Sunday, October 25, 2009

Where do we go from here?

It's been a week since I reached the milestone that spurred this blog, and I have been wondering if it makes sense to continue posting material. After all, I survived turning 60, and that's the name of the blog. But a few of you wanted me to continue to keep you updated on my shot put progress. I will do that, and maybe offer other observances as I figure out what 60 is all about.

So to the shot put. The fall weather has cut into my training because it gets dark not too long after I get home and that's been when I have practiced in the back yard. But I have aimed the flood lights toward my backyard shot put pit, and I'll continue tossing that 12-pound ball and updating you on my progress.

We go back to regular time early Sunday morning so my training will definitely be in the dark except on weekends. If I get motivated, I might try tossing the shot in the morning before I get ready for work.

This evening, I worked out for about an hour, and could only hit about 24 feet. My best is 27 feet, 6 inches, so I'm not making progress. I attribute that to my lack of intense training on my just concluded birthday week. But I'm back and I'm locked into a training regimen.

I know I must get stronger and that will take weight training at the gym. My technique is getting better, but I'm still a long way from a picture perfect shot putter.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I survived turning 60 -- now what?

I made it to age 60 today, and I'm enjoying this first day of a new decade in Monterey looking at the Pacific Ocean and playing tourist. We had a great dinner last night at the Sardine Factory with close friends who made the occasion very special. The room at the Monterey Plaza was incredible.

I'm not alone in turning 60 today. The U.S. Census Bureau says 7,918 Americans turn 60 every day. Wow. There are a lot of us, and every day there are more. Baby boomers -- those born between 1946 and 1964 -- are aging rapidly. But we're trying to stay fit. The Census Bureau also reports that there are 27,813 fitness and recreation centers nationwide, and most are catering to baby boomers. It's a good market for them.



I'll be spending more time at the gym, and working on staying healthy. I'm committed to keeping that promise, and this public proclamation puts that much more pressure on me to live up to this goal. I'll continue to train on the shot put, with a goal of competing in a seniors track meet.

This morning, Jill bought me my "Old Guys Rule" T-shirt. That's also a public acknowledgement of accepting my age. This one is a John Wayne version. It says,"Old Guys Rule" and then has this quote from John Wayne: "When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it."

Good advice for a 60-year-old. Good advice for all of us, as we confront our daily challenges.

I also had my picture taken outside the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, just like thousands of other Cannery Row tourists do each day. Forrest Gump offered a great suggestion for living: "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

I'll be sampling life's chocolates, as I move through my 60s. I'm not sure what is out there, but I'm ready for it. I hope.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Old Guys Rule

We're two days from 60 and I'm picking out my "Old Guys Rule" t-shirt, and scoping out the senior citizen discounts. Heck, I might even start going to restaurants early enough to get the Early Bird Special.

Actually, I don't feel much different than I did in my mid-50s -- at least I don't think I'm different. I suppose everyone says that as they reach a milestone age such as 60. But time marches on and you have to accept it.

If you think I'm old, consider that The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, turned 60 this year. So did actor Richard Gere, and singer Billy Joel. Now do they look that old? Well, Billy Joel does. Anyway, the other guys don't and I'm teaming with them on this 60s thing.

I'm having fun sharing this march to 60 on this blog and I can't believe that it's almost here. Today, I'm 59 years, 363 days old. But who's counting?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Four days to liftoff

What can you do in four days? In my case, you can turn 60.

I'm still a bit stunned that this milestone has come so quickly. But on Sunday, I'll say so long to my 50s and move into a new demographic. I'm getting a lot of razzing from my friends (the younger ones) and some cheering from others (the older friends) as I approach 60.

During my self-examination through these blog postings over the past four months, I've committed to making several improvements in my life. So here's the 60s game plan:

-- Continue to get healthier by sticking to my diet, doing physical activities and, of course, using lots of sunscreen.

-- Try to find a reasonable balance between my work and my leisure time. The problem here is that I really like my work, and spend a lot of time at it. But I need to spend more time with friends and family.

-- Volunteer more to help where I can be of assistance. We all have gifts and they can be used to help others if we are willing. I will let my faith guide me on where I can be used best.

I'm sure I'll find many other things to improve upon, and I'll tackle them as I recall them. This blog could go on forever if I were to list all my faults. For now, though, I'm looking forward to the next four days and what my last moments of my 50s will bring.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Seven days to 60, and a party of nine

It's getting close, folks, and people are already celebrating my entry into the 60s. Hold on here. We've still got a week until it's official. But I'm accepting the earlybird birthday special.

Some members of my family threw me a small party last night, and I'm so grateful for the work they put into this gathering to usher in my 60th birthday. My mother, my brothers and my sister, as well as their spouses and significant others, were there. That made it a party of nine, including me and Jill.

The menu was incredible, steak and lobster, and the meal was topped off with German chocolate cake. We ate, drank and told stories all evening. There was a lot of laughing and a lot of reminiscing. This party went late (considering my age) and we didn't leave Eddie's and Linda's house until 1 a.m. I had a great time.

But I'm not used to partying that late, and when the alarm went off this morning for church. I was very tired. But I made the 9:15 a.m. service and got my usual seat -- fourth row from the back on the right. The seats in the back go first, as Pastor Tim is fond of pointing out.

It was nice having this small gathering with my brothers and sister and my mom. My mother earned sainthood long ago raising five children, including four boys. I'm the oldest child and over the next few years my siblings will be turning 60, too. But right now, turning 60 is all about me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is it too late to get a life?

My friend Kathy, who turned 60 today, gave me a great book by Anna Quindlen, the author and Pulitzer-winning columnist. It's called "A Short Guide to a Happy Life," and I devoured it as soon as I opened it. It's only 50 pages, so it was a very quick read. It was an early birthday present. Kathy is the one who I kid about being much older than me -- 12 days. But those 12 days are huge right now. She is in her 60s and I'm still in my 50s.

The book by Quindlen offered a lot of wisdom that she gathered from her own life experiences, and from those who influenced her. I've been feeling very philosophical on this road to 60 so this fit my mood perfectly. I'm 12 days away and I'm trying to make sense of it all.

As my family and friends know all too well, I'm a workaholic who has desperately tried to find a balance. It keeps tipping toward the job, especially as I get older. Isn't that supposed to change as you age?

It makes me recall my 41st birthday in 1990. My family was going to meet me at a Fresno restaurant to celebrate my birthday. The problem was that I had to finish a crucial news story about a very tight congressional race. There were high-profile charges and counter-charges between the two candidates and it took all evening to sort them out. I told my family members to go to the restaurant and I'd meet them there. The hours slipped by and I couldn't get away from the newspaper until the story was done. There was always one more detail to check.

That news story was a solid piece of reporting, and I was praised for it. Meanwhile, my family had finished dinner and headed home without the guest of honor showing up. They boxed up my steak dinner. About 11 p.m., I got to my parents' house to pick up my daughter, and claim my birthday meal. My family understood, but that memory has stayed with me 19 years later.

That's one reason the Quindlen book struck such a chord. She offered this bit of wisdom: "No man on his deathbed said he wished he'd spent more time at the office."

She also suggested that you consider your thoughts if you just had a aneurysm. What would be important then? Getting that last bit of work done at the office, or spending as much time as possible with the ones you love?

"Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to a baby as she scowls with concentration as she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger."

I think part of my journey to 60 is about getting a life. I surely don't have it figured out yet. In a highly competitive job, you are expected to perform at your highest level all the time. But I'm trying to find the proper balance, and that gives me hope.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Countdown to 60 is now in a sprint

It's coming fast. The milestone of turning 60 seemed so far away in June when I started this blog and now we are inside two weeks. I don't feel any different, but saying you're 60 sounds so very old to me. I suppose it's too late to lie and tell people I'm 59 when they ask my age. That's the downside of putting your birthday details on the Internet.

I didn't make my goal of throwing the shot put 36 feet by Oct. 4. I'm stuck on 27 feet, 6 inches as a personal best. But I'm stepping up my training and hope to get close to my original goal in the next two weeks. I'll keep you informed on my progress. I missed two seniors meets -- one in San Diego on Sept. 12 and one in Las Vegas this past weekend -- so I may have to wait until next year for formal competition. I just wasn't ready to compete.

This diary of my thoughts, fears and bits of wisdom that I've picked up over my almost 60 years has been an interesting way of marking this important milestone in my life. I never would have thought that so many of you would be checking in. My original belief was that this blog wouldn't be read by many people. But a little radio publicity on Alan Autry's KYNO talk show helped get the word out that I was writing this blog.

Thank you for participating, especially all of you who have added great comments to my entries. You have offered wisdom and wit, and made this a better blog with your comments.

So I'm 13 days away from 60, which means I'm 59 years, 11 months and 352 days old. But who's counting?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's October -- the birthday month

This is the month that I turn 60 -- 17 days from now. But October is a big birthday month for my entire family. My Mom's birthday is Oct. 27, my brother's is Oct. 8 and my sister's is Oct. 6.

Then there's my dear friend Kathy, who also turns 60 this month. She reaches that magic milestone on Oct. 6. Yes, she is older than me -- by 12 days -- and I never let her forget it. In fact, in five days, she will be in her 60s and I'll still be in my 50s.

