Bounty for Boomers: Dreading Alzheimers’ Assault on a Bountiful Life

Dreading Alzheimers’ Assault on a Bountiful Life

The birthday cards for 50 year olds joke about “over the hill.” My mother and hers spent this side of the hill suffering from Alzheimers’ disease. I don’t consider being robbed of the opportunity to be an actor in one’s own life any form of bountiful. But “over the hill” reminds me of a conversation I had many times with my husband.

I was born in Detroit and lived in New York City in my early twenties. When I moved to San Francisco in 1970, it seemed so “small town,” but at least it wasn’t –da da da da—the suburbs! I told my husband Jim Hoffert, “I’m a big city kind of woman. Don’t ever move me to the suburbs!”  But now I live “over the hill,” both literally and figuratively. I am now one of the “bridge and tunnel” crowd.  I was surprised to find that I can exercise my brain in a way that may help me find the bounty to fend off Alzheimer’s, if that is at all possible, right here in The East Bay–the dreaded suburbs– without crossing the bay to what the basketball jerseys used to tout as “The City.”

Most of these days, besides looking for employment, I make my way through stacks of books borrowed from The Contra Costa Library system. We have 26 libraries, plus other book outlets, in the county system. I belong to a book club at one and attend events sponsored by several. Bountiful!

Last Saturday I attended a breakfast workshop in Pleasant Hill as a member of The California Writers’ Club. Camille Minichino, Ph.D. in physics from Fordham University, on the faculty of Golden Gate University, San Francisco and on the staff of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, also writes mystery books. Her topic: “Beginnings and Endings for Fiction and Non-fiction.”  Camille gave us her formula for writing fiction and took us through several exercises that used both sides of my brain. Maybe I will publish yet. Bountiful!

Tuesday, I presented a business plan at Experience Unlimited in Walnut Creek. Yes, my undergrad and graduate studies were in British and American lit. Yes, I only have a 30-unit undergrad certificate in management studies. Yet, I was called to stretch my brain and I did by formulating a business case for the marketing committee. Bountiful!

Wednesday afternoon, I attended a class in Power Point sponsored by Experience Unlimited.  I’d built many presentations as a community liaison for United Airlines and as a graduate student in English but felt compelled to tweak my skills. The teacher has a long impressive resume, but he taught this refresher class for free. Bountiful!

Wednesday night I went to the Lafayette Library with another Michigan transplant. A docent from Berkeley Rep discussed “Ghost Light,” a play conceived and developed by Jonathan Moscone and Tony Taccone about Jon’s life in the aftermath of his father’s assassination.  Jon’s father was mayor of San Francisco when the Giants tried to move to Toronto and during the People’s Temple mass suicide in Ghana. He was the first mayor to appoint large numbers of women, gays and lesbians and racial minorities to city commissions and advisory boards. Jonathan Moscone was in his early teens when Dan White assassinated his father. Now we in the Bay Area can follow Jon’s journey in grief. Now we in the East Bay could attend a free docent presentation of the work. Bountiful!

Thursday night I was back at Lafayette Library. The library and The World Affairs Council hosted Neil Joek, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Security Research, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. The UCB department of international studies tells us that “Dr. Joeck worked on India and Pakistan as a political analyst and group leader in Z Division at LLNL from 1987-2001. He took leave from LLNL to serve as the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia in the Office of the Director for National Intelligence from 2009 to 2011, as Director for Counterproliferation Strategy at the National Security Council from 2004 to 2005 and as a member of the Policy Planning Staff at the Department of State from 2001 to 2003.”  Yet, there I was—in the suburbs!—listening to this learned gentleman speaking on “Why Pakistan Matters.”  Bountiful!

Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings, I danced to loud music under the direction of Raquel Call, a Brasilian Zumba instructor who makes us smile in Concord. Bountiful!

Friday afternoon, I attended a free training class on facilitation in Concord. Bountiful!

