Friday, November 29, 2013

Growing Old Ain't for Sissies

Aging with Angst in the 21st Century 
There was a wise man where I was raised in the ‘50s who played the grandfather role for every kid in the valley. As he sat on his porch rubbing his aching knees, he used to tell us, "Growing old ain't a sin, but it ain't for sissies either." I'm finding out that he was right.

The technological age that we live in provides us with many advantages that, in theory, should help us to age a little more gracefully. Most of us lose our dental insurance when we go on Medicare, so we need to take care of our teeth or we’ll catch it right in the pocketbook. For my teeth, I have my Sonicare toothbrush. Vibrating at 500 strokes per second, that little sucker makes the plaque fly. But don’t let the plastic back of the brush near an older filling. When the filling flies apart, you’ll feel that in your pocket book too.

 My dentist told me that halitosis tends to plague older people, but that I could prevent it by also brushing the roof of my mouth and my tongue. If that sounds gross, perhaps you should stop reading now. However, if you want to try this method of preventing bad breath, read on, but beware!

The professor at Texas A&M who taught me German said that to pronounce the letter R properly one needs to vibrate their uvula. When I picked up my Sonicare and shoved that electronic bumblebee down my throat a little too far and touched my uvula, I did far more than say the letter R in German. The German R came out with the voice of Alvin, the chipmunk. But there is more to the uvula than meets they eye. There’s a physiological tie between the uvula and our gag reflex. Vibrating the uvula at several hundred pulses per second kicks your gag reflex into warp drive. I had the dry heaves for at least a half-hour before the nerves recovered from their state of shock. Just hearing me caused my wife to join in on the chorus.

No … growing old ain't for sissies. I would swear that some little gremlin keeps putting Rogaine in my saline nasal spray. In my ear drops too. In fact, I think it’s pouring it into my body wash at night while I’m sleeping. Now this malady probably affects men more than women, although none of us are completely immune to the hairiffic curse of aging. But we have a machine or a medicine for just about every condition that plagues us, and for this, we have the nose and ear trimmer. If you’re a bit hairophobic and decide to use one of these gadgets, beware!

I have tried different makes and models of trimmers, all with the same result, microscopic nicks in the surrounding tissue which constitute a breach in our body’s most important defense mechanism. Normally a nick in our skin would not be a big problem, but our nose is the first line of defense against any nasty microorganism that we breathe in. And over the course of a day we can breathe in an incredible number of bacteria, viruses, even super germs. Once inside, germs hang out in our nasal cavity waiting to attack, to give us a cold or some other infection. You trim on one day and, by the time you get up the next morning, a million bacteria have had a free shot at your nose. Even with a healthy immune system, you'll have a bulbous beak that Rudolph would be proud to display. And don't even think about touching it, or you're scream will make your spouse think the security alarm went off.

There are other conditions we experience as we age and there are other devices that I could mention, but things would deteriorate rapidly. And, let’s face it, old-age humor can get a lot more gross than little-boy humor. So, we're going to stop right here. But, whether you go retro, sporting bushy eyebrows and all the rest, or opt for the latest gadgets to keep you looking a little younger ... growing old ain't for sissies.

H. L. Wegley served in the USAF as an Intelligence Analyst and a Weather Officer. He is a Meteorologist who worked as a Research Scientist in Atmospheric Physics. After earning an MS in Computer Science, he worked more than two decades as a Systems Programmer at Boeing before retiring in the Seattle area, where he and his wife of 47 years enjoy small-group ministry, their seven grandchildren, and where he is finishing his 7th novel. 

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

the Table Where the Rich People Sit

Twenty years ago I found a picture book, The Table Where the Rich People Sit. It's one of my favorites.

Growing up just outside of San Francisco in the '60's, I wanted to be a hippie. I embraced the idea of living with less, and being content. The book, written for young people but appreciated by adults, shares those ideals.

The pen and color wash illustrations are minimal in detail.  The limited hues hint at the spare sand and hill desert setting.

Mountain Girl, the adolescent narrator, calls a family meeting to discuss their poverty. As an example she points to their scratched, hand-crafted, repurposed dining table, proof they aren't rich.

So her parents introduce her to their unconventional economy.

"We don't just take our pay in cash, you know. We have a special plan so we get paid in sunsets, too" her mother says. And they start the bookkeeping with a credit of $20,000.

