Up and At ‘Em!

Here’s an excerpt from an interesting article I found at MSNBC.com on the perils of ED drugs like Viagra and Cialis, written by Judith Newman of Prevention magazine. 

She explores these drugs from the viewpoint of women on the…er…”receiving” end of their benefits. 

(I always knew those bathtubs were the Devil’s playground!)   

The problem can be especially daunting for older women who are widowed or divorced or just beginning to date after years of being alone or with one man. Certainly this was the case for Marjorie P., a 60-something woman who complained about the drugs on a 50+ Web site:

“Men have been saved from their middle-age sexual issues by Viagra and Cialis. They can be thirty again, while I have to deal with the sexual issues of being my age. It’s put the world on ’tilt.'”

Andrea D., a twice-divorced physician from Santa Monica, CA, and an over-50 dater, put it more bluntly. “Viagra has been liberating for men, but unless a woman is taking hormone therapy, she may have vaginal dryness and really not be that interested in the kind of driving, pounding intercourse he’s now capable of.”

There is also fallout from the erroneous belief that Viagra causes not just greater blood flow but also greater desire. The hormone testosterone is the driving force behind libido; a man with little or no testosterone will not have any desire to have sex, Viagra or no.

Moreover, even with normal amounts of testosterone, “Viagra does not just instantly give a man an erection,” says Abraham Morgentaler, MD, associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School and author of The Viagra Myth.

“You have to be in a sexual situation, you need to have desire and intent, in order for the drug to work.”

Dr. Morgentaler tells the story of a patient who was very upset because Viagra didn’t do the trick for him.

“He said, ‘Doc, I followed your directions exactly. I took the pill an hour in advance. Then I watched a baseball game on TV and waited.’ The man’s wife was in the other room, waiting too; neither of them realized that the drug would be effective only if they were together, doing what couples do.”

Adds Andrea, whose own Viagra dating experiences and the experiences of similarly aged friends have ranged from excellent to Emergency Care Needed:

“You have to be crystal clear about what works for you and what doesn’t. Because even with someone you really, really adore … sometimes you just want to get back to reading your book!”

Your thoughts, ladies?  (And gents.)


Age: It’s All (Your) Relative

When I spoke with my son a few days before his 45th birthday last week, he seemed somewhat bummed out by the prospect of his advancing age. 

I tried to reassure him that, from my perspective of 63 (soon to be 64), he was a young whippersnapper.  To me, 45 is still youthful. 

I don’t think I convinced him.

Two days ago my husband had his 75th birthday.  He’s not big on celebrating his natal day either.  He discourages any big show of gifts and he suggested that everyone just ignore that date on the calendar. 

He felt it should be skipped over for lack of interest—his. 

But I couldn’t do that, of course, so I got him a funny card from me and the cats, and our daughter here in town got him three packages of his favorite treat this time of year—Easter Peeps.  (Those things make my teeth hurt just looking at them.  Everyone knows chocolate is the only real candy, folks.)

In an odd juxtaposition with my telling my son he’s still (relatively) young, my husband’s 92 year-old mother phoned to wish her first born son a happy 75th. 

Now, that has to be a weird feeling for her.  How many mothers live long enough (and have their children young enough) to be able to wish them that? 

Not many, I’d wager.

Last night on an episode of Roseanne,” her mother, Beverly, is considering moving to a retirement condo.  She’s 63. 

Jackie is all for it because it will get their mother out of their hair, but Roseanne is oddly reluctant.  The condo is set up for older residents, with a medical alert button on a wall in every room and the option of moving to an adjacent nursing home should the need arise.

Roseanne tells Jackie that it makes her really uncomfortable to consider their mother’s death.

Jackie:  “Come on, Roseanne!  We’ve been planning her death for years!” 

Roseanne:  “That’s plotting, Jackie, not planning.”

Beverly has her way and moves into the condo without Roseanne’s blessing.  But Roseanne drops by with a housewarming gift and the two have a chat. 

Roseanne asks her mother how old she feels inside, since she and Jackie had that conversation earlier. 