On Saturday, Kathy's daughter is throwing a big birthday bash for her. It'll be fun. There's a group of our friends who have birthdays this time of the year, and we've had some great celebrations.

This occasion reminds me of a wonderful list of the most important things invented in the past 2,000 years. The entry that I like the most is reading glasses, which was suggested by a New York professor. His reasoning was simple: Reading glasses have been crucial to our development and "prevented the world from being ruled by people under 40."

So I raise my glass -- and my reading glasses -- in salute to the month of October. It is where this journey to 60 ends, and where another one begins. Cheers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

So what have I learned on this road to 60?

Well, here's something tangible. In a blog post in June, I discovered I wasn't using enough sunscreen. Columnist Debra Bass said these are the five most important rules for skin care:

Buy sun protection; don't forget to use sun protection; apply more sun protection than you think you need; don't forget to reapply sun protection; do not underestimate the power of sun protection.

So at age 59 and 11 months, I've been using enough sunscreen to keep Neutrogena in business.

There are other things I've learned. It's difficult for me to write in such a personal way so I think I've learned to be more introspective during this exercise about my journey to 60. That's been good for me.

I also learned that a lot of people feel the same way as I do about getting older and they have identified with this blog. That's very cool.

They've told me they are OK with getting older but have some of my fears -- remaining in good health as they get older, wondering if those increasing memory lapses are the beginning of Alzheimer's, hoping they have planned well enough for a financially secure retirement. To that latter point, I say don't retire and keep buying lottery tickets.

Looking at the calendar, I see I'm now 20 days from my 60th birthday. I was asked the other day about what will happen to this blog when I actually turn 60. To tell you the truth, I don't know. I'm having fun writing this. But if it's about turning 60, it seems a bit foolish to continue it after I hit 60.

So the jury is still out on the question of this blog's future.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Your brain and creativity

I was fascinated by a column on Sunday in The Fresno Bee by farmer/philosopher David Mas Masumoto. He talked about the brain and the many ways the creative process works.

As I've written a few times in this blog, my brain sometimes goes on vacation to the Bahamas at the exact time I'm trying to remember a name or a fact that should be easy to recall. I'm not even talking about the creative process. I'm searching my brain for basic facts. It's like a Rolodex keeps spinning in my brain, but the card with the name I want won't fall into the right slot. Now that's frustrating.

Mas used the research of Mark Jung-Beeman, a cognitive neuroscientist, as a basis for his column on Sunday about how the brain works during the creative process. Here's part of Mas' column:

Imagine the left side of the brain desperately searching for an answer, trusting logic over randomness, reason over emotion. Precision is asked for as we focus.

We repeat the question over and over in our minds, tightening our muscles, squinting, grimacing, clenching our fists, gritting our teeth. We believe that if we concentrate hard enough, somehow the right solution will fly out of our mouths.

But then we struggle. We incorrectly assume our focus helps us cut distractions and pay attention only to relevant details. Instead, we suppress options and inhibit creative connections that can lead to a break through.

Finally exhausted, just at the verge of quitting, we pause and take a break. In a resting state, we generate greater right brain activity; the right hemisphere is allowed to join in. Then new brain communication occurs between regions that are not ordinarily connected. A broader, general search party begins, the whole brain hunts for options. Then and only then, Jung-Beeman concludes, can the mental balancing act unfold and creative insight occur.


In these cases, the brain just needs to relax, Mas writes. "We give ourselves time and space to think. In Zen, they call this focusing on not being focused."

So it's really very simple. We just need to relax. Wow, that Rolodex card just dropped into the right slot.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Oh, those aches and pains

My shot put training slowed down a bit after I tweaked a calf muscle while tossing the shot in my backyard this afternoon. I evidently didn't warm up properly and it became so sore that I couldn't continue. One more hazard of almost being 60.

But while this is a minor setback, I'm still pushing to reach my goal of tossing the shot 36 feet in a seniors track meet. I'm just over 27 feet now, and my progress toward my goal has been much slower than I had anticipated. I'm throwing a 12-pound ball and the meet calls for an 11-pound ball in the 60-65 category. So I may have a bit more distance from the 11-pound ball.

I've noticed that it takes me a long time to warm up with the shot put and I think I get impatient. My arm is ready, but my legs are much slower to warm up. That may have contributed to my injury by throwing the shot too hard too soon.

I'm going to stretch it out a bit after work on Monday and see if I can toss a few without too much pain. As they say, "No pain, no gain." But as a former athlete, I know the risk of coming back too soon and aggravating a minor injury into a full-fledged one.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Did I just admit on the radio that I was turning 60?

My Surviving Turning 60 blog caught the attention of KYNO radio and I spent some time this morning on Alan Autry's talk show on the Big 1300 on the AM dial discussing the blog and the implications of reaching this milestone in 25 days. So this diary of my thoughts on turning 60 is very public now.

I told KYNO listeners that I wanted to do two things as I moved toward age 60: Something intellectual, which is writing this blog and chronicling my feelings; and something physical, which is training for the shot put to compete in a seniors track meet.

Autry seemed stunned that I would be training for the shot put at my age. "Why," he asked. "Because I can't pole vault or do the high hurdles." Of course, I've never done the shot put either, but it seems a better opportunity for me than trying to fling myself over a bar or clear hurdles in a race.

Part of our discussion this morning was about "where the time went," which is what everyone says as they get into their later years. Autry is 57, and he said it seems like only yesterday that he was playing football in college and then in the NFL. Now he's in his late 50s. I feel the same way. . . How did a kid of 19 suddenly become 59?

We talked about the unfinished business we have -- all the things we've yet to do. I like the quotation from an anonymous thinker who said life is a series of short stories. You do things in segments and then move on to other short stories. I'm wondering what the short story of my 60s will read like.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Turning 60 and living to write about it

I continually get asked why I'm writing this blog about turning 60. The short answer is that I'm a writer, and I process things by writing them down. It helps me think when I'm at the keyboard, and I've thought a lot about the milestone of being 60. So the "Surviving Turning 60" blog just evolved.

My first blog posting was on June 10, and my 60th birthday was still more than four months away. I headlined the item "Is 60 the new 40?" and concluded that it wasn't. This is a milestone unlike any other.

"You can't get away from it so you must manage this age sort of like the way you manage the garden," I wrote in that first post. "Weed often, but not so often that it makes you tired. Good things will come with a little water, a little sun and some luck."

So here I am 26 days from age 60 and still trying to make sense of it all. This blog has been an adventure. I've read more about the pros and cons of aging than I can remember (that memory issue is one of the cons). I've also become a bit self-absorbed writing about me in a personal way that I've never done as a newspaper writer. I've felt exposed, even while writing under the pseudonym Opinionman.

I'm training for a seniors track meet in the shotput, trying to lose weight and get healthy, and using all the senior discounts that my age entitles me to. You've read about those things, as well as the passages along the way, including the many weddings I've been to this year.

I believe this blogging experience has made me a stronger person. As we age, we all want people to think better of us, and we try to do a bit of late-in-life polishing of our rough spots. This blog has given me wonderful insight into who I am as I turn 60.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

One more wedding to mark the road to 60

We got my pal John married off on Saturday night, and it was a very cool wedding ceremony in a Northwest Fresno backyard. Actually, the backyard was a small park and it was an ideal setting.

John and Stacy wrote their own vows, and they were just about as close to perfect as could be. Getting married a bit later in life gives the bride and groom a wonderful perspective about the importance of that commitment. Don't you wish you were this smart when you were 21? The funny thing is, I thought I knew everything back then. Those were the days when you didn't trust anyone over 30. Now I'm almost twice that age.

I was feeling good in my tux on Saturday night, thinking I looked like Robert Redford. It was more like Fred Flintstone, but this is my blog and I can create the images I want. Besides, it's fun to pretend, even when you're pushing 60. I gave the best man toast, and tried to work in a plug for a part-time legislature. I veered off that course when I saw the guests getting restless. They were looking at me like I was a Delta smelt stealing their water. No problem. . . time for funny stories about the groom without embarrassing him.

So we toasted, and ate and danced and told stories that we've told dozens of times before. The stories still got laughs. You just can't wear out a story when you're with old friends.

As I have said previously on this blog, I love weddings for all that they stand for. The uniting of a couple in love, of course, but also the long-lost friends that you get to see once more.

As I move toward 60, these occasions mean so much more to me. Maybe I'm getting sentimental, but I think God finally said it's time to give the old guy a bit of wisdom. I thank Him for that, and will try to act in accordance with all the blessings that I have received.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It's 30/60 time

We are exactly 30 days until I turn 60 so today has a bit of significance as a milestone. I've been alive 59 years, 11 months -- and yes, I'm counting. That's what this blog is all about: "Surviving Turning 60."

I am surviving well, by the way. Tonight we had the rehearsal for the wedding of John and Stacy. I'm standing up with him, and it's been a while since I was in a wedding. This is going to be fun.

The wedding is in the gorgeous backyard of a Northwest Fresno home, and the surroundings will help make this a wonderful occasion. Bob, who is also part of the wedding party, was very generous in offering his home.

The big event is at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, and then the party will begin. Right now I'm thinking about the toast I'll give, and want the words to be just right. I'll keep it simple, and make it from the heart.