They add generous amounts for dad's pleasure of working where he can sing. They get a bonus for the unique color of a cactus bloom, the presence of day-loving and nocturnal birds. Finally they add the value Mountain Girl brings to their lives, including her list-making abilities. At a whopping one million dollars, she brings the family assets up to $4,055,000.

When she considers her ledger, all on the plus side, it doesn't seem important to add the actual cash they earn. "I suggest it shouldn't even be on a list or our kind of riches."

When I first read this wonderful book I laughed aloud. I had two Mountain Girls at home who complained about our one-car status and having to use public transportation. They thought our decision to not spend money on a TV was ridiculous, while I counted the hours of reading aloud to them as pure gold.

I really wanted the oral reading of this book to be part of our Thanksgiving tradition. Sadly, it didn't catch on.  Perhaps this year, as we scrunch husbands, four kids and a baby around the table, I'll try again. I want us to always be mindful that we are blessed beyond reckoning, but still it's good to count those blessings.

I pray you will cherish your time together next week as you sit at the table with the rich people.

Monday, November 18, 2013

                                  Tongue-tied in the Suburbs

       When we decided to move to the Detroit Metropolitan Area, one of the most segregated communities in America, we chose a suburb with an excellent high school for our fourteen year old daughter. Our friends were astonished. How could we, who had always fought for civil rights, move to a suburb so racist that the deed to every house forbade Blacks and Jews to live there?

 “People might listen to us,” I answered.

It wasn’t long before I was put to the test.  We were talking over coffee after a tennis game.

    “I have to move out of Lathrup Village,” said Betty. “The housing values are going down. You know what I mean!”

I wanted to do was tell her she ought to know better than to engage in white flight, but  Betty had a temper. 

I couldn’t think of any other way to put it, so I kept quiet.

That silence haunted me for weeks. If I didn’t say anything, I was condoning Betty’s racism, wasn’t I?

I called a friend in Lathrup Village.

“I have lived here for fifteen years and love the neighborhood’s diversity. Besides, the housing values have gone up 15% in the last two years.”

I called another friend who gives workshops on racial healing.

“Interrupt oppressive speech,” said Mary. “Know your facts. Be sure that you stick to ‘I’ statements. Don’t point your finger at Betty or use ‘you’ phrases like ‘you shouldn’t say that.’”

 I practiced a bit. “Let’s see: I would enjoy living in a more diverse community and I have a friend in Lathrup Village whose property values have gone up.”

I went back to the tennis court, but Betty didn’t bring up moving.  One day, someone mentioned affirmative action.

“My grandparents came from Poland,” she declared petulantly. “They worked hard and they made it. I don’t see why Black people can’t do what we did.”

“Facts,” I muttered frantically to myself; “’I’ statements, no ‘you’ statements, no blaming.”

“Those immigrants planned their journeys in advance,” I said.  “They saved up money for their passage and had relatives in America.  African Americans were kidnapped and enslaved, had no money or friends, and were deliberately separated from their tribes when they were sold.”
        Betty seemed startled, but she didn’t argue. My friends looked interested, not antagonistic. I felt elated. I had found a way to stand up for my values when prejudiced remarks were made.  I needed to learn facts, work on my temper, and practice making “I” remarks in front of my mirror until I could get a genuinely non-blaming expression onto my face.

Practice makes perfect:

You have just been to lunch with a white acquaintance. As you walk back to your car, she realizes she has left her pocketbook at the table. You go back to look, but it isn’t there. She declares:

      “It would be right where I left it if they hadn’t hired so many black waitresses.”

            How might you respond?