(Roseanne had said she feels like she’s still sixteen.  Jackie started to say “Twenty-…” and then amends that to “Twelve—or maybe eight.”) 

Beverly is perplexed:  “I feel like I’m 63.  I feel like a 63 year-old woman.”

After a bit more discussion about the retirement condo and the looming nursing home, Beverly hugs Roseanne and tells her not to worry. 

Beverly:  “I may be 63, but I don’t feel like I’m old.”

Roseanne:  “Yes, you are.   And you’re draggin’ me with you.”



Crouching Tiger Mom, Hidden Agenda?

I just finished reading “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua and I have to admit I have conflicting feelings about it. 

My own kids are grown and most likely irreparably damaged at this point, so I didn’t read the book to get any great insights into parenting techniques. 

I’m just joking about the damage part—my son has a Ph.D in neuroanatomy and is a successful magazine editor and publisher and my daughter is a furniture designer who’s had her home featured in national magazines and on television, so I guess I didn’t screw them up too badly. 

(I also didn’t have anything to do with their career choices, so all the praise for their successes should go to them.)  

I try to keep my nose out of their business when it comes to raising their children.  I figure they have every right to louse their kids up as much as I did.  Dr. Phil (sorry about bringing him into this) says that parents do the best they can “with what they knew when they knew it.” 

In other words, we don’t always have access to the right information all the time as parents and often we learn more in hindsight when it’s too late to apply that knowledge.

Amy Chua’s book chronicles the early upbringing of her now teenage daughters.  She mercilessly makes them practice the piano and violin and will not accept any grade below an A in anything except gym and drama.  She puts forth the not unheard of premise that Asian (in her case, Chinese) parents create better outcomes with their children overall than Western parents do–particularly American ones.  This is not something new, but the look into her family life with all its pressures (and triumphs) is pretty eye-opening. 

The author has undergone quite a bit of backlash over her book, which she calls a memoir and not a “how-to” book.  I agree with her on that.  Not everyone comes from a family that has the monetary resources she does (she’s a Yale law professor and lecturer and her husband is also a Yale law professor and fiction writer).  She spends oodles of money on lessons and anything that will help her children be the absolute best in everything they undertake—whether they like it or not.

This is where the backlash comes in.  It’s one thing to encourage your kids to do their best and keep on trying at something like piano or violin when they want to chuck it in, but it’s entirely another thing to make them practice for six hours at a time until they get a certain piece “correct” while leaving teeth marks in the wood of the piano over middle “C.” 

She berates the kids unrelentingly, telling them that she’s only doing it because she loves them and wants them to succeed.

At one point the youngest daughter rebels and refuses to do anything her mother wants her to do—including play the violin, which she has become extremely good at and actually loves.  She feels that her mother just wants her children to be the best so that she (the mother) will look good. 

Granted, the kids are amazingly talented and very poised for their ages, but one wonders if it was all worth the price they had to pay by not having a more “normal” American childhood.  We’ll have to wait and see because at the publishing of the book the oldest was just sixteen and the youngest about thirteen or fourteen. 

I think back to my own upbringing and wish that my mother had been more encouraging to me.  She usually went with the assumption that I wasn’t capable enough to do something, whatever it was, for a variety of reasons—I was too young or just didn’t measure up to the task at hand somehow. 

Now, looking back, I think she essentially wanted to keep me dependent on her because that was her “job”—being a mom.

When I was grown and already had two kids of my own, I finally got a chance to go to college and ended up getting accepted into the dental hygiene program at our local community college.  I went up against 250 other applicants for a slot in a class that would be limited to just 24 students.  I got in on the first try.

My mother, upon hearing that I was accepted, said to me “If it gets too hard for you, you just quit.”  I guess it was her way of giving permission to fail, but that wasn’t exactly what I was hoping to hear at that moment—more like “Congratulations, that’s really great!” 

Now that I’ve thought about it, I’m pretty sure I was a threat to the way she had lived her life as a stay-at-home mother.  She initially didn’t even want me to apply to the school because she said that at the end of the two year program “You’ll be thirty years old!” 

