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Brownies and Whipped Cream February 23, 2010

Posted by Ageless Dreamer Foundation in Inspirational Stories.
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One day I had a date with friends for lunch. Mae, a little old “blue hair” about 80 years old, came along with them—all in all, a pleasant bunch.
When the menus were presented, we ordered salads, sandwiches, and soups, except for Mae who said, “Ice Cream, please. Two scoops, chocolate.”

I wasn’t sure my ears heard right, and the others were aghast. “Along with heated apple pie,” Mae added, completely unabashed.
We tried to act quite nonchalant, as if people did this all the time. But when our orders were brought out, I didn’t enjoy mine.
I couldn’t take my eyes off Mae as her pie a-la-mode went down. The other ladies showed dismay. They ate their lunches silently and frowned.

The next time I went out to eat, I called and invited Mae. I lunched on white meat tuna. She ordered a parfait.
I smiled. She asked if she amused me.
I answ ered, “Yes, you do, but also you confuse me.

How come you order rich desserts, while I feel I must be sensible? She laughed and said, with wanton mirth, “I’m tasting all that is Possible.

I try to eat the food I need, and do the things I should.. But life’s so short, my friend, I hate missing out on something good.
This year I realized how old I was. (She grinned) I haven’t been this old before.”
“So, before I die, I’ve got to try those things that for years I had ignored.
I haven’t smelled all the flowers yet.. There are too many books I haven’t read. There’s more fudge sundaes to wolf down and kites to be flown overhead.

There are many malls I haven’t shopped. I’ve not laughed at all the joke s. I’ve missed a lot of Broadway hits and potato chips and cokes.
I want to wade again in water and feel ocean spray on my face. I want to sit i n a country church once more and thank God for His grace.
I want peanut butter every day spread on my morning toast. I want un-timed long distance calls to the folks I love the most.

I haven’t cried at all the movies yet, or walked in the morning rain. I need to feel wind in my hair. I want to fall in love again.
So, if I choose to have dessert, instead of having dinner, then should I die before night fall, I’d say I died a winner, because I missed out on nothing. I filled my heart’s desire. I had that final chocolate mousse before my life expired.”

With that, I called the waitress over.. “I’ve changed my mind, ” I said. “I want what she is having, only add some more whipped cream!”


Remember When Most Homes Had Only ONE Bathroom? February 20, 2010

Posted by Ageless Dreamer Foundation in Ageless Dreamer, Ageless Dreamers and Dreams, Inspirational Stories.
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Born and raised in Massachusetts, I was the middle child of five daughters. No brothers. Oh, did I tell you there was only one – yes, one – bathroom in the house? I’m sharing that with you because maybe it’ll help explain why I’ve always been a dreamer. Maybe I was dreaming of having more than one bathroom.

As Founder of a non profit organization, Ageless Dreamer, I immersed myself in encouraging our oldest generation to dream out loud. The idea came to me ten years ago when I went to the mailbox and received my first invitation to AARP. I circular filed it, of course, but realized that I was about to cross into someplace that I’d never been. Then I noticed, as I walked the sidewalks of the town in New Hampshire where we live, that there weren’t many old folks walking around. Where were they? And I began to notice that when I drove by assisted living or nursing home, or other similar places, that I didn’t even turn my head to look.

My husband and I started visiting these places and after a few months realized something very important: It didn’t matter if someone lived in the least expensive or most expensive senior living arrangement, if no one knocked on your door to visit and share stories, then stories and dreams were left untold. Constipated, if you will.

AARP doesn’t give up easily, so once again when I went to the mail box, a second invitation arrived which I also proceeded to recycle. But this time as I threw it into the blue plastic bin, I declared: I’m not an AARP-er. I am an ageless dreamer. The rest is history. You can learn more about that on the website: http://www.AgelessDreamer.org

This book is about stories of our oldest generation who are living and ageing successfully at home. It’s about our own futures and the lessons we can learn on how we can remain in our own homes as we age. Planning for that is important, both from a financial perspective, and a well being perspective. They’ll certainly be other options for many people, but this one option of ageing at home, is the one I’ll be capturing through stories shared with me.

