Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Still Going Strong and Helping Others at 97

97 Never Looked This Good

“Keep busy. Keep Useful.” This upbeat outlook on life keeps Hertzel Harrison active, involved and very independent. (And still quite handsome for a man who’s turning 98 in December!) He drove himself to my home recently for our interview and politely refused any assistance from myself or my husband.

Antonia: Welcome Hertzel. Can you tell me a little about your background?

Hertzel: I was born in Peoria, Illinois in 1917, 10th of 11 children. There were nine boys and two girls. The girls were spoiled rotten.

I wanted to enlist in the military but I had to deal with a medical condition before I could get in. In my childhood I was poisoned from bad milk. This affected, among other things, my depth perception, so I wasn’t eligible to fly until I got well. I got down to 60 lbs. because of this illness!

Eventually, I proved I was well enough to fly as an Aviation Cadet. I went on to become a successful navigator and bombardier. My eyesight was perfect. I was stationed in Texas and served three years.

Antonia: Tell me how you met your wife.

Hertzel: It was during Christmas vacation in high school in Peoria. My buddy Don Heinrick and I were looking for something to do. We went to a friend’s house and that’s where I first saw this blue-eyed blonde, Virginia Steele. She took one look at me and that was it!

We got married and had two boys: Trip was the older and Bob is the younger. My older son passed away in his 60’s but the younger one, Bob, lives nearby.

Antonia: How did you get from Peoria to here in California?

Hertzel: I got into manufacturing. It’s kind of ironic that I got into designing a piece of equipment that dealt with food poisoning. It was a refrigeration/oven unit on wheels. I worked with hospitals and nursing homes.

Originally I did this work while living in Florida with my family. I had the factory in Canada where the parts were assembled into these units.

In 1980 I sold the company, retired and moved my family to Santa Rosa, California.

Antonia: Tell me about retirement life.

Hertzel: I started off by playing lots of golf and the other usual retirement stuff…enjoying life. I quit playing golf when I developed basal cell carcinoma.

Unfortunately, Virginia died of colon cancer in 1991. We were married 56 years! That’s when I began volunteering at the hospital. I found that volunteering was the best thing to occupy my mind. Keep busy. Keep useful.

These days I play duplicate bridge and spend time with my seven grand kids and their kids.

Antonia: Why is volunteering so important to you?

Hertzel: It makes me feel useful, instead of useless. I also did some work at the Senior Center for a while serving meals to seniors. Now I just work at Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa, answering questions and helping people get where they need to be. I work about 8 hours a week and so far have contributed about 4,000 hours since I started.

Antonia: How do you feel about getting older? Do you consider yourself a role model?

Hertzel: I feel fine. I’m not angry I can’t do all the things I did when I was 21. No, I feel good about the age I’m at. No, I don’t consider myself a role model. I think of myself as lucky!

Antonia: Any advice for those of us coming behind you?

Hertzel: Eat red meat sparingly. If you’re gonna eat meat, eat white meat. I never smoked cigarettes but did smoke a pipe for maybe a couple of years but quit when I was about 35. As far as drinking, a bottle of wine would last me about a month. I don’t really drink.

My other advice is don’t go to sleep angry. Find a way to resolve any problems. Oh, and save your money!

Thanks Hertzel!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What if Today Was Your Last Day?

What if you only had 24 hours to do the things you want, see the people and places you are able to visit and get your affairs in order?

When I first contemplated this question, I started crying. 

I didn’t want it to be my last day. I haven't had enough time, enough good laughs, enough kisses and hugs with family and friends, enough wet nose bumps with my precious Kali or enough perfectly dry chardonnay or deliciously crafted Caesar salads. I haven't had enough days luxuriating in my bed-like-a-nest or being surprised by a new thing or having something in nature totally blow me away.

I had to force myself to think what it might be like…this last day.

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have continued writing this post if it weren’t for wanting to share my fear and what came out of that fear. I found myself saying, “If I’m feeling this way, I bet there are lots of others who might have difficulty as well.”

I began with an exercise -- a blank piece of paper and the question, “What if today was my last?”

To immerse myself in the “last day” head space, I quieted down. It was hard to find the courage to get myself to actually feel what it would be like to have only one day left to live.

I squirmed and resisted. I did the dishes. I decided my craft closet needed some revamping. Finally when I was able to get serious about the exercise, the answers of what I’d do came swiftly. They poured out of me. I wasn’t surprised by what they were.

In order of priority my things were:

     - Be with my husband, my best women friends, and my 

          cat, Kali. (After writing this I’m crying again, so I 
          take a couple of deep breaths before proceeding.)

     - I’d write a few letters to extended family and friends 

           who I’ve gotten out of touch with, including a few 
          “Thank You” notes to people who have shown up 
          as teachers in my life.

     - I’d make arrangements to give some stuff away

     - I’d break out that $25 bottle of wine and enjoy it in 

          nature on my deck.

     - My favorite pieces of classical music would be 

          playing all day interspersed with some R&B soul 

     - I would apologize to a few people I have hurt, but 

          wouldn’t angst out over regrets or making amends.

     - I would eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish 

          Food ice cream and perhaps some risotto.

     - I’d go to the ocean and let the brilliant sun ricochet 

          off the white caps 
          into my eyes.

     - I’d let someone read 

          to me.

     - I would smile all day.

