Thursday, June 21, 2018

November Dreaming

     I don’t know about you, but it was a late-life possibility I had never stopped to consider. See if you can relate to this. Our children—the ones whose diapers we changed (actually, in our household ‘we’ was something of a misnomer)—-the ones we drove to ballgames, track meets, and dance practice (Dad did help with that)—-the ones we taught to drive (Mom and Dad flipped a coin for that duty, the loser played Instructor for that day)—-the four precious souls who shared so many of our family adventures on their path to becoming the settled and productive adults they are now—those kids of ours are in the process of planning their own mid-life adventures. Can you believe that? 
     It’s a natural parental thing, isn’t it? Watching with pride as our children look ahead to their own September and October years. Of course we’re glad they are able to do that. Still, what do they mean, those nagging thoughts that bubble up in my aging brain when I hear our offspring speak of their dreams.  
     Is that a natural parental thing—-being envious of our own children for dreaming their dreams, the ones their own parents find drifting further out of reach? My first reaction is to deny such a selfish possibility. Yet I suppose those thoughts have been lurking in the back of my mind for a while. 
     Actually, I have a hunch I am not the only one who 'wishes it was me' dreaming those dreams. Perhaps most of us November types have experienced those moments. If so, I’m guessing we are feeling what aging parents have felt for as long as younger generations have set out to follow their own destinies, while Mom and Dad sit back in their rocking chairs, reliving their own youthful adventures. 
     Yet in the end Grandma and Grandpa are left with just one productive response—-“Get over it.” Use the hard-won elder wisdom we like to brag about to cope, to find the alternatives that work for us. 
     And that, dear reader, brings me to the meat of today’s post. How does a lifelong wanderlust junkie like me, who experiences pangs of envy when he hears his children dreaming their dreams of seeing the world, deal with his own limitations of age and infirmity?
     Truth is, those ‘limitations’ are not hypothetic. To begin with, in recent years Roma and I have concluded that at 81 our backpacking days, seeing Europe Through the Back Door, are behind us. Whether at home or abroad, the lengthy holidays we used to enjoy are no longer a fit. Just walking the length of a metropolitan airport has become a trial, let alone taking in the sights, stairs, and crowds that come with popular tourist destinations.
     All that seems to suggest a more sedentary form of travel. But that too comes with its own limitations. As young travelers how could we have imagined that simply sitting for hours—-on an airplane, a train, or in a car—-could be uncomfortable and tiring.  Beyond that it seems I have outgrown the lure of unfamiliar surroundings, exotic meals, and a different bed every night. And too there are budget constraints to consider. Who would have dreamed it could be so complicated.
     It seems that our response to those limiting limitations must deal with ‘age-appropriate’ issues we did not face as younger travelers. Simply stated, it is time to move beyond “What we wish we could do” to “What we can do.” I may be a slow learner, but I think I am catching on. Perhaps eighty-one is a good age to finally get realistic. Besides, it turns out my November brand of travel is satisfying and fun. Let me know what your think. 
     To begin with, what follows is bound to be very personal—-what works for me. Like I said, I have been a travel junkie for a long time—-since I first ran away from home at age thirteen. In the course of the last sixty years Roma, I, and our family have been blessed with opportunities to scratch that itch. And though our circumstances have changed I am not willing to let the ‘limitations’ I mentioned earlier put an end to our seeing the world.
     Those who know us understand that we are seriously serious Anglophiles. We love Britain, its people, its history, backroad villages, and picturesque landscapes. And that is where we are going today. If you too enjoy that magic country be prepared for a visual feast. In fact, if you are like us you may want to save some of the links that follow—-allowing for an easy return when you feel the need for an Anglo-fix. With that, let’s take a few minutes (or hours) to visit the Mother Country,
     I will begin our tour with one of our favorite stops. It was our friend Kay who introduced us to We Love England, an eclectic and exhaustive photo site. Once there I can click on any picture I choose, which produces an enlarged version. From there I use the side arrow to scroll from one photo to the next. Each page includes information about the photo's location, along with viewer comments. It’s a relaxing thing, scrolling from one sight to the next. With hundreds of photos you can scroll for hours.
     17 Most Beautiful Villages in Britain. That is a bold title, and probably unprovable. Still, the villages listed on the site are something special. This site includes enough narrative to have you wanting to know more. (That’s what Google is for.)
     Hampshire Photos. UK. It has been 46 years since we called Winchester, in beautiful Hampshire, home. We have returned several times, and still miss it as much as ever. These delicious photos will help you understand why.
     New Forest Photos. You must check out this special woodland park. It is big, nearly twenty miles square, and more famous for its ponies than its people. Once a royal hunting preserve, it is now a remarkable National Park, just a few miles from the highly populated Southampton/Portsmouth metroplex.
     How about 11 Gorgeous Places to Visit in ? Cornwall is England’s wild west—-a rugged coastline, scenic harbors, and brooding moors, with hidden, haunting villages at every turn. If you’re an OPB fan, this is Poldark Country. You’re bound to love it.
     And then there is Silver Tiger. This is a special blog that offers illustrated walking tours of many cities in England and Europe, complete with photos, maps, and detailed narratives of what you are seeing. This London-based blogger is really good. I signed up for his email posts and receive a new tour every week or two. 
     There you are, a sampling of our favorites. You can easily find your own. You can explore virtually any place you want to see with a your own cyber-ticket. Just Google “Photo blog XXX.” Fill in your own “XXX” and be on your way.
     Finally, we need to remind ourselves that it is time to let the kids do their thing, like we did in our time. And while they do that we November types can be doing our own thing. With today’s internet armchair travel it is easier and more rewarding than ever. Best of all it gives our body a break, while expanding our mind and renewing fond memories.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Father Knows Best --- or not