Friday night, I used a $4.75 offer from goldstar.com to attend Tom Stoppard’s play “Arcadia” at Live Oak Theater in Berkeley. Bountiful!

The docent talk Wednesday night was free, but Saturday night we paid the big bucks to attend Berkeley Rep’s presentation of the Jonathan Moscone and Tony Taccone play “Ghost Light.”  I attended at least 25 plays in the last twelve months. This work about Jon Moscone’s life in the aftermath of his father Mayor George Moscone’s assassination is my top pick for writing, acting and set.  I want a copy so that I can read and remember the words. Love this line, “Everyone has a suck drawer.” The play is powerful. I am still reeling. Bountiful!

Sunday afternoon, I was back at Lafayette library where a panel of authors from my California Writers’ Club shared their experiences in publishing. Thank you to Catherine Accardi, Nannette Rundle Carroll and Patricia Evans.  Bountiful!

Next week, on top of continuing my search for employment, I will attend a morning lecture at Experience Unlimited.  I’ll be at the library one night to hear a lecture and mini concert on the Steinway piano. Another evening I will use a low-cost goldstar.com ticket to attend “Laura,” a play fashioned from the noir book and film of the 1940’s. No matter where I am, my purse will contain a book from our free and extensive lending library system for those minutes I wait for a speaker or performance or service. Bountiful!

According to NPR:

The Obama administration is developing the first National Alzheimer’s Plan to address the medical and social problems of dementia …an estimated 5.4 million Americans already have Alzheimer’s or  similar dementias … The plan still is being written, with the advisory panel’s input. But a draft of its overall goals sets 2025 as a target date to have effective treatments and ways to delay if not completely prevent the illness… Some advisory members said that’s not aggressive enough, and 2020 would be a better target date.

If this plan works, it will wonderful.  In the meantime, I am glad I gave in and moved  to the East Bay–to the suburbs–where I continue to find a life that may help me fight off the disease through which my mother and hers suffered. Bountiful!

As I always write—“We didn’t know that Landon Jones would coin the term ‘Baby Boomer’ and explore our lives in a book, Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation, but we always knew our generation would redefine ‘Old.’ The time when Paul McCartney suggested we would ‘grow older, losing our hair, many years from now’ arrived. We want to make the most of our days; we want to live a bountiful life.”

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Bounty for Boomers: Paying it Forward

Paying it Forward

This month, I feel my life is full of bounty. A long list of events prove that.

*Contractors botched laying my beautiful floors several years ago. Handy man Steve Wright of “Small Jobs” spoke to my brother-in-law Tom Howard in Michigan. Between them, they made sure that I no longer have to climb over Brazilian cherrywood mountains in my living room, family room and dining room. Thank you, Steve and Tom!

*I lost my “retirement/new widow” job several months ago. Last week, I attended a gratis Power Point class taught by Gerald Kruse, a man with a long list of technical accomplishments, and lately, representing Experience Unlimited. Gerald’s class reminded me that I have “experience unlimited” with Power Point having built many as a community liaison at the world’s largest airline and as a successful graduate student in British and American Lit. Gerald’s class was a great refresher and a lift to my self-esteem (as were the other refresher classes I paid to take following my “down-sizing”).  Thank-you, Gerald!

*I have a problem with my car engine and thought my oil level was low. I couldn’t release the cap and took it to Whitey at AAMCO, Walnut Creek—again. He checked the oil, told me it was fine, showed me how to take off the cap (I guess I cudda figured it out were I taller and better able to reach), and reminded me I never have to check the oil. I can always bring it to him. Whitey has a wonderful smile and a reassuring manner. Thank you, Whitey!

*The overhead can lights in my kitchen stopped working the other day. I checked the circuits. They were OK. I took off the plate and checked the wires. All attached. I mentioned the problem to a true gentleman, Roger Laurel, at Experience Unlimited. He came right to my house with his tool box and diagnosed the problem. He left to keep an appointment to help someone else with EXCEL and returned a few hours later with parts to fix my lights. He would only accept a bag of freshly-baked cookies for his efforts. Thank you, Roger!