With the 100 year old being the fastest growing demographic today, it’s very likely that the vast majority of Baby Boomers will grow to be part of that demographic. The wisdom, knowledge, and talents of today’s elders – also known as the Greatest Generation – will provide inspiration and insight into what we have to look forward to.

If you know someone who’s part of the oldest generation who’s successfully ageing at home and would like to share the story in this book or future ones, please send it to me at lauriewidmark@comcast.net. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

Sticker Shock at Sixty February 14, 2010

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I’ve realized that the majority of my friends – actually, all except one – have lost both their parents. I’m blessed to still have both of mine – Dad is 91 and Mom is 87. And I’m turning sixty. How did that happen?

Dad retired early at the age of 62 because two of his younger siblings had died unexpectedly. He figured he didn’t have much time left so he best go out and enjoy it. Needless to say, almost 30 years later and both he and Mom are doing well health wise. But their financial health is very poor and isn’t improving. And now I’m getting close to his retirement age and something doesn’t feel right.

I remember growing up and hearing frequently from my father that his supervisors and others making a decent wage were “educated dumbbells”. Right now, some of those “educated dumbbells”— his daughters and spouses — have been helping to keep them safe on their tiny financial island. But, for my siblings who’ve been helping them out, the well has dried up since the recession began. The real estate market, which is the business my husband and I work in, has become less than lucrative – actually it feels more like a non-for-profit. Questions are starting to creep into our minds: What will happen to my parents? What will happen to our own retirement? What will happen to our plans to travel this great country in our motor home?

Never in a million years did I imagine that I would have to be concerned for my parents. When raising our own families, we dreamed of the empty nest with open arms. We looked forward to having time to do “our own thing” with the adult children off doing theirs, raising wonderful grandchildren for us to enjoy. And now I’m writing a book about the shock of being inside something predicted a dozen years ago: the Sandwich Generation.

Squished. I’ll say it again: How did that happen? And what in the world are we to do about it? Why does it feel like something is wrong with this picture? Why am I feeling guilty, ungrateful, and selfish writing these words down on paper where someone might read them and be able to assign a less than favorable light on me? Story to be continued.

How an old-fashioned grandmother became an Internet superstar (with a little help from her grandson) February 1, 2010

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By Linda Matchan

Two years ago, Bubbe didn’t know from a website.‘‘I didn’t even know what an e-mail was,’’ says the 83-year-old grandmother.

But that was before she became the star of ‘‘Feed Me Bubbe,’’ her popular online kosher cooking show produced by her grandson Avrom Honig, 25, of Worcester.

Now she’s inundated with e-mail — ‘‘without exaggeration, hundreds, even thousands’’ — from fans from as far away as China and Africa who want help roasting chicken or stuffing cabbage, or to confide in her about their tsuris (troubles). She’s got a website (www.feedmebubbe.com), a frequently updated Facebook page (‘‘on the set right now working on the cholent episode’’), and an online store selling her T-shirts, aprons, even a ‘‘Feed Me Bubbe’’ ringtone (original klezmer music, composed by a fan). On Tuesday she’ll be featured on a PBS ‘‘Frontline’’ documentary, ‘‘Digital Nation,’’ which explores the impact of digital technology on people’s lives.

“If a fortune teller ever told me at this age that I’d start a new career I would never have believed them, ’’ says Bubbe – the Yiddish word for grandmother – who worked in a bank until she was 73 and after that did “nothing spectacular. I went to the senior center a couple times a week. Did cooking and housecleaning. The regular thing.’’

Bubbe’s newfound fame is a uniquely 21st century phenomenon, made possible in a world where anyone who blogs, tweets, Facebooks, or YouTubes can vault to celebrity. But this is also what makes Bubbe’s story so unusual. Until recently, her life was so low-tech that she thought the Internet “came out of the air, just like nothing.’’

Though she didn’t set out to do so, Bubbe has managed to stand out from the pack by embracing the new technology while just being herself, cooking old-fashioned dishes in an old-fashioned kitchen in old-fashioned ways. In the process, she has tapped into a market of peripatetic, family-starved young people who are hungry for more than just chicken soup. They’re hungry for Bubbes.

