David Hockney is My Hero

A great blog on art and aging….

Handbagsandtotes's Blog

I was struck by a quote I ran across from David Hockney a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind because, for the first time in my life, someone was finally able to put words to the powerful and unquenchable thirst that motivates and drives my soul, a drive that, as time goes on, is becoming even more pronounced.David-Hockney-painting-Th-005

“I think I’m greedy, but I’m not greedy for money – I think that can be a burden – I’m greedy for an exciting life. I want it to be exciting all the time, and I get it, actually. On the other hand, I can find excitement, I admit, in raindrops falling on a puddle and a lot of people wouldn’t. I intend to have it exciting until the day I fall over.”

At 76 years old,  Hockney  has a show at the…

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Dioptics Solar Shield Sunglasses and Why I Like Them

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I got my first pair of prescription glasses when I was in second grade, which isn’t surprising, since I come from a long line of people who are as blind as bats. We couldn’t afford prescription sunglasses when I was growing up, so I spent most of my childhood squinting to block out the glare, or wearing sunglasses with my prescription glasses.  It was an unwieldy combination, to say the least, and made me look even geekier than I already was.

I recently had the opportunity to “test drive” a new pair of sunglasses by Dioptics Solar Shield, who provided me with a free sample through the Vibrant Influencer Network. I had my choice of which of several styles I wanted to try, so I selected the Sport version because I figured, if I was going to put my neck out to see what I thought of this new product, then I was going to be as tough on these new glasses as humanly possible. Plus, I live with someone who is a whitewater raft guide, a zipline guide, an RV technician and an independent contractor in the construction business, so I had an ace in the hole when it came to putting these Dioptic Solar Shield Sport sunglasses to the test.

The Sports model fits over prescription glasses, and because they are designed to cover your own glasses seamlessly, the problem of having old fashioned flip-up lenses that aren’t the same size or shape is immediately eliminated. Michael has a big face, and wears big glasses; I wear prescription reading glasses that can be folded up and put in a tube, yet we both felt the glasses covered our own evenly without adding any additional bulk. The frames are hard plastic with vents on the top and bottom to prevent your own glasses from steaming up, and they are designed to grip the sides of your head comfortably so they don’t fall off during strenuous activity.

The thing we both liked best about the glasses however were the polar optics. Even though these are not wildly expensive sunglasses, the lenses are clear, and because they have a larger field of vision than more traditional sunglasses (the glasses have a “wrap-around” effect with little side “windows” that protect the sides of your eyes from the sun as well) there is no distortion, so whether I am outside reading on the porch, or he is standing on a platform fifty feet off the ground clipping people onto a zipline, it’s easy to see what you are doing.

The glasses also provide UV protection, which seems like a dumb thing to say about sunglasses, but when you consider the design and how it covers your eyes more completely than traditional sunglasses, you not only have a product that protects your entire eye area, but you get to look like a movie star while you are doing it! I really think the folks at Dioptic have thought of everything when it comes to these sunglasses, so if you would like more information, check out Dioptic Solar Shields at www.solarshield.com.

Why Starting All Over Again is no Big Deal or Why Age Has its Benefits.

I’ve never understood why people are so afraid of change.  Life changes every single day, and so does how you feel about it.  I have faced tragedies with grace, and fallen to pieces over minor setbacks.   I am used to struggling, and fighting, to get what I want, and to keep from losing it. Sometimes, life comes easily to me, and sometimes it seems that no matter what I do or where my heart is, nothing goes the way I’d planned.

Michael and I have been at a crossroads for what seems like years.  We both gave up our art careers to concentrate our energies on surviving, and while we are both as type A as they come, we just could not decide on a direction for our futures.  We never really factored in how the economy was impacting our ability to get out of the mess we found ourselves in; we both thought it was something we were doing, that we could change our circumstances through sheer force of will and by redoubling our efforts.

