Songs for Older People

This is something I had already noticed, but working with elderly clients has made me notice EVEN HARDER that most pop music is for young people. I think this is part of why the music at a grocery store can be so depressing: hearing those yearning passionate lyrics (“I can be your hero, baby”) while looking around at all of us very ordinary people living very ordinary lives and no one really following us around begging us to please please baby please be theirs…well, it’s a poor fit, and a painful contrast.

I noticed it particularly while driving home from a visit with a client, hearing Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.” Is my 86-year-old client going to identify with “And darling, I will be loving you until we’re 70”? Will that seem romantic to her? Will she sing it sentimentally to her 88-year-old husband? No. In fact, the song suddenly seems ridiculous. Wow, ALL THE WAY until SEVENTY??? And THEN what? Divorce, I assume, or death. Gosh, when you’re THAT old, does it even matter? This song is for people who can’t even IMAGINE an age like 70, people who were born when some of my clients were ALREADY 70.

I’ve heard that most music is written for young people because young people are the ones who buy music. But this seems like a bit of a CYCLE, doesn’t it? Music is written for young people because they’re the ones spending most of the money, but then pop music appeals less and less to older people, so then older people buy even less music and younger people buy even more, and there’s yet another set of data explaining why we might as well market only to younger people.

Besides, surely we do not market ALL the products for just the group who buys the MOST? Surely there is also money to be reaped from the groups who buy less, even if it’s LESS money. After all, you can still buy Prell and bluing and horehound candy and housedresses and bay rum aftershave and perm kits and handkerchiefs, even though The Young People don’t want to buy them. Let’s EXPLOIT those little pockets of money, marketers! I would love to hear more lyrics like Taylor Swift’s “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22” or Paramore’s “‘Cause after all this time, I’m still into you”—and I’d love them even more if they were written/sung by, respectively, someone who was older than 23 and someone who had been in a long marriage. I would like to hear more songs by/for people who have CHILDREN or GRANDCHILDREN who are 22.

My friend Surely has pointed out that COUNTRY music is helping to market to this niche. I have actively tried to like country music, but I just DON’T. I like pop music, and some pop-alternative. Maybe the occasional country cross-over: I do love Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” though I liked it even better when Nelly got involved. And that’s not the type of lyrics that I’m talking about anyway. How many of us are going around in bikini tops lookin’ for the fast life in some guy’s truck? I need something with more of an “Old Navy crewneck”/minivan feel. “Yeah when I first saw her with that comfy tee on her / She was walking right down that grocery store aisle.”

I promise if someone tries to exploit this market, I will buy the songs. Well, some of the songs. Well, if they’re on SALE; will they be on SALE? *rummages through coin purse for exact change*

Two Disputes, One with a Satisfying Resolution

Two things:

One is that the new(ish) EBay dispute-resolution system is so rad. Long ago, in the early days of EBay, if you bought something and it arrived in crummy condition, you had to hash it out with the seller—and most EBay sellers do not have training in customer service. You could leave negative feedback if they didn’t do the right thing, but then they could leave YOU completely unfair negative feedback in retaliation. Even if they took a return on the item, many wouldn’t refund shipping either direction, so you could end up losing a chunk of money and not even ending up with an item, even though you were completely blameless. It was a poor system.

NOW, if you contact the seller, it has to be through EBay’s communication system, and EBay keeps a record of the whole conversation. If things don’t go well, you can call EBay in on it: they examine the conversation, see you being incredibly polite and reasonable and showing the issue clearly with photos, and they see the seller not responding, or being unreasonable, and they take your money back from the seller and give it to you, including shipping. It is the best thing ever.


Two is that I had it out with my supervisor about all the schedule changes and extra-shift requests. I said that I was not a flexible employee at this stage of my life, and that I considered this job my second/extra job—a way to fill a few extra hours. I said that after working for the company for a couple months, I could see what a juggling act the scheduling was, and I could understand that employee flexibility would be a huge asset for that. I said I understood if my relative lack of ability to work more/different hours meant she couldn’t use me in the schedule, but hoped she would be able to.

She answered back very gratifyingly, thanking me for telling her and saying she would try not to change my schedule anymore. Since that discussion less than a week ago, she’s asked three times if I can work extra shifts—including one text at 10:30 at night concerning 8:00 the next morning. And this is after I answered the first request by saying no, I already had too many hours this week, and didn’t want any more.

This may not work out. In the meantime, I am getting lots of practice at the valuable life skill of saying no. Pretty soon I might start getting practice at the valuable life skill of saying “Are you KIDDING me??”

