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Lily woods
Alcohol Not Working for you the way it used to?
Healthy Living
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With all  the health talk about wine being good for you, they never seem to say how many seniors are sucking on those grapes way too much and feeling like crap the morning after with a hangover.   We have been fooled, manipulated and programmed by the media into thinking that those clinking expensive glasses somehow make us look not just more alluring but even richer.  The truth is that as we age, alcohol is a big no-no for many of us.

It makes us ugly, mean and just plain tired. Just like our body is more particular about what we eat, its the same for everything we ingest. Its extremely difficult to leave that old friend behind, so we compromise.  Only one or two today, only to end up drinking much more.

Here are  tips on how to stop the insanity:  The Way Out

Flower Bear
To The Seventh Generation
News, Spirituality
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“I wish for a world that deserves my children …” Someone sent me a clip of an interview with the late Dr. David Simon, co-founder with Deepak Chopra of the Chopra Center for Wellness in California, filmed shortly before his death not too long ago. When I heard him speak these words, I was reminded of something I was told a long time ago by a very wise medicine woman. She told me Native American children are taught that, before you speak a word or perform an action, remember that the consequences of those words or that action will be felt by the next seven generations. In other words, by our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on.

That is a very powerful thought. Would you want the words your are speaking, the thoughts you are thinking, or the actions you are taking, to be felt by those that will come after you? Is that how you would want your children and their children to remember you?

I am a grandmother. I think that fact made me more sensitive to what Dr. Simon said in that interview: “I wish for a world that deserves my children …” Well, Dr. Simon, I wish for a world that deserves my grandchildren and after recent events, frankly, I’m not so sure it does. Most of the time I look around me and see more and more people becoming involved in issues  that will certainly affect our children and grandchildren, things such as renewable energy, organic foods, and sustainability. Then an event like the bombings at the Boston Marathon happens and you wonder what it’s all for if my grandchildren’s biggest fear will be whether they can safely go outside to play without someone wanting to kill them.

We are not a perfect society, but we are certainly better than this. We may have our differences and our problems, but there is no difference or problem so big that a compromise cannot be found, or an answer to a problem left unsolved. While we’re busy fighting over who gets to have the guns, the bombers are having a field day. Might the problem not be with the means of destruction, but the reason for it? If we all want the same things – peace, prosperity, a safe home, a decent life, a purpose for our lives – is blowing each other up really going to get us those things, or is learning to live in harmony with everyone rowing the boat in the same direction a slightly better idea? Here’s an even better one: why don’t we try actually talking to each other ? What a novel idea!

Not too long ago I heard a woman writer talking about her experience speaking to a Native American man at a book conference. He told her it was time for the women to step forward and take over because the men had been in charge for a long time and weren’t doing too well! So I’m thinking maybe it’s time that the mothers and grandmothers made the guys in charge step aside and let us get in there. We certainly couldn’t do any worse and I suspect we could do a whole lot better.

Besides, I’ve got an even bigger reason to want to see our world return to peace … I recently found out that I will be a great-grandmother for the first time in September (a very young and vivacious great-grandmother, mind you – emphasis on the “great”)! My investment in this old world just got a whole lot bigger – we’re on generation #5! I don’t want to have to explain to my great-grandchild why Grammy didn’t save the world for him, do you?

And so it is.


Ellen Dolgen
Menopause Mondays: Tips to Fight Menopause-Induced Stress
Healthy Living
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You’re hot, you’re cold, you’re mad, you’re sad. So you ask, how could menopause not stress you out?

“Menopause, itself, is a stressful life event because of the various types of change that occur,” says Dr. Jeff Brown, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive for Great Health.

Hot flashes are tightly linked with stress and anxiety, according to a six-year study published in Menopause. Researchers found that anxiety and stress preceded hot flashes among perimenopausal and post-menopausal women. Women with the highest levels of stress were more than five times (I repeat, five times!) more likely than normally stressed women to report hot flashes.

But what exactly is the deal with stress? Stress is your body’s reaction to any kind of demand—good or bad. While acute (aka brief) stress can make us more efficient and effective (think: deadlines), too much stress—called chronic stress—can be harmful to our mental and physical health.

“Chronic stress comes out of conditions, relationships, or health issues that don’t have an identifiable termination point or extend beyond the timeframe of what would typically be expected,” Brown explains.

What’s more, chronic stress can compromise our immune systems, making us more prone to illness. Between 50 and 60 percent of all medical issues originate from stress or stress-related events, he says.

So how can you tell the difference between a stressful situation and a real stress rut? Signs that you’ve hit your acute-to-chronic tipping point include changes in appetite and sleeping patterns, headaches, crying, irritability, and even panic attacks, according to Brown.

“When it comes to stress and menopause, it’s crucial to keep your finger on the pulse of physiological, psychological, and relationship aspects of your life. Change is occurring and knowing yourself well is vital,” he says.

Of course, you likely won’t feel the exact same way pre-menopause as you do post-menopause, and some of that is natural. But there’s no need to feel like a totally different woman, especially if that woman is stressed all of that time! You can slash your stress levels. Remember though, while your youth’s stress-busting tactics (like bubble baths, exercise, and meditating) still work wonders, you might have to go above and beyond them to beat stress during menopause—especially when menopause is the actual stressor!

“Each woman who deals with menopause may find that her typical stress-coping strategies may need to be adjusted because of the high levels of stress that may be occurring as a result of physical changes during menopause,” Brown says.

Here, the top three tips for fighting menopause-induced stress:

1. Take charge. Don’t let menopause and its symptoms take control of your day-to-day life, says Brown. Commit to an open and close relationship with a perimenopause and menopause specialist, healthcare provider, or therapist who can help you manage your symptoms and find hormone happiness. “The alliance you have with a physician or therapist can mean the world to you during tough times,” Brown says.

2. Invest in friends. Misery loves company—but so does happiness. Recognize the people in your life who are healthy for you and invest in those relationships. Healthy people are the ones you want to hang out with, and who make you feel better about yourself, Brown says. It is especially helpful spending time with the women in your life that have already traveled the menopausal road you’re currently cruising. The support, understanding, and even learning opportunities can help make this time in your life a little less stressful, he says.

