What a drag it is gettin’ old

by Mémé

Many of us have older relatives who need nearby if not active supervision – not because they are demented or frail, but because the details of daily life have become too much to manage. Some of it is adjusting to modern electronics and communications. Some of is a result of spread out car dependent communities and a declining ability to drive oneself. But some of it seems to be avoidable.

One example, as described by this New Old Age column in the NYT, is medication management.

A Prescription for Confusion: When to Take All Those Pills

Lest you think this is an exaggeration, I present DH’s pill regimen. I am live-in, obviously, and manage it because even though he can still win regional bridge events, he can’t keep track of all of this, for example, the meds that have been eliminated but the pharmacy stills sends refill reminders, the varying dosages by day of the week. Or the generic supplier is changed and the refill is a different size and/or color. Or there are five white round pills that resemble each other. He has one of those 7 x 4 pillboxes I fill every Sun morning. The first pill was recently adjusted over the phone (did I mention he is hard of hearing and doesn’t wear his hearing aids around the house?) throw out old pills (trip to police station required for safe disposal). Get new pills different dosage (trip to pharmacy required.) I had to pry the phone from his hand to speak directly to the nurse.

Upon waking –
Thyroid – 1 pill 4 days a week, 1 ½ three days.

Breakfast – must wait a full hour after wake up pill
Diuretics (F & S)
Heart C (1 ½ pills)
Heart D (1 pill 4 days, ½ 3 days)
Vitamin D
Mood B

Dinner –
Mood B
Blood thinner – twice a month blood draws at the doctor’s office – dose then adjusted over the phone – sometimes just for a day or two

Bedtime –
Mood E
Sleep aid
Heart C (1 ½)
BP L ( ½ )

Totebaggers, what would you suggest to make life less confusing for elders (or children) and their caretakers? I also know that an orderly family life, even without elders in the mix, is made more difficult by seemingly artificial constraints relating to kids and school and work, but somehow we expect that children need help navigating and employers will be arbitrary.


Preparing to leave the nest

by Finn

Like several other regulars, I have a kid that will be leaving the nest for college soon.

As that day approaches, I realize that there are some things I should do before he leaves. Some fall into the category of things to teach, while others are tasks to be done in the remaining time. Among them:

-Take him to open a checking account, and teach him how to use it and to safeguard his checks.
-Walk him through a credit card application, and teach him how it works, and how to use it (e.g., always pay the balance, and never use it to buy something that will lead to a balance you can’t pay).
-Get a new phone and plan. We want him to have unlimited talk and text, because we want to have those channels to him wide open.
-Teach him to drive, and make sure he gets his license.
-Take him bike riding, both to sharpen his skills, and to teach him how to ride in traffic.
-Have him sign a health care directive/proxy and a HIPAA form, and keep copies on his, DW’s, and my phones.
-Have him do laundry. I’ve already taught him how to use the washer, but give him practice.
-Teach him how to use a non-solar dryer.
-Teach him basic cooking, and have him prepare some meals for the family.

Of course, in a lot of cases, ‘teach him’ can mean, ‘direct him to learn.’ I’m reminded of a story from a dad who was looking forward to teaching his son how to shave, only to have the son learn how from a YouTube video.

What’s on your list? How do you plan to prepare your kids before they fly the nest?

Our future virtual life

by Grace aka costofcollege

Where does your imagination take you as we consider the ways that technological innovations will continue to change our lives?

Here’s one way learning may be made more efficient and easier.

Scientists develop Matrix-style technique of ‘feeding’ information directly into your brain

“As we discover more about optimising, personalising, and adapting brain stimulation protocols, we’ll likely see these technologies become routine in training and classroom environments.

“It’s possible that brain stimulation could be implemented for classes like drivers’ training, SAT prep, and language learning.”

We may be able to implant memories of vacations that we actually never took.

More possible trends:

Anthem Tells Customers to Visit Virtual Doctors, Therapists, and Psychologists
Growing number of insurers push virtual visits to doctor

The Rich Are Already Using Robo-Advisers, and That Scares Banks

The Language Barrier Is About to Fall
Within 10 years, earpieces will whisper nearly simultaneous translations—and help knit the world closer together

Roaches to the rescue: insect provides blueprint for robotic first responder
Researchers at University of California at Berkeley are developing a mechanical roach after finding its exoskeleton is uniquely suited to fitting into small spaces

Robots will force experts to find other routes to the top
If grunt work of professions is automated, an important way that juniors hone skills will be lost

Domino’s Is Testing the World’s First Pizza-Delivery Robot

Isn’t sex the driving force behind so much of technology?