I really would hate to give up the job because of this issue. It’s not as if it’s a problem with the WORK. But this may be a problem with The Way the Company Is Run, and that can affect EVERYTHING. I’m fearing that it may be the way ALL such companies are run, but it’s too early to panic about that.

Reusable Disposable Plastic Bags

This feels so silly to blog about, but seriously it has changed my life and I think about it with satisfaction multiple times a week, so I’m just going to go with it.

Nearly a year ago, I mentioned that I was finally using reusable bags at Target as well as at the grocery store, but that I didn’t then know what to use for scooping the cat box. Rhia wrote: “We use bread bags for litter box scooping! Just the right size!” NonSoccerMom said she did the same. And MY LIFE WAS TRANSFORMED.

It’s a little embarrassing, but it had seriously and literally never occurred to me to reuse the bags our food comes in. I was BUYING PLASTIC BAGS. AT THE STORE. WITH MONEY. And I still DO buy bags, because there are some things I still want them for. But when Paul makes a double batch of muffins every week, and we divide them into one bag for now and two bags for the freezer for later in the week, I used to use gallon-sized Ziploc bags. (We did reuse them, but still.) Now we use empty bread bags, or empty soft-taco-shell bags, or empty hamburger-bun bags. They’re durable (they have to be, to survive shipping and stocking and shopping), they’re fine to put food in because THEY DID HAVE FOOD IN THEM, and we have a generous supply: we go through about five loaves of bread, two bags of soft taco shells, and one to two packs of hot dog or hamburger buns per week.

Now when I finish a bag of bread, or buns, or soft taco shells, or English muffins, or WHATEVER, I roll it up and put it in the freezer door. If it came with a twisty-tie, I twist that around the rolled-up bag so I’ll have it when I reuse the bag. (If it doesn’t have a twisty-tie, we have a supply of clothespins already on hand, for chip-bags and the like.) When we have leftover pizza, and I want a bag to put it in, I take one out of the freezer door—and then feel perfectly comfortable throwing the greasy thing away after we eat the pizza, because the bag was trash-bound ANYWAY when I saved it.

Pizza is a particularly good example, in fact, because a lot of other leftovers can skip the bag situation entirely by going in a reusable container. But I don’t have (and don’t want to acquire/store) a container big enough for leftover pizza, or for a dozen muffins.

The only downside is that the exterior of the bag is then misleading. I don’t know how many times I’ve been rummaging with frustration through the freezer, thinking, “WHERE are those MUFFINS??”—only to realize I’ve been overlooking them because I thought they were a bag of bread.

Fish Update

Well. Our final fish died. We’ve had this aquarium since TWO THOUSAND TEN, which is quite a bit longer than I’d thought. For awhile, we bought fish with life expectancies of 1-2 years, and periodically freshened the supply. Then I decided I was tired of cleaning the tank, and no one else was enjoying the fish anymore, not even the cats, so I decided I would let the fish Naturally Decrease Over Time and then we’d be done with fish.

I wish we’d made a note of when we bought the last batch, because it seems to all of us as if the last few fish lived WAY LONGER than they were supposed to. Finally we were down to two fish, and then to one, and it started seeming sad to have one single fish in a big tank, so I was glad when he started having balance/floating issues and we knew the time was near. Today was the day we said, “…Wait. Where is the fish?,” and soon found that he was No Longer With Us.

Now I find I am having second thoughts. Are we REALLY done with fish? Maybe getting rid of the aquarium will just mean there will be more room on that cabinet for clutter piles. Maybe if we got new, fresher fish, the cats would be interested in watching Fish TV again. And it was so difficult getting that tank from a fish-killing tank of water to a place where fish not only live but live TOO LONG; it seems a pity to waste that progress.

Two Useful Work Quotes

I would say it took about 2 months to stop FREAKING OUT about the new job. (In fact, maybe I already DID say this. It’s ringing a bell.) I can still get panicky when I have a new client, but a lot of it is just inherent (NEW THINGS AAAAAAAGGHHH!!), and in general things have settled down. I’m getting used to working, and I’m getting used to the work, and I’ve gotten used to the paperwork that is pretty much the same with every client. It helps enormously that I’m starting to have regular clients at regular times.

I still hate being called so much. I keep saying no, cringing/suffering every single time, and they keep calling anyway. I’ve started not answering my phone when I see it’s them. Then I can hear the message and have time to think about it. The problem: they’re PHONE PEOPLE, so to them it often makes sense to leave a message asking me to call them back, instead of leaving a message saying why they’re calling and what they want. Or else they’ve learned it’s harder to say no when you don’t have time to prepare, and they’re exploiting that. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Also, if they ARE doing that, in my case it’s backfiring: if I have time to think, I might say YES. Whereas if I’m on the spot, I panic and tend to say no. Also, it makes me reluctant to call them back because by doing so I feel like I’m asking to be put in a very uncomfortable situation.

