Routine

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Breath of Fresh Air 02I like having a routine. Whether it’s a daily routine of starting every workday at 9am or a weekly routine of fixing champagne brunch every Sunday, consistency is my friend. It gives me a basic schedule I can count on, which helps keep me productive, centered, and able to look ahead. Of course, it’s fun to break routine, too: it can still feel like playing hooky from school; only now, instead of ditching high school to go to Disneyland (which I’ve done), I’m ditching my online exercise class to go out for ice cream with Dad. A break from day-to-day routine can be a real mood lifter, just like a “cheat day” on a diet can help keep cravings in check.

It’s good to change things up, yet too much disruption in routine can be DDD: Disorienting, Difficult, and Depressing. We all found that out when our lives and expectations were turned upside down last March by restrictions imposed by the pandemic. It took a while to settle into new routines and new patterns, but after eight months, many of those new routines have become familiar habits.

In the past few weeks, it has seemed that many of my current routines have been interrupted for one reason or another, and not because I’ve chosen the diversions. The time change, colder weather, holidays creating scheduling changes, and friends whose recreation time no longer coincides with mine, are just a few of the things that have wreaked a bit of havoc with my usual timetable. For months, I’ve done certain things on certain days at certain times, and now many things are jumbled up and turned around and up in the air. That is hard for a person like me that thrives on consistency and continuity. So, what’s the answer?

I’ve decided that I need to do two things to get through this complicated time: 1) Embrace the unknown, and 2) make lots of lists. The second is easiest for me. I love lists. It is very satisfying to create a to-do list and cross off each item one by one. It’s all there on paper, so I don’t need to keep it in my head. What needs to happen today (turn in blog). What needs to happen by the end of the week (order my sister a birthday present). What needs to happen by the end of the month (buy a space heater). And so on.

Embracing the Unknown is a harder task, but one with many rewards. So many joyful, meaningful, and unique experiences come precisely because they were unplanned and unexpected. Being open to possibilities around you is a hopeful and positive way of looking at the world, one that sees disruption as opportunity and uncertainty as a gateway to new thinking. So, go ahead! Celebrate the break in routine! Just don’t forget to make your lists, too.

Color

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Breath of Fresh Air 02Halloween, time change, shorter days, colder weather. There is much that is fun this time of year: neighborhoods become festive with Halloween decorations, the air is crisp (when it isn’t foggy), and there are even some fallen leaves dancing in the streets. Chocolate and Pumpkin Spice are featured in stores and restaurants. And grown people get to put on costumes and be little kids again.

It’s also a time often associated with depression. Shorter days mean less sunlight and more isolating darkness. Colder and rainier weather can mean less time outdoors and make it harder to stay active. And two months of non-stop commercial holiday cheer can be the opposite of happy-making; it can feel like everyone is having a splendid, care-free, holiday season except you.

Sound grim? It can be. I’m certainly feeling the slide into November and the challenge of keeping up a jolly attitude. Even writing this blog, which is a real pleasure for me, has felt like a chore as I reach for happy and interesting things to write about. It’s a bit like the color gets turned off in the world, and everything goes gray. Here are a few suggestions I’ve found helpful for keeping the color alive and the gray at bay.

1. Keep color in your daytime: put on a bright colored sweater (or shirt or jewelry or whatever), eat bright-colored food (never noticed the color of orange juice before? Notice it now!), enjoy bright colored cut flowers on the table (lots of sunflowers in the supermarkets right now).

2. Keep color in your nighttime: fun and beautiful lighting can make evening lovely instead of drear. String up Christmas lights in the TV room, light candles at dinner, turn on seasonal decorations like silly jack-o-lanterns or snowmen. Go walking at night if you can and enjoy your neighbors holiday lights.

3. Keep color in your heart: it may seem trite to say so, but count your blessings. Look for what is good and positive around you (hey, you’re reading this blog! Which means the Senior Center is a part of your life. Chalk that up as one positive). Stay in touch with your friends. Find a way to play music, practice your sport, write poetry, tinker with your car, or whatever it is you do that pulls you out of the doldrums. Heck, watch a funny cat video.

