Thursday, July 31, 2008

Permanent Passenger

Book Review

Reading much like the cruise ship version of the British drama Upstairs, Downstairs, Micha Berman takes the reader behind the scenes of his life as an assistant cruise director in Permanent Passenger: My Life on a Cruise Ship.

While finishing his last year of college, Micha began a quest to find a career that was "nontraditional in a creative atmosphere, providing opportunities to speak to crowds, be with young people and included travel". He remembered watching Love Boat as a child and decided the job Julie McCoy had was the one for him. He set off on a one-man campaign to get a position as an assistant cruise director. His description of how he organized and conducted his job search would make any career counselor beam.

Securing his dream job with Carnival Cruise Line, Micha embarked on an eleven-month ride on the M.S. Ecstasy. This behind the scenes tale provides information to anyone interested in a career at sea. Micha describes the different occupations of the 800-member crew on the ship. He also describes the hierarchy, behind the scene intrigue, loves and fights that occur unbeknownst to the thousands of passengers.

It is also fascinating reading for the cruise ship enthusiast who would like to learn more about what happens below deck. Most of the crew is invisible to the guests. They come from a wide array of countries and live almost in a caste system based on their country of origin and occupation. You will learn the most dreaded position on the ship. It may surprise you. While the crew may be virtually invisible to the passengers they serve, they are people who share in the joys and challenges of living in close quarters at sea.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Wednesday Web Watch

An important ingredient for a satisfying retirement is to keep mentally stimulated. Keep your mind alert, willing to explore, discover and learn new things.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) hosts a catalog of speeches, usually 20 minutes or less) of the greatest thinkers in the world today. The speeches are well organized. Some are very technical, others less so, but always stimulating.

I first heard about TED when an email was circulating the talk by Jan Bolte Taylor discussing her stroke. If you don’t do anything else, take 20 minutes to listen to this address. It is the best speech I’ve ever heard.

I always leave the site amazed and thrilled to be living on the planet at this period in time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Did You Know?

The worst fear of any retiree is running out of money. We all know the stories of little old ladies who eat cat food because they can't afford food.

Did you know the number of people 65 and older who live in poverty has declined significantly in the last fifty years. In 1959, as many as 35 percent of seniors lived in poverty. In 2003, that number dropped to 10 percent.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Farewell to Randy Pausch

There is an elephant in the room. Did you know as many as eighty percent of people do not have a will? Making a will forces you to think about your death. Maybe not a pleasant thought, but ultimately inevitable. Not thinking about it, doesn’t change reality.

I mention this as we learn that Randy Pausch passed away on Friday. He was a professor a Carnegie Mellon University who was diagnosed with pancreatic in September of 2006. He gave an inspiring speech about living your dreams now viewed by millions on You Tube that led to the book, The Last Lecture. I mention Dr. Pausch to honor his legacy and encourage you to listen to his talks again or for the first time.

Dr. Pausch’s message is important for all us regardless of what stage or age we are experiencing. There seems to be a correlation between living in denial about death and not choosing to live to the fullest. It’s somewhat ironic, but the people who are reluctant to face their own mortality are equally hesitant to live life completely. It is in the act of embracing your demise that you can break free to live totally.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Share Resources

While there is an air of uncertainty as the economy zigzags across the landscape, it’s wonderful to see people adapt, as humans do, to make the most of a difficult situation. The motivation may start from not being able to afford the lifestyle we once could, but there is a positive result as people are rethinking how they do things. Whether we want to admit it or not, Americans consume too many resources. Cutting back, out of financial necessity, has allowed us to evaluate what is important in our lives.

My neighbor just purchased an outside hanger for drying clothes. In Los Angeles, there are fewer traffic jams as people explore alternative ways to get around town.

Several years ago, my neighbor and I started an exchange program. They have subscriptions to Newsweek and Time. I take the local newspaper. We swap when we’re done reading our respective periodicals. It saves money, natural resources and I get the added health benefit of walking as I take the paper to her every morning.

