Tag Archives: Baby Boomers

Book Buzz: The New Old Me

A woman of a certain age myself, I have often wondered, is it possible to start over at a point when you’re looking at the prime of your life through the rearview mirror? As the subtitle of Meredith Maran’s kick-ass and winsome new memoir, The New Old Me, indicates, yes you can.

Book Buzz: The New Old Me

Let’s hear it for feisty 60-somethings who pivot out of their comfort zone and find out there can be sweetness from the lemons life has thrown at you. You’ll pardon the cliches.

The New Old Me

Maran’s life had already gone through several iterations before she hit a road block that seemed insurmountable. Her loving marriage splintered and fell apart.  Her best friend died. And on a practical level, what would be her means of support now that her freelance writing gigs had shriveled into nothing?

Quite a heavy load for anyone, let alone a 60 year-old. But this 60 year-old was a life force to be reckoned with.

She applied for a regular day job as a copywriter in Los Angeles and got it, meaning a move from her memory-filled Oakland home, where she had raised two sons and lived with her now-estranged wife. Now, her roots were being uprooted. She would leave all the familiar behind.

You can imagine the culture shock in La La Land. In her new start-up, a clothing company staffed by stylish and whip-thin 20 and 30 year-olds, she felt like a dinosaur. I am the age of these women’s grandmothers, she observed. One of the shocks was the company’s Workout Wednesdays, the one day of the week when everyone came to work in their Lululemon outfits and had their fat measured in front of their colleagues. For a woman who as a home-based freelancer hadn’t worn a bra or pants without an elastic waistband in forever, this was an adjustment.

Maran is a woman who craves friendship and adventure.  She made connections through networking with acquaintances and began to build back her rolodex of friends who were up for a cup of coffee or a hike in the mountains. Bit by bit, she made a new and wonderful life.

I love this woman. She is lusty, funny, and gutsy. She redefines what it means to be an older woman whose expectations for love, friendship and meaning are not diminished by setbacks. How do we live fully, live deeply, when the ballgame of our life is in the eighth inning? That’s what you will learn from The New Old Me, a home run of a memoir.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The New Old Me. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of The New Old Me from Penguin Random House for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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I Get Mushy About My High School Reunion

I Get Mushy About My High School Reunion

The emails were flying fast and furious. My high school reunion was coming up.

“I’m going to my high school reunion,” I announced to several local friends.

More often than not, they rolled their eyes. “A high school reunion?” they shuddered. “Why would you want to do that?”

I get it.

High school can evoke bad memories, of cliques and hormone-infused drama, of memorizing World War I dates, of diagramming sentences and conjugating Latin verbs and struggling through Calculus. Of being plagued by self-doubt and wanting desperately to fit in.

High school could seem interminable and was something to endure with gritted teeth while we counted the days until graduation. Leaving Chaucer, term papers and a coterie of friends in the dust, many graduates were happy to just be done with it. Diplomas in hand, we marched in cap and gown away from our past and into adulthood.

So why return to the winter of our discontent by attending a reunion, some ask. The very thought holds about as much excitement as the Pythagorean theorem.

My experience was different.

I attended a racially and ethnically diverse urban high school, with almost 900 students in my graduating class. As with any group of that size, there were factions, of course. Conflicts. Alliances and cold shoulders.

But there were fierce loyalties, too.

Commencement was held in the city park, the only venue that could accommodate so many graduates and their families. Most of that day is a blur to me now. What I do remember, though, is the swirl of emotions coursing through me, the anticipation of new beginnings mixed with a sharp pang of regret, the awareness that I was losing something irreplaceable.

My classmates and I had promising futures unfolding. College, jobs, the military. We knew that we would make new friends, but at the same time, were resisting letting go of the ties that bound us.

Forty-five years later, those ties are still intact.

Forty-five years later, we know that the years fly by faster than you can imagine, and with each decade comes a little bit more wisdom. And a bit more sentimentality.

We have experienced life’s ups and downs. Marriages, divorces, illnesses relocations, lifestyle choices. Joys and tragedies aplenty. Aging parents. Bereavements. We’ve been through lifecycle events, we have children and grandchildren, and we’ve made friends and lost friends. But our standing as members of the class of 1971 endures and that is something we will always share.

Every five years, at our well-attended reunions, we hug each other and are reminded once again of two realities:

You are essentially the same person you were in high school.

High school friends know that and love you anyway.

It is reassuring that in this uncertain world, some things stay the same. Looks may change, but people don’t. We look at each other and see the person we knew so long ago, with a rush of memories that are so much fun to share, memories that become more precious the older we get.

We leave each other with promises to get together.

And if we don’t, there is always the 50th reunion to look forward to.

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Words With Friends: How to Improve Your Game

Words With Friends: How to Improve Your GameAre you as addicted to Words With Friends as I am?

Sometimes I think I need a 12-Step program, because I can get so wrapped in my games that I neglect other things. Like taking a shower and getting dressed.

But then, as addictions go, this is a fairly healthy one to have. After all, is it not a workout for the brain? That’s what I tell myself.