It is absolutely human to feel sad or depressed or lonely, under any circumstances. And it should come as no surprise that the waning months of a pandemic year might amplify pain and mute joy. Now is the time to actively look for the color, for the joy, out there. Maybe it’s a call to a friend, a socially-distanced backyard visit, or reaching out to the Senior Center for resources. It could be a walk around the block on a bright day. Or turning to your favorite Cat Video with a glass of orange juice in hand. Cheers!

Game On!

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Breath of Fresh Air 02Staying active is important. It is undeniable that physical exercise is good for your body and helps keep you healthy. But there is another reason to keep moving: exercise is famously good as a mood lifter because activity can give you a boost of endorphins. Feeling cranky? That PSC Zumba class will cheer you up! Depressed? Go for a walk!

As these long, dull, isolated days drag on, the need for activity – and the emotional shot in the arm it can give you – is more important than ever. But it can be hard to force yourself to do jumping jacks every morning. Competition (aka Sports) can be a great motivator because the more you train, the better you get, and the more likely you are to win (or at least get a personal best). But I’ve never played sports and looking to start during a pandemic is odd timing, to say the least.

My job as Director of Events includes managing the Pasadena Senior Games, part of a nationwide network of competitions for athletes age 50+. It can be intoxicating just watching these wonderful athletes compete, so for the past several years I’ve been promising myself that I would take up a sport. This year I’d decided I’d enter the swim competition, but our Pasadena Senior Games were canceled due to COVID, and I never even got to the pool to start training.

Last year, the National Senior Games Association announced they were adding Cornhole to the list of sports contested at Nationals. Yes, that carnival game of throwing a beanbag into a hole. I laughed when I heard, thinking, “that’s no sport, that’s a game!” Of course, I had never played it. A few months ago, Carolyn Zorn, a longtime PSC Volunteer as well as the Center’s mail-lady and now a dear friend, lent me her Cornhole Toss set. It seemed like a good diversion for Dad and I during lockdown. I finally got it set up last week, and now I’m hooked.

Physical, oh yes. Lobbing those heavy beanbags (I’m not joking here! They weigh 1lb each!) is good for the arms. Walking back and forth from one end of the court to the other on the way to a 21 point victory can take a lot of steps (a regulation court is 27 feet). Bending over to pick up all those bean bags makes up for not doing toe touches in morning calisthenics.

And then there is the incentive of competition. It turns out my 92 year-old dad is much more adept at pitching bags than I am. He beat me easily in three straight sets the first time we played. Guess there is more skill involved than I thought! So now when I am tired and cranky from sitting at the computer for too long, I have an instant antidote: just run outside and play. I can get a workout, hone my skills, and lift my mood all at once. Game on!

Just a Trifle

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Breath of Fresh Air 02In these times, when the news seems to get worse every day and it becomes harder and harder to keep your spirits up, it is often the small things that bring the smile to your face. A mere trifle, indeed, can make bring sunshine from darkness.

Webster’s New International Dictionary Second Edition (1934) defines Trifle as [verb] “To act without seriousness or in a frivolous fashion,” and [noun] “a thing of very little value or importance, specifically a small jewel, poem, musical composition, etc. of no great or enduring value.” Definition #5 under [noun] is “Originally, a dish of clotted cream; now usually a dessert made of sponge cake soaked in wine or liqueur, with macaroons, jam and whipped cream.” Sign me up!

As an Anglophile raised on Jane Austen and Dickens and the Renaissance Faire, I’ve always had a penchant for English-style foods and celebrations. I made my first trifle in the 1980s for a Regency-era costume dinner to celebrate Michaelmas, an English quarter holiday celebrated on September 29, referenced in British novels. Over the intervening thirty or so years, I’ve made trifle maybe a dozen times, usually tied to Michaelmas dinner. It’s fun dressing the part too (they call is ‘cosplay’ now; when I was growing up, it was simply ‘dressing up’).

If there was ever a time to “act without seriousness” (keeping social distancing, of course), enjoy “a small jewel or poem,” and eat a dessert of “sponge cake soaked in wine,” that time was (is?) now. I decided to revive the Michaelmas tradition of my youth and throw a dress-up dinner party for Dad and I my college friend Laura, now living in Michigan, who started the trifle tradition with us way back when. She joined us for drinks, via Zoom, adding a modern element to our old-fashioned party.