      It’s about the best thing that can happen to a man—-being a father. I am reminded of that often, but especially on Father’s Day. Beyond that, in my book fatherhood is about family, which means that besides being a father I am also a husband.
      Fact is, for the last few days it has been my role as husband that has captured my attention. You see, when it comes to ‘husbandness,’ you can’t have reached the October and November years of life without having learned a few important, even existential lessons along the way.
      For instance—-absolute, 100% spousal agreement need not be the hallmark of a satisfying, productive marriage. Most of us know that having found the soulmate we deserve does not guarantee that we will agree on everything. Any self-respecting husband learns that bit of truth within days of their blessed “I do.”
      Of course the ways any couple responds to their personal mix of agreement and disagreement are as varied as the challenges they face. And why not? In every case the blend of personalities, problems, and possibilities is absolutely unique—-no other persons have ever encountered the exact set of circumstances that you and your spouse will face.
      What was it then, after fifty-eight years of marriage, that had me revisiting that all-too-obvious truth? So the two of us didn’t agree on something. What’s new? Surely, by this stage of the game we have learned to deal with that.
      Like I said, every marriage is unique, so I won’t pretend to speak for you. However, looking back at the course of our own maturing relationship, I can see in hindsight subtle, yet important changes in the shape of our partnership. Truth to tell, we are not the same persons we used to be.
      You see, over the years the cocky, head-strong young husband and father I once was has been appropriately humbled from time to time by the relational path we have traveled together. It may have taken longer than necessary, but I have learned some things along the way. I know now that I did not know what I thought I knew in the beginning.
      Meanwhile, the other half of our blissful partnership was, in her own understated manner, also changing. Perhaps a biblical reference will best explain what I mean.
      “The meek shall inherit the earth.” We learned that in Sunday school, didn’t we? If you were like me you did not understand how that will happen, or even what it meant. But according to that logic the ‘meek’ will come out ahead. I am not sure it always works that way, but I can cite at least one example where it has.
      Let me be clear—-I can’t tell you how theologians expect the ‘meek’ to pull that off. But I have a pretty good idea of how it happened in my world. In her own quiet and caring way, without raising a fuss of any sort, my partner learned how to shed some of what I assumed was her submissive meekness and make a stand.
      Though it was not something I see all that often, I have no doubt her determined resourcefulness was there from the beginning. I knew her mother, so I know where that strength comes from. Over the years I have seen that side of her, when she pulls herself up to her full five-foot two, (at least it used to be) to let the old man know he had slipped off the tracks again. Truth is, she seems to have grown more comfortable doing that.
      So what was it, you might ask, that sent me off on this detour—-rehashing what any reasonably observant husband has known from the start? Could it have something to do with another one of my really good ideas bumping into her determined resistance? Well yes, it could be something like that.
      Except…….this time made absolutely no sense. I was so right. Why couldn’t she tell that? Whatever happened to Father Knows Best?
      Roma, you see, is an energetic soul—-especially during this time of year when her gardens are growing, and the weeds seem to be gaining ground. There is so much to be done, so much up and down, so much stressing and straining. More to the point, it is a very bad time to be nursing what she at first called a “bad back,” before the doctor diagnosed a “pinched sciatic nerve.” At its best it was painful. At its worse—-excruciating.
      For days she tried to tough it out, relying on hot pads and ice packs, along with a occasional Aleve. It hurt to sit, to stand, lay down. A decent night’s sleep was impossible. It literally hurt to watch her going through her day.
      Finally, I did what any caring husband would do. I stepped forward with the obvious answer to her sciatic agony. The exercises the physical therapist  had recommended were not helping. It was time to bring out the big guns. And I knew exactly what that meant. After all, I had Googled everything I could find about her condition, and the answers were perfectly clear.
      Hemp Oil Extract, which contains the CBD element of the marijuana family, is touted for its pain-relieving capabilities—-with no risk of getting high or addicted. Beyond that, marijuana-laced edibles have proven to an effective form of relief for someone who has never smoked. Clearly those were the answers Roma was seeking. Right? How could she argue with that?
      Did I mention that my meek and occasionally-submissive life mate can be stubborn and unyielding---especially when my normally spot-on answers don’t ring true to her. There I was, prepared to show her the error of her ways. And I surely could have done that, if only she had given me a chance.
      By then it mattered little how much she was hurting and how much sleep she was losing. No doubt she was more desperate for an answer than I was. Yet,  even before I could state my case she let me know in no uncertain terms that any answer that included marijuana or hemp oil was not going to fly. There would be no ‘pothead’ answers in our house.
      Of course the lady was entitled to exercise her free will. And you can bet she knows how to do that. But why suffer needlessly when relief is so close at hand? Heck, Amazon Prime could have hemp oil in our hands in two days.
      Then to my surprise, it turned out that my meek, but unyielding lady managed to beat the promise of marijuana relief by twenty-four hours. The very next day her new doctor, who herself lives with sciatica, recommended that Roma double up on Ibuprofen each morning and night, with no additional reinforcement during the day. 
      I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that the doctor knew best. That is their job, you know. This very morning, as I prepared to renew my hemp-oil pitch, Roma bounced out of bed, took two Aleve, and motored through the day without a hitch. Of course she took it easy, and an MRI is still on her schedule. But it seemed that for now the pain was largely gone---and with it the need to listen to my “obviously superior” answers.
      Just what I needed…….having her armed with apparently sound reasons to strut her feminine independence, while the man of the house retreated to lick his wounds. Like I said, “Whatever happened to Father Knows Best?”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What happens to 'unfinished business'?

