A paper for those of us a little older…
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Letters to Lee

Lee Stones 2 Sept01grey

Lee welcomes letters or phone calls on issues of concern to the 50 plus generation. Contact her by writing to Thunder Bay SENIORS, by calling 343-8563 or by email at healthy@lakeheadu.ca

June 2017
Dear Lee
My boss at work has announced her engagement; the bridal shower is coming up soon. She is in her early sixties although she tells everyone she’s ten years younger. To her credit, she looks younger. Her husband-to-be is not local, he lives in another province. They plan to live there after the wedding.
I have seen her having dinner with her former partner several times in the past few months. They were acting very loving, not at all like a couple who have moved on. I made no comment.
Recently she asked me out for coffee; she requested that I not mention it to anyone. I have not. She said they are still close and until she actually gets married she does not see harm in their former friendship. She was quick to add, “It’s totally platonic now.”
My boss also said I was doing extra well at work and she would be giving me a raise and possibly a promotion before she leaves. As a single mom of twins that would be great. The problem is I am feeling anxious about this, as if I am being dragged into this woman’s dubious behaviors. Also, I keep thinking of the fellow she’s marrying and asking myself if I should send him an anonymous note – to at least warn him. Do you think I should?
Lee’s response:
Ah, the tangled web we weave…but, having not walked in her shoes, ultimately we don’t know her or why she is making the choices she is. There may be perfectly good explanations for what she is doing.
What I am sure of though is it’s none of anyone’s business but hers and the people in her life. What they know or don’t know is not for me to weigh in on or you to judge. While you may be concerned about her fiancée, it’s up to him to sort it out. Let the cards fall where they may – they are not yours to deal. Getting involved at any level is not a good idea. Keep your own counsel, continue not to gossip or speculate.
You sound like a discreet person and a caring person. I’d bet you are an excellent worker too and are deserving of a raise and a promotion. I hope you get both. Don’t dwell on any of this, instead put your head down and focus on your own life.
I wish you all the best with your future.
A quick note to readers, with the gardening season upon us, please remember to be careful not to overdo by lifting things that are excessively heavy. Like wet snow in the winter, it’s best to pay some young student who needs a break, to lift heavy soil or dig trenches. Just plant and watch all the plants flourish and the flowers bloom. Here’s to a joyous, healthy summer!
May 2017
Dear Lee:
I am in a relationship with a lovely gentleman; we are in our early sixties. He was married for 35 years to his high school sweetheart – until she passed away three years ago. We are a happy couple with mutual friends and lots in common, although we do not live together full time. His daughter, who lives in New Zealand, is not happy with her dad having a romantic relationship. She thinks women are out to get his money and further that it would be unfaithful to his late wife. She wants him to move to New Zealand to be closer to her. He was considering it, but since we met nearly a year ago, he would prefer to stay here. His daughter knows about me but has no idea how close her dad and I have become. She is pressuring him to sell his house and camp and move. She and her husband are both busy lawyers and have no children. She plans to visit here next month and my friend is in a panic over what to do. He has suggested we might get married but hasn’t actually proposed, because his daughter would be seriously upset. I could use some advice on all of this. I have always been single with no close family ties. I love this man, I would be devastated if he moved.

Lee’s response:
It surely is a complicated situation, at least on the surface. I understand why his daughter is concerned, however her behaviour could well be seen as a tad controlling. Her dad is an adult who has moved on emotionally (with no disrespect to his late spouse); he is living his life according to his need to make choices, like we all do. Being part of a loving couple, especially since you are both still relatively young, would seem a healthy path for you both. It is better to grow older as a compatible, loving couple than to deal with the years to come on your own. I believe the research suggests that men in particular do better when they don’t live alone. Make every effort to get to be friends with his daughter when he visits. If she really loves her dad I would hope she will want what is best for him. He, in turn, needs to be comfortable making choices that will insure the love and happiness we all deserve – at any age, without feeling guilty or manipulated. Not everyone gets a second chance at love in later years, I hope he puts his personal happiness first. I hope too, by doing so, it brings happiness to you both. Life is all too short, we need to grab the brass ring – in this case maybe it’s a gold band. Good luck

February 2017

Dear Lee
I am a young senior and live alone since I retired. I try to walk most days; I have supper out every Friday at the same place, like I did when my partner was alive, and get groceries every Monday morning. My sister, who lives in Kenora, thinks I spend too much time alone. I am naturally quiet and shy about meeting people. I respect my sister’s opinion but am not sure how to actually implement her advice.

Lee’s response:
I am glad you wrote. I am inclined to agree with your sister, meeting people and getting out more is a good idea. Have you considered getting a very cute smallish dog for company? Dogs are magnets to meet people, they are good company at home, plus having a dog would force you to be out and about more. We walk our dog in the Central Ave. Dog Park and the Tree Farm; we’ve met a ton of super nice folks there and made new friends that way. There are plenty of activities and fun courses going on at seniors’ centres, classes available at the college and at LU, plus this town is full of volunteer opportunities. When we moved here in 1998 we hardly knew anyone. Until I found a job, I volunteered on 3 boards to meet new people and was soon able to form friendships, most of which have lasted and continue to enrich our lives. Why not try going to the local theatre presentations, join the film society, pop along to shows at the Community Auditorium and maybe check out a travel club. If stuck for a topic of conversation, ask people’s advice on topics like getting a pet, finding the best place to buy really good cheese or extra special bacon, or what new restaurants they might recommend, or say you need a new hairdresser, do they know a good one. It makes it easier to start a conversation when you ask for input from others – just like you did when you asked my advice. Please let me know things go. I think 2017 could turn out to be a really interesting year for you.

January 2017
Dear Lee
My older sister recently passed away and generously left me some money. In her will she also left me a letter suggesting I use some of the money to get my teeth straightened, buy a new wardrobe and get into the social scene more, maybe even date. I have always trusted my sister’s advice. My teeth have always made me feel extremely self conscious and shy. I am a 62 year old widow, am I too old for braces? Won’t I look ridiculous to other people?
Lee’s response:
I am sorry to hear of your sister’s death. It does seem clear that your sister cared for you deeply and perhaps wanted you to make some changes – so you might build your confidence, reach out to people and be less isolated. We all need to have friends, things to do which appeal to us and things to look forward to. These are important components of being happy. Being 62 is no barrier to making any changes you want to. Seniors of all ages are doing huge numbers of new things, despite their age. At any age we can be sick or be physically challenged – so changing is not limited to any one age or even health condition, per se. When researchers have looked at who ages successfully, it is surprising how little actual age or physical condition have to do with it. Having a positive attitude and a curiosity about life were definitely aspects of sussessful aging.
Now back to your two questions. You’d be amazed how few serious judgements other people make – they are hugely busy thinking about their own life. Wearing a mini skirt at 62 might raise a few eyebrows (personally I’d think it would be freezing to do that) but improving your smile by straightening your teeth is a grand idea. Take your sister’s advice, she knew and loved you. Get the new wardrobe while you reengage by joining groups, reaching out through church or a seniors centre or taking fun courses. Life is all too short, live well and be happy.

