Friday, May 30, 2014

I've received a denial, and I don't like it!

Every once in a while I read something that has made me say, almost out loud when I'm alone, "I wish I had thought of that."  I've recently had one of those moments.

I received a letter from National Government Services, the outfit that takes care of Medicare claims and payments.  The letter said that a claim that had been submitted by my doctor had been denied.  The letter went on to say that the NGS's (Seems to me this used to be CMS) investigation showed I either knew or should have known that Medicare did not cover the procedure outlined in the claim.  Naturally, I disagree.  I had been told that the procedure was covered which is the only reason I accepted the doctor's advice.

Among other things, the letter told me that the committee that looks over claims decided I didn't need the procedure.  It would appear that this "committee" which doesn't know me and which has never examined me now knows more than my doctor who has taken care of me for more than 10 years.  So far, appeals have been denied.

Then, perusing a Maine Conservative website, The Maine Citizen, I came across a thread concerning the current controversy in the Veteran's Administration handling of veterans' seeking medical help through the VA.  The member who started the thread directly quoted a column by economist Lawrence Kudlow.  I didn't find a source for the Kudlow information and, I must admit, I've been lazy and haven't searched for it.

(I reread that last sentence and said, "Come on, Dave, that's not like you.  You can do better than that."  So here's a link to Mr. Kudlow's column.)

This what he has to say:  "The VA problem is not Shinseki; it's socialism. The Veterans Affairs health care system is completely government run. It is a pure single-payer program. ...National Review editor Rich Lowry calls it "an island of socialism in American healthcare. . . . The long waits for treatment, with excessive delays resulting in as many as 40 deaths, are a tragically predictable outcome. This is the result of bureaucratic rationing, price controls, inefficiencies and the inevitable cover-ups. ... So if Congress thinks it can find somebody who can tame the VA bureaucracy, it should go right ahead. But the statist VA health care system, which in so many ways mirrors the government-run health care problems in Britain, Europe and Canada, must be completely changed."

The column goes on to say that these kinds delays and medical care by committee, not necessarily medical professionals, is where we are headed with the Affordable Healthcare Act.  I remember back when Obamacare was being debated by Congress I told the story of a friend who has relatives in Canada.  A relative came to Maine for treatment of a potential fatal medical condition and paid for it out of his own pocket because he would have had at least a six month wait in Canada.

Remember when Pres. Obama first ran for this highest office in the land?  He was critical of Medicare then and proposed cuts, many of which have now come to fruition due to the AHC, which put us seniors at even greater risk than nature gives us.  If I recall correctly, those of us over the age of 75 would get the biggest "hits" as we have become expendable.

Sure, the current AHC plan gives us insurance choices, sort of, but the penalties for not following the government's desires are substantial and having insurance is now mandsted.  The government has all but told us its eventual goal is for a single payer medical plan similar to those in Britain, Europe and Canada.  I've now experienced that "medical need by committee" and now I'm beginning to worry about what's ahead for me down the road.  I don't like the vision.

I've never been a single issue voter in spite of my party affiliation.  Now I think my "X" would be in the box before anyone who runs to fight this very costly and dangerous Affordable (not) Healthcare Act and work for its repeal.

With those happy thoughts, I hope you have a great weekend and welcome in a new month on Sunday.  June is just about always a happy month.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer has "officially" begun!

That wasn't a bad weekend here on my little swamp.  The weather wasn't perfect, but it was more good than bad. 

Gardening got seriously underway as plants and vegetables got planted.  We're trying a new method this season using various containers for most of the vegetables.  We haven't had great luck for the past two years with putting them directly into the ground, so a change became a necessary experiment.

The Red Sox showed up for scheduled games.  Well, some of them even if not enough to put on the field showed up.  The rest that played, I think, were borrowed from the kids' league someplace.  Pretty old kids, though.  I think they're suffering from letting certain players get away during the winter.  One might think they should have at least picked up some pitchers in the off season.  Oh, well.  Is it too early to start the "wait 'til next year" rant?

Old Orchard Beach is now open for the season.  I don't go there very much anymore, but it is nice it's there.  We do like the onion rings at Bayley's on the Pine Point Road and the French fries at the Pier Fries.  We like Bill's Pizza, too.  But the rides?  Well, we stopped "riding" many years ago.