What have I been thinking? For years I have babbled about ‘Becoming’—- telling myself that I can become something more and better than I am, even in October and November. I have tried to make that sound like a noble pursuit, a goal worth striving for. Yet there are times when it doesn’t feel so ‘noble’ at all. Sometimes ‘late-life’ and ‘old age’ seems like a good time to just settle back and coast to the finish line.

I know how it is, those moments when I feel used up, when the tank is nearly empty and I have nothing more to give. Yet thankfully, in my calmer moments, those dark thoughts will pass, leaving me to hope for ways to stay involved in life—-reasons to get up every morning. 

Truth is, all of us October/November folks encounter those existential speed bumps from time to time. Still, most of us find reasons to keep going, each in our own way. It is a very individual thing—-the path we follow, the ways we invest our late-life energy. Seems to me that any hobby, project, or interest that holds our attention and keeps us involved can be a ‘Becoming’ vehicle.

Still, at this stage of the game the notion of undertaking some ambitious new project that leads who-knows-where—-just to prove I still have ‘it’ (Which I probably don’t.)-—is a bit intimidating. Roma keeps reminding me I am no longer the high-energy pup I like to think I once was. I tire more easily these days. My concentration seems to wane by mid-afternoon. All in all, it is hard to get excited about a long-term, highly-detailed project that might require my full attention for weeks or even months.

What then does it look like—an October/November-appropriate form of ‘Becoming’? Well, I won’t speak for you, but I know that for me taking on some grandiose new project that will require all I have to give, and more, is probably not a good idea. To try something like that and come up short might be more discouraging than not trying at all. So where do I turn. I want to believe that I can be more than I am now—-but how?

Allow me to offer what I accept as an age-appropriate possibility. It took a while to stumble onto this approach, but it seems to work for me. You see, over the last few months I have decided to focus my efforts in a new and different direction——taking the time to complete some of the projects I had left semi-finished in the course of my twenty-year retirement.

That’s right, I have returned to what I call ‘unfinished business.’ In fact, once I settled on that sort of ‘Becoming,’ and began to consider all the possibilities that littered the path behind me—-projects I had taken on, then set aside before they were fully complete—-I was quite amazed at how much ‘unfinished business’ I had left in my wake. In my case most of those unfinished projects were stories that I had been willing to call complete, when in fact they were not. Rather than taking the time to do the grunt work required to finish the job, I had been more interested in hurrying on to the next story idea..
That does not mean I am committed to completing every project I have ever started. Some of those unfinished turkeys should never have seen the light of day in the first place. There is no reason to keep dragging them behind me like excess baggage. Perhaps you would agree that October / November readers don’t need another ‘Geriatric Vampire Sex Addict’ story. I just need to let that one go. (If you think you might miss it, you have more problems than I thought.)
There you have it---today’s October/November hint. Rather than hoping to  ‘Become’ more by pursuing some new and daunting dream, why not consider the possibility of returning to your own personal ‘unfinished business’ to resurrect one or more of the good intentions you allowed to get sidetracked before it was complete? 