For this Michaelmas, I made an Elizabethean-style cauliflower soup flavored with dates and nutmeg. I set the table with lace tablecloth, polished silver, crystal, and china. Dad donned his tux, and I my Recency dress from a past English Dance ball, we lit the candles, and had our fancy dinner. The crowning glory was, of course, the trifle. Beautiful, delicious, and bringing back memories of friends and parties (and great novels) enjoyed. And for one evening, at least, the challenges of COVID, politics, isolation, uncertainty, and depression were forgotten in a carefree world of food and friends.

Need a little trifle in your life? Here’s how: in a glass bowl, layer sponge/angel cake (about ½ inch thick) spread with jam, add another layer of cake and douse with sherry. On top of the cake, add a layer of juicy berries (defrosted frozen berries are ideal) and a generous layer of custard or pudding; sprinkle with sliced almonds. Refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld. Just before serving, top with lots of fluffy whipped cream and decorate with sliced almonds and fruit. Let the deliciously decadent flavor whisk you away to another place and time. Regency attire optional.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Breath of Fresh Air 02I love the ocean. Always have. Some people prefer mountains or desert, but I’ve always been a water person. I’ve had jobs in Malibu, Santa Monica, San Pedro, and Long Beach, all within a lunchtime walk to the water. I even worked for a sailing program in the 1990s; break time often meant playing frisbee in a parking lot where an errant throw would send the disk into the water and we had to launch a row boat to retrieve it. And yet during six months of pandemic, it took me until last week to finally take a drive to the beach.

I am a big proponent of feeding your soul and finding your happy place during tough times. I’ve blogged about it, and it’s a recurring subject on the Social Hour that I host for the Center on Tuesdays. I always advise friends to make sure to do the small, simple things that bring joy. Bake a cookie, smell a rose, walk in a park. Sunlight on the ocean with the smell of salt in the air is guaranteed to calm and rejuvenate me. So why didn’t I get down to the water before now?

Driving there wasn’t the problem. I live in West Los Angeles, just ten miles from the beach. My weekly trip into my office at the Senior Center is twice as far. I drive to the supermarket and the post office, and to get take-out food. I even have access to a convertible, and what is more Southern California than a drive along the coast in a convertible with the top down?

Breath of Fresh Air 01It wasn’t exactly that I was making excuses not to take a trip to the ocean. But I wasn’t making time to do it either. With each day sliding into the next, there was always another work project or Zoom class or chore that needed to be done. The monotonous grind of this strange life smothers our senses and makes it hard to keep alert and active.

Finally, last Wednesday, the time was right. It was a lovely day (finally), and I didn’t have a Zoom event or class (amazingly), and Dad’s convertible needs to be driven every so often to keep the battery alive. Why not take a road trip? Dad and I grabbed our hats and sunglasses and headed out for Malibu.

We drove up Pacific Coast Highway our turnaround point being a short excursion up into the hills above the Getty Villa. There wasn’t much traffic on PCH, and lots of free roadside parking so we could pull over without committing to a $10 parking fee. We didn’t scramble down the rocks to the sand (we knew we could get down – not so sure we could get back up!), but it was enough just to stand in the sunshine and watch the waves breaking up and down the beach. A few blissful, carefree moments.

Next time, I won’t wait six months before getting another breath of sea air. And next time, I’ll be sure to bring a picnic.

Object Lesson

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

There are many different words to describe a special object. It’s a souvenir if you got it on a trip. It’s a memento if it reminds you of family or a lover. It’s a present if it is given to you to mark an occasion. It’s commemorative if it is in honor of a person or time. When we see, touch, or use these objects, they help us remember moments of our lives.

Now, more than ever, I feel a need to commemorate – or maybe just remember – this strange, surreal time known as 2020. What kind of objects sum up this experience? What kind of souvenirs do I keep from the longest staycation ever? What presents do I get for myself as reward for having survived one month, two months, six months (and counting) of lockdown? I’m not likely to forget the general fuzziness of this year, but what physical reminders will I look at ten years from now that will viscerally call to mind the year that evaporated in front of our eyes?

Back in May, when shops were allowed to reopen in a limited way, I stopped by C’est La Vie on Holly Street to say hello to the owner, Sylvie. I bought a frilly t-shirt made in France with the words “I Need Space” written out in sequins. That’s my Covid souvenir t-shirt.

