Hannon Hall

I am looking forward to a September getaway with my long time Montana girlfriends.  We have known each other for over 50 years. Six of us were in the same dorm our freshman year of college, Hannon Hall at Montana State University, which really cemented our friendship!  Five of us ended up as nurses.

I read an article in the New York Times recently about ‘friending bias’ that resonated with me. Social scientists have used tax records and other data to study which factors increase the chances that children who grow up in poverty will be able to escape it as adults. They found that having friendships with people who aren’t poor is linked to upward mobility.  The new study was just published in Nature that supports this.  It is a bit dense, but here is the gist:

“Growing up in a community connected across class lines improves kids’ outcome and gives them a better shot at rising out of poverty,”

Raj Chetty, an economist at Harvard and one of the study’s four principal authors

I was fortunate to grow up in a town and go to schools that were largely ‘connected across class lines’.  It certainly wasn’t perfect.  While we weren’t poor, I came from a solidly working-class family (my dad worked at a refinery and my mom was a nurses’ aid) and I never really felt ‘lower class’. 

My parents didn’t go to college, in fact my mom had to board with a family in Billings, MT in order to go to high school.  College wasn’t a topic in my house and there was no expectation that I would do more than graduate from high school.

Fortunately, I hung out with friends over the years who were college bound.  While I might have ended up at college regardless, my friends definitely helped steer me in that direction – helped along by loans, grants and work study jobs.  Without my college degree and my professional career, I doubt I would have met my husband of almost 44 years or have many of the lifelong friendships that I enjoy.

Unfortunately, this is now also true, probably even in my hometown:

‘Rising economic inequality and a shortage of new housing in many communities have helped increase economic segregation. Even within communities, cross-class social interactions seem to have declined.’

David Leonhardt, NYT, 8/1/22

I also realize that college isn’t for everyone, but it was for me, and I have my hometown friends to thank.

Allene

The Fair!

My husband was commenting about how hot it is in our hometown this week – Great Falls, Montana.  And it is also Fair Week, which I remember as always being hot! Great Falls has hosted the State Fair for as long as we can remember.

Going to the Fair when I was growing up was like a summer bucket list requirement.

When I was younger, I went with my girlfriends.  One of our parents, probably whoever drew the short straw, walked us around the Midway, in the heat for hours, while we stood in line for rides.  Some of my favorite rides were the Tilt O Whirl, the Scrambler, the Hammer (very scary) and the Rock-o- Plane (also scary).  I have no idea if those rides are still around! 

As we got older, we were allowed to go to the Fair without adult supervision.  Considering how ‘un fun’ going to the Fair in the heat of the day was for our parents, I’m sure they were more than happy to turn us loose!

In addition to the Midway, there was the Night Show.  I went with my parent to see the Lennon Sisters, which was a very big deal!  I stood in line for Janet’s autograph, but my parents lost patience before I got to her window.  As we got older, the Night Show brought in some ‘hip’ attractions.   I remember when the Carpenters performed.  Two of our friends from another high school were much more advanced than we were and managed to hook up with Richard Carpenter and another band member for the evening….or so they said!

Having a date to the Fair was a big deal!  It involved walking around the Midway, going on a ride or two, and possibly the Night Show.  It was also a requirement to win a stuffed animal, as I recall.

And then there was the Fair food!  When I was little, I mainly remember cotton candy and snow cones.  I did a great job getting my hands sticky and dripping syrup on my clothes.  My husband remembers Pluto Pups and Neapolitan ice-cream sandwiches. We both remember Vikings (Swedish meatballs on a stick) from later years. 

I was never into the exhibits or the barns, but my parents used to drag me along with them.  I did like the Mercantile Building because it had some interesting gadgets and some give aways. My mother-in-law was a flower judge at the Fair for years.

This picture of me in today’s collage is from the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. We were visiting my aunt and uncle.  We went to the World’s Fair with them and they bought me the Robin Hood style hat with feather I am rocking in the photo 😊.

