Multi generational living

by Mémé

My older daughter has been living with us for more than a year now. It has been just fine. We don’t have a giant house, but the finished ground floor (walkout with patio) is large and has a modest adjacent bathroom with shower and room for lots of storage. She has a parking space across the street for her car, public transit access, a WeWork desk in the financial district, the big tv and loveseat partitioned off by a large IKEA divider (we only requisition it for Patriots games or movies when she is away), good internet service, and a well stocked kitchen (she cooks for the family sometimes), and I try to make meals for “2 ½” just in case, and there is no need to label the food containers in the fridge – if something gets eaten, so be it. For the first year the room was not configured as a permanent studio apt – but this summer’s flood required a reno and that fact papered over two thorny issues – the grand piano, not used for several years, needed to go to storage to do the floor and so it wasn’t a sad rite of passage into senescence for my husband, and also, fixing the room up nicely was a no brainer, so it was not a conscious acknowledgement on either my side or hers that the relaunch isn’t imminent, with all that implies.

What has been unexpected for me is that I really enjoy having another adult around. She helps out and takes up some of the household burden in subtle ways, and not so subtly in that I can leave DH without a lot a worry. I also have someone else besides him as companion. The downside for him is that I have someone else besides him as companion. I have to be more attentive about scheduling couple time. On the other hand, we choose to leave for a few days or longer more often to get away and alone, and it is easier to do so because we don’t have to make arrangements for the animals or other empty house worries.

Of course, I want her to get steady work, consulting or traditional, and move into an apartment again. She lived on her own for 17 years starting at age 20 and still has a decent retirement nest egg, if not much left in the after tax accounts.

Totebaggers, please share your experiences, if any, with multigenerational living and any other thoughts.

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Pies

by Mémé

I love pies. Double crust, lattice, open face. Sweet – Fruit pies of all kinds, lemon meringue, key lime, transparent (such as pecan), tarte tatin (for me, not so much cream pies). Savory pies, too. Turkey or chicken pot pies, English pub pies, quiche.

For chicken or turkey pot pie, I use Pillsbury crusts. I sautée coarsely diced onion and carrot in butter, then add chopped mushroom. After that gets cooked a bit (more butter usually needed) I add flour and cook it a bit more (not quite a roux). Then add some broth, the chopped chicken or turkey, shredded parmesan. Then the green veggie, either uncooked English peas or cut up sugar snap peas, and some coarsely diced red bell pepper. Last step is to stir in some sour cream (stop cooking it now). Salt and pepper to taste. If the stock isn’t flavorful, maybe a little herb mix. Then into the pie shell, put the other shell on top with slits and crimp the edges, and into oven at 375 for 40 min. I use an aluminum ring around the edge of the pie plate to prevent burning.

My dessert specialty is very tart strawberry rhubarb, usually lattice top. Secret ingredients are orange zest and a beaten egg along with the flour to bind.

Totebaggers, share your pie preferences and recipes, please.

What a drag it is gettin’ old

by Mémé

There was a recent post on so-called superagers. I pooh-poohed all that in the comments, but I would like to advance another point of view with some seriousness.

After a certain age one needs time, and we who are privileged have the opportunity to take it without having to work for pay well before death is imminent. Time to recover from physical activity. More time to perform tasks, both mental and physical, that formerly you could do quickly or from “muscle” memory without conscious thought or planning. Time for double takes or less than instantaneous recall so that you can be sure you are proceeding or speaking with accuracy.

As an older person, those quick meals on the fly or bits of reading/podcast when I can fit them in lose appeal. I would just as soon skip a meal as scarf something down. And read books in an easy chair, stopping when I reach an actual stopping point and not just the end of the commute. I am also not under the tyranny of the clock for most household tasks. There is almost always tomorrow if I don’t get to something. Or if I really need to spend time on preparing a meal or on the garden or the grandchildren, I don’t have to do with one eye on the start time for my next task. (Although I do need electronic reminders because I have lost the ability to keep all that in my head when there is an actual appointment.)

I know that when I get overscheduled, my body simply tells me to stop. Despite a clean bill of health from my physician this week, and terrific “numbers”, I am currently dealing with a pinched nerve “headache” (still abating), my thumb joints ache all the time, and if I don’t eat on the right schedule and in the right quantity my digestion lets me know its displeasure.

Totebaggers, where do you fall on the continuum between near constant activity/ stimulation, much of it enjoyable, and stillness/recuperation, some of which may seem like unnecessary indolence?

‘To be of use’

by Mémé

To be of use
BY MARGE PIERCY

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

This poem was read at a memorial service I attended recently, for an indomitable woman who spent the last 30 years of her life in making lives better for battered women and their children in many concrete ways. She was fierce, and never took no for an answer when government or recalcitrant donors or journalists or NIMBY types stood in her way.