2. Say no. I know, this is a hard one for us people-pleasing, I-can-do-it-all types. While we women are famed for multitasking, it takes a huge amount of time and cognitive energy, and adds unneeded stress to an already stress-filled time of our lives, Brown says. During menopause we often don’t have the same amount of energy we did in our twenties! For your health’s sake, scale back a bit. Say no from time to time, and don’t feel guilty about it afterward.

Don’t let menopause stress suck the joy out of this amazing chapter of your life! Having conquered falling in love, raising children, launching a career, and so much more, we have plenty of reason to be confident—and most importantly, happy—in our lives right now. Mourning the past and worrying about the future just deprives us of the joy in the present moment. And trust me, there is plenty of joy to be had in menopause!

Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!

VN Editors
What to eat at midlife: Ingredients that could be working against you
Healthy Living
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You’re making an effort to eat right and you’re staying active, so why aren’t you losing weight? You may not realize that you’re eating sneaky ingredients that pack a lot of calories, and pack on the pounds. Discover the ingredients that could be working against you, and learn how to eliminate them from your diet.

Ingredients That Sabotage Your Weight Loss

Certain ingredients may be lurking in your so-called “diet foods,” bad additives that could be causing you to gain weight instead of losing it. Vibrant Nation member Fun and Fit pointed out some very sneaky ingredients that could sabotage your weight loss.

  • Sugar: All refined white sugar is a serious danger to your diet. According to the American Heart Association, a healthy woman should take in only 9 teaspoons of sugar every day. The current average for Americans? Around 28 teaspoons per day. Cut sugar out of your beverages to cut a huge chunk of sugar out of your life. Stop putting it in coffee or tea, and opt for water instead of soda or fruit juices.
  • Oils: Oils turn into fatty acids, warns VN member Donna L. Your body can’t use trans fats, so they get sent to the liver instead. Over time, these fats can build up and create heart disease and maybe even diabetes. Hydrogenated oils are sneaky, and may crop up in foods that seem safe. You’ll find them in microwave popcorn, powdered coffee creamer, frozen meals and taco shells, among others.
  • High fructose corn syrup: We’ve all heard about it, and some salesmen want you to believe it’s okay to eat. It’s not – no, not even in moderation. This stuff goes straight to the liver and becomes fat. High fructose corn syrup doesn’t even produce insulin, which tells your brain that you’re full. So when you do eat it, you aren’t even satisfying your body’s need for nutrition. Avoid it by avoiding ketchup, sodas and some diet foods that use corn syrup for taste.
  • Salt: It may be the most versatile spice in the pantry, but it should only be applied to food in pinches, not pounds. Salt makes you retain water, and that leads to weight gain. You could even give yourself heart disease or high blood pressure with too much salt, so put the shaker down now. Avoid canned soups and sauces, which are high in salt, to cut back on your intake.

Tufts University found that adults who drank the most sugary beverages, in one study, had a higher risk of obesity. Drinking sugar gives you very little nutritional value and does not make you feel full. Drink mixes, fruit juices and sodas have even more calories than alcohol. Stick to water, unsweetened (or naturally sweetened) tea and milk.

Not All Ingredients Are Food

Fat isn’t always food-related. Your body works as an entire system, and anything that compromises that system can potentially compromise your fat-burning abilities. The unhealthy ingredients that hamper your weight loss aren’t always food-based.

  • Stress: If you’re feeling high stress levels, you’ll have trouble losing weight. Stress produces cortisol, a hormone that slows down your metabolism. Your fat-burning powers literally lessen. Stress also increases food cravings – particularly the fatty and sugar “comfort” foods that seem to bring quick relief. Feelings of stress can even boost your body’s fat-retaining qualities, belly fat in particular.
  • Sleep: Sleep, of lack thereof, will hinder weight loss. If you get 6 hours of sleep, or less, you end up staying awake more – and snacking more. You’re conscious for long stretches, so the hormones that stimulate appetite become more active. They might even throw your body into hormonal imbalance.
  • Sauces: Condiments and sauces add a lot of secret calories to your meals. Even low-fat mayo is high in calories, but mustard is naturally very low cal. Skip the Alfredo sauce altogether and opt for tomato sauce instead. Mix a little olive oil and vinegar together to make your own salad dressing instead of drenching your lettuce with the pre-made varieties.

Make Smart Substitutions

A life without sugar and salt truly is a life not worth living. You don’t have to get rid of all taste and spend the rest of your life eating lettuce to stay thin. Replace the sugars and all those other bad ingredients, with smart substitutions. You can still get flavor, just of a much healthier variety.

“Whole wheat is a must,” says VN member Maggie De Vore. Replace your white rice with brown rice, your white bread with wheat, and get rid of that white flour. Switch to something healthier, like rice flour or soy flour, instead. Spirit Speeker, another VN member, uses honey and stevia to sweeten her foods.

Half of your meal should be comprised of fruits and vegetables, says Runners World. This will help you feel full and give you the essential minerals and nutrients your body wants. Add fresh herbs and spices to your veggies instead of salt to get the flavor without the bad ingredients.

Instead of butter, try olive oil, suggests HowToBeFit. Even a little bit of the oil adds a lot of flavor – but try to get rid of cooking oil whenever possible. Switch to a cooking spray, which is very low calorie. Switch to skim milk to cut back on calories you get from cereal, mashed potatoes and other meal items. Get rid of the egg yolks, and use whites instead, to cut lots of calories. Plain nonfat yogurt or Greek yogurt makes a good substitution for sour cream.

Avoid ingredients that sneak extra calories into your diet, and make healthier choices. You’ll see those extra pounds start to fall away, and you’ll end up feeling a whole lot better. Read labels carefully, and pay attention to what you’re eating, to control all the ingredients you’re putting into your body.