The process itself is not so hard. It begins by enlisting the secret weapon every one of us possesses----our Imagination? No matter how tired or uninspired you are, your imagination is always alive and well, ready to go to work on your behalf. Best of all, it works just fine from the comfort of your easy chair. 

Why not return to some piece of your own unfinished business and give it a try. Grab hold of some idea that once captured your attention, before you left it behind for an even ‘better’ possibility. Turn your imagination loose on that unfinished business and see where it takes you. 

They say that examples help make a point. With your indulgence I will offer a bit of my own ‘unfinished business,’ and where it has led me. 

For more than a decade I hurried from one book to the next, self-publishing the results before they were fully ready to go public. I knew they were not as smooth and polished as they could be. There were ‘details’ I had left unfinished. The experts stress things like proof reading, cover design, and an upgraded Amazon sales page. But at the time I was happy enough with the stories the way they were. They were the stories I wanted to tell, told the way I wanted to tell them. Besides, there was always another new tale waiting to be told. So why sweat the details?

Long story short---since January I have taken the time to return to each of those books, nineteen in all—-rereading and editing each of them, creating new cover designs, and completely revamping its Amazon sales page. After four months spent dealing with that ‘unfinished business’ I am shamelessly pleased and proud of the resulting products. 
In my slightly biased eyes each of those books is finally finished. I invite you, heck I urge you, to check out the resulting Amazon Author’s Pages. (Just click ‘Here.) And while you are there take a moment to scroll through both pages and the roster of nineteen books. Clicking on any of the titles will provide additional details about that story. Who knows, you may find someone like yourself  in one of those stories.
Finally, in the course of my own ‘unfinished business’ inventory I have come across other possibilities that I hope will extend my ‘Becoming’ journey. Based on my own experience I highly recommend that you consider reviewing your own ‘unfinished business.’ You might be surprised at the opportunities for late-life ‘Becoming’ you’ll find waiting there.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Do They Influence You?

Perhaps you have seen that Time magazine recently published their annual listing of what they claim are the 100 Most Influential People in the World, the ones for whom 2018 “is their year.” So. how many of the following ‘world shapers’ are influencing you?  Remember, these are among the most influential folks in the whole world.

Guillermo del Toro, Millie Bobby Brown, Christian Siriano, Greta Gerwig, Kehine Wiley, Sterling K Brown, Gal Gadot, Shawn Mendes, Deepika Padukone, Judy Chicago, Ryan Coogler, JR, Lena Waithe, Jose Andres, Sonia Friedman, Masoyoshi Son, Adam Neumann, Elizabeth Diller, Virat Kohli, Giuliano Testa, Pony Ma, Cindy Holland, Ronan Farrow, Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, Kevin Kwan, Rachael Denhollander, Virgil Abloh, Daniela Vega, Cristina Jimenez, Chadwick Boseman, Sinta Nuriyah, Tarana Burke, Christopher Wylie, Janet Mock

I leafed through the magazine’s pages from beginning to end, moving from one unknown name and photo to the next. Obviously, if Time is right I am being influenced every day by persons unknown to me.
Truth be told, it has probably always been that way. Perhaps there is no reason we should know of or about the people who influence the lives we live. Still, I accept it as a sign of my November state of mind that my world is shaped by so many persons I have never heard of.........a list that includes the following.........

Tiffany Haddish, Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Alex Wind, Rught Davidson, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Kumail Nanjiani, Marcia Branchesi, Nice Nailantei Lengete, Carl June, Peggy Whitson, Issa Rae, Jan Rader, Bhavish Aggarwal, Cardi B, Ann KmKee, Jian-Wei Pan, Jesmyn Ward, Satya Nadella, Kenneth C Frazier, Mauricio Macri, Haider al-Aladi, Carmen Yulin Cruz, Moon Jae-in, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Sheikh Hasina, Sadiq Khan, Leo Varadkar, Jacina Ardern, Hoda Koth

Look through those names one more time. If I interpret Time’s claim correctly, fully 70% of the thoughts we think and the choices we choose are influenced to some degree by the folks on those two lists. Just as interesting to my November mind, nearly half of them are under 40 years old.
My own inventory of the Time’s list included 31 names I recognized....31 among the total of 100. Though I probably cannot explain exactly how each of them creates his or her influence, at least the name, and or photo, was familiar. The folks I personally noted  were.......