What are you doing in respect to the economic downturn that is having a positive effect on your life and others?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dr. Oz On Oprah

Web Wednesday
As a rule, I don’t watch daytime television. Yesterday, I walked into the house and my husband was watching Oprah with Dr. Mehmet Oz discussing his book You: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty (You)

The Oprah website, specifically the Aging Quiz is our Web Wednesday selection. I took the quiz with the results between 70 and 79. It said that was an average score, which was great for a second grade spelling test, but not when talking about my body.

I started thinking and later, when my husband and I took a walk, I asked him the following, “On a continuum between 1 and 10, where would you like to be? One is a mindset of ‘live, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we all die’. I’m not going to worry about wellness and just hope modern medicine will do its thing. Ten is, ‘my body is my temple and I’m going to focus on doing absolutely everything I can to live a healthy life.’”

I husband reported he is currently at a four or five (I think he’s at a three, at best). However, he also stated he would like to be more at an eight. I think I’m at six, but realistically, am probably a five, based on his over calculation.

He’s retiring in two months and we would like to put more focus on living healthier. We started talking, as we walked, about what we want to start doing to improving number.

More later…

Reiki Training

I’ve always walked a fine line between my training in a traditional psychological environment and practices in the mind, body, spirit connection. I blend both in my work, but don’t overtly publicize it.

When I was twenty, I was sure I had a good sense of how the world worked. I was open to telling anyone what I thought. As I’ve grown older, I’m much less sure of how the world works. I choose certain beliefs because they make sense to me. I don’t belong to any religious organization, but try to live a spiritual life that draws from the teachings of all the major religions. This means I don't get too bogged down in dogma.

It makes sense there is a unifying universal force we can tap into and use. Beyond that, I don’t make many other claims.

I have a couple of chronic bodily issues that are a minor source of frustration. I acquired asthma ten years ago. I’m lucky it is manageable with steroids. It was through the acquisition of asthma I quit smoking and for that, I’m very thankful. I am no longer concerned about smoking again. I manage the asthma with medication, but modern medicine can’t cure it.

I have a cat that licks her fur to the point of bald spots. Shots and medicine that worked initially are no longer effective.

When the opportunity arose to get involved in Reiki training, I decided to take advantage of it. Reiki comes from Japan. The basic idea is there are different levels of energy around us and through this training, a practitioner can access healing energy and channel it through their hands to affected body parts.

A nurse, who comes from the very traditional western medical model, trained me. She incorporates both western and eastern or alternatives medicine in her work. (She’s no longer in connected to a medical institution.)

I’m curious and enjoy the experience of Reiki. At this moment, I have no desire to share Reiki beyond healing myself and those very close to me, but am intrigued with the idea.

While I’ll never be able to provide more than anecdotal evidence, I’ll let you know what I think when I complete my committed 21 days of self-healing.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Exercise for Your Brain

There’s been a lot of research in the news recently about the need to keep the mind stimulated and challenged to keep it healthy. Now, there is evidence that physical activity also is good for the brain. A review of research from the U.S., France and Sweden indicate exercise that increases the cardio-respiratory fitness also improves brain function. The increased blood flow to the brain stimulates the production neurotransmitters. Of interesting note, it doesn’t have to be sustained exercise. As little as 60 seconds at a time that gets the heart pumping can improve the brain's function.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fat Fighter TV

Wednesday Web Watch
Wednesday is the day to highlight a website you should check out. I recently was introduced to Fat Fighter TV, which does exactly what it says in a fun, funky, frantic sort of way. While not geared specifically to the older crowd, we all have to shop, read labels and yes, eat. Steps to change your life to a healthy lifestyle is a tagline can apply to every one.

Take a special look at Big, Fat Lies. You’ll probably know some of the lies. But, I’ll bet one or two will surprise you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Looking for Authors

I have a new website that will premiere the first of August. Retirement Life Matters celebrates the opportunities of life after 50 by providing tools, resources, and guidance to help people create a life filled with passion and purpose. I’m looking for people who have written a book and are looking for a way to publicize it. Topics include, but are not limited to:
Decluttering your home
Feng Shui
Finding the ideal retirement place to live
Purchasing a second home
Living abroad
Writing your autobiography or life story
Hobbies/Interests/activities in retirement
Financial concerns in retirement
Psychological aspects of money
Starting a business in retirement
Starting a home-based business in retirement
Social Entrepreneurship
Work in retirement
Volunteering in retirement
Making a contribution
Travel abroad and at home
Solo Travel
Couples transitioning into retirement
Relationships with adult children
Relationships with grandchildren
Enjoying retirement as a single
Anything connected to wellness, personal growth, spirituality
Learning/mental stimulation
I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in topics concerning caregiving, death, dying and diseases. While important topics, not the focus of this website.