VN Editors
What to eat at midlife: Insulin resistance and the truth about sugar
Healthy Living
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Without sugar, you wouldn’t have the energy to get out of bed in the morning. The truth is, your body needs sugar to function. But the fact is, too much of the wrong kinds of sugar is going to make you fat. Sugar increases belly fat, and it’s bad for you in so many little ways it’s actually pretty frightening.

Insulin, Sugar, and Other Stuff in Your Body

Insulin is a hormone, and its function is (mainly) to regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in the body. Insulin levels naturally rise when you eat, as the hormone goes to work to regulate your rising glucose levels. Insulin helps your body process sugar, and that’s an important process because sugar gives you energy.

When insufficient to no insulin is produced in the body, it’s known as diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs in 90 percent of all diabetes cases, and most commonly affects patients in the last half of their lives.

That’s bad, because lots of the stuff you eat is actually sugar. Carbohydrates become glucose inside your body, and that becomes energy. Pastas and sweets are both capable of giving you a real boost of energy, but not necessarily a healthy one.

Insulin Resistance and Spiking Sugar Levels

There’s still a lot to learn about insulin resistance. This is a condition that causes the body to produce too much insulin (diabetes is when the body produces too little insulin). As a result, those with insulin resistance suffer from low blood sugar after meals. The repetitive spikes in insulin and blood sugar can lead to Type 2 diabetes, according to the Diabetic Alliance.

Lack of exercise can make insulin resistance worse, as fat can compromise the way your muscles use insulin. However, insulin resistance can be managed with diet and exercise changes. Avoid processed foods, very sugary cereals, sodas and high-sodium foods. Instead, eat a balanced diet of lean meats, dairy, grains, fruits and vegetables. It’s the same advice given to diabetics and to anyone who wants to eat healthy.

Healthy eating habits lead to healthy insulin levels, and that gives you the right amount of healthy energy.

Are You a Sugar Addict, Too?

“I am trying to stop this sugar addiction. I love desserts. I need something sweet after every meal.” VN member Lynnette is like a lot of us – she loves sweets.

“Sugar is as addictive as alcohol or cigarettes for some people,” agrees VN member perlesrose. “It’s a craving for some folks.”

“I, too, have the same addiction but I’ve stopped fighting it. I have a small piece of cake…or a candy bar for dessert every night.” VN member Madeline77 found a solution to her sugar addiction: balance. She chooses to modify her diet in other ways, choosing healthy carbs like brown rice and sweet potatoes. Lots of fruits and veggies round out her diet. “To satisfy my sugar cravings during the day, I eat a piece or two of hard candy. It’s not good for the teeth, but it lasts a fairly long time and one piece has about 15 calories.”

Flour, Sugar and Other Stuff You Shouldn’t Put in Your Body

“I can’t believe the difference in my health.” VN featured commenter dianeperazzo shared her amazing story after eliminating refined sugar and white flour from her diet.

“I have been sleeping more soundly, I don’t have the sugar highs and lows so my energy throughout the day is more consistent, my skin and hair look healthier, my weight is going down by about a half a pound a week.”

The Truth About Sugar

Robert Lustig has started to gain a following for his philosophy regarding sugar. An expert on childhood obesity, Lustig is an endocrinologist and professor at the University of California, San Francisco. You may recognize him as a recent viral sensation for his lectures, where he blames the obesity pandemic on “high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose.”

It’s replaced the fat in foods. Fat become unpopular as the world embraced low-cal foods, but something had to substitute the taste. Sugar became the go-to option, and for 30 years obesity has very dramatically been on the rise.

Lustig feels so strongly about the dangers of sugar, in fact, he advocates putting a ban on it – or certain restrictions, like those imposed on alcohol and tobacco. His thoughts on the topic even prompted the New York Times to ask if sugar is toxic.

Resisting Sugar

A little sugar in your morning coffee. That sweet snack around two in the afternoon. That nighttime treat after dinner. Daily sugar intake has a way of adding up quickly, and you may not even realize how strong your craving is until you try to regulate the sugar you eat. Excessive sugar causes hormonal imbalance, brain fog, feelings of fatigue and, of course, weight gain.

Substitute your sugar for healthy substitutes, like fruit juice. You don’t have to give up on sugar completely; in moderation, it’s perfectly fine. Just think about how much sugar and flour you eat, and try to replace it with healthier choices. You’ll look better and feel better as a result, because the truth about refined sugar is that it’s really, really bad for you.

Kate Considers
Meandering Musings on Love
Love & Sex
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“Love makes the world go round;” “Love is all there is;” “All you need is love;” “Love actually;” “Love is a many-splendored thing;” “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways;” “Love, love, love;” we are bombarded by love wherever we look, and we long for it as we long for nothing else. But what is this thing we call love–this thing that poets, singers, philosophers, theologians, and comedians can never adequately or completely describe? I’ve been pondering this question lo these sixty-one years, and I’ve come up with some ideas based upon observation, discussion, and personal experience.

Here are some of my whimsical, random thoughts on love. Feel free to disagree with any or all, but if you do disagree, please respond below and share your views with me, as my understanding of love is a work in progress. Thanks much.

Basically, love is when you care more for another individual than you care for yourself. If that caring is not the foundation of your relationship, then what you are experiencing is not love; it is something else–infatuation, lust, possessiveness, power, pity, obligation, responsibility–but it is not love. And this holds true for every type of love–family, friend, lover, spouse, neighbor, pets, mankind, and God.

In addition, I believe that respect is paramount in a loving relationship. When you respect someone, you do NOT try to change that person or impose your belief system upon him/her. You don’t think you “own” the person; you aren’t possessive; you aren’t insecure; you don’t play games; you don’t issue ultimatums. Rather, without guile or expectation, you encourage, understand, accept, promote, support, have patience, and believe in the person you love. And in a genuinely loving relationship, this respect goes both ways.

A HUGE thing to keep in mind is that true love makes your world bigger, never smaller. If someone wants to take you from your family or friends, run! If someone does not want you to try new things or change jobs or encourage your interests, run! If someone asks you to give up something you love, run. Always remember, love makes your world bigger, so stay away from people who want to make your life smaller.