Kicole Kidman, Jimmy Kimmel, Hugh Jackman, Roseanne Barr, Jeff Bezos, Kevin Durant, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez, Maxine Waters, Adam Rippon, Rihanna, Chloe Kim, Trevor Noah, Emmanuel Macron, Kim Jong Un, Prince Henry, Meghan Markle, Jeff Sessinos, Nancy Pelosi, Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, Donald Trump, Robert Mueller, Scott Pruitt, Shinzo Abe, JJ Watt, Sean Hannity, Xi Jinping, Savannah Guthrie, Justin Trudeau, Roger Federer, 

All of which means I must be very far out of the loop, and/or a great deal of influential influencing is wasted on the likes of me....a possibility I can readily accept. In any case, I hope that each of you is able to find productive influence in the work of those folks whose claim to fame means nothing to me.
Finally, it seems to me a good time to take a step back from any “100 Most XXXX” list, the kind that is meant to sell magazines. Instead, let’s take a moment to give thanks for the truly influential persons in our life, the ones who made an impact on us, and the ways they have made our journey satisfying and productive. We owe those folks so much, even when some of us have failed to apply the wisdom they had to offer.


And now, I would like to mention a different sort of ‘influencing,’ an important part of our journey into the uncharted waters of October and November.
Sunday night’s edition of 60 Minutes featured a piece on a multi-year study of one couple’s struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease, tracing the wife’s descent into dementia. The ways their article paralleled my Best Friends and Promises story was seriously startling. From the beginning it was clear that the husband’s heroic efforts would not enough to create a happy ending---only the knowing that he had done all he could. 
Watching as the man struggled to overcome his growing resentment of a fight he could not win, I was reminded of my Don Quixote metaphor---the image of a good man spending his late-life energies tilting at those same frustrating windmills. It literally hurts to see a good soul consumed by such a noble and brave endeavor, which on the surface is obviously hopeless---pursued only in the name of love and matrimonial vows taken seriously.
And yet, in one way or another, each of us who are fortunate enough to experience October and November in the company of a loved one, must one day face those hard times. 
I am able to read my Tanner Chronicle stories as hopeful, upbeat tales of ‘becoming,’ even in late-life. Still, I realize that a November ‘happy ending’ will not look like an April ‘happy ending.’ Like it or not, it is the nature of our journey. That is why my stories of  late-life ‘becoming’ deal with Alzheimer’s, heart attacks, strokes, financial distress, marital discord, lost spouses, and various other October realities.
Small wonder then, that having guided my fictional friends through those late-life minefields, I am left with such strong affection for the persons they have become ‘in spite of.’ 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Free is a good price

Storytellers are a strange bunch, who tend to be deeply invested in the stories they tell. They have, after all, spent months, even years, imagining and bringing to life the people, places, and events that inhabit their stories. Why wouldn’t they want the resulting book to be read and appreciated by as many people as possible?

Yet in today's brave new world of ‘Print on Demand’ publishing, where splashy promotional budgets are not part of the landscape, how will prospective readers ever know about self-published books they might find worth reading? 

The range of today’s ‘indie’ fiction is astounding, ranging from whodunits, young love, time-travel, zombies and vampires, or in the absolute extreme---October seniors stumbling toward relational success. As for the quality of self-published fiction, it ranges from ‘downright ugly’ to ‘better than you expected.’ The only way to know for sure is to check it out.

I will admit there was a time, as a youthful seventy-year old, when I was a too timid to stand up for my October Years stories. But I have moved past that. More to the point, I am proud of what they represent---tales of real people meeting late-life challenges head on. 

And---like many of my ‘indie’ peers---I have turned to Amazon’s Free Kindle Ebook promotions to gain additional exposure for my stories. With that in mind I have arranged for the Kindle version of yet another book to be available Free of charge on Amazon for the next five days. (March 30th thru April 3rd.) 

You see, I’m guessing that you were once a teenage, a high schooler, stumbling through the ebb and flow of adolescence. I'll bet most of you can remember those days? Those heady, and sometimes confusing, times provide the background for Second Chances - making the most of their 50th reunion. How would you deal with an October return to that earlier time? If you gathered fifty years later would you remember the names and faces that were perhaps special to you in those teenage times? Have your memories lasted that long?

        That might have the sound of a feel-good adventure, renewing your interest in the girl or boy who had won your teenage attention so long ago. Sounds like a story with the makings of happily-ever-after, doesn't it? Even when told from a male perspective.