It was the traditional weekend for opening summer camps for the season.  Here's my deep past remembrance for today.  I saw an ad the other day for a camp on Little Sebago Lake for sale for just 375+ thousand dollars.  It was a lakefront property.  It brought back an opportunity I had about 50 years ago.  Some guy was breaking up his kid's camp property on Little Sebago Lake.  I could have had a lakefront lot with a sandy beach for just about ten grand.  I didn't think I could afford it.   I hate to think what that lot might be worth today.

I can't help but wonder if we'll ever see some real, nice traditional Maine summer weather.  Sometimes I can't help but wondering if maybe there might be something to this climate change stuff going around.  Every time I start wondering about it, though, I get reminded the change is, in spite of all the hype, just normal changes our planet sustains.  After all, where I am right now was a couple miles below the ice and snow a few million years ago.  I wonder what humans did then to cause all that melting.  Never mind humans hadn't been invented yet.  Small technicality.  But have you ever seen an explanation?

We Mainers don't pay a whole lot of attention to calendars sometimes.  This past weekend was a traditional one here, the "official" start of the summer season.  The season will last until Labor Day, again we'll pay no mind to dates.  There is at least one other fun weekend just a few weeks away.  The Fourth of July Holiday Weekend starts on a Friday this year, so we'll be enjoying those snaps, whizzes, bangs and booms for three whole days, most of which will be legitimate.

I love this season.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Enjoy your weekend

I hope you have a superior Memorial Day Weekend.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Nasal strip triggers a memory from the past

That was an interesting weekend of sports.  I think I watched more college softball games than I've watched since last year's championship season.  The Gator Gals easily made it through the regionals without a loss.  Next up for the Gator women, and the women from the other regional championships, are the so-called Super Regionals.  Florida will play Washington in the best of three series this coming weekend.  Then it's on to the College Softball World Series.  I hope the Gators will be among the advancers.

Perhaps the most excitement of the weekend was the running of the Preakness, the second leg in horse racing's Triple Crown.  It may have been anticlimactic.  California Chrome, the winner of the first leg, the Kentucky Derby, once again dominated the field and has now won the first two races in the three race series. 

Now the suspense begins, although it might be over before even today is over.  And, indeed, it was over today (edited late afternoon to add that the strips have now been approved for all horses running on New York tracks and negates this and the next three paragraphs)That third race isn't until June 7th, but a wrinkle in that race has developed.  California Chrome might not run.  You see, he wears a nasal strip when he races and nasal strips haven't been approved for the Belmont.  A nasal strip, in case you aren't familiar, is a strip of tape across the nose to keep the nostrils clear for breathing.  We've seen similar strips advertised for people, primarily to help them sleep at night without snoring.

Apparently the owners didn't realize that the stewards of the Belmont only allow normal, natural additions, like saddles, etc., to horses in that race.  Even though it is non-medical and, therefore, non-narcotic, it is not a normal addition to a horse's equipment.  I've read Chrome's owners probably will petition to the stewards to allow the nasal strip.

A vet has reportedly said the strip has no real affect on California Chrome and the horse could run the race without it.  Or, if the steward's don't grant the owner's request, the horse could be withdrawn, thus ending another triple crown bid because of, according to one horse pundit I read, the racing gods have chosen to control the triple crown once again.  As you probably already know, several interesting events have caused potential crown winners to withdraw in recent years.

Personally, I'd like to see the race run.  I haven't seen too many Triple Crowns in my lifetime, and only since the advent of television, but they are exciting.  I'd even give up the College Softball World Series game, even if Florida were playing, to see an attempt this year.  Well, I've got lots of time to ponder that.  Shucks, neither event could take place.

Horse racing, as I've said here several times, has been part of my life, although only in my memory for the last 60 years and thus part of those old memories I occasionally pull up.  The first job not given me by my father was at Scarborough Downs way back when I was in high school and the horses raced with riders on their backs and not being pulled in a buggy.  Technically, I guess, I worked for the Maine Horse Racing Commission, not the track.  I collected a sample from winning horses so they could be checked for doping.

One thing about racing I learned:  there are many ways horse owners, trainers, and others can use to affect the outcome of a race.  I never learned of any illegal activity, except the possibility of doping, that would have such an effect.  I never did get an altered sample in my collections but one or two others in the workgroup weren't quite as fortunate, but I only know of those one or two.  I do not believe the track was involved in that activity.