Going to the fair was part of our daughter’s childhood too.  We lived in Puyallup and the Puyallup Fair, now the Washington State Fair, is held there every September.  It generally gets underway just after school starts and is a much bigger spread than the Montana State Fair. I am sure she has some great memories of her fair days, as well. My favorite was the Fisher Fair scone – always a treat!

And, as luck would have it, the quintessential Fair band, The Beach Boys are playing at both venues this year!

Allene

24 hrs without AC

I am a card-carrying weather wimp!  I always dread a streak of hot weather. My strategies for managing hot days are to exercise early in the morning, drink lots of water, and stay inside our air-conditioned house.

For 24 hours this week, only 2 of those strategies were possible – early morning exercise and lots of water.  Our air conditioning went out unexpectedly!  And, of course, all AC service providers were in high demand.  We toughed it out as along as we could but couldn’t face another hot night.  Our small house is like a hot box in the heat. So, we found a repairman and paid him a premium price to come to our house at 9 PM. 

That turned out to be an excellent investment!  We had a good night sleep and woke up in a cool house.

I was a bit surprised at how quickly being hot took its toll.  I was listless and cranky.  I had no energy to do much of anything and needed at least one fan trained on me at all times. 

Seattle remains the least air-conditioned large metro area in the country.  Less than half the houses are air-conditioned. That is part of the challenge of living in the Northwest as our summers gradually have more hot days.

Heat events like the one this week can be serious health events.  Last year during our June ‘heat dome’, Multnomah County (Portland) had a series of days with record highs topping off at 116 degrees.  69 deaths were reported, of those 10 people had air conditioning (AC).  AC is considered protective but in some of those cases they weren’t turned on because of concern regarding the cost☹.  Here is a link to a presentation if you want more information about what happened in Portland last June and the lessons learned. 

I think back on my years growing up in Montana.  I don’t think any house had AC.  But many of us had basements!  They were the perfect place to escape during the hottest part of the day.  And we just got acclimated to the predictable hot weather as the summer went on.

That is another part of the heat problem in the Northwest.  We aren’t acclimated and keep thinking summers will go back to our ‘normal’ (the high 70’s).

Since 1945, there have only been nine years when we’ve had seven or more 90-plus-degree days in Seattle, and five of those nine have been since 2015.

Gene Balk/FYI Guy, The Seattle Times, 7/28/22

I really feel for the people who don’t have a cool place to sleep and those who must work outside. 

And I am grateful for Drew, our AC repairman! With climate change, I will be surprised if we aren’t in for more hot summer days.

Allene

Living with COVID

As you know, the President was recently infected with the coronavirus BA 5 subvariant.  He was fully vaccinated and boosted twice.  He started a course of Paxlovid right way.  He is now testing negative and didn’t seem to have a serious illness.  He will continue to wear a mask per CDC guidance to protect others.

My symptoms were mild, my recovery was quick and I’m feeling great. The entire time I was in isolation I was able to work, to carry out the duties of the office without any interruption. It’s a real statement on where we are in the fight against COVID-19,” Biden said.

President Biden, 7/27/2022

To me, this proves that an older person can ‘live’ and even work with COVID-19, providing they follow the same precautions as the President! 

We are all living with the coronavirus these days and have been for 2 1/2 years! My husband and I are among the few remaining ‘COVID super dodgers’ out there – to the best of our knowledge!  We are fully vaxxed and have been boosted twice.  We are pretty good at wearing masks, but not perfect.  We test periodically. My husband goes to the gym everyday in his surgical mask.  He says only 5 out of maybe 25 fellow gym goers are masked.  I do eat in an indoor restaurant at times and don’t have a mask on while I eat.  I do mask up in grocery stores and every other indoor space.  But we have traveled, visited friends and family, and are living our lives. 

I am by no means cocky!  As soon as I publish this, we will probably get COVID -19, although I certainly hope we don’t 😊!   With this highly infectious variant you can do everything right and still get infected.

“There’s a lot of people who feel like they failed,” said Wallace, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health. “ ‘I’ve been so good for so long’ — I hear that every day.” She assures those people that they’re not bad — it’s the new variants that are bad. “They have done really well if they are just getting it now,” Wallace said.