For dealing with work anxiety, I’ve gotten considerable use out of two quotes. I paraphrased each one so heavily, I no longer even know how to find the originals; the wording of the originals made me flinch. One quote, boiled down: “All I can do is go there, and be there, and do what I can to help.” If I remember correctly, the original included going there and being there “in love,” which, gag—and yet, I admit that concept lingers (in a good way) in the FEEL of the quote for me, even though I took out those words.

I use that quote when I feel like I am over my head and/or I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job, or when I’m going somewhere new and I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle it, or when I’m going back somewhere where things didn’t go so well the first time. “All I can do,” I say to myself firmly, trying to stop the swirl of anxious thoughts, “is go there, and be there, and do what I can to help.” It gives me a chin-up/shoulders-back feeling, and also a helpful “Well, probably I am better than NOTHING” mindset, and also reminds me that going there with kind/helpful motivations and solidly good intentions is a BIG PART of doing a good job, and also lets me think of this as my employer’s issue: if they are sending me there, they think I can do it at an acceptable level—and so probably the job I am doing IS acceptable. I don’t have to be AMAZING at EVERYTHING right AWAY; sometimes all I have to be is a warm body filling a shift while a more competent warm body is on vacation.

The other quote is one I think has great potential for misuse. It reminds me of other things I say to myself which I would ONLY say to myself and NEVER to another person—because they’re USEFUL to say to ONESELF, but HORRIBLE if someone says them to someone else. (For example, the whole category of “It could be worse”: I use this to reset my OWN perspective when I’m freaking out about something and want to calm myself by thinking how much better it is than other possibilities, but if someone ELSE said it to ME, I would feel like hurting them in the neck region.)

The second quote (again, highly paraphrased): “The point is not to be happy. The point is to make good use of our time here.” You see what I mean about the potential for misuse? Just for starters, it sounds EXACTLY like the kind of thing someone would say to SOMEONE ELSE, and not in a nice tone of voice, either. But when I am at a client’s house, feeling like I’d rather be home playing Candy Crush and so probably this job is all wrong for me, the quote (said in a nice tone: gentle, understanding) shifts me away from the idea that Having Fun, or BEING ELECTRIFIED WITH PREDESTINED PURPOSE, are the only ways to measure whether doing something is valuable. And this quote ties so beautifully into one of my main reasons for getting a job, which is that I felt I was not making good use of my time.

But if you said to me, “I’m not happy in my job,” or if you mentioned how much fun you had with your job, you would not have to worry that I would tighten my mouth and say preachily that the point was to be USEFUL. I don’t even really like my own paraphrase, if I examine it too closely: who says there IS “a point,” let alone “THE point”? So this is only a quote I use to refocus my own anxious feelings, not a quote I’d print on a t-shirt and make into a life philosophy. It wouldn’t work for someone who has trouble with guilt if they do anything fun or if they love a job that doesn’t seem Meaningful Enough; someone like that would need a quote of a very different sort, to compensate for THEIR type of anxious feelings.

Book: Astonish Me

I love having a whole rich list of lunch ideas! Already I am keen on the idea of bringing a snack lunch. Yesterday I tried it out with cottage cheese, baby carrots, parmesan pita chips, and a hard boiled egg. So yum.

I also bought a small Pyrex dish set (I’m annoyed to see it’s cheaper at Amazon than the sale price I paid at Target), three round lidded glass bowls in three sizes. That seems like the perfect way to carry, heat, and eat, all in the same container, without using the client’s pans/dishes.

I loved the idea several of you mentioned, which was to take a lunch-sized serving out of a meal BEFORE the family descends upon it like locusts. This also solves the problem of leftovers that are mostly noodles and hardly any chicken, or whatever.

I have a book to recommend:

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Astonish Me, by Maggie Shipstead. I’d read another book by this author, Seating Arrangements, and found it an interesting mix of exactly what I want (so much inside-view into a family and their thoughts and feelings and why they do what they do)—and also the sort of book that made me question why anyone ever anythings, when we’re all so flawed, and all so oblivious to our flaws. It also turned out I was confusing Seating Arrangements with ANOTHER book I read about a WASPy wedding, and THAT book took a bad turn right at the END, so even on page 245 out of 257 of Astonish Me I was thinking, “Well, I love it SO far, but let’s not get too confident.”