December 2016
What gifts should I get for upcoming visit?
Dear Lee
I am coming back to Thunder Bay for a month at Christmas with my daughter and her husband. I am excited; especially with the time I’ll see my 9-year-old grandson and spoil him rotten. It will be fabulous to reconnect with old friends. It’s been 12 years since I moved away to work in the UK. Who knows, I might even decide to retire there in a few years. I won’t arrive until a few days prior to Christmas and will do shopping then.
Can you offer any suggestions; my late husband always did that part of Christmas.
Lee’s response:
Let me be the first to say, welcome home when you come! We are always delighted have visitors to our wonderful city. You will find it’s changed a lot, in many positive ways. Try not to miss Xmas at the Old Fort, the auditorium performances, whatever theatre is happening and family skating- assuming it’s cold, down on the waterfront. There is a long list of exciting things to do now in Thunder Bay!
Buying gifts is fun but not always an easy task to find the right things for the people you care about. Spending time with you will likely be the best gift your family can have. They will appreciate presents, but I suspect it’ll be mainly about your presence.
As for suggestions I would ask your daughter what you think would best suit. Then, I would make sure you have a couple of fun small items to unwrap Christmas morning and include gift cards to places like Chapters, LCBO, our great restaurants, etc. How about I.O.U’s to strolling about the Farmers Market to buy treasures from vendors there and visits to local small businesses to purchase the myriad of gorgeous wares made locally. There are tons of amazing choices. Finally I’d buy a couple of gift cards for at least 2 visits to our toy stores. Your grandson will choose, after great deliberation I’m sure, just the prizes he’s drawn to. What fun you’ll have! It’s bound to be…a very Merry Christmas!
To all my readers: Once again, I thank you for all your kind comments and support! It is such a joy to write these columns knowing they are appreciated and sometimes useful… and hopefully entertaining too.
From my dear Michael and I …and our not quite so fat dog Sami, we wish you a wonderful holiday season! Here’s hoping 2017 will be extra healthy and special to us all!
P.S. Snow Shoveling Reminder:
Fellow seniors: Please, hire some young person this winter or call 211 to find out where to get help. Do NOT attempt to shovel heavy snow and be extra careful on the icy walkways.
(The kids need the money and I need healthy readers.)

November 2016
Sister-in-law being abused- what can be done?
My twin brother died suddenly 3 years ago at the age of 71. We were close all our lives; his wife has always been like the sister I never had. she’s a sweet, gentle lady. They never had children.
Two years after my brother’s death, my sister-in-law met a man who was widowed; they quickly became a couple. We knew she had been lonely and were initially happy she’d found someone.
Unbeknownst to us, this man has a history of serious alcoholism. He is openly critical and demeaning to our sister-in-law. He acts like a bully. He appears to be making all the decisions while she is doing what he says. Normally she was a happy and chatty person but nowadays she is subdued and anxious. Twice recently she has cancelled our long-standing ladies movie outing because he wants her home instead. He runs their life.
We are really concerned with how things are going. Should we say something, or do something. It’s awful to see her so unhappy and dare I say, scared.
Lee’s response:
I was really sad to hear about this – being bullied, criticized and put down is devastating to the victim. It can cause all kinds of emotional and potentially physical issues. If we live within a partnership where we are abused, disrespected and controlled it is no surprise that we lose our feelings of self worth, become unhappy and anxious. Not everyone can stand-up to an abuser; it’s never easy.
I assume your former sister-in-law is a senior, and has a limited support network. If your fears are well founded, I think the sooner you try to help her the better. Life is too short to live with abuse. Get some time with her, offer your full support, determine if possible if she’s in any immediate danger; help her come up with a plan to deal with this. She may want to try counseling if she loves this man enough to work through these issues. If she’s scared, as you think she is, she may want out – but be unsure where to turn or how to get assistance. Her minister, if she has one, may help or there are agencies locally where she can access support. Call 211 for a list of appropriate agencies. Good luck with helping her, I am rooting for a happy, peaceful outcome.

Oct 2016

Dear Lee:
My husband retired last year. He was an accountant in a busy firm. He didn’t really want to retire but the firm closed their local offices. Things were fine initially. However, his behavior these last three months is causing me real concern. He is buying lotto tickets every week, often buying two hundred dollars worth. Also, he is going to the casino with two new friends for breakfast every Monday. They stay most of the morning playing the machines. I am checking our bank balances, we’re OK so far but it has to stop, or we won’t be. He never gambled before; I don’t know what to do and it’s embarrassing to even talk about. I am at my wits end.
Lee’s response:
I am not surprised you are worried. Gambling I suspect, can become an addiction if it becomes habitual, and feels like fun. However, his gambling is costing more and more money and is possibly a substitute for other things he might be missing. Clearly from your letter, you suspect your husband’s new gambling habits are getting out of hand. Embarrassing or not, your concerns are valid and you need to have a serious discussion with your husband as to why he’s feeling the need to risk the family’s retirement funds. At this point he may not think this is anything more than a harmless new hobby. However, the rule of everything in moderation certainly sounds stretched by the frequency with which he is gambling. As a couple, your money and resources are shared things to provide for you both.
He is obviously a bright man; he may be having real difficulty finding ways not to feel bored with too much time on his hands. We all need something meaningful to do with our time, in addition to something to look forward to. Why not discuss with him ways he can fill those needs with activities that challenge him in positive ways. I cannot imagine how many not-for-profit boards and agencies around Thunder Bay would be thrilled to have his help with his unique skills! Or you might find fun couple things to do – or get involved in learning entirely new things.
I never play cards or games; so I cannot relate personally. I don’t know much about gambling but staff at the Margaret Smith Centre where they counsel people with gambling issues might be a good place to turn. Why not meet with them and get their input. I have worked with their staff in the past; they are a great resource.
I wish you both a happy, affordable outcome.

Sept 2016
Grandkids and homework
Dear Lee
My grandsons come to my house after school three days a week. After a snack, they do their homework before they are allowed to play games; their parents get them around six. This arrangement started last spring. The boys are aged nine and eleven. They are delightful companions and I look forward to the days they come.
As a retired teacher, I was able to help them with their homework. Before the term ended last year, I found myself spending most of the time doing math, correcting grammar and spelling and relearning geography. In hindsight, I realized, the boys were relying heavily on my tutoring. I am happy to help but think that perhaps I should not be quite so involved. I wonder how far I should be going with the homework help? They are sweet little souls and it’s difficult to resist their pleas for help. Am I being an over-doting grandma?
Lee’s response:
Ah, your dilemma is a serious one. As a smitten Nanna I can relate. You just want to enjoy the time with them and it’s so easy to over-indulge them. It’s tough not to.
As a former teacher, I suspect you are more likely to offer teaching help than I, for example, might be capable of. Nonetheless, the fact that you are asking this question suggests that you are seeing the situation clearly; you may indeed need to rethink how much homework assistance you are offering.
First I would talk it over with their parents, get them to weigh in. Make decisions around this, then let the boys know if the “system” needs to change and stick to your guns. Using lots of positive reinforcement is a given – but setting limits as to how much you help is a wise choice to make. The more independently they can actually get their lessons done would seem best – with of course, grandma as a reliable cheering section. Good luck with this.
Note to self – I hope I can take my own advice on this one.

