Seniors: Sign Up for SilverSneakers!

Recently I received a pamphlet from my insurance company with specials on fitness opportunities, including SilverSneakers, a free fitness program for all seniors, offered through Medicare. I had heard about this program and was eager to take advantage of it.

I have a membership at my local YMCA where I participate in an aquacize class twice a week. This swim class seems to address my health issues more effectively than other forms of exercise. SilverSneakers partners with the Y and pays the Y membership fee with no additional charge to me. (Not all Y’s partner with SilverSneakers but many private gyms do.) The program is available to those who are 65 or older, throughout the U.S. A member can enroll in as many activities as his/her stamina will permit.

A woman I met, Pat, used to walk with two canes due to a chronic back problem that kept her bedridden for several years. After receiving medical treatment, she’s working on her therapy at the Y, thanks to SilverSneakers. She can walk straight and swim laps.

The Affordable Care Act narrowly escaped disembowelment, but there’s still uncertainty regarding the future of health care in this country. It is incumbent upon all of us to insist that forthcoming health delivery provides fitness programs, free of charge or at a manageable fee. SilverSneakers ensures that seniors can improve their strength and agility and minimize the possibility of having a reoccurrence of a disability.

 

 

 

 

Acupunture at the Norman Bethune Hospital

In January, 1975, the National Guardian newspaper, a radical, independent weekly and the Chinese government sponsored a three week tour for American farmers. My husband Marty and I were excited to be invited.

We travelled through six major cities and their surrounding areas, tasting every aspect of Chinese life, as guests of the Chinese government. There were twenty-two in our party, including our coordinator from the United States. Two or three translator/guides accompanied us throughout our travels in China. In each of the regions we visited, local officials joined us to enlighten us about their work, and the history and culture of each site.

One of the most memorable events of the tour was the visit to the Norman Bethune Hospital in Shih Chia Chuang. Dr. Norman Bethune, a thoracic surgeon from Montreal, relinquished his privileges at state of the art hospitals in Canada in 1939 to establish the hospital in Shih Chia Chuang. As a young man he vowed to do something great for humankind.

The use of acupuncture for anesthesia fascinated us. We were fortunate to observe three surgeries on the day of our visit that used this method. The first was of a young soldier having his tonsils removed, who seemed quite comfortable. He was in uniform and was sitting in a chair that looked like an old dentist’s or barber’s chair. Maybe he was getting his teeth fixed and his haircut at the same time! When the procedure was completed, the soldier got up from the chair, acknowledged us, put his hat on, and walked out of the hospital. We witnessed a woman having a thyroid operation, and a man who underwent open-heart surgery; each person showed no signs of pain.

The operations were not viewed from a glass-enclosed amphitheater, with video and audio enhancements. Twenty-two people crowded around the operating table and carefully managed not to trip on electric cords or overturn washbasins. We wore gowns, hats, and masks, along with plastic sandals. The only way that we could identify each other was by the color of our socks.

Forty years ago, the Bethune Hospital was one of the few facilities in China that provided treatment for serious illnesses. Today this hospital is part of a complex of prominent medical centers, which include The Norman Bethune College of Medicine of Jilin University.

 

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Whither I Go, My Knitting Goes

I can’t forget the photo of Eleanor Roosevelt knitting while listening to election returns on the radio. I can’t think of any activity that works as well as knitting to calm the nerves; reading requires too much concentration. Even music may not be heard. But needlework beats nibbling, smoking or nail biting, to conquer stress. I remember my sister-in- law crocheting while her husband was undergoing surgery. 6a00d83452615669e201b7c6e47bcc970b-800wi

I can bury my nose in a book while flying or traveling on a train, although I usually have my needlework on hand when I’m chatting while waiting for the plane or train. A young man I met at Gatwick Airport in the U.K., admired the baby hat that I was making for the grandson to be, and was impressed that I “always had something on the go”.

When I am a passenger in a car I find it difficult concentrating on reading but I can always take a break from knitting to look at the scenery. My husband has complained that we drove 100 miles out of the way because I wasn’t watching the road or the map. I do put my knitting down when we are at a busy intersection or if we are in unfamiliar territory. Now, I often let Samantha, our GPS guide bring us to our destinations, but even she makes mistakes, bringing us recently to the Atlantic Ocean when we requested a route from Maine to Lake Winnipesaukee, in New Hampshire.

It was never a problem getting a seat on a crowded subway train on my daily commute to school or work years ago. All I had to do was pull out my knitting needles. I found that knitting helped pass the time while waiting on line to register for college courses and during those boring orientation sessions.

I was about nine years old when I learned to knit with the help of my Aunt Rose, and family friends, but I probably was thirteen when I finished a checkered, patterned scarf for myself. It wasn’t until I was in college that I became a serious knitter and tried my hand at a sleeveless, v-necked slipover for my father. Although the v-neck was far from perfect, Dad appreciated my efforts and wore the sweater.