That's my commitment for this wedding and for everything I do as I turn 60.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Don't worry, be happy

I think I'm pre-disposed to being a happy person, and I've tried to weather problems in an upbeat way. They are usually temporary setbacks and then things right themselves. The one thing you can control is how you react to stuff. I'm pretty good at it, although I mentioned in an earlier post that I got very upset by a telephone customer experience encounter.

As I get older, I have become more mellow. I suppose it's that decreasing testosterone.

I stumbled across an article recently with the headline "10 Tips from Happy People." That headline writer did his/her job because it sucked me in. Out of risk of offending may female friends, I offer this paragraph about happiness:

"Older women become less happy than their male counterparts, who report increased levels of happiness as they age." But what about those 10 tips?

10. Live in a happy country.
9. Solve problems.
8. Simplify your life.
7. Exercise.
6. Accept emotions -- positive or negative.
5. Spend time in nature.
4. Buy Happiness -- if that's possible.
3. Meditate.
2. Study positive psychology.
1. Don't be happy.

OK, the last one needs an explanation. This is what the article says:

"There are actually some compelling ideas against happiness. Naysayers aren't against happiness; rather, they point out some of the effects of happiness that may negatively affect people besides the person who claims to be happy.

"What are the downsides of happiness? For one thing, happier people are more prone to prejudicial behavior [source: Holt]. One possible explanation is that a contented, lackadaisical or happy attitude allows people to easily turn to stereotypes or other caricatures when making judgments."

For me, I'll take what Bobby McFerrin says: "Don't worry, be happy."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuxedo even makes aging baby boomer look good

I picked up my tuxedo for Saturday's wedding in which my pal John is getting married to Stacy, and it looks pretty darned good on me. Well, that's my assessment, but it's hard to look bad in a tux, even if you're pushing 60.

I joked with John about wearing a lime green tux to stand out in the wedding party. He was having none of it and this tux is basic black. I like it. And the shirt is a very cool ivory color. I asked the clerk at the rental store if the shirt were a cream color. I think she rolled her eyes eyes, and then said "Ivory."

Every time I see someone in a tuxedo I'm reminded of the John Candy movie in which he plays a private detective. Candy's character goes under cover at a formal event, but the rental place doesn't have any black tuxedos left and he settles for lime green. As he slip into the event, a woman comes up to him and ask if he's part of the entertainment. So much for being inconspicuous.

This is the second wedding this month. My nephew got married on Sept. 5, and I wrote about it in an earlier post. We're heading for October, which is the big birthday month. We are exactly 33 days from birthday No. 60. I think I might wear a tux on my birthday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

That senior discount labels you

As my brown hair started turning gray, clerks at fast-food restaurants sometimes would offer me a soda or coffee with a senior discount, even though I hadn't requested it. One day at McDonald's I asked the young woman behind the counter what age was considered a senior, and she said 60. I was 56 at the time, and I said I'm not quite there yet.

"No problem," she responded with a smile. "My manager said if anyone looks close to 60, give them the discount without asking."

This enhanced "customer service" was supposed to make me feel better. Somehow the clerk didn't catch onto the fact that a man of 56 doesn't want to be viewed as 60. I don't care if you're getting a cup of coffee for 49 cents.

But as I close in on 60, I'm finding that senior discounts aren't all that bad. The problem is, businesses are all over the lot on what age qualifies for a discount. . . 50, 55, 60, 65? The discounts are often substantial, even though I don't see a reason from someone who is 60 getting a break on the cost of breakfast over someone who is 30. I understand that many seniors are on fixed incomes, but many are not.

I suppose businesses have senior discounts for marketing reasons, and now that they've created the concept, they must offer them to compete for the business of seniors. But with so many aging baby boomers, I'm wondering what the fate of senior discounts will be. But could you imagine the whining from baby boomers (my generation) if senior discounts were dropped?

But one writer suggests that senior discounts may be cut back substantially when the economy rebounds. In this piece in the New York Times, Daniel Hamermesh says senior discounts are "anachronisms from times when seniors were scarce and generally poorer than the average American." They should go away, he said.
"After all, why should the average consumer subsidize members of this privileged group (including me)?"

I don't know about Mr. Hamermesh, but I'm going to stand in line to get my senior discounts. I'm not defending them, but as long as they are handing them out, I want my share.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Are we being forgetful -- or is it something worse?

I've had a few brain freezes lately. You know the type. I couldn't remember a woman's name who I've worked with for years and I've struggled for a word occasionally to describe something. I've done this in the past, but I'm wondering now if there's something more to it.

Is this what happens when you hit 60? Self-doubt creeps in when you have a momentary mental lapse? I hope not, but I do joke about whether this is early stages of Alzheimer's. Maybe I should track these incidents to see if there's a pattern.

A friend said I've had a stressful week and I was probably on brain overload. Maybe, but what if that's not it?

In a post earlier this month, I wrote about a study concluding that moderate drinking helps stave off Alzheimer's. I stopped drinking a few years ago for health reasons, and thought maybe I should take it up again if it will help me remember. But does that make sense? I thought drinking killed brain cells.

So I'm 31 days from 60 and wondering if I'm losing it. It's one of those things you think about as you get older. Sort of like paying more attention to the obituary page because you start seeing friends in there -- instead of friends' parents.

Now what was I writing about?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I didn't know this would be like dancing

My brilliant idea of throwing a shot put in a seniors track meet is not exactly on schedule. I have found that this event is not merely one of brute strength. It's almost a ballet as you skip across the ring and push the 12-pound ball with the right force, and without going out of the ring. As you finish, you hop on one foot to avoid fouling.

This reminds me of people who watch Olympic curling on the TV and then say, "I can do that." Well, maybe not. You don't realize that there's a special skill to everything and you need to learn it, and then practice, practice, practice.

I'm working on my shot put technique, as well as increasing my arm and leg strength. My legs are especially tired. My right arm and shoulder feel pretty good, though.

So with 39 days until I turn 60, I'm an old dog trying to learn a very new trick. If I master the steps of the shot put, I may try out for Dancing with the Stars (seniors division).

When my daughter was home this weekend, I had her shooting my technique with the video camera. In my mind, I looked a lot better than what I saw on the video screen. But I have made some progress in distance, and now I'm at 27 feet. I need to throw 36 feet to be competitive and 42 feet to have a chance of placing in a meet.

The meet next Saturday in San Diego is out of the question, and I'm not sure I will have the distance required to make the Oct. 4 meet in Las Vegas. But I'm working on it. Can you imagine throwing the shot and then heading for one of the buffets on the Las Vegas strip?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wedding memories on a special September evening in a Clovis backyard



One of the nicest things about weddings is the opportunity to catch up with family and friends. As I leave my 50s, I'm realizing just how important these events are to not only bride and group, but also the wedding guests.

Obviously for the married couple, this is a landmark event. They are starting a long journey together, and the wedding represents the first steps on that journey. But the guests also will mark that day as one in which they talked with longtime friends and reminisced with family members. The wedding will be remembered for different reasons by every person in attendance.

On this first Saturday of September, we gathered in the spacious backyard of a Clovis home. The surroundings were wonderful and the ceremony was perfect. Even the hot afternoon gave way to a gentle and cool breeze.

This was the wedding of my nephew -- my brother's son -- and a delightful new member of our family, who has already fit in nicely. Justin and Crissie have been married just over 25 hours as I write this blog. They'll soon be heading for their honeymoon in Monterey.

Friends and family came great distances to mark this occasion. It was great having my daughter home from San Diego for the wedding. Our pastor Tim Rolen, married Justin and Crissie. This was the sixth wedding that he's performed for members of our family.

Pastor Tim talked about his connection to our family. He went to school with my sister at Hoover High. More importantly for this story, he baptized my Dad in 1992, a few days before he died of cancer. That was a pivotal time in the relationship between Tim and our family. This was not a chance encounter with a pastor. I believe it was God's handiwork in using Tim to connect the Lord to our family -- time and again.

My father only came to Jesus in his last dying days. Last night, Tim told of how my father asked him to remind family members that they needed to walk with the Lord. Tim has done that at weddings and funerals ever since. It's a story that must be told at every opportunity to complete what was intended by Him through that important encounter with our family.

This blog is about my journey to age 60, so it's time for the countdown clock: We're at 42 days. That's six weeks until 60. I thank the Lord for the opportunities he gave this Okie boy from a poor family. I have been blessed in so many ways.

I feel myself getting more sentimental about life's memories as I complete my 50s. I suppose that's what happens when you have more years to look back upon that you have in front of you. Well, maybe He will let me live to 120, but I doubt it.

I have another wedding to go to in two weeks when a longtime friend is getting married. I'll stand up with him, as he and his bride take their vows. This is a second wedding for both, and a wonderful second chance. It will be another opportunity to catch up with friends. I love weddings. They have great meanings for all who attend.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Would I be healthier if I hadn't stopped drinking?

A few years ago, I went on a health kick that included losing weight, getting regular exercise and stopping drinking. As I approached age 60, I thought all this would help me live longer and with a better quality of life. For the most part, I feel much healthier.

That is until I read a New York Times story the other day. It says that people over 60 who consume moderate amounts of alcohol have a reduced risk for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

So I may feel better because I don't drink, but I won't know it because I won't even know who I am. Now this could drive me back to drinking.

