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Archive for February 2013

Cruise ships as old age homes?

My husband and I have never been on a cruise nor have we been tempted to try one.

After seeing the photos and hearing the stories by passengers aboard the stranded Carnival Cruise in the Gulf of Mexico, we felt even more sure we'd never be tempted. Feces in the hallways? Onion sandwiches? Yuk.

So if more potential travlers feel the same, look for a dip in the cruise business.

However, there has been some buzz in various media about retired folks living full-time on cruise ships. Two years ago, financial writer Brian Jaeger wrote about the six good reasons to consider living on a cruise ship after retiring.

Socialization, travel, good meals, entertainment, etc.

After going on a cruise himself, he crunched some numbers and wrote:

Our cruise cost us roughly $76 a day per person for the cruise ticket, port fees, taxes, and an automatic gratuity. You may want to add in an additional $10 to $15 per day for miscellaneous expenses. That cost is significantly less than some full-service retirement communities, which can easily cost more than $100 per day. Extreme cruisers might be able to live on board for less than $30,000 per year

Would you ever live on cruise ships year-round?

(S-R photo archives)

Feasting in heaven: Frank Cannata

Frank Cannata died last week at 88. He was a kind, gentle Spokane man I got to know well in the 1980s and 1990s because he was the manager of the Town and Country Restaurant, our family hangout.

It is said that the first person you meet upon entering a business helps determine your attitude toward the entire business. Frank greeted people at the door. He went table to table asking folks how their meals were. He was a very good listener, too. And he knew everybody's name.

He set the tone for the entire dining experience. In a Feb. 13 post, I talked about Jan Rotondo, co-owner of the restaurant, who died this month, too.

I picture Jan, her husband Frank Rotondo, and now Frank Cannata preparing their famous pasta dishes in heaven. Divine dining for the angels, for sure.

Rest in peace, Frank.


Turning up - and out - the degrees

Many of us in the Boomer generation took the traditional route through education: graduate from high school and then off to college: maybe a two-year degree, maybe a four-year degree. But with education costs skyrocketing and the rest of life not always offering an easy path, institutions are beginning to offer realistic and creative options for eager learners to integrate their “life learning” into their college education.

Online universities, independent learning options, and assessments of education through life experience can translate into earned credits and eventually a degree. Finally, some common sense and wisdom applied to institutions of higher learning.

(S-R archives photo)

Poetic departure

As humorist Garrison Keillor says, “It is a shame to miss one’s own funeral…all those nice comments…and to come so close…to miss it by just a few days!”

One man missed his funeral by minutes.

A lovely story of husband and wife ~ united forever.

(S-R archive photo)

Oscar and friends

Sunday the Oscars will be given (seems a bit passé to call them the “Academy Awards” – easier to tweet the “O” word).  

If you haven’t been to the theatre to see all the nominees on the BIG screen, sit back and view clips of all that glitters come Sunday.

(S-R archives photo: April 2, 1974 file photo shows actress Elizabeth Taylor standing by a statue of the Academy Award Oscar in Los Angeles.)

“M’lady” and other English treats

Everyone in my family, in my workspace and my friends are watching: Downton Abbey. I finally caved and watched season one AND season two in the last ten days. It is a nice break from my husband’s favorite channel, the History Channel (I call it the “war channel.”) And a nice break from the grey grey skies of the Pacific Northwest.

What is it about Masterpiece Theatre’s hit from across the pond?

Treat yourself, travel back in time to the early twentieth century and visit Downton.

(S-R archives photo:  Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess, left, and Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson from the TV series, “Downton Abbey.” )

She’s back!

For ABC’s Good Morning, America viewers, today is a big deal…Robin Roberts, co-anchor of the show, has returned. Roberts was diagnosed with a rare blood disease last fall and needed a bone marrow transplant. She lost weight, lost her hair, but never lost her determination to gain back her strength and return to work, her “family” as she calls her colleagues.

Roberts had her journey tracked publically as she videoed many of the steps of her medical care. She answered people who wrote to her sharing their health challenges.

Roberts’ willingness to share her own struggle and encourage others may be her best contribution to the GMA audience yet.