Argyle socks were the rage in the 1950’s and the women at Hunter College were making socks for the men in their lives. I asked a classmate what she would do if the romance ended before the socks were finished. She replied that the socks were intended for Joe and Joe would get the socks regardless. Not my style! When Marty and I were engaged, I knitted argyle socks for him. Marty has been the recipient of other knitted gifts, but his favorites are woolen mittens, for warmth. We were away from home and he needed mittens. I decided to see what I had on hand and found some nice grey yarn in my bag. Since I didn’t think there would be enough grey, I striped the cuffs and tips of the mittens with purple, green and yellow. The compliments keep coming. IMG_0060

No project was too large or too small, too intricate or too simple. In fact I prefer more challenging designs and didn’t shy away from cables, laces, entrelacs or fair isles. A friend remembers that I said that I couldn’t see any purpose in doing something that was sold in the store. Now of course you can buy all sorts of ready made knitted items. I have adjusted directions for size, weight of yarn and size of needles without compromising the fit of the garment. Wool, the yarn that I favor, has many attributes, including being warmer than cottons or synthetics and holding its shape better. It is a more giving and forgiving material to work with. I also like the feel of the yarn sliding through my fingers as I work.

My fingers cramp when I work on a section of the project with few stitches on the needle. The proprietor of the yarn shop suggested to my daughter Lisa, that she keep switching back and forth from one project to another, with different size needles, if her hands ache, to keep the fingers from being in a bind and exercise them.

Back in the 1960’s when mini -skirts were popular, I made a tweed suit for myself of wine heather and coral, worked together, with a Mandarin collar and hand -knitted frog closings. I outgrew the suit when mini-skirts gave way to the cowgirl look of the 1970’s of mid -calf flared skirts and boots. I gave the suit to my mother. The sleeves and skirt were too short for her and a friend added knitted borders to the sleeves and the hem of the skirt. The alterations weren’t exactly in keeping with the style of the suit but it looked nice and Mom wore the suit for quite a while. When Mom could no longer wear the suit and mini skirts were back in vogue, I restored the suit to its original style for Lisa.

My mother had a beautiful Italian mohair sweater with hand -embroidered flowers. Here again the sleeves were too short for her. My daughter Madeline was given a box of different colored mohair, which she passed on to me. I picked up the stitches on the bottom of the sleeves, and extended the cuffs, adding a few stripes of the colors that were used in the sweater. Mom loved the sweater.

My grandson, Jacob, told my daughter, Lisa, that she was going to be a grandmother, by asking her how long it would take her to knit a carriage blanket. She remarked that it would take her no time at all because she still had the blanket that I made for him; a beautiful bulky entrelac cover, in two shades of light green, with a hand -crocheted corded edge.

Knitting isn’t just for women. A good friend made himself a black sweater because he didn’t want charcoal grey that was available in the stores. Kaffe Fassett is an artist who paints with needlecraft. I have adapted many of his designs.unnamed-1

After 9/11, our handbags were searched scrupulously at airports for potential weapons. Embroidery scissors were amongst the contraband. Lisa learned that the cutting edge on the dental floss pack is good for cutting yarn. NOBODY is going to stop us from knitting.

 

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The Road to Recovery

Two months out of surgery and I’m reflecting on my achievements during recuperation.

First of all, I’ve contributed to the economy by providing employment for an army of health care professionals.

Since I was semi -house bound for three weeks, and didn’t do the grocery shopping, I managed to clean out the refrigerator. Marty remarked that he could actually see the back wall of the fridge.

As for personal accomplishments: I read two books. I knitted two animal hats for two of my great -grandsons, a hippopotamus for Uri and a Koala bear for Nakshone. I even wrote two blogs. IMG_2847IMG_2846

With the help and encouragement of my loving family, I am walking straighter than I did before surgery, and with little pain. I have to confess that I was beginning to enjoy being pampered and catered to. However, too much of a good thing is too much. Now I‘m happy to drive and do my own shopping and some cooking.

I’ve resumed participation in the water exercise program at the Y. It’s much better than “4 in 1 Motor Oil” for lubricating joints and strengthening muscles.

About two weeks ago I even traveled to New Jersey, as a passenger, for a holiday dinner with my great- grandchildren.

I can’t ask for much better than that, can I? As my father would say, “Every day is a bonus.”

 

 

 

 

My Recent Surgery

I bit the bullet and underwent an operation to correct the spinal stenosis that has been plaguing me for a year and a half. I heard mixed results about back surgery and had been weighing the options. I tried acupuncture and water therapy without relief. I wondered: Would it be foolish to expose myself to risk or more foolish not to take advantage of a procedure that would ease my pain and improve my ability to function? If I did anything it would have to be sooner than later, when my recuperative powers are greater. I couldn’t wait until I was ninety for this surgery.