There was one situation that occurred regularly and I never did learn how it worked, if, indeed, it was a "fixing" activity.  And I'm not going to explain it here, but once I heard some horsemen in the barn area talking about it and tried it, I could have made a whole lot of money betting at the window.  Except for one small technicality, I wasn't of legal age to bet.  We had been warned in the training sessions never to attempt to place a bet as we would be involved in a "discussion" with appropriate people.

Several years later, a local radio station, WPOR, was broadcasting the Saturday races from Scarborough Downs.  I was asked to fill in one Saturday.  Just for chuckles, I tried out that secret I had learned from my days at the track.  Before each race, I told the announcer back at the studio which horse I predicted would win.  I'm not a gambler and would never place a bet on a horse race.  I literally drove the studio announcer nuts as he begged me to place bets.  We would have won every race.

I never heard a suggestion that the races were "fixed."  I don't believe they were.  I only know that at least one "system" for predicting an outcome worked for me.  And remember, this was long before harness racing entered the picture at The Downs.  I doubt the system would now work.

So, let's keep watching for an outcome to the nasal strip situation.  See how such a little potential event can trigger an old man's mind from the past?


Friday, May 16, 2014

Rainy early Saturday; scattered dampness for the rest of the weekend.

The weekend has arrived once more.  That simply means I've celebrated more than4900 weekends.  Wow!  That's a lot of weekends!

This one will see some rain and be generally unsettled into at least the first of next week.  I doubt my lawn will get needs mowing...this weekend.

I've had a somewhat unexciting few days.  The only real activity has been my weekly visit to the Southern Maine Agency on Aging balance workshop.  That's really a fascinating workshop as it leads those of us participating into facing our fears of falling.  Anyone who know me knows I've been afraid of falling for several years.  I have a disease that would probably cause a bone to break if I did fall, and, indeed, I've broken some bones, most notably my hip, in a fall.

I've been a real hermit in some of those winter storms we've had.  I no longer go to senior exercise sessions at the physical therapy place, but I had a standing note there that if we had measurable snow or ice on the ground, I would be staying home.

The exercises we're doing at SMAA are totally different from those I did at the PT place.  The exercises I'm learning now are designed to strengthen muscles used in balancing.  They are also designed to get us into the habit of doing some, preferably each day, at home.  I have been a good boy and have done my exercises daily since I started.  Naturally, I do have a self-imposed rule variation as I have decided to take Sundays off from the routine.

The exercises are rather simple ones.  One, for example, is to stretch the left arm across the body several times alternating with a similar stretch by the right arm.  We have leg lifts and knee lifts and even a waltz step routine.  Altogether there about ten or twelve different simple exercises to be accomplished each day.  They do not have to be done all at the same time and may be split into three sessions if we want.

It's kind of funny doing them at home.  My Golden Retriever has never seen me do these kinds of movements before.  She tries to help out by bringing me toys to play with or tries to hold my arms still.  All just very friendly dog games, but they do get me chuckling.

I'm told there's an absolutely brutal bug going around.  Both my Fearless Friend and Mrs. FF have been bitten by it.  Mrs. FF seems to have gotten the worst of it this time around.  Apparently it is not the simple flu, if a flu can be simple.  They were mostly home contained for several days with the thing.  They have been under the care of their doctor.  I won't go into FF's description of what has been happening as a result of this little go 'round, but, trust me, it ain't pretty.  I hope you don't get it.

That leads me to hope you have a super weekend and I'll try to get motivated by something between now and Monday and be back then.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Computer Spam--it's terrible meat!

I'm getting annoyed, but, unfortunately, I have no solution to my problem.

My E-mail inbox is getting saturated with what I consider to be just plain spam.  Spam e-mail is simply unwanted e-mail, usually advertising something I neither want nor need.  The amount of this spam to me has now grown to somewhere between three and four hundred a day.  Might be a slight exaggeration as I've never counted them, but they're now coming in four to eight at a time just about every ten to fifteen minutes.