But in the real world it might not be that easy, not fifty years after the fact. Adolescent infatuations can be complicated, even in October. As it was in those earlier times there may be rivals to contend with, possibly dangerous rivals. And from the beginning there can be doubts to overcome. With all that in mind would the following tease, from the book’s Amazon page, have you wanting to learn more?

Could there be Second Chances at their age?
It was their fiftieth high-school reunion. Widowed brothers Clint and Gary Harris
were expecting a quiet evening spent among one-time classmates they scarcely 
remembered. They were certainly not thinking of relational possibilities. Still,
sometimes those things just  seem to happen.

And the ladies? Were they buying into that?
What about Elly and Claudia, each of them attending their first ever high-school
reunion, each nursing her own history of relational failure----Elly’s bitter divorce and 
Claudia’s cruel betrayal. Small wonder neither of them had a Second Chance in mind. 
As in their long-ago high-school days, it would take a determined and persuasive suitor 
to win their interest.

There was bound to be mischief and mayhem along the way.
The Harris brothers might have been showing their age, but there was no doubting
their determined pursuit of a last Second Chance. Whether it was Clint’s
intimidating excursion into Elly’s country-club world, or Gary’s tense standoff with
Claudia’s son, intent on saving his mother from another heartbreak, they would carry 
on in the face of obstacles most seventy year olds had long since outgrown. 

Until finally, old men were fighting to win the one-time Prom Queen. 
Soon Clint and Tom Berry, Elly’s one-time boyfriend, the one with the nasty temper,
were locked in an increasingly-intense battle of wills, with Elly as the pawn in their
dangerous game. What began as a geriatric tug-of-war over the girl they had each pined
for in high school, would become a violent, potentially lethal showdown that had old 
men playing with guns. Before it was over everyone concerned had learned that
Second Chances sometimes carried a very high price.

If a 50th reunion story sounds interesting to you, here is your chance. Amazon sells the paperback for $11.95, but you don’t have to spend a dime for the Kindle Ebook version of Second Chances - making the most of their 50th reunion. Amazon is offering the Kindle edition for FREE right now---from March 30th through April 3rd. Just click on this Amazon page link to order your copy. 

Finally, if I am able to transport you back to that time, if only for a while, would you be willing to give me your unvarnished opinion of the story I tell and how well I tell it? I would appreciate your feedback in the form of Comments, emails, and especially Amazon Reviews, which are the holy grail for any self-published writer wanting to win an audience. 

Amazon Reviews are a straight forward process. On the Second Chances Amazon page (see above) click on ‘Customer Reviews,’ which will take you to previous reviews and a box labeled “Write a Customer Review.” Click on that. Once on the review page click on the star rating you are offering and the ‘Comment’ space will appear. Just leave your comment and check out. It’s that simple.

Thanks again for checking in. I hope I can interest you in taking a Second Chance.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Redefining Normal

     I suppose by now you have a pretty good idea of where you are on the ladder of life. Suppose for a moment you are like me, somewhere on the October and November rungs---a septuagenarian or octogenarian if you prefer a bit of drama.

If that describes you too, you know that by now you are allowed to have opinions---as if anyone could stop us from that. Thing is, no one expects old fossils like us to actually solve the multitude of worldly ills that surround us. We’re too old to do that. Instead, we are free to bitch and moan, growl and grumble about things we may not understand, and certainly cannot change.
So it was last Sunday, as I perused the morning paper, I bounced from one head-scratching headline to the next, reading about some of the ways the world in general, and my beloved country in particular, has wandered off what I always assumed was a well-worn and usually-sane path to the future.
To be sure, that morning’s list of complaints and questions was not exhaustive. It was, however, about all I could take for one day. I invite you to join me as I revisit what I found there. But remember, we don’t have to create any answers or solve any problems. As I read those stories my eighty-one year old mind had just one role to grumble about “How the hell could that be?” or “ Can’t they see how wrong that is?”
I suppose each of us has our own unique threshold for the sort of things that upset us. With that in mind let’s consider some of the items that registered on my Grumble Gauge that morning.