*Raquel Call offers her Brazilian slant on Zumba at discounted rates. I have thirty classes to make my booty less bountiful. Thank you, Raquel!

I will pay these kindnesses forward with freshly-baked cookies, free notary services, and by submitting my application to volunteer in a program to visit housebound seniors. But these kindnesses toward me are not the type of bounty that concerned me when I turned sixty four. With a mother and a grandmother who succumbed to Alzheimer’s, I wondered if I will be able to live out my days as an actor in my own life. Maybe not, but I am fortunate to have generous people in my life. In that respect, I am living a bountiful life.

As I always write—“We didn’t know that Landon Jones would coin the term ‘Baby Boomer’ and explore our lives in a book, Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation, but we always knew our generation would redefine ‘Old.’ The time when Paul McCartney suggested we would ‘grow older, losing our hair, many years from now’ arrived. We want to make the most of our days; we want to live a bountiful life.”

Bounty for Boomers: In Memory of Tevye

As I always write—We didn’t know that Landon Jones would coin the term “Baby Boomer” and explore our lives in a book, Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation, but we always knew our generation would redefine “Old.” The time when Paul McCartney suggested we would “grow older, losing our hair, many years from now” arrived. We want to make the most of our days; we want to live a bountiful life.
Especially at the holidays, we build our bountiful lives on kitchen memories—memories of our paternal grandmother’s runny, lumpy mashed potatoes in a big yellow bowl, or that our rolling pin used to make lemon-meringue pies on our maternal grandmother’s kitchen table, or that Christmas isn’t Christmas without our mother’s canned onion-topped potato casserole in a glass lasagna pan.
But in January, we resolve to build our bounty on promises to ourselves. We’ll sign up for Zumba classses—and attend them three times a week. We’ll read deeper than The New York Times best seller list, but we’ll read that, too. We’ll clean out our closets, drawers, garages, basements. We’ll call our parents more and make only supportive comments as they list the neighbors’ surgeries and deaths and their own aches ‘n pains. We’ll make a family tree, record an oral history, write a memoir so that our children and grands will know their heritage.
Maybe we aren’t always redefining old, after all, cuz this sounds just like our own parents’ New Year’s resolutions. Tradition.
Tradition, tradition! Tradition!
Tradition, tradition! Tradition

Bounty for Boomers: Interview with Lee Inman Perrin

Interview with Lee Inman Perrin

As I always write—We didn’t know that Landon Jones would coin the term “Baby Boomer” and explore our lives in a book, Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation, but we always knew our generation would redefine “Old.”  The time when Paul McCartney suggested we would “grow older, losing our hair, many years from now” arrived. We want to make the most of our days; we want to live a bountiful life.

I didn’t feel I was making the most of my life in the job I’d taken upon becoming a widow several years ago; but, the job paid the mortgage, the dentist, and helped me save for retirement.  Not long after the new owners of the company gave my duties to a 20-something, I turned 64 and faced the bleakness of looking for employment.

The night before my birthday, I e-mailed my cousin Lee, the one with whom I share so much early history.  Our mothers, dear friends married to brothers since their early twenties, filled their lives with raising kids, hiring people to care for their winter and summer homes, playing golf, organizing bridge games and charity work and as social secretaries for their successful-in-business husbands. Unlike our mothers, Lee and I went to work outside the home, partially because of our own husbands’ health.  I know I’m a being a brat, but I don’t want to do that anymore. I e-mailed Lee, looking for some spark to help me face the—OK, I’ll use the cliché–  grim reality of the job hunt. I wanted to know how she handles her life at 64, cuz this cousin ain’t doin’ such a good job at it right now.  This, verbatim, is what my cousin shared.