You only get one trip through life, so you want to share the journey with those who will laugh, sing, dance, eat, drink, and be merry with you, as well as with those who will cry with you, hug you when there’s nothing else to do because the pain is too great, tell you when you are being an idiot, help you without your asking, and listen for the umpteenth time without complaint because you just have to share something again. If you’re lucky, you will have some family, friends, and lovers who will be in both camps. Pets are always in both camps.

Love is about blending lives and staying separate at the same time. I can’t think of any clearer way to say this.

Compromise is necessary sometimes, but, overall, I think taking turns is better. There’s something a bit flat about compromising. However, when you take turns and share one another’s interests, you grow in understanding toward your loved ones, and sometimes you discover that you enjoy something you have never contemplated before.

Don’t apologize for your loved ones. You do not want people to apologize for you, so don’t apologize for them. Remember, your loved ones are not a reflection of you but are individuals whom you love. There is a BIG distinction.

Love requires trust and honesty. A little lie here, a little lie there, and when you least expect it, the dam holding the trust in your relationship breaks, and you can never get it back, even if you decide to stay together. So, stick with the truth.

Sometimes, you think you love someone, but you discover that you are only in love, and the feeling is fading. This realization often happens when the “in love,” exclusive, “magical” world the two of you have created bumps into the inclusive, real, everyday world, and one of you realizes that it is time to break-up. No one likes to break-up because we tend to think of it as a failure. This is the wrong way to think. Instead, each person should recognize that neither person was a bad person (unless the individual actually was bad in some way, but that’s a different matter for another blog post); rather, one of you has realized that you are not best for each other for the long haul. That is a good, positive thing to realize, so celebrate the love you experienced, wish each other well, and go forth to love again. Of course, it would be lovely if both people realized the end of a relationship at the same time, but, sadly, that is seldom the situation. So, be kind to one another.

As an instructor of college age young people, I get to see lots of young lovers, and I like to share the following with my students. If someone says, “You are my whole world,” run away as fast as you can. Being someone’s whole world is a terrible burden to place on someone, and it is smothering. Plus, the person expressing that sentiment seems a bit lacking, don’t you agree? Has the person lived in a vacuum his/her whole life? Better to say, “I love you more than anyone in the world” or something similar.

And I cannot stress this enough. If you are lovers of any age and think you want to get married or live together, spend a month without sex, no canoodling or cuddling of any kind. No naps together, no sleeping together. You may kiss hello and good-bye at each meeting, and that’s it physically for one month. While you abstain from the physical aspects of your relationship, spend your time talking and doing things together. Take a class. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Visit the elderly. Babysit. Put yourself in lots of different situations so that you can see if you are compatible in other areas of life. If you are truly compatible, you will NEVER run out of things to talk about.

I can appreciate that you may think my above suggestion is a bit “out there,” but I can assure you that there will be times when the physical isn’t possible for any number of reasons, so if the physical is the sole foundation of your love, then your love is on a shaky foundation indeed.

This is not to say that the physical isn’t important–it is, but it is only a part of the whole of a loving relationship. I can honestly say that while I delighted in making love, kissing, hugging, and cuddling, what I miss most is not the physical, but the shared laughter and the shorthand language of those who love one another. I would give all my teeth, and gladly wear dentures, just to exchange meaningful glances again with my husband. Likewise, while I’d love to hug my “mom” again, I’d much rather hear her call me, “Honey” and have her sit talking with me again at the kitchen table.

So, there you have it–my meandering musings on love. As I stated above, my understanding is a work in progress, and I look forward to understanding more about love in the years ahead.

Take care,


Kitty O'Keefe
Fixing Social Security, Part II
Work & Money
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Previously, we saw that the Social Security trust fund is not actually funded, but rather a $2.6 trillion debt held in the form of Treasury Bills.

Now we will address the issue of demographics, and why that plays a critical role in the decisions made about this program in the future.

According the the House Ways and Means Committee, beginning in 2010, Social Security payments to beneficiaries were higher than taxes collected. Their projections for how much payments exceed taxes are:

2010 -$37 billion

2011 -$45 billion

2012 -$30 billion

2013 -$28 billion

2014 -$30 billion

2015 -$31 billion

2016 -$33 billion

2017 -$44 billion

2018 -$59 billion

2019 -$77 billion

2020 -$98 billion . . .

2033 -$464 billion

Many quote 2033 as the year when the program will be a “pay-as-you-go” program, but, as we have seen, that projection erroneously subtracts the projected shortfalls from Treasury Bills currently held. Now, of course, you know that those Treasury bills are an unfunded government debt.

Falling Birth Rates

The next problem lies in the demographics of our country. When Social Security started, it was just prior to the “baby boom” (1943 – 1960), and 159.4 workers supported each retiree. According the the Social Security Administration, the number of workers supporting each retiree are:

1950 – 5.1

1960 – 3.7

1970 – 3.2

1980 – 3.4

1990 – 3.4

2000 – 3.4

2010 – 2.9

2020 (projected) – 2.3

We have seen that there is no funded account from which these payments will be made, and from the information provided by the Social Security Administration, we see a clear decline in the relationship between the number of workers paying for each retiree. In 2033, when the program is projected to be pay-as-you-go, we can see the problem in real terms with the following two pieces of information.

  1. There will likely be only 2 workers for each retiree; and
  2. Current monthly Social Security benefits average $1,235.

The rate of inflation from 1973 – 1995 was 2.8%. We’ll apply a lower rate, 2.5%, to the current $1,235 average monthly benefit. Using that lower annual inflation rate of 2.5% per year, in 2033, the average Social Security check will be $2,074.

In order for two workers to support one retiree’s benefits of $2,074 in 2033, both workers and their employers must pay $6,223 per year into Social Security. At the current rate of 6.2% of payroll taxes, we will have to assume that the average worker will be earning $100,369 per year.