OK, so moderate drinking is what researchers are talking about. Does that mean one drink a night, which is seven drinks a week? No. . . it could be as many as 28 drinks a week. That means four drinks a night, every night -- seven days a week. Who are these people studying? People entering the Betty Ford Clinic?

In my day, we'd call 28 drinks a week alcoholism, not moderate drinking.

But back to the study. . . Compared with abstainers, reserachers found that male drinkers reduced their risk for dementia by 45% and women by 27%. No word on the impact of the drinking on their bodies. I'm betting they had their share of liver problems and were on a first-name basis with the cops at DUI checkpoints.

And according to my unofficial study, these moderate drinkers went through life looped on four drinks a day. Who cares if they could recognize their granchildren?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Road trip seeking the perfect Cioppino


We decided to escape the San Joaquin Valley heat Sunday morning and head for Phil's Fish Market at Moss Landing on the Central Coast where you can get some of the best seafood in America. My favorite dish is the Cioppino and it didn't disappoint. Jill had the blackened sea scallops and they were wonderful. You can't get bad seafood at Phil's. But I was there for the Cioppino.

Among the many things I'm doing on this journey to age 60 is eating some of the best food in America. I also love the Cioppino at the Tadich Grill in San Francisco's financial district, and it would be difficult for me to pick the best between the two.

Phil's Cioppino was featured earlier in the year on the Food Network's "Throwdown With Bobby Flay" so the restaurant's reputation is taking off. (Phil's Cioppino won the Throwdown). The show has made this tiny little restaurant even busier, but they handle the crowds well. You can see video of the Throwdown by clicking here.

The beauty of getting to Phil's is that Moss Landing is situated on Highway 1 halfway between Santa Cruz and Monterey. So if you're visiting either place, the drive to Moss Landing is only about 20-25 minutes. In recent years, they replaced the one-lane bridge to Phil's so you don't have to wait for traffic coming the other way. But I kind of liked the old one-lane bridge because it increased the anticipation.

After eating, you can walk to the beach right behind Phil's and take in the beautiful Pacific Ocean. The cool air was refreshing, especially considering how hot it was in Fresno.

There's something about the ocean that puts life into perpective.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Practice makes perfect -- sometimes

My quest to toss the shot put in a seniors track meet by my 60th birthday in October took a positive turn today. I got some real coaching for once, and it made a huge difference. My session today reminded me of the saying, "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect."

The idea is that if you practice all wrong, you aren't going to get any better. Well, my self-training was all wrong. I was practicing bad habits and I was getting proficient at those habits.

But I got some help from James McEwen. That name may sound familiar to Fresno Bee readers. James is the brother of Bee Metro columnist Bill McEwen. But better than being Bill's brother, James is the head track and field coach at Rio Vista Middle School. Yes! I finally added some expertise to my training.

We met up at the Fresno State track and James offered suggestions for training and conditioning, and then worked on my technique -- without the shot put. I even learned about "slapping the giant and elbowing the midget." It's a saying to keep your free hand in the proper position to help your entire body work together during the toss.

He offered many other tips and when we finally got to the shot put pit, I knew I was making progress. Afterwards, James emailed me a review of the practice and suggestions on things I should work on.

As I write this, I admit to be being very tired and sore. But in a good way. We finished about 6:30 p.m. and I was dragging after about 90 minutes of practicing.

This was a good life lesson. I knew I needed training help, but I didn't know how much until James started working with me. In so many things, we don't know what we don't know. And you don't have to turn 60 to understand that bit of wisdom.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Two weddings and a birthday

Big events are coming in the next two months, and the calendar will rule our movements as we get ready for two weddings in September. And then my 60th birthday is in October, which is what this blog has been about since I started it in June.

But the focus right now is on the September weddings. My nephew is getting married on Sept. 5 and a very close friend is getting married two Saturdays later. I love weddings because they bring family members and friends together from all over the country. There's a lot of stress and there never seems to be enough time to get everything done. But it always seems to work out.

The September weddings represent a wide spectrum of brides and grooms on life's journeys. The first wedding is of a young couple just setting out on that path. The second wedding is of contemporaries -- at least the groom is in my age group -- a little farther along that path but no less committed to making the journey together.

It's all very cool, and coming very soon -- as is my big event. It's only 53 days away. The idea of this blog was to talk about how to survive turning 60. I'm not sure whether I'm surviving it, or it just keeps bearing down on my like a freight train. This is where we cue the Johnny Cash music. . . "I hear the train a comin'. . . "

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

So this is what an actual shot put pit looks like


I walked over to the Fresno State track on Sunday morning to check out the track and field facilities, and saw the shot put area. I have an interest now in anything to do with the shot put because I'm training for a seniors track meet. The shot put is my event because, well, I can't run the hurdles. This is one of the ways I'm coping with turning 60. That comes in 55 days.

I took a photo of the shot put area with my cell phone and it's posted above. This is a lot better than the makeshift shot put area in my back yard. The shot put pit in the photo is at Fresno State's Dutch Warmerdam Field, which is named for the Bulldog's longtime track coach Cornelius "Dutch" Warmerdam.

Warmerdam, who died in 2001, was the first athlete to pole vault 15 feet, which he accomplished initially in 1940. He did it with a bamboo pole, compared with the fiberglass models used now that whipsaw vaulters over the bar. Warmerdam dominated pole vaulting in the 1940s and held the world record for 15 years until it was broken in 1957. He was considered one of the best athletes in the world.

I do feel a little sheepish hanging around a field named for a sports legend, and acting like I belong. I'm not sure if I have the guts to actually take my shot put ball over to the field and toss it out of the pit. . . Maybe I'll stick to my backyard where I know I belong.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Grilling on a casual Saturday


On this Saturday morning, 57 days from my 60th birthday, I continued my training on the shot put, adding a few inches to my backyard personal best. I tossed the 12-pound ball 26 feet, 8 inches. That's well short of my goal of 36 feet, but I'm making steady progress.

This has turned out to be a casual weekend, the first one I've had in awhile. That's nice. We've been over-scheduled this summer. And it's still summer, judging by the thermometer. But the Fresno weather seems to have been overcome by the humidity of the south. I definitely don't like muggy weather. Where's that dry heat Fresno is famous for?

Tonight we're going to barbecue hamburgers stuffed with blue (or is it bleu?) cheese. That should be fun, and keeping with the casual theme of the weekend. Next week will be a busy one at work so this pace is perfect.

It's funny how you appreciate your casual time more as you get older. I suppose it's because we've been part of a hectic pace for so long. At a younger age, I would have called this weekend "boring." I'm signing off and heading for the remainder of my boring -- er, casual -- weekend.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The 60/60 campaign has started, and we're turning for home

I'm into the period that I'm calling my 60/60 campaign -- 60 days until I'm 60 years old. The countdown today is at 58 days. That means my 60th birthday is bearing down on me. It's even closer if you consider that at this age, 58 days seems like not much more than a long weekend.

I mentioned that I was soon turning 60 to a friend yesterday and she was stunned. "You're not that old!" Well, yes, I am that old. She, of course, tried to cover her tracks, but the point was made that 60 is considered "old" by just about anyone who hasn't reached their 60s. And that's OK because I'm comfortable with where I am.

It's funny how 60 is different than the other milestones. Maybe it's because you're almost Social Security age, and closer to the end than the beginning. But aren't we so much wiser and more patience?

Ah, yes, patience. I wish I had the patience of today when I was in my 30s. But sometimes I revert back to my lack of patience -- like the other day when I was trying to get some life insurance information and was put on hold twice for 10 minutes each. When the representative came back on the second time, she accidentally disconnected me. I wasn't very patient. In fact, I was very angry.

But who did it hurt as I huffed around trying to call somebody back at the insurance company to yell at? My entire afternoon was messed up because I let that get to me.

Fortunately, I don't let that happen much anymore. Good thing. That tantrum took 7 days off my life.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So how's that training for the shot put coming?


As I mentioned earlier this week, I've decided to see if I can compete in seniors track and field competitions in the shot put. There's a 60-65 age group so I'd be the youngest in my division. I hope that helps me in the competition, although this event is new to me.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to prove, other than I can toss a 12-pound metal ball a certain distance. But I'm very competitive, and when I take something on, I want to do it well. We'll see if I can master an event that takes coordination and strength.

Unfortunately, my shot-putting technique is terrible right now, and I'm a long way from being what I would call competitive in this sport. But I'm going to see a guy who once coached shot putters. I hope he takes me -- even if it's only for 30 minutes.

I've set up a crude shot-put area in my back yard. I mark the distance with a tape measure and I've driven a stake into the ground marking my best throw so far. I'm making progress, but is my arm ever sore. And you should see the dents in the lawn that the 12-pound ball makes. It lands with a thump and makes a nice semi-circle.

I've checked out the competition on the Internet and I'm very impressed with the folks who participate in this event. It appears that I need to be in the 36-foot range to be even competitive and I'll need to hit about 42 feet to have a chance of placing. My best toss so far is 25 feet, 10 inches. That's a one-foot improvement over Saturday.

This means I'm off at least 10 feet on my first goal and 16 feet on the second one. I don't know if I can close the gap, but I'm going to try. There's a meet in San Diego next month and one in Las Vegas in October. San Diego is too soon, although I might try it just to get used to the competition. Heck, I don't even know the rules, other than you must leave the shot put circle out the back. It's a foul if you go out the front.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Turning 60: Is it too late in our lives to confront our fears?

