What's Not to Laugh?

Almost everything about aging–except grave illness and death–can be funny as well as disturbing. I try to find the funny and help us all get through it!

Archive for the tag “aging”

In the meantime…some words about kvetching

I’m experiencing a bit of writer’s block—or blogger’s block. I can’t think of anything to write about that’s not so controversial that I’ll get death threats. In a way, that’s a good thing: nothing personal to whine about. And when I do notice little gripes and humorous observations, I realize that I’ve already written about them. But this void shouldn’t last long. The world is getting more and more absurd, and I’m sure someday soon I won’t be able to hold back.

In the meantime:
I’ll share some of the pieces I’ve written in the last couple of years as part of a delightful project suggested by my creative friend Brenda Segal. Together, we’ve written about a number of topics, taking turn suggesting the topics and sometimes picking letters of the alphabet from which to choose a word to expound on. Brenda puts our essays into a program that creates a book, then adds illustrative photos (most of which she’s taken) and publishes the book (just for our own coffee tables). Here’s one of my essays called “Kvetch.”


I don’t kvetch. I observe. At least that’s what I tell myself. Take the weather, for example. I can say, in a perfectly neutral tone, “It’s cold out,” and it’ll be interpreted as “Why is it so damn cold out?” See the difference?

Is this a kvetch about to happen or just me gritting my teeth?

Okay, I do kvetch at times. But these are times that are notably kvetchable. Who wouldn’t say, “Who the hell picked this restaurant?” after being faced with a construction barricade and sign saying “No thru traffic” just as you’re about to turn the corner to your destination?

Who wouldn’t be snarky after then going a block out of your way to turn around, only to find out your car can in fact be that “thru” traffic because there is a lane going your way only you didn’t see it the first time?

And who wouldn’t be swearing under your breath after you turned down that street and found that construction vehicles blocked your access to your destination? When you finally made it into the restaurant after driving over a pile of gravel and around the back side of the strip mall where the restaurant is, who could blame you for kvetching? Even if it was tinged with humor?

In English, kvetching is whining or complaining. All people do it, and I contend even some animals do it…or is it just my cat?. But for Jews, in my experience, it can be a lifestyle. Way back when we were being persecuted (when are we not?), maybe it was a way to seemingly have some control over a terrible situation. Kvetching about one’s circumstances is better than weeping, isn’t it?


Word-seeking revisited

Its been a while since I posted anything here, although I have been writing—a lot. More on that in another post. In the meantime, to get back into the swing of blogging (the easy way), I’m posting a rerun from my Suddenly Sixties blog that you may still relate to. In fact, since more than six years have passed, it may be even more relatable. Don’t forget to read  UPDATE at the end. Or just scroll down to UPDATE if you can’t bear reruns.

Desperately Seeking Words (originally published December 30, 2010)

My first indication that I was losing my vocabulary came decades ago at work—I was middle-aged then—and I was telling our then-Graphics department about something I wanted printed on… I knew it began with a “p,” but all I could come up with was “partridge.” I didn’t say it out loud because (thank goodness) I realized it was not the right word. Eventually, probably only two minutes but it seemed longer, I sputtered “Parchment!” It scared me a little. I wasn’t even in menopause yet.

It’s not easy to be a writer who can’t always remember words. An online thesaurus is my pal, but I don’t use it for the maligned practice of coming up with fancier words to say simple things. I go to this trusty tool to find the word that I’m sure is in my head…someplace. I’ll be typing merrily along and suddenly I’m stumped. Let’s say I want to say something like mutilate, but I know that’s not the word I want. I’m confident there’s a word that’s a better fit—one that I use all the time. I just can’t bring it to the frontal lobes. So, assuming I can come up with a word that’s close in meaning, the thesaurus gives me a fighting chance. I may even know what letter it starts with—in this case, I’m sure the word starts with an “m.” But that’s as far as I can get, until the thesaurus offers up maim. Ahhh. That’s it!

Not being able to retrieve words can take its toll on the marital relationship too. When I want to say something to my husband, I use the handiest words available. Unfortunately, he can’t read my mind (although after all this time he should be able to). So a typical conversation goes something like this:

Me: Can you get me the thing?

Him: What?

Me: You know, the thing, the round thing.