  • Lee, you are the senior art director at the Steven DeWitt Perrin Gallery in Cave Creek, Arizona. Is this where you thought you would be in your mid-sixties?

I knew that I would always want to be productive every day of my life, no matter what my age!  I am and always have been an early morning riser and energetic all day long.  I am not a night person!  I have never been a night person.  Being productive for me means helping my family if needed, cleaning my house thoroughly, organizing always, writing journals, playing bridge socially, working out in a gym, – whatever it takes to keep busy all day long!  I never thought I would “need” to work again financially at my age.

I originally went in to assist the owner/artist Steven a few days a week.  He is my son and his expertise is painting – not business management.  Having been an executive secretary all my life, setting up Steven’s business and books was a natural thing for me to do.

I began by creating art forms and art files for each piece.  I purchased books on the business of marketing and selling fine art.  Being hearing disabled, AND FOR MY SAKE AS WELL, I had Steven write a short narrative for each art piece he created.  Both the public (and myself) could now read his paragraph about the art piece.  I got more than I bargained for!  Steven was extremely talented at creative writing all his life, so his art narratives were beautiful and fun – but also extremely enlightening as they were full of his thoughts and emotions when he created the art piece.  Basically, his paintings were “his life on canvas.”  Art was therapy for him!  With his talent for writing, his talent for painting, and his artistic use of rich colors, his business took off immediately.

I am a “question” person..I ask a lot fo questions in order to learn as much as I can about what I am supposed to do, or about a particular subject I am interested in.  Steven taught me everything I know now relative to art, artists, art forms, art mediums (oil, acrylic, canvas, brushes, pricing, etc.), gallery presentations, portfolios.  He was also the person in my life who taught me how to use a computer and to have “no fear” when using one.

When the art business grew, Steven and I searched for a larger space for his working studio and gallery.  Thus, Cave Creek!

I came up with some of my own ideas on how to expand Steven’s reputation in the art world, how to create more income for his business, and how to help “grow from within.”  He began teaching art in the after school hours at the public schools to underprivileged children – taking his own supplies and ideas.  Their smiles were his “Pat on the Back.”  But the income doing this was so limited and the personal time it took away from his own art work was tremendous.  So he gave it up, and he and I began an “in-house” private art lesson class.  With his hearing impairment, the lessons had to be one-on-one and were packaged at a competitive flat price.  This part of the art business took off quickly and he was submerged with students of all ages (8 yrs old to 84 yrs. old).

After a few years, Steven’s eyesight worsened progressively.  Dependent on lip-reading to communicate with other people in person, the decline of his vision made “hearing others” more difficult.  And driving on the roads more difficult.  The decision was made to stop all art lessons within the gallery.

At this time, we both agreed it might be time to extend a monthly invitation to an outside artist – regardless of style or medium – to exhibit his/her art for one month within the gallery.  Any sales from this would result in a small comission to the gallery and definite good exposure to the particular exhibiting artist.  Whenthe word got out, artists came from all over the state to show their work and apply for the month-long exhibit!  Once again, the Gallery was making some extra money – showing new styles and new art forms thru the sales of works done by other artists.  This went on for two years each month.  Steve’s art prices increased slowly; his reputation was out there; and business was good!

It didn’t take long and Steven’s art was selling faster than he could produce it!  With now a vision impairment, creating art was taking Steven longer.  The quality however as still there.  But now we had a gallery of empty wall space.  So I made the executive and urgent decision to bring in the paintings of another artist on a permanent basis on a higher gallery sales commission.  This, of course, meant that I had to increase my working days at the gallery in order to handle the visitors and potential buyers, as well as any sales.  Both Steven and I mutually agreed on the artist selected.  Now, Steven and I agreed on splitting our time/days working in the gallery in order for me to have some personal time to get things done at my home.  After all, I began at no pay and was still at a no-pay position.  BUT I WAS IN LOVE WITH WHAT I WAS DOING!