If only my other body parts were as well exercised. But that’s another story for another day.

I am not alone in my affinity for Words With Friends. According to an article in The Atlantic, Words with Friends is one of the most popular apps used by my midlife/boomer generation.

When I was a young girl I watched my mother do The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle and eventually it became part of my Sunday morning routine as well. I love the challenge of word games. When Words With Friends became available as an app, I jumped on it — and it became an obsession.

I don’t profess to be an expert, but over time I have developed certain strategies that have been effective for me. If you are an advanced player these will seem a matter of course, but perhaps you will help me add on to this list.

Save your S tiles, and to a somewhat lesser extent, your R and D tiles.

They will come in handy with making a word plural or past tense

Look for possible suffixes: -ING, -ED, -IER, or prefixes: RE-. IN-,e.g.

These are valuable tools for enhancing an existing word.

Scrutinize the board for other opportunities.

For example, add A to moral to create amoral, or add A to toll to create atoll. Add Y to the end of miser for misery.

If you are the one to open the game, get rid of low-points letters.

That said, if you can make a double word on the opening move, do so only if the point score is worth it.  I wouldn’t do it for less than 20 points.

Never use your best tiles on an opening move.

The point score just won’t justify it. Save them for a bonus square.

Down to one consonant and six vowels? Time to swap.

If you must swap for other reasons, always keep at least one vowel and one consonant in your possession.

Get rid of Is, Us and Vs.

They’re hardest to place.

Play defensively.

Minimize your opponent’s opportunities to take advantage of a triple word score. Assume that your opponent will have the final letter — an S or Y, e.g. — when you are considering a move that will open up the triple word opportunity.

Check the status of the high points letters.

When my game has about 20 letters left to play, I do a quick inventory of the high scoring letters – X, J, Q and Z. Have they been played? If not, I want to make sure I am not leaving a high scoring opportunity open in case my opponent has one of them.

And if you have one of them, don’t get stuck.

If you have an X., J, Q or Z, use it or get rid of it if you are down to 10 letters. Too many games are lost because you are left hanging with one of these.

Learn the language: Words With Friends-ese.

A good vocabulary is your best friend, but also be aware of the two- and three-letter words common in Words With Friends: QI, ZA, SUQ, QUA, RAJ, HAJ.

Are there other strategies that work well for you?

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Retirement U

Assuming our good health continues, my husband and I will continue living in our home in the leafy suburbs where we’ve raised our children. We considered relinquishing the flora and fauna for a cute pied-à-terre as some of our empty nester friends have quite happily done, but we are too attached to our home and the neighborhood. We’re staying.

We’ve taken good care of ourselves. We eat healthy most of the time (if you don’t count the occasional movie popcorn for dinner and a few other other bad habits involving chocolate) and we exercise. Well, he exercises. I don workout gear and imagine myself running and lunging, burning calories, feeling that adrenaline rush. Then I sit down and pick up a book.

Someday, we could face the decision that confronts many seniors: the need to move to assisted living. Obviously, I hope this will be a long ways off, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about it.

“Our next home has to feel like home,” I told my husband. “I want us to feel good about it. No regrets.”

As boomers, our numbers will translate into a huge demand for these facilities. I started to imagine the ideal accommodations for us and our friends. What features would inspire us to sell the old homestead, not with sorrow but with anticipation for the move? What would it take to make us feel positive about making this lifestyle change? What would feel like a home away from home?

A tall order, I know. But then it hit me. You know how they say the college years are the best years of your life? Remember how fast those fabulous years flew by?

What if moving to a retirement facility was like returning to college?

memory lane, sign

Picture this: a place just for nostalgic 60s and 70s flower children. How much fun would it be to walk down memory lane on the grounds of a facility that simulates the quintessential college campus of our heyday? Direct out of central casting, you’ve got your ivy-covered halls, your grassy lawn for frisbee throwing, your meal plan in the dining hall. Dorm rooms are furnished with lumpy beds or a waterbed or simply a mattress on the floor covered with an Indian blanket.

Taped to the cinderblock walls are posters of favorite musicians (Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues) and movies (Love Story, American Graffiti, The Godfather) and sports (Dorothy Hamill, Muhammad Ali, Nadia Comenici, Seattle Slew).

Classes may be taken but they are all pass/pass. You get credit for just showing up on time. Forgot to drop/add? Not a problem; the professors are understanding. Out on the quad there are benches with sensible backs for mid-afternoon bull sessions, with rock and roll music wafting through the air on a sound system turned up extra loud. Former SDS members might stage a sit-in in front of the administration building with demands for greater representation. Assistants are on hand to help them stand up.

How about late night “rap sessions” at 8 p.m. before the R.A. tells us it’s time to turn in? Instead of pondering the meaning of life, which we pretty much get by now, we would play “Name that Alma Mater Tune” and give the old brain cells a workout.

My fantasy is all in fun and I mean no disrespect. But when I think back to a time when life was ripe with promise and dreams were yours to follow, I like to think that it could happen again.

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