Makers of ‘mindblowing’ sex robot with virtual vagina swamped with orders

The sex toys of the future: Talking high-tech dolls can be given a personality via an app to create the ‘perfect lover’

What Women and Men Want from Sex Robots

And the scariest proposition of all?

A lot of people who make over $350,000 are about to get replaced by software

Let’s discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of how technology will affect the future for us and our children.

Monday open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread for anything you’d like to discuss.  Maybe politics?  Here’s a question to ponder:

What event divided your life into “before” and “after”?

The survey so far shows that many of us are interested in doing a Totebag 30-day Challenge. — 19 yes, 10 maybe, 6 no.  I’ll get it organized.  Should we start right away on April 1 or wait until May 1?  You can express your preference in the comments.

P.S. — send posts.

The 30-day challenge

by Grace aka costofcollege

The New Era of 30-Day Fitness Challenges
Options to help people spend a month focusing on running, yoga, exercises for abs and more are proliferating …

The 30-day exercise challenge is increasingly popular, especially as an alternative to New Year’s resolutions, which often fail this time of year. The pitch is to stick with a commitment for a month, whether to reach a specific benchmark, mix up a routine or try to establish an exercise habit.

Thirty-day challenges push people to chase goals big and small, from cutting out soda to writing a novel. More than 200 smartphone apps for Apple’s iOS operating system have “30 day challenge” in the title, 10 times the number available in 2014, according to App Annie, an analytics and market-data company. Internet searches for “30 day challenge” have climbed 140% since 2013, according to Google. Gyms and yoga studios offer them as a way to win customers, hoping that a 30-day stint will turn into a habit.

Some Totebaggers have done the Whole 30 Program successfully.  Many other types of 30-day challenges exist — eliminating soft drinks or another food from your diet, reading, acts of kindness, walking or running, planks or pushups, journaling, decluttering, etc.  Part of the appeal is that the commitment is relatively short term.

We recently had a post about the challenge of developing good habits.  What do you think of the 30-day challenge trend?  Have you tried it?  Is the idea appealing to you?  What activity have you done or would you consider doing?  Are you interested in doing a Totebag 30-day challenge, one where we could each pick a particular activity and track our progress here on the blog?

Common Core

by laurafrombaltimore

In the interest of setting things off, here are two hot-button issues rolled into one: Trump and Common Core.

Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand Common Core (and Neither Do His Rivals)

OK, really, I was more interested in the discussion of Common Core, because the description here fits my experience: there is a huge difference between what Common Core is and what people think it is.

Example: as seems to happen every spring, DD went into one of her periodic grade spirals, and so we did the standard swoop-and-poop (our deal is that she can handle her work on her own, as long as she’s actually handling her work; when she doesn’t, she gets to do it our way). During the discussion of why her math grade went from a 90-something to a 70-something, she exploded about her frustrations with Common Core. ??? Hunh? What does a 14-yr-old know about Common Core?

The answer is that DD had head this from her math teacher. He is having them work in groups, because Common Core “requires” student-led learning, where they all work together to figure out how to approach problems and get to the answer; the teacher explained that he is allowed to ask questions but cannot give them the answers when they get stuck. And DD’s entire group basically cratered on one particular chapter (so, what, I am supposed to be happy that she got a 70-something when the others in her group got a 30-something?).

We had a little re-education of our own at home that night, explaining that Common Core is just the standards kids need to understand. The Board of Ed is the one that determines whatever dumb-@$$ method-du-jour the teachers need to use to get there.

What do you think about Common Core? Have your districts made changes in their teaching methods in an effort to achieve the Common Core standards?

The eyes have it

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

What Google Learned from Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

This is a long article about which work teams are successful, and why.
It has a lot to do with the soft skills of being able to read others’
facial expressions and body language and respond to those. I think there
are parallels for families, too. Do the conclusions seem correct to
you, Totebaggers?