Annis Pratt is a writer and community activist living in Birmingham, Michigan. She is the author of three non-fiction books and a series of environmental novels. (see



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Choosing to Be Thankful for a Brain Tumor

“I choose to look at that brain tumor as
 the greatest gift I could have ever gotten …”

          During the 1984 Winter Olympics, my bride of less than a year wanted to watch figure skating.
          I skipped whatever favorite show competed for that time slot and released the remote into her hands. I’m pretty sure I groused a bit.
          For crying out loud, it was … just … figure skating.
          When Scott Hamilton slid onto the ice, I grew mildly intrigued. When he won Olympic gold while skating to “Walk This Way,” I was hooked.
          I laughed at his antics and gasped at his signature backflip. And I fell in love with figure skating.
          Almost 30 years later, I recently showed clips of Scott Hamilton to a group of teenagers. I wasn’t sure they’d find him as incredible and fun as I did. In fact, I feared a figure skating clip of Scott Hamilton would get a groan, and I’d be tagged as the out of touch geezer.
          But I needed that clip to demonstrate what an incredible athlete he’d been in the 80’s and 90’s. I needed it before I showed him talking about his health issues.
          The kids cut up and horsed around as they gathered around to watch the video. Then they watched him slide, glide, twirl, flirt, and flip. They laughed. They gasped. And in the end, they enjoyed Scott Hamilton and … figure skating.
          The routine captured all the joy and pleasure Scott Hamilton brought to the ice.
          Exactly what I’d hoped would happen.
          It gave the context of what followed—Scott sharing about his health struggles as a child with a mysterious illness that stunted his growth, the loss of his mother to cancer, a fight with testicular cancer, and the eventual discovery of a brain tumor.
          The latter had been with him from birth. He mused about what his life would have been like without the tumor, if he’d grown to be a taller man, if he’d not, due to the childhood illness, ever been exposed to ice skating.
          That’s when he made this statement. “I choose to look at that brain tumor as the greatest gift I could have ever gotten … because it made everything else possible.”
Link to the whole video:

T. Neal Tarver has served churches in Texas and Wisconsin. He, his wife Ellen, and son Daniel lived and worked for three years as missionaries in the Russian Far East. Tom speaks enough Russian to both converse and confuse.

In 2011, Tom was selected as a semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Genesis contest. He’s also been a two-time winner of MBT’s “Make Every Word Count Flash Fiction” contest. He has written articles for the local newspaper and an international mission magazine. His debut novel, Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes, is available through WestBow Press, Amazon, BARNES & NOBLE, and other retail outlets.
He currently serves as an associate pastor and writes from his home in Wimberley, Texas. He also writes about Christian community at A Curious Band of Others (

Tom has spoken in churches across America, and in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Avid Gardening

By Nancy Lynn Jarvis

It’s not a surprise to me that many avid gardeners are older or that many people become avid gardeners in their senior years. Gardening takes experience, not with plants, soils, watering, and fertilizing those understandings are skills which can be studied and learned but with life.

Young children can have gratifying gardening experiences by planting sunflowers or zucchini or other showy sure-fired plants that grow quickly and we older gardeners may spring for a flat of in-bloom annuals looking for some instant gratification, too, but at heart, we’re plotters who have learned the value of patience.

It’s understandable that when I head to my local garden store to check out the clearance section, I run into other senior gardeners. We stand there passing sad looking potted plants back and forth based on their color, sun requirements, and where we live. We appreciate that there’s no need to be in the peak of glorious bloom to be worthy of love. We like bargains and have the experience to know that, with nurturing and possibly a nap, the tired perennial s we buy for a song will reward us for our care next year.

Our gardens remind us of who we are, where we’ve been and, who shared the journey with us. In my garden I have an inherited coffee tree.  My sons and I brought it back from a trip to Hawaii for my dad. It’s big now, but fuller than its branches with memories.

I took my sons to Hawaii after their father left me for another woman. I was terrified to make such a trip with a seven and ten year old, but determined life would go on…splendidly. We had an amazing time and learned that we were still a family. The plant we carried back was tiny and shouldn’t have done well in foggy San Francisco where Dad lived, but he was older, and a gardener, and it thrived under his care.

When my dad was in a nursing home near the end of his life, I went there every day to have a cup of coffee with him; he loved his coffee. As I care for his tree now, I know memories of loss and sadness, because those are part of life, but mostly his tree floods my heart with memories of love, adventure, sharing and nurturing, and a life well spent.

My garden has a rose in it that’s as old as I am my gardener dad’s doing, as well.  He started it from a bouquet of pink baby roses he brought my mother when I was born. Its trunk is a bit off center and occasionally its leaves look sparse, but it grows and blooms and lives. It’s a tough old thing that has been uprooted and challenged with less than perfect soil sometimes, but it still puts out riots of tiny pink roses. When I look at that rose, like it, I’m strong. 

Especially in my garden.


Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years and is still licensed but she’s enjoying writing so much, she may never sell another house. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC.
Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. “Mags and the AARP Gang” represents a new direction in her writing adventure. After four Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries, Nancy put her characters, Regan, Tom, and Dave, on hiatus so she could let Mags and her gang, characters who had been forming in her mind for the past year, tell you their story.

Monday, November 11, 2013



by Linda Lange

I’ve been thinking about something my friend Pam said.  We were planning our annual trip back to our hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and I e-mailed her to say the Packers autograph session we’d wanted to attend was sold out. Pam replied, “We could crash it and be on the front page of the Press-Gazette!  We are so old that people will say, ‘Aw, aren't they cute?'"

I know Pam was kidding.  And I don’t think we’re quite old enough to pull that off.  But her response got me thinking:  Are old ladies inherently cute?  
Old enough to be cute?

At sixty-six, I’m into what some people call The Second Adulthood or The Third Stage of Life, so maybe I should decide whether I want to be cute.  I’ve reinvented myself at numerous stages throughout my life.  Is “cute” my ultimate persona?
I admit that one of the cutest things I ever saw was a pair of elderly ladies in San Francisco, sometime around 1985.  They had to be twins and were probably past eighty.  Their carefully coiffed wigs and cats-eye glasses reminded me of my grandmother’s twenty years before. 

 The twins looked like miniatures of my grandmother.
They were tiny, barely more than four-and-a-half feet, and dressed exactly alike.  Their veritable sameness, their outdated look, and their diminutive size (ooh, the tiny feet!) made them undeniably … cute.  I wanted to take a photo, but thought it rude to ask.

Alternatively, I find the bumbling crones portrayed on so many greeting cards frightening, rather than cute. (“Isn’t it windy?” “No, it’s Thursday.” “Sure, let's have a drink.”) This portrayal demeans me, somehow.  I hope this isn’t my future.

No, no, I’m not ready to be cute.  When I think of iconic women around my age, I don’t find them cute.  Meryl Streep is not cute.  Cher is not cute.  Hillary Rodham Clinton is Definitely.  Not.  Cute.

But take Betty White.  At 91, she's pretty cute.  So maybe I'm just not old enough ... 

I’m not sure I was cute even when I was a kid.  My classmates were cute in their frilly party dresses.  My parents, for the most part, eschewed the frills and dressed me up in miniature, tailored suits with pleated skirts.  I hated those suits, but now it occurs to me that my folks might have been sending me a message.  Don’t try to be cute.  Try for … what?  Dignified?  Classy?  When I was six, my skinned knees tended to spoil the image, but now maybe I could pull it off.

Or I could take my cue from a woman I’ve met through volunteer work.  She so resembles a different greeting-card heroine, in both looks and personality, that I’m hard pressed to call her Doris rather than Maxine.  Salty … that’s a good word for her.  I have a black sense of humor and (unlike Doris) a bit of a potty mouth.  Maybe I can be salty.  It’s got to be easier than dignified.

Cute?  Dignified?  Salty?  None of the above?  Which personality would you choose for your Third Stage of Life?
Linda Lange has never forgotten what it was like to be a teenager living in Green Bay, WI, during the Sixties when Vince Lombardi coached the Packers.  She shared her memories in Incomplete Passes:  Reflections on Life, Love, and Football. The memoir, Linda’s first book, was a finalist in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
When Linda is not writing or watching football, she volunteers at Save the Animals Foundation, a no-kill shelter for dogs and cats.  She is currently working on a novel with a shelter setting.  Follow Linda's personal blog at

Friday, November 8, 2013


By Ed VanDeMark

My wife, Linda is fantastic, beautiful, the love of my life and she has a ton of other wonderful qualities but there is only one most beautiful woman on the planet at any given time. 

I saw this young woman on the Buffalo State campus in the fall of 1962. She was too gorgeous to have a name that equaled her appearance. Rather than discover her parents hung Hilda or Dorcas on her, I intentionally didn’t attempt to find out what her parents tagged her with. Because of her flaxen hair, azure eyes, and pure unblemished skin she lives in my mind as “The Swedish girl."

I chose not to meet her because it would have been a downer to discover she had so much as a single flaw. Mostly I didn’t try to meet her because I was a tall skinny guy with acne, an off beat personality, a cumulative grade point average of 2.9 and a history being a girl's friend but never her love interest .