I came back with, “At the end of two years I’ll be thirty anyway, so I might as well be thirty with a degree in dental hygiene.”

Parenting can be really complicated. 

It’s too bad we can’t know what we didn’t know when we didn’t know it.

Where’s Dr. Phil when we need him?


Wrinkle Resistant

The other night I was watching t.v. when another of those “miracle wrinkle remover” commercials came on. 

You know the ones, where they say they have a limited supply but they’ll send it to you for free if you just pay shipping and handling costs.  That’s because the stuff is essentially worthless and the company makes all of its profit on the shipping and handling.

There have been many ads like this lately but this one had a new “wrinkle” to it, pardon the pun.  It stated up front the only women who might benefit from their product are “between the ages of 40 and 60.”

Whoa.  This is the first time I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been deemed a hopeless case by the cosmetic industry.  It’s like, cosmetically speaking, I’ve been set on an ice floe and shoved out to sea.  If there still were ice floes.

I guess this company considers my wrinkles are of the permanent press variety.  In other words, in there to stay. 

I can just see the bigwigs sitting around the corporate conference table, discussing women over 60: 

“Naw, Herb, the wrinkles on those broads are so deep, even a steam roller wouldn’t flatten ’em.  Let’s go with the younger chicks who just think they have wrinkles.”  Guffaws all around.

My new patron saint of aging gracefully is Betty White.  So far I’ve really enjoyed her in her new TVLand sitcom “Hot in Cleveland,” along with her co-stars Wendie Malick, Valerie Bertinelli and Jane Leeves.

In one episode Jane is lamenting to Betty that she feels she’s getting old.  Betty tells her a secret that no one knows—that even though she is old, she still feels the same on the inside.  She goes on to admit that she’s often surprised that the face looking back at her from the mirror is not the face she was expecting to see.

Then Betty narrows her eyes, looks off into the distance and mutters:

“Sometimes she bugs me.”

I  hear ya, Betty.  Sometimes she bugs me too.


Not a Thing to Wear

I’m almost sixty-four years old and I don’t own a dress.

There was a time in my life when I did have garments of such a decidedly feminine nature—back when I was about twenty-five, maybe. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I like dresses and sometimes find myself going through the dress racks at my favorite department store just to see what’s in style right now. 

I have even been tempted to try some on, although the gawd-awful lighting and fun house mirrors in the dressing rooms make the experience more of a psychedelic one than I would wish.

It’s just that at this point in my life, I really don’t need a dress.  I’m not a church goer (see The Orthodox Agnostic for more explanation on that) and I don’t have a paying job that I have to dress up for. 

The kindergarten kids I read to twice a week wouldn’t care if I came to our sessions in pajamas.  In fact, there is a Pajama Day at their school where everyone, including the teachers, wears his or her snuggliest jammies for a day. 

Is that a blogger’s dream or what?

At this stage of the game, I’m more into comfort than getting dolled up in a skirt or dress.  I have a lot of nice dark wash jeans (thank you Stacey and Clinton for the advice) and several pretty sweaters and tops so I always look put together when I have to go out in public.  

So it was amusing when my granddaughter asked me a probing fashion question the other day as we cuddled together on my couch, while watching “Ben 10 Alien Force” during our weekly Sugary Cereal/Cartoon Marathon at Memaw’s last week.

Most of her inquiries in the past have been of a theological nature, which always leave me squirming a bit as I try to walk that delicate line between not contradicting what her parents have been teaching her and my blurting out that Genesis is basically a creation myth. 

Sometimes I feel like I’m under the scrutiny of a miniature Torquemada—but one who’s much more adorable than the original, I can assure you.

This time, she kind of squinted at me with those sweet, green eyes of hers as she posed the question:

“Memaw, why don’t you ever wear a dress?”     

My answer was essentially what I’ve just been saying here; that I don’t really have the need for one and I like wearing pants because they’re comfortable and easier to get around in for what I have to do during the day.