For that very reason, Bubbe – who lives in a suburb west of Boston – doesn’t disclose her real name on the show, and she declined to give it to the Globe as well. “I never want to be recognized. People write me and say I remind them of their own grandmother,’’ says Bubbe, a short, stooped woman with white hair, a kindly face, and arthritic fingers who believes she fills a void in the lives of grandmother-less viewers. “So how can I have another name?’’

‘Eat in good health’

“Feed Me Bubbe’’ is hardly your typical cooking show. It’s shot in Bubbe’s seriously outmoded kitchen in the small house she’s shared for more than 50 years with Zadie (Yiddish for grandfather), whom Honig drafted to be production assistant. The house could be a 1950s set from a Neil Simon play, with its shag car peting, plastic-draped furniture, two-tiered candy dishes, and crystal prisms dripping from the lampshades. But it’s the kitchen that speaks to Bubbe’s mostly under-40 fans; it still has the original birch cupboards, worn-out Formica countertops, shiny wallpaper, and tchotchke shelves next to the window.

“People have said they’ll break my neck if she changes it,’’ Honig says. “And Bubbe was, like, ‘I can’t redo the kitchen?’ ’’
Her recipes are similarly retro. She’s taped more than 30 “Feed Me Bubbe’’ episodes so far, including “Bubbe’s Burgers,’’ “Sponge Cake,’’ “Cheeze Blintzes,’’ and a three-part chicken soup series. Every once in a while she throws in a story – “I learned this in the Catskills!’’ – and ends each episode with a “Yiddish Word of the Day’’ and a Julia Child-esque sign-off, except instead of “Bon Appetit’’ it’s “Ess gezunterhait’’ (“Eat in good health’’).

The lanky Honig, who has a communications degree from Worcester State College, got the idea for “Feed Me Bubbe’’ two years ago when he needed a job and wanted to make a demo tape for job interviews. His father suggested he do a video of Bubbe cooking. Bubbe agreed, reluctantly. “I thought I’d do one, I’d do two,’’ says Bubbe, agreeing to start with “Jelly Jammies,’’ a variant of strudel and a family favorite.

The production values were less than stellar. The camera was shaky. Bubbe’s hands were out of the frame. The sound of the mixmaster drowned out her voice. Still, Honig got it done and posted it online.

And then the e-mails started. “It caught us by surprise,’’ says Bubbe.

She heard from a woman named Betty who wrote that she was making Bubbe’s sweet and sour meatballs and “Jelly Jammies’’ that week. “I never had the privilege of being in the kitchen with my own Bubbe,’’ Betty wrote. “Watching you brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. . . . I would like to adopt you as my own Bubbe.’’

Another woman threatened to adopt Bubbe, gushing: “I absolutely love you, Bubbe.’’ (“You certainly can adopt me,’’ Bubbe replied.)

“We’re talking the whole world!’’ says Honig, his voice rising to a high pitch. “We’re getting e-mail from, like, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia. This is the craziest thing that could ever happen to someone!’’

Honig, who seems to operate only at one speed – full throttle – immediately saw the marketing possibilities for “Feed Me Bubbe.’’ He’s posted her recipes online, recruited sponsors, developed merchandise, partnered with other websites such as www.fridaylight.org, where Bubbe demonstrates how to light candles for Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath.

Twice, she and Honig have gone to California for a Video on the Net conference, once as speakers on a food panel and once to promote the show at a conference booth. “I was running around the whole convention handing out ‘Feed Me Bubbe’ cards to anyone I could find,’’ Honig says. “Bubbe would start talking to them, and they would melt.’’

Grandma in charge
Throughout all this, Honig has taught Bubbe about digital media, “just the way she would teach me how to chop an onion.’’ She’s now conversant about blogs, Twitter, and instant messaging.

“I’ve become an expert in Twitter and texting,’’ says Bubbe, who has no computer of her own.

She’s also starting to call the shots in her video episodes, as she did recently for a promo for an upcoming cooking segment.

“Peppered steak is coming up next episode?’’ she suggests as Honig roughs out a storyboard on the kitchen table.

“Interesting,’’ he says, noncommittally.

“Details of peppered steak will be coming next video,’’ she decides.

He counts down from 10, shoots the promo – with a plug for Bubbe’s “Frontline’’ appearance – and it’s a wrap.

“Ess gezunterhait,’’ she says, as always. “Enjoy!’’