But, according to the Census Bureau, the median U.S. wage in 2011 was $50,054. Assuming that wages rise at 2.8% annually until 2033 (an optimistic assumption, since wages were 8% lower in 2011 than in 2007), the median wage will be $89,391. In order to support each retiree in 2033, then, payroll deduction for Social Security will have to be 6.96% for both workers and employers.

In other words, in 2033, workers will pay 7% into Social Security BEFORE they pay federal, state and local taxes. This may give you some insight into why young people are skeptical of ever receiving any benefits from this program.

But, as the infomercial pitch men say, wait! There’s more.

Life Expectancies

When Social Security was introduced, the average U.S. life expectancy was 62 years, but benefits were not paid until age 65.

Look at life expectancy projections at age 65 for selected years:

1960 – 15.5

1980 – 16.9

2000 – 18

2005 – 18.3

2020 – 19.2

2040 – 20.4

So, not only must Social Security contributions increase in 2033 to 7%, but they must be paid for a much longer period of time.


There are many ideas for strengthening the system. Some include:

  1. Increase Social Security taxes from 6.2% to 7.2%. This could be done on a gradual basis, i.e., “a nickel for every $100 of payroll, each year, for 20 years,” as recommended by fellow Oregonian Dale Coberly, a retired engineer.
  2. Raise the retirement age.
  3. Increase the Social Security wage base above the current limit of $106,800.
  4. Subject benefits to “means testing,” as recommended by investor Warren Buffett.

In the spirit of compromise, which certainly does not exist in our highly polarized political environment, a combination of these ideas seems most equitable. And, by effecting these ideas in a gradual way,

  • Tax increases will be less onerous
  • Retirement age increases will be more in line with increasing life expectancies.

Instead of rallying around political rhetoric, a rational approach to fixing this problem can be had by finding common ground and effecting gradual change that will not damage the slow, but steady recovery from our recent deep financial recession.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

being Boswell
Holiday Hassles, So Many Families, So Little Time
Family & Relationships
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As the holidays approach I begin to feel a low grade tension build. It is not the appearance of Christmas displays before Halloween, the cooking, decorating, gift buying, it’s not even the Visa bill that arrives in January. It is negotiating holiday time with my kids now that they have a step family, now that I am a step mom and soon to be a mother in law.


Last year my x husband’s fiance announced during a dinner, celebrating my daughters opening night performance in a college play, that she wanted the Friday after Thanksgiving as their family tradition time so they could all go shoot sporting clays as a family. The words tradition and family spoken in the same sentence, to my children, by a woman I had only met that night struck me as odd. Odd is being kind. I thought it was presumptuous, inconsiderate, thoughtless and just wrong.


But so it goes with divorces and re marriages. I told myself I had better get used to it, that it could’ve been worse, she could be lobbying for Thanksgiving Day. I reminded my self I used to have to do my x husbands bidding and now Patty (yes, my x is remarrying a woman named Patty, who lives in Boswell, PA. Just too weird) is speaking for him.


I would not have been as offended if he had made the request, parent to parent, since in my book of etiquette, parents have equal rights to holiday requests. Future step mothers do not.


Last Thanksgiving came and went. I prepared all the foods my kids had come to love over the years. My father’s family’s Alabama corn bread stuffing, my mom’s creamed onions and cranberry bread, my x sister in laws garlic green beans, the table lovingly set with grandma’s china that I grew up eating holiday meals on, with Mama B’s hand crocheted ecru tablecloth providing the foundation for the feast.


A beautiful, exhausting day. A week’s worth of prep. An hours worth of eating. I am not the first mom to experience this imbalance, nor the last. I will live to do it again and again, gracefully for as long as I can.


As these holidays approach and I begin to make plans, the juggling begins. I can’t help but feel bad for the kids. I remember all the running between families when I was newly married and there were no step families involved, just in laws. Leaving one holiday table, to feign hunger at the next full course meal, thankful that my young metabolism could mange all those mashed potatoes and homemade pies and cookies without increasing my pants size come the new year. (Not so anymore…I really feel bad about that!)


This conglomerate of blended families at the holidays is challenging, at best, to navigate. With expectations building the compromise begins, again.


Happy Holidays!!!


VN Editors
What you should (and shouldn’t) do to treat female dryness
Love & Sex
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For many women, female dryness is an inevitable effect of menopause. You don’t have to put up with it, and simply live with the pain and stress. There are lots of little ways to increase your moisture, even without using hormones or taking a lot of prescription drugs.

Curing female dryness

If you’re lacking in moisture, treat it! There’s no reason you should live with a problem, especially when that leads to pain. Female dryness leads to dyspareunia for many women. Dyspareunia, more commonly known as painful sex, can interrupt your sex life and keep you from enjoying natural stress relief. Don’t let dryness affect you negatively. Manage it, treat it and prevent it instead.

  • EPO: A common supplement, evening primrose oil reduces menopause symptoms in some women. Taking it could help prevent female dryness and even hot flashes. You can find evening primrose capsules in health food stores.
  • Soy: Studies are inconclusive and sometimes conflicting, but many women swear by soy to treat menopause symptoms like dryness. You’ll find all sorts of soy products at the grocery once you start looking. It’s in milk, meat supplements, snack form and meal form.
  • Caffeine: Don’t stop drinking your morning coffee and tea, but cut back as much as you can. One cup of coffee will deplete two cups of moisture in your body. You should drink 8 glasses of water each day to keep a healthy level of moisture in your body. If you have two cups of coffee, drink four extra glasses of water to make up the difference.
  • Douche: Just don’t use douche when you don’t have to. Unless you have an infection or illness, the vagina will clean itself. Only use douche when it’s prescribed by a physician. Otherwise, it will probably worsen your female dryness.
  • Kegel exercises: For women, few remedies are as effective as Kegels. Practice them regularly to strengthen your vaginal walls and prevent dyspareunia. Kegels will promote healthy muscles and moisture, too.
  • Lubricant: Over-the-counter lubricants are a good way to treat dryness, but select only the water-based variety. Other kinds of lubricant may cause bacterial infections that will only compromise your vaginal health.