Welcome back, Robin!

(S-R archives photo: Aug. 20, 2012 )

The pope and his wisdom…or not

Now that Pope Benedict  XVI is leaving St. Peter’s center stage, so many “authorities” on papal topics are writing and writing and talking and talking, to say nothing about the papal hopefuls adjusting their beanies and walking a bit more confidently.

Fun to watch.

In the meantime, here is the latest myth debunked…In short, no, the pope is not infallible about the weather or Jesus’ eye color or…so many issues in the world.

Read and learn.

(S-R photo)

Sad Song

In a country challenged with lack of adequate mental health care, a country singer has taken her own life. Mindy McCready, country singer and mother of two, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. She was 37.

We do not know the demons and sadness that people carry in their hearts. We do know we have to find a way to provide health care for not only the cancers of the body, but also the illnesses that torture our emotional selves, too.

(S-R photo)

Non-political politics

President Obama’s State of the Union speech addressed the topics on our minds and hearts. Op-ed columnist, Charles M. Blow, believes we heard the “real” President Obama on Tuesday night: the one who does not have to worry about re-election; the man we elected to lead with his brains and heart; the one who no longer has to dance around Congress and public opinion. The president who can  lead us forward with his courage, conviction and grace.

(S-R photo: President Barack Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour.)

Jan Rotondo’s Town and Country potato recipe

An old family friend, Jan Rotondo, died recently. Her funeral is Friday. She and her husband, Frank, ran the Town and Country Restaurant, a popular place in Spokane for decades.

Two years ago, when Frank died, I asked Jan for the recipe for the Town and Country potato, a potato flavor I've never found since. The restaurant's sour cream recipe was part of the magic.

She gave me the recipe, but it was the one for restaurant use, so the portions are huge. If anyone out there who remembers it and reduces it to family level, please let me know. I'd love to taste it again.

Godspeed Jan! Thanks for all the great food and memories.

The Town and Country Potato

  • Left over whipped potatoes (amount unspecified)
  • 4 to 5 dozen eggs
  • 3 onions chopped fine
  • 2 quarts of T&C blended sour cream
  • 1 to 2 cups of bacon crumbles
  • 1 to 2 cups garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup white pepper
  • 1/2 cup salt

The T&C sour cream

  • 30 ounce can mayonnaise
  • 3 quarts of sour cream
  • 2 bunches green onions chopped
  • 1 large onion chopped fine
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 2 T horseradish
  • 1/3 cup each of salt and MSG
  • 1 tablespoon white pepper

Lent resolution: No worries

Last year for Lent, I tried to give up worrying. It was only slightly successful. I'm going to try again this year.

I believe at the end of my life, I will regret being anxious about things that turned out not to matter, things I had no control over, things that I should have kept my big nose out of.

I think back to grade school, high school, and even recent history, to the people and situations that caused me anxiety and sleepless hours and see what a waste of time and energy it turned out to be.

Enough. So today, to get me started, I ponder the words of writer Joyce Rupp.

Do not hold grudges. Let go of what steals your joy.

Maintain kindness toward those who display a negative attitude.

Refuse to make an enemy of those who consider you their enemy.

Reconcile, even when you know it was not your fault.

Try to perceive the deeper reason for someone's hurtful behavior.

Do not dwell on troubling memories.

Remember that you cannot force anyone to change.

(S-R archive photo)

A new pope - next steps

The process to elect a pope is different from any other election process in the world. Here is one piece of the process:

“The conclave to elect the successor of Benedict XVI will be regulated by the 'Ordo Rituum Conclavis' established by John Paul II's apostolic constitution 'Universi Dominici Gregis', para. 27. The Cardinal Camerlengo, who has a fundamental role during the Sede Vacante period, is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, appointed by Benedict XVI on 4 April 2007.

“The Cardinal electors, by their continents of provenance, will be 61 Europeans, 19 Latin Americans, 14 North Americans, 11 Africans, 11 Asians, and 1 from Oceania. These figures may vary depending on the date that the conclave opens: for example, Cardinal Walter Kasper will turn 80 on 5 March. The country with the greatest number of Cardinal electors is Italy, with 21. Sixty-seven of the electors were created by Benedict XVI and the remaining 50 by John Paul II.