In some ways we were right; in the past year we saved our house from foreclosure, put some money in the bank and decided on a direction for our future.  We managed the impossible in just six short months, but we’ve also paid a high price for it.  After working twelve hours a day, seven days a week as a whitewater raft guide this summer and putting every penny he made into the bank,  Michael fell off the top of a whitewater raft bus a week before RV school started.  He suffered a minor concussion but dug into school anyway and is number one in his class. On my way back from getting him set up in his new apartment in Largo, I discovered that the company I work for decided to move my division to the Phillipines in mid October, leaving me without a job (or the choice to take a job I would hate).   A week after I returned home, I fell in the backyard and broke every bone in my ankle.  I had to have emergency surgery and will be in a cast for at least another four to six weeks. Because I am on medical leave, I still have a job even though my division no longer exists, so I can’t work, but I also can’t collect unemployment.

One of the great benefits of age however, is understanding that even though the last few weeks have not been optimal, nothing lasts forever.  We went from having no idea what to do with ourselves for the rest of our lives at the beginning of this year, to deciding on a totally new career path and working to make it happen in less than six months.  Michael is just two short weeks away from being certified as an RV Technician by the RVTC, with the ability to replace, install, or repair everything from air conditioning units to water heaters, and from awnings to tow packages, in every type of recreational vehicle you can imagine.  We plan on spending six months of the year in Asheville, and six months of the year on the road, which should suit both our pocketbooks, and our wanderlust, just fine.  There are a few other projects in the offing, not the least of which is the whitewater raft guide intensive for baby boomers next summer, baby boomer TV, and whatever else happens to capture our fancy that other boomers can relate to long the way.

A very wise and amazing friend of mine and I were talking not long ago about how damaging this economy has been to baby boomers in particular, and some of the reasons why.   We decided that it’s impossible to work harder, or even wiser, to change the trajectory we are on, not with the perfect storm of cutbacks, wage reductions and age discrimination to overcome.  I still think most boomers feel there is no way out of the mess we are all in, but clinging to what worked before isn’t the answer.   Take a deep breath, step out of the box, and look for ways to challenge yourself.  Some things may work, some things may not, but holding fast to what you know won’t change the fact that that someday, you will be gone from this earth. Have the courage to do something different, even if you start one step at a time.  Michael was a photographer for 25 years, then an artist, and now, an RV Tech.  I was in the film business for 12 years, a successful gourd artist for 20 years, and now, a middle aged broad with a broken ankle and a whole new career at 53.

Life is too short to be afraid of change, and it won’t stop the inevitable from happening anyway.  So get out there and do something different.  You might be surprised at how much one slight shift in your consciousness opens you to new ideas, and new adventures.  My next adventure is to put the finishing touches on the new website and promotional materials for the new business.  I am designing the website myself, and I gotta say, its going to be killer….

Ten Fun Things to Do When You Are Laid up in Bed

Love this post!!!

Handbagsandtotes's Blog

Three weeks ago, I fell in my backyard and broke every bone in my ankle. I was gathering fallen branches to use for kindling this winter, and I had just finished bringing an armload up to the wood pile, when I decided to take a short cut across the yard to collect the rest.  Like most people in North Carolina, my lawn unfolds in stages; it slopes sharply from the street to my house, levels out for awhile, then slopes again to the rest of the yard.  Both slopes are steeper than they look, something I found out the hard way last spring when I was walking across the backyard carrying a steaming bowl of hot beef stew  to eat while I was watching the dogs play. I slipped on the wet grass and went down on my butt, the bowl went flying and I wound up having to take…

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Well, Dip Me in Spit and Cover Me with Bird Droppings….

I have just witnessed a miracle.  After seven months spent jumping through increasingly smaller hoops accompanied by the “wah wah wah” of Charlie Brown’s teacher in the background, the journey to obtain a title for the Dodge Travco we bought last February has finally…just today…resulted in an official document delivered to my mailbox by the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, and which is now in my hot little hands.

This seemingly ordinary event began when we purchased this awesome turquoise and white throwback, and drove it from Crossville, Tennessee to Asheville and discovered that it had no vehicle identification number.  Anywhere. On the entire vehicle.  North Carolina has turned purchasing anything with wheels  into an art form of  Draconian proportions under the best of circumstances; if you purchase a vehicle in the state, both parties must be present to have the title transfer notarized, which means, you can buy a car on Saturday, but until you can have the transfer notarized on Monday, you are out of luck.  In our case, we bought an “antique” vehicle, which means (under normal circumstances) an inspector comes to your house, checks your paperwork against the VIN number, signs off on it, and away you go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a registration, and hopefully, a brand new title.