Other treatment options, like vaginal estrogen cream, are available. Sometimes, simple remedies like cutting back on caffeine and drinking more water just don’t work. If you’re experiencing female dryness, especially if it leads to dyspareunia, consult with your physician. Dryness is frequently caused by menopause, but not always. Sometimes, other factors may be at play and you will need a doctor’s guidance to treat them properly.

Learn more ways to defeat female dryness in our free special report 5 Solutions for Painful Sex (Dyspareunia) and Vaginal Dryness in Women over 50.

How I Met My Significant Other
Love & Sex
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I am not a liberty to discuss in my blog many people in my life. Be it a gag order or witness protection tactic’s, for peace and harmony I comply.  I can talk about my cats, they don’t mind, but everyone else I am purposefully vague. I can say that I am married to my husband.  I can also say that I consider him my significant other. How we met each other is a story that we both agree upon the facts and dates and love to tell.

We met in college. I was doing my junior year on an exchange program; he had just transferred to the school.  He was looking for a girlfriend, someone from a different part of the country to get him out of his state. I was not looking for a boyfriend or entertaining more than a one-year change in residence.

He thought I was his ticket to a new life. I thought he had white teeth and a nice smile. He displayed an amazing sense of direction that was primal for me. Often I would go on hikes or ski and get lost. He thought I was unique. We fell in love. I fell in love not only with him but also with that part of the country and the state. I liked the weather, the people and the lifestyle. As a compromise we would travel to visit my family and friends in other parts of the country.

Fast-forward 35 years, some faster than others and I think he still has a nice smile, white teeth and an uncanny sense of direction. He still thinks I am unique.

Kitty O'Keefe
Rise Above
Work & Money
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Just as the cacophony of political blather subsides, an ominous new rumble emerges: Washington D.C. is about to push us off something called a “fiscal cliff” on December 31. Sounds ominous, but we’ve just had billions and billions of dollars worth of interruptions in our lives by ads, calls, threats, lies, appeals and scandals to land almost exactly where we were before the election. Can we muster a modicum of political will to participate in yet another cause?

I hope so.

If not, we’re facing paying higher taxes. Much higher taxes, and for all of us, not just the rich.

  1. Federal income tax rates will rise by 3% for almost everyone
  2. Personal investment income taxes will rise by 25% – 35% for almost everyone.
  3. 34 million more taxpayers will be subject to a tax increase called alternative minimum tax.
  4. Social security taxes will rise for employers and employees by 2%.
  5. You won’t be able to deduct state and local taxes from your federal taxes any more, and you can say good-bye to the adoption credit, as well as several business credits.
  6. College tuition tax credits will drop.
  7. Those making over $200,000 ($250,000 for married taxpayers) will see tax rate increases and tax ceiling increases.

As the Economics Editor of Barron’s magazine said, “It turns out that most of the pending tax increases will fall on the ‘non-rich’.”

This is good for no one. Like many of our economic problems, this “fiscal cliff” is self-inflicted. It’s the result of Congress and the two most recent presidents failing to face up to the fact that the U.S. is spending a lot more than it’s taking in.

Under President George W. Bush, Congress passed big tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, but failed to make those cuts permanent because that drop in revenue combined with two unbudgeted wars increased deficit spending dramatically. Then, during the financial crisis, no one was in favor of raising taxes to rates until the end of 2012.

To motivate legislators to face growing deficits, a bipartisan so-called “Super Committee” looked for $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next ten years. Failure to do rein in spending would trigger an automatic increase in taxes and drastic spending cuts. That’s the fiscal cliff. That’s where we are now.

If it doesn’t sound like a local problem to you, then you either are too poor to pay taxes or are too rich to care how much you pay. For the rest of us, it’s a disaster that can be avoided simply by telling your congressional representatives that they face a similar automatic response. If they fail to compromise and avoid the fiscal cliff, they will be fired. You expect them to fix this, or you will vote them out of office. Period.

This movement is called “Rise Above.” It notifies your representatives that they are to rise above partisan bickering and fix this problem. Now.

Won’t you join this movement? It costs no money, and takes just a moment of your time to tell the people you have hired to work for you that you expect them to do their job or your new year’s resolution will be to fire them.

Here’s where to find them.

If I told you that you could save at least $3000 and avoid a certain (and avoidable) recession just by sending three emails, wouldn’t you do it?

Good. Tell your friends to do it, too.

What Do I Know?
The Answer to World Peace
Work & Money
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I’ve discovered the answer to world peace, and it doesn’t lie in religious tolerance, political discourse, or party affiliation.  Nope, the solution to world peace is so incredibly simple that it is has been right under our noses since the beginning of time, and can be boiled down into three ordinary little words; mandatory customer service.

These three small words hold the answer to every conflict on the face of the earth, because once you have been on the receiving end of a bitter tirade over an order that was never canceled or one that has gone missing, an oversight for which you are not personally responsible, and for which you get paid less than a living wage to endure with as much grace as you can muster, you will come to appreciate and perhaps even embrace the need to be kind to your fellow man or woman regardless of race, creed, or color.

When I was a customer, I always thought of myself as one of the “good ones”.  Meaning I was sure to apologize to the person on the other end of the phone for what I was about to say, carefully assuring them that I wasn’t angry at THEM, I was just angry, and since they were the ones who picked up the phone, they were the ones I was about to unleash on.  I honestly believed that the person on the other end of the phone would appreciate my sensitivity and my willingness to accept responsibility for my emotions as a prelude to using the most colorful combination of language and sarcasm at my disposal.  After all, I told myself, its their job to listen to this crap.

Eighteen months ago, I was forced to take a position as an inbound sales agent at a nationally known telemarketing company.  Up until that point I had been a very successful handbag designer specializing in one of a kind and limited edition handbags that generally sold for thousands of dollars. When the economy tanked, women were still buying expensive handbags, but not from start up companies like mine.  Nothing says “I survived the recession” like sweeping into a cocktail party with a $150,000 Birkin bag slung over your shoulder, and even though my handbags are show stoppers, they were small potatoes compared to corporate behemoths like Prada and Gucci.  So my bags went back into their matching storage bags and plastic tubs in the basement for safe keeping, and I went to work selling skin care and exercise equipment over the phone.