Another type of spam is the occasional plea from some foreign country "official" that says some potentate or very rich person has died and left millions to someone who doesn't want to pay taxes on it.  So he sends me, or you, or both of us, an e-mail that says he's split the millions with me if I'll just open a bank account for him, or something like that.  Of course, I need to deposit, or send him a check, for, oh, say, five thousand dollars to pay for the costs.  I can think of more productive ways to rid myself of $5,000.

The only way I could stop the practice of receiving spam would be change my e-mail address.  Since I own my own domain with many addresses available to me, changing addresses would be a simple task.  There are just two problems:  I'd have to continually notify legitimate senders, like friends and family, of the new address.  I'm sure they'd get rather tired of having that exercise too regularly; and the spammers would very soon get that new address and just continue filling it as if nothing had changed.

At least one spam e-mail tells me of a business offer where I could get addresses to start my own advertising business.  That will never happen.  Other offers include getting free coupons for various businesses.  Open that letter and then see how many more of such offers quickly begin pouring into your mailbox.  I get many offers of meeting new "friends" and even offers of pictures of the chicks in my area.  I get 10 or 15 e-mails daily with offers to "increase my wife's bedroom pleasure."  I must admit at almost 80 years old, those e-mails are tempting. 

On and on I could go with these things.  I'm sure, though, you get enough to know what I'm saying here.  There are many ways that one gets on those mass mailing lists.  Reply to one of them and see how many more you get that same day or no later than a day or two.  Open one from an unknown sender and a small bit of language tells the spammer and you're there forever. 

It's easy for spammers to send out hundreds of e-mails at a time.  I'd bet most of you reading this, like me, have at least one and probably more distribution list where one click will send a message to family members or friends with like interests.  There many ways to get on spam lists.  One of them, believe it or not, is clicking on the message's "unsubscribe" button.  That is a absolute guarantee you'll end up on more spam lists and, usually, not get unsubscribed to the original list.  Now that is only when it concerns spam, or unsolicited, e-mail.  Unsubscribing to most legitimate business will usually work.

I get one spam almost daily from someone who identifies herself as an admission's person from the University of Maine.  (In case you see this, there's no one by the name of "Dylan" at this address.)  She identifies herself, I think, but then tells me I opted in to receive those e-mails by opting to unsubscribe from some other list.  If I believed the address she gives was legitimate, I'd be tempted to write to her that I'm not Dylan and, especially considering my age, I'm no longer a high school student looking for a university and she's simply wasting University money. 

Another way to identify spam:  Look at the sender's address.  If it is totally unknown, then you should consider three times before you open the e-mail.  Also, if it looks ridiculous or has a long list of numbers with, perhaps, a few letters, that's another hint.  Or, like one I received just today which included (edited here to eliminate most of it to protect you from accidentally hitting it) a mascot name incorrectly spelled.  " gater.standsxxxxxxxxxxxxx Or write to: (a street address) in Gainesville Florida."  I'd find it hard to believe anyone in the home town of the Florida Gators couldn't spell that name correctly.

I do have a super spam finding program that tells me when I have spam or other e-mail I've identified to it as spam has entered my mailbox.  A quick press of a button erases it even before it hits my computer.  But it's not totally foolproof and, as I mentioned earlier, it is that program that tells me I've got all those messages just waiting to be erased.  It is annoying.

I'd like to send each of the companies the spammers are advertising that their irritating messages have caused me to stop using their services.  Other than that, I'd love to learn of a way to permanently stop those very unwanted and useless spam messages.


Friday, May 9, 2014

The cost of renting/owning a home

I now live a self-imposed somewhat sheltered life.  I do the sheltering.  A news story on WCSH6-TV the other day really caught my "Wow.  Times have certainly changed" attention.  The story concerned an "affordable" housing project near Downtown Portland.  This concerns an older man now living in the past.  There's a name for that when one gets to my age, isn't there?

Ground has been broken for construction of a 39 unit apartment complex.  When completed, the condo-quality apartments will rent for $1300 to $2200 per month.  Holy smokes!  This story has pointed just how far in the past I'm living these days.  I can't imagine throwing away $2000 a month for rent.  I call it "throwing away" simply because when one leaves a rental unit, all one has to show for it is a stack of rent receipts.  That's a potential of more than $25000/year with only a little stack of paper to show for it.