Astonish Me is set in the world of ballet, which is a place I find interesting for behind-the-scenes: it’s so dainty and beautiful and quiet and cooperative on the outside, so sweaty and painful and demanding and competitive where we can’t see it. One of the main characters is someone who deliberately leaves ballet after realizing she’ll never be good enough; we follow her life afterward, and also the life of her former roommate who stays with ballet. The timeline jumps around a little, pursuing an answer to the question of why several things happened the way they did; I found the eventual resolutions satisfying enough, without feeling as if they were TOO tidy/explained.

Work Lunches

I have been at my new job for nearly two months now. I’m still not sure I’m not going to quit—but I AM glad I didn’t ALREADY quit, which is good progress.

For nearly two months I have been enjoying the novelty of sandwiches: peanut butter and jelly, tuna, egg salad, lunch meat. I started working with side dishes a little: blueberries, a small simple salad, various granola bars (have you tried the one made with quinoa? I think it’s pretty yummy), a banana.

But although I do still enjoy sandwiches, I have one weekly shift where I have to bring lunch AND dinner, and I admit on that day I get a little tired of sandwiches. So I am looking for ideas for portable meals. My job is probably similar to an office job, in that I am able to heat things up, but (1) it should not take a long time, and (2) it should not stink up the place. Eating the food should also not take a long time.

Leftovers are good, of course, but we don’t usually have leftovers. I will probably gradually tweak my cooking style to CREATE more leftovers.

I thought about some sort of cup-of-soup product, but there seem to be two kinds: (1) extremely cheap cup-of-soup, like 3/$1, which smells strongly and is messy to eat and I don’t particularly like it, or (2) surprisingly expensive cup-of-soup, where it costs more for a small microwavable bowl of soup than for a whole can. My older children mocked me: “Oh, TWO WHOLE DOLLARS for soup! Why, in MY day, you could get a cup of soup for TWO BEES!” But I could make a batch of soup and put it into little containers in the freezer.

Salads, but those are a little fussy. I made a small side salad (just spinach, carrot shreds, sunflower seeds, and dressing), and that was a little fussy to make and took a little too long to eat.

What else? What do you bring for your work lunches?

Making Appointments Online: The Future is Now!

Elizabeth goes to the allergy/asthma specialist once a year. LAST year, after I made her appointment, I noticed they had a way to make appointments ONLINE. There was a big sign up on the wall about it. I couldn’t believe I’d used the phone like a SUCKER, and was very excited to use the new system the NEXT year.

So this year, first I stressed about needing to call to make the appointment. THEN I remembered the online option! I logged in to my account. I clicked “Make an appointment online!” I selected our preferred doctor. I filled out a form selecting a best day of the week, second-best, etc., along with times. I filled out the free-answer area, saying I actually had even more days/times we could do, and clarifying what those were. I added a comment saying that I was so happy they had online appointment-booking now, because I always got flustered trying to make appointments on the phone. Last, I selected “email” from the area that asked if I wanted my appointment time sent to me by phone or email.

HALF AN HOUR LATER, my phone rang. I let the machine get it. It was the receptionist at the allergy/asthma place. She said she’d received my online-appointment form, and they could totally set up an appointment for me, just call her back at the office number.

Imagine my face. Imagine it.

Here are my two choices for making an appointment, apparently:

1. Call the office and make an appointment.

2. Log into my online account, fill out a form with all our available days/times, select our doctor, specify that I would like to be contacted by email, and then call the office and make an appointment.


Games and Activities to Keep Children Busy and Good at Someone Else’s House

We’re going to be staying at someone else’s house for a couple of days. All of us. I’m looking for some activities to keep children Busy and Good. Last year, this was a huge hit for Elizabeth and her girl-cousin:

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Melissa and Doug Jewelry and Nails Sticker Pack. I think I am just going to go ahead and bring that same thing again, along with the Sweets and Treats pad that was so successful on another trip:

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I wanted to decorate cookies and cupcakes MYSELF. And fine, I’ll get this faces one, too, even though I personally dislike this kind of thing (I don’t know how to put a finger on what “this kind of thing” is—maybe “making things ugly on purpose, in a giddy way”?):

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Some of the children LOVE this kind of thing.

I’m also buying another Garfield book:

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All three younger children will read it at least one time each on the trip alone, and then many more times over the following years—if previous purchases are any indication.

And the next book in each of the two self-published Minecraft series the kids like:

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Diary of a Minecraft Zombie, Book 4. Have low expectations, is my suggestion if you buy any of this series. Though it will look GREAT if you’re accidentally fooled into buying the look-alike series by Alex Brian: it’s astonishingly bad, like a third grader wrote it on the computer at home and printed it out, and a proud but dim parent failed to figure out the self-publishing options that would make it look like a book (page numbers, cover art that isn’t surrounded by extra-book-cover margins, normal font size, etc.). The Herobrine Books ones should be more like $2.99-3.99 instead of $6.99, but at least they look like real books.