June 16

Dear Lee:
My close friend is a warm, caring, intelligent lady. She used to be fun to be around; we always seemed to be laughing. She was zany, positive and open to new things. Since she retired she is increasingly negative and seems to moan and whine constantly. She is especially unhappy with her partner, her health, and her relationship with her son – who doesn’t keep in touch much anymore.
I have tried to help her by offering ways to deal with her on-going litany of complaints – but no matter what you suggest, she always has reasons for why it won’t work out. We had things we planned to do when we both retired but she no longer wants to do them. It’s like she’s closing down instead of enjoying the freedom to grow that retirement can offer. Lately I find myself being down and low in spirit when I am around her. I feel sorry for her but I don’t know how to help.
Lee’s response:
Your friend sounds somewhat depressed and may well be a person who is having significant issues adjusting to retirement. I suspect the job she left was a big part of her life and a big part of her personal identity. Now she may be struggling with being bored and having too much time on her hands – while her sense of personal fulfillment is waning.
I have written this before but it needs repeating. We all need 3 things to be happy. We need someone to love; something meaningful to do; and something to look forward to. Your friend needs to address how to find those 3 things. Going to doctors for pills is not the answer.
She needs to take stock of her life, get busy finding ways to fill her personal lifestyle prescription – so she can resume and reinvest in her happiness. Maybe some relationship counseling, maybe a part-time or volunteer career, or starting her own business would help. Give her this column to read and encourage her to work on the 3 things. She needs to thrive, lest she gets old.
You are a good friend to care enough to write to seek out advice for her. Kudos to you.

May 16

Dear Lee:
I am a widow just approaching my big 70th birthday. Last year I met a younger man, he’s nearly 50, at a local dog park. He is originally from Ireland; he is extremely witty, a fascinating conversationalist and we discovered we have much in common in the authors we read and the music we prefer. Even our dogs like each other. We are both cancer survivors. We spend most of our free time together; he’s given me a new vitality I never expected to enjoy again. I am very attracted to him, as he seems to be with me.
The problem is my daughter does not approve, nor does my closest friend. My daughter says I look like a fool being courted by this man who is young enough to be her brother. My friend says he’s likely to dump me for younger women – when he gets tired of being around an aging lady. I am disappointed in both their reactions. What should I do?
Lee’s response:
Wow, I am really happy for you and your gentleman friend. I suspect you are a “young almost 70” and this man is attracted to you as you are and how you are…a seasoned, vibrant older woman who is fun to be with, and intellectually stimulating. You have both experienced hardships with your health, have lots of important things in common and find each other’s company mutually pleasing. It sounds perfect to me! How grand that you found each other. Life has a way of evening things out, age wise, when we reach a point where we have survived the hurdles and are able to carry on.
Assure your daughter, and your friend that you appreciate their concern and their need to feel protective of you – but you need to follow your heart and your head on this.
Then, enjoy every moment of your relationship with your “boyfriend.” It sounds like a special relationship, which came as an unexpected gift for you both. Go lady go! Hope you enjoy many seasons of sharing your time together. This is your brass ring, grab it. I wish you many blessings.
P.S. Now I will be wondering if I can recognize you two at the dog park.

April 16

Dear Lee
I am 71 and have been widowed for 9 years. I was lonely until two years ago. Fortunately, I met a kind, sweet funny man and we spend many days each week doing things as a couple. We shop, dine out, visit friends and family, see movies and go to the theatre together. We have twice travelled as a couple, once to Minneapolis and we spent ten days visiting mutual friends in Arizona. He has enriched my life tremendously; I feel blessed to have found happiness again.
We know other couples who also started new relationships, then moved in together. One couple formally married, the other two did not. When we visit with them, all three couples seem quite happy – but not AS happy as they used to be -when they lived mostly independent of each other. My “boyfriend” has recently suggested we move in together. I am not madly in love but I do care deeply for him. However, I am not keen to complicate things where money and family are concerned, plus he snores horribly; it’s caused me to be seriously sleep deprived. Also, I don’t want to end up being less happy within a formal relationship – as our friends seem to be. Nor do I want to lose him! Please, I need advice!
Lee response:
I think its grand you’ve found love again and are happy. It sounds a far better alternative to feeling lonely. The money “thing” can be sorted out with a quick trip to a lawyer if you live together but wish to share your money with your family. The sleep deprivation due to his snoring actually could be an issue. But again, it could be dealt with. There are ear plugs, devices that help with snoring, minor surgery to fix snoring and the choice of sleeping in separate rooms, etc. Millions of couples overcome these challenges – as could you two.
Not being “madly in love” seems to be to be the only critical issues. Maybe he is or maybe he’s not madly in love with you. Clearly he shares the mutual attraction and has deep feelings or he would not suggest living together. I think discussing your reservations and fears with him would be an important step in deciding on your future together. He may be OK with living apart while knowing you are devoted to each other exclusively. Maybe you snore and all along he hasn’t said anything but has decided he can put up with it. Clearly, there are things about each other you still don’t know and would benefit from knowing. I would suggest you engage in more sharing of fears and feelings and talk about the possibility of other options as this relationship grows. Love is almost always complicated. However, with trust, deep affection and an open mind, love is worth the risk of exploring the future together. I feel this will all work out. Good luck, he sounds like a keeper to me.

