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May 4, 2017 / Retirementallychallenged.com

Rockabilly Style Comes to Las Vegas

There aren’t many things that would prompt my husband and me to drive 320 miles – through boring scenery and across the desert – with the final destination being a town built on gambling, excessive partying, and staying out late (none of which we are fond of). But, the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend event, the largest rockabilly festival in the world, is well worth the trip.

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People from all over the world gather for this annual event. Some come to the Rockabilly Weekend for the cars, others come for the tattoos, many come to see and be seen, or for the vintage and kitschy merchandise, or maybe the tiki pool parties, pin-up, and burlesque, but almost all come for the music.

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The car show was great (Over 1,000, pre-1963 vehicles were on display), tattoos were both colorful and plentiful (and you could add even more ink at the event), the people-watching was stellar, you could buy just about anything from parasols to pomades, and rockabilly style ranged from sweet to sexy, but it was the music and dancing that enticed my husband and me to return to Las Vegas for this year’s event.

Although this was only our second year, Viva Las Vegas was celebrating its 20th anniversary, and they – and the attendees – really put on a show. Over 60 bands played on six stages over the 3-day weekend and when they weren’t playing, the DJs kept everyone entertained. Typically, the music started around 3:00 pm and ended well after midnight (or so the schedule said, we were long asleep by then).

 

We enjoy swing dancing and, for the most part, the music gave us a lot of opportunities to get out on the dance floor. When we weren’t dancing, we were watching others far more talented than us. Although some of the dancers were older, most were young(ish) and it was nice to see the classic dance styles being preserved. Jive, Jitterbug, Balboa, Lindy, Cha-Cha, West Coast Swing, and even some Texas Two-Step and Polka: whatever dance the music inspired.

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Besides the great music and dancing opportunities, we enjoyed watching the young men and women who love the rockabilly style and dressed to impress. Many of them wore classic 1940s clothes and had their hair styled to match (although the colors were often not those found in nature). Some dressed that way just for the weekend, but others had clearly committed themselves to that look.

Whether we go next year or not, we haven’t decided. We have decided, though, to sign up for Lindy classes. It was a dance style that looked like a lot of fun and we want to be ready when the music moves us to get up and out on the floor.

May 2, 2017 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: Unexpected delights

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I traveled to Las Vegas to attend the annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend event (more on that in another post). We don’t gamble and we don’t drink a lot (especially when we are dancing) so what Las Vegas is famous for doesn’t hold a great amount of appeal for us.

The weekend event is held at a hotel off The Strip so it’s easy for us to ignore the glitz and “glamor” (but, unfortunately not the cigarette smoke), and at least attempt to eat a fairly normal diet. We were happy to find a local supermarket to buy fruit, snacks, and other items we could keep in our room.

On our first visit to the market, while we were in the produce section, I was surprised and delighted to see Elvis checking out the apples. I’m not sure I would have recognized him had he not been wearing his white jumpsuit, but I’m sure that he was the real deal.

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I wish I could have gotten a better shot, but I was too shy to ask him to pose. Unfortunately, on subsequent visits, Elvis had left the building and was nowhere to be found.

Then, on our drive back to the hotel, I came across a curious scene on the center island of the street we were on.

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I’m not sure what the back story is, but a golden lion with red eyes, surrounded by 5 pink crocodiles (or, whatever they were) has to have one… don’t you think?

Some people are wowed by the noisy crowds and flashing slot machines, others by the glitzy shows and other extravaganzas Las Vegas has to offer. Us, not so much. But I am grateful for the unexpected, silly, puzzling, delightful little encounters we often find when we travel and find ourselves off the well-beaten path.

April 25, 2017 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: I can hear clearly now

About twenty years ago, I started to notice that the hearing in my right ear was “off.” Sometimes I heard a crackling static and sometimes it sounded like I had water in my ear. As irritating as those symptoms were, it wasn’t until I began to experience hearing loss that I decided to see a doctor.

Long story short, I was given the diagnosis of otosclerosis (a disease of the bone surrounding the inner ear) and had a surgical procedure which removed the teeny little stapes bone and replaced it with a micro prosthesis.

All was great until about five years later, when something “slipped” and I again experienced hearing loss – this time with the added bonus of constant tinnitus.

With one fully-functioning ear and one functioning at about 40%, I have learned to adapt pretty well. I always try to position myself at a table so my good ear is facing the conversation; I am comfortable telling someone sitting on my right that I might not hear them clearly (or at all); and, I am able to ignore the constant ringing in my ear (for the most part) so it doesn’t drive me nuts. One positive outcome is that, when I sleep with my left ear on my pillow, I don’t hear such things as barking dogs, car alarms, and my husband’s snoring.