Let's pretend that our lives are a yet-to-be-released movie, and we're still in the editing room. What would we change as we reviewed the footage, knowing that we could go back and edit things in or out? More importantly, how would that transformation change who we've become in our 60th year?

And for this exercise, you can't sell the stock in your 401k accounts before the stock market crash. I'm not talking about that kind of stuff. I'm talking about your lives in broad terms -- the way you've lived and what changes you'd make. I'm looking for deep soul-searching. It isn't easy, that's for sure.

Three years ago, actress Diane Keaton turned 60 and she was asked in an interview what she'd learned over all those years. She did not hesitate. "There is great value in being fearless," she said. "For too much of my life, I was too afraid, too frightened by it all. That fear is one of my biggest regrets. I wish I had put myself out there a little bit more and experienced people more instead of protecting myself."

I feel a bit like her. I wish I had taken more chances, especially in my 30s and 40s when the opportunities came along. Maybe that's what I would change in the edited movie of my life. I have had a great newspaper career and I clung to it -- unable to take chances on doing something else. I have been rewarded greatly for staying the course. But what have I missed? Would it have been better?

Even now I don't want to take chances, figuring that I have too much invested in the status quo to make bold changes. I tinker around the edges of change. I toy in my mind about bit edits in my movie -- but in the end I go back to the original script. It has given me comfort and I that's been important to me.

I think I need the security of what I know instead of the insecurity of what change may bring. I'm 60 days from 60, and I can't change my life script.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A baby boomer's question: What will the last two months of my 50s bring?

I'm two months away from 60 today and now I'm wondering whether I'm making too much of these final days of my 50s. But I decided to chronicle this milestone, so that's where this blog is going between now and Oct. 18. You'll have to indulge me.

I'm still a little surprised that the years moved this quickly. I know everyone says that, but my 50s went by in a flash. That is probably because they were very rewarding -- professionally and personally. I think my 60s will be as much fun, although undoubtedly in different ways. I'm looking forward to whatever this next decade has to offer.

I have already told you that I'm training to throw the shot put in seniors track meets. That will be fun and I hope I meet my goal of not only being able to compete, but also do well in the competition. One of the reasons I'm doing this is to get in shape, and this goal keeps the pressure on me.

I need to spend more time at the gym. I pay dues to Gold's Gym, yet I have been going in spurts as of late. Can it be a "spurt" if the last time I was at the gym was two months ago? I feel much better when I go, yet I can't find the time to get there. Now, that doesn't make sense, but it's the way it is.

I'm a baby boomer trying to figure out what's next. There are millions of us in this generation going through the same thing. Those of us born in 1949 are turning 60 this year. I'm one of them, and the countdown to Oct. 18 has begun. I hope you stay with me as I talk about this experience.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

We're approaching countdown

In two days, it will be exactly two months from my 60th birthday, which is the reason I started the Surviving Turning 60 blog in the first place. The idea was that I'd write about what I'm going through as I get ready for this significant birthday. For the most part, I've written about issues facing people in our age group, but I haven't really explored in any real depth my feelings about turning 60.

I plan to do more of that in what I'm calling the countdown period -- the 60 days leading up to Oct. 18. That begins on Tuesday, Aug. 18. So we'll see where this discussion goes. My hope is for me to get in touch with my feelings and maybe share that with those of you who are feeling the same thing about turning 60.

On Saturday, I decided that I would begin training for a seniors track meet. These are age group events, and my grouping would be 60-65. I chose the shot put because I think I can do this event. I know I can throw the shot better than I can run the 110-yard hurdles or pole vault over a bar and into a pit.

I bought a 12-pound shot to begin training. Nobody sells these things in this town. I finally found it at First String Sports on Blackstone. In the 60-65 age group, they use a 5-kilogram shot, which is 11 pounds. The only one I could find was 12 pounds so it will have to do for my training.

I set up a shot put area in my back yard. Searching on the Internet, I found that I need to be able to do about 35 feet to be competitive and at least 42 feet if I want to get one of the top three places in a meet. My best on Saturday was 24 feet, so I have a ways to go in my training.

This was the first time I ever did this. My technique is bad, and my strength will improve. So with some coaching and weight work, I think I can add the distance needed over the next two months. By my birthday, my goal is to add 15 feet, which would mean a 39-foot toss. There's an event in San Diego on Sept. 12, but I don't think I will be ready that soon.

You should see the dents that a 12-pound ball puts in the lawn. That is one casualty so far, and my arm is very sore, but in a good way. I haven't pulled anything so I didn't overdue it.

Do you think there will be drug tests? They do call some of these events "Senior Olympics." This is the dream (or nightmare)that I have been having:

"Sorry, you have been disqualified. Your drug tests came back positive for blood pressure and cholesterol medications." I plead that they aren't performance-enhancing drugs, and the meet director says, "Well, they're keeping you alive and we consider that performance enhancing. The last dead guy didn't post a score."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Medications can impair driving

A study by the AAA Traffic Foundation says more than three-fourths of seniors take medications, but most of them don't realize that many of their drugs can have a negative impact on their driving.

Older drivers can have slower reaction times as part of the aging process. Add in the impact of medications, and it could cause serious problems. Medications such as ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, sedatives and pain killers can impair driving, according to the AAA.

Surprisingly, only 18% of seniors surveyed reported receiving a warning from their doctors about the impact of their drugs on their driving ability. The study also found that 69% used one or more medications that could alter their driving, and 10% used five or more medications.

AAA has a handy Web page offering tips to mature drivers. Click here to read the information.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Frustration over health care reform is bigger than health care

We've all seen by now the protests at the town hall meetings on the health care legislation now before Congress. But judging by the anger coming out of the mouths of protesters, this is more about frustration with government than it is about health insurance.

It would be helpful to discuss this important issue without the name-calling and yelling. So let's wipe all that frustration away and have a decent discussion about the future of health care in our country. Where do we want it to go, how much do we want to pay for it and who is going to be covered? Those are simple questions and the answers should be simple to provide.

I'll start by saying I think our health care is the best in the world. The problem is that it's being rationed by insurance companies under the current setup. Insurance execs are the gatekeepers to health care whether Republicans want to admit it or not. How many of us have had prescriptions that our doctors have written denied by the insurance companies? How many have had procedures denied or delayed by insurance companies?

The system needs to be fixed. But to hear the protesters talk, the current system is perfect. That makes me wonder what kind of health insurance they have. Must be the Cadillac care that so many people wish they had.

I've seen the bad side of insurance coverage, and I know many of you have, too. Companies deny payment several times, hoping you won't resubmit the claim, even if the policy says it should be paid. If you send it in enough times, they'll finally pay it. And this is for procedures that are covered.

It's the practice of many insurance companies to deny the payment for awhile just to see if they can get away with not paying.

We must do better in this country, and we will -- unless the insurance companies win the battle against health care reform.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How's that memory working?

Why is it that some days I can remember the combination to my locker in the 7th grade at Tioga Junior High School and another day I can't remember where I put my keys? As I finish up my 50s (I only have 2 1/2 more months in this decade), I think I'd rather have a better memory than anything else.

Well, maybe I'd want better eyesight. . . and not to ache so much in the morning when I get up. Oh yeah, and to have the physical stamina I had at age 22. But besides those things, I'd want a solid memory. You know. . . so that I could recall things when I actually need them. Instead, I bolt up in bed hours later and say, "22-18-8," which was my locker combination. There's a lot of unneeded 411 in my brain.

I once had a co-worker who had a photographic memory. She could roll the movie credits in her mind of "Davy Crockett" and tell you every actor who played every role. What I would give for that kind of a memory. BTW, she did very well on television game shows.

I've tried some of the memory games out there, but I get bored because I forget the rules to the games. . . Just kidding. I get bored with these games because they are boring. So what are my options?

I've been doing some research on the subject and I've come up with a couple of suggestions. One of the key points is that all of us can improve our memories if we only have the discipline to try. So don't get bored, and do the hard work needed to improve your memory.

That means exercising your memory by using it and testing it every chance you get. Your brain will appreciate the workout and pay back those efforts with better brain function. You'll be surprised at how much you retain in your memory bank if you consciously try to remember stuff. Repeat the information. Think about it. Try to recall it a few minutes later. Do it again.

For more memory recall tips, check the Web site helpguide.org. You can access it by clicking here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Were the "good old days" really that good?

I heard a conversation the other day about the good old days and how much better things were back then -- whenever "then" was. People who say that usually have selective memories -- if they can remember those days at all (We are almost 60 you realize).

Sure, many things were better when we grew up in the 50s and 60s. There was less crime and locking the door to your house or car wasn't a big deal. If you forgot, no problem. You could leave your bike on the lawn all night and it would be there in the morning.

But the good old days also were days without air conditioning in our house or in our car. You didn't have a dishwasher and the clothes washer seemed to always break down. The dryer was a wooden rack that was set up in front of the fireplace in the winter and on the patio in the summer.

The television only had three stations and they didn't always work. Our TV had lots of problems and my Dad would send me down to the U-Save Liquor Store on my bike to test the tubes on a machine they had and buy replacements. The tube tester always said the tubes were bad, but the replacement tubes didn't make the TV work any better.