It's been 20 years since I've been in the housing market, but even then when my wife and I ended up buying our current home, I couldn't imaging spending that much money, or comparably economically for the times.  My realtor friend, also my Fearless Friend,  who helped us find a suitable home spent more than a year getting me to visit some suitable homes for sale at that time.  He tried his darndest to find a place within the range we had said we wanted.  Actually, that range was, to us, outrageous.  He also found our range outrageous, too, but in the other direction.

When Sandra and I were married over a half century ago, we did live in an apartment for a while.  It cost us $50 per month.  Of course income was more in line with that amount at the time but it was probably at the limit of what we could afford on my $3700/year salary.

A year later, our landlord, who was a super person and great landlord, had to raise the monthly figure to $55/month.  Sandra and I, probably more specifically "I," was outraged.  We had to pay an additional $60/year just for an apartment we didn't own.  He had to go up another $5 as the third year rolled around.  That was it.  That was the limit we would be willing to pay for rent.  We decided that if the following year rent were raised again, we were "outa there."  It was and we immediately began looking for our first house.

At 1964 prices we figured we could easily buy a $10,000 house.  Yes, houses for that price were on the market back then.  After looking at three or four places, we knew our apartment was still a much better deal.  Nevertheless, we went to a loan officer at the then Maine Savings Bank to see what a truly reasonable monthly pay on a house loan would be.  When he told us that, considering our earning potential over the years since I had a very stable job, we could easily afford more than what we thought.  We had told him not to consider Sandra's income as our plans were for her to become the traditional at the time stay-at-home Mom to raise the children we planned.

With the new figure and a loan virtually in hand, we continued our search with a more reasonable price expectation.  Our first house was in the North Deering-Lunt's Corner corridor of Portland.  Our monthly "rent" went from $65/month to an outrageous $82/month plus escrow for city taxes and insurance.  But we owned a house and had something that was ours to show for the expenditure.  We stayed in that house for more than 25 years.  The last ten years or so it was totally ours.

An unfortunate circumstance with Sandra's widowed mother caused us to examine our future and we decided we needed a new home with everything on one floor.  We asked our Fearless Friend, the realtor, to help us find such a home.  Of course he pointed out he would be the seller's agent and not ours, but he did agree to steer us to homes and make arrangements to tour some.  I think he began to question our sincerity as after more than a year, we had rejected every place he had found for us.

He then gave me basically the same lecture that banker had given us earlier about being able to afford more than what we were wanting to pay.  Finally, after doing some math we gave in to his efforts and raised our expectations.  He wasted zero time, in fact told us later he had picked out the house several months earlier that he knew we'd like.  He told us he had the house and took us to see it.  It was a few dollars more than we wanted to pay, but his estimate of what we wanted was straight on.

After "the walk through," and we prepared to leave the home, FF had gotten into his car and we ours and were alone when Sandra looked at me, "I want that house!" was all she said.  It seemed like an hour later, but actually it was a few weeks, when we sold our Portland home and moved in to our new one in Scarborough.  That was, believe it or not, 20 years ago this month.  Sadly, it was only a day after we laid her mother, the woman who's plight started the quest, to rest. 

The point of this way too long story is when one buys thus owns his own home, he is building equity.  It was the equity gained from the sale of our old home that allowed us to have sufficient money for a down payment on our much nicer, better, and bigger home.  It was paid off early so we've owned it outright for several years.  If we had to sell it today, we have a lot more equity, possibly enough to pay for a year of nursing home care.  Naturally we're hoping we never come to that.

It also brings me back to that news story on Channel Six.  I would make all kinds of sacrifices before I'd spend up to $2200/month on rent, condo quality or not.  But the developer would tell me I'm living in a fantasy world; that's a "market price" in that section of Portland in today's world.  No wonder the cost of living is so high.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Fun Day

Sometime this summer, Sandra and I are taking a short trip to Pennsylvania to see a production in a theater we really like visiting in Lancaster.  It's a long, 9 hour drive to Lancaster from here, and for the first time Sandra will have to drive the whole distance.

So, we've planned a series of day adventures between now and the trip to give our sit-down places a chance to get prepared for the trip.  Other muscles also are getting some practice in long rides, too.

Tuesday was one of those planned days.