Feb. 2016

Dear Lee:
“I am writing because of a problem I am always encountering with trades people in this city, mostly because I am an older female, living alone. Why, almost invariably do these people seem to believe it is an opportunity to take advantage of the situation – because I am a woman who doesn’t understand? Or because I am a senior who must be comfortably cushioned with a nice fat pension?”
Note: The lady went on to give excellent examples of dealings she had wherein repair people gave estimates, only to inflate the prices afterwards. As far as I could see they all consistently and repeatedly overcharged. She wondered how often this happens to other seniors, women in particular, who might just pay up without a quibble.”
Lee’s response:
I am sorry but not surprised to hear of issues related to price gouging and what I would describe as unethical business practices, especially as it relates to older people. Women on their own may well be labeled as vulnerable. From experience, I know that older couples, and men living alone, also suffer financially at the hands of unprofessional home repair people. The fact that there are more older women living alone than men certainly ups the numbers for women. Discrimination based on age is called ageism, it would appear ageism may flourish locally, especially when it comes to home repair services.
The problem the lady wrote about struck a chord with my husband & I. Twice in the last 5 years we trusted trades people only to be over-charged in one case and have money conned from us in the other. Like the lady who wrote and ourselves, we are certainly not stupid people, maybe just too trusting. Like this lady, we and many other seniors get friendly with trades people, and we assume they are honest. Sadly, there are some bad guys out there. That is not to suggest ALL trades people are corrupt – but we need to conduct ourselves in safe ways -because of the few bad apples in the barrel.
This is what I suggest to seniors:
Never hire anyone who calls you or comes to your home looking for work, it’s not safe. If you need work done, ask advice from friends – ask who they have hired and done well with. Contact 3 companies; get estimates from all of them. Ask for references and check them with the Better Business Bureau. Call 211, ask them for advice. When you make a choice, get the price and all particulars, including time-lines and materials, in writing. Expect to be treated fairly, that’s what a true professional does. If they cannot finish on time or materials cost more, renegotiate. Even if we seniors were all rich, which is nowhere near the truth, we should only hire reputable trades people after carefully checking them out. Even for small jobs, it’s wise to do that. Let’s only hire those who prove to be honest and take pride in their work. That way everyone wins.
To the lady who wrote, thank-you for providing such an important question.
P.S. The comments you added about Diogenes were a delight.
To all my readers, Happy Valentines Day! I always think it’s a special day to reach out to those we love dearly.

Note: If readers want additional columns about the topic of elder abuse, please read previous columns I did, available at: www.Dear-Diva.com

Jan. 2016

Dear Lee
Our sons recently bought my husband an iPad . He’s newly retired; he’s never previously been into the tech toys.
I assumed he would use the iPad to do email, etc. The reality is he’s become obsessed with it. He takes it to bed, he’s often reading in the middle of the night; he logs on first thing when he wakes. I can tell you electronics aren’t romantic additions to bedrooms! It’s all he talks about! He’s on it 8+ hours a day. He’s not an on-line gambler or going to dating sites, his choices are healthy enough…but still.
Another worry is he’s using head phones – I cannot communicate with him, unless I interrupt him. He’s not exactly pleased when I do that. For weeks I have felt isolated – because he’s forever on-line. Yesterday he missed yet another of our early morning swims and he didn’t go to Rotary. We haven’t been to church in weeks. I am losing my partner of 41 years. He reads the iPad at every meal and ignores me! I have NO idea what to do. I miss my husband, I am starting to feel depressed.
Lee’s response:
Oh dear, the age old story of perhaps too much of a good thing. It must be upsetting to feel left out of things your husband is busy with. It might be your husband is looking for something to replace work – retirement may be boring him. He could be looking for new challenges; he may be searching for something meaningful to do. The iPad is a new thing. It could, for now, be replacing time spent on other activities. His interest in the tech stuff might wane – once the novelty factor goes.
I think a “ we-need-to–talk” session might help. Ask your husband if he’d consider spending more time with you, because you miss him; ask him what he might enjoy doing as a couple. What activities could you do again – that both of you like? Ask him if he’d be willing to dedicate a little more time to togetherness. There’s got to be a reason he is so besotted with being on-line. Ask him what he finds out there in cyber space that is so fascinating.
I do think it’s unreasonable to bring a book to bed every night, e-book or not. Or, to go to bed with TV on, barely communicating, every night. Marriages can get so routine that the spark fizzles. It is then we risk tuning the relationship out, if and when we chose mostly solitary activities. He may not realize how unhappy you are.
Too, you might look at your own lifestyle choices. What are you doing independently, to fill your time with meaningful activities? Do you take courses, have interesting hobbies, meet friends, make new friends, volunteer, maybe take on a wee part-time job? Being independent, doing fun things, is bound to make you more interesting to everyone, your husband included.
With 41 years invested in this relationship, with a bit of open talk, some re-thinking and compromising, I think it’ll all work out. Good luck.
P.S: For all of us seniors, it’s a good time to hire a local teen or call 211 for advice about the snow clearing. Just because you’ve always done it, does NOT mean you should. Age, a few extra pounds and fitness play a significant role in lifting heavy snow. Please consider retiring your shovel for safety sake.

Dec 2015

Dear Lee:
With Christmas coming soon, I am worried about my dad. He is 76 and lives alone since my mother passed away last January. We see Dad weekly and chat on the phone. This will be our first Christmas without Mom; it will likely be especially sad for my father. They were uniquely close.
We met Dad for lunch yesterday; he has informed us that he would prefer not to spend Christmas day with us but will drop by later that night, for coffee and some dessert – “if that’s ok.” I asked why he doesn’t want to come. He says he’s going to help with serving dinners at a local shelter. I cannot believe he wants to abandon his family on this special day to be with strangers, albeit for a worthy cause! I think he’ll get depressed being away from us. How can I get him to change his mind?

Lee’s response:
I am sorry to hear about your mother’s death. Learning to live without people we love has to be life’s all-time biggest challenge, bar none. ‘So many memories, so much missing of the person. It changes and impacts us all.
I applaud your father’s kind and generous decision to help others on Christmas day. I am sure it was a really difficult choice for him to pass up the day with you all. At least you will see him later in the day and can enjoy the evening with him.
I used to be a bereavement counselor and was honoured to share many people’s thoughts the first year or two they were without their partners. It is a stressful time of dealing with a lot of “firsts.” First wedding anniversary on your own, first anniversary of your loved one’s passing, first time celebrating Christmas, birthdays, and many other meaningful dates we share with our partners and family. What I observed was that it wasn’t until fully two years after the loss of someone special – that most people could start to adjust to being the new person they had to become, without the physical presence of their loved one. The partner, the child, the parent – whoever we love dearly and lose, leaves a huge void in our lives. It is difficult for each of us as we struggle to move forward. Christmas, with all its gaiety, can be tough – until we can finally find peace and happiness again. And, most importantly, come to accept that the people who loved us still do and want us happy.
So, your father’s choice to be busy on Christmas day is a wise one, one that we can ALL learn from. He is setting a beautiful example. Support your Dad this Christmas by positively reinforcing his choice to help others. I don’t know your Dad but he sounds like one heck of a guy! All my hats are off to him! And I have lots of hats.
Just a note, I often recall my Grammy Mitchell’s advice when we were sad. “Get out and do something for somebody, and be quick about it.”

To each and every reader of this column:
My dear husband, Michael, and I, wish all of you peace and joy and laughter this holiday season. We hope this coming year will be a healthy one for you and your families. Health is everything.
And from Sami, our fat and funny dog, Xmas greetings to everyone who fusses her and gives her treats at the Central Avenue dog park. FYI -Sami will continue in 2016 as the boss of this household.
Merry Xmas & Happy New Year!