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Confronting the Dragon: Book 3 in the Gameknight 999 Series. Again, I suggest low expectations. And I wouldn’t buy it if you’ll have to read it aloud. And this should be $5.99-6.99 instead of $9.25.

I realize I’m not exactly SELLING these. And yet, notice how many of these I have bought already, despite disliking them. This says SOMETHING.

Target has in the Dollar Section (but for $3) some 8-packs of 8×8-inch blank paperback books (all those eights are pretty satisfying, and then each book has 8 sheets of paper in it). These are not the same thing, and much more expensive, but similar enough if you can’t picture what I’m talking about:

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I bought a pack, and a new box of 64 crayons on sale at Target for $2. If I go back to Target and they still have the blank books, I’m going to buy a second pack of them; I was a little uncertain when I bought them, but then Paul reacted VERY FAVORABLY to the purchase and it made me sorry I hadn’t bought more! Also I want to buy some colored pencils.

We’re bringing a couple of games with us:

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Whoonu, which I see I bought in 2007, for $4.50, on some sort of Christmas special. Do not pay $76, as it is now ludicrously listed for. See if Goodwill has it for 99 cents. Or you might find it at a yard sale. It’s a super-simple game, but I find it really fun. The gist is that each person (except the person who is “It”) has, say, four cards, and they say things such as “t-shirts,” “popcorn,” “detective movies,” and “balloons” (or “sky-diving,” “crafts,” “root beer,” and “restaurants”). You have to guess which of those four things the person who is “It” would like best—even if as far as you know, that person has never tried some of those things, or even if the person dislikes ALL FOUR things. Everyone else is doing the same with their cards. Then the person who is “It” has to put everyone’s guesses in order, and you get points based on how high your choice was ranked. It’s quite fun, I think, and it goes quickly, and it’s a good one for kids and adults to play together.

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Munchkin. This game appeals to me ZERO, and also it takes a couple of hours to play. PASS. But Paul and the kids love it. Paul says it’s like a silly version of Dungeons & Dragons, for children. I find SOME of the game terms A Little Inappropriate, but most of them seem to go right over the younger kids’ heads (and the older kids LOVE it, and feel super sophisticated).

Book: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Would you think it possible that there would be a disagreement on Facebook about whether a SPAM ACCOUNT should be allowed to stay in a group? I know people can fight about nearly anything, but I would not have expected that one. And yet here we are. I’m in a Facebook group for residents of my town; there are some “members” that are not in fact people but are actually those revolting fake accounts that post nasty links; and when I suggested the administrator remove those fake accounts from the group, a man explained to me that “all I had to do” was “just” block the account, and then I wouldn’t have to see the links. THANK YOU OH WISE ONE. Yes, yes I DO realize I can make those fake accounts invisible to me, and that each and every one of the members of our group can do the same! But does it not make MORE SENSE to REMOVE THE FAKE ACCOUNTS from the group in which they DO NOT BELONG? JEEpers. So now people (including me) are arguing about it.

Anyway, I started out a little riled up, because I just finished this book:

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The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie O’Farrell. I almost didn’t check it out, because the cover of the hardcover version, which is what my library has, did not look promising. But the author had several books on the shelf, and that meant that if I liked THIS book I’d have more books to try, and I was having one of those library trips where nothing looks good, and the plot sounded okay, so I took it.

I was annoyed for about the first 30-40 pages, because I dislike scrambling to figure out what on EARTH is going on. But the writing quality seemed good, so I gave it 50 pages—and by then I was starting to get my footing, and wasn’t annoyed anymore, and was only feeling the pleasant suspenseful feeling that makes me want to get back to a book when I’m away from it.

There are a lot of ISSUES in this book. That is, some people find certain issues upsetting, and this book contains an unusual number of access points for those upsetting feelings. But it isn’t the kind of book where I can warn you without spoiling the plot. I suppose if there are certain subjects that, if you were to encounter them in a book, you’d experience trauma, it would be better not to risk this book—or to find a spoiler online that can tell you more about it. Or you can email me and say “Does it deal with THIS subject?”

I was not so upset by anything that I wished I hadn’t read it. I found the issues upsetting, but not traumatizing—and interesting enough to be worth the upset. I had a particular interest in the character who saw things through an Alzheimer’s lens: it gave me more insight into some of my clients.

I wish there had been MORE of it. That is, I would LOVE a sequel. I also wish the ending had been a little different. But I definitely want to read more by this author. (Especially if there were a sequel.)