I hate talking on the phone.  Actually, I loathe it, so naturally the only job I could get was talking on the phone for a living.  I learned two things about myself as a result of that job however.  One is that I am a much more convincing salesperson than I ever would have imagined.  The other was how to be a better customer.  I know customer service is a job, but I also assumed there were no specific guidelines as to how that job was done.  I didn’t realize that when the operator said “this call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes” that meant the person answering my phone call was held to a strict and extremely limited set of options established by corporate wonks who probably never had to answer a sales call or customer service call in their entire lives.  Every phone call is recorded, not just a few, and several are randomly selected each week by call center monitors to make sure the person answering the phone is sticking to the scripts they are provided with. Any deviations, and I do mean ANY, are cause for reprimand, and while I know part of the purpose in recording and monitoring inbound calls is to make sure no one is saying or doing anything that could compromise the company legally or ethically, most people who call assume the person answering the phone is making this up as they go along, that we have both the power and the ability to make changes if we want to, we just don’t want to.

Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I am not allowed unscheduled trip to the bathroom without fear of reprisal, so weighing in on corporate policy is way outside my job description or pay grade.  I tried telling a focus group for the company a few months ago that the “client” we are always hearing so much about, the ones whose products we sell as if our lives depended on it, aren’t the ones who really matter at the end of the day, it’s the people who call in, the ones with credit cards on the other end of the phone who pay our bills and our salaries.  I was never invited to another focus group again.  So much for influencing corporate policy.  Or bathroom breaks for that matter.

In fact, the company I work for has such an outrageously insane approach to sales that I often feel like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz: I am advised to go this way and that way, both at the same. I am not allowed to give personal testimony during the course of a sales pitch, even though the entire infomercial is based on personal testimony.  We are provided with products to use so we can speak accurately about their level of effectiveness, then discouraged from telling you what we think of these products, because its all about you and what you want from these products…or, more accurately, about getting information from you that we can use against you to make you buy more than you called in for.  If we fail to do as instructed by the company, we get yelled at by them, and if we try to shove something you don’t want down your throats, we get yelled at again by you.

So here is a behind the scenes look at what you need to do to be a better customer, and it all starts with one little word: you.

1.  If you call a company to place an order for anything that comes with auto shipments, and you don’t want auto shipments, make a decision.  Hang up the phone, accept the offer and cancel later, accept the offer and don’t cancel later, but don’t argue with me about how you don’t want auto shipments because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.  Someone with a corner office and a vacation wine cellar worth more than my entire life combined made that decision. If you don’t like it, you have a choice to make.  Trying to convince me to do things your way isn’t one of them.  You can try, of course, and after a few minutes I may “accidentally” disconnect you, but hey, give it your best shot. I haven’t seen it work in the year and a half I have been here, but you just never know when things will change.

2.  If you don’t agree with the way products are advertised on television, write a letter to corporate headquarters, don’t bitch at me about how the advertising is misleading.  I didn’t create the ad campaign, where it was advertised or the hidden costs associated with making a purchase.  I know the ads are misleading.  The company knows the ads are misleading.  That’s how they have stayed in business for 25 years.

3.  If I persist in trying to sell you a bigger package that costs more money than the one you called in about, it’s my job.  I don’t like it anymore than you do, but I do like having a roof over my head, and I am required to give you the upsells whether you like it or not.  As a matter of fact, we are held to such exacting and arcane standards regarding the process of how we expected to sell, corporate profits aren’t what they could be, so the sales division is being moved to the Phillipines where they can pay half of what they pay us, which isn’t much to begin with, because no one at the company is willing to concede that their sales methods don’t work.  They seem to think that since the sales process USED to work, it will ALWAYS work.  But they would rather lose a sale than deviate from the sales process, so when I got a call a few weeks ago from a man who wanted to buy the exercise equipment we sell, with both upgrades, and pay for his purchase in full, I had a decision to make.  Did I let a $650 sale go for the sake of a “free” trial offer, or did I circumvent the system to sell the man what he wanted, and make myself a tidy commission in the process?  I took his order, and called my supervisor for permission to process the sale, and I was told that in the future, I was to stick to the script, even if it cost the company hundreds of dollars.

4.  If there is a problem with your order once you get it, don’t assume the customer service agent taking your call is out to get you.  I have heard customers screaming at an agent who was trying to help them, because they wouldn’t shut up long enough to listen.  If I had one piece of advice giving anyone about to make a customer service call it would be to listen. Eighty percent of the people who call inbound sales and customer service do not listen.  Either they are so busy trying to take command of the call that they barrel over the agent to start asking questions before they even know what is going on, or they are telling the agent what is going to happen next, like either they or the agent in question has any real say in the matter.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  This job has its lighter moments too. Like the junior high school teacher who called for a teeth whitening system we have that comes as a 90 day auto shipment, unless you call to cancel. She just could NOT wrap her head around how long 90 days was.  I tried everything I could think of to explain it to her.  I tried telling her it came as a three month shipment; “Oh”, she says, “So I get a thirty day shipment AND a ninety day shipment every three months?”.  Um, no. ”Oh, so I get a thirty day shipment and then I don’t get another shipment for another ninety days?” she says.  Again, no.  In desperation, I said, “let me explain it this way.  I go out into the warehouse and I get three one month supplies.  I put all those boxes in one BIG box – which isn’t what happens, but for the sake of argument lets say that it does– and I send THAT box off to you.  THAT is how much stuff comes in a ninety day supply”.  She was quiet for a moment, then said (in all seriousness), “yeah, I don’t think I have enough room for all those boxes”…..