As Steven’s eyesight declined, his work took longer to complete, I alone decided to bring in other artists – first, to fill up the gallery; second, to offer our public some diversity.  I decided it was time to remove Steven’s working studio area within our small gallery (paints, easal, supplies) and have him paint strictly at his home so he would not have to drive un-necessarily.  This freed up even more wall space and floor space.  Steven began sending me artists’ names and websites to preview their styles, etc.  We both agreed that the importance of “rich, bold color” and a “gallery presentation” took priority over choosing the right artists to come in to the gallery.  There was so much talent out there!

Then the economy recessed, and art and artists were one of the first to realize the effects of the recession.  So I made the executive decision to support ‘only’ the local artists in the gallery.

We now have 5 local artists being represented in Steven’s gallery, including Steven.  At first, the gallery was only taking a commission on sales.  As the economy worsened, sales decreased.  So I decided to charge a monthly fee to each artist who wanted to exhibit and sell from within the gallery.  This would be on top of the sales commissions.  This fee would help offset the gallery’s monthly lease expenses during these slow sales periods.  As long as the artist could pay his fee, he could remain in the gallery.

The artists are required to have an extensive portfolio in order to rotate their art exhibits – keeping the gallery ‘fresh’ every couple of months.

  • What does the position entail?

I think I may have answered this question in my above dissertation!  LOL  Essentially, I now have the duties of marketing, selling, representation, filing, taxes, hanging art, patching walls, cleaning, interviewing artists, selecting art for our market, working with pricing of all art with the artists, all financial work for the gallery.  I do everything for the business except “create art”!

And on the side, I create flyers, brochures, and business cards for other local businesses – this is how I earn some of my personal income and keep myself busy

  • Do you feel the position contributes to the bounty in your life or does it compromise your senior years?

I could never spend my senior years doing nothing!    My relaxation is tv movies or a good book.  My job as Senior Art Director fulfills my need to be productive.  My life has been enhanced thru this position – I not only get to do what I am good at, but I am doing something I truly am enjoying!  The downside…#1  I wish what I did brought in an income for my husband and myself at this time of our lives when it is so essential in this recession; #2  I do wish I did not have to use all my time for work at my age – there are things I would like to be doing that I no longer have the funds to do or the time to do..i.e. visit my sons at their homes and play with my grand-dogs; play bridge with the women in the community I live in; go to the gym 3 days a week; take a vacation with my sisters once a year as we used to do, and a vacation once a year with my husband; go to the movies/concerts once a month.  Most of what I am missing in my life involves having the finances to be able to do.  The job itself does not compromise my ‘senior years.’

  • Our young cousin Lisa turned 50 this week.  Do you have any advice that will help make her senior years bountiful?

If your time each day has to be spent doing something you don’t like, it is not worth it – no matter how much money you earn!

Be frugal now so that you have some funds to spend on ‘fun’ things when you reach retirement age.  I am basically a ‘homebody’ and my needs are minimal.  I enjoy my family and friends the most – and that doesn’t cost money!  Being able to see all of my family, in my case, does have a cost (flying and food), so that is one regret I do have in my senior years.  And speaking as a ‘mother’ in her senior years…DO NOT LET YOUR CHILDREN LEAN ON YOU FOR ANYTHING!  Be supportive morally, verbally, lovingly – but not financially!  Always take care of yourself first, and the rest will fall in place!  Once you have taught them and raised them, let them use what they were taught and fall and get up on their own!

And from bratty me– Readers, you can see some of my cousin’s passion by going to the Steven DeWitt Perrin Art Gallery she runs at 6140 E. Cave Creek Rd. Ste. 4, Cave Creek, AZ 85331 or at the website www.stevendewittperrin.com  I hope my cousin Lee Inman Perrin’s work and her words lift you as they lifted me.  And be sure to like the gallery on Facebook; share the bounty!