That time of year, again

by Finn

We are well into that least favorite time of year for many of us: tax time.

While some may already be done, others are yet to start.

Do you have any tips to share? Potential gotchas?

Tax time is also a good opportunity to review financial decisions, and make adjustments. What have you learned from this tax season? What worked, and didn’t work, financially over the past year?

Who’s Your BFF?

by Mémé

It is fashionable these days to designate your spouse/partner, if you have one, as your best friend. I certainly feel that way about my husband, although I do have a female friend for the past 15 years who fills the role of “best girlfriend”. She and her husband also married later in life, there are no children on either side, and their marriage is even tighter than mine, so the friendship works for both of us as another place to share.

I still think there is another sort of relationship with a traditional best friend that I don’t have and that has great value for adults, partnered or not. Almost everyone has the real or faux mom/dad or work friends. Some have a long history with college or childhood friends, maybe not one special but a special group.

Totebaggers, please share your thoughts and experiences. And your opinion – can your partner really be a best friend?


Heart attacks and other silent killers

by Grace aka costofcollege

She thought it was only a 24-hour bug. What she really had almost killed her.

A 46-year old woman awoke suddenly before dawn feeling “kind of funny”, and then ran to the bathroom to throw up.  Her husband insisted on taking her to the emergency room because he thought she could be having a heart attack.  It turns out he saved her life.

Don’t think it can’t happen to you and don’t trust your instincts. 

I would tell you to trust your instincts — except in this case my instinct was to chalk up my symptoms to something else and to worry about whether the doctors and nurses would think I was crazy. So I’ll say don’t trust your instincts, if your instincts are to wait and see what happens. When you just don’t feel right, don’t ignore it. Fredi says that 9 out of 10 women with my symptoms would not have gone to the hospital. I wouldn’t have gone either, if it weren’t for Tim.

Many women have no chest pain, no tightness, no pain in the arm or jaw until it is much too late. Many women suffering a heart attack simply “don’t feel right,” just as I did. So if that happens, don’t ignore the feeling and don’t worry about someone thinking you’re crazy. Get yourself checked out. The worst thing that happens is they send you home and tell you you’re fine. You can live with that.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought about similar scenarios, and hopes to make the right decision if a heart attack, stroke, or other calamity strikes.  I can relate to the woman in this article.  Once while on a tropical island vacation I woke up in the middle of the night with severe pain in one arm.  Although I considered that I might be having a heart attack, I ultimately decided not to go to the hospital.  It turned out to be the right choice, but I could have been deadly wrong.

Have you ever wavered in deciding whether to rush to the emergency room?  How did it turn out?  Do you feel confident about knowing how to react to the symptoms of heart disease, the “No. 1 killer of women in the United States”?  What lessons have you learned from the experiences of family or friends?  Any advice to share?

The world we have lost: Evenings before TV

by Honolulu Mother

My attention was caught by this paragraph in a FiveThirtyEight article about the decline of terriers in dog shows and national attention over the last century:

And then television came along. While Black Tuesday changed the business from the U.S., a few decades later, mass media changed it from England. The English working class that was largely responsible for raising the dogs turned to other leisure pursuits. “So instead of you going outside in a cold shed and pulling hair, you can watch a football game, and you’re sitting in your kitchen by the fire,” Green said. “Well, which would you rather do for a hobby?” And so went the terrier supply.

Terrier care and breeding is time-intensive, apparently, the kind of thing that might be worth doing as a hobby you enjoy and get a little extra money from but not as a job in its own right.  I don’t know if the article is correct that a collapse in supply led to a decline in terrier popularity, but I don’t doubt that sitting indoors watching tv is a more appealing method of relaxation than sitting out in a cold shed grooming terriers.

What interested me was not the terrier angle so much as the idea that a shift toward more passive, in-home types of leisure activities can affect something so seemingly unrelated as what dog breeds are popular.  I’ve seen something similar with community theaters:  I’m aware of a couple that have shut down because there are no longer enough people interested in spending their evenings rehearsing, painting sets, and so on, not to mention people interested in turning out to see their friends and neighbors perform when they could just Netflix and chill.  There’s no population loss to blame; it’s the internet, and before that, tv, giving people an easy alternative evening pastime.