Katrine Wallace, 7/21/22

If we do test positive, we will immediately be on the phone to our University of Washington doctors for a Paxlovid prescription.  And, hopefully, we will be as fortunate as the President and have an uneventful recovery.

Looking ahead, we will be anxious for the new boosters that target the recent variants to become available. 

In the meantime, we will continue to live our lives, mask up indoors (most of the time), test if we get any symptoms, and keep our doctor’s phone number in our contacts so we can call for a Paxlovid prescription at the first sign of a positive test!

Allene

Close to Home

I have been trying to channel the mindset of my first friend (FF).  As I start moaning about current events, she reminds me of an important point:

These are the times we live in

She points out that there have been difficult times throughout history and, frankly, during our lifetime.  My husband agrees. They are not wrong and I try and use that lens on a daily basis.

Sometimes this is a challenge for me because of things that happen ‘close to home’.

For example:

  • Carjacking at gunpoint has been reported in our local grocery store parking lot.  I am now on high alert when I get gas or groceries
  • Catalytic converters are being stolen in our neighborhood driveways
  • We had lunch at our local Taco Time.  A burrito combo order and a chopped salad now cost $35 (!)
  • In a recent WA poll 33 % of the Republicans surveyed in our blue state believe that there was major fraud in the 2020 election and Trump truly won
  • And no one even wants to look at their 401 K balance these days!

Our daughter had a recent experience that brought current events even closer. 

On Thursday, she was driving slowly in a Portland neighborhood and a young guy ran a stop sign and hit her vehicle.  It is too soon to tell if she was injured (her hip hurts and she is having some headaches), but her fairly new SUV is likely totaled. 

The only good news is that she isn’t seriously hurt (that we know of yet), the car that hit her wasn’t stolen, and the driver is insured.  

But here is the ‘closer to home’ part:

She didn’t even think to call 911 because she knew that a timely police response, or any response at all, likely wasn’t in the cards. 

This is the unfortunate reality of the times we live in!



If the future’s looking dark,
We’re the ones who have to shine.
If there’s no one in control,
We’re the ones who draw the line.
Though we live in trying times,
We’re the ones who have to try.
And we know that time has wings,
So we’re the ones who have to fly.

Neil Pearl

Allene

P.S. Today’s collage – mother/daughter photos taken 30 years apart!

The Mountain

People who live in the Puget Sound area tend to refer to Mount Rainier as ‘the mountain’.  The mountain is out; did you see the mountain today?; is there a view of the mountain?, etc.

While I see the mountain almost every day, I must admit that I have only been to Mount Rainier National Park twice.  Thursday marked my second visit.

As part of our ‘staycation’, my husband and I drove to Sunrise.  Sunrise’ elevation is 6,400 feet and it is the highest spot in Mount Rainier National Park that you can go by car.  It is a little over 2 hours from our house, including a stop for the inevitable summer road construction

We went on a Thursday and the (large) parking lot barely had a spot available.  There are a number of trails so fortunately it didn’t feel too crowded.  We did an out and back and checked out the Emmons glacier overlooks along the Silver Forest trail.  It is supposed to be an ‘easy’ trail, but it was plenty for us in the warm weather! It was pretty toasty for that high up – 72 degrees and the sun was blazing! 

The views of the mountain were spectacular, as were the views of Emmons glacier. Both can be seen from nearly every vista!  Normally, this is the peak of the wildflower bloom, but we had a wet spring.  The wildflowers are a few weeks late, but we did see lupin, paintbrush, and spreading phlox.  They were all so lovely!

“Of all the fire mountains which like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.”

-John Muir

On another note, I think we all heard that the President tested positive for COVID 19 on Thursday.

I got an additional dose of the vaccine on Tuesday and breezed through it with just a sore arm and a little fatigue.

And for people who are 50 years of age or older, my message is simple: If you have not gotten a vaccine shot in the year 2022, if you’ve not gotten one this year, please go get another vaccine shot.  You are eligible for your first booster or second booster wherever you are in your vaccination schedule.  If you’ve not gotten a vaccine shot this year, go get one now.  It could save your life.