Him: What?

Me: The thing with holes…to catch pasta. The…strainer? Sieve?

Him: You mean the colander?

When I’m groping for a word that’s part of a request, he stares at me, a deer definitely caught in the headlights. He is not only confused but, being a helpful sort, he’s also frustrated. Sometimes his “What?” seems to be getting testier, not unlike the GPS lady when she needs to say “Recalculating,” for the fifth time.

While I’m desperately grasping at words, he may smile smugly. But I know we’ll have this kind of conversation in reverse later this evening. After all, he’s in his g(olden) years too!

UPDATE: February 2017. My husband and I are now equal as to not remembering the name of something or someone. Thank goodness for Google. But sometimes you can’t remember enough about the thing you’re trying to remember to type in the right words for the Google search. You have to laugh at this dilemma, which is far better than crying.

The other day, I may have found a temporary cure for this word seeking problem. The downside is that you have to hurt yourself. Here’s what happened: My husband, my resident chef, cooked a dinner that included chicken and capers. When I tasted it and praised it highly, he said, “It’s like the dish I usually make, Chicken _______.” He was stumped. He could not remember the second word to that phrase. I knew what he meant, but when I tried to name the dish, I was stumped too.

“Scallopini? No that’s not right. Vesuvio? Nope.” We thought hard for a couple of minutes and decided to move on.

About an hour later, I was getting something from our pantry cabinet and, being uncoordinated, I started to close the cabinet door while my head and upper body were still peering inside. The result was a blow to my head that stunned me for a second. (I’m fine. No concussion, just a little bruise next to my right eye.) I stood upright and calmed down bit, then shouted out, “Chicken Picatta!” I ran upstairs to my husband exclaiming, “I just bumped my head on the cabinet door badly, but I remembered chicken picatta!” He wasn’t sure how to react.

Lost but not found

This aging thing is becoming a matter of losing…permanently. No, I’m not talking about mishandled luggage or the missing half of my collection of single gloves. Nor am I referring to the loss of dear friends and family. This is a lighthearted list of what’s disappeared without a trace:

  • My lip line. Where is the border of my upper and lower lips? Even if I follow the advice of experts and line my lips with a pencil (thereby faking that youthful lip line), it just seems fuzzy. I fill in with a moisturizing lipstick and hope for the best.
  • My waistline. Well, it’s there somewhere…somewhere under that roll of fat that’s accumulated lately.
  • My eyebrows. I’m having to fill in with a brow product more and more. I remember when I used to have to tweeze often, even in between my brows.
  • My eyelashes. Thank goodness for an eyelash curler and mascara. And speaking of mascara…
  • My firm upper lids. Mascara gets smudged because there’s more flesh drooping and getting in the way while I’m applying it.
  • My balance. A few weeks ago, I stubbed my toe badly while rushing to the toilet. And speaking of the toilet…
  • My bladder capacity. I should probably buy stock in the company that makes Charmin. I go through a triple roll pretty quickly.
  • My words. What’s that thing that lets you drain spaghetti called?
  • My long-remembered stories. I can be in the middle of telling someone about a significant event in my past, and I’m suddenly not sure of the details–details I could remember and recite without hesitation for decades. Now they’re fuzzy, and I sometimes combine stories and get dates and eras wrong. (It gets embarrassing when I ask my husband, “Remember when we…?” and I quickly realize I’m thinking of the wrong husband. I’ve had two.)
  • The ability to remember to whom I’ve told what. I find myself asking, “Have I told you about…?” This happens the day after, or even the same day, I’ve told the news. (Maybe I just talk to too many people.)

I could go on, but I’d rather not mourn the loss of those things when I can be grateful for other losses triggered by aging, such as the requirement to serve on jury duty at any facility assigned, even if it’s the scary courtroom in a sketchy neighborhood where murder trials take place. Once you’re 70 and you’re summoned, you can choose another venue or say no thanks. I did that last year because I’d served five (or was it six) times over the years, and I’m done.  

Then there are the losses of caring (too much) about what other people think and a lot of anxiety of earlier years. Or you could call these maturity, not losses. However you want to characterize them, I’m grateful for the ability to experience all of them, thin lips and eyebrows included.


The R word again. It’s reality.