I don’t mean to tsk tsk over this — people can spend their leisure time how they choose! — but I do find it interesting how such a shift can eat away at those parts of our cultural and commercial life that sit on the boundary between profession and hobby.  Perhaps I should also fold in the Garden Clubs and Ladies’ Societies that once depended on the volunteer work of women who weren’t expected to work for pay after marriage.

Are there parts of our world that are fading away in response to the ease and variety of in-home entertainment options?  I live in a city, and there are still community orchestras and theaters and orchid clubs to supplement the professional options, but does it take a larger town than it once did to support a community theater or put on a flower show?  And is the internet also responsible for a contrary trend toward greater interest in jam-making, crafting, and other Pinterest-worthy hobbies?

Temporary rental rights and wrongs

by Finn

A recent post on the impact of luxury housing construction on the affordable housing market led to a discussion of the conversion of housing into short term vacation rentals, often referred to here as TVR, or temporary vacation rentals or transient vacation rentals, and how websites like AirBnB and VRBO have facilitated that.

This raises the question: Should such short-term rentals be limited to certain geographical areas, e.g., by zoning laws? Are those who convert housing to TVR, and their renters, infringing on the lives and rights of their neighbors?

Here’s a somewhat extreme example of that, in which a college student rented his dorm room via Airbnb:

An Emerson College student rented his dorm room on Airbnb. Now he’s in trouble.

How would you feel about someone in your kid’s dorm renting out his room to strangers with no connection to the college, and not vetted by the college? How about if the dorm didn’t have private bathrooms?

How would you feel if your neighbors converted their home to a TVR? Would you welcome it? Would you think they should pay a higher property tax rate than homes used as residences?

All the single ladies

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

The Single American Woman

This is a long article about the influence of single women on the
political scene. On the Totebag we have several members who hold strong
opinions about single mothers, for example. This article addresses why
remaining single often seems to be in women’s self-interest. It looks at
affluent single women as well as lower-income women. Totebaggers, if you
found yourself single tomorrow, would you look for another partner? Or
would you say “BTDT” and forge ahead independently?

The golden years

by Louise

My husband has stopped cheating on me after 35 years

This piece caught my eye. I know of a few long-term marriages where there was cheating and dysfunction. Everyone knew including the kids. Now, there is posting of pictures on FB of the happy couple in their golden years. I want to shout “fakes” but am I right ? Is it possible for partners to change ? To let go of resentments and forgive ? To enjoy their golden years together ?

Skills that kids need

by Grace aka costofcollege

The skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life

Pew Research Center recently asked a national sample of adults to select among a list of 10 skills: “Regardless of whether or not you think these skills are good to have, which ones do you think are most important for children to get ahead in the world today?”

The answer was clear. Across the board, more respondents said communication skills were most important, followed by reading, math, teamwork, writing and logic. Science fell somewhere in the middle, with more than half of Americans saying it was important.

Rounding out the bottom were skills more associated with kids’ extracurricular activities: art, music (sorry, right-brained people) and athletics. There was virtually no difference in the responses based on whether the person was a parent of a child aged 18 and younger or not.

20160305.PewKidsSkillsI take it that communication skills include speaking and writing.  Go to the link to see differences based on the respondents’ level of education.

Your thoughts?

Would you trade your current life to be filthy rich 100 years ago?

by Honolulu Mother

I ran across a post on the blog Cafe Hayek asking the question

What is the minimum amount of money that you would demand in exchange for your going back to live even as John D. Rockefeller lived in 1916?

The author concludes that he would not:

This fact means that, by 1916 standards, I am today more than a billionaire. It means, at least given my preferences, I am today materially richer than was John D. Rockefeller in 1916. And if, as I think is true, my preferences here are not unusual, then nearly every middle-class American today is richer than was America’s richest man a mere 100 years ago.

A Bloomberg View item took issue with the first post’s implied suggestion that if we’re all better off than the richest few from a hundred years ago, inequality is overstated as a issue:

Comparing folks of different economic strata across the ages ignores a simple fact: Wealth is relative to your peers, both in time and geography.