Ashish Jha, M.D., COVID 19 Response Coordinator for the White House, 7/12/22

The President clearly followed Dr. Jha’s advise and is fully vaccinated and has been boosted twice.  He is also taking Paxlovid and reporting mild symptoms.

Wishing him a speedy and uneventful recovery.

Allene

Staycation

My husband and I feel like we have been traveling non-stop for the past few months.  So, now it is staycation time for me!

STAY-CA-TION:

a vacation spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.

I am not a fan of the summer months in general but, since summer happens regardless, the Pacific Northwest is the place to be!  We usually have mild summers with temps in the 70’s.  We have occasional hot spells and sometimes a chilly marine layer.  But by and large, it is lovely here. And the flowers can’t be beat.

So why not enjoy a staycation for the next few months? And it feels like the safest call with COVID 19 on the rise again.

I do have a bit of work to do and an appointment or two.  Other than that, it is clear staycation sailing.

I am looking forward to lots of reading on my deck or front porch.  I will be taking daily long walks with some ice coffee as a treat afterward. I have friends nearby to meet for walks, lunch, and a happy hour or two.  I am sure there will also be at least one movie that catches our eye. My girlfriend and I just saw Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris and thought it was delightful. What’s not to like about Dior couture from the 1950’s?

But most of my time will be spent outside.

I hope we can catch up with some of our nearby family. My husband and I plan a day trip to Mt. Rainier for a wildflower hike.

Back to the topic of reading, I have a stack as usual.  I am now getting eBooks from the library and have more downloaded than I can possibly manage. 

Here is my list so far:

I just finished Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty and LOVED it!  It didn’t hurt that the main character is also 69 years old. I tried listening to it but the narrator’s voice irritated me 😊.  But I loved reading it!

I am just starting the Tommy and Tuppence mysteries by Agatha Christie.  They were first published in the 1920’s, just after World War 1.  The language is priceless, old girl!

My mystery club girlfriends are starting the Maggie Hope series, set during World War 2.  We will also be reading Crying in H Mart.

I’m carefully reading The Whole Body Reset which is based on a Mediterranean diet with a focus on spreading adequate protein and fiber throughout the day. It was developed by AARP for the midlife+ age group.

And I have a laundry list of other books in the mix, as usual.

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

Mason Cooley

I am sure more staycation ideas will pop up but, for now, I’m the one with a nose in a book!

Allene

Family History

I was going to title this post ‘Aging OK’, but some recent events changed my tune a bit.

On with the post –

I was reading one of the gillion articles out there on aging, looking younger, etc.  I am not down with the whole idea of ‘looking younger’.  I have always been open about my age which is almost 70 (my candor may have been detrimental at times in this ageist society). I am fine with looking ALMOST 70.  No one will confuse me for a 60-year-old, but I also hope that no one thinks I am 80 either! 😊

Back the article, ‘10 things that make you look and feel older than you are’.  I like this one a bit better, because the focus isn’t exclusively on looking younger. 

Here are the 10 things:

  1. Being out of style (no pastel sweatshirts embroidered with flowers or birds)
  2. Sleep deprivation
  3. Being grumpy
  4. Never trying or learning anything new
  5. Isolating yourself
  6. Worry
  7. Being a couch potato*
  8. Lying in bed most of the day
  9. Being negative
  10. Holding onto anger

I like all of these tips and think they make sense. 

I, on the other hand, have a family history that is now coming home to roost and making me feel older than I am (and probably making me look older too)!  My dad died from colon cancer and suffered from macular degeneration in his later years.  I hoped to avoid both!  So far, no luck!

I just had what I hoped was my last colonoscopy and had a precancerous polyp removed.  I am glad it is gone, but it means at least one more colonoscopy in my future ☹.  And I saw my optometrist and he found some early macular degeneration.  Thanks Dad for both!

So, what’s next? 