Awakening from the surgery, I relished the apple juice as if it were the finest champagne. Navigating the hospital menu was a challenge. Every thing had a different name than what I am accustomed to. I will say though that there is a greater effort to serve nutritional and appetizing dishes. It was a treat to come home to my children’s scrumptious cooking. I’ve been spoiled with fish, chicken, and pasta dinners, gazpacho, and pies and crisps made with locally grown blueberries and peaches.

At my two- week post-op visit the doctor was optimistic and assured me that the surgery went well and I was on the way to recovery. The only pain that I experience now is the pain from the surgery, which is to be expected and hopefully won’t persist. My motion is good and I have every reason to anticipate a positive outcome.

Wearing my "corset"

Wearing my “corset”

Dan, the Man from Thermopolis

If you are motoring to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, in all probability you’ll stop in Thermopolis, a small town, southeast of  the park, for a swim or soak, in the ”World’s Largest Hot Springs,” located in Hot Springs State Park,  where there are two privately owned thermal facilities. We have been visiting Thermopolis for about twenty years, and enjoy swimming in the outdoor pool, where the water is approximately 94 degrees. In the cold of winter, it’s fun to duck in the hot water to get the icicles out of our hair.

It’s hard not to notice Dan Moriarty, part owner and manager, of the Teepee Pools, the facility we prefer.  Dan is not particularly attractive. He’s overweight with a grey beard. He was a former alcoholic and suffered many illnesses. Managing the pool requires knowledge, and is labor intensive. Dan and his crew are out in all kinds of weather to assure that the equipment is functioning. This fall, the roof of the Teepee Pools suffered damage from hurricanes and can’t be repaired until spring. Meanwhile, Dan has been conferring with contractors, state officials, and his partners, about replacing the roof. They decided on using brick red metal paneling that will be both attractive and able to withstand rough weather.

Dan had the habit of greeting us with brash “can you top this” remarks. I wasn’t offended. I’ve known people with harsh demeanors who were good -natured. It is my observation that the bravado is only a mask for a person’s insecurity. Marty and I are fond of Dan. We enjoy getting together for lunch or dinner. He’s intelligent, and is not reluctant to talk about politics. We’ve exchanged many heated discussions. Who else, but Dan, would keep us up to date on the news and gossip of Thermopolis? We can also depend upon Dan for information about good restaurants.

In the locker room at the pool, I overheard some women describing Dan as a womanizer, and disrespectful of the opposite sex. I have the impression that he is the first person a woman, or anybody, would turn to when help was needed. He has often been accompanied by a date, when we went out, and was always considerate. We recently met Dan at a restaurant with several women. He was with the local women’s basketball team and had treated them all to dinner!

Dan would discuss some of the problems caused by customers. There are those who don’t watch their children. There are others who bring small children into the hot tubs, ignoring signs prohibiting children under 14 from using the tubs, citing serious health risks.

One of the most bizarre stories, Dan told, is of George, an older man whom we knew. When he passed away, his wife approached Dan about having a special funeral at the pool, because George loved swimming and spent part of every day there. She suggested bringing George to the pool in his bathing suit, after nine in the evening when the pool is closed. Dan bellowed, ”NO WAY.” We can always count on Dan to entertain us with his stories.

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Say “Ah”

I hate to tell you how much it cost Marty and I to maintain our teeth during the past year. Although we’re not aging, our teeth are. Since we’re too young to have dentures, we’ve opted to have our teeth repaired or replaced. Our son also needs a dental implant and is using our oral surgeon. The Kleins’ have provided both the dentist and the oral surgeon with an annuity. In fact, they each can retire, but they enjoy their work. I appreciate their work too.

Dentists in several countries had the opportunity to serve us. When I was in Tunisia in 1989,  I developed some problems with a wisdom tooth. The Tunisian dentist labored diligently, and saved the tooth. It wasn’t until last year that I had to have that tooth extracted. I recounted the story to my dentist, and mentioned that I felt that American dentists are too quick to extract wisdom teeth.

On our last visit to Bolivia in 1991, my husband had a toothache and was referred to a dentist, who did his training in Argentina. Dr. Jimenez’s facilities were in an old factory or office building which I believe he owned. Jimenez practiced orthodontics as well as general dentistry and the suites for each of these specialties were beautifully decorated. Dr. Jimenez examined Marty’s teeth and the diagnosis was that he needed “rrrroot canal, post, and crown” at “$170.00 dollahs, cash.”  Marty asked him when he could start and he said “Right now!” We brought the payment and noticed that the drawer was full of greenbacks, even though most of the patients probably were not “Gringos.”

The work was completed in about a week’s time because Marty’s appointments were every working day, and sometimes, twice a day. When the crown was ready to be placed, the dental technician, who worked in the same building, joined Jimenez to make sure that the crown fit properly.

Shortly after my husband received his new tooth,  I had a problem with a tooth that he had fixed, and went through the same procedure.

Over the years, when either of us experienced dental problems, Marty suggested that we take a trip to Bolivia and see Dr. Jimenez.

With current airfares, I don’t think that’s such a good idea.

With great-grandson Azariah

With great-grandson Azariah