After reading both (in reverse order), I asked myself whether I’d make the trade. Two things occurred to me: first, would I be treated like John D. Rockefeller, or would I be treated like a very wealthy woman? In other words, would it be taken for granted that my political and economic views were important and worth listening to, or would my desire to so much as vote in the 1918 election be viewed as an eccentricity to be tolerated only because of my money? And second, what I’d really want would be to try the 1916 wealthy life before making my decision. I have a sneaking suspicion that I could learn to live without television and movies when I had my pick of theater, opera, concerts, and fancy parties every night to amuse me. Microwaves and washing machines might seem less important if cooking and laundry took care of themselves with all the effort hidden from me, and I could probably handle the increased travel time given that I’d be doing it in luxury and my time would be fully my own. But then again, maybe after a couple of months I’d start to feel like my technology-free retreat had been relaxing but I was ready to bathe in the internet’s welcoming light once more.

On the question of the implications for inequality as a political issue, I agree with the response that comparing wealth of people separated by large gaps of time is not particularly meaningful. How do you weigh antibiotics and Netflix against a small army of servants and the day-to-day freedom of time and movement that comes with great wealth?

Totebaggers, would you take the deal to trade your life for a John D. Rockefeller-type life in 1916? And do you think the question is just a fun exercise in historical perspective, or something with real significance when talking about economic inequality today?


by L

Did any Totebaggers move as children? If so, do you remember or were you too young?

This Totebagger moved prior to age 3 and has no memory of the first house. As we contemplate moving now, I am sad to think that our youngest child will have few or no memories of this house.

In addition, any tips for moving with kids? Changing school systems? What are your must-dos and must-avoids?

Preparing Children for a Move


by Risley

I just saw this Lifehack article about good and bad habits and thought of this group. It’s not real science, but I love these kinds of “small steps toward self-improvement” articles, and we’ve talked about this sort of thing here before.

The Benefits and Dangers of Habits

Totebaggers, what bad habits would you like to get rid of, and what good habits would you like to replace them with? And more than HABITS, are there MINDSETS you would like to delete and replace?

I’ll start: I would like to delete my HABIT of collapsing into my favorite armchair after a day of work and zoning out in front of Bravo! TV. This comes from a MINDSET of believing I am so mentally fried after a day of lawyering or writing that I can’t possibly focus on anything that requires real brain power.

I might not care about this so much if I could suck in 20 min of silly reality TV and then jump up, energized, and attack the evening (or even simply pick up a book). But for me, one of those shows often leads to many more, while on the flip side, doing one productive thing usually leads to an entire evening of productivity.*** I suffer greatly from inertia, and benefit greatly from momentum.

***By “productivity,” I’m talking about very easy evening activities like reading, not cleaning out the garage or alphabetizing the spices. For me, anything other than melting my brain w/ TV counts as “productive” in this context.

In terms of pure HABIT, I’ve had some success in making myself do productive things rather than collapsing in my chair and clicking on the Real Housewives of Wherever. But that’s surface-level behavior (which is what a habit is), and it feels very forced. I WANT to be collapsing in my chair; I’m simply not allowing myself to do it. A daily struggle like that doesn’t seem like a recipe for longterm happiness. By this point in my life, I’ve engaged in plenty of delayed gratification, self denial, rule setting, etc. I’m not sure I want/need/should engage in more of this.

So for me, real success would be replacing the “I’m so fried” MINDSET with an “I have a second wind!” one. I want to WANT to be productive in the evenings. (Jennifer Aniston would totally get this: “I want you to WANT to do the dishes”).

I don’t know what the secret is to replacing an entire mindset. Self talk? Years and years of forced habits until repeated action slowly brings about a new mindset?

Anyone have success with this? And what about the simpler question of HABITS? Any luck deleting bad ones, adding good ones?

Totebaggers’ unfortunate fashion choices

by L

Which fashion choices do you regret? How old were you then? I predict we will see some generational differences here.

My list: beige plastic glasses (age 8), bright floral leggings (age 11), red plastic GIANT glasses (age 12), overalls and pegged pants (middle school), electric blue camisole to work (age 21),

Trends I’m happy I never got into: permed hair, waterfall bangs, sequined prom dresses, tanning.

Recycling made hard

by Mémé

We have been in our townhouse for 8 ½ years, and this winter’s task has been to declutter and divest of old furniture, financial records, and inherited junk. In the course of that I have come across many items that have to be discarded, some under hazardous waste or special recycling protocols. Since this is a northern climate, for many things the monthly drop off Saturdays are only scheduled from April through November. So I have quite a pile in the corner of the utility room.