After promising and/or threatening to retire for the past 8 years, I finally did it! It’s official tomorrow, December 31…the end of 2015 and the beginning of my new life in 2016.

I’m showing up at the office to finish up the purge: a multi-year collection of papers, file folders, extra shoes, dried-out pens, now unneeded business cards, conference giveaways, and much more junk. It probably wasn’t junk when I stashed it away into various drawers and cabinets, but it’s useless to me now.

By tomorrow afternoon, I’ll have emptied the drawers, surrendered my laptop to IT, turned in my corporate Amex card to Accounting, and relinquished my ID badge.

It’ll be weird. It’s been an almost 40-year experience. And even though I’ve been semi-retired for 8 years, and thus have had Mondays and Thursdays free for those 8 years, it’s not the same as having Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays free, along with Saturdays and Sundays. Every week. Every month. Every year. It’ll definitely be weird.

Those of you who’ve already made this change tell me, almost in unison, “You’ll love it!” I’ll take your word for it.





Too old to open toilet paper?

This aging thing is starting to bug me (even more than usual). It seems that each year there are more everyday tasks that I can’t do anymore. Just this past weekend, I injured myself trying to open a package of toilet paper! To paint the picture for you, it was one of those colossal multi-package packages you get from Costco. That may not have any bearing on my problem getting it open—unless you consider the fact that such a large bundle needs extra strong plastic to encase it.

When we got it home, I stood the package up and attempted to pull apart the plastic wrapping so I could distribute the packs of rolls inside to our various bathrooms. I positioned my two hands on two ends of the wrap and tried to tug them apart. Nothing happened. I tugged harder. No progress. Then I mustered what I felt was the power of a person half my age to give it a final valiant yank. The toilet paper package didn’t pull open…but I managed to pull a muscle in my neck. It’s three days later and it blog_art_2still aches.

Just when I was about to give up and get a scissors (that would be the thinking person’s first method of choice), my heroic husband came forward: “Let me do it.” And he opened it. Just like that. Without pulling any neck muscles. After all, he’s three-and-a-half years younger than I am.

So now when I’m leaning a little to the side and wincing as a twinge of pain takes over, if anyone asks, “What happened?” do I make something up or be truthful? “I pulled some muscles opening toilet paper.” How do you keep your dignity after that?

One more sad story

I want to write something funny—in keeping with the name of this blog—but I can’t do that today. Maybe next week. Another good friend passed away on Saturday. It wasn’t a death anyone was prepared for, as prepared as you can be anyway. He fell and hit his head on a concrete driveway three weeks before and never regained full consciousness. We don’t know what caused the fall and never will, but the result is a tragic loss for his wife, who’s been my friend for over 45 years, their two grown kids, and their four grandchildren. And all of us, a large group that gathered together on many occasions during the year.

In this case, it was an accident that caused the death, but I would be naive to think that our group won’t be going through this more and more as we age. When this same group of friends (women only this time) were celebrating one of our birthday lunches long ago—we do this for each woman every year—our section of the restaurant was empty except for our table of eight and two elderly women sitting in a booth nearby. Rather than being annoyed by our raucous laughter and loud voices, they seemed charmed. When we began to talk with them, we told them how our group gets together regularly for these birthday lunches. One of the women said, “Most of our friends have died.”

It was a startling comment, but it made us think for a moment about the future. Being in our 50s, we expressed the proper sympathy to the women and went back to our conversations about our kids, our husbands, our jobs.

I think about that conversation now. Though we’re not as old now as those women were then, we’re getting closer. But these are neither good nor productive thoughts. The good thoughts to replace them include being grateful every day for who is still in our lives: spouses, children, grandchildren, and, of course, loving friends.

Again with the rerun?

While I have my thinking cap on (very stylish) trying to come up with new blog post ideas, I’m publishing another rerun, this one from June 17, 2010:

If there are Senior Olympics, I’m not entering.

One day, while showering, I emitted a snuffle/breath that came out like a whistle. My unconventional reaction? I thought, “I can still whistle!” Why I assumed that a relatively useless skill (for me) like whistling would fade with age, I’m not sure, but I was glad to see that something of the old me (who, truth be told, rarely whistled) was intact.