One challenge I continued to struggle with was the television. Too soft and I couldn’t hear the dialog, too loud and my husband felt that the TV was yelling at him (and, even at higher volumes, I could hear the dialog but I often still had a hard time understanding it). Add to that the way characters tend to talk over each other and the British accents on many of the shows we watch, and we often found ourselves resorting to close captioning.

Not anymore. I now have wireless headphones that allow me to hear the dialog clearly while maintaining the TV volume at a reasonable level. The brand we have is Sennheiser, but Sony and others make them too. I can adjust my own volume level separate from the television and even up and down between the right and left side. My husband is relieved that I can hear without blasting the volume or having to turn on captioning. I’m pleased that I can hear the dialog clearly. In fact, I can hear so well that I often have to repeat dialog back to him.

I am grateful that my headphones have allowed me to clearly hear the dialog on television again. Although my hearing loss started in my forties, lots of others experience it as a part of aging. There are a variety of tools available to help, and one of these days I may try a hearing aid, but right now I’m happy. I’m even thinking about re-watching the whole six seasons of Downton Abbey to hear what I missed.

April 18, 2017 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: A Reunion of Friends

There is something very comforting about spending time with friends that we’ve had for a long time. They know much of our history, and we know theirs. And, even though we’ve… um… matured over the years, they still have our younger selves planted firmly in their memory banks. Additionally, a simple “remember when…?” can bring back a flood of shared experiences that often generates a laugh, a grimace, or the retelling of a beloved story.

In the 1980s I worked as a graphic designer for a subsidiary of a large publishing company. This was one of my first “real” jobs and I loved it. Most of the employees (except, of course, management) were woman – very talented and vastly underpaid women. Many of us felt that we were doing something important, whether it was designing a textbook, writing and editing copy, or providing support for the creation and distribution of our products. The culture of the company, and probably our shared youthful naiveté and enthusiasm, helped to create the sense that we were all in it together.

Over thirty years later, several of the friendships we formed back then are ongoing. Some are of the “Facebook” variety, but others are permanent and active. I count a couple of my dearest friends among this group of women – one of them was even the officiant of my wedding.

Seven years ago, several of us decided to put together a reunion of small group of these former work friends. Some of those we invited had maintained contact over the years, and others – lost in the passage of years – had to be found using social media. We weren’t sure how it would turn out, but we were excited to see everyone and reestablish a few connections. That reunion was such a success we decided to make it an annual event.

This past Saturday, we had our latest reunion/lunch/get-together/gab-fest and it was as enjoyable as ever. After catching up on the latest news in each of our lives (travels, family, work – yes, a few still work at least part-time), we spent the rest of the afternoon telling stories, laughing, and sharing information about others we knew way back when. As always, the time together passed way too quickly and, when we parted, we were already looking forward to next year’s event.

Our hostess not only put together an amazing lunch, she also managed to get us all in her selfie.

I am so grateful to have this marvelous group of women in my life. They are smart, interesting, funny, well-informed, and actively engaged in life. Even though I see several of them only once a year, all of them added richness to my life 30 years ago, and their friendship adds depth to who I am today.

March 28, 2017 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: Public Broadcasting and Its Supporters

I first wrote about my love for my local public broadcasting stations last year. At the time, I had no idea that, just a few months later, their federal funding could be in jeopardy. Some of this post is a repeat, but I’ve updated it and added information about important ways you can lend your support (including a link to a petition you can sign).

My husband and I usually begin our day listening to our local National Public Radio (NPR) station and, in the evening, we often watch the Public Broadcasting Station’s (PBS) NewsHour to catch up on the day’s news. When I’m driving around in my car, my radio might as well be permanently fixed on NPR because I rarely listen to anything else. In addition, we watch many of the quality shows our local PBS station broadcasts in the evening such as Downton Abbey (sadly over now), Sherlock, Masterpiece Theater, and anything Ken Burns produces.

When I listen to NPR or watch PBS, I am always entertained and I usually learn something new; sometimes the topics are already of great interest to me and sometimes the subjects weren’t even on my radar. Either way, I always get something out of the time I spend watching or listening to this most valuable public resource.

I am so grateful for public television and radio and the diverse programs and services that are available to inform, educate, enlighten, and enrich us all. They are a bright light shining above the fray of polarized and often questionable news sources. Public broadcasting stations are operated as private not-for-profit corporations and partially rely on contributions by their listeners.