Nov. 2015

Note to readers, this message was left on my voice mail. I have translated it as best I can.
Ever since my wife went on pills for high cholesterol months ago, she has been on a ridiculous, stupid health kick! She cooks sprouted wheat cereal or egg whites and spinach for breakfast – almost every day. There’s not a decent box of corn flakes to be seen. Gone! Every damn night it’s kale or other green stuff salads, steamed fish or baked turkey or some god-awful vegetarian casseroles! I don’t recognize most of the stuff in them. They don’t taste like normal food! I like my bacon and eggs, roast beef and fries, you know, real food. I will NOT eat yogurt. Enough! And what happened to custard pies?
I keep telling her and telling her and telling her, “cook the way you used to, decent meals, not this crappy rabbit food.” She’s driving me crazy! She ignores what I say. So, now what? What the, “expletive deleted” am I going to do, I WANT my food back. Answer that in your column, she reads your paper!
Lee’s response:
I replayed the message several times. Was this a crank call? I finally decided it wasn’t. I thought, poor baby, imagine having to eat healthy. It’s enough…to make your arteries get better.
That said, this man, note I did not say gentleman, with his colorful language, has got a problem. Clearly he felt it was serious enough to call up a stranger and leave his over-excited message on my phone. He definitely likes to yell.
His wife buys the groceries, his wife cooks the meals -but she no longer cooks the meals he wants. Poor man. He has choices, he’s not helpless – or is he? He can go to a place called a supermarket, buy lots of bacon and steak, frozen fries, then voila, he can cook it. Maybe this sweet-tempered dynamo needs cooking lessons. I wonder if his wife would be willing to teach him to cook? Men are often wonderful chefs. Plus, sharing the kitchen can be a real boost to a relationship. She might though, need earplugs – to drown out his verbal reactions.
Or, he can ask his wife to cook two separate meals, one healthy, one to possibly clog every artery he has.
Or, this novel idea, he could explain nicely, that he really cannot eat the healthy food; and he needs her help. If he asks her in the same tone he did used on my answering machine, I doubt if she’ll be sympathetic. I sure wouldn’t be. She’s worried about her health, she ‘s scared enough to change her eating habits and to defy his abrasive orders.
Real communication doesn’t happen when you order your spouse around. Real communication happens when you speak and listen, respectfully. Dare I say, lovingly. They just might find a common solution.
Finally, if all else fails, this guy can eat out. A lot. Fast food, how easy is that! Not once in awhile, daily. Oh joy! The big yellow arches await.

Oct. 2015

Dear Lee:
I feel silly asking this question but it has become a big issue between my husband and myself.
We retired several months ago. My husband bought a Harley. We plan to go to Florida for the winter, we’ll take the bike with us. Here is the issue. He is smitten with the Harley and plans to have a full upper-body Harley tattoo done on his chest, before we go. I don’t want him to have it. I think it will look ridiculous when we are walking on the beach or swimming. I married him 34 years ago with a clean chest, now he wants to disfigure himself. It will be embarrassing to be seen with this 69 year old with a huge bike tattoo. People will think he’s a weirdo, or a Hell’s Angel. What can I do to make him see this is a big mistake?
Lee’s response:
Well, I have to say is it is the first time I have ever been asked to weigh in on a tattoo. It took me by surprise. However, having thought it over and discussed it with my own husband, here goes.
First, having a tattoo sounds very painful but clearly your husband has thought of that. When we marry, it is for better or worse. Lots of marriages have lots of worse – some don’t survive because of the “worse.” If the worst thing your husband does is have a tattoo, and is otherwise a good guy, I think you have a winner. It must mean a lot to him or he would not have persisted once you expressed your strong feelings against it. He’ll still be the guy you’ve loved for 34 years, just a little more colorful, with his shirt off. On the issue of being embarrassed, being up-tight about what folks in Florida think might needs a rethink on your part. Most people won’t care one way or the other, it’s not going to matter. Some may think it’s a bit much, some may admire it. Don’t let their opinion be a significant factor. In the end please yourself.
What you mustn’t do is let this become a big issue anymore. It’s things a lot more major that need to be put in that category. This is a storm in a tea cup, relationship wise. Give up on the tattoo, let him have it without being angry. And, have a wonderful time in Florida.
A final note – why not think about having someone like Sam Sheppard tattooed on your back. Wonder how your Harley man would react to that?

Sept 2015

Dear Lee:
My husband and I have been retired since last year. I volunteer 2 days a week to keep active. My husband watches lots of TV and spends Monday through Thursday afternoons with his friends. They mostly go to the mall for lunch. Then they drink coffee there for hours – while they socialize. I ask what they find to talk about, he says “we are solving all the world’s problems.”
My husband won’t help with cooking or cleaning, he never has. I would like his help now that he’s retired – however, he says it is women’s work. His attitude sure is creating problems in my world. I want him to help me, plus I would like to spend more “couple” time. I love this man but I am fed up with his “retiring attitude.” What should I do?
Lee’s response:
I am sorry to hear things are not going as well as they might in your retirement. I have only got your side of it, but what I hear sounds like things aren’t great. You two definitely need to work on communicating better. If not, you are going to end up resentful and angry. That’s not a good recipe for a happy marriage.
I suggest it might be a good idea to ask yourself, if you did discuss the household chores with your husband, and he did agree to help out, would you be satisfied with how he did things? Your standards may not be his standards. Household chores are not gender specific, either of you can cook, clean, etc. It’s time he shared with chores, assuming you are ok with how he does the work. He’s not a surly teenager, I am sure he’ll want whatever he does, to be up to a standard whereby your home is acceptable. He’s never going to be Martha Stewart, but he could do a decent job and share the domestic load. Fair is fair. When he does help, use positive reinforcement so he knows his efforts are appreciated.
As for the mall thing – 4 days a week seems a bit unfair when you’d like to spend more time with him. Two days sounds more reasonable. Maybe discuss that and come up with things you could do as a couple that “both” of you would enjoy. He could choose one day, you could plan things for the other. Remember, all those years ago, when you dated and were first in love, you really enjoyed time together, enjoyed dating. I am sure it worked out then and it can again.
Finally, if he doesn’t want to spend time with you, you’ll be forced to implement Plan B. Go to the mall and have coffee or lunch with him and his friends. And flirt with them. Mostly ignore him and be very attentive and interested in their opinions and what they are doing. A few lunches like that should make him remember what fun you are to be with.
Good luck with this. You are trying to keep your marriage healthy. That, in my opinion, is a really valuable thing to do. Go lady!