My complaint is that the sorting and disposal process is extremely complex. It is not helped by the fact that we don’t have a municipal culture of putting stuff out and having it scavenged within hours, and the additional hassle of living in a condo development without public street frontage.

The items awaiting disposal. (Paper, glass and recyclable plastic are taken on trash day.)

  1. Old but functioning oil filled space heater. Technically a “white good.” Requires a special call to hauling company, payment of fee, scheduled pickup. Not clear where we are supposed to leave it – on condo property or on the street in front of someone else’s house. Winter pickups unreliable. I am going to make my son take it to his town dump. I’ll pay the white goods fee.
  2. Lots of old pills. Police station lobby in town.
  3. Paint thinner and similar waste. Special drop off Saturdays in warm weather to the county disposal site in the next town. Our town has a designated week, other open Saturdays are not permitted and I have to bring a property tax bill with me. (Our town will get charged).
  4. Electronic waste, small appliances and computer stuff. Progress made here. Town DPW will take any of this during weekday business hours (open one night till 7) and one Sat a month in warm weather. For weekday you have to go into the office up the stairs to bring some stuff, register and pay the lap top or tv fee. You have to be able to remove the stuff yourself from your car without town help.
  5. A mercury thermostat. Some batteries (rechargeable, button, lithium) are in category 4, as is all mercury.
  6. Backup battery from FIOS box. This is in category 3, not 4.
  7. Fluorescent bulbs. One of the hardware stores in town.
  8. Hard plastic and Styrofoam – not required to be recycled, but if I want to do it I have to bring it to the town DPW on the designated warm weather Saturdays.
  9. Old latex paint . Can go in regular trash if I leave cans open to dry out or use the powder to quick dry them. Need to carry them up to the attic to let them dry out– no private outdoor open space and basement is finished.
  10. Large trashy furniture items. Cannot go in condo dumpster. If we had street frontage we could put them out. Will give to son and pay his local fee as with white good.

I am just too cranky about all this? I want to follow the rules, especially with respect to hazardous waste, but how does someone who doesn’t have a car manage all this? Four different sites for various types of waste and limited hours? What is your experience with gov’t mandates (trash or otherwise) that are not user friendly?


by Grace aka costofcollege

No Touching: The Countries That Dislike Physical Contact the Most
A study suggests you should hug a Finn, but not a Brit.

Do you greet a stranger by kissing them on the cheek or giving them a firm handshake? In the largest study ever quantifying where people were comfortable being touched and by whom, 1,300 men and women were asked the same question. The results suggest that when greeting most people, you’re better off with a handshake.

The participants, from Finland, France, Italy, Russia, and the U.K., detailed where strangers, family members, friends, and romantic partners were allowed to touch them. Researchers from the University of Oxford and Finland’s Aalto University then combined the results to create a so-called “heat map.”

It is not surprising that the study found “some nationalities were less enthusiastic about touching than others”.

…True to their stereotype, British participants were right at the bottom on the touchability index. And to the researchers’ surprise, Italians were less comfortable with being touched than Russians.

Some families are lavish in expressing affection with hugs and kisses.  Lately I’ve noticed that it’s still not uncommon to see Latin Americans and some Europeans of both genders walking arm in arm down the street.   It seems some stereotypes still hold.

These cultural norms can get tricky in dealing with business colleagues from different countries.  Intermarriage between different cultures is another area that can get complicated for families.

What’s your style, touchy-feely, stand-offish, or in between?  Have you had to adjust your style for family or business?  Any awkward situations?

What other cultural differences have you had to navigate in your personal or professional life?

The effect of stress on health

by WCE

This article on stress levels and cholesterol made me think. How much does avoiding stress affect your work/life choices? I’m curious about whether control affects the perception of stress. When I have a lot going on, but I have control over it, I am less stressed than when I am subject to someone else’s arbitrary schedule or needs. I think my Dad and MIL, who each cared for a terminally ill spouse, were affected as caregivers in ways that affected their long-term health.

Why do you think there is so much research on diet/exercise and so little research on stress?

Stress Raises Cholesterol More Than You Think