One purpose of this exercise is to see what my priorities are.

For me, the value of creating this list is to compare what I do now with what I'd do if my time was limited. I believe the real takeaway for me is to incorporate more of the things on my list into my everyday life.

Now it’s your turn.

Do what it takes to get in that space of feeling it’s your last day. Write down what you’d do differently and then try to do at least three of those things every week or every day.

While I got all weepy when I started with this post, I think the value of the exercise far outweighed any discomfort. It's a great reminder for me to enjoy what's important to me, pursue my priorities and make time for the things and people I love. 

What do you think?

Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@blogspot.com or
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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In the Know - A New Feature!

Here’s your monthly roundup of fun and helpful tips and news about and for seniors. (If there are other topics you’d like me to cover here, let me know!)

Medicare Turns 50 in Good Health

From NPR: “Here’s a bit of good news for Medicare, the popular government program that's turning 50 this week. Older Americans on Medicare are spending less time in the hospital; they're living longer; and the cost of a typical hospital stay has actually come down over the past 15 years.” Click here to read or listen to the story.

Trash Your Muumuus and Get Some Jeans!

Great advice on how to look fashionable after 60 (even on a budget) with tips taken from the likes of Diane Sawyer and Susan Sarandon. Learn why you should wear lots of color, how to experiment with prints and textures… and see Helen Mirren rocking a bikini at 65. http://www.thebudgetfashionista.com/fashion-advice-older-women/

Preschoolers and the Elderly in Present Perfect

I was just thrilled to learn about this preschool located entirely inside a retirement home. The two groups at the opposite of ends of life meet to do activities, read, share stories, color, paint, sing songs and lots of other fun things. What a wonderful way to use the valuable resource of elders within a community. A documentary is forthcoming. I was deeply touched. Click here to find out more.

10 Things I Learned From Barbie

If you’re like me, you played with Barbie dolls. I loved Barbie but I was surprised at just how much I learned from my time with her. For instance, sometimes we get our hair all cut off or have ball point tattoos appear on our thighs -- life is capricious. Constantly standing on our tiptoes and wearing blue eye shadow are not always a great idea. For more funny and entertaining things we can learn from Barbie, click here.

The Surprising Benefits of Volunteering

Want to get out more, make more connections, do some good and feel great in the process? Here are four reasons you might want to consider volunteering and enjoy its “Happiness Effect.” http://www.helpguide.org/articles/work-career/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm

A Few Notable Birthdays

Dalai Lama - 89 on July 6
Martha Reeves of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas - 74 on July 18

Tony Bennett - 89 on August 3
Wendell Berry - 81 on August 5

OK, that’s it for now. Like I said, if there’s something you want me to look into, let me know. I’d love your thoughts and opinions.

Contact Antonia at antoniasseniormoments@hotmail.com or
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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Coincidences – Gifts from the Universe? Or Random Events?

It was one of those ordinary, totally forgettable days.

Sal was at a print shop trying to pick up an order. It wasn’t ready yet. So he thought, “What the heck, I’ll just go grab a coffee at the cafe across the street.”

Sal’s life was about to change forever. 

He jogged across the street and stooped down to pet an adorable fluffball puppy that was tied up outside the cafe.

Just then, an attractive blonde woman dressed in a business suit, juggling a large purple backpack and a heavy briefcase, buzzed around the corner and nearly tripped over Sal. The two of them laughed and, after playing with the puppy for a moment, went inside, found a table in a quiet corner, and instantly bonded over coffee.

Today Sal and Megan are living together and plan to marry.

Everything changed in a moment… because his printing order wasn’t ready on time and a puppy was his path. How does that work?

Was it a Coincidence? Luck? Serendipity? Fate? Or something else?

I’m sure you have some stories like this. They happen all the time. You run into that person you were meaning to call today. Or you pick out the same anniversary card for your spouse they picked out for you.

When things like this happen, do you trivialize them as “coincidences” and say “I got lucky,” or “It came out of the blue?” Or do you wonder if something else might be going on?

If you’re like me, you believe that everything that happens, happens for a reason.

As Bernie Siegel, M.D., author of Peace, Love and Healing, so beautifully says it, coincidences are "God's way of remaining anonymous.”

My spiritual faith leads me to believe everything exists in the universe because of my thoughts and actions. So, when something happens I can’t explain, I can’t just shrug my shoulders and leave it at that. I have to stay open to greater meaning.

Look around at the house you are living in, the job where you work and your partner and children, if you have them. Do you really think all these treasures in your life came to you coincidentally?

It’s harder to think we might have some connection with bad things that happen.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer years ago, I saw nothing good in it. It was a horrible experience. Yet, only a year later, I looked back on this trying time and saw I’d received an amazing gift.

I discovered what is really important in my life.

The importance of friends and family became crystal clear. I couldn’t have gotten that valuable perspective without having had the trauma of a life-threatening illness. Coincidence? I thought not, but you decide.

Look at what happens in your life.

The next time you run into a person, out of the blue, you’ve been thinking about, stop and pay attention to the circumstances of this happening, or coincidence. Is it possible the energy you used to think about this person had them appear in your life at that exact moment?

Whether you believe what happens as completely circumstantial or definitely created by your energy, be sure to be grateful and acknowledge all the coincidences that have made your current life what it is. Our life expands because of them.

What are your beliefs about the coincidences in your life?

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