Being habitually negative, I started to think about what I can’t do anymore. I can no longer—

• Get up from sitting on the floor without thinking about how I’m going to balance weight on my hands to push myself up semi-gracefully. (Note: This can’t really be done with any gracefulness. And it’s usually accompanied by a grunt.)

• Sit anywhere for longer than 15 minutes without feeling achy—and making crackling noises—when I stand up.

• Fold the Chicago Tribune neatly while I’m reading it, despite the fact that it has shrunk considerably in the past year.

• Lift my packed suitcase, no matter how much I rely on lightweight Chico’s Travelers clothing. Thank goodness my new bag has spinner wheels. And I must always travel with my husband so he can hoist the bag onto the platform when we’re checking in. Similarly, I need him to lift the bag off the carousel when we arrive. (Fortunately, I also like traveling with him.)

• Remember the name of someone I’ve recently met, even if it was ten seconds ago.

• Digest broccoli gracefully. (This needs no further explanation. If you think otherwise, you’ll have to tap into your own gastrointestinal anecdotes.)

If there were true Senior Olympics, the games would include all of the above efforts, with the gold medal going to anyone whose dexterity (and inner health) matched that of a fifty-year-old. For me, even earning an honorable mention is a pipe dream. But I can still whistle.


My birthday…again?

I just celebrated a birthday, seemingly only a few months after the last one! Time is speeding up, and that’s just not fair. I still have people to meet, things to do, procrastinations to overcome…

Don’t misunderstand. I’m grateful for every birthday that comes along. “Consider the alternative” used to be a funny comment made to anyone who complained about how old they’re getting. It’s not so funny anymore. I get it. I’m glad to be here and be well (knock on wood) and have a wonderful family and lots of good friends. But how the hell did I get here so soon? I certainly don’t feel “old” like I thought my parents were at this age.

Now that I’m on a whirlwind journey to real old age, I might start thinking about what I want to do with the time I have left, whatever that is. I don’t have a bucket list, but maybe I should. I’m not very adventurous, so if I did have a list, it would bore most people to death. As much as I would love to see lions and tigers and giraffes up close (that is, closer than you can see twarpspeedhem at Brookfield Zoo), I don’t think a safari would be on my list, for many reasons—one of which is my discomfort with flying long distances.

This year for my birthday I was treated to a dinner by my daughter and son-in-law at one of my favorite restaurants and a lunch at another favorite place by seven of my dearest friends. My husband cooked a special dinner for me, although the fact that he cooks just about every night—and all his dinners are special—would not have made it a celebration, until he uncorked a bottle of champagne. That was special. He also took me out to dinner a few days after the occasion. A highlight on the day itself, was a phone call from my other daughter and twin grandsons. The boys sang the “Happy Birthday” song. I loved every second of it. Even my ex-husband called with birthday wishes. That’s a good life!

So why am I complaining? For one thing, it’s what I do well . But the real reason is that this warp speed of time going by is scaring me. I complain about the Chicago winter every year, but the good news is that it flies by. The bad news is that so does colorful spring, carefree summer, and pleasant fall. It’s all just going too fast, and I’m not sure I’m taking the time to absorb it.

I know I’m not alone in these reflections. I’d love to hear your thoughts…and even some of the items on your bucket list. Just click on “Leave a Comment” near the top of the page.


An aging view of thankfulness

Another year, another Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for?

I find myself especially appreciating the things I used to take for granted when I was younger. For example, I’m thankful that I’m alive and well (I just had a physical; so far, so good; knock on wood). I’m thankful that my husband is alive and well (knock on wood). I’m thankful that I have two lovely daughters, two wonderful sons-in-law, and two smart and talented grandsons (knock on wood). I’m not thankful for the fact that I’m so superstitious…

Now that I’ve stated the obvious, there are a few more items.

I’m thankful for my cat Penelope—sometimes silently named “Crazy Lady” for the wild way she runs around the house, chases her tail, and jumps a few feet in the air. She’s still not the kind of cuddly cat we wanted to keep us company in our old age, but she’s slowly making progress toward our unrealistic goal. I’m thankful for her positive attributes: She uses the litter box all the time and doesn’t make too much of a litter mess while she’s burying her business. When she occasionally strikes at me with a paw, she is caring enough to retract her claws and not scratch me. I’m thankful that she’s healthy (knock on wood) and has a hearty appetite. Relevant to that, I’m thankful that she’s active enough to not become a fat cat with all that eating. (I’m not thankful that she still wakes us up at 4 or 5 a.m. We’re working on that.)