She thought about that for awhile and then told me:

“I know when you can wear one.”

“When?” I asked, thinking she would say “to church” and that I would have to dance around that minefield once again.  Instead, she said:

“To my wedding.”

I smiled (and melted inside) and said:

“You got it!  I will definitely wear a dress to your wedding.”

My granddaughter is eight.

I figure I’ve got a good fifteen years before I have to start looking.

My very first artist trading card


Unsafe at Any Speed

More notes from the Elder Care Underground—

The other day when I was driving my mother to the grocery store, I was mentally trying to hold my hands over my ears and go “la, la, la,” so I wouldn’t have to hear her latest story about the nice young couple across the street. 

She watches them like a hawk from the big window in her living room and observes all their comings and goings like some kind of neighborhood air traffic controller.  Nothing gets under her radar.

But since I wouldn’t allow her to go into her usual litany of complaints about the husband doing all the child care (he carries the baby out to the car–OMG!), she decided to tell me once more that she wished she still had her car so she could drive herself to the store.

It doesn’t matter that a.) she’s 91 years-old and b.) she’s essentially blind in one eye.  Technically she still could drive if she had a car because the state of Texas, in its infinite wisdom, issued her a driver’s license renewal through the mail four years ago. 

Her license is good until she’s 92–with no vision test–nada, zip, bupkus.

Besides being glad that she’s not on the road with other unsuspecting motorists, I was ecstatic when she sold her car because I hated that thing. 

It was a Saturn.  They don’t make them any more, so that tells you something right there.

It was one of the most irritating vehicles I’ve ever driven–and I’ve driven everything from a Ford Falcon with a perpetually primered fender to a Porsche 912, so I know. 

Imagine sitting in a bathtub as you drove down the street.  It was a lot like being in a Cialis commercial, but without the four hour erections.

Then I got to thinking about all the vehicles my parents had owned throughout their marriage.  I think my folks were lemon magnets, to be honest with you. 

When I was in high school the family car was a Corvair.  Yes, a Corvair!  The very car that Ralph Nader had warned us about in his book “Unsafe at Any Speed.”  Among it’s many attributes he noted that the Corvair’s single-piece steering column could impale the driver in a front collision. 

Now there’s a lovely thought to contemplate on your Sunday drive. 

Just taking the car out of “park” carried as much risk as Evel Knievel jumping over the Snake River on a motorcycle.

Later on they bought a Ford Pinto station wagon.  You know, the one where if you happened to be rear-ended by another car, the gas tank would explode–incinerating the Pinto’s occupants in a gigantic ball of flame. 

That Pinto.

So I’m very grateful that my mother isn’t driving any longer.

Although, not being able to drive hasn’t left her immune to a different kind of traffic accident. 

A couple of years ago a woman lost control of her motorized scooter at the supermarket and ran into my mother’s heels while she was weighing some fruit in the produce section. 

Personally, I think there should be an inquiry into the safety of those scooters.

Where’s Ralph Nader when you really need him?



On My Mother’s Sh*t List

We moved my now 91 year-old mother here to Texas from California about a year after my dad passed away. 

My older brother moved to Colorado from California around the same time. 

Consequently, my husband and I have been the overseers of my mother’s general welfare for the last 11 years.  Now that she doesn’t drive anymore (thank you, lord) I take her grocery shopping and to her doctor’s appointments. 

I keep track of all of her bills so she doesn’t get behind in payments for crucial things like her health insurance and property taxes, both of which came periously close to disaster awhile back when she forgot the statements were languishing in her desk drawer.

I pick up her prescriptions for her and either my husband or I fill her little pill boxes every week so she gets the right dosages of medication at the right time.  All she has to do is take them every morning.

In short, I do everything that a dutiful daughter is supposed to do for her aged mother while my brother enjoys a relatively carefree life in Colorado with no responsibilities to speak of apart from his dog and his third wife.

So this morning, the day after shlepping my mother to the grocery store while trying to ignore her unfounded complaints about the nice young couple across the street, she calls me to tell me a cute story my brother told her when he phoned today to see how she was doing in our unusually frigid weather. 