The Travco didn’t HAVE a VIN number, so the inspector issued a new one, which means we had to get an indemnity bond from an insurer stating that they were willing to take the risk that we hadn’t stolen it and that the seller was satisfied it was no longer his.  After obtaining said documentation, we took everything to the bank to have it all notarized.  Nobody said we had to do that, but we figured, why take any chances?  I went to mail it, but there was no address, so I took it to the local Department of Motor Vehicles, figuring, after weeks of struggling trying to pull all the paperwork together that I was good to go.

The woman who runs the Department of  Motor Vehicles said Michael had to be there to sign off on it as well.

Naturally.

At the time, he was working at the river from 7 am to 7 pm  and couldn’t get to the Department of Motor Vehicles if his life depended on it. Of course, this being the rural south, there ARE ways around the problem.   I looked this woman in the face and said, “”What would you say if I told you that Michael was out in the car.  That he broke his leg and he can’t make it up the stairs?” She shot back, “Did he break his leg today?”  Without skipping a beat, I told her, “its funny you should say that, because he just broke it this morning”.  She told me would just go ahead and look up his driver’s license information, the paperwork was handed over, and off I went….

When I finally got a letter in the mail TWO MONTHS LATER, it said that the indemnity bond didn’t specify that the “body style” of the vehicle was a “housecar”.  Which is a quaint way of saying it isn’t exactly a recreational vehicle but it IS bigger than a breadbox.  Now my indemnity bond needs a rider, so I apologize profusely to my insurance agent for the trouble I have put her through, but I get the rider, I send it off and two more months pass before I decide to call the Department of Motor Vehicles to find out what is going on.  The woman who took my call said, “Oh, well, it doesn’t say on the indemnity bond rights of survivorship, but it DOES say that on the registration, and the two have to match exactly”.

Seriously?  Now my rider, needs a rider (how very “party of the first part”, “who’s on first” of you) and by the way, would it have killed you people to catch that the last time I needed a damned rider? I mean, you have been at this for five months now.  Surely someone might have noticed that particular discrepancy before.  Except that I find out that once the paperwork reaches the special titles  office it goes to ONE PERSON.  ONE person WITH a job, who WANTS to KEEP IT gets to mosey through stacks upon stacks of paperwork looking for errors so they can get a regular paycheck while the rest of us have to wait around for the damned title to show up – someday.  And no one, not even my patron saint at the DMV had ever heard of someone having to jump through so many hoops just to get a damned title in the 25 years she’s been doing her job.

But here it is, in a stack of mail, on a day when I sold the glass kilns from Michael’s studio for some decent coin, got a killer deal on business cards and t-shirts for the new RV business (website in progress!), won $10 from a scratch off lottery ticket, nabbed a room for the Occasion for the Arts Show in Williamsburg  the first weekend in October for a song, got my confirmation email from VibrantNation.com as a guest blogger, put my first short story in the mail for a writing competition that pays $1000 to the grand prize winner with a story about  a lime (of all things) and wound up on the waiting list (okay, that part kinda sucks. I’d love for some art show to just go wild and take me on the first try, but what the hell) for the American Crafts Council show in Baltimore this February.

So somebody, dip me in spit and cover me with bird droppings.  Cause this girl is on FIRE!!!

Leaving Behind the Crossroads of Nowhere and Not Much Else

 

When I started this blog seven months ago, I had an idea in mind about where this would all lead.  But like any new venture that starts with little more than a concept, we soon found that our purpose, as well as our direction, was at a crossroads. Michael and I were both successful artists.  We’ve both known what we wanted to do with our lives for the past twenty years, and we had the experience, and the drive to make it happen.

Then the world changed, and we suddenly found that all the talent, focus and commitment on the planet  wasn’t enough to take us where we expected to go.  Neither one of us could even GET into an art  show, and when we did, we barely made back our expenses.  Art isn’t  the best business model under the best of circumstances, and with one of the worst recessions in history clawing maniacally at the gains we’d made, we knew we had to do something, anything to keep from going under…

The question was, what?