I had fun.  Sandra was glued to the steering wheel.  I dug out my Garmin and my computer software Delorme's Street Atlas and planned a trip to Berlin, New Hampshire.  Now don't misunderstand me; I've been to Berlin so many times in my life that I probably could have guided her blind folded.  There is a super restaurant called Northland Restaurant and Dairy Bar just outside Berlin that both of us absolutely love to visit.  The food is simply wonderful and, for the most part, prepared like home made.

We set the restaurant as our destination point.  To put the mapping software and the Garmin to work, we designed a trip that had many local state roads.  Naturally, it wasn't the most direct route.  Both the software and hardware guided us directly to the restaurant with no difficulty.

We designed a much more direct route home and, although I could do it without the use of the Garmin (My computer battery expired so the software was done) but guiding Sandra using it was certainly keeping me from getting bored.

WCSH -TV6 and probably many other places are telling us about some group's challenge to find the worst roads in Maine.  There's a prize for the eventual winner of just under $300, the estimated cost of repairing a car that is damaged by the condition, mostly potholes, of Maine's roads.  Naturally, although I don't have a smart phone camera nor did I take my Instamatic so I couldn't take pictures with which I could enter the contest, I did keep my eyes open for some of the really bad roads.

I didn't find any.  At least 90% of the roads we had chosen were in remarkably good shape; not perfect, perhaps, but very good.  I'm not trying to say all Maine's roads are great; they are not.  It's just that the ones we were lucky enough to travel this day were just fine.

Until we headed home.  As we crossed into Maine just west of Fryeburg on Route 302, we found out why that contest was being held.  At the border, there was a sign, "Welcome to Maine, where life is like it should be."  Well, U.S. Route 302 west of Fryeburg is about as far from a "Welcome" as a welcome should be.  If I had been from away, I might have thought twice about continuing in this state.  We left 302 in Fryeburg and found the roadway, Route 113, to be in very good condition.  The rest of the roads getting home were enjoyable.

Our sit-downs survived the trip easily and gave us confidence the trip to Pennsylvania will be O.K., even though long.  I can't speak for Sandra, but her reactions certainly hinted I could make good guesses.  I, on the other hand, must admit to some very stiff joints, especially my legs and knees.  I'll have to work on those.

Timing on that is pretty good.  We are now in the exercise phase of strengthening the body in my weekly Balance Workshop at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging.

We'll try another, perhaps a little longer daytrip sometime in the near future.

By the way, Mount Washington with its snow capped peaks was just simply beautiful in this early May.  We were blessed with no showers, just sunshine as we drove past the mountain.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Maine, where life is like it should be

A national poll released in the Bangor Daily News Thursday written by Seth Koenig shows that Maine is tied for first place in the states where its residents least want to move.  Three other states, including Hawaii, were tied with Maine which showed that only about 23% of Mainers, both from away and native, would like to pick up and move elsewhere.  Compare that with Connecticut, for example, where nearly 50% of the residents would like to move away.

The Gallup Poll results really aren't surprising especially considering all the complaining people like me do in these blogs and in daily conversations away from the Internet.  Many Mainers who do leave end up returning here to live.  I'm among them.

It was nearly 60 years ago that I left this state to move to Florida.  I had just graduated from high school and move to St. Petersburg to live with my parents who had moved there a couple years earlier leaving me here to live with my grandmother so I could "graduate high school with my friends."  Moving to Florida didn't turn out to be a "bad thing."  I was able to land a job there with a now defunct evening newspaper.

I did learn from that experience that I needed a college education to move ahead in this world.  Here's the best part:  Residents of Florida at that time could go to college virtually free.  Of course, once in those same students had to maintain the grades to stay in or be dismissed.  I had lived there for more than a year before I decided to give college life a try and so by then I was a resident of that state.  Of course my parents had already become residents long before, but I'm not sure if that would have transferred to me or not since I was, at that time, still a minor.

When I applied, an official in the admissions office went over the rules for me and, since he had never heard of Deering High School in Portland, Maine, I was admitted on academic probation.  I couldn't believe that someone had not heard of one of the very best high schools in the country, but I accepted the conditions.  One of my happiest moments early in school came at the end of the my first semester when I took my grades to that same admissions officer and requested to be taken off probation.  I was on the Dean's List.

