“Side effects are rare, and are mild if they occur.”  That’s what the printout they hand you after a flu shot says.  This gives you a guilt trip if you admit that the shots usually make you kinda sick.  Before retirement, my husband and I used to scoff at people who complained about bad reactions to the flu vaccine.  But something happens to your immune system after 80.  And yes, the flu shots do have side effects now. Still , you must have them, so here’s how to plan your flu shot.


First, we always wait until November 1st.   Pharmacies and grocery stores  start advertising free flu shots  in September.  But since the shots are  only effective for three months, that would leave you vulnerable once again around the holidays.  Bummer! Can you get a second flu shot?  No way.  It’s not recommended and your insurance won’t pay for it.   The shots don’t reach peak effectiveness until two weeks after you get them, so timing is everything. If you aren’t doing anything much over the holidays, you might even wait until December, so that you have full protection in the coldest winter months.

Now comes the important part of your flu shot plan.  Before you get the shot, choose a week where you have few scheduled  club meetings, bridge games or social events.  No doctor’s appointments or  places where you need to be.  If you don’t get sick, you can go on as usual.  But this way, you won’t have to miss out on an activity  just because you are having some side effects.

Finally, if you do feel “off,” take it easy.  You may feel extra tired.  Or have sore muscles.  Maybe you’ll  have an upset stomach or diarrhea.  Sometimes, you can’t put your finger on what’s wrong, you just know you aren’t feeling too well.  Don’t run five miles or swim laps in a cool swimming pool. Settle down with a good book. You will probably feel better in a few days, but it may  take about a week before you’re back to your old self again.

If all goes well, a little discomfort will pay off.  You won’t get the flu this winter.  And if you do, it won’t be your fault for not getting a flu shot.


Help! Have you ever gotten lost on an elevator? My husband and I traveled a lot after retirement.  We’ve stayed in many hotels here in the  USA, and all over the world.  But last night, in a downtown Indianapolis hotel, we found ourselves riding up and down from floor to floor, constantly bypassing the floor we wanted.

Navigating a big city hotel elevator can be challenging for the elderly


Our room was on the 12th floor, so we pushed that button upon entering the elevator. .  Nothing happened.  The door opened again, , someone stepped inside, and the elevator  moved. .  Great, we were on way, stopping first on the 6th floor..  We waited patiently as it continued it’s journey, stopping at ll.  A woman got on, pushed a button, but after that, we felt ourselves going down until we were back to the lobby.  Several people got on, and we pushed 12 again.  The car went up and down, stopping  several times, but never on our floor.   We started to panic, because we were in a hurry to meet someone for dinner.

Finally, we were back in the lobby for the fourth time.  Just as I was preparing to get off and complain at the front desk, a fellow passenger patiently explained what was happening.  “Don’t you know,’ he said.  “You have to use your room key?”  Befuddled, we looked for a slot somewhere.  ‘No, no,” he laughed, “Just swipe your key on this little circle, before you punch in your floor.  Here, let me show you.”  He swiped his card, punched 12, the button lit up and we were on our way, at last.

I guess we looked like a couple of ignorant old fuddy duddies.  But to me, it was another example of ageism in our modern world.  Why weren’t we told about the  system when we checked in?  When the clerk handed us our room card/ key, why didn’t he mention that we should use it on the elevator?  An  instruction sheet wouldn’t have been a bad idea.  But lets face it, old folks  are an anomaly at big city hotels swarming with young chicks in miniskirts and no one over 40 in sight.

We met several young people for dinner, and asked them if this was the new norm.  Some—those who don’t travel much—said they’d never heard of  having to use your room key on an elevator.  But those who travel often for business were surprised we hadn’t known how to navigate in a hotel.  ” Of course,” they said, shaking their heads.  Didn’t  we see it as a security measure?  Well, yes we did.  The why of it was understandable.  It was just the how part that had left us adrift.

So, this is my tip for any octogenarian who hasn’t stayed in a hotel for awhile.  When you enter an elevator, look for a place to swipe your  room card before you punch in your floor.  Otherwise, you could end up lost on an elevator.


Most of us feel excited when we plan for a trip.  We’re escaping the boredom of our daily routine.  We will see new places, taste new food, and perhaps visit with relatives.  We refuse to believe anything could go wrong.  And yet,  it frequently does.  Optimism is a desirable trait, but  pessimism prepares us for travel setbacks. 

Let’s say you are flying to your destination.  Who would spend days on the road  when an airplane gets you there in hours?  Nine times out of ten, that works.  But sometimes it doesn’t.  Your flight gets delayed, and you’re stuck in an airport with a bunch of crying babies, and irate  passengers. Your  frustration with this scenario is inversely proportional to the amount of optimism with which you began the trip.   This wasn’t what you expected!   You while away the time reading old e mails and Facebook posts , and buying stale, $10 sandwiches if you’re hungry. .  But look, there a lady calmly reading a paperback book.  She reaches in her purse for a package of mixed nuts,  and nibbles away while sipping a bottle of water.   She knew this might happen, and she’s prepared for it.  Not angry, not bored, just making the best of a bad situation.