June 2015

Dear Lee
I have a cousin living in BC who has come to visit us for the past three years, ever since she and her husband retired. We never invited them but said yes the first year, never dreaming it would be a 3 week visit. I enjoy my cousin’s company a lot, but her husband is really a difficult houseguest. He smokes constantly on our patio, drinks excessively and argues when he’s been drinking. He is highly opinionated. It is stressful to have him around. My husband and I can’t do another visit; we dread the thought of their coming. How do we tell them they cannot visit, without offending my cousin?
Lee’s response:
Your dilemma is not uncommon, many people have mentioned similar issues with friends or relatives – who make the assumption you want them to visit and over-stay when they do come. I suspect the old saying we used in Newfoundland where I was brought up is true everywhere. Company and fish can easily “go bad after three days.”
Living in the north means we have a shorter summer season than many areas of this wonderful country. With as few as ten good weeks, if we are lucky, I don’t believe we should compromise our pleasure and the health benefits of lots of sun and fresh air by being stressed by unwelcome visitors. I realize it is hard to say no, hard to make excuses so these relatives will find somewhere else to vacation. Nonetheless, you must do that, for your own well-being and peace of mind. Email them and say you have plans this summer and will be away a lot; reinforce that by saying you simply are not able to have visitors this year. Perhaps you can suggest a girls’ only week-end trip with your cousin in the fall – to stay in touch with her. Maybe meet in Edmonton for a fun time shopping, seeing theatres perhaps and catching up. Your cousin could probably use the break.
I have a silly sign on the wall of my card making office. It says, “Life is short, buy the shoes.” It makes me smile…but it also reminds me to lighten up, take leisure time seriously. You and your husband worked hard to enjoy your retirement and with it should come the right to do things that make you happy. You are not responsible for other people’s lives. Who knows what the future will bring. It is important to live our lives fully, seize the day, the week, indeed the summer – to do pleasant activities, joyful things you choose, rather than things imposed upon you.
I am sure you already knew what to do about this when you called with this question. I suspect all you really wanted was that decision reinforced. Do the best you can do – as long as it doesn’t compromise your right to being stress free. If you’re feeling guilty, stop it, it’s not healthy, not for any of us.
I hope you and the readers of this grand little paper have an especially healthy, happy summer. And, remember, “life IS short, buy the shoes!”
A couple of more things – please join the Community Elder Abuse Prevention Committee that I volunteer with on June 15th at the Mary J. Black Library at 1 p.m. Bring friends with you. We are launching our amazing video, Victims Voices. In 30+ years of working on elder abuse prevention, this is the best resource I’ve ever seen, bar none. Bravo Thunder Bay, this will go national and international. You heard it first in the Thunder Bay Seniors paper!
Also, for those who asked, besides Japan Camera and Health 4 You, my photo cards will soon be for sale in my friend’s new store, Tim’s Whole Health on Waterloo St. A percentage of the sales will be donated to our local Cancer Society. I just lost my beloved aunt Joan to this dreaded disease; I decided it was time to step up to the plate. Cancer will be beaten. Even if you don’t buy cards, the Cancer Society surely could use your donation.
Remember too, don’t overdo it in the yard. Hard digging in hot weather after a full meal or a few beers can be stressful on your body. There are lots of students looking to earn a few dollars, let them do it.

May 2015

Dear Lee:
I have met a terrific gentleman who I am rapidly developing strong feelings for. We have been dating now for nearly a year. I cannot remember being this happy or feeling so in synch with anyone. Dare I hope, we may indeed be soul mates.
We are both widowed and in our late sixties. He’s very debonair and dresses nicely, he’s smart and witty, plus he can really cook. He’s almost perfect.
His one big flaw is that he is messy. He lets the grass grow too long before he mows and inside his house he is super casual. His kitchen and bathroom are clean but I doubt if he dusts more than once a month, nor does he bother with putting laundry away. I offer to help, indeed I am itching to do a major clean-up but he always says, “no, no thanks. It’s fine.” It’s not though.
I am a confessed neat freak. I never met a dust bunny I wanted to name, nor do I allow any stray buttercups on my grass. I like my physical environment in pristine shape.  It stresses me to see a mess. Can people who are such complete opposites ever live together?
Lee’s response:
I think it’s wonderful you have found what sounds like a lovely gentleman to spend time with. He sounds like a gem, a real keeper to me. I suspect many ladies would be happy to be in your shoes.
You asked if people who are complete opposites can be happy together- which is a complex question to answer, without knowing you both. It will depend on a lot of things. First, I wonder, does he want to live with you? Are you his soul mate?
Undoubtedly he’s realized you are not keen on things as relaxed and in disarray as he apparently wants to live. Living with someone at this stage in life brings many complications, as well as the potential for many joys and mutual benefits. Would he be happy having to be constantly tidy and keeping ahead of household chores, in order to attain your standards?
Would you be as thrilled to be with him every day, if you had to sit in a garden full of buttercups, wild daisies while pretending not to see clothes in the dining room that needs to be put away – and dishes sitting since breakfast – because he’s reading an especially good book?
You would need to talk about your differences in great detail, if in fact, your relationship became one where you shared a home. You are indeed very opposite in how you choose to live. That will make a huge difference in whether or not you can be compatible and happy – despite your significantly different domestic lifestyles. Do you love him enough to lower your standards? How comfortable would you both be? Can he feel relaxed amidst the pristine environment you clearly prefer?
My advice would be to keep things exactly as they are. That way you can both enjoy this great relationship – but not end up stressed and unhappy by trying to live in a way you may never adjust to. Many times I’ve heard people say before they get married, “Oh, I’ll soon change that about him or her.” It rarely happens.
My advice is not a perfect solution, but life is far too short for either of you not to be as happy as possible.
April 2015
Dear Lee:
My sister-in-law has been fighting a problem with alcohol for the past 20 years. Several months ago she went to a rehab program in the U.S.; she has been sober now for 7 weeks. We hope it works out for her and she’s able to stay away from drinking. She was never a mean drunk but she did worry us because of how bad it is for your health, and how sorry we felt for my brother. He’s had to deal with her binges for so long. They seem happier now than we’ve seen them for years.
All that being said, we have a big party planned for our 50th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks. At that there will be lots of champagne and wine as part of the celebration. We don’t see why we should change our plans, however, my brother has asked that we not serve alcohol while his wife is still in recovery. He fears she might be overly anxious and start drinking again. She has never been especially comfortable in social situations, but she has to learn to deal with a world where social drinking is the norm. We don’t want the event dictated by her alcohol issue. Are we being unfair or unreasonable?
Lee’s response:
What you are writing about indeed presents a dilemma. I agree that your sister-in-law’s alcohol issues should not dictate how you plan your upcoming celebration. I also agree that this lady has to be able to be around folks who are drinking – while resisting the temptation to succumb to her addiction. However, from what you’ve written, her addiction was for a very long time and she is, I suspect, still pretty fragile. You also said she isn’t all that comfortable in social situations. Given these two variables, my gut reaction is that it might well be a tad too soon for her to be under the pressure to not drink. There is so much at stake for her and for your brother, it might be kinder to un-invite them.
Instead, why not suggest you get together for a celebration a night or two before your party and keep the dinner alcohol free. It would allow them both to feel they are included in your anniversary. It would also make sure she is less likely to succumb to alcohol.  With her history of social anxiety and it being a mere 7 weeks since she stopped drinking, avoiding stress would seem pretty important. I’m rooting for her.
And, I am delighted to wish you and your husband a wonderful 50th. Anniversary. I sure hope it’s a day that creates cherished memories. What a milestone!