We are both type A, both first-born, both accustomed to setting a goal for ourselves and then committing to the hard work to make it happen.  Seven months ago we found ourselves wondering what on earth we wanted to do with the next chapter of our lives and we were shocked (and a little desperate) to find we had no answer for that question.  Even when we asked each other what we would do if money were not an issue, there was a crashing silence.

Then Michael found a craiglist ad for a 1969 Dodge Travco in Crossville, Tennessee, and we thought we’d found our purpose again.  We both love to travel and thought, this could be it.  This could be where we start again.  The Travco seemed to represent  many of the things we wanted; the freedom to travel, a ready-made business catering to the baby boomer generation (most of whom seemed to be experiencing the same financial and directional setbacks we had), the chance to be self-employed again.  There seemed to be a whole bunch of us who never expected to be in this position at this time in our lives, and because we are healthier and more vital than any other generation in history, we thought we could create an opportunity where it seemed none really existed; we could show people like us how to have the adventures they’d planned for at this age, but on a budget.

We dubbed the Travco the “Boomer Mobile” and immediately found ourselves at a crossroads again.  It’s an awesome vehicle and an amazing attention getter. But it’s also not big enough to allow us to do everything  we wanted to do now, and anyway, despite firing up like a champ after not being driven for months, and sailing down the freeway at 70 miles an hour like it was nothing when we brought it home, we just didn’t know enough about it to think this was something we would feeling comfortable striking out in.

If we were going to travel the country shooting segments for the WebTV program we also planned to launch, and we got stuck somewhere along the way, then what?  We were going to be traveling on a shoestring to begin with as it was until the business took off.  We couldn’t afford to see  this thing parked beside the road before we ever even left the state.  Not that it would happen – we could have driven to California and back without a problem – but we just couldn’t take that chance. Here’s the thing about being at a crossroads though.  You aren’t obligated to continue along the path you are on just because it seems like a good idea at the time.  After talking it over, Michael and I decided there was a different way to go about this new business, and now that we have done what we do best; hunkering down, setting a goal, saving the money, researching our options and focusing in on how to make it all happen, we have a new plan of action.

In two weeks, he starts school at the RV Training Center in Largo, Florida.  It’s a ten week course and at the end of it, he will be certified to repair everything from teardrop trailer to a 40 foot Prevost.  I will be taking writing classes at AB Tech and UNC Asheville and continuing to blog about our experiences.   We still have plans to launch a Web TV program about baby boomer adventures, write a book about boomer travel, and next year, we will also offer an exclusive, four-day intensive raft school for boomers who want to learn how to whitewater raft without necessarily becoming guides.  We will also finish the renovations on the Travco, and may wind up selling it to help finance an upgrade to a larger RV.  On one hand, I hate to see it go.  It has a whole new interior and looks on the inside exactly the way you would expect it to given what it looks like on the outside.  But it’s served its purpose by inspiring us to look beyond the excitement of launching a new business, and the contentment that comes with knowing, it is finally going to happen.

So if you have been following this blog and wondering what happened to us….we found our path again, and left the crossroads behind us.  Its time to get back to the business of living,  learning, and having fun….

On Growing Old; No Matter How You Look at it, it’s Better Than The Alternative

I have a friend who turned 51 not that long ago, and to say she wasn’t handling it well would be  putting it mildly.   She acted like getting old was something she should have stopped from happening,  like suddenly realizing  that she forgot to stop the newspaper from being delivered before she left on vacation, so why not just put a sign on the front lawn that said, “We aren’t here  anyway, so go ahead and rob us blind”?

I’m not sure why she felt she should have been able prevent something as basic as aging, and after she met Mary, she wondered why she was ever worried about it to begin with. Mary is 84 years old and a widow who decided (when husband number three kicked the bucket after 22 years on the road together) that she wasn’t ready to hang it up just yet.  She  drives a 26 foot RV and sets it up by herself, and when my friend met her, she was on her way to Carmel to learn how to surf.  It seems Mary’s only concession to age is the Harley Davidson she gave up at 72 after it became too heavy for her to get up on its kickstand.