Our car would always break down, and it seemed we always had "vapor lock" when we went on trips to the mountains. Vapor lock supposedly caused a car to stop running because the fuel lines got hot and overheated. If you took a trip, it was common to see cars on the side of the road with their hoods raised waiting for vapor lock or some other malady to pass.


We didn't have cell phones or computers and I suppose you could say that was fortunate. But there's a lot we accomplish today with little effort because of technology and various inventions that make our lives easier, if not more complicated.

Most of us like to reminisce about times when things were easier, and I suppose that today's generation will look back on 2009 and says those were the good old days. Their grandkids will say, "But wasn't that a time of recession with people out of work and everyone losing their houses?"

"Yes, young man," you'll reply. "But the good old days gave us strength of character and taught us that we didn't need all the extra stuff you kids have today. Those were the good old days."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

How do I remember all these PINs and passwords?

As most of us have realized, our memory isn't quite what it was a few years ago, yet we have to remember so much more stuff these days. With so much of our lives wrapped up in our personal computers and other electronic devices, there must be a better way to remember the dozens of access codes.

I have so many different accounts that require me to remember PIN numbers and passwords that I sometimes get lost. ATM codes, passwords for three different computer systems at work, passwords for Twitter, Facebook and this blog. My 401k account has a password and different user name. There are codes to get into my voice mail on my cell phone and work phone. . . I know there are others. . . I just can't remember them all.

To complicate this, some accounts require changing passwords every 90 days.

Consumer Reports offer several tips in this article. Here's part of the article:

Write down your passwords if that is the only way you’ll remember them. Wait a minute—isn’t that dangerous? The conventional wisdom is that this is a no-no. But according to Microsoft, passwords on paper are “more difficult to compromise across the Internet” than those that are stored electronically.

You’ll need to put that piece of paper in a safe place, of course. Muster all your CIA spy instincts and hide the document somewhere in your home, away from your computer, in a place that’s easy to get to only if you know where to look—say, tucked inside the pages of a favorite book, taped to the underside of a laundry basket, or slipped beneath the inner sole of a shoe stashed in your closet.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Aging sports heroes give us hope

Golfer Tom Watson's recent run at the British Open championship was inspiring. He lost the title in a playoff, but at 59, it was an incredible performance. Watson is one of us, and will turn 60 on Sept. 4. We were all rooting for him, as he took on the much younger field.

We like stories of the old guy coming back to win, and it was almost a storybook ending. But in some ways, the close finish was a better lesson. One stroke, anywhere over the four days, would have changed the outcome. It tells us that the entire journey, not just the finish, is important.

Watson's march up the 18th fairway on the final day could have been different. But it wasn't, and some might want to play the what-if game. That reminds me of a saying that a very close friend always offers in similar circumstances:

"If... Dog... Rabbit." It means that "If the dog hadn't stopped to take a s---, he would have caught the rabbit."

So forget about the what-ifs and enjoy the moment, no matter how close you get to victory or whether you shouldn't have stopped to take that dump. Life is good so enjoy it. Besides, the rabbit had a better day because the dog stopped. . .

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why can't I smoke my cholesterol medicine?

I believe that marijuana has medicinal qualities and should be legalized for that purpose. But what gets me is why the only way you can use medicinal marijuana is by smoking it. So smoking is bad for you -- except if you are smoking marijuana. That's a tough sell to medicinal marijuana skeptics.

This is what makes a lot of people think medicinal marijuana is a scam aimed more at allowing dopeheads to legally smoke pot than it is for its medicinal qualities. If marijuana is a medicine when used for that purpose, shouldn't you be able to get it in a pill or some other traditional medicinal delivery system? Simple question, but no one seems to have and answer.

So why can't I smoke my cholesterol or blood pressure medicine? Of course, I'll need papers to roll the blood pressure medicine and I'd have go outside to administer each dose since there's a no-smoking rule in the house.

I'd love to hear from medicinal marijuana advocates responding to my questions.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

This is the time of our lives when battle against the bulge is the toughest

I've been on a diet most of my life and I know it's getting even more difficult to take weight off as I age. I was very active in sports through about age 50, and that helped, although I loved to eat. But I don't play soccer or baseball anymore, ending my participation in those teams sports just before I hit 50.

Now I play golf occasionally. While golf is a difficult sport to play, you're not going to lose weight riding in a cart to your next shot. In fact, you gain weight playing golf. But it's fun. I also have a membership to Gold's Gym and used to faithfully attend four times a week for cardio and weight training. But I've lost my discipline for that this past year. I need to start going again.

I'm actually down about 20 pounds from a few years ago, though, thanks to a low-carb diet. But it's a battle everyday, and lately I've put too many sweet things in my mouth. I call it my "blow-carb" diet because I'm blowing right through carbs.

So what should we do as we approach age 60? The experts tell us, though, it would be much easier to control our weight by walking regularly. In fact, walking 30 minutes a day can help keep the pounds off in your 50s and into your 60s, according to the experts.

"A new study suggests that the more you walk, the less likely you'll gain weight as you age," says this article on the web site MedicineNet.com. "Researchers followed nearly 5,000 men and women for 15 years and found that a half hour of walking per day reduced the usual weight gain per year by 1 pound among women who were the heaviest at the start of the study."

So get out there and walk. No excuse.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dow closes above 9,000 and baby boomers cheer

Here's some good news for those of us who will be relying on our 401k investments when we finally retire. The Dow Jones Industrials close above 9,000 today -- the first time that's happened since January. So my retirement account, which I've been calling a 201k, is quietly moving back to being a 401k.

It's been rather depressing the past year as we've watched our accounts lose 40% of their value, but that is changing.

I was talking about retirement to a guy who joined our twosome the other day on a golf course near Pismo Beach. We were all vacationing out of the San Joaquin Valley heat. He works for an oil company in Bakersfield and said he was going to retire this year when he turned 60 in a few months. But the stock market crash delayed his retirement because he's fully invested in his 401k. A lot of us know what he's talking about.

It's not as big a problem for me because I don't plan on retiring until I'm at least 65 so I have five years to make up the ground lost in my 401k account. Not so for those who had an out-plan for this year.

Remember all those people who thought we should privatize Social Security or give the money to workers and let them invest it? You don't hear much from them now. That was one of many dumb ideas proposed by President George W. Bush.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How's your bucket list?

There's an interesting Web site that is polling Americans on "The 100 Greatest Places in the USA." It changes as people vote, and right now the top five places are: 1. Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas (someone stuffed the ballot box on this one); 2. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.; 3. The White House; 4. Ground Zero in New York City, and 5. The Alamo in San Antonio.

You can check out the list by clicking on this link: StoodThere.com.

I see it as a bucket list of sorts for those of us about to turn 60. I've been to 29 of the 100 places so I have quite a few places to go in the next few years. How many places on this list have you visited?

Here my list so far: Lincoln Memorial, White House, Times Square, Liberty Bell in Philly, Sears Tower in Chicago, Golden Gate Bridge, Hearst Castle, Pearl Harbor, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, Alcatraz, Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, Grand Central Station in New York, Hollywood Sign, Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., Beverly Hills City Hall, Death Valley, Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Wall Street, Las Vegas Strip, Carmel Mission in Carmel, General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Space Needle in Seattle, Sea World in San Diego

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It was 108 in Fresno, and it gave us something to talk about

It's July and it's Fresno in the heart of California's San Joaquin Valley. It's supposed to be hot. . . That's not news, but it's all we are talking about -- the 108-degree heat, and ways of dodging the rising temperatures.

My first choice is to head for the movie theaters and leave the air conditioning off at home. A two-hour movie using someone else's AC sounds appealing. Then there's the shopping mall where not many people are buying but a lot are using the free AC. But my favorite the other day was going into the walk-in cold box at Costco where they display the vegetables. That cooled me down.

The difference between 101 degrees and 108 is more than 7 degrees when you factor in the "mental temperature," which is how you view heat. It's sort of like the opposite of the wind-chill factor. When it's 101, it's hot but bearable. When it's 108, it seems like 128.

We're in the third year of a drought and the heat causes extra stress to the garden. But if you water wisely, you plants will make it through the increased temperatures. But as I approach 60, I'm not sure I can withstand the heat the way I did when I was 55.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pismo Beach sushi alert

I'm recommending Yanagi Sushi and Japanese Steakhouse in Pismo Beach on James Way at Highway 101. The sushi was excellent. It's a bit loud, but the food and great service made up for it.

We had the Yanagi Roll (softshell crab, crabmeat, eel with eel sauce), baked green mussels and shrimp and vegetable tempura -- sort of your vareity pack. And dessert was incredible -- green tea ice cream encased in baked tempura.

If you are ever on California's Central Coast, give Yanagi in Pismo Beach a try.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A day at the beach

You have to love the summers on the California coast. . . It's much cooler than my home in inland California, yet the sun shines brightly. Well, it's overcast in the morning on the coast, but that's just fine because we came from 100-plus temperatures in the San Joaquin Valley. But by noon, the sun is out and the day is glorious.

Sunscreen is my friend. . . Apply it liberally and re-apply it every two hours. This is not optional for those of who are turning 60. Many of us spent our 20s in the unprotected sun and are now paying for it with sun damage that could cause serious health concerns.