Pessism prepares us for traffic jams and other travel perils
Optimism is a good trait, but pessimism prepares us for travel setbacks

Suppose you decide to drive, and  have a very long trip ahead .  The triptik  tells you it will take 10 hours to reach your destination.  You’re counting on that, and the fact that there are fast food restaurants all along the interstate.  Suddenly, you’re in a traffic stall.  There’s been an accident , and no one can say when the road will be clear. It could be hours.  Now, you realize you have to pee.  This happened to us once when on a 1500 mile trip.  I finally found a paper cup to relieve myself.  Why hadn’t we ordered one of those portable unisex travel urinals?  You can get them online for under $10.  

Braver, and more adventurous folks  will hop on a motorcycle to reach their destination.  There’s nothing like being on the open road and enjoying nature while driving.  But the fact is, driving a motorcycle is dangerous.   Many cyclists refuse to wear helmets.  Their optimism  doesn’t always pay off.. Motorcycle accidents accounted for 14% of all traffic death s in 2011.  Any motorcyclist with a dependent family should have a life insurance policy, but many don’t.  A reasonable dose of pessimism might save a bereaved family from financial hardship.

Autumn is a popular travel season.  Enjoy your trip , but be prepared for a few setbacks.


The “twilight years”, when people grow old, is supposed to be a time of peace.  Our worries are over, kids grown, and we can relax, enjoy life.  Why, then, do most elderly people have trouble falling to sleep? We’re told to go out in the sunlight and get more exercise.  Avoid caffeine and alcohol, and take magnesium.  But what if these things don’t work?  Warning: one thing may ruin your sleep.

Even after retirement, I didn’t have problems falling to sleep.    But that  changed when we stopped going South last winter.  We looked for something to get us though the long winter nights.  Our grown children had been talking about Netflix for years, so we decided to bite the bullet and  embrace technology.  We, too, could binge on  House of Cards and Ranch on those long, cold evenings.  Instead of  yearning for spring, we would liven up the season with some great television shows.  And that’s when I began to lie awake long after I’d gone to bed.  

At first, I resigned myself to my fate.    The experts said it was normal. The elderly have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep, and that’s the way it was going to be. The sleeplessness  continued even when spring arrived. and during the long hot summer,.

And then, last week, I stumbled across a story about “blue light,’ and what it does to our sleep patterns. According the the National Academy of Sciences, “the use of a light emitting electronic devise…before bedtime prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep…suppresses melatonin*, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning.”

For the first 30 years of my life , children went to bed after dark, while  grownups listened to the radio, watched black and white TV and read books. No one had ever heard of blue light..  Then along came television and e mail and i phones.

TV emits blue light, blocks the prodution of melatonin, and may keep you awake
Watching television two hours before bedtime could keep you from falling asleep promptly

And now, our new habit of watching Netflix before going to bed was exposing me to hours of blue light , and keeping me awake.   Computers also emit blue light, so I would have had the same problem if I’d been online for the same amount of time.

Last week,   I found glasses on the internet that block UV light,  and promptly ordered some.   Since they hadn’t arrived, , I put on a pair of sunglasses while watching television.  Within an hour, I  felt groggy and struggled to stay awake.  By the time our programs were over, I stumbled into bed, and fell asleep within minutes.

I’m hoping my new UV blocking glasses will have the same effect as the sunglasses.  There is plenty of evidence that blue light affects when our bodies create melatonin.  So,  if you watch television a couple of hours before bedtime, these glasses might help stop you from staying up later than you want.

There are many factors that affect the quality of your sleep, but blue light may be one of them.

*Melatonin is a hormone that plays a role in sleep. The production and release of melatonin in the brain increases when it’s dark, and decreases when it’s light.

Beware of 5 Labor Day Pitfalls

The last summer holiday always brings a twinge of sadness, because we know that fall is coming, and it’s time to get down to business.   And yet, we look forward to family celebrations and lavish picnics.  But stop  and think before the big day.   Beware of  these 5 Labor Day Pitfalls.


     1. Weight control.    It’s possible to gain 2 or 3 pounds over the holiday, depending upon how many picnics or family gatherings you attend. The  major culprit  here is mayonnaise.   What is a Labor Day picnic without deviled eggs and potato or pasta salad?    Or without brownies or some other  absolutely delicious dessert. Here’s a caloric breakdown of a typical picnic meal , assuming you have just one serving of each item.

Potato Salad  160

Baked Beans  124

Deviled Egg half  64

Hot Dog with Bun  272

Chocolate Brownie  112

And that’s not counting beverages.  Have a can of beer, and add 154  calories

Labor Day Picnics can cause weight gain
A picnic in the park may have 1,000 to 2,000 calories

So, you’re consuming close to 1,000 calories.  If you have second helpings, or an extra beer, You could be consuming 1, 500 to 2,000 calories in just that one meal.