March 2015
Dear Lee:
My gran is quite old, nearly 90. She lives in an apartment in our house. My sister started borrowing money from Gran in the past year. Gran thinks she’s paying her back – but most of the time she doesn’t. Today my sister told me that because Gran forgets a lot of things, her memory isn’t very good, Gran won’t know one way or the other. I got upset with my sister. She said it didn’t matter, Gran doesn’t need all her money, she never goes out. I told her I was going to tell our parents – if she didn’t stop taking Gran’s money. She said if I did, she’d say I was also taking Gran’s money; since nobody could disprove it, I’d be in trouble, too. Is this elder abuse? What do I do?
Lee’s response:
I am sad to hear your sister is taking your Gran’s money. I’m really glad you emailed and are concerned for your Gran. It sounds like she needs you in her corner, bravo.
As for your question, yes, it is elder abuse to treat your Gran that way. Elder Abuse is defined as any act, or lack of action where a person in a position of trust, causes harm or distress to a senior. I suggest you go back to your sister and tell her you have written to this advice column. What she’s doing is financial abuse and it’s wrong. Further, you might say you will show this column to your parents if she doesn’t pay back what she owes and stop taking the money immediately. If she refuses, go to your parents. It’s important to protect your Gran. You sound like a great person, good luck with this.

Feb. 2015
Dear Lee: I live in a retirement home and until
recently things were very friendly and peaceful
here. Two sisters moved in about 3 months ago,
they share one of the larger apartments. One of
them has started dating a gentleman who was
already spending time with another resident here.
It has caused a lot of suspicion, talk, and hurt
feelings. The sisters also gossip a lot and things are
really no longer peaceful. People aren’t easy going
anymore. Yesterday there was a big fuss and one of the sisters threatened one
of the other ladies. Things are tense; I used to be a social worker and I think
this situation could easily escalate into something worse. You would think
that adults would show more sense. What should be done?
Lee’s response:
Sadly, I have indeed worked with residents who fight with each other –
in similar situations to what is happening in your building. Sadly, it is not
all that unusual. It usually starts with petty gossip, or a disagreement. This
situation, because of the jealousy involved, sounds miserable. I agree with
your instincts, it could easily turn into a nasty situation. Steps must be taken
quickly to resolve the issues. If the people involved do not agree to act
properly, they might be asked to move. Safety must be first. Everyone has a
right to live their life in a peaceful, safe environment. I would suggest making
contact as soon as possible with the caretakers/owners in your building. Ask
them to get a person with experience in dealing with issues like this – to work
on things immediately. Let us hope it can be fixed soon.

Jan. 2015

Dear Lee:

My husband has never been especially polite or kind to me; it’s the way he’s been for the last 29 years. He retired last year and his behavior has become even worse towards me. Lately his temper flares up a lot! This week he raised his hand as if to hit me. He never has – but now I’m wondering if it might come to that. My daughter was here this morning and cautioned him because he was swearing at me, quite loudly. I am not sure what to do about this. I still love him but I am feeling worried and uptight about all this. I would appreciate advice.

Lee’s response:

I am sorry to hear your husband is acting verbally abusive. I, too, would be anxious if I was yelled at and cursed at. Especially so if I was fearful of being hit. Simply put, abuse escalates. This is not normal or healthy to live like this. Clearly, from what you write, the verbal abuse is increasing and you are scared. That’s not a good sign. Maybe your husband is having trouble with being retired, maybe he is depressed and taking his feelings out on you. Maybe he’s developing medical issues that make him behave differently. Whatever the cause is, I think he needs a good check-up -to see if it is a health issue. If it’s not, then you may benefit from talking to a professional about the issues in your relationship. Counseling can be very beneficial. Living in a state of feeling anxious and stressed is not good for you, or him for that matter. If he isn’t receptive to dealing with this, it might be helpful to get your children involved or perhaps a trusted outsider such as your minister. This situation needs to be addressed, and soon. You deserve to live a safe, happy, peaceful retirement. Please get help, it’s time to get things resolved.

Dec. 2014

Dear Lee:

The Christmas season is almost here and I have no extra money for gifts because of an expensive fall with major car repairs I wasn’t expecting. I love to give presents – however my pension just isn’t up for lavish gifts this year. I like to leave my VISA for emergencies so I don’t want to charge things. I feel really embarrassed about this, what will my grandkids think, how will they feel? All three are in their teens and are used to getting nice things from me. The closer it gets to Christmas, the more anxious I am feeling. I truly need a solution.

Lee’s response:

Please relax and cease to feel anxious. Christmas isn’t meant to be just about gifts or about how much we spend on the people in our lives. You know that. These kids love you, they would be upset if they thought for one minute you were stressed because you couldn’t buy your usual gifts for them. We aren’t loved more if we give more.

You need to give them credit for being caring enough not to consider the dollar value of your presents to them. Buy them something thoughtful that you can afford, or make a donation in their name to a charity that needs it and just give them a small jokey gift. Don’t apologize for the size/price of what you lovingly offer, or try to explain your choice of gifts, just give things with all your heart and you’ll be fine. Have a wonderful, stress free Christmas. As the song wisely says ” don’t worry, be happy.” Especially at this time of year when family time is so all important for those of us lucky enough to have our families with us.

Note to all of you who take the time to read this column all year: I value your comments, and am pleased to get feedback from many of you! Quite often, you unknowingly “make my day.” Thank-you.

On behalf of Michael and I, we wish you a joyous Christmas.

Here’s hoping 2015 will be a healthy year with lots of laughter!

Just a reminder – there may well be students who won’t be able to travel home this holiday season. If you’ve got a spare seat at your table perhaps a call to LU or the College – to see if there’s a student who’d enjoy a home cooked meal at Xmas might be something you would like to do.

Nov. 2014

Dear Lee

We have an elderly man living next door to us. He??s 88 and lives alone since his wife passed away four years ago. He has told us about various medical issues he has. His family rarely visit. When we asked about that, he said they have busy careers, they travel a lot and he??s fine on his own. We don??t think so. Lately he appears to have lost weight and is walking very slowly when he goes out with his little dog. We have also noticed he??s not looking quite so well groomed as he used to. This gentleman is a retired military man and very proud. We asked for a telephone number for his family but he said they have new cell numbers and he doesn??t know them. We aren??t sure what to do; we like him and are quite concerned for his well-being. We don??t want to interfere or butt into his life – but we do think his health situation could be getting more serious than he realizes. He is looking atypically frail in the last couple of weeks.