There are tremendous opportunities to get exposure on the RLM website. This is an opportunity for authors who want to get the word out to retiring Baby Boomers, but either don’t have the technical expertise or desire to do all the work on their own. We will provide a review of the book on this blog: with a link to purchase the book. The author will then be asked a series of questions about the book, which will appear on the website. Authors will have the opportunity to write articles, complete a profile page with links to their book and website. Authors will have the opportunity of moderating a forum in their topic area and we will have podcasts starting in the fall for authors to participate. Additional products and services, such a e-books, seminars can be showcased on the website, and also through the RLM Newsletter and blog.

Interested parties should contact me at

Monday, July 14, 2008

Date Revisited

Yes, we had our date on Friday night. No, I’m not going to replay the evening. Other than to say, I liked the movie Hancock. I understand why critics were less than kind. There is an interesting twist that could have been executed better, but I still was intrigued by the concept of the reluctant super hero. As always, Will Smith is a delight, even as an obnoxious drunk.

It occurred to me that I didn't explain the concept of ‘date’ in my last post. I stated my husband and I were in therapy many years ago and she suggested we go on a date at least once a month. We had gone out to dinner and movies before meeting with the therapist. In the early years of our marriage, when children were still young and money was tighter, we spent free evenings renting a movie and staying at home. Initially, the idea of a date may have been to get out of house, but as time as changed, the children left and there was a bit of spare change, going on a date was as much a mental shift as it was a specific activity.

Anyone can go grab a bite to eat. Going on a date requires taking a shower, putting on make-up, and getting dressed up a bit, even if it’s only a pair of clean shorts. The attitude and the mood shift ever so slightly. While we may still talk about work, the focus is more on the two of us than on the topic. It’s a time focused on being together for the sake of enjoying each other’s presence. Where we go and what we do, is secondary. We hold hands in the theater. I don’t know if I gaze longingly into his eyes, but the conversation is lighter. We laugh and we enjoy one another.

After twenty-nine years, six months and 12 days of marriage, that is a great thing.
P.S. Please note the 'senior' ticket. This is the first time I got the senior discount and I didn't even ask for it. How do I feel about that? Glad for discount-my how ticket prices have gone up. But, certainly not thrilled I can get a senior discount without showing my i.d.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Date Night

Many years ago, my husband and I were in therapy. I do not remember why we went into it or how long we worked with the therapist. We are still together, so, I guess that means, it was successful.

I do remember she suggested we have date nights. Wow, what an idea! We had been married for at least ten years at the time and the thought of going on a date seemed revolutionary. It was such a simple solution, but we have continued ever since. We both work many weekends and since my husband works nights, we don’t spend many evenings together.

We do try to have a date at least once a month. Tonight is date night. We actually have not had a date since we were in Texas in May. Between company and work, we couldn’t fit it in.

Sometime we wrangle over what to do and where to go. We are not terribly clever with our ideas. Dates usually involve eating out. We have our special places we frequent and every now and then, I suggest a new place to try. He agrees reluctantly.

Tonight I want to see a movie. I love to see movies in the theater and have been too busy to fit that in my schedule. We are going to see Hancock. The reviews have not been great, but I love the idea of the reluctant hero. There’s a new restaurant across the courtyard from the theater to try.

I’m excited. I have a date with my honey!

Back to Basics

In my quest to find an exercise program that I would stick with, I experimented through the years with different types of workouts. I have always enjoyed walking and still do that on a regular basis. I have joined gyms a number of times. I actually joined gyms, went once or twice and never returned. We have a wonderful Park and Recreation organization, and I have taken jazzercise, step and yoga with them. It is good to experiment and actually good to try different forms of exercise. Ultimately, I decided I love Yoga and wanted that to be the staple exercise. While I enjoy classes, I found Yoga television show to work best with my schedule. With the advent of TIVO, I found I was able to record shows and then exercise when it was convenient for me.