It seems my life is filled with people in their seventies and eighties who have more going on than six people half their ages.  My friend, Leo Monahan, is in his early eighties, and between a career as the most amazing paper artist I have ever met, he is also the tongue in cheek voice of Leo the Colorman, describing his childhood in South Dakota through the paper sculptures that have taken him all over the world.  My uncle, Chuck Foster, who is in his early sixties, is pursuing his dream of becoming a  rock star (and why not?).  A few days ago, I was lucky enough to meet Ardell, a security guard who checks  in trucks and cargo at a National Guard facility in Arkansas.  She is 74.

I am not sure why so many people I talk to in their forties and fifties think life is over just because a certain number has been reached.  I went to a lecture by Dan Buettner last year on what he calls “The Blue Zones”.   Buettner discovered that there are seven places in the world where people lead healthy, active lives, well into their late nineties.  When I first mentioned the concept on Facebook, everyone said the same thing.  “Why on earth would you want to live to be that OLD?”. The assumption was that living to 100 meant less mobility, less quality of life; in other words, sitting in a wheelchair on the porch of the nursing home, drooling on yourself,  just waiting to die.

Buettner proved through his research that these Blue Zones aren’t a fluke, and that people from these regions experience an exceptional quality of life.  What was even more surprising is that, while all seven zones were in different parts of the world, successful aging had the following factors in common:

Move Naturally – Gain 4 Years

1. Just Move

The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms.  Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it.  They live in places where they can walk to the store, to their friends house or places of worship, their houses have stairs, they have gardens in their yards.

Consider making things a little inconvenient.  Make that extra trip up or down the stairs instead of loading things at the top or bottom to take up later, walk to your airport gate instead of taking the moving walkway, park far from the entrance, walk a dog, do your own yard and house work, get rid of some the time saving electronics and power equipment that have “simplified” your life.

Right Outlook – Gain 4 Years

2. Purpose Now

Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy. The Okinawans call it “ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.”  Do an internal inventory. Be able to articulate your values, passions, gifts and talents.  What are the things you like to do and the things you don’t? Then incorporate ways to put your skills into action.

3. Down Shift

Even people in the Blue Zones experience  stress.  Stress leads to chronic inflammation which is associated with every major age-related disease.  What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress.  Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.  Find a stress shedding strategy that works for you and make it routine.

Eat Wisely – Gain 8 Years

4. 80% Rule

Marketers tell us we can eat our way to health.  America has been eating its way well beyond health.  Our strategy focuses on taking things out — instead of putting more things in — our diet.   “Hara hachi bu”  – the Okianawan, 2500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomach is 80 percent full.  The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it.  Serve food at the counter, store leftovers, then sit down to enjoy the meal. Replace your big dishes with 10” plates. Remove TV’s from the kitchen.  People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day.

5. Plant Slant

Go ahead and eat meat if you want.  But consider it a condiment and try the leanest, finest meat you can afford. Try to limit it to a portion the size of a deck of cards and only twice per week.  Beans, including fava, black and soy and lentils are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets.  Snacking on nuts–about a handful a day has been associated with and extra 2-3 years of life expectancy.

6. Wine @ 5

Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers.  The trick is to drink 1-2 drinks per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food.  And no, you can’t save up all weekend and have 14 drinks on Saturday.

Connect – Gain 4 Years

7. Belong

All but five of the 263 centenarians we interviewed belonged to some faith-based community.  It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish or some other religion that meets as a community.  Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.

8. Loved Ones First

Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first. This means keeping your aging parents and grandparents near by or in your home. (It lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.) Work on being in a positive, committed relationship (which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy)  and invest in your children with time and love. (They’ll be more likely to care for you when the time comes.)

9. Right Tribe

The world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that supported healthy behaviors,   Okinawans created ”moais”–groups of five friends that committed to each other for life.  Research from the Framingham Studies show that smoking, obesity, happiness, and  even loneliness is contagious.   Assessing who you hang out with, and then proactively surrounding yourself with the right friends, will do more to add years to your life than just about anything else.

I don’t know Mary’s secret to long life.  I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting her. It seems to me that if I had to make a list of things that wuld keep people young it would boil down to just one offering: “You ARE going to die someday, right, so why the hell not?????”

For more information on the Blue Zones, visit http://www.bluezones.com