I am also grateful for those who support public broadcasting.

  • If you haven’t given your local public broadcasting station a try, tune in sometime and see if what they offer is of value to you.
  • If you do watch or listen – or both – but are not yet a member, consider joining. Your support will help ensure the continued success of smart, thoughtful programming.
  • If you are already a member: fabulous! If you can, think about upping your level of support. Also, please consider including your local station in your estate planning so that future generations can enjoy this valuable resource too.
  • And finally, please lend your voice to the public outcry about the president’s budget that proposes to eliminate public media funding. The federal investment in public media is relatively small – roughly $1.35 per American taxpayer annually – less than 1/100th of one percent of the federal budget, yet PBS is watched by 82 percent of U.S. households.

If you feel that public media is an essential part of the fabric of our culture, please make your voice heard. Visit www.ProtectMyPublicMedia.org to sign this petition urging Congress to continue the essential funding for public media and your local stations. Call your representatives to let them know how important it is to you.

Thank you!

March 24, 2017 / Retirementallychallenged.com

U.S. National Parks on Sale!

I first posted this last year in February. If you are 62 or older and haven’t already taken advantage of this wonderful offer, the time to do it is now! The National Park Service has announced that the price for its Senior Pass will be raised from $10 to $80 sometime later this year. Here, with a few updates, is information about obtaining your pass.

So little, yet so mighty!

 There are a lot of opportunities to save a few dollars here and there when we pass certain age milestones. Some businesses offer deals for customers as young as 50, but most of these “senior discounts” don’t kick in until we reach age 55, 60, or older. Many restaurants, hotels, airlines, rental car agencies, and retail shops try to attract our money by offering a dollar amount or percentage off… but often only if you ask (so, ask). Some of the deals are good, but many require the customer to purchase something they may not have wanted in the first place.

The very best senior discount opportunity I know of is the one offered by the National Park Service. For just $10 (plus a $10 processing fee, if by mail or online), any U.S. citizen or permanent resident age 62 or over can purchase this lifetime pass to over 2,000 recreation sites. Senior Passes can be purchased online, by mail, or in person and will admit up to four adults (any age) in one non-commercial vehicle for free. How flipping great is that??!!

As soon as my husband turned 62, we drove to our local National Monument for a hike and to get his Senior Pass. We’ve already used the pass several times, and look forward to using it more in the future.

Even if you, like me, won’t be 62 until after the price increase, $80 is still a great bargain, and the increase will help the Park Service address its estimated $12 billion maintenance backlog. If $80 is too steep, another option for seniors is a $20 annual pass. Either way, The National Park System is an amazing resource and, especially with federal funding a bit shaky right now, well worth the investment.

Other discount passes are available, including one for current members of the military, people with disabilities, and 4th graders (I assume I don’t have any 4th graders reading my blog but some of you may have children or grandchildren who qualify). An $80 Annual Pass is available to anyone of any age and is a great deal if you plan to visit more than one or two participating parks during a calendar year.

To learn more about the National Park Service and their discount passes, visit their website (nps.gov), or go straight to: nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm.

Then, get out and explore!

March 21, 2017 / Retirementallychallenged.com

GratiTuesday: The signs of spring

The arrival of spring in Southern California can be very subtle. Those of you who have been (or still are) buried under piles of snow probably scoff at what we consider winter (I know it’s true… I can hear you scoffing). Yes, we had some rain. Yes, we even had some flooding in some areas. But, A) we were whining about being in a drought just last year, B) we don’t have to shovel rain, and C) having to replace our wiper blades is not the same as changing to snow tires.

Some people claim that we don’t have “real” seasons here, but those of us who have lived here for a while know that isn’t true. You just need to look a little closer for the signs. I wrote about the desert wild flower super bloom last week, but there are plenty of indications of spring closer to home.

Photo credit: my talented friend, Mitch Mitchell

The local surfers have traded their full-length wetsuits for short-sleeved wetsuits.

Target has started to display their outdoor merchandise.

Yes, they really are that white.

Horrified that I will soon have to expose my ghost-white legs in public, I purchased my first-of-the-season tube of self-tanning lotion.

The brightly colored hooded orioles have started to arrive from their winter home in Mexico. They nest in our neighborhood palm trees and fill the air with their noisy chatter.

My blueberry bushes are showing their first buds, promising a bountiful summer crop.

 

As you can see, even in Southern California, the signs of spring are beginning to appear all around us, and I am so grateful that it is here.