     2. Traffic .   Labor Day has a  high number of automobile, motorcycle and boat accidents   Drive safely,  and be especially careful at intersections.

     3. West Nile virus.   Mosquitoes carry it, and if you’re out in the woods, you are at risk.   There are no vaccines to prevent the disease.   The best defense is to wear lots of insect repellent.

Mosquito bites are the cause of West Nile virus
Mosquitoes carry the West Nile;Virus and a bug bite could be dangerous

     4.  Labor Day sales:  Could put a dent in your wallet.  The newspaper is full of tempting advertisements, and it’s hard to resist driving  to the mall, Kohls, TJMax or wherever you can get major markdowns.  But before you go, take a look at your closet and go through your dresser drawers.  Do you really need another white blouse or pair of jeans?  Where are you going to put all those new shoes when you barely have room for the ones you have?

     5. Loneliness:  Seniors,  especially, are apt to be forgotten over Labor Day.  Children and grandchildren are preoccupied with  starting school, and may  have no time for out of town grandparents.  Many elderly folks live alone.   Most have fond memories of past labor Day holidays, but their friends or siblings have passed away.   If you’re going to be alone, try to get out of the house.  Go to a movie and eat popcorn,  take a picnic to the park, or splurge on a nice meal  at a good restaurant.

And remember, it’s just one day.  Tomorrow it will all be over.


Most of the things we worry about never happen.  As granny used to say, “Don’t borrow trouble.”  90% of the tragedies  in life come from out of the blue.  You can’t anticipate car crashes, tsunamis, tornadoes, fatal disease, or all of the  painful happenings that human beings must endure.    How do we get through difficult times?  By strengthening ourselves during the good times, so that we’re more resilient when trouble comes  Here  are 6 ways to prepare for adversity.

1.  Cultivate the habit of thinking positively.    Enjoy the small things in life such as a sunny day or a cup of hot  coffee. . Training yourself to think positive thoughts  will help you through times of sorrow. Remember Little Orphan Annie’s song, “The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow?”  When negative thoughts enter your mind, tell yourself, Don’t Think.  Switch over to happy thoughts or find something to laugh about.


Meditation helps lower blood pressure and handle stress
Daily meditation helps us handles stress, and lowers blood pressure

Practice meditation. .  This is a powerful way to calm yourself and lower  blood pressure.  There are various meditation apps available on the internet, but it’s all about. taking  ten minutes a day to  close your eyes and focus on your breathing.  By forming this daily habit, you’ll have a ready  coping mechanism to fall back on when you’re upset.

3.  Engage in some type of physical activity on a regular basis.  If you can’t jog, walk your way through the stress.  Exercise releases powerful endorphins in your body to improve your mood. It also lowers blood pressure and strengthens your heart muscle

4. Develop relationships with positive, supportive people.  They will be there when you need someone to listen, help, and encourage you.

5.. Take Care of Yourself.  Eat nourishing food. Get enough sleep.  Stay at home when you’re sick. Don’t smoke or drink too much alcohol.  A healthy body is more resilient.

6.   Schedule some time alone, especially if you’re feeling stressed. .  Disconnect from the outer world . Shut off your cell phone, avoid e mail and television news programs.   Listen  to music, read a book, or head for the  river and enjoy the solace of water.

Above all, stay strong.  You can make it through the tough times.


This July was  a bummer for sweet corn in Indiana.     Just a couple years ago, there were farm stands all over the city, with piles of corn just picked that morning. You didn’t have to wonder if it was fresh, because you knew the guy who sold it, and trusted his college age kids who were bagging it and ringing up your sale.

It’s been a bad year for Hoosier farmers.   It rained so long and hard that they  weren’t able to plant corn in May.  Even at the first of June, the ground was still too wet.  They were finally  able to plant in the middle of June, but this was not good news for corn lovers.  The grocery stores had sweet corn over  the 4th of July,  but they imported  it from someplace else, and it was old and starchy.

Seet corn should be fresh picked and cooked for 10 minutes
Serving good sweet corn starts with choosing fresh ears, then cooking to perfection

Serving a delicious ear of corn  on the cob is a two step process.  First, and most important, is making sure that the corn you buy is fresh.  If it’s not, don’t even bother putting it in your basket. I’m always surprised at supermarkets that  sell sweet corn with dried husks and moldy tassels.  More surprisingly is that people will buy it.  Do they not know how good sweet corn should look, and taste?  You don’t just buy sweet corn, you choose it.  The husks should be green and almost damp to the touch, not dry, shriveled, or slightly yellow.

Fresh sweet corn is a heavenly treat, especially when cooked to perfection and slathered with honey butter.  Once you’ve purchased your ears of corn, you must know how to cook it. Over boiling will make it hard and starchy, so it pays to use a timer.  Boil  between 4 and 10 minutes.  

 Sweet corn on the cob is a perfect accompaniment to any entrée—especially salmon.  And it’s easy on the cook.  No peeling of potatoes or steaming of rice.  It’s one of the best things about summer.