I sat for quite a while after the final song. I am not ashamed of the way my life has gone – a few regrets at missed opportunities and personal failures – but I like to think that I continue to take good care of my family and with respect to the rest of the world I try to do what comes to my hand to do. But this woman extended her hand every day of her life.

Please share your experiences with this sort of individual or your own thoughts about your place in the wider world.

‘Indecisiveness is the number one reason for failure.’

by Mémé

“Indecisiveness is the number one reason for failure. Lack of ability to make a decision in a timely manner causes most people to fail with their projects and plans. Identify this challenge and decide to no longer let it be a setback from your success.”

I searched for a quotation to use as the opening for this post, and I got this from a motivational speaker whose book is titled No Excuses.

We often talk about the qualities we wish to develop in our children. Being Totebaggers, after the obligatory nod to future happiness, we usually rank conscientiousness before self actualization, grit before reliance on natural talent. Adventure is laudable in its (youthful) place, but making tradeoffs and being in an overall secure position are the way most of us have conducted our lives and we would prefer our children end up that way too.

In looking at my own life, I would like to propose another quality that is not usually mentioned – decisiveness. I do some vague thinking about what I might want to do at a future and foreseen decision point, but the time comes I take a shockingly minimal amount of time to act. In consumer matters, this is evident. When we bought the townhouse, I went onto the local real estate site, went out alone one weekend in our neighborhood, preselected 3 places, took DH the next weekend, we picked one and made an offer. Done. I was thinking about a new Camry so I put some cash in an account, a very short friend mentioned that she was getting a new RAV4, the lightbulb went off, I spent one evening on the computer and bought the car the next day. But in much greater matters as well. Going to grad school, changing jobs/retiring, getting a divorce (4 mos from move out to initial decree). Obviously not all of my hasty choices work out optimally, but I am always moving forward and if I turn out to be wrong I just pick myself back up and make a change if necessary.

So do you agree with the idea that decisiveness of this type is a positive quality? Can it be developed? Do you think that extended reflection or analysis paralysis is like other “innate” personality traits that are impossible or very difficult to change?

‘Am I introverted or just rude?’

by Méme

I don’t have to write a blurb – the title speaks for itself. The comments are mostly from introverts trying to figure out why it is considered rude not to be social. I think this might overlap with elitism for some – my time is too valuable to waste on you, your conversation is too plebeian, but for most of us (I am not an introvert, but I hate parties and chit chat) it is mostly just how do I want to spend my limited time.

Am I Introverted, or Just Rude?

Reconnecting with an old love

by Mémé

Every now and then I’ll come across an article that stirs a memory or just have a stray thought and search FB for a long lost friend. About a year ago I did that and found my first boyfriend from sophomore year of high school. His current picture was not much to look at, but I did see an old photo on his public page that reminded me of how handsome he had been. I sent him a message (which goes into Facebook purgatory unless you pay money) and said, well, if he ever finds it I’ll hear from him. He did reply six months later, we did a heartfelt “friend”, and I decided to schedule a meet up on my recent trip to DC.

We sat in a coffee shop for 2 hours and caught up on the 43 years since we last ran into each other. We didn’t reminisce much about high school because we only went out for six months and went on with our lives. However, he is the only guy other than my two husbands that is at the level of “in love” for me.

I am still processing the experience. I felt awkward after a while, not for romantic reasons, but because my life turned out so much better than his. There was no increase in heart rate, although at one point he cocked his head just so and I caught a glimpse of the boy inside the man. He has a quiet responsible life, late marriage with youngest kid 20 years old, not happy in his marriage, middle class and tied to working as long as he is able, but his conversation was full of regrets about the road not taken`, recounting all sorts of recent sad events – not bitter, just resigned and a bit hard on himself. He never finished college because he went off the rails at 21 for a year or two and was just afraid of risk after that. (I guess it turns out he is a depressive, too. I am three for three.) I took a 15 year hiatus from myself from age 26 to 41 and lived through some tough luck, but I got myself back. He just figured out how to get by. I did ask him if his grand passion, a fabulous artistic woman he fell for at 17 and whose eventual rejection sent him into a tailspin, prevented him from moving on personally. He loved her like a guy in a tragic romance novel to a degree I have never again encountered from a man in real life. He said to me, I don’t think so, that’s an interesting observation. Still, my wife did ask me to burn all the pictures from that era (he just hid them). Ya think?

Totebaggers, please share your experiences of going back to the past, happy or not. Do you have any desire to track down old friends?

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
Gout
Diabetes
Diuretics (F & S)
BP L
Heart C (1 ½ pills)
Heart D (1 pill 4 days, ½ 3 days)
Vitamin D
Multivitamin
Mood B

Dinner –
Diabetes
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.

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?

 

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?