take off our shoes in airport security after 75, but there are a few other things that make travel easier.

Even if you’re not handicapped, you can request a wheelchair to meet you at the airport entrance and take you all the way down that long corridor to your gate. They’ll also lift your heavy carry on bag into the overhead bin.

More important are some tips about staying in hotels and motels alone. First, join any and all hotel chain clubs because the points DO add up giving you free nights now and then.

Next, ask for a room near the elevators. I know, they can be noisier, but most of us don’t hear all that well anymore. In addition, it saves you a long walk down the hall alone, where troublemakers may hurt or rob you.

Bring 100 watt bulbs to put in the lamps, since the management usually uses very low watts to save money.

Sleep on the side of the bed far from the phone. Managers tell us most people answer the phone then sit on that side of the bed while they talk and it’s got less bounce. They do it even with cell phones.

If you’re placed in a first floor room with doors leading to a patio or garden, check the door locks before turning in. I once was in a motel where I did that, discovered they were open, locked them and went to sleep.The next morning the lobby was filled with local detectives because everyone else in my wing had been robbed. It seems a maid left the doors unlocked and someone went into the open rooms, right in front of the sleeping guests , and took their wallets off the top of dressers.

That’s another tip:Put your wallet (and passport) in the room safe (or under your pillow) when you go to sleep.

My friend Joan discovered another safety tip when she sold her home, bought a motorhome and traveled the country for a year looking for the best place to retire. When asked if she was afraid to drive alone, she said, “No, I bought a plastic blow- up man at Service Merchandise, and put him in the seat next to me. Everyone thought he was real.”

Now that she’s settled in Florida, the plastic man lies crumpled up in a heap on the floor of her front closet. ###

Dating Old Boyfriend? How’s That Workin’?

 The following piece was written by my friend/colleague, Journalist Andrea Rock and is the lead story of this week’s “Health After Fifty” Website.

For more stories that also interest widows, see

Is Dating an Old Friend a Good Idea?

Andrea Rock

Being hit with that random blast from the past also may make you wonder what would happen if you had a chance to reconnect with that person now, especially if you’re among the growing number of middle-aged and older Americans who are divorced, widowed, or otherwise single.

There’s a reason memories of those romantic relationships tend to recur over the years, even when you’ve spent most of your life with another person whom you’ve loved just as much or more. “Neurologically, loving someone always leaves a mark, good or bad,” says Justin Garcia, Ph.D., an associate director at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University. “But if the relationship occurred during the formative period of your life when you were building your sense of self and your sexual identity, the pull of those memories is even stronger.”

And while there are various ways you might cross paths with a love from long ago, living in today’s digital world increases the likelihood of that happening. “With the growing use of social media by people in this age group, we’re seeing more people who are actually getting back in touch and interacting with a former sweetheart,” Garcia says.

An email that changed everything

In fact, that’s exactly what sparked such a reunion for one suburban Chicago woman when she least expected it—at the age of 83. For seven years she had been living alone following the death of her husband, with whom she’d had two children and a happy 55-year marriage.

“I was living alone, but I had enough friends to enjoy a full life and I hadn’t even thought about dating,” says “Cathy,” who asked that we not use her real name to protect her privacy. “My relationship with my husband had been so good that I thought it was too high a bar for someone else to reach.”

But everything changed one day when she got an email from a man who’d been her first serious boyfriend in high school. She hadn’t heard from him since they parted ways after he decided to attend a university in California and ended up settling out there. Cathy opted to earn her degree at a college in Illinois, which is where she met her husband.

“Howard” (not his real name) was able to get back in touch with her because he spotted Cathy’s profile on the social networking site LinkedIn and invited her to connect. Cathy laughs when she recalls how she reacted to that first email from Howard: “I wrote back right away, and here’s what I said: “I’m so glad you’re alive. Most everyone else we knew is dead.”

Not only were they both still alive, but they also were sharp mentally, physically fit, and in good health overall. After communicating long-distance via phone and email for a couple of months, they decided to get together in person, meeting halfway in Phoenix.