Normally he calls her about every three weeks.  The two of them have never gotten on very well and I know he’s quite happy having some physical distance between them. 

What I’ve discovered is the one who is farthest away becomes saintly in my mother’s eyes, and the one here closest to her becomes the target.

After telling me my brother’s story, she then asked me what I did with her grocery list from yesterday.  I told her I threw it away because she’d been leaving the old lists in her purse, which meant we went through most of one previous shopping trip working off of a list that was no longer relevant. 

Of course, I had to be wrong about that because she didn’t remember it.  She said she wanted to go over the list from yesterday to see if there was anything we forgot.  I said that the time to do that was while you’re still in the store, not a day later. 

And besides, we did go over the list before we left and I had asked her about an item we hadn’t gotten.  She had said she didn’t really want it that much anyway.  So this whole list thing was moot, in my view.

But did it stop there?  Ho, no, my friends.  “List-gate” went on for several more minutes, allowing my mother to get quite angry with me—which was her purpose in the first place.  If you can’t goad your adult children into an argument once in awhile and raise their blood pressure, what’s the point of having kids?

Is it too late for me to move to Colorado?


Oh, the Irony!

I found out recently from a cousin of mine who used to be a professional genealogist that I’m distantly related to George H.W. Bush and, by some huge cosmic joke, to his son, Dubya.

I told my cousin how ironic it all was, given my political persuasion, and said I would much rather be related to President Obama instead.

Upon hearing that, she laughed and said that could be a real possibility too, since Obama’s mother was born in the same county in Kansas as my father.

There’s always hope…



Sticker Shock

We live in a very red part of a very dyed-in-the-wool red state, politically speaking.  So I’ve become accustomed to seeing bumper stickers that don’t exactly reflect my way of thinking. 

One that particularly gets my goat (if I had a goat) is the one with a waving, smiling George W. Bush who’s asking the question, “Miss Me Yet?” 


My answer to that, to quote John Boehner, is “Hell, no!” 

 But I guess I’m in the minority around these parts.  With only 1800 voters in our county who considered themselves Democrats in this last mid-term election, I feel like we’re an endangered species. 

Put us on the list along with Abdulali’s Wrinkled Frog, the Maroon-chinned Fruit-dove, and the Wattle-necked Softshell Turtle.  (Oh, wait…isn’t that Mitch McConnell?)

But today I spotted a bumper sticker that I hadn’t seen before on a truck in front of the post office.  This is it:

Now, just what the hell is that supposed to mean?  I know the good folks in Oklahoma recently voted not to allow Muslim Shariah law to be implemented in their fair state. 

I’m sure they acted just in the nick of time on that one.

And I read the other day that FreedomWorks, chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, continues to make the case for state House Republicans to dump incumbent Speaker Joe Straus, R- San Antonio, who just happens to be Jewish.   

In an email exchange Tuesday between two members of the State Republican Executive Committee—Rebecca Williamson and John Cook, Williamson sent a fact sheet to SREC members defending Straus. 

Cook responded by dismissing her claims, saying:

“We elected a house with Christian, conservative values. We now want a true Christian, conservative running it.”  Since the SREC governs state Republican Party affairs, this marked the first time an elected party leader had semi-openly called for a “Christian conservative” Speaker. 

“When I got involved in politics, I told people I wanted to put Christian conservatives in leadership positions,” explaining that he only supports Christian conservative candidates in Republican primary races.

“I want to make sure that a person I’m supporting is going to have my values. It’s not anything about Jews and whether I think their religion is right or Muslims and whether I think their religion is right. … I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They’re the people that do the best jobs over all.”

Help me out here.  We’re encouraged to “vote Biblically,” but only from the part of the Bible that came much, much later.  Is that it?  I guess all that stuff about Moses and those ten whatchamacallits don’t come into play at all unless you buy into the whole enchilada.

So with that in mind, here’s an ATC I created awhile back which still stands the test of time, unfortunately.