I am now taking AREDS 2 for my eyes.  I am trying to adhere more closely to a Mediterranean diet and increasing my fiber intake which hopefully will be helpful to prevent colon cancer and stabilize my vision. According to this article by a Registered Dietician, good nutrition isn’t necessarily a silver bullet!

*The one thing I am totally committed to is daily exercise! The American Cancer Society recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity/week.  I am trying to walk 45-60 minutes each day.

Exercise is roughly the only equivalent of a fountain of youth that exists today, and it’s free to everyone.

S. Jay Olshansky

Allene

Ask your doctor

I saw my doctor recently and she said, “you are eligible for another COVID vaccine booster”.  I, like many of you, have had 4 doses of the current vaccine.  But my last dose was in February! 

I had planned to wait until fall for a new version of the vaccine.  But, with the FDA stating that the next vaccine needs to cover the current Omicron variants, fall just turned into LATE fall (IMO).

So, I am out there without much in the way of current protection from the vaccine.  And, to my knowledge, I haven’t had COVID 19. BA.5 seems to be wreaking some havoc and cases are rising across the country and it looks like hospitalizations are now rising too.

So, I said to myself, self I said, self, maybe I do want to get another booster in the near future.  I asked my doctor if I should stick with Moderna or make a switch to Pfizer.  She said that I should get another Moderna booster if it is readily available.  She strongly agreed with my plan to go ahead and get another booster soon. 

She also urged me to contact her office if I test positive at any point.  She has been prescribing Paxlovid on a regular basis and says the supply is now plentiful (at least in the Seattle area). 

With my various risk factors, I am a candidate for Paxlovid and at high risk for hospitalization if I do get sick.

I have been carefully following the science during the course of the pandemic and felt pretty comfortable making my own decisions on when to get vaccinated and boosted. 

But, yet again, we are in uncharted territory.  Cases are up, a new variant is dominant, and we don’t yet have a new vaccine.

There doesn’t seem to be agreement on the benefits of additional boosters.  My husband’s doctor isn’t recommending a booster of the current vaccine for him at this point.

Here is an article from a recent Washington Post coronavirus update about boosters.

“Safety doesn’t appear to be an issue,” (Dr. Anthony) Fauci told The Post, listing other considerations too, like expiring supply. “We got a lot of doses, if we don’t get them into people soon, they’re going to be wasted.”

The Washington Post, 7/8/22

So, my advice is that you ask YOUR doctor about YOUR best course of action.  And bring up Paxlovid while you are at it.

I will be getting a booster this month 😊.

Allene

P.S. On a side note, our drugstore shelves are pretty bare in the cough drop area.  That tells me a lot of people in my neighborhood are coughing these days (symptoms of BA.4 and BA.5 include cough, fatigue, headache, and muscle pains)

Where did June go?

I can’t believe it already July 4th!  The month of June seemed to fly by and I am not sure I was always as fully present as I would have liked.

We came back from Europe on May 31st.  We had less than a week to recover before we moved into Road Trip planning mode.  We drove to Montana on 6/14 and I was gone for 12 days.  I came back and spent last week at doctor appointments and working.

I was chatting with my husband yesterday and we agree that June was kind of a blur. 

As I get older, it becomes even more important to me to LIVE and be present for every moment, because I know that more moments are not guaranteed.

Here is an article from 2018 that talks about taking time to savor life.

If you believe time seems to go by faster as you get older, you’re right – it feels like it does. The laws of physics don’t change, but according to psychologists, our subjective perception of time alters as we age, causing time to seem like it’s speeding up. That’s been my experience. For example, unlike when I was a child, the seasons feel like they fly by at breakneck speed.

Richard Hawk

Mr. Hawk has some familiar tips for habits that help life slow down, such as:

  • Be more mindful
  • Feel and show gratitude
  • Remember, your actions matter
  • Stay inspired

I had a wonderful time in Montana, which may explain why June flew by at breakneck speed.  I was able to spend some amazing time with family and friends, enjoying an early summer together.  Time really does fly when you are having fun!

Time flies.  It is up to you to be the navigator.

Robert Orben

Allene