Believe it or not, all this is leading up to the BDN story.  But not until four years later.  I became an official Gator (earned my degree from the University of Florida) and within two months had made the decision that Maine, not Florida, was my future.  There was one more element in that decision, though, an element named Sandra. 

I didn't become rich by returning here, but I honestly believe I've been successful in a variety of jobs and activities.  Don't read anything negative in that last statement, I retired from my full time job and at the same time, from my part time job more than 35 years after I started them.  Of course, Sandra's and my greatest successes came from raising two productive children, although one of them has moved away from Maine to the West Coast.  He has not expressed a desire to return.  Yet.

So, like most Mainers, we like Maine.  I'm not in the least bit sorry I left for a few years, but I am extremely happy I returned.  Yes, I complain about our increasingly socialistic government and the constant raising of taxes to pay for everyone who simply doesn't want to work but live on my money, but 90% or more of Maine life cannot be beat.  It might have been easy to move my family down to Florida, but Florida isn't Maine.

Now, at my age, winters have become a challenge; but even rough ones like we just had remind us that Maine still is a great place.  My Fearless Friend and his wife head to Florida every winter, snow birds they're called, but about the first thing they write in emails from their home there is "xxx days before we head back to Maine." 

The story of the Gallup Poll is a nice read.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Balance: The learning has begun.

We can't help but wonder if May will bring us some really nice (Maine) weather and free us up of all rain, cold, and even a little snow that April delivered to us.  The first day Thursday certainly isn't giving us any hope, but then a warming trend might get started.  Wouldn't that be nice? 

I had my second Southern Maine Agency on Aging Balance Workshop Wednesday.  I entered this program of learning how to manage my balance last week with great trepidation.  But when that session ended, I had gained an equal amount of hope as it was a super first session.  This week's activity wasn't quite as good as I had gone through just about all of it in other programs I've taken since my balance got shaky about 14 years ago.

However, next week's session should be much better as it'll be devoted to simple exercises that can be done at home as well as at the Workshop.  I'm looking forward to that session as I gave up my trips to the physical therapy/senior exercise place earlier this year.  I do have a stationary exercise bike at home and have attempted to maintain a somewhat regular routine on it.  But one can ride an exercise bike just so long before utter boredom sets in.  So a wide variety of exercises, like simulating a rowing machine, or leg lifts, and other such activities may be just what I need to get back to movement.

That's the purpose of the exercises we'll be starting next week.  Session Two was devoted to discussing among us the fears we have of falling and some ideas on how we can overcome those fears.  One of the best ways is to gain some strength to help get moving.  It is the normal type of strength  that will be emphasized in our Workshop rather than the body building kind.  Studies by the folk at Boston College that developed this Balance Workshop have shown that getting to move by seniors is about the best thing we can do.

I'm looking forward to it.  It would be nice to put that darned bike down cellar and forget it for a while.

The second session was designed for us to exchange stories and offer some common sense possibilities for solutions.  One of the things I ended up with is something I'm not sure was new or simply an awakening to times past.

One of the suggestions by several participants was to look at our pets, dogs and cats specifically, and see how they get up from a lying position.  Each time they stretch.  Yes, simple stretching gets the muscles a little looser and gets the desire for movement flowing.  I hadn't thought of that.  Stretching is really not new to me.  I never started working a game when I was an umpire without stretching first.  I can't tell you why I didn't carry that into my post baseball life, but I didn't.

This morning as I arose for the day, I did a few simple stretching exercises and, son of a gun, I felt like moving again.  Even the inside of my head seemed to be working at a slightly better pace.  Those stretches didn't take very long, a minute or two, but they were the first step in gaining some desire and strength to get on the move.  I'm sitting here now jotting down these thoughts and another channel of my mind is working on things I could do today.

Now that slight change has already begun giving me some confidence that perhaps the Workshop is going to help make my life better.  It's not so much what the participants are doing as it is transferring those actions in my life.  The vast majority of what we'll begin are activities that we probably used to do when we were younger before we started thinking about age and how had to slow down.  Slowing down can be speeded back up and that's where we're going to regain some of that balance we need to prevent falling.

Those simple exercises we're beginning next session seem to be more important.

I had written a little earlier here that the second session wasn't quite as good as the first one, but I think I might have entered those thoughts just a little too quickly.  Sorry 'bout that.