“One of John Paul II's innovations regarding the period of conclave is that the Cardinal electors,of whom there will be 117 on 28 February, will be housed in the Vatican residence Casa Santa Marta, which is independent from the place where they vote, the Sistine Chapel.

“The Cardinal electors must remain in the Vatican during the entire period of conclave, and no one can approach them when they move from the Sistine Chapel to their place of residence or vice versa. All forms of communication with the outside world are prohibited. As in the past, the Sistine Chapel stove will be used to burn the ballots after each vote.”  

The cardinals vote four times each day and a 2/3 +1 majority is needed to elect a winner. If a stalemate is reached, a simple majority yields the winner.

Source: Vatican Information Service (VIS)

(Photo: S-R archives; Cardinals participate in a ceremony during the 7th Concistory held in the Sistine Chapel in 1978, prior to the election of Pope John Paul II)

Pope resigns

Pope Benedict XVI announced he will resign on February 28 due to his failing health. He is the first pope in 600 years to do so. A new pope will be elected in March and be in place by Easter (March 31). The process of electing a pope is interesting and unique. Stay tuned.

(S-R archives photo: Pope Benedict XVI celebrates a mass for Latin America, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011.)

Monday madness

Each week we begin our work by assessing tasks, catching up on what we may have missed since we left our workplace and anticipating all that must be done. The best way to accomplish those goals? Relax!  Really. Science says so.

(S-R archives photo)

Hop on treadmill. Keep your mind.

An Annals of Internal Medicine report showed a strong link between exercise and a lower risk of dementia.

From the Medline Plus press release:

Who was studied? 19,458 healthy middle-aged people who had a treadmill exercise test as part of a preventive health clinic visit.

How was the study done? The researchers divided the participants into those who were most and least fit, defined as the amount of time people ran on a treadmill. They then followed the participants for many years, beyond the time they reached age 65 years, to see who went on to develop dementia. The researchers then compared the number of people who had dementia among the most and least fit.

What did the researchers find? The most fit study participants were much less likely to develop dementia than those who were less fit.

(S-R archive photo)

Update: 10 items a day for 1,000 days

On Dec. 13, I began a thousand-day project to give or throw away 10 items from our house each day. I am proud to say I have stuck with the plan, nearly two months into it.

This week, I focused on our CD collection, because the KPBX Recordings and Video Sale is coming up Feb. 16 and Feb. 17.

The public radio station is accepting donations this week. So tomorrow, I will drop off about 50 CDs from my husband and me, music collected over our 28 years together.

We had to both agree that a CD could go. Many brought back memories. Some we'd never listened to. Others we listened to once and didn't like.

It's nice to know they will find new homes.

Wellness at mid-life

Women were once mocked and dismissed as they moved through mid-life. No more. Health care knows that these physical and emotional transitions can be addressed and women can find relief, knowledge and support as they move through the aging process.

Read what one innovative community offers.

What services do you think are most needed in your community for middle-aged women ?

(S-R archives photo)

Community of chemotherapy, part 3

Today to her chemotherapy session, my friend Chris wore a hat for the first time over her hair-less head.

She has worn the shorn look with pride and even practicality. Her head gets very warm, she discovered, and so going hatless and wigless is actually more comfortable.

Chris has been given many hats, and many offers of hats, but she chose for the “first hat” one that belonged to her mother. We figure it was from the 1970s, likely bought at the Crescent Department Store (now gone). It's a knit brown cap, covered in gold sequins, beautifully made and still in terrific shape.

So Mildred Kopet, who died more than 25 years ago of Alzheimer's, was with us in spirit today, in the form of her jaunty hat, rescued years ago for today's use.

Thanks Mildred!


Boomer U and me

My husband once told me, years ago, that I would likely have a newspaper job to the grave, if I tracked the baby boomers to the grave.

That's not the reason I'm happy to be a big part of Boomer U, our new Monday Today section, but he had a point.

Take a look

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at

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