I’ve never been an online shopper, and I don’t typically surf the internet, but one night I found myself looking at the website of an up-and-coming clothing designer based in Saudi Arabia that I’d seen in a magazine. With surprisingly few clicks, I ordered a jacket. The beautiful velvet piece arrived two weeks later. This is my Covid present to myself; an indulgence as reward for facing the challenges of the time.

I remember one morning in June thinking that trying to do my job as an Event Director during Covid was like trying to put together a puzzle when I didn’t know the picture and didn’t have all the pieces. Then, out walking in my neighborhood the same day, I found a puzzle piece lying on the ground. No image on it, just foggy grey-pink-bluish colors. No other puzzle pieces around. It’s my Covid memento, a thought turned into an object.

Early on in the lockdown, my dad and I decided to make dinner a celebratory event. Nearly every night since March 22 we have set the dining room table with linen, china, and crystal. We dress for dinner as if we were going out to a fine restaurant. After 140 or 150 formal dinners, we were getting pretty tired of our ordinary flatware. So I went online and ordered two place settings (don’t need a service for six if you can’t have anyone over!) of the most flamboyant and least expensive flatware I could find. The gold-tone knives, forks, and spoons are now my 2020 Covid Commemorative flatware.

What are your Covid souvenirs? Purchased, given, made, or found, what objects tell your Covid story?

Friends

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Marathon

A few weeks ago, at our Tuesday Social Hour, guest host Serena asked attendees to pick one or two words to sum up what happiness means to them. The answers were all on the same theme: “friends,” “friendship”, “my friends,” “friends and family.”

This isn’t a new idea – the importance of socialization has been acknowledged since the days of the caveman, and I’ve probably made a reference to friendships in 90% of my blogs. But somehow, when the hills are on fire and smoke fills the sky and obscures the sun; when our isolation inside becomes doubly so because it’s unhealthful to breathe the air outside; when homes are threatened and “what next?!” is on all our minds; the importance of human interaction stands out even clearer than before.

When I am a little bit down, I can usually cheer myself up with an activity. I’ll put on some happy music and bake a batch of muffins, or re-arrange my jewelry, or go for a vigorous walk. We all have those favorite things that lift us up, and it is different for each of us. But when I feel really depressed (which is more often than it used to be, in these anxiety-ridden times), I call on a friend.

What is friendship, exactly? For many of us growing up, friendship was defined by the grade-school bestie who you told all your secrets to. If you didn’t talk on the phone every day, you weren’t really friends. It took me a long time (well into my adult years) to understand how many different types of friendship there are. Most of us will only ever have a few people very close to us. Yet how many people are we happy to see, and are happy to see us? Those people count as friends too. Even in the virtual Zoom world, we can look forward to seeing people even if we’ve never met in person.

People need people. I’m not talking about a general post on Facebook. I mean an actual phone call, email, snail mail, or socially-distanced visit. Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Or call your best friend for the third time in a day. It’s all good. I know, because I’ve had days brightened immeasurably by a single phone call or unexpected text. And I’ve turned my own mood from sour to happy by picking up the phone and calling someone.

It can be difficult to keep up with everyone like we did before all this started. I hardly talk to some people that I used to see all the time, yet I have had other friendships strengthen and new ones emerge. A friend of a friend and I started exchanging postcards just for something to do, and now we send cards almost every day. I started running Social Hour as part of my job, but now I look forward to visiting with these new friends each week. Whether old buddies or new friends it’s the people that help get us through each day.

Taking it Easy

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Marathon

Last week, I took my very first “staycation.” I chose the beginning of September because I saw a time in my calendar when I had nearly two weeks between Zoom events. I jumped at the chance to take time off, even if I couldn’t physically leave town. At least I could just take it easy for a week.

It turns out that I’m not very good at slowing down. I’m used to taking vacations to travel, or at least to do exciting things. My staycation turned out to be a frustrating, but ultimately liberating, lesson in how to do nothing.

It was hard not to think about work-related projects while staying at home. It took a surprising amount of will power to wrench my mind away from the Pasadena Senior Center and to give myself permission to think about something else. For so many months now, work has been one thing that has kept me balanced and engaged. To stop, even for a week, felt like a void. I might have just gone on working, but our broadband went out, leaving the house without internet, wireless, and land-line phone. It took six days to finally get the broadband service connected again.