“It was a rare and precious opportunity,” she says. “Not only did we ignite the romance of our youth, but over the next three years we had some wonderful adventures together, traveling to Utah, Yellowstone, and other beautiful parts of America I’d never seen.”

Howard sometimes came to Chicago to visit her, but it was Cathy who did most of the shuttling back and forth. Every three months or so she’d fly out to join him for three or four weeks of travel. “He had a luxurious motor home complete with a 1,000-book library that we’d travel in, so it was like being on a comfortable but still exciting vacation,” she says.

A light-bulb moment

But as time wore on she found it increasingly difficult to take off for weeks at a time. “I felt torn, because while I was with him, I started worrying about things that needed to be done at home, and when I was back, I’d be wondering how he was doing on his own.”

A turning point came when Cathy returned from one those trips as she was approaching her 86th birthday. She walked into her beloved home and found herself breathing a sigh of relief. “It finally hit me between the eyes. If I were in my 50s, maybe I could continue all of this traveling back and forth, but at my age, time is even more precious. I really wanted to spend as much of it as I could in the home I love, doing what’s really important to me.”

Cathy realized that while they both loved to read, in other ways she and Howard were quite different. What Howard loved most was being out in nature, surrounded by mountains. Cathy, however, preferred going to plays, seeing movies, or meeting friends for dinner in the city. “No matter how much I cared about Howard, I realized it was too much of a compromise for me to keep going back and forth to the other side of the country to live the life he loved.”

When Cathy called to explain how she was feeling, Howard said he understood completely and agreed that they should each maintain their individuality and live where they were happiest. Despite being far apart geographically, they remain very close. “I still love to talk with him and we actually chat on the phone every night,” she says. “But I also treasure having an independent life, which is something most women in my generation didn’t have when we were younger.”

Cathy’s unwillingness to compromise is actually one of the hallmarks of singles in their 50s and up, according to results of a recent survey released by Our Time, an online dating site for Baby Boomers. The poll found that 55 percent of the singles age 50 and up surveyed said they knew exactly what they wanted when it came to relationships. An even higher proportion—nearly 75 percent—said they knew what they didn’t want.

The bottom line

Getting back in touch with a special someone from your youth can be worthwhile, regardless of the ultimate outcome. “Reconnecting is an opportunity to explore your relationship at a different point in life,” says the Kinsey Institute’s Garcia, who is also an assistant professor of gender studies.

“For some it can lead to rekindling romantic love, but others may find they are just taking care of unfinished business. Sometimes they may recognize that it was best that they went their separate ways when they did,” he says. ###

One More Time: Don’t say ‘Yes’

The world is awash with scammers–and too many prey on unprotected widows and seniors.

Recently my 85-year-old cousin got a call supposedly from her granddaughter, saying, “I’m in the police station. I had a car accident and they took me here and won’t let me go until I pay them $500. Can you send it to me?”

We heard about that scam before  and most of us know that’s never our granddaughter and never send money.

But this had a new twist. The caller (who did NOT sound like her granddaughter) asked, “Can you hear me?”

Fortunattely, my cousin had been warned about that too by the managers of her building, so she said, “I can hear you.,” But she DID NOT SAY “YES.”

That’s the important part. If you say, “Yes, I can,” the scammer will edit the tape of your voice, and transfer that YES to one that allows them to take money from your bank account.

God only  knows where they get all this information about us to even make the call.

And my cousin wonders how dumb they must be .

“Why would they call me?” she asked.  “I’m broke.”




Watch Out for Robberies

My community newspaper just reported two robberies in the parking lot of our high-end shopping center.

One was jewelry and clothing valued at more than $1,000. The other was clothing in Neiman-Marcus bags at $2,000. Both were taken from unlocked cars.

Come on, People! Who puts such valuable items in a car, parks in a mall lot–and waltzes off to buy even more expensive stuff without  bothering to click  the door locker?