We spent the past two days in Pismo Beach on the Central Coast. There are several wineries to visit. We took in four of them. The view out the tasting room of Edna Valley Vineyards is worth the trip. And we there on Tuesday when the tastings are free. Tasting usually run from $5 to $10 per winery.

We also played a nine-hole golf course, which was a lot of fun. La Sage is near the beach, and is scenic and not all that difficult, which is fine with me, considering my skill level.

Just before sunset, we walked to the tallest dune on the beach and meditated. Actually, she meditated, and I sucked air for awhile, from the long climb in the sand. It was worth the effort, though, and I'm better for it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

We ducked the swine flu for now

The swine flu didn't do the devastation that was predicted by the health experts this time around, but it could be much worse next winter when the flu season is again in full swing.

That's why the Obama Administration is considering swine flu vaccinations to begin in October with children at their schools. The president said Thursday that he wants states to work on a plan to take on the swine flu's expected resurgence, according to news reports.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said a definite plan to vaccinate all residents hasn't been formulated yet, and that strategy depends on whether experimental batches of vaccines are available in large quantities and whether they actually work.

If all goes well, the government will start with school children and then go to young adults with conditions such as asthma. Next in line for vaccinations will be pregnant women and then health workers who are susceptible because of their jobs.

Federal health officials say that older people, who are more prone to regular winter flu, are less at risk for the swine flu than the above group. But the swine flu can be deadly for all people, even if their risk is slightly less.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's time to stop using Social Security Numbers

With identity theft skyrocketing, we need to stop using Social Security Numbers as the main identifier for Americans. It's very easy to get someone's Social Security Number and that makes identity theft easy.

Social Security Numbers should be used for Social Security purposes only. These numbers should not be used for credit card purposes or to determine credit scores on your credit reports. We need to establish another unique identifier for credit purposes.

On Monday, we found one more reason to stop using Social Security Numbers. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have used computers and statistical predictability to discover Social Security Numbers of millions of Americans. They do this using only an individual’s date of birth and birthplace. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July

What a glorious day it is in Central California. I hope it's the same for you wherever you live in this great country. Be careful out there if you are traveling on our roadways.

We're going to have a barbecue and then see what fireworks the neighbors set off. It's expected to get hot today, with the high temperature in our area predicted to hit 101 degrees.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Be careful if you use a cane or walker

A new study says that about 47,000 Americans are treated in hospitals each year for falls associated with improperly using walkers and canes. The study also suggests that the design of walkers and canes might be improved to lessen the chance of injury.

Now most of us turning 60 this year aren't in the cane or walker stage, but many of our parents are, so this information could be helpful.

The study, published in this month’s Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, said 87% of the injuries involved walkers and 12% involved canes. Most falls occurred at home, with nursing homes the next most prevalent place for an accident. The most common injuries were fractures and abrasions to the lower trunk, especially the hip, according to news reports.

In addition to more research on the design of canes and walkers, the study's authors suggested that elderly patients get more training in how to properly use the devices.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Here are the states where you'll look fat

That wonderful state that we learned to spell in jingle form has the nation's highest obesity rate, according to the Trust for America's Health. Almost one-third of Mississippi adults are considered obese. So when someone in Mississippi asks, "Do these jeans make me look fat?", the answer would be "Yes" from 32.5% of residents.

Here are the 10 states with the highest obesity rates.

1. Mississippi 32.5%
2. Alabama 31.2%
3. West Virginia 31.1%
4. Tennessee 30.2%
5. South Carolina 29.7%
6. Oklahoma 29.5%
7. Kentucky 29.0%
8. Louisiana 28.9%
9. Michigan 28.8%
10. Ohio 28.6%

California, my home state, ranks 41st, with 23.6% of adults considered obese.

Click here to see where your state ranks.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We came of age with Farrah

Those of us turning 60 this year know Farrah Fawcett very well from her classic pin-up poster to her role as Jill Munroe on Charlie's Angels. Her death Thursday at age 62 of cancer is a bit jarring for us. We came to know her in her good times and bad.

Men were enthralled with her and women copied her hairstyle. But we all knew her in some small way. Her death is one more reminder of our mortality because Farrah was of our generation. She fought her cancer every step of the way, although seeking alternative medical treatment when her cancer reapperared probably did not prolong her life.

Her private funeral service is scheduled for Tuesday 4 p.m. (Pacific time) at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles.

We will miss her.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

We're getting older

The world’s population of seniors age 65-plus will triple in the next 40 years, according to a story in the Associated Press. That would mean that 1 in 6 would be in that age group and that will strain the ability of the United States and other nations to care for them.

"The world’s population has been graying for many years due to declining births and medical advances that have extended life spans, according to the AP. "As the fastest-growing age group, seniors now comprise just under 8 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people."

In addition, a wave of baby boomer retirements will challenge pension plans and add to rising health costs, according to experts on senior issues.

Who else was born in 1949?

Besides me, here's a short list of people turning 60 this year that I got from the Internet:

-- Actor Richard Gere; singer Billy Joel; actress Jessica Lange; singer Bruce Springsteen; athlete Bruce Jenner; boxer George Foreman; actor Don Johnson; actor Jeff Bridges; actress Meryl Streep; musician Lionel Richie; entertainer Whoopi Goldberg; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Gee, they are old.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What happened in 1949?

For those of us turning 60 this year, 1949 was a great year. So what happened the year we were born? My source is one of those greeting cards that lists what happens in a specific year. Here we go:

-- Billy Graham converts 6,000 at a Los Angeles stop of his Canvas Cathedral crusade.

-- John Wayne stars in the classic, "She wore a Yellow Ribbon."

-- Audie Murphy plays Bill the Kid in "The Kid From Texas."

-- A pair of Levi's cost $3.55.

-- Arthur Miller's "Death of Salesman" opens on Broadway.

-- The Soviet Union begins testing nuclear weapons.

-- Polaroid sells the Land camera for $89.75; the remarkable camera produces a photo in 60 seconds.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reason No. 1001 that we need health care reform

If you love private sector health insurance, you'll love insurance company executives deciding your treatment. Heck, under the current system we don't even need docs. The insurance folks can treat you and then deny payment to themselves.

That's why I like the idea of President Barack Obama's reform of the health care system. It's time to change the system so that doctors can practice medicine and insurance companies can run their own businesses. Right now they want to do both.

Don't give in to the insurance companies' scare tactics about change being dangerous. The current system is a mess and only makes money for the insurance companies and other "middle men" who suck money out of our health care.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Now the gray hair finally means something

I knew losing my brown hair had to have an advantage sooner or later. And it has come later. It seems scientists have found that what's causing gray hair may actually be part of a life-saving process.

Click here to read a story on this research in NewScientist.

So if your hair is going gray early, that's great -- at least on the cancer front . . . The researchers did not say what happens when folks with gray hair color it. I hope the cancer cells aren't really dumb and think the hair isn't gray and attack.

My achy breaky muscles

I'm moving a bit slower this morning after working in the yard this weekend, and wondering if I would feel the same if I did yardwork on a more regular basis. I seem to do it in spurts, and that makes my muscles and joints sore to the point of aching.

On the verge of turning 60, I'm questioning my body a lot these days. It seems to be failing me more. . . or maybe I'm failing my body by not getting more exercise and eating better. In any event, I'll steal some lyrics from Billy Ray Cyrus and adjust them a bit to explain my fix.

But don't tell my joints, my achy breaky joints
I just don't think they'd understand
And if you tell my muscles, my achy breaky muscles
They might blow up and kill this man
Ooohhhh. . .

OK, you get the point. I can't write lyrics, even if they are handed to me, or deal with my muscles and joints getting out of whack.

I think it is time for some ibuprofen.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

House pushes health system overhaul

The House of Representatives began work on a health care reform package that sponsors say would cover 95% of Americans. It's about time. There is no reason that getting affordable health care should be a luxury in the United States.

Almost 46 million Americans are going without health insurance, according to CNN, and 25 million others are "underinsured." That must change and President Barack Obama is on track to make huge improvements in the nation's health care system.

As we get older, we understand the importance of this issue with a lot more clarity.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We're at least a week away from the big corn harvest

The calendar tells me my sweet corn will be ready in about a week, but my eye says it will be a bit longer, maybe 10 or 12 days. But the Central California heat (which is finally aproaching 100 degrees) may speed up the growing season. It has been unseasonally cool in these parts. That's been great for the energy bill, and makes for wonderful evenings.

I can't wait to see if this will be a successful corn harvest. I haven't planted backyard corn in 30 years, but this time I read the directions on the seed packet very carefully. Like most men, I usually don't read directions, and that often gets me into trouble.

In addition, I don't exactly have the green thumb that my significant other has. That means my garden bounty has always trailed hers. And she is working with a big handicap. Her soil is mostly hardpan and mine is sandy loam. But she works the soil and talks to the plants. (Or it could be me she's muttering at). Of course, she has much more patience in these matters than I do. It is one of her many special traits.

But back to the corn. I planted about 50 corn seeds in three rows, and the four-dozen-plus stalks are now about four feet tall. I think they need to be at least another foot taller. There are 10 ears forming so far in my "corn field." I hope to find several more. It seems that all those stalks should bear much more corn. I'll check it out tonight.