My Swedish girl had to remain flawless. There was no way around it. I couldn’t risk having it any other way. I didn’t ask any questions about her for fear someone might damage my dream image. Perfection is not to be messed with. As an artist I know the hardest thing to do is to know when to say my painting is at its zenith, it is finished.

 Less is not enough and more is too much. 

She was at her zenith and I had to lock her in my memory at that point. It hurt to watch Willy Mays continue his career after he headed down the other side of the mountain of perfection. I couldn’t let that happen to the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever seen.

She lives in my mind as she was the day I first saw her in 1962. At that moment, at that instant she was at her peak of perfection. It's the eye of a true artist that captures perfection and preserves it for all time.

 In addition I was a tall skinny guy with acne, an offbeat personality and a 2.9 cumulative grade point average. I was also a third string  outfielder on our college baseball team who couldn't hit a high inside curve. History told me a girl like her was scoping out the hunks and the bad boys. Second place is painful, never getting a second look is much worse.

Perfection aside the worse thing of all is never coming up to bat. So nine years later when Linda came into my life I stood up to the plate and took my cuts.  

Edward is a pompous name and Eddie is condescending, I therefore prefer to be called “Ed” which is, in my opinion, neither pompous nor condescending.
I was born in Endicott, New York on July 16, 1941 and have lived most of my life fifteen miles west of Endicott in or near the village of Owego. When I find something good I stick with it.
I’m married to Linda (Masters). We have three fine adult children (Tony, Lisa and Dan) and nine wonderful grandchildren ranging in age from 20 to 2.
I write about my observations of life and draw cartoons because there is a force embedded deep inside of me that will not release me to ignore these modes of expression. I’m not interested in a second career as a writer or as a cartoonist. I’ve served my time meeting other people’s deadlines and I’m not in love with the tension they cause yet I do send off finished works for publication. Chicken Soup for the Soul has published three of my stories as have other lesser known publications.
The two best pieces of advice I’ve received as a writer are 1. Just tell your story and 2. Make it sing.
God Bless you my friends.                             

Ed VanDeMark.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

After the Inspection

 After the Inspection


Annette Bergman

We moved out of our home in September, 2012 and some health issues kept us from putting it on the market until December.  We listed with a REALTOR and the only offer we received was the last of April and was 10,000 less than asking price, after a price reduction. My husband wanted to accept the offer just to get the house off his mind.

When the inspect was done there was two and a half pages of things the Buyer’s inspector found wrong with the house and the  Buyer walked.

My husband had a stroke shortly after that and was in the hospital so a friend and I went to work on the house and repaired or replaced all but three things I felt were out of line and one thing the inspector wasn’t as informed as he thought he was.  So a total of four things were not done that I felt were over the top.

So my friend that we hired, fixed GFI plugs, he did some electrical work, and a bunch of small things that were on the list. He replaced a back door, painted three rooms and a hallway an off white. He painted the front porch and the rear porch with a new textured paint with a ten year warranty. And power washed and painted the garage floor.

 I worked on the landscaping and got the flower beds cleaned, edged the landscaping and driveway and  our friend trimmed some bushes. I added new plantings and bark to another flower bed. Cleaned the floors and washed some windows. The total cost was $495.00 for the materials for the improvements.

Our listing had expired so I held three open houses by myself with just directional signs to the property.  No newspaper ad, just signs saying when the open house would be held. I had at least six couples or singles come through the open house and wrote an offer two days after the last open house for $9500.00 more than the first offer that we had accepted.

The moral to the story is that an inspector was paid for by the Buyer and we had a list to work from and increased our profits by over nine percent on the property and of course we didn’t have to pay a REALTOR’S fee so there was another savings.

If you are going to put your house on the market it would be best to have an inspection first so you won’t lose your first buyer. After selling real estate for over thirty years I can assure you that your first offers will be your best; providing the house is good condition.

If we had done all of the repairs on our home before we put it on the market chances are we would have had an acceptable offer a lot sooner for a higher price months before we did.

My husband wanted to give our friend and helper a bonus for his fine work, but he was called out of town before he knew we sold the house. Hope he’ll come back in town to collect his bonus. We really had an excellent friend ad helper.