Yep, I am convinced that mandatory customer service is the answer to world peace.  Because once you realize that could be YOU on the other end of the phone, listening to your own crap and how you are treating the total stranger who is trying to help you, maybe you would be kinder to the people in general.   I have become a much better customer over the last eighteen months because I know what its like from the other side of the telephone now.  I realize that when I call a customer service agent, they are not making this up as they go along, that they are people too, that, like me, they had dreams and aspirations that got sidelined in the recession, and I owe them the respect of letting them do their job, and to listen to what they have to say before jumping in, or over them, and the interesting thing is…I get much better customer service now as a result.  Funny how that happens…..

Estranged Adult Daughter
Family & Relationships
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My daughter is 36 and over the past 22 years she has been disrespectful to me.  I have put up with it, then we argue about it, and we have a falling out and this has happened too many times to count.  I have 3 grandchildren that I love.  She doesn’t prevent me from seeing them.  But I am very uncomfortable around her.  She has recently said some very mean things to me and I have spent so much time and money on her and the kids.

I was a single mom raising her and I have mental problems that I didn’t understand to know how to address until 2001.  I am on medication now.  She sees me as weak and yet she is proud and will never apologize or admit she’s wrong.  I tried pleading with her to compromise and move forward but she won’t budge.  She says she is not responsible for my life.  I have never said that she was.  She has also told me that my 14 year old granddaughter feels uncomfortable around me because she thinks I judge her and don’t listen to her.  Now I am the one uncomfortable.

My heart is broken and I can’t stop crying.  I tried to relay that to my daughter and all she says is “it’s all about you!” type of remarks.  I live alone and I am 56 and still work full time.  I don’t drive so I can’t just go see my grandchildren and they don’t live near public transportation.  They have only one car which my son-in-law uses to go to work.  I feel so lonely and upset and I don’t think there is a way for my daughter and I ever to make peace.  No matter what I say she twists it and turns it against me.  I did dote on her a lot in the past because she was all I had.  I was over disciplined as a child so I tried to not be over strict yet I was protective of her and she always had love, a roof and clothes and food though I worked and we were poor.  But I did the best I could.  She saw me depressed and saw me have a nervous breakdown when she was in kindergarten and then she witnessed another in 2001 and then I got the help from medication.  She says things like “I love you but you are toxic to me”  the “but” pretty much ruled out love I think.  She is just so mean to me.

Barb DePree MD
Sex and Depression: Tricky Combination
Love & Sex
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Even if you’ve been an emotional Rock of Gibraltar throughout your life, menopause can brew up a perfect storm for jittery moods, anxiety, and depression. And in addition to its psychological punch, depression and anxiety can put a definite crimp in your sex life.

According to the North American Menopause Society, “Women suffering from depression (which is associated with a chemical imbalance in the brain) report symptoms of prolonged tiredness, loss of interest in normal activities [like sex], weight loss, sadness, or irritability.”

Who feels like sex when the rest of you feels like this?

Menopause and depression make such cozy bedfellows because

  1. hormonal and endocrine-related turmoil are the very hallmarks of menopause, and they are intimately related to our moods. And
  2. certain predictable but challenging life events tend to coalesce during this period.

Ever since puberty, you’ve made a sometimes uneasy peace with the normal hormonal fluctuation of your monthly cycle. But now your hormones are all over the map. And in this case, a hormone like estrogen affects the functioning of a whole lot of other stuff.

For example, estrogen affects serotonin levels in your brain, and serotonin is the happy juice that regulates sleep, mood, energy, and libido. “It’s central to our well-being,” writes Colett Dowling, psychotherapist and author of The Cinderella Complex in an article on her website.

Dowling is no stranger to the emotional and physical punch of those hormonal changes. “It was only when I was a year past menopause that I began to address the sleep problems I was having, as well as the loss of energy and libido.… It took far longer than it should have for me to learn that menopausal depression, related to a drop in estrogen, was causing my symptoms, and to get the treatment that put me back on track.… I was stuck in this pattern for many many months, and it became hard not to think: Is this it, the end of my vitality and productivity?”

Research also suggests that women with depressive bouts in the past or who suffer from more severe or prolonged hot flashes are also more susceptible to depression during menopause.

And don’t count on life giving you a break during this stormy period. You may have to adjust to your children leaving, maybe to the death or disability of a parent, maybe to health issues of your own or of your partner. You may struggle with the emotional transition of a changing self-image or the inevitable and final loss of youth. Cultural stereotypes being what they are, you have to make peace (or not) with different social roles and perceptions.

Given these hormonal and psychological transitions, is it any wonder that depression often dogs the menopausal years? Is it any surprise that our sex life is an early casualty?

To get a handle on this dance between depression and loss of libido, begin by understanding how common and treatable it is. Give yourself a break and don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Dowling writes, “Women at mid-life often feel guilty about their mood changes and avoid seeking treatment. ‘This will pass,’ they think, and while that may be true, depression can seriously affect the quality of life, including one’s ability to make a living.”

Loss of libido is another of those quality-of-life issues. It can strain a relationship and affect your sense of well-being. You don’t have to compromise either your happiness or your sex life. And you shouldn’t suffer in silence.

A few additional issues with regard to depression and libido:

  • Antidepressants that affect serotonin levels (SSRIs and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) also affect libido, and not in a good way. If you’re on an antidepressant and have lost any interest in sex, talk to your doctor about a change in medication.
  • Low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) looks a lot like depression. It might be beneficial to have your thyroid levels checked. Also check your iron levels for anemia.
  • Consider whether unresolved relationship issues might be involved with your lack of interest in sex. Many doctors think a multi-pronged approach to depression and loss of libido is a more effective treatment. This may involve antidepressants as well as psychological counseling and perhaps lifestyle changes.
  • Ask your doctor about trying testosterone therapy to boost your sex drive. The jury’s still out, but there’s some indication that it can be effective.
  • Don’t overlook the basics. Your salad years of hopping in the sack for a quickie in the afternoon may be over, but you can still enjoy long, slow evenings of sweet intimacy. Just don’t forget the lube—and maybe a few pillows to keep things comfy.