I could still get internet and email on my small smartphone, but the 6”x3” screen isn’t very easy to read, and that tiny virtual keyboard makes it hard to type. But wait! Wasn’t the point of this vacation to disconnect? If I had gone to Paris, instead of staying home, I wouldn’t be working! Now I had a reason to untether from my computer and start doing “real” things like sorting through all the boxes in the garage.

Then came the second curveball of the week: blistering heat. I live about ten miles from the beach, where the marine layer keeps the weather temperate. No need for air-conditioning, just open the windows! Except for days like this past week when the heat and humidity move in and stay. Nowhere to run to – movie theatres are all closed. Nowhere to hide – the house isn’t much cooler than the outside.

The heat put a stop to plans for cleaning the garage. For moving boxes. For sorting through shelves in airless closets. Long walks were out of the question, as was a leisurely visit to the Huntington Gardens. No patio lunches. It got almost too hot to be able to concentrate on a book.

So, instead of a week filled with tasks accomplished and stimulating trips, I puttered around. I did some early morning gardening, re-arranged the glassware in the dining room cabinet, chopped vegetables for soups and salads. Polished jewelry. Talked on the phone. Talked to my dad. And made blueberry sorbet. I did all sorts of unimportant things that were quiet and peaceful and ultimately restorative. Yes, it is important to keep busy and be productive, but it is also important to put aside expectations from time to time, and just be. I hope it won’t take another internet outage and record heat for me to remember that!

What to know about contact tracing from Medicare

Posted in Caregiving Resources

Written by MEDICARE

Placeholder-Image-320x200

If you've been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you may be contacted by a contact tracer or public health worker from your state or local health department in an effort to help slow the spread of the disease. Here's what to know if you get a call:

Getting to know the Garden

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Marathon

I’m not a gardener, never have been. I adore flowers but never really understood how anyone could actually get joy out of doing the work to make them grow. I’d rather spend that time in the kitchen, cooking and baking. Years ago (lots of years ago), I worked for a Parks & Rec department. The secretary would arrive in the morning with beautiful roses from her garden for the office. I would arrive with fresh baked muffins still hot from the oven. We’d look at each other and say “how do you find the time to do that?!” Each to their own hobby.

I still love baking, but one of the remarkable things about this strange and surreal time is how forced changes to living patterns lead us to enjoy new things as well. Like gardening.

Back in May, when the spring rains were over and our small backyard lawn went from lush green to dry brown and the soil in the planters dried up. I decided to – gasp! – start watering regularly (we haven’t had working sprinklers in 40 years). Lo and behold, not only did the backyard respond with blossoms and new growth, but I found I was enjoying the “chore.” I’ve fallen into a routine of watering the backyard at night, lit only by the ambient light from the breakfast room windows. There is something very meditative and restorative to standing alone in the dark under the moon (if there is one) and the few stars (if it isn’t too overcast) watering plants.

There is also something lovely about watching things grow, day by day, week by week. I think herbs are the perfect garden plant. They grow quickly, need very little care, they attract birds and butterflies with their flowers and fragrance, and, best of all, you can eat them!

One of the added joys of herbs is that they root easily from cuttings, and I don’t have to grow them from seeds or go to a garden store and have to decide what plants to buy. I have flourishing plants of rosemary, mint, sage, and thyme which all came from grocery store packages of cut fresh herbs meant for cooking. I keep them fresh by putting them in water on the windowsill instead of in the fridge. If I don’t use them up after a week or so, they often start sending out roots. If the roots become robust enough, I stick them in the ground outside. More often than not, those plants take hold.

I feel a little sheepish cheerleading for gardening, when humans have been doing it all over the world since the beginning of time. But heck, it is new to me! I don’t expect that I’ll ever graduate to tomatoes or a rose garden, but as I water my herbs under the stars, I understand just a little bit better what keeps gardeners returning to the soil, and I have a few more moments of peace in a chaotic world.

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Phone: (626) 795-4331
Fax: (626) 577-4235
Lunch Reservations: (626) 685-6751
Email: info@pasadenaseniorcenter.org

Pasadena Senior Center
85 East Holly Street
Pasadena, CA 91103
Nonprofit I.D. #95-2085393