Although I’m never thankful for winter weather and can’t wait for the next three months to pass by, I will restate my one reason to be somewhat thankful it’s cold out: When I leave a restaurant with a box of leftovers, I don’t have to go straight home to put it in the refrigerator. I can go shopping! I can even go to a movie (but I probably won’t)! And the food will be safe to eat when I get home. I’m also thankful that I can get a pedicure but don’t really have to and that I don’t have to bear parts of my 70-something body that look better with sleeves.

I may complain about how tired I am on certain days of the week, but I’m thankful that I’m able to keep working in my semi-retirement position. But I’m equally thankful that I have the means to walk away if it gets too stressful. That is, after I organize my files and hand off projects in progress to my coworkers, with clear explanations as to their status. I’m also thankful that I don’t have to do all that yet.

I’m thankful that I have wonderful cousins whom I see often, even if it’s mostly on Facebook. I enjoy their FB posts of anniversaries, weddings, new babies, or just everyday life.

I’m thankful for my friends, some from way back in our high school—even elementary school—era and some from current times. I love being able to laugh with you and whine with you. I’m thankful for my blog readers and those who comment. I love hearing from you or just knowing you’re reading what I write.

Whatever you’re doing this Thursday, be thankful. And try to find something to like about the cold temperatures and snow flurries. (If you live where it doesn’t snow or get below 40 degrees, never mind.)





A word I’d like to banish: discontinued

A while back I wrote a blog post about how so many products I love get discontinued. I blamed myself for liking them too much. Here’s the beginning of that post:

There’s a crime spree under way, and I think I’m the perpetrator. My crime? Liking a product a whole lot.

When I find something that’s incredibly useful or enjoyable, I continue to loyally buy it. The second time around, I may buy a large size, if it’s sold that way, and it takes me a while to use it up. When my supply runs low, I go back to the store, looking high and low but not finding the product where it used to be. When I ask a store clerk about it, I’m crushed when I hear those terrible words: “Oh, that? It’s been discontinued.” This happens so often, I’ve come to the conclusion the problem is me. I am the kiss of death to an otherwise fine product.

Then I went on to list the items that were snatched away from me in the middle of my years (decades?) of enjoyment: lipsticks, OTC medications, shampoos, even peanut butter.

I eventually get over these losses and move on to substitute brands or varieties. And then there was yesterday. In one day, I was faced with three different “discontinued” items. Now that has to be a conspiracy, doesn’t it?

First I went to Sephora to try to replace my Bare Minerals blush in the uncommon shade of Aubergine. It seemed dark when the sales associate recommended it long ago, but I’ve loved it and used it down to the last few grains of powder. You know where this is going. The color has been discontinued. But at least the product was still around. I just had to have the associate gaze at my skin tone and recommend another shade.

Then, same store, I moved on to the Clinique section, where I hoped to replace my very old Superbalanced mineral powder foundation. There was nothing in the Clinque lineup that even resembled that product. Another disappointing “discontinued.”

Through with my cosmetics shopping, I went to the grocery store. Just before I entered the checkout line, I remembered I wanted to buy more Greek yogurt. These days my favorite brand is Chobani, and I have discovered that the apple-cinnamon flavor is not only tasty but also only 3 Weight Watchers Points Plus! I was delighted to find it on sale…at a very low price. Turning to the guy restocking the refrigerated case, I asked (hoping for a better answer than the one I had in mind), “Why is this flavor on sale? Is it the expiration date?” He shook his head no and then uttered the dreaded word: “Discontinued.”

“I know why,” I said to the employee, whom I’m sure didn’t care to continue the conversation. “Because I like it!” (By the way, this practice of saying what you’re thinking to anyone around is one of the pitfalls of aging.)

Stocking up on a product isn’t always practical. Besides, being a superstitious person, I feel I would be tempting fate if I bought enough of anything to last me until I’m in my 90s—like saying “I absolutely know for sure that I’m going to live that long and that I’m going to be lucid enough to know what the product is for.”

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