My dear daughter is coming home to visit this weekend and I hope the corn will be ready for her before she returns to San Diego. I can't eat it because I'm on a low-carb diet. But I'll sneak a taste just so I can report the results on this blog.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Don't count on a raise in Social Security benefits next year

The Congressional Budget Office predicts that Social Security recipients will not get a cost of living increase in 2010. That would be the first time in 35 years that there wouldn't be a COLA, according to the AARP. The COLA is calculated under a formula set by Congress. There may not be one in 2011, depending on inflation.

That will cause hardship for many retirees who rely on their Social Security benefits for their living expenses. More than 50 million people receive Social Security.

These retirees are already reeling from the economy, especially losing value in their homes, which many of them own. Some also could see their Medicare Part B premiums increase.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Stop using Zicam

The Food and Drug Administration says consumers should stop using Zicam, an over-the-counter cold remedy, because it could permanently damage your sense of smell. These are the products the FDA is warning about: Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel and Nasal Swabs.

Click here for details from U.S. News and World Report.

The FDA reports that 130 consumers have reported a loss of smell after using Zicam products since 1999.

Matrixx, the maker of Zicam, said its products are safe, but may remove them from store shelves.

Online health service launched

HealthCare California has announced that it will start an online service that uses the latest technology to improve health care.

"This home health software service equips all HealthCare California nursing and administrative staff with real-time access to information at the point of care, reduces costs, improves efficiency and enhances communication across the continuum of care," according to a news release from the company.

You can read details of the service in Yahoo News by clicking here.

HealthCare California is the Central Valley's largest Medicare certified home health agency, providing skilled nursing, physical/occupational/speech therapy and social services to homebound patients, according to the company.

Did she mention using sun screen?

I like Debra Bass' five most important rules for skin care in her column in the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

1. Buy sun protection.

2. Do not forget to use sun protection.

3. Apply more sun protection than you think you need.

4. Don't forget to reappply sun protection.

5. Do not underestimate the power of sun protection.

I think she made her point.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How's the garden coming?

My sweet corn is moving toward harvest. . . June 27 is the estimated time of picking if the seed packet directions are correct. That will be 75 days since I planted the first seeds in my backyard plot. It's the Golden Beauty Hybrid by Stover.

There are 50 cornstalks, and so far nine ears are forming by my count. I'm sure the harvest will be much larger as the stalks mature. I think I need more cross-polination. But this is a time for patience.

I made a makeshift scarecrow this evening after spotting a couple of crows eyeing my corn. Yellow t-shirt on a post with a baseball cap. I'll enhance it when I have more time.

So how's your garden doing? The planting season will vary, depending on what part of the country you live in. But right now everyone should have seeds or plants in the ground.

The best thing about a backyard garden is the food is free, the work is fun and it's all organic. What do you have in your garden?

In addition to the corn, I have tomatoes and two peach trees that have tasty, although small fruit. The birds got to the peppers when the plants were samll and I don't think they'll produce this season.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Naps will make you alert -- and happy

In my experience, people who take regular naps seems a lot more alert and happier souls than those who don't. Now this is just my observance, but there also is some scientific evidence to back up my assertion.

And it seems that the busier you are, the more you should nap. We could all be more alert, and that would make us more productive. Napping is also very inexpensive, as opposed to going to the mall and buying a bunch of stuff.

Some people think if you nap a lot, you're lazy. No way. I should say right here that napping is defined (in my world) as an hour or so in the afternoon. If you're sleeping four hours in the midle of the day and not getting anything done, you're either lazy or have a health problem. If you are nodding off at work, figure out why and fix it.

But if you're taking a nap that fits into your work schedule, and feeling good about it, go for it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Don't let them fool you -- seniors can easily install digital TV converter boxes

On Friday, television stations across the country are ending their analog signals and switching to digital signals. The problem for many seniors who get their TV "over the air" is that they will need a converter box installed on their televisions to get their favorite programs.

If you get your TV reception from cable or satellite,you'll be fine, and if you have a newer television that has digital, no problem. The rest will need a converter box. The Federal Communications Commission says there are about one million homes that aren't ready, and most of them are those of older Americans.

Let me pierce a myth about this right now. It's VERY EASY to set up your converter box. Anyone can do it in minutes, unless you have physical challenges. But if the idea of dealing with technology scares you, get a family member, friend or neighbor to do it for you. It's really very simple, and cheap.

I got a coupon worth $40 to purchase my converter box for my spare bedroom. That's the only TV in the house that's not on cable. I went to Target and bought a converter box that cost $45, so my out-of-pocket expense was $5. And you don't have to wait for a mail-in rebate. The savings are immediate.

The FCC and TV stations have made such a big deal out of the difficulty of the conversion, they've convinced a lot of seniors that you have to be an engineer to install the converter box. Don't believe them. . . You can do it.

At least I can withdraw from my 401k without penalty

Hitting 59 1/2 has some advantages, although it wouldn't be wise to take money from my 401k right now since most of it is in the stock market. But it's sort of freeing to know that I could, and not face a substantial withdrawal penalty. Those early withdrawal warnings always made me very nervous. So I'm happy to be 59 1/2 -- at least for that reason.

I know. . . It's very easy to please me. But the 401k account is supposed to be a next egg and since I'm still working, this is more of an academic exercise than a serious suggestion of tapping it early. I know I'll need the next egg. I just hope it isn't right away.

But all of us in this age bracket should start thinking about our financial situations, and get some expert advice. Don't rely on your brother-in-law or the Starbucks barista for financial information.

But there are two key ages to keep in mind: 59 1/2 when you can withdraw without penalty and 70 1/2 when you must begin taking withdrawals if you're not working at the company where you have the 401k account.

I you need to know anything else about your 401k, see an expert.

AMA doesn't like Obama health plan

I just got an email from the American Medical Association that says the organization opposes President Obama's health blame, claming it would "socialize 17% of the national economy by eliminating private sector ‘competition’ to the huge proposed federal cradle-to-grave healthcare program."

The AMA apparently thinks the current system is just fine. Doctors have always been out of touch with the real world and this is just more evidence.

Dr. Nancy Nielsen, the AMA's president, said her group has "major concerns about government control over health care decisions.” The president, by the way, is scheduled to make a speech to the AMA on Monday.

Nielsen told the Associated Press that the AMA supports “affordable, high-quality health insurance,” and believes that it can be achieved by reforming the private insurance market. But the AMA does not want a government-run "cradle-to-grave" health system.

U.S. Senate to consider sweeping health care legislation

The U.S. Senate next week is scheduled to begin considering a massive bill that would make foundational changs in the nation's health care system. The office of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy released the 651-page bill this week, and proponents and opponents of health care reform are already picking it apart.

But it's time to change the broken health care system. Congress must act now. Those with health problems know all too well how lives can be changed by the cost of care, not to mention the health issues themselves.

News reports say the changes include revamping the way health insurance works, with insurabce carriers having to deal with new rules. Here's the good part: Insurance companies would have to cover Americans with health issues. As we know, the current system allows insurers to duck coverage of people with health problems, or charge an arm and a leg for limited coverage.

That's just plain wrong.

Kennedy's office said there would be proposals that would help disabled seniors and healthy young adults. Taxpayers, businesses and individuals would share in the cost of adding coverage of 50 million uninsured Americans.

There would be a new long-term care insurance program that would provide modest assistance at an affordable premium to help disabled people keep living in their own homes.

Watch this space for more details of the proposal.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hiking helps the brain

Brain experts tell us that exercise is good for brain function, including helping to maintain your memory as you age. My suggestion is to do regular hiking in one of our National Parks or scenic forests. That'll keep the synapses firing.

I like nearby Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks because I can make an easy day trip to these natural wonders from my Central California home. There are rigorous trails and scenic trails for less-skilled hikers. You'll get plenty of exercise and get as close to nature as you dare. Bring a camera.

On a Saturday at the end of last summer, we went to Grant Grove, home of the General Grant Tree (the nation's Christmas Tree) and strolled the Grant Tree Trail. Then we took a hike to the Buck Rock Lookout, which is in the Big Meadows area in the Seqouia National Forest. What a view.

This is a moderately strenuous walk to get to the lookout, which is on a granite dome at an elevation of 8,502 feet. The final ascent is via 172 steps on a flight of stairs, which are connected to the side of Buck Rock. It's very easy, and you can rest at various points if you get tired.

If you're ever in the area, check out Sequoia/Kings. If you don't get to this part of the country, there are National Parks, National Forests or local or state parks near you for your hiking pleasure.

Your feet may be tired when the day's done, but your brain will love you for it.

Is 60 the new 40?

Not really. In fact, 60 is the, well, new 60. You can't get away from it so you must manage this age sort of like the way you manage the garden. Weed often, but not so often that it makes you tired.

Good things will come with a little water, a little sun and some luck.

This is the first point in my life in which age actually has meant something, although I'm not quite sure what that is right now. I'll let you know through the posts on this blog as I develop answers. But it is a little startling that age has now become such a big deal in my life.

And it does give you perspective that you didn't have at 30 and 40 and 50. So that must be a good thing. Plus, you get senior discounts at restaurants. You can also see retirement on the horizon. Unfortunately, the economic bust has put that horizon a bit more into the distance.

So with my AARP card I venture forth into a world that has a lot of aging baby boomers trying to figure out the same questions I pose. Let me know if you have some usable answers.