No Welcome Mat for Odocoileus Hemionus in This Garden!

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I have a cliff garden. Yes, it is exactly that—a garden perched on a cliff, 30 or so feet above a quiet street bordering the harbor.

I don’t own the garden. That would be impossible, given that I live in a condo. How it came about is a long story, but I’ll give you the short version.

Several years ago, our six story 25 year old building was restored, resulting in piles of building debris everywhere, and a general disturbance of the grounds.

The strip along the outside of our ground floor condo was an eyesore, and since no one came forward with a solution, I offered to clean it up. I’ve had lots of gardening experience, so I felt confident in starting this project.

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Why the Media’s Messages Matter to Old People

Old people get a raw deal in television and in the movies. We don’t make a fuss about this, because as we age, we become conditioned to the themes and images that flood the media, and bombard us with their messages. That’s just entertainment, we think—it’s not meant to depict real life.

But if we stop for a minute, and analyze the performances in front of us, we may become aware that there is rarely anyone in these presentations that vaguely resembles us.

If you wonder why this is important, researchers say that we are influenced by media, and respond to how it portrays us. Older characters don’t show up very much in the media we view, and when they do, they are shown in ageist or stereotypical roles, frequently ridiculed.

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Does Social Media Help Old People Feel Less Lonely?

Remember when people speculated that social media would produce a population of isolates, working alone in a room, disconnected from the rest of humanity? And if lonely older people took up social media, they would become even more lonely and depressed? Well, speculate no more—older adults, just like the rest of humanity, have climbed aboard the social media band wagon, and the results are overwhelmingly positive. In fact, older people, once they try Skype, Facebook or other electronic platforms, become enthusiasts, accounting for a substantial jump in use in just ten years.

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The Hidden, Internal Language of Loneliness

No matter what successes you have had in your life, none of it matters when you descend into loneliness and depression, especially if you are old. Being old can make you more vulnerable than younger people, and more likely to believe you have no options—you feel that you have less time to explore your loneliness, and less likelihood of solving it.

When you admit you are lonely, shallow advice, like “join groups”, or “volunteer”, or “take up a hobby”, come thick and fast from family, friends and advisers—but it only makes you feel inadequate, and guilty that you haven’t tried hard enough.

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The Death of a Spouse When You Are Old

The first few days, after the death of your spouse, may be the most devastating and wrenching you will ever experience. Nothing that happens later in life, you are convinced, can ever hurt this much. If you are old, and have been with your spouse for many years, the void that is left when your spouse is no longer there, can overwhelm you. Your feelings can be unimaginably painful and raw, as expressed here:

“I weep no tears because my husband has died. I do weep tears for the lost years. I weep tears for the young family members deprived of the opportunity to truly know him.

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Why You Should Think Twice Before Buying a New Car

If you’ve been out lately kicking tires, thinking of owning a shiny new car, chock full of the latest innovations like rear cameras, and voice activated commands—think again.

Buying a new car now, some say, would be worse than buying a new horse just as the first Fords drove off the assembly line, and worse by far than buying a three year old iphone.

Here’s why:

There is a huge cultural shift in all areas of the technological world, and it is led by the car. We know it is happening by the quickening of news and predictions about it, but we don’t know how fast, or in what form, the changes will come.

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The Secret Life of the Older Drinker

The older drinker, men and women who are over 65 and retired, have a ‘perfect storm’ of opportunity when it comes to abusing alcohol or prescription drugs, which are usually their drugs of choice.

Their social circle has shrunk, they are feeling loss of meaning in life, and they have less energy or will than younger people to overcome their challenges in life. The easiest thing in their lives is to reach for that bottle or pill, sometimes combining both.

After all, alcohol is legal, you can get it anywhere, even in some grocery stores. No one’s going to frown or report you if you pick up a couple of bottles or cases of beer. And prescriptions for drugs like Ativan or anti-depressants are readily available from your physician, who is concerned when you tell him about your depression or stress, and happy to steer you to legitimate medication rather than see you take over the counter pain pills.

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The Disturbing Attraction of the Dystopian Novel

I’m putting aside my novel writing for the summer. I’ve decided to concentrate on other blog themes, and catch up on things like gardening, home decorating, and of course, reading, an enduring summer pleasure.

With the new TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale  in the news, I headed down the stacks in the local library to pick it up, but instead found myself reaching for her newest book, The Heart Goes Last

“Why not?” I say, and add it to my take out pile. The truth is, I don’t have what it takes to read The Handmaid’s Tale again. I remember it as profoundly disturbing—a chillingly futuristic novel about Gilead, and how its female inhabitants are forced to have sex with powerful men and bear their children.

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Fergus Retires, Clare Has a Meltdown.

Clare was having a bad day. She spun her car around the corner of Quadra and McKenzie one more time. This was her second attempt at finding the entrance to the Lodge. She had driven past it a hundred times, why couldn’t she find it?

It was just her state of mind, Clare knew. She was stressed. This had been a harrowing few weeks. First, there was the excitement and buildup to Fergus’s retirement, the banquet, the phone calls, the well-wishers, the late-night conversations. Then there were the disastrous first two days as Fergus tried out a couple of his retirement ideas. Now the neighbors weren’t talking to her, the manager at Fairmart Center was giving her dirty looks, and Mrs. Pereira had quit her job cleaning their house.

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The Enduring Appeal of Reading

For me, reading is magical, and has been a part of my life since I was five years old, when I first started to make sense of the squiggles in the old comic strip, “Annie”

In a previous post, I quoted Alberto Manguel, whose words are so apt, that I will include them again:

“At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book—that string of confused, alien ciphers—shivered into meaning, and at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader.”

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Fergus and the Retirement Gremlins

Fergus had gremlins in his head. Retirement gremlins. It was like having mice in the attic, or a monkey on his back. They wouldn’t leave him alone. They were the last things he thought of when he fell asleep at night, and the first things he thought of when he woke up. They never let up, even in his dreams.

“Remember how you could hardly wait to retire,” they gloated, “Remember all of the wonderful ideas you had? Where are they now?”

“Years from now,” Fergus worried, “I’ll still be doing this.” He imagined himself, a stooped old man, trudging along, saying, “What will I do when I retire?” It was not too far-fetched, he already had the stoop, and the trudge.

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Fergus Blecher Retires, A New Man

Fergus Blecher woke up on the morning of June 28, feeling like a new man. Instead of hunching over his oatmeal and gulping it down, like he did only yesterday, he took his coffee to the deck, shook the rain off one of the chairs, and sat down. He stayed there for a few minutes, peering through the layer of mist over the Finlayson Valley, and waited for reality to sink in.

It didn’t. It didn’t feel real. He felt anxious—like he should be somewhere else. Fergus started thinking about where he should really be this morning. By now, he would be rounding the corner of Cook Street, taking McKenzie Avenue to the Pat Bay Highway, sailing through the construction area of the interchange. After all, it was Wednesday. His turn to take morning playground supervision. Next period, gym. In June, he usually did a relay set-up, had the kids go over what they did in the track meet. Before he knew it, Fergus was rummaging in the hall closet, looking for his whistle.

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