*1*Oregon public schools rank last in the nation in dealing with students’ mental health issues. The story claimed that as many as 1 in 5 Oregon students deals with some degree of mental illness---problems that are too often aggravated by drugs, alcohol, and single parent households.
*2*Across the nation neighborhood ‘Surgery Centers,’ often
understaffed, under-qualified, and ill equipped, are increasingly favored over more-expensive hospitals, sometimes putting patients at risk.
*3*Nationwide, blacks are twice as likely to go hungry as the rest of the population.
*4*Virtually everywhere in the country the cost of housing has put our most vulnerable on the streets. Some places have small cities of tents, trailers, motorhomes, and campers serving as homes, not to mention the ‘under the bridge’ homeless camps that spring up everywhere.
*5*And finally, there was this ultimate sign of the times. US New and World Report recently rated California’s quality of life last in the nation---based on Sunny Cal’s air quality, environmental pollution, traffic congestion, and low voter participation.  

Now take a moment to consider those five items that made the news on a random Sunday morning. Just think, twenty percent of our youth, a huge portion of tomorrow’s problem-solving adults, deal with mental issues that are not likely to get better over time without appropriate intervention. What might that mean for our future?
More than that, decent housing is beyond the reach of an ever-growing segment of our population---including many of our October/November peers. In addition to sub-standard housing, a significant number of our people go hungry every day. And then, to top it all off, they tell us that California, long our sun-bathed Nirvana, has become an unpleasant, even unhealthy place to live.
Of course, in the next breath we are told that help is close at hand. Those problems will be overcome. Our leaders, the public servants who step forward to lead us into the future, are on the job. 
Except, the ones we entrust to address and hopefully remedy our shortcomings, are often no longer beholden to those of us who pay the price of their inattention. Instead they, Democrat and Republican, Liberal and Conservative, State and Federal, are on the job to do the will of their sponsors, acting as faithful servants, following the dictates of their Special Interest masters.
As you can imagine, that too often means the odds of finding the political will and the funding to seriously address those obstacles, and the many others we deal with on a daily basis, are very slim indeed---especially given how cruelly divided our nation and government has become.
I won’t pretend to know how all that strikes you. God knows there seems to be precious little agreement on what should be done. But I will charge ahead, offering my personal take on our dilemma---the reality I believe we late-lifers have carried with us from childhood. You tell me, does the following resonate with you?
We are children of another time, shaped and molded by the late 40s and 1950s. That was the springtime and heyday of our October/November lives, the time we came to accept as ‘normal’---the way life should be. But in fact those calm and apparently secure years were something of a rarity---a most unusual time---a warm and comfortable oasis in the constantly shifting sands of time. 
Chances are most of us grew up, and have grown old, assuming that our ‘Becoming’ during that peaceful interlude was simply the way the world worked. We came of age assuming that opportunities abounded, good jobs were there for the asking, affordable housing, and a burgeoning economy were facts of life. 
For many of us, and I’ll admit to being one of them, our understanding of a promising future and successful life was constructed from lessons those glory years taught us.
But we know now how much of that has changed. Looking back, it is clear that we children of the 30s and 40s were blessed to have lived in a time that was nowhere near as ‘normal’ as we believed. While on a selfish level that was great for us, it may have impacted how well we prepared, or failed to prepare, our children and grandchildren for the ‘real’ world they have inherited.
All of which brings me to the conclusion I have drawn from this life experience of mine. Though I am reluctant to surrender my right to grumble about this new and sometimes frustrating world, somewhere along the way an emerging maturity has produced this new and more realistic insight. The only life I can change, the only ‘Becoming’ I can direct, is my own. Which probably means that from now on I ought to grumble less, and pray more---a lot more.
What do you think? Can you think of a better way to address the world our generation has produced?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Elder Orphans -a November epiphany