Let me remind you to put valuables in the locked trunk of the car if you must leave them inside.  I add that as a reporter, I learned from our local police that one of the most common thefts occur in supermarkets when shoppers leave purses on the kiddie seat of shopping carts, and wander away to squeeze tomatoes. (And many are unzipped.)

Two more precautions from those loyal men in blue:

  1. Don’t sit around restaurants and other public places bragging that you’re soon leaving on  vacation in the warm, sunny climes. Thieves are lurking in surrounding booths and will follow you home and watch for the day when all is quiet and you have gone.
  2. While it’s convenient to have the USPS hold or forward your mail, think twice before doing it. Police also said mail carriers may sit in those same restaurants and talk loudly about how quickly they finished their routes because all the people on such and such streets are away. Those same “bad dudes” hear that too, and call on those streets. ###

Regal Roofing Comes To Rescue

If you’ve decided to stay in your home as long as possible, as I have, you’re bound to  also face constant repairs, large and small, that need your attention–(and money.)

Just this year my  trusted household repair team:

1.Fixed cracks in the double car asphalt driveway and repainted it with stain (which avoided replacing the entire driveway for $10,000;)

2.Built up a backyard slope that washed  away and puddled with every rain, and planted grass to hold the dirt in place;

3.Recarpeted my entire living dining stairway hall area; and

4.Replaced the furnace.

You know all that was expensive, so I wasn’t prepared to  find water dripping from the ceiling of our small office/bedroom this week. I had called several roofing companies over the summer because I found a crack caused by moisture in the hall stairway. We already had painters fix it twice, so I thought it might be from the roof. Two out of five did appear, gave me two different stories, both of which sounded weird, and they never came back. I hear this often happens with roofers.

But when I saw the ceiling leaking, I got desperate and called a friend who suggested Regal Roofing in my area, Glenview IL.The owner, Anthony  Jerominski, came over that day, told me the vents around the house were blocked, and condensation had formed beneath the roof and was building moisture across the house. Oh, also, the roof was 13 years old, well worn,  and needed replacement.

The friend who suggested (and used) this roofer is an engineer (and attorney) and he came over to talk with the Tony, who had made the inspection. We’re waiting for the temperature to rise above 30 degrees so Regal can get this fix going.

What a relief to finally find someone who is trustworthy, competent, and responds to calls. Tony is also on Angie’s List. If you need Regal Roofing, call 847-657-1110.

And though I’m stubbornly committed to staying here, I can’t help feeling it’s  like being nibbled to death by ducks.  “Big ducks.


‘I’m not lonely–I’m here!’

Oh, how often do you get that kindly look of sympathy when you tell someone you’re a widow?

“It’s too bad you live alone,” some say. “It must be so hard to find people to do things with,” note others. And the worst: “You must be so lonely now.”

The most important answer is to the latter:

“I’m never lonely because I”M here.”

What that says is “I count. I am someone. I am interesting, curious, well-read and nice enough to attract friends to join me when I want company.” Also, being alone is better than under’taking an unsatisfactory substitute for company. (And that seems to be the majority of choices.)

What you are NOT saying is that Solitude can be a great relief. It also can bring the joy of deciding to do, buy and participate in that bring you–and only you–pleasure.

Most of us spent our lives pleasing others–first parents, then husbands and children– and putting their desires before our own in order to gain their love and approval, We furnished the house to make them comfortable, we bought and prepared food they liked best, went to movies they enjoyed , often missing art documentaries and love stories  to attend war and Star Wars film with them.

But now we fill the market basket with our guilty pleasures–but without the guilt. We see all the movies WE choose, weeping and laughing with abandon. And we go home toa peaceful, pleasant homes that, in some cases, remain pristinely neat and clean with no on around to make messes.

Also, we have hours at a time to walk about in our cozy corners, reading good books or watching Masterpiece theater on PBS with no interruption.

So no one should feel sorry for us. Solitude has its advantages. Ask any married man or woman whose spouse is out of town on business for the week..