Lee??s response:

It was kind of you to write and ask advice about this senior??s welfare. Clearly you are worried. I am relieved, for his sake, that he has such caring neighbors. Sadly, many socially isolated seniors have not. Many times seniors don??t have close ties to their families or families live elsewhere. Things can escalate such that the senior is at considerable risk. First, you can call Det. Constable Diane Maclaurin with the Thunder Bay Police, she can help in this situation. Her number is: 6841039. She has been assisting our seniors stay safe for years, she doesn??t wear a uniform or drive in an obvious police vehicle – so this gentleman would not be startled to have a police visit. It would also be a good idea to call 211. Explain the problem to them; they can give you numbers for agencies here in Thunder Bay who offer assistance and or support as needed.

Having said all this, the gentleman may not want to be helped at this time; he may refuse the offers of assistance. It is certainly within his rights not to. However, given your description of his increasing frailty it is far safer to contact professionals to be sure he is indeed doing ok on his own. Better safe than sorry is a wise option.

Again, thank-you for caring and wanting to help him. My intuition tells me this is important to do. I so hope it all goes well.

Lee Stones is a private gerontology consultant, writer and motivational speaker with DIVA Northwest. She also does photography; her unique photo cards are available at Japan Camera and Health 4 You. Lee??s email: diva_nw@aol.com

Sept 2014

Dear Lee:

There is an attractive gentleman now going to our church. He has had coffee with me and several others quite often in the last year. He is interesting, witty and very gracious. I believe he is semi-retired.

He is single. He has left a message on my phone to say he would like to see me, alone, so we can get to know each other better. I am a nervous wreck over this. It??s been at least ten years since I dated anyone. I am regarded as a shy person, I am not sure I would know what to talk about. What should I do?

Lee??s response:

From your initial description of this man, I would say he sounds like a nice fellow who you already know somewhat. Further, you have friends in common and he attends your church. He may or may not have noticed your shyness, but it certainly appears that he??s keen to discover more about you. Shy or not, I think you should seriously consider getting to know him better.

Research on healthy aging says we should add new people to our lives as much as we can as we get older. Obviously, friends and family can move away or become ill or die. This diminishes our circle of social support as we get older. That??s one reason to consider a new friendship. Another is that our lives are usually enriched by new people and new experiences. It is really important to continue to “grow” in life, lest we get old. Do not let yourself be afraid to take chances, I believe we need never feel old – as long as we??re open to grabbing the brass ring. He might be your “brass ring.” What will you talk about ? Relax and ask him what his work was/ is, what places he??s travelled, what music does he like, what movies does he enjoy, what??s on his bucket list, etc.

In the beginning, meet him in a public place like a restaurant -so you can decide if you want to get more involved. I think you??ll enjoy yourself.

In the meantime, I am reminded of something Wayne Gretsky said – ” you miss 100% of the chances you never take.” It is so true.

Good luck with this, I hope it works out really well.

Lee stones is a professional motivational speaker with Diva Northwest. She is also a photographer. She sells her photo cards in Thunder Bay. Contact Lee be email at: diva_nw@aol.com

June 2014

Dear Lee:

My husband and I are both in our mid fifties; we work full time. These past few months we are eating out far too much. It is showing in our bank balance and on our waists – but we are too tired when we get home to cook. Any suggestions?

Lee’s response:

Large numbers of us are eating out more and more and it can be detrimental in the ways you mention. One idea is to cook ahead on the weekends and freeze things for weekdays. Casseroles, soups, and chilies are all good choices. Add a salad made quickly with precut salad ingredients and you have healthy suppers. Another idea may be to buy a slow cooker where you can pop in chicken or a small roast with veggies, add some sauce and volila, you will arrive home to a hot delicious meal. Yet another good idea to balance things out would be to make a blender drink of fresh fruits, protein, and yogurt for breakfast so you can be sure to get all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

May 2014
Dear Lee:
I retired last fall and am enjoying the more relaxed way of life. Time seems to fly by the same as when I was working, but with less stress. I do, however, have a problem that is becoming a worry to me. My niece lives near-by with her family. She and her husband have 2 sweet daughters aged 7 and 10. They are great kids and I readily agreed to let them come over several days weekly, after school – for what was described as a temporary arrangement for a month. That month has gone into 4 months. I love the girls but don??t want to be a babysitter. I don??t want to hurt anyone??s feelings nor do I want to ??never?? see the girls. It??s a dilemma. Have you any suggestions?
Lee??s response:
I suspect your problem is a version of one being experienced by retired relatives, be it grand-parents, or others ??seen to have free time.?? Your time is NOT free, except for you to choose whatever activity you enjoy. It isn??t time for families to option – it??s for you to explore and enjoy. Some of us want to be highly involved grand-parents, some do not. Part of the problem is we care about our families, want to be helpful – and it??s difficult to say no to people we love. However, you worked hard and deserve to enjoy these retirement years without being restricted. You are going to have to make definite decisions about what you want in your life without considering other people??s needs first. Think it through, and talk it over with your niece. Perhaps you can explain you are ready to grow into the next stage of your life and need fewer demands on your time. You might offer to give your niece 2 weeks to make other arrangements while setting up a routine where the girls come to visit ONCE every week or 2 weeks – so you can stay close and enjoy their company.
Don??t feel guilty, this is YOUR life. Hope this helps. Happy retirement!

April 2014
Dear Lee:
I meet monthly for lunch with several long-time friends; the four of us did our nursing training together. One of the ladies got a cell phone last year and decided to take calls during our lunch; she texts sometimes as well. After this happening repeatedly we asked her, except for critical calls like a sick family member, etc., if she would keep the phone off so we could chat and enjoy our get-together. Initially she agreed. Then after a couple of months, she went back to taking calls. Again, we spoke to her. She said, ??All my calls are critical to me. If you don??t like it, have lunch without me. ??We have been friends nearly 40 years, we love this person, but we??re not happy with the phone thing. What should we do?
Lee??s response:
Wow, this is a tough question. I am immediately reminded of a scene from the old movie Out of Africa where Karen Blixen asked Denis Fitchhatten??s friend – in a conversation about another friend not returning a book – would Denis lose a friend – over a book. Denis definitely would. Personally I would forget the book, keep the friend, but never lend him another book. Finding a kindly compromise is usually good.
That said, I would not enjoy having lunch with someone whose behaviour was rude and who obviously thought good manners and respect for the time you all share is not especially important. You could indeed have lunch without her.
Or, try this: you could all bring cell phones and deliberately call and text people through-out lunch to see how she likes the shoe being on the other foot. Please, let me know how it all plays out.