Developing a routine has been important to my success. I get up an alarm everyday at 6:15, have a one cup of coffee, read something inspirational, check e-mails and then do 30 minutes of yoga starting at 7:30. I have had this routine for a couple of years. If you are groaning at the thought of the self-imposed ritual, I can say I am by nature not very organized. Developing a routine I like has made all the difference in creating a meaningful life, and being able to do all the things I want to do.

I love my morning routine. I find whenever I break the routine, by traveling, or having my grandchildren here for a month, for example, I have to start all over again in creating the habit. Experts say you can create a habit seven days. I’m not so sure, but it may require perseverance.

After two months of travel and company, I got out of the routine of yoga every morning. This is the first week with a return to normal and I’ve struggled to get in there and stick to doing 30 minutes of exercise every day. I have decided the goal is to make the effort, try to extend the time and get back into the flow within a couple of weeks.

I love my Yoga. It can be difficult sometimes to even do the things we love. The key is to not to give up. Be gentle with yourself when you are trying to establish a habit. If you can’t get a routine you feel comfortable with, be willing to experiment with other alternatives.

Global versus Local Charity

I attended a World Affairs Council luncheon yesterday. World Affairs is an educational non-profit organization with local groups that bring in speakers to discuss international issues. It’s non-partisan, so wonderful for members of the community to come together to discuss issues that are affecting the world. It helps to increase our understanding of being part of a global community. What is going on in Asia, Africa and Europe may have a direct impact on our lives locally.

The speaker at the meeting was Muhammad Yunus, a founding board member of the Grameen Foundation and Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, which revolutionized banking in developing countries. The Grameen model lends small amounts of capital to the poorest of the poor, women, without collateral to start small businesses. He reported they had given loans to 130 million people since the late 1980’s, of those 80 million were to their target market. They have a 97% repayment rate. The women are required to form support groups, limit the number of children they have and those children need to go to school. If the children complete their primary education, the Grameen Foundation will pay all of their tuition and expenses to go to college or university.

Banks around the world now use the Grameen model. There were two interesting points Yunus made, which are worth repeating. He said where ever he goes people talk about managing the environment. He responds by saying the environment will take care of itself. What we need to do is manage people. We have created such environmental havoc in the world, it may require some human intervention to heal. For the most part, if left to its own devices, the environment can and will heal itself. The challenge is to minimize human impact, which is a much more complicated challenge.

The other point he made was the only way to solve global issues was at a local level. Certainly, Grameen has found a way to do this. They go into the poorest villages and by helping women start small cottage industries are able to turn around the economic well-being for the whole community.

I am one of these people who fancies herself flying off to all corners of the world to help others, when I should be asking myself, “What can I do here at home to make a difference?” Every one of us should be asking that question on a continual basis.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Closet Ritual

A pile of discarded clothes, linens, toys and other household items sit by the curb today waiting to be picked up by someone who can use them better than me.
There is such a cleansing feeling of getting rid of the stuff that clutters the corners and closets of our home. As we wait for the arrival of our recently discharge soldier son, the ritual of moving items from one storage closet to another has taken place. I feel like I play ring-around-the-closets. I focus on cleaning one closet by moving items to another. Later, I’ll clean the new closet by moving stuff back to the old one.

If I’m lucky or smart, some items will be reviewed, appraised and discarded. With that comes a feeling of freedom, closure and yes, cleansing.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How Much TV is Too Much?

The average young child is reported to watch 3-4 hours of television a day. The average retired person watches over 6 hours of television a day.

I watch a lot of TV. It’s not turned on during the day, but most nights, I’m watching something. I’m lucky I have
TIVO, so I can record shows throughout the day then watch them commercial free in the evening. (Advertiser’s hate that!)

We don’t know how much television is a bad thing for toddlers or seniors. Television can be a way to fill otherwise empty days. But, it can also be away to avoid living life.