  I won’t apologize for this bit of repetition that I offer for those who did not see it the first time, or perhaps need to be reminded. It is one of those subjects I have dealt with before, and may well address again some day. It is, in my muddled, moss-covered opinion an increasingly serious matter---one that deserves another look.
For thirteen years now I have tried to make the case that late-life, our October and November Years, works best as a shared effort, when two or more of us---friends and lovers, family and caregivers, face that sometime harsh time together. I have written whole books making that case---following my Tanner Chronicles friends as they stumble toward the relationships that will help support them in October and beyond. 
Having spent so much ink stressing that point, you can perhaps imagine my pleasant surprise when, I came across an effective and incredibly descriptive way, just two familiar words, of defining the unfortunate seniors who are forced to face late-life alone.
It may be those folks are Elder Orphans. Take a moment to repeat those words out loud. When I first heard them they had the ring of an epiphany---a striking, suddenly-revealed truth. In two short words, catchy and amazingly accurate, is captured the essence of a growing, wide-spread October/November crisis. I was impressed at the time, and still am. Like a lot of things, the more aware we become, the more we are able to see the all-too-obvious signs all around us.
Lest you think my not-so-nimble mind has created that simple, yet startling insight, I am happy to credit a Huffington Post blog by Carol Marak (, part of an extended blog series on Aging Alone that addressed Elder Orphan problems and possibilities from a personal perspective. 
“Who will care of them?” she asked. “Who will look out for those unfortunate ones?
"Dealing with late-life complexities is hard enough in the best of circumstances. But who will help the aging, the childless, the single---when they are alone and in need?”
Those 'lonely ones' are, of course, the Elder Orphans. Like their infant counterparts, they are literally on their own at a distressingly vulnerable time of life, and just as much in need of caring support.
Chances are they are socially and physically isolated, living without a family member or surrogate. Too often they are lonely, depressed, and perhaps dealing with diminished decision-making capabilities. To make matters worse they are seldom acknowledged as a group or class that needs help.
So what does the future hold for our Elder Orphan population? By all accounts their numbers are increasing, and the help they need grows accordingly. Going forward it is likely that more seniors will need more help for a longer period of time. According to Ms. Marak a recent AARP report offers precious little solace, confirming that the demand for elder caregivers continues to grown faster than the supply. In the face of funding shortfalls and rapidly increasing costs, Caregiver per Orphan ratios are steadily declining across the country. Being an Elder Orphan is not about to get easier.
Though I operated without that catchy label for all those years, my Tanner Chronicle stories often focused on those who qualified as Elder Orphans. Take for instance Johnny Blanton, one of my favorite Tanner friends, who happened to remind me of someone special, someone many of you knew. 
In Best Friends and Promises Johnny lives in a low-cost, county-owned apartment, surrounded by neighbors who scarcely acknowledge his presence. Though he would be unwilling to admit as much, (actually he would scream like hell.), in many important ways he had become an orphan. You tell me, is this a viable depiction of an Elder Orphan?

For all his gregarious instincts Johnny Blanton led a spartan, decidedly isolated existence, the unfortunate result of circumstances over which he had little control. In the course of his four-year residency in the County-operated Senior Housing Complex he had concluded that, as a group, his neighbors suffered from a multitude of shared failings. To a person they were old, financially strapped, grouchy, and judgmental. Most depressing of all, not one of them subscribed to his long-cultivated interest in having a good time.
Wary, unsmiling widows were everywhere. He passed them in the hallways. They crowded the dingy activity room. Without exception he found them  unnaturally distrusting of his well-intentioned attention. At one time or another he had approached nearly all of them, hoping to spark some degree of interest, and had struck out at every turn.
Except for Mrs. Perkins, who lived across the hall from his apartment and provided him with a steady supply of day-old newspapers, Johnny had not made one female acquaintance in the entire thirty-unit complex. He took that sad reality, and the slight it represented, very personally
To make matters worse Johnny’s success at making friends among the male residents, he called them “inmates,” had been only slightly better. Many were deaf, blind, or immobile---which tended to limit their “good time” potential. Sadly, the few who still found drinking beer a viable social pursuit were no more affluent than Johnny. After years of having Aaron Peck and others pick up the tab, he was reluctant to cultivate drinking buddies who expected him to play that role.
As a result, his social life had become seriously constrained. For three years Willie Thomas, who did not drink at all, but played a mean game of cribbage, had been his most reliable ally among the residents. With Willie’s passing the previous December that welcome friendship had been lost.
In his heart of hearts Johnny Blanton was a very social creature. It appeared, however, that in the sterile confines of the Senior Complex his declining years were destined to be lived out in a state of stagnant depression. To his way of thinking it would take a miracle to change that unfortunate situation.

An unfortunate situation, eh? One that begs for a compassionate storyteller to provide the “miracle” Johnny is hoping for. That, however, is something for another day. After all, storytelling---fictional accounts of non-fictional situations---is one thing. Living real life in the Elder Orphan fast lane is something very different. It is, however, something that you and I can play a part in addressing.
You see, most of us know an elder orphan, probably more than one. They sit in the midst of our congregations. We may pass them shuffling behind their walker in the supermarket aisle, or rub elbows with them at the senior center. You may  also find them in hospital emergency rooms, their only source of the health care most of us take for granted. They are, in fact, everywhere---out of sight right before our eyes.
So, from the first time I read Ms Marak’s post I wanted that label and what it stands for to be part of my personal October & November Years dialogue, with you and myself---now and in the future. 
And along the way I hope I can be observant enough, and bold enough, to spot the elder orphans who cross my path---to acknowledge their place in my world, and perhaps take the time to hear a bit of their story. 
That’s an important thing, you know, showing them that for at least a few minutes someone cares enough to listen. There are so many folks out there who need our casual gift---the simple act of acknowledging and affirming their presence. Isn’t that what every orphan wants, no matter what their age?